Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Episode 35: YouTube

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 made me a pariah. 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.



Two cuts of my campaign video had been made, one in Greek, for the electorate, one in English, to leverage foreign public opinion with my considerable celebrity. Both had been put up on YouTube. It began with a montage of stills of me working with the young start-ups at the incubator, talking to the businessmen and women about the new business park and at the Town Hall Towers giving the displaced and dispossessed of the community a new start with a roof over their heads.

The voice over was warmly fluent with the merest hint of a Greek accent, probably similar to how I sound in Greek.

His tireless work as mayor has proved to our community that while he is new to our country, he is a New Greek, a man of conviction and dedication to the home he has adopted as the people of our town have adopted him. He has given hope to young Greek talent, helping them to build a future from their entrepreneurial dreams.

Pictures of me huddled with the kids at the Start-up Shed sessions. I love working with those kids, they truly are the hope of this country’s tomorrow. I did look nurturing.

His support of those who need the helping hand of the community. Greek family and community is the envy of the world and this is something that he fully understands.

I do.

He believes in second chances and so he has begun a programme of commandeering vacant and unused public buildings for the homeless, who have lost their jobs and homes. Where the crippling austerity has forced proud people to their knees. He has given hope.

Some fantastic shots of me with the priest at the opening of the Town hall Towers, helping the residents in with their furniture. My back still reminds me of that day. And a wonderful picture of Despina with her son holding the hugest bread-stick you ever saw.

And the new business park that aims to strengthen the backbone of this country, it’s entrepreneurial community. He aims to reduce bureaucracy so companies can prosper and provide work to the people giving them back their dignity.

The stills became animated with the film of workers arriving at thriving businesses, me mingling with them as they worked merrily at doing whatever they were supposed to be doing. They could have been making dildoes for all I knew, the point was that they were happy and employed. The climax was the scene of me with the old guy at the sandwich shop and him delivering his line, dubbed in English, “This is a town where businesses can do business”.

The voice-over pondering, ”This is a New Greek who dares to dream big, big enough for a nation. We trust him, and so can you!”

I slumped back into my chair with a tear in my eye, I don’t mind telling you. I really had done some good shit. They need me.

I wanted to see what the world was making of it so I began to check the British news sites. First I found a piece in The Cerberus by Jude. He had been away for a while but he was checking in from time to time, first journo I really felt I could trust.

The headline said that I was running for the helm of a failed state. Then he referred to me as ‘disgraced ex-comedian’ cheeky fucker! And I would have stopped there but he did go on to mention my good work and argue the point for celebrities taking public office in this world of media savvy politics. He even asked if this was possibly a very natural development. He noted that politicians rise from all walks of life and why would show business be any less relevant than a builder. He left that question hanging at the end of the piece. Quite pertinent.

I scrolled down to the comments, 134! One said that I had been the victim of the fickle British tabloids and the Greek people, who were more humane, had understood my honest potential. Another questioned my qualification for public office in a foreign country but one of the replies pointed out that my wife was from here, the astute Cerberus readers obviously got me. Then a username OwnGoal74 wrote “CIRCUS CLOWN VIES FOR RINGMASTER’S JOB!”

The Daily Mail had pictures of the wife on the beach in her bikini and asked, “Does this qualify (me) for Greece’s top job?”. I browsed the shots, fuck she looked hot! Right click, save image as…, Desktop > Family photos. I didn’t bother reading, it’s the Daily Mail, the words don’t really count.

CNN had reposted the YouTube video and were pretty supportive of my candidacy. That’s what I love about the Americans, they really admire success.

Bloomberg had blanked me all together but the Twitter-sphere was all over it. Some good, some simply disrespectful. “Funiest thing he ever done!” How can he expect to be taken seriously with grammar like that? OwnGoal74 must have been behind “Can a clown run the circus? #Greece” and some wag who asked if my state limo would have a funny hooter and doors that fall off. I refused to rise to the insults. I replied in thanks to the supportive comments. There are still people back home who believe in me, although they could have been Americans. I typed “Maybe I’ll do the same back home;)” then deleted it, shouldn’t get ahead of myself, yet. I did, however post some pictures of the young entrepreneurs at the incubator and the homeless at the Town Hall Towers project with the caption “#Greece: everyone deserves a second chance”. I liked that and started to add #secondchance to all my tweets. You should do too.

Back on YouTube the comments were gathering but after the first few opinions, which were quite balanced, it all devolved into LOLs and trolling about what each other’s mother would do in Greece. I may have met some of them.

All in all, I think it’s going well. You can’t please everyone but who knows, this politics gig could take me back home by public demand, #secondchance. The video had been viewed nearly a hundred thousand times and I got thousands of little thumbs-ups.

I nipped back into the family photos folder just to check that the pictures of the missus had saved in high enough quality. Nice. Then, I found the campaign video in Greek.

