Writer and Author

Category: Blogging (Page 3 of 5)

The Baser Appetites

I watch the search terms people use to arrive at this blog with interest.  Every blogger gets some weird ones but I get more than most. It kind of goes with the territory when you spend most of your time writing about murder, rape, abuse, death and the media.

I write on a fairly niche subject so I end up high in the results for searches for Irish legal or criminal matters.  There’s a couple of weird ones – I get a LOT of hits from Japan for naked caricatures since I posted on the paintings of our esteemed Taoiseach in the nip that appeared in a couple of galleries in Dublin a while back using a full frontal image from Galway cartoonist Allan Cavanagh. And recently I seem to have become a go to place for those looking for the recipe for ricin (though since I’ve written extensively on that very subject I brought that one on myself).

Today I got an unusual one, a sentence that took me aback when I read it in the list of Google searches.  Someone had found my blog looking for the phrase “Abigail Rieley is scum”.  I know that people sometimes have very strong views about what I write here and that’s why I have comments enabled on every post.  Blogging is a social form of writing and I believe people should have the freedom to express their views.  I won’t allow comments that will cause unnecessary offence or break the law but if someone has a rational case to make they can make it freely.

But it got me thinking.  I write, for the most part, about death.  I earn my living following the stories of some of the most violent deaths we have in this country and I comment on them.  I’m aware that I can’t please everyone if I come down on one side or another in a trial but I will always try to be as fair as I possibly can.  But however fair I am there is always the risk of upsetting someone.

That’s the problem with this line of work.  As a court reporter specialising in criminal trials I am feeding one of the oldest appetites for news.  It’s the same public hunger that demands public executions and fights to the death for sport.  It’s the side of humanity that watches the pain of others with a bright glint in the eye.  Before you recoil in disgust stop a minute – it’s a lot more common than you think. 

It’s the same side of us that laps up crime fiction and violent movies.  Just because it’s make believe doesn’t mean it’s a different urge.  It’s the same sneering little voice that laughs at the audition stages of Britain’s Got Talent, willing dreams to be dashed and hopes crushed and will continue to watch even though psychologist have warned of the dangers to the more vulnerable auditionees.  But what I write about doesn’t have the sanitised gloss of entertainment.  It’s real life, real death.  The raw explosion of emotion that leads one ordinary person to take another’s life. You realise very quickly when you work down in the courts that the average person on trial for murder is not a psychopath or evil or depraved.  They’re just like you and me.

With every trial there are people who have lost, families who must listen to their loved ones reduced to an echo, a cipher who was at the centre of a storm and is now in front of the court as a a series of figments; forensic samples, perhaps a few photographs taken after death and the inevitable post mortem.  It’s shocking in it’s mundanity.

I’ve seen the looks the family of both the accused and the deceased give us journalists as we file in to the front of the court.  We’re usually seen as vultures, vermin scrabbling for the juicy titbits left over from a tragedy.  I know how it looks, we all do.  But the reality of the situation is that we are there to do a job and to feed an appetite for this kind of news.  It’s easier to cover a trial when you aren’t emotionally involved and that distance tends to show itself as an increased cynicism and an outward callousness.  We’re there to tell a story and allow the audience that same remove.  We’re feeding an interest, crime and politics have been filling newspapers since they were just a bill pasted on a wall…at least we don’t write ballads about the more infamous trials these days.

I would argue though that court reporting’s not all base emotions.  We’re witness to the carrying out of justice, one of the basic pillars of society.  Without the courts we’d have anarchy, or something similar.  When we write about murders we’re giving a voice to the dead and seeing their killers brought to justice – most of the time.  Maybe the reason why there’s such an interest in crime stories is just that, because it puts the bad guys in their place and makes the world less scary.  There will always be those that just see the sleaze and think what I do is sordid and perhaps even exploitative but all I can do is try to show them otherwise.

