Shape I'm in: Don Baker, musician and actor

Don Baker

DON Baker does not believe in self-pity, even though he has every reason to feel sorry for himself following the cruel treatment he experienced as a young boy in a reformatory school.

While actor Stephen Fry recently referred to self-pity as the “ugliest emotion in humanity”, the musician and actor has a more nuanced view. 

“I think self-pity is OK for a while but it has to turn to compassion,” he says.

“There’s a big difference between having compassion for yourself and self-pity. Self-pity will keep you stuck. I found that forgiveness is the key, but first and foremost you need to forgive yourself.

“Because victims of abuse tend to blame themselves. It’s very important to step out of the victim role.”

He sees forgiveness as an ongoing process, an ebb and flow. 

“You have to practice forgiveness. And you can regress. You can go back to being angry again, you can go back to being full of self-pity again. That’s the time you need to practice forgiveness again.”

Real forgiveness, says the father of five, is “realising there is nothing to forgive”.

And there is no looking back. Last May, he married long-term partner Maureen on a beach in Zanzibar. They regard the island as a home- from-home. 

“We’ve been cohabitating for the past 16 years and it was a good excuse to have a bash,” he says. 

“We had 20 people come out to Africa for a week. Rather than spend the money on tuxedos, limos, and hotels, they were able to go swimming and we had sessions every night with the guitar. Three of my children came out too. It was absolutely fantastic.”

* Don Baker and Irish blues singer Clara Rose have released a new album, Baker Rose. For details of the duo’s nationwide tour see: www.donbaker.ie

What shape are you in?

Spiritually, mentally and emotionally I’m in great shape. I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been in my entire life. I take care of myself. 

I live in Trim, Co Meath and I swim in the local hotel and I do a lot of walking. I’m just back from Africa, where I walked six miles a day on the beach in Zanzibar.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

I know from experience that sugar is very damaging to your body. It’s in all kinds of food, so I try to avoid foods that have sugar in them. 

I feel my skin looks better when I don’t use dairy produce. 

I don’t drink. I gave it up when I was 33 and I went back drinking for a while and then I quit again.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

I like watching Who Wants to be a Millionaire. It’s not the money, I like seeing how many questions I know. I know quite a few but I rarely get to £32,000.

What would keep you awake at night?

If I’m anxious about live television. For me, it’s like going in front of a firing squad.

On stage, I still feel anxious but after the first couple of songs I relax. The response from the audience helps tremendously.

How do you relax?

I meditate. I was very uptight when I was younger. The first time I went [for a consultation] 30 years ago I thought I was going for a massage. 

The lady asked me to do this breathing and put one hand on my chest and the other on my back. It’s a bit like Reiki. She got me to breathe and that was my introduction to breath integration.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Nigel Kennedy, Mark Knopfler, and Neale Donald Walsch, who wrote a book called Conversations with God, which I read a lot.

What’s your favourite smell?

When I get off the plane in Zanzibar and smell the spices. Every year, I spend the month of February there. I have for the past 12 years.

What would you change about your appearance?

I think I’m doing great for my age. I’m really happy with the way I look.

What traits do you least like in others?

People who assume they know me when they don’t. They see a character in my play or film and think that’s what I’m like. 

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Otherwise, I tend to accept people as they are.

What traits do you least like about yourself?

I wouldn’t change a single thing about myself. 

A kid said to me one day: ‘You know Don you wouldn’t write all those songs if you hadn’t gone through what you went through’ . 

There is always a hidden treasure in adversity; if you only look you’ll see it.

Do you pray?

I talk to God like I would to a best friend. I steer away from conventional prayer.

What would cheer up your day?

If I wrote a good song.


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