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Tuesday, 30 December 2014

50 Great Writers You Should be Reading


http://50greatwritersyoushouldbereading.com/winners-2014/

Each year, The Authors Show runs a competition called '50 Great Writers You Should be Reading.' In so doing they introduce new authors to the reading public in the US and elsewhere. This year I was fortunate to be one of the chosen fifty writers - who will be featured in a forthcoming publication by www.TheAuthorsShow.com - the electronic version being available above. This year I am featured at No3, amongst some very strong competition in all genres, in which I contribute as a Crime Thriller writer.


Promoting my newest murder mystery, Abduction: An Angel over Rimini, to a new and experienced American reading audience is not always easy for a European, despite claims by Amazon and the various search engines like Google, Bing & Yahoo. These giants seem to control our lives on the internet, but with the help of Don McCauley and Daniel Hampson - of The Authors Show - we can hope for a more prominent billing in the future, in order for our readers across the pond to enjoy our European novels.

Abduction: An Angel over Rimini - by Patrick Brigham

It is 2002 and little Penelope Scratchford has been abducted in Italy. The Italian State Police has given up its investigation and believes her parents to be responsible for her disappearance and her probable murder, but cannot prove it. The British authorities believe she is still alive, as does the UK Press. In order to reopen this cold case, Europol offers its assistance. Detective Chief Inspector Michael Lambert – now retired from Thames Valley Police – is sent to Rimini as a Europol Liaison Officer, in order to assist the Italian police in re-opening their investigation.
His quest takes him from Rimini to Greece and the River Evros, where illegal migrants frequently cross over from Turkey. Following this recognised people smuggling route, his investigations also take him to Bulgaria, where he discovers a crooked adoption racket. Finding some promising leads to the whereabouts of the little English girl, he is able to establish if she is alive or dead.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Germany, Then and Now - by Patrick Brigham


In my series 'Then and Now,' I explore the way that Europe has evolved since the heady days of early 90s political change, the 25th anniversary of the destruction of the now iconic Berlin wall and the aftermath. Before the emergence and integration of the Eastern and Central European countries into the EU, there was a high degree of cynicism as to the outcome, something to which I too was a doubting party. It was hard to see how countries like Bulgaria and Romania could even dream of 'stepping up to the plate,' of EU membership, and seemingly harder for them to arrange their affairs, in order to meet the very elastic requirements on offer from Brussels. In this published article, I write about a time, literally just after the joining of the two Germany's. I also try to rationalise what happened immediately afterwards and the feelings which people had at the time. It is also an opportunity to review how Germany has changed - for better or worse - and if it has reached the expectations of Europe and the Germans themselves. Written in 1999, it was a foretaste for fifteen years of press speculation and critisizim


It was 1991, and early spring, as I landed at Stuttgart airport. I have always loved southern Germany, and this time I had come with an old friend Garrick Coleman, to visit an antique ‘hypermarket’ situated on the outskirts of the town. Landing at Stuttgart airport had been a strange experience for us, because coinciding with a number of international arrivals or departures, it seemed that there were no German faces to be seen. We thought for a moment we had caught the wrong aircraft, judging by the sea of Turkish people in front of us, some greeting each other, others with glazed eyes, saying goodbye to loved-ones; but we were wrong, we were in Germany.

From there we went to a friendly comfortable hotel; then a few beers with some brockworst and sauerkraut at a local pub, and it was time for bed. In the morning after a leisurely breakfast we visited the hypermarket, to be met on arrival by the owner and his English speaking manageress, both waiting at the main entrance.

Garrick is Britain’s leading dealer in antique chess sets, but at the time we were also interested in Czech antique glass paperweights, and we thought we might rent a stall at the hypermarket, to sell small pieces of art virtu, chess sets and decorated items, to the then burgeoning European antique and art market. In the end we didn’t do it, but our host was a very friendly and cultured man, and he insisted on showing us his private collection of Meissen porcelain, before our return to London.

It was an enormous collection, which he kept securely on the top floor of the building, and it was a wonderful sight to behold. Spanning the ages, the porcelain pieces glistened with quality; each item with its own beauty, the intricate artisan work, the precision the detail, and finally the crossed sabres on the base confirming provenance. Then we got to the Nazi section! It was dull, black and white, a little bit gothic, and to all accounts not very valuable. I could quite understand why, and our host - who was Jewish - said it was part of the history of the Meissen factory, so it mattered. But that was all he said.

By chance, later in the day, I met an interesting man, who ran the social security office in the City of Dresden. In 1990 the first freely elected ‘Peoples Chamber’ in the GDR had decided to accede to the Federal Republic of Germany, so it was by then, fully united. He told me of his problems, about the former East German chaos, and I replied with tales from Bulgaria and other countries that were experiencing similar changes. He told me how his local staff would start to disappear at around two o’clock in the afternoon, only to claim the following day that they had to queue for food. He had said to them, ‘But the shops are groaning with food, we west Germans have made sure you have everything in abundance, you don’t need to queue for anything anymore.’ Later he had decided that they probably couldn’t work for more than five hours a day, and looking in his beer mug, he sighed, saying - “ That is communism for you!” And it was.


The story of Germany, is about a new beginning, it is about saying goodbye to a past for which most Germans today share no responsibility; simply, they are too young. But, judging by German TV, it is a country which feels the need to apologise almost daily for the past, but in truth one has to wonder why - quite so much - anymore?

The ‘New Germany’ of 1949 spawned many remarkable figures, including Ludwig Erhard, Konrad Adenauer and of course the ex Mayor of Berlin, Willy Brant, all of whom served - not only to change the face of Germany - but of Europe itself. When in 1951 Germany became a member of the Council of Europe, and later a party to the European Coal and Steel Community, the stage was set for the creation of the EU as we know it today. When in 1954 the Federal Republic gained sovereignty following the Treaty of Paris - and the German national soccer team won the World cup - it was time to see Germany in a different light. Unfortunately, while this was all happening, East Germany was being heavily suppressed by Russia, following a season of riots in East Berlin.

By 1946 Germany had already begun to receive aid from America under the GARIOA Programme, and by 1948, from the George Marshall Plan - to conquer ‘Hunger, poverty, despair and chaos’ - and which was to help create the ‘New Germany,’ and effect its necessary economic recovery. Between 1948 and 1952, Germany received $1.4 billion USD alone under the Marshall plan, given to a country which - with the inspiration of men like Ludwig Erhard - now found itself moving towards a ‘social market economy;’ which in effect is what the EU is all about today. Then in 1955 came the termination of the Occupation Statute, and the Federal Republic of Germany’s accession into NATO.

Although this whole process was about German sovereignty; two years later in 1957 we saw the formation of the European Economic Community (EEC) and the Treaty of Rome, with Germany as a signatory. Europe had finally grown up and had begun to change, with the clasp of friendship between Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle of France, a Europe no loger at war but fighting for peace. Post war idealism had now turned Germany from the ‘bad boy of Europe’ to a position of leadership, and the miracle of economic change began to happen. Then, the only war in Europe was the ‘cold war,’ symbolically underlined by the building of the ‘The wall’ by the Soviets, in 1961.

For some countries in the rest of Europe, Germany’s economic might, might well have seemed to derive from their own misfortune - as was also the case with Japan - but this is more a matter of ignorance than fact, and many foreign fortunes were made from the reconstruction of the scarred landscape of post war Germany. Now it is like everywhere else in the world, with international companies vying for a share of world markets, and using international money. But, the reality of the German economic miracle, was Germany itself, and the German people. A country renowned for its hard work, good organising ability, and engineering skills, it is now difficult to fault its claim to be the third most powerful industrialised nation in the world, something that it has every right to be proud of.

The slow process of change in Bulgaria, seems to be fraught with unconvincing excuses. The whole sordid business of expediting various faction’s special interests, seems to have taken over the political agenda, bogging down the more important issues of transition, and the fiction of privatisation. But the German story must be one, which should invigorate the flagging determination of much of eastern Europe, because it was one of political determination, of coalition, of social responsibility, and finally of nationhood.

