Showing posts with label From under dark clouds. Show all posts
Showing posts with label From under dark clouds. Show all posts

Monday, 23 January 2017

Bonus Episode: Prick up your ears

This is another Episode that will go into Part 1. 

Stand up, take arms... space bar to fire! 
The campaign trail has been long and arduous but along the way I have learned a lot about my fellow man, things I maybe would prefer not to have learned but now learned they cannot be unlearned. The common voter is at their most vulnerable at election time. The hope against hope that this time they'll really mean it, the tired allegiances to parties and ideals that have on so many occasions forsaken the faithful renewed by new promises, new faces, new slogans. Family, friends and neighbours pitched against each other in defence of those who would not provide a cup of sugar or watch the kids for the evening. Civil choice becoming civil abrasion.
The established candidates use a network of affiliates, trade unions and the business community to garner favour, we have cafes, bars and working men’s clubs. The establishment has funds donated from membership and the aforementioned groups, we are running up a bar tab. Fortunately, in the establishments frequented by the great Greek dispossessed, I can stand enough tsipouro and retsina to make them see the reason in my rants for the same as it would cost for a single round in a London pub. That said, by the time I’ve gone round all the tables toasting “YAMMAS!” I’ve doubled the bill. My Greek is rapidly improving though. I know when to agree when I don’t entirely understand, I know when to use my burgeoning vocabulary of swear words to put down the establishment. The Greeks are so much more politically aware than the Brits, they are acutely aware of the tricks and patter of the usual suspects at the elections but voting is mandatory and when pencil come to paper their X always falls in the same box. Everyone knows the problems, no one know the solution. Conversations invariably end with shrugged shoulders and “what can we do, it’s Greece.” The fatal belief in the fact that the country’s DNA is one of failure pervades hope of change. This is my ‘IN’, I’m British, I get things done. It dawned on me why Socrates press-ganged me into this. My broken Greek could be filled with faith that I meant what needed to be said.
“Mahatma Gandhi once said,” I was back on a table in front of twenty or thirty pensioners and a hand-full of youngsters looking for a free drink. It wasn’t the O2 but it was the best offer I’d had since leaving home. “The same Indian guru who freed his country from British imperial rule, he said that a nation can be judged by how it treats its animals. Here, they buy their cute little puppies, play with them but don’t train them then, when they get too demanding, they throw them out on the street to go wild and bite our children.”
A rustle of agreement broke out. Until one addressed the stage. “So, what are you saying, malaka. poison the strays?”
“I’m talking about responsibility, commitment.”
“We can’t afford to feed our dogs and he wants to put them down!” Came another.
“NO, no. I mean this is how your government treats you!” My instinct was to put the hecklers down, make them the laughing stock but a witty put down here would not win the audience over.
“So, you want them to TRAIN us?”
For once I needed the audience to agree with me, not laugh at me. This was new territory. “I was bitten recently.” I subconsciously pointed to my balls. The whole place erupted into laughter.
“He thinks we bite our children?” This dampened the laughter to dissent.
“Maybe, he wants us to bite his balls!” Hysteria broke out again with each adding to the joke. This would once have pleased me no end, I would stand on stage fanning the flames, pretending to be part of the joke not the butt of it.
I stood down from the table and only stopped at the door of the Mercedes because it was locked.
On the back seat of the old German car making a swift getaway from Greek cynicism an English comedian turned to an old Greek named after an ancient profit of wisdom and said, “Who are we kidding? These people need cheap booze and a good laugh. Once a comic, always a comic.”
