Public Service

March 20, 2014

I am running for public service. I believe that the past six years have led me to this place. There is a reason for my experience and now I want to turn it into an asset to help others. I am finalising what I can bring to the table and in the interim, here is where it all started – it started with debt.

I wonder – about Debt This is a 30 minute video about debt and this is why I am running for public service

Here also is my appearance on the RTE news talking about bankruptcy last night- my first official interview as a person looking to stand for public office – but guess what? I’m still saying the same things! RTE About the second minute

Thank you

Jillian

March 20, 2014

 

 

Bankrupt

There is no one more surprised than myself to be in front of the judge in the High Court on February 17, 2014 and to hear the words that I was declared bankrupt. The surprise lay in the fact of the judgement – how had I, Jillian Godsil, arrived at this point?  I had always worked hard, I had been financially independent since a student, and I had not ‘partied’ during the Celtic Tiger. Far from it, I had been a hard-working, self-employed mother of two small children.

I grew up in Dublin, one of six children, and attended Rathfarnham Parish School, The High School Danum before going on to read History and English at Trinity College Dublin.  I loved Trinity and flourished behind those grey walls. As I approached my final examinations, I struggled to consider what career I might take. A number of international financial organisations held graduate evenings in the college and I tagged along with business students who were friends. I was most impressed by the JP Morgan presentation and the following week put in a standard CV to the bank. To my surprise I was called to interviews both in Dublin and London and was subsequently offered a job before I had sat my finals.  I achieved a respectable 2-1 in June and moved to London in September 1987 and began my first career in banking. I was hired on the graduate programme and settled into city life. I spent in total three years in London, buying an apartment in Islington along the way. I also met my future husband and became engaged towards the end of that furlong. He was transferred to Sydney and I happily followed shortly afterwards, embarking on a new career, that of public relations.

We spent three years in Sydney. I quickly rose to senior consultant with a small pr company before transferring to a large US multinational, Hill & Knowlton. During that time, we also flew to Fiji in 1991 and were married on Valentine’s day.  In 1992, My husband was then transferred to Singapore and I joined the Singapore office of Hill & Knowlton with a rather cumbersome title of Asia Pacific Director of Advanced Technology. During our eighteen months in Singapore I also conceived and gave birth to our first child; it was a busy time.

My husband’s job was reaching an end in Singapore and being a new mother I was homesick. Accordingly we chose Dublin over London as our next city of choice. I returned home in advance of my husband, buying our home on Leinster Road before he was discharged from Singapore. He found employment in the IFSC in Dublin and I worked briefly for a local pr firm before joining Iona Technologies as its PRO. We were well established in Dublin; we both had good jobs, our Georgian house was renovated, and I became pregnant with our second child. It was around this period that my husband felt he was unwell and perhaps suffering from a breakdown. He was very unhappy in work and wished to try a new career. He was an excellent cook and so we decided to buy a guesthouse near to Dublin.

We sold our home in Leinster Road and bought a ruin in Co Wicklow called Raheengraney House in 1997. We moved in with my parents for three months while we did it up. A year later we moved out but the house was still largely a building site. It was to take the guts of another year before we finished the renovation, at which point my husband then switched to renovating an outbuilding into guest accommodation and planting the gardens. At the time we bought the house, I opened a pr consultancy, quickly winning new accounts in the growing economy. When the house was ready for guests, my husband was not. My business had grown substantially during this initial period and I took over the role of sole breadwinner. We did not run a guesthouse afterwards but lived in gracious rooms.

In 2007 my life on the outside was perfect; I was married with two beautiful children, living in a comfortable house, owning a successful business and contributing to the local community. I was involved in the local church; I was honorary secretary of the select vestry, church warden, choir member and Sunday school teacher. I was active in my children’s hobbies: I was a committee member and PRO for the Shillelagh Pony Club. I was active in my own interests: I was a committee member and PRO of the Tinahely Riding club, I was a choir member of the Tullow Singers, I was a volunteer with the Irish charity To Russian with Love and sponsored a Russian orphan, and I was the pro bono PRO for the equine charity, The Irish Horse Welfare Trust. In my spare time I walked the local roads, read books and dreamt one day of writing the Irish novel.

At this time the house was valued at €1.65million.  Since my husband was not working, he wanted to create a pension for our retirement and bought property in Portugal, using equity from the family home. As a result we grew the mortgage to €800,000. My business was thriving in the Celtic Tiger and was easily able to repay the interest. Again I was the supportive wife and agreed to this plan. I had worked on different continents and succeeded. I had lived through the dotcom boom and crash and succeeded. I had never failed financially before, far from it. I was a hard and diligent worker and had proven myself capable of supporting the family by my own efforts over the past ten years without any income support from my husband

This perfect life was however crumbling from the inside.

