Showing posts with label Gonzo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gonzo. Show all posts

Friday, 1 June 2018

My Rebirth in Athens

Christ! 5am might be a good time for monks and people with serious careers but it was playing havoc with my circadian rhythms. All I had to counter it was instant coffee and a cold shower. I took them grudgingly and dragged my bag to the door. I stopped and took stock, shoes on feet, trousers fastened and shirt on back. It wouldn't be the first time I’d left a house at such an ungodly hour without one of these. Shit! Getting out of anywhere with the shirt on my back was a huge bonus in this day and age. I stepped into the lift. I would normally take the stairs, they offer a much more authentic experience of gravity, but my legs couldn't be relied on, the mutinous fuckers would love an opportunity like this to see me sprawled out on my face at the foot of the stairwell, my underwear and travel-sized toothpaste spewed on the floor.


Twitshot


My driver was familiar so I maintained an air of grateful indignation. The nightclubs had closed their doors to revellers no more than an hour before so the roads were clear and soon enough we were pulling up outside airport departures. I alighted the cramped vehicle and she didn’t. I promised to call and patted the pocket that contained no phone.
Airports before sunrise are an anthill of activity. The travellers tend to be going somewhere to do something rather than the child-dragging escapees who’ve staked their annual savings on two weeks burning their skin, drinking cheap cocktails and preying the kids don’t drown in the sea.
No, pre-dawn flyers have to be in an office discussing things they don’t trust the phone with or gathering in hotels for conferences about stuff while dreaming of tanning their skin, drinking Tequila sunrises and preying the kids would shut up and drown already. I, dear blogees was one of the latter. The Toastmasters convention in Athens was entitled ‘Rebirth’ and I only had vague circumstantial evidence that I had experienced it the first time, birth that is.
I was flying to Athens, the crucible of democracy, western philosophy and so much more at a time when my ancestors were still figuring out how to get 100 tons of stone 200 miles from Wales to stand on Salisbury plains. And, that many years later we still haven’t worked out why.
In my seat was a young woman who was already looking nervous. She asked if I wanted her to move and I said I didn’t mind. We briefly argued about who didn’t mind the most and she stayed put. My seating was random, I had opted to save the €3 so all she had achieved was to randomise my random seating, worth €3 of anyone’s money. She was peering out the window shuffling in her seat.
“Looks a long way down, eh?” I agreed with the thought that she had not verbalised. “But you’ll hardly notice it once we get above the clouds.”
She turned and pursed her lips, I was sure I could detect a smile.
The crew took their positions to show us what to do in the event that gravity interrupted them selling us perfumes and cute, anthropomorphised plushy aircraft. We wouldn’t be flying over the sea so I ignored the bit about topping up the life vest. I mean, they love showing that video of the guy landing his Airbus in the Hudson river but we all know that air travel was never intended to be survivable. You hit the sea from 35,000 feet, you’re gonna be a smoothie with foreign coins in your pocket, you hit a mountain and you are destined to be some other passenger’s brunch. No, if I feel the earth accelerate towards me, I’ll turn my ipod volume up past the recommended safe level and try to edit the boring parts out of my life flashing before me. That said, a well-pumped life vest could go someway to breaking your fall were we to clip the top of mount Olympus. Aw! Ever the optimist.
The exhilaration of acceleration always sends a tingle up my trousers, this time it was augmented by my new travel companion’s nails in my forearm, not nearly as unpleasant as it sounds! I wondered if she’d react the same way on landing but I was too polite to request.
I opened the book I had been reading and watched the words swim around the page for a while, the instant coffee had done nothing for my concentration. Domestic flights in Europe never last long and just as I'd got settled in, the flaps on the wings started their downhill dance.
We touched down and for a moment I felt the landing gear and fuselage quarrel over direction, this sharpened my focus to the life jacket. If I was thrown from a gaping hole in the aircraft, would the inflated vest soften the impact with Terra Firma as I had previously hoped? My synapses were sparking faster than I was accustomed but I knew I wouldn’t be able to roll a cigarette and light it before the end. And anyway the no smoking lights were still lit. I reached for the duty-free bottle I’d procured before leaving the departure lounge but her nails snagged in my arm. Was this how it would all end? Thrown from a budget airline seat to be spread like jam on the toasted Athens runway and would the cramp in my legs subside for this? I would probably break her fall and be hailed a hero. At least the compensation and bolstered book sales would give my wife and kids a more comfortable life than I had managed to give them while I had been the right size and shape to fit into trousers.
