Mary Kenny: 'When a woman becomes the mother of a son, her perspective changes, as a top politician may discover'
Last month, the popular - and gay - Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, gave birth...
Last month, the popular - and gay - Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, gave birth...
Fascism? It's all the rage. Or, at least, throwing around accusations about encroaching fascism in every society is now the fashion.
The conclusion of the First World War in November 1918 will be a major European commemoration this month. In Woodenbridge, Co Wicklow, a...
As Ireland prepared to vote on whether to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution, in Britain the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid,...
In the run-up to the recent Budget, the Fianna Fáil Senator Lorraine Clifford Lee said that the State should provide sanitary products for women experiencing "period poverty".
We live in a society full of contradictions, especially when it comes to sexuality. Casual sex and ubiquitous pornography are regarded as normal freedoms: simultaneously, the manners and decorum of Jane Austen's drawing room are expected, particularly from men.
The "granny grant" suggestion, made by Minister Shane Ross in July, didn't meet with much enthusiasm. He was lambasted for his proposal to give a grant of €1,000 a year to grandparents who cared for their grandchildren on a regular basis. He reckoned this would cost about €70 million a year to the exchequer, but economists said his sums were ludicrously underestimated: the cost could run into untold billions of euro, since all four grandparents might be entitled to claim.
It is often claimed today that the Catholic church in general - and the Vatican in particular - has treated women unequally: yet there was an astonishing number of women artists flourishing in Renaissance Italy, often under Papal encouragement. Popes Clement VIII, Gregory XIII and Paul V all commissioned and encouraged female artists to produce paintings, embroidery (then called "needle painting") and altar-pieces.
Visitors to Dublin viewing its famed Georgian architecture may spot a plaque at 36 Fitzwilliam Square proclaiming that 'Mainie Jellett - 1897-1944 - Painter - lived and worked here'. Dublin Tourism's tribute could have added that Mainie (born Mary Harriett) Jellett virtually introduced modern art to Ireland, with her creative Cubist style.
'Madonna and Child' paintings have been a classic artistic theme for centuries, but there is a critique that these images are over-idealised male constructs of submissive maternity: of women accepting the role of motherhood passively rather than embracing it actively, according to feminist theory.
'Age is just a number," Dame Joan Collins said on her 85th birthday recently. "It's totally irrelevant unless you're a bottle of wine. You are what you think you are. I look and feel several decades younger."
There's a bit of a trend at the moment of older people giving advice to their younger selves - or, older women giving advice to younger women. Although there's also some research which claims that advice is often irrelevant and outdated and seldom heeded anyway.
So here's the new villain in our lives: plastic. Every time we pick up a takeaway coffee in its plastic container - and, even worse, with a plastic lid - we are contributing to the agonising death of...
When I was about 11 I heard my aunt say that a couple we knew had adopted their daughter. "And aren't they brave!" she exclaimed. "Because you wouldn't know where an adopted child came from."
It's sometimes suggested that artists and novelists are better at sensing the zeitgeist - that spirit of the age - than more prosaic sources, such as economists and political analysts. This perhaps was illuminated by Dublin's choice, this year, for its UNESCO "one city, one book" focus. The book...
At the end of this month, Sotheby's, the auctioneers, will place under the hammer an original paperback copy of DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover. This is the sexually explicit novel which was the subject of the very famous court case in 1960, when it was cleared of charges of being likely to deprave and corrupt. It was subsequently published for the multitudes in paperback.
Notice how carefully and conscientiously most young parents raise their children these days. The attention they pay to the child's needs! The ferrying around between swimming lessons and Spanish lessons and music lessons and sports coaching: the urgent struggles to get the kids into the best schools and the outraged resentment if a school with a fine reputation is over-subscribed.
If it was up to me to nominate an alternative candidate for the Presidency of Ireland, I'd suggest Alice Leahy, the woman who has done so much, over the past 40 years, to care for the homeless and the people she calls "outsiders" - often in every sense of the word - in the streets of Dublin.
Saoirse Ronan - probably the most famous Irish thespian in the world - is due to make an exciting new movie. On an exciting old theme. Saoirse is to take the role of Jo, in a new version of Little Women, directed by Greta Gerwig: Louisa May Alcott's immortal story - never out of print since it was first published 150 years ago - for a feminist age.
