2012

  1. Serf Victims

    December 17, 2012 by Christopher Buxton

    When the hero/heroine smashes their way into the baddy’s stronghold, the first people he/she encounters are those employed to guard the place. These anonymous workers are mown down in hails of bullets, have their necks broken in silent karate moves, they’re stabbed, blown to pieces by expertly thrown grenades, spread-eagled by crossbow bolts. In films they’re played by cheap Eastern European extras and nobody gives a second thought to the characters they play.

    Only occasionally I consider their back stories. When the baddy built his base, as always in a faraway backwater of economic deprivation, our typical bloke and his family were probably starving. Now with his wages paying for breakfast cereal, his wife probably wished him another good day at work that morning, little knowing that by the evening he would be lying dead by his master’s gate. The master of course will have had time to make his incredible escape to ensure parts 2,3,4 of the franchise. But with his departure, our bloke’s wife and children will die of some poverty disease and be buried in unmarked graves.

    What passing bells for these who die as cattle

    The prank carried out on Kate Middleton’s nurse reminds us that in real life as in films there are folk destined to be circumstantial casualties. As the DJs pointed out in their defence, they could never have foreseen that the intermediary that they fooled would go on to hang herself.  Like the baddy’s guards the nurse was just a fence to jump over – not a human being with family and feelings.

    We don’t need I’m a celebrity: get me out of here ritual humiliations to grasp the underlying truth that all celebrities are baddies. Those Ozzie DJs must have been as cock-a-hoop as Bruce Willis to have penetrated the inner sanctum of the British Royal Family. Kate Middleton with her acute morning sickness was no more human than Blofeld.

    But then the Serf gatekeeper goes and commits suicide. She’s left a distraught husband and children and those DJs who imagined golden careers in the future have had to go into hiding.

     

    Small afterthoughts

    In Disney’s cartoon version of Robin Hood, the expendables were rhinos and generally they weren’t killed but made to look extremely stupid.  I am sure Good King Richard kept them employed.

    In BBC’s family orientated Merlin, there was some tiny consideration given to a young pretty druidess killing an old guard in cold blood. She shrugged her shoulders and called him a casualty of war. Nice Arthur condemned her to die, not because she’d killed a serf but she’d tried to kill him and wouldn’t say sorry.

    She was duly hanged off camera. It’s good that the BBC has introduced the topic of Capital Punishment to the family Saturday night supper table.


  2. 3 poems from the seventies

    December 6, 2012 by Christopher Buxton

    Moving house you turn up stuff from the past.  You meet your former self.  Here are three poems I wrote in the seventies.  They reflect my love of Bulgaria and one particular Bulgarian woman:

    TO BURGAS

    I

    You kings of old Bulgaria

    cloaked in the knowledge

    of treachery

    danger in the swirling snows –

    the suffocating sun and dust

    of armies on the plain

    on the march – a throw of the dice;

    a kingdom

    a knife in the dark;

    your foreign queens and jealous lords –

    close your eyes in the peace

    of sky and sea:

    do you see

    from the idle fishing boats

    bobbing, raise your eyes

    as if in vision on a shimmering day

    see

    Burgas now raise its white towers

    from the salt marsh.

    II

    Burgas never so beautiful

    as after a shower:

    the tarmac and the concrete

    glisten with a metal sheen,

    reflecting dissolving

    the harshness of the blocks to

    a mirage of white towers

    clean against the blue sky

    the gurgling gutter

    three yellow leaves

    the whisper of an endless

    red bus.

    III

    Water flows across the way

    some day

    between Nessebur and Sozopol

    you kings of old Bulgaria

    in a mosquito second

    pause gaze

    on the silent heights

    of faceless windows in the sky

    fortresses of daylight throng

    the shore where

    your armies disappear.

     

    THIS MONTH’S BLUES

    Rain dashes on my window, wind blows round my door

    I got no minute to myself to break this aching store.

     

    I lay with my baby all on my lovin’ bed

    but the sleeping sickness got me turning my limbs to lead

     

    When the rain falls on Burgas, seems like there ain’t no time

    chased by the winds and loving becomes a crime.

     

    Don’t you know it’s mean to travel on a number four bus

    Your baby’s upset and she’s going home to face a fuss.

     

    Wind’s blowing in Burgas, blowing the sun away

    But when the sun comes back I’m gonna lie with my baby all day.

     

    SONG FOR SOFIA

    (after getting marriage documents)

    Sofia’s a lady I sing this song for you

    To some you’re just Shopski but to you I’ll be true.

