There may not be a lot to celebrate at the moment, but one woman who will definitely be celebrating this evening – albeit in the comfort of her own back garden – is 56-year-old pharmacy assistant, Nicola McKevitt.
Today marks the 35th anniversary of Nicola joining Stranmillis Pharmacy in Belfast’s iconic university area and, although the lockdown means there will be no dining out, Nicola is determined to mark the occasion at home.
‘Despite the difficulties at the moment,’ she told PiF, ‘I am going to mark the occasion anyway. These 35 years have not only flown in, but I’ve enjoyed every one of them. I can’t believe that I started here in 1985 when I was only 21! I don’t know where the years have gone.’
When Nicola joined the pharmacy in 1985, the Stranmillis area was a little village in itself but, as the years have gone by, Nicola has watched businesses open and close regularly, with the result that Stranmillis Pharmacy is now the only shop still in existence from 1985!
‘For the first twenty years that I worked here, I worked with Anna Scott,’ she continues, ‘and, for the last ten years, I’ve worked with Anne-Marie McGrath, so there has always been a sense of continuity throughout. We have quite a diverse community here. In addition to the students, who probably make up the majority or our patients, we also have quite a lot of older people. Serving both ends of the age spectrum creates a vibrancy in itself and makes the pharmacy a lovely place to work. I love to see our regulars coming in – especially at times like this when we like to keep an eye on our older patients – and I just love working with the public!’
When she arrived at work this morning, Nicola was presented with an envelope, a bottle of champagne and a beautiful bouquet by Anne-Marie and the team, and, despite the current circumstances, the bubbly will definitely be opened this evening!
‘Oh, absolutely,’ she laughs. ‘I’ll be putting a table out the back with a few chairs and will be enjoying the bubbly and looking at my flowers.’
Even after celebrating this momentous occasion, however, the regulars at Stranmillis Pharmacy are guaranteed one thing.
‘I won’t be retiring any time soon,’ Nicola says, ‘I enjoy my job – and meeting the public – too much!’