Maintaining balanced lifestyle that is my preventive medicine

Rainbow  over The Chelston Manor. Photo: Wendy Bennett

Rainbow over The Chelston Manor - Credit: Wendy Bennett

I started a new job six weeks ago, at The Chelston Manor in Torquay.

I had met my new employer, Wendy Bennett, when I worked with her eldest daughter Lucy a couple of years ago.

On the first New Year’s Eve of Wendy’s tenure I performed in the bar with my musical partner Craig Ayres.

We enjoyed a really lovely evening with Wendy and her family, including her husband Mark, in-laws Ken and Louise and youngest daughter Charlotte, who are all on this adventure with her.

We were joined by welcoming locals, already their friends, and a slick front of house team, some of whom had come from the Princess Theatre to support Wendy and remain in her caring and infectiously energetic orbit.

I contacted Wendy in early 2020 about the possibility of holding some community yoga and wellbeing classes in one of the wonderful spaces at The Manor.

She immediately agreed to help me host a fundraiser for the challenged young women I work with in India.

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We made plans to make plans. I felt really positive, and then Covid hit.

Wendy had to close almost as quickly as she had opened and her vision had to be put on hold.

She and the team used the time well: redecorating, investing in garden coverings, ensuring that health and safety protocols are more than adhered to.

I went to see her in the autumn 2020 opening months.

She made time to sit and talk about the wellbeing idea and look at my website.

As valuable customers and loyal crew moved around her, after months of zero profit and continued outlay, she gave me her full attention and told me: “Yes, this will be fabulous. It will take some time, but yes.”

I went away feeling healthily buoyant and hopeful for what 2021 would bring.

When the second lockdown began at the start of this year I went into a depression. Lack of physical contact with my nieces, siblings and cherished friends, as well as concern about my Rainbow Family in India and fear about my and the world’s future consumed me.

In February, I messaged Wendy to check in and see how she was.

On a whim I asked her to let me know if she needed an extra pair of hands when she reopened.

As I wrote I realised how much I was craving human connection, a purpose and a good laugh - I have found that there is almost always a lot of laughing when you work in a pub or restaurant.

She replied: “I definitely will.”

True to her word, she called, and now I am there, three days a week, which is just enough for me to maintain the balanced lifestyle that is my preventive medicine.

At first it was like starting a new school or being helicoptered on to the landing pad of a ship where everybody else knew what they were doing.

It became enjoyable very quickly because the captain made the direction clear, and keeps us all on course, and because her crew are all professional, patient and fun.

My new colleague Dom, in particular, has taken the time to teach me the way that things are done, always asking “How can I help?” when he notices my uncertainty, regardless of how busy we are.

The fact that head chef Adrian Nelson, who I first worked with before I left home for university way back when, has also landed at The Manor is the icing on the cake, because he is a friend, and so I feel very at home in his creative kitchen.

As teenagers, my brother, sister and I loved to watch Cheers on TV.

Now I find myself part of a place where there are too many Norms to mention, where the postman is a pal and where I feel OK to be like Woody Harrelson’s character sometimes, needing a little support from the people around me to remember what I am supposed to be doing, feeling valued for who I am, more than OK just being me.