‘There’ll be so many women like me out there with their lives in a suitcase, I’ll never meet anyone else’. Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: My generally optimistic friend has begun to fade over the past few months

While swimming, my friend was stung by an unseen Portuguese man-of-war. It was strange to see him debilitated: a teacher, a gardener, a homemaker, a walker, he was someone who was never ill. Photograph: Getty

Hilary Fannin: A year ago, my friend’s future was bleak but he reclaimed his life

“In Ireland, we throw away a million tonnes of food every year at a cost of about €700 per family per annum.” Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: My one piece of advice for the festive season? Lower your expectations

Sweet little chaps  pleading through their icing mouths for an extra few buttons on their elongated bellies and the loan of a tenner to buy Ronan Keating’s Christmas album.

Is it unreasonable to speculate calm and solitude might be an aspiration this year?

Walkers on Dollymount Strand in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

I’m no advocate of life in Level 5, but now it has ended I lament something of its stillness

Dryrobes: covetable wardrobe items for newly converted year-round swimmers

Hilary Fannin: The cold-weather beach accessory has plunged Dublin into class war

Gwyneth Paltrow:  Goop’s  Christmas gift collection is,  as usual, a catalogue of corporeal craziness that does not disappoint. Photograph:  Chris Delmas/AFP/Getty

Hilary Fannin: It includes a perfume rollerball called ‘This Smells Like My Orgasm’

‘It seems there’s a new determination to out-hibernate one another in a nirvana of clove-studded oranges, dusted-off fondue sets, legwarmers and faux sheepskin throws.’

Hilary Fannin: The current Scandi trend roughly translates as moderate, balanced, enough already

The late Robert Kardashian both spoke and danced in his holographic resurrection

Hilary Fannin: Kanye presented Kim with something every woman simply must have

Whether virtual or actual, the breaking of bread together is, it seems, a necessary part of our functioning; we are social animals, ordinary humans in extraordinary times. Image: iStock

Hilary Fannin: Over-50s are often treated by advertisers as being solely in need of multivitamins and padded knickers 

The decision to share your life with a bottom-sniffer is not to be taken lightly. Photograph: iStock 

Hilary Fannin: I’m tempted to house a Covid puppy, but a dog is for life, not just for lockdown

Seagulls, forced inland from the barren sea, were determined to relieve my friend of his breakfast. Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: ‘You’re pale. Are you hungry?’ my friend asked. I nodded

Myself and himself detoxing in Germany. Photograph: Victoria Beckham/Instagram

Hilary Fannin: V’n’D’s holiday snaps cheered me up. They were precisely the boot in the posterior I needed

‘I don’t have a life,’ my young friend had said. ‘I don’t have a partner or a job or independence or autonomy. I’ve stopped even imagining a future.’ Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: The young adult generation have no viable world to inhabit

It was Nuala  O’Faolain’s depiction, in her bestselling 1996 memoir Are You Somebody?   of her own mother’s disappointed life that resonated most sharply with me. I doubt I was alone in that feeling. Photograph: Paddy Whelan

Hilary Fannin: A film about the writer and journalist evokes sharp memories

Feeling overwhelmed by a seemingly endless pandemic

Feeling overwhelmed, I needed to kick this growing weariness in the backside

Clifden. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Hilary Fannin: I found myself in a fairy tale setting of a small house in the woods

The bestselling author brings her trademark wit and searing insights to a new book, More Than a Woman

‘I’ve known this city in many a deluge, mate, I’m just deeply unfamiliar with it in a drought.’

Hilary Fannin: Saturday night, and Dublin city lay open like an empty suitcase

Money mountain: the costs of sending a child to school are a struggle for many parents. Photograph: iStock/Getty

Every Child Is Your Child wants to stop the return to class causing an avalanche of stress

Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Nigel ‘Nidge’ Delaney in Love/Hate

From Nidge and Connell Waldron to Gretta Conroy, Rashers Tierney and Pegeen Mike

Travel posters offer promise of a holiday that seems far off in so many ways

Hilary Fannin: It never occured to me that I’d ever feel grateful for mundane quotidian life

A pandemic-infested winter of hand sanitiser, facemasks and sidestepping awaits. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty

Hilary Fannin: Am I alone in feeling a tad overwhelmed by how things are panning out?

The rain beat down on a foggy cafe where, just visible through the steamy window, people were cautiously gathered over cups of tea. Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: On a different day I would have offered my custom

Bewley’s cafe on Grafton Street: Maybe if we could have paid for our coffee in affection rather than cash, the business would have survived. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Hilary Fannin: Dubliners’ emotional DNA is embroidered on to the red velvet booths

The usual social choreography of the leaning in, the whispering and murmuring and the laughter are no longer available. 

