The best time to get up at the weekend is?
always look forward to a lie-in at the weekend when I’m at home in Portstewart. I haven’t had a regular routine for years. I’m self-employed and a lot of my leadership and peacebuilding work, author events and social enterprise volunteering takes place outside of Northern Ireland. I’m often away traveling across the UK, Ireland, Europe, USA and Africa during the week, so getting to be at home at the weekend is a precious time.
Breakfast or brunch?
I often skip breakfast or just have a little fruit on weekdays, but Saturdays is the day for a traditional Ulster fry. I’m spoiled by my wife, Lesley, who makes a magnificent Ulster fry and having breakfast in bed at the weekend is the ultimate luxury.
What does an ideal Saturday look like?
When we have a lie-in on a Saturday, it’s breakfast in bed, watching a little television before getting up to walk the dogs – Lily, our elderly Yorkshire Terrier and Willow, our lively lurcher – on the beach in Portstewart. We usually stop off for a snack in Native Seafood & Scran and Lost & Found cafe en route to the beach.
What would your perfect Sunday be like?
Sundays in Portstewart are very relaxed for us, but when we are staying Belfast, we like to go to All Souls Church in Elmwood Ave, which is one of the few churches in Northern Ireland that is inclusive and supportive of parents like us with LGBT children . Then we go for lunch as a family to one of the nearby restaurants such as Barking Dog or Deans at Queens and after this we enjoy a walk along the Lagan Towpath from Stranmillis to Shaw’s Bridge.
Do you prefer to be indoors or outdoors?
I prefer the outdoors, walking, hiking and sometimes running. My favorite place for a walk is Portstewart Strand, for a hike it would be Divis and Black Mountain where I grew up (and was once a ‘Paperboy’ and a ‘Breadboy’, so I was!) and for a run I love the woodland trail in the grounds of Ulster University in Coleraine, where I was once a student (and ‘All Growed Up’).
How have weekends changed as you have gotten older?
With a background in youth work and community development, for many years I worked at weekends, often on residentials. When I was a radio presenter on Downtown Radio, I was up very early to present the Sunday morning breakfast show. These days it’s good to have a more relaxed, easy-going weekend at home.
If you could eat out anywhere tonight in NI, where would you go and why?
I would go to Blank in Belfast for a superb, surprise menu of fine dining. On the other end of the spectrum, KFC on the Boucher Road is my favorite takeaway.
At weekends you’ll always make time to…
Catch up on sleep, spend time with the family and get outdoors.
Do you sometimes work at weekends?
Yes, the auditions for Breadboy took place over a series of weekends in January/February. We had auditions at the Lyric Theater in Belfast and also in Dublin and Derry. However, we also had special community auditions on the Falls and Shankill Roads, and we found Judah McKee, who plays Tony (aged 14) in Breadboy. I was delighted that we found a young talent in the community where I grew up and where the musical is set.
Who would you most like to go for a drink with and why?
Our whole family recently went to see ABBA Voyage in London. I’ve been a lifelong fan and it was an incredibly enjoyable, immersive experience. The four members of ABBA attended the opening night in London, and I would have loved to have gone for a wee drink with them after the show.
Are you a weekend cook?
I’ve only started cooking since lockdown, using Hello Fresh. I’m a late starter as a cook but I like an easy-to-follow recipe and fresh ingredients supplied.
What’s your dream Sunday dinner?
Traditional roast beef with Yorkshire pudding has been my favorite for as long as I can remember.
Who do you normally eat Sunday dinner with and where?
Since our daughters have flown the nest, it’s been just my wife and I, and some weekends we have dispensed with the traditional Sunday dinner, but recently Lesley’s mother has moved to Portstewart so now there are three of us, and it’s more of an occasion again.
Too tired to cook – what are you ordering from the takeaway?
My favorite takeaway is Indian food – chicken korma and tikka masala, with sweet naan rather than rice.
Heading for the cinema? What are you going to see?
My favorite genre is science fiction, so if there are spaceships, aliens or time travel involved, I will be there with my popcorn.
Staying in… what TV/streaming/catch-up programs are on the menu?
My favorite are well written comedies where you care about the characters like Ted Russo, Young Sheldon and Young Offenders, science fiction such as Doctor Who and anything in the Star Trek universe, and brilliantly written dramas such as This is US and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
What are you reading?
I love books about faraway places and different times in history. My favorite book is Bridge over the Drina by Bosnian writer Ivo Andric. In a small Bosnian town, the stone bridge of the novel’s title bears witness to three centuries of conflict. With humor and compassion, Andric chronicles the lives of Catholics, Muslims and Orthodox Christians unable to reconcile their disparate loyalties in a part of the world where the east meets the west. In the early 2000s I did a lot of work training youth workers in conflict resolution in the Balkans. I read this book during long bus journeys through the mountains of Serbia. It means a lot to me because it educated me about the ethnic conflict in the Balkans and reminded me of the senselessness of the community divisions back home in Northern Ireland.
Recently I’ve developed a bad habit of watching ‘reaction’ videos on YouTube, which sometimes keeps me up well past midnight. I love watching young people from different countries watching classic songs, like Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, for the very first time, and seeing their first reactions to the songs of my youth.
Tony Macaulay’s book Breadboy, his memoir of growing up in 1977 Belfast, has been turned into a musical production by British Youth Music Theatre, with words by comedian Andrew Doyle and music by Duke Special. Over 30 young people will perform in the production which runs at Lyric Theatre, Belfast, July 28-31.