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.

 

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!

Mixing your genres – Feminist, Activist, Comic ….Erotica!

How do you make the medicine go down? With a spoon full of sugar of course.

Watch me explain on video here

 

Last year when I found myself speaking into a vacuum about debt and austerity in Ireland, I decided to use the one weapon at my disposal, the one thing the banks could not take from me – namely my pen – and I wrote a trilogy that has at its core the harsh human cost of our economic tragedy. And I say tragedy because most of what has happened to Ireland was so unnecessary. I can guarantee that in all the reviews of 50shades there is not one mention of the collapse of the American banking system. Whereas in the reviews of my humble trilogy there are loads of references to the social and economic landscape that is Ireland today.

So, if you fancy the idea of reading about Ireland in recession, spiced up with some very naughty bits (for people cannot live by recession alone) then I think it would be a very good thing to buy and read my books. Telling the truth through fiction (and naughty bits) seems like an honourable thing to do. And reading about Ireland in Austerity is also an honourable pastime.

Here is me talking at the Women’s Inspired Network in Wexford to explain how I came to mix my genres.

The Cougar Diaries – thinking women’s erotica – Also read by men (and students of modern Irish history)

The Cougar Diaries, Part One (UK) (US)

The Cougar Diaries, Part Two (UK) (US)

The Cougar Diaries, Part Three (UK) (US)

and if you prefer hard copies – why not visit Lulu.com

xmas picture

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.

blog_awards_2013_badge_shortlist

 PLEASE VOTE HERE FOR MY BLOG 

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.

 

 

 

 

Jillian Grab 6

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!

 

 

 

cougar diaries cover

 

Divorce is a dish best served cold

A recent complaint before The Law Society would suggest warring spouses should think twice before seeking legal heavyweights to resolve matrimonial differences.

The subject of the complaint, the current Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, was unanimously and totally exonerated of all claims in the case which arose from a difficult family law dispute between Michael Izatt and Jillian Godsil. The complaint was brought by Godsil who had retained Shatter as her divorce lawyer until he came off record mid-way through her divorce proceedings. His actions prior to that point, and indeed subsequent, were the object of the long winded, but ultimately rejected, complaint.

Godsil may be known to some as the Irish divorcee who sold her house on YouTube until the banks stopped the sale. She was landed with a mortgage of some €1million on a house worth less than half that amount when her ex, returning to the UK to go bankrupt, gave the entire mortgage to his ex-wife and their two young daughters. Last month, she was served repossession papers, so she dropped the asking price of her well-known Georgian Manor House to €250,000 and has received a formal offer. However, her bank refuses to talk to her as yet and repossession hearings are proceeding. It is worth noting that the house was once valued at €1.65 million in the days of the heady Celtic Tiger and indeed she received a cash offer of €500,000 last year which the banks refused.

Of course, whatever price the house finally sells at, under Irish law, Godsil is now solely responsible for the balance of the mortgage.

Godsil’s fame, notably for being broke, was aided by a quirky video to sell the property. This went viral and her story featured in papers, online, radio and television both domestically and abroad. She was featured on American radio, Belgian TV, RTE, TV3 and most recently on BBC2’s Newsnight programme.

In all her many public interviews Godsil has said relatively little about her ex’s role in her financial demise and nothing at all about her legal adviser. The former has avoided public disapproval possibly because he is the father of their two children and she has concentrated instead on the disparity in the bankruptcy laws between the UK and Ireland. On the latter, her dissatisfaction with the legal service afforded her (a moot point, of which more later) seems not to have been given airtime as she was following a formal complaint procedure with The Law Society. If that was indeed the case, any hopes for any satisfactory conclusion were dashed this month when The Law Society utterly rejected all her causes for complaint.

The main reason for the breakdown between divorce lawyer and client appears to have arisen from advice dispensed at the beginning of the legal proceedings. Godsil and her ex were directors in a limited company whose purpose was to provide public relations services. This PR Company was run by Godsil and enjoyed lucrative revenues during the boom years. As the marriage disintegrated, Godsil was advised by Shatter to set up a new company, taking nothing from the old. He explicitly advised her in writing to remain as director in the old company as there were considerable collectibles still outstanding. Despite her misgivings, Godsil followed this advice to the letter.

