Articles

 

Below are some of Eddie Lennon’s previously published articles from national newspapers and magazines. 

 

That’s another fine mess we’re in

 

Why do we send so many people to prison for not paying fines? There are better ways to deal with the problem, according to the experts. Eddie Lennon reports

John Lonergan, the governor of Mountjoy Prison, has seen many people imprisoned for minor offences. What he describes as the most stupid case was when a Co Mayo farmer was fined €6.35 for having no tail light on his tractor trailer, with two days in jail the alternative. “He wouldn’t pay the fine, so the State brought him from Mayo, paid for a taxi and two gardaí, lodged him in Mountjoy, and we released him the next morning and paid his train fare home. The whole process probably cost about €2,500.”

Many people are jailed not because they refuse to pay, however, but because they are unable to pay. When a court decides that a person has broken the law, the penalty is a fine or imprisonment. It can order that, if the fine remains unpaid after, say, 14 days, the person goes to jail. When the sentence has been served the State cancels the fine. (In the case of a civil debt, imprisonment for non-payment does not wipe out the debt to the creditor, as the matter is between two private parties.)

In 2002, of the almost 125,000 defendants convicted in the District Court, 110,192 were fined, compared with 111,817 of some 127,000 in 2001 and 129,430 of some 146,000 in 2000. There is now a consensus across the criminal-justice system that justice is not being served by our systematic imprisonment of people who pose little or no threat to society.

Although there are no figures for the number of people imprisoned for defaulting on fines, the most recent statistics from the Irish Prison Service show that, of the 5,036 people committed to prison in 2002, 1,909, or 38 per cent, were sentenced to less than three months – “the vast majority of people in prison for short periods are those in default of fines,” says Lonergan. Although the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell, said in 2002 that people imprisoned for non-payment constituted no more than 1.5 per cent of the prison population, they are actually jailed far more than the figures suggest.

Although Ireland’s jail population is relatively low – 78 prisoners per 100,000 people, compared with the European average of 141 per 100,000 – we imprison a comparatively high number of people each year: 313 per 100,000 people, compared with the European average of 288 per 100,000. Ireland’s high turnover of short-sentence prisoners includes, as Lonergan points out, a disproportionately high number of fine defaulters.

“Prison should be the absolute last resort,” he says. “It should only be used for people whose behaviour is a risk to society. I have seen people imprisoned for six to nine months because of their social and personal circumstances, for the most minor offences. One in four prisoners suffers from mental-health problems and 70 per cent have a history of chronic addiction. “I came across a woman in her late teens who had failed to pay the correct bus fare. She was fined £75, was unable to pay it and was imprisoned for 14 days. Surely there should be an alternative way of penalising that person.”

It costs more than €80,000 a year to keep a person in prison. And as the remission principle, whereby prisoners serve 75 per cent of their sentences, applies only to people jailed for more than a month, most fine defaulters serve their full sentences. So the State is spending a considerable sum imprisoning people for relatively trivial offences.

“There should be other ways of getting back the value of the fine from people rather than jailing them,” suggests Lonergan. “We hear a lot about the concept of restorative justice. But no one would convince me that people who don’t pay fines should be imprisoned. Remember that, in such a case, when the court makes its decision it says that it feels the offence does not warrant imprisonment. Surely there must be more innovative ways of penalising them appropriately, such as via community service, rather than sending them to prison? After all, the crime itself is not very serious.”

Dr Ian O’Donnell, deputy director of the Institute of Criminology at University College Dublin, has written extensively about sentencing. He agrees with Lonergan. “The pattern in Ireland has been one of short sentences. We are incarcerating lots of people for very short periods. They clearly do not present a major threat; if they did they would be getting longer sentences.”

He adds: “Given that their sentences are so short, what do we do with them when they are inside? Take someone sentenced for nine weeks. What can you do with someone in that time? You need a certain period to stabilise a prisoner, particularly someone with a drug or alcohol problem. With short sentences there just isn’t enough time to do that.”

Dr O’Donnell notes that if someone is arrested for begging, the court can impose a fine or a prison sentence. But even then imprisonment is inevitably the outcome. “If the fine is imposed the person will go to prison in default anyway, because they will beg again to try to get the money.”

