Focal’s Open Mic Night

Listen here to a pre recorded version (without tears)

Presentation Arts Centre in Enniscorthy is the most perfect building. An old convent, the conversion to secular building retains the stained glass windows and ornate carved wooden beams arching overhead. When one walks into the hall it is breath-taking, literally, in its beauty. And, as with all ecclesiastical architecture, the acoustics are impeccable. This was the venue for the ‘Open Mic’ run by the Wexford Focal Literary Group and I had been very kindly invited to read. It was my first public reading (unless one counts a reading at EroticaUK of a slightly different nature) and I was relaxed as a newbie on their opening night which is not very much at all. Still a glass of red wine and a lovely welcome from guests already assembled soon calmed those incipient nerves.

focal pic

I had another practical reason to feel nervous. My youngest child had just begun college in Dublin and had, it seemed, emptied her bedroom lock stock and barrel to her digs in Dublin. The tidy bed at home did not look lived in, at least not the way it was normally strewn with clothes, books and electronic devices. She had taken other items from around the house, in a weekly drip drip loss of goods. On the last return to Dublin the printer had been the official casualty and now resided snug in her new digs. As a result I had to ring her and ask her to print out my reading. I am pleased to say my daughter has become parsimonious in her new student life to the extent that she managed to fit my 2000 or so words onto just three pages by using tiny fonts and carefully printing on both sides.  I was less pleased that I would now have to read the tiny text on stage and had resorted to digging out a pair of random reading glasses – the thick, cheap kind you find at shop tills – with which to tackle my work.

focal pic 2

I was up first which was, like the curate’s egg, good and bad in parts. I was glad to kick off the evening but I was also uncertain how to behave. I opted for standing at the mic rather than sitting as I was wearing my brand new shoes. They were bright red in colour and never worn before. I had driven the forty minutes to Enniscorthy in them so that they were settled in but I think I miscalculated. By two hours they were killing me with a passion. I reckon I should have waited until I arrived before wearing the murderous duo.  I am familiar with the term ‘car to bar’ shoes but I am not sure how I managed to buy a ‘killer heels’ with the emphasis on killer.


The second thing that happened to me was on stage, mid reading. I was reaching a part of my narrative which talked about the bonehead banks and how they were responsible for my being bankrupt. I had received an offer on my house but they refused consent to sell, preferring to repossess my home and sell it for a tenth of the price. The escalating results were catastrophic and while they certainly resulted in the loss of my home, my income, my business, my belongs – they almost certainly resulted in the loss of my life. I know this part of my story, I have written and told it before, but as I reached these lines I found emotions wellsprung in me and I faltered, my voice broke and I almost cried and pulled up in my reading. But I found the courage and the voice to continue. I got through my emotion and carried on reading.  What was funny was afterwards I spoke with another writer and she complimented me on my reading but it transpired she thought I had cried for effect. I am not sure whether this is a compliment or not.

Finally, yet another writer and speaker told me she had gone bankrupt too – at the early age of 21 in Australia. Afterwards I pondered was it better to go bankrupt early or late. I thought about this for a bit but I reckon early is better – it gives more time to recover, less hurt to be felt and less loss to be suffered. Young people know there are invulnerable, older folks are less sure.

Until the next time …

Wexford’s Focal Literary Festival





You put your dick WHERE?



You’d have to have your head under a rock to miss #piggate. It signals the return to parliament and the end of the silly season. You’d almost be forgiven for thinking that the Tories had something to hide, some big scandal coming up along the way or perhaps they do. Perhaps this is the latest detraction story from their abysmal record on the refugee crisis. Cameron is up there with the most militant, entrenched Hungarian politician with his rhetoric and actions. ‘The swarms of migrants’ are not gaining traction in the UK. ‘Build higher fences’ and keep them out. Cameron is right on cue when he marshals the xenophobic excesses in ‘Great’ Britain into ‘Fortress’ Britain. He is guilty of pedalling the myth that multicultural societies do not work. They do. The proof is in London and he just must just try harder.

