First Lines 2014

First Lines

New lines

Bare branches scratched a grey sky

Love is not enough

I was the evil twin

They would throw a party if they changed their knickers

She’s had so much plastic surgery she’d melt if she stood near a candle

I used to be an asshole but I’m alright now

The lady who fell as she walked

Cracking wings of pheasants, gun loud in the November air

The ginger prince

All roads lead south

I grew up with the smell of pine in my nostrils

Just as I reach Rose Cottage my coverage falls, every time, it’s the Bermuda spot in the village

I am an amoeba

Sorry I stole your life

We are seduced by the oily mendacity of the City

Sup smelly. Whas a crackakackin?

Even though people are the author of the own lives, they don’t always get dealt a fair hand at the start

You are never far from the ground

Where to begin?

Happy New Year!

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Hoping to be Bankrupt for Christmas …

first printed in IrishCentral on December 14, 2013

jill in fur coatThe New York Times has thrown cold water onto the success story that is Ireland. It has challenged the public perception peddled by Irish politicians that we are the ‘good boy’ of Europe and that ‘austerity politics are serving us well’. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth and what is emerging today in Ireland is a two tier society with the those in control enjoying large pensions, fat salaries and ‘top-ups’ to their income, while the middle classes have largely been eradicated and along with the poor are faced with stealth taxes; taxes applied universally so that proportionately the less well-off are hit harder.

 

Emigration numbers are at famine levels, suicides now number two a day and some 40percent of all households have no disposal income at the beginning of each month.

 

I can personally attest to the direct impact of austerity on Ireland and I can see no light at the end of the tunnel.  Six years ago a perfect storm of divorce and recession left me with a mortgage of €1million on a house worth half that. I accumulated huge legal fees (my divorce lawyer for half the proceedings was the current Minister for Justice, then a serving TD) in the region of €100,000. My once successful business crumbled away under the strain and I had the unedifying and deeply upsetting visit from bailiffs to seize goods. I kept on thinking I could go no lower. I had moved out of the family home, a Georgian manor house once valued at €1.65million, four years ago into a rented two bedroom cottage with my two children.  My ex-husband returned to the UK and went bankrupt in the much more tolerant laws there. In a year he was cleansed of his debts. The upshot was that I in turn was responsible for the entire debt of €1million. I tried everything to recover but it was too much for me.  I made a video to sell the house in 2011 which went viral and I received a cash offer of €500,000 but the banks refused consent to sell. They preferred to repossess the house which they did in August of this year. It was sold two weeks ago for less than €160,000. Sadly under Irish law I am still liable for the debt despite the disposal of the underlying asset.

 

Struggling to find some way out, to try and regain my place in society again, I waited with eager interest to the new Insolvency Service launched in September 2013 to handle to debt time-bomb of middle Ireland. However, these new laws are clumsy and inefficient and moreover the banks have veto over any settlement. In an ever more bizarre turn, you have to be well off to enter the service. I am literally too broke to avail of the new laws – despite having pro bono representation from the debt advocacy group Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation (IMHO)

 

Last week new bankruptcy laws were introduced and I am again at the top of this queue. The new laws have reduced the duration of the bankruptcy period from 12 to three years and cut the fees in half. I am with IMHO tomorrow and hope that I can be bankrupt by Christmas. It is an ironic observation that I am looking forward to being bankrupt but I so want to try and start my life again. I have spent six years in financial wilderness and it is not pleasant.

 

What does it feel like to have debt that cannot be cleansed – waiting for the banks to engage or the government to bring in laws to help the struggling citizens? I liken it to dragging a stinking corpse of debt around with me. The debt fills my brain and I can think of little else. Everything is a struggle. It takes so much energy just to be, let alone to live. People say you can’t get blood from a stone, but I reply ‘try being that stone’.

 

I was filling in yet another set of forms today in preparation for my meeting tomorrow. I record my modest income and the miss-match with my outgoings. I list my assets – but I am not sure that a ten year old fridge freezer can be considered an asset. I list my debts but I am guessing now at the final amounts as interest has been piled on interest.  I tell myself I came into the world with nothing and I shall leave it in the same unencumbered fashion, but it would be nice to hang on to some possessions along the way.