The edit was the same, the same narrator, speaking in his native tongue, the still photos segued into the video but now there were the voices of the workers in the dildo factory. I could be heard saying good-mornings and asking them how they were and what they wanted me to do, carefully dubbed in when my back was to the camera. They’d also dubbed my question to the sandwich guy. Oh well, that’s showbiz. I’d spent all day getting that line nailed. NO, I’m going to make an issue of that! The people need to hear ME! I made a note to contact the production company that day and get my voice reinstated.

What I noticed then fumbled my mental pencil. The comments loading spiral stopped, ALL COMMENTS (0) VIEWS 27.

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Friday, 4 September 2015

Episode 34: It's a Wrap!






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 made me a pariah. 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.





Director's chair
CUT!
The wife had picked up and left the island so quick she had forgotten the kids. She insisted that she hadn't but she definitely had the look of someone who had been patting themselves down to find their wallet. She wouldn't have taken it so seriously but I did have a proven track record of maniacal hubris and the last time she laughed it off, I became mayor. There was no warning, she just stormed into the town hall while I was going through the academics of how, should I agree, I would run for government office.

Now, I really feel that in the spirit of full disclosure, dear Blogees, I should share the profanities that erupted from my fair lady’s mouth as she entered the office but I don’t think It would be fair. You see, I had always thought that her guttural use of our beautiful language is down to the fact that it is not her mother tongue and as such, the words do not have the same resonance that they have with us. However, this theory does not bear scrutiny as she was born and raised in north London. And she curses like Clarkson in Greek. Suffice to say that her volley included three generations and the full extent of both Socrates and my extended families, and my penis.

The well-assembled secretary made no excuses and left quietly.

Once she had calmed to a state of lividity, Socrates tried to engage her in conversation. I, on the other hand, knew better. He went through the arguments that he had used on me, explaining that there are numerous politicians who began in entertainment, especially in America. I will not describe the next part of the conversation as I have a number of American friends and would very much like to keep them. He then pointed out the good work that I have done in the town since I became mayor. The storm began to quell.

I thought at some point I should jump in but they were doing fine on their own. I was tempted to join the secretary.

“He’s a comic, a comedian, he makes—” she looked at me for the first time since arriving, then turned back to Socrates. “Made people laugh!”

“Did he?” Socrates replied.

She went to challenge Socrates memory then paused. “Oh! Yeah, good one!” She chuckled.

Their emphatic use of the past tense was not wasted on me and I was very close to taking offence.

“He speaks Greek like a kindergartner!” she reposted.

I reminded them both that I was still in the room. They ignored me.

“I've arranged private tuition,” Socrates pointed out.

She was calming but her pace had not slowed. She must have spent the whole flight thinking about this and she would have her say, all of it.

“Just tell me one thing,” Socrates managed. “Is he any more stupid than the others who’ll be running?”

So, there I was standing in amongst the collection of abandoned warehouses and sheds that we dare to call a business park with a camera crew and an ironed shirt. The crew were filming everything that moved and if it didn't they kicked it until it did. Workmen hammering and screwing, attaching signs to the bare wall of the empty buildings, even drinking their morning coffee.

A bus arrived and spewed its ramshackle load on the pavement in front of one of the units. One of the crew, who judged by his shouting, must have been quite important went over and arranged them into a line. He shook his head as he assessed them.

“Fuck! Is this the best you could do?” he yelled at anyone who would listen. He singled one out and stood scanning the middle-aged man up and down. “Who the fuck is going to believe he has a job?” A woman sniggered. “You’re laughing?” he spat, she stopped. “Did they find you in a caravan accident?”

Some of the crew were brought in to make up the numbers after the extras were ordered with the most presentable at the front and the most threadbare put back on the bus. Then he paced for a few minutes, giving them some kind of pep-talk. When he finished they all seemed to agree to something in haphazard unison.

The director nudged me in the direction of the crowd. “Go speak to your people. They wouldn't be here if it wasn't for your good work.” He waved his hand around the vacant units and loafing workers. I bowled over and offered a warm good-morning mustn't have heard me so I tried again.

“People, say good-morning to the mayor!” a boom operator called out, jerking his furry stick in my direction. The renta-crowd turned, surrounded me and all pulled out smart phones. After a dozen selfies, individual and groups, one of the crew pulled at my arm and the herd got back on the bus. The director followed them on, waved his arms around a bit then got off. The passengers dipped their attention to their laps and like teenagers in a coffee shop, tapped away at their phones. The bus pulled away. It proceeded fifty metres farther, stopped and everyone got off again, some were still twitching their phones. I wondered if I should go greet them again but one of the crew yanked my arm and my body followed. They positioned me in front of signs and filmed me walking through doors into the empty warehouses. My directions were that I was visiting the successful companies in my new business park to offer support and guidance. I watched as some of the extras were loaded into shiny cars and filmed arriving for work. It felt good to be in the saddle again. You know, the great responsibility that public office demands can suck on your emotional energy. It is refreshing to concentrate on convincingly doing as you’re told.

