“Do you know,” smiled Zeus, as he peered down through the haar that draped itself over Berwick-upon-Tweed in the manner of a fond drunk, “the more I see of that wine-dark town the more I like it.”
“Heh,” snickered Hera. “Heh-heh-heh.”
“In truth, it appears to be taking over from where Greece – O! Mine perfidious child! – left off. O! Such foul enemy of mighty Olympia! O! Faithless champion of its deities! I forever consign you, bleating and humbled, to wander…”
“…the face of the EU, a beggar in the torn and tattered raiment…”
“…of a Poundland employee…” Zeus trailed off. “Where was I going with this?”
Hera looked up, a small smile still swinging on her lips. “Sorry. Mumsnet. You’ve got to love it. They bang on about their ‘natural birth experiences’ and there’s you squeezing a fully grown goddess from your head after having it split with an axe and all with no gas and air.” She chuckled and closed her laptop. “Big LOLs.”
“Sorry, darling. You now have my undivided attention.” A throaty buzz filled the chamber, resonating off marble and tickling the chandeliers. “Hang on. Tweet. Just need to get this.”
“Berwick. The more I see of it, the more I – something, something, tumpity-tum…
“Hah!” snorted Hera. “Poseidon’s timeline has been invaded by porn-bots ever since he mentioned seamen between the Cyanean Rocks.”
“Like it! Like it!” Zeus air punched.
“So did I. So much I retweeted it.”
“No, Berwick. I like Berwick.”
For the first time that morning Hera truly focused on her husband. And sighed. She could see from the fevered glint in his eye that he had found a new hobby. A new obsession. She gave her iPhone a thoughtful polish on her peplos.
“And this favoured new child of yours wouldn’t have anything to do with trying to get one over on your brother, would it?”
A thunder-cloud began pillowing itself together above Zeus’s head.
“Hades?” he replied. “No, of course not. He’s fully entitled to blight the lives of Berwickers by plonking a tawdry spinning representation of the futility of life across the disabled parking bays in Marygate, why should I care?” Lightning flashed over his shoulder. “Why should I care if puny humans want to tithe £1.50 of their meagre income to travel a halting 360 degrees to nowhere through the acrid smoke of a burger van!”
“Excellent,” said Hera. “So glad it has nothing to do with that then.”
Zeus took a moment, squeaking a despondent sandal on the floor. “Just, why does everything Hades do have to be so…” he felt around for the word, “so soulless?”
“No, ” Hera muttered to herself. “He can’t be expecting an answer to that.”
Zeus continued in full flow. “The people of Berwick want more, hence my magnificent new processional way. They seek to elevate the human experience, exalt and pay tribute to me, not—”
“New processional way?” Hera queried, sorting through the pieces of a continent she was making and trying to find the corners.
“The bridge,” beamed Zeus. “Have you seen it? “Fresh and gleaming, pennants fluttering in the bright-haired dawn. Me. All for me, bless their little cottons.”
“No-oo,” said Hera slowly. “The town council did that for the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.”
“Queen Elizabeth II.”
“And again, who?
“Of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the Commonwealth.”
“Round Charybdis and turn right.”
Zeus smiled uncertainly. “Hah, next you’ll be telling me those solid and well-crafted flower planters down Marygate were all in aid of this ‘Queen’ woman.”
“No, I shall communicate it through the medium of mime,” said Hera, standing up, touching her nose and pointing at her husband.
Clouds the colour of war boiled across the ceiling, and the chandeliers began a slow, queasy waltz around their fixings.
Zeus licked his lips. “And yet you cannot deny the Olympic Torch Relay – Olympic Torch Relay, mind – was indeed a celebration of our noble sporting tradition? The torch being held by the most excellent of athletes, people who have trained for years just to have the honour of carrying the spark, the holy spirit of the Olympiad, from its birthplace in Greece to Pudding Lane in Berwick-upon-Tweed. It is a thing of such noble beauty that it stirs a god to tears.”
Hera hesitated… and then decided that the realities of modern sponsorship deals and the flame-quenching requirements of Health & Safety would keep.
“True, husband. Berwick has quite embraced our traditions and is worthy of your love.”
Mollified, a sunset broke out over the hills and plains of Zeus’s countenance.
“Indeed. For have they not also eschewed the gewgaw attraction of tacky miniature fairground rides by embracing our rich cultural heritage, as could be seen by the production of Aristophanes’ newly discovered play, The Games, last week?”
“Newly discovered?” Hera narrowed her eyes. “Gracious, what a co-incidence; Berwick hosting a play about a quest to win at the Olympic Games of Ancient Greece – games held in honour of you – on the very eve of the Torch Relay.
“Did this have anything to do with y—?”
“No. Definitely not,” Zeus swallowed. “Aristophanes and all that. Look, it says so on the programme.” And Zeus thrust the programme into his wife’s hand.
“Mm,” mused Hera. “Spike Theatre. Good was it?”
“Very. If I were human and not merely a metaphorical projection, my ribs would still be aching right now.”
“There were willies, which are always good value.”
“Yeah, director Mark Smith told me they were made from bandages, ping-pong balls, coins and—”
“So a lot of thought went into them then?”
“Er… yes, but not at the expense of the cracking script.”
“Which Aristophanes, er, wrote.”
“Yes, um, look. Willies were an integral part of The Games but it was also so much more than a sum of its parts.”
“But mainly willy parts?”
“And song and dance and slapstick and jokes and terrible puns on confectionery. I tell you, it had everything.”
“And the actors?”
“Yes.” Zeus was starting to feel moist across the forehead. “There were definitely actors.”
“Mark Smith – looks like Robert Lindsay, acts like Keanu Reeves in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. And Liam Tobin plays a less handsome version of me – kind of the love child of Keith Allen and Rik Mayall with the same manic energy.
“And this Keddy Sutton, I see.” The temperature in the chamber dropped several degrees. “She looks… pretty.”
“Gosh, very pretty. Like a young Emma Thompson with a penis.”
“A young, crack-raddled Emma Thompson with a penis,” Hera corrected.
“Exactly.” Zeus halted a moment before rushing on. “She made you sound like Shirley Bassey.”
“It was. They were! You should definitely go and see The Games. In a modern age so obsessed with distracting technology and mindless social media Spike Theatre made us – made the Classics – relevant once more.”
“No, that’s what it said in the blurb. But who knows, if this kind of quality comedy continues to spread, Northumberland could become the new Greece; Berwick the new Athens! Up yours, Hades!” He coughed. “Who has nothing remotely to do with anything, obviously.”
Later on Mumsnet a post from OlympianMILF:
“FFS, DH is making we want to try CC. IYKWIM. ”