Of course there is nothing so dirty as divorce. The old company without Godsil at the helm soon stopped altogether and the wounded Izatt was advised by his then law firm (he changed legal teams three times in the process of this protracted divorce) to put Godsil into the Commercial High Court for the abrogation of her fiduciary duties under the Foss Harbottle exception. This precedent basically rules that an individual cannot be director of two, competing companies. No doubt the ‘cha-ching’ of cash registers could be heard on both sides of the benches at this opening salvo.

Godsil felt increasingly unhappy that following to the letter as she saw her solicitor’s instructions had laid her open to such charges. Although Shatter argued, ultimately successfully, that the Commercial charges were an attempt to extract palimony from the wife and lodged a family case in the High Court at the same time which ultimately joined the commercial case, his advices continued to rankle with her. As time went on, she also objected to being told by her own divorce lawyer that she had indeed contravened commercial law and that it was her fault her actions laid her open to these initial commercial proceedings.

The Law Society totally upheld Shatter over Godsil’s complaint that his initial recommendation had been badly advised and exonerated him from any wrong doing for his advice. However, what cannot be denied was the rapid deterioration in the professional relationship between Shatter and his aggrieved client. Finally, Shatter requested that he come off record but refused to release her files to her new law firm.

At the point, midway if she but knew it in the torturously expensive legal proceedings, Godsil had already paid an initial sum of €4,000 as a deposit to Shatter and had borrowed a further €22,000 to pay interim bills after strong requests from the legal firm while relations were still cordial.

Despite payment of these significant sums of money and while being intimately acquainted with the downwardly spiralling nature of Godsil’s financial affairs, Shatter refused to release her files until finally ordered to by Judge Abbot. This was not without consequences as Godsil’s new legal firm were forced to act as guarantors of her debt, a position which made them very unhappy.

Godsil went to taxation (to fix final fees by the independent Taxing Master) but only managed to reduce the balance of her fees against Gallagher Shatter by approximately €5,000. She still owed some €30,000 plus. A taxing accountant hired for the purpose of representing her professed that he was so appalled by the proceedings, and upon successful reduction of her balancing liability, did not tender a fee note to Godsil. His opinion seemed to suggest Godsil had been through enough. Of course, there was more to come according to the complaint, again totally exonerated by The Law Society.

At that stage Godsil began trying to repay the balance of fees to Gallagher Shatter in installments of €500 per month but soon ran into difficulties when the firm refused to issue her with receipts. She sought advice from The Law Society who advised her that she was entitled to them, but claims that no receipts were at any stage forthcoming.

As Godsil faced into the final and protracted legal proceedings with her ex (he changed law firms as mentioned three times, sometimes failed to have a legal representative and forced delays when he did not have documents to hand) she discovered Gallagher Shatter had named her in Stubbs Gazette and moreover began debt recovery proceedings in the Circuit Court. As her current divorce solicitors were unable to represent her due to a conflict of interests, Godsil was forced to hire yet another solicitor to represent her.

Prior to this she sought to head off the fresh and unnecessary legal action by writing to Shatter and confirming that not only would she pay but she had an asset under advanced negotiations and would be in a position to clear the debt in its entirety within a matter of months. Her new divorce firm, also defacto debt collectors for Shatter, wrote to say exactly the same. However, these letters and assurances were ignored and the matter proceeded.

Godsil tried to argue to The Law Society that pursuance of the outstanding debt was vexatious as she was not denying payment, indeed would be able to pay in a very short time period and was moreover guaranteeing this assurance in writing from her legal firm. The Law Society totally upheld Shatter and denied this complaint too.

Another serious complaints rejected by The Law Society was Godsil’s claim of doubling billing. Shatter charged a consultancy fee for his time and also charged for whatever junior solicitor was present taking notes, pushing consultation fees to near four figure amounts. This was rejected as a complaint by The Law Society as these terms and conditions were clearly set out in the opening letter of appointment. Godsil tried to argue that such was her distress at her marriage breaking down she was not fully cognisant of these terms. She also argued that she could not remember actually signing this appointment letter and to her knowledge Gallagher Shatter were not able to furnish a signed copy of these terms. Her complain was rejected.

Not providing receipts initially rankled with Godsil on a professional basis, as part of the legal fees were to be borne by her company, but both professional neglect and possible noncompliance with revenue were rejected out of hand.

The other long list of complaints brought by Godsil, and rejected by The Law Society, included claims of verbal bullying during consultations (supported by family members who attended with her) and extreme rudeness by office staff, including having the phone hung up on her during one conversation with a secretary. Another twist in the tale was a phone call made by the Minister after an anonymous piece featuring Godsil ran in the Irish Independent. The article covered the dropping of interest by the Minister for his fees once he gained office. However, this article caused the Minister to ring a mutual third party and advise Godsil not to go public with their professional relationship. Godsil claimed it was a question of intimidation by the Minster. The Law Society said it was not.