Unfortunately, I was in the smokers cabin in the arrivals hall scribbling these very words when I realised none of this had actually happened. These glass-walled aquariums of shame played soothing music while extracting the smoke and advertising the sponsor’s particular brand of tobacco freedom. The rugged middle-aged model in the pictures bore no resemblance to someone who would reach for a packet and lighter before opening his eyes in the morning then hack his lungs between his first drags of the day. Modelling had never been a career option for me but in the name of honesty I made a note to self to contact Imperial Tobaccos for an audition. I reached into my bag for the bottle but it wasn’t until I was replacing the cap and putting it back that I seriously considered the folly of my actions. It was 7.30 and I still hadn’t had a decent cup of coffee, there is much to be said for keeping events in the proper sequence but saying it was a close as I got. I took one more nip before deciding that.
There was one last bag rounding the carousel when I emerged. I guessed it must be mine and took it. I headed to the first java franchise for some hard, hot and black.
I was well into my second when another flight safely touched down from the north carrying two vibrant balls of enthusiasm who were to accompany me to the conference. One of them had a plan, which was more than I had.
On the train into town they fizzed with excitement about the upcoming events, the gala ball, the keynote speakers and soon my discomfort became palpable.
I told them I’d need to dump my luggage, I could only speculate that it was mine but if people could believe that our existence was down to a huge explosion in the universe or the hand of a bearded guy who was never born, I could believe this bag between my legs was the one that contained my underwear.
I called my host for the weekend. It was obvious that I’d woken her, shit! She told me to get off at Monastiraki station and head for the ancient columns. I asked again, this was Athens, the capital of ancient, I knew I would be sleeping on a park bench trading favours to be allowed to snuggle into a flea-bitten mutt for warmth… again!
My fizzy companions got off the train. One said she’d see me soon. The other asked if I’d be ok. I doubted either.
Things were looking up. I exited the station and just outside were some columns. I took a place in the shade and rolled a cigarette. A herd of Americans passed extolling hyperboles of awe in their metallic burr, the same that makes tourist trap scammers around the world rub their hands in glee.
I finished my cigarette and ventured into the square. The stalls were hanging with hats and sunglasses and sundry tat that while professing to the contrary would never pass Greek hands until money changed hands. Many of the tourists may in fact be taking the trinkets back to where they were made.
A tall slenderman thrust a piece of handwritten paper in my hand. I gave it straight back and looked defiantly non-American.
“NO!” I said.
“Habla ingles?” he asked.
I went back to the columns for safety.
My host arrived with a smile, kissed me on both cheeks and told me I must be thirsty. I was, was it that obvious. We scurried past the made-in-China Parthenons on a chain and ducked into a bar. My watch was chiding me but I ignored it which by the second beer became easier.
We headed back into the heat and she gave me the tour of the neighbourhood. There were three supermarkets but this was her favourite. She told me to pick up a basket. I was dragging a wheelie case wearing a backpack and now trying to balance a basket that was rapidly filling with bottles and cans. I had my reservations about the cans but chose not to share them at this time.
We passed a guy sitting outside a carpet shop and my host called him by name.
“Hey! This is my English friend who’s come to write about us.”
“Are you a journalist?” he asked in perfect English.
“Well…” I began to answer but before I could I was introduced as a great writer who had a particular interest in the sub-cultures of Athens.
We spread our cache from the supermarket on a table that was hurried from inside the shop along with a bottle of a clear but potent liquid. We were joined by a parking attendant from a open space opposite that was infeasibly chequered with vehicles. They quizzed me about my life in Greece, most of which was answered by my host. They talked of a Greece that was the mother of wisdom in antiquity, a paradise on earth for tourism but had gone to the dogs in the modern context. The carpet salesman told me that he had a post-graduate in Greek literature but had been waiting for his call-up from the education authority to teach in high school, the parking attendant was a lawyer who never had the connections to get a foot hold in the profession, my host was a philosophy major who taught German at a private school while volunteering at a psychiatric ward. I felt like a hack but inspired by the potent clear liquid, the setting and hubris I invoked the Socratean method and Douglas Adams' 42.
“You see, the poverty of the modern age is not answers, we have no end of them!. No, our poverty lies in our questions!”
My company nodded in sagely agreement.
I drained another glass and fleetingly remembered my purpose in Athens, the convention. I remembered my promises to my fellow Toastmasters but we had begun to delve into the truth of Socrates’ existence and the potent liquid clarity had burned a path down to my deep-rooted acquiescence.
I looked up and just over the rooftops, high on crag of rock stood the Parthenon, and I was convinced it was gloating.



Next: I find a stage

Monday, 13 October 2014

Episode 20: A New Day, A New Man


from under dark clouds
From Under Dark Clouds

Check out previous episodes of

From Under Dark Clouds


'From Under Dark Clouds...' is a Gonzo fictionalisation of current events in Greece. The story is seen through the eyes of our unnamed hero as he fumbles from paranoia to public office, under the mentorage of the shady Socrates.

