Sunday, 28 May 2017

Episode 46: Alternative Honesty

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.



I took my rage out on the hotel barman. They’re like hairdressers for men, their job is 60% therapy and their prescriptions a damn sight more effective than a cut and blow dry.
I was right, I was the first with the balls to tell it how it is. The bitterest pill.
“Will you vote for me, my friend?” I asked him.
“Yeah, I’ll vote for you.” He smiled. “Nobody else will, though.”
I put a ten euro note on the bar and pushed it toward him. He looked at it. “Honesty should always be rewarded, my friend.” He pocketed the note.
I asked him about his job, the place he lived, anything but me and my game. He was working his way through university. “Have a drink. On me.” I ordered. He motioned to a top-shelf whiskey. I told him to pour two. I was sick of that tsipouro shit. “Make it Irish!” the bar was empty. Apart from a middle-aged man in the corner with a young blonde. Almost private therapy. Who had the better therapist?
“What are you studying?” His English was serviceable so I dropped into my native tongue.
“Six years.”
“How long before you finish?”
“It’s hard. Work, studies.” He grimaced. “I’m reading archaeology.
“Good country for that though.”
“I’ll have to get my masters in abroad country. Only they dig in Greece.”
“So what will you do?”
“Maybe teach, maybe other work in the…” he searched for the word. “Civil service.”
I woke with a head full of therapy but little inclination to soft soap the great unwashed. The guys were in the connected room were watching something. I heard my voice.
You dream of driving a Greek car, you will drive a car built in Greece! Your children will get into university and do their job properly. They will not go to Bratislava where they have to buy their degree. They will be doctors Paid by your government, not back-handers…
“What the fuck is this?”
It was my speech from yesterday but nowhere close to what I remember.
A government you can trust!
It was on everyone’s social media feed. Me saying what needed to be said, how it needed to be heard.
“I didn’t say that!”
“Oh but you did. You did now, anyway. Even the people who were there are liking it.”
True, they were my words but they had been stir-fried into something else. More sweet than sour.
Mike the IT guy wished me a good morning through my phone in the other room. He doesn’t need to be swiped to answer, he just appears. “Sir, it is your honesty that people need but they need alternative honesty until they are ready.”
“What the fuck is alternative honesty?”
He explained that my brand of honesty needed some tempering until the people were ready for the real thing. “Mr. Socrates agrees.”
The video played on. We must grow some balls against this Eurocratic empire that our grandfathers fought against. We must have money in our pockets NOT controlled by the ECB!
My words, my words in the right order. A new order that the people could get behind.
The video faded with the words patriotism is an action!
“Play it again,” I ordered.
I watched the man in the video, wishing I could have his conviction, his bellicose determination. But, as hard as I wished, I didn’t. I wanted to go home kill zombies with the kids and have crazy sex with the wife. I wanted a stage where the audience laughed with me not at me.
My phone summoned me to the other room. It was Socrates, he does need to be swiped. His powers are quite different to Mike’s, old skool powers. He was the man who had got me into this mess in the first place and maybe the only one who could get me out. He didn’t. He banged on for nearly an hour about my role in the future of a nation that had lost its way. How only I from my objective position could see behind the curtain. Got to give it to the old bastard, he knew how to dump the fate of eleven million people on one pair of shrugged shoulders.
“If you don’t do it, who will?” Then he rang off.
Mike popped up on my screen, and flashed up my social stats. Thousands and thousands of likes, shares, red hearts and warm comments. Amongst them were some from the wife. I told him to connect us. We talked for maybe half an hour. She told me how important it was that I continue, how important it was for me to make it right, how important I was in this story of a nation finding its way. The connection dropped.
“Mike, get her back!”
He told me that some things were still beyond his control but he was working on it. He was hardwired into the net! He was no longer a man, he was a fucking algorithm and he couldn’t bring her back to me.
“Maybe she said what she needed to say and unplugged.” His avatar shrugged.
I decided to take a shower and wash this shit off me. Something bothered me.
Hot water and soap can clean more than the body and there was something about the wife’s demeanour, something about how she called me a dumbass fuckstick. Something.
The light changed, brighter, then shadow. Through the frosted glass of the shower I saw the shapely silhouette of the well-assembled secretary.
“Sir?”
I covered myself.
“It’s hard”
It wasn’t but it had plans.
“It’s hard when you feel everyone is pressing against you.”
She moved and was illuminated. She was wearing the suit she wore in the office, the one I liked best. I dropped my faux-modesty, trusting in the frosted glass.
“You will be remembered as a big man in this country’s history. You are a big man.”
In Greek, big and great are the same word, I wasn’t sure which to understand but one of them was becoming apparent.
“It can get lonely.”
I tried to focus on the wife but she flickered as she had during our video-chat, her sentences cut in all the wrong places.
“If you can’t wash off the dirt, you may need some help.”
I turned to change the water from steam to ice. I heard tailored cloth hit the tiled floor.
“The water is very cold!” I could feel that in my back, was it me or the cold water. It was nowhere near cold enough for me. She felt as warm as I had ever imagined
An hour later, dressed in a thin film of warm sweat and wrapped in secretary, I relived a guilt I had felt a hundred times before. She pushed her face into my neck and drew a deep breath. It felt better than it felt bad.
“We are all behind you.” She ran her hand up my body pulling my neck into her face and breathed me in, my leg clamped deeply between her thighs. “We need you.”
She untangled herself from me and I watched her walk round the bed toward the bathroom. She was terribly well-assembled. The sound of water splashing on her curves made me ready for more.
The connecting door sprung open.
“Sir, we have one event in the next town and a TV interview. But not until a little later.” I didn’t quite cover myself in time but it didn’t seem to faze the young man with the tablet in his hand. “Are we OK to confirm?”
“How much time do we have?” I asked.
His eyes fleeted to the splashing from the bathroom. “Just over two and a half hours before departure.”
I sat up in bed. “Two and a half hours?”
“Yes sir.”
“Lets fucking do this!”
The door clicked behind him and the water stopped splashing.


