Creative Minds interview: Samuel Ch Zernig

My latest ‘Creative Minds’ interview is with stand-up comedian Samuel Ch Zernig!

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You can read it here!

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My standup gig on YouTube

So, I used to do stand-up quite a lot, but in recent years got a bit sidetracked by novel and short story writing, blogging, Creative Minds interviews, non-comedy talks and, well, life.

Long-story-short, I’ve started gigging again, and the video below is from a stand-up competition* I did last week at the Cavendish Arms in South London.

Feel free to share the video/let me know what you think in the comments…

And be nice, innit.

 

*I won the competition, by the way.  Yay, me!

New Year Fireworks – 3 Flash Fiction Stories

 

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Right, thought I’d start the new year with some more flash fiction.

Similar drill to the Christmas Flash Fiction – three stories, 200 words each – although not interlinked this time.

Enjoy!

 

(Not A) New Year 

The year had officially been ‘new’ for three days now, and it was already business as usual.

Karen sat at her desk and stared at the pitiful garland of tinsel around her monitor.

The corporate Christmas card with the boss’ signature – printed, not handwritten – stood stoically by her phone, surrounded by shreds of wrapping paper from her Secret Santa present.

She’d got chocolates. As always.

She looked across the floor at Mandy, who’d worked in the office for so long she was practically a chair.

Kevin wasn’t in yet, but then he never deigned anybody with his presence until quarter past anyway.

He’d swagger over to his desk, loudly complaining about the traffic, then spend ten minutes flirting with Monica the temp before finally logging onto his computer.

Same old, same old.

A voice suddenly – defiantly – exploded into Karen’s head like a new year firework.

No!

This year will be different, Karen.

Things are going to happen. You’re going to make them happen.

She straightened up, emboldened for mere seconds before a memory crashed into her with depressing clarity.

She let out a long, tired sigh and slumped back down.

The voice had said the same thing last year.

 

New Beginnings?

The fireworks had exploded over London, the bright colours bursting over the city before raining down like fragments of a million rainbows.

Big Ben had got in on the act too, noisily announcing the start of a new year. Crowds had cheered, and people had sang.

And, in the midst of all this, Jerome and Natasha had kissed each other.

Had finally kissed each other.

The next morning – well, afternoon – he sat on the bus, turning his mobile phone over and over while trying to conjure the requisite confidence to call.

But should he phone her?

What if she wasn’t awake yet?  He wouldn’t want to disturb her. After all, it had been a late night for everyone.

And what if she was awake, and they spoke, but she didn’t even remember kissing him?

Everyone kisses everyone at midnight, don’t they? That’s how films make it look anyway.

The real question, he knew, was this; would she act like nothing had happened between them, or would this be the start of something great?

His phone suddenly trilled in his hand, almost causing him to drop it in excitement. He looked at the screen.

Natasha L calling…

He answered.

“Hello?”

 

New Year, New Style

Steve walked up to the customer service woman with the angry face.

“Hello, and happy new year,” he said cheerfully.

She raised an eyebrow.

“Um,” he continued, fumbling a shirt out of his bag, “this was a gift, but I don’t like it so could I have a refund please?”

“What’s wrong with it?” she barked.

“No, nothing,” he said. “I just don’t like it.”

She stared at him suspiciously.

“And what don’t you like about it?”

He suddenly knew this would be hard work.

“Other than the fact that it’s a bright green shirt with an exploding firework shooting up from the crotch?”

“You don’t like green?”

“The green isn’t the problem,” he said slowly, “it’s just that I don’t like walking around looking like my groin has exploded.”

“Please don’t swear, sir,” she said indifferently.

“But I di-”

“I think it’s nice,” she said with a shrug. “Colourful.”

“And that’s… great, but I’m the one who’d have to wear it, so…”

She rolled her eyes and held out her hand.

“Receipt!”

Two minutes later the refund was done. Steve walked away shaking his head.

The woman gave her colleague a bemused look.

“We’re getting some real oddballs today…”

 

Blue

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Christmas Flash Fiction (x3!)

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I thought I’d do some Christmas-themed flash fiction.

Because it’s, well, Christmas.

(ahem)

This is a bit different to the other flash fiction I’ve posted – so here are three, interlinked, 200 word stories.

Enjoy!

 

The Bet

Officer Amhurst turned to the passenger side, seeking verification from his colleague that she was seeing what he was seeing through the windscreen.

Racing toward their parked vehicle was a man dressed as an Elf, emitting a high pitched squeal. As he got closer the vague sound of bells jingling got louder and louder.

“Yup, I see him,” Officer Jones confirmed, folding her arms. “You have this one, Pete. I dealt with five drunks on our last shift. Why does everyone go crazy at Christmas?”

“It’s 2pm. Maybe he’s not drunk.”

“Bet you a fiver he is,” Jones said.

“Done.”

The Elf continued his journey over, every so often glancing behind as though scared that some invisible monster was catching up. He reached the car and knocked on the side.

Amhurst, who had been secretly hoping he’d run past, rolled down the window.

