Coming out

It is wonderful to see mental health issues being talked about in the open. Last week on television, footballing brothers, Ian and Gary Kinsela, launched 32countyjerseys in memory of their brother Jonathan and in aid of Pieta House. Another Dublin footballer Paul Flynn said talking about mental health was pivotal to dealing with it. If he had a hamstring injury he would go to the doctor, so why not a mental issue?

This is a huge step forward. The TV3  interviewer Aidan Cooney, being a man of a certain age, said that talking about mental health was very much frowned upon when he was growing up.  No one would dare say they felt under the weather or needed a hug. It could be misconstrued in a number of ways, and none of them were welcome.

A couple of years ago, I was involved with a Twitter-based initiative called #Depressionhurts run by the admirable Norah Boran and Alan Lavender and through the programme people shared their stories of mental health issues. It was the first time I came across the term ‘the black dog’ which has since become a keystone in describing depression. I remember vividly one man wrote about the randomness of the black dog, how it might appear and stay for a long time before it went. How no amount of being told ‘to pull himself together’ would have any impact whatsoever on his condition. It was an insight into another world and I am very grateful for the chance to understand. I also believe that as we talk more about mental health issues that the shame and fear associated with identifying them and treating them lessens. It is all about coming out – it is hard for shame to thrive in the daylight.

This week too sees the launch of a very popular, annual men’s rowing calendar in the UK. The Warwick Rowers calendar is a bit of a byword for male eye candy; a male version of the Pirelli bathing suit calendar. Only these rowers don’t wear any clothes at all. They are naked. The first calendar was published in 2009 and the purpose is twofold. The first is to raise awareness of homophobia. This year’s centrefold is quoted as saying through the experience he had met many people of the LGBT community and was honoured to be part of the calendar. The second purpose is to raise money for Sport Allies, a charity aimed at ending discrimination and bullying of homosexuals in the sporting world.

warwick rowers warwick 3






Normalisation of sexual orientation is to be welcomed. If young people can see role models embracing diversity, especially the Warwick rowers, then the accompanying shame and bullying can be overcome. Coming out and overcoming shame, especially if you are not gay, is brilliant.

Shame can be a force for good – if the actions are worthy of shame. Last month an unrepentant Rolf Harris mocked his victims by showing none. But shame applied unjustly can be much more damaging. The shame applied to mental health issues or to homosexuality for example. Or what about the shame applied to debt?

It is estimated some 300,000 households are in mortgage arrears right now. People brave enough to put their head above the parapet and confess their inability to repay their debt are routinely called greedy. Or in more extreme cases accused of not paying their debts on purpose; which is a form of inverted thieving. As a bankrupt I get a lot of reactions to my condition. One woman, a very well-meaning woman, told me that she was brought up to pay her debts. It was only as I travelled home the enormity of what she had said struck me. She was putting me, and the other 300,000 non performing mortgage holders, into the same boat. We were now people who had been brought up not to pay out debts. How had the moral compass moved not only for me, but for the other 300,000 people in arrears? Had we all somehow morphed into artful dodgers?

The answer is of course that our moral convictions had not changed. We had not somehow put aside the tenets of honesty, truthfulness and responsibility. If one person catches a cold, it may be considered unfortunate, if an entire village is laid low, then it can be called a plague. This is a global financial endemic where banks have become too big to fail and where bank debt is socialised but profits still retained internally. The financial system is broken and history will write a very different account than the current peddling in popular journals.

The shame heaped onto people in debt is misapplied. Debt happens. And then sometimes it happens so much that the person cannot repay it. Fact. It is also a fact that ordinary people will lose things if they cannot repay their debt – their homes, possession and income. But they should not also lose their health and their self-esteem. If you are rich and become bankrupt, the unjust system means you hang on to your lifestyle. If you are ordinary and in debt, you can lose it all. But not your self-esteem please. It is only money after all. Let’s shine a light on shame and with whatever money we have left, let’s all buy the 2015 Warwick Rowers Calendar.

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Giving Thanks

I want to give thanks for my children, Georgina and Kathryn

I want to give thanks for my mum Mary and my five siblings: Arthur, Ena, Richard, Ann and John

I want to give thanks for my nephews and nieces

I want to give thanks for my friends

I want to give thanks for my neighbours

I want to give thanks for my acquaintances

I want to give thank for strangers who gave me a kind word

I want to give thanks to everyone who helped me along the way

I want to give thanks for every kind wish sent my way

I want to give thanks for everyone who listened to me

I want to give thanks for being alive and well and full of joy

I give thanks

Let’s ALL be somebody!