Each episode is based on real events. Readers are invited to share their experiences for the Under Dark Clouds treatment. Many have been included in cameo roles.





See link below for contributions


I awoke with a Jimmy Saville of a hangover, that tsiporo is a sneaky bastard, like junkie burglars it breaks in when you think you're safe, turns everything upside down, goes through your draws then shits in your bed.

It had snatched a few memories but it had left me with most of what had lead to me being posted back home and bundled out of a cab.

I dragged myself out of my bed which now resembled a dog basket, I had always felt sympathy when the kids asked for a pet but the wife had maintained that we had enough with me.

Today would be a change, a new man. I pulled the sheets from the bed and searched for the washing machine , they're not small enough to hide but can be wily fuckers, for sure. I tracked it down in a small room under the stairs and sprung the portal. The offending articles fit nicely in and I decide to chance the pillows as well but they refused to go through the hole, how did the Lady mayoress do it, more to this housewifing than I had credited her for. Maybe she could do the same down at the town hall. All that remained was to hit the ignition switch, light the blue touch paper, whatever you do with these things and I would be the hero of the hour. Fuck. The dashboard was like an ambulance, all flashing lights and little draws. But this was the new me, the fixit me, the man people could rely on, the… it was me, I was truly PWNED by a domestic appliance. The house was empty so there were no witnesses to my shame except me and for once that was enough.

I went into the kitchen for some coffee, opening the can I could see that what was left was going to be tricky to get out so I poured the boiling water straight in. A realisation struck me; that's how mike manages it. I was alone in a warm house with BBC 6 music on the sound system and a hot cup of Nestlé' s hate. Where had Mike and Tasos gone to last night. We had lost the town hall plaza to the man with clubs and masks and they had nowhere else to go. They? where had Despina taken her fine young boy. Back to the basement of the town hall? I hoped, well I hoped not. I hoped I had for once come through. Socrates had the lawyers on his back, toss up who would talk to me first, him or the lady mayoress. Probably her, she wouldn't miss the chance to drag my self esteem through the cat litter; got a thing with pets today.

I smoked whatever I could find and took a hot shower, being careful to put the ashtray at the far end away from the spray, see an old dog can learn new tricks. I heard a clunk as I was brushing my teeth which would have worried me if it were not caused by the wife returning from taking the kids off to receive a sterling education at the local primary. I was, however, worried by the fact that the wife had returned from taking the kids off to the local primary. I quickly rubbed the towel around my person, the surfaces around the bath and injected it through the portal of the washing machine along with the soiled ashtray for good measure. I greeted her with a huge smile and proudly displayed my cleanliness to her; as clean and bare as the day I was born.

Funny thing, she didn't yell or scream. She smiled and held out her arms.

She told me that she had heard of the commotion down at my Town Hall plaza initiative, yeah she called it an initiative and was proud of me for doing it then standing up to the bullies who tried to take it away from me and the poor people I was trying to help. I was so tempted to tell her that my standing lasted precisely up to the point when I was knocked down and pummelled like cookie dough but I smiled coyly instead.
She gave me a hug that hurt and invigorated me at the same time and told me that she was proud of me, again.

I grabbed my keys and ran for the door; I would make a difference and carpe fucking diem, I would do it today. She called my name and looked at my dangling nethers; I may need to get dressed first.

I formulated my plan on the Vespa heading for the town hall, by the time I arrived it was bulletproof.

Spyros, down at the supermarket had a bunch of unleased apartments, he’d refused to drop the rent when the bottom fell out of the market like a Friday-night curry and by the time he’d seen sense no-one was in the market to pay. Now that was bad enough but the government was in the process of clawing back 40 years of taxes to pay the IMF and ECB and would tax your hair if they could only find a way to count it. Result was that spyros was being taxed left right and centre on income for apartments he couldn’t let. And this was my IN. I would pull some strings through the party to get him some leeway AND take on the maintenance with Tasos and the boys, in return he would house our people for free. He gets a tax-load off his shoulders and his apartments occupied and maintained, my people get their Town Hall plaza; win, win, win. I rubbed my palms with glee.

Mike was looking no worse than usual, I guess he has age on his side, and offered me a cup of coffee as I rolled into the office. The well assembled secretary looked up sharply and firmly stated that she would attend to it, a lucky day for a new man.

When the coffee arrived I took my time enjoying the aroma then asked her for a telephone number for Spyros the supermarket. Within seconds she told me to pick up line 4, it was already ringing, I ready myself for history.

