Friday 31 March 2023

How to cure the housing crisis overnight!

Kudos to the excellent notfairbnb campaign
Throughout this immoral and appalling Irish housing scandal, nothing has enraged me more than words uttered by our rotated Taoiseach.
With his government facing a vote of No Confidence due to their lifting of the Eviction Ban, Maggie Varadkar thought the time was right to dabble in legal pedantics.
Ignorant of the obscenity of an Irish leader pontificating the definition of eviction, Varadkar spoke at an EU summit in Brussels.
“I think people often mix up termination with evictions.” he said.
As I absorbed those words a searing pain, burning and visceral, roared from my core to all parts abdomen.


Think what you like, Blueshirt Boy, but know this, you loathsome toe-rag: if you’re a tenant who’s paid their rent every month, done the landlord the service of caring for the property and tending to the garden, when you’re served notice you feel like you’re being evicted.

Because you are.

Even given the fact that Maggie V is a landlord, I was astonished at his absolute inability to empathise; his vile arrogance and shameful ignorance of real life.

He was saying we’re so stupid we don’t even understand which particular way we’re getting fucked out of our homes.

I know very bloody well how desperate and terrifying it feels to be told to leave your home, especially when you’re unable to find another.


A tenant since 1981, I’ve never missed a month’s rent. Yet in the last 5 years I’ve been served notice to terminate my fully-registered tenancies twice, and neither time was I in any way at fault.

Five years ago, three months after the collapse of my marriage, my landlady took advantage of the change in circumstances to serve notice on a six year tenancy.

Two years later, in a different county, my next landlord saw fit to serve me notice on the afternoon I found out I was to have half my left lung surgically removed.

After the break-up, the house move and 18 months of severe illness, I had no savings and was about to face a major operation.

Due to Ireland’s woeful lack of housing supply, there was nowhere to move to, and even if I did get lucky and found somewhere, how the hell was I going to pay rent?

Every single night for four months I searched the three major property websites for rentals around Killala, North Mayo, and found nothing. 

Two places were advertised but it proved impossible to get a viewing.

Then I looked at the Airbnb website and saw they had 871 properties available in the general Killala area.

Listen to me, Leo, you vacuous waste of space. Your smug semantics will never succeed in diminishing the dignity of good folk facing eviction.

The truth is as simple as it is tragic: losing your home is losing your home.

The fury I feel towards Varadkar becomes insignificant in comparison to the frustration I feel, as yet again I stare at the overnight solution to our nation’s housing crisis.

January 2023 figures from the Department of Housing show the number of homeless people in Ireland now stands at 11,754 - the highest number of homeless individuals since current records began.

That number translates into 3,431 children belonging to 1,609 homeless families.

Yet just a click of the mouse away, there are 25,515 AirBnB listings in Ireland, 60 per cent of which are entire homes or apartments.

That’s over 15,000 empty homes and apartments in excellent states of repair, ready to be lived in right now.

How can it be right to sacrifice the needs of those who live here to those of tourists?

Of course Ireland needs to profit from tourism, but infinitely more important, its people need somewhere to live.

The simple overnight solution to the Housing Crisis: forget about being slaves to the free market for a second, impose a five year moratorium on all online vacation housing websites, and give homes to the homeless.

If you want a self-catering pad in Ireland, get on the phone. Call up about your cottages, pods, yurts, tepees and penthouses. They’re only a phone call away.

Zero homeless. Completely achievable, if only a couple of rotating capitalists had the cojones to adapt the market in a tiny yet massively significant way.

Airbnb will still enjoy healthy profits without Ireland, and as soon as we’ve cured homelessness, they’ll come running back without a whimper.

Alongside the official homeless there are 290,000 people in Ireland like me, the hidden homeless, living at the grace and generosity of friends or family.

We are lucky in that we have roofs over our heads, but we have no security of tenure, no rights, no future in Ireland’s gleaming.

Until there is a viable supply of homes to rent, we have to stop sacrificing Irish freedoms to corporate forces, stop scaring people out of their homes, and offer hope through the simplest of solutions.


Saturday 4 March 2023

Kill Me Now!

Kitty and Molly looking for some loving

If the locals from the village could see you now, that English fella, yes him alone there in that big old house, they’d be sure you were off your tiny head.

But nobody can see you.

There’s not a human awake for miles around.

It’s three in the morning.

You cheer as you manage to get the head of the hoover attachment flat against the ceiling.

“Now I’ll have you, ye little bastards!” you cry triumphantly.

Even though your bedroom is two doorways away, you won’t be able to sleep knowing that your hall ceiling is carpeted by a million midges.

