Wednesday 11 November 2015

Episode 37: Nowhere to Hide

You know me. You followed me around the country. You loved me on the TV when I had you in stitches with jokes about my penis. You followed me in the tabloids, you supported my charitable works. Then you didn't. I don't know why. You just stopped. Now, I have people who love me again. So much that they made me their mayor. This is my new story, From Under Dark Clouds.

Youtube stats have become a bit of an obsession, I must confess, dear Blogees. I tried to find a way to get my account to let me know of any updates but they were too slow so I just check in on a regular basis to find that nothing has changed.

The campaign video is only creeping into triple figures. At least the Greek version, the version in English was doing great for a few days and it’s still ticking over. That said, the kid playing Thunderstruck on his bouzouki has got nearly four thousand views already. Fortunately my name is tagged on the video and the edit even left a few moments of my speech. Well, mostly me shouting THUNDER! Socrates got his number and I think we should have him as a regular. I must admit though, piggybacking interest from a high schooler with an ethnic instrument is a new low for me. Some of my old stand-ups and TV appearances are into the millions and one where I made a US news anchor turn bright red on live TV, nothing to the colours I made her turn later off camera, is getting on for three. But, getting a few thousand locals to watch me promise them a brighter future, albeit dubbed, seems to be beyond me. Maybe my charisma just doesn’t translate.

The family were still sleeping so I indulged myself for a couple of hours with those old videos. Watching the guy in the golf trousers and Punisher t-shirt that used to be me made me a little me-sick. Not for the booze and drugs and fast-food sex, just the me that had something to say to people who understood. I’m telling them I’m a New Greek but I’m getting the feeling that all they want are new cars and new phones. Greeks are better when they’re vintage.

Socrates had me booked for a TV interview later. We were flying down to a studio in Athens, shouldn’t have been too taxing. I flutter my eyes at the hostess, be a bit cheeky and tell them to face up and claim their country back. Simple recipe but it works. It worked pretty well back home until the church got involved. I didn’t get how much people still listen to them.

I got an email from Jude but only had time to skim it. The people back home. Should stop saying that, here is my home now. Anyway, they were divided by my foray into saving Europe’s hardest doneby, divided but interested. He’s coming back to get the inside story, follow me around for a while.

The family were waking up for the school run and Socrates called. I refreshed the Youtube page. Nothing. He gave me the itinerary for the day. I had a two-hour Greek lesson then we were off to the airport. He warned me that this may be a bit of a challenge and to have my wits about me.
In my office, I opened a box of index cards where I wrote my vocabulary for a last minute refresher before the tutor arrived. I’ve been enjoying the lessons and the wife says it shows. The kids still won’t speak to me in Greek.

In the cab down to the airport I vigorously practised hypothetical speech with Socrates. It had been the subject of the lesson and the tutor deemed it an important skill given the task of the day. Socrates answered me in a mixture of hypothetical and definite which confused me a little. Not as much as I confused the cab driver asking him what would happen if we took that road or this.

He pulled to the side and leaned over the seat. “You want me to go this way or that? If we go that way,” he pointed out. “We will not get to the airport and you may not get your flight.” His syntax was textbook. Socrates was smirking behind his fist. “If you were to allow me to get on with my job, we might get you to your destination!”

“Were I to do that, would you be able to get us there on time?” I asked.

“I would have no doubt about it.” He turned and pulled back out into the midday traffic.

“We are definitely getting our money’s worth from the tutor,” Socrates said. “But, if I were you, I would shut up for a while.” I think he was just a little proud of me.

“I was a philologist before I had to start cabbing.” The driver bemoaned. “It would seem that you are getting good instruction.”

I wasn’t sure If he meant Socrates telling me to shut up or my Greek tuition. He enquired where I was from and what I was doing here. He knew of Essex, it used to be a brand of washing powder here, but he had friends who had studied at the university in Colchester. When I told him that I was the mayor of the one-horse town where he picked us up and my political ambitions, he nearly stoved the car into a queue of traffic at a red light. “Yeah, I saw you on Youtube!” At last someone. “Fantastic! It’s about time we had some fresh blood in this political circus. You really showed them.” He turned his attention back to the moving traffic. Socrates nudged me to get into campaign mode. Not that I needed telling. He pulled a left into the final straight to the terminal and I started talking about claiming the country back from the bankers and eurocrats. Greece was a debt colony that had fallen into the role through apathy and malaise. Playing the sympathy card would no longer cut the mustard and we needed to fight back.

“I was at a march only last week…” the driver said.

