The night worker is a mysterious and ghostly figure - and also a lonely one. Coming in to work in the dark, when everyone else has long gone home, means he or she knows colleagues only from the debris on desks abandoned in a silent, gloomy office. The solitary night worker often longs for some sign of recognition and support from his daytime counterparts. Their fascination for us can be as strong as ours for them.

Paul Aplin

Communications Officer for the National Rivers Authority, Thames Region

Night shift hours: 10pm-8am on a rota system

Responsibilities: co-ordinating responses to river pollution reports

this is a particularly noisy building and things that go bump in the night are scary. The sound of the roofing tiles moving can really get me moving. But sitting here alone I feel like this is my own building and that I can do whatever I want. I like to wander through the office to get a feel of what goes on while I'm not here. The chap next door sometimes leaves his rods in his office so I know he's been fishing during the day. I also lift up the photocopier to see if anything interesting has been left there by mistake. I'm a nosy bugger really.

During the night I get calls from the emergency services and from the public who are worried about the colour or state of their local river. Some just want to chat me up because they think I can get them last minute fishing licences. I also get three calls a night from another night worker at Teddington Lock, called Brian. He's very chatty and friendly - being in the same shoes we can identify with one another. He's been telling me about how he's been painting his flagpole and I've been winding him up because it's taken him three nights to complete.

Eva Millet

Radio producer on Europe Today, BBC World Service

Hours: 9pm-8am on a rota system

Responsibilities: producing Europe Today, BBC World Service news and current affairs programme

often I can't believe that this quiet and lonely office can be so packed during the day. When I arrive I can sense the atmosphere - if there's lots of tape, coffee cups, and newspapers scattered around I know it's been a stressful day.

There's very little personal stuff kept here - my only possession is an English / Spanish dictionary which I've noticed other people have been using because of the well-thumbed pages and dirty fingerprints. The other night I was surprised to see a bust of Lenin appear, wearing a doily ruff around his neck, I wondered who had put it there.

There are some other silly things around like a poster of Robbie from Take That, I can't imagine why that's there.

I like the privilege of having space to myself, being able to take my shoes off and stretch out without bothering anyone. During the day you are guided by social conventions; you can be more individual at night. The nicest thing about night shifts is losing weight, one's body needs more energy so more calories are burnt. The worst thing is when I am wearing my dressing-gown and looking like a fright, having just got up, and I bump into my flatmate's dinner guests.

Thaddeus Anaochirionye

Night Manager of ISS Cleaning for European Passenger Services

Hours: 10.30pm-6.30am

Responsibilities: managing the cleaning of Eurostar trains

i've always worked nights and I find it difficult, I think all night-workers do. But it does give me the opportunity to look after and play with my kids - besides how could I afford to pay a nanny pounds 80 a week on my wages?

I've been cleaning Eurostar trains since last April. It's a lovely site to clean, the depot is well protected and the cameras pick up anyone who is misbehaving so I feel very secure. I used to clean for London Underground and there's no comparison. From what's left behind I learn about the passengers; you can tell a lot by the newspapers people read and they're not the same ones found on the Tube.

When we first got the cleaning contract all we knew was that the trains were like the French TGVs. So it came as a shock to see that they were a quarter of a mile long.

I get pissed off when I'm cleaning the trains coming from France rather than Brussels because they are in a far worse state. I haven't been to France or Belgium, and I don't want to sound like I'm making generalisations, but the impression I get from the rubbish is that the French are quite dirty. For example we can't put bin liners in the bins - which is annoying - because apparently the French tend to throw lit cigarettes into them. I have a brilliant image of the Belgians as very decent people.

I can tell when a seat has been occupied by a family. Children tend to move everything around and I can't imagine an adult pouring coke all over the seats.

Overall, the people in the first-class seats are the worst for mess. I'm sure that having paid all that money they enjoy throwing everything around, spilling their champagne and wine, and leaving it for others to clean up. We have cleaners who are specially trained in stain removal using what they call First Aid kits on the difficult stains. Whoever designed the yellow interior was not a cleaner because it really shows up the dirt. In second class people are tidier. You can see where mothers have got their children to bag up all their rubbish for example. I would like to be a passenger, to be on the other side of the fence, but I'd make sure I didn't leave a mess. Some people are forgetful but others are just slobs, which is hurtful.

The weekends are always the worst and it's a bastard when an English football club is playing in Europe because the whole place gets messed up. I can't imagine any decent passenger wanting to travel in the same train as the fans - they leave beer cans and cigarette butts everywhere and it is unbelievable where they manage to vomit. After the Arc de Triomphe horse race there were masses of champagne bottles instead of beer cans crashing around. That must have been unpleasant for the other passengers; it's not funny having your shin hit by a champagne bottle. The buffet was built to have seats like on the French trains, but they were never put in. I think they were scared that the English would stay in the buffet and get drunk, unlike the French who seem to be able to drink alcohol in a civilised fashion.

People will nick anything they can: antimacassars, bins, and particularly the little hammers used for breaking glass in an emergency. I can imagine all these souvenirs sitting in people's homes all around the country.

Sometimes we have to clean birds and animals off the train. The other day a Frenchman threw himself under the train and we had to put on special clothing and clean up his remains too.

When I worked for London Underground we had to do a lot of that. It's a nasty business and, unlike the drivers, we don't get any counselling. A body under a train causes a lot of damage to the train - the Frenchman knocked a whole side of the panelling out.

But the most exhausting cleaning job was preparing for the royal visit. We were cleaning every speck of dust and piece of fluff off three trains for three days and they only used one. I hope they appreciated it.

Ken Parker

Computer operator for Ticketmaster

Hours: 10pm-8am

Responsibilities: managing Ticketmaster's computer systems

i look after the computer systems, clearing their memories and then taking care of their sleep patterns so that they're fresh for the next day. I'm known as the Night Runner which makes me sound like a Stephen King anti-hero, lurking in the shadows of the night. Night-time is my daytime; I like doing the graveyard shift because it suits me, it fits in with my body clock. It does affect my love life though, there aren't many women who are up for much at four o'clock in the morning.

I work alone; the only evidence that the hundred or so daytime staff exist is their empty cubicles and the stuff they leave behind; little bits of information about their identity. I'll walk past someone's office and catch the whiff of their aftershave or see photos of their family. Tonight I saw the remains of someone's birthday cake, I was quite hurt that no one thought to leave me a piece.

People think that if you work nights you're a zero, that you haven't got a life. I get messages from the other staff on my computer saying things like "So what's it like in the the mortuary shift?"

Sometimes I get an urge to take off all my clothes and run naked around the empty building, but I haven't given into it yet.

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