THOUGH going through gruelling treatment for a life-threatening disease, Jon Kenny continued to plant trees, near his home in Lough Gur, Co Limerick.
One day, in between chemotherapy sessions, his strength failed him, so he took matters into his own hands.
“I was digging a hole and I realised that I hadn’t the strength to even use a spade. The only way I could manage to plant this tree in the ground was to get down and lie on the ground and scrape it out with my hands.
“When I’d done that I realised I hadn’t crawled on the ground, or smelled the earth since I was a kid. It brought me back to my childhood — crawling along the woodland and undergrowth.”
The year was 2000 and he was being treated for non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
“I’ve planted a lot of trees over the last 15 years of my life — hundreds and hundreds of them. This autumn I’m going to plant some red cedar.”
The former half of the hit comic duo D’Unbelievables, he decided to focus on theatre work three years ago.
“I’ve been lucky. I get scripts but some I don’t do because the commitment might be too much. I’m really enjoying it.”
He is also working on a musical, though decided to give it a break after a year and a half.
Describing himself as a jack of all trades and a master of none, he adds, “there’s another word for that, too, chancer.”
Aged 57, he is married to Margy Murphy. They have two children, Aran 22 and Leah 19.
* Jon Kenny stars in The Matchmaker by John B Keane, along with Mary McEvoy, for six performances in the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin from November 9 to 14. See: www.gaietytheatre.ie
What shape are you in?
I’m generally in good shape. I haven’t put on too much weight. And I think the old head is in a good enough place.
What are your healthiest eating habits?
I’m constantly making soups — to me they are good and wholesome. One of the most straightforward is potato and onion soup with thyme.
I’ll make soup out of anything. But I hate a vegetable soup with everything in it — it’s too bland. I also like to cook — I do a lot of stuff, from roasts to breads and curries.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Chocolate. ice cream — the good things in life.
What would keep you awake at night?
There was a time in my life when sleeping was difficult. But I can go to bed now and fall asleep.
I always have a few books beside the bed and I do a bit of reading. Getting the book that you can lose yourself in is a great thing.
How do you relax?
The ordinary simple things. If you can get out and drink a few pints it’s great. Drink accompanied by a tune and a song — that’s my idea of a session. I love when people are playing music.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
If I had a choice it would be a list of people who have passed on. When you lose someone in your life you suddenly realise there is a vacuum there, especially when they were good fun, when they were vibrant.
What would you like to change about your appearance?
It’s too late. I’m losing the hair. I’m of an age when men lose their hair — I don’t mind that.
I’m kind of happy enough in my own skin, thanks be to God. I did think of getting a nose job done but then again that’s a family trait on my mother’s side.
What is your favourite smell?
When was the last you cried?
Last week. I was with a friend of mine and her niece had written a song and it was so beautiful, so poignant and honest, I cried. At mid-day. Maybe I was just in that space.
What trait do you least like in others?
We are all a bit selfish at times.
What trait do you least like in yourself?
I’m trying to learn to love myself. I don’t over analyse myself.
Do you pray?
I try to give myself some space in my head, to think about people. I suppose that’s my form of prayer.
It’s more like meditation, when you can stop the chattering monkeys for a few minutes and just focus and breathe nice and easy.
What would cheer up your day?
I’m prone to blue skies and a bit of sunshine.
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