To Defame or Not to Defame

On Monday Justice Minister Dermot Ahern announced that comments posted on social networking sites could be defamatory.  The papers the following day were full of headlines that warned users of Facebook and Twitter to be careful what they said because they could now be guilty of libel.

This is all fine and dandy but for one thing. They always could be.  Libel covers any defamatory material that is written, printed or otherwise permanently represented. Surely any first year journalism student could work out that just as letters, emails, blogs or graffiti can be defamatory so can tweets or Facebook updates.

We should all be aware that what we write online is no different from something written in a newspaper or set down permanently in any other way.  I have to be aware that anything I write online about the trials I cover is not going to land me in contempt of court just as I have to be careful with any copy I write for newspapers, magazines or books.  Defamation is no different.

I understand that there are millions of people now writing stuff online who have not been taught a basic primer in defamation law that the average journalist receives in college but surely most people have a rough idea of what libel is?

The minister’s comments at the second annual report of the Press Ombudsman on Monday evening were indicative of a widespread assumption that online words somehow exist in a special alternative reality that needs special laws and special rules.  The defamation laws are not suddenly applying to stuff that has been blissfully unregulated since it came into being, they always did.  If online material is permanent then surely it is covered by the standard libel definition, just as letters to a third party have always been, just as graffiti has always been and just as blogs and emails are and have been proved to be in recent cases here in Ireland.

Yes the spectacular growth of social networking has given a lot of new ways to libel people but it beats me why this should come as a shock to anyone.  The idea that online communities are in some way private, or at least give that impression, is often bandied around as as reason for why people are so cavalier about basic common sense online but this doesn’t really wash.  You can commit libel in a letter to your mum…if you’re talking about a third party and the letter is put lovingly away in a box.  It’s the making of defamatory comments to a third party that breaks the law.  That could be over the counter in your local shop (talking the old offence of slander), over a pint in your local pub or standing with semaphore flags on your roof. 

We should all be familiar with the basic idea of defamation.  Now we all spend so much time writing down our defamatory thoughts, rather than cheerfully slandering people with gay abandon, we all need to be more aware of libel.

It’s something that internet forums have long needed to deal with, as has anyone who has to monitor comments on a website or blog and it’s not something that only journalists need to understand.

I remember being taught media law in college.  Our lecturer came from the assumption that there was a lot we would already know.  When did people stop assuming that? When did people start thinking that new rules applied?  There are a lot of things that do need to be looked at afresh in light of modern technological changes, things that will have to be decided in the courts at some stage because they’ve never existed before.  Defamation isn’t one of them.

Maybe it’s about time that social media sites or blogging platforms started to give people signing up a primer on the legal issues they’ll be facing.  It could be something you had to work through before you could finish signing up…like reading the Terms and Conditions always is. 

Commentators are fond of saying that we’re all journalists now.  No we’re not, but we will all need to learn how not to defame people.  It’s something we should all already know.  It’s hardly rocket science.  The penny is going to have to drop sometime that social networks are not some magic special case where the normal rules do not apply.  It’s common sense.  It shouldn’t be such a big shock that it makes headlines.

A Busy Year…

It’s the last day of the year and the end of the decade to boot.  Time to take stock and look back over the last twelve months with mixed feelings…whatever else 2009 has been it’s seldom been boring.  There have been opportunities and set backs but on the whole I think we’re going out with a bang.  It may have been used as a curse in the past but I’d rather live in Interesting Times than dull ones!

In terms of the courts it’s been a very interesting year.  In terms of both trials, and legislation that will affect both how I do my job and what happens in the trials I cover, there’s been a lot fitted into the past 12 months.  I’ll try at touch the main points but feel free to comment if I’ve missed anything.  I’ve linked back to my posts on the subject where they exist.  With the longer trials the name of both the victim and the accused should be prominent in the tag cloud to the right.

The year started off quietly enough.  In January Brian McBarron pleaded guilty to the murder of his girlfriend, nurse Sara Neligan, daughter of the prominent former consultant surgeon, Mr Maurice Neligan.  Sara had planned to leave him so he stabbed her.  He told gardai “she belonged to me.”