I hit first the dissolution of my marriage and then the crashing impact of the recession. I could have withstood one, but not both. Add into that mix a very difficult and extremely expensive family law confrontation and the seeds of my bankruptcy took hold and flourished.

As part of the divorce, the house was put on the market in 2008 and fetched an offer of €1.1million. However, this was retracted due to personal circumstances of behalf of the buyer and now we faced into the property crash. The overseas investment went to pay the shockingly high family law legal fees. These were compounded by my husband first bringing a commercial case in the High Court which was subsequently joined to a family law suit. It was largely farcical and resulted in huge legal fees (almost €100,000 in my case), many delays and subsequent asset loses through the passage of time and descent into recession. We concluded our legal separation in the High Court on February 2, 2010, with the children remaining with me and our debts shared equally.

Following our legal separation, my ex-husband returned to the UK and became bankrupt, thereby leaving the entire mortgage debt to myself and the two children. I struggled hard to find a way to climb out of my increasing financial difficulties. My business was affected and fee income dropped dramatically. In August 2010 my ex-husband filed for divorce in Chelmsford in the UK. It was concluded a number of months later on the basis of being apart for more than two years.

When my ex-husband moved to the UK, the children and I moved out of the big house; it was too expensive to heat. We moved to a two bedroom cottage in nearby Coolboy. I rented Raheengraney house to a number of tenants, passing the rent directly to the bank. However, the rent was not sufficient and the arrears grew to a devastating and unmanageable €200,000. I then lost my tenant and the house was in no fit state to rent out again. In desperation in 2011, I made a video to sell the house.  It went viral and a cash offer of €500,000 was received within weeks. In a crushing and inexplicable blow, the bank refused consent to sell. This was the landmark point in determining if I could have avoided bankruptcy or not. From April 2011 until the house was finally repossessed in March 2013, I fought tooth and nail to find a solution. If I could not sell it, perhaps I could turn it into a business, find a white knight, or attract a backer. I expended huge energies in trying to extricate myself from this growing debt but nothing worked. In fact, the opposite happened, my own business began to suffer, slowly at first and then more noticeably as the recession took hold. In fairness to my departing client base, they also commented that my work rate was not the same as previously. The stress was taking its toll on me, intellectually and commercially.

The limited company floundered. Bailiffs were called and finding nothing of value, went away again. I attempted to trade my way out of insolvency but despite moving mountains, in August 2012, I closed the doors on my business and retired home to lick my wounds. For the next six months I suffered from severe depression. 2013 did not begin with any more hope. Legal proceedings issued by Bank of Scotland before Christmas landed me in court in February. Despite the county registrar’s initial backing of my case -  I had secured another offer, this time of €220,000 – a second visit to court sealed the repossession order. The sheriff took the house formally in August 2013 and proceeded to sell it for less than €160,000 in February of this year. At this point I had an unsecured debt of 1 million plus, no business and no hope.

When the new laws were introduced last September by the government to tackle the country’s growing indebtedness, of which I was now a statistic, I attempted to enter the insolvency process. Ironically I was too broke. I did not have sufficient income to engage, despite being handled pro bono by the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, the law not being fit to cater for truly insolvent individuals.

There was no other option but bankruptcy. I filed on January 7, 2014 and was adjudicated a bankrupt on February 17.  I met with my case officers on March 10 to enter all the particulars of my assets, or rather the lack of same. It was with chilling awareness I was told that while the duration of the bankruptcy was three years, should I obtain work prior to the termination of that period, even as late as the last day, that the Insolvency Service might and very much would slap a judgement order on my salary for a further five years. In short while all debts incurred over the next three years were mine and mine alone, any assets could be seized as theirs. For all their politeness, the steely menace of the system was not for turning. I am to return to court on March 31 to confirm my compliance with the court officers and system.

I never imagined that I might be in this terrible place – all my life’s savings gone, my home gone and in receipt of social welfare.  Moreover, I am not alone. This fact does not provide any comfort, however, as I see people facing into similar distressing situations. Bankruptcy is a solution, but it is not a panacea for the truly insolvent. Children still have to be fed, rent still has to be paid, and bills still have to be met. It is ground zero which is better than sub terrain, but only marginally.

 

Debt, Survival and Hope – please view and share

My friends at SETV asked me if I would talk to camera about my journey so far in debt. I know I am only in the middle. I have not finished my journey. I am still in hock to the banks for more than €1million, my home is repossessed, my business gone, my possessions sold save for a ten year old American Fridge Freeze from my old house, and while that is very good at keeping food cold, it is less reliable as a place to live lol :-)

I have learnt one thing on this journey, which is far from over, that while worries may assail us on all sides, it is also vital to live even as we struggle. We will not get back the years that debt may steal from us, so the only alternative is to live like crazy, seize the day and love, and breathe, and hope, and be. Always be.

