Thursday, 1 December 2016

Pompous Public Figures & Satirical Magazines - by Patrick Brigham

The Satyr has lived amongst us journalists and writers for many years. Our way of debunking pompous political asses - those prone to mutual admiration, or self aggrandizement - seemed to gather strength during the 19th Century, when the very first satirical magazines appeared on the newsstands in middle Europe, and Great Britain.

Regarded as thoroughly sacrilegious, during the reign of Queen Victoria, Punch gave birth to a tradition of political lampooning and humour, which had previously been demonised by the great and good.

These days there are TV cameras in parliament – in whichever country you may choose to live– but in Victorian times, speeches were exclusively recorded by The Times, court circulars, and of course in Hansard. Whatever the great unwashed and exploited working classes may have believed in at the time, was another thing, but in those days their opinions were rarely sought and generally ignored. Punch Magazine brought much of the political theatre onto the British breakfast table, and for many years - apart from comic books - it was the only readable satirical magazine readily available. However, in the nineteen sixties came Private Eye, Richard Ingrams, William Rushton, and the inimitable Peter Cook.

Their way of debunking the political elite and the self proclaimed guru’s of the day, was to laugh at them. If people threatened to sue them for their troubles, they would simply give them a cartoon name, and continue to mercilessly lampoon them. That is until the editors of Private Eye found themselves standing in the dock in the High Court, and on their way to prison. But as the political strictures of the time began to wane, we started to see very rich people prepared to pay the fines imposed by the courts, and very posh lawyers, to defend their activities. In fact very few people were safe from Private Eye, or from Punch Magazine, including Margaret Thatcher and even Ronald Reagan!

When Richard Ingram became too old for Private Eye, he handed the editorial mantle over to Ian Hislop - who is still at the helm - and started the magazine which many of us older readers enjoy, The Oldie Magazine.

Here, paedophile Jimmy Saville is portrayed as The Pied Piper of Hamlin.

A much more sophisticated monthly magazine, it has over the years attracted most of the top British writers and journalists into its ranks, many of whom are regarded as national treasures.

And then came Charlie Hebdo. Famous for attracting the attention of ISIS and the unfortunate results, this has now become Europs number one satirical magazine, and the scourge of nationalism and bigotry everywhere.

In the new German edition of this magazine, Angela Merkel is depicted as a somewhat tired and complacent politico - in need of a few repairs and political reinvention - who represents a Germany in need of change.

However, the change may well be within the ranks of Charlie Hebdo itself, and its many anarchic writers and cartoonists. Because, whatever it was once famous for may have been lost in the clouds of debris and dust - caused by an attack on its Paris premises - by a certain dwindling caliphate.

To see the strength and purpose, of a heroic magazine like Charlie Hebdo, turning into mainstream satire is, is for me at least, a step in the wrong direction, and maybe the first sign of a general change in EU thinking.

From social inclusion, to apparent nationalism, I can now smell the unpleasant odour of an upcoming French and German election. But, what is happening in Europe, and has it stopped being funny?

The two French gnomes – Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande – look like history to me, and short of a miracle, I don’t quite see Maree Le Pen as the new French President, which leaves Francois Fillon. Likewise, it is hard to see any up and coming contenders for the post as German Chancellor, able to dislodge Angela Merkel, and so it might be more of the same. So, where does that leave the satirists, humourists and the cartoonists of yore?


I think that politics has become so grey and insipid – lost and inward looking – that, they must have found it all a bit depressing and practically given up. But wait a moment; I think I might have a bright idea, and something to cheer you all up for Christmas!


Sunday, 13 November 2016

>Greece on the Internet by Patrick Brigham

It is not a language difficulty nor is it an inability for me to comfortably use the internet – after all I am a writer and a Journalist – but for many Greeks, the idea of being online appears to be unnaturally abhorrent. To me, Greek attitudes towards life on the web, is akin to some aging aunt from Middle England switching off her cell phone when she gets home. Can you remember how annoying that was? I can.

This year, there has been a great improvement in Greece, and I can now pay all my bills online. Unknown to most, including many of the office staff working in the enlightened company’s which offer this service, perhaps it is an ageist thing? After all; according to local standards, I am well past it, and should not bother my poor dithering brain about such complicated things as computers. But whilst others stick to the heady subject of horticulture, I write books, and play hard in the world of the internet.