Hilary Fannin: At what point did Irish people get over proximity and repulsion?

‘As rationality slowly kicked in, it occurred to me that the furball slumbering on the three-ply quilted rolls might actually be the cat.’ Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: ‘We’ve had a lot of sick cats recently,’ said the vet mysteriously

A cleaner at one of the temporary public toilet facilities installed on streets in Dublin as lockdown restrictions are eased. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Hilary Fannin: I’m so glad to read good news headlines, so why am I struggling?

Dollymount beach, Dublin: The sunbathers and chattering masses. Photograph: Tom Honan

Hilary Fannin: You can sleep on beaches abroad without tuning into the surrounding chatter

Let me out. The expert advice is to make sure your pet has something enjoyable to do when you’re busy. Photograph: Moya Nolan

Hilary Fannin: Pets don’t understand why owners are on Zoom calls in their trackies

The beach, like everywhere else around here, holds history for me. Photograph:    Alan Betson

Hilary Fannin: I feel as if I’ve been watching Dublin’s coastline change forever

Finding our way to the new normal – whatever that is. Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: My brother-in-law was found abandoned, aged two, in wartime London

Gwyneth Paltrow speaks onstage at the In Goop Health summit in Los Angeles on May 18th, 2019. Photograph: Neilson Barnard/Getty

Hilary Fannin: What better time than a pandemic to seek advice from the Goop?

I have never taken having a home for granted, and certainly don’t in this time of crisis. Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images

There has been a simplicity to life within the quiet trajectory of these suburban streets

The thing that really got me this week, the overweight straw that broke the sodding camel’s back, was remembering to buy a battery for the weighing scales. Photograph: iStock

In too many conversations in the past week or so, the talk has turned to weight gain

Bounty Bay on Pitcairn island. Photograph: AP Photo/HO

Hilary Fannin: A dusty souvenir boat transports me to an island in the Pacific

'I was standing in my dangerously unhygienic kitchen with phone in hand, trying to remember the last time I was positively affected by a text, verse or meditation.' Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: I am so far from providing inspirational quotes to anyone

John Peel, the legendary Liverpudlian DJ. Photograph: Len Trievnor/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Hilary Fannin: A clear-out of old papers unearths a handwritten letter from ‘Fat John Peel’

My brother and sister have led unconventional lives.  Now, in this strange new dispensation, they are bread-makers. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Hilary Fannin: ‘Recipe is a weird word when you’re dyslexic,’ my brother writes

We wanted to offer the grieving family condolences with handshakes and hugs, but we obeyed the rules. Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: Mourners stood apart to celebrate a man who believed in solidarity

Dublin at a standstill: ‘so quiet, the air heavy with a sense of anticipation.’

Hilary Fannin: Grafton Street was deserted. I went into the bookshop. One other customer

Dublin at a standstill: ‘so quiet, the air heavy with a sense of anticipation.’

Hilary Fannin: In the bookshops, shoe shops, the opulent shops, you could almost hear a pin drop

The cat   heard the gulp of magpies sneer at her frailty from beyond the glass. File photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: ‘It’s nothing you have to worry about,’ I told her softly. She’s getting old

‘I wondered if I too might have a life of air-kissing and candlelight and tinkling laughter over the vin de table.’ File photograph: Getty Images

Hilary Fannin: A dinner with old friends led me to reflect on past and current concerns

‘Oh, I don’t like Belfast at all,’ a Dublin friend said to me when I told her about my weekend. Photograph: iStock

Belfast’s so near my home, yet it demands diligence to navigate and to understand

‘I lived alone with our parents after the family home was repossessed and my siblings were unceremoniously dispatched to care for themselves.’ Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: After our family home was repossessed my siblings had to care for themselves

Self-love is the greatest love of all. Illustration:  iStock

Hilary Fannin: A better idea, this Valentine’s Day, might be to learn the habit of self-love

‘Moseying around Connolly Station at 7am, wrapped up in my parka, waiting to board the train, I noticed that there was a piano on the concourse.’ Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times.

Three Dublin women take the train to Belfast for a night out. Hilary Fannin listens in

Hours can wither while you wonder if your life would be significantly improved by mastering conversational Italian or tapestry making. Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: You sometimes end up poring over adult-education leaflets

Hilary Fannin: ‘I’d have quite liked it if someone had encouraged my spouse and I to write to each other on the morning of our nuptials’. Photograph: iStock

It’s not romantic, but you can never have too much resilience in a marriage

Maybe small-talk proficiency comes with age. Photograph: iStock

The pleasant, largely meaningless drivel we engage in must have mental-health benefits

This Smells Like My Vagina: there’s nowt quite so queer as Gwyneth Paltrow when it comes to finding new ways to fiddle around with one’s fanny. Photograph: Nina Westervelt/New York Times

This lump of wax with a wick in it has flown off Goop’s shelves. How gullible are we?

