Friday, 12 December 2014

Why Austerity IS Working


Ok, let’s start with a revelation. Austerity doesn’t work, that’s a no-brainer. Economists have been saying this for centuries and anyone living at the thin edge of the wedge in Europe will be living its failure. Incomes have been slashed, debts become unmanageable and few see any sign of improvement on the horizon. The amount of people without any health insurance is at an unprecedented high and the government telling us the same old story.


We must help bail out an economy that we were complicit in scuppering. 

Twitshot
retail wrecklessness
Oh! those heady days
Austerity purports to tackle the world recession caused by credit-happy shoppers like you and me consuming beyond our means. It is sold on the micro-economic understanding that if a household cuts spending on non-essentials for a while it can pay off its debts thus reducing expenditure and bring its outgoings below income. It is the credit-binge hangover that we are told we all need to take responsibility for. The belief is that by cutting back on the state’s expenditure and increasing taxation they will be able to wrestle the public debt back to a manageable level where we can all breathe a sigh of relief and get back to business as usual. This is not happening. The lack of investment is causing widespread unemployment and even more widespread underemployment. This in turn, is making it more difficult for the government to collect taxes while simultaneously putting increased pressure on social benefit systems. The result is that while we are paying and suffering for our sins.


That said, unless you have had your TV repossessed and your Internet cut, we all know that that is just a tiny piece of the story. Due to systematic deregulation of the markets by governments giving more power over sovereign currencies than the national banks themselves, they went ape-shit inventing new and more toxic ways to make profit from the movement of capital (read debt). Their abuse of their new-found freedom with currencies made them a systemic risk to national economies and thus “too big to fail”. And so, their private debts, far larger than any kitchen refit or big-screen TV have been transferred to the public balance sheet. However, yet again we are reminded that these same banks loaned us money and helped us buy our beautiful houses that cost more than we could earn in ten years plus interest. So, once again we are complicit. Incidentally, these houses could not have reached such prices were it not for the freely available credit in the market. We are also told that if we did let these banks loose, we would be in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and would die a horrible death. Tell that to the Icelanders.  

Maybe we are all looking at the problem from the wrong angle. 

Let’s consider firstly that this strategy was not implemented by my mum, it was devised by some of the most proficient macro-economists on the planet with access to the studies of the greatest economists of history from Adam Smith through Locke to Keynes and Hayek. They also had great social experiments such as Soviet Russia, Hitler’s Germany, New Deal USA, Thatcher’s Britain and more recently Iceland. In fact, to give any credence to the “Ooops!” factor would be to believe that the people running the world economy are less competent than my Mum when baking a pie. No, austerity is working if you consider that

Its goals may have very little to do with relieving public debt. 

The economy at the centre of the euro-zone and one of the main architects of the current austerity strategy, the German has become strong due to exports. It has learnt that you become powerful by making stuff and selling it to the world. It was busy during the credit-binge selling the world and those naughty Greeks Mercedes, BMWs and Volkswagens, helping them to get in debt. It has worked hard to build a reputation for reliability and prestige and most of us will make a b-line for a German product from stationary to power-tools to supercars, given the choice. But, on the world stage they cannot support the whole of the euro-zone with their premium commodities. They have diversified, buying Skoda and other budget brands but this is not enough. If the EU is to be successful in the world economy. 

It needs to make impact in the mass consumptions markets. 

Depression
Discount dignity
In order for the Euro-zone to compete with the huge production centres of China, India and the Far East, they need one more element. Traditionally, in order for a nation to increase the mass saleability of its exports it has devalued its currency making its products cheaper and more attractive. This is not so easy in the Euro-zone, not to mention the fact that when one currency does it so do others igniting a currency war with all currencies finding a similar equilibrium to where it started. There is one other factor which will allow this relative price index for exports; cheap labour. And it is here that austerity is doing the business. The highly educated, highly skilled workforce of Europe is now on sale. But in order to truly compete they will have to get a little cheaper. 

Austerity is working. 

It is producing a more cost-effective workforce by lowering the expectations of this and generations to come.  This is not a conspiracy theory, it is a business plan. My conclusions are based on the evidence that we are living and take into consideration the business model of the central economy of the Eurozone. If it was a company, it would need to position its product line in the open market. Seeing as the premium market is not large enough to support the 350 million people of the EU, it would definitely need to reposition, at least some of is portfolio to high-volume markets.  

In my next article I'll explore the next step of a strategy that could put Europe back at the centre of world production and how the current fall in oil prices could be the lever to expand the Eurozone.
       