Spyros was as cheerful as ever, in other words, not at all. I reminded him of his woes and held the phone from my ear as he wailed and bleated. The well-assembled secretary rolled her eyes knowingly. He finally began to lose momentum and sighed what am I to do, not really looking for a solution but affirmation of his uniquely woeful predicament, I began my pitch. I pointed out each of his predicaments asking him whether a solution would interest him, he replied positively. I brought up the subject of maintenance on vacant apartments; he had never considered this but agreed, all the same. I went for the close. My secretary was now watching me with eyes as round as tea plates. I told him I could pull some strings with the tax situation, he asked with obvious incredulity whether this was within my power, I assured him that it was but said I would just confirm it with the experts.

“I have the power to reassess a constituent’s tax status, don’t I?” she was now looking at me with eyes like someone seeing Internet porn for the first time, her jaw clamped jerking her head from side to side. “Yes, of course I have.” He paused, told me that they would have to get out when he got a paying tenant, I agreed. My secretary was now standing very close to her head in spasmodic jerks mouthing the word NO! He asked if we could have this in writing, I laughed. This agreement was strictly under the radar any paper trail could seriously compromise him. He saw the sense in that. He asked for concessions on his supermarket, I told him not to be greedy. He paused some more and some more. He demanded a lick of paint, I agreed and so did he. The keys would be at the supermarket and they could move in that very day. I told him he would not regret it, for long and bade him good-day.

I really was a new man, I punched the sky and did a little river dance round the office. The secretary slapped my face, I think I was growing on her. What followed was a barrage, the like I had only ever experienced at the end of my wife’s tongue; I really was growing on her.

Now all I had to do was share the good news with the good and dispossessed people of the town hall.



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Saturday, 4 October 2014

Episode 19: Smoke gets in my eyes

from under dark clouds

From Under Dark Clouds




From Under Dark Clouds

'From Under Dark Clouds...' is a Gonzo fictionalisation of current events in Greece as seen through the eyes of our unnamed hero as he fumbles from paranoia to public office, under the mentorage of the shady Socrates.

Each episode is based on real events. Readers are invited to share their experiences for the Under Dark Clouds treatment. Many have been included in cameo roles, can you spot them?




See link below for contributions






mexican greek standoff
Mexican Greek standoff

It was a Mexican stand-off, we had the old, the infirm, women and even Despina’s boy. Well I say we but I mean them because I was vehemently adhering to the advice of my legal brief and remaining uninvolved. So, they had the innocents and the others had batons, helmets and shields. My dear blogees, this was the righteous against THE MAN and we, they held the trump card; the power of the press. THE MAN would not dare be caught in the act, they would not act up with the eyes of the world watching. They would, no doubt, make some noise and finally stand down and regroup. How wrong I was.


Out of frustration one of the policemen lobbed a drinks can. This must have been their way of letting off steam ‘cause soon after another couple followed. I couldn’t make out what brand it was until it fell to the floor rebounding off the rapidly closed windows. First one then the others began spouting thick smoke, I could see the photographer shooting from behind a gas mask. I stood, an innocent observer, uninvolved but not unmoved as hot tears began to stream down my cheeks. Not the tears of sadness like when I found out Santa was a fat drunk who only worked once a year (and there were no vacancies)or when I found my wife had replaced my cache of weed with oregano. I had woken to find myself in Gaza or some US state. 



This wasn’t the first time I had come up against this kind of behaviour, and I’m sure if you’re married you would have spent a night on the doorstep sobbing. After a suitable period of pain and suffering, she’ll let you back in if only to avoid the postman gossipping.     

This was their noise, their stomping on the Genesis CDs (but only the post Peter Gabriel), their threats to send the dog pound to take me away. It would pass, they would go to eat donuts. I stood upwind with a damp towel over my head. 

The sergeant pulled out his bullhorn and issued a final warning, yeah right! Then silence. Then 100 heartbeats in slow sync. Then more silence. Then a shit storm. 



Riot police vs pensioners - Thessaloniki, Greece
Riot police Vs Pensioners
The damp towel was now round my neck pulling me across the pavement, the door pulled from its hinges. I was trying to swim to the surface but only sank deeper, starving for air. Waves of flotsam and jetsam broke on my body. I braced in the knowledge that like any ride at the fair, it would end before I soiled myself. I managed to gulp enough breath to voice the words that would put an end to this maelstrom, they only needed to be heard and all this would end. I repeated them over and over, I am the mayor. Then soiled myself. 



The storm moved on but showed no sign of abating. Green uniforms were now visible at the windows, smoke seeping through the broken glass. I picked myself up to, to, to do something and fell on a leg that refused to bear my weight. The sergeant was sending orders via the bullhorn but we had brought a peashooter to a baton charge. It wasn’t long before 4 tonnes of waif, stray and pensioner littered the street outside the erstwhile Town Hall plaza. The evacuation of the building culminated with a church bazaar of belongings thrown from the open windows only missing some of those gathered below. We were beat and beaten. 



