AN Englishman with an American passport and a penchant for West Cork is filling his time on lockdown by making a cheese a day.
Andrew Beecham is a former TV executive. He was, in fact, the head of programming for NBC Kids, based in Manhattan.
But that was another life and a regime change at the firm allowed him to give it up and move permanently to Derryconnell in Schull in 2018.
He and his wife, Sarah, as well as their two grown up children – Hannah (25) and Ollie (23) – are living in ‘isolation’ in a beautiful, old stone house looking out to Mount Gabriel.
Now aged 56, Andrew might be considered young for retirement, but he said they, as a family, were determined to enjoy the fruits of his labour.
‘I had a very successful career. It was a big corporate job with lots of executive meetings and travelling to animation studios.
It was exciting but very demanding.
‘Our company was owned by Comcast, but then it was taken over by NBC, and I was part of the management change, but on the upside it presented me with an opportunity to never have to think about work and money again.’
Andrew explained that they had bought the house in Derryconnell about six years before moving west.
‘We love the area,’ he said, ‘having visited it for about 30 years, and this was our chance to fulfil our dreams of living in Ireland.’
Sarah, a radiographer, trained with a friend who lived in Schull. ‘We came here first for a visit, and then to bring our children every summer, and we’ve been doing that for 30 years.’
Moving here was a bit of a change. Andrew said: ‘The joke at the time was that we were trying to get the contents of a 34ft container into a house that’s just 30ft long.’
As part of his relocation package, Andrew bought a Heir Island lobster boat and it continues to be one of his greatest pleasures to take it out on the water around Schull, and join in local regattas as well as the Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival.
The whole cheese making thing wasn’t new. Andrew said he had started it in New York as a hobby to combat the stresses and strains of his job.
‘I found cheese making to be pretty ideal for that – it is a long process that requires time and patience,’ he said. ‘I learned everything about it from watching YouTube videos.
‘Since we moved here, I did make some sporadically but once the lockdown was announced I decided to try and make a different cheese every day. The plan – ‘afterwards’ – is to host a cheese and wine reception and to donate the proceeds to the local Coast Guard.’
On the day Andrew was interviewed he had already made 22 different varieties of cheese – his favourite, so far, being Shropshire Blue. He makes just one of each, and each cheese weighs about 1.3kg. Andrew said: ‘They are all maturing nicely in my man-made cheese cave,’ which is in his garage. But because it is already overflowing, he is hoping for a speedy end to the lockdown.
But as long as it goes on, he says he will carry on, too. People can follow his progress on Instagram. Check out: Cheezaday.
When Andrew is asked the pertinent question: ‘Why?’ He said: ‘You have to do something with your time.’ And, almost as an afterthought, he adds: ‘Oh, and I do like cheese.’