Monday 11 December 2017

Pamela Flood: 'TV is not the be all and end all. I don't think any job is'

Pamela Flood's latest venture, a lifestyle website, launches this week. She tells our reporter about feeling fabulous at 45, and her next move with husband and restaurateur Ronan Ryan

Looking radiant, blogger and entrepreneur Pamela Flood is enjoying being a full-time mum to her three children. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Looking radiant, blogger and entrepreneur Pamela Flood is enjoying being a full-time mum to her three children. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Pamela is actively involved in husband Ronan Ryan's thriving food business. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Liadan Hynes

Liadan Hynes

One would be justified in suggesting that we have reached a peak with lifestyle blogging. That the market for everything from beauty to fashion, food to travel blogs has been well and truly saturated. In fact though, it's saturated specifically with those in their twenties and early-thirties. Unlike Britain, whose 40-plus blogging business is booming, no one of that age here has really captured the public's imagination.

Pamela Flood might be just the woman to do it. The 45-year-old relaunches her blog pamelaflood.ie this week. Originally she started the project when pregnant with baby number two; "something for me, something I could do from home, with the babas," she explains. Life, specifically a third child, and the family business restaurant Counter Culture now located on Mercer Street in the capital, which she and husband Ronan Ryan opened in 2015, got in the way, and the blog was put aside, until now.

"It can be whatever I want it to be," she says now. "Because I'm not beholden to anyone. It's absolutely mine. I don't think it's going to be earth-shattering or groundbreaking. It's just my thoughts, musings, opinions."

Most well known as the face of Off The Rails, which she successfully hosted alongside Caroline Morahan, it has been nine years since Pam fronted a TV show, and her new blog is a reflection of her life now, in all its kaleidoscopic glory. There will be food, recipes, kids' stuff, fitness, and a bit of fashion, and lots of beauty, her area of particular interest. She arrives fresh faced, bare of make-up, a classic pale blonde beauty. She reflects that getting older doesn't really bother her.

Pamela is actively involved in husband Ronan Ryan's thriving food business. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Pamela is actively involved in husband Ronan Ryan's thriving food business. Photo: Gerry Mooney

"For the longest time I was always against people having anything done," she says of plastic surgery. "My thinking on that has changed - if it makes them happy and more confident, then it's not a bad thing. The fine lines start creeping in when you're in your thirties. I'm okay with it. I don't think I'd ever go under the knife," says the former Miss Ireland, visibly recoiling at the idea of anything painful or invasive, "but all these non-invasive treatments, bring it on."

Much has changed since she originally began working on the blog, she says. "There's so much going on in my world. What Ronan is doing now work-wise with Counter Culture isn't just Ronan's job that he goes to. It's our business, our family business."

Then there is the couple's three children, Harrison, six, three-year-old Elsie, and Gracie, 18 months. Apart from childcare to allow two weekly visits to the gym, Pam is home with the children.

This busy family life came relatively late. She and husband Ronan first met at mutual friend hairdresser Dylan Bradshaw's wedding in the South of France when she was in her mid-thirties. She knew him to see from around town, and remembers thinking at the time "God that man has amazing eyes. He's so handsome. We got chatting at the wedding, and we got on great." A week later, he called and asked her out to dinner.

There was four months of new romance bliss, eating out all the time, enjoying their shared passion for food. Then the crash came, and both went from gruelling but fulfilling work schedules, to being essentially unemployed overnight.

"The recession hit, and not many programmes were being made," Pam recalls. "Budgets were being slashed everywhere. The first couple of years of our relationship were quite stressful. My career imploded. I went from so busy I hadn't got time to do anything for myself to oh my God, I've so much time on my hands, this is really strange. Ronan went from running three restaurants to none. That was hard for both of us, because you're ego takes a bashing. So it was really stressful at times."

It's the kind of thing that would break some couples. "I think it has made us all the stronger. Because we got through it. We had to. Get over yourself, get over your ego," she explains. "I think we're a better couple for it. We're better people for it. The lovely thing about the downturn is the timing was right to make our family."

Pam had known from the start that Ronan was good father material, seeing him with his son Zach from a former relationship was enough to prove that. "Watching him with Zach, he was such a great dad. I knew he was father material. He lives for them. He will do anything he can for those kids," she smiles.

She herself had always presumed she would have children at some stage without ever really feeling any overwhelming maternal urges. "My mam was such a natural mother," she recalls of her beloved mother Paula who passed away over a decade ago. "I didn't have major maternal instincts. I thought they'll come later, they'll come later and then in my mid-thirties they sort of arrived. But it wasn't really maternal instincts; it was more a thought of 'well, if I don't have children now, will I have the time?'"

Anyone who knows her would say Pam is the most unlikely person to find herself at the centre of an online storm. Softly spoken, easy-going, polite and gracious, a professional who turns up, does her job and goes home to her family, she has never in her long career courted controversy as a sort of brand building exercise. But several years ago, pregnant with her second child and asked in an interview what she would say in response to comments that it was selfish to have a baby when in one's forties, her reply drew the wrath of the mom-brigade on her. Reflecting that she was healthier then than ever before, her comments were taken out of context and posited as a sort of wholesale criticism of young mothers.

Even now, Pam is clearly shaken at the memory of those few days of being the focus of online anger, unsurprisingly; it's the kind of stuff that at it's most outraged can ruin lives.