In Germany, the end of National Socialism brought out the angels, and not the political adventurers that we have often seen in the Balkans. Symbolised by the famous Berlin speech of President John Kennedy in 1963, it seemed then, that the main German preoccupation was democracy. But, with the death of Konrad Adenauer in 1967, many waited with baited breath to see if there were any angels left, and there were.

One came in the form of Willy Brant. Famous for his fight against Hitler by his activities in the Norwegian underground, and with the continuing turbulence in the world of east-west; as the new German Chancellor, he embarked on the now famous ‘Ostpolitik’ process, culminating on the 12th August 1970 in Moscow, when a treaty was signed by Brant in which both sides stated that they had no territorial claims against anyone. In a letter presented to the Soviets at the time it was stated that the ‘treaty’ did not contradict its aim of working towards a peace in Europe ‘ in which the German people will regain their unity, in free self determination,’ and in this statement, the dreams of a nation were expressed.


Germany from the beginning of the ‘cold war’ seemed to be in the front line of possible aggression, playing host to NATO troops and missiles, and dealing with the pressures of the ‘two countries, one nation syndrome,’ while the so called super powers, played power politics around it. But meanwhile the economy expanded, which in itself was an irritant to the centrally planned economy of its immediate neighbour. Perhaps winning the hearts and minds of the ordinary people in East Germany was easy, it was the politics which was the problem; because by then it had become simple to see who was winning the economic battle. With the ongoing missile talks, and the negotiations, Germany experienced serious political casualties, particularly when it came to matters of security versus the economy. Helmut Schmit was forced to resign as Chancellor during the course of 1982, in favour of Helmut Kohl, becoming one of the most fortuitous events in modern German history .

For eighteen years Helmut Kohl stood out as the tough man of Europe, both by physical size and political stature, but rather like Winston Churchill - having successfully steered his country through to ultimate change - it seemed that he had to go! Without him, and his predecessors - those who understood the reality of European integration versus communism - very little would have changed. Because, rather like someone facing the end of a sad marriage, he was wise enough to find common ground with his estranged partner; Eric Honecker, and his marriage guidance councillor, Mikhail Gobachov. On the subject matter of ultimate change, his reign - like him or hate him - was remarkable. It is also remarkable, the amount the German people were prepared to take on. Despite all the apocryphal stories one hears about the then East Germany - the jewel in the crown of the Soviets - West Germany took on a disintegrating mess, much as one might see in Romania or Bulgaria today. The speed of change, and the relatively low level of actual unemployment in the east of Germany (16% at present) is a wonder, realising the current EU unemployment position. It was ultimately Germany, which paved the way to ‘the changes’ in Eastern Europe.

Germany has always had good relationships in Bulgaria, but mainly because of its engineering traditions; the fact is, most managers in manufacturing speak German. And, it is a major trading partner on a wide spectrum of activities, but trucks, motor cars, manufacturing machinery, fabrics, wine and food, have always come ‘top of the list.’ In the last four years - published figures 1994 to 1997 - the balance of payments has remained in Germanys favour, 1995 being the year of greatest negative difference for Bulgaria. But, last year saw an improvement - not only in total trade figures - but in the difference as well. During the course of 1997 Germany exported over .......to Bulgaria, whilst in return, Germany received ....... in imports, thus reducing the Bulgarian balance of payments by some 28%. In an ideal world this would seem encouraging, but with Bulgarian obsession with German cars and consumer goods; although a good prospective market for Germany, with the likely changes in border tariffs, this might serve to tip the balance even further Germany’s way!

January 1999 has been a terrific time for Germany. Not only is it the residing President of the EU, but it has simultaneously had to oversee the introduction of the EURO, through the good offices of minister of finance Oskar Lafontaine. This, and a ‘Euro-Socialist’ coalition Government, has taken Germany to the forefront of conceptual politics. Having kept its post-war promise of a ‘social market economy;’ with all the integrated social and infrastructural spending in place, the new Government of Gehard Schroder, is branching off even further into the realms of profound Liberalism. With a policy which has very marked Green tendencies, time will only tell of the consequences of its present ‘free spending proposals,’ and the slightly nutty first evidence of a ‘U’ turn in its nuclear policy - both civil and military - and the uncontrolled utterances of Jurgen Trittin. Maybe, this is the price we all have to pay for peace?

Friday, 5 December 2014

The Dance of Dimitrios - by Patrick Brigham


© Copyright Patrick Brigham – Evros Greece - 28th November 2014

This is a preview of my newest crime thriller and murder mystery, which takes place in Northern Greece, close to the borders of Turkey and Bulgaria. It is a poor region, occupied mainly by subsistence farmers, but it is also an area fraught with illegal immigrants from all over the Middle East, Asia and North Africa. Jam-packed with intrigue and many conspiracy theories, the little Balkan village of Kzenia harbours many dark secrets. But, because the age old smuggling profession has little or no conscience, it also means that the eyes of the world are often carefully diverted in the media but, not the probing eyes of MI6 or the careful investigations of British police detective, DCI Michael Lambert of Europol.

Chapter 1 - Down by the River Ardas

Dimitrios Pantzos was an old man. In his 80s, his thoughts not only dwelt on his own austere past, but also that of his parents. In 1923 they had been forced to move from Turkish Thrace, as part of the Great Migration, to the then newly fashioned country of Greece. As a first generation Greek National, he had little reason to love the Turks and felt a deep resentment for the damage they had caused his family and their lives.
Once from a wealthy family of landowners, his father - and those members of the family who managed to survive Ataturk’s bloody partition - had been forced to cross the River Evros into Greece, only to become a subsistence farmer.
In common with many in the Evros region, when he became a man, Dimitrios accordingly held a grudge, which his children grandchildren and great grandchildren, could never truly understand. Living in the little riverside village of Kzenia, overlooking the meandering River Ardas, he too had tilled the soil throughout his life. Witnessing Greece’s turbulent past, the various political upheavals - the rule of the Colonels and their cursed junta - and finally their spendthrift successors; somehow he had managed to survive.
Hidden in the northern reaches of Evros, the next door neighbour Turkey was literally five minutes away by road, and driving north - and twenty minutes by car - was the recently renamed, Democratic Republic of Bulgaria. He had heard these days that Bulgaria now had a King as Prime Minister, but Dimitrios Pantzos remained ardently unimpressed, believing them all to be, the Devil’s Children!’


He remembered the Communists during the troubles in 1948 and like many other Greeks, hated them like the plague. But, because he didn’t like the Turks either, he – akin to many from his country – felt isolated, and detached from the outside world.
The Greek newspapers glibly repeated the mantra, that Greece was now a fully fledged member of the EU, which - other than some minor help to subsistence farmers - had improved life very little, for him or his family. With worn out tools and increasingly arthritic joints, it had become a struggle to survive the recent past, and he was pleased when a neighbour - very reluctantly - agreed to rent his land from him. Now, all he could manage was to plant a few vegetables in his garden, exclusively for his own needs.
A widower for some ten years, the loneliness he felt was indescribable. Even with the other old men in the village, who daily inhabited the pensioner’s café, he had little in common. They rarely seemed mournful for very long, and when their loved ones died, somehow accepted their passing, as a matter of course. But Dimitrios Pantzos was different, because - although he had been a farmer all his life – he was also a musician, a philosopher and a poet.
The ever present grief, which for years had held him in its icy and unrelenting grip, often stopped him from performing even the most mundane daily tasks and rarely seemed to go away. This grey and numbing spectre had appeared the very same day that his wife died. It had happened quite suddenly, one Sunday morning, during the cruel month of April. The horror of waking up next to her cold and lifeless body, was a memory which could never be adequately described; even by a philosopher and poet such as himself. It was as though his life had also come to an end.
This had all happened some time before, but to the old man, it still seemed like yesterday. Many in the village thought him quite mad, because, as a self proclaimed intellectual, he appeared to inhabit some unfathomable and distant in-between world which they simply didn’t understand. And so, he learned to ignore the cruel whispers and jibes coming from his neighbours, and of course, all his so called friends.
They laughed at his claims to understand the very essence of Greece, which was something he described in his poems and songs. Maybe, this was because they were far too preoccupied reading their seed catalogues and farming magazines; that is, of course, if they could read at all.


