Writer Rosemary Jenkinson: I'd emulate Zorba the Greek in terms of attitude to life

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week, award-winning Belfast playwright, poet and short story writer, Rosemary Jenkinson

Rosemary Jenkinson, Belfast playwright, poet and short story writer
Gail Bell

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

I get up about 8 o'clock, switch on the computer in my bedroom and go downstairs for breakfast. I live on my own, so I can ease into the day at my own pace. I can’t watch TV or listen to the radio first thing – my brain needs to come round before it tunes in. After breakfast, I take up a cup of coffee and, still in my pyjamas, I throw myself into my writing.

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

Breakfast? Toast and Marmite.

Lunch? Typically, boiled egg and toast.

Evening meal? My main meal will be something like chicken, potatoes and peas – I never had the patience to learn to cook, so everything is basic and unadorned. I eat to live, not live to eat.

3. Is nutrition important to you?

No. At most, I pay lip service to nutrition, although I like the idea of it. For instance, I know fish is good for me, so I might eat a packet of Scampi Fries...

4. Best meal ever?

I think it’s got to be raclette (dish of melted cheese, typically eaten with potatoes), which my French friends prepare in winter. What is more divine on a freezing day than melted cheese? In my view, a meal is as much about the company as the food.

5. Do you have a guilty pleasure (food-wise, that is)?

A Liquorice Allsorts sugarfest.

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

About 10 years ago I was a bit overweight, so for four weeks I ate very little and walked a lot. It worked but, during that time, I was incredibly tired and grumpy. Deprivation doesn’t suit me.

7. Do you take health supplements?

Yes, Multivits with iron. I had anaemia a couple of times in my 20s, so I make sure I take iron.

8. How do you relax?

I relax with the help of walking, watching television, reading and alcohol.

9. Teetotal or tipple?

Triple tipple.

10. Stairs or lift?

Both – lift going up, stairs going down.

11. Do you have a daily exercise regime?

I do a few stretches every day for my back – I’m prone to back pain as I had a spinal disease called Tarlov cysts some years ago. I certainly wouldn’t volunteer for any more exercise.

12. Best tip for everyday fitness?

Deliberately miss the bus so you have to walk.

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

I’d say I’m a six-to-seven and I'm am perfectly content with that – I spend so much time exercising my brain through writing that I haven’t time to worry about my body. The inside of my brain must be as muscled as Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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

I once tried it for my back pain and I was wrapped up in a big silver foil blanket and left to bake for 20 minutes to the soothing sounds of pan pipe music and bird tweets. It cost me 40 quid and my back was sore again by the time I got home, so I now know to avoid alternative therapy like the plague.

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

I remember running around the school grounds in big green school regulation knickers under a tiny green skirt. Enough said. I wasn’t great at sport – I once nearly decapitated a girl during discus-throwing.

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

I had gallstones which forced me to eat a lot less sweet stuff and chocolate. After getting my gallbladder out three years ago, I’ve still had to limit my chocolate intake. Spicy chilli peanuts are a definite no-go zone.

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

Before my mum died last summer, she said to me, "Be strong and stay busy." Her words have served me well as, while I miss her deeply, there’s little to be achieved from grieving too much.

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

I’m always attracted to free spirits who are relaxed about their health and laugh in the face of death. I always think: strong mind, strong body. In terms of literary figures, I would emulate Zorba the Greek who happily danced, fornicated and cut off his own finger because it got in the way of his pottery. In real life, I would emulate my friend, Dermie, who parties like a maniac and acts about 20 years younger than he is.

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

I’m normally in bed early – by 10.30 unless I’m going out to a play or a pub. I like to get tons of sleep, at least eight hours.

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

I’m hyper-aware of my own mortality. Events like my mum’s death and illness with my back have made me fill my days more and write more. You have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death in order to run freely through the fields of life. I think it’s healthy to occasionally step back from life and think to yourself, ‘Have I done everything I want to in life?’ Of course, you’ll never do everything you want, but you can have a bloody good stab at it.

:: Rosemary's latest collection of short stories, Catholic Boy, is available now, published by Doire Press.

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