Exporting our Troubles

As a nation we have become adept at exporting our troubles.

When our population soared in the mid 1800s we exported our surplus population by the coffin ship. There just were not enough potatoes to go around.

When we grew a pair and started to demand national self determination and that spilled in active resistance in the next century, so we began flexing the fledging muscles of independence. But then when a timely and largely indiscriminate thin red line was drawn across the upper province of our country, we managed to export the actual violence and daily grind of sectarian anger and destruction over the border.

When we were unable to cope with the concept and possible results of sex outside of marriage, we exported our pregnant teenagers to the UK to have abortions. We still export this problem for distressed women who need a termination regardless of marriage status.

When we could not tolerate any breakdown in the sanctity of marriage, we exported that problem too for a long time. Even now, we operate a splintered path to divorce, a two part process that draws out the painful division of a couple, resulting in months, even years of arguing to divide a union that took mere weeks to join up. Only the solicitors benefit from these convoluted and intolerant legal machinations.

When we could no longer employ our young people in this depressed economy, we again export them in their thousands. And to our national collective shame, the largely xenophobic welcome we gave the recent economic emigrants to our country, is being visited on those young people as they seek work abroad. The Irish are not the only race with long memories.

When the country is awash with huge debt, sovereign, banking, and personal, we do not take the bull by the horns. Our antiquated bankruptcy laws are just that, designed to punish the person who failed. We so lack the American foresight that endorses our very own (exported) Samuel Beckett’s view: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ To be a bankrupt often implies the person was an entrepreneur, a doer, a creator of jobs and wealth, not just a PAYE worker or public servant. The person who fails once may yet succeed again. This especially applies to someone like Ivan Yates. Yates, an honest businessman who succeeded and failed, is being penalised beyond his failure, he is being punished by the financial institutions that fawned over him in better days.

We are told that new laws are coming in, news laws to solve the bottleneck of insolvency in this country. But instead of adopting the refreshing bankruptcy laws just across the water, we are coming up with a different variation. It is too slow and penal still. Why not review the UK bankruptcy laws, take the best bits, and implement them here. Why not? Why do we have to take so long, kowtow to the financial institutions, and still bring in limited, penal solutions. If NAMA was created in a single long night, why does our insolvency legislation need more than a year to create, and still favour the banks over the individual?

Bringing in these imperfect solutions will not stop the tide of bankruptcy tourism to the UK. Businessmen like Yates will no doubt avail of that course, and why not? Why wait to be punished here by the same authority that caused the problem in the first place when a short trip across the water can cleanse the debt without rancour. Except, exporting our bankruptcy problems has the double whammy of causing real stress to the individuals forced to emigrate house, family and work to a fairer jurisdiction, while local creditors will struggle to obtain any recompense when dealing with a foreign legal system. And when you export the good people, they may not come back.

We are a nation that excels at our exporting our troubles. Shame we have as yet managed to export our scourges with the same gusto:  paedophile priests, corrupt politicians, lazy regulators, greedy developers, arrogant solicitors and choking bankers.



Get off your bottom and so something!

Get off your bottom and do something!

I wrote a short piece about the global phenomenon that is Kony 2012. It ran in www.GoodMenProject.com on March 10, a few days after the video was released. In that article I decided not to mention the criticism of the project or the charity behind it. Any global initiative that involves a viral video with 70million hits in three days and climbing, war lords, the American military, child soldiers,Africa and money is going to attract its fair share of knocks, trolls and copycat videos. So I made a choice and did not include these criticisms. The main reason being I applauded the charity who were actively working on a cause and value system that they believed in. I still do. The third point I made in the article was the Kony 2012 campaign is all about doing something, anything to make the world a better place.

Doing stuff – why not?

I personally am heavily involved in an equine charity and have been for the past ten years in a voluntary capacity. The charity, The Irish Horse Welfare Trust, rescues and rehomes abandoned horses, retrains racehorses for secondary careers and provides education on equine welfare, often for communities in very deprived areas. It also lobbies for reformed legislation to protect equine welfare in Ireland. Recently I was accosted for my involvement. I was lectured on using public money for looking after broken down horses and that a bullet would be a better option for many of them. I was also castigated on trying to educate the deprived kids on equine welfare as they would continue to do drugs, get into trouble with the police and they didn’t love their horses but only traded them.