This is for anyone dealing with debt. God bless! xx

View VIDEO here

and please let me know what you think :-)

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My week on @Ireland – my parting message

What an amazing week. I will write about my lovely time as the curator of the @Ireland account tomorrow but I am running out the door now and so I just want to ask people who follow the account to look at this presentation I did on debt, survival and hope.

http://bcove.me/i68kpnpg  or click on the icon on www.SouthEastTelevision.ie

This is a talk I did with SouthEast Television called I wonder – about debt,survival and hope

I really put my heart and soul into this. I think it is important. I am passionate about not being ashamed at failing financially. Neither should you be – if you have the misfortune to be down on your luck.

God bless!

 

Remember – This too will pass…

 

A Twitter Tale…@Ireland for a week – let’s write

We all know the Irish can talk for Ireland. We all know that every single Irish person has at least one book in them. Well, let’s get collectively writing on Twitter. Here are the first two lines – send me your line and the number where you think it might run. Replica lines may be juggled somewhat. this is fun! Send your lines to @ireland

 

1. The man at the corner shop did not look up when the gun went off @jilliangodsil

2. it was as if he was expecting it @paudimac

3. He was used to gunfire. The army taught him that. @islandgooner

4. He had powers to illude gunfire. @cybercalci

5. He’d learnt the noise of bullets tearing flesh too, the gasp of shock. She collapsed, eyes blank. He folded his paper, walked away. @GuyleJeune

6. As he walked, something glinted in the corner of his eye @islandgooner

7. and still he walked on neatly tucking the receipt into his wallet. @beanmimo

8. Not in his wildest dreams did he ever expect a hardback copy of Larouss’se reference for wine lovers, to be of any use to him @fleurman

Cat on a Holly Tree Top

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The first we had any indication that there might be trouble was on the Thursday night. Tigger, our cat of some three years, once rescued off the main Carnew to Aughrim road, when not much bigger than computer mouse, but with an enormous capacity to survive a main road, and lungs like a fisherwoman, and a cry as piteous as the orphan that she then was, presented with her back leg paw as swollen as a hockey ball (the football analogy would have been excessive in this feline example).

 

It required attention although Tigger did not seem in pain. We kept her in the house just in case and much to her disgust, intending to bring her to the evening surgery at our local veterinary clinic.  She puked for good measure just before we left displaying her annoyance at such treatment. Our cat travelling box, while purchased as such, leaves a lot to be desired. It is a wire cage with no bottom, necessitating a towel or similar to cover the base. We tried the canary trick of draping the cage with a cover but she mewled horribly all the way to the neighbouring village, sticking out the three paws that could fit out through the holes and scratching my youngest whose job it was to keep her calm.

 

In the surgery, the vet examined her and suggested an infection and prescribed injections. These were administered without much panic; although we were glad there were only two. At this stage Tigger had figured out what was causing the sharp needle pain and I doubted we could have kept the vet safe for a third injection. He also provided an antibiotic solution to be given orally in the form of drops.

 

Home again, home again jiggedy jig, with the cat mewling even more and my daughter now using the towel under the cage as opposed to over it in a vain attempt to avoid injury.  Once home we administered a further oral dose of medicine as instructed which she promptly sicked up on the grass.

 

Our cat was less frequent in the house after that experience over the weekend. She normally comes and goes as she wishes, but the nasty injection and further nasty oral drops, meant she went more than she came. But by Sunday we were worried. She had not returned for food or medicine. A hunt ensued and we found her asleep beside the bales of hay on the ground in the stables, being too weak to jump on board as would have been normal.

 

At this point we decided house arrest was preferable to that we could keep her indoors. We set up a litter tray and closed all windows. The smell of sick cat is not good. Then, while she managed to poop on the litter, the smell was awful. Then she continued to vomit, with neither food, medicine or even water staying down. And she sicked all over. On Monday morning, she was a thin reflection of her formal self, she could barely walk, and instead of curling up, lay stiff as a poker, Egyptian-style, with her head trembling before it would sink to the ground in an exhausted and consumptive fashion.  I went for a walk and when I returned I could not find her, she had crept into a small space in a cupboard and looked for all the world as if she was going to die. I brought some fresh water to her which she lapped. Then she vomited again, this time a red mucusy mess. I called the vet. I was bringing our dying cat in immediately, outside hours and in a hurry. They said she would be put on a drip at once.

 

This journey was longer. We had to go to a different clinic which was open and once in the cage, reminiscent if Tigger had but watched Winston’s rat-filled cage in the film 1984, she set up an equally protesting wail for the entire 30minute journey. She went from death calm to banshee loud in seconds and maintained it for the entire journey. My youngest, again in the danger seat, wondered if people might think we were murdering a cat, not saving one.

 

Once in the vets she displayed an agility and restlessness that made liars of my near-death worry, but she was sick enough to warrant the drip and more injections. The vet suggested a sedative prior to any needles. My youngest and I exchanged looks. This was a good idea we said.

