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Northern Ireland personalities on life at home during shutdown


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Top (l to r): Paula McIntyre, Vinny Hurrell, Jan Carson, George Jones. Bottom (l to r): Dr Liam Farrell, Orla McAlinden, Joe Lindsay, Dawson Stelfox

Top (l to r): Paula McIntyre, Vinny Hurrell, Jan Carson, George Jones. Bottom (l to r): Dr Liam Farrell, Orla McAlinden, Joe Lindsay, Dawson Stelfox

Top (l to r): Paula McIntyre, Vinny Hurrell, Jan Carson, George Jones. Bottom (l to r): Dr Liam Farrell, Orla McAlinden, Joe Lindsay, Dawson Stelfox

Well-known NI celebrities tell Linda Stewart their secrets for coping with the clampdown.

Paula McIntyre, food writer

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Positive thinking: Paula McIntyre says slowing down has allowed her to read more and send cards to people

Positive thinking: Paula McIntyre says slowing down has allowed her to read more and send cards to people

Positive thinking: Paula McIntyre says slowing down has allowed her to read more and send cards to people


The one positive thing to come out of the lockdown is that I've been forced to slow down and reflect on what really matters in life.

I've been able to start on the pile of books I never had time to read, catch up on TV box sets, send cards to people and discover the joys of Zoom calls.

I miss travelling and meeting people, but this lockdown has taught me to really cherish where I live.

I've now got the time to experiment with different recipes. Our local lobster boat posted on Facebook that he would be fishing soon and selling his catch.

Twelve months ago, I'd have been happy about that, but this time I nearly cried with joy.

Vinny Hurrell, broadcaster

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Vinny Hurrell

Vinny Hurrell

Vinny Hurrell

I've been working from home 100% of the time for around a month now and had to adapt to a few technical changes pretty quickly - radio, TV presenting and producing, all in my front room.

Each day, I help to produce The Nolan show remotely with other members of the team who are able to work from home. I present my own BBC Radio Ulster show on Fridays from the same room.

I chat with the production team and guests via Skype and Zoom, recording interviews over the internet.

The most creative thing has been recording the voiceover for My First Home on BBC One Northern Ireland. That involved recording the lines with my head in a duvet to minimise outside sounds.

Radio and TV - it's all glitz and glamour. Maybe not.

Dr Liam Farrell, former GP

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Dr Liam Farrell

Dr Liam Farrell

Dr Liam Farrell


I think there is a certain tranquillity that has made us recognise the important things in life.

We appreciate people in the community, the people that oil things and make things go.

The local shops are the only sign of life and it shows the importance of supporting local communities - when something happens, those services are here for us.

We're learning very important lessons about who are the really important people in society.

I have particular admiration for people like carers. It's something that society needs to take a lesson from.

Whether it does or not, I don't know.

Jan Carson, writer

Jan Carson


For the last four weeks, I've been writing a small story each day on the back of a postcard and mailing them to isolated individuals.

When the lockdown began, I felt like Postcard Stories were a great way to cheer people up and maintain connection while we couldn't physically see each other.

I enlisted the help of some young artists and have had over 60 children volunteer to illustrate my stories.

I post them each morning on an Instagram account - @JansPostcardStories. It's been so heartening to receive messages from people who've appreciated reading the stories and seeing the beautiful artwork.

Living alone, I've found the community which has grown up around this project a real lifeline and means of connecting, despite the isolation.

George Jones, musician

George Jones


For me, it's been a hectic life in music - you never stop and you never really get a chance to unwind and take in the values of what you have around you.

We live in a beautiful part of the world and you sometimes take it for granted.

Lots of people moan and groan about being bored, but isn't it funny that these last three weeks, the air has cleared and the weather has been lovely? It's just as if something was trying to help us get over this.

It gives us a chance to look at life, look at our values and look at what's going on in a totally different way.

I think we'll all come out of it different people.

Dawson Stelfox, Chair, Outdoor Recreation NI

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Dawson Stelfox

Dawson Stelfox

Dawson Stelfox


It is hard to find the positives while still in the grips of tragedy, but our enforced new way of looking at life has made us more aware of our health and the simple pleasures of the natural world.

Government encouragement of exercise is a reflection of its proven health benefits and "localism" is having its moment in the sun - we don't always have to travel far to explore the outdoors.

Outdoor Recreation NI and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council had already developed a Community Trail Plan with "doorstep" off-road, all-ability trails now built in Bunker's Hill, Castlewellan and Tobar Mhuire, Crossgar, designed for people to walk from their homes into an accessible and enriching environment.

Among the many lessons of this pandemic is what it can teach us about how to create a more healthy society; opportunities to get out into the natural environment have shown to be a crucial part of that.

Orla McAlinden, author

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Orla McAlinden

Orla McAlinden

Orla McAlinden


Since school closed on March 13, I've been self-isolating in the beautiful Kildare countryside.

The busy M9 motorway cuts through our farm, but the constant whirr and hum has dwindled almost to silence.

Nesting birds are singing their full songs, instead of truncated utilitarian phrases. Rabbits and hares nibble in broad daylight. Pheasants and foxes are braver. Yesterday, my daughter spotted the elusive Kildare dormouse.

How many more months before the traffic returns? No one can tell. Is this our best last chance?

Covid-19 may do what a dozen climate change conferences couldn't. Out of this global human suffering, perhaps we may seize an opportunity to rebalance our planet.

Joe Lindsay, broadcaster

Joe Lindsay


These are the strangest of times. What has been heartening to me, the real spirit of this place, is seeing real, actual examples of us being in this together, looking after each other; people like Framewerk in east Belfast and the Ben Madigan in north Belfast.

People giving their time, their energy, their heart, risking their own health potentially, to help the vulnerable in their community, to make sure they get through this awful time.

There are many other people here doing the same, or working the frontlines of healthcare, keeping the country going, filling its shelves, keeping us safe, keeping our heads up and proving that we can do this. And we can. And we will.

Belfast Telegraph