Socrates looked at me. I saw no resignation in his ancient eyes but I knew it was there.
“Listen son, you do not need to make them agree with you, that is the job of a salesman. Make them think. Make them believe in possibility. The Greeks gave light to the world and were left in darkness. Show them the light that was always theirs, be who you pretend to be and you will find your wisdom.”
I wanted to cry, to scream, to drink myself numb. But, I did not want to let this old man down. “Socrates?” I asked. “Why aren’t you doing this, why haven’t you done this long ago.”
His eyes dipped. “I was too honest to be a politician and live.”
We stopped at a bar filled with the young idly posting facebook updates about being somewhere with someone to make others jealous that they were nowhere. Socrates set me up with a bottle of Bushmills and left me with the driver, who didn’t say much and I didn’t reply.
The old man came back with what could be considered a smile fairly well positioned on his face. “We’re going. You can take the bottle.”
As we left the barman raised a hand, “No problem Mr. Socrates.”
Before I knew it I was sitting in a barber’s chair with what was left of the Black Bush.
“Short, modern but not too tidy. Take the beard back to a shadow, but not shaven.” Socrates ordered. “Tomorrow you will talk at the students union. Don’t talk politics, don’t talk manifesto. Talk about you. Where you came from, what you’ve been through, who you want to be, what you want to do.”
Now, one of the reasons we came to Greece was for some anonymity, to get away from the attention. I had told the wife that that was asking too much. I’ve done Hollywood films, countless TV and tours. But no one, NO ONE has recognised me since we arrived. I haven’t even told you who I am, my dear blogees. At least the wife enjoys it.
“But, Socrates. These are the young, my people. They’re bound to—”
“Celebrity is irrelevant out of context.” He said. “You need this. You need to enjoy this. You need to get your mojo back.” My MOJO back. Who is this guy.
We were met at the gates of the university by Maria, a well-rounded but officious looking young lady with large framed glasses and tightly pulled-back hair. She slipped her clipboard under her arm making her cleavage pout under her shift dress and gave us each a firm handshake and an English “Pleased to meet you.” I replied in Greek to showcase my dubious abilities but she assured me that I could speak to the group in English as they all had a ‘Proficiency’ proud to declare that many of their lessons actually took place in English. Socrates followed behind whispering under his breath, “Mojo!”
The auditorium was still filling but Socrates took the lecturing stage and began. He said that when he first met me he though “Wow!” and felt it was his obligation to introduce him to young new dynamic wave of Greeks. He asked if anyone had any problem with me addressing them in English which caused a wave of giggles then waved me over.
I modestly accepted Socrates’ Wow saying that I had a lot to live up to now and feared I might disappoint. Then I prowled pensively round the stage before jumping down to the floor of the auditorium. “I grew up on a council estate in Essex. For anyone who doesn’t know what a council estate is, it’s a like a ghetto for the poor and those the government would like to forget. We were lucky, we got one of the houses with a garden but the walls were like paper and you could hear them beating each other up and children crying. I went to a school after they, the school authorities, had decided that it was no longer appropriate for teachers to beat the kids for breaking the rules.” I paced up the middle of the room between the students who sat shellshocked. “They couldn’t beat us so some of the other kids decided to shoulder that responsibility.” I laughed. “I got picked out quite often for a good beating. In school you learned to fight or run, I was never much good at either.” Maria stood with Socrates at the back of the room, her clipboard still tightly under her arm. “You know one thing I was good at— Booze! I was fantastic at getting really drunk. I nearly got sponsored by Johnny Walker until they realised that I couldn’t keep walking!” At last a giggle, but not a laugh. “So I went on to drugs!”