There was silence in the back of the van but not in my head. I could have done something, I should have done something; I didn’t. 


The long wait
The long wait
We were left a couple of blocks short of the police station and told we were lucky. I felt as lucky as a rabbit’s foot (dismembered from its rabbit). Mike and I found Tasos sporting a swollen eye a few blocks later. We decided to go to the hospital to get checked out. The emergency room was full to the gills with wailing, complaint and the smell of infection. After nearly two hours we decided to self-medicate; tsiporo and ice, one for the pain the other for the swelling. The three of us licked our wounds round a quiet table in the corner of a forgotten taverna. We told each other our stories over and over, swore and asked why. We drank until the pain became someone else’s. We resolved to get our own back and swore some more. We agreed that we were not afraid but I did confess to a mild apprehension at facing my wife. Socrates and maybe my lawyer. Tasos banged his fist on the table and declared a fear of no-one, adding that he was a widower and had no home to go to. Mike made no declarations so I told him that I was afraid of his coffee. 

The waiter continued to bring tsiporo until I realised that none of us could pay the bill. He threatened to call the police. Mike and Tasos ran, I fell over a sneaky table. 

If you were to ask me now, I would deny it but at the time I swear I watched my body being frisked and plundered. It was floated out onto the cold pavement and loaded into a cab. I was willing it to listen but it slumped void and vacant like a drooling pile of laundry. 

Home, safe at last. I snivelled in my wife’s arms not giving a second thought to those who weren’t.


Fade to credits...



Images by kind permission of TeacherDude





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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Episode 18: In case of emergency, do nothing.

from under dark clouds
From Under Dark Clouds

From Under Dark Clouds

'From Under Dark Clouds...' is a Gonzo fictionalisation of current events in Greece as seen through the eyes of our unnamed hero as he fumbles from paranoia to public office, under the mentorage of the shady Socrates.

Each episode is based on real events. Readers are invited to share their experiences for the Under Dark Clouds treatment. Many have been included in cameo roles, can you spot them?




See link below for contributions


Fucked up, again!
Oops, fucked up, again! 
Once again, I was the kid in the corner of the class. Socrates hadn’t made me wear a hat or anything but he might as well. The lawyer's meter was ticking and so far the only value I could gather was that I was a fucking idiot and my wife had told me that for free. I thought Socrates had some leverage over the thieving bastard but since sloping off to Switzerland he had grown some balls and was levering back. Finally I asked him, in his two-hundred-Euros-an-hour opinion what could we do. He shrugged and said, "nothing." My dear blogees, when you pay good money for advice, take it.

I bade my leave and made for home to the wife in the hope that she would still be in a good mood before telling her about the latest developments, on second thoughts I would adhere to the costly advice of our brief and tell her nothing.

She was in good spirits and had cannelloni ready, it was a little al dente but two bottles of wine loosened it up nicely. I continued to follow the lawyer’s advice until bedtime when my dear lady wife took it instead.

The next morning, Socrates called me on the mobile. I was just about to set off for the town hall and he knew how I hated to speak while driving, well to be honest the speaking was the least of the problems, the hearing was the hard bit. I had once taken a hacksaw to my helmet to make it mobile friendly but it kept falling off. He had bought me a hands-free gizmo and had nearly killed myself finding out that it wasn’t compatible with 2-strokes.

Mike the IT guy brought me coffee, why did that man hate me so much? I tried to appeal to the well-assembled secretary but she was making busy with some papers. Mike asked me about the situation with the flats and I told him, in all confidence, that the police would come to evict them and that we could do nothing. He asked me if this was the official council lawyer or a personal brief, I replied the latter and he wafted off leaving a bad smell behind.

The phone rang, it was Socrates, the courts had issued a warrant and soon it would be in police hands. I asked what I could do and he reminded me of the lawyer’s bill and told me not to get in the way. Then he made me promise. I had to go down there, at least, and took Mike the IT guy and Tasos the janitor for support.

The Austerity Wars - on the front line in Greece
Grey Panthers? 2* 
A patrol car pulled up just as we arrived on foot and two officers got out. I asked them what their business was, the elder pulled out a piece of paper and apologised that he was just doing his job. I did nothing. He asked me to tell the residents to pack up and leave the building at once. I did some more nothing and said nothing for good measure. Just then a bus waddled up to the stop opposite and relieved itself of its contents on the pavement. The police entered the building to exercise the warrant. Another bus relieved itself at the stop from the other direction and about 4 tonnes of pensioners and waifs advanced on the town hall plaza. Mike the IT guy began waving and bouncing on his toes, I don’t recall ever seeing him quite so lively. I looked him in the eyes, which was not easy considering that they wouldn’t stay still, his face was all cheshire cat as he mouthed Facebook.