 

That night we were recalled to the surgery. Tigger seemed fine if still a little weak. We were to take her home and report back if she did not improve. While my eldest had driven to the surgery, she suggested I drive home as she wanted to hold Tigger on her lap in the cage and with only a dressing gown as a base. Tigger, now as familiar as she wanted to be with Orwell’s classic torture chamber, began her banshee wail just minutes from the car park. My eldest implored me to put the pedal to the medal, in a 97 Micra with no power steering. We were making ground, at the earth shattering speed of forty miles an hour, when her wail sounded different and next minute Tigger was urinating in the cage, easily avoiding the dressing gown and hitting instead my eldest’s jodhpurs and the car seat. Crazily driving the Micra at excessive speed on the country roads I could only fish out a used tissue from the side door. I was begged to go faster but even the gods could not help me there.

 

At home, Tigger was rushed inside and I was rushed back out to try and clean the car seat. We tried her with a little food and she ate. We tried her with a little water and she drank. She tried the litter with success, creating the headache inducing smell where windows and doors were closed against our would-be escapee. That night, we left her in the sitting area, but she woke us at 2am, then 3am and then again at 4am, scratching to come into the bedrooms. She habitually slept on my youngest’s bed but given her recent vomiting that had been banned. Finally, she, and we, slept.

 

The next day a recovery was mooted and the doors and windows opened, with the litter thankfully expelled outside. The bandage from the drip was removed, uncovering a bald-like leg. Tigger came and went, ate and went, and seemed pretty much herself again.  I guess that night she needed to prove a point. At quarter to six in the morning a wild mee-ow screech was heard by all three of us. I put my head under the pillows and tried to ignore it, but my two children decided otherwise. The two musketeers thumped past my door to the garden to find the source of the cry and the cause of the matter. With my head under the pillows I convinced myself that they had returned to bed, when minutes later I heard my youngest running back in again. The third, and rather reluctant, musketeer was needed. Groggily I reached for a jumper and my flipflops and went outside. I could hear noises in the middle of the ditch and climbing over the fence and under the trees and around the bushes – no mean feat in my ill-advised flipflops – I found the cat up a tree, that was in the middle of a vigorous holly bush, with my eldest half way up the tree, being supported by my youngest, trying to reach the cat. I was called upon to provide the support to allow my eldest to go higher. This time I crawled over the barbed wire and under the shrubs and finding shaky footing in my flip flops, attempted to take the weight of my eldest under her left boot. She, being of a more serious musketeer than myself, had worn more suitable footwear. At this point, I must point out, it is remarkably difficult to sustain the weight of a young woman, albeit a slim young woman, in one’s hands, while leaning at angle into the tree because the presence of a vigorous holly bush prohibited closer approach and while wearing flip flops on the banked uneven ditch.

 

Still, she did not fall, more due to the strength of her upper body than my real foundation in my hands. Tigger obligingly moved higher and out of reach and onto another tree. We regrouped and this time my youngest, being the tallest of all three, struggled to reach the cat. Tigger, perhaps sensing that resistance was futile, took some ginger steps down towards us. My youngest reached up and Tigger caterwauled like a feral cat and my youngest almost dropped her, to much scolding by my eldest. But luck was with us and the cat was still held and recovered despite her continued wailing. We reached steady ground but then my youngest said in fright. “It is not our cat,” and dropped her, like I have to say, a scalded cat. “She doesn’t have a bald leg.” The cat, who was indeed Tigger but whose bald leg had fluffed out overnight, was unconcerned. She sat in the middle of the drive and cleaned herself.

 

Being a bright morning we all trooped off to bed. The children attempted to sleep. The cat ate some more food and slept. The dog slept on the blanket. I booted up my laptop and tried to record this weekend. The next time the children say they want another cat:  I will produce this and read it. Lest I forget.

The end.

 

Post Script: Tigger is well.

Post Script 2:  I recounted this story to my mother, sharing the humour with her. Towards the end the telling my mother asked me in a very confused voice. ‘But how did Tucker get up a tree?’  Tucker? I had to laugh. In addition to Tigger the cat, we have Tucker the new foal and somehow my mother had thought I was talking about him and was getting more and more confused especially when I told her he had been found up a tree. How we laughed. The day Tucker climbs a tree is the day I ban all animals from our home.

Back to School – End of the Summer Madness

For once, and this is very unlike me, for once I am cheering for the end of the summer holidays and the welcome return to normal life now that we are all going back to school tomorrow, indeed some pupils have already returned. Typically I cherish a child-like horror of school being mentioned while still technically in August and the recent years’ slippery slide of returning to school before September has greatly saddened me for all sorts of nostalgic reasons and very few practical ones. It is like Christmas being flagged before Halloween is over; to my mind it is just not right.