FUCK! I felt like some amateur scribbler at a book reading, the audience patiently, politely strategizing how to avoid buying a copy on the way out. FUCK!
“So what drugs gave me was choices. Choice is power. I could wake up in the morning. Well I say morning.” I looked around the room with a smirk. “Come on, you’re students, you know what morning really means, eh? AM is when the party ends, not when the day begins, right?” I picked one of the guys in a Nirvana t-shirt. “What time did you crash last night?”
“Three, maybe four.” Some jeers came from around the room. “Six! Six!”
“And what was keeping you UP?” I toked an invisible spliff while jerking my pelvis looking round the room.
“Assassin’s Creed syndicate,” he said.
“Ass n’ weed?” I asked.
“ASSASSIN’S CREED! IT’S A GAME!” the room yelled.
Shit, there really is no hope for this generation.
I went into how I woke up in the morning with the choice of whether to be a drunk or a junky today. To end the day marinaded in my own piss or with a needle hanging from my arm and vomit on my chin.
I threw myself around the room, climbing chair-backs as I animated my climb from addiction, fell and planted myself in youthful laps to uncomfortable giggles. I raised members of the audience to illustrate optimism. I vowed solidarity. I pledged my allegiance to their tomorrows. I slumped on the edge of the stage dangling my legs.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, you all know the Einstein quote about insanity.” They collectively nodded. “The same applies to people, if you trust the architects of chaos to design calm, you will never rest easy.”
I bowed and walked up the aisle high-fiving everyone. My phone started pinging with friend requests. A queue formed waiting to shake my hand.
“You’re awesome!”
“Thank you very much. That means a great deal coming from you,” I replied.
Socrates waited by the door smugly beaming. Maria stood by his side writing on her clipboard. I slipped past them, high-fiving and thanking everyone for their thanks until I reached the empty corridor beyond. My cheeks ached and my palms stung. I exhaled and looked up. Maria was standing in front of me. She placed a tick, looked up and announced. “You will now take me for coffee.”
Socrates stumbled through the door behind me asking if I had seen Maria.
“Seems I’m taking her for coffee,” I said.
He looked at his watch. “A little late for coffee.”
The sun was well past the yard-arm and my nerves were jingling like Christmas, stimulants was not the way to go.
“I will drink coffee, you will drink beer,” she paused in thought. “Or wine. And you,” she looked to Socrates. “Will go.”
“Should he wait up?” I asked.
“No he should not!” She disappeared into an office. I swapped glances with Socrates who shooed me mouthing “Votes!” She returned without the clipboard and began walking down the corridor then stopped, looked round, smiled and I went running.
I awoke to the sound of a running shower and an uncomfortable feeling. She had taken me to a cafe where I’d had a couple of beers, then I must have bombed because I had no memory of the rest. She must have been pretty pissed not to have been able to put the last tick on her form. I guess it must have been the adrenaline of doing my thing again. The numbness was receding and I must have been all over the show. Fallen down stairs, maybe? The shower stopped. I felt myself up for damage. She had looked after me alright, I was all tucked up all cozy and naked. That must have smarted, I’m no good to man nor beast when I get like that, ask the wife. I’d definitely fallen on my arse. Maria emerged from the bathroom followed by plumes of steam and soapy smells. She was wrapped in a white towelling bathrobe towel drying a huge black dildo. Maybe she was still in the mood for the real thing. As the towel moved from the base of the mamba some straps fell. I felt my arse again. SHIT! She roofied me!