Asked why she pursued her complaints through The Law Society and not through adversarial means where costs might be gained, Godsil replied that her intention was to highlight the possible abuses that the incamera rule in family law afforded solicitors. “I would not have anyone experience the lack of professional courtesy and bullying I received at the hands of my solicitor. It is an open secret in legal circles but only hard learnt by individuals such as myself. Divorce is hard enough without your solicitor attacking you.

“Having survived the long winded, painful and hugely expensive ordeal, I am moreover deeply saddened that every single one of my complaints has been rejected by the Law Society, especially the accusation of bullying,” she said.

So there the sorry tale ends. When everything was accounted for in the proceedings Godsil had nothing left over. Like the infamous Jarndyce and Jarndyce affair in Dicken’s Bleak House, when the lawyers stopped talking everything was gone in costs. Godsil seems to have been singularly unlucky in her relationships both in her initial choice of husband and subsequent divorce lawyer. Her ex husband has walked free of the million plus debt on the family home through the vagaries of inter-country commity and her long list of complaints against her divorce lawyer have been totally rejected by The Law Society.

May she have a happier experience in choosing husbands and divorce lawyers in the future.

ends

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.

 

ends

How do you find the middle?

Bang in the Middle!

 

Jillian Godsil became divorced. Her ex husband became bankrupt and she was left with a million euro mortgage on a house worth half that. This is her story about being in the middle.

 

 

How do you know when you are in the middle? Is it by age, experience or weight? As the Ardal O’Hanlon joke goes, everyone wants to know your weight at birth but no one wants to know at death. So how can we tell where we are? Age is equally arbitrary; genes and luck count in unequal amounts; some of the healthiest people I know have been struck down in car accidents, lives wrenched horribly short. Or do the gods wait for us to complete our own personal bucket list? And what if we are too conservative or wildly over-optimistic? Does that have any bearing on what we get to finish and can we keep on topping that list up every year if we are lucky enough to reach those ambitions?

I am hoping I am only at the middle. It feels a bit like Peter Pan and Tinkerbell: she may have pleaded for everyone to believe in fairies; I am hoping the same goes for second chances.

Our lives, if experience be the key, are defined by markers: chance happenings, major events, goals achieved or dreams lost. My hope for a second chance comes after one of those life-changing experiences, divorce. It is like the sea parting for Moses. There was a before and now there is an after.

Of course, when you hit a major marker you think it is the marker, the marker that defines who you are as a person. I could list half a dozen markers all of significant importance; going to Trinity College Dublin, working in the city of London, moving to Sydney, getting married, living in Singapore, having children, returning home, losing my father, writing my novel and learning to ride a horse.

I think divorce is perhaps one of the more significant markers possibly because of its proximity to the middle of my life (again that hope), the point where I must start again. And also, aside from childbirth, one of the single biggest disruptions to my life across the board; emotionally, financially and socially.

I remember at sixteen thinking the world had suddenly notched up a gear and was spinning a little faster than before. I asked my mother, then a mere fifty, if things slowed up at her extreme age. ‘No,’ she replied. ‘It only gets faster.’ Thinking about this article, I checked in with her again, now a sprightly eighty. ‘No,’ she replied. ‘It only gets faster and more precious.’

And so it seems. Trinity for me was one of my first major new departures: the stepping from childhood into adulthood. For four years I lapped up the special atmosphere that is Trinity. Summers were spent working as a waitress in the states and while I loved it, I also ached for the return to Trinity where I could stretch my mind. Of course I spent most of my time doing the mundane: attending lectures, eating chips in the Buttery, drinking coffee in the sunshine that came each May before exams. But I did, and often before walked through front arch and think wow, I study here, I study here.

I recently returned to a Trinity English Alumni Talk in the Long Room Hub. After my nervousness of trying to find the new building built long after my graduation, teenage angst all over again, I soon slipped back into that thankful state in which I called Trinity the best four years of my life.

London was another departure, a literal one. I remember ten years previously my eldest sister left to nurse in London for six months. The entire family came to the airport in tearful support reminiscent of famine emigration scenes. Fast forward to 1987 and only my parents were there to see me off; travel wasn’t such a big deal then or else the world had collapsed enough for the move to be seen as a minor one.