It is interesting in this day and age that the vile accusation is a matter of one man’s word against another. Neither had the benefit of a smart phone and camera to record the incident. I presume the publishers of Lord Ashcroft’s autobiography must have had a team of lawyers swarm all over the claims. And that by the way, My Cameron is the correct use of the verb swarm. It relates back to the subject and while wasps and lawyers are fair game, fleeing families risking death are not.

Of course, while smart phones did not exist in the last century, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram do today. In fact, we can dispense with the formalities of truth and imagine up any number of memes with Cameron and pigs. There is even a song out already with Mr Cameron ‘getting piggy with it’. The jokes are very funny, as long as you not the prime minister of the UK. Of course, it could be worse, he might have been the president of the greatest Western Super power inserting his phallus into a living receptacle. And then be grilled by Grand Jury as if it were a matter of state.

Which is an interesting point. Why should we be concerned about where the prime minister put his member while a student, especially as the object was dead? It is pretty gross and not really a vote getter but does it diminish his ability to lead his party? I would argue his actions regarding the refugees, or rather his lack of proper action, is way more damning.

Of course, this propensity to insert dicks into objects has been covered at length before. Back in the 1997, Fiona Giles, feminist and scholar approached dozens of well-known female artists, poets, authors and scholars and asked them what they would do if they woke and found themselves genitally altered. The resulting book ‘If you had a dick for a day’ provoked funny, witty and sometimes sad responses from the 50 or so women selected to reply. But I don’t recall anyone suggesting sticking their dick into things, just to see if it fitted (insert urban myths of vacuum cleaners stuck here). Although Germaine Greer bucked the trend and said if she was given a long enough one she might try having sex with herself.

Still, women tend not to engage in such merriment. In fact, I don’t seem to recall, ever, hearing about a sorority game that encouraged women to insert their bits into dead animals. I could be wrong of course. On the internet much strangeness can be found.

There were two interesting fallouts from this account. The first is the dark dystopian TV series Black Mirror by Charlie Brooker which featured the prime minister having carnal relations with a live pig. Mr Brooker has been interviewed all over the media, and indeed went live on Twitter as soon as the story broke, to confirm that he had no knowledge of the prime minister engaging in such an act. One wonders instead did Lord Ashcroft watch the series and did it jog his memory? Art influencing life in reverse perhaps?

Or the second, more cynical approach lies with a repeated story about US president Lyndon B Johnson in an early congressional campaign. Johnson apparently told one of his aides to spread the rumour that his opponent had sexual congress with pigs. His aide rebutted the idea, saying they could not spread out and out lies, to which Johnson replied: ‘Of course it ain’t true but I want the son of a bitch to deny it.’

And right on cue Mr Cameron has come out to say that he will not dignify the accusation with a denial. Which is a rose by any other name.



Get up and Go – Some Blabs in Advance

Sligo October 17, 2015  #GUAG2015

LIsten to Breifne Earley talking about his Pedal the Planet and whether or not he is a YAMIL (Young-Aged Man in Lycra) in advance of the Get Up and Go Conference in Sligo on October 17



Get Up and Go – Inspirational conference to come to the NorthWest

Motivational Team includes Puttnam, Breen and Gates


An Inspirational Conference aimed at people wanting to make their dreams a reality is being hosted in Sligo on October 17th. The theme is For your dreams and pays homage to Yeats’ home and poetry. The Get Up and Go team have pulled together an amazing and inspiring range of motivational speakers creating a momentous conference in Sligo and the Northwest.

The speakers are all trailblazers, role models and people who inspire. They have had the courage to step outside their comfort zones and followed their dreams into new areas of self-expression, contribution and power. Labour Peer and Filmmaker David Puttnam, Entrepreneur and Secret Millionaire Jim Breen, and life changing, mountain climbing heroine Teena Gates head up a speaker list that will challenge, motivate and change your life. This is one event that you cannot afford to miss.

