Credit Cards have a way with Words

Credit cards have a way with words. Some of the best lines have centred round their use. From the ‘No charge’ slogan in the 80s, to the Not the Nine O’clock News sketch with Pamela Stephenson where she invited her credit card customer to stroke her boob (ok, it was a location joke, a vintage location joke playing on the fact that America Express took an exalted view of its own brand of commerce) to the most recent Mastercard line, There are some things money can’t buy, for everything else there’s Mastercard.

Of course, the ultimate irony with credit cards is that while they are selling you a way of life, in reality they are just helping you spend money more easily and costing everyone a percentage into the bargain. Credit cards take their cut, like Shylock’s pound of flesh, and usury is a dirty business after all.

Being a credit card is a bit like being a parent. Or is that being a parent is just like being a credit card. It’s all spend, spend, spend on one’s progeny. Unlike credit cards, however, there is not a fixed expiry date. It just keeps bobbing along until the parent expires.

Of course parents can extract their revenge on their children in two ways. One to live long enough to see them have teenage children. Sweet! And secondly is to live long enough to have to reside in a very expensive nursing home claiming back some of the investment made at the early years of their children’s lives.

Either way, a child is not just for Christmas but for life.

In my travels in this world I thought I had finalised the expenditure of my parents at a range of points, and in each case proved myself wholly wrong. While in Trinity College, Dublin I worked in the States during the summers and paid my own tuition fees. I thought at that stage I’d finished asking my parents for final handouts. Not!

I bought a flat in London at the height of the property market and borrowed the deposit off my parents. It was a sure thing, Not!

I sold my flat at the bottom of the London property crash to move to Australia and borrowed money from my parents to sell it in negative equity. End of financial dependency? Not!

I returned to Ireland and set up home in Dublin. When my husband wanted to move career and we bought a ruined manor house down the country to renovate it, we moved to my parent’s home for a year. To be sure no money changed hands: we did not actually ask them for money but neither did we pay rent. My abiding memory was my husband and I being given free rein in the TV room (a converted bedroom) while my father watched television on a small mobile in the bedroom, and my mother read down in the living room. They never complained. Their currency was love and support.

Fast forward ten years on and the marriage failed. My father had also died in the intervening years. My aged mother (gosh, she would kill me for that description, she is lively as a hare in March) who was then in her late seventies travelled down to mind our youngest every second week. Since we bought Raheengraney House in 1996, I had become the sole breadwinner in the family. By 2008, and now beginning our separation, our eldest was in weekly boarding and my newly ex husband minded our youngest week about. He had been a house husband since moving down to Raheengraney House, a career of guestkeeping not really suiting him.

At the start of separation I had money and thought nothing of it. As my divorce progressed along with the recession in Ireland and the failure of my business, twice, I began to rely on my mother’s largesse again. Is there no end to which a child may rely on a parent, I wonder.

I am still so far from being out of the woods it is a shocker. I wrote a blog last year when the bailiffs came and I said I’d hit rock bottom. Not so, this autumn to my great sadness I have to let go my long term friend and colleague and retreat my business back to my house.

I have to confess. I have hit more bottoms than Mr Grey and without the same level of enjoyment it must be said.

What is it to be parent? To be a child? To be bound in an endless series of engagements, some happy, some sad and many financial. I am so endlessly grateful to my parents and to my mother who is second to none.

September 2012

This blog was written as my eldest daughter having done her leaving and at 18 is taking a gap year, doing courses and seeking out the love of her life, working with horses. And her now gainfully employed father, who has paid her child maintenance for the past eighteen months  declares himself no longer responsible for her financial upkeep. She must look to herself to support herself.  Am I to follow suit? Am I fuck! My child is my child whether she is 18 or 47. She is still my child. She is a hard worker who has chosen a tough career. She is my joy, my burden, my love and I would have it no other way. Thank you Mum (and Dad!) xx

 

 

 

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

I’ve hit Rock Bottom and I’m Really Happy

It’s official. In November I hit rock bottom. The bailiffs came to my office to seize my goods. Only they gave me a stay of execution for a week. I have to say it was the toughest week of my life: the toughest week in a run of five years of very tough weeks.

I am glad to say that on that Friday in November the stay was extended and the threat removed. I am glad to say my eldest daughter does not need to leave school and get a job as a groom to support her broken mother. I am so very glad to see the back of that week.