The thought makes your shoulders hunch, your stomach churn. You scritch and scratch your forearms at the idea of it, and let rip a tremulous


Now you slide the hoover in straight lines, high above your head. The vacuumed strip reveals white paint under black, while each side of the clean swathe midges fly and tumble, all along your hallway.

After twenty minutes you’ve almost got all of them. The rest will fly off tomorrow morning, when the hall will be dark. You’ll open the front door and the midges will head out into daylight.

Ten hours earlier you’d been watching the TV news: horrific heaps of burning cows, as the government try to halt the spread of Foot and Mouth disease.

You turn off the TV and go to sit on your front step.

That’s better. 


Above the trees that line the river, the early evening midsummer sun rides high, golden, huge.

The crows resume their daily conflict over the right to perch on the creamery roof.

The river splutters.

A tractor growls its way up a distant hill.



You love living here. When you decided to look for a place in County Mayo, you wrote a list of wants, partly because it created a checklist to ease your head, but also because someone you admire once told you that if you put simple clear wishes out into the universe, they are more likely to come true.

Do you really believe that?
You did it anyway.

You wanted a place off the road, away from traffic. It had to have a bath and a spare room that could double as an office. 

It had to have a garden of some sort, and not be more than three miles from a village or town, with a pub and a shop. Ideally there would be nearby beaches to walk.


This place has all that and more.

Built by your landlord’s father, its thick stone walls are painted white with red trim.

In the past you’ve written in your bedrooms and you’ve written in your spare rooms, but now, for the first time in your life, you have a spare bedroom as well as a room that serves solely as a place to write.

The village - that’s what you call it, but the local farmers call it ‘town’ and it’s best not to offend them - has two shops, a garage and several pubs.

There’s a small but growing population of blow-ins like yourself, urban types with a yen for the country who, along with welcome friendship, bring city wit and irony to your rural life.

There are many beaches: empty expanses of pristine white sand.

You walk for hours, losing your mind to the beauty of it all; the pure glory.

Beyond your list and dreams, fifty yards from your front door, past the ruined mill, the Cloonaghmore river rushes out to sea.

You empathise with the wild salmon and sea trout who swim inland. You’ve also gone upriver.

Even though you know you’re the worst fisherman in the world, you have to have a go.

A few days ago you endure an excruciating experience, both physically and socially.

Your girlfriend wanders down to the river, to see if you’ve landed dinner, only to find you half naked, wrestling with a barbed sliver of metal the wrong side of your left breast button.

You managed to catch your own nipple.

When, finally, you ease the hook out, she gently mocks you.

Now you can chuckle about that.
Not then. You discovered a new echelon of soreness.

Your girlfriend works in Galway and comes up every other weekend, leaving you to go down to the shmoke for the craic every fortnight.

When you first move here the Irish Examiner send a photographer to do a shoot, for a cover shot and the double-page spread that launches your new column.

The photographer wants you to go up the pub, to take photos of you with the locals.

You take a look at his yard-long pop star paparazzi lens and decide that is the worst idea you ever heard. You’ll be socially dead in the village before you meet anyone.

Everyone will think you’re there just to write about them.

You do have to write about something, so instead you write about clouds, birds, empty beaches and your neighbours, who are both animals.

Kitty the donkey lives in the field outside your kitchen window, while Jack-The-Cat-Who-Thinks-He’s-A-Dog is a lithe tortoiseshell and white who lives in the barn.

Cats are meant to have pride. They’re not supposed to appear eager, but Jack thinks he’s a dog.

When you go out he waits by the turnoff to the main road, and when you return he races the car to the front gate. On cold mornings he sits on top of your kitchen radiator, warming his body right through.

You worry he’s grilling his kidneys, but he’s a smart lad.

Kitty and Jack and you become a pretty tight crew. When Kitty gives birth to her foal a flick of her head, and then she brings leggy Molly from the shed to meet you.

Clearly Kitty’s telling Molly that you’re family, you’re okay. 

You’ve an adult donkey mare behind you, while her tiny foal leans on your front.

You can feel their body heat.
Your nostrils fill with their heady sweaty scent.

You’re completely moved by this experience, until you look up to find the lad from the fish farm, staring at this scene with a wildly mocking eye.

“Sure that’s your name, Charlie. That’s your feckin’ Indian name from now on! ‘Shtands With Donkeys.’ That’s your name!”

You take photos of Molly, write a feature about her and send it off to the Irish Examiner.

They publish it.

You sit on the back step and watch the clouds change direction, and then go and write about it, send it off and they publish it.

