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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Interview with Aoife Brennan, author of The Cougar Diaries

Jillian Grab 4I have been working with South East Television and recently they asked me to interview Irish writer Aoife Brennan, author of The Cougar Diaries.

 

 

 

 

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Aoife’s book is fascinating in that she writes from the heart. It is not your normal erotica, in fact it is it quite the opposite as her character faces real life situations and troubles as she tries to discover who she is post divorce. It is also very funny in parts and a little sad in others.

 

 

Jillian Grab 5 Aoife explained that this book is all about Sex and Divorce, but book two is all about Sex and Austerity. And funnily enough, it works. A real page turner. Watch here to see my interview with this lovely author.

 

 

Jillian Grab 3Sadly we had to take down the YouTube link HERE (NSFW). but here is a transcript of the very funny interview – lots of laughter and frank discussion!  Buy the book here (.com) or here (.co.uk)

 

 

Jillian:

The year is 2013 and the book title Fifty shades is synonymous with erotica or Mummy porn. People said it started off with ereaders – women could buy the most salacious reading materials and no one would know it. It also sparked off a discussion of the Orgasm Face – where watching people reading ebooks became a national pastime and people tried to guess not only what they were reading but which part they had reached – as in if they had reached a juicy part!

But last summer all over Europe and by deck chairs up and down by every pool was a copy of the ubiquitous book. People no longer hide it on ereaders, they read it loud and proud.

So fast forward to this summer and reading is again the popular pastime for women. There is endless choice available as everyone and his wife has written a bonkbuster – it’s the fastest growing genre on Amazon and it seems there is no letting up.

So today I am going to turn my attention to an Irish Author who has followed suit – only in a particularly Irish fashion. The book is The Cougar Diaries, Part I and it is by Aoife Brennan.  Critics are giving the book consistent five stars and some even say it’s like Roddy Doyle, with sex.

But while this latest book, the first in a trilogy, is gathering followers, the author is very shy. In fact, the author refuses to be filmed and only agree to the interview on the strict condition that her face is not shown. So ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Aoife Brennan

Or rather – I give you her voice

First of all, thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview Aoife. But I understand that you do not want to be recognised and that indeed you are writing under a pen name. Can you tell me why?

 

Aoife:    Laughs. There is only one thing more embarrassing than writing a sex book, and that is writing a sex book which no one buys. I believe in my books – all three of them – but I need to sell copies before I ‘come out’   Plus also there is the thorny issue in the country of debt. I have acres of it myself and I don’t want the banks getting their hands on my money thank you very much

Jillian: You are not alone there. But I have to ask you – you used the term ‘sex book’ is it  sex book?

Aoife: Yes and no! I have to confess there is sex in this book. Some pretty graphic sex and lots of it, but it is much more than a sex book. Warning contains plot (laughs)

 Jillian: A sex book with plot – how novel! Do tell more

Aoife: Well, I started off writing a non fiction book about my life. I was writing about my divorce, my descent into financial hell, the difficulties of dating again in my forties…when well my financial difficulties became so bad I just sort of segued into a sex book. And it was much more fun to write!

 Jillian: So, do women in their forties have sex then?

Aoife: Laughs. Of course. They say that youth is wasted on the young, well so too is sex! The hard part, if you’ll excuse the language, is getting back into the saddle again. You’d think, like riding a bicycle, it would come naturally again – but it doesn’t.

 Jillian: Well, I am glad to hear that women in their forties are having sex? Are they having it with men in their forties?

Aoife: Well, that’s the point. That’s why I called the books The Cougar Diaries. They are actually having a lot a sex with men much younger.

 Jillian: Good for the women in their forties, not so good for men in their forties

Aoife: Laughs – single men in their forties are having sex with younger women – that has always been the way, but now women are doing that too.

Jillian: So there are no forty year old people having sex with people their own age? No, I am messing but I hear your point. There are many examples in the media of older women with younger men, but is Ireland ready to embrace the Cougar culture?

Aoife: It’s already happening with a vengeance. I know many women of my generation who are single. When I told them I as writing a book about Cougar dating, they all came out and said, they were as well. There is a real comraderie between women of this age – there are a lot of downsides to being single in your forties, but there are some very good points too – notably the fun!

Jillian: You mentioned earlier that dating and having sex again was not like riding a bike, what did you mean by that?