Four years ago a subcommittee report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights pointed out that the jailing of fine defaulters raises some difficult issues. “First of all, these are individuals whose original offences were not serious enough to merit custody but who went to prison anyway due to their inability or unwillingness to pay. Second, such a sanction impacts most severely on those without means, giving the impression that justice discriminates against the poor.

“Third, the imprisonment of large numbers of fine defaulters, albeit for short periods, exacerbates the already chronic overcrowding at the committal prisons, especially Mountjoy. Fourth, the imposition of a prison term means the fine goes uncollected. Not only is revenue lost in this way, but there are significant costs associated with incarceration.” The subcommittee concluded that jailing defaulters “is neither in the interests of justice nor sound financial management.”

In August 2002 McDowell published a study entitled Imprisonment For Fine Default And Civil Debt. It found that most of those jailed for fine default are male and close to the poverty line; two-thirds are committed for not paying fines for traffic or motoring offences, usually in respect of one single offence; almost as many are unemployed or not in the labour force because of disability, with a significant number living in poverty and experiencing other difficulties, who tend not to have the capacity to pay the fines, especially if they are to be paid in full or if there has been an accumulation of fines; and about half of those imprisoned for fine default or civil debt are sentenced to less than 10 days, with 75 per cent of these freed within five days. It also found that non-payment of fines relates primarily to changes in employment circumstances and that the lack of an option to pay by instalment is also an obstacle.

According to the Department of Justice, the Minister is reviewing the way fines are dealt with and expects to bring a Fines Bill to government “shortly.” The Bill “will include proposals to strengthen the criteria to be used by the courts in assessing the means of offenders before imposing fines and provisions for the payment of fines by instalments”. Alternative ways of enforcing fines “are being considered in the context of the proposed Enforcement of Fines Bill, which will supplement initiatives contained in the Fines Bill.”

The Department says that, as the work is at a preliminary stage, it is not possible yet to indicate what measures will be included. However, “the purpose of the proposed [Enforcement of Fines\] Bill is to end, as far as practicable, imprisonment for non-payment of fines and provide for new ways to enforce fines.” Many observers will hope that the legislation, whenever it comes into force, will usher in a new, more enlightened policy to deal with many relatively trivial offences.

*  This article was originally published in The Irish Times. 

 

 

Secret Havana  

Havana is so much more than Castro, cigars and classic American cars. Eddie Lennon finds out what makes it one of the most intriguing places on the planet.

Despite the city’s languid informality and relentless exuberance, many visitors experience Havana in a rather sanitised, second-hand way. The attention-seeking mix of iconic and hard-to-resist clichés about the city makes it all too easy to slip into a predictable, collective experience of everything that’s on show along the beaten track. But the difficulty getting under Havana’s skin is also down to the fact that it is a city that reveals itself slowly. However, this often mysterious metropolis richly rewards one’s curiosity with a host of evocative surprises.

 

callejon de hamel

Callejón de Hamel

Located in dusty Centro Habana, this is the spiritual home of Afro-Cuban culture in the capital. This little pedestrian street is where it’s at every Sunday, from noon till around 3pm. The feverish live music sessions provided free of charge by leading rumba bands are perennially popular, and the dancing is joyful and intense. The event attracts huge crowds, among them the all-in-white converts to the Santería religion who bring an exotic splash of colour. The area itself is quirky and alternative—an urban art project with flamboyantly painted houses, eye-catching street murals, weird and wonderful shops, and striking sculptures made from scrap. Make sure not to miss the beautifully coloured houses situated opposite the entrance. Calle San Lazaro, between calles Hospital and Aramburu.

 

palacio matrimonio

Palacio de Los Matrimonios

Havana’s Wedding Palace is where many of the city’s couples get hitched. This early 20th century neo-Renaissance palace is something of a secret in Havana, and few people get to see it. If you do, the experience will be one to remember. It is one of the most enchanting, romantic buildings in the city. The paintings and stuccoed ceiling work are stunning, particularly in the magisterial (albeit slightly rundown) main room on the first floor. Tip the genial doorman a couple of pesos and he will bring you up to the roof. From here, you can enjoy a fine view of Centro Habana and the Old Town (La Habana Vieja). Paseo de Martí #306, corner of calle Animas, Centro Habana.