During the August Papal visit, Leo Varakar made a landmark speech in which he told Pope Francis that Ireland had greatly changed in recent decades and that "families come in many forms".
Today, Frida Kahlo is probably the most famous female artist in the world. Although she died in 1954, aged 47, she is truly contemporary: she is the artist of the selfie, since most of her paintings are self-portraits. Even in her own lifetime, she had revolutionised the genre of the self-portrait, bringing not only a dazzling female sensibility and intensity to it, but a narrative of family, nativist culture, costume, obsession with fertility, Surrealism, revolution and religious iconography.
Perhaps unwisely, I have agreed to host a French teenager on a cultural exchange arrangement during the month of August. This has occasioned me to examine the state of my household and my general domestic skills, which are not exemplary.
Now here's an interesting career choice for any young graduate searching for something unusual: 'superforecaster'.
On France's national holiday, what better way to mark it than to call to mind the founder of modern France, Napoleon Bonaparte - the historic figure on whom President Macron specifically models himself.
At the height of her tennis career, Martina Navratilova said the only thing she hated about travelling for tournaments was PACKING. She dreaded it and would pay someone else any money to pack for her. Well, if we travel, we have to pack, and the only way to organise it properly is to make a list for our travelling requirements, as I do here…
I love post offices. I love standing in a queue in a local post office. I love the neighbourliness of the people, and I love exchanging chat with the post office staff, about the weather, the state of the neighbourhood, and, if it's Linda, whether we're succeeding in our current diet and fighting the flab. (There was a power cut when I was in a post office queue last week, and everyone started joking about the Russians starting on cyberwarfare.)
Many good people in Ireland are volunteering to serve as stewards for the Pope's visit in August for the World Meeting of Families. And I feel sure that Francis will be met with the customary Céad Míle Fáilte traditionally accorded to visitors to this country, and all will go well.
I always thought that one of the regrettable aspects of Grace of Monaco's life was that she quit her profession after marriage. Admittedly, women did, usually, resign their jobs on marrying (or were obliged to do so) in those days, but it didn't always apply to women in the arts, and certainly not in the performing arts - some famous actresses even styled themselves "Mrs" for added distinction.
Some decades ago - back in the 1930s - my mother acquired an upright piano which pleased her very much. It had, she told me, belonged to the Archbishop of Dublin Dr John Charles McQuaid when he was Dean of Blackrock College, and whether she purchased it from him directly or through another owner wasn't quite clear. (Younger people: if you want to know something about a past episode...
Oh, the neighbouring nations have tried. They've tried very hard. Awed by the success of St Patrick's Day, not only in Ireland, but worldwide, there have been concerted efforts to establish St David's, St Andrew's and St George's as national saints' days in Wales, Scotland and England.
An increasing number of parents want to remove their children from religious education classes at school - according to Education Minister Richard Bruton - and that's entirely their right. But I now wish I'd had more RE rather than less.
Planning to marry? My advice from over 40 years' experience.
Feminist icons are often unmarried or childless or both - Germaine Greer, Simone de Beauvoir, Gloria Steinem - but now there is an influential feminist role-model who is a married mother of nine children.
We talk a lot these days about having "agency" - our capacity to exert our own will - and "bodily autonomy" - our rights of ownership over our own body. But if there's one thing that totally wipes out notions of "agency" and "bodily autonomy", it's illness.
Philip Larkin's most famous poem is a catchy but sour disquisition on the malign influence of parents ("They f*** you up, your mum and dad/They may not mean to, but they do"). It now emerges that his reflections were all too autobiographical: he seems to have inherited his gloomy and misanthropic view of family life from his own mother, Eva.
The Irish, I'm proud to say, are rated as the best cinema-goers in Europe (along with the French) by the International Union of Cinemas and last year, cinema attendances increased again in this country.
When I was a young woman, I was an executive on a London evening newspaper, and when a political storm broke over a trade union dispute, I suggested we should commission Barbara Castle to write a comment piece.
Constance Markievicz would certainly be astonished to have been told that 100 years after she was the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons, a British Tory prime minister - also a woman - would be declaring her intention of honouring the occasion.
