Photograph: Thinkstock

The friendship of the four of them, their gang, their cabal, spanned the decades

Photograph: Thinkstock

Great news: ‘Moderate consumption of Champagne has the potential to influence cognitive functioning, such as memory’

Jerry Hall and Rupert Murdoch. Photograph: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

I bet Jerry Hall never goes out with her underwear stuck to her raincoat

Photograph: Thinkstock

I’ve almost convinced myself that with a little effort, a little less vino, this year just might unravel more energetically and gr(...)

Photograph: Thinkstock

I can’t stand the Christmas-fatty-New-Year-skinny tripe that we swallow down like a laxative every year

Photograph: Thinkstock

The rapacious old tart of a tree was the thing that drew me to this house, and now the chainsaws were out for her

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Any pearl of wisdom compact enough to fit on a fridge magnet or the side of a coffee mug should be utterly rejected on the grounds(...)

Photograph: Thinkstock

Where’s the point in beating yourself to a stiff brandy-cream peak wondering why your Christmas is teetering on the brink of medio(...)

Hilary Fannin, right, at the  Irish Book Awards. Photograph: Patrick Bolger

The dress I bought for an awards ceremony was tailored for a woman from many years ago, almost definitely before the advent of tak(...)

Prague: a monumental city,  giddy with architectural treasures

Three days of walking under a pale sun and red rooftops, necks craning, as instructed by the guidebook, to note the Baroque, the R(...)

Photograph: Thinkstock

‘When you’re lying face down on the bathroom floor, trying to cool the raging thermostat inside you by clutching at the cold floor(...)

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What’s an unco-operative calculator compared with an unreconstructed he-man?

Gwyneth Paltrow looking good in an Aran sweater

Who knew my lumpy old sweater would end up on Goop?

One Direction fan Shannon Brown outside the SSE Arena in Belfast. Photograph: Pacemaker

Taking kids on pilgrimage to see One Direction takes its toll

Dickie Rock. Photograph: Eric Luke

‘Ah, Dickie Rock. I think he’s past his sell-by date,’ one of the women at the swimming pool said

Photograph: Thinkstock

It’s creeping back in: hibernation time appears to be over for the acquisitive middle classes

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The disembodied voice emanating from the speaker would appear to have been recorded by a woman well-versed not just in elocution b(...)

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Discovering an old teddy bear and well-thumbed editions of the Irish Women’s Diary and Guidebook in the attic brought it all back (...)

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We’re hit by our very own personalised asteroids every day of the week, annihilated over and over again by grief and disappointmen(...)

Photograph: Frank Miller

A&E was awash with the fallen, the wounded, the broken, the reparable and the irreparable

Photograph: Alan Betson

I turned on the phone: missed calls, a hospital, family members

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They used to come free with a convent-school education

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It’s hard to tell where one bay begins and another one ends in Connemara. It’s hard to tell and unimportant to tell, because the l(...)

Tinder: swipe right for yes

Although I wasn’t labouring under the illusion that Tinder was something used to start a fire, I had assumed it was mainly for you(...)

Photograph: Thinkstock

‘Piglet?’ the woman inquired again, looking past me at a vaguely handsome man

A tap on the shoulder. Photograph: Thinkstock

This grim reaper was like one of those Dublin taxi drivers who arrives 10 minutes early and waits impatiently outside the front do(...)

Photograph: Thinkstock

They have wine, cheese and sunshine. They’re thin. And they only use cardigans for decoration

It appears that  Judy Finnigan  graces nearly as many covers as Kate Middleton’s blow-dry. Photograph: Richard Martin-Roberts/Getty Images

‘If a gossip rag’s circulation figures are wobbling like a couple of has-beens’ bat-wings, try throwing in a blearily cruel snap o(...)

My grandmother used to say that when a bird flew into the house, death soon followed

I was shredding the lettuce, about to start on the pepper, waiting for the barbecue flames to die down so I could throw on a coupl(...)

Photograph: Thinkstock

I was thinking, while the pungent chemical mucilage attempted to imitate the colour I was born with, how entirely mad it was to si(...)

‘Perfidious, perilous dehydration, which just plays havoc with your epidermis.’ Photograph: Thinkstock

I don’t know about you, but my fears tend to revolve around potentially vile and random things happening to the people I love. But(...)

‘Yoga apparently lies at the root of all evil.’ Photograph: Thinkstock

‘God very, very sad’ about the referendum, my friend told me. Which brought us to ‘satanic’ yoga

‘Hi guys,’ the apple blossom whispered to us through her feathery boa, like a girl who was really enjoying the party. Photograph: Thinkstock

It had been a strange week. In the midst of the energy and commitment that is inherent in opening a new play, my friend in London (...)

