#5 The Mortgage.

She was young, good with the computer in the air-conditioned office – had a name like Ciara, Jane, Sarah, one of those. We’ll go for Laura. Swivel chair.  Leaflets on the table with affirmations in big writing. “SAVING FOR A NEW HOME? YOUR JOURNEY BEGINS HERE.” It all sounded so good. Especially with the ads on the telly that make it all look so straightforward, possible, simple.

            Laura had the figures, all the forms. Payslips, rent receipts, outgoings, savings. Typed it all in. Moved the mouse. Frowned a bit and said: ‘Hmm…not looking good.’


            ‘No. I’m afraid.’

            ‘What’s the problem?’

            ‘There’s an offer but…it’s quite low.’

            ‘How low?’

            ‘I wouldn’t even bother putting it through. It’s not us, it’s the Central Bank. We have no control over what they offer. Maybe you cut down any spending on the account.’

            ‘Like what?’

            ‘You know, direct debits, like Broadband and stuff…less outgoings the better…’

            ‘I’m paying twice the cost of a mortgage on rent for the last five years – does that make any difference?’

             ‘Not really, sorry. But you could try somewhere else and see if their criteria is different? Did you mention you have a daughter?’

            ‘I did.’

            ‘It’s probably best to leave that out.’

            ‘Deny she exists?’

            She shrugged, said: ‘It’s up to you.’

            A week later. Different bank. Airconditioned office. Her name was Mary, Marie, Marion, one of those. We’ll go for Jacinta. She asked: ‘How much are you looking for?’

            I told her. She sighed, like jeez, wow, said: ‘You’re a bit off.  It’s not us, it’s the Central Bank. We have no control over what they offer. You’re welcome to try somewhere else? Could you cut down the spending on the account?’

            ‘How, like Broadband and all that…?’

            ‘Yes, and phone bills, Health Insurance etc…it might help…’

            Week later, tried an online application. Then the phone rang. He had a professional voice. Mark, Greg, Chris, one of those. He said: ‘It’s notoriously difficult – practically impossible. You’d really need to be making a minimum of 50/60k plus per year…and even then, with the way the market is…make sure there’s no unnecessary spending on the account too…’

            ‘Like what?’

            ‘Takeaways, Luxury spending…’

            What’s luxury spending?’

            ‘Like Netflix and things like subscriptions…definitely no hotels or weekends away or anything like that….’

            And then he threw in the bit about the Central Bank and having no control and how I could try somewhere else. Kinda running out of places now. And patience. Then Greg asked: ‘Have you tried the government scheme?’

            Asked around about that. There was a link, a website, and some lovely FAQ’S. Then a Tolstoy feast of forms. All in square boxes with explicit instructions not to make a bollix of it or it would be rejected on the spot. Said I better ring before I chanced it. Her name was Patricia, Patrice, Pamela. One of those. She listened to the story said: ‘Not much point goin ahead at this stage.’


            ‘No. You’ll need to clear all or any debts, finance deals, loans, credit cards, overdrafts everything like that. Then you’ll need about six months to a year of a perfect bank account with no excessive spending and especially no gambling….Paddy Power, Online Lottos, anything like that. Cut out excessive spending, holidays, weekends away, nights out, restaurants, eh…keep electricity costs down….no missed payments in the previous 12 months or it’s an automatic rejection…. let’s see what else…do you have a car or could you get rid of it if you do?’

            ‘I had a Peugeot til lately but it had to be scrapped…’

            ‘Ok, one less expense.’

            ‘And what happens if I qualify after all that…’

            ‘Then you’ll need about twenty thousand for a deposit, proof of long term permanent employment and, with some luck, we might be able to do something for you. But no guarantees. What age are you by the way?’

            I told her. She said: ‘Oh…’

            ‘Is that an issue?’

            ‘You need to get cracking. If you don’t get it sorted this year, forget about it…’



The forms.


‘Hey, Mick. Did Danny get the forms?’

‘Which forms?’

‘The mandatory ones?’

‘Eh…I’ll ask him.’

I rang Danny and he said: ‘What forms?’

‘The mandatory ones?’

‘What the fuck does that mean?

‘I’ll get back to ya.’

Later, I asked: ‘Can you clarify “Mandatory”?’

‘They’re a requirement by the regulator.’

‘And what do they look like?’

‘The forms?’


‘They look like forms.’

‘Ok, I don’t think he got them.’

‘Why not?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Can you ask him?’

‘I did.’

‘And did he say?’

‘He said he never got them.’

‘That’s terrible. Why not?’

‘I don’t know. Is it possible they weren’t sent?’

‘No. Impossible. They’re mandatory. Can you ask him to check?’

