The Meddlesome Mr Khashoggi – PATRICK BRIGHAM LIVE

 

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In Jean Anouilh original stage play Becket: The Honour of God, and ultimately his 1964 film – with Peter O’Toole as Norman, King Henery II and Richard Burton as Saxon, Archbishop Thomas O’ Becket – it describes how two young men; who as inseparable friends, in later life become enemies.

The secular versus the Catholic Church, Mr Fixit Thomas, has turned into The Church of Romes henchman, by aligning himself with the Pope against Henry, and against his disagreements with Rome. Surely an analogy with present Saudi royalty; in Anouilh’s script, Henry – who still harbours great affection for his onetime cohort and drinking companion, Thomas – says in desperation: “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

More a rhetorical question than an order, it is enough to encourage some dimwitted Norman Barons to go to Canterbury Catedral, where they butcher Archbishop Thomas. Full of regret, and in the final scene Henry has himself flogged by Saxon monks, in retribution for causing the death of his friend.

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Hardly a flogging matter in Saudi Arabia, and to misquote William Shakespeare, one wonders whether ‘heads will now roll,” as these two historical incidents seem to coalesce, despite the passage of time.

I cannot understand why these incompetent assassins went to all the trouble they did to kill Jamal Khashoggi in this brutal way, when a swift stab wound with a stiletto in a car park or a muffled pistol shot, would have been far more effective; unless of course, they were acting under direct orders. But, under the direct orders of whom; an idiot?

Other than a general comment about Saudi freedom of speech, women’s rights, the ownership of property and assets, the marriage and divorce laws, and who gets the kids – most of which is sacred and established in our modern western society – it is hard to say why Khashoggi offended the Saudi state so much. Many western journalists are also concerned by certain inequalities in Saudi Arabia, a country where little value is put on servants and indentured workers – many who are treated like slaves – but we western journalists don’t seem to get bumped off.

All bad? Yes, but it is not news to anyone who has taken an iota of interest in the Middle East, or since reading TE Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom at school. I expect that the reason for this bloody murder was more tribal than anything else, and getting back to Laurence, it was probably an infringement of some obscure Arab moral code.

In the foreseeable future, and established by Arab custom, there will be a fairly unjust court case, where the minor players will be harshly punished. The major instigators will be severely admonished, whilst forced to pay huge amounts in blood money to the Khashoggi’s family – who in turn will profit greatly from Jamal’s death – and without a hint of sorrow or regret, it will all have been wrapped up neatly and forgotten about!

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My Random Road to Sofia 2 – PATRICK BRIGHAM LIVE

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THOSE WERE THE DAYS!

Part 2

A few years had passed by since my first visit to Sofia, but not a lot had changed by the time I arrived in 1993, together with permanent residence in mind. Although everyone seemed welcoming, there remained an ominous doubt in my thoughts about the wisdom of my move, even though the smiles of my hosts seemed genuine enough. A lot had happened between my first visit to Bulgaria in 1985, including my marriage in London – to the daughter of a noted Bulgarian Communist philosopher –  and my addition to her family, which could only be described as ‘The Red Bourgeoisie.’ In the past, whole university departments had been named after this academic family, which even to this day is viewed with considerable respect despite the changes in the political landscape and its constant photoshop alterations.

Five years of marriage had not been an easy matter in London, as the contrasts in our cultural backgrounds morphed into daily annoyance, and frustration. You don’t have to be a creative genius to notice the disappointments which occur when people have exaggerated expectations; which was something that Ksenia obviously had. With great swaths of glowing translated references; from many well known Sofia university factions, they were viewed with disdain by the then British authorities, and contemptuously put to one side.

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First Introductions 

Much to do with years of propaganda on either side of the so-called ‘iron curtain,’ UK academia was totally unprepared to accept her glowing references, as she also was with their often unfounded and arrogant attitude. And so, despite many attempts – and even knowing the presiding Professor of Slavonic Studies at the University of London – she had to be content with teaching French to four-year-olds, as her only viable means of employment.

Rejection, and the frustration of being academically stymied, it wasn’t long before she chose to return home to Sofia, to try and reclaim the remnants of her previous life, her university career, and her love of English and American literature. And my disappointment?

Because – by the way, this story is supposed to be about me – mine was the usual naive response that you might expect from anybody who has felt used in some way, and – as bad for my ego as it might have been – unfortunately, I had to accept that from the beginning, my presence in London must have seemed very convenient indeed.

This was when I became just a little less forthright in my thinking, and when I was determined to get to grips with the so-called changes in Eastern Europe and to get something from these changes for myself.

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Hot on the trail for the Sofia Western News magazine

Having let my London flat, and with the assistance of my trusty Series Three Landrover, I decided to move along the Thames to Wallingford, where I kept a small caravan, and spent a few delightful months there, until such time that I felt up to towing my caravan to Bulgaria; which I did one bright September morning in 1993.

