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Friday, 29 April 2016

Nationalism 'Vs' Brexit – by Patrick Brigham


I can’t vote in the forthcoming referendum, to determine Great Britain's future in Europe, and so I reserve the right to say what I like. To me the whole matter reeks of reactionary nationalism, versus very little common sense, pragmatism or sanity. Reality seems to have been thrown out with the baby, and the bath water, plus a great deal of soap; an opera full of competing arias and the most disastrous stage management on record.

I have never seen so many bumbling spluttering minor British MPs trying their best to get a media scoop and so many foolish national leaders, puffing out their chests and expounding childish mantras to a growing, and largely bored audience.


For those of you Brits, who may have opinions about this farcical program, I have made a list of those who can officially vote:-

Anyone who would be entitled to vote in a parliamentary election in the UK has the right to participate in the in/out vote on the EU. This includes:
British citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK
Irish citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK (due to historically close Anglo-Irish links)
Maltese and Cypriots over 18 who are resident in the UK (other EU citizens will not)
Commonwealth-born citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK
British expats who have lived overseas for less than 15 years
Irish citizens who were born in Northern Ireland and have registered to vote in Northern Ireland in the last 15 years
Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar
Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar over 18
Members of the House of Lords in Gibraltar will also be entitled to vote

Judging by the baffling and often inaccurate, so called facts and statistics - which the reactionary inhabitants of the UK frequently like to broadcast - they probably wish that the English Channel was a bit wider. Of course, there are those in Europe who might also wish this was true, as they watch the antics of a fading ex-colonial power, trying to reassert itself on the world stage. And why is it that a ‘special relationship’ with the US, always seems to appear, when things get rough?


The eminent comedian and script writer, Spike Milligan, when asked during the Irish troubles what his solution would be, he said: ‘I would put a big post in the centre of Ireland, and tow it out into the Atlantic.’ Well, perhaps we should now put an even bigger post in the middle of the UK, and tow that out to sea. It could be next door neighbours with Greenland or Iceland – think of all those mosquitoes?

In an endeavour to seem very British and patriotic, many first and second generation immigrants have also lent their voices to the discussion, claiming that not only should the United Kingdom stand on its own, but it should be very concerned about immigration in general! Interviews in Bradford and Birmingham, have naturally attracted volunteers from the local community – posh voiced Asians and finger wagging West Indians – all of whom, quite rightly, regard the UK as their home and their true domain.

To some of the Eastern European countries, this might sound a little hypocritical, bearing in mind that well educated people from the Balkans have every right to seek employment anywhere in the EU - and very good news - considering the dearth of applicants from Britain itself. But one of the main arguments by the bumbling Brexit’s, is that this alone is a threat to UK sovereignty. They also like to ‘mix up’ prospective employees and legally entitled European citizens, with illegal immigrants from the Middle East and European Gypsy’s. It seems that UKIP, in particular, believes that their listening public, is as thick as Nigel himself appears to be at times, or shall we simply just call him foxy?

If I was from The Balkans – Bulgaria, Romania and Greece – or Central Europe, I would be getting into the political thrall, remind British citizens - or rather those who are allowed to vote - and point out, that there would be a number of empty desks in offices in and around Great Britain. And, there would also be, quite a number of vacant University places to fill, were the UK to decide to close its doors to Europe.

So, perhaps one should simply ask the question, what is Great Britain? Queen Elizabeth 1st could never quite make up her mind about love or country, and often confused the two:

I grieve and dare not show my discontent,
I love and yet am forced to seem to hate,
I do, yet dare not say I ever meant,
I seem stark mute, but inwardly do prate.

"On Monsieur's Departure" (February 1582).

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Monday, 18 April 2016

Looking Back Again on Bulgaria - by Patrick Brigham


PRESIDENT ZHELYU ZHELEV

President Zhelyu Zhelev was an enigma to me. I had watched him on TV in Bulgaria during the early nineties, performing official tasks, much as his predecessor Zhivkov had done. I remember him handing over prizes to the successful Bulgarian national football team in 1996, with jeeps and apartments being liberally handed out, much as before, to underline the importance of this event. But, nevertheless, it was reminiscent of the heady days of communism. To be honest, he seemed lost among the burly politicians of that time, the demagogic and often devious detritus, which was then successfully ruining the country. Each with a cynical smile on their face; most of them were not democrats by any measure, in fact they were out for what they could get.