 

Last winter we had no home heating fuel and the children watched television under duvets. We don’t eat out, I shop for groceries at the discount stores and holidays – let’s just say we don’t do holidays. But we are not alone. Death by the kitchen table is happening in households all over the country with parents unable to meet mortgages, pay the new taxes and even put food on the table.  In some ways I was lucky that I had moved out of my home into the rented cottage before it was repossessed. I cannot imagine the heartache of a sheriff evicting my family. When he came in August  to take my home I was far away in Dublin filming a documentary about sex (an appropriate contrast I thought at the time).

 

Ireland will survive but it won’t be because of the austerity policies. No one ever recovered an economy by breaking it further. Ireland will survive because we are an indomitable, creative maverick people. However, we are being let down so very badly by our leaders who refuse to call to account those who lead our country into debt,  who prop up the banks on all fronts and who cannot see or do not care about the thousands of families suffering from debt. It is ironic that our very own Beckett said “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail againFail better” as we are being punished by our own.

 

PS

I won’t make Christmas but I hope to be bankrupt in January 🙂

 

HOPE

I sat with a wise woman once. She spoke about people who lose hope.  It might only be transitory but can prove fatal. It might be continuous and unrelenting and pernicious and prove fatal. It can be intermittent but still fatal. For the loss of hope to become permanent only requires that the person cannot see beyond that loss. But the wise woman also told me of an expression oft used in such hopeless situations. This too will pass.

This too will pass. That could be said of many things. Things that pass include seasons without fail, people who curtail, wishes that just derail, dreams that set sail and desires that never unveil.  Other things to pass are met with more welcome goodbyes, enmities that interrupt, wars that erupt, hate that volupts, cruelty that fillups and vile noxious views that corrupt. All things can pass and while some we may mourn, yet for others we may bless ourselves and walk on quickly, pleased that the gods have spared us for another day, another fight.

Knowing that things are transitory is our biggest defence against the loss of hope, ironically. It makes the beautiful more wonderful, special and wanted. It makes the darkest hour bearable. The hour before the dawn is the most dark but it is followed by the light, if we but stay.

Here is a lyric. Stay, just a little bit longer. This is the secret to surviving the loss of hope. Hanging about, even when hope is lost. Do not underestimate the devastation the loss of hope can wreck upon a person. Hanging about is very brave and much misunderstood. Just being can be so tough.

People say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I agree. But I say back to them, you have to take into account the collateral damage. It is not as though anyone can walk through life without getting a few scars but really serious injuries, the kind that will not kill you, can leave you maimed and changed.  It’s akin to the road traffic fatalities, often quoted in conjunction with suicides, where the numbers with life changing injuries are not counted.

What doesn’t kill you may make you stronger.  However, it may also kill bits of you, shed body parts with abandon, pieces of you that you might have preferred, given the choice, to hang on to. I think strangely of ears, flesh, breasts, fingers when I say this. Arbitrary but quite important body parts, parts you would not voluntarily give up, unless on that crass and horrible Saw Trilogy, but enough said there.

Having said all that, I must harken back to the film Calendar Girls. John Clarke, the character who died of cancer at the centre of the film, asked this to be read at the Women’s Institute.  “The flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire. Every stage of their growth has its own beauty, but the last phase is always the most glorious. Then very quickly they all go to seed.”

We need to embrace the changes that befall us, that we create, that our friends and family wrought upon us. We need to know that our beauty lies in our accepting those changes and calling them our own, living through them, and naming them as who we are. Even as childbirth marks a mother, we need to know that when we come past the delirium of birth, we can celebrate its effect upon us.

I think we need to know that this too will pass when hope is in very short supply, that staying a little bit longer, just hanging around can make a difference, and that while we are not killed, we may expect to lose bits, gain scars, and show our humanity. And then in the greatest triumph that humankind can offer, we can live despite all this, love in the midst of it, and comfort and support others in the same way of it. It is called the human condition and it is to be shared.

I believe I am more beautiful now for my scars than before, more beautiful for the changes in my body and mind than before. More courageous in my beliefs, more passionate in my views and more compassionate in my attempt to understand this world than before.

This is why I stay. This is why I know things will pass, good, bad and indifferent. This is why I know my blooming means different things to different people. That my love is only growing and my right to life on this planet is secured. And if I hit a loss of hope, that I know, this too will pass.