After getting the exterior shots they bundled me into a car and took me off. After twenty minutes through traffic we had left the town and were on the open road.

“I Should go through my lines,” I told the director who was sitting in the front with his laptop.

“Lines? Yeah sure. Go through your lines.”

I waited a few moments. “Could I have them, then?”

He gave me some stapled sheets of paper full of notes and it took me a while to find my part. By the time we arrived I had it down pat. We pulled into an industrial zone in another part of town where we found some businesses that were actually doing business. They pushed me through a door into one of the factories and the assistant director gave me the thumbs-up.

“You’re on, Mr. Mayor.”

I walked amongst the workers asking what people wanted and agreeing with them, smiling and shaking hands. Then telling them who I am.

“My lines?” I asked the director.

“Soon, Mr. Mayor.” As he bundled me back into the car.

Back in my town we parked in the high street and I recognised the shop I had visited and shared a drink with the proprietor. Of course! He was the businessman in the script. I had memorised my lines but I was sure the dialogue had no need to be scripted, we had drank together after all.

“So why did you chose our town to open your shop?” I asked the man whose smile was as genuine as mine.

He spoke as he had last time about his grandfather and father and the director began making circular motions in front of his mouth. Eventually he delivered his line. “This is a town where businesses can do business.”

The director huffed a huge sigh. “That’s a Wrap!”









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Thursday, 3 September 2015

My Name is David and I am an Addict



My name is David and I'm an addict, it’s been almost no time at all since my last fix.

fugitiveMy habit began in the 90s when I first tried ‘Greece’ (check out the story of my arrival here). I had planned to stay for two weeks as many of you have but I was maybe more vulnerable than most. I stayed for seven months. The pressure at work was getting to me and Greece had all the answers, ‘life’s a beach’. I quickly met a commune of other addicts and we laughed at you. You work like ants all year, eating bake beans on toast in order to enjoy what we had for free. NO, we were getting paid for it. We all had jobs in the tourist industry, serving your souvlaki, thrilling you with jet-ski rides, taking you on tours of culture and ancient history, from the country that gave you civilisation. I was not a user, I had discovered the wisdom that eluded you all.

On my thankfully infrequent trips to sobriety, I was envied. I had taken the life less ordinary, I was mainlining sun and Britons crave sun. I wore shorts out of necessity and had a collection of sunglasses that I needed, daily. My mode of transport was a Vespa and if I owned a helmet, I couldn't tell you where it was. My diet was the fresh aromatic fare that Jamie Oliver thought was ‘pukka!’.

I later met the woman who became my wife and we decided that we should grow up and shoulder the life of reality. We decamped and moved to England to resume careers and begin a family business that would give us access to the comforts of modern life while still being able to afford an annual ticket to Europe’s theme park of hedonism. This lasted four years. A few short weeks in the summer were not enough and I, not my Greek wife decided to return to a life less pragmatic.

I now ‘own’ a house that is worth a half of what I borrowed to buy it and my euros are worth a fraction of the pounds I brought here. I fear that even this will be a small fortune compared to the Drachmas that may soon line my pockets.

I have taken a number of initiatives to maintain my habit but my Greek, while respectable for a foreigner is still only elementary school level and my children cringe when I use it with them. My options have shrunk but like boiling a frog I resist the discomfort preferring instead to cling to my life in the pages of national geographic on my mountain top home. And every day I hear of another Greek friend or friend’s friend who has gone. Most of my wedding guests are now in Sweden, Germany, the US or London to take my place.

This summer I took my family ‘cold-turkey’ in the UK for a month. We were greeted by rain and a wind that threatened to peel our tans. Cameras hung over every road and there were few to speak to after 10pm. The airfare was cheaper than a bus ride but our funds didn’t go far. The shops were throwing things out the door but after exchanging our diminished Euros we had enough to see a castle or two and restock our wardrobes from a charity shop and boot sales.

With my sun-tinted glasses off, I saw how far we had fallen.

Back home, back in the crack-house, we went to stay a few days at a friend’s summerhouse. We were once more in sympathetic company. After the midday heat we headed to the beach. From the balmy, crystalline sea we watched the sun set over a jagged horizon and I pondered...

sunset on Greek beach
Is this life?
Have I discovered true wisdom or am I just another crack head?


UPDATE 2016: Just got back from a Grand Tour of Europe to find that Greece is now facing a Malaria epidemic, one of the hospitals now refusing to take blood donations is just down the road from us in the area where my kids go to school. Christ! it don't get any easier, does it? 