The person had some very valid points. I rebutted the comments but I knew I would not change their mind. Yes, some of the horses rescued were in a very bad state and perhaps it would be better to have shot them in the field rather than bringing them back to the farm for expensive veterinary care. But for every horse that did not make it, there is another recovered and rehomed, and living a happy and useful life, perhaps as a companion horse, or a sporting horse, but giving joy to the new owner.

Then to the kids. The charity also works with young people in deprived areas. Ireland has a tradition of horse ownership in urban areas, often coinciding with communities that are in constant trouble with the police. The charity has run programmes with these kids for the past four years. These kids come from very seriously deprived areas. They, or their families, have been incarcerated for drug dealing, guns and robbery. The future for these children is not very bright and school attendance is very low. Yet, the equine welfare programmes run at schools and teenage levels are well attended. The older attendees sit exams and have formal qualifications at the end. If even one child ends up with a career in horses as a result, while the other nine stick to drug dealing, then that is a success.

Jillian and her daughter with Jaguar Claw, now retired from racing and jumping








So while the detractor has many valid reasons for why supporting this charity is a waste of time and money, I still believe in it. I believe also my children are better for having embraced less than perfect horses – we have three rescue horses in our care. Not that I can afford expensive horses anyway, but loving and working with imperfect horses, horses that otherwise would have gone to the factory, is a huge education in itself.

Another criticism of the Kony 2012 is that it is in Africa. Many people feel that charity should begin at home. I agree in part, but more strongly feel that charity should begin. It doesn’t matter where, at home, next door or in Africa, but yes it should begin. Some five years I worked very closely with an Irish woman who ran a number of orphanages in Russia. Again I worked pro bono with her for three years. I also sponsor a child, indeed I have been privileged enough to have met Julia when she came here on a holiday four years ago. We had no language in common and the meeting itself was terribly awkward. I had notions that she would say ‘Mama’ or something and we would communicate with looks as in the movies. Actually I did a lot of hand gestures and repeated myself and she just giggled. Still, we met. Despite my changed financial circumstances I continue to financially support her. My eldest asked me how we afford it, I answered how could we not afford to support her. There is no welfare state in Russia and if I stop funding her education, then no one else will step in. I made her a promise and even if she didn’t understand a word I said, I’m going to keep it.

Let charity begin, at home. Yes, it does and can. Last December a tweet went out in Ireland for a rival Christmas song to the now traditionally manufactured X Factor chart topper. Within 24 hours, the tweeter had 140 volunteers, of which I was one. Within a week, several hundred people all made their way to a Dublin hotel where we laid down tracks for a Christmas single. There was a choir, soloists, musical director, musicians, a band, recording equipment, everything needed to make a single. The chosen charity was the neo natal unit of theNationalMaternityHospital. A week later the single was mixed and released on itunes. We all tweeted furiously, let it trend, let TwitterXmasSingle trend. And it did for a bit. We even entered the Irish Music charts at number eight. For a week I was a pop star, well okay in the choir of a charting single, and all the proceeds, every last cent, went to the baby unit. A happy Christmas and a world first.

Of course, not all charities have happy endings. The week after the single was released, another tweet went out. This time for Depression Hurts, Christmas being one of the hardest times for people in trouble and need. So, a film was shot through volunteer resources. The crew and actors and technicians were all assembled within a week. Afterwards, we used the film and publicity to highlight a manned 24 hour twitter account over the ten days of Christmas. It was a very stressful time and the service was used by a lot of people, and included one major manhunt for someone thought to have taken their life. That particular action included police in Ireland and theUK. The man was found safe in the end. A happy ending in this case, but the twitter account was inundated with people at the end of their tether. We still don’t know how many we didn’t manage to help.

I learnt more about depression and suicide in those weeks leading up to Christmas. I have infinite regard and respect for those dealing on the front line. It is such a complex and heart breaking area, especially when suicide is successful.