London in the late 1980s was fast and furious; it was fun, hurricanes, stock market crashes, boozy lunches and champagne breakfasts. It was sweaty tube rides in summer and late night trips to the curry house. I made my first, and financially disastrous, foray into property, buying a lovely Georgian flat with a friend. ‘You can’t go wrong buying property in London,’ I told my parents. Words that echo to my present condition. Oh, if only I had listened to myself!

London was also the city of romance one Christmas. I met my future husband and we paired like love-sick swain. Of course, my stories from here on in have all to be rewritten a little. The victor gets to write history and the divorcee gets to look at the pursuit of love with a slightly cynical eye. As those endearing traits much loved in a new romance can fester into irritating habits, so too the path to true love seems a little less rosy when viewed through the mirror backwards.

Three months together and he was posted to Australia by the bank we both worked for. I always wanted to go to Australia.

So engaged, apartment sold for a loss, parents and family departed from again but I seem to recall more of a send off as Australia was definitely a long way away, and I arrived in Sydney. Now, this was a marker. I stepped off the plane and into the limousine rented by my fiancée for the occasion.

If London was fast and furious,Sydney was hot and laid back. Here I learned to love shiraz and that oaked chardonnay that is so uncool today. I still love both since I refuse to follow fashion. We sunbathed in winter, bbq’d all year round and modified our twang a little. ‘How are you going?’ replaced ‘How are you doing?’ Instead of finding a parking spot, we found a park. And in the middle, had we but known it was the middle, we flew off to Fiji to get married on Valentine’s Day on a little beach with only a Fijian choir for company.

So, now I was starting to grow up. I was starting to accumulate those additions that separate a girl from a woman. I had a degree, had owned a flat, worked abroad and now had a husband. Whatever next?

Singapore was next. This brief two-year period was lived in temperatures of 30 degrees day and night. And here I conceived and gave birth to my elder daughter,Georgina. There was no getting away from the fact I was getting all grown up now. I had a daughter to prove it.

Becoming a mother also made me homesick. I wanted to be in the cool mists that descend from the Kerry Mountains and to walk through the damp streets of Dingle. The fact that I had never been to Dingle was irrelevant, I just had to go back to Ireland. Motherhood and motherland were inextricably linked.

So too was fatherhood, or rather my father. Worries about losing him brought me home too. I was lucky: we enjoyed many more years before he died in his eighty-seventh year. The tragedy was that my father-in-law died two days earlier. The double loss was terrible since two grieving people are often no good to each other.

So we returned to Dublin. This was familiar ground again and I loved it, especially having my family so close again. We bought a beautiful Georgian house in Rathmines, I gave birth to my second daughter, Kathryn, and settled in for the long haul. But I got it very wrong again. I said I would be taken out of my lovely home in a box, and while fortunately I was not, sadly we did sell up.

Next stop Raheengraney House, the reason for this voyage through my life. Here was a beautiful manor house in very poor repair sitting in a field, a bit like the house in Father Ted. Of course, to ardent restorers, the worse the repair the better the challenge. My mother fell through floorboards in the attic, not seriously, but that only made us keener. Both families felt we were a bit mad but appreciated the challenge.
The move was precipitated by my husband’s desire to change careers. He was tired of banking and was an excellent cook and so we thought we’d run a guesthouse. What we didn’t factor in was my extreme dislike of chamber maid duties and his propensity to behave like Basil Fawlty.

Raheengraney House

Accordingly, Raheengraney House, like Lady Havisham in all her wedding finery, was made up with all the bells and bows that could be found. She sat there waiting for her guests and she waited and she waited.

Ah, the lack of guests. This can be explained in two ways, or perhaps three. For the first refer back to the reluctant chambermaid and the grumpy chef; I have been reliably informed since that all chefs are grumpy. Then there was the rude awakening to the fact that running a guest house does not pay very well. Finally, my fledging newly formed public relations business had taken off and the bills were better paid from the basement where I lodged my office than from the glorious bedrooms and their fine views.

Around that time my life settled into a rut. You might imagine that I would have welcomed such as rut after all the house-jumping and country-hopping I had experienced. And yes I did, although it was not without its complications. The most glaring disruption to our lives was the reversal of roles. Previously my husband had been the main breadwinner, although I worked furiously behind to catch up. Now I was the sole breadwinner and he diversified into other fields; gardening, construction of a guest cottage, green energy, furniture-making, even writing at one stage, I seem to recall.