All roads lead to Athens, as the paraphrase goes, but they often stop there too. In a country which seems to get almost anything and everything by courier; where the well known mantra - ‘I will have to order it from Athens’ - seems to punctuate each response to even the mildest unorthodox request, you might think that buying your goods on the internet, for delivery next day, is a brilliant idea!

Perhaps people have simply got used to the standard shopkeepers droll reply, ‘that it will be here in the morning,’ followed by the usual trudge back to the shop the following day, only to be told to come back tomorrow..
Oddly enough, the deals available by Forthnet and OTE – the main IT service providers in Greece – are very good. Even from my little northern Greek village, I have no complaints about the 4G service – five G on offer shortly – a deal which includes TV, and a virtually free landline. Although, that maybe one of the problems?

The Greeks, with their inclination to chatter on forever, and to frequently repeat themselves into the bargain, might find their elongated streams of consciousness, far more satisfying than clicking away on a laptop. The trouble is, that they tend to do this on their mobile phones as well, which - from my own experience - costs an arm and a leg.

So, it all happens in Athens, and – subject to availability – it is safe to buy things from established businesses and traders, as long as you are careful with your banking information. The Greek banks, whilst enjoying a few years of doubt, despondency and depression, have nevertheless improved their banking services, and recently The Bank of Piraeus has adopted an internet programme, which anyone should be able to operate online, which is fast and helpful. But what happens if you cannot use a computer?

Well, the other day I needed, for some annoying reason, to go to my local branch of the said same bank, to be confronted by such a crowd of people, I thought that the building had been evacuated, due to some life threatening emergency. But no, it was a crowd of crumblies, priests, farmers and pensioners, all trying to deal with a rather knackered ticket numbering machine, followed by a wait of two hours!

Of course, there were many claims for special treatment – especially by the priests – and everyone quickly became angry and extremely twitchy, including me. So – for that alone - I think I have made quite a good case for the internet, but what about the banks themselves? And, why are they so overcrowded and dysfunctional?

As a part of the Greek banking crisis, many banks were amalgamated, although remarkably, very few have actually been shut down locally. So, whilst there was a shortage of cash, there was also a surfeit of employees. Those employees who remained were then distributed amongst the active branches and the rest were let go. But which ones were let go, and which ones now remain? Not all the good ones, that's for sure, I can attest to that!

There is another side to the rather neglected Greek internet though, and that relates to news media, and publishing in general. Now that news media from around the world can be seen virtually anywhere online, it has only recently been the case in Greece, but not to any great extent. I am referring, of course, to newspapers printed in English or other European languages. We all know how difficult it is , for us laymen at least, to fully understand the Greek language, but - unlike most other EU countries - there are few choices to inform or entertain readers on the ‘World Wide Web’ in Greece. Greece has very reliable standby’s like Kathimerini, or the Athens News Agency, but as to the real happenings in Greece and the Greek Parliament, this very often remains a mystery to most foreigners.

I have always said that Greece – certainly up until the financial crisis finally exploded on the world scene – was a secret society. Byzantine to the point of exasperation, ten years ago, and as a then recent arrival, Greece seemed to be populated by underemployed and overpaid citizens, steeped in nepotism and corruption, who – in comparison to the rest of Europe - were as much use as a chocolate teapot. But since this crisis, much of this has gradually changed.

But not in the case of computer familiarity or use, and Greece remains well behind its next door neighbours of Bulgaria and Romania in this respect. And Turkish computers? Well, aren’t most of them presently in Police custody?


Friday, 28 October 2016

The Invisible President – by Patrick Brigham

Mr. Harold Throdes

Recently listening to an interesting podcast discussion, by Clive Leviev Sawyer and Lance Nelson - concerning the forthcoming Bulgarian presidential election - I chanced upon a newspaper interview in the Daily Sleaze, a Bulgarian underground yellow press weekly. It was with a jobbing actor, who had recently arrived in the capital, called Harold Throdes.

A well known impersonator, Mr. Thodes has recently appeared in the Wrexham Players version of The Invisable Man, and in the past featured in the Hollywood film Ghoastbusters. Originally appearing in a documentary, filmed in Sofia in 1998, called The Invisible Bank Manager, Mr. Throdes – a talented actor – specializes in parts involving people who aren’t there.

The 2016 Bulgarian Presidential election has 21 candidates to date, many of whom have never been heard of before, most of which will never be heard of again, and some of whom are so old, that they have forgotten why anyone is voting for them in the first place. Most candidates qualify for the well known maxim that: ‘Politics is Hollywood for ugly people,’ which is something that makes Harold Throdes an ideal candidate. This is because, you cannot see him at all!

