I gave up on Lord of the Rings spin-offs - but the new ones give me hope

When it comes to fantasy and sci-fi, the potential for spin-offs is huge. These universes are, after all, boundless and filled with potential – characters can be reborn, laws of physics can be manipulated, and new lands can be discovered.

Middle-Earth is no exception, particularly given the rich detail gifted to us by Tolkien with his detailed appendices, letters and anthologies of the history of its fantastical inhabitants, not to mention maps and languages.

This year, several more production

Acts of kindness: My godmother welcomed me into her home

Acts of kindness: My godmother welcomed me into her home

Our routine together involved white wine, deep chats, weekend walks - and a lot of Andrew Lloyd Webber

“That’s it, you’re coming to stay with me.” Aged 30-something, I felt like a kid again, taken under my godmother’s wing after confessing my latest flatshare woes. After I was ripped off by one flatmate, who did a midnight flit, another was leaving to move to a trendier part of the city. I was tired of sharing, but not flush enough to re

Living on rice and beans while earning $250,000 just to retire by 40 seems wrong

Living on rice and beans while earning $250,000 just to retire early is the wrong way to live

It sounds like a depressing existence to me - wishing your life away, denying yourself even the simplest pleasures

Do you work to live or live to work? New York lawyer Daniel does neither. Or rather, he works to live, just not yet. The 36-year-old, who earns a salary of $270,000 a year, lives on rice and beans, owns one worn-out suit and refuses to turn the heating on in winter. His plan? To save 70 p

Periods can severely impact women’s daily lives – so this delay pill could be a godsend

We all know the adverts. Woman, usually dressed in cream trousers or tennis whites, looking delighted to leap about the place with a cheesy grin, because “thanks to [sanitary brand], having my period doesn’t mean missing out”.

Nice idea, but these adverts have a lot to answer for.

Anyone who has ever had a period will know that there are some days where the last thing you want to do is catch a quick game of tennis, or stand in front of your colleagues for a big presentation, or even move furth

England might have lost the World Cup, but it's a new era for women

It might surprise people who know me to learn that I’m a lapsed football fan. In school, I shouted for Liverpool and adored Phil Babb, and Jamie Redknapp, and Paul Ince. I even collected the damn Panini stickers.

But I quickly became tired of the tribalism, and the complicated politics of being an Irish “soccer” fan. “What are you doing?” a friend hissed when I clapped tentatively at an England goal. “We don’t support England. Eight hundred years of oppression.”

Initially, I was confused – I w

Why I’m not tickled pink by the International Women’s Day shopping suggestions

Breathe a sigh of relief, marketeers – there’s a brand new holiday to fill the gap between Valentine’s and Easter!

Yes, it’s a good’un, and conveniently it’s aimed directly at the biggest consumer spending group out there… Women!

According to my inbox, at least, International Women’s Day is our chance to throw caution to the wind and buy ourselves some pink-themed frippery in celebration of feminism.

Some anti-wrinkle eye cream? It’s what Millicent Fawcett would have wanted.

A glittery bath

For me, Beverly Hills, 90210 star Luke Perry symbolised a thrilling new era of TV for teenagers

It has been a sad week for anyone who was a teenager in the 1990s, as the deaths of two iconic figures were announced. Depending on their coolness level, many teenagers at that time would have had a poster of either Keith Flint, part of electronic dance act The Prodigy, or the Hollywood actor Luke Perry on their walls.

For me, it was decidedly the latter – although I have a distinct memory of coming home from school one day to find my dad stomping around the house yelling, “I am the firestarter

I wanted to be an MS superhero, but I learned to take comfort in the small victories

When you are diagnosed with a chronic illness such as multiple sclerosis (MS), you go through the five stages of grief: denial, anger and all that. It makes sense, I suppose – you are mourning the life you had before diagnosis. I tacked an additional stage on during my “grieving” process: defiance. I was 30 when I was diagnosed, and relatively fit, although never exactly sporty. But, now that I knew about this shadow looming over my life, I resolved to be a fighter. Not just a fighter, a superhero.

Charity shops are swamped with ‘fast fashion’ – it’s time we rekindled a lasting love affair with our clothes

Call me superficial, but I love to shop. On a day off, there’s nothing I like more than to wander around a department store, browsing through rails of clothing. I covet certain pieces that I will never buy, being either too outlandish to be considered office appropriate or too extortionate for me to justify. But I love to touch the fabrics, see how skirts drape, coo over supple leather and intricate lace.

‘Single-use’ is the Collins word of the year – so why are we still using 1m more coffee cups every day?

It would appear that 2018 is the year we all became eco-conscious – at least if the dictionary is to be believed.

Collins has named “single-use” as its word of the year, reporting a four-fold increase in its usage as we discuss the problems associated with disposable coffee cups, water bottles and plastic bags.

The European parliament has just back a ban on some single-use plastics, and the UK is planning to introduce a tax on plastic packaging.

We fret about plastic straws in our drinks, the

‘Killing vegans’ jokes leave a sour taste in my mouth

How do you know someone’s a vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

Har dee har har. We all like a little joke at the expense of our plant-eating brethren, don’t we? They deserve taking down a peg or two, the sanctimonious lot.

