UK: My Other Side - Cricket, countryside and cooking.

UK: My Other Side - Cricket, countryside and cooking. - Time is at a premium for Chris Holmes, director of homelessness charity Shelter, so he values his leisure time, says Rhymer Rigby.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Time is at a premium for Chris Holmes, director of homelessness charity Shelter, so he values his leisure time, says Rhymer Rigby.

'I'm a Yorkshireman,' says Chris Holmes, director of homeless charity Shelter, whose childhood ambition was to play cricket for Yorkshire. 'I've always loved cricket - though I never came anywhere near to playing for my county. I played village league cricket in Yorkshire in my twenties and, although I stopped playing last year for time reasons, I still follow it.'

He continues to keep fit, thanks to two family pets - a lurcher from Battersea Dogs' Home and a Birchington terrier. 'We live in Tring, on the edge of the countryside, so one of my leisure activities is taking the dogs for a walk, which is incredibly relaxing,' he says.

Holmes is a family man. He has two grown-up children by his first marriage, as well as a seven-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter by his current partner. 'So, even though I'm in my mid-fifties, I am responsible for two quite young children and it's very much a shared responsibility.

I try to spend as much time as possible with my partner and children.'

Indoors, Holmes is a dab hand in the kitchen. 'Over the past 10 years, I've developed a real interest in cooking.' Like many others, he started with Delia Smith but now enjoys tackling quite ambitious recipes.

'I don't mind how complicated they are as long as I've got clear instructions,' he explains. His favourites include chicken basque and risottos. 'It's something I find quite relaxing but only as long as I can take my own time.' A rushed risotto, one imagines, could be quite traumatic.

Holmes enjoys reading, particularly autobiographies. He has just finished Doris Lessing's biography of her fellow South African novelist Gillian Slovo and is now reading Eric Hobsawm's three-volume history - The Age of Revolution/The Age of Capital/The Age of Empire - which he says is 'very demanding reading'. He also likes reading Victorian authors such as Thomas Hardy and George Eliot.

Radio gets a look-in: 'I follow The Archers sufficiently to understand the plot.' On television, he is an avid viewer of only one show: 'I am addicted to Casualty. I like the stories and characters but I also think it's a brilliant portrayal of the challenges of trying to provide a good quality public service - the difficulties of human beings.'

For him, this is particularly resonant. 'Before I came to Shelter, I was the director of public housing for the London Borough of Camden,' he says. 'I was very much in the firing line, trying to provide as good a public service as possible with limited resources and enormous public expectations.'

Finally, he is keen on foreign climes. 'Something I really enjoy, but have less time to do now, is travelling. The longest holiday I took was just over two months in South America - in Ecuador and Peru - walking the Inca trail.

'That was an unforgettable experience with the mountains and these fantastic Inca settlements. In the future, I'd like to do that again in other parts of the world, walking in the Himalayas, perhaps,' he says.

Such wanderlust will have to sit on the back burner at the moment, however, as the business of running Shelter is simply too demanding. 'A lot of my time is taken up with being director of Shelter. It's not just a job - the work Shelter does is a passion and a personal commitment. It's something I really believe in.'

Outside work, the art of relaxation is a priority

Spectator sports: watching cricket and the television hospital drama Casualty are equal passions for Holmes. In the latter he identifies with the problems of providing public services with limited resources and dealing with the vagaries of human nature.

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