If you liked this, don't forget to subscribe through the cheeky MailChimp and link up on social.  Also check out my series The Century of DIY A Crop Of... More to come!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Episode 22: Seeing the Big Picture


From under dark clouds
From Under Dark Clouds
'From Under Dark Clouds...' is a Gonzo fictionalisation of current events in Greece as seen through the eyes of our unnamed hero as he fumbles from paranoia to public office, under the mentorage of the shady Socrates.


I can’t say I understood what I saw on the screen but I sat mesmerised, dear blogees. Mike put his arm round my shoulder, stoked to be able to share this revelation with someone who really cared. We locked each other in a hearty bro-hug.

“So, I can do my tax declaration online now?”
Mike visibly deflated and shook his head woefully. What we were looking at was the tax department’s files. This is where they calculate what they they will make us pay at the end of the year and we could change that for anyone. We began looking through the files on people we knew shaving a few euros from those we liked and adding a few to those we didn’t.
I stopped the game, “Don’t they have paper files on all these people?”
Mike stopped, “Yeah, sure they do, but who reads them?”
I pointed out that they may start reading them if they had a problem, if people started to complain. Who would complain about paying less tax? People never think they’re paying too little and when they submit paper that doesn’t reconcile, they’ll start following the paper. Not to mention the tax inspectors looking for a backhander. They were always looking for someone to put the screws on and they were old-school. This made him think.
I told him to go into the Spyros the supermarketeer’s file. His total owed was enough to run town hall for months. His list of assets, apartments, land, businesses. I looked to Mike incredulously.
“He made all this from coffee and corn flakes?” I asked.
He looked at me and smiled at my naivety. I put the question again. I didn’t really expect an answer, I just couldn’t believe that such a miserable man could have all this and still complain when I didn’t have change at the till. But, I had made a deal with him and Mike now had a roof over his head. We shaved a sum that would have paid Mike’s salary for at least six months, still leaving a fairly hefty contribution to the city’s coffers.
Mike pulled out a half-drunk bottle of scotch and two glasses. “I think some celebration is in order!”
I shrugged and made my leave. I would have loved a drink and with Mike, one of my favourite people right now but I wanted to be back home.
The wife was asleep but her warm snoring body was uncomplicated and comforting.
The next day, I set about my obligations. Meeting with some people of importance from central government. I made a point about our staff wages. There was no funding and our credit line had dried up, if I wanted to pay them I would need to find money from other sectors, maybe schools or the health centre. Essential work on infrastructure was still long overdue. The water was leaking into the streets in some areas and a motorcyclist had ended up in the emergency ward after hitting an enormous pot hole that had opened on the high street. I should put more pressure on those who owed local taxes. I reminded them that they were being collected by central and the electricity company now, bypassing my office. This evoked a shrug and I was told to look at the big picture. I was trying, but the pixels just kept getting in the way.
I rode my Vespa from a car park full of cars, all shiny and German. The rest of the afternoon was spent signing pieces of paper before they went to be stamped. I did, however learn that some more of the residents of the basement had moved into Spiro’s apartments to make a home, however temporary. This was the highlight.
I hadn’t spent any time with Socrates in ages and I needed his stoic council. He had got me into this and I had never needed him more. The waiter came to our table and he ordered for both of us but I had to tell the waiter to simply bring me a coffee. Socrates looked visibly shocked. The doctor had me on some medication that didn’t play well with booze and I simply didn’t need my wife and kids finding me dumped out of the door of a cab again. I was a new man, at least that was my ambition.
I told Socrates about the tragic state of the town hall with its staff living in the basement and no money for their salaries. He ummed and ahhed, occasionally looking over his glasses from some papers he was reading.
“They told me to take it out of the school’s budget!”
His reply was an exhaled SO. I was not getting through to him. I needed help from the only man I trusted to give me advice and he was too preoccupied with whatever it was that held his attention. I needed to shock him into listening. I told him about hacking into the tax department. He looked up and held me in his gaze, he had scared the living crap out of me with this look before but at least I knew I had his attention. I told him about the deal with Spyros the supermarketeer, which met with a Hmm of approval. I told him I knew it was wrong but I had no other options. He rocked his head and the corners of his mouth lifted a little.
“How did it work for you?” Socrates asked.
I told him that it had worked very well, surprisingly well but would not have been necessary if we had proper funding, not to mention that the thieving bastard had more money than God. His tax bill alone could have paid a good number of my staff.
Socrates’s glasses dropped down his nose, almost on purpose so his greying blue eyes could hold me unhindered. “You know what? You lack vision.”
I stuttered, something had changed since we had last met, he was no longer the grumpy old grandpa figure, in fact he appeared younger, more vital. I floundered for a riposte, but none came.
“You need to see the big picture, son.”
I wanted to tell him about pixels and definition and clarity and shit. All I could say was something about the staff, something recycled that didn’t need fresh thought.
“Things will have to get much worse, my boy. If they are to change at all.”
I sipped my coffee wishing it to be Irish and me to be elsewhere. He pulled the folder that had kept his attention throughout our conversation, placed it on the table and slid it toward me. I opened it. It was a list of names and dates and numbers each followed by a sum of money.
“You will give this to our man Micheal, he will know what to do with it.” He said.
I asked if they were more favours. Socrates told me that they were. I smiled, there was a lot of favours here, enough to do some real good work. Not just for the staff but for the town as a whole. I shared this thought with Socrates.
“Things must get much worse before anything can change,” he said before leaving me with the bill.