Dimitrios Pantzos had a small piece of land next to the River Ardas. It was good for nothing except for a few trees, and being next to the river path, it was occasionally prone to flooding in winter when the Bulgarians - usually quite gratuitously - opened up the sluice gates on their side of the border. But in spring and summer the land remained dry and usable - adjacent plots having become occasional barbeque sites - and so Dimitrios, in his loneliness and with little else to do, opened up a small riverside café.
The tables and chairs were an eclectic mixture; some tables simply being merely planks of wood on makeshift trestles, but many items were also donated to him free of charge – often with a smirk or a patronizing grin - by local people, who had never really taken him very seriously. Finally, he built a little wooden hut to house the coffee machine and the sink unit, both of which had been given by the owner of a defunct café in Orestiada.
By connecting a garden hose to a nearby tap and by plugging into the local electrical substation; he was finally able to open his café which he named after his late and beloved wife. He called it Café Marta.
On each and every table, he placed a candle and strung across the trees, the little outdoor café now had fairy lights, and a spotlight which shone high into the sky at night and Dimitrios was now set. for his long awaited opening. He advertised the event in the village post office, the supermarket and petrol station, but sadly on the day, nobody came.
Even the local Greek Orthodox Priest refused to come and bless the opening, claiming that he would be ridiculed by his local parishioners, were he to do so, and the villagers refused to come, because they said the old man was mad.
But, Dimitrios Pantzos defied their insults and the brutal humiliation handed out to him, and - despite the villager’s obvious scorn - he opened his riverside café early one summer evening. That night Dimitrios Pantzos loudly played his beloved Marta’s favourite traditional Greek love songs, sang with passion to the glittering stars; but seeing Marta’s smiling face before him, only he could hear her words of love.
Over the passing years, despite local derision and his increasing loneliness, he continued his daily walk each day to the river. There, he would patiently unlock his hut, play his favourite music very loudly and occasionally, Dimitrios Pantzos would even dance.
With arms held out straight, his fingers clicking, his face stern and full of the emotion which only Greek men can truly display when they weep, Dimitrios Pantzos would slowly twirl, jump and spin amongst the assorted tables and chairs, and in so doing he would reverently display the deep and painful loss he felt for his beloved Marta, and pray that one day, they would finally be reunited in heaven.
***
One summer’s day old Dimitrios saw a woman’s body floating face down in the River Ardas. Practically opposite his café, she was lying in a pool which had formed in the delta, and snagged by the bough of a tree which had fallen during the night, she was completely motionless. It was early one morning and as usual, there were no people around.
Knowing that it would take him some time to get to the village - due to his age - with great determination, he painfully ascended the steep hill leading up from the river to the centre of the village and then turned left towards the high street. Too early for the other village elders to be gossiping in their usual café by the bus stop, Dimitrios made for the post office which always opened early.
‘I have just seen a body floating in the river, by my café,’ he blurted out to the postmistress and her husband. They were sitting and drinking frappe, at a roadside table.
The man sucked noisily through his straw and then smiled at Dimitrios, ‘it is a bit early for you to be on the tsipouro isn’t it Dimitrios? Or, did you have a rough night drinking on your own, at your famous riverside café?’ The contempt in his voice was harsh. Punctuated by a spurt of tobacco smoke - which he blew from the corner of his mouth - and grinning at the old man, the postmasters brown coffee stained teeth displayed very little humour, and looked more like a sneer. ‘Was it one of your customers Dimitrios? I expect you poisoned them with that dreadful coffee of yours!’
The couple, both laughed at his poor joke, leaving the old man feeling humiliated. ‘I tell you I saw her. She was face down by the underwater bridge. She was caught on a tree. I know she was dead, you could tell, so you better call the police in Orestiada and they will send a detective.’
‘I’m not phoning anyone until I am sure what you say is true, you old loony. We can drive down to the river in my jeep, if you like, and then you can show me exactly where this body of yours is. But, I will only phone the police when I am convinced you are telling the truth and not before. It might just be one of your silly stories!’
They climbed into the Suzuki jeep and the postmaster drove back down the steep hill to the underwater bridge, where they got out. ‘Well, I can’t see any bodies you old fool, you must have been seeing things.’
The old man looked bewildered and then started along the river towards the local council dump. ‘There she is, she must have been freed by the current. The Bulgarians must have opened up their sluices, while I was away, and the body must have been carried on down the river.’ The brown toothed man looked with considerable apprehension at the woman’s unmoving body, now bobbing gently in the undulating water.
As his face gradually turned white, the village postmaster began to feel nauseous. Finally he blurted out, ‘okay you old fool, I believe you now,’ and turning back towards his jeep in haste, in a hoarse whisper, ‘I’d better get back to the post office now, and phone the police.’
Knowing full well that the postmaster wouldn’t dream of mentioning his name in his report to the police, old Dimitrios slowly walked back towards Café Marta and got on with his daily chores.
Minutes later and sitting behind the post office counter, the self important postmaster leaned back in his chair and with great authority, explained the situation to the Orestiada police. ‘It is definitely a woman, Warrant Officer Panagos and judging by her clothes, she is probably one of those illegal immigrants who occasionally get washed up these days. I wish those bastards would go to Italy or Bulgaria instead; bloody foreign scum.’
Old Dimitrios sat outside his little shed, drinking strong, sweet Greek coffee, which he had prepared on his little camp-gas stove. He did this every morning, despite the fact that the coffee grains, sometimes got stuck under his denture plate. Lighting up a strong Balkan cigarette, he looked at the day and at two Grey Herons who - seemingly fearless - strutted along the nearby underwater concrete bridge, as if they owned it.
In the distance he watched a noisy moped driving onto the bridge, splashing water into the air. The young rider was nonchalantly resting his legs on the front mudguard as he crossed the bridge, before cycling on, up to the village. The two Grey Herons casually stepped to one side, as he passed, and continued fishing for minnows.
Half an hour later, a distinctive blue and white police car arrived at the river scene, driven by a uniformed police officer, with a young woman sitting in the front passenger seat. Occupying the rear seat was the postmaster. He appeared to be having an animated conversation, with the two front seat passengers, whilst waving his arm in the general direction of the woman’s floating corpse.
Old Dimitrios was completely ignored, but even so, he watched events very closely. Meanwhile, the postmistress had arrived in the Suzuki jeep, in order to collect her husband – who, having waved goodbye to the two officers - gladly left the tragic scene, both ignoring the old man as they swiftly drove past.
After a few minutes discussion, the woman - who may well have been a police detective - returned to the car and holding a microphone, she proceeded to talk to someone over the radio. Fifteen minutes later, a Mercedes mortuary ambulance arrived, followed closely by a red painted emergency vehicle, out of which four burly men immerged. Later still, a shallow river punt appeared from downriver, and manned by two tough looking men in wetsuits, they moored up to a nearby post.
The two men in wetsuits, then - after donning tanks and masks - searched the area underwater, while the four men from the emergency vehicle manhandled the woman onto the riverbank. Having put on latex gloves, the two police officers then appeared to briefly search the body, presumably for some sort of identification, which – judging by the way they shook their heads - they couldn’t find. Then, having taken photographs of the scene and the woman’s corpse, the body was duly zipped up in a green body bag and carried by stretcher to the awaiting mortuary ambulance.
To old Dimitrios, these events had happened so quickly that; before he knew it, he was once more alone on the riverbank and left to his own devices. He thought how strange it was that old people become invisible to others, even over matters of life and death. Dimitrios Pantzos wondered who the poor unfortunate woman might have been, and how she had come to be drowned in the river? But, with his limited knowledge of the world, he finally concluded that she must have either been an Ottoman or a Frank. Either way, the river was better off without her, whoever she might have been.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Gordons come to Bulgaria - by Patrick Brigham


People generally take a lot for granted, especially concerning ex- Communist countries. They often think that by reading a particular rag or subscribing to a certain political party, that they are fully knowledgeable about all worldly things, but this is not so. Being a Euro Sceptic, has become a popular definition of ones political views, usually backed up with a lot of badly thought out twaddle, picked up during a debate at the local pub or in a till queue inside Lydle or a Sainsbury's supermarket.