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Sunday, 14 May 2017

Episode 45: Tell it like it is

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.



We were in the car on our way to the next town before I realised what had happened. My phone was dancing in my pocket. Smiley, thumbs up, smiley. Mike was pleased about something.

“You were great!” The driver passed me his phone. I tried to find what I was supposed to see. “Over a thousand Likes on your post. Someone put a vine on instagram, look.” It was me saying if I don’t do this, who will? Over and over.
I wasn’t sure that I was.
“Mike, what’s the wife up to?”
Her browser history scrolled onto the screen. Mostly news sites, mostly Greece. Then her facebook, she had been active. My old stand-up routines, my diatribes about the government starvation of the NHS. The good days. The old days. Before they turned on me.
“You’re trending on Twitter,” something approximating Mike’s voice said.
“From the rally?”
“From the UK.”
“Is she OK, Mike?”
“Hasn’t left the house, sir.”
The bare rock at the peak of the mountains looked like snow as it reflected the sunlight. The EU-paid road traced the parting between jagged summits and turquoise seas. The occasional village perched on the coast unaware that they lived in the pages of National Geographic, where the people back home dreamed of spending their lives, a place under the sun to the soundtrack of the waves.
We passed the first signpost for the next town.
“Give me the most popular social from the rally, Mike.”
Seemed they like me saying Politics shouldn’t be trusted to the politicians and Greece has stood against worse and won before. The old, old stories. The old routines. “Mike, make sure 40% get a response and 20% get a personal reply”
“68.4% and 14.7% would be optimal.”
“Whatever…”
We arrived in the next town square where the team had made sure my car was mobbed. I put on my stage face. The cameras were always rolling. The heat spilled into the air-conditioned car. I prayed for rain, London rain.
I shook hands, kissed grandmas. A pretty young voter squeezed through the crowd, stopped then kissed me on the face. I smiled and forced a blush.
We didn’t have a big stage and sound system, this was guerrilla campaigning. I used to do the same thing at Covent garden before I made it onto the telly.
What are you going to do?
“I’m gonna clear the debt!”
How?
“I’m gonna get the country wiped from google maps. Then, if we’re all really, really quiet, they won’t find us and go away!”
I expected someone to challenge this. But no one did. They just laughed at the stupidity of the world. Same old stories, same old routines.
I recycled some of the routines from the mayoral elections that seemed so long ago that no one would remember. I made sure I left the stray dogs out this time.
The team collected up the modified karaoke machine that was our PA system while I did a round of the cafes and ouzeris that bordered the town square. I carried a bottle of water to avoid too many offers of drinks.
A pavement cafe was my first stop. Some young voters. I introduced myself and punched some fists. They googled me then beckoned me for selfies. I told them that their vote was their future. They said I was cool.
“So, what are you doing?” I asked.
One circled out a big group with his finger. “We’re students.”
“What are you studying?”
“Economics.” They shouted in ragged union.
“Wow! Guys. We are really going to need you!” I looked impressed. “Adam Smith, Maynard Keynes, Hayak. All English. Well, not Hayak but he did do most of his work there.” They looked at me puzzled.
A stout girl from Another group yelled something at me, I think, in English.
“Sorry, love?” I replied accordingly. She yelled again. “Didn’t catch that sweetheart.” Her friends laughed at her.
“English literature!”
“Oh!” I smiled. “So why aren’t you at lectures then? You come down here to see me?”
“No!” a giggle broke out.
“So when do you graduate?”
