Belfast Telegraph

Controversial figure: Boris Johnson

Sex, lies and Downing Street... why Boris is odds-on to be the next PM despite promiscuity 

It's a universally acknowledged point that the Republic has changed dramatically in recent decades - the latest referendum to liberalise divorce being further evidence. And so it has changed. But so has everywhere else. I find it difficult to equate the sleek, sophisticated Russian females of the present generation as being from the same gene pool as the stern Soviet baboushkas I encountered in the 1980s and 90s.

Model looks: Demi Moore starred in a new campaign for the cosmetics company started by Helena Rubinstein

Like the right to vote, there was a struggle for the right to wear make-up, led by two formidable matriarchs 

I had a bit of a tidy-up of my bedroom recently, and realised that I owned (at least) 47 lipsticks: in addition to all the other unguents, potions, skin creams, moisturisers and assorted cosmetics.A monument to vanity? Or a modern woman's entitlement to make the best of herself and present a cheerful face to the world? Lipstick, especially, is hugely cheering and a small luxury that goes a long way.

Exquisite works: The Adoration of the Magi

Mary Kenny: The pre-Raphaelite artist who fused faith and beauty to create enduring Christmas masterpieces 

In our era of multiculturalism, perhaps the image of The Adoration of the Magi is quite apt: the three wise men who bring gifts to the infant Jesus are depicted as representing three different ethnicities. King Gaspar of Godolie hails from the region we now call the Yemen; Melchoir, King of Tarsis, is from a province of Turkey, and Balthazar, King of Nubia, would have travelled from Egypt-Sudan.

Selfie specialist: Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo, the revolutionary painter who declared 'what doesn't kill me, nourishes me' 

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.

Growing problem: volunteers try to clear plastic from the sea

Plastic was a fabulous invention that delivered so much, but it's now choking the planet 

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 marine life in the oceans. Whenever you purchase a bottle of water in its plastic container, you are adding your own little bit to the 8.3 billion tonnes of waste plastic floating around the globe, most of it accumulated in the past 15 years.

Puzzling time: just like a maze, in life most of us don’t know what’s around the corner

Childish, cheesy fable about the impact of change opened my eyes and contains a lesson for us all 

I was delighted - and honoured - to co-host an event at Listowel Writers' Week yesterday, when people spoke about 'The Book That Changed Me'. But it was embarrassing to have to disclose one of the books that changed me because it is so unliterary, so corny and, frankly, so low-brow that commentators have said a child of six could have written it. But there you are: enlightenment comes in the most unexpected guises.

Screen test: Meghan in Suits

Mary Kenny: If Meghan wants to give feminism a boost, quitting her successful career is an odd way of doing so 

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.

Musical memories: modern families rarely gather around pianos for a sing-song

Our family piano has 85 years of history to play out... with many more high notes yet to come 

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 of your family history, remember to ask while there is still someone alive who can answer. The day will come when there is no one left who knows).

Meghan Markle

Mary Kenny: From Twitter tantrums and Brexit to Meghan and Melania, what this year has really taught me 

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.

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