Belfast Telegraph

Home Life

Out with the old, in with the new familiar Northern Ireland faces reflect on their highs and lows of the year just ended... and tell of their ambitions as 2018 beckons

With just two days of 2017 left, Helen Carson and Judith Cole talk to well-known people in Northern Ireland about their best and worst moments of the past year and their hopes for the New Year

Radio Ulster presenter Kim Lenaghan (55) lives in Belfast with husband, Andrew Jones, who is a management consultant. She says:

I would say 2017 was one of the best years of my life because I married my husband Andrew. We got together as a couple in January and got married just months later in March - he proposed to me on our second date. We tied the knot at Chelsea Registry Office in London.

I was very confident saying yes to Andrew's proposal although other people told me I was mad. Our romance was wonderful in a whirlwind, bolt-from-the-blue kind of way.

When others questioned me I told them 'when you know, you know'. No-one knows what will happen tomorrow so sometimes you have to take a chance. I can say now it was absolutely the right thing to do and have no reason to think that will change in the future.

We didn't have a honeymoon at the time so are going to Sicily next summer. Before that, though, we are heading off to Paris early in the New Year - which was my birthday present from Andrew.

So far we are enjoying living together, being married, going away on short breaks together and spending time with friends so next year will be more of the same as this year has been so good.

The only bad thing this year was having a troublesome builder - but everyone has that. It happened then I just moved on from it.

This New Year's Eve we will be at home beside the fire and I have a beautiful, big fillet streak which I plan to cook, so it will be a quiet, relaxing night and hopefully a bit romantic too."

Miss Northern Ireland Anna Henry (23) from Portglenone says:

I've had such an exciting year - between being crowned Miss Northern Ireland and graduating from university. I would have to say becoming Miss Northern Ireland was such a huge achievement for me, having been a runner-up in previous years. It took three to four years to get my confidence, courage and experience right to compete again and all that work was definitely worth the reward.

Going to take part in Miss World in China was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was certainly nice to live the celebrity lifestyle - if only for four to five weeks.

Beauty pageants are so big in China so when I was in the hotel reception both the press and public were taking pictures.

Anywhere we went, the Miss World contestants were escorted by the police and security. People in China took the day off work and lined up on the street to see the bus go by with all the contestants in it. We even had a day trip to the Yellow Mountain range which is one of the biggest in China and the whole mountain was closed off just for us.

It was fantastic to be the person everyone else was queuing up to see rather than being on the other side of it.

While being in China was unforgettable, it was here I got the news that my granny Sarah was ill and not expected to make it before I came home.

But somehow or other, she managed to rally and the doctors took such good care of her she lasted until the last week of my time at Miss World.

I made it home in time for her funeral and it had been so hard talking to my family about the possibility of me not making it home for that.

Next year will be the one when I hand my crown over to a new Miss Northern Ireland and I will continue to work with ACA Models and fundraise for the Northern Ireland Children's Hospice.

In 2017, I raised £3,500 for the charity from a bake sale and I plan to do a skydive in 2018 to bring more funds in too.

Hopefully next year will be as successful for me as last year and there are family highlights to look forward to.

My brother Niall is getting married in August and my sister Ashlee will have her first child in May."

Kim Constable (38), founder of The Sculpted Vegan website, lives in Belfast with husband Ryan (46), a former Ulster Rugby player who is a director of a sports management company. They have four children, Corey (12), Kai (10), Maya (8) and six-year-old Jack. She says:

On both a personal and professional level the growth of my website has been one of the highlights of the past year. I started out on Instagram 18 months ago and now have 33,000 followers worldwide. As a vegan it is wonderful to both watch the growth of veganism and be part of it through the website. On a philosophical level there is a rise in awareness about how animals are treated, and how the food we eat gets to our plates.

People are now increasingly thinking about the kind of food they put into their bodies as well as animal welfare.

Also 2017 was the year I started bodybuilding and took part in my first competitions.

So far I have three events under my belt and it is something that I want to continue.

In terms of anything negative, I have to say there is very little - I have a great life.