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Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Episode 21: Down but not out


From under dark clouds
From Under Dark Clouds
'From Under Dark Clouds...' is a Gonzo fictionalisation of current events in Greece as seen through the eyes of our unnamed hero as he fumbles from paranoia to public office, under the mentorage of the shady Socrates.

Each episode is based on real events. Readers are invited to share their experiences for the Under Dark Clouds treatment. Many have been included in cameo roles.


See link below for contributions


My face was still smarting from the slap but it didn't curb my enthusiasm, dear blogees. My motto is if you don’t do it, it doesn't get done! And if it wasn't, it would be from now on. Apparently, as the mayor, my jurisdiction did not include or get anywhere close to matters of taxation. I had made false promises to Spyros the supermarket and my arse would get bitten but these were mere details in a plan of such righteous scale that they barely warranted a second thought, were it not for my face. The well-assembled secretary picked up the phone and told me, yes told me to call the supermarketer and tell him the truth. She turned to dial the number and it came upon me to slap her arse. My hand made a paddle and began to swing when I remembered all the ruckus at the BBC and I had no time in my schedule to be the next Dave Lee Travis. I told her instead to call a meeting of all the homeless employees of the town hall. She huffed and complied. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the sign of a true leader.

I chose the conference room for the meeting, this time. Mike the IT guy and Tasos the janitor were already there and I arrived with my secretary in tow. The room began to fill, anything to get away from their desks.

I took the stage and cleared my throat. “I have some good news,” I smiled. I cleared my throat again, a little louder this time and repeated myself.  

“The mayor would like to tell you about when you’ll get paid,” Mike the IT guy said. The room went silent.

I thanked Mike, then became momentarily distracted by my secretary’s heaving bosom, not noticing her tightly pursed lips. She was staring holes in the back of Mike’s head. I prised my eyes away from her bosom just before she noticed me looking, she gently swung her head left and right.

“Yes, of course, ladies and gentlemen. But more about that after.” After I found out where Mike intended to squeeze hundreds of thousands of euros of back pay from a bankrupt town council that hadn't paid some of its staff for nearly a year. We had been financed by promises and rhetoric from central government for so long we had stopped asking. “First, I have some fantastic news about housing.”

One of the gathered lifted his head, his face still bruised from our last run-in with the police’s special forces. “Just tell us when we’re gettin' paid, will ya!” the room began to nod in unison and the mumbling began again.

“I’ll get to that in a moment, just bear with me and I’ll answer all your questions. Now I've managed to…” the room began to empty.

Soon the room echoed with silence. Just Despina stood before me with an awkward smile, she looked behind her as the door closed.

I looked to Tasos and Mike who looked to each other. I turned to Despina. “You and your boy will have a new home today, Despina.” She smiled a thank-you and asked to leave, then stopped. “We won’t get beaten out by the police again, will we, sir?”

I looked her in the eyes and swore that things would be better soon. She dropped her head and left. Mike turned to Tasos and swung his head toward the door. They left together.

It was just me and the well-assembled secretary in the big room. “I do hope you know what you’re doing,” she said and swaggered out of the room. I didn't and she knew that better than I.

That night, I tossed restlessly in a warm bed, with a warm wife, my sons gently snoring in the next room. Mike, Tasos, Despina and her young son were safe in the supermarketers apartments, but for how long.

The sun finally rose signalling the start of another cycle of life. I headed off the wife’s alarm and readied the kids for school myself. I poured milk over cereal, put things between bread and took them to learn numbers and letters.