We are a talkative nation. Put any two Irish people together and we will talk. We will talk in a bus queue, after mass, in the pub, on the street, in our homes and in our offices. And we are not behind in our opinions. We can be quite forceful in our views. And we are also very good about giving out when things are not right. Talk to Joe on RTE radio is one of our longest running programmes and it is amazing the number of topics we can give out about. And when we give out, we often say that somebody should do something about that. Somebody should do something.


Well, I decided to be that somebody. It wasn’t that I considered myself better than anyone else at doing something. It wasn’t that I felt I was any more qualified to be that somebody. It wasn’t even that I thought I had a God-given right to be that somebody – I just felt that I had to be the change I wanted to see. So I had to be that somebody.


Of course, somebody is also your mother, your sister, your daughter, your wife. Somebody is your friend, your first date, your last date, your golf partner. Somebody is the girl next door, is Mrs Murphy down the street, is the woman in the shop, is the woman hanging out the washing. Somebody is the attendant in the petrol station, the bus driver, the chap smoking on the corner, the woman pushing her child in her pram. Somebody is also you.


Even as I become that somebody, I would love if you could become somebody too. When I stand for election, I would love if somebody would vote for me, somebody just like you, in fact, it is you!

Jillian Godsil


Through a looking glass, darkly


What has happened with our country? We are going through one of the darkest periods of our modern history, with more people queuing up to see Garth Brooks than demonstrating against our governmental self-inflicted poverty. And when it comes to showing what is happening we are reliant on the outsiders to show the truth, even if we have to view our society through a fake wig and eye lashes. When did the truth become more true when delivered by a man dressed as woman. And please do not get me wrong, I have nothing against a man dressed as a woman, maybe not my man, but I fully support Panti’s dress code, gender code, wig code., but doesn’t it say something when the so called ‘outsiders’ of a society are leading the truth charge?

In the same way, feminist, activist, erotica writer Aoife Brennan is leading a little charge all of her own. I interviewed her last year about her first book of erotica and it was all about ‘real world sex’ but the second two books developed into full scale feminism and her trilogy has become thinking women’s erotica. Her erotica is the genre that dares to speak its name. Her books, which touch on financially inspired suicide, the banks, social media, women’s choices, austerity, legal issues, and much more, including graphic sex, were quoted on Twitter recently as being the lynchpin of Enda’s comments. So the Irish prime minster is now relying on a feminist erotic book to explain what is going wrong with the country.

When the outsiders of society point to harsh truths, then it is time to listen …

visit Aoife Brennan here and Pantibar here

cougar diaries


This is what bankruptcy looks like…

This is what bankruptcy looks like…


€650 bankruptcy fee

€650 bankruptcy fee







Yesterday I handed over €650 to The Insolvency Service of Ireland in order to go bankrupt. This is what the fee looks like: €650 in coins and some fivers and tens.


It could be worse. In recent weeks another client of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation (IMHO) handed over a cheque from Saint Vincent de Paul for the same purpose. Going bankrupt is not a pleasant action. It is not an easy action. For most people it is the end of the road. The bankrupt may claim it is a new beginning, but it is hard to form a new beginning when you don’t have anything or a job or an income to start over.


Bankruptcy is the end of the road. It is the elimination of debt. That is to be welcomed. But it should also be remembered that unlike the high rollers who take this route, who have pensions and salaries and multiple homes, there are many people like myself who have to scrape together the fee, who no longer own a home and who have no means of income except social welfare.


I welcome becoming a bankrupt, to calling a halt on my debt. However, it is not something that I would have aspired to as a teenager. I didn’t day dream that one day I could be a bankrupt and start all over again. It is a necessary evil.


In about ten days I should be in the High Court finding out if I am to be accepted as a bankrupt. I have waited a long time for this but it is one life event that I shall not be celebrating. I am pensive as I journey in this direction, hope intact but in short supply, eroded as it has been by the daily privations of encroaching debt. Even as I hope to undo my shackles, I am not sure what will replace them.


It is good to be free, but freedom like health, is better enjoyed with money than without.


