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Me and my health: 'I'll get plenty of fresh air with my Black Santa campaign'


Dean John Mann

Dean John Mann

Kevin Scott / Presseye

Annual appeal: Dean Mann as Belfast's Black Santa

Annual appeal: Dean Mann as Belfast's Black Santa


Dean John Mann

The Very Reverend John Mann (61), is Dean of St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast. He lives in Belfast with wife Helen and they have two grown-up children; daughter Rowan, who lives in London with husband Graham, and son David, who is married to Catriona and lives in Coventry

Do you take regular exercise - and if so what?

I play tennis once a week for about an hour on Friday morning which is the only serious exercise I do. I started playing again about eight years ago following an injury. Helen and I also go for walks and our favourite place to do so is in Portrush where we have a holiday home. We also live quite near the Lagan in Belfast so along the river is a great for a stroll, too.

What's the worst illness you have had?

I am fortunate with my health and in 40 years of work I don't think I have ever had a sick day.

How healthy is your diet?

Helen and I do the 5:2 diet, so for two days every week we eat nothing but fruit and vegetables, and for the remaining five days we eat well while continuing to be healthy. Breakfast is usually fruit and a cup of tea with a sandwich for lunch and a full dinner in the evening.

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Any bad habits?

Skipping lunch. I will work away and then realise it is 3pm and I've missed lunch. Or I will have a sandwich at my computer which I know is not the best thing to do.

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

I don't smoke but I do take a drink - red and white wine - but not at the same time.

Do you take any health supplements?

Not really unless I feel a cold coming on, in which case I would take vitamin C with zinc - I've not had one this month, so only occasionally.

How do you take time out?

In the ministry you get one day off a week so we head up to Portrush on Sunday night. That is when we really get an opportunity to unwind when we are away from Belfast. There in no TV or wifi in the house there and we leave our phones at home to allow us to completely switch off.

How well do you sleep?

Not as well as I would like. I have always been an early riser and still am, so no matter what time I go to bed at I am nearly always up at 6am.

Do you worry about getting old?

Not so much about getting old, but more about approaching retirement as I don't know how I will react to being retired. I am nearly 62 now, so I have started to think about this - and it is that prospect which concerns me more than actually being older.

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

Fresh air and exercise. And I will get plenty of fresh air when I start my Black Santa campaign on Friday outside the cathedral. I don't mind the cold, although Donegall Street can be a wind tunnel at times, as long as it doesn't rain. Very often some of the other clergy from St Anne's stand outside with me and they are bigger than me, so it's sensible to stand beside them and take advantage of the shelter.

The Dean's annual Christmas fundraiser begins on Friday and you can pop along to have a chat with him and make a donation to the appeal at St Anne's

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