Britain’s Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle during an official photocall to announce their engagement. Photograph:   Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Hilary Fannin: And it’s probably a good time to wish him and Meghan the very best of Irish

‘I think about all the innocent children who suffered because of dangerous notions of purity and it makes me sad.’

Hilary Fannin: Today’s the day we celebrate how the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin

`A reluctant Christmas reveller at the best of times, I do know that I’ve everything to be thankful for, namely a roof over my head and a credit card’

Hilary Fannin: this year promises to be as predictable as a bog-standard Yule log

‘In the Cotswolds we walked on through the limp rain that whimpered and spat for a while until it bored even itself and dried up’

Hilary Fannin: What happens the idea of home when, even though you’ve lived half your lifetime in another city, in another country(...)

Theatre: “We all have our stories to tell; memories come back, sharp pricks of light against the black cyclorama.”

Hilary Fannin: I recognise the reality described by young women who tried to navigate the theatre world

Posh and Becks: there was a time when “Victoria exclusively ate only peas”; she also chews coffee beans at parties, according to the magazines in the beautician’s waiting room. Photograph: Frazer Harrison/Getty

Hilary Fannin: You never know what you’ll learn at the beautician’s

Margareta Magnusson, author of the latest decluttering book ‘The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning’.

Hilary Fannin: Here it’s beaten into us to worry about a clean soul, not a sock drawer

Hilary Fannin: “The plumber told me about his life, which indeed is the stuff of a compelling memoir.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Hilary Fannin: In the domestic arena, boilers and their idiosyncrasies can represent the last frontier between sanity and full-blo(...)

No scan do: being a hypochondriacal claustrophobe, I crept around the MRI machine, sniffing at it, much as a dog might sniff a spanking new lamp post. Photograph: Darren Kemper/Corbis/VCG/Getty

Hilary Fannin: An MRI scan made me realise what we accept about death

 Making friends: dogs on the beach at the end of a warm and sunny day. Photograph: Eric Luke

At the beach, the dog would sniff out swimmers’ carefully tucked-away underwear and eat it

Hilary Fannin: “I read that losing both parents can set us free and offer us our best chance to become our truest, deepest selves,” my friend said. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Hilary Fannin: In the intensity of the moment one thing began to lead to another, my friend said

Hilary Fannin  in Howth. “There is no one ahead to lead the way, to absorb the cold shock of mortality.” Photograph: Alan Betson

I’m on the frontline. In the past few years we’ve lost an entire generation

Hilary Fannin: It won’t be long, I thought, until he’s horsing into two bowls of Coco Pops and asking his mother why she didn’t call him McGregor. Photograph: Alan Betson

Hilary Fannin: Does great age make death easier? Of course it does. How could it not?

The secluded cove, when we reached it, was akin to Christmas Eve in the sausage-meat aisle

Hilary Fannin: I no longer gaze, slack-jawed and pinched with envy, at beautiful young couples entwined on matching beach towels

Hilary Fannin: “Nice, sensible girls, who close their eyes to the gathering dark, always know the nice, sensible thing to say to elderly ladies.”  Photograph: Alan Betson

Hilary Fannin: My mother looked at me as if from a great distance . . .

Fresh jade eggs for your yoni from Goop. Photograph: goop.com

This time I’m serious about finishing with Gwyneth Paltrow’s online lifestyle magazine

Path to marriage: the maze of social mores in the 1980s led to a canter down the aisle at a tender age

Hilary Fannin: So many friends tied the knot in their early 20s. How are they still hitched?

“It will be hotter than Lanzarote this afternoon, folks,” some enthusiast had prattled from the radio that morning. Photograph: Frank Miller

Hilary Fannin: When I look back I see a cloudless blue sky above our suburban road

Asylum seekers need to go on being heard, their fate continually remembered. Photograph: David Sleator

Hilary Fannin: The image of Alan Kurdi’s body, washed up on a Turkish beach in 2015, was, for many of the students, emblematic of (...)

‘A helium balloon loudly proclaiming her 90th birthday, and the Zimmer frame it was tied to, both went into the boot’

Hilary Fannin: My mother never really played tennis, just randomly lobbed rubber balls around the grassy courts, turning young men(...)

 Gwyneth Paltrow signing books at a Goop event at  Nordstrom  in Los Angeles, California. Photograph: Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Goop

Hilary Fannin is getting fed up with Goop's white cotton shirts and irony-free advice

I thought of Molly and Leopold and the bulky machinery of tweeds and corsets, of petticoats and garters on a warm day in June. Where were they, I wondered, when she said ‘yes’?