 

But as the dying days of summer drew to a close I can only say that I have witnessed a wave of misogyny spreading across the globe, creating a scourge as nasty as any plague, and infecting people in despicable ways. In some ways, this misogyny was accidental and haphazard but it was no less disturbing for its seemingly unpredictable eruptions.

 

First off was #slangirl. While her actions were less than clever, it was the singling out of the young girl for such vitriol that was frightening. There was no #slaneboy or even #slanecouple. I was horrified to see adults rage in and throw stones at the young woman, slut shaming her without trial, compassion or humanity. Let those without sin throw the first stone or at least examine the log in their own eye. Many of those hurling unnecessary and cruel abuse at young woman probably, due to age and lack of technology, committed their own foolish mistakes far from the unflinching eye of the ubiquitous camera phone.

cheryl's bum

Second was Cheryl Cole’s sofa, or rather her bum with the rose-garden pattern on it. It reminded me of nothing more than my late Aunt Dorothy’s colourful but faded rose-festooned sofas and Cheryl’s panties were like my aunt’s famous lacy antimacassars poised on the arms and backs to prevent staining by use. You never promised me a rose garden, Cheryl, and while the lady is entitled to decorate her body in any way she sees fit, I was surprised by the criticism that went beyond constructive.

To my mind many tattoo ‘sleeves’ with naked ladies and entwined loving hearts are far less visually attractive than overblown roses, and while all tattoo art may bow down eventually before gravity, it is her choice, her body. I might not wish for my lady garden to have a rose garden behind, but then that too is my choice.

 

Finally was our little Miss wholesome Miley Cyrus. Words fail me. She twerked but only as white woman would. She stripped off her clothes for a nude ensemble that covered less than Cheryl’s ass tattoo, and then ground her own as yet adorned bum into that of Robin Thicke’s 16 year older body. I can only think she was badly advised.

 

But, my comment on these incidents while initially driven by a horrified dislike of slut shaming and misogyny, my secondary thoughts are on the people who posted the stories. That to me is even more interesting.

 

In #slanegirl we have yet to establish who loaded up the picture. I was at the concert and we also nearly witnessed similarly undesirable behaviour, in this case a young man attempting to urinate on the grass beside us. Again let me clear, I have nothing against urination or blow jobs, but not in my (sic) face please. So a member of our party told the young man about to sprinkle where he tinkled to shove off or words to that effect. He gave the young man a push in the direction of the male toilets. Incident over. That I think was the right reaction. Not to document and load it the pissing man up on social media – and given the crowd was so tightly packed it would have an unpleasant, to say the least, alternative outcome.

 

In Cheryl’s case it was her tattoo artist who loaded up the picture. It just makes me wonder if he had permission to do this. I don’t know for sure but I get the impression that Cheryl would not have tweeted her bum.

 

Finally with the young Miley. If her attempt was to attract attention then that was one hundred percent successful. But my guff would be less with her antics, to use an old fashioned work for new-fangled twerking, and more with the fact that CNN posted this as their top news story. There was quite a back lash from the serious news community and rightly so, as serious pundits decried the attempt to drive traffic over communicating news. There is no way a young girl pushing dancing boundaries at an awards ceremony should had rated the top news story over Syria, Eqypt, and all that other stuff going on out there on a daily basis including criminal chemical infanticide.

 

So, I am reminded overall of the Gold Rush in the West. The dreamers went out and panned for gold, or committed fellatio, or tattoed their bottoms and twerked, but the observers posted the pics or as in the good old days, they sold the picks and the shovels and the panning sieves. Just who is responsible and who wins. And now, who is ready to go back to school and normality?

 

Blast from the past…

Courting in the Ambassador by PlanetPictureKoda

I didn’t make the final TV documentary – See you at the Pictures – but they did clip this funny memory.

Click HERE for the snippet (hint, it’s all about elbows!)

Jill planet picture koda

 

Retreating … not drowning

wicklow retreat 3

There was about twenty of us ranged in a circle in the Wilderness Lodge in Glemalure, Co Wicklow, of different ages, nationalities and backgrounds. We were on a retreat, for some of us our first ever such experience, on an Internal Alchemy and Qi Gong workshop which was to last two days.

 

 

We were asked by our instructor, affectionately referred to as the Mayo Monk, for our reasons for attending. One by one we gave our answers and they hit a refrain of wanting to de-stress from our busy lives while connecting with our inner selves.

 

wicklow retreat 5

We were glamping in the field beside the centre, in bell tents beautifully decorated and furnished – only luxury surroundings for our poor stressed bodies. And the food, well we were to be fed like kings for the weekend with home-made dishes and salads and bbqs and endless cups of green tea.

