Belfast Telegraph

Fascinating story: Christine Keeler

Mary Kenny: Although shocking at the time, a Keeler-style affair now would not bring down the Government 

The Christine Keeler portrayed by the actress Sophie Cookson in the current BBC TV drama doesn't look at all like the Christine Keeler I met in the 1980s. By then, Christine seemed a poor soul living on a council estate in Chelsea. She had no money. She had lost custody of both her children, by two marriages. You could see that she had once been pretty, even beautiful, and with a fabulous body; but she now seemed worn down and almost bedraggled. I felt sorry for her.

Giving time: Christmas presents needn’t be costly

Mary Kenny: The most expensive Christmas ever? There's still a place for those simple and useful gifts 

Is this to be the most expensive Christmas on record, as predicted? Well, that's good for the retail trade, and they have to make a living, too, though the whole Black Friday event strikes me as artificial. It's an American import which has very little meaning on this side of the Atlantic. In the United States it has authentic roots - linked with the shopping after the annual Thanksgiving festival. But we don't do Thanksgiving festivals, so why should we do the specific shopping day that goes with it?

Changing times: the Queen will no longer wear real fur

Queen Elizabeth's dresser has decreed that henceforth her boss will only wear fake fur. But what would Greta say? 

I am very disappointed with Queen Elizabeth - not Olivia Colman in The Crown - but the real one residing at Buckingham Palace. It has been announced that no longer will she wear real fur. Under the guidance of her dresser (and new BF) Angela Kelly, any fur that appears on royal garments from now on will be "fake fur", or "faux fur" as the fashion industry calls it - not liking the word "fake".

Does the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland really exist?

Mary Kenny: How Irish border issue in EU exit negotiations proves life is rarely black or white 

Does the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland really exist? The entire Brexit process has been focused around this question. The problematic answer is that it does - and it doesn't. You can drive across the border without being aware you have crossed a frontier. That is the positive experience that suggests it doesn't exist. Then suddenly a red letter-box replaces a green one, road signage is in miles, not kilometres, and you're using the pound sterling. So, in fact, it does exist: but in a state of ambiguity.

Marlene Dietrich

Mary Kenny: Celebrities often feel they need cosmetic surgery - but for how long can you fight Father Time? 

Actresses - yes, some women in the performing arts still prefer not to be called "female actors" - and songstresses often avail of cosmetic surgery. Looking younger than they are is part of their job. So it isn't surprising that Debbie Harry, the American singer, actress, songwriter and model, now aged 74, has compared facelifts to a flu injection - just a regular procedure. In her profession, it is.

Shocking story: Harvey Weinstein during a recent court appearance

Mary Kenny: The Harvey Weinstein saga is a milestone in history of sexuality since the sexual revolution 

I hadn't heard the word "rape" until I was 18 years of age. And then it was as an au pair in France, where the woman of the house was terrified it would occur if I walked home alone at night through a Paris suburb. "Vous serez violee!" she'd cry in alarm. I consulted the dictionary and then understood. But the warning had never been issued when I wandered around Dublin, in apparent safety and without fear, at all hours of day and night.

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.


From Belfast Telegraph