Soon the corridors and passage ways of the building were sardine-packed with all manner of derelict and dispossessed, some had found unoccupied apartments and had thrown down boxes and blankets to stake their claim.

The officers, failing to use authority to navigate the building found an open window and shouted down, “Mr. Mayor, you must do something about this, we are exercising a legal warrant to evacuate the premises.”

I asked him how much he earned. He huffed and told me that this was a very serious situation, I asked him again. He shrugged and told me around €800 a month. I asked him if he worked more than 4 hours a month. He huffed again, over 40 per week, “But please, Mr. Mayor this is no time—”

I did the maths, which wasn’t difficult and told him I could do nothing.

Through the open window I heard a walkie-talkie squalk and some unintelligible yelling. Mike the IT guy was tapping at the screen of his phone.

The officers arrived at the entrance in quite a state and proceeded to undertake a full audit of the equipment hanging from their uniforms.

It wasn’t long before a dark-blue coach equipped with meshed windows pulled up at the bus stop opposite and spewed out two dozen helmets and plastic shields. Socrates was going to be livid, fortunately not with me as I had done exactly as instructed but I knew he would be mighty pissed.

They were now ordering themselves into a rank on the pavement ready to take on 4 tonnes of waifs and strays. A Vespa pulled into the narrow street of the town hall plaza and a portly man alighted from a bare-foam saddle. He removed his helmet revealing a rather red face and smiled, not one of the locals, I presumed. Just behind him a herd of cars and mopeds were strewn and their occupants heading towards us. I looked to Mike the IT guy, he shrugged and shook his head, it was Tasos the janitor who answered my unasked query, Twitter, he said. The red-faced man pulled a gas mask and a camera from his bag and turned it on the now advancing heavy brigade snap snap, then disappeared into the building, “How do? Mr. Mayor,” as he passed me. I continued doing as I was told.

police vs pensioners
Police vs Pensioners 3*
One of the paramilitaries pulled a bull horn and addressed the building. The building answered with jeers and some domestic projectiles. The sergeant repeated his demands and was once more answered with jeers, a few domestic projectiles, supplies were obviously short, and a corn field of wrinkled, liver-spotted fists. A half-eaten bread-stick struck one of the helmets sending a spray of crumbs and sesame seeds over his confederates. At the opposite end of its arc was a giggling boy, Despina’s boy, things were taking a desperate turn.

It struck me that if there was any time for the black-shirts to show their solidarity with tha pippel this was it, but they remained conspicuous in their absence.

The ranks advanced and I continued to follow legal instructions, I had no idea then, how that would change.


Images 2* & 3* by kind permission of TeacherDude


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Sunday, 14 September 2014

Episode 17: No Good Deed goes Unpunished


from under dark clouds

From Under Dark Clouds

From Under Dark Clouds

'From Under Dark Clouds...' is a Gonzo fictionalisation of current events in Greece as seen through the eyes of our unnamed hero as he fumbles from paranoia to public office, under the mentorage of the shady Socrates.

Each episode is based on real events. Readers are invited to share their experiences for the Under Dark Clouds treatment. Many have been included in cameo roles, can you spot them?

See link below for contributions


I don’t mind telling you, my dear Blogees, I was feeling fine. The fair lady Mayoress had been so overcome with pride by my selfless benevolence for the good people of this town that she bestowed great and glorious benediction upon my lowly being; twice. And once more before waking the kids for school. I was first into the town hall that morning and as I sat, almost looking forward to Mike the IT guy's coffee, I wore a smile that made my head numb, although that could well have been due to forgetting to remove my helmet.


I drew up an agenda and spent the rest of the day in a series of meetings with all the staff to tell them how fabulously I thought they were doing their jobs. Some had to explain exactly what job they did, which, strangely some were unable to do. But I told them one by one how marvellous I thought they were. None of them returned the compliment but I suppose it can be difficult to applaud your mayor. Don’t worry, they’ll vote.


media circus
Why aren't they taking us seriously
At the end of play, I was eager to get home for some home-cooked fayre and some quality time with the kids, who were, by the way, also awesome. I mounted my trusty Vespa, dismounted then went back into the office to retrieve my helmet; safety first!
What greeted me on the way home could only be described as a media circus. I know it was a circus because as I rolled closer the crowd opened and I felt like the act with the baggy trousers and the collapsing car. Some of the new residents were gathered around the entrance to the new Town hall plaza. Despina’s boy looked scared and was clutching a large club to his chest although on closer inspection it could have been a bread-stick. There were cheers and excitement and reporters. With a shudder, I remembered the last run-in with these vultures but felt resolute in the fact that I was the hero of the day and they were not going to steal my thunder. As the crowd opened I spotted the local priest, stealing my thunder.