 

 

Ok, first let me explain the theory about Internal Alchemy. In this ancient Chinese discipline, it defines the five essential elements that make up the body; fire, water, wood, metal and earth. Each element is attached to a primary organ; fire to the heart, water to kidneys, wood to the liver, metal to lungs and earth to the spleen. Individually they work to sustain and balance the organs. The practice of qi gong and internal alchemy is to open up channels in the body and allow a free flow of energy to connect these elements. Illness or emotional distress is believed to be the result of these elements becoming weak or disconnected.

wicklow retreat 2

We did a lot of exercises to connect with the earth and also with the other elements. We were taught to stand with our bodies rooted in the earth, making it virtually impossible to push us over. We were taught to breathe so that we used the whole of our lungs, creating ‘Buddha bellies’ as we filled our lungs to the maximum and pushed our diaphragms down. Actually, breathing was one of the most important parts of our training and exercises. Overlooked in its daily crucial importance, the longest recorded absence of breathe being 17 minutes in a living person, breathing is fundamental to connecting our elements and our bodies in flows of energy. We learnt how to make noises congruent with the expulsion of air according to the organs we were targeting; a mixture of shhh, choo, haaaa, ugggh noises being generated throughout the weekend.

 

wicklow retreat 8

We mediated with smiles and light. Some of us fell asleep during these practices and the slight telltale snore might escape from the person to your right or your left. We practiced strange dances, repetitive movements like ballerinas on go-slow, using our arms and hands to carve emotions through the air, drawing energies from the sky or rooting our bodies to the earth.

 

We perfected our grounding stance, then aligned our spines while stretched across two chairs. An interloper might have imagined we were, well I’m actually not sure what they might think, but it would have looked strange as volunteers pushed up their hips, only to be straddled by a trainer and pushed back down again. The net effect of this tussle was the strengthening of lumber muscles and so when we assumed the grounded position again once back on two legs, it felt much stronger after this exercise. Yes, this paragraph is full of involuntary innuendoes and we did giggle a bit.

wicklow retreat 4Actually we giggled a lot. Some of the noises made us laugh out loud. Some of the practices produced stifled giggles that crescendoed into belly laughs. Sometimes we just laughed for no reason. Other times, we were silent but for our breathing.  Into those silences our Mayo Monk might play a single chime produced on his bowl and gong. It rang through our spines deep into our bodies and we followed the energy flows with our minds.

 

There were breaks and these were filled with talking, non-stop talking, like school children released by the bell. We grouped and regrouped and made new friends and found old ones. We formed huddles but by the next break, these dissolved into new huddles. We moved by osmosis throughout the group, blending and mixing without overlap or isolation.

wicklow retreat 6In the debrief, again we were asked if we had achieved what we had desired. To a person, we all said yes. We all also said what made our weekend was our fellow travellers. No two people were alike, yet we had all coalesced into a tight group by the end of the two days. Some were quiet, some noisy, some tee total, some managed to stay in the Glenmalure pub until 3am on the Saturday night, some were early risers, some were not (see previous group), some snored, some talked late into the night, some talked early in the morning, their voices running through the other tents like a wake-up call. And then there was the herd of young horses which stampeded their way up to the tents in a ground breaking fury at five am in the morning, only to stop short and trot away, their mischief done!

wicklow retreat 1

I had my retreat cheery popped in Glenmalure and I have to say it exceeded all expectations. To the organisers Karen, Paul and Lisa well done, to the glamping doyen Maria top marks and to our lovely Mayo Monk, Colin, thank you for an outstanding experience.

 

For more details visit:

 

Wicklow Holistic Retreats 

Leinster Nutrition 

wicklow retreat 7

 Carol, Barry and family were not on the retreat but they popped in to say hello. It was that kind of a weekend!

How to lose a Home in Ten Easy Steps …

How to lose a home in Ten Easy Steps

_MG_0076aOn August 7, 2013, the sheriff will officially seize my house, my former home. Unlike some other high profile bankrupts, I don’t have secondary houses to fall back on. I haven’t relocated to America or I don’t swan around the world on yachts. I had one home and on August 7th I will be officially homeless. Now, don’t worry, I only mean homeless as in lacking a home that I once had. In fact, for the past four years I have been renting a cottage nearby with my two children and various animals. I rent a very beautiful cottage with panoramic views across the local little hills. My old home has panoramic views also, but across to Mount Leinster as befits the central house of a townland, for Raheengraney House is named for its region.

I don’t think I will be there to witness the surrender of my once beautiful home. It has been a long time since I was there, maybe January of this year, and I don’t relish the thought of a sheriff changing locks or putting up yellow tape to stop trespassers. On August 7th, I will become a trespasser in my own home. It is the ending of an era. I had fought a long time to save my home, some six years or so. It is not that I give up, but the task was beyond me. There are some battles that can be won, some that need to be fought and some that must slip between the fingers. I did not know it but Raheengraney house was always slipping through my fingers, from the very day we saw the ruin.