    Though your gallery is painted in a shade of shocking pink

    And your cafes don’t sell coffee and I can’t afford your drink

    In the trolleys and the buses you stamp upon my toes

    and round your Russian monuments a cold wind blows

    But now the sun is shining I’ll shout with all my breath

    Sofia, Sofia I’ll love you unto death.

     

    Sofia’s a lady I sing this song for you

    though people just sneer Shopski to you I’ll be true

    Be true to that office girl who nodded and who smiled

    as long awaited documents into my hands she piled

    Be true to those old men who just gave a smiling glance

    as I burst into the sunlight, kissed the papers, did a dance,

    be true to those young girls who handed me a flower

    Sofia I love you more and more by the hour

     

    Sofia’s a lady I sing this song for you

    And though the lady’s Shopska to you I’ll be true

    In this city in the sunlight my happiness is sealed

    With hard to find taxation stamps the wounds of love are healed

    Though the waitress brought me moussaka when I distinctly ordered soup

    Even by the mausoleum I can’t restrain a whoop

    From your majestic theatre to your snowy virgin peak

    I’m in love with you city.  I’m a shopski freak.

     

     


  3. On patriots

    December 4, 2012 by Christopher Buxton

    Dr Johnson defined patriotism succinctly and perhaps unfairly as the last refuge of scoundrels. I say unfairly because for me there is a vast difference between patriots and people who call themselves patriots. What has never changed is the alacrity with which self declared patriots label as unpatriotic folk who care deeply about their country. Sitting smugly on their moral high-mound these self declared patriots feel they have done sufficient. There is no need to engage in any rational argument with those whose views they disagree with.  If they expend any effort at all it is to find or invent personal details that will blacken the names of their opponents. The high mound they sit on provides sufficient mud.

    Thus it was in the US during the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights struggle. Folk who cared sufficiently about their country to have their heads broken by the Chicago police were routinely labelled as unpatriotic by self appointed moral guardians.

    New interpretations of a country’s history that challenge comfortable prejudices are sufficient to provoke paroxysms of self induced anger from the patriot brigade. This is particularly true in a country that is in the throes of complex transition and ruled by a government whose principal concerns are its popularity and looking after its own

    The history of Bulgaria contains one uncomfortable and inescapable fact. For five hundred years Bulgarian speakers across the Balkan peninsular were subjects of the Ottoman Empire.  These five hundred years have been routinely labelled as a yoke, as slavery, as oppression even as holocaust or genocide. But little has been written up to now about the day to day reality. It is sufficient for patriots to know that with the rise of nationalism in the second half of the nineteenth century brave revolutionaries and brigands sparked revolts through the Balkans that provoked horrific reprisals from the regular and (more significantly) irregular forces of a now failing empire.

    There are obvious parallels with the British Empire in regards to India, Ireland and Kenya. Only that the British were far more brutal.

    Like the British, the Ottoman Empire left its tangible legacy.  Many Bulgarian towns still have medieval mosques. Bulgarian language still contains many colourful Turkish words and expressions. Arguably these five hundred years played a key role in the formation of patriarchal moral codes. There are significant pockets of ethnic Turkish populations and Moslem Bulgarians – sufficient to ensure a continuous presence in the Bulgarian parliament and even as coalition partners in previous governments.

    However any Bulgarian who seeks to study Bulgarian lands under the Ottoman Empire runs a terrible risk. Unless he/she just trots out the accepted black and white mythology of vile Turks and brave oppressed Bulgarians, he/she will be labelled as anti-Bulgarian, agent of foreign enemy powers – the equivalent of being labelled a paedophile in the UK. Consequences can be dire. Any statement about some of the positive aspects of life under the Ottomans will quickly be seized upon by furious patriots and transformed into the shit-blanket accusation of denial. It is as though any critic of the current Israeli government is immediately labelled a holocaust-denying anti-Semite.

    As a parenthesis, the use of the word mythology is meant in no way to discredit the truth that lies behind strongly held shared beliefs about the past. Misunderstanding of the academic use of the word mythology has led to one woman being driven out of her home by a mob enflamed by the patriotic media– just like the paediatrician in England wrongly labelled by the Sun as a paedophile.

    And so my former otlichnik pupil Tony Georgieff has had his personal life raked over by the patriots. His crime has been to collaborate with a historian and archaeologist to publish an objective and beautifully illustrated book about the Ottoman legacy in Bulgaria. His picture has been published on a blacklist of “Bulgaria haters”.  He has been accused of being a CIA agent and Turkish whore.