The same month serial child rapist Philip Sullivan had his life sentence overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeal.

In February, a familiar face, Kathleen Mulhall, mother of the infamous Scissor Sisters, pleaded guilty to concealing evidence about her daughters gruesome murder of their mother’s Kenyan boyfriend, Farah Swelah Noor.  She was sentenced in May to five years in prison.

March began with the passing into law of the Legal Services Ombudsman Act 2009 setting up the office of Legal Services Ombudsman to oversee complaints by and about members of the legal profession.  The office will also be responsible for making the public aware of what complaint procedures are available against solicitors and barristers.

In the Central Criminal Court a run of high profile murder trials began in March with that of Gerald Barry, the brutal killer and rapist who would be sentenced to life for the murder of Swiss student Manuela Riedo.

The Barry trial was swiftly followed by that of wife killer David Bourke.  Bourke had murdered his wife, Jean Gilbert, when she left him for an old flame.

In April we entered the strange world of Ronnie Dunbar, the man on trial for the murder of Sligo teenager Melissa Mahon.  Melissa herself was a waif like figure throughout the trial as we heard about her infatuation with Dunbar, also known as McManus.  We heard how her short unhappy life spiralled out of control in a few months in 2006.  Dunbar was eventually found guilty of her manslaughter and later sentenced to a life term.

After that run of trials things got a lot quieter in the courts.  During the summer break I was working on my first novel and a world away from murder.  During July though a rash of legal legislation was written into law that will definitely have an impact on the day job.

First up was the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act which controversially allows for covert surveillance to be used in prosecutions.  This kind of evidence will undoubtedly become a major part of any gangland trials that come to court from now on.

A couple of weeks later the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act introduced new laws governing the owning and use of guns.  Aimed at tackling violent crimes it also introduced new laws on knives and gave gardai greater search powers.

Hot on it’s heels came two highly discussed Acts.  The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act allowed for gangland trials to take place without a jury in the Special Criminal Court (previously used only for paramilitary trials).  The three Criminal Justice Acts will all have an effect on how gangland trials are conducted…it’ll be interesting.

Passing into law the same day as the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act was the long awaited Defamation Act. I’m not going to go into a full analysis of the new Act, which replaces the 1961 Act but there are a few points of difference.  Slander and libel are no more, they’ve been replaced by the cover all term of defamation – which’ll make life easier for anyone studying law as part of a journalism course in the future.  The act also allows a judge to direct a jury on the amount of damages they can award and allows the defendant to make submissions to mitigate damages.

But where the Defamation Act really hit the headlines was the controversial clause that makes blasphemy a criminal offence for the first time in Ireland.  We’ll just have to wait and see if that clause has any practical implications but many people felt that simply writing in what is essentially a religious law in the 21st Century was a dangerous step backwards.

The biggest development of year, court reporting wise was probably the completion of the place where I will be working from now on.  The Criminal Courts of Justice are now finished and they’ve been given a test run and we’ll all be moving in once the new term starts in a little more than a week.

New Criminal Courts of Justice photo by Michael Stamp all rights reserved.

To go with the new courts a new piece of legislation, the Courts and Court Officers Act was brought in in November, to make changes to bail for those on trial and also to make provisions for those in custody in the same circumstances.  A final bit of t-crossing and i-dotting before the big move.

So that’s a round up of the trials and legislation that shaped my year.  2010 is getting off to a lively start with the trial of Eamonn Lillis, accused of the murder of his wife, former Bond girl Celine Cawley.  It’ll be the first big trial in the new courts so it looks like there will be more interesting times ahead.

I’ll be back tomorrow looking forward instead of back.  Until then, a very happy new year to all my readers.  I hope 2010 brings you everything you’re looking for.


Close Encounters of an Urban Kind?