But being in the EU is not simply about losing jobs or of federalism, because in their badly thought out speech's, most UK political windbags loose sight of the fact that immigration - which for those of you who don't quite understand EU law, is perfectly legal - is a two way highway for EU citizens, and not a one way street – as some would have you believe - to some English home counties Valhalla! One case in point was the arrival in Southern Bulgaria three years ago, of the Gordon family.


Having got a little fed up with the London rat race and being of a spiritual disposition, Narral Gordon, his wife and three children, moved to the little hamlet of Kustur, close to the town of Svilengrad in Bulgaria, and to the Turkish and Greek borders. It is here that they have begun a new life, not only in order to escape their previous unpredictable existence, but to build a whole new way of living within the flagging semi derelict Bulgarian village of Kostur, and to put some life back into the community. And, what better way was there to do this, but to reopen the local village shop!

The previous shop owners were the victims of one of those horrifying Bulgarian road accidents. The indigenous drivers all over the Balkans are not famous for their driving skills and the mortality rate for road deaths all over South Eastern Europe, is frightening. When this couple died, the social centre of the village also died. It left the old and infirm, the children and the local workers, without a meeting place or a place for gossip. For an isolated Balkan village, this also left nowhere for the local population to get help in emergencies either.


Narral Gordon and his entire family have immersed themselves into Bulgarian society which includes a perfect understanding of the language and even the local dialect. It also means that they are very unusual. Most Brits who come to live in this part of the world - me included - have a very sketchy knowledge of languages, despite grand claims. Consequently, it isolates us from the locals and encourages Brits to socialise within their own groups. Although there are many such groups in Southers Bulgaria - especially by the Black Sea - very few Brits have actually integrated with the Bulgarian population. Partly due to the fact that many Bulgarians speak English and are becoming more educated and absorbed within the European Union itself, in these very provincial areas, few speak other languages, nor can they even read or write.


I can remember a time when Bulgarians would frequently say: 'everyone hates the Bulgarians, and we hate everyone else!' It is easy to forget that Bulgaria was a very inward looking, politically closed country - up until the changes, and unfortunately even beyond - and in these country districts, the peoples minds are still set in the past.

So hats off - all you semi inebriated elitists hanging around the girls, and the four ale bars of Sofia - because a new breed of immigrant has defied the prevailing trends, got away from the over repeated racialist claptrap - that we have been forced to listen to of late and - like the Gordon family, defy the signs and warnings of the European 'one way street system,' in order to help a country which is still struggling with its Communist past, and to start a new life, here in the Balkans!

Photographs and background story received with thanks from - 'Hristo Rusev and Milena Mihova.'

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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Internal EU Migration v Illegal Immigrants


All UK political parties are in denial about immigration and simply cannot stop using the issue for short term gains. The problem is far greater than the next poll, or even the next election. This is a problem which will affect the UK forever.


Politicians fail to see the difference between internal EU migration and the burgeoning illegal immigrants of Calais and elsewhere. They sort of lump all types of immigrants together, create a few statistics and hope that they will be loved by the British public for the next few days. This is pathetic, because it looses sight of the more important issue of 'National Security.' If you divide the two sets of immigrants - internal EU and external international - you can start addressing the real problems.

The illegal's cross the borders of Bulgaria, Greece and maritime Italy from Turkey and if not stopped, they ultimately end up on the doorstep of the UK. The internal migrants are in the UK to find employment and to return home - in most cases - in order to build a new house or to improve the lives of their indigenous families. Internally, the UK sees all these groups as one and politicians love that as do gasbags everywhere.

Money was spent on war in the most recent past, and little cash was put aside for the consequences. But, there is no escaping the fact that if you do not want illegal immigration, governments will have to lean on Turkey in order to stop these poor unfortunates from pouring across their borders. This is where investment is needed and specifically on that account. It is simply a matter of common sense and 'Patriotism,' versus BS and blabber.

And EU internal migration? Its legal, unstoppable and probably necessary!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Elgin Marbles - Do we give them back to Greece? By Patrick Brigham


This is the Wikipedia version, of Lord Elgins acquisition of the Classical Greek sculptures and art objects from the Parthenon during the early 18th Century. But, although there are many reasons why the Elgin Marbles should be returned intact to modern day Greece, there are just as many why they should not!
‘From 1801 to 1812, Elgin's agents removed about half of the surviving sculptures of the Parthenon, as well as architectural members and sculpture from the Propylaea and Erexhtheum. The Marbles were transported by sea to Britain. In Britain, the acquisition of the collection was supported by some, while some critics compared the Elgin's actions to vandalism or looting. Following a public debate in Parliament and the subsequent exoneration of Elgin, the marbles were purchased by the British government in 1816 and placed on display in the British Museum, where they stand now on view in the purpose-built Duveen Gallery. Thomas Bruce – the 7th Earl of Elgin - obtained a controversial permission from the Ottoman house to remove pieces from the Parthenon while serving as the British ambassador to the Otterman Empire from 1799 to 1803.’ Wikapedia.


Looking at it in simple terms, it is clear that Lord Elgin purchased these valuable marbles from the Turks for an undisclosed sum of money, backed up by all the necessary documentation and permissions and proper authority of the day. He saw no reason for any future discourse and believed that by removing them from Athens, he was doing the whole world a big favor by keeping them secure and intact in an internationally respected museum where they could be admired by anyone.
That's it in a nutshell. If he had purchased an Arab Stallion or a ship, the whole matter would by now have been forgotten. The Ottomans were the authority at the time - and had been so for some four hundred years - and no one saw any reason to believe that this purchase was illegal or contrived in any way. As far as the Ottomans were concerned the stones had little historical or cultural value and the Ottoman Greeks of the day, had no real voice or choice in the matter. So, why has this event caused so much furor over the last fifty or so years and has it actually got anything to do with the stones themselves.


Recently it has been announced that a famous society lawyer has been instructed by the Greek Government to assist in the repatriation of the said marbles, which she has agreed to do, on the back of her world renowned marriage to the Hollywood film star, Mr. George Cloony. Mrs. Amal Clooney, an attractive and charming woman – and a bright star in the normally gray sky of the legal profession - is now getting headlines and front page attention from even the conservative Huffington Post.
What, you may well ask, is the reasoning behind this appointment, is this really about the ancient culture of Greece, or more so the horrifying condition of the Greek economy?A cynical journalist may well believe, that matters pertaining to Greek Culture – although of considerable importance to a small percentage of Greek citizens – might not be as important as repelling a broadside from Mrs. Angela Merkel and her cohorts at the IMF and in Brussels.
For too long, the Greek media has been full of photographs of certain rather seedy looking individuals. Generally referred to as accountants - or bean counters - in their cringing desire to appease the wrath of the German Chancellor and other assorted Tuetonic players, they have lost the public admiration, and dare I say respect.
However, seen chatting up some attractive, high class and famous Hollywood totty, will do their Public Relations a power of good - in the eyes of the gloomy Greek press - and I hope the financially depressed and forlorn Greek public. They at least deserve to have some color in their lives, despite the realities of successive spendthrift Greek governments, and their irresponsible leaders.


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Communism and Self Esteem - by Patrick Brigham




Perceived from the sitting rooms of suburban England or even from a press office in Canary Wharf, the ex Communist countries of Europe remain an anathema to most. With an absurd oversimplification of the facts, to the yellow press, it is just another rant about the job market, cheap Eastern European labor, and taking work away from English people. But most of it is rot and downright misleading. It also presents these foreign job hunters as androgynous, feeling-less and totally self motivated, but of course, none of this is true.



Sixty years of Communism have caused more emotional damage to the inhabitants of Eastern Europe than has been presupposed. Despite the various Communist administration's absurd political claims - that social engineering would one day put greedy western capitalists in their place - after the political changes in the 90s, there was little evidence of this success, just a daunted and disillusioned population of resentful and confused people. Just how our fellow Europeans managed to survive the oppression, which Communism so gladly provided for them, is a lesson we should all learn, when it comes to the personal management of our mental health.

The reality of Communism was a tall greasy pole which anybody with any ambition, had to climb. The rewards were very clear and although a citizen had to conform to certain strict criteria when it came to where they lived and how much they were paid, their way forward was either through working as a senior manager in one of the many enterprises, or by becoming a part of the control structure and working for the Ministry of the Interior.


