Who wouldn’t want a nice new shelf in the utility room? Or a glass protector for the mantelpiece? And a new vacuum cleaner is something everyone can enjoy. Photograph: Getty Images

Would giving a teenager a couple of outdoor plant pots for Christmas be stretching it? How about a new ironing board? I have a list as long as my arm (...)

It’s alright for our American friends to have a zero-tolerance approach to smoking but here in the land of passive-aggressive, round-about communication – “God you’re gas! still smoking!” – it’s less straightforward. Photograph: Getty Images

On a recent trip to Germany, I was surprised at the prevalence of smoking. Everyone was smoking, everywhere, all the time, or so it seemed. Actually, (...)

Sacred Heart of Jesus by Vittorio Bianchini 1797-1880.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few weeks it cannot have escaped your attention that Pope Francis is here, now, on an official v(...)

“You’re basically talking about birds the size of a cat, which if you think about it (five or six cats perched on the roof of your house defecating morning noon and night), would be a concern.” Photograph: Getty Images

Ah, seagulls. Loved by all, friend to many, a joy to behold! Oh, no wait, that’s robins. Seagulls, on the other hand, are currently loved by no one, h(...)

Bathrooms are going grey. Photograph: Getty

They say kitchens and bathrooms sell houses. We pretty much ignored this when buying our house and went with the “whichever seller accepts our daily d(...)

“We decided to eschew blissful ignorance on all things feathery and get up close and personal this spring by erecting a nest-box right outside our back door.” Photograph: Getty Images

It’s that time of year when your garden suddenly seems to be full of small birds flying hither and thither. You may have been unaware up until now the(...)

Did anyone know that it is possible for one tiny pup to chew through a wooden window frame? Literally chew off an entire section

There is an old Portuguese proverb that goes: “A house without either a cat or a dog is the house of a scoundrel.” Here’s another angle: “A house with(...)

There are igloos warmer than some dining rooms around this country. File photograph: Getty Images

I’m not at all surprised to hear Irish household carbon emissions are the worst in Europe. It’s all the rooms you see, the sitting room, the dining ro(...)

Geraldine de Brit, ticking all the boxes in case of a repeat of 1982 cold weather. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

I spent a good portion of January 1982 in the hot press. With the weather we’ve had this week, I’ve found myself eyeing it up again. (In fact, as you (...)

My German friend  eyed up the ubiquitous brown leather couch. ‘Oh, it’s so ugly. Do you think the landlord might consider changing it?’

We all know the one I mean. I’m sure you could picture it now with even the briefest of descriptions. Perhaps you even have one in your own property. (...)

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