‘Sad really, that I chose to spend my afternoon turning myself into a pale and saggy imitation of Frida Kahlo, but without her talent, her cheekbones or her maverick nature’

My response to time’s arrow is to encourage each year to be more liberating, more adventurous than the last

Couples Suzanne Cahill and Tina Keane, and Cathy Murrey and Lisa Cresswell at the Yes Equality Bus in Cork. Photograph: Clare Keogh

I find the current debate around the marriage equality referendum quite emotional. We are pushing hard against a caul of restraint

‘The nuns had chilling accounts of nice devout girlies, children just like us, on their skinny knees, chatting to a weepy virgin, who believed in their devotion so much that she made herself into flesh.’ Photograph: Thinkstock

Man, I loved a bit of fervour. Hand on heart, I’d like to acknowledge the energy that the nuns put into the telling of the great, (...)

‘Grooming is cyclical, I suppose, but this business of self-image feels more potent now.’ Photograph: Thinkstock

It’s not just young girls who are slaves to images of unattainable perfection

‘I probably should have persisted with the whole Girl Guide thing, got myself a neckerchief and woggles, learned how to tie a slip knot, resuscitate a choke victim, read a compass and make gingerbread men.’ Photograph: Alan Betson

The Girl Guides programme Free Being Me attempts to unmask society’s beauty myths. Maybe I should have stuck it out in a neckerchi(...)

‘Now that she is coming out of hospital, my mother is dependent on herself, on family and on the State system for ongoing care.’ Photograph: Thinkstock

I wish there were a transparent, equitable, easily accessible system of care available to elderly people who are struggling to mai(...)

In the middle: ‘I didn’t figure too personally in this week’s health traumas. I was just the driver.’ Photograph: Thinkstock

I have been inside so many waiting rooms in the past seven days that I could weep

Michelle Obama dances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show

The US first lady’s Gimme Five project is a dreadful title and an even worse concept

Sunrise over Montreal: You are an amateur, Montrealers told me...  You have never wintered here; you know nothing. You wouldn’t last five sub-zero minutes.

All day long , the humans were looking unsure, fretful even. Do we get excited about this? Do we unbutton, unreel, unfurl?

Crocs, for those of you who haven’t yet had the dubious pleasure, are those very round-toed, utterly flat plastic shoes that come in a variety of unappealing colours. Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP/Getty Images

The nuns used to tell us that the contraceptive pill contained tiny serpents to eat our unborn babies alive

Photograph: Thinkstock

Decades ago, I saw a man beat his son with a stick in this park. That boy would never have envisaged the carnival of life here now(...)

‘If there was something worth voting for, I’d vote for it,’ said the non-voting Russell Brand, a sentiment I found as well-worn and unappealing as his leather trousers. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Young people seem a hell of a lot better-informed than I was at 18, as well as having better teeth and not being given to weeping (...)

Me time: a gap in the schedule when you’re not snorkelling in the laundry basket or using all your fingers and toes to calculate your word count. Photograph: Thinkstock

I can’t stand photos of smiley middle-aged enthusiasts with exclamation marks tagged on to their testimonials telling me that the (...)

Lurking under the subheading ‘Oedipus – Schmoedipus!’ was a request from a man who described himself as ‘academic (60), Jewish, genial’, who was looking for ‘a slim older woman with whom to spend agreeable times’. Photograph: Thinkstock

Maybe it was the Domestos fumes, but I found a sixtysomething’s search for love in the London Review of Books uplifting

Double date: Jason is excited that Valentine’s Day follows Friday the 13th

If you’re girding your loins against the grim confluence of Friday the 13th and another lonely ride on the Valentine’s Day roundab(...)

Wear a mask: A worker at a flower plantation in Ecuador prepares for Valentine’s Day. Photograph: Guillermo Granja/Reuters

Especially when they look like a scene from a Jennifer Aniston romcom

The Count: doesn’t know how lucky he is

‘What weight is the cat?’ the vet asks when I ask her for worm pills. ‘Five pounds’ is my random and utterly inaccurate guess

January:  an odd month. Like a lousy host, she invites you to party, but when you arrive, the lights are out and she’s gone to bed

Hilary Fannin: My friend who shouts wolf is right about 2015 so far

The goldfish won’t forget this in a hurry. Photograph: Thinkstock

Not only is anxiety a function of the times we live in, it’s also cool. Embrace it

‘In the words of Lou Reed, I’m beginning to see the light.’ Photograph: Miguel Vidal/Reuters

My default setting is beleaguered, not wise

Number one in the disappointment chart was ‘not seeing enough of the world’. Having come of age in an era when long haul meant dragging the coal bag around the back, I too feel the pain. But is it ever too late to say ‘one-way ticket, please’?