Well, hello bankruptcy!



First Lines 2014

First Lines

New lines

Bare branches scratched a grey sky

Love is not enough

I was the evil twin

They would throw a party if they changed their knickers

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

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

The lady who fell as she walked

Cracking wings of pheasants, gun loud in the November air

The ginger prince

All roads lead south

I grew up with the smell of pine in my nostrils

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

I am an amoeba

Sorry I stole your life

We are seduced by the oily mendacity of the City

Sup smelly. Whas a crackakackin?

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

You are never far from the ground

Where to begin?

Happy New Year!


Hoping to be Bankrupt for Christmas …

first printed in IrishCentral on December 14, 2013

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My week on @Ireland – my parting message

What an amazing week. I will write about my lovely time as the curator of the @Ireland account tomorrow but I am running out the door now and so I just want to ask people who follow the account to look at this presentation I did on debt, survival and hope.  or click on the icon on

This is a talk I did with SouthEast Television called I wonder – about debt,survival and hope

I really put my heart and soul into this. I think it is important. I am passionate about not being ashamed at failing financially. Neither should you be – if you have the misfortune to be down on your luck.

God bless!


Remember – This too will pass…


Cat on a Holly Tree Top



The first we had any indication that there might be trouble was on the Thursday night. Tigger, our cat of some three years, once rescued off the main Carnew to Aughrim road, when not much bigger than computer mouse, but with an enormous capacity to survive a main road, and lungs like a fisherwoman, and a cry as piteous as the orphan that she then was, presented with her back leg paw as swollen as a hockey ball (the football analogy would have been excessive in this feline example).


It required attention although Tigger did not seem in pain. We kept her in the house just in case and much to her disgust, intending to bring her to the evening surgery at our local veterinary clinic.  She puked for good measure just before we left displaying her annoyance at such treatment. Our cat travelling box, while purchased as such, leaves a lot to be desired. It is a wire cage with no bottom, necessitating a towel or similar to cover the base. We tried the canary trick of draping the cage with a cover but she mewled horribly all the way to the neighbouring village, sticking out the three paws that could fit out through the holes and scratching my youngest whose job it was to keep her calm.


In the surgery, the vet examined her and suggested an infection and prescribed injections. These were administered without much panic; although we were glad there were only two. At this stage Tigger had figured out what was causing the sharp needle pain and I doubted we could have kept the vet safe for a third injection. He also provided an antibiotic solution to be given orally in the form of drops.


Home again, home again jiggedy jig, with the cat mewling even more and my daughter now using the towel under the cage as opposed to over it in a vain attempt to avoid injury.  Once home we administered a further oral dose of medicine as instructed which she promptly sicked up on the grass.


Our cat was less frequent in the house after that experience over the weekend. She normally comes and goes as she wishes, but the nasty injection and further nasty oral drops, meant she went more than she came. But by Sunday we were worried. She had not returned for food or medicine. A hunt ensued and we found her asleep beside the bales of hay on the ground in the stables, being too weak to jump on board as would have been normal.


At this point we decided house arrest was preferable to that we could keep her indoors. We set up a litter tray and closed all windows. The smell of sick cat is not good. Then, while she managed to poop on the litter, the smell was awful. Then she continued to vomit, with neither food, medicine or even water staying down. And she sicked all over. On Monday morning, she was a thin reflection of her formal self, she could barely walk, and instead of curling up, lay stiff as a poker, Egyptian-style, with her head trembling before it would sink to the ground in an exhausted and consumptive fashion.  I went for a walk and when I returned I could not find her, she had crept into a small space in a cupboard and looked for all the world as if she was going to die. I brought some fresh water to her which she lapped. Then she vomited again, this time a red mucusy mess. I called the vet. I was bringing our dying cat in immediately, outside hours and in a hurry. They said she would be put on a drip at once.


This journey was longer. We had to go to a different clinic which was open and once in the cage, reminiscent if Tigger had but watched Winston’s rat-filled cage in the film 1984, she set up an equally protesting wail for the entire 30minute journey. She went from death calm to banshee loud in seconds and maintained it for the entire journey. My youngest, again in the danger seat, wondered if people might think we were murdering a cat, not saving one.


Once in the vets she displayed an agility and restlessness that made liars of my near-death worry, but she was sick enough to warrant the drip and more injections. The vet suggested a sedative prior to any needles. My youngest and I exchanged looks. This was a good idea we said.


