“I don’t bite, you know… unless it’s called for.”

Audrey Hepburn to Cary Grant, Charade (1963)
Well…this is one occasion where I must bare my teeth!! It was Saturday night – my friend Carmel and I hadn’t been out together since before Christmas as we both had a lot of stuff going on.  It was a toss up between heading into Dublin or for a change, going for a drink in Navan which is a little closer to me and it would work out considerably more budget friendly.  We opted for that and I cooked a yummy coconut, mango and chicken curry for dinner (even if I do say so myself 🙂 recipe to follow at another time).  Anyhow, the time we headed out it was around 9.40pm and we opted for a popular spot which has a Piano bar that stays open late.
When we got in there, it wasn’t too busy so we were able to get two seats at the bar by one of the narrow stain glass window partition that sections off the long bar.  We sat facing the bar, slightly toward each other, chatting and laughing our asses off as we sipped our drinks.  It started out as a really enjoyable night.  We didn’t make it to the end of our first drink before a large group of men (a stag from Kilkenny of about 15 altogether), pretty well seasoned, descended upon us.  I do not use that phrase lightly, they literally ‘descended’ upon us.  We were suddenly squashed against the bar in our chairs – It was like we were the centre of gravity and they couldn’t physically move away.  Now, don’t misunderstand me – when I say this I don’t mean it in a narcissistic way.  I actually mean it in a claustrophobic, freak us out way… in the ultimate ‘Get off me Man!!!’ way.
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It started out as a bit of banter and a bit of chat and you know what…that’s grand!  Who doesn’t like good auld joke and a laugh when you’re out for the night?  Then there was a hand on the shoulder…then this progressed to an arm around the shoulders….with the hand reaching down curiously close to my breast.  (Yes…they’re great boobs but they’re mine…no access to the uninvited – thank you!)  There were hands anonymously running through my hair and my friends too.  With each shrug off, the arms and hands returned with a vengeance.  On both of us.  I started out politely and clearly stated “Now Lads, you have to move back, stand away from us and put your hands in your pockets – that’s enough.  No more” This initially got two brothers to back off slightly (as in 6 inches or so).  They moved to one side and in sidled a few more.  This continued and escalated to hands moving down to grab our arses and bodies literally pushed up right against us (and no – it wasn’t that full in the place).  Getting up to go to the toilet was like taking your life in your hands – I actually had to use my chair to push my way through the men and make my way out.  My friend stood up, turned around and told them in no uncertain terms, to take their hands off her, not to touch her again, to get back from her and to leave her alone (with a few necessary F**ks thrown in for effect).  This was necessary twice within 10 minutes when the behaviour just kept repeating itself and then I had to follow that with a similar repeat warning of my own.  At this point, there were a number of Security talking to some of the men and things got very intense.  I’ll be honest, I was hoping they were all going to be chucked out.  I don’t know the reason that Security were involved and after a few minutes, they all seemed to relax.  Some of the Security moved away however, one of the men seemed to move to strike a Security man and some of the men were escorted outside.
untitled (5)I don’t lose my cool very often – I’m very much a ‘catch more flies with honey’ type woman however, I was fecking furious by this point because the other men remaining started again.  I got up out of my seat, walked to the closest Security Man and explained how we had been subjected to completely inappropriate touching by these men throughout the night and despite being asked numerous times to stop – they wouldn’t.  I asked him if they could please do something about it.  He said he would talk to the men straight away.  In that time, my friend also spoke to one of the bar staff who asked if she was ok – my friend replied that she was not and she said how she found the actions of the men to be completely out of order.  The bar tender said she would speak to the Security straight away – which she seemed to do, the same guy I spoke with – he was back at his post a couple of moments later however, not having spoken to the men, despite both our requests.  From that moment onward, the Security Man watched us with a hawk eye’s which, as you can imagine, was a little uncomfortable and then down the bar, the remainder of the group stood staring up at us until the end of their night.

Can anyone tell me when it was decided that if you talk to someone in a pub or club, that it entitles you to touch them in any manner whatsoever?  Or indeed, you don’t need to talk to them at all.  At another point in the night, I watched as a different man altogether came to the bar and slipped his arm right around Carmel’s waist – she simply removed it – to which he immediately apologised and said ‘Oh Sorry, I’m just going to the bar’.  WTF??  I, personally, would never approach a bar to get a drink and slip my arm around a woman or a man under that pretext.  Is there a preconceived notion of ownership over women?  What does it take for No to mean NO?  Is it actually too much to ask for the simple concept of personal space to be acknowledged, respected and maintained?  I know that alcohol was involved in the circumstances on Saturday and as an element, is not usually conducive to positive experiences in such circumstances.  But I have to also point out that alcohol does not cause men to think or act like brainless, misogynistic assholes – those have to be characteristics already intrinsic to the person in the first place.  Out of that whole group of men, there was one man who sincerely apologised for the behaviour of some of the others.  1 in 15 with a conscience appears to be a pretty sad and scary statistic.  According to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre,  sexual assault occurs where a person is subjected to a sexual act (sexual touching or penetration) without his or her consent.Whether or not physical force is used, sexual assault is an act of violence.  It is a profound physical and personal violation of the individual.  Research shows that the primary motivation in sexual assault is the meeting of the perpetrator’s non-sexual needs for power and domination and their expression of anger, rather than their sexual gratification.