Another giggle. “When we give the lessons.”
“What are you going to do then?”
“Learn English in a school.” A pretty, slim woman answered.
“Your English is great already.”
“No!” Her frappe straw choked at the bottom of the glass. “Learn English at the childrens.”
Good luck with that one. “So, are you old enough to vote, how old are you?”
They each called out their ages, like a kindergarten roll call. 24, 26, 27, 29…
“Tough course, eh?”
More laughing.
“Well, my dears this may be the most important election of your lifetimes so make sure you help make some changes. For your futures. We are counting on you.”
“Mister.” One of them raised their hand. “You are very fun!”
“Thank you.” I bowed.
I moved on demographics to a coffee shop patronised by senior citizens. I found a spare seat next to a handsome looking gent with a well-kempt moustache. “Do you mind if I sit?” He looked at me and I was ready to walk away when he ushered me to sit.
“Who are you?”
I introduced myself, “… I am the new independent candidate in the upcoming elections. I stand for…”
“Yeah, yeah. Who are you, I said.” He looked me up and down. “Your mother, your father. Who are you?” The other men, for there were only men, joined his question. “Who are you?”
“I was born in England…”
“Your parents? Greek?”
“No, my wife is and my kids…”
“English. Foreign.”
“Let me ask you all something.” They conceded. “Are you happy with the government?” They grumbled.
One thumped the table. “Malakas! All of them.”
“Are they Greek?”
“Politicians are all malakas!”
One spoke up, “English, eh?” I nodded. “Thatcher! Good woman. Strong!” They all agreed.
“The last government. Were they Greek?” We all knew my question was stupid. “Einstein said doing the same thing while expecting a different result is madness. You don’t look mad.” I stood and began to leave.
“Grandfather?” I shook my head and some hands then moved on.
The next was a taverna. A large man draped over a protesting chair waved two stout fingers at me. “Eh! Boy. Come sit down.”
I complied.
“What are you going to do for businessmen, like me?”
“I don’t know. What kind of businessman are you?” I think my thought did not translate well.
“Eat something! You look thin.” He waved the same two fingers at the waiter. “Bring my friend a plate and a glass.” The plate and glass appeared. “Eat!”
I attempted excuses but it was only an attempt. He loaded my plate and poured me some tsipouro.
“You drink tsipouro?”
I nodded and necked it. He gaffawed and refilled.
“You gonna cut my taxes?”
“Maybe. You gonna pay them?”
He slapped me across the shoulders and declared to the whole taverna that he liked me.
He told me how this and previous governments had been bleeding honest businessmen like him dry. He told me how he had built his business from nothing and that his son would probably lose it all.
“Eight years for his bachelors, eight fucking years! Girls, night clubs. Lazy malaka!” He filled my glass, I necked it. “I sent him to London, Oxford university for masters. London is a very expensive country.” I took small bites at the meat on my plate but I couldn’t chew and respond. He loaded my plate with more than I ate. “I never went to university. I worked. These kids are useless malakas. No hope for this country. It’s his mother, treats him like a baby. You go to university?” I choked on my no. The eating didn’t impede his speech. He continued to fill his mouth. “See.” He pointed to a BMW parked on the pavement right out front the taverna. I don’t know much about cars but it looked comparable to anything my showbiz mates drove.
“Hard work is what this generation needs!”
I stood, necked the tsipouro and took a meatball from the plate. “Speak to some of the businessmen from my town. By the way, what is your business?”
“Me? I am a landowner, not a farmer!” He shook the fingers off my hand.
My car was waiting with the engine running. We left.
