The Shape I'm In: Helen Carroll, TV presenter

TV presenter Helen Carroll raising awareness of the sun-induced skin condition, actinic keratosis.

WITH her relaxed manner, healthy glow and fondness for wearing bright rain jackets, you’d expect Helen Carroll, presenter of RTE’s Ear to the Ground, to come from a rural background. But she’s a townie from Kilkenny.

Twelve years ago, everything changed. Following the birth of her daughter, she and her husband made a “spur-of-the-moment decision” to leave Dublin and embrace the good life, building a cedar-clad house on a three-acre site overlooking her home town.

“It all happened organically — everything fell into place,” says Helen, 42.

With her filming schedule running from three to four months, she is off from spring to autumn. It’s a perfect work-life balance, with plenty of time to look after her family, grow veggies in the polytunnel and fruit in the orchard.

“I like to let nature take its course,” she says. “We have 100 trees and a beehive — half the site is lawn and half is wild.”

It’s not all home-baked apple pie and country walks. “Some days are not idyllic,” she says, “but I’m not going to complain.”

Married to screenwriter Peter McKenna, the couple have two children, Katie, 12, and Luke — “a surprise” — 21 months.

* Helen Carroll is ambassador for Check Your Skin health-information campaign to raise awareness of actinic keratosis (AK), a sun-induced condition that can lead to skin cancer. See: www.checkyourskin.ie

What shape are you in?

Since I’ve passed the 40 mark, I have to work harder to stay healthy. I go on a four-mile run with our dog — a Red Setter- Labrador mix, called Juno — beside me. Walking and running are my main activities. I tried a lot of other sports, but never found something I was good at — I’ve no hand-eye coordination.

Have you any health concerns?

Touch wood, no major health scares. The first time I was in hospital was when Katie was born.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

I cook everything from scratch. I grow my own fruit and veg and love to eat it.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?

I like baking — cakes and biscuits — and sampling what I bake. I have a sweet tooth. And it’s always good to sit down with something nice to eat and a glass of wine. I don’t drink beer or spirits.

What would keep you awake at night?

I do all my worrying in bed. Sometimes, I’ll be wide awake, even if I am exhausted. It can be hard to switch the brain off. It helps to read before I fall asleep.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Someone who would make me laugh. Actor Larry David, from Curb Your Enthusiasm, comedians Tommy Tiernan, Darragh Ó Briain and Olympic boxer, Katie Taylor — my daughter is fixated on her.

What’s your favourite smell?

Freshly cut grass, I notice it most when the days are getting longer. And the smell of coffee. I gave it up eight years ago — I thought it might help me sleep better.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

I am just under 6’ 2”. I was that height at 13 or 14 years of age. Up until my late teens, I didn’t enjoy my height.

When is the last time you cried?

When Luke was born, in February 2012. We waited 10 years for him.

What trait do you least like in others?

Lack of empathy and arrogance.

What trait do you least like in yourself?

I worry a lot. And, sometimes, I shy away from confrontation, accepting things for the sake of a quiet life. I could be better standing-up for myself.

Do you pray?

Not in the traditional sense. I am not a great Mass-goer. I pray to family members who have passed away.

What would cheer up your day?

Spending time outdoors with my family. And a bit of sunshine — I love coming in and feeling tired and smelling of the outdoors.


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