    I know what some of my Bulgarian readers will be thinking. Buxton’s English.  The English have always been pro-Turkish.  So to even up this article let me praise the writer Orhan Pamuk who has dared to take on his “patriotic” fellow Turks in addressing the Armenian massacres. This terrible blot on the history of the Ottoman Empire has been a taboo subject in Turkey and it takes a real patriot to dare raise it.


  4. Job swap 9

    October 2, 2012 by Christopher Buxton

    The story so far: As part of a European Union Inclusivity Initiative, British Prime Minister David Cameron and the GLB (Greatest Living Bulgarian) have swapped jobs.  In London Boyko Borisov is having to deal with Conservative Chief Whip, Andie Mitchell who is alleged to have sworn at a Downing Street Policeman.  In Sofia Cameron is feeling bored.

    B.B writes: There’s nothing more dangerous than a wolf with a full tummy.

    I know what they all think of me, but they can just get their mothers to form an orderly queue. The latest is this ex Public School millionaire Dave foisted on me. Rides a bicycle to cabinet meetings and then swears at a policeman because he won’t let him through the gate reserved for my BMW. Apparently he calls the policeman a fucking pleb. And before you ask, I know what a pleb is.  Daddy Toshko explained it all to me when I was his bodyguard. So I don’t need Latin or that goggle eyed Education minister to understand the principles of class struggle. If this man calls a policeman a fucking pleb, what’s he going to call an ex-fireman like me? Fight fire with fire.  I call the Sun.  They can take some topless shots of me digging a hole in the lawn at Chequers and then tucking into pie and chips. Headline: Boyko digs grave for Andie’s political career.

    Talking about their mothers, the Party Conference is just round the corner, and I have to keep a tight grip on my belt and trousers. Those conservative women! I swear they can unzip you at twenty paces just with their eyes; and as for their tummy busting fancy cakes! They’re obsessed with class too. After a couple of sherries at the Oxfordshire County Fair, Lady Whatshername told me she’d always fancied a burly working man in her four poster. I’ll give Christo a ring. We have to keep up our Bulgar reputation for virility. It’s all in the yoghurt.

    I swear Nick Clegg is like Stanishev on some Liberal watered down version of speed. Blink and he’s in the charts, singing he’s sorry; and now he wants to tax the rich. I can’t wipe him off the TV screen. It was bad enough competing with Boris on the fifty metre camera dash all through the Olympics. Find me a motorway to open or even an airport runway.

    I had a kick about with the Chelsea team on Tuesday – made sure the Press were informed. Roman’s well pleased with British justice. I told him it would have been even cheaper in Bulgaria – with half the risk.  Any friend of Vladimir’s. But as Roman pointed out the damages he’d have got wouldn’t have paid for a Chelsea Season Ticket. Out on the field, I went in for a crunching tackle and one of Roman’s overpaid stars called me a fucking Bulgar cunt. I joked that I’d get Vince Cable to look at his tax returns. I may be a pleb but I won’t take abuse from other plebs. I said the same to Volen. And look what happened to him.

    As we say in Bulgaria, even fleas have a spleen.

    Dave’s just rung.  I must save this Andie character’s skin. After all he didn’t go to Eton, but some dump called Harrow. Dave says it’s important that the Cabinet’s seen to be inclusive – part of what he calls the big tent. I say the man’s so far out of his skin he’ll be pissing out on to the bobbies outside the tent flaps. Well set a Bulgarian to work. I invite the Chief Constable round and before you know it he issues a press statement saying that all’s forgiven and forgotten and we can draw a line under everything.

     

    DC writes: George sent me an email. Everything’s tickety-boo in Blighty, he tells me. Such a brilliant wheeze – having such an egregious pleb at the head of our party. Brother Boyko just runs from photo shoot to photo shoot. The Sun loves him. The Guardian’s comparing him to Eric Cantona on account of the puzzling Bulgarian proverbs he keeps coming up with. Every day it’s a battle between Boris and Borisov, who gets the biggest headlines, which is fine by George. As he says the Great British Public have lost track of what we’re up to.

