20 Questions on Health and Fitness: Ex-economy minister Simon Hamilton

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: former economy minister and current chief executive of Belfast Chamber, Simon Hamilton

Simon Hamilton – 'As a lifelong Liverpool fan, I was glad when they got going again and we were able to lift our first Premier League title'
Gail Bell

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

I used to get up before 6am, start the commute into work at seven and be at my desk for eight o'clock. I've always liked to get up early and that hasn't changed. Nor has spending some time watching the news and catching up with what's going on in the world.


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

Yoghurt and granola.


Usually a sandwich of some variety.

Evening meal?

I am fairly predictable with my daily diet so the evening meal would be something like chicken or pork. I have tried hard, and with some success of late, in cutting out snacks during the day and just sticking to three good meals.


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

I've been able to do a lot from home, but it isn't ideal. A lot of what we do at Belfast Chamber is about interacting with members and providing networking opportunities and that's required a considerable amount of adjustment with everything more or less now online.


Best/easiest lockdown meal?

We bought a new barbecue back in the spring and with the weather being so good this year, we got great use of it.


Weekend treat?

I absolutely love a Peter Hannan steak (Hannan Meats) and will have one religiously every weekend.


How have you kept physically and mentally fit during lockdown?

I was one of the thousands of people who received a shielding letter because of an immuno-suppressant treatment I receive for my Crohn's disease, so I didn't leave the house at all for around 12 weeks. I wouldn't have done much to keep fit before all of this, but I realised that I was getting out of shape, so I've put in an effort over the past few months to try to look after myself a bit better. Getting out and about a bit more and having just a change of scenery has definitely helped both physically and mentally.


What has been your daily outdoor exercise?

I like to go for a long walk four or five times a week. Where we live in Comber is really close to some great walks in the countryside with fantastic views of Scrabo.


How do you relax?

Watching TV, reading and listening to music while out on my walks.


Teetotal or tipple?

I do like a drink, but generally just at weekends. I wouldn't say I have a favourite drink, but we did build what I like to call our beer garden during lockdown and I enjoy a pint or two in that – weather permitting.


What book are you currently reading?

I've always been more of a non-fiction fan and I'm just finishing a book called Why the Germans Do It Better by John Kampfner which is a fascinating insight into how Germany's economy and society functions so well, including how it has coped better than most with Covid-19.


Best Netflix?

My wife and I like crime dramas and I think my favourite during lockdown was the Spanish-language show, Money Heist.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself?

I have tried to help out a bit with the cooking and I don't think I'm too bad.


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

Even though there are lots of things that I've missed because of the restrictions, I think I coped well with having to spend what seemed like an eternity in the house, so I'd say somewhere at the bottom of the scale – maybe a two. I don't think it's healthy, though, for working from home to become more like living at work. It's important to have a clear dividing line.


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

The energy and atmosphere of working in the city, a really good, proper cup of coffee and live football. As a lifelong Liverpool fan, I was glad when they got going again and we were able to lift our first Premier League title.


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

I really missed my holiday this summer. We've had to cancel a few breaks, including one to Italy, so as soon as we can, we will try to travel again.


Biggest gripe?

I am a big user of social media and find it, on the whole, useful and informative, but there are some people who just think it gives them permission to be nasty to people they don't even know. The example set by some high-profile people is shocking too. A bit more kindness wouldn't go amiss.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

That we shouldn't put off or delay the things we want to do in life.


Any new skills or hobbies?

Maybe it's because of watching some of those Spanish-language programmes on Netflix, but I've started a Spanish language course on Duolingo. It might come in handy if and when our family gets a holiday.


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

We've endured a lot of bitterness and divisiveness in recent years that isn't healthy. When the pandemic first struck, there was certainly a sense that we were all in this together. Sadly, some of that has been lost lately. It would be good if we could regather that.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

I don't think so. However, my grandmother died early in lockdown. I'd always been very close to her and because I was shielding, I followed the advice and didn't attend her funeral. That was hard. She was in her 90s and the last of my grandparents to pass away and I suppose it has reminded me that none of us live forever.

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