I’ve always been a ‘we’ rather than an ‘I’. It’s because of Stephen, my twin. We shared a wardrobe until we were 30.
It was first up, best dressed. I’m not complaining as on average twins live two to three years longer than singletons, we are happier and more fulfilled, probably down to the added emotional security and support.
We have two younger brothers so grew up in a very male centric household like a pack of wolves, in Greystones, Co Wicklow — a little like the Shire or Pleasantville although I took it for granted until I left it.
We were both sport mad and took part in every game under the sun — rugby, Gaelic and baseball — but had no idea what to do when we left school. Our dad is a mechanical engineer and our mother was a teacher. Dad encouraged us towards business. I wanted to go to UCD but I didn’t get the points — my brother did — so I went to DIT instead and being apart from him for the first time was traumatic. It was like getting a divorce or an arm cut off.
We were both super competitive — for attention, for love, for everything — and were your typical meat-eating, pint-swilling, girl-chasing jocks until — independently of each other, we decided to try a vegetarian diet.
At 21 I realised I didn’t believe in where I was headed. It was like ‘I don’t want to be an investment banker’. The best advice I got was from my father — to follow my heart. So, I started training for a marathon and gave up drink for a month, tried porridge instead of Alpen, brown bread instead of white. I didn’t win the marathon but I went to South Africa alone, to try to play golf like a Pro, and Stephen went to Canada. It wasn’t like a lightning bolt but the seeds were sewn. I stopped eating meat, didn’t go back to alcohol, and started to take more responsibility. It transformed my life. We both went from wanting to be millionaires by the time we were 30 to wanting to make the world a better place. And we developed a passion for good food and health.
I travelled around South America, experimenting with diet, staying on farms and meditation centres and then Stephen got in touch and asked me if I wanted to start a health revolution. It sounded grandiose. We both returned to Ireland in 2004 and said ‘lets see if yer man in Greystones will sell us his veg shop’. He agreed. We borrowed the money. We were 24 when we opened our Happy Pear food shop.
I’m 36 now and we have 100 people working with us, I’m married with two kids.
I believe in hard work, not fate. We’re both grafters. We worked for years until anybody started taking notice. When they did, being in the public eye came easy to me, maybe from being an identical twin.
I guess I follow a vegan diet. I eat fruit, veg, legumes and wholegrains. I’ve a smoothie with the kids in the morning, lunch is whatever’s on offer in the cafe — chili or dhal — and I eat something at home later.
I have always been an early riser between 5am and 6am. I go down for a swim in the sea during the summer at sunrise and I do yoga most days.
My idea of misery is having to wear a suit and go to an office job.
If I could be reborn as someone else for a day I’d be Gandhi or Mandela, someone who had a hugely positive effect on humanity. I’d be interested in seeing how they think.
I don’t spend much time on whether or not there is an afterlife. There is too much to enjoy in this one. I’m not religious but I have a huge faith in life and in something beyond myself.
So far my biggest challenge has been managing family and work.
If I could change one thing in our society, I’d educate children better about where food comes from and about how to cook it.
The Irish drinking culture is changing now that pubs are no longer the centre of the social scene and people are no longer drink driving. It is more acceptable not to drink, more European. People used to take it personally.
The trait I most admire in others is self awareness, people who are at ease with themselves.
So far life has taught me that it is not as serious as we think it is. We are here to have a good time and to love, but we make it difficult on ourselves.
The Happy Pear, David and his brother Stephen Flynn, are giving free cookery demos at 1pm, 2.30pm and 4pm on Sunday, June 26, at the Cork and Kerry Good Food Forum at Cork City Hall.
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