I was expecting to be writing tonight about the first day of the trial of Thomas Barrett but it’s been put off to a later date so I’m left with a quandary about what to write.

I doubt if anyone out there would be interested in my quest to find the cat a suitable comb to get rid of the prodigious amounts of hair she’s leaving anywhere within a two mile radius at the moment (although I must admit I did tweet about that this afternoon – I’m not usually that inane honestly).

Normally when I check in on my blog the first thing I do is check my stats.  I’m endlessly fascinated by what brings people here and if and why they come back.  Surprisingly not everyone seems to be a true crime buff since that’s my main topic of conversation here.  The search results that have brought people to this blog can be bizarre at the best of times but are often illuminating.

Today for example they gave me an idea about what to write about.  I’d forgotten about the strange lights over Dublin one last night week…until I saw that several people had arrived looking for information into just that.

Now I can’t offer any information.  They were strange lights all right.  Both myself and the husband saw them and watched them for several minutes until they very suddenly disappeared.  At 12.50 a.m on June 12th I sent the first tweet below.

I didn’t get any replies (well it was rather late) so I don’t know if anyone else saw them but I’m guessing from the search terms people used to find this blog we weren’t the only ones who did after all.  If anyone out there knows where the lights were some kind of weather balloon, military test, over-zealous night club lighting or anything with a rational explanation, please let me know.

Maybe there’s a reason, maybe it’s just one of those totally random things that occasionally happen in Dublin.  If you know what they were, or if I find out anything more, I’ll update this post and put everyone’s minds at rest that there is no alien invasion…unless…

Democracy in Action?

Today’s the day of the local and European elections, in Dublin there are two by elections as well.  It’s a day that Fianna Fail probably have reason to be very worried about…public opinion, according to the numerous polls that have appeared in the papers over the run of the campaigning, is decidedly against them.

Now at this point I should probably come clean.  I’m not a fan of Fianna Fail.  Anyone who’s read this blog on a fairly regular basis could probably have guessed that but in the interests of full disclosure there it is.  I would most definitely not be sorry to see them hurting come Monday morning even if our esteemed Taoiseach seems to be in deep denial about what a convincing arse whipping in these elections would mean to the credibility of his leadership.  But this post isn’t about party bashing.

I’ve been giving out on Twitter over the past few weeks about the constant knocks on the door from the various party candidates.  I know it’s an essential part of electioneering but once you’ve met them all once it wears a bit thin.  I’ve got particularly aerated about the failure of certain Fianna Fail reps to grasp that they are not going to convince me to vote for them under any circumstances.

But today is voting day.  The leaflets have been posted, the hands have been shaken and now it’s all done bar the counting.  I know that there’s still the matter of getting the voters out but one thing I like about going to vote is that once you near that voting station the desperate babble has to ease because the buggers aren’t allowed within 50 metres of the polling station.  It’s the first bit of quite we get after weeks of political chit chat on the doorstep and in my book, can’t come soon enough.

But obviously there are those who disagree with our need for a little peace and quiet to place our votes.  As the husband and I neared the voting station on Cowper St in the Dublin Central constituency this morning we were greeted by a barrage of Fianna Failers.  Tom Stafford and his minions had stationed themselves well within the safe zone, hidden round the corner so the garda standing outside the voting station wouldn’t call shenanigans.

Democracy in action

They slapped backs and pumped hands and leered over little old ladies in a forced amiability that seriously smacked of desperation.  Passers by noticed them encroaching on the polling station and muttered about Fianna Fail being a “dirty word” in these parts.  Another, clocking the distance asked “is this an example of Fianna Fail using the letter of the law as opposed to the spirit of democracy?”

Stafford insisted that he wasn’t illegally campaigning but merely talking to friends.  Well he had a point.  I often chat to my mates clutching bundles of hundreds of Fianna Fail election leaflets…

It was just another sign that, whatever their leader thinks, the rank and file of Fianna Fail are worried and rightfully so (I hope…)  We shall all just have to wait until the votes are counted to see what the country has decided.

