Margaret Dooley - My passion is cooking! Read Margaret's story.
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Our residents' stories
We take the time to understand people; their interests and tastes and so encourage them to follow their passions. And even to discover new ones. Whether your loved one's passion is art, cooking, music, baking or anything else - we work hard to support them. Our extensive programme of arts & fitness activities to help them lead their best lives.
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“If the chefs here wanted support, I would certainly be happy to help out!” – Cecil Court resident Margaret on a lifelong passion for cooking.
Margaret Dooley, 91, took up cooking at a young age, inspired by the work of her mother in royal households. She had her own distinguished career as a chef, working as head of catering in schools, care homes, hospitals and universities. Margaret moved into Cecil Court in late 2020.
Here, Margaret talks about her love of the kitchens, and how she has settled into her new home in Cecil Court.
“Cooking has always been in my blood. My mother worked for the Royal Family as Head Cook before she had me. She cooked at a number of parties and other catering events in London, which was a very good job to have.
“I helped my mother cook from the age of 7 or 8, baking cakes and little dishes for her, and I loved it. I went on to make catering my career. I’ve always had an interest in cooking and it just came naturally to me.
“I trained in catering at university in Guildford and I worked my way up to Head Catering Manager at the University of London. I also worked as Head Catering Manager at a hospital in Chelsea. I’ve done care homes in Ascot and had a lot of opportunities and experience in different things.
“Over the years, I’ve kept up the catering. I love doing pastries, I love doing cakes, I’ve done Christmas cakes for lots of people. I like most foods, there’s nothing really I dislike, and I would cook all sorts of different dishes.”
Margaret cooking in the Cecil Court kitchen
“I don’t do so much now as I used to. But if the chefs here at Cecil Court asked or wanted support one day, I would certainly be happy to help out, whatever I can help to do! But we do have good food here.
“Although I haven’t been here too long, it’s a nice relaxing place. I lost my husband recently and became quite lonely. My daughter lives in London and she thought it would be nice to be near her. I’m very happy here; the staff are lovely, I have a nice room, I’m quite well looked after.
“I’ve settled here very well. I do like company, and you’re very well treated. Since I’ve been here I’ve been very surprised; you hear people outside say ‘I wouldn’t go into a home’ but everybody has been nice. If you want to go out shopping nobody would stop you, and I see my daughter and son-in-law pretty regularly, which is great.”
Margaret on life at Cecil Court
“The piano’s one of the most important things here in the home with me” – Homemead resident Gerry on playing the same piano all her life
Gerry Gale-Vine, now 87, worked as a TV and theatre actress, notably performing as a sing/dancing girl in the Morecambe and Wise show. She has lived in Homemead for the past three years.
Gerry has played the piano all her life, and here tells the story of her love of the instrument.
“I started playing the piano because my mother played it. We had a lovely piano and I wanted to be able to do what she could do! She started to teach me when I was quite young, before I started formal lessons at school. I also learnt tap dance there, although my feet were too flat to learn ballet!
“I’ve played on and off all my life. I’ve had the same piano all the time as well and it lives in the home with me, I’m glad to have it here as I am here for good. I get it tended to occasionally and it doesn’t sound out of tune, though you have to watch it a bit. It’s a good piano, it makes a nice sound. I love playing for a while, until I make too many mistakes! You’ve got to keep practicing and work at it.
“I don’t play too often as there’s so many people here and there’s always something going on! My plan was to play the piano early in the morning when no-one else was around, but I’d probably make so much noise I’d wake everyone up!”
Gerry on how she came to play the piano
“Give me a bit of music and I can learn to play it. I entertained the residents and staff at Easter recently, and again at Christmas. Some of the staff have sung around me as I’ve played. I love to hear what I’m doing and physically I like to feel what I’m doing. I mostly like classical, particularly Chopin.
“The piano’s one of the most important things here in the home with me. I do find Homemead a real home from home. I like my bedroom which is lovely, a large room with two great big windows looking out to the garden and the street. And the food is good!”
Gerry on what she likes about Homemead
“Art is a nice thing to do in the home as it is something I have always done” – Celia Reynolds on her love of painting
Celia Reynolds, 88, moved into Compton Lodge in 2020 from her previous home in Winchmore Hill. Celia is an arts enthusiast and is able to access arts classes as well as a variety of other activities at the home.
Here she tells of her experience with art, and how she has been able to make a new family circle within Compton Lodge.
“I wouldn’t say I was particularly talented at art, but it was an interest I have always held. It’s something that has always been there for me.
“I have been painting all my life. Even in school I used to have double Art on a Friday afternoon and I thought it was a lovely way to end the week. It also got me out of Geography!
“Over the years, I have progressed from drawing and painting to trying various other aspects, such as oils and watercolours.
“Since I moved into Compton Lodge last year, I’ve been made aware that the opportunity of arts classes and support from staff is there, as and when I want to access it. I know I can take art more seriously than before should I wish.
“As someone who doesn’t have my own family, I’ve made a new family of sorts within the home. You really do enjoy each other’s company, especially sitting altogether at meal times. I especially enjoy not having to cook my own meals anymore!