I was last into the office but no coffee waited for me and only Despina wished me a good morning. I spent the day watching the hour hand drag its arse round the clock face. Spyros the supermarketer called a number of times and was told each time that I was unavailable. Somebody from central government called then rang my mobile racking up a list of red entries in my call history. In fact the only person I did speak to was from the mobile company trying to sell me some new package and she hung up on me.

At the end of the day I waited, respectfully for the offices to empty and clocked off. Back home where I had less scope to cause calamity or where expectations were so much lower.

I was thrusting a foamy toothbrush round my mouth when the phone rang, it was Mike. He apologised profusely for his absence that day but told me that I had to come over and see what he had found. I told him I’d see him the next morning but he insisted and I relented.

His eyes were on fire as he opened the door of his new apartment in Spyros’s block. I looked around the room, he had already made the place into a teenagers’ bedroom. He ushered me to the monitor propped up on some vegetable crates.

“It was easy,” he said. “The encryption and firewalls were a doddle. I just had to route through the TOR network so it couldn't be traced.” I stared at the grey boxes filled with numbers and other gibberish. He started changing the numbers in the boxes and pressing the update data button, then he looked at me. I stared at the screen. “It’s official and no one can trace it back.” I stared at the screen. “Don’t you see?” I didn't.

My expression barely changed when It did, from stupid to stupefied but I did realise what we had uncovered.





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Friday, 17 October 2014

Writer's block... Are you buying it?

There are as many reasons for writer's block as there are writers but at the heart of it is often one simple fact... you don't buy it!


i'm not buying it
Are you buying it?

Writer’s block is so ubiquitous that it’s a cliché. Non-writers know about it, films have been made about it but we live it. We know how crushing it can be to watch the cursor blink, mocking us in our ineptitude, like a rabbit in the headlights. Everyone has some advice on how to deal with it and sometimes I feel like more has been penned on the subject than chain-smoking detectives. 


The fact is that there are a myriad of reasons for it, as individual as you are. It may be distractions, the kids screaming, Facebook, a tense moment in the book you are reading or piles. This is easy, disconnect, go to a haven, be it your private space or an anonymous café, apply cream and write. What I want to address is when you just can’t get your characters onto the next page, when you just aren't buying it. 

I was sat there recently, goaded by the cursor when I decided to take a break to regroup and battle on. I took myself onto the veranda for a smoke and started cruising goodreads looking for the next good thing to read. Instead of checking out the reviews, which is as helpful as it is baffling, I started with the back cover summaries. After two or three I got really hooked by one in particular David Wong's "John dies at the end. It didn't try to tell me anything, it spoke to me, it invited me in without summarising and I bought it. It made me think about my work and made me think about why I had seized; I didn't buy it. I had lost my connection with the story and the characters, characters I had loved and loathed. And if I didn't buy it why should you. I began to compose a pitch for my story, I tried to summarise it, I tried to describe it; I still wasn't buying it. Then I started selling it to myself inviting myself into the story and introducing myself to the characters not as written protagonists but as people as friends who were having a shitty time of it, friends like you. I am now back into it throwing them back into conflicts with each other then taunting them with saviour. My block has gone because I am buying it again and so will you.

There are so many reasons for seizure but confidence and involvement are at the root of many of them. Get beyond the page and stand shoulder to shoulder with your people and make their case for existence then get back into the frey. If you don’t buy the ride then no-one else will. 

Now, get back to it and write something you buy. Post a pitch in the comments, if you like.
      
Next time: How to find your way when your story has left you in the dark without a candle.
                       

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Note: The image above was borrowed from the anti-human trafficking campaign Traffick 911. Please lets not forget that slavery is unacceptable, irrelevant of where the person is taken from.    


Monday, 13 October 2014

Episode 20: A New Day, A New Man


from under dark clouds
From Under Dark Clouds

Check out previous episodes of

From Under Dark Clouds


'From Under Dark Clouds...' is a Gonzo fictionalisation of current events in Greece. The story is seen through the eyes of our unnamed hero as he fumbles from paranoia to public office, under the mentorage of the shady Socrates.

Each episode is based on real events. Readers are invited to share their experiences for the Under Dark Clouds treatment. Many have been included in cameo roles.





See link below for contributions


I awoke with a Jimmy Saville of a hangover, that tsiporo is a sneaky bastard, like junkie burglars it breaks in when you think you're safe, turns everything upside down, goes through your draws then shits in your bed.