There are 24 official languages in the European Union, but only three working tongues: French, English and German. It had been suggested that after Britain quits the EU, English might lose its official status. (Ireland and Malta, though English-speaking, don't claim English as their official language.)
Those due to celebrate their 50th birthday in 2018 may enjoy contemplating the fascinating year in which they were born: the legendary 1968. This is 'the year that rocked history', in the words of one of its many biographers.
I was delighted to be invited to an exceptionally promising lunch - fine cooking guaranteed - in Wiltshire just before Christmas. Train schedules ordained that I arrived early, and this gave the hostess, an old friend, a chance to take me aside discreetly for a moment. "Don't," she said, "mention the B word, for heaven's sake! They're all Remainers here. We don't talk about the...
On Christmas Eve each year there is a lovely BBC tradition of broadcasting a carol service from King's College Cambridge, and that always starts off in the same way: a young solo chorister, with a voice of perfect clarity, begins the much-loved carol Once in Royal David's City. It's always an affecting moment, summing up so much that is comforting, peaceable and aesthetically uplifting about the tradition of the Christian Nativity.
Marley was dead, to begin with. Eoin Scrooge knew that his business partner Marley was dead, as he had consigned the ashes himself to the crematorium. Personally, Eoin blamed Jake Marley's death on not really keeping up with the times, business-wise. He had brought so much stress on himself by being so old-fashioned, and muttering hopelessly outdated phrases such as, "Neither a lender nor a borrower be," or, "A penny saved is a penny earned." Imagine saving, with interest rates the way they are!
In 2017, I learned: how to waste an enormous amount of time on Twitter. How bad-mannered and ill-tempered I can become on Twitter, in (perhaps imagined) contrast to being reasonably cordial in normal life. How to pronounce 'quinoa' - though I'd rather pronounce it than eat it. That the "new" cure-all therapy is sleep. Not all that new, though: the Victorians prescribed "bed rest" for every ailment.
Everyone claims to be a feminist these days - Meghan Markle has affirmed her feminist credentials. But feminism is a wide agenda, and that's why I wrote a book to try and clarify, to myself as well as others, what being a feminist now means. Are you a feminist? Take this test…
The wages of sin for 40 years of smoking is a wheezing chest and a possible diagnosis of a COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). When I was informed that I had a condition called bronchiectasis, a consultant at one of London's leading chest hospitals told me to go and join a choir, or take singing lessons. Singing, he said, was one of the best things you can do for your chest.
All of life's experiences come to an end, eventually, and I knew that one day I'd be booted out of the adorable, if somewhat ramshackle, Georgian flat that I have rented in Dublin's Kildare Street since 1996. The rent hadn't increased for 20 years - it had remained just under €800 monthly - although, on the other hand, there were structural faults with the apartment which mightn't have passed muster with Health and Safety: doors didn't close properly, there was an actual hole in the bathroom floor, the radiators hadn't worked for ages, and maintenance and repairs seemed scanty.
The world is divided into those who favour dogs and those who favour cats: just now, dogs seem to be winning attention. Dog sociologists like John Bradshaw have observed that we are becoming much more anthropomorphic about doggies. Canine pets used to be given names like Rover or Fido: now they're christened (virtually) with much more human names, like Max or Sam, Hubert or Felicity.
I have before me a picture of Marlene Dietrich in her prime, sent by a friend in Berlin. It's taken soon after her 1930s debut in The Blue Angel, an erotic tale about a sedate professor who falls under the spell of a night-club singer. Dietrich played the role of femme fatale in many a film, when as a woman whose power is in her beauty and her compelling personality, she calls the shots.
The Russian Revolution of October 1917 is seen as a stirring event, not unlike the Easter Rising of 1916: when an archaic and reactionary regime is replaced by a vital new leadership. Lenin and Trotsky are charismatic figures, even if the most powerful of the troika, Stalin, is now better known as a ruthless dictator.
When Hugh Hefner - founder of the famed Playboy empire - died last month, some feminists finally felt legally free to describe how they saw him. Suzanne Moore of The Guardian called him "a pimp" - as she had done during his lifetime, though under threat from his lawyers.