Despina had invited him to bless their new home. He was waving bushels and books and each of the residents were receiving lots of symbolism. I parked up and tried to observe from a safe distance.
After the main blessing, he took the forum and began to tell the reporters and the gathered crowd about the extent of my christian charity, by that time he had pulled me close and was referring to me as a vessel of the Orthodox God’s grace. I was unaware that there was an unorthodox God, I always assumed that it was his game and he made the rules; go figure. He continued to praise the faith in God’s great plan for these Christian sons and daughters and that their prayers would always be answered, so long as they stayed true to the chosen path, a fate that could not be expected by those who had strayed from the flock of our lord. I began to feel a little uncomfortable, I don’t mind telling you, dear Bloggees. He began to describe some of the less desirable fates that could be expected by those who had weakness of will and sullied faith. Had he read my file?

dante laughed his head off
Dante laughed his head off
His speech was definitely rousing and caused some stir amongst the crowd, not least with some of the black shirts with the minimalist haircuts who had filtered into the crowd. He drew breath and smiled down at me, who he had released from his hug but continued to hold by the shirt sleeve. Christ! (sorry!), he had heavy hands; the work of the lord must be one hell (sorry, again!) of a workout. I readied myself for my turn, when I undoubtedly would be expected to talk about my most Christian service to the community.
His breath was exhaled with more words; I continued to smile and nod like some comical sidekick. Finally, the forum was mine; his holiness left and so did the crowd.
All that was left was the press but I puffed up my chest for an official address. Meetings, signing stuff and public addresses, it’s what mayors do best! I began to tell the gathered, such as they were, that this was the least that we could do in lieu of the great service provided by the good —. Yes, all the new residents were employees of the town council. Yes, they had all been made homeless, for a variety of reasons. No, they would not have the accommodation deducted from their salaries and I could give no substance to the rumour that they had not been paid by the council in nearly a year.
I made to continue my address— . Yes, I was aware that the property belonged to the previous mayor and yes, he would have to take the credit for this philanthropy.
The crowd dispersed along with my smile and I walked away with the priest, vessel of God’s will, eh? He looked at me with sagely eyes and patted my shoulder. “The lord works in mysterious ways, my son.” He repeated the words very mysterious with a gentle shake of his head and a sympathetic gaze.
I expressed my appreciation for his kind words and that I did feel rather good about what I’d achieved with this place, not pride or anything sinful, of course, just helpful and good, but not righteous, but all things considered that maybe he had been a little strong on the atheists and —.
“Were all those horrid things a metaphor or could I really expect…”
keep calm
Oxymoron?
“You, my son, have done well and have nothing to fear from the wrath of the lord.” I deflated with relief. “But, my child, you are in a world of shit if your predecessor discovers what you are doing with his building.” He smiled, took his heavy hand from my shoulder and left.

Just then my phone rang, it was Socrates. He was furious. He had spent the last two hours with our lawyer. I made a mental calculation of the cost, those bastards are expensive! Maybe he could give us a wholesale rate, considering the amount of work we had given him since my foray into the world of politics. He told me of the calls back and forth to Switzerland and the way our lawyer had physically soiled himself when he discovered who was representing the plaintiff. Then, I finally fell in….

…the ex-mayor had found out I had subleased his property. 






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Friday, 29 August 2014

Episode 16: A place in the sun and a roof over your head



from under dark clouds
From Under Dark Clouds

From Under Dark Clouds

'From Under Dark Clouds...' is a Gonzo fictionalisation of current events in Greece as seen through the eyes of our unnamed hero as he fumbles from paranoia to public office, under the mentorage of the shady Socrates.

Each episode is based on real events. Readers are invited to share their experiences for the Under Dark Clouds treatment. Many have been included in cameo roles, can you spot them?




See link below for contributions

I sat at my desk, willing myself to drink the coffee Mike the IT guy had made me; how it is possible to screw up instant coffee. The grumbling and complaints had emptied from the offices and the town hall had survived another day, barely. I stared at the cold hard truth in front of me willing it to change but like the coffee it remained bitter. Dear Blogees, we were in dire straits and I don’t mean the 80s soft-rock combo.

basement
Home sweet home
What I had found in the basement pained my soul. Camp beds, mattresses and blankets on the floor with suitcases and gym bags for wardrobes. Half of my staff had taken up residence in the town hall. I called a meeting, the second of the day, it’s what mayors do. This time it wasn't round the cobbled tables in the conference room but in the back room of the Symposium taverna. They were cleaning up after the lunchtime service, such that it had been and Kostas, the owner was overjoyed to see such a big group of diners until I told him that this would be his treat. He writhed and wriggled in pain but I pointed out the favours he owed me. He gawped in disbelief. I told him I had averted a visit from the fire service about his safety licence for him, which may have been true.    