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Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Why You Shouldn't Use Scrivener to Compile your eBook


Scrivener is a powerful writing tool. It feels like pro equipment, it helps organise, save and protect my writing in a way that MS Word never did. But when I compiled my first ebook and I discovered that it is a tool that can fool you into believing it will take up more of your slack than it can.

I have read extensively on compiling eBooks and despite what I read I was convinced that scrivener could do the job well enough.

I read David Gaughran’s Let’s get digital, which is a fantastic book for anyone wanting to get their work out there. In one chapter he goes into compiling and formatting for e-publishing. He looks to Guido Henkel as the definitive master of formatting and I read his guide with starry eyes. Basically, eBooks are HTML and I've done quite a bit of that with my sites and blogs but still did’t feel fluent enough, so I got seduced by the plethora of articles on compiling the easy way with scrivener.

Once I’d got around the settings in the program I compiled and marvelled at the result. Maybe David and Guido were being a little too fastidious? Then I noticed some ticks in the indents and fonts. I went back to scrivener and rectified them, super! Then, I tried to tidy up the contents page, which I was less than happy with. As the day progressed, I compiled, recompiled and again. Because my chapters are blog posts, I wanted them to have the date at the top before the title. Eventually I managed to enter these manually. Great! By the end of the day I had an epub and mobi file and began testing.

The epub went quite well on my andoid phone playbooks (my favourite eBook reader), iPad iBooks and the kindle app. Then I put it into the kindle previewer on my laptop… a whole day down the drain! The contents were still wrong, the spacing was inconsistent and then the final blow. I put it on 'night mode' on my android playbooks, something that I use quite a lot, and entire paragraphs disappeared.

I went back to Guido and read again. I downloaded Calibre and jEdit (they are both free and highly recommended). First, I opened the epub file in jEdit and then I had a drink, it was very intimidating. Not just because it simply shows the code but as I later discovered, Scrivener had put so much extraneous code that I could not see my words for the code. Then I opened it in calibre which was a little more intuitive, it puts the code and text side by side so you can see what each change does. What I discovered is what scrivener does with the file. It has style sheets named ‘scrivener 1,2,3’ and so on and you cannot see what each of them does. I managed to make enough sense of them to rectify the problems that but all the while my deadlines were passing.

I slowly realised to my consternation that I should have listened to David and Guido and not followed every link to ‘easy’ ebook formatting with Scrivener or MS Word. The point that Guido makes is that unlike a web site or blog where you want as much control over your formatting as you possible, in order to render you pages and articles exactly as you want them, with ebooks you need to relinquish that control. Ebook readers and apps have a plethora of different screen sizes and resolutions. They have different default fonts and line spacings, different modes and colour settings and when you try to impose your will on them through HTML code there is no telling how a device will interpret that code. You only need a handful of readers to have a difficult experience with your book and you’ve lost them and everyone they may have spoken to.

I’m not going to add a howto here, it would simply add to the noise. I will, however link to people who you really should listen to. I’m not saying that there aren’t some very good tutorials out there giving reliable advice on how to get the job done well, what I will say is that they are all very reliant on the fact that your copy is consistently formatted and that you haven’t used a different method to indent your paragraphs or space your lines or that the program you are using is using code that all ebook readers will interpret in the same way.

When you SUBSCRIBE I will send you a copy of my book and you can look for yourself. Does it render well? Is it easy on the eye? I guarantee that someone will find some glitch somewhere and if you do I will send you the whole series as it goes up on Amazon, coded the ‘GUIDO’ way, of course!

This is a short list and I strongly recommend reading it in this order.

The Creative Penn: This will get you in the right frame of mind to think ahead and save so much work in the future.

David Gaughran: David doesn't mince his words and for good reason.

Guido Henkel: Formatting guru. He obviously has passion for his art but the word Laconic is not in his lexicon, so persevere, you won't regret it!

I hope my mistakes will benefit you and save you the time I wasted. Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch, today, you dine on me!



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Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Episode 33: Jonesing

From Under Dark Clouds: The story of a burnt-out British celebrity who, after scandal and disgrace runs away to a little village in Greece to seek asylum and get his head together. All he needs to do is keep his head down until the clouds blow over and on no account get elected!


Jonesing for a Podium
I’ve been feeling a bit of a spare part lately and Socrates suggested I take some time off. The wife and kids are sunning themselves on one of the Greek islands while I have been kept very much in the dark here. Now that he has shed some light on the situation, I want to go more than I’ve ever wanted to go. More than I had wanted to come here in the first place. My legs are already running but I can’t move.




I’m no stranger to attention, my previous career put me on a stage, in front of cameras and on front pages. When you learn the art of stand-up, the hardest part is the standing part. Audiences can be vicious; they demand you make them laugh or die trying. People always look to others for their happiness and my job was being one of those others. If you don’t give it to them, they will bring you down until they can dance on you. Now I am in politics but the same rules apply. Politics is like a groupie-shag, they expect to be fucked by a god then wake up to a man with bad breath.