It's pleasing to see shops in Ireland still display and sell pretty picture postcards. I hope that visitors are buying and sending them, but the postcard is not a thriving business, worldwide. The American postal service has been charting a progressive decline in postcard sending since 2010. Last month, in Britain, the oldest postcard publisher, J Salmon of Sevenoaks, announced its closure - put out of business by changing holiday habits and the instant gratification of social media. It's reckoned there's been a 60pc decline in the picture postcard over the past 20 years. People are taking more...
A British academic survey, the Millennium Cohort Study, has found that 24pc of adolescent girls at the age of 14 were depressed (compared with 9pc of boys). One of the authors, Praveetha Patalay of the University of Liverpool, said that: "Compared to previous generations, there seem to be increasing problems, particularly in girls." Twenty thoughts on this situation…
It was always known among reporters who covered the British royal circuit that the late Princess Margaret was "difficult". She liked to be seen as a royal rebel and "with it" - in the lingo of the time - but people were warned that she'd seem friendly and approachable, and then suddenly pull rank. If those socialising with her alluded to "your sister", she would haughtily correct them with an icy "you mean, Her Majesty the Queen".
Loneliness in older life is a perennial problem; anyone who writes a problem page will tell you that. It's one of the reasons why many people don't like having to retire: it's not just that they lose contact with the daily life of work but because they feel less connected with what's going on. Maybe they feel less needed.
Next Saturday, September 16, her adoring fans will gather together in many parts of the world to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Maria Callas, whom they regard at the "greatest soprano ever".
Being the month of September our thoughts naturally turn to the sporting event of the season - the GAA finals. We're told that the GAA is "in our DNA", and in one sense it's true: anyone who has grown up in Ireland hears, in the background of memory (for those of a certain vintage, accompanied by the immortal voice of Michéal Ó Hehir) the excitement, enthusiasm and acclaim associated with the GAA activities.
'How are you?" "I'm good." To which the correct answer is: "I was enquiring about your health, rather than your moral character." But the Americanism "I'm good" - instead of "I'm well" (or "fine", or the nice Hibernicism, "I'm grand") - is already so engrained that there is no hope of erasing it. It is probably derived from German "Ich bin gut": it's certainly not old English practice.
It would be an exaggeration to say that I knew Diana, Princess of Wales, but I met her, and it later transpired that she read what I wrote. Or maybe she just read the reports about herself: for she said to the editor of The Daily Telegraph (as he recounted subsequently), "Why can't you write nice things about me, like Mary Kenny?" I suppose I did write positively about Diana because she was a very winning personality, and seemed so unstuffy: she spoke rather simply to me about how she really would have liked to be a nurse, and how rewarding it was to look after people who were...
What would our modern visitors think if they could travel back in time and visit Dublin 60 years ago? Well, I've just happened upon a guide to our capital city published in 1957, by an Anglo-Irish writer called Olivia Robertson. Her Dublin was both different and the same. She gazed at Dalkey and Killiney and compared it to Naples, as we still do, but she called the Sugar Loaf Mountain by its previous name - the Golden Spears Mountain.
Many writers have featured cats in their prose (or poetry): T.S. Eliot, Colette, P.G. Wodehouse, and a beguiling little cat appears in the first pages of Joyce's Ulysses. But maybe the most chilling feline story was written by the Gothic novelist Edgar Allan Poe, The Black Cat. It is a truly terrible tale - but also a gripping one - about a very disturbed man who is in the power of a "gin-nurtured… fiendish malevolence".
Have you ever considered walking out of your marriage or relationship? Have you ever had a career crisis where you thought "I've missed my vocation"? Have you ever asked "what should I do with my life?" Most people probably have.
Ever since I was made aware that folks from the city on the Foyle favoured different names for their home town ("Do you come from Derry?" "Yes, I come from Londonderry") I have believed that people should be called whatever the heck they like. So I have no problem with the transgender (or "intersex") pronoun "ze" replacing "he" and "her".
I felt sorry for Theresa May during the turbulent month of June because she was so widely blamed for having the wrong kind of personality. The British prime minister had a bad election campaign, seeming arrogant, aloof and unable to connect with people - so unlike her Labour rival, Jeremy Corbyn. She was savaged for not responding more spontaneously to the dreadful Kensington inferno at Grenfell Tower - while Mr Corbyn knew, instinctively, you just go to suffering victims and hug them. It's not Theresa's way. She can't.