Sometimes it is only when roles get thrown up and reversed that cracks can appear. It took some time but our compatibility issues came slowly to the fore. Even I, the most horribly optimistic person you could hope to meet, began to feel that all was not what it should be or could be. I was horrified to discover that I could not see myself settling into old age with my husband, especially when the children would have left home. It was a terrible feeling but one that I could not ignore. I also felt that I was not in the middle at all; I felt I was at the end.

How does one begin the hardest journey of one’s life? One step at a time, one step at a time. With feet like clay, I began that process. I had no idea how hard it was going to be. I was so naïve thinking a marriage could be unravelled as easily as it was made. It was like going to see a romantic comedy only to discover you had booked into the dark thriller film showing next door instead. And in that journey I lost my husband – albeit that I did the losing, all my financial security, most of our joint friends and my social standing.

There is a powerful prayer often spoken at funerals. It speaks of God and man walking hand in hand with their footprints together in the sand. At the darkest point, the footsteps reduce to only one set and the man asks, ‘Why did you leave me when I needed you most?’ ‘It was then I was carrying you,’ God replies.

So too with life.

Of course journeys are not all gloom and doom, not all lost baggage and interminable delays in hot airports. There are many resting places, beautiful and unexpected vistas at the turn of the road or kind words spoken at the end of the day.

Selling my house on YouTube has been one of the surprising vistas. If I may step back and explain. Alliteration is a funny thing. With Divorce, comes Depression and Desperation and Debt, lots of it. As part of the divorce, our lovely Georgian manor house, Raheengraney House, was put on the market. It failed to sell. My now ex-husband returned to the UK. The mortgage, with arrears, soared to the million mark. The house value, now with tenants installed, sank to the half million mark. My ex became bankrupt and kindly gave all the debt to me, every last red cent.

In desperation, I made a video and tried to sell the house. To my amazement the video went viral in April 2011.  The interest and the coverage was shocking, amazing and wonderful, if a little exhausting. There have been many awesome moments in this episode and one of the best stories comes from Mark Little, journalist and cofounder of Storyful. He was in New York during the second week of the video going viral and got asked about my house from people in the The New York Times and The Huffington Post. Wow, I had arrived.

Within two weeks I had a cash buyer for my house, but for half the value of the mortgage. I celebrated, prematurely as it turns out, and asked the bank to join with me in the sale. I waited and I waited. They refused and they refused. I proposed and I proposed. They refused again. And after three long and frustrating months my patient buyer went away.

So I was back to square one. I still own a lovely Georgian manor house but the grass has now grown up to the windows. I have sold the curtains from the rooms, the granite troughs from the gardens, the ovens from the kitchen. It hurts like a knife each time I take something away from my house but I have to live. It and I are in a state of stasis.

The past four years have led to me the middle but it’s not all bad. As my mother reminds me frequently – Ever Onwards and Upwards, Maybe Sideways, but never Backwards!

In my four-year journey from married woman to new me I have had some of the most fantastic of experiences, intense joys and new-found confidence. My first step felt like the first step of my last journey, but now I know and hope it is only one of many, many more.

I learnt to ride a horse and to showjump, winning rosettes in competitions and even one in the national riding club festival. I went on a cattle drive to Montana and an equestrian safari in South Africa. I wrote my first novel, Running out of Road, and have begun my second. I went on writing courses and have joined writing groups. I write on a regular basis. I learnt to cook. Before my children said I burnt pizzas. Four years on and they have not starved. I found new friends. I had too: my old ones found it too difficult to remain neutral. I have made loads of mistakes. I have watched my girls grow. I have watched them showjump for their school and the ponyclub. I have even watched them, my heart swelling with pride, as they competed for their school and country in Hickstead in the UK. I have recently watched my eldest learn to drive, which caused my heart to palpitate for different reasons. I have been signed up by Assets Modelling agency, although no jobs have arrived as yet. I have learnt the joy of running and am a regular fixture on my treadmill before work most mornings. I have taken up kick-boxing classes and I love it. I have read more books than ever before and love the mobile library that parks in Shillelagh every second week. I enjoy my life and I laugh a lot. I have friends who laugh a lot. I can’t stop laughing.

So where am I? I really hope I’m only in the middle. I’ve living life like I’m only in the middle. And if I’m not, please don’t tell me because I don’t want to know!

Click here for the viral video

Jillian Godsil September 2011