One call from Athens has changed everything. The word is that the gods of government have had their breath smelt and the time is right for a vote of no confidence. When they lose, and they will, there will be elections and Socrates has been grooming me for a big seat. No more plodding around the Town Hall, we are going to stand for the top job and I can’t think of a single punchline. Maybe because I am the punchline.

“For Chrissake, Socrates! I’m not even Greek,” I thought this might be the right time to remind him.

“So. Rehhagel wasn’t either, when we won the European cup!”

“That was football and he was German!”

“This is politics and you are English.” He leaned back in my chair, behind my desk. “We like the English. We give gold sovereigns at weddings and bought nearly as much of London as the Russians!”

Aris walked into the room, touched me on the shoulder then withdrew when he realised the gravitas of the conversation.

“I’m a fucking comedian, Socrates!”

“Reagan was an actor.” He pondered, “He wasn’t very good, either.”

“Listen, Mr. Socrates, if he doesn’t want to do it.” He stepped into the space between me and my desk. “There may be other options.”

“Fuck off, Aris! You stick to your egg farm,” Socrates spat.
Fuck! Was no one taking this seriously?

I scooped my Vespa keys from the desk and left the office. Before I closed the door behind me, the well-assembled secretary caught my eye and pursed a smile. I reciprocated.

I truly intended to buy as much booze as I could carry and drink myself into another timezone, a time when this had all become irrelevant. When all the decisions had been made and I was no longer part of them. Trust me, I can do it. There are few things I can do well but that is top of my list. Maybe I should have called Dr. Alex but I couldn’t tell him about this, not until the news breaks. I wanted my wife.

I woke up in the middle of the night with a head full of broken glass. The empty bottle still in my hand. One bottle? I was getting soft. I could have seen the state I was in by the light of the open fridge but I was back in my body and it didn’t fit so well. Milk, Juice, coffee? I couldn’t decide each had their own healing properties. One of these days I’ll make a fortune selling orange milk with caffeine for suffering drunks. But I was still jonesing so I poured a scotch over a fist of ice and went onto the veranda to smoke. It took me ten minutes to roll the first and by that time the scotch was gone. I couldn’t have one without the other so went back in to splash the ice with a little more.

The sun rose red over the mountain or was that just my eyes. Pretty soon the glass had softened and I made a pot of coffee.

I passed the time reading some drivel on the Internet, some of it these very same blog entries. I’ve come a long way, haven’t I? Now I am on the verge of something meaningful, maybe even great and I crapped myself. I really am a hopeless sack of shit!

I started reading about the situation in this country from some of the news channels, I even read a whole bunch by Jude. He knew his shit. Then I moved to some of the financials, got my card and paid a subscription to the FT. I actually understood some of it. The currency indexes, the GDPs and budget deficits, the macros the micros, the balance of payments.

Looking at my watch, I judged it a good time to call the wife. I went for a shit, shave and hair-wash, I even brushed my teeth and put on some clean clothes.

Sitting at my laptop I hit the video-call button. She was sitting there in her bikini drinking her morning frappé. Christ, she looked good! I hadn’t seen her for a few days and already she looked like the only girl in the bar I wanted to talk to again. We exchanged goodmornings and how-are-yous. She teased me that a young guy had chatted her up on the beach yesterday and I wasn’t surprised if it was true. The boys ran past the camera shouting “Hello Daddy!” I think it’s been a month since I saw them awake.

She said I looked tired and I told her that was only the half of it. I needed to talk to her but I was loathed to break the moment. Funny, the closest we’ve been in months and it was via webcam.

“Listen,” I began. “You know how this place is going down the tubes?”

“Been going since I was a little girl and then some.” She was still smiling.

“Well, it’s coming to a head,” I said. “As far as politics is—”

She laughed out loud, out loud for Christ’s sake. I didn’t want to kill this moment. “They elected you, you dumbass! You are a symptom of how screwed this country is.” I was actually hurt and it must’ve shown because she retracted, “I know you’ve tried hard, sweetheart. But you are a fucking comedian and not a ve—”

“A guy in Athens says they are moving for a vote of no confidence, this means—”

“I know what it means!” she said.

“Of course. Well, that means that there’ll be elections soon, general elections. Like for the government and Prime Minister and—” There was no and but I didn’t want to stop talking. Her tension was creating a very nice cleavage. “Well, Socrates would like us. Well, me but us to go for it. Like to stand for—” Her cleavage was looking so good but I daren’t look any higher.”

The view from her camera toppled to show a stippled white ceiling.

“Christ! You dip-shit, fucking moron! I knew I shouldn’t have left you home alone!”