Aoife: Well, I was married young but I think sex has changed a lot from when I was dating. It was all so …conventional I think. Now with 50shades and other popular erotica, we’ve opened a Pandora’s box and it’s a lot of fun. People are more experimental and open minded and I think that is a god thing. Sex between two consulting adults should be fun

Jillian: Of course in your book, without giving away the plot, there are some sex scenes were there are more than two? Why did write those?

Aoife: Laughs. I think if you asked most actively dating people today if they had or fantasied about having a threesome, they probably have done so or would like to given the right circumstances. It’s just fun times three and if handled with respect and sensitivity can enliven a couples’s sex life or indeed just create a fun night!

While I was writing the book, a very good male friend of mine kept on joking and asking if he could help with the research. When I was writing that scene in book one, I kept on thinking of him and changed the storyline with him in mind. It was very funny and when I told him afterwards, he was gutted but I just kept on chuckling! You’ll have to read the book to find out why it was funny though!

Jillian: I  hear there is a another hilarious scene involving a strawberry – it’s even got its own hashtag – #strawberrygate. Care to tell us about that one Aoife?

Aoife: I can’t or I’ll have to kill you!  It is a funny scene though. I was waiting for my kids at training one day so rather than stand in the rain, I hopped in the back of the car to finish a sex scene. It started normally enough but then my wicked sense of humour surfaced and I started writing a different ending than originally planned. I was laughing so hard as I wrote I am sure the other parents much have thought me off my rocker!

 Jillian: How do you find writing the sex scenes – is it difficult?

Aoife:  I had written about 10,000 words before the first sex scene reared its ugly head (laughs). I stopped writing and put the laptop away It stayed away for nearly three weeks before I had the courage to begin writing again. Then once I started I just kept on going. It was brilliant – I felt I had faced another challenge in my life and successfully overcome it. I was really energised. 

Jillian: Do you get turned on my your own writing?

Aoife:  Well, put it this way, there is a funeral scene in book two – of a minor character I have to add – and I must have cried about five times while writing it. Real tears running down my face. Even when going back to edit it, I still cried – and I knew what to expect (laughs). In the same way, when I a writing sex scenes I have to see myself in situ. I have to emotionally be at the core of every scene, especially in the sex bits. And yes, I find myself being turned on by my own writing. To be honest, if I didn’t turn myself on, who else would enjoy it!

 Jillian: At the start of the book, you or Aoife, was very worried about getting naked in front of a man who wasn’t her husband. How did you get over this?

Aoife: A wise man told me once that while having sex men tend to only look at the erogenous zones. They don’t see the belly or the cellulite or whatever is bothering the woman. Moreover men tend to like curves so while you may hate your more than ample size – and a lot of women in their forties are heavier than in their twenties – forget it because your sexual partner is probably quite enjoying it! There is too much pressure on people to be perfect or stick thin. We see it all the time in the media where even the beautiful people are photoshopped into something even more prefect. We have forgotten how to love who we are. As women we tend to be more critical than we should be. After all, we have to remember that the largest sex organ is the brain and the best aphrodisiac is confidence. So go get it girl!

Jillian: You said at the start, Warning this sex book contains plot. Where did you get your ideas from?

Aoife: Well, there is a lot of me in this book. A ‘me; if I was in a bonk buster so I have quite shamelessly used vast tracks of life and experiences in this book. A woman in her forties has a lot more to worry about then just sex, laughs. I mean there are often kids, the legal issues, unhelpful exes, aging parents, money worries etc…. and then the dance with no pants!  

A lot of readers have really liked the reality of the plot. Some feel I have stolen their lives but I have just documented a woman’s path through the mine field that is dating in your forties!

Jillian: Ok, I have to ask this question. There is a lot of racy sex in this book, and even more in book two I understand. So, is the sex fact or fiction?

 

Aoife: Jillian Godsil – if I had written a murder mystery would you have asked me if I had committed a crime!!!

All I have to say on record is – I did lots of research thank you very much,

 

Jillian: No, actually thank you Aoife Brennan for taking the time to talk to me today. I have read your book and loved it. I think you have stolen my life – except that I have not yet met Chris Sex God!

Aoife: He’ll come. You just give it time.