In his book written during communist times and called ‘Fascism’ Zhelev expressed the myth of communism, by hiding it behind the story of Nazi Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Franco’s Spain. The tale of communism versus fascism, is couched in intellectual terms, and underlined by the true facts of modern history, the analogies jump from the pages with humor and alas, black irony. For after all repression and socio-political engineering are the same evil, whatever brand name may be attached to the process. In his book he said - “ If democracy seems not to be working, then you need more democracy,” - as if the ingredients of a cake have to be finally balanced with the right amount of baking soda, the instruments of power perched like delicate colored jars on the shelf in some political shop. All ready to be weighed and mixed by the chef, but paid for - after baking - often with considerable angst and occasional pain. Written in 1967 the book didn’t emerge until 1982, and then with understandable difficulty. Written during his period of isolation, it is a good textbook by any academic standard, and unearths the tricks of political psychology, as well as the bare faced lies.


Rather like Peter Pan; Dr. Zhelev then seemed ageless. With the round face of a boy - eyes wide apart, showing generosity and nobility of spirit - whilst displaying a relaxed confidence, he seemed to be a man who had come to terms with his reality. But nevertheless, he was also a man determined to continue on an even course towards increased Bulgarian democracy. No longer President of Bulgaria, through his newly created foundation - simply called ‘The Zhelyu Zhelev Foundation - for many years he represented the quiet voice of reason and debate.


“Being a rabid anti-Communist does not yet mean that one is a democrat; nor is frenzied anti-fascism a hallmark of democracy. To a democrat, both communism and fascism are abhorrent. Indeed, there has been no greater anti-communist than Hitler, and no greater anti-fascist than Stalin, but neither of them is known to have been a democrat. Moreover, the 20th century has seen no greater butchers of democracy than these two mustached comrades.” Zhelyu Zhelev - Sofia 1997.





PRESIDENT PETER STOYANOV


Next on the list was Peter Stoyanov, who followed Dr Zhelev as President of Bulgaria. Prior to his election, I interviewed him in his office in the UDF building in Sofia, and being unused to British journalists, he was unusually open about his history as a lawyer. Apparently, he was a mathematician who had been sidelined into politics due to his views on human rights.

He said:'At the time of my schooling, communists didn't even allow young people to have long hair, and any of us who wanted to listen to and be like the Beatles, were persecuted. They said it was immoral, but it was absurd that at the end of the 20th Century, there existed a political regime which had no respect for human rights, and discounted these rights in such a way, that didn't even exist during the 1st Century in Rome.'

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Looking Even Further Back at Bulgaria - by Patrick Brigham


My book, Herodotus: The Gnome of Sofia, is a humorous account of a British diplomat and his fall from grace, and has its foundations in reality. When, in 1993, I arrived as a permanent fixture in Sofia, Bulgaria had hardly begun to get used to its new post Cold War existence, and the enormous Russian Embassy still somehow loomed large in the daily life of all Sofia residents. Especially the Bulgarian politicians of the day, and as it had continued to do, during the entire communist era. However, in 1995 and with trepidation, I started the Sofia Western News magazine and published my first flimsy edition in December of that year.



As a newbie, I was amazed to find that the ‘Old Brigade,’ was still well represented in the capital, and that they held the most recent interlopers from the West, in total contempt. Generally regarded with considerable suspicion, the vast majority saw every foreigner as a spy, and this I regret to say, included me! What one was likely to spy on, was a matter for considerable conjecture - in view of the general state of the country and its non functioning economy - and even to this day, there are still Bulgarians who misguidedly believe their country to be, the ‘Trojan Horse’ of the great game of deception. Oh, really?