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Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Episode 32: Mushroom


From Under Dark Clouds: The story of a burnt-out British celebrity who, after scandal and disgrace runs away to a little village in Greece to seek asylum and get his head together. All he needs to do is keep his head down until the clouds blow over and on no account get elected!




startup mushroom
Athens had nixed our plans for a business park. We had strict cease and desist orders from central government to engage in any business development. I asked them about the incubator programme but they only laughed and reiterated any business development. Those narrow minded bastards, did they have no idea of the wave of entrepreneurial activity that would build the brighter tomorrow for our youth?

Socrates seemed unperturbed. The town hall had become a hive of excitement, new faces were coming and going and I was in danger of losing touch. I was more than in danger. I had bumped into Aris from the Startup Shed a number of times but he appeared distracted and disinclined to conversation, his knapsack bobbing on his back as he scurried off, late for an important date. Even Mike the IT guy was spending so much time in his cyber-cupboard that I feared he’d uploaded himself like some activist Lawnmower man. Actually, that would have been no surprise at all.

I tried to enjoy sitting at my new desk but but it really is hard to relax when everyone is so damn busy. Socrates and Aris had taken all the proposals for the business park.

The only advantage is that I now have more time to write to you, my dear Blogees, but I fear I have little to share.

Finally, the day came for my weekly debriefing with the Startup Shed crew and my chance to get some answers. I walked to the conference room with Socrates who was characteristically tight lipped.

“How’s the wife?” Now all my fears were confirmed, there was something going on.

I told him they’d gone to an island with some cousins or something. He continued to study the floor and suggested that I join them.

“It’s been hard on you, I think you need a break.”

It’s true, the last time I’d been away it was at the state’s pleasure and the facilities had left much to be desired.

I was sure I’d spotted one of the girls from the Pitch and Putt, the multi-lingual personal porn service, disappear into one of the back offices. I asked Socrates if I was right.

“Which island did they go to?” was his reply.

My fat doppelganger was the first to arrive. He threw his bag on the table, slumped into a chair and started asking me about the bailout programme and whether I thought Greece should leave the single currency but fortunately Aris arrived before I had time to attempt an answer.

The incubator was going well, we could expect the teams to be ready for round-one funding in around eight weeks. They had all completed first drafts of their business plans and next week they would begin work on their MVPs, a prototype or mock-up of their product.

I asked where we could expect to get the financing.

Aris went into overdrive about VCs, Angels and crowdfunding, I actually understood most of it but maybe he should have been at last weeks meeting with the applicants for the business park, could they have missed this plethora of opportunities out there?

Danny had been working on the social media pull. He showed me some very clever images featuring eggs and Lego.

“Birth and building.” He bobbed with excitement. “Get it?”

I did but, with the possible exception of Danny, these were smart people. We are trying to build more than toys and omelettes.

“We need as much exposure as possible in order to get traction and engagement with the investment community, not just here but world wide. Its a numbers game.” He Bobbed, “Get it?”

I did.

“Where is that English reporter with the girls name?” Socrates asked.

“It’s not a girls name, Jude is a patron saint!” I defended.

“Saint of what? Girlie boys.” Socrates was being very narky.

Jude is the Patron Saint of lost causes.” I wished I’d thought before speaking. “He’s down in Athens doing a piece on endemic cronyism in Greek politics.”

Aris said we should have told him, his cousin works in the parliament building and could have got him in.

Socrates poked his chest, “Let me know if he needs anything.”

Danny just shrugged.

I wanted to know about the activity in the town hall, something is going on. Socrates told me that since Athens had given us a cease and desist order, applications had doubled. But we had to scrap the whole plan? Aris shrugged and grinned.

“They can’t stop businesses moving here if they want to,” Danny said.

I felt like a mushroom, I was being kept in the dark on a diet of bullshit. I left the meeting in a huff and went down to the garage to take my Vespa for a ride and do some thinking.

The high street was bustling with shoppers, the cafes were full but most discombobulating were the previously boarded-up shops, once more open for business. A sandwich bar, a tool hire shop, and even a pet store had opened where once were closing-down and bankrupt signs.

I was determined to get some answers from somewhere so I pulled up outside one of the new sandwich bars and went in. The proprietor sent one of the girls to set me a table while greeting me warmly.

“Sit down, Mr. Mayor. What can we get you?” The store was not yet fully operational and stock laid around in boxes. “I can do you a nice frappuccino. Sweet or medium? No, no! I bring you some nice rakomelo, from my cousin in Crete. You know rakomelo?”

I sat down. It had been some time since someone was so pleased to see me and I really could do with a drink. Rakomelo is like hundred octane unleaded, with honey.

The owner sat with me, sending the staff on errands to bring me mezes and ashtrays and water and cushions. We toasted new beginnings and prosperity. He told me about the thirty years he had been in this business, man and boy. He told me about how the sandwich was invented in ancient Greece. He told me about his father’s shop and he told me and he told me but I couldn't get any answers from him.