Hilary Fannin: Catching peace in communion with the past on a warm day in June

‘I watched their hands lift flimsy glasses to blushed mouths, rings piled on top of one another: engagement, wedding, eternity’

Hilary Fannin: I thought this while surrounded by bejewelled women drinking wine on a flight to Malaga

‘If women are told about their breast density, then they can make informed decisions about further screening.’

Hilary Fannin: Informing women of their breast density could save lives

A friend coming home from London reminded me that the past does not recede

Emmanuel Macron and Brigitte Trogneux: Irish women in their 40s increasingly seek out younger men to date. Photograph: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

Hilary Fannin: I marvel at how any woman in her 40s could spend time with a kid who produces more sebum than cash

“Beware of the dog,” the agent said, handing me a brochure. Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: Home-hunting in Dublin these days is not for the faint of heart

Fighting Words: There is nothing that they can possibly do, or think, or write, or say, or dream, or imagine, that is wrong. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Hilary Fannin: Young writers’ work is punching its way onto the Abbey stage

Hilary Fannin: Maybe I’ve finally stopped trying to hurl myself on the tracks to stop the train sweeping the children into an unknowable future. Photograph: Alan Betson

Hilary Fannin: They used to emerge when I brought food back to the house. Now it’s just me and the cat

'Maybe A&E is crowded enough already, without a flock of guardian angels banging their heads off the fluorescent bulbs.' Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Hilary Fannin: A&E is an oil slick of ailing humanity the State seems unable to absorb

My friend’s son is nonverbal; he communicates through sign. His level of need is high

Hilary Fannin: The fight that parents in Ireland face on behalf of their autistic children is exhausting

I feel, in these moments, utterly grateful. I could have been anywhere, as my mother would say

Hilary Fannin: At a push, I could be a tolerable dog-walker, but that’s about as far as my altruism extends

Amal Alamuddin speaking at the United Nations in New York on March 9th.  Photograph:  Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty

Hilary Fannin: If you are a woman the media is more likely to critique your footwear - just ask Amal Clooney

Many Ikarian islanders  live well into their 90s and beyond. Photograph: Gianluca Colla/National Geographic/Getty Images

Hilary Fannin: The Ikarians who live 10 years longer than other Europeans have it right

“We were the chosen ones, that’s all we really needed to know. We were St Patrick’s good little mice, on whom he bestowed his sweet smile.”

Hilary Fannin: 'We were the chosen ones but St Patrick did not protect the babies who died at Tuam’

Older people, up to and including those in their 80s and beyond, are “adapting their behaviours” and discovering fun ways to maintain intimacy and closeness

Hilary Fannin: Sexually-active oldies leaving exhausted 30-somethings in shade

An offer she couldn’t refuse: “Dawn [sic] your neon clothing, party hats, obnoxious sunglasses and frankly outrageous raving gear”.

Hilary Fannin: Demented morning pick-me-up did little to quell my Torschlusspanik

“As the woman said, she can’t walk out the ruddy door unless her tan is done, her legs are as smooth as a baby’s bottom, her nails aren’t chipped and she hasn’t a single grey hair showing. It must be bloody exhausting.” Photograph: Arun Nevader/Getty Images

Hilary Fannin: It’s liberating to not be caught up in a model lifestyle

Some of the Rose of Tralee 2016 entrants have a splash about at Ballybunion Beach in North Kerry last August. File photograph:  Domnick Walsh/Eye Focus

Hilary Fannin: Let’s hope this oddly quirky, uniquely Irish organisation will some day shunt itself into the contemporary world an(...)

“My friend hadn’t known she was ill. Like so many of us, she was just busy dealing with work stress, and a bit tired from running to stand still. A routine mammogram blew the whistle on all that.”

A shock cancer diagnosis has taken Hilary Fannin's coolest friend through hell and back

Occasional forays into mindfulness websites make me want to buck the trend and dwell savagely in the past

Victoria Beckham: a woman who was cryogenically frozen mid-pout about 20 years ago and has looked pretty much the same ever since. Photograph: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

Hilary Fannin is on the cusp of resentment of youth and yearning for slippers and camomile tea

New-year schedules are sagging under the sheer density of unwanted flesh that we seem to have accumulated over the festive season

My piano is  like an ancient yellow-toothed soprano, mouth shakily ringed in carmine, her best  behind her

Time’s arrow points to wisdom of not putting off important things

 Monterey Cypress  carved by sculptor Tommy Craggs at the corner of St Anne’s Park, Dublin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Hilary Fannin: Tonight is Nollaig na mBan, a last dance, a chance to regroup

“Any minute now I’m going to lash down to the health-food store and knock myself out with a litre of coconut milk”

You must ideally bring something that pops (no, not your waistband fasteners)

Although prescription jollity and a seasonal game of happy families had been too difficult a pill for my parents to swallow, that was an inheritance I should probably try not to pass on to my own children.

