The Archers actress Caroline Lennon on how she's been keeping fit and healthy

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Irish actress and voice recording artist Caroline Lennon who lives in London

Co Wicklow native Caroline Lennon played Siobhan in The Archers
Gail Bell

Caroline Lennon – having to interact with technology for just about everything in recent months has not been my favourite thing


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

I tend wake up at about 6/6.30 am, but it takes me a while to come to life. I need a strong cup of tea before I can tackle the day ahead.


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

In the warmer weather, I'll make some sort of green veg/fruit/nuts/seeds concoction, but now that it's darker in the morning, I'm going for porridge.


Lunch usually ends up being cheese on crackers or some type of soup.

Evening meal?

I try to make more of an effort with my evening meal – something substantial, preceded by crisps and/or olives and followed by some dark chocolate afterwards. There's a pattern emerging... I try to have a takeaway no more than once a week.


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

Yes, I've been very lucky to have been able to keep working at home. I now have a portable booth and my own recording equipment. There's been a real learning curve, but it's amazing what you can learn to do when you have to.


Best/easiest lockdown meal?

If I want to make something quick and delicious, I go to Jack Monroe @Bootstrap Cook; she's a genius at devising recipes from store cupboard ingredients. I made her peach and chickpea curry the other evening and, honestly, I was so chuffed with myself. And my mini-pressure cooker has been a lifesaver – my grandmother had a pressure cooker and the sound of the gentle hiss as it does its magic brings back lovely memories.


Weekend treat?

A long, relaxed brunch of poached eggs on home-made bread (made in my dinky bread maker or by hand, using one of those clever no-knead recipes which are a revelation). I add lots of mushrooms with avocado, a nice pot of coffee on the side, comfy pyjamas and I'm all set.


How have you kept physically and mentally fit during lockdown?

I've really missed the social aspect of doing Zumba classes; it feels more like dancing with mates at a club than traditional exercise. The music and the routines take you out of yourself – fortunately, I have very tolerant neighbours. Getting to keep it up online has been a real tonic, but I'm looking forward to being able to do the steps with more abandon again – it's tricky salsa-ing around my sofa...


What has been your daily outdoor exercise?

A good long walk in the forest near where I live or a bike ride. I love that you can see real people outdoors, but it's still easy to maintain a safe distance.


How do you relax?

I love to relax by cooking and chatting with family and chums on Zoom about anything and everything. I'm also a big telly fan with a broad taste so, along with the latest Nordic hits, I've been rewatching all the old series of Law and Order.


Teetotal or tipple?

Definitely a tippler. I'm not a big drinker, but I certainly enjoy a glass of an evening.


What book are you currently reading?

Because I read so much fiction for work, I like to relax with a little non-fiction from time to time. At the moment, I'm loving The Art of Screen Adaptation by Alistair Owen.


Best Netflix?

I'm so pleased I found Community and I've fallen for Schitt's Creek like everyone else.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself?

Before lockdown I liked to think of myself as fairly even-tempered but I now know I have a tendency to go from rational to apoplectic with rage in a heartbeat whenever I feel the technology is against me. Inanimate objects and the internet can trigger me like nothing else.


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

I've been lucky that I have access to green space, so, quite low on the scale, but it'll be lovely to just hang out with people again, won't it?


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

My family and friends tend to be a tactile and social bunch, so not being able to give anybody a hug or visit friends and family or have people visit me has been hard. It really is the little things you miss.


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

Visiting family and friends in real life seems like such an exciting and exotic thing to be able to do, so that is first on a long list of travel adventures, including taking the Eurostar to Paris.


Biggest gripe?

I'll be honest and say that having to interact with technology for just about everything has not been my favourite thing.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

My priorities haven't so much changed, but it's really highlighted to me how important it is to grab any opportunity for joy and keep in contact with loved ones. It's very easy to get distracted by the daily grind.


Any new skills or hobbies?

In terms of work skills, I've learned to put up and down a portable sound booth in mere minutes and juggle recording equipment in order to record myself remotely. Just as pleasing and a lot more fun to do, I've taken up painting with watercolours, which I can heartily recommend.


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

I hope that there's a real reassessment of how we value what everyone brings to the table. Society and community are the really important things.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

I think it's made me realise how lucky and fleeting good health can be and never to take it for granted. Every day I think how lucky we are to have the NHS.

Caroline, well known for playing Siobhan Donovan in The Archers, recently returned from beyond the grave for a special guest slot on the long-running radio programme. Currently, she can be heard narrating audio books by novelist Patricia Scanlan and children's writer Judi Curtin and she is the voice of Sister Fidelma, medieval detective nun, in Jane Casey's Maeve Kerrigan series.

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