‘Climate change and carbon footprints… Mark my words, those will be the buzz-words for the new decade, and I’ve a good mind to write to the newspapers about ’em. Tell politicians what they should be doing to placate the great Gaea.’ Zeus puffed contentedly on his cigar, and blew a perfect smoke ring which floated halo-like above Athena and her ever-present iPad.
So pleased was the Father of the Gods with this effect, that he drew in a deeper swirl of smoke, and turned towards Aphrodite; but the spasmodic tic which – prompted by Gibraltar’s high humidity – had afflicted his ageing facial muscles since the Olympians’ arrival on the Rock, punctured the ‘phwhou’ of his puckered lips.
Zeus ignored her unladylike curses.
Instead of a coronet, his daughter’s head was engulfed in a dense cloud of Cuban smoke whose strong aroma would have delighted Winston Churchill or a healthy, youthful Fidel Castro, but induced in the goddess a wracking cough. The vial of emerald nail varnish that had been delicately poised on her knee toppled onto the leopard-skin rug at her feet, adding a spatter of green to the dead creature’s golden-yellow spots.
Zeus ignored her unladylike curses and returned to his theme.
‘They can’t go leaving carbon footprints all over the Earth Mother, and expect that she won’t react,’ he continued, nodding at Hermes who had come in from the balcony where he had fed the mob of gulls he was attempting to tame.
‘Gaea doesn’t like carbon footprints any more than Hera does when someone’s muddy boots tramp across that fluffy white carpet she got for Christmas…’
‘What, actually, is a carbon footprint?’ Hebe wanted to know.
It was a phrase that had rung with a sense of knowledge and science which Zeus had adsorbed, but whose meaning he had yet to grasp. He frowned, searching for an explanation… anything…
For once, Athena took pity on her parent.
‘Well take those bushfires in Australia, when fire-fighters walk across an area the flames have devastated, bits of burnt wood and ash stick to their boots, and…’
For once, Athena – who usually enjoyed Zeus’ discomfort as he tried to wriggle out of an intellectual pitfall he had made for himself – took pity on her parent.
‘It’s the amount of carbon dioxide, sometimes also described as “greenhouse gases” released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organisation, or community,’ she read from her iPad.
‘Just what I was about to say,’ huffed Zeus.
‘So it’s not just from fires – there’s also the exhaust from cars and jet engines?’ said Hebe. ‘I wonder if anyone has calculated how big the carbon footprint is of a peak-hour queue of cars, and lorries, and motorcycles at the border. It must be huge.’
‘And what about those Post Office vans and other official vehicles that employees use to run their families to Morrisons or the beach at weekends?’ added Hermes, still rankling at a manager’s recent refusal to let him enjoy one of these perks. ‘Or the chauffeur-driven limos that the Cabinet Ministers seem to use… even for trips of a few hundred yards they could easily walk.’
‘Pshaw! They never walk anywhere,’ Zeus intervened as he sensed his climate change conversation was slipping away from his control. ‘That’s why the pavements are in such a state. If the Minister for roads or for tourism ever used them, there would soon be improvements.’
Knickers, and T-shirts, sheets and pillowcases – they’re hardly welcoming banners.
‘Yes. Take Glacis Road; Not just locals use it, but it’s also the main drag for tourists and visitors who walk from the frontier into the centre of town. But the paving is cracked and uneven and I’ve seen several people sprawl after catching a foot on a broken bit. Nearly tumbled a few times myself but for the wings on my sandals,’ added Hermes.
‘And all that laundry hung to dry outside the blocks of flats – knickers, and T-shirts, and pyjamas, and nighties, and sheets and pillowcases – they’re hardly the sort of welcoming banners to greet the first-time visitor,’ Aphrodite joined in. ‘Though at least the Gibraltar Day flags and swimming costumes and colourful beach towels do give the council blocks a faintly festive touch in summer-time…’
‘That’s probably what “climate change” is about,’ mused Zeus. [This was another of the phrases the Father of the Gods had added to his verbal lexicon because he liked the alliteration, but without fully grasping its meaning.] ‘The clothes people wear in summer are lighter, cooler than their winter woolies.’
‘According to the Geographic Society,’ Athena corrected him, ‘climate change “refers to significant changes in global temperature, precipitation, wind patterns and other measures of climate that occur over several decades or longer”.’
‘Scientific gobbledygook,’ muttered Zeus, who had begun to regret the conversation he had started, but was nonetheless determined to retain possession of the two significant phrases of the second decade… or was it the third? Hera would know, but he would wait until she was alone, and the sprogs couldn’t hear.
His amour proper had been punctured enough for one day, and he should give some thought to writing to the papers about ministerial shoe-leather and its possible beneficial impact of Gibraltar’s carbon footprint. He could see the headline now:
MINISTERS URGED TO WALK TO SAVE THE PLANET.