Foreign diplomats, NGO’s and the various foreign national advisors, were especially suspect, and although quite innocent of any sedition or thoughts of espionage, they were nevertheless under Cold War scrutiny by the many underemployed agents of the internal security services, and even some past employees too. Totally baffling, to the many be-suited western acolytes and so called consultants, they became withdrawn, occasionally frightened, and finally, developed a kind of siege mentality. Rather like their Colonial forbears, they withdrew from the realities of Sofia life, closed their embassy doors at night, and thought of home.

There were no secrets worth knowing that a half-wit couldn’t work out for themselves, or a casual reader might discover by reading an old copy of Janes Fighting Vehicles, on a wet Wednesday in Penge reference library, but that wasn’t the point. Because by then, not only was the general population in search of their own secret government held files, but there had appeared a few discrepancies in the CVs of various Bulgarian public figures, who had been active during communism, which has unrealistically occupied the Bulgarian press, ever since 1990.


In Herodotus: The Gnome of Sofia, the character of Sir Arthur Cumberpit – a post communist British Ambassador – is not so different from the real diplomats of the day, and many of the foreign businessmen too. I have to admit to being a bit of an armchair idealist myself, but many of those I met at the time in Sofia, were not. Many were redolent of the passed over major, and some had even been given one last chance, to get their act together. There were even those, who fondly regarded their presence in Sofia to be a form of punishment, for some past sin - which is often the case in diplomatic circles – and the character of Sir Arthur is no exception. He just doesn’t know, what it is, exactly!

But, there are secrets as well. One is that Sir Arthur comes from a humble beginning in Croydon, close to London, and isn’t really posh at all, although he tries to be. The other, is that Lady Annabel Cumberpot is the daughter of the UK’s most infamous spy, Jim Kilby. A great deal of the story surrounds this last secret, and many - mainly undeserved - consequences, cause her to suffer in many ways. And, were it not for the fact that Lady Annabel Cumberpot, herself, is the most obnoxious harridan on the planet, the reader might even feel a little sorry for her.

Indifferent to his diplomatic post in Bulgaria, Ambassador Cumberpot believes his life to be hell. With a wife who treats him like a pathetic money box, not only does she walk all over and humiliate him whenever possible, she does so with everyone else as well. That includes certain Bulgarian dignitaries, invited to the Queens Birthday Party at the ambassador’s residence. But then, something unusual occurs.

Herodotus: The Gnome of Sofia–
Available at www.PatrickBrigham.co.uk

Monday, 4 April 2016

Looking Back at Bulgaria by Patrick Brigham


As far as I can remember, nothing very new has happened in Bulgaria for years, although many might not agree this to be so. Nevertheless, if over time one had piled up all the newspapers and learned magazines read since the political changes in 1990, I think that the garage would be too full to accommodate your nice new car, or the guest bedroom would have become totally uninhabitable. The question remains, during that time, has anything of national importance fundamentally changed?

Short of any interest in microeconomics, my answer would be no! And it seems to me, that the Bulgarian press has had so few subjects of consequence to occupy its attention, that over the years – from the sunny climes of Greece, where I now reside – it seems surprising, that so much paper has actually been consumed, or – as reality dictates –hot air exhaled?


However, of the few issues of interest, there is presently one very important item on the Bulgarian agenda - which is often repeated - and is personified by the recent debate concerning the future of Irina Bokova as the leader of the United Nations, and an argument about people - with connections to the old communist regime - being allowed to prosper or hold public office. Repeatedly referred to as having been an agent of the Ministry of the Interior, surely what they really mean, is part of the old communist structure. Is this not simply an over amplification of this perennial political question, or does it reflect a fundamental deficit in the Bulgarian character?

Many years ago, a renowned expat British Sofia resident said to me: “In Bulgaria, there is only one thing worse than being a failure, and that is to be a success!” So, the question is, whether the angst caused by Bokova’s shot at world leadership is really over the hopelessly flawed past communist regime, or something slightly more sinister?

Bokova’s innate ability to manage events on a worldwide scale is indisputable, and she has undoubtedly helped to shoehorn Palestine into the folds of the UN, as well as protecting the cultural integrity of certain Palestinian heritage sites. Whilst this may have annoyed the Israeli and the American governments, it has certainly placed her on the international map, not necessarily as a Bulgarian, but as a world player. But, does she stand a chance of winning the upcoming UN election? With the continuing angst of the US and their client state of Israel, probably not.

