RTÉ's Fran McNulty: Flowers and a Fitbit have helped keep me sane in the pandemic

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: New RTÉ Prime Time presenter, Fran McNulty

RTÉ current affairs broadcaster and journalist Fran McNulty. Picture by Naoise Culhane
Gail Bell

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

I tend to sleep later now – I used to be a 5am riser, but working from home means I can get up at 8.30 and be at the desk showered, shaved and having had breakfast by 9am. It's a radical change. However, my role as a presenter on Prime Time will change that – it's no longer about keeping a close eye on one brief or topic but generally being up to date on all affairs, so a solid two hours of news, radio and papers before 9 is about to become the daily dose!

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

A slice of toast or a boiled egg in summer, porridge in winter – and, of course, coffee.

Lunch? A chicken or tuna sandwich… and yes, coffee.

Evening meal? It really depends on work – either a prawn stir-fry, some salmon, a steak and plenty of veg or, if the day has been very long, a takeaway. I'm lucky to have great choice on my doorstep. Also, takeaway was once full of unhealthy choices but now that pubs and restaurants are doing takeaway service, there are great options out there and I am enjoying the experience – perhaps a little too much at times.

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

I've been working from home for most of the pandemic, but I'm also out on the road meeting people so in many respects my working life has been more normal than it has been for others. Zoom and Teams meetings mean we stay connected but it's difficult being away from colleagues. I really miss the social element of chat in the office.

4 Best/easiest lockdown meal?

For some reason I'm eating more red meat during lockdown – a steak from the local butcher, served up with some baby potatoes and veg. I've also invested in a slow cooker and it makes for a very easy life. Erris lamb shanks after eight hours are possibly the tastiest thing I've eaten since the pandemic began.

5 Weekend treat?


6 How have you kept physically and mentally fit during lockdown?

I love to walk and although the 5km restrictions here have limited options, getting outdoors has been my saviour. Walking, thinking, digesting the events of the day and appreciating the world around me is a daily ritual. I try to get a minimum of 10,000 steps in, with a target of 20,000 – buying a FitBit has kept that in check. Fresh flowers help too.

7 What has been your daily outdoor exercise?

Walking, walking, walking. But during the summer and when restrictions were lifted, hill walking and sea swims helped burn some calories.

8 How do you relax?

Generally with a good book, a decent movie or again, walking.

9 Teetotal or tipple?


10 What book are you currently reading?

Anne Enright's Actress. Anne is one of Ireland's greatest literary treasures.

11 Best Netflix?

Not Netflix, but The Morning Show on Apple TV was a standout in recent months for me. It shone a light into a horrible and uncomfortable reality, but was dramatic, entertaining and engaging, all in equal measure.

12 Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself?

That I need very little to get by in life. Lockdown has robbed us of holidays, nights out and the luxury of shopping for clothes. Do I miss all that? Yes. Can I survive without it? Yes, for the time being.

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

I've never really let it get in on me and work has kept me sane. It might sound smug, but I'm a four. There are people facing far greater struggles in life, in particular those who have lost loved ones to Covid. I think of homeless families living in hotels, people in direct provision and the many tens of thousands of people living in refugee camps around the world. That I am locked up in a Dublin home and restricted to 5km for exercise seems like not the greatest ordeal.

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

Coffee with friends, eating out and enjoying the Sligo shoreline.

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

New York: I'm looking forward to seeing the Empire State again. Perhaps, I'll take a train to Washington or a bus to Boston. If the pandemic has taught me anything, it is an appreciation of the luxury and the benefit of travel.

16 Biggest gripe?

Rudeness. It costs nothing to be nice.

17 Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

I don't think coronavirus has changed them but other things in life might have. I think the older I get, the more my priorities and perspectives change. What seemed important as a 25-year-old is almost laughable as a 41-year-old.

18 Any new skills or hobbies?

I'd like to say ‘Yes', but ‘No'. My hobbies all generally involve the outdoors – water, or the sea – and sadly, due to lockdown, I haven't seen much of any of those things over recent months.

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

That our improved hygiene standards would be continued. Also, it may seem extreme, but imagine what mask wearing could do in flu season.

20 Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

I think it has for everyone. I've always had an acute awareness of my own mortality. I've lost siblings, family and friends and for some years I've developed an attitude of ‘Live every day and do every job as if it is your last'. That extends to relationships and how we deal with other people: if we all tried to imagine that any exchange with someone could be our last, it might lead to a radical shift in kindness and how we treat each other as humans.

:: Fran McNulty is one of the new presenters on RTÉ's flagship Prime Time programme, presenting with Miriam O'Callaghan every Thursday.

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