“If I could stop you there. You can march and chant all you want but unless you have allies up top, in Athens, in Brussels, no one is listened.” The driver corrected my verb use. “You need a new regime, a meritocracy. Get these self-serving politicians out of Athens.”

“So who do we vote for?”

“Vote for me! Tell your friends and family, tell everyone who gets in your cab! If you are still going on marches a year from now, don’t blame me. You saw what I did in my town, you saw the youtube video. Spread the word!”

We arrived at the terminal and the driver helped us with our bags. As we walked away from the cab I turned and wished him happy trails, he raised his fist in the air and cried, “THUNDER!” Maybe he saw the wrong video.

The Palaver of check-in and boarding is longer than the flight from Thessaloniki to Athens and I managed not to get into any conversations. Conversations on planes are so awkward, if they go well, you have to exchange details and go to baggage reclaim together. If they don’t, you have nowhere to hide.

Athens airport is in the middle of a desert, the harsh, bare terrain that surrounds it is a juxtaposition to the heaving metropolis that neighbours it but all that bustle is just a facade over the same scenery. The Parthenon sits aloft a bare rock jutting from the city, alluding to its ancient antecedents as well as the barren landscape that it attempts to conceal.

The taxi dropped us at a concrete box dressed in pollution and peeling paint. Polished marble cladding surrounded the revolving door to the studios and a vagrant slept in the corner to the right, I suppose even tramps get to siesta. I pulled a note from my pocket and slipped it between his cardboard bed and his nicotine-stained beard. I turned just as a camera clicked.

The studio was like any other, dark but blindingly bright. The host, I had expected a woman, introduced himself. I shook his hand and he politely enquired about my journey.

“I hear you’re doing good work up there.” He said in English that he could not have acquired here. I thanked him and he left.

Socrates introduced me to one of the guests, Panayiotis Kara-something, an economist who told me he had studied at Essex.

“Did you attend Essex?” he asked in an overly deliberate English accent.

I told him I hadn’t had much time for academia due to the pressures of the real world.

He hummed and said, “Shame. Fine place.”

The second guest was Manolis Trakas, the government’s finance minister. Another of the Euro-lackys who had Swiss bank account written all over him. I offered him my hand. “Ah! The comedian.” Why was everyone speaking to me in English?

I replied in Greek taking pains to get it just right. “No, sir. I am the Mayor.”

“A mayor,” he corrected.

A girl with an iPad shuffled around inviting us to take our seats for sound and lighting checks. The doors to the studio opened and two broad men in identical bomber jackets and shaved heads bowled in and told everyone to stand. Behind them was a young well-dressed man in sharp suit and a frown. Behind him was another clone of the two in front and two members of studio security at a safe distance. I recognised the young man as Ares, the democratically elected MP from The Golden Dawn.


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Thursday 5 November 2015

Episode 36: A Rousing Speech

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.

I called a meeting with immediate effect. Socrates rolled into the main conference room more than four hours later with the well-assembled secretary in tow. She set a laptop on the table and Mike the IT guy’s face appeared on the screen.

I asked them if they had seen the campaign video. Socrates nodded, the secretary smiled and Mike’s image flickered and jerked like some bearded Max Headroom.

“Mike, for fuck sake. Why are you video conferencing from down the hall. Get down here now!”

The secretary looked to Socrates who shrugged. She offered to make some coffee and disappeared without receiving an answer.

I was nestling the hot cup in my hands before Mike arrived. He gingerly tackled the door and entered with all the fluency of someone unsure of how to deal with a three dimensional world. He stood above a chair and swiped the air above it before Socrates pulled it back for him to sit. His presence carried an air of body odour and burned wiring.

“You OK?” I asked him, he clearly wasn't.

He keystroked the table before answering. “I’m fine, Mr. Mayor.”

I had my doubts but his new aura was beginning to make me regret bringing him down from the server cupboard. Socrates coughed and moved chairs.

“I watched it this morning and I have some issues.”

“I thought it was very nice,” the secretary offered. “You came across very well.”

Came across well? “I was dubbed!”

“You looked nice, though,” she said.

I held her green eyes in mine for the briefest of moments. I did, but! “The point is, have you seen the stats. Hundreds of thousands across the world and barely thirty from here.”

Mike tapped the table, “thirty four… five… six.” His eyes glazed, “Premature exit. Dislike registered. No comment logged.” He shut down but his fingers continued keystroking the table.

Socrates leaned back in his chair. According to him the Internet was no substitute for TV and some good old fashioned campaigning. Hoards of warm voters in a town square with banners, souvlaki and a couple of barrels of local wine. He looked to Mike who to my surprise supported his view.