The Get Up and Go conference is the second annual event organised by the providers of the popular Get Up and Go Diaries which have sold almost 200,000 copies over the past eight years. Up to 500 participants are expected to attend.

We invite you to register and come listen to the following motivators:

Lord David Puttnam – founder of Atticus Education which has been operating since August 2012 and is based in Skibbereen. . Among the institutions to which seminars are being delivered are Griffith Film School in Brisbane, LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore, the University of Sunderland and University College Cork.

Jim Breen  – founder and CEO of PulseLearning. In 2012 he took part in the televised ‘Secret Millionaire’ where he learnt about mental health issues and a Suicide Awareness Group. As a result he set up the Cycle Against Suicide. This year the charity will involve 7,500 cyclists in a sea of orange cycling around the island of Ireland over 14 days.

Padraig O’Maillie – creator of Smacht, an executive training business that motivates people to realise more of their potential. He is the author of the best selling book, Rocking Horse Sh*t which applied coping strategies learnt from a serious illness.

Teena Gates – is a best-selling author, journalist, radio and TV presenter, magazine columnist and adventure blogger who lost 13 stone during a year long journey to find herself. Her belief that you can achieve the impossible if you Dream, Dare and Do has dramatically changed her life and the lives of those around her, as she urges everyone to walk their way to a better future by putting ‘one foot in front of the other’.

Damien Brennan – has a background in hospitality, holding senior positions with Failte Ireland in the NorthWest. Although now retired, he has taken up a new career, that of being a Yeats expert. An immediate past president of the International Yeats Society, he brings coachloads of poetry tourists into his home to talk about Yeats.

Teejay Dowe – is an experienced, energetic and enthusiastic motivational speaker, published author, international coach, Master Neurostrategist and NLP Trainer, TeeJay not only has the right qualifications and credentials to make a difference to you as an individual andyour inbusiness, she will captivate you with her style and leave you feeling inspired and ready to take action for yourselves as individuals and the teams that you work within.

Miriam Byrne – is a true entrepreneur. Told by her teachers not to aim too high, she managed to get an interview with Department of Biochemistry in Oxford – not only did she get the job without a degree, they insisted she studied for one while in the job. Returning to Ireland she worked at UCD before setting up City Analysts. Now in business 17 years, City Analysts has grown to become a leading environmental analysis company. Twenty three people are employed in two laboratories based in Dublin and Shannon.

Breifne Early – is a true example of how going for your dreams can save your life. Five years ago he was suffering with depression, lonely, single, overweight, unhappy and contemplating giving up on life altogether. However, through a series of serendipitous events (and dates) Breifne not only decided not to go through with ending his painful life, but to set about designing a new one and gave himself a target of 10 life-altering challenges to complete over the next 13 months. From there it was but a short hop to pedalling 18,000 miles through 27 countries to raise awareness of Suicide. He is now writing a book on the experience.


The conference is MC’d by Claire Rowan – broadcaster, columnist and public speaker.

Claire presents the Consumer Show on Ocean FM every Tuesday, She also presents Sligo County Matters for Irish TV and has contributed on Marian Finucane Show and Ray Darcy’s Show and Newstalk. Claire has been doing the Newspaper Review weekly on RTE’s Morning Edition for the last two years and is currently working on a 7 piece radio documentary which will be aired after Christmas.

In this event you will:

– discover what it takes to make your dreams a reality

– understand that dreams are necessary and valuable as guideposts to our future

– learn how to have your dreams not only survive but thrive in today’s fast moving world

– find out that your dreams may have simply gotten lost in the busy confusion of life

– have an opportunity to reawaken and explore some of your most precious dreams

– get clear on what fears might be stopping you going for your dreams

– see beyond current obstacles to new opportunities that will make your dreams come true.

This one day – ticket only event – will take place in the Clarion Hotel Sligo, on October 17th 2015.

Early bird tickets (until the middle of September) are €55.