There were 12 or 13 of us round the connected tables, most were singles apart from Niki and Alex, a couple in their early 30s who both worked in the offices and Despina, a recently divorced lady who had her 11 year old boy with her. The salads and chips arrived and Despina’s boy dug in greedily.     

Mike, the IT guy had been the first to move into the Town hall Plaza after being evicted by his landlady with 6 months arrears. One by one, I went around the table; evictions, loan foreclosures, bereavement, divorce. Tasos the janitor had followed after some protracted bureaucracy with his pension. “You’ve retired, Tasos?”  He shrugged his shoulders and looked at the floor. “So why do you come in to work every day?”  He mumbled that he had nothing else to do and besides he was with friends. Many around the table averted their gaze and pursed; no, I hadn't thought him a popular man either. The one factor that they all had in common was that the council hadn't paid them properly for almost a year.

“THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS!” I leaped to my feet some moments after the information had been processed, “and who is responsible for this shameful situation?” The table went quiet apart from the slurps and lip smacks of Despina’s son who was still grazing the table clean.

“Well,” began Mike, the IT guy. “That would be the Mayor, Sir, Mr. Mayor.”

I smiled and reached for my mobile. “We’ll get this sorted out in a jiffy!” I called the well-assembled secretary as she always seemed to know the answers.
She took a good time before answering, “Yes, Sir.”

“Listen, we have this huge misunderstanding but it appears that some of the staff haven’t been paid for ages and well,” the line seemed to go quiet and then I heard a conversation in the background. “are you there?” I heard the bleeping of a supermarket checkout. “Are you busy?” She replied that she was at the supermarket. “I’ll call when you’re finished. When will that be?”

“About 9.30, tonight.”

She called me back 20 minutes later and explained that no one had been paid properly, something that she had told me before, but that there were nowhere near the funds to pay everyone, which she had also told me before. How the fuck was I supposed to remember all these details, being the Mayor is tougher than it looks.  But, she would have a look at the books the next day to see what could be done and that she had to get back to her checkout.

drunk again
Just letting the food digest
I slumped in my chair at a loss for what to do. I couldn't pay these people and I couldn't have them living in the basement, or could I? NO, I couldn't. I ordered industrial grade retsina for everyone and drank most of it.

The room was empty and the lights had been dimmed when I woke. Retsina is a sneaky bastard; it slips down like rain water then switches off power at the mains, without any warning. The cleaner, who was just finishing the dishes after evening service, made me a sit-up-and-beg cup of coffee and soon I was out in the night air looking for where I had left the Vespa.

After about 20 minutes I still hadn't found the Vespa but I did bump into an apartment building, and that isn't figuratively, for rent. I remembered it from another trip round the town and I also remembered who owned it. Oh, and I also remembered that my Vespa was parked right outside the town hall.

The next morning I arrived a little late into the office, the offices had already begun to fill with grumble and complaint. Soon I was sat at my desk, willing myself to drink the coffee Mike the IT guy had made me; how it is possible to screw up instant coffee but practice makes perfect and the well-assembled secretary was occupied with something on the PC and far too busy ignoring me.       

When the coffee kicked in I made a sweep of all the offices throwing all the grumblers and complainers out of the front door and locked it. Then, I called a meeting, that’s what mayors do, after all.
We assembled in the lobby.
“ladies and gentlemen, I have a plan." I had expected rapture but what I got was muted groans and shuffling. “When we shut up this afternoon, I want you all to go down to the basement and get your belongings and meet me here.” This caused some confusion. I had forgotten that not everyone was living down there. They were a hard audience and I was visibly floundering, “Trust me.”

I then sent them back off to their offices and opened the doors. As the punters took their grumbles back to the appropriate departments I heard one say, “Well, I didn't fucking vote for him!”

After the days play, all the residents of the Town hall plaza had gathered in the lobby and I entered through the main doors looking a little shabbier than usual but with a huge smile and a clear head. Despina’s boy had returned from school and was the first to approach me, “I'm hungry.” I patted his head and ushered the rest to follow me.

despina's boy
where's the buffet?
We eventually arrived outside the apartment building that belonged to the previous mayor that now wore a huge hand-painted banner greeting ‘Welcome home’. Inside I allocated a room for each of the ex-transients. I flicked a light switch with pride and the room was illuminated, Tasos had hijacked a live power line. Some of the apartments had hot water from solar panels on the roof and Mike had even managed to get Wi-Fi from somewhere. The furniture had been found around the building, left by previously evicted tenants, the rest were futons made from pallets and some clothes racks from a fashion store that had closed down in the high street.


Despina approached with misty eyes and hugged me. Her son said one word, “Souvlaki?”          








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From Under Dark Clouds

The Century of DIY