 

So, I thought, on the eve of my impending homelessness, that I would chronicle how to lose a home in ten easy steps.

Step One – Get Married

Ok, I know you might think I am doing a Tristan Shandy here, and I promise to speed up shortly. But the first place to find a home (the one to be lost afterwards) is often to get married, and I was no exception. Except, exception provided, my first home was in Dublin, on Leinster Road and had we remained there, I most certainly would not be homeless in a week’s time. Leinster Road and overlooking Mount Leinster, coincidences are always at play. I said I would be taken from that home in a box. Fortunately I was not, but sadly we did sell.

Step Two – Change career

My husband had a self-confessed, mid-life crisis. He wished to leave banking. He cast around for alternative careers and together we settled on gentleman guest house owner. Then we cast around for a suitable ruin. Ruin for we had limited money and suitable, well just a suitable ruin I guess. We were sent a brochure within a brochure. The second brochure was a hand drawn rendering of a house, Raheengraney house. It looked promised, as indeed art might.

Step Three – Discover a lifestyle

We visited the first house (with photographic image) and then the second (with line sketching). The second, Raheengraney House, was in very poor repair. But, in our first viewing we met with a gentleman guesthouse owner extraordinaire who told us all about his lifestyle. I have to say he wowed us both. He and his beautiful lady wife are strong friends of mine to this day. Now, they are very good at running guesthouses and hotels. They are also warm, vivacious people. And he is a most convincing speaker. We fell for him but we bought Raheengraney House.

Step Four – Emphasis on the wrong word.

Gentleman guest house owner, with emphasis on owner. I know, you thought I would emphasise the first word, not the last. I may be divorced but I refused to be drawn on bitchiness. So, finally we were in possession of a guest house but only as owners. It was never really run as such, aside from a few family delegations. My own business, however, soon mushroomed in the basement where I would spend much of my time over the years.

Step Five – Change career again

So, while being a gentleman guest house owner is a nice title, it doesn’t involve that much work. Owning a guest house without guests is pretty boring I guess. Either way, I worked below ground and we had very few guests above. Boredom had its way and my husband decided, along with the rest of the country and sadly with my full support, to become a bit of a property whizz. It made sense for we had increased our investment in the guesthouse tenfold: why not use that equity elsewhere.

Step Six – Get Divorced

Ah, I can see it now and hear the gasps in the audience. Now we are getting to the nub of the problem. All the rest was filling, superficial nonsense. If divorce had not reared its ugly head then the homeless equation would not come into being. A divided by B equals C.  Dear reader, you are probably right. Getting divorced was probably the single biggest factor in my becoming homeless in the next eight days.

Step Seven – Make a Video

Go viral. Talk about stuff. Think you are making a difference.

Step Eight – Go to Court

Nails in coffins, thump, thump, thump. My first day in court the judge called me a human being. She castigated the banks. She insisted they talk to me or she would strike the case.

Step Nine – lose your Humanity

On my return to court I was no longer a human being. The judge just signed the order. I was also no longer a home owner. I had become invisible.

Step Ten – Avoid boxes

I had said, second time around, that I would only leave Raheengraney House in a box. I think I must have a latent death wish or something. Again fortunately, I did not. I am still alive. I have left the house and now the house is leaving me. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

That is two houses I have not left in a box. Maybe my third will be a keeper.

So, ladies and gentleman. There is nothing in my steps that might frighten you out of the ordinary yet I implore you not to follow the sequence for fear that you too may follow my fate. To be homeless is not liberating, it is not cowing, it not regretful, it is not depressing, it just is. And so I shall be on August 7, 2013.

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The Irish Hospice Foundation – Cycling Safaris 2013 – Atlantic to the Med

Supporting my friend Sean Melly’s fund raising cycle for The Irish Hospice 2013. (most recent entries upfront)

donate HERE watch his progress on GPS map HERE

 

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FINISHED!

I could not believe it. We had made it. We arrived at Narbonne sur plage (on the beach) in the afternoon after completing our 112km cycle.  We were wrecked but exalted. Some cyclists ran straight away into the water in their riding gear, others changed into shorts, but we all piled into the Mediterranean which felt cold after the hot sunshine and the long ride. The water was wonderful and cooling.

Then we had lunch on the beach before cycling the 25km back to Norbonne city itself. Tonight we shall have a celebratory dinner and then fly home tomorrow.

So, over the five days we have cycled a total of 650km with climbs of 7500 metres. The climbs were the tough part of the trip, cycling on the level is easy but elevations are a killer. Last year I did the Lyons to Nice race which was hard, but this trip was definitely tougher. There are rumours of which route they will take next year with San Sebastian to Barcelona the current favourite. I am not sure and I don’t mind but I definitely doing it again.