For more information, please visit







Twitter = The Modern Machine Gun

The speed at which moral outrage can circle the world can be measured in mouse clicks. Six degrees of separation is all that divides us from Cecil the Lion; that and a few million tweets. For a story that barely grazed the pages of the Zimbabwean newspapers, it had generated an angry online mob complete with death threats within hours. It had swiftly mutated out of social media and mobilised into an on-the-ground band of protestors complete with placards and news cameras. It had even become the source of Jimmy Kimmel’s normally comic opening to his show.

The dentist is in hiding with US police checking out the death threats. There are calls for him to be extradited to Zimbabwe to face criminal charges. He won’t be looking at too many dental cavities for the next little while. His five seconds of fame with Cecil might have put him out of a job permanently.

This is not the first time Man versus the Twitter machine loses. In fact, the solitary human being is no match for the thousands, nay millions, of bullets from self-righteous online activists.   I am reminded of world war one when the machine gun emerged as the deadly killing machine. Even the terrifying cavalry was rendered vulnerable as a single machine gun could take the place of 80 rifles.  Like Twitter the early machine guns often overheated, requiring water or air cooling to stop them from jamming. It was not unheard of for machine gun operators to resort to urinating on an overheating gun in the midst of battle to keep the gun running smoothly. Yet another similarity with mass social media mobs.

It is also interesting to note that the most modern machine gun available at the start of world war one was the Maxim. The inventor, Hiram Maxim, offered his design to the British Army but the British High Command rejected it; officers even felt it to be an inappropriate form of warfare. Sadly for the British Army, the German government had no such qualms and inflicted severe carnage on the British troops as a result.

Twitter can certainly be called an inappropriate form of social discourse.  Like the early machine guns that grouped together for maximum results in impregnable points on high ground, the Twitter crowd gathers together on its high moral ground before launching its deadly attack.

At the end of the day, Twitter relies on its moral superiority for it power. It dispenses with legal rights, principals of fair trial and even the basic rights of an individual caught in the cross hairs. It is akin to a bearded Old Testament warrior claiming an eye for an eye. There is no due process, only moral outrage, and carnage, plenty of carnage.

It can be argued that Twitter is a power for democratising society; it can take down monoliths, behemoths and corporates. Yet, increasingly it seems to reserve its ultimate anger for individuals who break the code. Individuals who are hunted for days without letup, punctured and wounded and if the more extreme edge of the crowd had their way, killed in an even more barbaric manner than Cecil died.

I am against Cecil’s death but I would not see Twitter do the same to the dentist. One is a lion and one is a human being and two wrongs do not make a right.

For where does the outrage stop? First for a lion, then for a giraffe, then for a fox, then for a salmon, then for a fly?  And why not for a human being – can we not reserve some emotion for the thousands of human beings dying in terrible conditions as the world witnesses more displaced people on the move than at any other time in our history.

Twitter as a machine gun is deadly. Twitter as an advocate of change can be even more powerful. It is all about the target.



Trial by Social Media

This article was written on July 9th. It was a tough article to write.


Trial by Social Media

A recent high profile video of a young woman with a black eye and her child in the background has gone viral. The young woman, tender and vulnerable, talks movingly about her decision to go public on her beating. She introduces her small child who is playing on the stairs and informs us that she also has a seven month old child by the same man.

Her video has gone viral and she has received widespread praise from women’s groups, individuals and the majority of media outlets. Her injury was allegedly received at the hands of her partner, a man who she tells us that she loved with all her heart. It is a very emotional and moving video.

However, and here I almost hesitate to write, I feel uncomfortable while watching this video. The first reason is that she talks about their life together and the affairs he is said to have had and even the fact that he has fathered other children. These affairs and additional children while horrible to the woman, are not hanging offences. It is not against the law to be unfaithful or indeed to father another child. I feel as though I am in a peep show, watching the intimate affairs of a couple, and it makes me shift uneasily in my seat.