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Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Bonus Episode: A Dog Day Afternoon

This is an episode from my From Under Dark Clouds story. It comes sometime before the unnamed protagonist, who is a disgraced British media celebrity, stands for public office. 

enjoy...
Someone once said that you can judge a nation by how they treat their animals. I used to have a cat. Woke up after a party one afternoon and some bastard had left me with a pair of kittens. What kind of person carries kittens around in their handbag. Well, we became good friends. She would sidle up to me when I was chilling out and we started to regularly share a spliff together. She would love to just sit on my lap and purr until she fell off and found a corner to pass out, like cats do. By the time I was chasing brown, we had a good thing going, but even she snubbed me the first few times. Cats have an inner wisdom. Brown has patience and it wasn’t long before she would bug the hell out of me until I cooked up. I think it could have been the reason I went from being a social user to a full blown addict. I said there were two kittens, didn’t I. I’m pretty sure the other one escaped down the rubbish chute disguised as a Vesta beef curry.
Here, they hate cats but they do love puppies. Cats are left to fend for themselves on the streets while Puppies are bought for vast sums of money and played with for hours. They are taken out to show friends and cosseted, but never trained. Then, they get bigger and more demanding. They need walks and cleaning up after so they get chained to a stake in the garden or left on the balcony to keep the neighbours awake at night. All too often they are taken to the village. ‘Taken to the village’ sounds kinda warm and rustic, doesn't it. What it actually means is taking it to the nearest rural area where the animal can be pushed out the car and the owners can drive away, safe in the knowledge that it had been safely returned to its natural habitat and back in the warm embrace of mother nature. Trouble is, I live in the village and it is now filled with packs of feral dogs.
So, I was riding me Vespa through the village when one of these packs ambushes me, nipping at the wheels and barking. I slowed down to a walking pace, there seems to be an optimum velocity at which their hunting instinct is piqued. If you drop below this, they will usually lose interest. This time was different. I stopped completely but instead of leaving to sniff each others butts until the next passerby, they encircled me with the alpha-male looking very business-like, hunched low, and snarling. I had the evolutionary advantage, only man with his immense intelligence will start a fight he can’t win. I alighted and stood defiantly staring down the drooling creature, the rest of the pack were awaiting instructions. I only needed to face off the boss and the others would follow suit. The Vespa was still popping away behind me and I kept it close, it was covering my south. I looked deep into the eyes of the beast and snarled, a deep bark brewed in my chest. I would exert my superiority in its own language, “WOOF!” the creature retreated in line with my stare. Its teeth still bared and lips quivering but a step back, I advanced aware that I needed to keep the putt-putting of the Vespa close, not to open a space for the rest of the pack to close the pincer behind me. My step was small but I leaned in. The sun was almost behind me so I aimed to caste my shadow over the mutt. “WOOF!” I took another small step.
“Vlaka!” I heard a woman’s voice from one of the houses. Who was she to call me an idiot? I was exerting my— .
“OW!” I swear my balls leaped two inches to the left. The dog had made its move. I stomped my foot in riposte to try to regain lost ground but it was leaning in. It had missed this time but its aim would improve.
I jumped back to the Vespa. The circle closed.
“Vlaka!” I heard the bitch again. I’m getting my balls gnarled by rabid dogs and I’m the wanker, really? Clunk. The Vespa in gear I raced away, 200cc of 1950s Italian engineering versus four legs.
My neighbour was coming out as I returned home. He asked me how I was doing, I asked him for the number of the council.
He laughed. “It’s Sunday you’ll be lucky to get anyone today. Why?”
My voice skipped an octave as I told him, “I just got bitten by a bloody dog!”
“Where?”
