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

Michelle Obama has always appeared warm, likeable and disarmingly human. She’s a woman who looks comfortable in her own skin. Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images

What do women in their 50s want? Respect, equality, peace and affection. Plus work, sex, friendship, money, reasonable health, a r(...)

“I read it while wiping Yuletide entrails (squashed gnome, turkey carcass, orphaned pine needles) from the soles of my festive boots and wondering how soon I could decently incinerate the Christmas tree.” Photograph: Remko De Waal/EPA

’Tis the season to hurl our grubby cushions on the bonfire, to stand in front of the dusty mirror holding our midriffs in our capa(...)

With the new year on its way, the onesie is a no-no, definitely something to be ditched along with the empties and the turkey carcass

And that dirty word ‘detox’ will play about your lips like the tingle of aged Stilton or the rosy kiss of a Turkish delight

Apparently Sarah Palin has written a book about putting the Christ back into Christmas. She should drop in to my place. He crops u(...)

Guest psychologists on radio at this time of year tell us to lower our expectations of Christmas. They’re right, of course

My addiction to ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!’ started around the time my husband was being prodded and probed and diced a(...)

Coddle: 'Even if you didn’t like it, there was no such thing as saying no - it was your dinner and you ate it.”

In my childhood days, couscous was a whispered song, uttered to entice stray cats into a sack

The friendliness of Westport helped rescue me from that November feeling

When my brother was diagnosed, I momentarily felt like I hadn’t been invited out to play

Battle with a blocked wastepipe plunged me into thought: I don’t really understand the varied tapestry of this country at all

The spirit was a young woman. She appeared monochrome. She defiantly floated rather than walked

She came of age among tribes of girls wearing furry boots that cost more than a well in a desert, but she came from a different wo(...)

Katie Price, the babe who launched a thousand implants, now appears anachronistic, almost antique

Helen Fielding’s latest Bridget Jones book, Mad About The Boy. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

I admire Helen Fielding’s nous but I never much bought into Bridget’s world

Fiftysomething: The sheer tedium of Gone Girl, ‘the thriller of the year’, will obliterate your critical faculties

The high nelly is a classic Irish bicycle, and being back in the saddle brings back classic Irish memories

What is tantric sex, and does anyone, except Sting and the finely sculpted Trudie Styler, practise it?

There may be times when the global situation appears so dire, and the self so powerless, but the world is still full of tiny momen(...)

Fiftysomething: In my youth, it felt like the choices on offer to us knee-socked convent girls were desperately limited

Fiftysomething: My mother-in-law was tall and strong and moved in full sail

I brought my Arsenal-supporting son to see his team take on Villa. It all started so well

I grew up in a Dublin suburb, and my son grew up in a Dublin suburb; there the comparison ends

Hilary Fannin with Jim Kennedy of Atlantic Sea Kayaking taking part in a twilight trip at Reen Pier, Union Hall. Photograph: Emma Jervis

The Going Coastal series continues with a kayaking and walking trip along the shores of west Cork from Union Hall to Ring

Fiftysomething: I found myself fantasising about a different life while decorating recently

Give me a busy egalitarian community over a gilded cage any day

Can we go now?: Sasha and Malia Obama, with their mother, Michelle, fight off boredom and midges at Glendalough this week. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA

Criticised for looking bored on their visits to a library and a lake this week, Malia and Sasha Obama were just being teenagers

The home should be a centre for social change, says US ‘radical homemaker’ Shannon Hayes, who speaks in Dublin this week

Hilary Fannin's Fifty Something column

All kinds of everything and nothing about Eurovision

Published estimates vary from €500 to €700 being spent by a family on an average communion


Shorts are no friend to middle-aged men on city streets

Fiftysomething: Ankle-socked toddler-man has all the sexual allure of a washing-machine manual



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