It’s not surprising that people file for divorce at this time of year Photo: istock

Hilary Fannin: It's no wonder the second week of January is the most popular time for divorce

Hilary Fannin says thank you for reading. Photograph: istock.

Hilary Fannin: Columns that garnered most reaction this year were often about darker subjects

Christmas is over for another year. Hallelujah says Hilary Fannin Photo: iStock

Hilary Fannin: I’m always pretty grateful when the Christmas season starts to subside

It’s wonderfully reassuring, as I limp towards another Christmas (older, poorer and vaguely happier), to know that my unmatched plates and glasses are as close to on-trend this year as they’ll ever be. Photograph: iStock

For last-minute gift ideas, try a bamboo toilet roll from Gwyneth Paltrow – only $30 each

“His last Christmas present from his family was a firm launch into the deep waters of eternity. Usually we just bought him a book.” Photograph: iStock.

Hilary Fannin: He’d hastened his own death with amber whiskey and a frisky little Merlot

Books are out of reach for some children. Photograph: istock

‘Your daughter has stolen a book. We found it wrapped up in her school jumper’

Big purple aubergine. Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: All you need for Christmas is sex positivity and an aubergine

'Those who had married young – often very young by today’s standards – lived in those hopeful, tender, fledgling unions through a bruising, prolonged recession in the 1980s.’ Photograph: iStock

We had survived, thrived even, finding our paths through a patriarchal network

`I offered myself that day as a conduit, a pen, a keyboard, at T’s disposal to tell as much of her story as she wished to share’ Photo: istock

Hilary Fannin: I offered myself that day as a conduit, a pen, a keyboard at her disposal

“I thought,” she said on the phone, “that I had privacy. I’d never thought about my body in that way.”

Hilary Fannin: Who stands before a half-naked middle-aged woman at 8am and asks when her baby’s due?

On the day of the dead, candles are burnt in colourful glass globes next to vases of yellow marigolds, to light the journeys of the deceased to the next world. Photograph:  Agustin Paullier/AFP/Getty Images

Hilary Fannin: I think about buying flowers and leaving out bread and wine for all my thirsty old ghosts

Turn my phone off at night? There’s an idea.

Hilary Fannin: I sleep fine – apart from the flatulent cat, the pinging phone with messages from Perth– seriously, I sleep just fi(...)

It was either the cat or the car that was going to keel over

Hilary Fannin: Its old boot used to hold my mother’s wheelchair and my sons’ broken bikes

The concierge looked askance before disappearing into the gloom. Photograph: iStock

‘Do you think we’re in a hotel?’ I asked my friend. ‘Maybe we’re about to be euthanised’

The way we were: You had to speak fast in telephone boxes, trying not to breathe in the pungent smell before the money ran out

Hilary Fannin: Sometimes I long to be somewhere that’s not embroidered with memory

The gurgling babies seemed to multiply. Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: Sweet, enchanting, innocent, vaguely edible-looking babies. Keep an eye on your wallets, that’s all I can say

Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen: Their third book continues in a Bridget-esque first-person confessional vein. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Review: Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen continue their acute observations of a safe social world

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923), Sewing the Sail, 1896. Photograph courtesy:  Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia

Hilary Fanin: I’m good at scooting around the city, throwing sausage-flavoured gins into myself without a flicker of remorse

Candace Bushnell gave up her lovely life in East Hampton to bag herself a man back in New York. Photograph: Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for East Hampton Library

Hilary Fannin: Feeling lonely in your middle years? Take Candace Bushnell’s advice

“We sat and ate and drank too much and dug up our shared past like determined toddlers with seaside spades until we came to the dark wet sand where the lugworms slithered”

Hilary Fannin: In truth the past loses its potency the closer you get to being the past yourself

Meghan and Harry with the newborn Archie. A push present doesn’t  have to be fashioned from diamond, platinum or gold but a piece of postpartum bling  has been spotted on Meghan’s finger. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/Reuters

There’s one gift I would wish for every new mother and it’s not a piece of jewellery

We reminisced about that other millennium we once inhabited, long before chai tea and inclusivity and beautiful young girls in Lycra saluting the noonday sun

It is not time yet for our collective memories, like old buildings along the docks, to be pulled apart