It had snatched a few memories but it had left me with most of what had lead to me being posted back home and bundled out of a cab.

I dragged myself out of my bed which now resembled a dog basket, I had always felt sympathy when the kids asked for a pet but the wife had maintained that we had enough with me.

Today would be a change, a new man. I pulled the sheets from the bed and searched for the washing machine , they're not small enough to hide but can be wily fuckers, for sure. I tracked it down in a small room under the stairs and sprung the portal. The offending articles fit nicely in and I decide to chance the pillows as well but they refused to go through the hole, how did the Lady mayoress do it, more to this housewifing than I had credited her for. Maybe she could do the same down at the town hall. All that remained was to hit the ignition switch, light the blue touch paper, whatever you do with these things and I would be the hero of the hour. Fuck. The dashboard was like an ambulance, all flashing lights and little draws. But this was the new me, the fixit me, the man people could rely on, the… it was me, I was truly PWNED by a domestic appliance. The house was empty so there were no witnesses to my shame except me and for once that was enough.

I went into the kitchen for some coffee, opening the can I could see that what was left was going to be tricky to get out so I poured the boiling water straight in. A realisation struck me; that's how mike manages it. I was alone in a warm house with BBC 6 music on the sound system and a hot cup of Nestlé' s hate. Where had Mike and Tasos gone to last night. We had lost the town hall plaza to the man with clubs and masks and they had nowhere else to go. They? where had Despina taken her fine young boy. Back to the basement of the town hall? I hoped, well I hoped not. I hoped I had for once come through. Socrates had the lawyers on his back, toss up who would talk to me first, him or the lady mayoress. Probably her, she wouldn't miss the chance to drag my self esteem through the cat litter; got a thing with pets today.

I smoked whatever I could find and took a hot shower, being careful to put the ashtray at the far end away from the spray, see an old dog can learn new tricks. I heard a clunk as I was brushing my teeth which would have worried me if it were not caused by the wife returning from taking the kids off to receive a sterling education at the local primary. I was, however, worried by the fact that the wife had returned from taking the kids off to the local primary. I quickly rubbed the towel around my person, the surfaces around the bath and injected it through the portal of the washing machine along with the soiled ashtray for good measure. I greeted her with a huge smile and proudly displayed my cleanliness to her; as clean and bare as the day I was born.

Funny thing, she didn't yell or scream. She smiled and held out her arms.

She told me that she had heard of the commotion down at my Town Hall plaza initiative, yeah she called it an initiative and was proud of me for doing it then standing up to the bullies who tried to take it away from me and the poor people I was trying to help. I was so tempted to tell her that my standing lasted precisely up to the point when I was knocked down and pummelled like cookie dough but I smiled coyly instead.
She gave me a hug that hurt and invigorated me at the same time and told me that she was proud of me, again.

I grabbed my keys and ran for the door; I would make a difference and carpe fucking diem, I would do it today. She called my name and looked at my dangling nethers; I may need to get dressed first.

I formulated my plan on the Vespa heading for the town hall, by the time I arrived it was bulletproof.

Spyros, down at the supermarket had a bunch of unleased apartments, he’d refused to drop the rent when the bottom fell out of the market like a Friday-night curry and by the time he’d seen sense no-one was in the market to pay. Now that was bad enough but the government was in the process of clawing back 40 years of taxes to pay the IMF and ECB and would tax your hair if they could only find a way to count it. Result was that spyros was being taxed left right and centre on income for apartments he couldn’t let. And this was my IN. I would pull some strings through the party to get him some leeway AND take on the maintenance with Tasos and the boys, in return he would house our people for free. He gets a tax-load off his shoulders and his apartments occupied and maintained, my people get their Town Hall plaza; win, win, win. I rubbed my palms with glee.

Mike was looking no worse than usual, I guess he has age on his side, and offered me a cup of coffee as I rolled into the office. The well assembled secretary looked up sharply and firmly stated that she would attend to it, a lucky day for a new man.

When the coffee arrived I took my time enjoying the aroma then asked her for a telephone number for Spyros the supermarket. Within seconds she told me to pick up line 4, it was already ringing, I ready myself for history.