And I’m even better than glad, I’m actually really happy because I have hit rock bottom and as everyone knows, once you hit the bottom, the only way is up.

Over the past five years I have hit so many lows, you’d have thought I was limbo dancer trying desperately to get under that bar. And each time, it moved a little lower. I’m pretty flexible and springy but there is a limit, and even elastic can snap.

So, when I went into meltdown during that terrible week, my brain cells all curled up and I could not cope any more. I cried a river. I put one foot in front of the other and I made steps that followed one another. But only physically. Emotionally and mentally I was stony broke.

And then the noose was released and I spluttered back to life. And even better than that, I sucked in great big lungfuls of air and coughed and hawked and breathed.

Over the past five years I have repeated a mantra: Ever onwards and upwards, maybe sideways but never backwards. But despite this mantra, I knew I was often going backwards. I could not help it: there were forces stronger than me. I may have kept my head above water but I was not progressing in a forward motion. Far from it. I was being swept out on a rip tide that refused to let me go, to let me be. And sometimes the shoreline seemed very far away and impossible to reach.

So when the bailiffs came, and more importantly then went, that week, I suddenly realised that I had indeed hit rock bottom. There was no more harm that could happen to me. There were no more bad things to suck me down, I was down as far as I could go.

To survive a visit of the bailiffs is a huge thing. It is the last huge thing in my spiraling descent. I am jumping up and down on Terra firma now; rock bottom is a hard place but great for jumping up. It’s not the funny quicksand of hard times, it’s not the soft uncertain foundation of worrying times, and it’s not the gooey mess of troubling times. It is rock bottom and therefore very solid and rock-like and bottomed out.

The week after the bailiffs came and went, and stayed gone, I was very, very happy. And two months later I remain in that happy, upbeat place.

I am jumping up and down on my rock bottom and the earth is not shaking or giving way or crumbling. It is rock solid rock bottom. And really, the only way is up!

 

PS (And please don’t tell me how far up it is! Law of gravity and life suggests my ascent may be tougher and longer than the rapid descent, but I think I was polite to those on the way down, so maybe that will conversely help on the way back up!)

 

 

 

 

 

Debt Becomes Her

At the end of last year, as the debate over our national indebtedness continues, there was a horrific story that hit the headlines:  A professional Irish man who had lost his job and was currently unemployed, was struggling to pay his mortgage. And in struggling to pay his mortgage, he was neglecting to feed his children. The story grew even more terrible as it transpired he found his daughter in her bedroom chewing on cardboard from a cereal packet to stave off the hunger.

This story is frightening from so many perspectives that it is hard to know where to begin. One really scary point is that it is being told in modern Ireland. This was not, when I last looked, a Third World country with no infrastructure, no police force, and no welfare state. This is a country that recently entertained the Queen and the President of the United States of America. We spent millions on security, on entertainment, on promoting the visits but they went without hitch and even with a fair degree of pride. In terms of keeping up with the Joneses, we were right up there. Is feider linn we all repeated after the O’Bama from Moneygall. After all, he should know.

We may be a broken country, with a ruling party that used cronyism to bring us to our knees financially, a judiciary that has bled the country in tribunals as we investigate those leaders who were never brought to justice, and a financial system that poured loans like poison down our necks. Albeit we opened our mouths wide, but we were told it was good for us, would make us better and moreover the financial institutions said how much they cared for us, cared enough to loan us millions and trillions. Now we are tasting the medicine and it no longer seems so sweet. But how did we end up with a desperate man feeding the greedy bank rather than his hungry children?

It seems to speak to several aspects of our national psyche, none of which is terribly edifying. When did blind obedience to paying a mortgage come ahead of feeding our children? When did the gaping maw of a greedy bank surpass that of a child’s needs? It seems to hearken back to the times of paying the shilling to the insurance man so that in times of hardship, money could be found. Of course, those weekly payments stopped once hardship began so when real privation arrived, there was only loss. So why in the 21st century is the shilling still being paid. And why does it appear that this duty only applies to lowly people. We have seen, and often, the rules changed for leaders in our society. Why can developers, bankers and politicians blithely ignore those same rules and indeed they often profit when things go wrong. How does this work? We all know by now that bankruptcy is a punitive weapon in Irish law designed to curtail and limit failed business people. However, at the top it is interesting to witness that those business people who have gone bankrupt have at the same time made their spouses very rich.  The same people who have ridden this country to the edge of collapse are retired off, rats leaving the ship, but beset at all sides with golden handshakes, pendulous pensions and exorbitant expenses.

