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Hilary Fannin: I’ve been writing this column since I was 50. Time for a break

I’ve shared a lot of my life in these columns over a decade of great change. Thank you for reading

Happy New Year. Hope the Yuletide festivities didn’t wear you out. Hope the bird got basted, the wine got tasted, and Auntie Polly liked her socks and Uncle Ed his terrarium. Hope your fairy lights twinkled, your brow didn’t wrinkle and y’all got to jingle your bells.

I like this time of year, the long exhale of the old one and the sense of possibilities around the next. I’m grateful that the glare of Christmas is toned down and vague thoughts of purifying body and mind are still entirely notional.

I’m juggling the usual resolutions. I’m looking forward to to seeing more films, reading more books, listening to podcasts, learning a bit of Spanish and taking trains to places I’ve never been. I’m less enthusiastic, however, about losing a couple of kilos, drinking more water and less alcohol, eating buckets of quinoa and buying a skipping rope and actually using it.

If all goes to plan I’ll be a taut, cultured and alarmingly sober multilingual vegan in no time. Mind you, I’ve met a couple of those over the years and they scare the pants off me. In all likelihood I’ll stick with plonk, potatoes and Google Translate.


I realised recently, looking back over 2022, that I’ve been writing this column for a decade. What began around my 50th birthday as a vague attempt to document a life warily cresting the hill of middle age has somehow continued into my 60th year, longer than I ever thought it could, would or indeed should.

Column writing is a privileged and somewhat surreal job, demanding a kind of public intimacy and a level of trust between writer and reader. In my mind it’s almost as if the readers of the column have become a single individual, a friend and confidante you do your best to entertain, someone who quietly demands that you tell the truth.

I’ve shared a lot of my life in these columns over a decade of great change.

Like many of my age group I’ve juggled parental and workplace responsibilities while taking care of an ageing parent. I’ve experienced the bewilderment of watching my mother hallucinate and deteriorate in a hospital ward. I’ve come to know loss and the formidable clarity it can bring.

I’ve witnessed, in the past 10 years, the loss of an entire generation of my own extended family, and now find myself standing on the front line of seniority. I’ve asked myself who I am without my links to the past, and have found a new energy and some kind of answer by returning to education in my 50s, having failed to get a grip on it 40 years ago.

I remember, a few years back, walking through a park with a friend who’d spent most of her life catering to the needs of her children, only to find herself utterly adrift when they achieved the independence she’d planned for them. I remember feeling so entirely different at the same stage, unfettered and ready for change.

There were other subjects too that snagged on the imagination. There was the talking cat, my filmy-eyed old familiar who said “ham” every time I opened the fridge and who sat on the window sill and drowsily watched me write for almost a decade, every now and then posing an existential question or two, perhaps about the difference between Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary and Mary, Mother of God.

Anyway that has been the stuff of this column, the questions I’ve been beating out on the faded old rug of the past decade. I should probably apologise for the dust.

And let’s not for one moment forget glorious Gwyneth Paltrow, who has been an absolute heroine of mine. How paltry the life of this columnist might have been without the opportunity to write about Gwynnie’s exploding “This Smells Like My Vagina” candle. How dull the long evenings bent over my desk with quill, ink and moulting moggie if I hadn’t had the prospect of writing about our Gwyn’s yoni eggs rattling around where the sun don’t shine or her spirited habit of squatting over a bucket of smoking mugwort in the woods.

Honestly, that Californian goddess has been the gift that kept on giving, and from the heart of my bottom I thank her for it.

So, with January tapping on the icy window pane and another decade unfurling ever more rapidly, I’m going to take a bit of a break, recalibrate, reset, have a look around and see what else is happening out there.

Happy 2023, and thanks for listening.