By Irene Feighan
WHEN his weight began to pile up, Eurovision star Paul Harrington did not take it lightly. He noticed he was slowing down and that he could no longer wear his stylish clothes. “For a good two to three years, I was dressing more casually. I was always quite a sharp dresser and I really, really liked that,” he says.
He decided to take action and over four months, dramatically lost three stone. His approach was decisive and simple: cut it out. “I cut out red meat, chicken, dairy and the obvious things like bread.”
However, there was cake recently when he celebrated his birthday with friends at his local pub, Kennedys — “they had a Black Forest gateau for us”— while watching the final of the Eurovision Song Contest on a big screen.
“I loved Ryan’s song and I was really invested in it this year. I was raging at the result. I thought his performance was brilliant. The result didn’t make sense to me.”
Aged 58, he is married to Karol, a secondary school teacher — they share their Drumcondra home with Bobby, a lassie collie. His son, Daniel, from a previous marriage is aged 28 and a lawyer. Importantly, “he’s a great music fan”.
It’s eight years since he released his last album and he’s nervous about the reception it’ll get. “I was surprised again by the anxiety of presenting something to people who might say ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it’. But I always work on the basis that if you like something yourself there’s a great chance other people will.”
Paul Harrington’s new album Lights of Home is out now.
What shape are you in?
I’m in pretty good shape for my age. I walk about 6km a day and I cycle. You can access practically anywhere in Dublin from Drumcondra by bicycle. I also go to the gym once or a few times a week. It’s to keep myself toned and spiky.
What are your healthiest eating habits?
I take almond milk instead of cow’s milk. My diet is very basic. I’d love to be able to eat organic food all the time. I don’t believe in torturing yourself.
What are your guiltiest pleasures?
On a rare occasion, I would have a very nice crumbly piece of cheddar cheese with a granny smith apple and a couple of pints of stout. One of my favourite haunts in Dublin is Dylan McGrath’s Rustic Stone. But for a super guilty pleasure it has to be the Trocadero restaurant.
What would keep you awake at night?
These days not a great deal. Over years I’ve lost a lot of close family members and they are always troubling times. Of course, there is also that ever-looming existential angst creeps in from time to time.
How do you relax?
Sometimes training helps if I’m a little bit anxious. I love to walk with Bobby, which I do every day. He’s got one of the most extraordinary souls that I’ve ever come across. Sometimes Karol and I go out to have a bite and a chat. It’s a lovely forum for people to be at ease. I also enjoy scriptwriting for a series, a brief history of ballads, for The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Family first — unfortunately a lot have already gone. I’m a huge admirer of Bono, Stephen Fry and Pat Kenny.
What’s your favourite smell?
I love my wife’s perfume — it’s Coco Mademoiselle. I wear Chanel Blue. At home, when garlic and ginger hit the pan, I’m in heaven.
What would you like to change about your appearance?
Nothing. But we’d all welcome looking a bit younger.
When is the last time you cried?
Recently, I was talking on the phone with my sister-in-law in Canada. She was married to my brother Derek, who died aged 66 a few years ago. I always wanted to go to Wimbledon with him and I said it’s something I might to do with her. Talking about that, it was deeply upsetting.
What traits do you least like in others?
Non listeners. I feel conversation is a two-way street. And I find rudeness unacceptable.
What traits do you least like about yourself?
I would be a part-time procrastinator. I probably tend to beat myself up a bit too much. I would like to stop that.
Do you pray?
I do. Not necessarily at bedtime but when it’s still, particularly when you’re in nature.
What would cheer up your day?
To hear one of my tunes on the radio. That’s a thrill that never goes away, that I never take for granted. It puts a pep in your step.