So what am I saying? I am no expert on African war lords, the Russian welfare state, Irish criminals and drug dealers, equine legislation, being a pop star, acting in a film or depression and suicide. I am an average person leading an average life but who is trying to help where possible. I get off my bottom every day and some days I do great things, other days I just survive, but I do.

Doing is very important. Doing is what matters.


Footnote. Since writing this piece, I understand that the Kony2012 filmmaker, Jason Russell, has had a mental breakdown. I expect the criticism of the video may have pushed him over the edge. The video, while the fastest viral video in the world, may have come at a very high price for the charity and for Jason, but not for the children I hope.

Meeting Michael Fassbender

I am a woman: do not fold, spindle or mutilate.

I am a woman. I am in my forties. I have two teenage children. I am divorced. I like sex. There, I’ve said it.

Why am I telling you this, dear reader? Well, I posted what I believed to be an amusing, tongue in cheek report of what it was like to meet Michael Fassbender. To give you context, you can click here, or just to say that given the furore about his penis in Shame I found myself literally without words when I met him. All I could think was ‘don’t mention the penis, don’t mention the penis.’ I felt as though I was stuck in that funny Faulty Towers episode when German tourists stay in the eponymously named hotel. Basil keeps on telling Polly ‘Don’t mention the war.’ Of course, Basil does it himself numerous times and ends up doing the goosestep ala The Monty Python school of funny walks. So as I looked at Mr Fassbender all I could think of was his penis. I didn’t mention it at the time, in fact I said very little to him at all. My quirky article went on to talk about how men apparently objectify women in a similar manner and I applauded them for managing to speak coherently at all. Simples.

However, it was the reaction to my piece that struck me as very strange. Many of the comments were quite incensed as if I had offended the readers personally. I was repeatedly referred to as a middle aged woman. This label was used not a general reference but in an accusatory fashion. I am also about the same age as Brad Pitt and a bit younger than George Clooney, but I don’t recall them being labelled as middle aged, not yet anyway. The fact that I was mother to teenage children was also held against me, how could I possibly think about a man’s appendage when I was a mammy? Actually, the presence of such an appendage in my marriage was the very cause of my becoming pregnant and having children. So why, eighteen years on, would I have to eschew all thoughts of the male member, or heaven forbid, actually dare to talk about it.

Recently I watched It’s complicated starring Meryl Streep and Alex Baldwin. The plot revolves around them as a divorced couple having an affair with some pretty steamy sex. My two teenage children both laughed and said they found it funny to see ‘old’ people having sex, but they are teenagers. To them anyone having sex is embarrassing, especially anyone over the age of thirty. However, it is an irrefutable fact that people continue having sex well into their latter years. I suspect, and this is only my opinion, they do so because they enjoy it. And another fact is that roughly half of those older people in Ireland having sex and enjoying it, are women.

So, in conclusion, I’m not quite sure how come I managed to upset so many people but I would like to reiterate that middle aged women, like their middle aged male counterparts, like sex too.






Meeting Michael Fassbender

(the original article ran in the Good Men Project and The Journal and is reproduced below)

Michael Fassbender is the latest overnight success in the Film business. From his authentic and critically acclaimed role as hunger striker Bobby Sands in Hunger in 2008, he has notched up a series of high profile roles in equally high profile films, making him one of the most bankable actors today. From Jane Eyre to Inglorious Bastards his screen presence has grown in stature, while his role in Shame, directed by his old Hunger partner, Steve McQueen, has earned him credits in a slightly different direction. At the Golden Globes ceremony this year George Clooney thanked Michael for taking over his responsibility for full front nudity in film, and went on to say he believed Mr Fassbender could play golf with hands behind his back. All jokes and tributes to Mr Fassbender’s best support which continue around the globe.

At the Irish Film and Television Awards (IFTAs) inDublinrecently I met with Michael Fassbender and I was rendered speechless.

Ah, the sounds of silence. There have been a few. I remember a tutorial on the origins of the Spanish Civil War. I had prepared and researched the topic but had not managed to write a concluding paper. As my patient, and also handsome professor (maybe there is a trend) gently prompted me for the main cities in Spain all I could think of the party fuelled and package filled Spanish resorts of Magaluf and Torresmolinos.  None of which may have existed even as hamlets in the ‘30s. My professor took pity on me and took the tutorial.

