The Hole in the Wall Gang's Damon Quinn: I miss saying I was held up at work – and definitely not in the pub

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Belfast-born writer/producer, Damon Quinn of The Hole in the Wall Gang and Give My Head Peace

Damon Quinn returns to our screens as Cal in the new series of Give My Head Peace
Gail Bell

Damon Quinn, centre, with fellow gang members


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

I really miss going for a swim in the pool in the morning. It is a great way to exercise and I get an hour to myself to meditate before the day begins. It also gets me clean!


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

Breakfast is usually a healthy one these days. I will have porridge with yogurt and some orange juice.


Sometimes I'll have the fry that I denied myself at breakfast.

Evening meal?

Usually a meat-and-two-veg dish but I am going full vegetarian for Lent. It is so much easier to be vegetarian nowadays as there is so much tasty food available. And wine goes with anything...


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

Yes, one thing Covid has proved is that most of us can work from home unless you are a doctor or a nurse. I am clapping as I say this.


Best/easiest lockdown meal?

That's easy – preferably one that someone else makes. If that's not possible, then good old beans on toast is hard to beat.


Weekend treat?

Chilli con carne and sparkling Champagne.


How have you kept physically and mentally fit during lockdown?

I come from a big, close family and, thanks to lockdown, they can't visit me any more! That is a joke, of course – we've all missed regularly seeing our friends and family. However, I have seen a lot of my Give My Head Peace family as, just as with all the TV soaps, we have had to find a way of filming our show safely. I enjoy watching EastEnders and Corrie now because I can spot the same tricks to make it look like we are closer together than we really are.


What has been your daily outdoor exercise?

Opening the door to let the cat in… oh, and walks of course.


How do you relax?

My favourite way to relax is doing absolutely nothing. I love it.


Teetotal or tipple?

Definitely a tipple – but I only ever drink the recommended 21 units per week. I have to say that in case my doctor reads this.


What book are you currently reading?

I had just started 100 Years of Solitude [by Gabriel García Márquez] when lockdown started. Oh, the irony. I am a real history nerd so, more often than not, my current book will be a history one.


Best Netflix?

Ratched – it is darkly funny, over the top and original. I am also currently enjoying The Queen's Gambit.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself?

How quickly my hair grows. I started going bald in my 30s and the sunroof at the back has been expanding at a sadly relentless pace ever since. Yet, when the barbers' closed, I couldn't believe how soon it was that I desperately needed a haircut. What hair I have left grows amazingly fast. I've also discovered that I enjoy cooking at home… but really really hate washing up afterwards.


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

I would say I'm about a two. In The Hole in the Wall Gang, we have been incredibly lucky with lockdown because we have had lots of work on. We filmed a new four-part series of Give My Head Peace for TV and have now completed two series of A Perforated Ulster for BBC Radio Ulster. I also finished work on my documentary film, Edward Carson and the Fall of Oscar Wilde, which we filmed with Oscar Wilde's grandson, Merlin Holland – and was shown recently on BBC One Northern Ireland. So, it has been a case of 'The show must go on'… but under strict Covid safety conditions, of course.


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

Booking cheap flights, the simple pleasure of being able to walk into a pub and the handy excuse – on coming home late – that I was held up at work and definitely not in the pub.


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

I want to take lots of exotic holidays. I have never been to South America, or Africa, or India and would love to go some day. But then at the minute, to make plans is to hear Covid laugh.


Biggest gripe?

Airports. I can remember when airports were fun and actually one of the good things about going on holiday, but then came all those security checks with bag X-rays, body searches, and the 'No liquids' rule. By the time you get your belt and shoes back on, you've lost all dignity and the will to live. Then you have to walk miles to get to your gate, which is usually a big, overcrowded room with nothing in it but more security checks... I suspect airports are going to be even more hassle after Covid.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

I will never say 'No' to a holiday, ever again.


Any new skills or hobbies?

I definitely thought about taking piano lessons, learning Russian or writing my first novel. But could I refer back to my answer to question eight?


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

We live in a capitalist world, yet when the crisis came, the free market had no answer. It is socialism (the NHS, the furlough scheme etc) that has saved society from complete collapse. So, was Jeremy Corbyn right?


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

I turn 57 this year and I am in a gang with my mates, so, I must still be young at heart.

Damon Quinn performs with The Hole in the Wall Gang in radio sketch show A Perforated Ulster, available on BBC Sounds. Recent episodes of Give My Head Peace are available on the BBC iPlayer.

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