We witnessed a colossal battle in the heavens last night.
First Zeus threw down his lightning across the Mediterranean Sea, vaunting his supremacy over sky, sea and earth. Time and again the blinding streaks crackled across the sky, seeming to fracture the invisible ropes which hold our universe together.
Then, long minutes later, there came an answering rumble from the north. Thor the Thunder God had been awoken from his slumber and grumbling angrily took up his hammer, Mjölnir, and strode south to meet the challenge.
It was an epic confrontation. Zeus would leap out from his
hiding place beyond the clouds, searing the sky and eye with his jagged armaments. Then Thor would respond, the rolling beating of his thunder sounding like fifty thousand horses galloping across the sky. More lightning, more thunder claps, the air scintillating with power and fury.
Zeus seemed to be almost playing with his opponent, darting across the heavens, hurling his weapons and slipping away. Thor was indignant and bellicose, bragging of his potency yet wrong-footed by his more nimble opponent.
But still the battle went on, both deities refusing to cede mastery to the other. Both were intent on slogging it out for the edification of the mortals watching below; mouths agape and in awe.
It seemed to be like some commentary on my recent experience. My wife and I had spent a long weekend back in England, visiting relatives.
England felt as bitter cold as the Scandinavia of Thor. The winds blew into the bone,
the cold was so intense it seemed to clutch at our blood. Even when the sky was
blue there felt the promise of dismal weather.
A good half of the English people who served us in shops and cafes were either distant or disengaged. A few were friendly, a few happy and helpful, but most seemed taciturn and dour, as if their minds and hearts were elsewhere. They seemed to be looking at me from beyond a barricade. The shop workers from Eastern Europe were different, good-natured and willing to engage and joke, happy to show something of the life behind the shield.
Back in France, the air was warm and gentle, the light brighter and more revealing. The bus driver was friendly. We bought some food to take away from a young woman working in the café next door who suggested we take our bags up to our apartment while she got our meals ready for us. When I returned a few minutes later we talked about learning different languages while she wrapped up the food. As I went into our apartment block a neighbour stopped me and asked me to tell my wife that she would be returning to a club they both go to next year, or maybe next week. I still need to improve my French.
So the battle in the skies last night mirrors the battle within me.
I was born and brought up in England and much of my thought and mind was shaped by it. But I no longer feel at home with its grey clouds and the dark sardonic nature of its people. I love the light and vivacity of the south, the outdoor living, the readiness to engage and smile.
Thor or Zeus? Heimdall or Hermes?
A little of both north and south, a little of neither. A man of the twentieth century, living in the twenty first and writing about ancient times.
Aren’t I the luck one?