Each morning you wake as Kitty greets the farmer with a raucous bray.

After stretches, crunches and press-ups you walk the beach, then go to the village to buy your paper.

“Ah Charlie, you’ve been walking Ross again!” cries the shopkeeper.

“I have. It was glorious up there this morning, Patsy! But how do you know?”

“How do I know? There’s sand all over my clean floor. That’s how I know!”

Her smile betrays the way she’s happy for you.

You eat breakfast, then go and write in your room that’s just for writing.

After a few hours you walk past the old mill to the lush avenue of trees beside the river.

You sit on a rock alone, surrounded by tall yellow flag iris, beside fast flowing water.

The perfect lunch hour.

When the farmer goes Christmas shopping in Dublin, the only day each year he’s away from his livestock, he asks you to give the cows some hay and feed the sheep.

You're a suburban Jewish boy from northwest London. Now you stand ankle deep in muck, lobbing hay over to cows with a pitchfork.

You breathe in the pong of cow dung. You’ve always loved that smell. 

It reminds you of the farm in Somerset where you holidayed as a child. That’s where your country soul first revealed itself to you.

You feel proud.
The farmer trusts you.

He says you keep ‘a tidy patch.’
Praise indeed.

Ireland’s Celtic Tiger boom has somehow found you, here in your stone farmhouse.

You’ve your regular column in the regional paper, and your new column in the national broadsheet. All the features you send out are published.

The features editor of the national broadsheet calls you often to offer more work: a situation unprecedented and never repeated.

You only write exactly what you want to. You are fulfilling your own dream and make sure to appreciate the wonder of the moment.

You’ve been sitting here on your front step for hours now, taking in the scenery and sunshine.

Your arse is numb.

You stand up, stretch your arms high to the sky and decide to hitch to the pub.

A few weeks ago one of the brothers who own the local garage waved his arms around in frustration at your wimpy ways.

“You need to drive that car like a man, Charlie. Give it some ooomph and clean out its engine."

You decide this probably isn’t the best time to explain to him that it’s not ‘that car.’

Your Mazda’s name is Betsy.

Somewhat foolishly you trust his expert opinion, and drive for six hours at full speed, to visit friends far away in The Kingdom.

Turns out Betsy the Blue Bubble is, as you suspected, an old woman, who likes to be treated with respect.

Ten miles outside Dingle her oil warning light comes on, and for the last few months your car has been hundreds of miles away, languishing in a mechanic’s field in County Kerry.

Being carless through these Summer months has proved wonderful.

You’ve hitched, cycled and walked everywhere, and now you stretch your legs up to the main road, stick your thumb out by the old stone bridge, and within minutes you’re in the pub.

Unburdened by the need to remain sober enough to drive, you can now drink as much as you want, so you do.

Later, after hitching home, you lie on the sofa.

You’ve opened the window so that you can hear the sun set. You can't see that horizon, but the thousands of birds nested in the riverside trees can.

Be it 5 o’clock on a December afternoon, or 11 on a midsummer’s night like tonight, the very second the sun goes past the edge of the Earth, they simultaneously explode into song.

It’s more of a cacophonous screech, but regular as clockwork.

If you were a God, this would be your alarm clock.

You don’t hear the avian explosion that night, because you’re fast asleep, under the influence of Guinness and whiskey.

At three in the morning your bladder knocks on your brainbox. You wake to a mouth of emery board.

You’ve been snoring and - oh my good god.

Oh fuck fuck fuck.

Due to a cocktail of late daylight and too much booze, you didn’t realise you’d turned the hall light on, when you came home from the pub.

With the living room window wide open, the midges had swarmed inside, and your hall’s white ceiling is now black.

No exaggeration.

Forty five gazillion midges carpet your hall ceiling, and you have a simple choice to make.

Either you go to bed or you hoover them up.

The relief of emptying your bladder gives you a rush of happiness, so off you go to get the hoover, singing in crazed jubilation.

“Hi ho! Hi ho!
It’s hoov’ring ceilings I go.
At three ayyy em.
’Tis mad I am!.
Hi ho! Hi ho hi ho hi hoooooooo!”

The next morning, drinking tea at the kitchen table, you think about your life: this house, the beaches, the girlfriend, the pubs; the river and new found friends, both human and beast, the calm, the peace, the way editors are eager for your work.


Bad times in life beat you around the head, but good times can pass by without being appreciated. 

Has your life ever been better?

You write in your journal:

‘Kill me now.’

© 04.03.2023

From my new collection: Kill Me Now