    I have to admit I’m finding it pretty dull here. Life is just a series of anti-climaxes. One day I shiver and find mournful Tsvetanov standing next to me – he tells me that there’s been another lot of spectacular arrests – this time of Muslim militants in Pazardzhik.  I’m jolly pleased as I’ve had Benjamin Netanyahu on the phone every day – usually when I’m playing tennis – and that Karbovski character has been writing more articles about veiled women than wild dogs in Sofia. Next day, I read that the Pazardzhik trial has turned into a farce. There’s no evidence – just a few Saudi books and old scores being settled by the Muftis. I remember Brother Boyko telling me: we arrest them; the judges set them free. I turn to give Tsvetanov a few choice words about the importance of evidence, but find as usual that he’s disappeared.


  5. Job Swap 8

    September 4, 2012 by Christopher Buxton

    The story so far: As part of a European work-sharing initiative, the GLB  Greatest Living Bulgarian Boyko Borisov and Posh-boy David Cameron have swapped jobs.  Batty Boyko is now enjoying a post-Olympic holiday in rain-soaked Cornwall. David Cameron is somewhat less comfortable in his Boyanna Residence, worried by new waves of unrest in Sofia.

    David Cameron writes: Dear me! Just had that mournful faced Police Chappie tap me on the shoulder. He has this knack of soundlessly oozing up at the most unexpected moments – makes a fellow jump.  It must be part of his training. Anyway he’s come to tell me that some group that calls itself Puppy Riot took over a BTV studio this morning. Dressed in dog masks they sang songs called “Deport the Imperialist bulldog!” and “Boycott BTV” Three BTV viewers were very upset.  They want Puppy Riot put under arrest for hooliganism.

    Brother Boyko is certainly a hard act to live up to. He’s got the people believing that it’s a Prime Minister’s job to personally sort out any problems however trivial with superhuman speed, dressed in a football shirt. This has consequences for me. Bulgaria’s answer to Jeremy Clarkson has written an article demanding to know why I’m not out and about shooting stray dogs. He seems to think that anyone who went to Eton was born with a hunting rifle strapped to his back.  Yesterday I was mobbed by a group of wailing women wanting to know when I’m going to fly to Spain and get their sailor sons/husbands out of gaol. Cue Mournful Police Chappie whispering in my ear that their boat was loaded to the gunnels with cocaine. I quip that if they’d been arrested in Malaysia they’d be facing the death penalty. This just provokes more wailing. I offer to fly to Spain in Boyko’s bullet proof vest and they actually take me seriously. I turn round to ask police chappie why the boat owner hasn’t been arrested and put behind bars, but all I see is a shadow on the floor.

    Still things could be worse. My toothless plum-in-mouth leader of the Opposition, Sergei Stanishev, has disappeared (who would notice?). Some Brussels chump wants to make Stanishev king of the European Socialists.  So it’s not only Berbatov who seeks glory in foreign fields. While at home his media secretary is comparing Socialism to AIDS, Stanishev is globe trotting sucking up to famous lefties. This includes that chap Jacob Zuma. Well he certainly knows a lot about AIDS and murdering his workers.

    GLB Brother Boyko Borisov writes:  David must be keeping a low profile, because I’m still riding high in the polls back home. That posh berk Osborne tells me the trick in a crisis is to do nothing. I tell him not to teach a greengrocer how to sell cucumbers.  The trick is to hide the fact you’re doing nothing by doing something, however spectacularly useless every day. Boris Johnson is the only bloke in this group of public school jolly-boys who seems to understand this. That’s why I’m getting the whole cabinet out to play my version of beach volleyball in St James Park before the re-shuffle. I’ve lent Lizzie my binoculars.  She’s looking forward to watching from the palace balcony.  I’ve promised Ken a pack of Cuban cigars and a Milcho Iliev CD if he pulls down Gove’s shorts.

    And I’m making sure that Boris Johnson doesn’t get within five miles of the event. He’s always trying to steal my limelight.

    You might well ask what I’ve got against this character, Gove.  Well apart from the fact that he and Jeremy are always sniggering whenever I open my mouth in cabinet meetings, it’s because he ruined my plans last Thursday. There was all the press, gathered in the playground of this school in Brixton, with me all ready to congratulate this beautiful fireman’s daughter on her A-level results, I lead the count-down to opening the envelope,  the poor girl unfolds the paper and just bursts into tears. Turns out Gove changed the marking rules at the last minute and instead of three As and a glowing invite to Cambridge, she’s got three Es and an offer from Bloxwich College. Every time I see him now I mime shuffling cards. That wipes the supercilious grin off his face.

    Well the Olympics got by without a bomb in sight.  I got lots of photo opps. with lissome Brit medal winners.  Poor Dave had to explain why Bulgaria got the lowest medal tally in its history.


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