A Matter of Censorship…

Today I’m jumping on a bandwagon.  I don’t normally comment on matters that fall outside my own little world but this is a story that I just couldn’t let pass unremarked.  I’m not the only person writing about this today and I won’t be the last.

If you’ve missed the saga of the guerrilla artist who managed to hang a two less than flattering portraits of our esteemed leader Brian Cowen in two separate art galleries then you could be forgiven.  The story was just a bit of fun initially in the tradition of any good satirical stunt.  It was a short item at the end of the 9 o’clock news on RTE, the state broadcaster on Monday.  Something along the lines of the kind of “And Finally” stories they used to have on the ITN news just rather less cute.

What’s made things go a bit nuts is the reaction of Brian Cowen’s political party, Fianna Fail.  Now if you’re not familiar with Irish politics Fianna Fail are the party that has been in power for the majority of Ireland’s existence as a republic.  They’ve been in power in one coalition or another right the way through the Celtic Tiger years and are now presiding over the disaster area that is the Irish economy at the moment.

Since one party has been in power throughout the boom and now the bust the finger of blame has been pointed squarely in their direction by various commentators.  Their popularity has plunged in the most recent polls.  In February the Irish Labour Party passed them in the popularity stakes for the first time.  The nation is decidedly pissed off.

So really it’s hardly surprising that this sort of thing happens and hanging a couple of pictures is hardly the same as taking to the street with burning torches…is it?  Well, when the gardai turned up at the offices of Today FM radio station demanding to see emails between a researcher and the artist because he could be looking at various criminal charges including criminal damage and incitement to hatred.   Apparently “the powers that be” wanted action taken.

And that’s not all.  Yesterday RTE issued an apology after the 9 o’clock news for any offence they’d caused poor sensitive Mr Cowen. Since then the clip of the original segment has become harder to find on the website and captions have been changed.

The net result of all of this has been that picturegate has gone global.  It’s made the London Times and the New York Times to name but two and the story looks set to run for quite some time especially since a 35-year-old teacher called Conor Casby has voluntarily turned up to talk to gardai.  If it finds it’s way to court I will definitely write about it here.

Irish satire is generally a fairly toothless affair.  During the years of prosperity the sharp jokes about politicians and politics that had always been such a feature of the Dublin sense of humour in particular became noticeably muted.  People didn’t seem to want to rock the boat.  Now that it’s rocking anyway that “fuck you” attitude has returned somewhat.  The problem is that the politicians seem to have lost their sense of humour in the intervening years.  Well, Fianna Fail’s po-faced attitude has made them look like the little tin gods they are.  It was a well aimed pot shot that could have given people a chuckle but if the t-shirts available from Irishelections.net with the full frontal caricature from Allan Cavanagh are anything to go by, Biffo had better get used to seeing himself in the buff!

Brian Cowan nude caricature by Alan Cavanagh

Remembering why you do it…

Back in January I wrote about the overturning of the life sentence for child rapist Philip Sullivan.  I discussed the sentencing in rape cases in the Irish courts.  Working down in the Four Courts you get to see a lot of things that you wouldn’t necessarily agree with.

I’m used to writing nice, clean, impartial copy on the facts of the case for work but here I don’t have to be quite so impartial.  This blog contains my own views and while, even here, I might hold back on occasion if there’s something I feel strongly on it will eventually be written about.

Writing a blog can feel a bit like shouting into the darkness.  You sit at your computer and type away and chances are the vast majority of readers will drop by without leaving a comment.  That’s why when someone does comment on something I’ve written it is always much appreciated.

I got a comment for the Philip Sullivan piece a couple of days ago that quite simply made this thing I do worthwhile.  I’ve had comments on court related posts before but usually from people who disagree with my point of view.  This comment on the other hand was from someone who has good reason to feel passionately about the subject of rape sentencing because she has been through the ordeal of facing her rapist in court.  You can read the comments at the bottom of the Sullivan post.

