The best things in life are (worry) free

In a recession, it’s easy to lose perspective. Worry about money and anxiety for the future, can bring us all down. So it’s important to cherish the good things.

Feelgood asked celebrities to tell us things that lift their day.

Catherine Fulvio, TV chef, and author of Catherine’s Family Kitchen, says she couldn’t live without her dawn clock.

“It comes from Germany,” she says. “This light comes on an hour before the alarm goes off. The room gently brightens to the point where your body is thinking it must be day-time. You are supposed to then wake gently to birdsong — but where I live, in Co Wicklow, the birds are tweeting anyway, so I have to wake to a ‘beep, beep, beep.’ It’s a great way to wake up, and I miss it terribly when I’m abroad.

“Last year, I treated myself to an iPad. I was in the States for three weeks during the summer and I didn’t feel as if I was out of the office. I came back without that awful feeling of work piling up. And it’s fun. It feels more like play-time than work.

“I always try to have a big lunch, because that lifts me and keeps me going through the afternoon. And it usually involves pasta with a vegetable sauce, like broccoli. I love it. I’ll make extra and eat with the children when they come home from school, at 2.30pm. We’ll chat about their day.

“I’m very lucky that the farm and cookery school backs onto Carrig Forrest. I love to take our gorgeous golden retriever, Pippa, off for a walk in the woods. Or I’ll go to the headlands and check on the sheep for my father. Often, the children come with me. It’s time out to appreciate the countryside.”

Actress and writer Pauline McLynn, who is starring in Greener, by Fiona Looney, at the Gaiety, has her mood lifted first thing when her husband, Richard Cooke, brings her a cup of tea.

“I have him trained,” she says. “Richard gets up before me because he’s learning Russian. He listens to Russian radio. It’s a very sexy language. So hearing the Russian is an added bonus.”

The picture hanging on the stairs lifts Pauline, too. “I studied history of art, and I once opened a friend’s exhibition. He’s a wonderful artist called Shane Johnson, and he gave me a special painting to say ‘thank you’. It’s a seascape with these lovely, roundy people in it. There’s a woman on a lilo out at sea, and she’s reading, clearly, my first novel. That gives me such a thrill.

“Seeing my cats, waiting in the kitchen, is one of the greatest moments of my day. We have two feline sisters, called Breda and Alice, and they make me laugh so much. They love chasing around with balls made from tinfoil.

“I love sitting in the garden, too, and gardening. And in the evenings, knitting lifts my mood. It calms me down after a busy day — and, best of all, I’ve something to show for it, too.”

Singer Brian Kennedy, whose CD The Voice is released this month, loves going to the gym. “I train with Paul Byrne in the centre of Dublin. I do an hour of weights and cardio. It helps me physically and emotionally. I take my exercise as seriously as I take making music. And even if I’m having a crap day, at least I know I’ve achieved something.”

After a session in the gym, Brian reaches for his Nespresso machine. “I love good coffee,” he says. “I try not to have more than three cups a day. I love double espresso or Americano. I really look forward to that.”

He finds his deepest pleasure in music. “It lifts my day when I’m in the studio starting with a blank canvas, and by the end of the day I have a strong musical idea or a completed song. Creating something from nothing uplifts me.”

Brian like nothing better than his bed. “I’ve an obsession with bed linen,” he says. “It’s always white and I use a lavender spray. I make it immaculately, ironing all the sheets. I make it like a cloud to float off in. It’s my treat to myself.”

Melissa Hill, writer, whose novel, The Charm Bracelet, is published this month, gets a lift the moment she gets up.

“When I go to wake my two-year-old daughter, Carrie, there is always this great big smile. I love seeing that. She’s one of the most good-natured children I’ve ever come across. Yet, I admit, I was dreading the whole ‘baby’ thing, that my life would change dramatically. And it has, but in the most wonderful way.

“I’m also lifted by my daily walks with Homer, our 12-year-old fox-terrier cross. I love living in Blackrock, Dublin, because of the great choice of walks. My favourite is Merrion Strand. I love that sense of freedom when you hit the coast. It’s a great way of unwinding and untangling plot points.

“Twitter is great at lifting my day. Working on your own can be isolating, as there’s no chatter with work mates. When I finish a scene, I log on and see what people are saying. I like that you can tap in and then out. It’s like that water-cooler thing. It helps work, too. If I have a brain fault, I can ask, ‘What word am I looking for?’ and in seconds I get 10 different replies.

“When I really want a lift, I take myself shopping for shoes. That definitely brightens my day. I reward myself every time I deliver a book. I owe myself two pairs right now.”

Denyse Woods, writer, and director of The West Cork Literary Festival, gets a lift from having her elder daughter home from post-graduate college for a few months.

“It’s a delight to wake up every morning and hear her pottering around. I particularly like to hear the somewhat ridiculous conversations she has with her cat, who gazes at her across the room with one of those I-knew-you-couldn’t-live-without-me feline smiles.

“I’m also lifted by the texts from my other daughter, who is on placement in Zambia. Communication there is difficult, so I cherish every little word. Birdsong will do it every time, and I go particularly silly when my swallows come back. I love to hear those tweets, and know they crossed the Sahara safely.

“Right now, I’m lifted by the lime green of a budding sycamore in the garden.

“My husband made me an Easter tree this year, by cutting some winter beech and hanging decorative eggs on it. It’s still there and has flushed into leaf. It looks spectacular.”


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