There's been an awful lot to grumble about in the world in 2016, and grumble we did. But this year has not only been a catastrophic time for society, it has also been somewhat unkind to Irish charities, too. The behaviour of a few organisations has irreparably affected the not-for-profit sector, with people becoming more sceptical about where their donations to charity are going.
They say that truth is stranger than fiction… and this year's bounty of biographies and memoirs have certainly given the wildest of tales a run for their money. From the wisdom of sports stars to the side-splitters dreamed up by comedians, there's something in the non-fiction mix for everyone…
To say that we are living in politically interesting times is understating the case somewhat. There are many who will remember 2016 as the year of devastating political blow after blow; the year we lurched inexorably towards what feels like an apocalypse. Yet there are many others this year who have punched the air in triumph at the passing of Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, or even the assembling of the 32nd Dail.
Perhaps it's to do with the prospect of breaking bread (and bird) with loved ones this month. Perhaps it's the proliferation of TV ads glorifying (commercialism and) cuddly family values. Either way, 'tis the season for close relationships to fall into sharp, merciless focus. Some of us do well - brace yourself for a lot of engagements on your Facebook timeline in the coming weeks - but others aren't quite so lucky.
For those on any prong of the triangle, the adoption process can often be a mix of conflicting emotions: pain, secrecy, confusion and, ultimately, love. Figures from 2014 suggest that around 60,000 Irish people are now searching for their birth parents. And given the breadth of experiences that many of them have faced when they go, it comes as no surprise to find a mixed reaction to a new bill on adoption tracing.
Like most other 20-year-olds, Kelsey Nolan enjoys socialising with friends. Yet while her pals make haste to the nearest chipper after a night out, she returns home to face her nightly medication (around 30 in all). “My friends say they don’t know how I do it, but to me it’s life,” she shrugs. “Today, I’m in college, but I need to get up at 6am to take medication and go home during the day to do my nebuliser.”
A Jodi Picoult book release is often an event in itself, and rightly so. Often writing on pressing, high-concept topics, Picoult's prose is delicious and epic in scale; the literary equivalent of a five-course feast. And this, her 21st novel, carries on this fine tradition.
Ever wondered how child actors shrug off their most iconic roles as they get older? Look no further than Emma Watson, who shrugged off Hermione Granger with a nude scene in the film 'Regression', gender equality speeches at the United Nations and spirited endorsement of the sexual pleasure research website OMGYes.
The way many women have told it, motherhood is a Cath Kidston-clad, Bugaboo-included walk in the park. The best thing you'll ever do, the most enriching love you'll ever feel, the sleepless nights and dirty nappies, a mere blip on the vista of Boden catalogue bliss. All is made better with an afternoon of cupcake-making and a cute video of your kid that you can stick on Facebook.
Chaos, uncertainty, a nation divided: can a novel about the fallout of Brexit ever be beautiful? In the hands of Ali Smith, it certainly can. It's fitting that Smith has set her thoroughly current novel in the autumn of 2016; a season traditionally associated with decay, the drawing in of days and, in some ways, starting over.
Picture in your mind's eye a third-level student, and it's likely that you've conjured up a slightly uneasy picture featuring lie-ins, cider cans, Pot Noodles and not a lot of Cillit Bang. Students have endured a bad rap for years, but given a recent tweak in the budget, they could hold the key to financial comfort for homeowners.
Ordinarily, being pregnant is a time of euphoria and hope for many mums to be. Yet for around 10-20pc of expectant mothers, prenatal depression means that instead of being excited and happy, they feel despair and dread as they count down to their big arrival.
Time once was when Halloween meant sticking a few holes in a black bin bag, donning a scratchy plastic mask and traipsing from door to door in the cold to collect enough monkey nuts for a potential party. Suffice to say that things have changed since then. In the last decade, Halloween is second only to Christmas as a massive celebration, and the lead-in time is stretching year on year.
Given that he binge-watched the grisly Italian mafia series 'Gomorrah' on an 11-hour flight home from Japan only the day before, Michael Fassbender appears in particularly good spirits when I meet him on a wintry, windy evening. Yet there were reasons galore for him to be cheerful this particular weekend.
There's a good reason those listicles from the 1980s and 1990s do exceedingly brisk business on social media. The soporific, sepia glow of nostalgia is an opiate for the masses, and in Ireland, we do nostalgia particularly well. White dog poo, altar boys, Tamagotchis, two-channel land - we frolic and bathe in our commonality, spending our days in a whirlwind of incredulous bafflement at the passing of time.
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