Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Episode 37: Nowhere to Hide

You know me. You followed me around the country. You loved me on the TV when I had you in stitches with jokes about my penis. You followed me in the tabloids, you supported my charitable works. Then you didn't. I don't know why. You just stopped. Now, I have people who love me again. So much that they made me their mayor. This is my new story, From Under Dark Clouds.


Youtube stats have become a bit of an obsession, I must confess, dear Blogees. I tried to find a way to get my account to let me know of any updates but they were too slow so I just check in on a regular basis to find that nothing has changed.

The campaign video is only creeping into triple figures. At least the Greek version, the version in English was doing great for a few days and it’s still ticking over. That said, the kid playing Thunderstruck on his bouzouki has got nearly four thousand views already. Fortunately my name is tagged on the video and the edit even left a few moments of my speech. Well, mostly me shouting THUNDER! Socrates got his number and I think we should have him as a regular. I must admit though, piggybacking interest from a high schooler with an ethnic instrument is a new low for me. Some of my old stand-ups and TV appearances are into the millions and one where I made a US news anchor turn bright red on live TV, nothing to the colours I made her turn later off camera, is getting on for three. But, getting a few thousand locals to watch me promise them a brighter future, albeit dubbed, seems to be beyond me. Maybe my charisma just doesn’t translate.

The family were still sleeping so I indulged myself for a couple of hours with those old videos. Watching the guy in the golf trousers and Punisher t-shirt that used to be me made me a little me-sick. Not for the booze and drugs and fast-food sex, just the me that had something to say to people who understood. I’m telling them I’m a New Greek but I’m getting the feeling that all they want are new cars and new phones. Greeks are better when they’re vintage.

Socrates had me booked for a TV interview later. We were flying down to a studio in Athens, shouldn’t have been too taxing. I flutter my eyes at the hostess, be a bit cheeky and tell them to face up and claim their country back. Simple recipe but it works. It worked pretty well back home until the church got involved. I didn’t get how much people still listen to them.

I got an email from Jude but only had time to skim it. The people back home. Should stop saying that, here is my home now. Anyway, they were divided by my foray into saving Europe’s hardest doneby, divided but interested. He’s coming back to get the inside story, follow me around for a while.

The family were waking up for the school run and Socrates called. I refreshed the Youtube page. Nothing. He gave me the itinerary for the day. I had a two-hour Greek lesson then we were off to the airport. He warned me that this may be a bit of a challenge and to have my wits about me.
In my office, I opened a box of index cards where I wrote my vocabulary for a last minute refresher before the tutor arrived. I’ve been enjoying the lessons and the wife says it shows. The kids still won’t speak to me in Greek.

In the cab down to the airport I vigorously practised hypothetical speech with Socrates. It had been the subject of the lesson and the tutor deemed it an important skill given the task of the day. Socrates answered me in a mixture of hypothetical and definite which confused me a little. Not as much as I confused the cab driver asking him what would happen if we took that road or this.

He pulled to the side and leaned over the seat. “You want me to go this way or that? If we go that way,” he pointed out. “We will not get to the airport and you may not get your flight.” His syntax was textbook. Socrates was smirking behind his fist. “If you were to allow me to get on with my job, we might get you to your destination!”

“Were I to do that, would you be able to get us there on time?” I asked.

“I would have no doubt about it.” He turned and pulled back out into the midday traffic.

“We are definitely getting our money’s worth from the tutor,” Socrates said. “But, if I were you, I would shut up for a while.” I think he was just a little proud of me.

“I was a philologist before I had to start cabbing.” The driver bemoaned. “It would seem that you are getting good instruction.”

I wasn’t sure If he meant Socrates telling me to shut up or my Greek tuition. He enquired where I was from and what I was doing here. He knew of Essex, it used to be a brand of washing powder here, but he had friends who had studied at the university in Colchester. When I told him that I was the mayor of the one-horse town where he picked us up and my political ambitions, he nearly stoved the car into a queue of traffic at a red light. “Yeah, I saw you on Youtube!” At last someone. “Fantastic! It’s about time we had some fresh blood in this political circus. You really showed them.” He turned his attention back to the moving traffic. Socrates nudged me to get into campaign mode. Not that I needed telling. He pulled a left into the final straight to the terminal and I started talking about claiming the country back from the bankers and eurocrats. Greece was a debt colony that had fallen into the role through apathy and malaise. Playing the sympathy card would no longer cut the mustard and we needed to fight back.

“I was at a march only last week…” the driver said.

“If I could stop you there. You can march and chant all you want but unless you have allies up top, in Athens, in Brussels, no one is listened.” The driver corrected my verb use. “You need a new regime, a meritocracy. Get these self-serving politicians out of Athens.”

“So who do we vote for?”

“Vote for me! Tell your friends and family, tell everyone who gets in your cab! If you are still going on marches a year from now, don’t blame me. You saw what I did in my town, you saw the youtube video. Spread the word!”

We arrived at the terminal and the driver helped us with our bags. As we walked away from the cab I turned and wished him happy trails, he raised his fist in the air and cried, “THUNDER!” Maybe he saw the wrong video.

The Palaver of check-in and boarding is longer than the flight from Thessaloniki to Athens and I managed not to get into any conversations. Conversations on planes are so awkward, if they go well, you have to exchange details and go to baggage reclaim together. If they don’t, you have nowhere to hide.

Athens airport is in the middle of a desert, the harsh, bare terrain that surrounds it is a juxtaposition to the heaving metropolis that neighbours it but all that bustle is just a facade over the same scenery. The Parthenon sits aloft a bare rock jutting from the city, alluding to its ancient antecedents as well as the barren landscape that it attempts to conceal.

The taxi dropped us at a concrete box dressed in pollution and peeling paint. Polished marble cladding surrounded the revolving door to the studios and a vagrant slept in the corner to the right, I suppose even tramps get to siesta. I pulled a note from my pocket and slipped it between his cardboard bed and his nicotine-stained beard. I turned just as a camera clicked.

The studio was like any other, dark but blindingly bright. The host, I had expected a woman, introduced himself. I shook his hand and he politely enquired about my journey.

“I hear you’re doing good work up there.” He said in English that he could not have acquired here. I thanked him and he left.

Socrates introduced me to one of the guests, Panayiotis Kara-something, an economist who told me he had studied at Essex.

“Did you attend Essex?” he asked in an overly deliberate English accent.

I told him I hadn’t had much time for academia due to the pressures of the real world.

He hummed and said, “Shame. Fine place.”

The second guest was Manolis Trakas, the government’s finance minister. Another of the Euro-lackys who had Swiss bank account written all over him. I offered him my hand. “Ah! The comedian.” Why was everyone speaking to me in English?

I replied in Greek taking pains to get it just right. “No, sir. I am the Mayor.”

“A mayor,” he corrected.

A girl with an iPad shuffled around inviting us to take our seats for sound and lighting checks. The doors to the studio opened and two broad men in identical bomber jackets and shaved heads bowled in and told everyone to stand. Behind them was a young well-dressed man in sharp suit and a frown. Behind him was another clone of the two in front and two members of studio security at a safe distance. I recognised the young man as Ares, the democratically elected MP from The Golden Dawn.


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