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Gerard O'Regan: How to cure the upwardly mobile of their addiction to property porn

JIMMY and Shirley have been married now for close on 10 years. They get on really well but Jimmy has one big problem with Shirley – she's addicted to porn.

In fairness, he knew of her failings on this matter very early on in their courtship days, but while on occasions he worried about its intensity, he figured, in time, it would resolve itself.

Shirley it could be said is definitely the more intense and driven of the two. Behavioural scientists would classify her as very socially aspirational.

In the words of some of those who know her well she would be described as something of a snob.

Now that they have both, age-wise, passed the mid-30s mark Shirley seems to be getting more and more discomfited by what she describes as the couple's "far too ordinary station in life''.

"For God's sake,'' she is wont to say, "I'm a secondary teacher with a post of responsibility, and my husband's a garda sergeant. Yet it looks like we're going to be stuck in the wrong end of Stillorgan all our lives.''

It's the kind of overheard remark that more than irritates some of their friends who also live in the south Dublin suburb, and who do not share Shirley's grinding sense of dissatisfaction with the limitations of a prototype three-bedroomed semi-detached house.

Shirley is determined to make it to what she refers to as "a reasonable home that reflects our station in life''.

She especially fantasises about living in Dalkey village on the outskirts of the capital. Only trouble is that Jimmy and herself just don't have enough money to fund such a move.

Sometimes when they go out for a weekend drink Shirley can get quite agitated on the matter, and fused with a little liquid motivation, can berate Jimmy for not sharing her desire to move.

"I'm quite happy where we are,'' Jimmy says. "After all we've got our garage which is bigger than the norm. It's great for storing all my gadgets and gizmos. Apart from anything else I'm petrified about getting into too much debt – what with Ireland banjaxed and all the rest of it.''

This kind of talk, proclaiming love for his garage, with his deeply held fear of being in hock to the banks, really irritates Shirley.

But, usually, it all passes over and one week blends into the next.

Life goes on. She teaches. He polices. But while Jimmy potters in his garage Shirley sometimes seeks solace in her porn habit.

To be strictly accurate Shirley is addicted to what is often more precisely described as 'property porn'.

Newspaper and magazine sections, plus incidental television programmes, that carry stories about houses and apartments, old and new, all help fuel her dormant desires. The problem is that the properties which really turn her on are well outside the couple's financial league.

But, Shirley's daydreams know no bounds, as she imagines herself mistress of a salubrious four-bedroomed dwelling, with or without garage, in what she portrays as "a reasonable part of Dalkey''.

The latest round of house prices published a few days ago has suddenly spurred her into what she describes as "do or die'' action. She announced to Jimmy this week: "We're gonna do it. We're just gonna do it.''

The ever-patient Jimmy listened to her plan. She had been talking to their friend Roger who works with one of the banks, who she says is hustling to give mortgages to what he categorises as the "right people.''

Shirley went on to say that by borrowing some capital from her mother – the woman's life savings actually – they would get the down payment and subsequently a mortgage from Roger to buy an apartment in Clontarf.

Shirley assured an increasingly panicky Jimmy the deal is "risk free''. "Prices have definitely bottomed in the more affluent parts of Dublin – a guy on the radio was saying so yesterday,'' she said.

"It will be money for old rope. We can get that apartment for about half its value in the Tiger days.

"Price wise the only way it can go is up. We'll flog it in a few years, make a tidy profit, and move to Dalkey.''

"But,'' says Jimmy, "it's an awful lot of debt to be getting into. What if anything goes wrong?"

Shirley, her eyes flashing with anger as she contemplated a lifetime in her three-bedroomed semi, complete with garage, decided it was time to fight dirty.

'Look Jimmy,'' she said. "Are you a man or a mouse? Do you not want what is best for our two daughters?

"Nothing can go wrong. The banks have surely learned from their mistake, and Roger is no fool. A guy from one of the universities was saying on the radio yesterday now is the time to buy.'

"We're getting in at the right time. If we hold our nerve we simply can't lose. In life, timing is everything baby,'' she said, kissing him on the cheek.

"And when we move to Dalkey in a few years I won't suffer from my porn habit any more.''

"I'll be cured. Won't I?'' said Shirley.

Irish Independent