I pointed to my balls. He didn’t even try to hide his amusement. “Do you have the number of our councillor?” I was sure he had it. He’s the type who always has a direct line to best people to harass when he needed a favour doing. He said he didn’t.
I stormed up to my door where the wife was sitting on the veranda seeking asylum from the kids. I told her my story and told her to get the phone. She did so promptly but I didn’t know who to call. I called the police.
After I had given up all hope they arrived in a used car lot trade-in roughly livered in police stripes. They sympathised wholeheartedly but couldn’t do anything except waste my time telling me at length how they couldn’t do anything.
The next day I took my miserable story to the council who had much more power to do nothing due to the pressure of the animal lovers who would sue if they tried to. I told them that next time it could be a kid or an old lady. I figured protection of the weak and infirm would give the situation more gravitas but it seemed the dogs could not be trumped.
“What can we do. Put them down?” Came the incredulous reply.
“If it was a gun laying around on the street, would you pick it up?” I got no reply. “Don’t be fooled by the tail and floppy ears, this is a dangerous weapon that someone has left on the streets of my village.”
I called an animal sanctuary. They were very concerned about the situation. “Is the animal neutered?”
“How would I know, I was too busy trying to stop it neutering me!” Just the words made my voice leap an octave.
After a dead silence, “Do you have a paper from the hospital?”
“No, I have teeth marks!” Fuck, what is this with stamped sheets of paper. “I have photos, I can send them to you.”
“That won’t be necessary. We cannot collect the dog without a confirmation from a doctor.” She continued.
I called the councillor. I went to the council. I called the mayor. He was ever so sympathetic. He said I was one-hundred-percent right and he couldn’t agree more but his hands were tied by the zoophilic organisations who had issued no less than six pending writs for collecting strays without the proper paperwork. And all this with an election year coming. He assured me that if I were to vote for him he would definitely explore the possibility of the matter being considered for a reasonably high priority in his next term.
The wife had done some calling round and hit the same brick walls. I decided to get the press involved. I called a local TV station and explained the plight of our village to one of the dogged reporters who would be sure to use some pounding power chords in post production. Packs of wild dogs terrorise sleepy mountain village. Da da daa!
“Did you go to the hospital?”
Truth was it hadn’t really broken the skin, just a bit of a pinch mark. “No. I was waiting for the police to arrive and do jack shit.”
“Who do the dogs belong to?”
“I don’t know, they weren’t carrying their paperwork.”
“Hmm.. No… paperwo—” she noted.
“Listen, sweetheart. They should be chipped, eh?” All dogs must, by law, must have an identity chip. That much I had learned. “Wouldn’t be difficult to get some vet to scan the chip and take it to the people who dumped the dogs here in my village.”
She paused. “Have they attacked any children? Disfigured anyone. Facially, a pretty girl perhaps.”
“No, I don’t know. Would you like me to arrange it?”
“No, sir. That won’t be necessary.”
The wife was watching me, poised. I had one more card to play. I could trump these mutts. I could get a media circus down here with two words. “Listen, my girl. Do you know who I am? DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?”
The wife was only wearing slippers but the kick left a bruise I could show you today.
“He’s English,” she had the phone now. “He’s not used to these things.” She punched me with her free hand in the arm. “Yes, of course we’ll let you know of any developments. Thanks for your concern. Goodbye.”
FUCK! If I’d had half the support that these rabid animals were getting, I wouldn’t have given the better half of my money to a bunch of lawyers in London. I wouldn’t have the other half tied up to pay off the catholic church. I wouldn’t be in this Duelling-banjos of a country.
The wife didn’t speak to me for the rest of the day.
I googled it and found out who said that thing about the judging a nation by its animals. It was Mahatma Gandhi, some Indian guru in a nappy who took India away from the British. They worship cows and let them stray around the place. At least they get free-range burger and shake. Maybe I should think about opening a Chinese take-away.


