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The Best Job I’ve Ever Had

The Royal Star & Garter Homes is fortunate to employ an amazing group of talented people. Our employees share the desire to enhance the lives of our residents, enabling them to live life to the full. One such employee is Heather Robinson, Activities Manager at the Surbiton Home. She has been a member of our team since 2003 and after much deliberation, she recently decided to retire. Raquel Peña Aristizabal, who has been the Deputy Activities Manager for the last two years, will be taking over Heather’s role. Heather and Raquel kindly sat down with Ben Shelley to discuss the impending change, memories of working at the Home and retirement plans.


Heather: I initially saw the advert for the Activities Manager role in The Guardian newspaper. It piqued my interest and I decided to apply. The rest, as they say, is history. It’s been the best job that I’ve ever had and choosing to retire at this point has been one of the most difficult decisions of my life. In twelve years, there’s not been a single day where I’ve not wanted to come to work. While I’m leaving confident in the knowledge that activities in the Home will be in good hands with Raquel, Phillip and the new Activities Coordinator, Carla, I will be sad to say goodbye to the many friends that I have made over the years.


In terms of my retirement plans, I want to take the time to enjoy different things at a slower pace, such as: learning a new language (Spanish); continuing to make my own jams and pickles; lying in bed with a cup of tea and the crossword; going for long walks; and shopping during the day. I have joined a choir and have been accepted as a volunteer by Winchester Library, delivering books to housebound people. Many of my friends have recently retired so I guess there will be a fair amount of long lunches, exhibitions and concerts.


Raquel: I’ve been working with Heather now for more than two years and I’ve enjoyed every moment, it’s been an absolute pleasure and we will keep in contact. While it’s sad to see Heather leave, it’s exciting to bring in Carla, who will step in as Activities Coordinator to support the team. The other member of the team, Phillip, who is our driver and supports all activites in the Home, will also be sad to see Heather go. 


It was at this point in the conversation that one of the Home’s residents, Dorothy Portsmouth, joined us at the table. She echoed the sentiments of Heather and Raquel, and said:


“It’s a good home. There is a vitality to your whole existence here. Everything else is flat by comparison.”


This was an emotional point for Heather and Raquel, and they took a moment to reflect before continuing with the conversation.


Heather: For the last 12 years I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night with ideas for activities and it will be hard to let go. I don’t regret those nights and loved the ‘life commitment’ that came with the role as I always got back as much as I gave. The residents have such amazing knowledge to impart and the way they approach life is truly inspirational.


I was overwhelmed by the number of residents, staff, volunteers and relatives that came to perform ‘South Pacific’ as my last ‘hurrah’ of sorts. It’s been a favourite musical of mine for a long time. The residents and staff have been a huge part of my life and I have so many treasured memories that I can take away with me.


Raquel: Doing a job like this one can be compared to being an artist – when inspiration strikes you need to take advantage. I now find myself waking up in the middle of the night, thinking of new ideas and projects. Even reading magazines and newspapers has changed because as you read, you are constantly thinking of the residents and what they will enjoy sharing.


True friends are hard to come by and I’m happy to say that Heather and I have become true friends. I will miss seeing her each day at work but I will look forward to catching up with her socially.


As a Charity, we would like to wish Heather the best of luck in her future endeavours. We look forward to working with the new team: Raquel, Carla and Phillip. Please visit our Facebook page to leave a retirement message for Heather and we will pass all messages on to her.


Interview by Ben Shelley, September 2015