When I left Chewton Glen two-and-a-half years ago, I never imagined for one minute that I'd be back again, especially so soon. The opportunity to return was too good to turn down and my plans to be based in Scotland forever have now been put on hold for the foreseeable future.
Returning to a familiar property is in some respects like riding a bike, and to a certain extent it feels like I've never been away. This bike, though, is more like a Triumph Bonneville, which in my absence has been lovingly maintained and now benefits from an impressive range of extras.
A warm welcome has always been extended to every guest. However, on this occasion it's me who's been on the receiving end from staff, guests, members and suppliers alike. Such generosity only confirms that my decision to uproot once again was truly a sensible one and that the future is extremely bright.
The size 12s belonging to my predecessor will take some filling, and these shoes are, in my eyes, symbolic of the size of the job. Peter (Crome) contributed so much to Chewton Glen over the last nine years and is probably one of the hardest acts in the business to follow. But the task in hand is made more manageable for me because I know the place so well.
My motivation to return was very much based on the programme of continual development which prevails at Chewton Glen. Despite the fact that the building work has been relentless since my departure in 2001, this winter's improvements are already well under way. Once they're complete, we know the benefits will be numerous.
One of my first "official" engagements was to host the annual Gold Watch Lunch which rewards staff with 10 years or more service. A remarkable 22 staff attended this year, which accounts for more than 10% of the workforce and is certainly testament to the fact that Chewton Glen has always been a good employer. It's inevitable, though, that sooner or later good people will move on and a proportion of my first six weeks has been spent interviewing for key positions.
Although sad in some respects, it's also an opportunity to introduce some changes and at the same time continue to move forward.
Sitting on the 17:15 Weymouth train bulging at the seams with commuters, I'm relieved to have swapped city living once again for the peace and tranquillity of a more rural existence. My journey to London was, however, worthwhile, not only to enjoy another fine meal at the Dorchester, but also to collect the Johansens Most Excellent Spa award for 2004.
I can't claim any personal recognition for this accolade, but it was nevertheless a positive end to my first month at the helm.