All women’s toilets are not created equal. Photograph: istock

Hilary Fannin: Time stood still; minutes felt like hours behind that indifferent door. I was locked in the toilet

‘I left London afraid that something would happen to the baby if I stayed’ Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: My urge to go home carried my son and me, and later his father, across the sea

“It must have been nice to snooze in the sun in the 1960s, unconcerned about the balding Amazon rainforest.” Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: My anxiety quota has been used up on my work, my children, and the state of the world

‘I’m suppose I’m lonely,’ my friend said. Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: Don’t tell me to take up a sport. Especially golf, said my lonely friend

“I went out the other night with a couple of friends and ended up in a snug at 1am with a last glass of red red wine in front of me that I really didn’t need” Photograph: istock

You’re not as young as you used to be and alcohol is no longer your friend

Yep, it’s First Holy Communion season again and the country is awash in parasols and frilly white ankle-socks. Photograph: iStock

Conservative estimates suggest many families shell out at least €1,000 for the day

In the Public Theatre, I looked around at the parents of the young students I was graduating with, and wondered how many, if any, of them still felt inadequate. Photograph:  istock

It saddens me to hear people say they’d never have the confidence to return to education

Kim Kardashian and the Spice Girls: famous, and don't they want you to know it

Spice Girls reveal years-old sex fling, Kim Kardashian announces law career. Oh please, just give it up

Google 'talking to the dead on the telephone' and you won’t be left hanging on. Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: It had been a dream, but it didn’t feel like a dream. It felt very real

A scene from War Horse which is on at the Bord Gais Energy theatre in April

Puppeteers inhabiting gargantuan, horse-sized puppets play a key role in bringing this epic story to life

‘I imagined all the frozen lipids crawling back in from the cold and snuggling up under my subcutaneous layers while I slept.’ Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: A clinic offered to freeze the fat off me but I bottled it at the last minute

By the time we were being guided to  giving the person closest to us a big positive-energy hug, I was positively hostile. Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: I’m a lumpy, uncomfortable hugger, unless I am moved to hug at my own discretion

The Jersey Boys tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons “and reproducing their sound with a kind of military proficiency”.

Hilary Fanin goes to The Jersey Boys: ‘In the name of god, how did we survive all that crap?’

“My mother’s career was, she felt, thwarted by marriage and babies, and nappies steeping in plastic buckets.” Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: When I was little women needed husband’s consent to buy washing machine

What would St Patrick make of us now?. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Hilary Fannin: We were told stories of Hail-Glorious-St Patrick-Dear- Saint-of-Our-Isle

As for wedding dresses, in 2019 tailoring is key, as is ‘finding the right silhouette to suit your shape’. Photograph: istock

Hilary Fannin: You have to have two wedding dresses now, even if you’re only marrying one person

It’s St David’s day today. Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: I’ve been going to the gym for two weeks now. It feels like centuries

Haemin Sunim is a teacher and writer whose words of Buddhist wisdom are readily accessible on Twitter

Hilary Fannin: I’m not good with self help books. It’s appallingly immature I know

Tim Firth and Gary Barlow with the cast of ‘Calendar Girls’ including Rebecca Storm. Fern Britton, Sara Crowe, Denise Welch,, Ruth Madoc, Karen Dunbar and Anna Jane Casey

Hilary Fannin: Laughs, a satisfying cry, ‘Calendar Girls’ was nakedly charming

Weight-loss failure: as a child I would crouch on Mum’s wardrobe floor, under her “thin” clothes, fingering their silky softness. Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: We’ve all glared at bulging buttons. We’re good enough as we are

The clinic does not do “the frozen look”,  preferring to send clients  back out into the world with a “natural” appearance

Hilary Fannin: I had passed the clinic quite often and wondered about it

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie Bezos photographed in April 2018 in Berlin. Photograph: Jorg Carstensen/dpa/AFP/Getty

Hilary Fannin: Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos have separated after a ‘long period of loving exploration’. I might be available. Just say(...)

Hilary Fannin: I walked on past bare trees and silted-up water, on tracks littered with dry leaves and budding crocuses

Hilary Fannin: Or do they just look in the mirror and tell themselves to get on with it?

Facing into 2019 I muse about having a different kind of existence too, now that my children are older Photograph: istock

Hilary Fannin: I’m full of good ideas for 2019. I’m going to sleep more and drink less

Cancel all get-fit regimes. No need. 2019 is the year of the comfy, solid, reliable cardigan Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: And there was I thinking the new year was going to be about embracing flexitarianism

Slimming knickers for Christmas? The cat is in the dog house. Photograph: iStock

Hilary Fannin: At least they’ll be useful for catapulting away unwelcome lifestyle advice

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