This time last year Benidorm actor Asa Elliott was in the Caribbean entertaining audiences on a cruise ship. He was due to be there again this month until the pandemic changed all his plans – and his line of work.
For the past six months he's been working as a delivery driver for Asda in Hull. He tweeted this photo of himself next to an Asda van saying "What a difference a year makes."
Since tweeting he's been interviewed on BBC Look North and has had lots of media coverage, but Asa is keen to underplay it.
"I don't want to shout about it from the rooftops," he said. "I'm here to do a job so I haven't really told people about Benidorm unless they ask. I posted the two photos on Twitter and it's gone a bit crazy!"
Asa is best known for his appearances in Benidorm between 2010 and 2014 as a cabaret singer, but his main line of work is singing on cruise ships, flying out for a week at a time.
Now he works two shifts a week for Asda Kingswood in Hull. He's also been helping out with vaccinations at a GP surgery.
Asa said: "My son Buddy was born on 8th March last year. I'm self employed so it was a very stressful time when the pandemic hit, wondering how I was going to work. But it's been great to spend time with Buddy."
He was encouraged to apply for a job at Asda by his family: "My mother-in-law Karen works on the pizza counter at Asda Mount Pleasant and my wife, Natalie, used to work at Asda many years ago. My brother-in-law worked as a delivery driver for Asda too. I've noticed a lot of people have family who work at Asda, it's nice."
Home shopping team manager Holly Schofield says Asa brightens everyone's day: "He always comes in to work humming a tune and he can't help but put a smile on your face. He's got a really positive outlook on life. He's really bubbly, great with colleagues, great with customers, always walking round with a smile on his face – often singing his head off!
"He has great banter with the team – they all think they can sing, not just Asa! One of our drivers loves a bit of Elvis. Every day is team karaoke here in the home shopping pod!"
The home shopping team at Kingswood is a busy one and delivers to a wide area. As well as Hull and its outskirts they also go as far as Scarborough, Bridlington, Hornsea, Flamborough and the outskirts of York.
"I'm from Manchester originally and have lived in Hull for the past four years," said Asa. "It's a really beautiful place – you don't realise until you come here. Driving around the area I've got to know the place more and see some of the beautiful little villages. You can get some nice long runs out to the seaside, or you can be delivering to an estate in the middle of Hull. It's very varied.
"It's nice to feel part of something. The other drivers are great and you can have a banter with them. We've got a WhatsApp group and they're very funny. At Christmas there wasn't any music in the warehouse so I was singing Christmas songs all day while I was loading the van – no one had any choice but to listen!
"Because I'm doing this job in a pandemic it's heartwarming to see just how important it is to the very elderly. Some of them have thanked me for having a chat with them. I'll chat with them for three or four minutes while I'm delivering their shopping. Some of them haven't left their house since last March so I might be the only person they see.
"Many of them haven't done online shopping before so their son or daughter will have ordered it for them and I'll turn up at the door. It's been nice getting to know them.
"I've told some of them I work on cruise ships but I don't like to shout about it. Some of them are genuinely interested and ask me questions and I get to know about them and their families too. At the moment I'm asking if they've had their vaccinations yet – they're all very excited about them!
"When I first started at Asda I tried to get them to change my name on the system and use my middle name instead, because I'm here to do a job. I know a lot of people watch Benidorm and if they get a text saying Asa's turning up with your shopping they'll know it's me – there aren't many Asa's around!
"One lady answered the door with the biggest smile on her face. She said "I thought it was you!" She's a big Benidorm fan. Some people have been watching Benidorm on Netflix during lockdown.
"I'm named after Asa Hartford, the Manchester City footballer who had a hole in his heart. He's my dad's idol and I met him a few years ago because he's a big Benidorm fan and he came to see me in panto. It was a great night and my dad got to meet him too - Asa's a lovely man. But it turns out his name's not really Asa - that's just his middle name!
"There are lots of people that aren't in their normal jobs - we're all in the same boat. Some people working at Asda have been furloughed or made redundant from other jobs and have had to change careers temporarily or permanently.
"I'm scheduled to go back on the cruise ships from the end of June but we'll have to wait and see what happens. I'm just glad to be doing something.
"To me, I'm just delivering shopping but people really do appreciate it. I've stood in front of thousands of people before on stage and got appreciation but this is a whole different level of appreciation. It's very humbling."