It all came about when the Bulgarian Parliament chose to make it illegal, for its citizens not to vote in presidential elections. It has also become rather confusing for political statisticians, because it befuddles the matter of electoral numbers, if people don’t vote. But, nevertheless, the law was passed.

This then caused more anxiety, when the political pundits had to design a voting slip for the Bulgarian election, because, what if people didn’t want to vote for any of the candidates? So finally, and in desperation, it was agreed to have a special box to tick on the voting form called, “I don’t support anyone.”

‘That’s when I got the phone call,’ Throdes was reported as saying in The Irish Pub, ‘it suddenly dawned on the voting commission, that if the “I don’t support anyone” voters won, there would be no one to take the top job.’

Asked if he was politically motivated in any way, he replied, ‘Nah, most politicians are a bunch of plonkers, aren’t they? They are all the same to me, I only came here for the money!’

Asked what he would do, if he was elected, ‘Well, nothing really; nobody else does, do they? I might open a few supermarkets and petrol stations, and I am quite good at dancing and singing, as long as my bandages don’t drop off. If that happens, everyone usually runs away.’

Asked about the advantage of being invisible, Harold Throdes had to think for a moment. ‘Well, I suppose the best thing is not having to pay for buses, and of course, being able to drink as much beer as I like. I usually find a nice crowded pub, and go around emptying every bodies glasses. Nobody seems to notice!



Saturday, 22 October 2016

Hillary and Donald's ‘Punch & Judy Show by Patrick Brigham

Some comedian recently asked on British TV; apropos the loutish and androgynous Donald Trump – ‘Why would American voters want to replace a perfectly good black president, with an orange one?’

Rather rude, but that is exactly what he looks like. Is it stage make-up which has gone wrong, has he got some sort of malignant skin condition, or does he come – as I strongly suspect - from the planet Zog? These are questions which may enter one's thoughts each day as – we the innocent citizens of Europe – are regaled on the box, and via the news media, by Trumps antics, and his animosity towards his favourite victim, the redoubtable Hillary Clinton.

Mind you, there are those who believe that these two are as bad as each other, as they perform ritual character assassinations on one another, which brings me back to tranquil summer holidays, as a boy, in Rye or was it Margate? Because, through the mists of time, I can still remember summers spent on the south coast of England, and the delight of a traditional English Punch and Judy show, as they knocked the living daylights out of one another.

‘He’s behind you,’ we would all shout, and Mrs. Punch would reply - ‘Oh no he isn’t,’ and we would all shout – ‘Oh yes he is!’
So, do you now recognize who I am talking about?

The unmistakable orange Donald Trump.

I for one have lost so much respect for the Americans, during this absurd US election, which has been reduced to a ridiculous puppet show. Call it a media event if you wish, but the debate has been totally turned on its head, and is now simply light entertainment – at its best - if not a rather bad situation comedy.

The behaviour of these two has shown the USA to be a shallow and trivial place – judging by their supporters and spokespeople - which makes a mockery of their frequent; if now unconvincing announcement, that they are the largest democracy and the world, and the only superpower.

Can you imagine how Putin is rubbing his hands in glee, as he sees the largest *** in the world, daily making a total ass of itself. Could anybody in Europe honestly say that either of these two contenders for the top US job, should be taken seriously? Do you believe the world would be a safer place, with Trump or Clinton's finger on the nuclear button?

I think that the way these two have turned on their old rival Russia, by accusing Putin of practically any misdemeanor imaginable, demonstrates the total incapacity of either of these two stalwarts, to maintain a US position within global politics. If you watch the Russian Television Channel, many there are laughing their socks off at the US, wondering when America will finally implode, and many of us also wonder how Putin has the gall, to send a rather battered and smoky Russian aircraft carrier, up the English Channel?


Monday, 10 October 2016

Alexis Tsipras, Prime Minister of Greece by Patrick Brigham

Alex Tsipras was born in Athens in 1974. He joined the Communist Youth of Greece in the late 1980s and in the 1990s was politically active in student protests against education reform plans, becoming the movement's spokesperson. He studied civil engineering at the National Technical University of Athens, graduating in 2000, and later undertook post-graduate studies in urban and regional planning. He claims he has worked as a civil engineer in the construction industry, based primarily in Athens.

