Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith with Rahul Mandal, winner of ‘The Great British Bake Off’.

Hilary Fannin: What TV show could ever compete with all that moistness and stiffness?

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Trinity College Dublin during their visit in July. Photograph:

Hilary Fannin: Naming a child is an onerous responsibility but Drumondrina has a nice ring to it

'The burden of perfectionism is obviously not confined to any one school or city.' Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: There is something insidious about being told at 17 you have not made the grade

Presidential candidates: Peter Casey, Seán Gallagher, Liadh Ní Riada, moderator Pat Kenny, Michael D Higgins, Joan Freeman and Gavin Duffy at the Virgin Media One debate this week. Photograph: Brian McEvoy/PA Wire

Hilary Fannin: They say the economy is in recovery now and these successful Dragons are reassuring to have around

“I spent some time perusing online eco-clothing brands. I figured that if I bought fewer items I could afford to start wearing jeans made from recycled ocean plastics.” Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: I’m drawn to the notion of a better self – a calm, centred, eco-self

This housewife life was never for me. Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: I’m grateful life blurred the conditioning we received as children

'Second adulthood, which apparently kicks in at around the age of 50, seems to be a kind of adult adolescence.'

Hilary Fannin: Like a buttock lift, it’s just another desperate paean to the immortality myth

Gwyneth Paltrow, who told chat-show host Ellen DeGeneres recently she was 'working a Seventies vibe in her nether regions'. Photograph: Phillip Faraone/Getty

Hilary Fannin: Just as we started letting our Brazilians grow out comes a new luminiser

‘The midlife self-help guides I looked at seemed to be predicated on the novel notion that we are who we are.’

Hilary Fannin: Many of the titles seem to assume there are legions of us wandering around in a shadowy vale of varicose veins, bag(...)

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar takes Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a jog in the Phoenix Park. Photograph: PA Wire

Whatever happened to the Pope's teenagers?

Active participation in stories helps children develop future mental health

“I think we’ll probably plant Marie’s ashes in a couple of big flowerpots with some rose shrubs.”

Hilary Fannin: I had thought we should scatter them over the cosmetics counter in our local chemist

“I wanted to tell her that after decades of living in the detritus of Irish solutions to Irish problems, I’m tired of women’s bodies being thrown around the morality ballroom like rag dolls.”

Hilary Fannin: No-side literature made me hurdle the garden wall to return it to its sender

My son wants to put the cat in a home, which augurs terrifically well for my future.

Hilary Fannin: It began when she said she expected to go to Gwyneth Paltrow’s wedding

Ryan O’Shaughnessy secures a place in the Eurovision final – in Lisbon, Portugal, 2018 during the first semi-final for the Eurovision Song Contest. Photograph: AP Photo/Armando Franca

With one vote left, it seemed Ireland wouldn’t break the ill-luck that has dogged us since 2013

'Us fiftysomethings, we never looked like that, did we? We were never so perfectly groomed, were we?'

Hilary Fannin: There is a look that is so ubiquitous it somehow defeats genetics

Meghan Markle is the former author of her own lifestyle blog, 'The Tig'. Photograph: Niall Carson/Pool/Getty Images

Hilary Fannin: Watch out Gwyneth and Meghan, it's time to splatter the blogosphere with a dose of suburban realism

I asked her, ‘Don’t you ever wonder what is the point in a day of action on plastic packaging when you can’t buy a cucumber without a condom on it?’

Hilary Fannin: Citing the plastic-bag tax, she said that Ireland had the capacity to influence behaviour at an international level

Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle: As if in response to being left lingering in paparazzi limbo, Morton peppers the book with snide references to Markle being a consummate networker and social climber. Photograph: Alexi Lubomirski / Handout via Reuters

The quantity of pointless trivia can't disguise that Andrew Morton's book is entirely toothless

'Someone once told me, in a dark bar, that all the hoopla about unlucky connotations surrounding the number 13 was to do with the 13 steps leading up to the hangman noose.'

Hilary Fannin: I’m shortsighted and greying but not superstitious. Sorry, friggatriskaidekaphobics

Actor Meghan Markle, fiancee of Britain’s Prince Harry, arrives to visit the  Titanic  exhibition, in Belfast, on March 23rd.  Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

Though I covet her well-turned pins – I worry they could prove a liability on any proposed 'mini-moon' in Dublin

We made our privileged pilgrimage back to the car, past silent men in doorways, unfurling like the fronds, watchful, expectant.

Hilary Fannin: On that wet, freezing night in Canterbury, youthful hordes swirled past the silent, watchful men, blowing on their (...)

'It’s been a quarter of a century since the three of us flatmates, and my friend’s sweet young child, lived together in a ramshackle redbrick house.'

Hilary Fannin: We were close, we were broke. Life was full of uncertainty. We relied on each other, helped each other out, sharing(...)

“It’s a personal issue; I get pretty edgy around fervour, flags, flagons, face paint and festivities”

Hilary Fannin: Stay in bed, phone your mother, listen to an album with your eyes closed

Cheryl and Liam: will they stay together for the sake of Baby, their 11-month-old bear? Photograph: David Benett/Getty/Universal

Hilary Fannin: Celebrity unions are collapsing day after Siberian-skied day

Coming from St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, on Ash Wednesday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Hilary Fannin: I wondered where everyone else was, the other women, the scientists and artists, the engineers and physicists, the (...)

Hilary Fannin: She’s tumbled in turmeric root, flung herself into fish oil and knitted herself a flattering pair of flax-seed bed-(...)

Cats and cars. Children and chat. Winter coats and wooden coffins. Boom, it’s all over’

Hilary Fannin: Where did the time go? What happened to those decades? Siphoned away. Quietly eroded. Pushed silently out to sea

Personally, I found Germaine Greer’s contribution to the debate the most seriously unpalatable. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Hilary Fannin: I found Germaine Greer's contribution to the #MeToo debate unpalatable - I don’t remember many women slapping men d(...)

Trinity College Dublin wasn’t for girls like me. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

Hilary Fanning: At school, I was ‘weak’ at everything but unexpectedly here I am a mature student at Trinity College

Blame the Italian antecedents – I need light (and pasta)

Hilary Fannin: I suspect that it’s going to take more than a few cacti to salvage my home from wintery ennui

‘I wonder at what point one graduates to permanent fleece-wearer’

Hilary Fannin: Gomera is not party-shoe terrain – just as well, given my increasingly practical wardrobe

No organic wine in Paris for me. Just bed, a head cold and the cat

Hilary Fannin: Still, maybe Paltrow can help me rustle up a few new year resolutions

New Year: I had a drink to steady my incipient panic. I’m not going to be able to put off thinking about resolutions much longer. Photograph: Getty

Hilary Fannin: I can’t put off thinking about resolutions much longer

As the tide goes out on 2017, what do we really remember about the year just gone?

Hilary Fannin: 2017 was a tough year for me. Here’s what I think I remember of it

Sparkles is an elf from Elphin, Co Roscommon

Ten writers play a game of pass the baton to create a Christmas mystery about an elf from Elphin and a magic crystal

‘Being caught empty-handed when someone else presents you with a well-chosen gift is the cardinal sin of Christmas bloopers.’

Hilary Fannin: And don’t come crying to me over your spilt cinnamon milk

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:

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

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