“I have got one or two pictures that I have done, which are in my bedroom. Art is a nice thing to do as it is something that I have always done.”
Celia on the company that Compton Lodge provides
Compton Lodge has a long-standing record of attracting residents with a background of a passion for or even a professional career in the arts. To find out more, or for more information about our ‘three weeks respite care for the price of two’ or ‘two weeks free care for permanent residents’, please visit the Compton Lodge page.
“The residents all enjoy the plants…my uncle doesn’t mind sharing his passion!” – Nigel Service’s niece on how his love of gardening can continue
Lucy Clark’s uncle Nigel Service, 85, moved to Rathmore House in June last year. Lucy’s mother Diana is also a resident at the home. Nigel is a gardening enthusiast who has enjoyed helping out at the gardens at his new home, as and when the weather conditions allow!
Here, she picks up his story.
“My uncle was born in Hampstead, and as a young person he became interested in helping his own father in the garden. My grandfather had actually won awards for his gardening in his own later years.
“Uncle Nigel took a particular interest in irises. He is, I’m told by the Royal Iris Society, the number one expert on bearded irises, a particular genus of iris. He planted and experimented with irises when he lived in France and travelled around the world to locations where bearded irises were spotted, hopefully getting there when they were flowering! He’s written a number of articles published both in America and here, mainly in journals related to plants and nature.
“When he moved to Rathmore House last summer, he took with him some of the orchids he had been looking after for a few years. Edith, Rathmore’s manager, was very encouraging and took him to a garden centre a couple of times, also making sure there were some trowels and forks available for him. They chose various plants which were planted outside and looked after last summer. They have mostly died over the winter period, but maybe some will come back, it’s difficult to know!
“I know Edith plans to take him back to the garden centre and buy some more plants in the near future. He still likes gardening and likes to potter around and do stuff, and is looking forward to having something to do outside!
“There’s a benefit to the other residents too. They all enjoy the plants and it gives them a talking point and something to engage with. My uncle doesn’t mind sharing his passion!
Lucy Clark, Nigel's niece on gardening
Lucy Clark, Nigel's niece on Rathmore House
“There was a home my father went to briefly, before he went to (other C&C Camden care home) Compton Lodge, which I was very unhappy with. They were not really encouraging people to be as independent as possible. There were lots of activities advertised, but everyone was wheeled off to them and wheeled back, whether they could walk or not. I found that very disconcerting. My father could walk with a Zimmer frame and I wanted him to carry on doing so.
“They ate individually in their bedrooms for breakfast and dinner and I felt they weren’t being encouraged to be as independent and free to move around as they should be, plus his room was like a cupboard. In both Compton Lodge and Rathmore House, the rooms are spacious; they are encouraged to bring their own furniture, they are encouraged to walk; they all eat together and are discouraged from eating in their bedrooms. There’s a community there and that was something I really picked up on for both of the homes which I didn’t get from this first one. I didn’t like the way the other home smelt!
“Staff turnover at Rathmore is low, which points to dedicated people who are generally happy with where they are. That I find good, because it’s not an easy job. You get to know the staff, they’re very friendly and they’re not sitting around. In the other home where my father was, you’d see staff sitting around on their phones. If they had no actual work to do, why weren’t they enriching their residents lives by communicating?! I never see that in Rathmore; they are sitting with residents and communicating and caring for them!
“It’s a nice old house, it’s got character. I think they have made good use of the common areas. When I first looked, I was looking at activities, living conditions, food, those sorts of things. But the friendliness of the staff and the way that they really care for their people comes across. They always see the person who is coming into the home, where they are living at that moment, just to see them and assess them. They’re more welcoming then I had imagined.
“Also the support to me personally has been outstanding. My father died recently, and the support I got from Edith asking me if I was ok, even though he wasn’t in Rathmore, was outstanding. They all seem to get to know you and I don’t suppose I expected that so much.”
“They’re fabulous people at Compton Lodge, and have taken terribly good care of him. He loves the food there and thinks it is terrific." - Gerry Beswick’s wife on how he settled in at Compton Lodge
Kate Beswick’s husband Gerry moved into Compton Lodge care home nearly two years ago. Gerry taught as a mechanical engineer, but has always held a strong interest in art and his late brother became a very successful commercial artist in his own right.
Here, Kate tells of Gerry’s lifelong passion for all creative arts.
“My husband Gerry was brought up in a very working-class family from Old Woking. His father worked for the Post Office. His mother was a wonderful woman; very strong, she wanted her kids to have everything.
“He read engineering at Southampton University after winning the Spitfire Mitchell scholarship, and went on to work for British Aerospace. Around the same time he travelled with some friends to Crete; one a writer, one an artist, and while there Gerry decided he wanted to be a writer, something he did for many years. He started writing poetry, and was inspired to write a novel after picking up his first book at a train station.