I have raised €6700 so far from friends and colleagues, thank you so much. I am hoping to meet my fundraising target of €8000 so if anyone would like to donate, please do!

Since my shoulder injury on Monday I have not really slept properly; when I turn the pain wakes me up, but I am hoping tonight to have a few beers at dinner and they might medicate me through the night. So, thank you again for your support and until next year, Bon Chance!

DAY 4

It is at this point that all riders are faced with the wall. The combination of three gruelling days takes its toll on all riders. Tiredness, injury and sheer fatigue hit at this point. Everyone feels it. There is neither the excitement that characterised the beginning or the euphoria that takes over towards the end. This is slog territory and we do well to keep going.

 

Fortunately today was very uneventful. Uneventful is good for cyclists. We did about 108k in total which is quite manageable. The beginning was tough, about two hours of undulating hills as we leave the Pyrenees behind. There is no easy way out of Bagneres on a bike – unless there is an engine attached. Instead we had to make do with tired limbs and aching bones.

 

My injury is a bit better. Yesterday I basically had a dead arm. It did not more than hold onto the handle bar and provide balance. My other arm did all the steering and hard graft. Today was much better and I could trust my arm again.

 

We covered some 70k by lunchtime which was terrific leaving only 40 or so after lunch. A real walk in the park by comparison, is that a cycle in park. Either way, our tiredness evaporated as we set off after lunch.

 

We arrived at St Girons early and pottered around. We are bonding well, some of the slower journeys allowed for chatting as we cycled along. Everyone has a connection to the Hospice in some way and we share these stories.

Two more days to go. I think we have broken the back of the safari and I look forward to our continued journey

donate HERE watch his progress on GPS map HERE

DAY TWO:

Oloron to Tourmalet – 125km

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This was the toughest day in our journey and to be honest I wasn’t sure I was going to even make it. My shoulder was really painful and I hadn’t slept much at all. I was in a real quandary if I could make it today. In the end I took a diaphine and set off. The only good news was the weather – it was much cooler and not as hot.

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We stopped at lunchtime in Lourdes were I met these fine brothers. The shoulder was still hurting like mad but cycling had eased it a little. After approximately 100k we arrived at the foothills of the Pyrenees, at Tournmalet. The next climb was 25km but all uphill. And when I say uphill I mean really, really steep. The gradient is 8% so it is like cycling upstairs. A group of us made it almost all the way – we were about 8km from the top when we stopped. We were very proud of ourselves but we knew we had to call it a day. We still have three more days to go!

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DAY ONE:

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Day one was much harder than any of us expected. There are a lot of shell shocked people who arrived in this evening. Another option on today’s ride was to take a different route, with a bit of a climb, some of the younger lads took that way but they look totally wrecked now. I am glad I was with the main pack. Between the heat and undulating hills, today was unbelievably hard. This is me at the off – looking fit and fresh!

 

Here are some of my fellow cyclists before the off – there are about 60 in total on this ride. Day one is 113km which is not too much but we cycled in temperatures of 36-37C. It was very hot and humid and really sapped our energy.

photo (5)We had a nice pitstop for some much needed drinks at eleven and I am looking fine here. However, shortly afterwards I hit some wet grass and came off the bike. I don’t think I’ve taken a fall for several years and it was the simplest thing. I went on the grass verge for a moment, intending to come off it almost straight away but I did not expect it to be wet. The wheels went from under me and I fell on my shoulder, hip and elbow. I got up immediately and carried on but I am sore now. I have what we call road rash which is sore but nothing that sudocreme cannot fix. Sudocreme and Vaseline as the two staples of every cyclist and can fix most things. Not a sore shoulder however, and I am a little worried about the pain. Time for dinner now and I will see if it needs medical attention afterwards.

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After our very tough first day, we have our hardest day tomorrow. We are sleeping at the foothills of the Pyrenees and tomorrow we shall have to conquer them.

Arrival in France – DAY MINUS ONE in words and pictures:

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It’s that time of the year again when the supporters of the Irish Hospice Foundation take off again in a great fundraising push. This year our cycling safari is an even greater challenge. We are cycling from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean – some 650 kms in just five days. However, it is not just the sheer distance, nor even the heat, but some of the climbs on the way. It may be downhill from the Pyrenees but we have to get up them first!

 

At Dublin airport yesterday it was great to see some familiar faces from last year’s run. The Lyons to Nice cycle was tough, but we are warned this year’s is considerably harder. When we land at Bordeaux airport, I am struck by the extreme heat on the runway, which is even more shocking given we had become acclimatised to the heat in our very own heatwave in Ireland.

We have a two hour couch ride to our hotel in Biarritz for our starting point. We have all been glued to the Tour De France and salute Chris Froome as we look into our own personal challenge starting tomorrow. Dinner is steak and frites and thank goodness the bedrooms have airconditioning!

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