Then there is the age old sacrifice to land. We have not moved very far from The Field if we consider that our house is worth more than our children. There is loss, take it on the chin and move on. Of course, in Irish law, this is not possible. The banks, those providers of sweet honey in times of good, take no risk and take no responsibility for their actions. If that man fails, they will take his house but he still keeps any debt.

Where is the way out?

Sometimes we try so hard, fight so hard, work so hard that we cannot see a way out. The backbones of this country, people who get up every day and work, who believe in the dignity of labour, have been dumped upon from a great height and with a large amount of excrement. Sometimes there needs to be a halt.

Halting is much harder than it looks. Inertia may ironically keep you working but it is very hard to stop. Stop paying; stop being a good citizen, stop worrying about meeting direct debits and loans and standing orders. It also means not looking people in the eye. Not answering any blocked calls or indeed any unknown numbers. It means writing, repeatedly, I have no money. I cannot pay that bill or any bill for that matter.

How does a person reach that point? How do you get the courage to say ‘Stop the world I want to get off’ and still live in that world?

It is no one thing, it is many things. Remember the sermon of the glass being full? First we are shown it full of small rocks, full to the brim.

Not so, says the preacher, adding smaller stones. Still not full, he says as he adds sand to the very brim. Still not full, and he adds water. Now it is full.

I reached my own epiphany addition by addition until the water reached the top of the glass. It was a many stepped epiphany as slowly by slowly the scales fell from my eyes. Many small epiphanies maketh one big mother fucker of an eye opener!

A man to whom I was once married, a husband, took his leave of me in a cruel fashion. The professionals assigned to help me double-mugged me like Asyraf Haziq, that poor Malaysian student mugged during the London riots at the end of 2011. Supposed helpers filched his wallet and phone from his bag, as others helped the wounded man up. What that man who was once married to me could not take, the legal profession scooped up. There was no justice in the legal system for me or my children. I learnt at first hand the purpose of those rocks in the glass. They were to stone me.

The law continued to mug me. When that man who was once married to me left Ireland, he went bankrupt in a kinder jurisdiction, a jurisdiction that cleansed his debt within twelve months. And as a divorce present he gave all the Irish debt to me.

Now the financial institutions lined up. A mortgage that had been given in generous times had flipped into negative equity, serious negative equity, now almost twice the value of the asset. I sought a solution. I was lectured on the sin of looking for debt forgiveness. As the sand rained down on me, I began to choke with frustration. I was not the expert in the purchase of the loan. I bought only one house in Ireland. I did not produce the valuation nor undertake the evaluation of my ability to pay. Moreover, I had poured my life’s savings and earnings into that house. I stood to lose everything. The bank stood to lose half of its gamble. Except of course we do not have loans of no recourse in Ireland. So while the bank may have lost half, it was still free to chase me for the remainder. Buried deep in sand the debt suffocates me. There is no forgiveness of debt nor fairness in risk.

I cannot even claw back some air, selling the house at market value to reduce half my debt. The bank said it was not enough and left me buried up to my chin in sand and debt.

Then, as if I needed more, the demise of my business forced me to close my company. Maybe it was something to do with the fact that I had been stoned by the legal system that was supposed to protect me and buried in sand by the bank that was to help me put a roof over my head and over my children’s heads. How can someone still work, work effectively, when mugged, stoned and incapacitated? Tied up and tied down until life itself is a struggle. I was left alone to try and fund the company debts and as the water flowed into the glass I was no longer able to breathe. I had no choice but to stop.

Stopping is very liberating. I swam towards the white light, leaving my debt behind.

Of course, not paying my debt doesn’t mean the debt collectors don’t stop chasing me. If I don’t answer my phone to you my friend, then make sure to put your number in contacts. I have put my children first. I will work for them and to put food on the table for them. I refuse to work for the architects of our country’s destruction. I will only work for my children.

I have shifted my priorities and I am unsure of the outcome. I have no call on the social welfare, no call on the taxpayers of Ireland, no cost to anyone other than myself. I have shed my possessions and am clean. Not cleansed, just clean.

If I cannot empty my full glass of debt through commonsense, a rationale approach and morally correct actions, then I will jump glasses. Do you like my new glass? It is full of light and joy: there are no rocks to stone me, no stones to hide surprises under, no sand to bury me, and no water to drown me.

 

copyright @ Jillian Godsil

 

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