Eventually, I got a question in that he could answer, “Why was he here, in my town?”

“Because of your generosity, Mr. Mayor. Because you not like those others!” He feigned spitting on the ground. “You are English, yes? Good people!” He ushered one of the staff over and handed her his phone with instructions to take our picture. “I’ll put it on the wall, by the register. You will bring luck!”

It was only after cautiously riding back to the town hall that I realised that I had left my helmet at the sandwich bar. I weaved my way back to my office where I found Socrates at my desk.

“Listen, old man! I know you’re up to something and I want answers. I've just been down the high street and—”

The phone rang. My secretary answered and announced that it was a Mr. Something from Athens. I smiled and went to take the phone. “It’s for Mr. Socrates.”

He had already lifted the receiver and was greeting the caller. Then a tense pause. “Fuck! Not now, not yet!—” He lowered the phone and huffed. “Get them to hold off—” I looked to the well-assembled secretary but she shrugged. Socrates looked me up and down. “But we are nowhere near ready!” He slammed the phone down and deflated before my eyes.

"Not ready?" I asked, "Not ready for what?"


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Thursday, 9 July 2015

The 3 Rs - Reading, Writing and Running


I previously wrote about what it takes to be a professional writer. Now I’d like to talk about how it feels. What follows is a metaphor, a big one but I think it will make sense to many of you.


I read, I write and I run. Running is something that I began some years ago and now it is an integral part of my life. Before I started running, I always said that I wouldn't even run for the bus, which is a metaphor on its own, but very true.

[METAPHOR]
TRAIL RUNNING
22k of Blair Witch Horror















Running is hard, the hardest part of running, irrespective of distance is before I start. Making that decision to finish my coffee, stop reading and slip into my sweats is the tough part. There are always so many reasons not to, an article relevant to what I’m writing, the wife needing an ear to bend, social media, the rain. There are so many reasons not to and only ever one to do it.

But once I’m out the door it doesn't get any easier. Any of you who run distances will know, the first 2k is the worst. It’s when your body is truly awakening and your lungs resist the effort, colluding with your mind to find credible arguments for turning back and trying again later.

Once you've found your stride it does get decidedly easier, one step leads to another and the miles begin to flow (yes, I know I mix my metric and imperial distances, I’m British! Another metaphor, maybe?) After around 4k continuing becomes easier than stopping.

Now a personal message; I run trail. It makes running much more difficult, my routes take me into the mountain where I live, up steep loose tracks where six-minute kms are hard to achieve, fording streams, climbing rocks, risking sprains and wild animals. But that is how I like it. I find peace in the mountain, far from the madding crowd and traffic. The same goes for my writing; I don’t do romance or vampires. I do satire and sometimes it’s cold and sometimes so hot my sweat glands begin to pant. The challenge does not abate, each corner brings a call to push harder and I try to tell myself that at the brow of the next hill is a rolling decline. But as any trail runner will point out running downhill can be a s perilous as a climb, the impact on joints and the concentration to stay upright is exhausting.

If masochism is your game forget 50 shades of Grey, you can add another factor to trail running;
BAREFOOT RUNNING
Barefoot running;
Brains and feet in harmony
barefoot. I began running (metaphor alert!) in cheap supermarket shoes. They had thin soles and I felt every stone and crevice, my nipple also get very sore (nothing to do with the metaphor but I had to tell someone) as a result I learned to use my foot to absorb the impact then I discovered that this was an entire philosophy; barefoot and minimalist running. I spent a bit of money on a pair of barefoot shoes (yes, an oxymoron) but they are like your most comfy socks with a little protection from the harshest surfaces. Many runners swear by shoes that do all the work, impact absorption, arch support and traction so that their feet become passive and, in my view, lazy.

Running has taught me so much about perseverance, setting and achieving goals and focusing on the brow of the hill. The euphoria I feel when I've pulled off a half marathon off-road or cut my time down is unbeatable.

[/METAPHOR]

We love writing but sometimes it doesn’t love us back, get used to it and take what you can from the experience. You may never earn a living from it or win any competitions but taking part is the only way to be sure of that.



Be sure to share and comment below or maybe you have your own writer's metaphor.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Shadows Fall -A Tag Blog- Part 06


This is a Tag blog story. So far five writers have contributed, each with their own style and slant and if you think you are up to it the next could be YOU!

See details at the end of this episode.



Interrogation
The door buzzed and George waved me over. “You expecting anyone?” We both looked at the two figures on the little black and white screen.

I told him not to be so paranoid but I suppose the bandage on his chest gave him reason to be cautious. Things had been more than spooky since Crete. I heard the buzzer in the office upstairs and the door opened.

