The only husband-and-wife team working on call for Norfolk Blood Bikes, Angela and Les Spencer have both been members of the charity since May 2012.
The Sporle-based couple, who this year (2019) have been married an incredible 44 years and counting, discovered the charity when stumbling across a fundraising stall at an RAF Marham Family & Friends Day. Les, a long-time blood donor who’s been riding since the early 70s, felt it was a great opportunity to help the community and something he and his wife could be involved in together.
After signing up, the pair spent six years balancing their work for Blood Bikes with busy careers. Following 31 years in the Royal Air Force, Les was working as a MOD Civil Servant when he joined the charity, while Angela was also with the Civil Service.
“We were lucky enough to have really nice bosses who were very understanding and supportive of our commitment to Blood Bikes,” says Angela. “I recall times when I wouldn’t get to bed until 4am and would need to be up for work at 6.30am! Thankfully, my boss would send me home early to get some sleep or would allow me to come in late if needed.”
Today, that balancing act isn’t quite so challenging; both Les and Angela retired in September 2018 on the exact same day. Side by side, having shared careers, retirement and even finding time to raise three children – two daughters and a son – it’s not surprising to learn that much of their work for Blood Bikes is also tackled together.
Both commit around 20 hours a week and take on roles including membership manager, events manager, fundraiser, trainer and trustee, while Angela works on call as a controller, and Les as a rider, driver and controller.
“We’ve worked on many fundraising events together,” says Les. “We’re always trying to raise awareness, encouraging people to help or even sign up.” In fact, Les once managed to convince a lab technician working at the QEHKL to sign up as a controller. Angela adds: “We occasionally go out on driving jobs together too and are regularly on call at the same time. I’ve even assigned Les riding jobs before. But, if we have plenty of volunteers on the rota, I might be nice and give him the night off!”
When he is assigned a job, whether by his wife or one of the other controllers, Les takes out one of Blood Bikes’ FJR 1300s, leaving his personal bike, a Honda Pan European ST1300, at home. Commenting on one of the most challenging shifts he can remember, he says: “I once had three jobs in one night once. I went out at 8pm and didn’t get into bed until 3am!”
Angela also recalls one particularly challenging night on call: “It was my second ever control shift. Within the first 40 minutes I had all three rostered riders and an additional three ad hoc riders out on runs! Happily, all six were home before midnight.”
Their most memorable experience outside of their controller and riding shifts is, much like many other things in the couple’s life, one that’s shared. “We remember being at the Royal Norfolk Show one year. A mother and her young daughter, who was born premature at just 23 weeks, came over to chat to us. The baby had urgently needed platelets while in the NNUH and QEHKL NICUs. It’s very rare that we get to hear how our work’s affected people, but it’s lovely to hear.”