Motherhood’s been the making of me
Pamela Flood needs a coffee. It is lunchtime and she had spent the best part of the morning shooting the cover for this feature. The manager appears with a latte. On the saucer is a small shortbread square. When she sees it, her face breaks into a smile. ‘Look!’ she says. She picks it up and pops it in her mouth. Then she smiles at me darkly over the rim of her cup. ‘I’m a sugar maniac.’
It is a hot summer’s day and we are sitting in the cool of Kelly’s Resort Hotel in Rosslare, at a table overlooking the street. In the flesh, Pamela’s beauty has less of the lioness quality I associate with her photographs and more of the cool refinement of Grace Kelly. Then she speaks and her voice is so softly pitched, I can hardly hear her. I want to ask her to speak up, but I find I cannot. Pamela, 41, might be gentle — but she is also stately.
For so many years a fixture on our television screens fronting RTÉ’s flagship fashion magazine show Off The Rails, Pamela has maintained something of a lower profile since giving birth to her son, Harrison, 16 months ago. Most recently she’s been asked to be a spokesperson for the nutrition supplement Vivioptal Active. ‘I fitted the bill for them,’ she says. ‘I am a relatively new mother, and a first-time mother, but I am still working, so I am balancing baby, home and work, and I think most mothers would agree that it’s a time in your life when you need a little bit of a boost. A tonic is definitely the way to go. You try to get as much sleep as you can, but it doesn’t always work that way, and sometimes a little extra help is required.’
Looking after baby Harrison, Pamela’s life has never been busier. ‘I don’t know where the time goes,’ she says. ‘I’m up at seven, and by lunchtime I feel as if I have climbed a mountain and I’m ready for bed.’ She is not complaining, though. ‘I waited a long time for this,’ she
6 says. ‘I waited until I had met the right person, and I had partied for so long, so now I never look at him and say, “I could be in London if it weren’t for you.” It’s not that I won’t do those things again, but I find when he goes to bed, I miss him. I can’t wait for him to wake up.’
The last year and a half has been a pleasant surprise to her. ‘When I first became pregnant,’ she says, ‘everyone said to me, “Enjoy your sleep — you’ll never have it again,” and that scared me, because I like my sleep. No one told me how much fun it would be. I thought babies might not be that interesting, but Harrison is always smiling and laughing. Everything we do together is such a joy. And the lack of sleep is manageable.’
Luckily, she is healthier than ever. ‘ The pregnancy sorted that out,’ she says, smiling. ‘All those multiple glasses of alcohol went out the window. Now it’s three good meals a day and lots of nights in. I can’t even say I watch TV, because I never get to see the end of a programme!’
The eldest of two, Pamela grew up in Tallaght, in the 1970s. ‘ I have beautiful childhood memories,’ she says. ‘We all played together as children in the mountains, and it was so green and safe.’ She was 19 when she won the Miss Ireland crown. ‘I was kind of talked into it by friends,’ she says, ‘but in the end it was a pretty exhilarating experience. It wasn’t a bitchy competition. They were all lovely girls.’ She stops herself and laughs. ‘I sound like Father Ted…’
She quit her bank job and worked as a continuity announcer for RTÉ for several years before landing a series of TV presenting jobs, including a long stint on Off The Rails. ‘I loved every day of it,’ she recalls. ‘It never felt like work.’ In 2008, she and her co-presenter Caroline Morahan were replaced by Brendan Courtney and Sonya Lennon, and Pamela moved on to fronting RTÉ shows such as Marry Me? and Who Do You Think You Are?.
She lost her mother, Paula, when she was 34. ‘I lived at home almost all my life, and I was — and still am — very close to my family. My mother’s death was a huge shock. Death is a great leveller. You think in ways you would never have thought before. I began to ask myself, “Why am I here? What is it all about?” I wasn’t interested in partying any more; I wanted to start a family. I’m sure my clock had been ticking away but I didn’t hear it because I was having such a good time. But after that, I thought, “I am here for a reason.”’ She left her long-term partner, Michael Sharpe, the manager of Dublin’s Spirit Nightclub, and moved into the apartment she had bought a few years before. ‘I thought I was Carrie Bradshaw,’ she says, laughing. Was single life all she thought it was going to be? ‘ Well,’ she says, ‘I wasn’t single single. I had met Ronan by then.’ She means her partner, the restaurateur Ronan Ryan, who owned Town Bar & Grill, Bridge and South during the boom. ‘We got off to a bumpy start,’ she says. ‘When we first met, four years ago in June, everything was great. I was mad busy, there was so much work, and Ronan was flying. And then, all of a sudden, it was like someone flicked off a switch.’ Ronan’s restaurants folded, and Pamela found herself out of work.
‘We were at the stage where we were still sorting out our differences. If you are 36 or 37, you are set in your ways. I thought things should be a certain way, and so did Ronan.