Spyros was as cheerful as ever, in other words, not at all. I reminded him of his woes and held the phone from my ear as he wailed and bleated. The well-assembled secretary rolled her eyes knowingly. He finally began to lose momentum and sighed what am I to do, not really looking for a solution but affirmation of his uniquely woeful predicament, I began my pitch. I pointed out each of his predicaments asking him whether a solution would interest him, he replied positively. I brought up the subject of maintenance on vacant apartments; he had never considered this but agreed, all the same. I went for the close. My secretary was now watching me with eyes as round as tea plates. I told him I could pull some strings with the tax situation, he asked with obvious incredulity whether this was within my power, I assured him that it was but said I would just confirm it with the experts.

“I have the power to reassess a constituent’s tax status, don’t I?” she was now looking at me with eyes like someone seeing Internet porn for the first time, her jaw clamped jerking her head from side to side. “Yes, of course I have.” He paused, told me that they would have to get out when he got a paying tenant, I agreed. My secretary was now standing very close to her head in spasmodic jerks mouthing the word NO! He asked if we could have this in writing, I laughed. This agreement was strictly under the radar any paper trail could seriously compromise him. He saw the sense in that. He asked for concessions on his supermarket, I told him not to be greedy. He paused some more and some more. He demanded a lick of paint, I agreed and so did he. The keys would be at the supermarket and they could move in that very day. I told him he would not regret it, for long and bade him good-day.

I really was a new man, I punched the sky and did a little river dance round the office. The secretary slapped my face, I think I was growing on her. What followed was a barrage, the like I had only ever experienced at the end of my wife’s tongue; I really was growing on her.

Now all I had to do was share the good news with the good and dispossessed people of the town hall.



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Friday, 10 October 2014

Roundabouts in Greece, a real tragedy.

Is it just me or has Greece really missed the whole idea of the roundabout as a safe way to keep traffic flowing without the frustration of traffic lights.

Now follows a rant but this really needs to be addressed before a major death toll is caused by these relatively simple junctions.


There seems to be a prevailing belief here, prevailing but by no mean unanimous, that drivers on the roundabout should give way to those entering in accordance with the give way to the right law that applies generally on the highway. Thing is though, that if priority is given to those entering but not to those trying to exit a roundabout will quickly fill with no one having the right to leave. This often happens and while it is frustrating it is nowhere as dangerous as those who feel they can attack a roundabout at full throttle expecting those on it to make way for them. Just think, you are 2 or 3 metres from an entrance to the roundabout and someone 50 metres away will boot it with no concept that you may not give way to their righteous path. 

The other matter is the usual belief that any road with more than one lane is there expressly for parking. Watch this to see the calamitous results of a coach using the junction to drop off passengers, or go for a sandwich.  
Watch this: 
Thanks to David Woodhead

This is an American video showing how to use a roundabout from the wrong side of the road perspective:


I know that roundabouts are not common-place in the States but the concept is the same.

An Irish video, simply cause is sounds nice. 


I found plans for a double roundabout in Athens.... mercy!

Rant over. Share this to everyone you know in Greece, natives and ex-pats alike.  
  

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Episode 19: Smoke gets in my eyes

from under dark clouds

From Under Dark Clouds




From Under Dark Clouds

'From Under Dark Clouds...' is a Gonzo fictionalisation of current events in Greece as seen through the eyes of our unnamed hero as he fumbles from paranoia to public office, under the mentorage of the shady Socrates.

Each episode is based on real events. Readers are invited to share their experiences for the Under Dark Clouds treatment. Many have been included in cameo roles, can you spot them?




See link below for contributions






mexican greek standoff
Mexican Greek standoff

It was a Mexican stand-off, we had the old, the infirm, women and even Despina’s boy. Well I say we but I mean them because I was vehemently adhering to the advice of my legal brief and remaining uninvolved. So, they had the innocents and the others had batons, helmets and shields. My dear blogees, this was the righteous against THE MAN and we, they held the trump card; the power of the press. THE MAN would not dare be caught in the act, they would not act up with the eyes of the world watching. They would, no doubt, make some noise and finally stand down and regroup. How wrong I was.


Out of frustration one of the policemen lobbed a drinks can. This must have been their way of letting off steam ‘cause soon after another couple followed. I couldn’t make out what brand it was until it fell to the floor rebounding off the rapidly closed windows. First one then the others began spouting thick smoke, I could see the photographer shooting from behind a gas mask. I stood, an innocent observer, uninvolved but not unmoved as hot tears began to stream down my cheeks. Not the tears of sadness like when I found out Santa was a fat drunk who only worked once a year (and there were no vacancies)or when I found my wife had replaced my cache of weed with oregano. I had woken to find myself in Gaza or some US state. 