The whole system was tied to Communist Party values and to the people who controlled and oiled the corrupt political process. Everyone knew this, and together with a paper trail - which makes Franz Kafka’s literary machinations seem almost childlike - they were doomed to conform to the often absurd edicts of their masters, held in an emotional inertia, under strict observation and remorseless control.

The effect of all this pressure was to create a creature which nobody in Northern Europe could easily recognize then, or even to this day. People of all ages were secretive, conspiratorial, passive and compliant. Few liked their lifestyle, their jobs, their colleagues or even their own families. The net result was that jealousy and contempt, were gradually superseded by paranoia and a massive grudge. Nothing was good enough, people – who on the surface seemed cordial and reasonable – conspired against one another and looked forward to the day when they could reek humiliation on their chosen victims, which for some deeply held and obscure reason, gave them their greatest satisfaction. That was reality under Communism.


In layman's terms, it also goes a long way to describe a massive inferiority complex, too, and together with little opportunity to excel – of course there was always sport – and with deeply held resentments in place, many once loyal citizens descended into alcoholism, drug abuse and prostitution; especially after the political changes.
When these changes finally came, most of the peoples of Eastern Europe had dreams of being saved by the Americans. It was believed that they would wave the stars and stripes over these forlorn and forgotten nations like a magic wand, and that everyones lives would be changed for the better overnight. But this did not happen.

Iris Murdoch once described low self esteem, in terms of finding fault in others. This might be true, in a gentle English town, full of gentle English people. But in modern Britain, people are forced to compete for the few jobs that are still around and being knocked back and rejected must seem a very painful experience to those of a gentle disposition. But you must take heart and to try to understand how it is that many of your fellow Europeans have been through far greater trauma and humiliation than you because, in the end, all they had to believe in was themselves.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

How to heat your Balkan home during Winter.


The odd thing about the Balkans is the way that the seasons seem to stop and start the moment that there is a change in the month. It is now well into September and I have almost forgotten how unbearably hot it was just a few weeks ago and how the windows and shutters remained closed during the day to keep the heat down, and outside the house. Now it is the opposite, the idea being, to keep the heat inside the house. So, it is now time to think about realistically heating our homes and to address the practical problems facing us all; how to keep warm over the winter months.

The Greeks quite recently got the message about overcharging their indigenous population when it comes to many of their household items, but the Greek government does not always agree with this view. If you are fortunate enough to believe you are able to afford heating oil, then you will have to wait until November, before there is an announcement by the Greek government about the so called discounted price of heating fuel. Since heating oil is just normal diesel fuel - by another name - they will try and keep the retail price as close to the high street garage pump price, as they can.



Seen as a serious opportunity to collect more cash to support the ailing Greek economy, many ordinary people are not prepared these days to take this risk, or to wait for the announcement to take place. Consequently, as in the last few years, we are all planning ahead with our heating needs and ordering our logs, for the forthcoming cold months. But - and this is a big but - how has the price of logs faired, since last year?

Greeks maybe a little more adept at delivering logs than in other parts of the Balkans, and so there are three choices for delivery. Firstly, you can buy logs of various sizes strapped to a pallet, secondly logs can be delivered in glass fiber bags – in both cases, they can be craned into a convenient spot – and finally, dropped off the back of a truck in a big pile ready for your exercise regime to move into gear. This month the latter method attracts the price of 95 EUR for two cubic meters or a one tonne delivery to the pile of your choice.

Bulgaria is obviously cheaper, because most of the Greeks logs come from there anyway. But, not if like me, you live just across the border from Bulgaria. In no time at all, the Bulgarians have decided that they too can charge the same amount as the locals for delivery to my home in Greece, claiming transport costs and the like. So, what is the solution? The answer is a pellet stove!

There are many such stoves for sale in Europe which seem to vary so greatly in price, that some must be exceptional. No, they are not. They are just more expensive because they are German, Austrian, Italian, or American, etc., etc. However, the Bulgarians have now come up with their own little winner! It is called the PS9 Pony, is made by a company called Erato in Haskovo and is for sale at 30% less than the advertised price of similar units from other parts of the world.



This is their blurb:- The ERATO Pony PS9 is steel-plate hot air pellet stove, which uses solid Biomass fuel in the shape of pellets. The stove is designed for local heating domestic and office spaces. The boiler uses wood pellets, as well as other types/shapes of biomass and the resulting heat energy from thermo-chemical conversion - combustion process - is then transmitted from the heat-exchanging surfaces to the surrounding air.

Have a look at http://www.erato.bg and see for yourself. Sounds good doesn't it? Well next month I will let you know, when mine is installed, what has really happened and how well it works!


Saturday, 6 September 2014

Abduction: An Angel over Rimini - $1.99 from Smashwords


A SPECIAL OFFER FROM SMASHWORDS.

This is Patrick Brighams often disturbing, but facinating story about child abduction and people trafficking in Europe. Once more DCI Mike Lambert - now working for Europol in Holland - is on the trail of the little English girl, Penelope Scratchford. In this third murder mystery in a series, he follows her trail through South Eastern Europe and the Balkans, in order to discover if she is alive or dead. But, our English policeman also manages to find love and some personal adventure - despite an acromonious divorce from Arrabella, his aquisative and unfaithful ex-wife - with the loverly Countess Beatrix who he meets in Italy.


Detective Chief Inspector Michael Lambert has left the Thames Valley Police Authority and is now working for Europol as a front line Europol Liaison Officer at The Hague. He has left England and, because of his recent divorce, now lives permanently in his holiday villa, in the Calvados region of Northern France.
In An Angel over Rimini, his first case for Europol involves the abduction of a little English girl from a camp site in Riccione in Italy. It is a cold case, which has been reopened due to public pressure, the intervention of the British Government and the agitation of leading English newspapers.
DCI Lambert goes to Rimini to help the State Police to reinvestigate the kidnapping of little Penelope Scratchford, only to find that the investigating authorities are quite determined to blame the parents for her disappearance and murder. It becomes clear - as his investigation progresses - that there are too many unanswered questions and that much of the evidence has been ignored, by the original investigating officer, Vice Inspector Daniel Bosola.
Whilst in Italy, DCI Lambert also finds time to catch up with his father’s mysterious past, during his wartime service in Brindisi as an RAF officer in a Pathfinder Squadron. This reveals some interesting, if not spectacular revelations about his father’s secret wartime exploits and his peccadillo’s too! For Michael Lambert it is also an awakening, and romance in the shape of Countess Beatrix d’Aragona finally brings the Europol detective back to life emotionally, somehow blotting out the past and his sterile marriage to Arabella Lambert.
Continuing his pursuit of the missing English girl, his investigations take him to Greece and the established smuggling routes through the Evros River Delta up into Bulgaria. In Greece he discovers the horrors of organized illegal immigration and people trafficking and the gangsters involved. He also finds out, that these established smuggling routes are also Al Qaida’s way into Greece and the EU.
In his travels he comes across corrupt Lawyers and Orphanages in Bulgaria, but in so doing he also manages to pinpoint an established child trafficking trail which ultimately leads him back to Central Europe. The discovery of an illegal child adoption group in Hanover and the criminals who operate it, the information gleaned during his trip through Bulgaria, helps DCI Lambert to learn if little Penny Scratchford is still alive or dead.

Buy this from Smashwords - https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/453031



Tuesday, 2 September 2014

BookDaily.com - Abduction: An Angel over Rimini by Patrick Brigham

BookDaily.com - Abduction: An Angel over Rimini by Patrick Brigham

Book Description


It is 2002 and little Penelope Scratchford has been abducted in Italy. The Italian State Police has given up its investigation and believes her parents to be responsible for her disappearance and her probable murder, but cannot prove it. The British authorities believe she is still alive, as does the UK Press.



