Every Thursday, and much to the approval of fellow patients and staff, John McDonough and Lawrence Greenen host a weekly whiskey tasting session at the Hospice’s John Cheverton Centre (JCC).
It is a far cry from many people’s vision about life in a hospice, but then John and Lawrence are no ordinary patients either. Both are suffering from life-limiting heart conditions and other complications, and both are already living beyond the time initially given to them by doctors – and they are determined to enjoy every minute!
Whiskey-drinker John, 63, immediately formed a friendship with Lawrence, 73, a retired motor spares salesman during their weekly out-patient visits, and together they set about spreading their infectious enthusiasm around the JCC.
Lawrence, of Newport, said:
“We have both been told we are living on borrowed time but we are not playing by the rules and it is this attitude that keeps us alive”.
It is this positive and unconventional outlook which has led them to start their own whiskey tasting club. Each Thursday the pair – and any fellow patients who fancy a sip – sit down for a tasting session from an impressive collection of miniatures under the watchful eye of Diversionary Therapy Co-ordinator at the Hospice, Kate Mansbridge.
Patients unable to sample the whiskey join in by sniffing out each whiskey’s distinctive aromas. Tasting notes are also filled out to record the merits of each sample.
It has all given a new energy to Thursdays at the JCC, and the tasting sessions have also led to cribbage or scrabble sessions. John said:
“When I first came here it all seemed a bit quiet but now we have got to know one another it’s brightened up a lot.
“I have always been a whiskey drinker and I am outspoken too. I said that there was only one whiskey – Glenfiddich – and then someone came up with the idea that we ought to have tasting sessions to see what I was talking about.
“I suggested we should all go on a whiskey-tasting trip to Scotland but Kate thought that would be a bit difficult, so instead she ordered a selection of miniatures from Amazon. It has grown from there – we have all discovered whiskies we had not heard of before and one of the volunteers, Eileen Bennett, has also brought us in some whiskey liqueurs.”
The impromptu whiskey tasting group also inspired Hospice staff to approach local brewery, Goddards, to give a talk in the JCC. Xavier Baker, Business Development Manager at Goddards Brewery in Ryde, was happy to oblige. He gave patients an insight into Isle of Wight brewing over the years; the brewing process, and the background and an update on Goddards Brewery.
He brought with him samples of Goddards ale which quickly earned the seal of approval from patients. Xavier also bought along the ingredients which go into beer, including samples of the various malts and hops.
“It was a pleasure to talk to the patients about brewing and our business.
“The atmosphere at the JCC is really something special and I would love to return again soon when I will be able to update them on some exciting new developments currently being planned at Goddards.”
Photographed L-R: John McDonough; Xavier Baker; Lawrence Greenen