 

1024px-Cine_Yara

Vedado

Vedado is Havana’s most fascinating neighbourhood. It is funky, diverse and alternative. Packed with theatres, museums, cinemas, bars and clubs, the overall atmosphere feels like retro 1970s cool. It is a cornucopia of colour and personality, from the mulattas decked out in figure-hugging canary yellow dresses to the swaggering male hustlers sporting massive sunglasses and reggaeton T-shirts. Many visitors, by confining themselves to the Old Town (La Habana Vieja), miss out completely on Vedado.

The area’s most vibrant street is Avenida 23, also known as La Rampa. Havana’s best loved cinema, the Yara is located on the city’s liveliest junction, the corner of Calle L. From the Yara, west along La Rampa and on the streets off it, you will quickly find the real Havana. Even better, you will encounter relatively few tourists—a refreshing change indeed.

 

El Hurón Azul/UNEAC

Also in Vedado is the home of Cuba’s National Union of Writers, based in a beautiful old colonial mansion. From the street, it’s not at all obvious that anything particularly interesting goes on inside. However, the usually hushed outdoor terrace is a veritable hive of activity. First, it’s one of the favourite hangouts of the city’s artistic and intellectual community, including many of Havana’s most colourful characters. It also has a strong roster of regular concerts, with some of Cuba’s best-known singers performing in a range of musical styles. There are concerts several times a week. Saturday nights offer an excellent opportunity to hear some top class singers, delivering a melodic mix of bolero, son and trova. Admission is usually around £3. The lovely terrace is canopied by trees, making El Hurón Azul the perfect place to relax with a mojito when the mercury rises. Corner of 17 and H, Vedado. Tel. 832 4551.

 

Casa-Estudio de José Fuster

To the west of the embassy/business district of Miramar, you will find this rarely discovered delight. Home/studio of the Cuban painter and ceramicist known as the Picasso of the Caribbean, it is strikingly decorated with a child-like, psychedelic zeal. Very obviously influenced by the legendary Catalan architect, Gaudí, Fuster’s house is the centrepiece of the project. It is is a joyful explosion of ceramics and creativity. Eighty of his neighbours’ residences, spanning two streets in the village, are adorned in a similarly surreal and playful spirit. A genuine, living work of art. Calle 226, corner of Third Avenue, Jaimanitas village. Tel. 271 2932.

* This article is an extract from Eddie Lennon’s award-winning guide book, Wonderful Havana. The article was published in The Travel Magazine. Wonderful Havana provides an unrivalled insight into the most exciting aspects of the city. It was extensively updated in September 2015 and features lots of new, excellent, privately run restaurants, bars and cafés in Havana. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wonderful-Havana-ebook/dp/B0051U9RYO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1339073558&sr=8-1. 

 

Why holiday homework always pays off 

 

When it comes to the best way to book a holiday, there is a world of half-truths and hearsay that leaves many holiday-makers with nagging doubts about whether or not they have paid over the odds, writes Eddie Lennon

Is it best to rely on a travel agent or try to organise your holiday independently? Should you book as soon as you spot what appears to be a good deal or wait for a better offer? What are the strategies that help you nail down the best deal in terms of quality and value? We spoke to several holiday experts and asked them for their advice.

 

Go online to get on track

Well-seasoned traveller Michael Collins, editor of the travel magazine, Abroad, says: “It always amazes me how so many people forget to shop around. It’s the biggest financial mistake they make when booking holidays. They look at a price and think it looks good, but prices are often structured by travel agents to give that impression.

“Just about every operator in Ireland will sell you the same package, but you are likely to fly out on the same plane and stay in the same accommodation as somebody who paid far less. There are often differences even among the travel agents for the same holiday.”

It is not always cheaper to book online than through a travel agent, he points out.

Almost every Irish travel organisation has a website, and many of them offer deals from several travel companies, ranging from package deals and sun holidays to flight-only deals, short breaks and adventure holidays.

Websites such as gohop.ie, lastminute.ie, holidaysonline.ie (an online amalgamation of Ireland’s nine major tour operators) and his own website, abroad.ie, have hundreds of deals on offer. “Just looking at those sites is a very good starting point; you will open your eyes to a huge range of holidays,” he says.

You can research your destination and get often graphic details of the pitfalls of certain resorts. At holidaysuncovered.co.uk, for example, there are more than 40,000 holiday reviews by holiday-makers covering popular resorts and hotels.