It is enough to know that she has been beaten and was beaten in the past. This is unforgivable and is an offence. The why he allegedly beat her is not important, her coming forward is.

Abuse can only survive where shame and silence prevail. This woman, Emma Murphy, is reaching out to help other women who feel trapped in a violent relationship. She is right on many counts, not least of which is the emotional and mental abuse visited upon her. We know from many reports that domestic abuse victims do not leave for many reasons –fear, worry and often total lack of confidence. Often the direct result of the mental abuse is this inability to leave. The victim over time believes they are in part the cause of the violence, that somehow they are to blame for it.

In direct contrast, victims of domestic violence are often the most resourceful, strong women (and men) you can ever meet. To remain in a place of sometimes daily violence is stressful to a degree equal to that of soldiers on active service. Do not underestimate the power and strength of survivors of domestic violence.

People often ask why don’t the women leave. Why do they put up with it? Ironically this can also come down to strength. Women (and men – I am not neglecting men) do not enter into a violent relationship willingly. Often the violence begins subtly and with large gaps, only over time to become more frequent and more violent. Before the woman knows it, she is in the middle of a crisis and she cannot see a way out.

It is ironic that often the women in this situation do not leave from love. How mad is that? They think that since they once loved their partner that if they stay they can ‘fix’ them. Then a mixture of terror and fear and perhaps babies arrive and their escape routes are destroyed one by one.

In the same way, domestic abuse is accompanied by mental abuse. How else can one human being routinely be violent against another without fear of police intervention? Domestic abuse is rarely about violence or loss of control, it is all about maintaining control over the other person. The same man (or woman) who routinely hits his wife is unlikely to be out fighting with his mates in the pub on a Saturday night. He is not interesting in controlling them – just his wife.

So, I am a big supporter of women who come forward and talk about their experiences, who are strong enough to leave. Who are strong enough to know they cannot fix their partner and that only by leaving can they find a new and safe life for themselves.

The scariest fact is that leaving is often the most dangerous time for women. A study of domestic homicides shows that 75 percent of women were killed as they tried to leave or after they had left.

But I am still uncomfortable about Emma’s video.  I do not doubt that she is telling the truth but I had rather she did it in a format where her ex partner had been tried in a court of law and not a court of social media.

The fact that he raised his hand to her is enough – I believe her. The fact that she is strong to leave – I congratulate her.  The fact that her children will grow up with a violent father – I support her. But I wish she had not tried him on social media where he could not reply.


Travel writer, South Africa: Swimming with hippos and other adventures from the veld

In a series of reader submissions to the Irish Times Amateur Travel Writer competition, we meet Jillian Godsil, who finds herself in the midst of adventure on an equestrian safari

south africa






Sometimes, oftentimes, the things you really should do never feature on the average bucket list. For example, it would take a random ideas generator to put hippos and swimming together. The category of ‘swimming with’ usually includes non-violent animals such as dolphins or whales, and maybe sharks but that typically includes a cage or two.

I was on an equestrian safari in South Africa in the Waterberg region when I met my hippos. We had done all sorts of activities on horseback; witnessed giraffes up close, viewed any number of gazelle take fancy and flight, watched pronking sprinkbok with our mouths open (and our mounts firmly on all four legs) and had even ridden in a cloud of wildebeest as they whirled in formation across a dusty plain. We once rode softly past a white rhino and her calf, the quieter of the African rhinos, and she barely looked at the horses and riders as we tiptoed past, trying to balance cameras and click pictures without attracting her attention.

On our last day, we went deep in the countryside on horses that were as dependable as the Bank of England, back in the day when banks could be depended upon. We stopped at a waterhole. My ride decided he needed a little swim himself and began pawing the ground. I jumped off just in time before he rolled in the water. One of my companions said that many horseriders died when they failed to dismount and were drowned under the horse. I’m not sure it was true especially when she continued to tell me about a couple crushed when a male elephant decided to mate with their tiny rental car. Safari myths when told at home are easily scotched; when told in the veld it quite another matter. I gulped my fear, remounted and we carried on.