“See!” I was standing by the door while he ransacked the drawers, looking for the gun he had hidden there but as the footsteps passed our door and carried on, I found myself holding my breath deep in my stomach against the pounding in my ears. I guessed at two sets of footsteps, one a little lighter on the concrete floor. My chest tight for a lung-full of air but I didn’t give in to their demands.

I cracked opened the door and gulped at the stale air of the hallway when the steps reached the next floor and peeped through the crack. But before I could snatch another breath, the door swung open and a silhouetted figure swiped the butt of a gun across the side of my head and my vision became a starry sky.

I fell through the doorway into a hard room before the heavy door closed behind me.

“Where is George, where is my brother?” The door slammed shut.

The musty smell of grapes intimated the prior use of the space but there was no spirit here anymore, fermented or otherwise.

What did they want from us, why were we here and what would happen next but as the shadows lengthened across the floor I gave in to the fatigue and my eyelids drooped.

More silhouettes in doorways and curt voices shouting instructions I couldn’t understand. Was it German? Yes, I managed to pick out some familiar words. I hadn’t bothered with languages at school, Christ! I’m British, I was born with the key to the door. I went to raise myself but one of the hands pushed me back down and grabbed my ankles. My body swept a line in the dusty floor for about twenty feet until they lifted me into a chair, tied a leg to each of the front legs and bound me with coarse rope, not the type they make rope bridges from, no, this was the kind used to tie a noose.

They began yelling at me but I had no answers and no way to communicate if I’d wanted to. My hands were tied and my tongue was lacking. Then the acrid blows began to swing across my face, like a metronome of hurt. My face! I was no Clooney but could they not make worse of a bad job. The second man stepped forward to relieve the first, I was tiring them. He recoiled with his first blow shaking his fingers, I smiled, my face a Chinese dragon mask of pain, my teeth outlined in blood. How much of your own blood can you swallow before losing consciousness, I was sure I’d find out soon enough. He renewed his vigour but he had none of the first man’s stamina and soon he stood back panting. The first man stepped back out of the shadows holding a length of rope with a tennis-ball sized knot at the end. They laughed between themselves as he mimed swinging it deep under the seatless chair. I wanted to grit my teeth and retain my countenance but this was not that kind of book and I was not that kind of hero. I was ready to talk, I was ready to answer, I was not ready for the rope.

“Enough!” I spat. “Where is my brother!”

The rope swung, I sucked hard and the knot hit my left buttock hard but a mercy. It swung again, I sucked hard swallowing another gulp of blood. Right cheek. The men laughed again, were they fucking with me? The rope swung again. No mercy. This time I couldn’t swallow, the gulp of blood splattered a Rorschach on his white t-shirt.

“Wine should get that out,” I offered looking around. I was right, empty racks lined the cracked plastered walls.

The rope swung, the door creaked on its hinges. I thought I saw a Tommy with a sten gun step in to save me. As my eyes regained focus what stood over me now was just as unlikely, an officer of the SS, his black uniform darker than the shadows, darker than the gaps in my vision. He should not have been here, he was in the wrong movie.

“I don’t know what you want but I’ll tell you whatever I know.” This guy had the power to make this stop. “Just tell me about my brother.”

He looked everything the German nightmare of history lessons and matinee movies until he spoke. “Of course you will, old boy.” His accent was perfect RP.

He stood back while he removed his leather gloves and the rope swung. Bullseye!

“I don’t need you to talk, old bean. I need you to suffer.”

“Job done! Can we go home now?” I managed in short, sharp breaths.

He whipped the glove across my face. This was the product of some English public school and he was some bitter fag.

“You are an admirable race, you British. The Fuhrer was an avid fan. Did you know that?” He paced before me while the other two waited for their cue to continue. “You have been splendid adversaries but really only ever putting off the inevitable. We, on the other hand, have been patient.” He caught the eye of one of the technicians and nodded.

Christ! They were getting better.

“Now the professor is close to completion and the endgame begins. I am quite sure you would have appreciated it if—” he made for the door.

“George! My brother?”

“Oh,” he stopped by the door. “What were you doing in the cemetery?”

I was more than willing to answer but he cut me off. “You brother failed to tell us before he…”


Read all the episodes from the beginning 01 02 03 04 05

Participation instructions

Anyone who thinks they have what it takes to carry this story through the next part, simply comment below. First person to comment that they would like to continue the story, has ONE WEEK to post the next part to their own blog.

Place this message at the end of your completed blog entry, and wait for someone to accept the challenge of taking this story on as you did. Once the next post is in place on your blog page, post another comment below, with link, to let me know and I will re-post my part with that link to your next part of the story. If someone has already offered to take the story from here, please feel free to leave a comment saying you would like to play too, and should we run out of volunteers we can go back and beg you to take over where the chain ends. Thank you and we shall be interested to see where you take it.

From Under Dark Clouds

The Century of DIY