This wasn’t the first time I had come up against this kind of behaviour, and I’m sure if you’re married you would have spent a night on the doorstep sobbing. After a suitable period of pain and suffering, she’ll let you back in if only to avoid the postman gossipping.     

This was their noise, their stomping on the Genesis CDs (but only the post Peter Gabriel), their threats to send the dog pound to take me away. It would pass, they would go to eat donuts. I stood upwind with a damp towel over my head. 

The sergeant pulled out his bullhorn and issued a final warning, yeah right! Then silence. Then 100 heartbeats in slow sync. Then more silence. Then a shit storm. 



Riot police vs pensioners - Thessaloniki, Greece
Riot police Vs Pensioners
The damp towel was now round my neck pulling me across the pavement, the door pulled from its hinges. I was trying to swim to the surface but only sank deeper, starving for air. Waves of flotsam and jetsam broke on my body. I braced in the knowledge that like any ride at the fair, it would end before I soiled myself. I managed to gulp enough breath to voice the words that would put an end to this maelstrom, they only needed to be heard and all this would end. I repeated them over and over, I am the mayor. Then soiled myself. 



The storm moved on but showed no sign of abating. Green uniforms were now visible at the windows, smoke seeping through the broken glass. I picked myself up to, to, to do something and fell on a leg that refused to bear my weight. The sergeant was sending orders via the bullhorn but we had brought a peashooter to a baton charge. It wasn’t long before 4 tonnes of waif, stray and pensioner littered the street outside the erstwhile Town Hall plaza. The evacuation of the building culminated with a church bazaar of belongings thrown from the open windows only missing some of those gathered below. We were beat and beaten. 



There was silence in the back of the van but not in my head. I could have done something, I should have done something; I didn’t. 


The long wait
The long wait
We were left a couple of blocks short of the police station and told we were lucky. I felt as lucky as a rabbit’s foot (dismembered from its rabbit). Mike and I found Tasos sporting a swollen eye a few blocks later. We decided to go to the hospital to get checked out. The emergency room was full to the gills with wailing, complaint and the smell of infection. After nearly two hours we decided to self-medicate; tsiporo and ice, one for the pain the other for the swelling. The three of us licked our wounds round a quiet table in the corner of a forgotten taverna. We told each other our stories over and over, swore and asked why. We drank until the pain became someone else’s. We resolved to get our own back and swore some more. We agreed that we were not afraid but I did confess to a mild apprehension at facing my wife. Socrates and maybe my lawyer. Tasos banged his fist on the table and declared a fear of no-one, adding that he was a widower and had no home to go to. Mike made no declarations so I told him that I was afraid of his coffee. 

The waiter continued to bring tsiporo until I realised that none of us could pay the bill. He threatened to call the police. Mike and Tasos ran, I fell over a sneaky table. 

If you were to ask me now, I would deny it but at the time I swear I watched my body being frisked and plundered. It was floated out onto the cold pavement and loaded into a cab. I was willing it to listen but it slumped void and vacant like a drooling pile of laundry. 

Home, safe at last. I snivelled in my wife’s arms not giving a second thought to those who weren’t.


Fade to credits...



Images by kind permission of TeacherDude





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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Episode 18: In case of emergency, do nothing.

from under dark clouds
From Under Dark Clouds

From Under Dark Clouds

'From Under Dark Clouds...' is a Gonzo fictionalisation of current events in Greece as seen through the eyes of our unnamed hero as he fumbles from paranoia to public office, under the mentorage of the shady Socrates.

Each episode is based on real events. Readers are invited to share their experiences for the Under Dark Clouds treatment. Many have been included in cameo roles, can you spot them?




See link below for contributions


Fucked up, again!
Oops, fucked up, again! 
Once again, I was the kid in the corner of the class. Socrates hadn’t made me wear a hat or anything but he might as well. The lawyer's meter was ticking and so far the only value I could gather was that I was a fucking idiot and my wife had told me that for free. I thought Socrates had some leverage over the thieving bastard but since sloping off to Switzerland he had grown some balls and was levering back. Finally I asked him, in his two-hundred-Euros-an-hour opinion what could we do. He shrugged and said, "nothing." My dear blogees, when you pay good money for advice, take it.

I bade my leave and made for home to the wife in the hope that she would still be in a good mood before telling her about the latest developments, on second thoughts I would adhere to the costly advice of our brief and tell her nothing.

She was in good spirits and had cannelloni ready, it was a little al dente but two bottles of wine loosened it up nicely. I continued to follow the lawyer’s advice until bedtime when my dear lady wife took it instead.