When we reached the end of the game fence our guide turned back and informed us the unseasonal rains had resulted in higher than normal water levels. We needed to part-walk, part-swim to gain high ground and continue our trek. I looked around at the other members of the group expecting resistance but everyone was simply tying perishable items around their necks. I followed suit, fastening my camera under my chin strap. I must have gone white in fear for an octogenarian lady in our group patted my arm. ‘You’ll be fine.’ She said. ‘Follow me.’

One by one the front runners plunged into the waters and struck out for the far bank. The water was first still and green, then rushed and rippled as rider after rider pushed forward. In all too short a time my friend set off, but not before giving me a kindly glance. I didn’t wait around and kicked on my horse. Together we entered the water and for a period I could not tell if he was swimming or walking through the depths. I leaned forward, trying to take my weight out of the saddle as we moved slowly through the water. It seemed like an eternity but soon I could sense his hooves getting traction on the ground and we were clambering up the muddy bank the far side. I did not have time to reflect on our achievement as the front riders were now cantering along in hock-high water. My mount bucked and took off too. I clung for dear life to the saddle as water and green watery ferns slapped my face while all the time the basking hippos barked gently, only a few feet to our left. I had been swimming with hippos.

Tick Tock

Tick tock

Listen here 

Tick tock

The clock


The hopes and fears
Of all the years
Were met in Greece tonight


Arears Arears
The bankers cheers
And blood crept down the wall


A people poised
The choices posed
Not even Solomon could call


Under the orb of a constant eye
That counts in coins alone
The ancient cradle of polls and votes
Was backed into corners by suited louts


Spotlight of world rights
Erased its autonomy
Off with its head –
Give it a frontal lobotomy
The queen of hearts could not have been as cruel
Please may I have some more – Achtung give it gruel


And blood seeped through the ancient stones
As booted bankers stepped over bones
Cracking and crunching the feeble sticks.
And cheering acolytes called them by name
Praised their virtue, passed on the blame
To a faceless race where bewilderment ticks


What match is flesh for filthy lucre
What match is right for coins and notes
What match is humanity for the pounds, shillings and pence
Of a world that is not right in the head
Of a world that denies the existence of the heart
Of a world that throws other peoples’ children to the wolves
-Always other peoples until your time is come-
All In the name of filthy lucre.


And we cheering the passing of right
Turn a cheek
A blind eye
Cos we’re next to take it up the bum.
Just wait, our time will come.
And who will call our name?


@Jillian Godsil

01 July 2015








Live from the pitch on England/Ireland Soccer Friendly June 6th, 2015



Wayne Rooney is tiny. Really tiny. I stood less than ten feet away from him on Sunday, on the pitch in the Aviva, and I reckoned I was taller than him. When I got home I checked and so I am. But then I reckoned I was taller than most of the Irish and English football players as the two teams lined up before the momentous replay of the friendly match twenty years ago. The original match that was stopped short with rioting.

I was part of the Island of Ireland Peace Choir and we had been rehearsing for the past two months. We had a four part harmony for the British National Anthem and a three part for the Irish. There was no favouritism. We had to play it down the middle, play fair and make sure each team got a rousing welcome.

Jack Chjack charltonarlton, on the other hand, is very tall. He was also very emotional. A little skinny, he has not been well recently apparently. His grin was ear to ear. The crowd, all of the crowd, gave him a standing ovation. He was moved to tears. We clapped hard. The crowd cheered. It was an electric beginning.


The grass was wet with sprinklers. We had to duck these earlier. The paint was wet on the grass too. We had to avoid the lines. Do not step on the lines. We had to line up behind the team, smaller than expected up close, and never lose our concentration.

We had practised our unflappable faces. We were to be unstoppable. Regardless of the reaction from the crowd we were to remain fixated on our musical director.

The President, who is, to be fair, football sized, met the teams.  We got into position.