Although the notion of matching plates, or indeed glasses, finding their way on to my table is about as alien as Donald Trump on a(...)

Time; sleazy, unreliable, malicious, surreptitious time. When you were a child, you couldn’t give the stuff away.

They’re not joking about time speeding up the older you get

‘Sarah Palin’s book serves not just as a diatribe against secularisation but also as a heartwarming glance through the frosted windows of the Palin household at Yuletide’

Hilary Fannin: The Alaskan’s Yuletide book feels more frightening in the Trump era

 Donald  Trump:  appointed Steve Bannon; a man accused of being a white supremacist, an anti-Semite and a sexist. Photograph: M Phillips/ Getty Images

In the wake of the American election I feel like I’m waiting for a horror show to start

‘I remember women flocking to the store to be shod, like bristling ponies. Ivana lookalikes, power dressers, hair the colour of rape fields, shoulder pads wider than elevators, smiles that could crack glass’

With the clack of wealth on bruise-coloured marble nothing seemed real, just like now

Actress Sharon Stone who, at 58, has her own ideas about ageing gracefully. Photograph: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Hilary Fannin: There is a world of possibility beyond the creaking gate

“No wonder it doesn’t take much more than candlelight to illuminate Danish winter nights”

The cosy concept has a natural fit with Danes but shiny premature Christmas is more us

Former president Mary McAleese with Community Award and Overall Traveller Pride Award Winner Rosaleen McDonagh from Dublin at the 2010 2nd annual Traveller Pride Awards.  Photograph: Alan Betson

‘Mainstream’ includes actors who have at various times been ignored and marginalised because of disability and ethnicity

“Totter into any wedding fair and witness the proliferation of ‘fairytale’ reception suggestions, replete with candy carts full of childhood treats and photo booths where guests can snap themselves in jolly false moustaches.”

‘Re-virginising’, all the rage, makes as much sense as carrying a dog in a handbag

Walking the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela: “The journey was edifying and intimate and occasionally exhausting.” Photograph:  Miguel Riopa/AFP/Getty Images

My pilgrimage was entirely secular, but no less meaningful for that

What is our “deal-breaker” when it comes to finding or choosing a partner, I wondered that night, while my knees atrophied on the sodden tiles. Photograph: iStock

Women's writing for Women's Day: The water pipe spurted merrily as my present husband googled ‘how to stem a flood’

We imprint ourselves on our offspring, the good and the bad, bringing our best and our most lousy selves to the table.  Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

We weren’t parented; just given an occasional boiled egg and left to the wolves

Hair care is the biggest growth category, closely followed by shaving. Photograph: iStock

How to be a Man: The male grooming industry is expanding at a rate of knots

Photograph: iStock

My enthusiasm for the gym fell apart when I realised I could go for a walk for free

‘Nobody gave a second thought to the ethics of some girl being sent home by her employer because she wasn’t looking too hot or chirpy.’ Photograph: iStock

Times may change, but ‘cosmetically unfit’ birds will never be allowed to fly

Apparently Cheryl’s insistence that Liam Payne sign a gagging clause is too witheringly cynical for the young chap to swallow. Photograph: Gisela Schober/Getty Images for Chopard

Cheryl Fernandez-Versini’s stance on the gagging clause with her young lover is to be lauded

Cold Feet cast members (from left) Robert Bathurst, Fay Ripley, John Thomson, Hermione Norris and James Nesbitt. The  comedy ran for five series between 1997 and 2003 and is now is back on TV

13 years on, it’s hard to see the new Cold Feet defining fiftysomethings the way the original series did for thirtysomethings

According to a survey, younger people are actually having less sex than we imagine. Photograph: iStock

Apparently there is a whole generation out there too exhausted to gird their loins for some loin-girding

Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist who was crushed to death while undertaking nonviolent direct action in Palestine. Photograph: Abid Katib/ Getty Images

It’s easier to focus one’s frustrations on stain removal than to admit to impotent rage at the world