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Monday, 11 July 2016

Episode 43: Everything is Under Control?

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 knew there was no one home but I still ran upstairs and downstairs yelling the wife and kids’ names hoping to be wrong. There was no sign but the brimming ashtray of the boys that Socrates had sent to take care of my family. I checked the basement, the place I had sent them to hide when we had been attacked by the tabloids but this was not the press. They shot personal moments, they did character assassination. The people who had crucified the Chinese peddler to my door did not. They had little understanding of nuance or subtlety. Some clothes and shoes were in neat piles on the beds. The wife had managed to start her packing ceremonies that were the precursor of every family trip. The ceremonies that had annoyed me so much. Looking around and finding my breath I could see no signs of violence, were Socrates’ heavies in on it?
Socrates! He would know.
He answered on the second ring. He seemed confused which made me panic more. He said he’d call the boys and get back to me. I checked my phone, I had an unanswered from the wife. I called her back but kept getting the same message, “The subscriber you have called probably has their phone switched off.”
Socrates called, “They’re ok. They are boarding the plane. We have someone in airport security who is making sure they are cared for.” I didn’t reply.
“Jude, give me your keys!”
“But the insurance is only for—” his protests continued all the way to the car but remained just protests.
Jude and Roni fastened their seat-belts. Roni even clipped her camera to it.
I knew which lights needed to be heeded and I ran them all. Roni kept asking me questions about what I was thinking only diverting her camera to show the red traffic lights pass at speed.
I answered her once and that seemed to suffice, “WHAT DO YOU THINK!”
We turned the last right onto the long straight to the terminal and I put it hard down. The departures building quickly came into sight but just outside the police building a patrol car sat with its blues on and an officer stood flagging me down. They had been stopping people here for months checking their state debts before they left the country. I changed lanes and flashed as I passed.
I left the car outside departures where others were kissing friends and loved ones goodbye. I ran in, the journos close behind. I heard shouts and whistles but I needed to get there more than anything.
Thessaloniki airport is little more than a bus terminus and I was soon at the first security gate. A tall man walked up and put his heavy hand on my shoulder. He was at least a head taller than me but his face was bright and childlike.
“They left safely, Sir.” He pointed through the windows to the Airbus taxiing onto the runway. “I could radio the plane. But, I think it would be safer not to draw attention to them.” I looked up at him. He squeezed my shoulder and smiled. “I have a girlfriend on the crew, she’s one of us. She’ll take care of them.”
I watched as the plane took position on the runway. Roni bumped into me closely followed by Jude and the police. Radios squawked and more descended from nowhere. Roni screamed PRESS!
A hand fell on my shoulder. ”Miister!”
The security guard boomed and I shook in my shoes but he was looking at the officer who had slid his hand down to my wrist behind my back. “Come here, you!” Chris, for that was the name on the badge that was pinned to his chest at my eye level, “You know who this is?”
Soon the officer had let me go and was on his radio. “Stand down!” a crumpled reply came and he repeated, “Stand down, I tell you! It’s the Englishman.”
I looked round at the journos and patted Chris on the chest, “They’re with me.” He made a sweeping motion to the officers and they disappeared apart from one who insisted on shaking my hand before he left.
“Sorry, Sir.” He offered in broken English. “You maked us worry. Too much!”
I turned to the windows but the plane was disappearing into the cloudless sky.
Chris was still looming as I turned to skulk off. I turned to thank him.
“Nothing, Sir. Don’t worry, some of those pigs have not chosen sides yet.” He changed to English, “Your family, they will be fine.” Then back to Greek, “Tell Mr. Socrates that Christos,” he tugged at his name badge. “Says everything is under control.”
“Under control?” I had never fucking doubted anything more in my life.



