A BUDDHIST monk will often retreat by foot to the mountains to find some zen. But when RTÉ rugby pundit Brent Pope wants inner peace, he heads to the Wicklow Mountains on his cruiser motorbike, a burly Suzuki Volusia.
“I love my time out on that because that’s when I really feel free. Sometimes when I’m out on the road and the wind is rushing past, I let out a yell, a whoop.
“I love the freedom of being out on a big bike. I also love the sound of it and the smell.”
More than the exhilaration of the speed and the open winding road, it brings the former rugby New Zealand player and now mental health advocate a sense of deep peace.
“It’s a feeling that hey everything will be OK, that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Despite being honest and vulnerable most of my life, having gone through periods of mental health issues.”
I’d like to think I’m in pretty good shape. I haven’t put on much weight since I retired from rugby. I try to get to the gym three times a week. I know the value of rest days too. There would have been a time when I trained every day. I went for a walk recently, my breathing was a bit heavy for my liking — so I decided I have to get back and work on my cardio.
My diet is pretty good, apart from the weekends when I tend to slack off a bit. I have a healthy breakfast — eggs, avocados, wholewheat toast. Usually, I have something quite light for lunch. I really should be having my main meal in the middle of the day but I don’t — I have it at night. Without being finicky about it, I try to get my five a day. I’m not a coffee or tea drinker, so I drink more than my share of water.
I can’t resist buying Jacobs Cream Crackers and cheddar cheese. It’s like an addiction for me.
I’m a pretty good sleeper. I grew up in a rural background — it used to be early to bed, early to rise. I don’t watch a lot of TV — I usually go up the stairs to bed by half nine — and I’m usually up and about at half six, seven.
An important part of my mental health is that I keep busy and focused. I go to the movies by myself sometimes — I’ll just sit there and nod off. I’ll go at a time when they are not busy — about half four or five maybe on a Monday because over the weekend I am working.
People who have created something from nothing inspire me the most. Muhammad Ali, who was great at sport and defined a generation because he had a different view — he stood up for his values. And people like JP McManus, Denis O’Brien, Richard Branson — guys who created a business empire by starting with an idea and who have given back.
I love the smell of cut grass or when it’s a bit wet. Also, I’ve got lovely lavender in the garden. Or sometimes it’s just the smell of sausages or steak on a barbecue.
I dropped some money into an artist recently because some of his art had sold. I had promoted an exhibition for outside artists where his work was on display. He started to cry, and that really moved me. When I was driving back to Dublin city, I said to myself, ‘I know why I do this now’. It’s all the thanks I need.
That I’m a worrier. That I am overly anxious.
Selfishly when I need help when I’m in a place where I look to God. I like to treat people with respect and dignity but I am not an overly religious person. I grew up in a strict Catholic home. I’ve started thinking about going back to Mass a bit more regularly. There is a spirituality missing in my life and I’d like to get that back — in my own time and in my own way.
I’m a people person. Connections make me happy — whether it’s at the shop or a smile at the garage — they cheer up my day. A smile, a few kind words or a compliment can cheer up anybody.