But why do Bulgarians, from one of the most unsuccessful of countries in the EU, continue to have this bitter feud with the past. Many ex-communist families have been almost forgotten by now, and the vast majority of the old contemptibles, are dead. Their children live on, often in isolation, or running small businesses, and are generally left alone. This is because they don’t matter anymore and usually share the same challenging reality, as the rest of the Bulgarian middle class. So, why pick on Bokova?

Many Bulgarians, given a chance to explain their bellicose views on life will either blame their communist past, or the dreaded Turkish yoke, but might it not simply be because they are Bulgarian? Many hate to see their contemporaries succeed, and spend time dwelling on others misfortunes; which reminds me of the second piece of advice I received. It was given to me, just before my first visit to Bulgaria in 1985. Told to me by an ex-pat Bulgarian living in London, he said: “Bulgaria is like a cracked mirror, so everything there is consequently distorted and back to front.”

From outside the goldfish bowl and looking in, one can understand the frustration of goldfish swimming around in circles, whilst looking out at the rest of the world with envy. So, I suppose, it is a matter of perspective. To pillory someone, who is an undoubted success, who happens to be a Bulgarian is absurd, because Irina Bokova’s position on the international stage, should be cause for rejoicing, especially when one considers her often corrupt competition! Would you like to see one of these self seeking ‘baldies,’running the United Nations? No thanks, you’d be dead in a week!

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Friday, 1 April 2016

Author Patrick Brigham - BOOK REVIEWS


‘Without spoiling the story, ‘Herodotus’ is something between the plot of an old James Bond movie, complete with bungling foreign spy masters and political intrigue, and an introspective Russian novel. There is a colourful cast of characters, a smattering of intrigue and plenty of detailed description to really allow the reader to experience the hopes and aspirations of a somewhat pompous, and aspiring, British middle class. In fact, it is this ‘experiencing’ which makes this book better. The reader is taken on a journey complete with tastes, smells, scenes and experiences, almost reminiscent of a good travel guide. Along the way, we share these experiences with characters whose personal situation all too often hints at some degree of mental illness. Cleverly chosen character names add to the sense of satirical irony throughout the story. Herodotus’ is humour, satire and a witty commentary on both the downward political spiral in certain former Communist countries and the smug, foolish, baseless superiority of the west’ By R.P.Rochford (Format:Kindle edition) Amazon Verified.
***

‘Great read!! Judas Goat, another cracker from Patrick Brigham. I couldn’t put it down for long without wondering what was going to happen to the Reading policeman next. Very colourful and vivid characters. Well done!!’ By Badger – Amazon Verified Purchase
***
‘I simply loved Judas Goat, once I had started the book, I could not put it down, easy reading, great plot.’ By Suziegrif – Amazon Verified Purchase
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‘Judas Goat & The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery, is quite different in genre from Patrick Brigham’s previous publications, as he rows through a range from the river waters of Oxford to the high seas, narrating a story that is a murder mystery and more. Judas Goat is a much more complex work than Herodotus (his previous novel) and devotes just a part – however significant – of its scenes, to a visit to Sofia by a Thames Valley detective, investigating the killing of a man, identified as previously having been an English-language editor-in-chief in Sofia. Kudos to Brigham for pulling off these two novels, though,which achieve the feat of inspiring curiosity about the views of others who read them, as I have no doubt about recommending that they should.’ By Clive Leviev-Sawyer – Editor in Chief of The Sofia Globe


‘I received a copy of Judas Goat from the author for an honest review. A historic political Thriller, the author pictured Thames Valley, Reading with such beauty that I was astonished, capturing the imagination of this place I have never heard before, until now. In the picturesque setting, a boat immersed with blaring music and a quiet occupant, in other words a dead person. From here, the story starts to unfold as we met the different characters. The main character, Chief inspector Lambert from the Thames valley police really impressed me. He was a dedicated and well-respected officer that loved police work. Many interesting political facts became known which involved many countries, including South Africa, England and Bulgaria. As the investigation proceeds, it became a case far bigger than the normal crime in Thames Valley. Pushed to the limit the skills of the detective were tried. A very well researched and suspenseful story, a must read for people who like political crime stories. Well done Patrick Brigham a very good en authenticated story of the specific time in history.’ By Paul (Format: Kindle Edition) – Amazon Verified.

