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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