An animal charity in Britain, Spana, has found that half of adults over the age of 50 think that life was better in the past - only 19pc like it better today. But there are pros and cons in this debate, surely…
Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy, London's Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is seen as a "metaphor for inequality". There's always been a posh element of London W8 and London W11, but extremes of health and deprivation have undoubtedly intensified since I lived there, first in the 1960s, and then the 1980s and '90s.
In the latter years of his life, my husband used to greet breathless announcements of new developments and events with the philosophical words: "'Twas ever thus!" In old age, you see the same themes of life returning as if in a cycle.
Ah, Dún Laoghaire! It seemed like a glittering jewel from the Côte d'Azur in our childhood, whither we would travel on the CIE train, which preceded the Dart, to swim in those fabled Dún Laoghaire baths, and afterwards to partake of an ice-cream at the immortal Teddy's, served by the very dapper Teddy himself. On Sundays, it was my mother's pleasure to walk the length of the Dún Laoghaire pier, there to look out to sea mistily, pondering on the oceans further away, just as in the opening pages of Ulysses.
Mothers and daughters: daughters with their mothers: that was one of the most striking images that emerged from the terrible Manchester atrocity. Ariana Grande's concert attracted, overwhelmingly, an audience of young people - which turned a wicked massacre into a tragedy of even greater dimensions - but it was evident that the family attendance was inter-generational.
Laura Bates's Everyday Sexism Project is a mission to document the varieties of sexism to which women are subjected in many countries. She's had an enormous response online and the book she wrote about the humiliations endured by respondents makes for depressing reading. Her reports on 'street harassment' alone make you wonder if the Victorians weren't right in providing chaperones for young ladies.
Feuds between sisters are well enough known: the movie stars Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland maintained a sisterly quarrel all their lives. The writers Margaret Drabble and her sister A.S. (Antonia) Byatt only meet - acknowledging each other with a formal nod - at funerals, never having patched up a family difference. Among the notorious Mitford sisters, Jessica was a Communist and Diana was a Fascist (and the mother of Desmond Guinness, who saved Georgian Dublin from destruction): throughout their adult lives they were not "on speakers".
It's a sad fact of life that the older you get, the more likely you are to fall. And not in a good way, like falling in love, or falling (as they say) pregnant. I mean tumbling to the ground because you've lost your balance.
Prayers in Dáil Éireann? My alternative solution to this controversial question - since secularists continue to be opposed to it - is to begin proceedings with a hymn.
Feminists all over the world clamour that "more women's voices must be heard". More women's voices in science, on business boards, in academia, in the media, and, above all, in politics. However, no feminists I can trace have praised the French Presidential candidate Marine le Pen as representing an advance for women's voices in politics. As Marion Anne Perrine le Pen has led the National Front party, and thus "the extreme far right", she is never seen as a role-model for women and she is not supported by feminist groups.
When I open my email these days, I find it flooded with various commercial offers. Especially around cannabis products. Now is the right moment, I'm informed, to invest in cannabis. It's getting legal everywhere! It's a profitable product -and, besides, it helps with a range of illnesses "including chronic pain, anxiety, arthritis, diabetes, PTSD, strokes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer".
It's almost a cliché now to describe Theresa May as "the vicar's daughter": but it's an essential element of who she is, and she has frequently referred to herself in that way. The key to her character and formation is, indeed, the Church of England: Michael Gove has even referred to her as "Britain's first Catholic Prime Minister" because her background was High Church (and she also attended a convent school for a time).
Matchmaking today is done often via the internet - often successfully too - but previously, it was the job of the matchmakers either in person or through "marriage bureaux". London's best-known - and first official - marriage agency was started by Heather Jenner and her business partner Audrey Parsons in 1939 and the archives they left behind are a priceless record of how men and women looked for partners over the next decade.
If anyone plays Frank Sinatra's My Way at my funeral, I'll be mortified in more senses than one - the embarrassment of anyone finding out that secretly I rather loved this mawkish, self-pitying and self-justifying song, composed just 50 years ago. It's shamefully bombastic as it boasts and brags of the ego's achievements in "planning each chartered course", sometimes biting off "more than I could chew": but always standing tall and doing it "my way". It's been called "shamelessly self-mythologising" and "lamentable" by music critics. And yet, I have to admit, it gets to me every...