From 1999 to 2003, Tsipras served as the secretary of Synaspismos Youth, was elected as a member of the Central Committee of Synapismos in 2004, and later he entered the Political Secretariat. In the 2006 local election, he ran as Syriza’s candidate for Mayor of Athens, winning a reasonable 10.5% of the votes cast. In 2008, he was elected as leader of Syriza, succeeding Alekos Alavanos, and was first elected to the Greek Parliament, representing Athens A, in the 2009 election. He was re-elected in May, and in June 2012, he became leader of the opposition, appointing his own shadow cabinet.

In January 2015, Tsipras led Syriza to victory in a snap election, winning 149 out of 300 seats in the Greek Parliament, and formed a coalition with the Independent Greeks. On the 20th August 2015, seven months into his term as Prime Minister, he lost his majority, and after various defections, Tsipras announced his resignation, but called for a snap election to take place the following month. In the election that followed, Tsipras led Syriza to another victory; winning 145 out of 300 seats, and re-formed the coalition with the Independent Greeks. As Prime Minister, he has overseen negotiations regarding the famous debt crisis, initiated the bailout and has largely managed to control the Middle East migrant crisis. In 2015 he was voted by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. So, who is he?

Tsipras is a political animal, and has always been so. As a university student, he joined the ranks of the renascent left-wing movement, particularly the Enceladus group, and as a member, he was elected to the executive board of the students' union, at the Civil Engineering School he attended. He also served as student representative on the University Senate, and from 1995 to 1997, he was an elected member of the Central Council of the National Students Union of Greece.

I don’t suppose for one moment he has been much of a Civil Engineer, other than in a fall back position, if all his political ambitions fail. But in common with many other politicians from all parties and in all countries, he has started his political career, well heeled and well fed.

According to Katerinna Prifti from the Huffington Post, ‘Some in politics would say Tsipras is a “sprinter,” since he managed to accomplish - in a short period of time - what others have worked for their entire lives. While the economic crisis and the indignation of the Greek people have been an important factor in Tsipras’ rise, and with the success of Syriza, the Greek Parliament’s youngest party leader has distinguished himself on the political scene early on. Even today, his political opponents belligerently bring up his political actions as a “kid.”’

Tsipras is not married. His registered partner is Peristera "Betty" Batziana, an electrical and computer engineer. They met in 1987, at the age of 13, at the Ampelokipoi Branch High School, and both eventually became members of the Communist Youth of Greece. They live together in Athens, with their two sons, their youngest son's middle name being Ernesto; in tribute to Che Geuvara. He is an avid football fan and, having grown up near the stadium, he supports Panathinaikps, attending every home game when possible.

Tsipras is a self-confessed atheist, making him - at the time of his swearing-in -among the three publicly recognized atheist within the heads of government in the EU. When you boil all this down, it makes Alex Tsipras seems almost an enigma, within an enigma, to most, and not – as far as the European Union is concerned – a dream, within a dream.

His relationship with Jean-Claude Junker, for me at least, is the most telling one, certainly judging by their personal chemistry. In an interview with Der Spiegel reporter, Peter Muller, Junker announced quite clearly, that he didn’t understand Tsipras, making their early romance perhaps a little confusing. In his interview, Junker obviously found the rebuttal of his offer of friendship, with the Greek Premier, a little disquieting.

As William Shakespeare once so eloquently said: ‘"Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned," But jean-Claude Junker was very clear in his reaction -

“There are two types of friendship. The first is rooted in goodwill, of the kind I feel for Mr. Tsipras. The second -- true friendship -- is much rarer, because it must first overcome obstacles and grow. No, my relationship with Mr. Tsipras is, for the time being, a friendship in accordance with the word's first definition. Only later will it become clear if a real friendship will grow out of that. I will, however, acknowledge that the trust I placed in him is not always returned in equal measure.

“One should never take personally the relationships between representatives and institutions. We are here, to work for the people. On the other hand, politics cannot function without reliable personal relationships. With all due respect to the new Greek government, one has to point out that some of its representatives came into office without being adequately prepared for the tasks awaiting them.

“European politics is not a card game where there is a winner and a loser at the end. On the contrary: Either everyone wins, or everyone loses. That is why it is absolutely essential that the Greek government move as quickly as it can.

“Had I said at the beginning of the negotiations that a Grexit was an option, it would have unleashed a wave of speculation on the financial markets. Apparently, there are some in the Greek government who have misunderstood and believe that there is someone in Europe who can pull a rabbit out of the hat in the end. But that is not the case.