"I don't want to ruffle feathers in that way," she says now. "If I want to say something to shock people, that's not the route I'd go. I don't want to attack mothers. I don't want to attack anybody. From my view point, it's a really hard gig, I'm not knocking anyone, or anyone's choices." She was also the target of criticism at having babies over the age of forty.

"I would have been happy with one child. Then I got greedy and said I'd love another one," she smiles. "Then got greedier still and, it was actually Ronan suggested baby number three. I had it in the back of my mind but he said it. I literally jumped up, 'oh yes, absolutely'." Within weeks she was pregnant.

Before having her first child, Harrison, she would never have imagined staying at home to rear children would have made her happy, she says. "And I see myself now hanging out with the kids and just having a ball, enjoying them, occasionally having to go into another room and count down to ten," she laughingly acknowledges. "That surprised me, how much I enjoy it.

"My mam was such a natural mother," she continues. "She was a really lovely person. Endless patience. There's still moments when I think I'd love to have her back. To ask her stuff. We were great buddies. And more than anything, I read something the other day about someone whose mum wasn't around and they said 'I get it now. I just get it. I'm so sorry for all the stuff. And thank you so much for everything else'."

The couple now run their business together. Counter Culture is clean eating, but without the preaching, or food-guilt this line of thought so often comes with. "The whole clean eating, healthy food, it's a part of our life. It was something we spoke about from the very beginning," she says of the idea of opening a healthy restaurant. "We're not obsessed with it. Nothing's obsessive. I mean there hasn't been a week of my life where I haven't had a bar of chocolate. Precious little days."

Counter Culture is the first restaurant Ronan has owned since Town Bar and Grill. Going back to ownership probably was a little scary, Pam reflects, but "he's really driven. We're such opposites. I'd procrastinate forever and ever and ever. He literally has to push me to do things. Whereas he just gets an idea and says I'm just going for this. And he doesn't really sit around thinking 'oh what if it goes wrong?' But the whole idea of this, it was very much a team effort."

Working together has proved really exciting.

"There were only a couple of stressful moments. When we first opened in Powerscourt, it was quiet for the first couple of months. There were a few moments of 'oh God, I hope this works'. And then it just turned and there was a queue of people down the stairs. We talked about nothing at home for a long time. I was in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, at two in the morning," she laughs, "making healthy desserts, trialling them to see what would work."

At the moment, Ronan is in the restaurant early. It opens from 7.30 for breakfast during the week, and then he's busy manning their growing corporate business, a lunch delivery service. But his evenings are free, unusual in his line of work, a real treat, but that's all about to change - the couple are launching their first takeaway branch this summer, in the city centre.

"I don't know how we're even going to see each other," Pam says calmly. A recently instigated habit of date nights should help. "We've worked it out," she laughs. An early bird dinner, then drinks afterwards. "Home and all by ten, bye bye babysitter. It was great. Once every three weeks is the plan."

She hasn't closed the door on future television work, but her attitude these days is philosophical; "I didn't decide 'right I've had enough of working in TV, I'm moving on'. It's just the way things went. It's not like a TV presenter can wake up and pick what they want to do that day. People have to want you for a gig. I'd love to work in TV again, but TV is not the be all and end all. I don't think any job is. What I'm doing now is I think what a lot of people are doing; I don't have all my eggs in one basket."

She has occasional moments where she wobbles at the thought of putting herself back out there publicly, with the blog. "I have little moments where I think 'ohhh', and then I think, my next thought, that I've trained myself to think, is 'well if everybody else is doing it why not me'."

WHAT OTHER MISS IRELANDS ARE DOING

Amanda Brunker

Having modelled as a young teenager, Amanda was crowned Miss Ireland in 1991 at the tender age of 17. Now a mother of two boys and in her forties, she has had a hugely successful career as a journalist, author (with her best-selling Champagne trilogy), radio and television presenter, playwright and social diarist. She is a childhood friend of Bono - the two attended the same school as teenagers - he was a guest at her wedding in New York to partner Philip. Never one to shy away from a controversy, Brunker has been an outspoken proponent of Botox, recently receiving Botox live on The Late Late Show.

Andrea Roche

Winning in 1997, Tipperary-born Andrea Roche went on to place in the top 10 at the Miss Universe pageant in 1998. Andrea enjoyed a hugely successful modelling career before retiring to set up her own model and talent agency, looking after most of the country's top influencers. She now has two children with her husband Rob White, daughter Sophie and son Alexander.

Rosanna Davison

The daughter of Chris de Burgh went on to win Miss World in 2003, at the age of 19. She is the only Miss Ireland to enjoy such success. After a successful modelling career that included a cover of Playboy Germany, Rosanna, now married to Wesley Quirke, has since relaunched herself as a nutrition expert, promoting a plant-based vegan diet, authoring several books and hosting lifestyle workshops.

Aoife Cogan

Aged just 17, Aoife Cogan's first modelling job was the Brown Thomas International Fashion Show, after being spotted by the show's stylists. This involved taking to the catwalk with Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington. She won the Miss Ireland title in 2005 and was of Ireland's top models until she retired. Now married to former rugby player Gordon D'Arcy, the pair own pilates studio Form School, and are parents of two children.

Holly Carpenter

Granddaughter of legendary social diarist Terry Keane, Holly won Miss Ireland in 2011, while a student at NCAD. She famously dated rugby player Cian Healy and musician Danny O'Reilly, and starred in the show Britain & Ireland's Next Top Model. She now enjoys a career as one of Ireland's top influencers.

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