The Bank has a veto…but we have no choice


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.



Food memories…Christmas 1997 or 1998 ?!

I have to state for the record that I had barely started cooking at this point and really didn’t have a clue what I was up to!  Despite good, clear instructions from my lovely Mum!  Anyway…I should tell the story first so you know what I’m actually talking about.

untitled (2).pngI lived in New York for a few years and subsequently spent a few Christmases away from home.  Not my most memorable but I will say they weren’t completely miserable, with the exception of one.  And even that wasn’t completely miserable but it was pretty damn close.  I was living with 3 sisters, one of whom is one of my closest friends from secondary school.  I loved living with the girls; Owl, Woolie, Minnie and me (Crabby – obviously no reflection on my happy go lucky demeanour! 🙂 ).  Our two bed apartment in Queens imagesD7JDSN3Swas a temple of femininity and giggles (and our fair share of frustrations and all that).  The girls were all living in the US with green cards.  I, however, was not and didn’t have the flexibility to travel home for Christmas.  My family at home decided that they didn’t want me to be alone this particular year and much to my protest, elected to send my brother John over to me for two weeks (whether he wanted to or not, I should add).  John’s about 18 months older than me and at that stage, was pretty much in his own world of alcohol and rage and being in New York for Christmas was not on his bucket list.  Anyhoooooo, we made it to Christmas day in one piece, more or less… and by the luck of the Gods, we made it out the other side!! 😀  We were joined by another guy, a friend of the girls, Joe Woolhead, who was on his own for Christmas too.

I had a plan…kind of…in my head… a loose string of things to be done in a semblance of order.  It just ran a little late in the beginning.  Which is where the problem lay.  I took my rock solid frozen turkey out of the freezer around midday on Christmas eve thinking in grand Irish style ‘Ah sure, It’ll be grand!’.  I had never cooked a turkey before, fresh or defrosted so this was new ground altogether.  Christmas morning, John and I opened our presents – both of us wishing we were imagesN1CV4V7Ksomewhere else.  I entered the kitchen and prepared my turkey…plopped it into the roasting tin on a base of carrots, onions and celery and seasoned it – covered it in tinfoil and into the oven.  I tried to make my Mam’s stuffing and it was just like it, that is if my Mam’s stuffing is dry, sawdust like with no flavour!!  My roast potatoes weren’t actually that bad, thanks be to Jaysus!!  And my carrots and parsnips were grand, nothing to write home about!   Joe arrived with his packet of biscuits and we watched some telly while the turkey finished cooking.

And so after hours and hours of cooking, then resting, it was time to unveil my bird and expose her succulent thighs!  Well, I was excited and the lads were starving so I got to work.  I carved the first slice off the imagesXEOK52H5breast and thought to myself ‘Well done Crabby!  This doesn’t look too bad’  It smelled lovely too.  I went in for the second…thinking Hmmmm that looks ok… then the third and my stomach lurched.  My heart started beating rapidly…I couldn’t actually carve the third slice all that easily and I could plainly see that it was still frozen!!! Holy F*CK!!!  ‘Alright in there Incey??’ called John from the sitting room (my family nickname).  I gulped and croaked in reply ‘Yeah…Grand… two minutes and you’ll be feasting like Kings!!’  Straight away, I thought to myself…What the hell am I talking about???

So… I did what any sane person would do – I carved the outer layer off the turkey (a.k.a. the cooked layer) and served that to John and Joe.  Covering it with gravy, stuffing and all the rest of the stuff.  I covered the turkey up with the tinfoil again and I shoved it back in the oven so I didn’t have to look at it.  I didn’t actually have any turkey…just the rest of the stuff!  I mean the legs hadn’t even cooked through – it was salmonella or some sort of e-coli poisoning just begging to happen.  So I sat there and sweated through dinner and dessert but thankfully no-one passed out or abruptly had to visit the loo!  By the skin of my teeth, all remained well with the world.

Since then, I have learned to cook… properly… and safely.  I swear!  😀


Circuit training…but not that sort

‘Every day’s a school day’ as the saying goes.  Yesterday was no exception.

My family and I live in an old cottage in Meath.  My husband and I bought it back in 2001 and it was an old thatched cottage then.  The thatch was an old straw thatch though and was in extreme disrepair, so much so that it was really patchy, liquefying and trailing down the walls of the cottage.  10255426_10152120847526705_5152469125997981040_n.jpgIt wasn’t liveable so it was a year of paying the mortgage before we could afford to do any work.  My builder Dad (lucky him!) got to manage the re-build of the cottage – a job he thanked me for at many times over the years…NOT!  And it took us many years combined with a number of ridiculous re-mortgages that, honestly, should never have been offered to us.  We started with a kitchen/dining/living room, toilet and a bedroom.  A couple of years later, two more rooms and some time after that, the last room.  This was not a ‘buy and move on’ transition house – this was an invest a large part of yourself house; a blood, sweat and tears home.  My Dad did lovely brickwork in the kitchen and bathroom – we have imprinted ourselves in this space.  And it’s now the home of our two boys who love it and love the space.