“You okay there, sir?”

“I’m being chased!” the Elf shouted.

“Alright,” Amhurst said calmly, looking at the vast emptiness behind the man. “And who exactly is chasing you?”

“Santa! I touched his beard!”

Amhurst shook his head as Jones stifled a laugh and held out her hand for her winnings.

The first round was on her tonight.

 

The Grotto

“And how old are you, little man?” Alan asked the boy, who quickly dashed behind his mother’s legs.

“He’s three,” the mother said, glancing at her watch. “How long until we get into the Grotto?”

“Oh, not long now.”

He was trying to sound cheerful in spite of the burning sensation at the back of his neck. The Grotto was in a ridiculous location – a park in December – but the low temperature hadn’t managed to cool the chafing of the stupid Elf outfit.

“And who is this?” Alan asked, crouching down to the boy’s dog.

“That’s Santa,” the boy said proudly, stepping out from behind his mother.

“Great name!”

“We call him that because he’s got a white beard!”

Alan looked closer and saw what the boy meant; around the dog’s mouth was an odd goatee of white. He reached out to trace the outline with his finger.

The mother suddenly tensed.

“No! He doesn’t like-”

The dog reared up and lurched at Alan, who watched in horror as the leash slipped out of the woman’s hand.

Pushing the dog away, he turned and made a run for it across the park.

Why did everyone go crazy at Christmas?

 

The Change

“Are you going to be long?” Susie called. “I have to leave soon too, you know!”

“Yes, I know,” said the unamused voice behind the bathroom door.

She rolled her eyes. At nine o’clock she was scheduled to meet a client promising thousands to her firm. On the other hand, her boyfriend – the perpetually unemployed actor – was getting ready for the first day of yet another temp job.

In short, he could be late, she couldn’t.

“Are you coming out?!”

The bathroom door opened. Her annoyance immediately disappeared as she took in the sight of her boyfriend in his green leggings, red tunic, and pointy hat. With jingling bells around the rim.

Why did everyone go crazy at Christmas?

“How do I look?” he asked rhetorically.

“Wow.”

“Good ‘wow’ or bad ‘wow’?”

“Um… Put it this way, I think we’ve finally found something worse than that hamburger costume…”

“Right, I’m not doing it,” he said, unbuttoning the tunic.

“You have to do it, Alan, we need the money. How else are we going to afford more bells for you?”

He grunted and slammed the door.

“Oh come on,” she said, “it was a joke! Keep your leggings on…”

 

 

Blue

Click here for more flash fiction!

What really happens at a Big Fat Greek Wedding?

Angelo Marcos_Big Fat Greek Wedding

“Hey Angelo,” people often shout at me in the street, “what really happens at a big fat Greek wedding?”*

“Glad you asked, random stranger,” I always reply with a tip of my hat. “Glad you asked…”**

So, by popular demand, here is my guide to big fat Greek weddings.

The Dressi-

Actually, wait a sec.  Before I begin, let’s get one thing out of the way.

We don’t smash plates.

Seriously.

Sorry to be the one to ‘shatter’ (see what I did there?) that particular illusion, but that’s just how it is.

Anyway, for anyone who has ever wondered, here is a guide to what really happens at a big fat Greek wedding…

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The Dressing Ceremony

This is a very old tradition, although not everyone does it.

In fact I don’t think anybody in Cyprus even bothers with this anymore, let alone anywhere else.

Basically, on the morning of the wedding, the friends and family of the Bride and Groom go to their houses. They stand in a circle, the Bride or Groom stands in the middle, music is played, and the fun begins!

Firstly, the Maid of Honour/Best Man will dress the Bride/Groom in their wedding garments, although nowadays this really only consists of putting on the Groom’s blazer or the Bride’s veil.  Presumably that’s because not everyone likes to be naked in front of their family and friends.

Prudes.

Years ago, in the villages in Cyprus, the Best Man would also shave the Groom, although most people don’t opt for that anymore. A bleeding face screams a lot of things, but ‘Please marry me’ isn’t one of them.

The Kabnistiri and the Red Scarf

After the dressing is all done, each of the family members will take it in turns to bless the Bride or Groom with the kabnistiri, which is a small vessel – usually silver – in which olive leaves are burned.

(This might not sound very nice, but the smell is genuinely amazing.)

Then a red scarf is wrapped around the waist of the Bride/Groom, three times each, by members of their family.

This symbolises fertility, so if you ever get married to a Greek and don’t want kids, maybe avoid this step.

Best Men (Koumbari) and Best Women (Koumeres)

Why have one Best Man/Woman, when you can have ninety? seems to be the theory behind this particular tradition. There’s still a ‘best’ Best Man and ‘best’ Maid of Honour, but then loads of other slightly less ‘best’ people too.

It’s a pretty good trade-off for the couple really – they get money from all these ‘best people’ (and get to set the amount), and in return they give each of them a small flower.

The flowers themselves have significance too. Single people wear them upside down, meaning they’re free [insert John Inman joke here], and those in relationships wear them the right way up, meaning they’re the opposite of free.  So, trapped, I guess.