The jokes are starting to wear a bit thin, though. William Sitwell, the editor of Waitrose Food magazine and a critic for BBC’s Masterchef, has apologised for jokingly suggesting that vegans should be trapped and killed, in response to journalist Selene Nelson, who had pi

More of us are travelling alone, but I found it more of a challenge than I expected

I’m not sure how it took me until I was standing at a fork in the overgrown path, swatting away dragonflies with my crumpled map, to remember what a bad sense of direction I have.

Out here, on the brink of a ravine in the southern Italian countryside, my trusty Citymapper app was useless. I squinted at the map again, then at the path ahead. Time to retrace my steps…

I’m one of those irritating people who call themselves a traveller, yet I’ve been mostly shielded from anything resembling a chal

Lay off Generation Sensible: getting wasted is not an essential rite of passage

The youth of today, eh? Far from teenage rebellion, it seems that around a third of them are – brace yourselves – not drinking alcohol at all, while 17 per cent say that they have always been teetotal.

Pause for the lamentings of older columnists everywhere, bemoaning how boring “Generation Sensible” has become and beseeching them to give sex, drugs and rock’n’roll a whirl.

Hey, Baby Boomers: leave those kids alone. Dare I suggest that the younger generation is getting it right? They may be br

Pret’s move on labelling is a watershed moment for allergy sufferers

Grabbing a quick lunch is something many of us do without a second thought.

If you suffer from an allergy, however, you get used to lingering in front of the fridge section, reading labels and scanning ingredients to see if there’s anything “safe” to eat.

Some outlets were never too keen on that. In recent years, even as the range of “free-from” products increased, and most retailers upped their game on allergen labelling, there has been a quiet backlash from some “artisan” producers and resta

Turning pensioners into fitness instructors could be just what the doctor ordered – for all of us

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to retirement. Granted, I’ve got about three decades to go (or more if the goalposts keep moving), but by then I’ll be more than ready to put my feet up.

Or perhaps not, if the health tsars have anything to do with it. A new campaign from ukactive is encouraging pensioners to consider retraining as fitness instructors to help over-55s feel more comfortable in the gym.

I know what you’re thinking – we slog all our lives and then you want us to pra

The secrets of living to 100? We've known them all along

I always wonder if the centenarians are pulling our legs when we beg them to reveal the secrets behind their longevity.

Raw eggs, they tell us solemnly. Daily plunges into icy ocean waters. A can of Stella and a packet of custard creams (props to you, Eileen Maher of Blackpool).

No wonder we’re desperate for some nuggets of wisdom – barely a day goes by where scientists are not locking horns over the best course of action for a long life.

High-fat, low-carb, some say, while others wring their

Pockets are a feminist issue

Women, eh? We moaned about not having the vote, and got it; we whinged about unequal pay and that was alleviated (well, not quite). We lamented being denied pockets by the patriarchal fashion overlords – and were granted them, at least in some items of clothing.

Now, it turns out, we’re not satisfied with the shape or size of said pockets. A study published on US website The Pudding revealed that the pockets on women’s jeans are only 60 per cent as deep as men’s, with most unable to accommodate

How I learned to love the over-friendliness of my hometown

Believe the hype: Ireland is awash with friendly cities, according to a recent travel poll. Cork was voted third in Condé Nast Traveller’s 2018 Friendliest Cities in the World, with Galway and Dublin also in the top 10.

I could have told you that about Cork: I grew up there. Maybe it’s because you can’t ask for directions without entering into a 20-minute conversation (The “well, I wouldn’t start from here” cliche is made for Corkonians).

Or that they call everyone “boy” or “girl”, no matter t

Gerry Adams’ new cookbook could be just what Theresa May needs

Silly season continues apace. Headline writers had a field day this week when former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams announced that he was working on a cookbook filled with the recipes that saw negotiators through the 1998 peace process (because “the British didn’t feed us”, he explained).

“Cookie ár lá” was my favourite, with honourable mention for “Good fry-day” and “Give peas a chance”.

You might initially think that Adams fancies himself a Paul Hollywood character. That steely glint in his ey

Hey guys! Isn’t it time we thought of a better email greeting?

It’s finally happened: the backlash has begun against “guys”, and I couldn’t be more delighted.

No, no, I’m not on a feminist crusade to wipe out the male gender, nor am I coming a bit late to the Me Too movement, before you all start writing in.

I’m talking about the ubiquitous use of “guy” in our day-to-day language.

“Hey guys!” chirp group emails. “Can I get you guys anything else?” waitresses enquire. Well, I’ve had enough. No more Mr Nice Guy, if you like.

BBC Woman’s Hour host Jane Gar

My childhood memories may be imagined, but they’re real to someone

Whenever I go home to visit my parents, it’s not unusual for us to drag out the photo albums for a trip down memory lane.

There’s me, standing beside the cherry blossom tree in front of my childhood home. I loved that cherry tree.

There’s Christmas 1985 – I remember being so excited about unwrapping Noelle Lamb, a ride-on fluffy sheep that quickly became my best pal.

Or do I? A study has found that almost half of us have memories that probably aren’t real.

You know the ones – how many of us

Don’t write off summer just yet: here are some reasons to be cheerful

Remember how summer used to stretch on for ever? Long, hazy days, barbecues and Mr Whippy ice creams, scorched grass and paddling pools?

That’s how this summer was beginning to feel, only with a more grown-up flair: we woke up day after day to blue skies, drank cocktails at sunset (on a Tuesday!), and watched England beat the odds to rise through the World Cup ranks.

And then, all at once, summer sort of sputtered to a halt. The clouds rolled in just as England crashed out, just as the English
Load More