Stormont sign-language interpreter Kristina Sinclair: Silencing my phone was a game-changer

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Stormont BSL (British Sign Language) interpreter Kristina Sinclair

Sign language interpreter Kristina Sinclair at her home in south Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell
Gail Bell

BSL interpreter Kristina Sinclair working at Stormont with her colleague Amanda Coogan, who interprets in Irish Sign Language (ISL)


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

Our routine has not changed much. We get wakened by the ‘littlies’ at around 7am then head downstairs for porridge, snakes and ladders, a coffee and chat before the madness of the day begins.


What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?

Porridge and blueberries and a coffee.


Poached eggs and avocado.

Evening meal?

Depends on who is cooking, but usually it’s a good old fashioned chicken dinner or a pasta feast.


Have you been able to work from home – if so, how have you found it?

Challenging! When I wasn’t up at Stormont interpreting the press briefings, I was working either on Zoom meetings or on a remote interpreting health platform that serves all of the UK. Many appointments with medical professionals were almost interrupted by my three little blonde heads in various states of undress who couldn’t wait to show me their creations or tell me their stories.


Best/easiest lockdown meal?

Deanes2go. Deanes is our go-to for any celebration, so we were delighted we could keep the tradition for the lockdown birthdays and special occasions. As usual, the food was wonderful.


Weekend treat?

Getting out and enjoying our amazing city. Belfast is beautiful and we are surrounded by the most scenic and stunning examples of nature. Lockdown gave us both the space and weather to explore areas on our doorstep that we didn’t even know existed.


How have you kept physically and mentally fit during lockdown?

We joined the ‘PE with Joe’ [Wicks] classes and loved them. They were brilliant and the kids loved that we were exercising along with half a million other people from all over the world. Lockdown was a bit of a roller-coaster and was often mentally very tough. Making time to talk to family and friends became even more crucial than ever. I also opted out from being instantly and constantly available online. I muted Whatsapp groups, silenced my phone and, when I could, I turned off all devices. It was a game-changer.


What has been your daily outdoor exercise?

As a family, we love to head out on long walks and cycles. We’ve loved exploring and getting lost in the Lagan Meadows and enjoying the local parks around the Ormeau and Ravenhill Roads.


How do you relax?

I feel my most relaxed when I’m outside and lost in nature. I also love spending time with my extended family and am delighted we are now able to meet and be together.


Teetotal or tipple?

Definitely a red wine.


What book are you currently reading?

Like many others, I’ve been dumbfounded by the happenings in America and I’m reading American Oligarchs to understand the upheaval and give some context to the startling happenings we’ve seen on our TV screens recently.


Best Netflix?

The last film we watched was Lion which is an astonishing and deeply moving true story. Generally, we enjoy historical fiction or true stories.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself?

I think we have all realised how adaptable we are when faced with change. If you had told me in January that we were going to be launched into a three-month lockdown I think I’d have despaired, but in the moment, as it unfolded, we all got on with it and tried to make the most of it.


On a scale of one to 10, where have your been in relation to cabin fever – and where are you now?

Just as lockdown hit, my colleague and I got the call to interpret the daily briefing at Stormont. It felt very strange driving through the deserted streets of Belfast to get to Parliament Buildings, but I was out of my house and meeting other people. Considering this, it would be unfair to say I suffered cabin fever as my husband was home with our three young kids.


What are the three things you missed most during the beginning of lockdown?

Coffee shops, eating out and the French Open. We live off the Ormeau Road and are surrounded by amazing independent coffee shops that serve speciality coffee and great food. I really missed the hustle and bustle of the Ormeau, popping in for an impromptu brunch and those lovely chats you have with the lovely people you bump into.


Where will you go and what will you do when restrictions are fully lifted?

Somewhere warm on holiday.


Biggest gripe?

Fitted bed sheets.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

We have decided to slow down and be more intentional about our downtime. Rather than always having somewhere to be or someone to meet, we are going to plan less and keep our weekend free to connect and rest.


Any new skills or hobbies?

I tried not to feel pressured into toxic productivity as we agreed the only important thing was to remain a happy and healthy family during the lockdown period. However, I finally managed to take up yoga and did a short session every day. Granted, it was Cosmic Kids yoga and with my children, but it’s a start.


What would you like to see change for good when this is all over?

I love how we’ve all been forced to slow down. I love seeing families in the park playing together. I love that people are checking in on their neighbours. It almost feels like society as a whole has had the time to stop and recalibrate and focus on what really matters. I hope we can all take a little bit of that into our post-lockdown realities.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

The words of Benjamin Franklin come to mind: that taxes and death are our only certainties. The pandemic has definitely reminded me how fragile life can be and how our loved ones really are all that matter.

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