Shape I'm In: Jimmy Crowley's Rhythm of Life

FOR a man who is regarded as quintessentially Cork, thanks to his ’70s rendition of The Boys of Fairhill, it comes as a surprise to hear that the genteel county of Kent is one of Jimmy Crowley’s favourite places to hang out.

Shape I'm In: Jimmy Crowley's Rhythm of Life

“It’s the garden of England. I love it because of the heat and quaint houses, the marshes and the coastline. I prefer it to Spain — coming home fat and burnt.”

A folk musician, song collector and composer, he returned to Ireland a year ago after spending five years in Florida. “I started to miss home,” he says.

“America made me write a lot from outside. I have a new album, Life, with ten new songs. I hope that I’ve grabbed something of life through the songs.”

Now living in Cobh, he describes it as perfect. “I have a view of the harbour — it’s like the classic Cork coat of arms — any ship that comes in has to pass under my window.”

Now separated, he has a son James, 26. On the subject of age, he owns up to “three score-plus, but won’t say any more”.

* Jimmy Crowley will be at the West Cork Literary Festival presenting a five-day workshop on songwriting from Monday, Jul 8 to Friday, Jul 12. Further details: www.westcorkliteraryfestival.ie.

What shape are you in?

Reasonable. I love the outdoors. I’m fairly active with the bike and I like to walk. I just did a week’s cycling in Kent on my own. I did about 35 miles a day. I came back weighing less than I did when I went out.

Have you any health concerns?

I don’t have anything too serious. I have to watch things like the drink, which is an occupational hazard. Any health problems I would have could be addressed by keeping the weight down and keeping fit. I think that is much better than taking pills.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

When I was living in Florida, I couldn’t afford health insurance so I decided not to get sick. I started to eat vegetarian food and a little bit of fish. I didn’t smoke, didn’t drink and cut back on the coffee. It was the healthiest time of my life. It fell by the wayside when I came home a year ago.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Chocolate biscuit cake with cream. I don’t like soft desserts.

What would keep you awake at night?

Financial problems. That’s part of modern life nowadays. I don’t have a pension — I am strictly a full-time artist.

How do you relax?

I do TM — I don’t do it every day but it’s a fantastic discipline and it takes you to a very nice place. You can feel the tension unravelling in your stomach. I am a little bit edgy, a little bit nervous and it suits me.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

John McCormack, John Nelson, Willie Nelson. On another night, I’d invite Maggie Barry, Delia Murphy and Ella Fitzgerald.

What is your favourite smell?

Coffee and bacon on a morning on a boat.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

I worry less about it as I get older. I am not going to have a full crown of curly locks like I had in my first album but I am making the most of it. I have more hair than Christy Moore!

When did you last cry?

Certain songs make me cry — it’s a wonderful release. It’s cathartic, it’s human. But you have to be able to put on the stiff upper lip at times.

What trait do you least like in others?

People who are anti-book and proud of it. If you haven’t read Rebecca, War and Peace or The Dubliners — I can’t talk to you. That kind of trend is worse than meanness. It’s a meanness of the soul.

What trait do you least like in yourself?

A meanness brought on by not actually having money. You can’t buy that big round.

Do you pray?

I do — to my parents who are dead. It would be awful if we found out there was no after-life. I seem to need something. I think prayers work for me.

What would cheer up your day?

I love meeting cats and dogs on the streets when they come up to me. Their faces are so honest — it’s a beautiful thing.

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