Jillian: Thank  you Aoife. It has been a pleasure. For those of you who enjoy old fashioned plot with a smattering of steamy smutt, then I encourage you to go and buy Aoife Brennan’s The Cougar Diaries Part I, with part II scheduled for release in the summer and the final part out by the autumn. On all good Amazon online stores …now!

 

 

 

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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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Happy Birthday Aspire Magazine

ASPIRE Magazine is officially one year old and is the top selling business magazine on iTunes. It is a business magazine with a difference.  On its first birthday last month, Nick Broadhurst, editor and founder, came out with a new and improved mission statement.

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The mission of the magazine and its contributors is to help people become GameChangers. Nick defines a GameChanger as someone who wants to make a positive mark on the work. “They put their mission first and are driven by empathy rather than ego. They create change in the world because they care,” he explains.

How they meet their mission is inconsistent. Rather than following an existing path, they create their own and leave a trail. They embody resourcefulness, the courage to disrupt and the commitment to pursue the unreasonable. 

What they create is the infrastructure for a new paradigm. They recognize Einstein’s sage advice that the greatest problems we face can’t be solved using the same level of thinking that created them. Thus, they focus on building a new model that makes an existing model obsolete.  

Your interest in this magazine is a telling sign that you recognize a new model of business is being birthed. What unites this groundswell of GameChangers is a shared paradigm that business can be used as a force for good and that empathy for people and the planet is as important as profit. 

It’s like the creation of a new game. A game with a different objective, directions and point system,” he says.

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I have been proud to have been a contributor from the beginning and to have interviewed some really interesting people along the way. People who are making active contributions to the world we live in. Business is not all profit, no more than mankind is all profit.

Visit Nick’s vision video here

 

The people I interviewed were

Cindy Gallop (front cover for that story)

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It was probably the hand action that secured the success of the micro talk at TED2009, that or the fact that Cindy Gallop had broken TED’s porn cherry with the description of her own sex life, the merits of hardcore porn and a personal preference not to watch sex films that resembled open heart surgery. In just ten minutes, a global sensation was born and a Cindy Gallop’s fame washed out of advertising circles and into mainstream social consciousness. Her diminutive frame and well-articulated vocabulary were at direct odds with her subject matter: the creeping ubiquity of porn and its damaging effect on society. However, Gallop is not anti porn, on the contrary she is a discerning consumer of it, but she worries about the effect that male dominated porn has on an impressionable younger generation, both male and female.

 

Bill Liao

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How do become the real you? How do you manifest your goals?

 Bill tells a story of when he and his wife were expecting their first child. Submerged in personal debt, working in unsatisfying jobs, they were both seeking ways of living a life that made a difference. As part of their own personal development, his wife attended a presentation for a charity that ticked all her humanitarian boxes and she donated $5000 they didn’t have to the cause. Bill was horrified but when he too listened to their presentation, he realised his wife was right. He was asked what he would like to do and he replied that he wanted to be able to give the charity a cheque for $50,000. However, he was not currently in a position to do that and nor did he recognise the person that he would have to become in order to make such a donation. Yet, within eighteen months Bill presented the charity with a cheque for $100,000.

 Yanick Silver

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If you are ever invited to dinner at Yanik’s be warned: strange things may happen. The man to your left may continually high five you at every conversation. The lady across from you will only speak of herself in the third person, and yes Dorothy is very pleased to meet you, while the annoying little man sitting on your right insists on making loud ahhhing noises every time he takes a drink of his wine. Have you stepped into the Twilight zone? No, you are the subject of Yanik’s third occupation, that of chief mischief maker.

Yanik Silver is not your average multi-millionaire, if such a creature exists.

And last but certainly not least, Jacqueline Gold

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Interviewing Jacqueline Gold is a pretty interesting experience. Here is a woman who has built a multimillion pound business, created a brand that is global and set more than one fox amongst the sex pigeons as she revolutionised the way women shop; and yet she remains a warm and charming woman, with a capacity to interact with others and listen. And did I mention she is drop dead gorgeous?  Women who reach the top of their game often have to resort to male tactics. There is the power dressing, which Ms Gold ruefully admits to doing in her earlier years, the aggressive manner and the arrogance that typifies successful female entrepreneurs. Rarely are female entrepreneurs as warm and funny, self-deprecating when called for and dress like a fashion model, not an office worker

Happy Birthday Aspire!

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