It was January 2021 and Robin Saphra was in an empty office in Canary Wharf, wearing a blue plastic PPE gown, two face masks and a face shield. In his hand, he held a needle.
The surrounding buildings – and other floors of the building he was in – were also empty, giving the area a strange, ghostly quality.
This room, however, was crowded, full of the chatter of voices – young voices, older voices, voices from all walks of life.
Robin had been allocated a partner, who was holding a foam arm up against their own. Slowly, very slowly, he navigated the needle at a 45 degree angle into what, on a human arm, would be the deltoid muscle.
“You’re kind of looking through this haze to try and wield a needle at someone. It was quite interesting,” says Robin.
Usually a consultant, negotiator and lawyer, Robin was doing an all-day training course to become a volunteer vaccinator.
It was organised by St John’s Ambulance, who have trained around 30,000 volunteers to date at over 650 locations around the country.
He’d signed up in December, just a few days before Christmas, after seeing a recruitment advert online.
“It just landed at the perfect moment. Here we were, in the depths of this pandemic, and I was doing a lot of soul-searching as to what I could do that would be helpful to other people, and people who are less fortunate than I am,” he says.