North Carolina Rose Maigan Kennedy onstage in the Festival Dome for the Rose of Tralee. She also gleefully recounted her first, and apparently “cool”, trip to Mass. Photograph:  Domnick Walsh/Eye Focus

Hilary Fannin: ‘A sense of how moving it might be for emigré families to see young women breathe new life into their ancestry’

Germany Rose Kari Foss onstage in the Festival Dome during TV Rose of Tralee Selection on Monday night. “This is not, as the Germany Rose said, ‘a beauty pageant’ – an attorney who also produced a vaguely unintelligible rap for her ‘party piece’.”  Photograph: Domnick Walsh/Eye Focus

Hilary Fannin: We just don’t seem to be able to get enough of this ‘celebration of Irish women and their achievements’

Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: Recently I read with a frisson of fear and recognition about the number of Irish women dying from alcohol-related i(...)

The former industrial school at Letterfrack, Co Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

In one row, four brothers are buried side by side, their deaths occurring at two-year intervals

Winston and Clementine Churchill: rarely talked before 1pm

The Churchills' domestic arrangements sprang to mind when I was looking at a list of American bestsellers for 2016, which included(...)

“Sooner or later, we all need decent arch support,” my friend retorted. Photograph: iStock

Friends occasionally hit on small mantras, dropped clues in the forest of our shared decade, which they polish and hew to get them(...)

Kells Bay: a place to start daydreaming about in May

We would disembark from the train at Killarney, my mother and I, around the same time every year, for our annual summer visit to K(...)

The atmosphere around Pembroke Cricket Club was friendly, informal, mellow, unhurried. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

I had thought cricket grounds would feel exclusive, tight. I was wrong

 Hilary Fannin at the launch of Hopscotch: The process of writing a memoir, of blowing away the chalk dust from those formative years, of opening the suburban doll’s house and breathing life into the characters with whom I shared my life, has been a tremendously positive one. Photograph: Fergal Phillips

As her memoir, Hopscotch, comes out in paperback, the Irish Times columnist recalls having to overcome an aversion to the word ‘I’(...)

Photograph: iStock

My neighbour, who had always wanted a child, was told that she had about six months to conceive

“I found myself grinding my way through a superfood salad, trying to convince myself I could eat my way out of exhaustion.” Photograph: iStock

I'm envious of our youth. Envious and scared

“The first-floor window looked out over Government Buildings. I watched a TV crew slowly assemble.” Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

I am suspicious of assumptions of like-mindedness, but I thought I’d give the menopause meeting a go

“Is there anything more adorable than a dog in a tux?” Photograph: iStock

If you really want your wedding to be on-trend, you should factor in a canine ring-bearer or a doggy usher. Apparently

Census enumerator Ciaran Lynam in Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Well of course I have ‘a long-lasting psychological or emotional condition’. Doesn’t everyone?

Kinnegad in 1998. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

I loved Kinnegad, despite the disparaging rhyme my father taught me about it 100 years ago as we spluttered home along the road to(...)

Gwyneth Paltrow. Photograph: Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Why am I drawn to the sun-kissed, horrendously expensive and nauseatingly exclusive lifestyle advice on Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop?

Not a wart in sight: the stars of Baldoyle Musical Society’s production of The Witches of Eastwick

The atmosphere at Baldoyle Musical Society is simultaneously familiar and deeply unfamiliar; old-fashioned maybe, gently arcane

Photograph: Thinkstock

Two beach-ready girls sat on the floor of the blue corridor; restless young men with chalk-white faces loomed around the plastic s(...)

Nuremberg, 2006: Cheryl Tweedy and Victoria Beckham in the golden age of Wags. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

This handy guide will lead you to the premium seats and your very own shoebox full of studded Miu Mius ... and beyond

Photograph: Thinkstock

How walking can help destigmatise an illness that used to be shoved to the back of the cupboard

Photograph: Thinkstock

It wasn’t the first time I had had a call-back for further investigation after a mammogram

The Giant Goose Way

The sweet Spanish woman I met on the flight home was looking forward to seeing the Giant Goose Way

Illustration: Thinkstock

We needed puberty in the 1970s. Good God, we needed any help we could get, crawling over the line to our sexual selves

Photograph: Thinkstock

We are about as cheery and Zen as a brace of lightly spiced battery-fed chickens in the run-up to barbecue season

Photograph: Thinkstock

‘There were women, friends, who genuinely didn’t know each other were gay,’ says my friend Janice as she prepares to get married

Grafton Street in the 1960s

I recently had a reunion with a Dutch friend who had immigrated here when change was in the air

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

Illustration: Thinkstock

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(...)

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