The Toulson Court, Scarborough: Yorkshire owner of ‘world’s best B&B’ shares his daily health battle
As the owners of the Scarborough B&B named the best in the world by TripAdvisor for the second year running celebrate with a modest bit of bubbly, the co-proprietor - who is also known as the ‘singing chef’ - reflects back on how different his life was 14 years ago when he had a mental health breakdown.
The owner of a world number one Scarborough B&B lives with the fact that he could die at any moment.
James Rusden, who owns The Toulson Court with his wife Angela, has revealed how his life had hit rock bottom before the pair made the move to the seaside resort.
James, dubbed ‘the singing chef,’ is well-known among guests for his vocals as he whips up “the full” Full English breakfast for those staying at the B&B near Peasholm Park.
But the singing isn’t just to entertain the guests, it’s James’ way of coping with crippling anxiety.
James has spoken openly about his struggles with his mental health which started 14 years ago after having been diagnosed with two brain aneurysms, one inoperable. This diagnosis followed a mild stroke as a result of being made redundant from his corporate career.
“I live with the fact that I could die within 30 seconds,” said James.
He experienced a mental health breakdown which would result in James “waking up, having a fag, coffee” before he went back to sleep.
“My life was nothing and I couldn't even walk to my garden gates without having a panic attack,” said James, who was anxious about suddenly dying as a result of his diagnosis.
He would spend most of his days in bed and took a range of medications at the time.
When James, who used to foster children with his wife Angela, originally from Ackworth, had a panic attack in the middle of a supermarket, he was sent to cognitive behavioural therapy which began to help.
When James’ mum then passed away, he said: “I threw my drugs and medication in the bin and had therapy.”
James and Angela also did a fostering course which talked about how to self soothe and the power of humming noise.
“I’d only ever done karaoke for the foster kids,” said James, who would also grind his teeth regularly.
Instead he learned to count to 25 every time he began to experience a wave of anxiety and James began humming too.
He added that now: “Music is my medicine.”
In 2016, James and Angela made the decision to leave their three children and nine grandchildren behind in Ackworth to move to Scarborough for a stress-free life.
The couple had always been fond of the seaside resort and craved the health benefits that caused Victorians to flock there.
Initially they had been planning to foster until they decided to set up The Toulson Court, which has now become the world’s number one B&B.
They managed to transform the “modest Victorian house,” as well as their lives.
James said: “Now I have something to live for.”
He is now fondly known by reviewers as “the singing chef.”
He gets up early each morning to begin preparing breakfast including a “proper” Full English with black pudding and fried bread for his guests.
People don’t just flock to The Toulson Court for the food however, it’s for James’ vocals too.
“Singing makes me happy. It started as humming and now I sing all the time.”
While he entertains the guests with his voice while he’s cooking, for James singing is key to staying well too.
“I hum to ease anxiety,” said James who has found music his best coping mechanism.
Guests now request James to sing for them and he is always happy to oblige. .
Whether it be offering guests home-made breakfasts, cakes or a listening ear, James and Angela see everyone who visits like “family.”
James said that since being open about his health challenges, guests often want to chat too.
“I understand mental health and I deal with it,” he said. “I’ve learned I just have to get on and deal with things.”
All about Yorkshire’s World Number One B&B: The Toulson Court
The Toulson Court has been named the best-rated B&B for the second consecutive year in the 20th annual Travellers’ Choice Best of the Best Awards for Hotels, announced last month by Tripadvisor.
As the B&B gears up for a busy summer, Angela and James kept hold of their title after first winning the coveted accolade last year.
The couple’s B&B, which is located close to the seaside town’s Peasholm Park and a short walk from Scarborough Beach, “is not the Ritz or Savoy,” said James who took over the B&B with his wife in 2016.
The B&B is a modest Victorian house and is even ranked higher than The Ritz London and Savoy Hotel on booking.com.
“We never thought we’d get to number one in Scarborough or top ten in Yorkshire, let alone in the world.
“It’s absolutely amazing and we thought we'd be put on a pedestal last year,” said James.
The hotel has clocked up a staggering 1765 positive reviews on TripAdvisor, 4.9 rating on Google and a 9.8 out of 10 on booking.com (with the Ritz and Savoy trailing behind with 9.4 ratings).
He said that they never expected to be number one for two years running.
“It’s absolutely unbelievable. We’re just an everyday Victorian house. It’s a lovely clean place.
“We are value for money and we won’t be putting up prices as a result of winning.
“We’re a home away from home and we make an effort to get to know all of our guests.”