It was difficult to totally predict how my presence in Bulgaria would be viewed, due to an understandable ambivalence, but Ksenia’s mother seemed fond of me, and so on arrival in Sofia late one night, I was greeted with some enthusiasm. By then  I was rather tired, due to the condition of roads in Bulgaria – which in those days were almost medieval – and driving at night was quite horrifying.

An argument with a border official didn’t help my frame of mind much. He behaved so absurdly – and clearly bent on humiliating another detested bloody foreigner – I began to doubt my good judgment of going there in the first place. But by mocking this twerp, I reduced the other weary travellers to hopeless laughter when I locked my vehicle, and told him that I was going to walk to Romania – leaving my jeep and caravan blocking the entrance to this dark peoples republic – in order to use the other entrance.

Self-important moron’s don’t like being laughed at, and this one became so agitated that he jumped up and down like a child when I refused to move. The argument – about a fee due in order to use the dreadful Bulgarian roads – I finally agreed on a sum in Swedish Krona, by exchanging some local cash with a fellow motorist. Welcome to Bulgaria? It didn’t seem very welcoming to me.

What’s Happening in The Balkans? – PATRICK BRIGHAM LIVE

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Bulgarian President Ruman Radev

A reader of The Balkan News Magazine, recently remarked that the magazine doesn’t seem to have much to say about the Balkans. The BNM is a continuous magazine and added to as time permits, it also reflects the lack of news, or perhaps you may not have noticed? Unlike the EU or America, where things seem to happen in abundance, Balkan news is mainly about long forgotten promises, and a strange 21st century phenomenon called Macro Economics. Often quoted by professional pundits in the Balkans, where an improvement in the Macro-Economic forecast for the region really means that very little is actually happening at all, it remains a good old journalistic standby.

Bulgarian President, and retired Bulgarian Air Force General, Ruman Radev recently stated – “Today, hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians live in poverty and social exclusion. They are placed in humiliating conditions unable to meet their basic human needs.”

Announced by President Radev when he opened a discussion with more than 60 representatives of  business, trade unions, and the academic community – former ministers, and Presidential Secretaries – it was called, “Inequities and Poverty In Bulgaria.”

Probably of little interest to many expats living in Bulgaria; because Bulgaria is well known to be the poorest member of the European Union, he made an important statement to Bulgaria – and to the wider EU – which could affect the very future of Europe, especially in the knowledge that Vladimir Putin is not far away.

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There is only one thing worse than being a failure in the Balkans, and that is being a success, and whilst foreigners pontificate about the dearth of news, they might dwell for a moment on the drivel which appears daily in the yellow press, and the sort of news on offer. You see, Balkan people frequently like to push each other’s heads down, and the how and why this is actually achieved doesn’t really matter.

Well, it is a cross between Trump’s seedy view of politics, and partly a hangover from Communism, together with its well-founded conspiracy theories. Not to mention squabbling politicians and their gangster friends, a large helping of treachery and of course the usual plethora of unfounded lies. A good read? Hardly!

As one view’s – as I have for some thirty years – the metamorphosis of the Balkans one might easily imagine that one was observing Dante’s Inferno and the antics of the Devils Children. But we are not, because it is how the people of South Eastern Europe have had to live forever.

Many Balkan people have given up their hopes for a better future, because, since the changes in 1990, they have seen little improvement in their lives. Okay, things look better, and there are plenty of places for foreigners to go for entertainment – or even a bit of “How’s Yer Father” if that’s their wish – but most ordinary Balkan people have to rely entirely on themselves to get by.

The old Communist-era maxim – “the government pretends to pay us, we pretend to work, and we all steal the rest – has a great deal of truth in it, and there are many leftovers from the past that an expat might miss, one of which is the total lack of information. And that dear readers, is because everything in the Balkans is a secret!

Why The Dance of Dimitrios? – PATRICK BRIGHAM LIVE

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The old man Dimitrios is a flawed character in many respects, but while his riverside café is treated with derision by the local village people, he seems to have more love and compassion running through his veins, than most others. Eccentric, and perhaps a little mad, his dreams clearly embody the true soul of Greece; a fast disappearing and caring world, as well as an abiding memory of his beloved wife Marta. With his dreams intact, and by discovering the English woman’s floating corpse in the river, he walks the reader into a murder story involving various police forces, as well as the UK’s secret service, and MI6.

My story is initially about a ‘floored’ cash-strapped nation, racked with corruption, and suffering from the blight of illegal immigration. Far more than the puny Greek government can cope with, or the European Union for that matter – which has largely turned its back to Greece – the devil seems to be in the details, most of which have been conveniently ignored.

A case of mistaken identity like no other, Majory Braithwaits body has been cast into a communal grave. Believed to be just one more Islamic casualty dragged from the River Ardas, and treated like many other nameless people found drowned, she is swiftly forgotten about. Sargeant Electra Boulos, on the other hand, is a little bit more conscientious than her colleagues. Discovering some matching fingerprints, she is able to identify the English woman and to open up a complicated new and revealing case for DCI Michael Lambert and Europol.

“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.”

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