Because of the business taking off we didn't have a holiday as a family. We were in Australia last Christmas to visit my husband's family, but there was no time set aside to travel other than that.

I home-school my four children so while I see a lot of them it's easy to not spend quality time with each other, so that is something that will be made a priority in the New Year.

I will compete at an international bodybuilding championship, Miami Pro, next year and I may also take part in another one in Belfast in April. All the training of the last year means I am in better shape than ever.

However the 12-week preparation is extremely demanding.

Spending more time together as a family is top of my list for 2018, so that will be the main focus."

Vinny Hurrell (35), who hosts his own topical Radio Ulster show and produces The Nolan Show, lives in Belfast. He says:

The constantly changing political landscape has made work quite exciting this year, with the elections and Brexit discussions. Every day is a bit different - it has been like a soap opera, with so many different elements and people involved at Westminster and here.

However, one story that stands out was not a major political one. It concerned a lady who I interviewed. She'd been ill for a while and she and her family really wanted to get her home so that she could spend her final days in her own surroundings with her loved ones.

Initially, the Trust was not forthcoming with a care package for her to enable her to get home, but we covered the story on Radio Ulster a few times and in the end the Trust came through and she was able to get home.

The lady only lived for a few weeks afterwards - and of course this wasn't a particularly nice story but it was very satisfying to see the family's wish granted.

This was especially so because the family put a lot of trust in us and invited us in to these very personal moments with them.

When you work in this business - the programme is on every day and it needs content but a story like this reminds you that we're all human.

I also present my own Radio Ulster show on Monday nights, which is coming up on three years in March. And I present a charity showcase programme on BBC1 called Community Life.

So I certainly have a lot of variety in my work - from standing in for Nolan to doing my own show, and to Stephen (Nolan) asking me to dress up as an elf for the Christmas show.

On a personal level, my fiancee and I bought a house last year with a view to restoring it.

It was a fixer-upper and I thought it would be a great project. That's what happens on these home improvement TV programmes, doesn't it? But I was a bit naive and it was a horrendous experience. It was amazing how hundreds of pounds became thousands.

So I found that stressful and it was an achievement but I don't think I would ever do it again. Since we spent so much time working on the house this year, I think next year we will aim to enjoy it more.

And it will be exciting to see what happens with work - on January 3, I will be nine years working on The Nolan Show.

I would like to do more travelling as I didn't get too far this year with having to work on the house - maybe South East Asia, but I have nothing planned at the moment. And perhaps we will start planning a wedding."

Director of Belfast Fashion Week Cathy Martin (43) lives in Holywood with her five-year-old daughter Valentina. She says:

Looking back on 2017, I have been very grateful every day for the health and happiness of my daughter, Valentina. And my 'time out' - from working at home to a sabbatical stint at international publishers Conde Nast in July and August was a great experience for me.

The low point was really missing my beloved mum who died in 2016. I think about her everyday.

For 2018, I am so looking forward to the 25th anniversary of Belfast Fashion Week in March as well as some other exciting work projects which are in the pipeline."

Olivia Rana (42), who lives in Belfast with businessman husband Rajesh and children Lucia (9) and Marcus (7), released her first novel this year, Elastic Girl, the story of a young Indian girl sold to the circus by her parents. Olivia says:

Getting my book launched was the highlight of the year for me. I had heard about children in India as young as six being trafficked or sold to the circus by their destitute parents as a means of income.

They were often introduced to punishing schedules of training and performing.

I got in touch with the charity Child Rescue Nepal to learn about what was being done to help and then decided that a way to raise awareness would be to write a novel from the perspective of a child caught up in this world.

The book (available on amazon.co.uk) is about an important social issue and although it's fictional, it's drawn very much on real life events. I made the decision to go out and self-publish. It was a really positive move for me after trying to break into the market and I've had lots of positive feedback from readers.

Highlights for our family circle include that we had a couple of new additions - my two brothers each had a baby this year.

My youngest brother had his first child and my other brother had his third.

So with me, my brothers and two sisters, there are now 12 grandchildren on my side of the family, which is lovely. Another highlight was a holiday that my husband and children and I went on to Finland.

