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Me and my health: Martina Devlin on her lifestyle

 

By Stephanie Bell

Omagh-born Martina Devlin, who is married to David Murphy, is the author of nine books, including The House Where It Happened and About Sisterland. Her next book, called True: Stories About Ireland's Iconic Women, a collection of short stories published by Poolbeg Press, is due out in October.

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

A: I take an hour-long walk several times a week but what I mainly do for exercise is hop on my fixie bike and go for a cycle (I gave up on bikes with gears - too many decisions to make). I'd never catch the bus when I can cycle a couple of miles to an appointment. As for driving a short distance, that's anathema to me - I loathe trying to find on-street parking spaces, and am temperamentally incapable of engaging with multi-storey car parks. At the weekend, I take longer cycles. Maybe a round trip of 10 to 20 miles, with a walk and a coffee and cake break thrown in. I have an exercise bike sitting in the spare room for wet days, but I don't use it much because I prefer a destination.

Q: What's the worst illness you have had?

A: I've had two near misses. There was a ruptured ectopic pregnancy which nearly killed me. Also, I was in a serious car crash involving three vehicles - unfortunately, the other two drivers died. I was the only driver to survive. The driver in the car ahead of me appears to have fallen asleep at the wheel and lost control. I wound up with a broken sternum, which healed, and an eye injury which limits the vision in my right eye. The retina began to detach and was undiagnosed for a time. After some months, I went for an eye test thinking I needed reading glasses, and the optician spotted the problem - I'm very grateful to her. I had eye surgery, but a certain amount of vision was lost. It gives me problems periodically. But I know I was lucky too. While I was lying in hospital recovering, I sent my then boyfriend, now husband, to visit the optician with an enormous bouquet of flowers.

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: I've been a veggie for 28 years. I don't enjoy cooking so it means a lot of pasta and sandwiches. Fortunately, I like both. I'm not a foodie, I could live on snacks and fancy restaurants don't appeal to me. The minute I find myself in a restaurant where one of the waiters places my napkin on my lap, I know I'm in the wrong place.

Q: Any bad habits?

A: Does coffee count? I can't function in the morning without coffee. It's hard to know which habits have been added to the evil list since last I checked.

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

A: Don't smoke, never have, but I like a glass of white wine now and again. Especially when watching old black and white films.

Q: Do you take any health supplements?

A: I'm doing a PhD at Trinity College Dublin currently and discovered I could book a human MOT with one of the college doctors for a modest fee. So I availed of it and was relieved to discover I have no life-threatening illnesses, but need vitamin supplements. Probably because of being so lackadaisical about my eating habits. So I'm taking them. I also like to keep some tea tree oil in the bathroom cabinet, it's my go-to product for any kind of skin outbreak or even scratch because it has antiseptic properties. I'm told it combats smelly feet too, but I haven't had to test that.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: I do read a lot. It's my favourite pastime and I always have several books on the go at any one time. Currently I'm reading Darach MacDonald's Hard Border - a topical and thought-provoking non-fiction read, where he walks along the Ulster Canal - and Liz Nugent's novel Skin Deep, which has a narcissistic heroine and is a total page-turner, like all her books. I'd recommend both.

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: I really love my bed. I turn cranky if I don't notch up eight-and-a-half hours a night at least, and nine is always better. I'm fortunate enough to sleep soundly most nights.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: No. I tell myself I'm the youngest I'll ever be, right now.

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

A: My cat Chekhov, a three-year-old tabby. Whenever I feel out of sorts or tired or anxious, I sit in my favourite armchair (positioned in a sunny spot in my study), cajole Chekhov onto my lap, and we laze there with me stroking and him purring... and the two of us bliss out. Research shows that stroking a pet improves your mood. I can confirm that this is true.

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