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Sunday, 10 July 2016

Episode 42: GO HOME!

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.


It would have been so easy, a forth ticket. Go back to London. The tabloids would pick my bones cleaner than a bucket of bbq ribs. But if I could just lay low for a while, they would eventually tire of it, start picking on someone else. I could turn the whole experience into a show, start touring again. Maybe. I could go stay with some friends in the States. Do some tearful tea-time chat shows about my exploits at the hands of the cave-dwelling Europeans. Get a guest-star on a soap or some Netflix series. Fuck! If Piers Morgan could get a gig over there. Might have to stay away from the bible belt but that’d be no loss. It would all have been so easy. Relatively.
The message crucified to my office door was unambiguous, it said GO HOME! And the ink had made a sticky pool on the carpet. The messenger would not be missed by anyone who wasn’t already missing him thousands of miles away.
I was sitting on the steps sucking the calm out of another cigarette when Jude arrived, he touched my shoulder as he passed to Roni who showed him inside.
Socrates pulled up next, followed by the police. He started at me, I swung a thumb over my shoulder and told him to see for himself. As he passed I grabbed his sleeve.
“Have you got any…”
He looked down and grunted. “There’s a couple of bottles in the trunk.” He looked at his watch and walked away.
When he came back out he snatched the bottle from my mouth. “I need you sober!” I disagreed, no one needed me sober, much less me. I tried to take one last deep swig but the old bastard won, the strength to fight him was in that bottle.
“There’s a fucking slant nailed to your door!” I should have been offended by his racist slur but truth was the guy nailed to my office door did appear to be Chinese, Asian of some sort, but more importantly dead and beyond caring about any other word to describe him.
The police came out in a crackle of radio and started running yellow and black tape across the entrance.
I heard them snigger,”Yellows. Blacks. One less!”
They finally ejected Jude and Roni before sealing and went back to the squawking of their radios.
Someone told the officers to call an ambulance. “Too late! Chinese takeaway, send a fridge and the cleaners.”
Socrates was still holding the bottle and my mouth was arid for it.
The staff began to arrive but a police cordon sent them back home. None of them were too eager to argue but a crowd had begun to gather, many of them holding phones and cameras in the air. One of them I recognised as the ruddy-faced Englishman from the Town Hall towers riot. Bad news travels fast. My secretary broke through and ran to me, she was no athlete but she looked good when she ran.
She pulled the flight details from her bag and asked if I wanted her to call the wife. I did but I would have to do it. My hand fell to my cigarettes before my phone so I lit and sucked hard before tapping her face on the screen.
She didn’t know what was going on but she would before the flight. I had to be sure that she would leave. I told her I would call her mother to pick them up at the airport. Greek mothers are a force to be reckoned with. She made me promise to follow after. I promised, then repeated after. I couldn’t decide whether I was being brave or stupid. Fortunately the plain-clothes arrived and I didn’t have to choose.
We gave our statements in an unsullied end of the building, an English-speaking officer had been brought in for me, Roni and Jude. Their memory cards were taken after some protest. We were left with a uniform at the door.
Socrates had not been confined to the room, he’d arranged for a couple of the boys to go up and take care of the wife. I asked if we should get a police guard. He laughed, “I’ll send some boys up, they’ll be safer.”
Roni and Jude were being very supportive. They kept asking me how I felt and what I was planning to do and who I thought was responsible. I really needed to talk to Dr Alex but we had to keep a lid on this as long as we could. The less people knew, the better and I had Roni. She was quite the sounding board. The more I talked the better I felt. You know, it wasn’t me nailed to the door. The wife and the boys would be on a plane to London soon enough and the police would get them, after all this was a threat on a major political candidate. This could even swing the vote. In a few short months, I could be running this place. That would show them.
Jude yelled “Oh yes!” from the corner. I knew he was behind me.
I mused out loud over the idea while idly tapping through my facebook feed. The same last-night party pictures, inspirational memes and coffee cups. Roni ummed and ahhed and absolutely-ed. I liked and shared some of my campaign videos. Replied ‘thx’ to some kind comments. My phone continued to ping with interest. People were liking what I stood for. The fact that I’d rattled the fascists had to be a plus.
Jude leaped to the window and yelled, “Roni, camera!” I jerked up from my phone she didn’t have to ready her tool, it had been trained on me. How much had she filmed?
The stretcher coming out of the main doors of the town hall was covered with a white sheet that did little to obscure the gore of its load. The arms protruded from each side. The rectangular shape of his peddler’s tray lay flat on his chest. The same tray that had bore the message painted in his own blood, ‘Gamoto soy sou!’ I FUCK YOUR FAMILY! I could pick out every detail under the sheet, still seared in my eyes but the face had gone. All I could see now were my own features in place of his.
The legs of the stretcher folded as it entered the back of the blue van then dropped again as it was pulled back out. Some commotion began, arms waved. One of the crew walked away waving his palms in clear rejection. Jude sniggered and Roni echoed. A police officers stood forward and grabbed one of the arms as he thrust the stretcher hit the back of the van but the arm was now parallel with the body. He did the same with the other then thrust an open palm at the ambulance crew and walked off.
The man who had until recently been crucified to my office door was probably from China, well known in the low-rent neighbourhood for peddling smartphone cases and selfie sticks as well as cheap plastic toys that were popular with the kids. He would never be reported missing. Anyone who could have known or cared would be more interested in protecting their own safety. Anyone back home might notice the cheques stopping and never learn why. Just one of nearly 1.4 billion people who would quickly be replaced.
I had to get home, I had to see my kids. I had to see someone who cared if I lived or died. I ran out of the office to tell the officer that I would be leaving, with or without their sayso. The door swung open and bounced off the wall. The corridor was empty. Through the window I could see a lone squad car, the officers were nowhere to be seen. The ambulance had taken the peddler off to be forgotten, the crowds had dispersed.
We took Jude’s rental up the mountain. He was getting used to driving in Greece and no longer made a big show of stopping at amber lights but we arrived to an empty house.