 

Create your own holiday

Why pay more when you can be your own travel agent? Booking flights and accommodation separately, especially on the internet, can save you a fortune, eliminating the heavy premiums some agents charge. There is considerable scope for nailing down a cut-price flight. And hotel accommodation booked online can cost up to three times less than via a travel agent.

“The best deal in airline seats are mid-week from Ireland to Europe; and on aerlingus.com they tend to be early or mid-week,” says Mary McGovern, who specialises in public relations for travel products and who has also owned a travel company. “Hold off till the last minute to get the airfare you want – except in the case of ski holidays.”

Some websites compare the lowest fares for flights. As an exercise to check how widely flights vary in price, I got five quotes for a return flight to Montreal (where I will go in July), travelling via London with Air Canada. It showed that buying flights online is not always cheaper than through travel agents. The dearest quote was €723 from clubtravel.ie, followed by gohop.ie at €693.54. The same flight with Dublin travel agent Tour America cost €628 – so there is a possible saving of almost €100. (Quotes are from yesterday; figures do change.)

Mary McGovern says: “Booking flight and accommodation separately online will save you up to 40 per cent. Not only that, but you can tailor the holiday according to what you want, when you want to go and how long you want to stay. Who says you have to travel Saturday to Saturday?”

On hotels.com, you can book accommodation at reasonable rates in just about every major city in Europe. I stayed at the luxurious Kempinski Corvinus Hotel in Budapest, booked via hotels.com for just €100 per double room per night – substantially less than I would have paid to a travel agent. However, McGovern adds: “Some of the top hotels in Europe are very often offered by Irish tour operators for far cheaper than you get on the internet.” She says that it is also a good idea to keep in touch with tour operators for last-minute offers on holiday apartments. “You may be disappointed in high season, but because of the huge supply in privately-owned holiday apartments, this is unlikely. If you want a resort, booking direct can save you around 30 per cent.”

However, says Michael Collins, “if you’re short on time and want somebody else to do the leg-work for you, and you’re not hugely price-sensitive, it’s a good idea to book your holiday through your travel agent.”

 

Package holidays

Budget Travel specialises in package holidays to Spain, Portugal, Turkey, the south of France, Malta and the Canary Islands. Spokesperson Niamh Hayes advises holidaymakers to research their package holidays either through their travel agent or on the internet, and then book online. “When we have new offers, specials and last-minute deals, we automatically put them on our website, with full details of what they include.” Hayes says it is generally cheaper to book online at budgettravel.com than through the company’s travel shops. Consumers can save up to €90 each by doing so.

It is difficult to secure a bargain on package holidays from mid-June to mid-September, when demand for holidays is at its highest. “Most of our package holidays are already booked for July and August. Most people who wanted the best family deals – especially those travelling with small children – booked several months ago.

“There are still very good offers for April and May, such as family self-catering deals for up to two weeks for two adults and one child from €659, or with two children for €799. Overall, it’s not too late to book your summer holiday. If you’re flexible about where you want to go, chances are you’ll get enough options to satisfy what you’re looking for.”

Michael Collins says parents planning to travel on a package holiday with three kids should learn from the experiences of others who have learned the hard way: “For insurance reasons many resorts and hotels don’t allow three kids in one room. There is a limited number of such rooms, so make sure to book up to a year in advance.”

Cormac Walsh, director of Joe Walsh Tours, offers simple advice to people with families who want to take a summer break: “Book now. You will, while trying to get the cheapest deal, probably only save about €150 playing around with the bit of free time you have.”

But Collins says you can get good deals by booking package holidays at the last minute. “However, if you have to take two weeks off work at a certain time, you could find yourself stranded, especially during the peak school holiday reason (mid-June to the end of August). There is now a huge trend for last-minute bookings. Two weeks is probably the latest you should wait to make sure there’s enough to choose from.”

 

Short breaks

The rapidly increasing travel choices available with new air routes, allied to the expanding range of holiday products, means many Irish people are now taking an average of three holidays per year – typically, one week in the sun and two short city breaks to an EU city. Companies such as Topflight and ebookers.ie offer a tremendous variety of city breaks. Cormac Walsh says the best value in short breaks at present are to Italy and Croatia. Both countries are served by low-cost airlines, and offer good value once you get there.