“I have warned Mr. Tsipras many times he shouldn't depend on me being able to prevent a failure of the talks if that isn't desired by the other side. We should do everything we can to prevent a Grexit, but to do so, both sides must exert themselves. In the end, I would prefer the rabbit to bear the Greek national colours.

“It bothers me that the Tsipras government acts as though we in the European Commission are austerity fanatics who are crushing the dignity of the Greek people underfoot. I am upset that the Greek government acts as though the Commission is seeking a higher sales tax on electricity, to mention one example. I have told Mr. Tsipras many times that I am open to other suggestions if they result in the same revenues. Instead of complaining about the Commission, Mr. Tsipras could one day tell Greeks that I have offered a €35 billion investment program for the years 2015 to 2020 to stimulate growth in his country. I haven't heard anything about that.”

Well, from friendship to despair, austerity is now up most in the minds of those who live, these days, here in Little Greece; despite Mr. Junkers pronouncements and bluster. Hopefully his persona will change, when he meets across a table with certain Brexiteers, but I rather doubt that, don’t you? I think that revenge is on the table.


Saturday, 8 October 2016

Sing A Song of Sixpence- by Patrick Brigham

‘Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing;
Wasn't that a dainty dish,
To set before the king?’

This is the story of a king who would be crowned, not as the Tsar of Bulgaria, but as Prime Minister of a floundering ex-Communist State.

Simeon Borisov Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was born 16 June 1937. During his reign as Simeon II,Tsar of Bulgaria , from 1943 to 1946 he was a minor, and royal authority was exercised over the kingdom on his behalf by a regency. In 1946 the monarchy was abolished - as a consequence of a referendum - and Simeon was forced into exile.

He returned to his home country in 1996 and formed a political party called The The National Movement for Stability and Progress and became prime minister of the Republic of Bulgaria from July 2001 until August 2005. In the next elections, as the leader of NDSV, he took part in a coalition government with the ex-communist party BSP, but in 2008, after NDSV failed to win any seats in the Parliament, he left politics.

He became tsar on 28 August 1943 on the death of his father, who had just returned to Bulgaria from a meeting with Adolf Hitler. Since Tsar Simeon was only six years old, when he ascended the throne, his uncle, Prince Kyril, Prime Minister Bogdan Filov, and Lt. General Nikola Mikov, of the Bulgarian Army were appointed regents

They joined the Axis powers during World War Two, and on 5 September 1944 the Soviet Union declared war on Bulgaria. Three days later the Red Army entered the country without encountering resistance. On the next day, 9 September 1944, Prince Kyril and the other regents were deposed by a Soviet-backed coup and arrested. The three regents, all members of the last three governments, Parliament deputies, heads of the army and eminent journalists were executed by the Communists in February 1945.

In 1990, a few months after the fall of communism, Simeon was issued a new Bulgarian passport. In 1996 - 50 years after the abolition of the monarchy - Simeon returned to Bulgaria and was met in many places by cheering crowds, although at that point, he did not make any political announcements or moves. However, these sentiments gradually dissipated after his premiership, and specifically during his coalition, as a leader of NDSV, with the ex-communist party.

Various estates in Bulgaria that had been nationalized during the Communist era were returned to Simeon and his family, and in 2001 Simeon - who had by this time taken the name Simeon Borisov Saxecoburg Gotha - announced he would return to Bulgaria to form a new political party, called The National Movement Simeon II. Dedicated to "reforms and political integrity."Simeon promised that in 800 days the Bulgarian people would feel tangible positive effects of his government, and would enjoy significantly higher standards of living.

NMSII won a large victory in the parliamentary elections, held on the 17th June 2001, capturing 120 of the 240 seats, and defeating the two main pre-existing political parties. Simeon gave an oath as Prime Minister on 24 July, forming a coalition with the ethnic Turkish party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF). He gave ministerial positions in his government ; mainly to technocrats and Western-educated economic specialists. In 2002, his efforts were recognized by his receiving the 2002 Path to Peace Award from the Path to Peace Foundation. During his time in power, Bulgaria joined the EC and NATO.

In the 2005 elections, Simeon's party ranked second and participated in the grand coalition government led by The Bulgarian Socialist Party, and including the Movement for Rights and Freedoms. Simeon was given the unofficial ceremonial post of Chairman of the Coalition Council. The party got just 3.01% of the votes and no seats at all in the elections of 2009 of 2009, and shortly thereafter, on 6 July 2009, Simeon resigned as NMSII leader.

