The sky was dark over the Penshaw Monument this morning.
Heavy. Brooding. Intense.
I wonder who has angered the Gods this morning. Is it me?
It’s a sign I am spending a lot of time in the car listening to the ancient texts – first Emily Wilson’s translation of the ‘Odyssey’ (as read by Claire Danes) and now Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’ (Simon Callow with the voices) – that as I pass the monument each morning, it feels like my own adventure is taking on new meaning.
The difference being, that the journey – my working day – is only just beginning.
That is, once I get through a stretch of particularly bad traffic that builds up each day. At the point where one monument disappears out of sight – and another looms by the side of the road. Ah, Washington Services. Are you the Cylla and Charybdis on this route?
I often dream of taking a detour. To pass closer to the monument. To step out of the car and to pour libations (a Costa from Durham Services?) to the gods and ask them for safe passage – along the A1, and throughout the working day.
Where I will also sacrifice a Gregg’s steak bake in their name. But to which of the Olympians?
Athena for her wisdom? Hermes for his links to trade and commerce? Dionysus for something rewarding at the end of the working day? Or to Hades, to bring relief – sweet relief!
The sky still hasn’t cleared up. An ouzo dark sky, as a hungover Homer might have coined it. Libations must be poured. A sacrifice of beige in the work canteen, must be made. The gods are to be honoured; appeased.
If I am to make it through another A1 tailback heading into Newcastle on Wednesday, then I need all the help I can get. The speed of Hermes, the strength of Heracles, the belief of Aeneas in building something for his people; the cunning of Odysseus to aid me on my way.
Maybe not the last one. Odysseus’s cunning is likely to leave me stranded at Washington Services, as Dido and Circe hold up the queue in front of me – spending an age talking about the men in their lives. All whilst I wait for another coffee to pour down myself.