I love the Scandinavian countries and we'd been to a few already but Finland was on my list.

We went in the summer and had a wonderful time sightseeing around the many islands along the coast.

I was so inspired and would love to write a book set there. As a writer it's good to experience the places at first hand.

And our children are at the age now where they take more interest in wherever we go so it was a very enjoyable experience.

It was a busy year for us on the home front because we sold our house and bought a new one which needs a lot of renovation.

As the work is being done, we've moved into temporary accommodation.

I was nervous that it would be a big upheaval for the kids, but they've treated it as a big adventure and have enjoyed it.

By coincidence the house we've moved into is the one my husband and I lived in before the kids came along.

So, our big project for 2018 is refurbishment of the new house. This time next year we hope to be moved in.

It is exciting and daunting at the same time - we'll be able to make our mark on what we want for the interiors.

We will be keeping the move to the new house towards the latter part of the year because my daughter is in primary six this year and is getting ready for the transfer test.

I'm aware there is so much pressure on kids now.

I don't want her to get stressed so we will be trying to support her and keep her calm throughout.

My ambitions for next year are to have continued success with Elastic Girl and, through that, to raise awareness of child trafficking and Child Rescue Nepal.

I'd like to get the chief executive of the charity, Joanna Bega, over to Northern Ireland and organise an event around that.

I've also been considering launching my book more formally in India, because it's set there, and I've had interest from a publisher in India and we're working on plans to do that.

And I have another book in the works.

It's set in Iceland and I just need to do one more edit on it before hopefully releasing it towards the end of next year. I'm not sure yet whether to go the same route as Elastic Girl and self-publish.

If a traditional publisher came along with a great deal I don't think I would say no."

Londonderry-born Leah Totton (29), who lives in London and is a former winner of TV's The Apprentice, is the founder and co-owner - with Lord Alan Sugar - of Dr Leah Cosmetic Skin Clinics. She says:

The two highlights of this year were being back working for the NHS and seeing how well my two clinics, in London and Essex, have done. I returned to clinical medicine with the NHS about 18 months ago and it's been good to be back.

And my Essex clinic has had a record breaking 2017. It's been wonderful to see it fully booked and this has been my biggest achievement from a work point of view.

I've been working in both areas - I'm doing my GP training, for which you do 18 months in hospitals and then 18 months in general practice. Going back into the NHS after three years out was challenging, and I'm working nights over the New Year. It's been very busy doing that along with running my business.

But I always said that I would complete my GP training and I'm determined to do it. Lord Sugar has been very supportive and has given me the time I need to go back to clinical medicine. He's a great believer in the NHS and he understands that medicine for me is a vocation rather than a job. He's been tremendously supportive.

I spoke to Lord Sugar last week. We're opening a third clinic in central London soon. We exchanged Christmas wishes on Christmas Day via email, and we'll be in very close contact over the next few months as we prepare to open the clinic.

I would love to open one in Northern Ireland. Being back home over Christmas, I was able to take a walk through Belfast and I was surprised at how many clinics are open there. To be honest, we would consider opening in Dublin before Belfast - I think that with Brexit, the Republic of Ireland will be in a stronger economic position than ever, and a lot of massive corporations have established a base there.

In the future, I see myself working part-time as a GP and part-time in my clinics. I came to cosmetic medicine to provide a medical influence. I think it's important that cosmetic doctors are able to understand medicine and apply medical skills so that we can provide a more holistic consultation.

I did a degree in dermatology while I was out of the NHS and I think it's important for cosmetic clinics to have a highly trained medical doctor working there - you do de-skill quickly when you're out of clinical practice.

On a personal level, my highlight was to speak on thread lifts at the World Expert Meeting cosmetic conference in Barcelona in October.

I was their youngest ever doctor presenting. For me, to be recognised on an international stage as a world expert in cosmetic medicine, at the age of 29, was beyond my wildest hopes.

Next year is going to be massive. I will have my GP exams and will open the next clinic. And I turn 30 on January 22 - I'm going to Barbados with a group of girlfriends. I did my medical elective in Barbados when I was 23 and I'm really looking forward to going back."

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