 

Ski holidays

According to Mary McGovern, “early bird offers – booking early for discounted rates – give the best deals on ski holidays, and are vital for skiers who are really fussy about what resort they want.”

*  This article was originally published in The Irish Times. 

 

 

Selling home without estate agents can be done

 

Agents’ fees can run into thousands of euro for selling property. In a buoyant market where buyers are numerous for desirable homes, it’s possible to make your own sale, writes Eddie Lennon

THERE has probably never been a better time to sell a house. Prices are higher than they have ever been before.

Many middle-aged people whose families have grown up and moved away opt to move to a smaller property, and other people who own houses in urban areas are relocating and/or retiring to live in the countryside.

But with such constantly spiralling prices, there is a huge financial burden involved in selling your house paying an auctioneer to find a buyer. Because you pay an auctioneer a percentage of the eventual selling price – up to 2.5pc the higher the price you get for the house, the more money you have to pay the auctioneer.

According to one Dublin solicitor who specialises in conveyancing, the biggest scope for negotiating with auctioneers is in Dublin, ranging from 2pc in larger agencies to 1.5pc in smaller ones.

“There is more room for negotiation in Dublin,” he has found. “In the country, there is less room for manoeuvre, and auctioneers usually charge up to the maximum of 2.5pc.” Solicitors argue that their fees 1pc of the sale price or lower are therefore comparatively cheap compared to auctioneers’ fees.

So it’s not surprising that some people are now becoming their own estate agents selling their houses without using an auctioneer, a practice known as DIY selling.

But how difficult is it to be your own auctioneer? Not half as difficult as you might think if you’re organised, according to those who have done it.

Zoe Woodward, marketing executive with phone company Century Home, and her husband David, a financial analyst, recently sold their one-bedroom apartment, in Dublin’s Islandbridge, privately.

As well as the chance to save thousands by selling independently, they were influenced by stories of people being ‘messed around’ by unscrupulous estate agents.

They found the whole experience easier than they expected. The whole process took just over a week.

 

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“According to the estate agents, there is a good market for one-bedroom city apartments, and they have databases of people who are interested in our development and location,” says Zoe.

“If so, why do they charge so much?” she asks. If there was such a demand, she figured, they would not have too many problems selling the apartment themselves.

And they were not proved wrong. Zoe and her husband have just agreed sale with a buyer. The best quote they got from an auctioneer was 1.3pc. Even then, when advertising and VAT were added, they would have paid the auctioneer €4,300 in fees.

The couple drew up a six-point plan to sell the apartment. First, they put a property brochure together. “We got a loan of a digital camera from one person, and another friend said they would print some colour brochures for us,” says Zoe.

Then they e-mailed the brochure with a covering letter to all the relevant editors and journalists in the property supplements. After that they emailed the brochure to their family, friends and acquaintances and requested them to forward it to anyone they think might be interested.

They placed the brochure on notice boards in the apartment foyer, at work, and in libraries. Finally, they placed their own classified ad in a property supplement, and waited for the phone to ring to set up viewings.

Ultimately, it was the ad in a property supplement that brought the apartment to the attention of the lady who agreed to buy it. The other enquiries came via the ad in the apartment foyer, and from an editor in a property supplement. The latter enquiry came after sale had been agreed.

Zoe says: “We sold for €242,000. For us to have got that money going through an auctioneer, they would have had to sell the apartment for €247,000, and that’s working on the basis of a fee of 1.3pc.”

The auctioneer who gave that quote said they would put the asking price at ?240,000, and said they would expect to sell the apartment for between €240,000 and €250,000. “I don’t think an estate agent would have got more than we got,” Zoe believes.

She says the adventure was “interesting. It was a lovely feeling when we told the buyer we were selling to her. She was so excited about it.”

“I think we did start getting a bit greedy when she put in her offer and then someone else phoned and said they’d like to see the apartment. We wondered whether we would offer it to her or whether the other person might offer us more. In the end, we cancelled the other viewing and went with the original offer.”

Her advice to people who would like to sell property off their own bat is “if you have time on your hands, and you also want to get into negotiations on price, you would really have to read up on it.

“I’d nearly advise people to decide on a price you’d be happy selling for, and to accept it if someone offers that price. Try not to be too greedy and not to think too much about what the estate agents say they may get for it. It’s probably a nicer experience selling your house yourself.”

