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Toby’s Tales Pt.1 - “My Introduction to the Motley Cru”

Leaving university I found myself, like so many others, not knowing what to do. I felt very

strongly that I didn’t want to move away from Devon with all its sunshine and seaward charm-

I am very at home here and the thought of having to uproot myself and find a job in a big

scary city did not appeal to me at all. Through shear luck and fortunate coincidence I found

myself being offered this role in a nearby vineyard: a barista, a cocktail waiter, a kitchen

assistant, a handy man, a gardener, a cameraman and a tour guide all rolled into one. I was

under-qualified, sure, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that wasn’t.

So, I grasped the opportunity with both hands as you do in these situations. Lured in by a flash website and the thought that I could cycle to work along the estuary (I did it once, it’s a long way). The next day I hopped on the bus and made my first trip to Kenton. Walking along that country lane, occasionally leaping into stinging nettles to avoid being run over, I realized I had never been to a vineyard. I didn’t even know that you could grow grapes in England. What if you can’t? What if this whole thing is a hoax? Why would it be? Calm yourself down. It’s the pre-meeting nerves.

When I arrived at the estate I was, of course, at the wrong entrance. My first ever action on the grounds of Kenton Park Estate was to trespass through private property. I set the dogs off who scared a chicken enough to relieve itself just centimetres in front of my next footstep. Thankfully their barking also attracted the attention of Ian who came down from his office to direct me to the winery that contained Jayne whom I had heard so much about. “Thank you so much and sorry again!”, was how I ended my first interaction with Ian. Better to be overly apologetic than to risk my chances of employment.

Indicative of how my first summer with The Motley Cru would go there was a big water leak in the winery when I first arrived. “Is now a bad time?”, I asked, not having thought through what I could do if the answer was yes. Luckily, Jayne is always calm in moments of chaos. Well, almost always. We sat and we talked while water poured into the tasting room, the start of a brand-new water feature perhaps: The Kenton Lido. It was too soon for me to be cracking those sorts of jokes just yet however tempted I may have been.

I learnt all about The Motley Cru, The O-T family: Jayne, Ian, Ben, Josh, Siena. Rachel and Freya, Ben and Josh’s girlfriends. Milena and Will, the crazy cook and her handy man husband. And everyone else that works on the estate. And despite all this I wasn’t scared away! I knew straight away that everyone in The Motley Cru was really a family and I thought about how fun it would be if I could somehow join it. Jayne gave me a feel for the people before Ben gave me a tour of the place. Ben is a big Formula 1 fan and if you ever get in a vehicle with him that becomes apparent straight away. The Polaris buggy that we use to get around the estate is no exception to that, in fact I would say that Ben most likes to test his driving abilities when in the Polaris with me in the passenger seat. So, my first look around the estate was equal parts eye opening and dangerous. Still, nothing like a bit of mild peril to spice up a job interview.

I fell in love with the vineyard the moment I set eyes on it, as so many of its visitors do and despite my lack of qualifications I was offered the job!

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