“Data would indicate the while brands with well-established market awareness are able to leverage social media to gain further traction in sales, emerging brands are 83.28% more likely to increase market share after television exposure. This data indicates world trends as specific Greek data is insufficient and unqualified.”

“See! Banners and souvlaki.” Socrates gloated. “We start this evening. A few warm-ups locally. Got a crowd in especially.”

Mike swiped the table. “Online strategy will reach critical mass in 76 hours.” He stood, wobbled and headed for the door. The face on the laptop screen followed him as he left the room and smirked as he fumbled with the door handle.

“Mike, are you sure you’re OK?” I called after him but it was the Mike on the screen that answered.

“We’re getting there.” Then he was gone, leaving just a bad smell and a screensaver.

Smoke wafted the smell of grilling meat across the stage as the warm-up act played bouzouki-rock and sung of revolution. The barrels of generic white and generic red wine on the make-shift hospitality tables were going down as well as the band. I knew because I was helping. Not with the serving but the consumption; it was the best way to talk to the voters and turn their waves into a tide of change.

My sandwich man was there and I recognised some of the faces from the video shoot. He flitted to the grill and came back with two sticks of souvlaki and offered me one. I took it, still jigging to the beats coming from the band screaming for their lost youth.

“This is called the five hundred euro generation!” The singer announced.

“They’re good!” I swung my head in the direction of the stage.

“Meh! I make the best souvlaki you ever tasted.” The sandwich man replied chewing another piece of meat from the stick.

“No. The band, they’re good!”

He glanced at the stage then back to the bare stick. “I make much better! You will try.”

I’ll never understand souvlaki connoisseurs, I mean after all it’s a national dish that comprises of only two ingredients and one of them is wood.

I felt a warm pressure in my back and a hand on my shoulder. I turned to find the very well-assembled secretary smiling. “You are on in five minutes, Sir.”

I emptied my plastic cup and rested it on the table. Made my apologies to my company, handed him the remainder of my stick-meal and headed for the back stage area.

Socrates was there with my pre-fight rub-down speech. Give them what they want, give it to them nicely and get them on your side. Check? Check!

The singer from the band introduced me as the new Greek with the new vision and began to play AC/DC’s Thunderstruck on his bouzouki. I would have preferred The Smiths How soon is now or something from the KLF but there was no denying the effect it was having on the crowd. I waited in the wings and told Socrates to keep this kid’s number. The crowd were overhead clapping and punching the air in shoddy unison. I walked out took the kid by the shoulder and punched the sky. 

“THUNDER!” I shouted.

The band packed up their instruments and left me to the stage. As the front-man left he turned raised his instrument and shouted in English. “Hey! I saw you on youtube. You’re awesome, man!”

I paced the stage, taking my usual stance of enraged intent. A position of discombobulated exasperation with an electorate who faced with a choice, invariably chose feckless habit over informed volition.

“THUNDER!” I shouted, fisting the sky. “You want THUNDER?” I could hear the bouzouki arpeggio playing in the back of my head.

The crowd cheered.

“So why is it that every time you get to use your vote, you choose rain?” I paced some more. “You want the thunder of Zeus and you vote for an old man with a Swiss bank account!” I was loosing them. “I want to give you Thunder! The power of Zeus back in Athens, where he belongs!” This got a cheer. “I will give you back the country built on YOUR backs and sold to the Germans!” They were watching now and I moved closer to the edge of the tiny stage, to look them all in the eyes. “Because You are the backs of Greece!” I paused. “The backbone of a nation, proud and straight! Your will is the waves than lash the shores and beaches. Your blood, the life of our communities. Your votes the THUNDER that will strike at the heart of Europe.” My attention was momentarily snatched by the barbeque. “YOU are the WOOD in my souvlaki!”

This evoked a forest of sticks waved high in the air. “WE ARE THE WOOD!”

I looked off stage and called for the kid with his bouzouki to come back on. He raced out, plugged in and soon the familiar riff galvanised bared nerves.

“Your vote is the THUNDER! Give it to me and I’ll take it to Europe!”

I hugged the musician who continued playing as I waved my way off the stage.

The secretary was at the narrow exit just behind the curtains. She caught me in her green eyes as I squeezed passed. “Very rousing, Sir.”

Socrates shook my hand and kissed me on both cheeks. “Thunder, eh! Get that on fucking Youtube.”

He had some press for me to talk to waiting in the wings. From behind me I swear I heard a woman’s voice say, “You are the wood in MY souvlaki.”


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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
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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From Under Dark Clouds

The Century of DIY