That night we were recalled to the surgery. Tigger seemed fine if still a little weak. We were to take her home and report back if she did not improve. While my eldest had driven to the surgery, she suggested I drive home as she wanted to hold Tigger on her lap in the cage and with only a dressing gown as a base. Tigger, now as familiar as she wanted to be with Orwell’s classic torture chamber, began her banshee wail just minutes from the car park. My eldest implored me to put the pedal to the medal, in a 97 Micra with no power steering. We were making ground, at the earth shattering speed of forty miles an hour, when her wail sounded different and next minute Tigger was urinating in the cage, easily avoiding the dressing gown and hitting instead my eldest’s jodhpurs and the car seat. Crazily driving the Micra at excessive speed on the country roads I could only fish out a used tissue from the side door. I was begged to go faster but even the gods could not help me there.


At home, Tigger was rushed inside and I was rushed back out to try and clean the car seat. We tried her with a little food and she ate. We tried her with a little water and she drank. She tried the litter with success, creating the headache inducing smell where windows and doors were closed against our would-be escapee. That night, we left her in the sitting area, but she woke us at 2am, then 3am and then again at 4am, scratching to come into the bedrooms. She habitually slept on my youngest’s bed but given her recent vomiting that had been banned. Finally, she, and we, slept.


The next day a recovery was mooted and the doors and windows opened, with the litter thankfully expelled outside. The bandage from the drip was removed, uncovering a bald-like leg. Tigger came and went, ate and went, and seemed pretty much herself again.  I guess that night she needed to prove a point. At quarter to six in the morning a wild mee-ow screech was heard by all three of us. I put my head under the pillows and tried to ignore it, but my two children decided otherwise. The two musketeers thumped past my door to the garden to find the source of the cry and the cause of the matter. With my head under the pillows I convinced myself that they had returned to bed, when minutes later I heard my youngest running back in again. The third, and rather reluctant, musketeer was needed. Groggily I reached for a jumper and my flipflops and went outside. I could hear noises in the middle of the ditch and climbing over the fence and under the trees and around the bushes – no mean feat in my ill-advised flipflops – I found the cat up a tree, that was in the middle of a vigorous holly bush, with my eldest half way up the tree, being supported by my youngest, trying to reach the cat. I was called upon to provide the support to allow my eldest to go higher. This time I crawled over the barbed wire and under the shrubs and finding shaky footing in my flip flops, attempted to take the weight of my eldest under her left boot. She, being of a more serious musketeer than myself, had worn more suitable footwear. At this point, I must point out, it is remarkably difficult to sustain the weight of a young woman, albeit a slim young woman, in one’s hands, while leaning at angle into the tree because the presence of a vigorous holly bush prohibited closer approach and while wearing flip flops on the banked uneven ditch.


Still, she did not fall, more due to the strength of her upper body than my real foundation in my hands. Tigger obligingly moved higher and out of reach and onto another tree. We regrouped and this time my youngest, being the tallest of all three, struggled to reach the cat. Tigger, perhaps sensing that resistance was futile, took some ginger steps down towards us. My youngest reached up and Tigger caterwauled like a feral cat and my youngest almost dropped her, to much scolding by my eldest. But luck was with us and the cat was still held and recovered despite her continued wailing. We reached steady ground but then my youngest said in fright. “It is not our cat,” and dropped her, like I have to say, a scalded cat. “She doesn’t have a bald leg.” The cat, who was indeed Tigger but whose bald leg had fluffed out overnight, was unconcerned. She sat in the middle of the drive and cleaned herself.


Being a bright morning we all trooped off to bed. The children attempted to sleep. The cat ate some more food and slept. The dog slept on the blanket. I booted up my laptop and tried to record this weekend. The next time the children say they want another cat:  I will produce this and read it. Lest I forget.

The end.


Post Script: Tigger is well.

Post Script 2:  I recounted this story to my mother, sharing the humour with her. Towards the end the telling my mother asked me in a very confused voice. ‘But how did Tucker get up a tree?’  Tucker? I had to laugh. In addition to Tigger the cat, we have Tucker the new foal and somehow my mother had thought I was talking about him and was getting more and more confused especially when I told her he had been found up a tree. How we laughed. The day Tucker climbs a tree is the day I ban all animals from our home.