The next morning, Socrates called me on the mobile. I was just about to set off for the town hall and he knew how I hated to speak while driving, well to be honest the speaking was the least of the problems, the hearing was the hard bit. I had once taken a hacksaw to my helmet to make it mobile friendly but it kept falling off. He had bought me a hands-free gizmo and had nearly killed myself finding out that it wasn’t compatible with 2-strokes.

Mike the IT guy brought me coffee, why did that man hate me so much? I tried to appeal to the well-assembled secretary but she was making busy with some papers. Mike asked me about the situation with the flats and I told him, in all confidence, that the police would come to evict them and that we could do nothing. He asked me if this was the official council lawyer or a personal brief, I replied the latter and he wafted off leaving a bad smell behind.

The phone rang, it was Socrates, the courts had issued a warrant and soon it would be in police hands. I asked what I could do and he reminded me of the lawyer’s bill and told me not to get in the way. Then he made me promise. I had to go down there, at least, and took Mike the IT guy and Tasos the janitor for support.

The Austerity Wars - on the front line in Greece
Grey Panthers? 2* 
A patrol car pulled up just as we arrived on foot and two officers got out. I asked them what their business was, the elder pulled out a piece of paper and apologised that he was just doing his job. I did nothing. He asked me to tell the residents to pack up and leave the building at once. I did some more nothing and said nothing for good measure. Just then a bus waddled up to the stop opposite and relieved itself of its contents on the pavement. The police entered the building to exercise the warrant. Another bus relieved itself at the stop from the other direction and about 4 tonnes of pensioners and waifs advanced on the town hall plaza. Mike the IT guy began waving and bouncing on his toes, I don’t recall ever seeing him quite so lively. I looked him in the eyes, which was not easy considering that they wouldn’t stay still, his face was all cheshire cat as he mouthed Facebook.

Soon the corridors and passage ways of the building were sardine-packed with all manner of derelict and dispossessed, some had found unoccupied apartments and had thrown down boxes and blankets to stake their claim.

The officers, failing to use authority to navigate the building found an open window and shouted down, “Mr. Mayor, you must do something about this, we are exercising a legal warrant to evacuate the premises.”

I asked him how much he earned. He huffed and told me that this was a very serious situation, I asked him again. He shrugged and told me around €800 a month. I asked him if he worked more than 4 hours a month. He huffed again, over 40 per week, “But please, Mr. Mayor this is no time—”

I did the maths, which wasn’t difficult and told him I could do nothing.

Through the open window I heard a walkie-talkie squalk and some unintelligible yelling. Mike the IT guy was tapping at the screen of his phone.

The officers arrived at the entrance in quite a state and proceeded to undertake a full audit of the equipment hanging from their uniforms.

It wasn’t long before a dark-blue coach equipped with meshed windows pulled up at the bus stop opposite and spewed out two dozen helmets and plastic shields. Socrates was going to be livid, fortunately not with me as I had done exactly as instructed but I knew he would be mighty pissed.

They were now ordering themselves into a rank on the pavement ready to take on 4 tonnes of waifs and strays. A Vespa pulled into the narrow street of the town hall plaza and a portly man alighted from a bare-foam saddle. He removed his helmet revealing a rather red face and smiled, not one of the locals, I presumed. Just behind him a herd of cars and mopeds were strewn and their occupants heading towards us. I looked to Mike the IT guy, he shrugged and shook his head, it was Tasos the janitor who answered my unasked query, Twitter, he said. The red-faced man pulled a gas mask and a camera from his bag and turned it on the now advancing heavy brigade snap snap, then disappeared into the building, “How do? Mr. Mayor,” as he passed me. I continued doing as I was told.

police vs pensioners
Police vs Pensioners 3*
One of the paramilitaries pulled a bull horn and addressed the building. The building answered with jeers and some domestic projectiles. The sergeant repeated his demands and was once more answered with jeers, a few domestic projectiles, supplies were obviously short, and a corn field of wrinkled, liver-spotted fists. A half-eaten bread-stick struck one of the helmets sending a spray of crumbs and sesame seeds over his confederates. At the opposite end of its arc was a giggling boy, Despina’s boy, things were taking a desperate turn.

It struck me that if there was any time for the black-shirts to show their solidarity with tha pippel this was it, but they remained conspicuous in their absence.

The ranks advanced and I continued to follow legal instructions, I had no idea then, how that would change.


Images 2* & 3* by kind permission of TeacherDude


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From Under Dark Clouds

The Century of DIY