‘Newfangled nonsense. There’s neither rhyme nor reason to the way mortals think or behave!’ Zeus slammed the gilt thunderbolt he was polishing onto the coffee-table. It was the smallest bolt in his armoury, and though the blow was forceful enough to emphasise his words, it did not damage the glass top. Hera sighed in quiet relief. This was the fourth replacement top for the modernistic piece of Nordic furniture – others having splintered during fits of Olympian irritation.
These had become more frequent since the Father of the Gods decided – against the advice of his wife and the more intelligent members of his brood – that Gibraltar needed a new government… and that he was the one to lead it. The Codswallop Coalition party – which he had established with the support of a handful of mortals whom he met regularly at one of the Casemates restaurants, and who shared his passion for fish and chips, had yet to hold its first public meeting.
Gibraltar needed a new government… and he was the one to lead it.
But with No 6 in his sights, Zeus devoted much of each day to preparation and from the patio of the gods’ penthouse apartment in Ocean Village Zeus had harangued and cajoled all within ear-shot as he prepared for the hustings. His stentorian, but largely unintelligible, bellowing had drawn puzzled interest of those on the waterfront, and driven seagulls to a screeching frenzy that led his neighbours to complain, and prompted an official reprimand from the city’s noise abatement officials.
It was the second clash with the city’s authorities within as many weeks, coming off the heels of his failed attempt to raise and breed racing seagulls.
‘Jobsworths! This is just another move to muzzle any criticism of the Government or No 6… it won’t surprise me if they follow it up with a press statement claiming that loud voices damage a seagull’s hearing and that legislation is planned making vocal noise which may upset vulnerable seagulls and interfere with their breeding pattern a punishable offence,’ the Father of the Gods grumbled as Hera and Poseidon ushered him into the TV lounge and Aphrodite ushered the two city bureaucrats to the front door, and fluttering mascaraed eyelashes bid them a bewitching farewell.
However, though surprising only Zeus, the No 6 Press machine – far too busy attempting to rubbish the Budget criticisms of the parliamentary opposition – ignored both the incident and any plight of the gull population.
But after the bureaucrats’ visit, Zeus was persuaded to continue his practice for the hustings indoors, and with windows and patio doors firmly shut, so that the soundproof triple-glazing, designed to protect sensitive mortal ears from exterior sounds – particularly, the screech and mewling of gulls – instead confined any din and vocal storms within the penthouse.
This reversal had its own disadvantages. Although the gods had taken for granted millennia of Zeus’ vocal explosions – his thunderous rants from their home on Olympus had toppled temples, shredded sails and sunk fleets, even cracked the smile of the Sphinx in distant Egypt – these had never been contained within four walls, had always rolled away to emptiness while leaving devastation in their wake. And the gods, whether busy with their own affairs or dabbling in those of mortals, had been able to ignore all paternal rants other than those which were directed at them.
His thunderous rants Olympus had toppled temples, shredded sails and sunk fleets.
Now they found their father’s fulminations intrusive and irritating, and they fled the penthouse. Since Zeus’ confinement, the lounge and kitchen, once a-buzz with conversations, good-hearted bickering and occasional tantrums, were empty – those of the brood who remained in Ocean Village chattered and argued on one of the two large patios where their father’s voice was no more murmurous than the sounds of passers-by 19 storeys below.
Today Zeus’ only indoor audience comprised his wife and Athena, who was fully immersed in her twittering, or tweeting, or whatever birdsong she favoured on the second Wednesday of the month, so Hera would have to at least seem to listen, she told herself as she slipped her Kindle under the large blanket square she was knitting in support of one of Artemis’ charities.
She had downloaded Elizabeth David’s ‘A Book of Mediterranean Food’ soon after acquiring the electronic book, for she had long yearned to visit the land whose cuisine the cookery traveller extolled; a longing pre-dating by millennia the family’s immigration to Gibraltar.
Phoenician and Roman travellers making pilgrimage to the temple at Olympus had spoken so lovingly and enthusiastically of Gaul and its abundant dare had awakened a curiosity that the family’s move to the western end of the Great Sea perhaps could meet…
‘I wonder what a stew of hare, braised with truffles and champignons would taste like…’
‘WHAT? roared Zeus. ‘Hare? I’m trying to make an important political point…
Hera, who had not realised that she had voiced her culinary thoughts, was taken aback. But, like most of her brood, she had had enough of political polemics in constant bellows which echoed and re-echoed throughout the penthouse. Yes. She had had enough.
‘I was talking about cookery,’ she spat out at her fuming spouse. ‘Particularly, a brilliant writer’s recommendation that the hare necessary for this particular recipe should be shot “early in the morning while dew still be-decks the grass of early Spring”. And I was thinking what a pity I didn’t know about this when we dwelt on Olympus and Artemis was still a huntress.
‘The wine… the truffles…’ she enthused ‘you would have enjoyed it. I’m sure it would have been as good as any meal we have ever tasted.’
Zeus, whose throat was beginning to feel sore anyway, and who had decided his vocal chords could do with a rest, seemed mollified. ‘A woman chef, do you say? Huh – might be interesting. Does she have a decent recipe for fried fish and chips? That could be a winner on any politician’s manifesto.’
Hera cast her gaze upwards. ‘Heavens above,’ she thought, ‘if only there were a God, I’d pray to Her – for patience…’