Derek Davis, 60, is a journalist and broadcaster. He was born in Hollywood, Co Down and raised in Bangor. He lives in south Co Dublin with his wife. They have three sons
Published 12/04/2009 | 00:00
Getting used to retirement is quite a trick. My only scheduled working day is an onerous one day a week. I earned that. I spent 40 years working with Irish broadcasting -- five years outside RTE and 35 years in RTE. So I have no conscience at all saying it was time to move on. Last April I turned 60, which came as an awful shock. Forty, no problem, 50, no problem -- but I was going to be 60. I was always on staff in RTE -- no huge contract, but there was always a pension, so I took the pension.
I'd love more money, but what I needed was time. I'd worked with so many people over the years who had made the plans and then God had laughed. There was always cancer, strokes and heart attacks.
You don't know how many good years you have after 60, but the BBC did a survey which said if you hung on at work until 65, the average life expectancy was 18 months, which was astounding, whereas if you bailed out early, you could extend it quite well. There was something about being institutionalised which was quite scary. And I suppose in a way I was institutionalised in RTE. You knew exactly what you were going to earn that month and you had a fair notion of the work you were going to do.
So, my answer to the question, what time do I get up in the morning, is 7am for the one morning a week I actually work -- presenting my radio show on Sundays from 10 to noon on 4FM. If you were to ask me about what time I get up the other six mornings, the answer to that is, whatever time I damn well please. Some people lecture you and say, 'You should be up and out and dressed at 8am,' to which I say, 'Catch yourself on'. It means I can have a late night and it doesn't matter if I sleep in. The alarm is only on on a Sunday morning and on an odd time I've agreed to do something.
On Sundays, the alarm is set to get the news. I get out of bed and then the usual shower and shave. I always dress for radio. It gets you in the right frame of mind, to be businesslike. From boarding school days, I've never had dirty shoes, or trousers that didn't have the right crease. I never left the house without shaving. It was just one of those things that you did, a basic toilette. For me, going to work was always about putting on the suit or the blazer with a tie. But with this Sunday show, I wouldn't be overly formal as people are coming in to the studio in their Sunday casuals.
I have a routine in the morning that involves mostly porridge and coffee. My wife and the remaining son who is at home would probably be up. I'm in a house full of early risers. My wife is up before most of the sparrows. She swims every morning in the sea -- winter and summer -- and she goes hillwalking at the weekends. I listen to 4FM and the show preceding mine. I'm on at 10am, but I'm a bit like a jumbo jet. I need a long runway and I rev up slowly.
I live in south County Dublin. There's no traffic on the road at that hour of the morning. It's a handy drive in. The production team will already be there. I get in around 8.30am. I get coffee and then I go through every broadsheet and every red top to see what's happening. No, I don't have to wake my voice up. I'm a lifelong smoker, although I smoke an ultra-light cigarette. I was a showband singer and it does teach you the value of the instrument. Also, coming from the North, there's no sense in losing the accent, but there was a sense of not using the idioms to the same extent.
By having a programme that goes out at 10am on a Sunday morning, you really do have the first serious bite at any of the big stories that go out on Saturday night, because everybody else is off the air.
I'm also involved in Celebrity Bainisteoir. I have a team called Glasdrumman. They're on the foothills of the Mourne mountain, County Down. It's a smattering of houses over Mourne and it all revolves around the GAA club. I'd be a fair-weathered sportsman. I'd watch rugby and a GAA All Ireland final. I played Gaelic football at boarding school but in those days the way we played was very different. I'd know the fundamentals. In terms of training a team, they give you a mentor and the mentors are all legends. My mentor is Peter McGrath. In the Nineties he took County Down to two All Ireland victories and he is currently manager of the under 21s. There is a style of Ulster football which is fast-flowing, aggressive football and McGrath would be one of the great apostles of that style. His job is to train me and I train the team. It's been an extraordinary experience.
The boys may have been hoping that they'd get Andrea Roche or some other great beauty but, nonetheless, I got a great welcome. There's a Northern characteristic that you slag the people that you like. The boys are very funny, they hop the ball.
Do I have a competitive streak? You betcha. I am a leader and my great antiquity helps in that regard. My size comes as a surprise to people. I am more than 6ft and I do weigh the equivalent of a transit van. Between that and age, you can command a bit of respect. You raise your voice to be heard on a field but you never talk to them for more than 30 seconds.
In terms of motivation, I can tell you that the carrot works better than the stick. I am a professional communicator and I also have been involved in another side of the business -- motivational and media training and generally getting people to get their heads together. With Celebrity Bainisteoir, you bring a little psychology to bear but you're dependent very much on the great goodwill of the team. We've become great friends. I feel very paternalistic towards them and I want them to succeed.
I've lived in south County Dublin for 36 years and have been very happy there. My neighbours are very pleasant, but I don't have any sense of community -- and that's more my fault than anybody else's. It's the nature of the job that I've done. But doing this programme, I've realised that up there everyone is part of a cohesive community, in bereavement or in celebration. The GAA club provides the school bus and three grannies in the area are the drivers. Patsy, one of the drivers, is the priest's housekeeper, so we have a bit of crack about the cup of tea, like Mrs Doyle in Father Ted. The GAA club supports the school and the school supports the club. As a community, they are so joined and solid, it's incredible.
On Sundays after the radio show I might head off fishing and then I'll cook dinner in the evening. I do all the cooking. My wife doesn't know how lucky she is.
Once a week my three sons will come around for a meal and we'll share a bottle of wine. I enjoy listening to them. They are very decent, kindly men, but they are also very funny.
I watch telly in the evenings. I'm a sucker for the History Channel. My favourite author is Patrick O'Brian and I end up re-reading his novels. I have a very slow metabolism and I have an ability to relax like you've no idea. I sleep like a log.
Derek Davis presents 'Sunday Magazine with Davis on 4' each Sunday morning from 10am-12pm on 4FM. 'Celebrity Bainisteoir', Sundays, RTE One, 6.30pm