Way back when I first considered journalism as a career I had visions of being the kind of crusading hack that you see in the movies.  After a total of five years in college I was happy to get whatever shift work came my way and any crusading tendencies got quickly swamped by the necessity to pay the bills and a general news room cynicism.  The problem with being on a general news beat, especially in broadcast journalism, is that stories rush past so quickly during a day that you don’t really have time to have an emotional reaction to any of them.

When you’re stuck finding enough stories to fill five minute hourly bulletins there’s no time to save the world.  Even as a freelance I find myself writing about stuff I know will sell rather than anything that will make a difference.

Down in the courts it’s easy to get blind to it all.  There’s such a never ending stream of human misery down there that a certain gallows humour tends to develop and stocks of sympathy run dangerously low.

But I suppose deep down inside, what I’m really looking for is appreciation, in a rather puppy like way.  I know that the dream has always been for someone to come up to me and say, spontaneously without me fishing for it, that they love what I write.  I’m not talking about editors and agents here but about the end readers.  I became a writer because I had an emotional response to what I was reading and I suppose that’s what I want to give to someone else.

This has ended up a rather advanced navel gazing exercise so please excuse me.  I was proud to receive the comment on the Sullivan post and it made me think about why I became a journalist in the first place.  That bleeds into why I became a writer and this is the result.

Six Months On…

So it’s six months and one day since I set up this blog.  Back then I had just finished writing Devil in the Red Dress and figured if I was going to become a fully fledged author I’d better come out of the closet, so to speak, and start a named blog.

Now here I am six months on.  Devil’s in the shops and due for a release in the UK in May.  There might be more book related news but I’ve been sworn to secrecy until the appointed time.  That’s something I’ve discovered over the past six months – when you write under your own name you have to be careful what you say.

I’m not talking about controversy here, although there are some subjects I’ve hesitated to discuss here I don’t assume the whole world will agree with my opinion – it’s more interesting that way!  No, what I’m talking about is that I can’t write about everything that happens when it happens because I have to look at this blog, at least in part, as part of the publicity behind the book.

Yes, I know there’s a picture of the book’s cover on this page but this blog’s going to be continuing into the second book and the third and the next one after that so it’s going to have to develop beyond The Devil in the Red Dress.

When I started back in September every post was about the progress of the book and the story behind it.  There will undoubtedly be more of that as the months go by but there’s a lot more I want to write about as well.

Back in September I was working exclusively down in the courts.  But a lots happened over those six months and I’m building on what I have so far.  So I won’t be writing about every murder that passes through – a fair few of them perhaps, old habits die hard, but you’re going to have to put up with my thoughts on whatever my next project is and, of course, The Novel!

I think the tag cloud works reasonably well to filter the different topics.  I’m not suggesting completely random rambling (except perhaps very occasionally) but as the work gets more varied so will the stuff I have to post about.  Just to let you know if you are here looking for something specific.  It’s still here – just in the tag cloud.

Good Days and Bad Days

There will always be days when the sun shines, the writing flows and the opportunities arrive in packs but there will also be days when the wind howls and the world seems topplingly precarious and nothing will work.

Yesterday was one of the second kind of days.  Nothing went right or felt right and everything seemed impossible.  Today on the other hand the sun was splitting the sky (especially welcome after so much snow and sludge) and the possibilities seemed endless.

I pitched a story successfully, got some editing done on the novel and heard from two old friends.  All is good.

That of course is the nature of this business.  It’s particularly easy to have the down days at the moment.  The Mean Reds are tempted into view with every news report and further news of cuts throughout the global publishing industry (like today’s news of sweeping cuts in Harper Collins) makes it hard to be optimistic as a first time author.

But even when the world isn’t in the throws of a massive recession writing, even freelance journalism, isn’t the steadiest of jobs.  I knew that when I got into it and most of the time it doesn’t really bother me.  I’m used to days of feast and famine.