Nadia sold her own house herself. “I didn’t sell it myself for financial reasons,” she says. On the contrary, she had first hand experience of auctioneers not acting, quite dishonestly, in their clients’ interests.

“I wanted to live in Dalkey. My sister had been ringing me up about houses for sale there, and I had a look at one which I decided to buy.”

She had an estate agent value her own house. He gave her an estimate of €280,000, but said there wouldn’t be enough time to dispose of her home and to buy the house in Dalkey. A second agent quoted €290,000, but mentioned the same time constraints.

The next day, she took matters into her own hands and advertised her home for sale in small ads in two national newspapers. Her advertising costs were just €140.

The following day, somebody who saw the ad viewed the house and immediately offered Nadia the asking price of €290,000. She eventually sold it for €328,000, after several bids.

“I would recommend anybody to sell their own house,” she says. “I’m not even the type of person who does things like this. If I can do it, anybody can.

“It was an extremely enjoyable experience. Showing it was fun, after you got rid of the initial nervousness. I just told people who viewed it what I was looking for, the offers came in and it went on and on. I gave myself a month, and a month to the day I sold the house.”

Nadia adds: “I know if I had pushed, I could have got more.”

Patrick Dorgan is chairman of the Conveyancing Committee of the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland, the body that represents solicitors.

He says “the issue (of DIY selling) hasn’t come before us, so the Law Society doesn’t have a policy on it one way of the other.

“But as with any decision of this nature, a person would have to think very carefully about whether the savings on expert advice are real.

“They may save the auctioneer’s fee of some thousands, but they may not get the best price for their house. There’s no doubt a skilled and experienced auctioneer has the ability to get a good price for a house and maximise value for the seller.”

*  This article was originally published in the Irish Independent. 

 

 

Seduction – by the book

 

A new book promises to help you master the much sought-after art of seduction. Eddie Lennon spoke to the author of this seductive tome.

When it comes to seducing the person who is the object of our desire, many of us have our own theories on the best way to go about it. And we have our stories – some with the happy ending of devilishly clever romantic accomplishment; others with the success that somehow and mysteriously slipped away.

When mood and atmosphere conspire, we have our own seductive technique, usually learned from varying degrees of experience. After all, translating the thrill of the chase into romantic triumph isn’t something you can learn from a book.

Or is it?

A new book enticingly titled The Concise Art of Seduction, by Californian writer Robert Greene, claims to help you turn on perhaps the most elusive, subtle and effective form of human power that exists – the power to seduce. The author studied the methods of history’s most powerfully charismatic seducers, from Casanova to Errol Flynn, Cleopatra to John F Kennedy.

The book is a short version of a larger work by Greene on seduction. With less emphasis on the history of seduction, and more on its psychology, this new version claims to be no less potent or instructive, for both men and women. Having repeatedly discovered nine distinct seducing ‘types’ in the course of his research, the author homed in on their successful romantic strategies and pre-bedside manner.

Greene says there are several classic mistakes people make that ruin their chances.

“The biggest turn-off is not necessarily something you do; it’s insecurity and lack of confidence. It infects the other person. So if you’re awkward and you don’t feel comfortable about yourself, or you’re worried about how you look or what you say, the other person catches the mood. The opposite is true if you’re confident and smooth – it lowers the other person’s inhibitions. The biggest mistake people make is not being able to disguise their insecurity.”

And how are would-be Lotharios and femmes fatales to do that? “You need to recognise yourself in one of the nine seducing types. Almost everybody has something in their personality or character that is seductive. It could be that you’re spontaneous and child-like; that you’re really interested in your image and in clothes; that you’re rebellious; that you’re a charmer and know how to please people. Seduction is about bringing out that natural trait – it’s not seductive to be seen to be trying. It’s something inside that makes you different. It’s a question of being conscious of that, accentuating it and knowing how to put it into play.”

Greene says the book “has a lot to do with the soft-sell approach to influencing people.” His basic premise is that humans are perverse, stubborn creatures who will rarely do what you want. So the best way to bypass the natural resistance of the person you’re interested in is to hit him or her at their weakest spot – their desire for pleasure. Stir such desires, pleasantly confuse them (the origin of the word ‘seduction’ is the Latin for ‘to lead astray’) and – bingo! – the eagle has landed. One sure way of dramatically improving your chances with that person, says Greene, is to send mixed signals.

