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Me & my health: we have a talk with veteran DJ Big T

By Helen Carson

The 70-year-old veteran DJ lives in Moneyreagh and is the only founding member of Downtown Radio still working at the station. His show is aired on weekday evenings from 7-10pm.

Do you take regular exercise - and if so, what?

I take my dog Eva, who is a Labrador cross, for a walk every morning and sometimes in the evening. She is an 11-year-old rescue dog.

What's has been the worst illness you've ever had?

I had pneumonia and was hospitalised for four days in recent years. Once I was out of hospital it was another three weeks before I was back at work. It left me feeling very, very weak. I felt as though I was five times heavier than I was. The medical staff said that I recovered quickly, but pneumonia can be so debilitating.

How healthy is your diet?

My partner, Vi (who is also a neighbour) ensures I get my five-a-day and I don't eat any junk food or takeaways. We do have chips every Friday, though, as there is a fantastic chip van in Moneyreagh - the chips are to die for. I don't really cook, I'm more a barbecue man although I can prepare a Caesar salad and make a great gazpacho. When my wife, Lynda Jayne, passed away I had to learn to cook and didn't find it as hard as I thought. I must have been watching my mother and Lynda Jayne at some stage. I can make a roast and I've made stew.

Any bad habits?

I eat meals regularly now because of my time slot on the radio. My diet has tended to be dictated by the availability of time during my career, especially when I worked on the breakfast shows at Downtown. Now, though, I have dinner every night at 5pm, leave the house at 6pm and I'm on the air by 7pm. I am fond of salt and love Kettle crisps, but I try to make a packet last a few days and even hide them so I am not tempted. I eat at Vi's house, but because she is a grandmother she tends to have multi-packs of KitKats and packets of Cadbury's biscuits in all the time. I'm on the Jaffa Cakes at the minute. I have put more weight on than I would like and it tends to be on my stomach. At six feet one inch tall, though, I tend to get away with extra weight, but it is unsightly and unhealthy.

Do you drink and/or smoke - if so, how much?

I stopped drinking 13 years ago and quit smoking seven years ago - the latter of which wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. I just decided to have one last cigarette and that was it - for me smoking was more about having something to do with my hands. Working on the radio my voice is the tool I use, so smoking, even for an eejit like me, was like a plumber throwing his spanner out. I do feel better for not smoking but I didn't really notice an improvement in my sense of taste - it was always good. When I get a bad cough or flu I thank God I'm no longer a smoker and usually take New Zealand honey as it seems to work the best for a sore throat.

Do you take any health supplements?

Centrum Multivitamins for the over-50s which I take from September through to April and a high-strength cod liver oil capsule.

How do you take time out?

As I am out every night during the week and on the air from 7-10pm there is not a lot of time to watch TV so it becomes a bit of a luxury. I record a lot of TV shows such as Scandal, Vera and Mr Selfridge so Vi and I will sit down at the weekend and catch up.

How well do you sleep?

Now, I sleep very well, having previously worked on breakfast shows for many years which meant early starts.

I look back now at that time and wonder how I survived when I had 4.30am alarm calls and maybe had been working at a disco the night before and only got home at 1am.

Do you worry about getting old?

I do worry about getting old I have to admit. After I had pneumonia I became more aware of the fragility of life. When I was lying in the hospital bed I would think 'will I ever be able to walk my dog again?' I worry particularly when I see people younger than myself losing their life. It does make you think - but you just have to get up every day and get on with it. When Terry Wogan passed away recently it struck me that he was not much older than I am.

What is your go-to product or habit that keeps you feeling healthy?

Going on holiday and doing lots of dandering about - not walking, dandering. I think I was born in the wrong climate when I should have been born in a hot country. It would be great to find out I am actually of Italian descent.

You can hear Big T on Downtown Radio every weekday from 7-10pm

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