Linda Ervine: Developing alopecia made me re-evaluate my work-life balance

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Linda Ervine, Irish language development officer for the East Belfast Mission

Linda Ervine, Irish language development officer for East Belfast Mission. Picture by Mal McCann
Gail Bell

1 Up and at it – what is your morning routine?

I’m a morning person and I tend to waken up very early, at 5 or 6am. That’s when I check my emails and browse Twitter and Facebook. On my way to work, I usually take time to pray for the day ahead. For me, that’s the best possible start that you can have. Breakfast is usually eaten at my desk when I arrive in work.

2 What might you eat in a typical working day for...

Breakfast? A piece of cheese, banana, yoghurt and water. At the weekend I like to make boiled eggs and toast. It’s a real treat to sit down with my husband, Brian, and eat breakfast together.

Lunch? Soup and a chicken sandwich.

Evening meal? If I’m not finished work, which is quite often, then it’s anything I can get my hands on – a packet of crisps or something out of the chippie if I’m out-and-about, giving a talk to groups. It will be a sandwich if I’m in the office. At home, my evening meal tends to be anything quick – probably out of Marks & Spencer – that I can just put in the oven and will still taste good.

3. Is nutrition important to you?

Because my diet during the week isn’t great due to long working hours and the business of life, I try to make up for it at the weekends by eating healthily. I love lots of fruit and vegetables when I’m at home and have time to cook.

Read more: Linda Ervine - I realised Irish belonged to me - a Protestant - and I fell in love with it

4 Best meal ever?

Any meal shared with family and friends.

5 Do you have a guilty pleasure?

I love desserts but I don’t eat chocolate. I can’t resist Maud's ice cream, especially the sea-salt caramel flavour.

6 Have you ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go?

I can’t stick to diets – I only ever last a few days and then I go back to my old ways.

7 Do you take health supplements?


8 How do you relax?

In the evenings. on nights when I’m not working, I like to be at home with Brian, watching television. At the weekends, I enjoy shopping with my daughters, Kelly and Rachel. When the weather allows, I try to go walking with friends as it helps me to de-stress. We quite often driven to Helen’s Bay and then walk from there into Bangor – on a warm, summer’s evening there is nowhere I would rather be.

9 Teetotal or tipple?


10 Stairs or lift?

Always the stairs, as I have a real phobia of lifts and avoid them at all times. It’s a bit of a nuisance sometimes as I work on the second floor of the Skainos Centre. However, all that running up and down stairs everyday keeps me fit and is cheaper than a gym membership.

11 Do you have a daily exercise regime?

Unfortunately, I don’t. I used to be really fit – walking, cycling, swimming and going to the gym regularly, but in recent years I have been so busy with work that I don’t get the time to be as active as I’d like to be. I bought a Fitbit a few months ago and I’m trying, with great difficulty, to achieve 10,000 steps a day.

Read more: Linda Ervine celebrates A grade in A-level Irish

12 Best tip for everyday fitness?

Little and often.

13 On a scale of one to 10, how fit do you think you are and how fit would you like to be?

I think I’m a five, but I’d like to be nine. I recognise that I’m not ever going to be as fit as was when I was in my 20s but I think it’s important to try to remain as active as possible for as long as is possible.

14 Have you tried, or would you try, alternative therapy?

I haven’t tried it, but I would definitely consider it.

15 Were school sports happy times or do you have a memory you would rather forget?

I didn’t have any interest in sport when I was at school and was more likely to be found forging a note to get off PE.

16 Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle?

Last year I had alopecia. For a few weeks I couldn’t get my hair to sit properly and then I suddenly noticed that I had two bald patches just behind my ears. I was lucky in that my hair hid them, but it was still a shock. I’m not sure if it was caused by stress, but it has certainly made me re-evaluate the hours that I work and my work/life balance.

17 Best health/lifestyle advice you were ever given and would pass on to others?

A piece of advice that was given to me and which I pass on to others who are facing difficult times is, ‘This too will pass’. I wish I had been aware how true it is when I was facing problems in my own life. It is only now that I am older that I can truly appreciate the wisdom in those few words.

18 Who inspires you or who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness / attitude to life?

People who have a positive attitude to life and who continue on, even in the face of adversity.

19 What time do you normally get to bed and do you get enough sleep?

I always get to bed before midnight, as I can’t do late nights and seldom see the end of a film – I usually fall asleep on the settee.

20 Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards your own mortality?

I don’t have a fear of death, as my faith tells me that it is not the end. I would like to live long enough to enjoy retirement and to see my grandchildren grow up. As I get older, I do worry about my health and I would like to have a good quality of life for as long as possible.

Read more: Linda Ervine - I realised Irish belonged to me - a Protestant - and I fell in love with it

:: Linda Ervine is taking part in a talk entitled The Irish Language Is Not A Weapon But An Invaluable Tool For Unity, along with Aisling Ghéar theatre company artistic director Bríd Ó Gallchoir, at the Black Box, Belfast, as part of the Imagine Festival on Friday March 29 at 3pm. See for full programme and ticket info.

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