‘I found ‘JUDAS GOAT’ to be an excellent combination of a loveable, believable, detective and a worthy conundrum-crime. I found the domestic development of a marriage implosion very well done and slow drip. The procedural elements smack of realism – For the first time in one of these books, I felt like an investigator working on a case, it was that real, I knew these fellows. The central character, Chief Inspector Michael Lambert unravels a murder case without gimmicks, and no Columbo. ‘JUDAS GOAT’ is a snapshot of real police work. The way everyone relates to each other, smacks of someone who knows this world really well, and is probably a cop. I think there is a lot of the real man, the author, in this book. If he told me he was an ex cop I would accept it readily. That he is beyond doubt a excellent writer, I don’t have to be a sleuth to work out, “It is elementary Dear Watson.”’ By Jim Loftus Format: Kindle Edition.
***
Well written. Well conceived. Dynamite Plot. One of the finest books I’ve read in a while. By Bill Cronin Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
***


Patrick Brigham’s latest book, Abduction: An Angel over – Rimini, is a carefully researched crime novel, which intertwines two stories: that of the detective who is the lead character; who discovers a skeleton in the cupboard of his own family, and that of the abduction itself. The two plots are brought together by a slightly improbable coincidence, but no matter: the author’s eye for detail brings the atmosphere and the environment to life throughout the book, as it follows the detective’s investigation through Italy and Greece, punctuated by what one suspects might be a weakness of the author himself: good, exquisitely seasoned meals, and fine wines. The book is as mouth-watering as it is entertaining!’ By Mark Bossanyi Format: Paperback
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‘With Abduction – An Angel Over Rimini, Patrick Brigham has created a compelling story of a Europol DCI utilising his long-time Reading experience to solve a crime, and uncover neglect in local police procedures. Abduction – An Angel Over Rimini, is an entertaining, gripping, and also astonishing Europol procedural read, making you want to read more. I was drawn into the story right away. I felt close to DCI Michael Lambert and his way of analysing and detecting. All relevant characters became pretty real. Abduction – An Angel Over Rimini is a good read for mystery fans, readers who like surprises, and apparent coincidences.This is a book to read again.’ By Karen O on Format: Kindle Edition
***

In The Dance of Dimitrios, it is the third time out for DCI Michael Lambert, whom we have followed on his detective work in two of Patrick Brigham’s previous crime novels, as Europol’s Lambert, is brought into a case that is prefaced with the personal descent into tragedy of the title character, and then what seems to be just another death of a woman trafficked through illegal migration – a death that would be meaningless to a largely uncaring world and the dubious chief of police in a countryside Greek small town community.

But the dead woman is somewhat less than a statistic, but the engine of the piece as it becomes clear she was a cantankerous British expat retiree whose career had spanned international journalism – with some significant espionage on the side, and a later-life pursuit as…a crime novelist. The journey of Lambert, partnered again with noble Greek police officer Electra Boulos, spans from Greece to Sofia’s capital Bulgaria, to Turkey and to strained conversations between straight-arrow former army officer and latter-day Europol detective Lambert and a snooty guardian of Britain’s intelligence establishment.


Brigham assembles quite an ensemble of characters, well-drawn and credibly portrayed each in their own way, from – among others – the police of various countries to the ruthless and amoral denizens of the worlds of people-trafficking and terrorism, to unfold by careful degrees his tale that progresses steadily from a world that hints to that of Zorba to a real world of the worst perils of the 21st century. And not, by the way, without a few humorous sidelights about the world of books and publishing.

The author of his previous Judas Goat: The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery, and Abduction: An Angel over Rimini, has us engaged all the way, with a final tease as to Lambert’s future. After the enthralling enjoyment of The Dance of Dimitrios, one can but hope that we shall be following Lambert’s footsteps at least once more. Clive Leviev-Sawyer, Editor-in-Chief, The Sofia Globe

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