Sample Chapter Excerpt


The Priest

Whatever it was that prompted Lambert to strike up a conversation with a priest that evening, could only be described as fortuitous. A dull evening with clouds on the horizon and a non-functioning campsite restaurant, he was forced to explore the nearby village where he discovered a small and unexceptional café bar. It was hidden away, next to the village square.
It was also the village bakery and there were various cakes and pastries on display inside a glass-fronted cabinet, which also functioned as the shop counter. A few little tables were squeezed inside the shop for the colder winter months, and a number were outside under an awning waiting for the summer visitors to arrive. With no other choice in view, Lambert went inside and inspected the cakes and pastries on sale.
Pointing at some baklava and kataïfi in syrup, he ordered a cappuccino together with a glass ofTsipouro. The sleepy waitress nodded, yawned and then pointed to one of the nearby tin tables. As he waited he could hear her talking to someone on the phone. A car pulled up outside and the driver came into the shop. There then followed an animated conversation and a detailed discussion about the contents of the glass cabinet. After a while, the waitress removed various items from the cabinet which she put into a cardboard box and, finally, consigned it to a printed carrier bag. The till rang, some change was given, the customer left and the waitress immediately returned to her phone call.
After a further ten minutes had elapsed, the bored-looking waitress finally brought a tray over to Lambert’s table together with his bill; she then placed a plate of pastries on the table, coffee, the Tsipouro and a glass of water. Nothing was said. She then sat at one of the unoccupied tables, lit up a cigarette and turned up the volume of the TV set which was attached to the wall, high over the entrance door. It was eight o’clock at night and getting colder. In the distance it began to rumble with thunder.
The rain began to pitter-patter on the road outside and the cars made splashing noises as they went on past the café. The lights flickered in the shop and the TV set switched itself off. The air-conditioning unit, which was the only means of heating for the shop, also switched off. Finally, the electricity came back on and with the aid of various remote devices, the sleepy waitress managed to reactivate the air-conditioning and sat once more staring at the TV, smoking.
The shop door opened and in walked an orthodox priest. He was not a typical village priest with a black stovepipe hat, but was wearing a black bonnet. Dressed in a long, black cassock with an enormous gold cross dangling from his neck, he sported a long straggly beard. Relatively young in years, he appeared to be rather medieval in appearance, despite his holy orders.
‘Yassas,’ he said to the waitress and looking round the café, he finally noticed Lambert. ‘Kalispera,’ he said and then sat at a corner table next to the street, looking at the rain.
The waitress jumped to her feet, taking the priest’s order within seconds of his arrival and treating him with such deference that it was hardly credible to the English policeman. It made him marvel at the power of the Orthodox Church in Greece and to wonder if he had chosen the wrong vocation. Finally, the priest said something to Lambert in Greek, who replied in the only way he knew how.
‘I am sorry. I am English,’ he said, palms up with a sheepish grin. ‘That’s all right,’ said the priest. ‘I’m an Australian!’
The priest was a typically friendly Aussie and belying his austere religious appearance and uninvited, he came and sat opposite Lambert. Lambert casually offered him a Marlboro cigarette. ‘Thanks mate. I don’t mind if I do,’ he smiled.
The Reading policeman looked quizzically at his bearded companion. ‘What are you doing in these parts if you don’t mind my asking?’ The Australian priest was tall and well-built unlike other weedy priests Lambert had seen so far on his travels through Greece. ‘Are you the priest here in Xanthi?’
The priest looked at Lambert and smiled. ‘No thanks, I don’t think even I could find a good reason for staying in such a dead and alive hole. You can keep it!’
He took a long drag on his cigarette. ‘No. I am on my way to visit Mount Athos. I am due to stay there with the monks at the St Panteleimonos Monastery. In July they celebrate the life of Abbot Sophrony Sakharov, who was one of the more notable members of their Russian order. I only stopped off to visit a Greek friend of my old dad, who has not been very well. But me, I’m a full blooded Aussie, I’m afraid.’ He smiled in an easy-going way. ‘How about you; what are you doing in these parts?’
‘Actually, I’m an English policeman,’ he addressed the priest with a look of resignation. ‘Well, someone’s got to do it.’ He smiled and sipped his Tsipouro. ‘I work for Europol in The Hague. I’m here in Greece trying to track down a little girl who was abducted from Italy. By the way, my name is Mike.’ He shook the priest’s hand and the priest gave his name as Father Jacobus.
‘Streuth, not another bloody kidnapping?’ The Aussie priest shook his head in disbelief. ‘That makes me really sick, Mike. I really don’t know what the world is coming to at times. Who are these dreadful people?’
‘It all happened two years ago in Italy, Father. The Italians were a little careless with their investigations and let the true culprit slip through their fingers and escape to Greece. They accused the parents of unintentional manslaughter – which was ridiculous – and consequently found they couldn’t make a case of it, due to lack of evidence. That’s why Europol was engaged to help and why I’m here now chasing up some rather compelling clues.’
‘Where are you staying, Mike?’
‘I’ve got a mobile home down by the sea.’
“Too right. You sound like an Aussie! Smart move.’
Father Jacobus described how he was a Greek Orthodox deacon working for the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Istanbul. Being a first generationAustralian of Greek origin he was able to fit in with the rigorous church standards expected of any Greek Orthodox priest.
‘So you see, Mike, Mount Athos is not too far for me to come, to go into retreat and get a bit of peace and quiet for a change. They are a noisy lot at the best of times in the Greek Orthodox Church and there are plenty of arguments and even fights.’ The thought of a bunch of priests knocking each other’s stovepipe hats off made Lambert laugh.
Continues...

Read more at http://www.bookdaily.com/book/4624774#6LI7d45YtBRDxOOu.99

Friday, 29 August 2014

An Electrical Moral Dilemma


Anyone who lives in Greece, by now has a very good idea about how badly Greece has been governed over the last few years. They know, because, despite promises to the contrary, each month every householder in Greece has to pay a hefty tax to the government, via their personal electricity bill.

Why am I complaining? Well, mainly it is because I wasn’t around in Greece when these four armed spendthrifts were cooking the books and generally misleading the Greek public about their national finances. No, I was in Bulgaria running my own business as efficiently as possible - under the prevailing circumstances - and oblivious to the fact that Greece PLC was living far above its means.





All that we outsiders could observe about Greece, at the time, were certain rather self satisfied and overweight individuals, spouting a load of misleading statistics; no doubt bathing in the largesse of a generous Greek banking industry. And whilst the Greek Government was causing a tidy - if somewhat hidden – hole in their national budget, so were the indigenous Greek citizens themselves.

However, none of this is news these days, because, not only has the media milked this story dry, it has also become the rallying cry for Greeks who want to express their personal contempt, for the sanctimonious - and somewhat parsimonious - German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. But I am not writing about the German Chancellor or the disgruntled and impecunious Greeks, I am actually writing about the way the Greek Government has sought to collect this additional tax.

When the penny dropped, and a team of so called technocrats appeared on the government front bench – please read accountants – it was a well televised and emotional point. They implied that in time they could fix the Greek economy, but that the Greeks themselves would have to pay the costs. Cliches about pain and gain were cast into the ether and these government stalwarts started banging the drum of patriotism. Tears and a welter of ‘Greek Brio’ fueled the issue and when it was announced that a charge would be levied on on householders electricity bills, it was generally accepted that it was a matter of expedience.

‘Well,’ said the citizens of Greece, ‘that’s okay, but only this once,’ and most people coughed up 500 EUR and thought that was it. One concerned politician also confirmed in parliament - to his fellow countrymen and women - that it was a one off and that in future, any additional tax would be charged separately in order not – I presume - to pauperize certain members of the community. Well, the months passed and of course this never happened. Today I had to pay an additional 70 EUR hidden within my electricity account, something I have continued to do over the past few years. Add it up!





I suppose you could say that people have become used to it, but judging by the queues at the "DEN" (sic) office in my local town, this is not very true. 50% of Greek workers are currently unemployed and any social benefits which they enjoy hardly cover the rising cost of food, let alone household accounts such as their electricity bill. Fuel oil is prohibitively priced and although householders are turning to wood to heat their homes during the winter months, these days there is only a marginal difference in cost. So how do you read this somewhat aggressive story? I suppose if you don’t pay your electricity bill, they will cut you off; notwithstanding your age or infirmity!

How Byzantine this story must seem to those who don’t live in the Balkans. Repleate in ones comfortable home in the northern climbs of Europe, or across the Atlantic ocean, you might spare a thought for the impoverished few, and those of us who are forced to pay for a Greek debt which was steadily growing, long before we came to live here!