Then, we heard our introduction. We closed our ears to everyone else, looked nowhere else. Took the huge intake of air with which to sing. And sang.

It was the fastest two minutes of my life.  I don’t recall anything going so fast – it was like the final rattle of an examination with the clock racing around to the end point. We were so focused we did not have time to think.

The sound engineers set our volume to high, to stun. And we sung to stun. The BBC said that both anthems were immaculately observed before kickoff. I think there may have been some additional hubris but it counted for very little. The Irish Times said we were set to Spinal Tap 11 stun.

And then it was over. With the blood still ringing in our ears we stopped. Jack Charlton was not the only emotional person on the pitch. We paused. We didn’t want to leave the pitch and then piecemeal we turned and left the ground. We were like survivors, shell shocked and dazed. As we entered the tunnel to leave, the crowds clapped us again, some standing to show their appreciation.

And with our hearts beating, our eyes bright and our cheeks reddened we left the arena. It was without any doubt the most exciting part of the entire day.

Jillian Godsil

Island of Ireland Peace Choir




Want to feel invisible? Try hunting for a job at 50







First printed in the Irish Independent, May 5, 2015

and featured on The John Murray Show on May 8, 2015 – invisible at 50 podcast.

Oops, it happened again. There I was, casually sauntering along through life, sending off job applications and foolishly expecting a reply but nothing happens. Not so much as a ‘Thank you’.

How had it come to this? When had I morphed from experienced professional to an unwanted ‘has-been’? Had it happened overnight? Well, it certainly feels as though I have become an overnight failure. Yesterday, my years on this earth promised experienced, talented, sought-after skills. Today, it appears those same years have somehow put me into a new, unemployable category.

I can’t even boast grey hair talent as I am not that old. Instead, I exist in a dark limbo-land of invisibility.

Welcome to the new 50. We are suckered into believing that 50 is the new 40; that because we still fit into our skinny jeans, still hang out in trendy cafés, still listen to cool music, that we are part of thriving culture, but when it comes to applying for jobs, that date of birth is the kiss of death.

I have to agree in part; when I look at the year I was born – 1965 – it does seem very last century. It is very last century, and it smacks of maidens at the crossroads, reeling in the years and cups of tea in the kitchen.

But we were sold a promise that age could be pushed out down the track and youth held firmly in hand.

So having done all that, it is a shock to discover that while we may think we are young and desirable, the job market has quite different ideas.

I first got an inkling of this new reality a couple of years ago, while still skirting on the right side of 50. I saw a number of interesting positions advertised on the Twitter #jobfairy feeds and, updating my CV, I sent off an application or two. Then I sat back and waited. And I waited.

Now, in fairness I did have some other pressing items requiring my attention; home repossession, divorce, business failure, changing the law and running for the European parliament, but none of those activities were ever going to bring in moolah.

I played my cards and waited to see what I could salvage from the fires of my career.

I should also add that I have a very fine corporate CV. I have worked for the most prestigious banks, PR companies, software houses and multinationals. I have held very senior positions and have excellent referees. Only no one has ever called.

Being busy at the aforementioned activities, this lack of attention went largely unmissed. I was busy fighting fires left, right and centre and did not notice immediately the silence. It was only after the elections last year, when I put my best foot forward and started in earnest to become gainfully employed that the empty space in my postbox became glaringly apparent.

For one role, I double-checked the requirements for the job against my skill sets. I ticked every box with honours. I sought advice from a friend who reviewed both and agreed that I was perfect for the job – on paper anyway.

So, thus emboldened, I wrote to the chairman of the organisation asking, in polite terms, why I was not even called for interview. We ended up in a needle exchange of emails, becoming increasingly more tense as they went, before he finally said he was not obliged to tell me anyway and terminated the communication.

So I was no better off than before, I was unable to say why I had not even warranted an interview and I had also effectively closed any chance of a job in that organisation ever again.

It happened again last week. Great job, interesting, fitting in with my newly minted Masters in Screenwriting, but nothing, not even an interview.

