Me and my health: Writer Carlo Gebler on his lifestyle
The writer (65) teams up with Gavin Weston at Bangor Castle as part of the Aspects Festival this Sunday to present Aesop's Fables, a witty illustrated version of the world's greatest collection of fables, allegedly written by a slave in the 5th century BC. Living outside Enniskillen, he is married to Tyga and has five children, India-Rose, Jack, Finn, Georgia and Euan.
Q: Do you take regular exercise and if so, what?
A: I go to an exercise class (spinning, circuits, kettle bells, whatever) every weekday morning in the Lakeland Forum in Enniskillen if I am at home. And on Sunday mornings, I have an early morning trudge around Castle Coole with a friend. We both particularly like walking in the rain. In Dublin, if I need to get about, I use a fold-up bicycle (a Dahon, a Brompton knock-off) which I take down on the train. And in principle, wherever I am, I walk rather than taking buses and I don't use lifts and escalators.
Q: What is the worst illness you've had?
A: Peritonitis (aged 12). A blocked gall bladder sack comes a close second. I never had the stones out but changed my diet instead. I now don't eat the things that provoke the production of gall.
Q: How healthy is your diet?
A: I am a vegetarian most of the time who occasionally goes full vegan, but now and again (such as when the children are home) I will eat meat because they eat meat. This happens perhaps twice a year. My 'good' diet principally consists of pulses, legumes, salads and vegetables. And from time to time I do eat dairy (cheese, eggs). Coffee is always black and so is tea. I avoid biscuits and cakes and that sort of stuff with varying degrees of success.
Q: Any bad habits?
A: Feeling anxious and fretful on account of knowing this wee place and the wider world beyond are going to hell in a handcart.
Q: Do you drink and smoke/if so how much?
A: I don't smoke, and in order to lose weight I do not currently drink alcohol and will not until I am a stone lighter. The new Peroni and Guinness non-alcoholic beers are excellent.
Q: Do you take supplements?
Q: How do you take time out?
A: Whenever I can lose myself in something and so stop thinking I always feel better. However, losing myself, which means not thinking, is easier said than done.
Sometimes music will do it. Sometimes a book or a play will do it. Sometimes a walk. It's unpredictable and rare. I would hazard that this inability, on my part, to turn off my thoughts and to subdue my mind and to exist unselfconsciously in the moment is my greatest struggle.
The trouble with achieving that blissful state is that the kind of life I have chosen to lead is inimical to it. I'm a self-employed writer. I rely for my work on my mind being at work and turning. It is when it is at work and turning that words flow, ideas come and copy is generated.
I have been told by many people (all far clever and far wiser than I) that if I could only find my work/life balance all would be well. If only. Unfortunately, I haven't found my work/life balance yet and I doubt I am ever going to find it.
Q: How well do you sleep?
A: Appallingly. More typically, I get to sleep but then I wake. I am awake by 5am most days and up by 6am or 6.30am.
It allows me to get things done without being disturbed (because the world is still sleeping when I am up) and because I've got things done, I feel less anxious. I also find that waking early and getting up gives me the sense (or is it the illusion?) that I have a proper relationship with the earth's circadian rhythms (the world is awake and I am awake) and again that makes me feel less anxious, less fretful.
Now if I could just get to sleep when it gets dark then I really would be in synch with Mother Earth's chronological programme but alack and alas that eludes me. I can nap in the day with consummate ease: yes, I who might take a couple of hours to go off at night in my bed can put my head on my desk in my study and conk out for 20 minutes in the middle of the afternoon.
Yes, I know, it doesn't make sense but there it is. I'm a poor sleeper with a genius for cat-napping and I do this cat-napping thing most days. In fact, while writing this paragraph about my sleeping life I had 40 winks in the middle, after I wrote the word '...afternoon' above and before 'yes ...'
Q: Do you worry about getting old?
A: There's nothing to recommend about the ageing process. It's hideous.
Q: What is your go-to product that keeps you feeling healthy?
A: If only I could facetiously say 'Black Bush.' The truth, though, is probably the scales in the bathroom.
Carlo Gebler, along with the artist Gavin Weston, will be appearing at the Aspects Festival at 2pm on Sunday, September 29 to discuss their new book Aesop's Fables, The Cruelty of the Gods. To book, visit www.aspectsfestival.com