“At the beginning, where a person perceives you as being a certain way, you send them a signal that shows them another, contradictory part of your personality. For example you may seem really quiet and gentle, but if you send a signal that shows a slightly evil side to you, you create a mystery.

A brilliant seductress in Napoleon’s time, Madame Recamier, was thought by everyone to be an incredible angel. She was so sweet and dressed beautifully. When she played the harp at concerts, she would throw a man a look, just for a second, that was extremely naughty and rude. The combination of her being so angelic and that one split-second lewd look made men go nuts over her.”

Greene says that would-be seducers are usually too obvious, talking and showing their qualities far too much. “It’s really about mixing it up a little so people don’t really know you at first. If they don’t know you too well, it makes them think about you when you’re not there. If a person you are attracted to starts thinking about you in that way, you’ve got them pretty much hooked.”

Another sure-fire strategy for netting your romantic quarry is appearing to be an object of desire – seeming to be popular with the opposite sex. “It stimulates the competitive juices,” says Greene, adding that he has used the trick to good effect himself.

“It works particularly well on women, but also on men. The woman senses other women like you. It could be part of your rakish past where there have been a lot of other women; or it could be at a party where you’re surrounded by four beautiful women, which is what I did with my girlfriend when I first met her. It’s a devastating strategy.”

Greene, who is 44, and a former editor of Esquire magazine, says he has always been fascinated by seduction.

“I was bit of a rake in my twenties. I lived for the chase. I’ve always been fascinated both by people who are great seducers and the whole literature on seduction.”

When asked what his current romantic status is, Greene says, in a rather deadpan way, “I am involved with a woman.. When pressed, he adds (no less enigmatically) that the relationship is a long-term one.

And what does she think of her boyfriend’s inordinate interest in how to seduce? “She is very excited about it,” says Greene. “She did some of the research for me, and read some of the hundreds of books written on seduction. She loved the subject; most women are really fascinated by it. She knows about my rakish past, and finds it very amusing.”

The Concise Art of Seduction is published by Profile Books. 

 

So what’s your type?

THE SIREN Supremely confident and alluring female, using her raw physical sexuality to make men melt in her presence.

She cultivates elusiveness, danger and a little vulnerability so that she is chased more feverishly by her rapt admirers. Heightening her femininity through make-up and perfume and subtly erotic, dazzling clothes channels a quick route to men’s primal desire.

Occasionally she flies off the handle to reinforce a wild, unobtainable, aura. Generally, though, the Siren’s voice is calm and unhurried, her manner and movement languorous. Just as her voice lulls, her image dazes – a woman of dramatic, irresistible contradictions.

THE RAKE A serial heart-squeezer, bed-hopper and promiscuous master of seductive language, the Rake is a disloyal and deceitful cad.

This Don Juan unashamedly mixes the whiff of danger (making no effort to hide his rakish reputation) with the allure of pure pleasure.

He overwhelms his prey with his devil-may-care desire and playful, flamboyant affections. His all-consuming attentions are the perfect emotional camouflage; for him, hesitation is a sign of diluted passion.

The Rake rejects rejection, and resistance inflames him even more as he appears to lose all control in his fever to possess. Carefully conveying a thrilling sense of risk and even darkness, the Rake chooses words to entrance and infect, and gives them a lofty, spiritual flavour specifically to elevate desire.

THE IDEAL LOVER Not a cynical or deceitful bone exists in the Ideal Lover’s body – he or she is a danger-free zone, an emotional sure thing.

Or rather, that’s what they want you to think. The truth is that the Ideal Lover is an emotional prostitute, deftly identifying your disappointments and then selling you the fantasy that you have somehow found the emotional super-glue that will seamlessly mend the heartbreaks of your past.

Patiently and attentively attuned to your desires, the Ideal Lover slowly but inexorably becomes irresistible to you, slyly blending an aura of innocence with the intoxication of sensuality.

Dainty gifts, flowers and other acts of old-world chivalry appeal to your higher senses, but all the while the Ideal Lover’s real ambitions are decidedly lower in aspiration.

*  This article was originally published in the Irish Independent.