There is of course always a ‘hilarious’ person who’ll wear the flower upside down even though they’re in a relationship.  It all gets very wacky, as you can imagine.

The Church – Exchanging the Rings

A key feature of the marriage ceremony itself is the exchanging of the rings.

This is where the Koumbari and Koumeres go up to the front of the Church and exchange the rings of the Bride and Groom (as in, they exchange the rings with each other – they don’t exchange them for other, cheaper rings.)

If you ever do this, make sure above all else that you do not drop the ring. There’s always somebody that pretends to – usually the same guy in a relationship but wearing his flower upside down – but it wouldn’t be a good idea to actually do it.

Not unless you want to be chased out of the Church by a bunch of angry Greeks.

All named Nick.

The Church – The Crowns

During the ceremony the Greek Orthodox priest takes two ‘crowns’ which are joined with ribbon and swaps them three times (to signify the Holy Trinity) on the heads of the couple.

The priest then walks the couple around a table at the altar, again three times.

At this point it’s traditional for the Koumbari to slap the back of the Groom. Most of them choose to do this as hard as they can as a show of either machismo or anger.  I can’t always tell which.

This can get pretty painful for the poor Groom.  A friend of mine got married two months ago and still can’t sleep on his back.

The Church – Sugared almonds

At the altar is a tray of sugared almonds tied with red ribbon. Back in the village, single people would place the sugared almond from a wedding under their pillow that night and dream of their future betrothed.

Nowadays people just eat the almonds, throw away the ribbon, and use a dating app.

Whatever works, I suppose.

The Reception and Wedding Breakfast

The reception at a Greek wedding is the same as the reception at any wedding in the world – a bunch of people wolfing down canapes, moaning about having nowhere to sit, and drinking way too much free booze.

Later, once everyone has staggered into the main room and taken their seats for the wedding breakfast, the band loudly announce the Bride and Groom, who come in and walk around the dance floor three times.

At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen.  At one wedding I went to, the Bride and Groom walked around once, plonked themselves down at the head table, and started eating the dips.

None of us complained.  It meant we could all start eating too.

Hey, it’s not called a big fat Greek wedding for nothing…

The Money Dance

This involves the Bride and Groom slow dancing as their guests pin money on them – which is why putting on weight before the wedding (so as to increase surface area) is probably a good idea.

Surprisingly, the dance can actually be less fun than it sounds, probably because being surrounded by a hundred people stabbing you with pins is quite, well, painful. The heat inside the circle of aforementioned people also gets to highs of about 30-40 thousand degrees (give or take), so it’s not the most comfortable environment to be in.

But hey, you’ve got money pinned all over you, get over it.

Cutting the Cake

Possibly the most pointless part of any wedding in the world.

The Bride and Groom cut the cake = approximately three seconds.

Then everyone takes pictures = ten minutes.

The result is what can only be described as a plethora of increasingly desperate facial expressions and actions, as the Bride and Groom try to work out exactly what they’re supposed to be doing in between cutting the cake and everybody going away again.

I’ve been to weddings where the couple have just repeatedly cut the cake, in an attempt to do something.

The end result looked like a massacre in a bakery.

Greek Dancing

Later in the night, the Bride and her Koumeres all do a dance together. It’s called the Kalamathkianon, and is all very nice and civilised. Cue lots of hip-twisting, hand-moving and general showboating.

The serious showboating comes later however, when the Groom and his Koumbari take to the floor in a display of what some may call ‘dancing’, but what is probably more accurately described as ‘a bunch of drunk Greeks, kicking’.

It starts with the Groom dancing with each Koumbaro in turn, although this inevitably ends up as a big free for all.

One of the best dances at this point of the evening is the Zembekiko (also known as the ‘drunk man’s dance’). If I had to choose a favourite type of Greek dance, then this would be it.

It’s maudlin, melancholy, and you make it up as you go along.

What’s not to like?

The end of the night

This is where all the old Greeks get up to dance, and all the young Greeks run up to them and slap money on their heads.

(Notes, not coins.  That would be mean.)

At the end of the night, the money is all collected and given to the band.  This comes from the old tradition of ‘tipping’ the band, which is another way of helping out the newlyweds (as the more money the guests pay the band, the less the couple have to). Not sure where the sticking money to peoples’ actual heads thing came from, but I’m sure there’s a tradition behind that too somewhere.

This part of the night is also where my Uncle Chris usually gets up and dances with a glass of whisky balanced on his head. We’re pretty sure he uses some kind of adhesive, but nobody’s managed to catch him applying it yet…

 

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So, there you have it – what happens at an actual, genuine big fat Greek wedding.

There’s other stuff too of course – arguments over table plans, older female relatives who look like Joe Pesci – but I just wanted to give a brief outline of what to expect.

And not a smashed plate in sight.

Told you.

 

*This has literally never happened to me.  Or anyone, probably.

**Obviously this part is false too. Although to be fair I do sometimes wear a hat.