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Those tomes offering life lessons from French women? I'd rather unwrap a good recipe book or biography this Christmas


Kerry, husband Ralph and children Tara, Dan and Eve

Kerry, husband Ralph and children Tara, Dan and Eve

Kerry, husband Ralph and children Tara, Dan and Eve

It's less than three weeks until Christmas Day. I don't know what festive-free bubble I've been living in but the reality of how little shopping time I have left before the big day has only recently dawned on me.

Given the rotten, wintry weather we've had over the last few days, it took great levels of willpower to force myself out and into the cold and rain on a quest to complete my gift buying.

In previous years I confess that most of my present purchasing has been done online - with a toddler in tow, it can make life a lot easier to have your purchases come to you instead of the other way around - but this year I've been determined to shop local.

I've dashed into chemists and clothes shops, visited make-up counters and dawdled at handmade sweetie stalls and I have, as I generally do when I head into town, spent far too long in bookshops.

I will hold my hands up and admit that I don't think I've ever gone in to buy a book for someone without treating myself to a new read at the same time.

I will read anything and everything. I'm a lover of fiction but I'll happily delve into a biography if the person is fascinating enough and, looking at the book sales made in the run up to Christmas, it seems that I'm not the only nosey reader out there.

Biographies are always at the top of the book charts over the festive period, challenged only in popularity by recipe books - both superb as pressies. But it's all change come the first of January, when those publications will be filed away in bookcases and replaced with diet and self-help tomes as people attempt to turn over a new leaf.

I understand, it's a human impulse to upgrade and improve but there's a big part of me that resents the implication in some of these books that if you just changed your size, your body language or whether you view someone as coming from Venus or Mars, that your life will suddenly fall into place. I'm sure there are great advice books out there but a lot of them have the whiff of snake oil for me, promoting solutions for problems you didn't know you had until the author highlighted them.

Take for instance a book that came out last week called, 'Why French Women Feel Young at 50' by Mylene Desclaux. In it, she tells us that the secret to feeling eternally youthful is to take a Gallic approach to getting older.

She includes rules to follow, like never have a birthday party with the reason being that if you never admit to how old you are in public, no one will ever figure out that you've aged. Firstly, yeah right… secondly, give up presents and copious amounts of cake for a shot at being the next Dorian Gray? I think not.

Another suggestion she makes is to change your name to something that's more modern.

All you Helens, Victorias and yes, even us Kerrys, need to forget our dated forenames and instead opt for something more with it if we want to be mistaken for a teenager. Something like Blaze, Fox or Racer will shave years off we're told.

Or my own personal favourite rule, never wear glasses. Apparently only sunglasses are permissible for those who are over the age of 30. Because nothing says youthful like bumping into furniture or holding a menu at arm's length to try and read it.

It's one in a long line of similar books, all written by willowy, serious-faced French women that explain how and why the rest of the world's females are getting it wrong. Books like French Women Don't Get Fat and French Children Don't Throw Food are aimed at pointing out our inadequacies but only serve to make me eternally grateful that I'm not French.

I would be bored senseless if I had to take myself so seriously. I'll stick with my recipe books and biographies because a healthy appetite for good food and gossip is bound to be a better bet for staying young at heart...

Belfast Telegraph