It was nearly half an hour to the next town. I told the driver to slow down. The tsipouro had kicked in along with the heat and the malakas. The selfies and pictures with the oldies were upped and shared to sharers, Mike saw to that. I needed a nap.
We arrived. Town square, mob, I thought we had doubled back. A curvy brunette pushed through the crowd. I blushed.
The banners were up and the photos taken. Always before I spoke, just in case the crowd wouldn’t smile after they heard what I had to say. Smart move.
“I don’t want to win, you need me to win,” I goaded. It worked before. “Politics shouldn’t be trusted to the politicians anymore…” Blah fucking blah! “Come see what we’ve done in such a short time in my town. Come, I invite you all!” I paced the square trying to find someone to give me a soundbite. “You have stood against worse and won. I want to do it WITH you!” I wondered what the wife was up to. “A change in vote is a vote for change!”
“Who are you?” I ignored the question. “Eh! Who ARE you?”
“You know me, I’ve been on the TV!”
“Not MY TV!”
“You speak funny!”
“He’s from London!”
“You from London?”
“Nearly, Essex. It’s close.” I replied in the general direction of the question.
“Sorry! He’s not even Greek.”
“From London!”
“Foreigner!”
“Maybe his parents…”
“Let him speak, guys.”
“Foreign?”
“He’s the mayor over in… where is it?”
“London?”
I stood back watching me being volleyed back and forth. “Hey, I’m still here!”
“Is that him on the poster?”
“Hey!” I shouted down the mic. “SHUT UP! No, I’m not Greek. Not my parents”
“Grandfather?”
“Not my fucking grandfather!”
I wished I was back in Covent garden, Leicester square with my hat jangling with coins, a fucking tube station. Anywhere but here.
“So you’re worried about a foreigner in your government?” a murmur of agreement. “I drove up here on a road paid for by German, British and French taxpayers, built by immigrant workers. You beat each other senseless on the terraces for a Russian oligarch’s football team. You drive a German car or dream of driving a German car. You let your country be sucked into a Eurocratic empire run by the same people that your people and my people fought against in you grandparents’ lifetime. The money in your pocket is controlled by the ECB based in Frankfurt… That’s in Germany!”
“Yeah, now they’ll make us have a limey prime minister?…” a man in Barcelona F.C shirt looked to the crowd for support. He found it. “Always the same! Remember Cyprus?”
“While you want to make money after starting work at 30, after eight years getting a bachelors degree. Your kids can’t get into University because it’s too stuffed up with students who drink frappe all day. So you send them to Bratislava to buy a degree with a carton of Marlboro. Then they become doctors, prescribe antibiotics for a cold and demand a back-hander to do their job properly, a job that you pay for with your national insurance and taxes, if you pay them because you don’t trust the government you have which is full of your own people! Greek people!”
“You wanna live in a better place? Make it a better place! Patriotism is an action not an excuse!”
I felt hands on me, pushing me into the car but I hadn’t finished.”
“Stop fucking bleating like the sheep you should still be herding!” the car was there, the door open. My arm pulled from within. “You bunch of fucking spoilt children grow some fucking balls!” My ear snagged on the door frame but through the pain I heard the cheer as the door slammed. I reached for the handle, there was so much more that needed to be said. My office door that smelled like a butchers block, my family in exile. For what? People who looked at their country like they looked at their mothers. Their dinners cooked, their shirts ironed and an allowance that allowed them to roll in at 6am to a clean, warm bed and sleep till lunchtime.
The driver left rubber as we snaked through the narrow, pocked streets toward the EU highway out of there.
The driver turned, “Sir, it needed to be said. They are malakas.”