I rang Danny, asked him to check. He said: ‘I don’t even know what the fuck I’m looking for.’

‘I’ll get back to ya.’

Later, I said: ‘No, he doesn’t have them.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Positive. He checked everywhere.’

‘That’s bizarre. They’re important forms. It’s also unacceptable.’

‘What is?’

‘Unacceptable that’s he’s not using them.’

‘But he never got them.’

‘He should have.’

‘And yet here we are.’

‘This could lead to a disciplinary.’

‘For who?’



‘Because he’s not following procedure.’

‘Which procedure is that?’

‘He’s not using the forms.’

‘The ones he never got?’



‘Maybe we could send them again?’

‘I don’t know. I think we need to talk to HR.’

‘About what?’

‘The forms.’

Later, with Danny, he said: ‘HR rang me.’

‘About what?’


‘What did you tell them?’

‘That I didn’t know what the fuck they were on about.’

‘And what they say?’

‘They’re bringing me up for disciplinary.’

‘Why, about the forms?’

‘No. Impolite language. “Unprofessional” they called it.’

‘When are they having you up?’

‘Said they’d send out a letter.’

Week later, Danny rang, said: ‘I got the forms.’


‘They came in the post this morning.’

‘Great. Belt away and start using them.’

Then the office rang, asked: ‘Where’s Danny?’

‘He’s working. He got the forms.’

‘He’s supposed to be here.’


‘Here. We’re at the disciplinary meeting.’

‘Oh, did you let him know it’s on?’

‘Yes. We posted him out the appointment.’

‘I don’t think he got it.’

‘How do you know?’

‘Cos he would have said.’

‘This is unacceptable. First the forms, and now this?’

‘He got the forms.’

‘That’s not the point.’

‘It’s not?’

‘No. We need to talk to HR.’

‘I thought we did that.’

‘Can you ask Danny to come in tomorrow, for a meeting?’

‘Ok, I’ll get back to ya.’

‘He really needs to control his language.’

I rang Danny, said: ‘They want you up for a meeting tomorrow.’


‘Bad language.’

‘Tell them to go fuck themselves.’

Later, the office asked: ‘What did Danny say?’

‘I don’t know, I couldn’t get through. I’ll try again later.’






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El Niño by Mick Donnellan Now available on Kindle –





Notes on the dangers of reading Orwell.

The danger of reading Orwell is that you think you have done enough. You know now that an information dictatorship is a real and present danger. And if you know, so does everyone else, right? The problem is covered, no need to worry. There is a world famous book that points out the insanity of a mind controlled population through stealth use of technology. And if there’s any possibility of that remotely happening, then someone else that has read Orwell too and is in power will just….sort it out? And yet, everything you do is recorded. Every message you send, every e-mail, every like, post and uploaded photo. Every comment, every status update, every time you look at a profile, send a tweet, take a Snap, watch a video or a stream a show. It is all banked, saved and stored in the micro data vault you’ll never be able to find. Everything you buy is tracked on your bank card and your loyalty tags. Every time you buy fuel it’s tracked through your registration and CCTV. When you use online maps, the journey is recorded and a profile of your travel habits is created and observed in a dark room by strangers that regard you as piece of data, a minute fraction of information that builds a picture of your life and those around you. Everything you say is heard, everything you talk about is analysed. When you meet someone for dinner, or a coffee, or on the street, your phones are co-located and the relationship is established. What is the connection between these two people? Let’s look at their social media, their family, their work history, their location information. All this is done in seconds as you stand or sit in the world of no privacy. There is no escape. You are logged in at work. They give you a phone which can be tracked for quality and training purposes. They give you a car and a tablet which is monitored for employee compliance and punctuality. Your online activity at the office is regularly observed by the IT department for potential breaches of company policy. All banked, stored, saved forever. You are logged in at home because you need Wi-fi to pay your bills, watch your shows, book your holiday, do research, communicate with the outside world. The world outside now is considered dangerous. It’s important that you are concerned about going outside. Outside, there are potential dangers. Crime, disease, pollution, freak weather events, traffic accidents. Going outside is a bad idea, you need to stay inside where you can’t protest against the things about which you are vaguely uncomfortable. Your government needs to change but you don’t have the time to politically engage. Your time and attention are constantly absorbed by notifications, e-mails, phone calls, messages and tasks that ought to be done now. Now, now, now. Communications from work, calendar alarms, climate change, carbon tax, war here, war there, war coming, war almost over. Threats abound, anxiety is standard. And what is to be done? Nothing, it’s too late. The irony of Orwell’s nightmare being so available and obvious is that you were softened into thinking it could never happen. And then you sleepwalked into it. And here is you. Say hello to your new Big Brother.