Award-winning Co Down poet Moyra Donaldson: It is essential to stay interested and curious about the world

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Award-winning Co Down poet, Moyra Donaldson


Up and at it - what is your morning routine?

Since I retired from the nine-to-five routine, I luxuriate in taking my time in the mornings; easing myself into the day. I get up when I wake up, usually reasonably early, feed the various animals that are looking for their breakfast, then settle down at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, stare out the window and contemplate the day ahead.


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

In winter, I usually have porridge for breakfast, or toast with some honey. In summer, it tends to be cereal with some fruit.


I tend to have a snack around lunchtime, maybe some cheese and biscuits.

Evening meal?

My husband has always been a good cook, but since the first lockdown he has really gone all out on cooking gorgeous food, so I'm quite spoiled. Our main meal is usually eaten around five o'clock - anything from spinach and paneer curry to smoked haddock kedgeree. We eat a lot less meat than we used to.


Is nutrition important to you – do you take health supplements?

In the past and full of good intentions, I would have bought various supplements that mostly ended up forgotten about in the cupboard. Now I feel as if I have a good balanced diet, so I don't generally take supplements, except for vitamin D – there's not enough sunshine in Ireland.


Ever been on a diet – if so, how did it go?

I've been very lucky in that my weight has always remained fairly stable. As a young woman I was invested in the idea that thin is good and if I wanted to lose a bit of weight, I just ate less until I'd achieved my goal. Now I'm more concerned with health than weight.


Weekend treat?

We do like an occasional trip to a little local café called Stephanie's for bacon, egg and chips.


How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

Gosh – I don't know that I'd describe myself as either of those. But I do a fair bit of walking and lots of reading. As a writer, it's essential to stay interested and curious about the world. Playing with my granddaughter can provide a good workout – keeping up with her energy levels can be a challenge.


Best tip for everyday fitness?

Don't sit still for too long. Even if you are in a sedentary job, get up and move around at least once every hour.


Were you a fan of schools sports/PE or do you have a memory from those days that you would rather forget?

I was not a fan. I just remember the grimness (and coldness) of the changing rooms and showers and trying to get warmth back into frozen digits by leaning on those big old radiators.


Teetotal or tipple?

Make mine a Dark and Stormy, please.


Stairs or lift?

For three floors and under, I use the stairs. More than that, the lift becomes very tempting.


What book are you currently reading?

I usually have quite a few books on the go at the same time - a variety of poetry books, a novel and maybe a book of essays. Recently I have been devouring the John Connolly series of novels about detective, Charlie Parker. They are incredibly well written and researched and have this underlying supernatural thread which I love.


Best Netflix?

Netflix was a bit of a lifesaver during lockdowns. I'm always a bit late to the party on the big series, but Peaky Blinders, The Crown, Ozark and Schitt's Creek were some of the things that helped kept me sane. I've just finished binging on Breaking Bad and am looking forward to Better Call Saul.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself over the pandemic?

Just how much I enjoy my own company.


Any new skills or hobbies?

No – not a one. During lockdowns, I found myself irrationally annoyed by people who claimed to have learnt how to crochet or make sourdough; or taught themselves two new languages or whatever.


How do you relax?

Reading, being out in nature, seeing friends, playing with the aforementioned granddaughter. Enjoying what I'm lucky enough to have.


What are your goals for 2023?

For the first time in a long time I don't really have any professional goals for the year. I will open myself to whatever opportunities come along and continue to write and see what happens.


What time do you get to bed and do you think you get enough sleep?

I'm a bit of a late bird - always have been - so I tend to stay up much too late. I love those late-night hours when thoughts and conversations seem to flow more freely. I often write late at night, a habit that has stayed from the years when I could only write after the children had gone to bed. I never feel as if I've had enough sleep, though it is lovely to have the freedom these days to have a little afternoon nap.


Biggest gripe or regret?

Like everyone else, I have things I wish I had done differently, but honestly I try not to focus on them. We all do what we can in the moment and the past cannot be changed, no matter how much we might wish it sometimes. I try to learn from mistakes and move forward with a greater self-knowledge. That sounds very zen, or self-righteous or something – I really just mean that I try to keep looking forwards.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

Oh, yes. Getting older does that to a person. I worry a lot about what kind of future my generation is leaving behind for the generations to come. That seems to be the most urgent priority now.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

I've always had an almost overwhelming sense of my own mortality – growing up in a religious household tends to have that effect.