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Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Episode 41: A message from beyond the grave

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.



If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my term of office as mayor, it’s that I have no idea what I’m doing. Fortunately, I’ve also learned that I’m not the only one. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the only ones who do are the ones who’ve never tried. As for running an entire nation? Just look at the people running yours.
I have, however, been trying to find out.
You pay your taxes and the collectors give your money to the suits and they build roads and schools and hospitals. It was a simple formula that had worked for centuries. But, there were so many varieties of this plan. You encouraged people to pay people to make stuff so they had money to buy stuff then you taxed everyone to make money to build the stuff that no one wanted to build, like schools and roads and hospitals. You could then lend people more money to buy more stuff so more people are needed to make stuff so they can buy much more stuff and they also have to pay people to keep check of the people who borrow the money. Then you can turn a blind eye to the taxes from the people who make it all happen and more will come and pay more people to make more stuff and sell it around the world. But, you still need to build schools and hospitals and roads. This was free market economics and many argued that it was a perfect meritocracy because only the best makers would sell stuff and only the best debt-collectors would have money to lend.
The trouble here was, that for ages now nobody was buying much of anything and so they didn’t need to pay anyone to make anything and the suits had nobody left to tax. But, they still had to pay back all the loans they’d taken to build the schools and roads and hospitals because they’d never quite got the hang of making people pay their taxes and when they did, they had shared it amongst themselves to buy shiny cars from the Germans. The answer was clear, they borrowed money to pay the loans and keep the suits in suits and shiny German engineering. I was sure it was much more complicated than that but I was fucked if I could see how.
Then there was another way. On top of all the stuff people didn’t want to make, you took over making the stuff they did, sold it and made all the profit. Then shared it with the people. This was called Marxism and a few places had tried it with varying levels of failure. But why? Surely if you can run an entire country, making some washing machines and self-assembly furniture would be a doddle, right?
Then I stumbled on this guy called Jacques Fresco who had a totally different angle on the whole game. He has a vision which had been his life’s work and now he was pretty old so he must have worked out many of the kinks. He called it “The Venus project” and I was sold. It was a no-brainer. Of course, he was having some trouble selling it to anyone with a country at their disposal but I couldn’t see the down-side.
Eventually I got hold of Karaletsos, he’s an arrogant prick but he lectures at LSE so he must know his beans if he’s teaching my people how to count them.
“Listen, if you called to explain your nurturing tax-man strategy, you are wasting your time— and mine. I’m a very busy man.” He may be but he was intrigued enough to answer my call.
“No, on the contrary, Mr. Karaletsos. I’m looking for counsel.” I knew that appealing to his vanity would pique his interest and It did. “Your New Democracy chap proposed a more-of-the-same strategy but what do you think is the way to turn this country round?”
“More austerity? Bullshit! There is not an economist who is not on the Eurozone payroll who subscribes to this. This will only serve to degrade economic sovereignty in the peripheral Eurozone economies, ultimately resulting in a federal Europe.” I wouldn’t tire you with the exact content of his diatribe, even if I could remember half of it but it sounded pretty grim.
“So what can we do?” I asked.
“Nothing!” He left a pause that I could only fill with oh dear! “The more-of-the-same policy, as you put it, is just kneeling to the inevitable!”
He launched into a history lesson. “Adam Smith thought of macro-economics as a machine. Each action having an equal yet opposite reaction. Marx was one of the first to understand the political aspect of the science. He just got the language wrong. You see, economics is a language with laws as the grammar and tax as the lexicon. Marx thought that people would appreciate the common purpose and work as a community.”
“But they didn’t?”
“They didn’t. You see, people don’t want equality, they want better, so the language gets lost. Communism has to shout, louder and louder to be heard. Capitalism whispers. It lets you keep your money and your freedom but you do as you are told.”
“So tax is the language?”
“If I want to reduce the healthcare budget, I can ask you to give up smoking, that it’s bad for you. You ignore me! I use the law to ban smoking in public places and increase tax on cigarettes, you listen. Those who don’t, bridge the gap in my budget. A dialogue.”
“So what happened in Greece?”
“Well, Greeks don’t listen to anyone, they are always looking for what they want to hear and so many different, private dialogues began which confused the communication.” He laughed. “Here in Britain, you listen, you comply. We do not!”
I tried to ask for a solution but he was already back on a roll.
“Free market economics, Milton Freidman. Let the market alone to find its equilibrium, unencumbered by governmental bureaucracy. Survival of the fittest.”
“And if we were to take money out of the equation?” I asked. “It strikes me that there are plenty of iPads and houses. There is no shortage of them. But money, that is a problem. What if we did away with money?”
He huffed, “Please don’t be so naive! You are talking about barter. Have you not listened to anything? A state would lose its lexicon, there would be no dialogue.”
“No.” I contested. “A resource-based economy.”
He groaned and hung up.
I was sure there was something I was missing but no one could tell me what it was. The idea kept me awake half the night and I promised myself to get to the bottom of it as soon as I got the the office in the morning.
I was first to arrive at the town hall with Roni in tow. There was no ambiguity in the lexicon of the note pinned to my door. Roni threw up on her shoe, still holding the camera up to the door. I slumped against the opposite wall and slid down it without taking my eyes off it. I said Roni’s name as a question, she answered to confirm that were both seeing it. The clock on the wall tocked then seized, a moment on the rack.
I pulled out my phone, scrolled down the contacts to the police, stopped and scrolled on to my secretary. I started down the hall then went back to pull Roni along with me. I tapped the contact. The police could wait.
My secretary answered, perky and willing.
“I want to fly— I want tickets for my family. Today for London. As soon as possible!”
“And you, Sir?”
I dropped the phone to my waist, gripping it in both hands. I turned my head to confirm the truth still nailed to my office door. Roni was pacing back and forth, her phone to her ear, her lips moving. All I heard was my pulse thumping at my eardrums.
“Sir?”
“No— not me, I’m staying.”


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From Under Dark Clouds

The Century of DIY