Duke Special: I'm looking forward to a Parkrun again - I need to wean myself off mushy peas

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: musician Duke Special

Gail Bell

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

My morning routine varies - sometimes I'll be doing the school run and sometimes I'll be working in the house from 8am. Whatever I'm doing, though, it always begins with a coffee (or two) and a chat about the day ahead.


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



I have discovered potato salad and tomato sandwiches which is now my preferred lunch. To mix it up a bit, I might have soup when my dad comes to visit.

Evening meal?

During lockdown I have discovered the joys of tinned mushy peas - for a while I became strangely addicted to them. Is that wrong?


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

Fortunately, I have been able to work from home. The first time was an online gig from home and that was part of Cormac Neeson and Matt McGinn's 'Cocoons' series. It was terrifying and I was all over the place with the tech, but it's one of the silver linings of the last year - having to get to grips with the technology. I'm definitely a bit better now, so I'm a little less overwhelmed by it all.


Best/easiest lockdown meal?

Er... mushy peas.


Weekend treat?

Ale or wine and often a takeaway on a Saturday night. My tolerance for spicy food has gone through the roof.


How have you kept physically and mentally fit during lockdown?

I do like to get out into nature whenever I can. The back garden has become a beautiful place to retreat to and I like going for walks whenever possible. Physically, I am looking forward to starting the Parkrun again at Victoria Park and generally getting out-and-about more. I also need to wean myself off the peas...


What has been your daily outdoor exercise?

Oh, daily exercise been a bit haphazard, I'm afraid; I do feel a wee bit like a creature emerging from hibernation at the minute, but I'm sure that will change.


How do you relax?

I enjoy having a drink with friends, going out walking, listening to music and sitting down with a good book. I love reading.


Teetotal or tipple?

Tipple - maybe an ale or glass of wine.


What book are you currently reading?

I'm reading Number9dream by David Mitchell. Described as an "intoxicating ride through Tokyo's dark underworlds" and the even more mysterious landscapes or our dreams, it tells the story of 19-year-old Eiji Miyake's search for the father he has never met. I'm also reading How To Write One Song by Jeff Tweedy which looks at the creative process involved in song-writing.


Best Netflix?

I just watched Fargo, season three, which was brilliant.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself?

I really like being home. That surprised me.


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

At the beginning, I was a five but now I think I am nearer to two.


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

Visiting my mum, seeing my boys as often as I wanted and live music and theatre.


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

I have really missed playing shows in the south [of Ireland] so I'd love to do that.


Biggest gripe?

I would have liked to have seen a hell of a lot better teamwork from our leaders.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

Family and friendships are the most important things in life - everything else will work itself out.


Any new skills or hobbies?

My tech skills are a bit better; I can now record myself with a little more confidence. As for hobbies - I'm still working on those.


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

I think people's attitude to work and travel and what is necessary/possible has the potential to be transformed. I think many of us have had a chance to recalibrate and consider what's important and how we do things. I hope I have learned some good lessons through it all.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

I have experienced loss recently, though not on account of the coronavirus, and yes, it was a reminder of the brevity of life and that I need to savour every day and just concern myself with what's important. I suppose I am reminded that life is a gift and that music, art, food, drink, the company of other people and especially friends and family are the substance of life.

Duke Special is appearing at the Open House Festival in Bangor on August 26,

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access