IF someone told you they were still celebrating Christmas this week, you might feel they are pushing the festive spirit a little too far.

Perhaps not if you have spent the last five months at sea with the Royal Navy, including a mission to take 50,000 tonnes of food to the Typhoon-hit Philippines, like Hayley Barber.

The 23-year-old, of Whitchurch Close, Padgate, said: “I was supposed to be home a month ago after a four month training exercise, and in plenty of time for Christmas, but on November 13 we were told to go and provide humanitarian aid in the Philippines.

“For four weeks we did 24 hours shifts taking food stores to where they were needed to go, and helping to build shelters.

“It was hard work.”

The former Cardinal Newman High School student, an administrator on HMS Illustrious, returned to Warrington on Saturday.

Hayley spent most of the Christmas period onboard supporting the aid effort, meaning she celebrated Christmas Day with mum Lynn and other family on Sunday.

“It’s difficult being at sea for a long time,” she said.

“We are given 30 minutes worth of credit a week to ring home but there’s often no signal so you can’t do it.

“I just try and keep my head down, work and chat to my friends.

“You do miss little things like talking to your family, and having a decent shower.

“The food on the ship is rubbish as well so having Christmas at sea was hard.

“On December 21 the officers cooked a Christmas meal for junior staff and then we spent the day watching Christmas films in the mess.

“It was really nice to celebrate it at home but at sea it wasn’t all bad - on Christmas Day, I was on a beach in Goa.”

Hayley joined the Navy in March 2010 and after four years touring Oman, Malta and Singapore, she says she has not looked back.

According to Hayley, around a quarter of the 1200 strong crew on HMS Illustrious are women.

“It does get frustrating because the accomodation is very small and cramped,” she added.

“If you’ve had a bad day there is nowhere to go, but it’s a decent job and I wouldn’t change it.”