Free spirit

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - The Shape I’m In - Irene Feighan

ARTIST Pauline Bewick be­lieves in telling it like it is. “Peo­ple might think I’m bo­hemian be­cause I tell the truth,” she says. “I don’t ex­pect other peo­ple to be out­spo­ken like me but I am out­spo­ken with­out be­ing of­fen­sive — I hope.”

She’s also been open about her past re­la­tion­ships with men while mar­ried to psy­chi­a­trist Pat Melia, who died in 2016 fol­low­ing a long bat­tle with Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

“I would get a crush, or fall for some­body and then I would go back to Pat. In the large sum of life, it was al­ways Pat I loved.”

Af­ter he died she ini­tially thought it was a re­lief for him. But a few months later she was swamped by grief. “I was struck ter­ri­bly by his hav­ing gone. I thought I’m never go­ing to see him again and and that still lingers. They say it can last two to four years and I can be­lieve it.”

She keeps Pat’s ashes on a shelf in the kitchen where they will stay un­til her own ashes join his. But she’s a lot of liv­ing to do in the mean­time.

Aged 83, the Kerry-based mother of two and grand­mother, con­tin­ues to paint and ad­mits to hav­ing “tiny fan­tasies” about a ro­mance. But it stops there. “I re­alise – no... I’d have to change and be­come more po­lite.”

Pauline Bewick is in con­ver­sa­tion with Niall MacMona­gle at the The Lis­towel Writer’s Week to­mor­row. See: writ­er­ What shape are you in? I had a stroke about four years ago and I find it hard to take, for in­stance, that there is a weak­ness in my legs.

My head isn’t quite as clear. But there are ad­van­tages too. The stroke has opened an­other door in my head and paint­ings that come out of that dark hole are re­ally, re­ally good.

I go for a walk ev­ery day. I do ex­er­cises though it’s very hard to make my­self do ex­er­cises. I should do much more — train­ing my legs to work bet­ter. I re­cently found a won­der­ful wo­man who teaches yoga.

What are your health­i­est eat­ing habits?

I’ve been a life­long veg­e­tar­ian. But I do eat fish. I also eat a lot of salad, fruit, veg­eta­bles, along with lo­cal honey and yo­gurt. I’ve got too slim since my stroke even though I eat like a horse.

What are your guilti­est plea­sures?

I would feel guilty if some­one caught me look­ing at rub­bish on tele­vi­sion. I don’t look up what’s on, I just turn on and watch. The only thing I would switch off is the news. What would keep you awake at night? I sleep well but if I’m hav­ing fun and we’re all hav­ing a laugh I can stay awake for an age. How do you re­lax? Paint­ing makes me very happy even if it’s a hor­ri­ble sub­ject. If I’m get­ting it right then, oh wow! I also like hav­ing a laugh with my friends. Who would you in­vite to your dream din­ner party? Meryl Streep. I think she’s a fas­ci­nat­ing wo­man. I have a very small per­cent­age of DNA in com­mon with her. Graham Norton — he opened one of my ex­hi­bi­tions. And then I’d have the rest of the ta­ble filled with my life­long friends. What’s your favourite smell? I like the smell of nat­u­ral things like hon­ey­suckle.

What would you like to change about your ap­pear­ance?

I’d like to cut the num­ber of wrin­kles I have by half. I’ve never had Bo­tox. I’d be afraid of the af­ter­ef­fects. When I see peo­ple who have had it and it’s al­ways very ob­vi­ous — you won­der what will hap­pen in years to come. I don’t like jowls. If I had them I’d def­i­nitely have a facelift.

When is the last time you cried?

Two weeks ago when I heard an an­i­mal in pain. You can’t ex­plain any­thing to it. I cry ev­ery time I see an­i­mals be­ing taken in trucks to the abat­toir to be killed.

What traits do you least like in oth­ers?

A nar­row-minded per­son who is un­able to even try to un­der­stand the op­pos­ing view.

What traits do you least like about your­self?

I like things now be­cause if I don’t get things now [the mo­ment] goes and an­other now gets in the way of it. I must be im­pa­tient. In­stead of call­ing my book Eighty, I thought of call­ing it Now. Do you pray? I don’t. I have no re­li­gion. In­stead, I wish. I would say into the en­vi­ron­ment, ‘I wish for good weather’. But I’m not speak­ing to any­one.

What would cheer up your day?

I think it would be won­der­ful if ev­ery coun­try had a univer­sity with a depart­ment that stud­ied war. We need to un­der­stand why we have the urge for war.

“I cry ev­ery time I see an­i­mals be­ing taken in trucks”

Pic­ture: Do­minic Walsh

SLIM LINE: Pauline Bewick has lost weight since her stroke even though she eats “like a horse”.

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