I was in Paris on the day that British Prime Minister Theresa May started the procedure to withdraw the United Kingdom from the European Union - the famous "triggering of Article 50" - and the air was thick with discussion among the political classes. The theme of 'perfide Albion' came up more than once, though no one quite recalled that General de Gaulle predicted Britain would never fit into a continental club anyway.
A young man came to see me recently for what I thought was a business meeting. When I saw that he was wearing track suit trousers and a T-shirt, I knew the deal was off. If he was serious about the project he'd have been less casual in his semiotics (the study of signs and signals and their interpretation).
There's a contemporary adage about political debates that whoever first brings up a Nazi comparison in an argument, loses the argument. Nothing compares to the Nazi crimes and anyone who tries to inflate their talking-point by doing so seems absurd and insensitive.
Honestly, I do wish Prince Harry would hurry up and get married. I'm not that fussy who he marries - this Meghan lass seems to be his heartfelt choice - just so long as he provides the world at large with the general spectacle of a royal wedding.
Arlene Foster certainly broke a political glass ceiling in Belfast when she became the first woman chosen to lead the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in 2015, a movement whose founding father, Ian Kyle Paisley, seemed the very epitome of an Old Testament patriarch.
Our St Patrick's Day duties could be more onerous this year: a personal fáilte is surely due to the many individuals who have chosen to become Irish over the past nine months. I'm talking about those people who seldom previously thought of themselves as Irish who have applied for an Irish passport since the Brexit vote on June 23, 2016.
Here's a blinding flash of the obvious: a study carried out at the University of Edinburgh has found that people change over the course of their lives. Between the ages of 14 and 77, profound shifts of personality occur: individuals alter "beyond recognition", according to the Scottish project - which was led by Mathew Harris, an academic brainbox, and examined the mental health of Scots over six decades.
Where would we be without a little hypocrisy?
Jasmine works in a supermarket where she has the responsible job of checking that the items are always correctly priced. She is in her 30s and has been living with her boyfriend for a few years now, and to her great delight, in May of this year, they'll be getting married.
Developments in contraception are constantly in progress, and the boffins seem optimistic with the latest breakthrough in male contraception - the "reversible vasectomy".
The smart advice used to be: "Never apologise, never explain". Apologies and explanations may only remind the offended party of the offence taken, thus re-inflaming the wound, and so make things worse.
There's one set of liberals who should be pleased - even jubilant - about the ascent of President Donald Trump: those who uphold and champion the benefits of divorce. During our several divorce referenda, liberals advanced the claim that divorce could be good (as against defenders of traditional marriage, who said it broke up families).
Every month I experience the "Common Travel Area" between Britain and Ireland which is now - rightly - upheld as such a necessary part of trade and economic relations.
That venerable national treasure, former senator Professor John A Murphy, has expressed concern we are moving into a new age of puritanism. This worries him, since he is old enough to remember the old puritanism when the word 'breast' could get a book banned and a Doris Day movie which contained the expletive "darn!" was registered as indecorous, if not actually shocking.
Apparently, Irish people are the slowest in Europe to switch banks. Even though "banksters", as they're now called, are often seen as baddies, there's a loyalty to our own bank. This could be a bit like the relationship with the Catholic Church: people rage against the "institution" and the hierarchy, but they often like their own neighbourhood priest and he's the first they turn to when there's a local tragedy.
The people of Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, surely deserve a round of applause for the way in which - so far - they have welcomed the prospect of 240 Syrian refugees being placed in their small town as an emergency measure.
It was the year that ushered in the word "surrealism" - coined by the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire. It was the year when Benito Mussolini, recovering from a war-wound, developed a special theory of populism: "a country needs, at its head, a man who knows the people as a friend, but directs and guides them".
My mother, though always courteous to individuals, didn't have a high opinion of the ordinary Englishman (or woman). She considered them a "dull" people, ground into cogs in a wheel by the industrial revolution, which required people to be dullards serving Mammon and master. This was in contrast to the imaginative and poetic Irish.