Recently some academic set about researching the top 10 things in life people most regret. Shag it, I say

‘Christmas: love it or loathe it, we pretty much know that if we have the wherewithal, it’s incumbent on us to step up to the mark and get on with it at the first tinkle of Jingle Bells.’ Photograph: Thinkstock

The sight of big, naked, depilated turkeys sitting up on the countertop like ghostly jurors makes me feel kind of crushed, but, sh(...)

‘Just when you’ve pulled yourself out of the mire, they’ll knock you back in again with a simpering, nauseating, molasses-soaked blast of White Christmas’

I know when to admit defeat. I’ve decided that the only way to survive the season is to give up curmudgeonliness

‘The same research also contends that people without children are generally happier. This surprised me.’ Photograph: Thinkstock

We start out youthful and optimistic, then slalom downhill as we age. The good news, according to research, is that life takes an (...)

Why should women have to house the untreated effluent, the crude, unreconstructed machinery of sexual aggression that flows out of(...)

Jackie: how else were you supposed to know what to do when a boy stuck his tongue in your mouth

Jackie was an instruction manual for teen survival. For those of us lolling around on our candlewick bedspreads in our Bay City Ro(...)

Robbie Williams and Ayda Field. Photograph: Dave M Benett/Getty Images

Ayda looked very nice in the birthing snaps, and is shown in one ‘dancing for her husband’, which ‘helped her take her mind off th(...)

‘Sometimes, when the sea mist came down and the foghorn hounded the dense sky, the house disappeared entirely.’ Photograph: Thinkstock

It was cheap to rent in the 1970s, and was remote, wild, spooky, damp and illuminated at night by beams from the lighthouse. It wa(...)

‘Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more exciting, there was Dicky Rock, materialising out of the camphor-scented ether, looking tanned and coiffed and lovely’

Hilary Fannin: I went to the RDS exhibition purely for the purposes of research, you understand

‘The article also said some whip-sharp, boffin-designed test had been developed to measure neuroticism.’ Photograph: Thinkstock

‘Moody middle-aged women more prone to Alzheimer’s,’ the headline read

‘I was thinking about the new N for Novice plates and wondering if there’s scope for other letters, such as M for Menopausal, or T for Touchy’

I’ve had it with weeping over the steering wheel

Lolo Ferrari: ‘Her brassieres were, they say, designed by an engineer who had previously been employed by Boeing.’ Photograph: Boris Horvat/AFP/Getty Images

I’m no Lolo Ferrari, but I thought my friendly, cerise-pink brassiere was perfectly adequate to fulfil my needs

Photograph: Eric Luke

The actor is back on TV tomorrow in series five of ‘Love/Hate’. But the punctual, theatre-loving, Donna Tartt-reading actor has li(...)

‘Like many self-employed women of my generation, I don’t have a pension.’ Photograph: Thinkstock

I have a morbid fear I’ll end up eating puréed banana and clapping along to the theme tune from Teletubbies, without the added str(...)

It’s no wonder that Kate is thin, what with throwing up her breakfast and labouring over her social diary. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Reuters

I’d be thrilled if my deceased mother-in-law journeyed from beyond to tell me I was calorifically compromised

Donna Tartt: her novel The Goldfinch worms its way out of a catacomb of despair. Photograph: Fred R Conrad/The New York Times

Donna Tartt’s splendidly time-consuming, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is giving me heart

Little girls’ lives were circumscribed by school, Sindy dolls and the imminent arrival of stigmata

‘My friend was edgy. The area was littered with “sold” signs and there was every possibility that by the time he’d digested his nettle-leaf and humanitarian sandwich, house prices would have jumped another grand or so.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne

My friend calculated monthly repayments on his mobile. ‘Nope,’ he said. ‘Can’t afford it. What’s happened this city?’

‘We would lie around in the grubby evening sun, looking across to the Twin Towers, those gleaming sentry gates to Manhattan.’ Above, the Tribute in Light memorial in remembrance September 11th. Photograph: Thinkstock

Of the small, damp group gathered on the scraggy hill that afternoon, I was the only one still living in Ireland

‘I decided to send the coat to the cleaners for a few repairs’

She never tried to peddle life in a bucket of charm; our conversations were bracing

‘The Photo Album of Ireland’ takes in Brownies, Polaroids, Instamatics and even photo-booth selfies

Most of the images in an exhibition of snaps from 30 or so families and individuals scattered around the island have a haunting f(...)

