Pushy passengers press Zeus into politics.
I’m going to stand for Parliament.’ Zeus’s words, accompanied by a fortuitous roll of seasonal thunder among the hills beyond Sotogrande, electrified the breakfast table. A communal gasp was followed by a long stunned silence, broken only by a second thunder-clap and the rattle of winter rain against the glass of the penthouse patio.
The Olympian family were accustomed to the sudden whims and fancies of the Father of the Gods. But this was different. This was politics. And if there was one overriding rule to which the gods had adhered since the days of Plato and Socrates, it was that politics was an area of human folly in which they never became involved.
Even Hera, who could have written a doctoral thesis on the tortuous workings of her husband’s mind, was flabbergasted. The ups and downs, the swings and roundabouts of the so-called ‘democratic process’ – with its roots in an Athens which still honoured the Olympian pantheon – had been a constant source of celestial amusement. Through the millennia Zeus had mocked, belittled, and derided politicians of every persuasion, but never, NEVER had he considered joining their ranks.
‘I’ve had enough… and it seems to me the only way to get things sorted is to do it myself,’ Zeus continued as if unaware of the impact of his verbal thunderbolt. ‘I shall stand for Parliament… exert some influence on No 6… twist some arms… get things done,’
He took a final bite of anchovy toast slathered with Roses lime marmalade, and winced as he attempted to lick a driblet from an arthritic index finger.
‘I think you need to be a Gibraltarian, and a taxpayer to stand for parliament.’ Athena broke the family silence.
‘And our records – duly computerised and remarkably transparent – show that you meet neither of these essential qualifications,’ Hermes mimicked the aloof bureaucratic tone of voice that his co-workers in the Post Office parcels section used to quieten quarrelsome customers.
‘And what’s to need sorting?’ Artemis’s mistreatment of vernacular English had worsened since joining the Association of Spanish Cleaning Ladies (‘More as a gesture of solidarity with the Sisterhood, for I am no charlady,’ she had explained to Hebe at the time).
‘She’s right, you know Pops,’ Aphrodite chipped in. ‘We’re better off than ever we were on Olympus; have a nice, dry and comfortable; and the crowd-funding ICO to assist imaginary start-ups is sailing steadily on the Efuss Sea.
But Zeus brushed aside the interruptions.
‘The bus services…and the escalators at the Primary Care Centre. That’s what needs to be sorted and I’m going to see that it’s done,’ he rumbled.
And Hera recognised not only the first tremors of a volcanic eruption, but the source of her husband’s ire. For the past week Zeus had grumbled about two encounters with the Gibraltar Health Authority, each time involving slightly more effort than his customary strolls from Marina Bay to Casemates to collect his favourite meal of newspaper-wrapped fish and chips, heavily laced with coarse Spanish vinegar.
The first had been his reluctant attendance at the Primary Care Centre for a winter’s ‘flu jab – persuaded to attend by Hera’s assurance that the Centre was populated by nubile and attractive young nurses. The escalator taking the public from the first to the second floor had been ‘out of order’. (A regular occurrence, according to several breathless elderly folk struggling up the unmoving steps with him.)
This had been irritation enough. Then, to cap it – the ultimate indignity. He had been jostled into a line by a man with tattooed arms; given a ticket and told to wait until his number was called; and when, after a long wait, it was his turn, he was treated not by a potential Miss Gibraltar, but by a motherly grey-haired sister who had tut-tutted over his liver-spots and told him he looked unhealthy and should change his diet.
That was too much for the Father of the Gods. The following morning Zeus had set off to St Bernard’s Hospital where he hoped to button-hole the Health Minister to complain at the lack of preferential treatment. He had taken a bus… and he’d had to stand in both directions.
He seldom travelled by bus. There was little to interest him beyond his daily stroll to Casemates – and he preferred to loll on the ‘posturepaedic’ chaise longues placed strategically in front of the 50-inch TV set, or under the awning of the penthouse balcony with its commanding view across the Bay.
But the pillar-box red vehicles and their passengers had become his newest bête noir.
‘There are seats clearly labelled as being for the elderly or infirm,’ he had shouted his complaint to all within earshot as he stepped through the penthouse front door. ‘But there were perfectly healthy mortals seated in every one of them – either ill-mannered children or young men and women. Not one of them offered me their seat. It’s just not good enough. Clearly they’re not taught to respect age,’ he had huffed and puffed. ‘And when I remonstrated with one of them, he merely laughed – and asked me where my red coat and reindeer were…’
‘You know, Pops. If you’re so set against buses, you could always walk.’ Poseidon’s intervention ended Hera’s reverie.
‘WALK!’ thundered Zeus as his anger finally erupted. ‘You take your life into your hands – if you’re not tripping over the cracked and broken paving stones of Glacis Road, or breaking a leg or ankle in a pot-hole, you’re likely to knocked down by a motor-cyclist or scooter rider shooting the red lights at a crossing.’
‘And now the winter rains have begun the drains can’t cope,’ Apollo joined the conversation. ‘It’s not just the mini lakes that form alongside the pavements, it’s the bl**dy motorists. Some deliberately rush through the water pushing out waves that soak any pedestrian within range. I was drenched by a Spanish sports-car yesterday. Dreadful’
‘In England motorists who do that can be fined £1000,’ said Hebe.
Zeus nodded. The thought that a careless motorist had soaked his clothes-conscious son had cheered him up, lightened his mood.
‘Perhaps I’ll look into that sort of legislation when I become an MP,’ he said. ‘”Protect a Pedestrian” would be a great slogan.’