Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Episode 32: Mushroom


From Under Dark Clouds: The story of a burnt-out British celebrity who, after scandal and disgrace runs away to a little village in Greece to seek asylum and get his head together. All he needs to do is keep his head down until the clouds blow over and on no account get elected!




startup mushroom
Athens had nixed our plans for a business park. We had strict cease and desist orders from central government to engage in any business development. I asked them about the incubator programme but they only laughed and reiterated any business development. Those narrow minded bastards, did they have no idea of the wave of entrepreneurial activity that would build the brighter tomorrow for our youth?

Socrates seemed unperturbed. The town hall had become a hive of excitement, new faces were coming and going and I was in danger of losing touch. I was more than in danger. I had bumped into Aris from the Startup Shed a number of times but he appeared distracted and disinclined to conversation, his knapsack bobbing on his back as he scurried off, late for an important date. Even Mike the IT guy was spending so much time in his cyber-cupboard that I feared he’d uploaded himself like some activist Lawnmower man. Actually, that would have been no surprise at all.

I tried to enjoy sitting at my new desk but but it really is hard to relax when everyone is so damn busy. Socrates and Aris had taken all the proposals for the business park.

The only advantage is that I now have more time to write to you, my dear Blogees, but I fear I have little to share.

Finally, the day came for my weekly debriefing with the Startup Shed crew and my chance to get some answers. I walked to the conference room with Socrates who was characteristically tight lipped.

“How’s the wife?” Now all my fears were confirmed, there was something going on.

I told him they’d gone to an island with some cousins or something. He continued to study the floor and suggested that I join them.

“It’s been hard on you, I think you need a break.”

It’s true, the last time I’d been away it was at the state’s pleasure and the facilities had left much to be desired.

I was sure I’d spotted one of the girls from the Pitch and Putt, the multi-lingual personal porn service, disappear into one of the back offices. I asked Socrates if I was right.

“Which island did they go to?” was his reply.

My fat doppelganger was the first to arrive. He threw his bag on the table, slumped into a chair and started asking me about the bailout programme and whether I thought Greece should leave the single currency but fortunately Aris arrived before I had time to attempt an answer.

The incubator was going well, we could expect the teams to be ready for round-one funding in around eight weeks. They had all completed first drafts of their business plans and next week they would begin work on their MVPs, a prototype or mock-up of their product.

I asked where we could expect to get the financing.

Aris went into overdrive about VCs, Angels and crowdfunding, I actually understood most of it but maybe he should have been at last weeks meeting with the applicants for the business park, could they have missed this plethora of opportunities out there?

Danny had been working on the social media pull. He showed me some very clever images featuring eggs and Lego.

“Birth and building.” He bobbed with excitement. “Get it?”

I did but, with the possible exception of Danny, these were smart people. We are trying to build more than toys and omelettes.

“We need as much exposure as possible in order to get traction and engagement with the investment community, not just here but world wide. Its a numbers game.” He Bobbed, “Get it?”

I did.

“Where is that English reporter with the girls name?” Socrates asked.

“It’s not a girls name, Jude is a patron saint!” I defended.

“Saint of what? Girlie boys.” Socrates was being very narky.

Jude is the Patron Saint of lost causes.” I wished I’d thought before speaking. “He’s down in Athens doing a piece on endemic cronyism in Greek politics.”

Aris said we should have told him, his cousin works in the parliament building and could have got him in.

Socrates poked his chest, “Let me know if he needs anything.”

Danny just shrugged.

I wanted to know about the activity in the town hall, something is going on. Socrates told me that since Athens had given us a cease and desist order, applications had doubled. But we had to scrap the whole plan? Aris shrugged and grinned.

“They can’t stop businesses moving here if they want to,” Danny said.

I felt like a mushroom, I was being kept in the dark on a diet of bullshit. I left the meeting in a huff and went down to the garage to take my Vespa for a ride and do some thinking.

The high street was bustling with shoppers, the cafes were full but most discombobulating were the previously boarded-up shops, once more open for business. A sandwich bar, a tool hire shop, and even a pet store had opened where once were closing-down and bankrupt signs.

I was determined to get some answers from somewhere so I pulled up outside one of the new sandwich bars and went in. The proprietor sent one of the girls to set me a table while greeting me warmly.

“Sit down, Mr. Mayor. What can we get you?” The store was not yet fully operational and stock laid around in boxes. “I can do you a nice frappuccino. Sweet or medium? No, no! I bring you some nice rakomelo, from my cousin in Crete. You know rakomelo?”

I sat down. It had been some time since someone was so pleased to see me and I really could do with a drink. Rakomelo is like hundred octane unleaded, with honey.

The owner sat with me, sending the staff on errands to bring me mezes and ashtrays and water and cushions. We toasted new beginnings and prosperity. He told me about the thirty years he had been in this business, man and boy. He told me about how the sandwich was invented in ancient Greece. He told me about his father’s shop and he told me and he told me but I couldn't get any answers from him.

Eventually, I got a question in that he could answer, “Why was he here, in my town?”

“Because of your generosity, Mr. Mayor. Because you not like those others!” He feigned spitting on the ground. “You are English, yes? Good people!” He ushered one of the staff over and handed her his phone with instructions to take our picture. “I’ll put it on the wall, by the register. You will bring luck!”

It was only after cautiously riding back to the town hall that I realised that I had left my helmet at the sandwich bar. I weaved my way back to my office where I found Socrates at my desk.

“Listen, old man! I know you’re up to something and I want answers. I've just been down the high street and—”

The phone rang. My secretary answered and announced that it was a Mr. Something from Athens. I smiled and went to take the phone. “It’s for Mr. Socrates.”

He had already lifted the receiver and was greeting the caller. Then a tense pause. “Fuck! Not now, not yet!—” He lowered the phone and huffed. “Get them to hold off—” I looked to the well-assembled secretary but she shrugged. Socrates looked me up and down. “But we are nowhere near ready!” He slammed the phone down and deflated before my eyes.

"Not ready?" I asked, "Not ready for what?"


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