I remember too the start of my finals in university. The opening question on my first English paper was utterly incomprehensible. My brain emptied of all words and I starred goldfish-like at the paper for a full five minutes until secondary resources took over and sense and words and knowledge came tumbling into my brain, like a returning wave and washed over me and my exam rictus.

Or by the campfire in Montana while on a cattle drive and resting one evening. I was listening to an erudite and learned old cowboy. He had survived car crashes, plane crashes, helicopter crashes, even horse wrecks. I listened to his stories and my mind just stopped. It was as though he had opened my head like a boiled egg and poured his wondrous stories straight in: soothing and calming and I had no need for words.

Or when on a final equestrian trek in South Africa, our group had to half swim on horseback in deep water before scrambling onto partially flooded banks and canter along the game fence. All the while, the heavy hippos called loudly to our left, splashing solidly in water only feet away. My mouth stopped then too but it could have been a combination of fear, the noise of the hippos and water crashing over us as we cantered. I may have laughed, crazy as a loon, as I held on for dear life but no words formed in my sheer joyful terror.

Or when scuba diving in Fiji on my honeymoon. We sat on the edge of a tiny motor boat, my new husband and I, with two silent Fijians. At the signal, for words were not used, we put in our mouth pieces and fell backwards into the water. Splash and deeper watery sounds rushed past my ears as we submerged into the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean. I could not speak of course but dared not even think. In the lost and semi dark light we trailed our guide down to the reef. Bubbles of air floating upwards in place of words. At 60 feet down the sea was too heavy for me. Making the ‘up signal’ and far from all right, I excused myself and returned to the boat. Spluttering and coughing as I scrambled on board I tried to find words to describe how I felt and failed.

Ah, meeting Mr Fassbender. At the crowded smoking area in the cold outside the function room where the glamorous gathered to smoke, I found myself at his elbow. He was happily chatting with a circle of people, some of whom were at my table. I paused, I listened and when no suitable break in conversation could be found, I tugged instead his sleeve like a child.

He turned and smiled at me and I said that I just wanted to say hello. He smiled some more and so did I, but my mind was empty of all words, adjectives, capitals, nouns, tenses, commas and punctuation in general.

Instead I had this overwhelming image of his phallus. It was the metaphorical size of the elephant in the room, pun intended. As words failed me, the image grew and grew in importance and stature. It was palpable between us as my brain grew this impediment to speech. Finally he asked my name and I stammered it but then excused myself blushing.

So this is my question. Men by many accounts are prone to see women, especially attractive women, by the sum of their body parts. I have read repeatedly and have been told ad nauseum, men see not the face but the rack, not the smile but the legs. They have an advanced peripheral visual acuity which allows them to view the body parts without necessarily allowing the eyes to drift too obviously.

With such sensitivity, how on earth do men make sensible conversation when presented with a beautiful woman? Or have I answered my own question as to the generators of tongue-tied would-be suitors in this world.

Girding my metaphorical loins to counter Mr Fassbender’s imagined ones, I returned to the scene of my speechlessness and requested a photograph. He kindly obliged. I was still incapable of coherent, elegant or intelligent conversation so I finished off by asking Mr Fassbender would he launch my book. He agreed before legging it into the opposite direction at speed. He must has known the silent ones are the most deadly and took his rapid leave before my motor skills returned and I could summon up new and more fanciful requests. A dance, a date, or marriage perhaps?

So having being in the place of awe where my entire being had been focused on unmentioned phallus of Mr Fassbender, I must reluctantly applaud you men. Genetically pre disposed to dissecting women into genital titillation I wonder that you can function at all in the presence of a beautiful woman.

If I had stayed any longer I fear that old Beverly Brothers’ line would have made an appearance. ‘If I said you have a beautiful body, Mr Fassbender, would you hold it against me?’

However, having since regaining my capacity for words (more than a 1000 in this musing) I now just wait for Mr Fassbender’s availability to launch my novel, aptly entitled ‘Running out of Road’

Jillian Godsil