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Nicola Weir: The happiest moment of my life was when our two children were born and I'm so proud of the fabulous young people they have become... I love their energy, openness and their sometimes rather bizarre views on life!

In this week's interview Rachel Dean talks to BBC NI broadcaster Nicola Weir (45), who lives in Gracehill, Co Antrim, with her husband, Peter, and their two children, George (17) and Imogen (14)

Country life: Nicola Weir presents Farming Matters on BBC Radio Ulster every week
Country life: Nicola Weir presents Farming Matters on BBC Radio Ulster every week
Nicola with Peter on their wedding day
Nicola with husband Peter
Nicola as a schoolgirl
Rachel Dean

By Rachel Dean

Q. Tell us about your childhood

A. I have very happy childhood memories of my grandparents and spending time on their farms. It was always exciting to be in the yards with the animals and bringing in the bales from the fields.

One vivid childhood memory I have was when my granny got a new sheepdog. She told us to wait on the step because a surprise was arriving.

The wee pup arrived in a bucket and when I looked inside I was just so excited and so in love. I named her Brandy because I loved eating brandy balls and I couldn't wait to see her every time I visited the farm.

That's probably why I feel so at home on Farming Matters, bringing the rich mix of flavours from the field to the BBC Radio Ulster audience.

Q. What are you most proud of?

A. I'm most proud of my two children, George and Imogen. They have grown into two fabulous young people and I love their energy, openness and, sometimes, rather bizarre views on life!

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I was determined to ensure a very honest and frank relationship with my children, so that they could feel comfortable talking to me about anything.

I also want them to have the confidence to choose their own path in life.

I'm glad to say I think I've succeeded in both these aims.

Proud mother: Nicola with her children, George and Imogen
Proud mother: Nicola with her children, George and Imogen

I can remember every detail of when they were born and can hardly believe how quickly the years have flown by.

I'm immensely proud of them now and I'm sure, no matter where life takes them, I'll be proud of them as they continue to grow and develop as people.

Q. The one regret you wish you could amend?

A.I wish I had worked harder at school. If I could live my life over again, this is the only element that I can control that I would definitely change because I would love to have studied law.

While I didn't do badly at school, I certainly did not reach my potential. If I could turn back time, I'd work harder for my A-levels.

Q. And what about phobias? Do you have any?

Nicola in the BBC studio
Nicola in the BBC studio

A. I have a crippling fear of birds - and I mean all birds. I can't even walk by a pigeon in the street without glueing myself up the side of a building or railing, which is a source of much fun for my family and friends.

You can imagine my horror when I had to do a piece recently for Farming Matters at a turkey farm and then was surrounded by chickens at a farm we were recording at later that day. Terrifying.

Q. The temptation you cannot resist?

A. Shoes. I love them. All shapes, sizes and colours - and the more unusual, the better. The best of it is, no matter what you've consumed that week, your feet will never change size. Trying on shoes makes me feel better when I'm finding it hard to zip up my skirt.

Q. Your number one prized possession?

A. Probably the first antique book I ever bought. I collect antique books, which is something my husband is not too happy about because I've taken up all our bookcases with my dusty purchases.

The one that started me off was a booked entitled The Truth is Always Best, by Mary and Elizabeth Kirby. Written in 1895, this book is so delicate and has the most beautiful illustrations and embossed cover.

I love just picking it up off the shelf and touching the outside of it and looking at the drawings inside.

Q. The book that's most impacted your life?

A. Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course. I was given a copy about 25 years ago and it has been my culinary bible since then.

I take it out of the bookshelf every weekend and her recipes have shaped every family gathering or party I've thrown in my home for years.

Delia has also played a central role in every one of my family's birthdays. I've always made everyone's birthday cake, so at least eight times a year, her all-in-one sponge cake is called upon to take centre stage - and it never fails!

Q. If you had the power or the authority, what would you do?

A. I'd give anyone who cares for the sick, elderly or infirm a big pay rise.

I deeply admire anyone who takes on that role, whether it is caring for someone at home or elsewhere. You can't put a price on that.

Q. What makes your blood boil every time without fail?

A. Bad manners and anyone being rude or discourteous to another person, particularly if it's done with the sole intent of humiliating someone. It's costs nothing to be nice.

Q. Who has most influenced you in life?

A. My husband, Peter. Sorry, that's probably not the answer you were expecting, but I've known him all my life and when I need some solid advice, he's always there to ensure my decisions are not kneejerk reactions.

Q. Your top three dinner party guests, dead or alive and why?

A. Patsy Cline. She is probably the first singer I ever fell in love with. Her voice is hypnotic and her background and life story is equally enthralling.

She was a strong woman who rose above the clatter and was able to speak for herself in a man's world. It's tragic that her life was cut short in such a dramatic way.

Another would be Toni Morrison because I adore her writing. She's another strong woman and I'd love a couple of hours to get to know her.

I'd also have Judy Garland. I was obsessed with her when I was younger. I watched all of her movies and memorised all of her songs, then I pretended to be her in front of a mirror.

I'd love to find out more about the woman behind the Hollywood portrayal and maybe have a singsong with her.

Q. The best piece of advice you ever received?

A. You can't change people, but you can change your reaction to them. I often fail to take this advice, but God loves a trier.

Q. The unlikely interest or hobby that you love?

A. My new year's resolution is to take up tap dancing again. I did ballet and tap when I was younger and then gave it all up because it wasn't 'cool', so I'm determined to get my dancing shoes on in 2020.

Q. The poem that touches your heart?

A. Anything by Gerard Manley Hopkins, the master of onomatopoeia.

Q. The happiest moments of your life?

A. When my two children were born. There's really no competition.

Q. And the saddest moment of your life?

A. Family illness or death in the family.

Q. The one event that made a difference in your life?

A. Attending a friend's wedding in 1998. I've known my husband since I was four years old, having met him in Primary One, but we went off to different schools when we were 11 years old.

I saw him sparingly over the intervening years. He went away to Scotland to university and, to be honest, I didn't particularly like him! He was the best man at this wedding and I spent most of the day and night avoiding him until I was forced into dancing with him. And the rest is history.

I wouldn't have my gorgeous children if it had not been for this event and I couldn't imagine life without them in it.

Q. What's the ambition that keeps driving you onwards?

A. Retirement and buying a house in the hills of Monchique in Portugal, far from the madding crowd.

Q. What's the philosophy you live by?

A. You only live once.

Q. How do you want to be remembered?

A. A straight talker, loyal friend and loving mother.

Nicola presents Farming Matters every Tuesday from 6pm to 7pm on BBC Radio Ulster

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