Mixing with other Royals

British prime minister Harold Wilson once famously remarked, that a week was a long time in politics, and King Simeon in his special way, was out to scotch that theory. But, although he did not use rhetoric, bluster, or offer an unsustainable five year economic program, he did make a promise; that within 800 days of his appointment, the citizens of Bulgaria would be better off. It is hard to say if this came true or not – peoples expectations being as they were at the time - but Simeon had a genuine ‘feel good factor’ about him, a quality which no previous Bulgarian politician had offered to the confused, and often disappointed peoples of Bulgaria.

Bulgarians have a habit of resenting those who seem better off than themselves, and of course – at the time - the hot air was unending, about restituted royal palaces and land. It was as if they believed he had only come to Bulgaria, to get his hands on some dosh, in order to do a runner, at some later date. Silly people make such observations, because the costs of running and restoring buildings of this sort, probably far outweigh their intrinsic value; not to mention the time and effort required to manage such projects. But that didn’t matter to the ‘yellow press,’ whose poison not only infected the reading public, but parliament itself.

I remember Simeon’s first stuttering speeches, where he had to get his tongue around a language he had hardly used for fifty years. But he was nobodies fool, and nor was he taken in by the fawning acolytes, who - in typical Bulgarian fashion - we're relying on sycophancy and flattery, to take his eye off the ball. After all, weren’t most foreigners gullible and easily misled, so why should he be the exception? Surely, it was a well known fact!

This was a time when most of the recent bunch of glib politicians, and ‘First Lieutenant’s of Communism,’ were scouring the country for old enterprises to buy for a $1, and then looking for foreign fools to sell it too for $50 million. Pathetic by todays standards, but then the ‘stupid foreigner’ syndrome, was still in ascendance. So, one might imagine the frustration of Simeon having to deal with these idiots, without loosing his cool, whilst appearing to be running a stable and progressive country. If the average foreign businessman saw Bulgaria as a place for R&R - there were plenty of attractions in the four ale bars of Sofia- although, at that time, there was very little confidence in the economy. Simeon, with his magic touch, and his occasional appearances on foreign TV at Royal weddings, put paid to a lot of investor misgivings, and during his time in politics, the global economy started to take little Bulgaria, just a tad more seriously.

At age 79, Simeon is by now looking back on many things in his life; no doubt far beyond his days in Bulgaria, and particularly his life spent mainly in Spain. But he still is, and ever was a modest man who – over the years - willingly took the time to receive Bulgarian visitors, from the then soviet satellite state of Bulgaria, who - despite their political differences and prejudices - were treated with respect and kindness.

In my book, Herodotus: The Gnome of Sofia, there is a passage at the end of Chapter Five, which - for me anyway - defines that time in Bulgaria. It is when the fictitious King Gregory III is in the Sobranie, chatting to a newly retired President Stenchev, during the inauguration of the newly elected president. It is the story of King Gregory and his place in Bulgaria, but it may also be about Simeon.

“ The first lieutenants of communism often came to see him in various guises, and sometimes just to practice their lying. He knew they were trying to deceive him, to discover some kind of weakness in his character and to understand who and what he knew. But he said nothing. He was polite, he was calm and sometimes even generous, but he always studied them very closely. When they laughed at life’s great ironies, he had held out his hand in friendship, whoever they were and whatever their motives. But Stanchev was different, because he was actually a good man. “

“Outside the heavens opened up, and a great sheet of rain almost drowned the citizens of the capital. Those brave or determined enough to stand outside the Sobranie that morning, simultaneously ran for cover into the caf├ęs and the shops in or around the Narodnie Square. The taxi drivers, who had been waving posters of Gregory, jumped into their cabs and started to sound their car horns. The Hussars in their white plumed uniforms stood patiently in the rain. The police disappeared under the nearest tree, smoked their strong Balkan cigarettes, told each other that nothing would change, and laughed at their misfortune to have been born in such a hopeless place.”

‘When will you tell us who will be the Prime Minister? Who will be in the cabinet?’

“It wasn’t just the local media who were interested, but it seemed the whole world had its attention on Bulgaria, and for the first time ever.
Gregory simply said, ‘When the time is right, I will tell you.’He was not a man to be rushed.”