The other issue is the establishment where this occurred and their responsibility to their customers.  We were in a very visible position at the bar and we were asked if we were ok by the bar staff so that says to me that they were aware that we were in a compromised and uncomfortable position.  Yet no action was taken to offer us any assistance and despite our request for help – nothing was done.  We were watched by a Security Man for the last part of our evening but I’ll be honest, that was just plain uncomfortable.  And when it came to leaving, I was more uncomfortable because I didn’t want to meet any of them outside.  I’m no wallflower, I’m well able to look after myself but I’m no idiot either.  Two women versus a large group of alcohol fuelled men with ever so slightly bruised egos does not compute.  We headed out onto the street to hail a taxi ourselves with no more security on the lookout.
I contacted the bar in the days that followed by email describing exactly what had happened and how both my friend and I were treated and made to feel as a result of this.  Within 24 hours, I received a call from the Director of the Security firm that provides the staff for the venue.  He was a very professional man who also deals with the training for the organisation.  He sincerely apologised the for the experience we had on the night and we are due to meet in the coming days to have a chat about the relative training that is provided to his staff.  I will update you on that progress and to be honest, if my gut feeling is correct and given his reaction to the events of that night – this is an issue that he takes very seriously both on a professional and personal level.
What I am disappointed with, however, is that I have not received any contact from the venue themselves.  Not even an acknowledgement to my email.  This is not only bad form and let’s face it, unprofessional – it speaks volumes about this establishments attitude to a very serious and pertinent issue that is ongoing for women.
Hopefully, I’ll update you with more soon.
In the meantime, this is my outfit for next weekend! 😀
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Helena xxx

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The Bank has a veto…but we have no choice

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Here’s an update on my Circuit Training post… and the beat goes on…

The decision came back last week from our bank on our mortgage proposal that we submitted through the IMHO – the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation.  We’ve been given a test period of three months where we have to pay the equivalent of our full mortgage payment after which time they’ll consider the long term solution.  It appears there was no consideration to the submitted plan and it also appears that they consider the fact that my husband went from a salary of close to 50K per year down to the Invalidity Pension to still keep us within the ‘affordability’ range.  The Bank rang to ensure I received the Test period letter and the person I spoke with from the legal section in the Bank went through the conditions.  The full amount must be paid within each month, if this doesn’t happen then I “…better have a solicitor, cos it’s going straight back to court…”.  I asked whether they had considered the plan and whether the change in income was a real consideration.  She responded that if I provided that information, then they must have.  I don’t mind telling you, I was completely gutted…to the point of tears at my desk in work.  This person telling me what I had to do to keep the only home my kids have known had no idea who I was, what my case was, why I was in these circumstances.  It was the coldest and most heartless conversation I have had with any one…ever.  I hung up unable to utter another word.

I contacted our rep in the IMHO and I have to admit that they were not in the slightest bit useful.  I explained the Test period letter and the amounts we have been told to pay and they said ok well you just have to cut back and make the payments.  In utter disbelief I pleaded with him asking whether we could appeal the Banks decision.  He said that an appeal in these circumstances only work if we have new information to add or if there’s been a significant change in circumstances.  He said that to appeal would just be saying to the Bank that we don’t accept their ‘proposal’ and we would be back to the courts.  Yet again, I was reduced to tears.  Tears of frustration and fear and anger.  He was quiet and he said to take some time to consider things.  I replied “Consider what?  We have no choice” and for the second time in one day, I hung up on someone.

I know we’re not alone in this trap.  There are other people out there who have been treated the same, are being treated the same.  And it’s wrong.  We don’t want to abandon our responsibilities, we want to work out a solution.  This doesn’t happen when you don’t actually have any say in the negotiations, when you have no voice.  And just so you know, I don’t cry over things I can’t control.  I put those things down to life sorting out the shit from the silver and I know there’s better to come.  My tears are for my family and the distress this could bring upon them – the real people who are affected by the arbitrary decisions of a financial institution.

So… tomorrow I go down the ISI – the Insolvency Service Ireland route.  There has to be more … there has to be options.

I will not be backed into a corner.

Stay tuned.