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The cake man cometh

20 March 2012

Health Care

Every morning, without fail, 88-year-old John Hollis gets up before dawn to make a large fruit cake.

And every week since 2001, whatever the weather, he has driven toSouthendUniversityHospitalto present grateful staff with six of the past week's masterpieces.

John, from Shoebury, is a past patient having suffered four heart attacks and undergone a triple by-pass. But, although he has now been discharged from the hospital, he still makes his weekly trip, armed with bags of cakes.

He says: "They are not doctors and nurses now - they are friends."

John honed his culinary skills when his wife Edna had a stroke 18 years ago and could no longer do the cooking. Sadly, she died in 2000 after 55 years of marriage. He started with sponge cakes for his 13 grandchildren and 19 'adopted' grandchildren (those of his neighbours).

The retired Post Office transport worker always starts his day between 3.30am and 4.30am, setting to work immediately on the baking. He says: "I can't vacuum at that time as it would be too noisy, so the first thing I do is make a cake. I don't use a mixer, just a spoon."

Once the cake is safely in the oven, he has a well-earned cup of tea.

John's weekly shopping list includes 12 to 13 bags of dried fruit, 30 eggs, two bags of flour and eight packs of margarine. He bulk buys sugar.

He distributes his cakes to different departments including the heart and chest clinic, cardiac and medical day-stay, rehab gym and Gordon Hopkins ward where he was previously a patient.

John says: "The staff are all so friendly - although I don't stop because I can see they are busy. I just drop the cakes in."

Nikki Baines, principal physiologist at the hospital, said: "He is known by us all as 'the cake man'. We really enjoy our cake and want to say a big 'thank you' to John for spoiling us for so many years. We really do appreciate his generosity."