Even the Olympian gods cannot agree on daily calorie counts. As he tucks into
his diet of junk food, Zeus lays down his law on overeating.

People eat far too much – and it’s mainly junk food loaded with calories and carbohydrates,’ said Zeus through a mouthful of battered cod and vinegar-soaked chips. ‘Then they become grossly fat… and give no thought to the discomfort they cause others’, he added, spooning marmalade onto his next mouthful.

For two days, ever since making a cramped return journey to the Rock in an easyJet economy class seat, the Father of the Gods had chuntered on and on about large bottoms and buttocks in general, as well as the gourmand habits of some airline passengers.

‘We were squeezed in the central seats between two passengers whose rear ends could comfortably have taken up two seats,’ explained Hera primly over the supper table of the penthouse flat in Ocean Village to which their off-spring had moved during their parents’ trip to Italy. Escaping from the worst of winter atop the Rock to the relative comfort of an apartment rented – illegally as it turned out – from someone named ‘Henwi’.

[‘Henwi’, Artemis had discovered by Googling on the internet, was a wealthy English property-owner who actually lived in a ten-bedroom mansion across the border in Sotogrande, but was ‘domiciled’ in Gibraltar where he paid a miniscule level of tax on his global income. Zeus, whose main concern always and in any situation was for his own comfort, had taken to the relative luxury of the penthouse apartment with the enthusiasm of a seagull for a discarded Marina Bay hamburger. But Hera, ever the keeper of tradition, had tut-tutted her disapproval though less vociferously than usual – happy to have escaped the dietary regime of pasta and poor Chianti which had been their fare with the Jupiters.]

It was the first evening meal the full Olympian family had shared for many months – brought together hoping for all the gossip and scandals about their distant Roman relatives, instead treated to a catalogue of godly discomforts.

‘And it’s not just women and children, men are just as bad – even worse’, Zeus continued. ‘There was a passenger with a beer belly that would have been the envy of Jupiter’s drunken nephew Bacchus. How he…’

‘What is Bacchus doing now?’ As his parent paused for breath, Dionysus seized the opportunity to interrupt the grumbled flow.

‘And what about Diana?’ asked Artemis.

And Minerva?’ Athena wanted to know.

‘And Mars?’ – this from Ares.

And soon they were all at it, clamouring for news about their distant rivals with most of whom they had clashed.

As was so often the case, it was Hera who picked up the various threads and brought them together.

‘Diana? Well, Diana still claims that it was her arrow, not yours, that brought down the golden stag on the only hunt you shared,’ she told Artemis. And before the huntress-turned-feminist could protest, Hera hurried on.

‘Minerva spends hours on Google, Twitter and Facebook, and Juno is irked by the huge phone bills that are racking up. But it’s Mars who has really set the family on edge. He is so deeply disgraced that Jupiter has disinherited him’.

And she went on to explain that Mars, bored with the rural life at the Jupiter family villa outside Florence, had used his grasp of military matters to negotiate arms deals between producers in Europe, Russia and the United States with various Arab states. He had made ‘a great deal of money’ from the transactions but, in the process, had angered the Moscow mafia, several rival Chechen groups, and the ISIS hierarchy.

‘He refused to share any of his new fortune with the family, and, instead bought a small Mediterranean island which he fortified against the possible “hit men” on his trail,’ Hera continued. ‘But things went seriously wrong… a tsunami struck and an unexpected earthquake,’ – she looked pointedly at Poseidon – ‘and Mars has fled to North Korea where he is acting as technical advisor to Kim Jong-un. So his family have disowned him.’

‘Well, you can hardly blame me for the quake and tsunami,’ huffed Poseidon. It was a Greek island that he bought – one of OUR islands. I wasn’t going to let a Roman get away with an attempt at re-colonisation, for that’s what it was.’

‘Nothing wrong with colonisation, as long as it’s us that are doing it,’ Zeus grasped the opportunity to regain the conversational upper hand. ‘All this retrospective angst about who colonised what is just part of the whole PC madness: the battle of the sexes… concern that there isn’t enough diversity on television… then suddenly, it’s wrong for a male to call someone “Sweetie Pie”…’

None of the Olympians saw any logical link between political correctness and obesity, but the Father of the Gods was a being of cyclonic emotions, none of which spared room for logic. They all remembered the long list of debates with Plato and Sophocles in which Zeus was always bested.

‘But where do you draw the line between obesity and necessity?’ asked Apollo whose verbal diet feasted on rhetorical questions. ‘In the deserts of Namibia and Botswana there’s a folk, Bushmen whose women, over the millennia have evolved physiques and steatopygous bottoms. I’ve seen ‘em and they’re bigger even than the most excessive Victorian bustle. Anthropologists reckon that their bums act like the humps of camels, storing up energy against periods of drought, or semi-starvation.’

‘I don’t think you should talk about them like that – it’s certainly not PC,’ Hera chided.

‘Britain has exemplary plans to reduce obesity within the next six years,’ said Athena looking up from her computer screen. ‘It says here that they plan to reduce everyone’s calorie intake by at least 20 per cent. 400 at breakfast, 600 at lunch and again at dinner. They will also force producers to use better ingredients in their junk food.’

‘Who’s going to bother to count ‘em?’ Zeus exploded. ‘And junk food doesn’t contain good ingredients – that’s why it’s called “junk” food.’

And he slathered a large dollop of ketchup on his double Mac and began to munch contentedly. Silenced – at least for the time being.