Yesterday, we were in the Circuit Court for our first appearance in relation to action being taken by the Bank who holds our mortgage to repossess our home.  How did we end up here?  A perfectly legitimate question.  Here’s a little of the back story –  my husband had back surgery in 2014 which was unsuccessful followed by further more extensive spinal surgery early this year.  Unfortunately, this too was not successful.  He has mobility in that he can walk and drive short distances however, he has been out of his job for the last 2 years.  On good days, he can dress himself and function with straight forward tasks independently.  On bad days, he can’t.  He simply can’t function.  So for the foreseeable future, he cannot work.  He is a qualified Horticulturalist working for a County Council.  You may think that he was lucky to be working for the Council in these circumstances but no, I have to say this is not the case.  They stopped paying him in April 2014 without notice and have barely made any contact with him despite his injury being an occupational one, hence our current situation.  I am a civil servant (not the senior, golden handshake level though!) and I have had numerous pay cuts that have seriously hindered our situation too.  There are more ins and outs and ups and downs to our tale but that’s the guts of it right there.  We simply could not and can not make ends meet.  Let me be clear here, I am not making excuses.   I am stating facts.    Let me also be clear, I have been determined not to be controlled by this situation.  However, I have felt suffocated by it, at times angry, at times so sad.  I lose a lot of sleep and indeed often cry myself to sleep with worry and distress.  But I feel it’s important to share that I have never felt ashamed.  These are things that we as a family cannot control, these are things that say nothing about the people we are, these are things that can be resolved through communication and determination.  We have responsibilities and we have communicated our circumstances with our mortgage company however our value is not determined by an institutions rules and regulations.  We are not defined by this experience.

We are not the only people in the country in these circumstances.  Yesterday, the court room was full of people in similar situations to us.  The room was full of men and women, furtively glancing around at each other – the odd one exchanging a small nervous almost smile, barely making eye contact before quickly looking down and away.  We are dealing with the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, who have been excellent in their advice through this very extended stressful time and they provide their services free of charge.  Our contact there advised us that as this is our first appearance, there will be an automatic adjournment to a later date.  We also got legal advice and we were advised the very same information.  I have to say, even though I trusted this advice from extremely reliable sources, I sat there in that court room with my heart in my mouth.  My palms were sweaty, I could feel my heartbeat in my scalp and my toes.  The Judge arrived in, we all stood and fidgeted for a moment watching each other for the signal to sit.  She was a very pleasant Judge I have to say, not that I’ve had much experience of Judges, but she took a moment before proceedings began to reassure everyone in the room that the proceedings were not something to be scared of.  That she would be doing all that she could to enable and facilitate each case to access any assistance that is available to them to reach a favourable conclusion to their case.  She said that the actual number of repossessions in Ireland is extremely few and while they do get media coverage, the number is very low.  She explained that outside the courtroom, there were representatives from MABS – Money Advice & Budgeting Service and the Insolvency Service of Ireland should anyone need to access their services.  The few moments that this Judge took to reassure the anxiety that was clearly present in the room made all the difference to people.  There seemed to be a collective palpable, albeit silent, sigh of relief.  And so began proceedings, each case called by name – complicated cases held until the end, straight forward ones dealt with efficiently and swiftly.  We were case 43 and we were not last on the list.  We were adjourned for 6 months as a first time case.  A proposal has been submitted by the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation on our behalf to our Bank who are actively considering our position right now.  So we continue to wait at the mercy of the Bank.

So why am I sharing these personal, intimate details of this part of our lives? While I have started this blog with the whole purpose of sharing, my personal financial breakdown won’t be playing a frontline role on a regular basis!  I’m sharing because I want others to know about the process and to not be afraid of it…well, not as afraid as I was.  I’m sharing because I am reading so much about what measures the banks are taking to ‘tackle the arrears problem’, to ‘reduce their liabilities’, to ‘claw back as much of the losses incurred in the crash as possible’. I am reading about the measures agreed with the Banks to deal with those in arrears in the correct way so that there is some sort of fairness in the procedures. I am reading about the cases (few as they may be) where people are being forcibly removed from their homes. I keep thinking one question – what are the people in positions of power doing in this country to help people like me?? I mean really help – not just produce guidelines that, in my opinion, are governed by the banks on how we are to be dealt with, or build a specific service to deal with this problem that dictates where you can do your grocery shopping and whether you are spending too much on food?! They allow the banks and creditors such veto powers that they can dictate arrangements and allow the Personal Insolvency Practitioners charge substantial fees that are added to the settlement of debt? This does not help people already crippled by debt, distress and fear who, for the most part, had no control ending up in their situation. Believe me, no sane person would willingly put themselves in this position. This Government has a lot to answer for in many areas – people struggling to keep their homes, people losing their homes, people living on the streets – where are the real priorities? We hope to be lucky enough to reach an agreement but there are no guarantees. We can only continue to wait.

This much I will guarantee however, I will be chained to the gates of my home before I give it up. I’ve sacrificed too much already for it…and I won’t give up without one hell of a fight!