You just have to trust that days like today will come along and make the whole thing worthwhile.  I’m aware though that in a blog like this one, under my own name and readable by anyone who comes across it online, that pouring forth anytime things seem a bit black probably isn’t the best idea.

I want to be honest in this blog and give a fair idea of what life is like writing for a living at the bottom end of the scale but now I’ve got to this stage it’s all got a bit more complicated.

It was one thing sounding off in the days when I had a nice anonymous blog but when people come here to find out about trials I’ve covered, or the book or even, on occasion, me, ranting about issues I may have with the business side of things is perhaps not quite the thing.

While I want to give a warts and all impression because I know that somehow, when Devil was published I magically became an author rather than one of the ranks of the unpublished.  That doesn’t mean I’ll never again see the inside of a slush pile but it certainly seems to be a step in the right direction.

Before I had any dealings with publishers I would trawl the net to find out everything I could about that closed shop.  I’ve linked to a couple of the best publishing blogs in my blogroll but over time I will be expanding that list.  I always intended that when I was finally published I would keep up a very honest blog to help the people who looked like I did (and still do to be honest – things are changing so much out there daily reading is essential).

The problem is that I know have a book to sell.  That means that all the things I’ve discovered that would serve as salutary tales for those dreaming of getting into print suddenly become a pr minefield when you know that among those dropping into read are colleagues and the competition.

While I want to be honest I also want to sell the book so the stuff that happens on the bad days isn’t necessarily the stuff that will find it’s way here – in the short term at least.

There will always be good days and bad days but until I’m a little more established on the writing end of things the bad days will have to stay in the diary and this will have to be a good day blog (most of the time anyway).

Deciding Whether to Follow the Dream…

I’ve been thinking a lot about what to do with myself regarding the writing since the book was published.  Ever since I can remember I’ve wanted to tell stories.  I used to recount fairy tales to my classmates when I was still in primary school and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing down scenarios on any scrap of paper I could lay my hands on.

I trained as a journalist because it was the only way I could think of to earn my keep while doing what I loved.  Somewhere along the road I started to love the chase and the feeling of being there as the news happened.  But writing is still my first love.

I took the decision over Christmas to concentrate on freelance work to allow me more time to write (it might seem like a contradiction but journalism isn’t the best profession if you want to write, fiction at any rate, it’s too time consuming).

I’ll still be covering major trials – like the Brian McBarron sentence on Monday – but the rest of time the idea is that I’ll be working on the novel.  The problem with that is that, for the moment anyway, working on the novel doesn’t exactly pay the rent.

In the current economic climate I’m probably totally crazy to be taking this route now and if things don’t work out financially I’ll be back taking every shift I can.  So far though, things are ticking over but even so I’ve suddenly started thinking thrifty as if my life depended on it.

When I was younger and broke I was pretty good at making my weekly money stretch to a pretty good standard of living. I’m remembering a lot of those old tricks now – it’s amazing how self enforced privation sharpens the mind!

The scary thing is how much money I’m used to spending in just day to day living.  It’s a habit I think a lot of us have fallen into over the last few years; the take away coffees, lunches out, spending money on convenience rather than value.  Dublin’s not exactly the cheapest of cities but we haven’t exactly made it difficult for the various vultures out there to fleece us rotten.

Well, in my new spirit of frugality I’ve decided enough is enough.  I don’t intend to cut back too much, after all things haven’t got that bad yet, but there are some things that are simply no brainers.  My plan is to save money but not to feel deprived and from my initial investigative forays that shouldn’t be too difficult.

I’m thinking about running a series of posts detailing some of the savings I have.  It’s a bit of departure from what I usually write here but since my plan has always been to use this blog to detail my professional life  and, as a freelance in this scary world we now find ourselves in, money becomes part and parcel of that life.

That’s the plan anyway.  The first post in the series should be ready in a week or so.  Watch this space.

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