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Sunday, 7 May 2017

Episode 44: Worried


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.


In previous episodes, 41 42 43, the Mayor announces his candidacy for the upcoming general elections. Then, he comes into the town hall one morning to find a Chinese street peddler nailed to his door. He sends his family back to UK but he decides to stay and continue what he started. His wife is worried and she's not the only one.

“You had me worried,” I touched the screen.
“I had YOU worried! What the fuck is going on?”
“Some people don’t like what I’m doing, darling.” I wanted to tell her everything was going to be OK, I really did. Technology gives us the chance to see who we are talking to but it robs us of the chance to lie.
“What are you doing? Come home. Be funny again. Do what you do best.”
Where is home anymore. Was I ever funny. I know I made people feel uncomfortable. “What about…”
“Shit, honey! They’ve forgotten about that. Nobody cares. You’re not Jimmy Saville ferchrissake! If you haven’t fucked kids, they don’t care.”
“But you said…”
“Is that…” I knew that face, she was swallowing words. “…woman still filming you?”
I didn’t notice Roni’s lens trained on me anymore. She circled round behind my laptop. I slashed my throat. She dropped the camera but the red light was still blinking. I slashed again. “Off.” She grimaced. “OFF!” She complied. I think.
“I wanted you away from those people. The drugs, the partying.”
“Now you want me away from these people!”
The doorbell rung.
“I gotta go, darling. They need me.” Roni smiled from behind the camera.
“Come home! I need you. The kids need you.”
I touched the screen, blew a kiss and clicked out.
“I’ll fucking sue” I looked to Roni.
“You signed…”
“She didn’t!” She pursed. “She won’t sue. She’ll make that Chinaman’s fate look dignified!” She shrugged. “Are you still filming?” She shrugged again. “Fuck you, bitch!” She smiled. I went to answer the door. I had to do something, I could fuck her but it’d be on YouPorn before I came.
Socrates had sent someone to take me to the studios for an interview. It was Chris, the security guard from the airport, he smiled like a child but I wouldn’t want to see him pissed.
“Your car awaits, sir.” He said in English. I thanked him. The people needed to know that I wasn’t deserting them. He spent the journey telling me what an honour it was to drive me and how he had some friends in London who were keeping an eye on the wife and kids. The need for this worried me more than anything.
At the studio, a small crowd had gathered. Some were friendly.
As I approached the open door I felt a shadow on my back and hot rancid breath on my neck. Chris pushed him away but not before I heard his words. “Next time it’s you!”
The studio was cool and calm. I was not.
“Can I get you a drink, Sir?”
“Water will be fine.” I know, I heard it too!
The station was friendly so we could expect a smooth ride but Mike the IT guy had farmed the messenger, whatsapp and viber accounts of everybody of note, just in case. The encrypted stuff was always the best read.
We didn’t have the budget to grease palms but with Mike wandering around cyber-space like a local we had plenty of shit to sling. Trust me, you can’t truly know anyone until you seen their browser history.
The set was an arc desk with the TV logo on the front and bare wood and staples on the back. Threads from previous guests’ clothes hung like a mangy dog. They miked me up and the signature tune played.
“5,4,3,.,.” The red light lit on the camera and we were off. I had no problem talking Greek in public anymore. I knew I sounded like a seven-year-old but I had the honesty and conviction of a seven-year-old, at least that’s what Socrates said.
