herald

Sunday 22 July 2018

Bread and cereal? I am so broke I've no home, no phone, no cash, no credit and a €10 haircut

The pressure of being broke in Ireland, coupled with the pressure of pretending that you're not broke in a place where everyone knows your business anyway and probably knew you were broke before you did, is a fearsome pressure indeed.

MP MacDomhnaill, the author of the letter in which he said his family were living on bread and cereal, wants his openness to encourage others to unburden their debt burden.

Not as easy as it sounds.



CRASH

Recently I met an old schoolfriend. We shall call him Paul (because it happened to be Paul Sommerville, the finance bloke off the telly who I used to know as "Summo" in CBC Monkstown during the roaring 80s).

Paul asked me how I was doing. I turned to him and said: "Truthfully?" He nodded. I opened up: "Summo, I don't know how long I have been broke but it certainly precedes the Lehman's crash of September 2008."

I was broke before it became mainstream. Broke hipster? I saw The Brokes when they supported Penniless in McGonagles.

I pretended I wasn't broke for more pride-swallowing months than I care to remember but was outed by a newspaper headline. How broke? Three years ago when I was 40 and less broke than I am now, a newspaper carried a photograph of me holding a one-eyed miniature Chihuahua under the headline (I'll paraphrase) 'This Ginger Nut Is So Broke He Can't Feed His Shivering, One-Eyed Chihuahua'.

My business was dog magazines in New York. And they were the golden years.

The truth? No home, no mobile phone, no mobile home, no car, no cash, no credit, no income, no dole (don't ask), no bank account, no insurance, a €10 haircut, off-trend boot-cut jeans and the taut, elastic sound of friendships and family members being stretched to snapping point.



GRATIFYING

How broke? Varicose veins from sleeping on floors and people's couches.

I work on an internet start-up that is enormously gratifying but whose audience is made up of people who like the site partly because it has so few ads. Other than that I'm doing fine. How are you?"

That's what I meant to say.

What I actually said was: "I'm doing good. Real good."

PS -- Some time I'll tell you what happened to the one-eyed dog.

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