‘The beautiful woman I met at a bar told me she wasn’t a lesbian, but if she was, she would like to sleep with Fiona Shaw [above].’ Photograph: Tullio M Puglia/Getty Images

It’s funny, Sister, how every year around this time, when the tan lines are fading, I think of you

My son phoned me. He sounded low. ‘I’ve lost my wallet,’ he said. ‘Everything’

It had been a funny old week: bits of bad news had been stalking us, illness was in the air, plans were being remade

‘I hope that those impressive daughters have a lovely American summer’

An encounter with young Irish women on their way to the US reminded me of my teenage trip there. I hope their long legs tan, the t(...)

Certain magazines are obsessed with ‘the perfect beach body’. Above: a hot day at Dollymount. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

According to the magazines I was flicking through, it was high time to focus one’s energy on developing a beach body. And there wa(...)

Sunny days in Dublin. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

There’s something forensic about the light, something too revealing

Cliff Richard: note-perfect but a dull phenomenon. Photograph: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

For reasons that remain a mystery, especially to me, I ended up at a Cliff show in Dublin last weekend

The women’s mini marathon in Dublin: ‘I felt almost overwhelmed by the sheer force of the event.’ Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

In a country where the cufflinks still twinkle and the bonuses still soar, why are people having to raise funds for basic services(...)

The cheque was eagerly anticipated, but the possibility of having a play produced was the real prize

The shoes are more orthopaedic than elegant, big blocky black things that cost a lot of money

I would like to think I no longer foolishly aspire to youthful comeliness

A woman boards a bus in Brixton. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

When I was waitressing in London in the early 1990s, Brixton felt rawer than it does now, and still scarred from the riots

The launch of Bealtaine earlier in April. As part of the festival, 40 or so painters, all over the age of 55, some novice, some experienced, have been chosen to be hung on the walls of the Axis Arts Centre in Ballymun. Photograph: Eric Luke

The grey boys gave her a thumbs-up and applause, then went back to their ruminations

George Clooney is to marry human-rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin (above). His mother describes the pair as intellectual equals, which is about as easy to swallow as a lukewarm mocha

I got married at 45, when I had reconciled my inner anti-establishmentism with the realities of the tax system

Crow’s feet: no excuse for barmen to be unprofessional

We grow up, we go grey, we flirt with myopia, we forget where we’ve parked

Back in the day, the closing of the pubs was an event you prepared for. Photograph: Thinkstock

I don’t think the pub closure registers much among pulsing youth these days

The chap from Coldplay and Gwyneth Paltrow: blazing trails and setting trends. Photograph: Reuters/Files

Taking my cues from Gwyneth and whatsisname, I sit the cat down and tell her that she and I are going to have one last shot at liv(...)

Neither of us came from money, both of us knew financial instability

I met a man the other night who had grown up in my parish. We got to talking about money, or the lack of it, and how it had shape(...)

Photograph: Lex van Lieshout/EPA

At the behest of colleagues, I reluctantly joined up

People in a  cafe by the river Liffey, Dublin

It’s been a long schlep from there to here but maybe it was worth it

My St Patrick’s Day malaise has arrived again – a hangover from the drizzling 1960s, the squally 1970s and a couple of damp years(...)

Liberty: a woman I encountered at the airport sounded like Mae West (above) with Liffey water in her veins. Photograph: Terry O’Neill/Getty Images

We shouldn’t give a damn what other people think of us, or what we look like, or who or how we choose to love

Iodine tablets. Photograph: Frank Miller

An attempt to organise my books brought me back to iodine tablets and youthful travel fantasies

As it happens, I trotted along the seafront this morning with Sergeant Pepper’s blasting into my shell-likes, but only because I don’t understand the shagging phone

We’re slippery fish: unpredictable and difficult to categorise

Swimming through scented post this morning, are we? Skidding over crimson envelopes and cellophane-wrapped roses in your hurry to let the cat out?

Let’s ditch Mr Hallmark and have an alternative Valentine’s Day celebration

Panti, aka Rory O’Neill, argued that homophobia exists in all of us. How could it not, he asked, given the society we come from? We should not take offence at being asked to acknowledge this

As I watched a play about Romeo and Juliet grown old, around me the silence began to break with the low hum of sympathy, the recog(...)

Maybe the intrepid winter tourists think this city is romantic and characterful and boho. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

A walk through the area on a wet Saturday night recently proved that some things never change

François Hollande: despite the messy entrails of his private life smudging the Élysée mirrors, his popularity has risen. The French never need to be reminded that amour is ageless. Photograph: Michael Kooren/Reuters

I read a survey the other day that said older people are more accepting and compassionate about affairs of the heart

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