“He also started painting soon after. The very first thing he painted was the curtains in our flat in Swiss Cottage, and it’s a beautiful painting. He did a summer painting course with (Oskar) Kokoschka in Vienna, and he won a prize at the end of the course. Soon after he took up photography.
“He’s always been very active in the arts as an adult, which is unusual for an engineer. We started going to poetry readings together, then I took him to the ballet. I’m hoping we will be able to go again when the theatres open up again.
“Someone one day bought one of his paintings which got him even more interested. A guy who owns the village pub near our holiday home in Ireland also runs an arts gallery, and Gerry has exhibited there for several years. People who came to our house always seemed to want to buy one of his pictures.
Kate Beswick, Gerry's wife on Compton Lodge
“When Gerry took early retirement, I built him a little studio so he could paint. He must have sold or given at least 50 paintings, and probably more. I look at his paintings now, which cover our walls and think ‘they are stunning!’
“Gerry moved into Compton 18 months ago. They do art classes there and have an arts studio. He did three paintings when he first arrived, although it hasn’t been so easy for him all the time during the lockdown. I think with the arts therapists coming back into the home, hopefully this will stimulate him more. If they knew how to encourage him to paint more now, they would do so and sit with him to help.
“They’re fabulous people at Compton Lodge, and have taken terribly good care of him. He loves the food there and thinks it is terrific. He’s getting a much higher-quality then when he was home with me! He likes all the carers too, and sits in the office and chats.
“I looked around a few homes and I think Compton Lodge was by far the best. His room is really nice.
“Every time I go, I think about the staff, that they are the most remarkable people I have ever met. They are the people they should be honoured above everyone. They have had BBQs in the summer which was really very nice. It’ll be nice if that’s back on the agenda soon, as I have been able to go and join him.
“The other homes weren’t physically very attractive; they didn’t have any activities, they didn’t have the garden. I had to go into convalescence and had to leave early because of the mice! Other places were too tricky to get to. In Compton people can visit him, it’s really well located, everyone is relaxed, it has a really nice garden; I think it’s very nice.”
Kate Beswick, Gerry's wife on Gerry's love of art
Claire Wright’s mother Lady Eva Hatch, 97, moved into Cecil Court care home in Kew in November 2012. Lady Eva, who lives with advanced dementia, is regularly reminded of her life story through a short film that plays images of her children, travels, and her jobs as a photographer and tour guide.
“My mother was born in Turkey but brought up in Greece. She was in Athens during the war when it was occupied, and so came to England in her early 20s.
“After she had been a nurse for a while she moved into photography. She had a London studio and would take publicity shots of actresses.
“When she first met my dad, they needed to make some money, so they used to go to nightclubs and take photos of people. During the dance, they would rush to their lab, develop the pictures, reappear at the end of the night and sell the photos. It was quite a money spinner in the days before camera phones! Her career progressed well after that, and she has one or two of her pictures hanging up on her wall in her room at Cecil Court.
“When the 60s came, there was less call for artistic photoshoots, so she changed course entirely and became a guide lecturer for the London Tourist Board. As a native Greek speaker, she led groups of tourists from Greece to all the sites the tourists would go – the Tower of London, Museum of London, British Museum…places like that.”
“As her dementia began to set in more and more, she was unable to continue with the aspects that guide lecturing really needs – the ability to walk vast distances and to remember lots of facts – so she eventually stopped. After a time, we decided she would have to live in sheltered accommodation, where someone could look after her. We looked at a few places and decided that Cecil Court was the one we liked the best.
“It’s very difficult to look after someone with dementia and do it 24 hours a day. When she first moved into Cecil Court, she really didn’t want to go, and for a long while referred to it as a hotel. But now she does call it home. When we took her out more recently, she would say ‘Are we going home?’ referring to Cecil Court, not her house. I think that is an absolute triumph by the staff.
“We got a great first impression. The place smelled very clean and people were smiling. It had an air of contentment about it. Moving her into a home was a very difficult time for us as a family, but the staff were not only brilliant with my mum but also with me. I felt they helped both of us through a tricky time.
“Nowadays, she has a special ‘Life Story’ film of her life, created by My Life Films, which staff will put on a small laptop for her so she can physically watch it. The film contains images of her life – her children, her travelling, and her work. It does help her to stay calm; as someone who was a photographer herself, she can now watch her life in photos.
“It’s the people at Cecil Court who make it special. They are so kind. Having the same care staff means she doesn’t feel alone. She knows the people that she’s seeing. She’s been able to have visitors come in over the years, so it had been just like being at home. Unfortunately, she has outlived most of her friends, but she still has some who come and see her, and they can pop in anytime.
“I love the gardens, which have lots of seating areas. The location is lovely; we were easily able to take Mum around Kew Gardens which is good for her as it’s an area she has lived in for the past 60 years. We were extremely lucky Cecil Court was so close, as we wanted somewhere local.
“Some of the care homes near where I live in Surrey are extremely plush and well done-up. Cecil Court isn’t like that – it’s far more homely. That’s kind of your first impressions in many ways. I love the big reception rooms at the front being full of light, I think that’s quite important for residents.”