Friday, 22 August 2014

Where are the Greek ATM machines?

Greece is a country full of as many dilemmas as the myths it has lived on for years. Having been diagnosed the bad boy of the EU, in its haste to rehash its benign image as the bastion of civilization in Europe, it has recently been responsible for some very nasty and - quite frankly - unnecessary actions, which are so much against 'their own,' that they almost seem spiteful! This is particularly evident with their banks. We know that most bankers - when they have finally got their hands on your cash - think that it is theirs, but has it ever occurred to them that without clients and customers, thier coffers would be empty?



It occurred to me that the sudden disappearance of an ATM in my village - previously called a bank - that it was the result of some ominous banking crash and that some thoughtful competitor would come to the rescue and replace it with an even better service. But no, it was just the beginning of the end. Now, along with the entire inhabitants of my village, I have to make a weekly visit to my nearest big town to get access to my British pension, there being no other choice. This is because all the other provincial ATM's have now been switched off. Apart from a few little old ladies and retirees who bravely scramble onto a weekly bus, Greece is going back to being a cash economy. But what is the main reason behind it, other than the Greek governments orders from Germany? I think that the main reason is misinformation. I believe that it is not true that Greece is in the hands of accountants. It is my opinion that the Greek economy has actually been abducted by some unfeeling robots. Clearly a close relation to your average ATM machine, these robots are only programmed to save money, at the expence of the people they are supposed to serve.



In the light of this absence of compassion and humanity, perhaps the future will lie in the field of telephony - as it does in deepest darkest Africa and in the UK as well - whereby with an absent minded click of your mobile phone, your PayPal account conveniently pays for your Brussle Sprouts or your oversized chunks of Feta Cheese and, in no time at all. The question is, which bright spark is going to get there first - past the punishing and no doubt inhibiting Greek banking laws - in order to bring Greece once more into the 21st century.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Monday, 14 July 2014

Child Abduction - LA Private Detective Allen Cardoza interviews author Patrick Brigham.

UPCOMING JULY 2014 “An angel Over Rimini – Abduction and Human Trafficking” | Patrick Brigham


Patrick Brigham

LIVE:  July 21,  2014– 11 am PST
www.latalkradio.com
AUDIO REPLAY/DOWNLOAD

TITLE:  “Abduction: An angel Over Rimini," it is about Abduction and Human Trafficking.

SPECIAL GUEST: Patrick Brigham

www.aegus1.org

Once in a great while, a novel is written that dives deeply into a real and present danger to children, from the poorest to richest countries. Such is the case with Patrick Brigham’s new book, An Angel Over Rimini – Abduction, Human Trafficking, which revolves around the abduction investigation of a little British girl from a campsite in Rimini, Italy.
An interview that promises to rock your understanding on the topic, Brigham describes how he used his many years a journalist to research and weave into this masterful work of fiction, the true and sometimes terrifying facts about abduction and human trafficking that are rarely included in statistics, or covered by the mainstream media.

ABOUT PATRICK BRIGHAM

Patrick Brigham was born and raised in Berkshire, England and has been a writer and journalist for many years. He is the author of several mystery novels including: Herodotus, Judas Goat and his latest book, An Angel Over Rimini – the subject of today’s interview.
In 1993 he decided to leave London and moved to Sofia in Bulgaria, where he set up the first English Language News Magazine in the Balkans called the Sofia Western News. As a journalist, he witnessed the dramatic political, economical, and social changes in this once hard core communist country.
Patrick’s popular mysteries novels feature fictional police detective Chief Inspector Michael Lambert.  And, although his books are fiction-based, Patrick accomplishes a tremendous amount of research and analysis in order to accurately portray the process of how abduction and human trafficking cases are handled, and solved. A master of storytelling, Patrick brings hard facts, realism and a great deal of awareness to the important underlying themes in each of his books.
Patrick Brigham now lives in Northern Greece, writing mystery novels. here are some of the questions and answers:-

1.    Why did you choose the topic of Abduction and Human Trafficking for your book?
Answer: - The Greeks have recently built a fence next to the River Evros which is their border with Turkey. It is estimated that over 50,000 illegal immigrants have crossed this border in the past, the Turks making little effort to stop them. These days the numbers have dramatically decreased, but the costs of policing are a great burden to this little indebted Balkan country, despite the support of Frontex police and Brussels. I live close to the River Evros and in order for you to understand the extent of the problem that existed in the past and still does to some extent; I would like to present the following scenario to you. Can you imagine going to the shops where you live, only to be confronted by a group of Taliban tribes’ men and women? Can you imagine a trip down some isolated farm track in order to visit a little Greek church, only to be stopped by some polite Bangladeshi people and asked the way to the nearest train station? This was the reality up until quite recently, although these days the numbers are much fewer and the smugglers now use other well tried and tested routes, we still see quite a few of these unfortunates, roaming the streets.

2.     Please tell us about the research you did on human trafficking what you learned about these activities in western societies.
Answer: - I am surrounded by tired and depressed police men and women, who know the realities of people trafficking. They have had to dredge the river for corpses, those who have either drowned, died of hypothermia, the cold, or have even been shot by the Turkish traffickers with their hunting rifles. These gangsters see migrants as valuable contraband, and their smuggling routes – which have existed since 1923 and partition – are simply regarded as a business conduit, through which to traffic people, cigarettes or drugs. Take your pick.

3.    I’ve seen a lot of different statistics about the scope of human trafficking.  Why don’t we have consistent numbers and more media coverage?
Answer: - The reason for these illegal immigrants being in Greece and Italy is simply a matter of war and political strife. The first to appear on the streets of Greece were the Albanian minorities from Serbia during the Milosevic years, closely followed by the Afghans or Iraqi’s and now the Syrians, Egyptians and even some Iranians. There have also been incidences of Al Qaeda terrorists using these smuggling channels and so until recently little Greece – itself a Christian bastion against the Islamic states – was suddenly the weak spot of Europe, alongside the immerging ex – Communist countries of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Clearly the result of war, it has been in the West’s interests to put the blame on economic migration; Messers Bush and Blair having neglected to calculate the true costs involved, when they enthusiastically went to war. So, it is only quite recently that the truth has leaked out – not only about the numbers involved – but the fatalities too. This indifference must be further underlined, when we hear our politicians blaming these poor unfortunates for taking away jobs from indigenous workers in their country of settlement. Nobody wanted to sweep the streets then, and suddenly they do today? This is why we have heard so little in the past.

4.    What kinds of cases did you research for your story development and why did you choose a young English girl?
Answer: - The ongoing investigation in Portugal concerning the whereabouts of Madi McCann has been my main inspiration. A botched investigation by the Portuguese police, unfounded accusations that her parents were responsible for her death, and finally, the intervention of the British authorities and news media, brought the whole matter once more back into the light. Clearly a question of xenophobia, prejudice, ignorance and indifference; a turf war between the two countries authorities seems to have occurred at some point and together with a shortage of police resources, meant that the fate of Madi McCann was practically forgotten. However, a new investigation is presently under way. I also decided to take the abduction to Italy because it fitted more easily into my route through Greece, Bulgaria and finally into northern Europe. In my opinion Italy seems to have some challenging problems with their justice system – the case of Amanda Knox comes to mind – and I could see a similar problems occurring with an investigation by the State Police in Rimini, a well known Italian holiday destination.

5.    What happens to the trafficker when he is captured and a victim is rescued?
Answer: - The traffickers are Turkish/Greek, Bulgarian/Turkish, German/Turks, German/Greeks, Greeks, Turks and Bulgarians. No longer a divided Europe, these are the people who make for a well organized smuggling operation. Once great enemy’s the Turks and the Greeks get together in places like Hamburg in Germany and with the Schengen cross border agreement in place, the whole of the EU is at their feet. DCI Michael Lambert, my protagonist, is a Europol Liaison Officer which is the EU equivalent of the FBI in the US. He arrives in Italy, only to find the previously mentioned chaos, and quietly unravels the events which encapsulate this cold case. Ignoring the Italian police’ investigation, he follows the evidence to Greece and thence to Bulgaria and back into Central Europe. In Greece he  tracks down some traffickers who are arrested by the Greek authorities and through them he finds he way into the crooked Bulgarian court system, only to discover who and how certain unprincipled lawyers have arranged illegal adoptions to childless couples in the West. Nearly all the traffickers and their cohorts end up in the overcrowded prisons in Greece or in Germany.