What does it take to get an interview in this town? I am upbeat, I am highly qualified and I have international experience.

Oh, but I forgot to say that I was born 50 years ago, I have been mostly self-employed and ran my own businesses and, yes, I’m a woman.

Pass the invisibility cloak, why don’t you.

Irish Independent


Please Sir, can I have some less?

cat lady

On February 17, 2014 I became the first female bankrupt under the new Insolvency laws in Ireland. I didn’t arrive at this point lightly. It had been a very torturous six years leading up to my finally appearing in the High Court and standing up briefly while I was adjudicated bankrupt by the judge. Along the way I had lost my husband to divorce, my home to repossession and my business to bailiffs. I had accumulated debt in the same way an elderly lady accumulates cats. At first there was only one or two to feed, and then before I knew it, I had a house full of the meowing buggers. No one was more puzzled than I about the straitened circumstances in which I found myself. And no one is more puzzled than I about my inability to extract myself from the same mess. I have been playing a waiting game, with a timetable set by the government and at a cost that goes beyond my €200 per week job seekers allowance.


I should like to first say now that which I wanted to say to the Judge. I didn’t ask to be bankrupt. I hadn’t been reckless. I hadn’t even borrowed more than 40percent of the value of my assets. Truth be told, I hadn’t even been the primary borrower leaving that to my would-be developer husband, before he vacated the country, his family and the debt through the one year system in the UK. And that is where the rub lies. Not with my ex, for I cannot blame anyone for that choice but me, but with the system.

Bankruptcy is not for the ridding of debt. Bankruptcy is for the means of recovery.

Let that thought sink in. Anyone who looks bankruptcy in the eye will understand me perfectly – and indeed some 448 other poor unfortunates travelled this path last year, the first year of the new, so-called progressive Irish Insolvency Laws. By the time the Russian roulette option of bankruptcy is on the table, the debt is almost immaterial. The cupboard is bare, the possessions pawned, sold or lost and the stones beaten for non-existent blood. It is the personal financial cliff from which we are about to the thrown. The debt left behind is the least of our worries; it is the crashing waves below that occupy 100 percent of our attention; we want to survive the fall and swim again, perhaps even, DV, to safety.

When I became bankrupt last year I had a meeting with The Insolvency Service. I was in the almost pre-euphoric state before the jump (or push). It was only afterwards that the cold reality of my situation sunk in. Whatever debts I had accumulated prior to that date, February 17, were erased. Whatever debts I might accumulate in the coming years were all my own. These two pillars of reason seemed balanced and fair. Then crash, I hit the cold water, whatever assets I might accumulate would be taken off me and given to my creditors. And not only would they be taken over the three years of my sentence, if I was successful in gaining employment again, the Insolvency Service could and indeed would (they stressed this point) get a judgement against future earnings for the next five years. So, I was looking into eight years bobbing around in the cold water, if bobbing was the action that might describe my sorry state.

I have spoken with PIPs up and down the country since this time. They all, to a professional, advise their clients not to get any work during this enforced sentence. So, in one fell swoop not only are people denied the real object of bankruptcy – that of recovery – the country is also penalised as many entrepreneurs idle away some of the prime earning years of their life. There is another consideration. When I became bankrupt, I was too broke to avail of the Insolvency Service, I was below the agreed government subsistence allowance. So, any degree of tiny, meagre measure of success on my part would be taken from me.

I hit a significant birthday last month. I’d like to say it was forty but I have to say it was the new forty, ie fifty. I’d like to think I have a good few earning years left in my career but instead I am looking in retirement with no ballast behind me, I shall remain in the pauper stakes. I want to work. I want to earn. I want to put right the financial circumstances of my life but the option of recovery is so far removed from me as to make it a fiction.

Bankrupts need to be allowed to recover. And that can only happen when the Irish Government replicates the effective laws from our nearest jurisdiction. That way, everyone benefits, even the banks.

cat woman



Now this is the kind of cat lady I want to be!