The owner of a world-leading B&B in Scarborough lives with the thought of dying at any moment.
James Rusden, who owns The Toulson Court with his wife Angela, has revealed how his life hit rock bottom before the couple moved to the seaside resort.
James, also known as ‘the singing chef’, is known among guests for singing when he whips up ‘the full’ English breakfast for guests at the B&B near Peasholm Park.
But singing isn’t just for entertaining the guests, it’s James’ way of coping with crippling anxiety.
James has spoken openly about his struggles with his mental health, which began 14 years ago after he was diagnosed with two brain aneurysms, one of which was inoperable. This diagnosis was followed by a minor stroke as a result of being laid off from his career with the company.
“I live with the fact that I could die in 30 seconds,” James said.
He experienced a mental breakdown that would result in James “waking up, having a fag, coffee” before falling asleep again.
“My life was nothing and I couldn’t even walk out my garden gates without having a panic attack,” said James, who was worried about dying suddenly from his diagnosis.
He spent most of his time in bed and was taking a variety of medications at the time.
When James, who was caring for children with his Ackworth-born wife Angela, had a panic attack in the middle of a supermarket, he was sent for cognitive-behavioral therapy, which began to help.
When James’ mother died, he said, “I threw away my drugs and medication and went into therapy.”
James and Angela also took a remedial class on self-soothing and the power of humming sounds.
“I’ve only ever done karaoke for the foster kids,” said James, who also regularly ground his teeth.
Instead, he learned to count to 25 every time he felt a surge of fear, and James also started humming.
He now added: “Music is my medicine.”
In 2016, James and Angela made the decision to leave their three children and nine grandchildren in Ackworth to move to Scarborough for a stress-free life.
The couple had always loved the seaside resort and longed for the health benefits which prompted Victorians to flock there.
They originally intended to promote until they decided to start The Toulson Court, which is now the world’s premier B&B.
They managed to transform the “humble Victorian home” and their lives.
James said: “Now I have something to live for.”
He is now affectionately referred to by reviewers as “the singing chef.”
He gets up early every morning to prepare breakfast for his guests, including a “proper” Full English of black pudding and fried bread.
People flock to Toulson Court not only for the food, but also for James’ singing.
“Singing makes you happy. It started out as a hum and now I sing all the time.”
While entertaining guests with his voice as he cooks, singing is also key for James to stay healthy.
“I hum to relieve anxiety,” said James, who has found music to be his best coping mechanism.
Guests now ask James to sing for them and he is always happy to oblige. .
Whether it’s offering guests homemade breakfasts, cakes or a listening ear, James and Angela treat everyone who visits them as ‘family’.
James said guests often want to chat as well, as they are open about his health issues.
“I understand mental health and deal with it,” he said. “I’ve learned that I just have to keep going and grappling with things.”
All about Yorkshire’s world-leading B&B: The Toulson Court
Toulson Court has been named the top rated B&B for the second year running in the 20th Annual Travellers’ Choice Best of the Best Awards for Hotels, announced by Tripadvisor last month.
As the B&B prepares for a busy summer, Angela and James have retained their title after winning the coveted award for the first time last year.
The couple’s B&B, which is close to the seaside town’s Peasholm Park and a short walk from Scarborough Beach, “is not the Ritz or the Savoy,” said James, who took over the B&B with his wife in 2016.
The B&B is a modest Victorian house and ranks even higher than The Ritz London and Savoy Hotel on booking.com.
“We never thought we would be number one in Scarborough or top ten in Yorkshire, let alone in the world.
“It’s absolutely amazing and we thought we were put on a pedestal last year,” said James.
The hotel has an amazing 1765 positive reviews on TripAdvisor, a 4.9 rating on Google, and a 9.8 out of 10 rating on booking.com (with the Ritz and Savoy lagging behind with 9.4 reviews).
He said they never expected to be number one two years in a row.
“It’s absolutely incredible. We’re just an everyday Victorian house. It’s a nice clean place.
“We offer value for money and will not raise prices based on profit.
“We are a home from home and strive to get to know all of our guests.”