“Good evening and welcome to The Open Files. Tonight we have with us the outsider, independent candidate who has been getting more attention than all the front runners put together.” She turned to me, “But not all of this attention has been welcome, has it?”
Fuck, she was going straight for it, no foreplay at all. A man likes to be wooed a bit.
“That’s quite right,” I replied. “But I think it only fair to say that it’s not me that’s getting the attention. I think it’s my message, Elena.”
“Yes, and that message has upset some people, has it not?”
“Has it upset you, Elena?”
She dipped her head and said, “No, of course…”
“Well, and I don’t think it has upset many of the great and proud people of this nation.” I’d like to see her browser history. My phone buzzed in my pocket.
I ventured a look.
“Something important?”
“Public duty never rests,” I said. It was Mike with her browser history. Kinky bitch. “The proud people of this nation are already tweeting.” Highlighted were sites with mother and NOT son. “Do you have a son, Elena?” She paused but her blush didn’t. “Can he vote?”
“He can’t yet.”
“Would you be happy with him voting for fascists. Not the nice cuddly ones you had from…” My phone flashed again. “1967 to 1974. No these guys would be far worse and probably bankrolled by the Germans.” That bit was mine.
“I would like to show the viewers what awaited you at the town hall when you arrived yesterday.”
“I am sure you would, Elena but I would not wish to inflict that on anyone, especially prime-time TV with kids watching.” It was too late the monitors were showing the video from YouTube of the Chinaman nailed to my door. I looked over at Roni, she shrugged. This was not her footage, someone had been allowed past the cordon, could have been the police themselves. I stood. “I can’t be a part of this. I won’t!” I pulled out the mic, holding it close enough for it to pick up my departing words. “This is the problem. Sensa… sens…” I couldn’t think of the word for sensationalism. “Making a scene of people’s suffering is your business?” I moved it away from my face and spoke to my phone. “Mike, take them down. Now!”
I walked down a corridor until my driver came to redirect me to the door. Outside the crowd had grown. I faced a forest of phones.
“Is that journalism? A man, a father, a son, a brother who died at the hands of people who want to represent you!” I directed at the audience. “You think they’ll treat you any better?” Chris looked nervous. Jude and Roni might tell the story but he’d take the beating. He tugged me into the car.
We went to a safe house. Well, it was Chris’s mother with pie awaiting. Socrates was there as well. I accepted a drink, then another. Jude had two slices of pie, Roni waved her refusal. The driver’s mother took a shine to Jude.
“Fuck! Socrates, I thought these people were friendlies.”
“Ratings, it’s all ratings.”
“They just wanted an excuse to put that inhumanity on the TV.”
“We… They wanted to show what you were up against and your resolve.” Socrates was smiling.
“So, you?…”
“This is great!” Socrates clinked my glass. “You performed better than we expected!”
“I performed…?”
He went to clink my glass again. “I thought you were going to fuck it up when you started with the son stuff. Elena’s a good friend. She likes you!”
“She likes fascists and sex with young…”
“We all have our little fantasies.” He took out his phone and wrapped it in a tea towel. “I need to have words with Mike.”
I pushed my glass away. “Socrates, this is not great. A man died a horrible death. I had to send my family away. I could end my career as a piece of interior design. This is NOT great!”
“He was a street peddler. They won’t do anything to you.”
“A guy outside the studio…”
“Oh! did you look scared?”
“I was… fucking perturbed!”
Socrates looked to Roni and she nodded. “Good.”
I took the drink back. My head was far too complicated to process this.




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From Under Dark Clouds

The Century of DIY