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Jo-Anne Dobson: 'I have never smoked in my life but I do enjoy a glass of Sauvignon Blanc'

By Helen Carson

Jo-Anne Dobson (49) is an Ulster Unionist MLA for Upper Bann. She lives on a farm in Waringstown with her husband, John and their two sons Mark (22) and Elliott (25). The busy politician says taking the quad bike out on the fields is a great way to relax when she's not enjoying a cup of tea with her mum, Joanie.

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

A: No, definitely not - I never get a chance, although I love to walk. When I'm working, exercise is not taking the lift in Stormont to my office, which is on the third floor - that's if climbing the stairs counts? I do enjoy a walk on the farm at the weekend.

Q: What has been the worst illness you have ever had?

A: I have been very fortunate - the worst ailment I've ever had is a bad cold, which I have at the moment. I have had the experience, though, of watching a sick child as my son, Mark, had been unwell since he was five weeks old, so I know first-hand what that is like. He is now 22 and since he had a kidney transplant eight years ago, his life has been transformed.

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: Not very - I know I don't eat enough healthy food. I work very hard and probably one of my worst habits is realising very late at night after meetings that I haven't had anything to eat. It is important for everyone to look after their physical and mental health, but I am as likely as the next person to want a bun with my coffee. Being a farmer's wife, though, I love to cook a traditional roast dinner on a Sunday with roast potatoes - which probably isn't very healthy. I rarely get a chance to cook during the week, as I'm always home late after committee meetings, so I'm very thankful that I have a great mother-in-law who cooks for my sons and sends over something for me to heat up.

Q: Any bad habits?

A: I have a sweet tooth and love cake and chocolate. I love having chocolate with a cup of tea, which I know is unhealthy.

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

A: I have never smoked in my life, but I do enjoy a glass of Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio on a Saturday night, though I rarely get to do that now.

Q: Do you take health supplements?

A: The one I take if I feel a cold coming on is Echinacea. It didn't help this time, though - you have to take it in time to stave off a cold. I also take Evening Primrose Oil.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: What is time out? It is a very, very rare occurrence. When I do get time away from politics, it is spent with friends I have known for a long time. I like to get together with friends and have a good catch-up, so if I am attending an event, I'll bring them along. Last week I was at an event for Macmillan and I brought some friends along, so we could all support the charity and do some fundraising, too. I tend to get together with friends a few times a year and we will order a Chinese takeaway and have a good old-fashioned catch-up.

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: Not very well, and I think it is particularly difficult when you are a politician - the job prevents you from sleeping, as issues tend to keep you awake; your mind is preoccupied with all the things you need to do and it can be very difficult to switch off. So, I don't sleep that well. I am fortunate, though, as I can get by with five or six hours of sleep, if I'm lucky.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: Truthfully, no. My mother, Joanie, is in her late 60s and she is a fantastic person, with the best outlook on life. Age is just a number and I think you should just enjoy every aspect of your life, regardless of what stage of life you are at.

Q: What is your go-to product/habit that keeps you feeling healthy?

A: Fresh air. If I want to unwind or de-stress, taking a walk across the fields on the farm, checking on the cows and taking the quad bike out and appreciating all the beauty of the surrounding countryside. Something else that keeps me healthy is catching up with my mum - I'm a great listener, but I'm a great talker, too, so there is nothing like visiting her. She goes into Banbridge and will call me with names of lots of people I should be helping. She also insists I sit down, turn my phone off and have a cup of tea with her - she is wonderful, the most optimistic person I know.

Belfast Telegraph


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