Editor Brendan Hanrahan reports on his first day as a volunteer at St Helena Hospice’s Tendring Day Centre in Jackson Road, Clacton.

THE magazines on the table in the bright main reception area are gardening dominated, topped with Now, featuring the buxom Kelly Brook on the front. This celebrity culture malarkey is going way too far.

Soft green and beige, and a sense of calm and light abound as I’m met and shown around.

We have a coffee in the main lounge which catches the best of the sun, especially the garden I can see through the windows and patio doors. There is lots of laughter and conversation between the visitors, patients, carers and volunteers. I get to meet all but a few later.

Di shows me the building in full. You won’t want for a toilet here, there’s one every 10 yards seemingly. There’s rooms for meetings, counselling, massage, shiatsu, acupuncture, a jacuzzi bath I felt like sampling myself, and places for watercolour classes, palliative care, art and relaxation therapy.

Opened in 2002, the centres oozes positive vibes, a happy approach and people making the best of difficult times.

Adrian the photographer arrives. What now? Another celebrity? Ah, no, he takes a few shots of me talking to Dave, one of the veterans here, and then Jean and Ian, from Dovercourt.

Jean shows me her knitting: lovely hats, booties and mittens she makes for the baby unit at the hospital, each blue, pink or peach garment carrying her trademark single stitched kiss.

I chat to Ian, a former prison officer, and spot his West Midlands accent and he asks me what part of God’s country I’m from. We talk about West Bromwich Albion’s shameful defeat at Wolverhampton yesterday before he takes up his book.

A watercolour art class starts at 11 and I take the time to chat with volunteer Phyl, who took on the work after the death of her husband who received hospice care. She gives every Monday morning to the centre.

Every patient who’s here this Monday has cancer.

I go and sit by Lina, who also lives in Dovercourt, and “likes to talk”. I listen as she tells me how hungry she is and glad it will be dinner time soon. She speaks of the loss of her husband about 15 years ago and her own diagnosis. “You just have to get on as best you can, “ she says. “What’s fact is fact and that’s that. This is my third time here and I was a bit nervous at first.”

But she smiles and says all the people are lovely and the place too and she looks forward to it now.

I help Phyl and others to lay the tables and pour and carry drinks. Ian says: “Who’s the new waiter? He’s good. He can come back.”

In the afternoon, I join Dave, Val and a couple of others for the relaxation class. It works. I nod off for ten minutes myself. I’m too terrified to ask if my stentorian snoring (not my fault, inherited from my father) disturbed them.

It’s pushing 3pm and the patients’ lifts, spouses and friends come to take them to their homes across Tendring. We say our goodbyes and I promise to see them again (I will if they’ll have me). I walk and help Lina into her chair as her driver takes her home.

I’ll be back here on Wednesday and feel sure I’ll be back some more.

Before returning to the office, I get a sympathy card for my hotelier friend Carol in Birmingham who lost her father to a sudden heart attack last week. I write a simple greeting and on the left side of the card , add: “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; love leaves a memory no one can steal.” (Anon, headstone in Ireland).

Tomorrow: I work in the hospice’s shop in Rosemary Road.

People can sponsor Brendan's efforts by visiting the hospice appeal Justgiving webpage at http://www.justgiving.com/Clacton-Gazette-Hospice-Appeal