It's the story of the Cavan boy's picaresque adventures and it made me laugh more than anything else I read during 2016. I shrieked with merriment at some of John McEntee's stories as he went from apprentice on The Anglo-Celt newspaper to earning £100,000 a year as a London journalist when he "often woke up blinking in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, thinking the champagne-fuelled carousel had finally stopped…
The woman's face was vaguely familiar to me as she hove into sight among the party's throng. "Ooh…..darling! Kiss, kiss, hug, hug!" she slurred. Oh dear: so early in the evening and she's already drunk. I'll never get a word of sense out of her, I thought.
Christmas is supposed to be about families - and of course it is. But it should also be about friends and friendship. The nice thing about all those Christmas cards - from the impressive and tasteful to the glittery and gaudy - is that they express friendliness, and often a desire to keep friendships alive.
When I was born, back in the 1940s, friends and family took pity on my mother, who was 42. "Poor Ita! Imagine having another child at her age! A dreadful burden!"
Women artists have often been overlooked - or under-rated - by history, so it is good to see the inspiring paintings of Lady Elizabeth Butler in the exhibition currently at Dublin's National Gallery, 'Creating History'.
So, as 2016 enters its last month, I ask myself - what did I learn this year?
A small, poor, fledgling state which has just defied the world's greatest empire needs all the friends it can get. No, I'm not referring to Cuba's defiance of the USA - though there are parallels - but the Irish Free State in 1923, after its separation from Great Britain, which at that time was an empire holding sway over a quarter of the globe.
What should you wear if invited to go shooting game in Scotland? Should a host give a tour of his stately home before sitting guests down to dinner? How much should one tip the servants after spending a weekend with friends in the country? I don't know anyone who is much disturbed by these questions, but the world of toffs is filled with anxious sorts who turn to Sir David Tang for nervous guidance on social matters and his advice has become renowned.
We all adore the wonderful Michael Fassbender: and I particularly adore him since he actually performed in a play of mine at Edinburgh. High point of my life. But do I want to take my "rules for living" from the adorable Fassbender? Probably not. I think I might pay more attention to Nietzsche ("Live dangerously!") or Wittgenstein.
Should we be sorry for Prince Harry? The 32-year-old is never going to be short of a few bob, and his life is unlikely to be troubled by anxiety about procuring a mortgage. On the other hand, he's always had to play 'the spare' to 'the heir'.
Do you have any old letters in the attic? Don't chuck them, keep them: they are social documents. They are voices from the past which may impart many lessons - some of them possibly embarrassing - but striking, just the same.
It might be a fun idea to be in London for a pre-Christmas shopping trip: what with the pound sterling almost heading for parity with the euro and all that...
Most commentators seemed to believe that Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in for the American presidential election in 2016: but the first doubt was planted in my own mind after a conversation in New York in the spring.
The Irish nationalist tradition has seldom favoured the ritual wearing of the poppy in November - it smacked of imperial militarism - so it is somewhat ironic that the 1916 commemoration emblem should now be inextricably linked with the right to wear a November poppy.
Does Bob Dylan merit the Nobel Prize for Literature? Is he really up there with Yeats, Hemingway, Solzhenitsyn, TS Eliot, and Heaney? The Swedish academy gave the award to the American balladeer "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".
Dublin is a dynamic city, with new tram-tracks being laid, buildings going up and buildings coming down. And it's gratifying to think that a major building which will soon be under the wrecking ball is one voted by environmentalists "the worst building in Dublin", "an eyesore", and "a monstrosity". This is the concrete tower block already half-decayed and propped up with scaffolding, in Hawkins Street, adjacent to Poolbeg Street and the Liffey, which was once the site of the Theatre Royal.
Everyone seems to love Bridget Jones. The cinema was full - 98pc female - and the audience laughed, clapped and empathised with Bridget (the fabulous Renée Zellweger) and her zany antics. She drinks a bottle of vodka at a rock concert, falls on her face in the mud, and then falls into bed with a hunky stranger in his yurt.
A teenage mother was telling me she had two pregnancies before the age of 15, and I then ventured to ask if there had been any sex education at her school.
Both main contenders for the American presidency have faced fierce criticism - and there will be more of that this week for the TV debates. But let's give both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump a round of applause on one count anyway: both of them are past pensionable age and have at least shown the world that oldsters can cut the mustard on the campaign trail.