6.    Your book talks about illegal immigration – how are traffickers moving these children to other countries?
Answer: - In my fictional account you will see that the well tried holiday road routes through Europe are practically free of stop checks, most border crossings left open and with only the occasional check on ferries, rivers and canals, it is simple for these criminals to operate. Airports are the greatest threat to abductors and smugglers, and so generally they take their time and travel by road. In my book Abduction – An Angel over Rimini, I write of a ‘sorting house,’ in Greece, which is the hub for these operations and where various routes interlink and coalesce into the west.




 

Friday, 27 June 2014

Dying at the Gates of Europe

 
The level of ignorance concerning the unremitting arrival of illegal immigrants into the EU via Turkey is quite unbelievable.

The true reason has been largely ignored by the Northern Europeans, who tend to dwell on its impact on their own societies and particular circumstances.

Greece has had the impossible task of of policing the border with Turkey in order to stop these poor unfortunates from crossing the River Evros, its Delta and to nearby islands. Although Frontex has done its best, the problem is so big, that it is still vastly under resourced.



Should the moaning and groaning EU members stop and think for a moment, they would easily see that all their complaints are the result of either US led wars in the Middle East or due to well orchestrated political agitation.

Either way Greece's problems are the result of war both in the Middle East and in the past the Balkans, which have targeted this peaceful Christian country - now blamed, along with the Italians - for the recent migration into the EU and the often mindless complaints of certain hapless voters.

It is clear that those directly involved in these recent conflicts did not budget in their war costs, for the problems surrounding political and economic migration into the EU and are also very reluctant to pay for their mistakes as well.


In the midst of a national economic catastrophe, Greece's fellow members have proved to be only casual supporters of Frontex, and have virtually ignored the huge cost of housing and managing these unfortunate migrants, who are all destined to travel to Northern Europe, at some point.

Perhaps the winging EU politicians might address the real problems for a change, and to lean on the Turks - who have contemptuously let many of these illegal immigrants into Greece in the first place - in order to create a clearer and fairer picture.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Why is Greece the new destination and how have the Greeks, turned their country around?


The very north of Greece might well be ‘The Yardstick’ by which we can measure the veracity of living in a significantly indebted nation, because Greece has been enjoying a severe reality check of late, together with a boringly repetitious ticking off from the Germans.  

Perched in their ivory towers, most of the verbiage about Greece seems to have come from the many postprandial hacks who occupy their litter strewn desks, in and about the capitals of the world. These well distanced diagnosticians - who no doubt think Greece to be mainly about Diogenes, Euripides or even Feta Cheese - generally believe that a country can be described in terms of cartoon clichés from the past and perhaps the sound of smashing dinner plates - in some hardly remembered Greek restaurant in London’s Notting Hill Gate.  A country traditionally visited by seasoned travelers - other than those who visit for a two week hedonistic break in Mykonos - Greece seems to be turning a corner and getting back on course. Not only according to the all-knowing Brussels pundits, but also by Greeks themselves.
The pain started six years ago in Orestiada, the second city of Evros. Evros is also the name of the river that separates Greece from Turkey to the south and to the north, The Republic of Bulgaria.
As you travel south from the Bulgarian border on the E85 towards Orestiada, you can see the busy Turkish City of Edirne on your left hand side, across the River Evros, with its many Minarets. With four remarkable Ottoman Mosques and many sprawling historical buildings - pink and shining in the sun – it immediately confirms that the vital contrast between the two countries is immense. And it is here that the differences also begin to show and the story starts to open our eyes, to some sort of reality, far away from a cloying media dominated world.

Sunday in Edirne (their Monday) is lively and alive with activity everywhere. Amongst the many shops there are mountains of affordable well designed clothes stores, stuffed with all manner of electrical goods and kitchen ware, and with so many restaurants; it appears to be like a holiday town. It also seems that you can eat anything you like in Edirne, provided of course it is a Kebab!

By contrast, across the river in Orestiada it is practically dead, with rows of empty shops and very few people about, despite the fact that Sunday is traditionally a day for the many Greek Orthodox Churches, for people to promenade in the streets and for Greek café life to flourish. These days talk in Orestiada is generally about the price of logs and the almost doubling in price of heating oil from the previous year. The increase in VAT on food stuffs and the attendant hike in prices - generally unreasonably so – obviously leaves some unscrupulous food shops with a nice little earner and this too is also a major source of gossip. 
Stuck to the telly, Greeks are served up a daily diet of waffle – there are about ten TV stations to choose from – from a bunch of wind bags whose only wish is simply to be seen on the box. With impossible ideas and multiple choice alternatives; little of it makes any sense, under the present difficult circumstances.
 
 
Spike Milligan once said – apropos the then Irish question –that the best solution was to put a large post in the middle of Ireland, and to tow it out to sea. This now appears to be one of the ‘flat earth’ political alternatives these wind bags now suggest; but how I wish they would stop talking!
The historic philosophy behind the EEC, EC, and finally the EU now seems to have been blotted out by us all, and these days only appears to be about money and dodgy economics. Once it was all about war, domination and political intrigue, and of course the Germans. However, like the Bulgarians and to some extent the Romanians, the lure of EU money has always been a great imperative in the Balkans – along with being in NATO – and this was surely so for Greece in 1981, when it became the 10th member of the European Community.
Since then the whole ethos of ‘Poor little Greece’ has changed, and now we see a cabal of political elite – mostly devoid of shame – who have sucked the Greek banks dry, with a look of total innocence that completely baffles even me! Asked to define the difference between Bulgarians and Greeks, I was surprised to find more things in common than differences.
 
Finally it occurred to me that the difference was that Bulgarians wanted to do things, but couldn’t, and that Greeks could, but didn’t want to! Maybe it is once more about that old stereotype bon mot; the one about a Greek going into a revolving door last, but managing to come out first! And this may well have been how Greeks defined themselves in 2008, but unfortunately the door has recently become a little stuck, and is in need of some WD 40.
In this part of Greece, Greek attitudes have changed dramatically since then and now in 2014, everyone is more than aware that the good old days are over and that Greece’s claim to being universally middle class has gone. No more easy loans – from an abnormally friendly and amenable bank manager – just blank looks and a firm demand for prompt payment, business is now consciously improving customer service and reducing hotel prices and property costs too.
So where does this leave our erstwhile or would be intrepid visitor to Greece? Is Greece getting better and why am I banging on about the northern part of Greece which is called Thrace or Thraki to the natives? The answer to that question is very simple, I live here.
 
Throughout modern history, the River Evros was always regarded as a secret place. It was next to Turkey after all – the Greeks old enemy – but it also teemed with the most spectacular flora and fauna. A naturalist’s paradise - and where you are more likely to see a Kestrel sitting on a gatepost, than a crow - Evros Region is full of wonders. It is also farming country and where you can find the fabulous Greek National Park near Tychero. Hard core Greek - Alexander the Great came from Greek Macedonia and his mother was born on the mystical island of Samothraki – this part of Eastern Thrace is hardly known by foreign travelers at all, but remains full of wonder.
 

When you arrive at the Aegean, Greece once more becomes the ubiquitous family holiday destination of yore. With its deserted beaches and its striking scenery – not forgetting the first rate campsites - the Thracian coast has a lot to offer its visitors at very reasonable prices. You can, if you wish, lie on a beach like a sardine in a tin - getting bronzed to the sound of rap music - but considering the many hundreds of kilometers of deserted sandy beaches on offer, many of us would rather not and of course, they are all free.
Greece also has a lot of little airports and the internal flight costs from Athens are very small, especially if you order your tickets in advance, and Thrace is no exception. With airports in Alexandropoulis, Kavala and Thessaloniki many are regularly visited by cut price carriers from different parts of Europe.
Finally, what is really good in Thrace are the Greek language skills. In Thrace, English and German is widely spoken, even in my little village corner shop, close to where I live and a place which is very easy to live in! 

Copyright © Patrick Brigham – May 2014 Rizia Evros Greece