July 26, 2014

The battle for Ageas

Where Alastairmemnon draws up a plan to surprise nobody

"I'll be back," he said with Schwarzeneggeresque certainty, "with more of the same" © Getty Images

It was the 11th day of the return battle between the Greeks and the Trojans. The two armies were drawn up on the Plain of Ageas, named after a minor god of dubious merit, who was the offspring of Zeus and the fair Hampshirea.

Zeus had seduced Hampshirea by taking the form of an accountant and in due course she gave birth to a sponsorship deal. Several months later, Zeus appeared to her via Olympus Messenger to find out what name she had given to their child.

"I have called him Ageas," she said, proudly.

"Ageas? What kind of stupid name is that?"

"It symbolises and synthesises both my life journey and my mission statement as a mother and taps into the whole zeitgeist around baby-centric mothering, capturing the dynamism and tradition of our core cultural values and - "

"It's meaningless drivel, that's what it is. What's wrong with Apollo?"

"You've already got an Apollo."

"Well what about Apollo II?"

"Makes him sound like a rocket."

"Hercules the third? Ares junior? What about Kevin?"

But Hampshirea could not be dissuaded, and as punishment, Zeus decreed that henceforth, no matter how lush was her outfield or how luxurious her hospitality facilities, she would never host more than the occasional Test match.

It was on this same field of Ageas, in the month of July, that Alastairmemnon, King of the Greeks, addressed his followers.

"Brave warriors! I know we have lost many fine heroes recently. I am thinking of Graeme son of Swann; of Diomedes Prior, swift and flexible as an ox; of the giant Finn, he of the permanently bruised knee; of Trott and Carberry and Bairstow, and all the other ones whose names escape me for a moment."

At the mention of these fallen warriors, his followers began to weep.

"Those of us who remain are the few. There are no more heroes to be found in the whole of Greece and so it falls to us to carry on the battle."

Then Stokes of the Tattooed Bicep rose to address the assembly.

"Oh mighty King, haven't you forgotten someone?"

"Er, no, I don't think so."

"What of Achilles?"

"I think you'll find that Achilles is dead. The nymphs of Pietermaritzburg sing about his valour in battle and also about his failings, of which, quite frankly, there were many."

"But I saw him playing for Surrey the other day."

"You are mistaken, brave, but very-easy-to-drop young warrior. He took an arrow to the heel and as we all know that is his weakness. Well, that and an overactive jaw. Oh, and a frankly embarrassing vulnerability to the left-handed javelin thrower early doors."

"But that heel thing was just a tendon injury. I could summon him now, mighty King, by Twitter messenger." There was a murmur of agreement around the gathering.

"Brave Greeks, believe me, Achilles is dead. I cannot yet reveal the full details of his death, for I am contractually bound to keep that to myself until September, but be assured that he is definitely dead. And, I ask you, do we need Achilles to win our battles for us?"

At this the assembled heroes began to mutter and shuffle and study their sandals.

"Exactly. Who needs Achilles when we have King Alastairmemnon and his winning battle strategies? And speaking of which, I am proud to unveil my latest spontaneous piece of innovative leadership. I give you: the wooden tortoise!"

The warriors looked upon the tortoise with silent awe and with polite coughing.

"It's quite like the wooden horse, isn't it," said Anderson the Banned.

"It is, Jimmy. And didn't that work well! Do not the poets still sing of our heroic triumph through the ruse of the wooden horse?"

"Well yes. But the wooden cow and the wooden hippopotamus didn't work out quite so well, did they?"

"Or the wooden octopus," said Stokes the Dispensable.

"Or the flock of wooden sheep."

"Or the wooden camel."

"In fact, to be honest skipper, I think the Trojans are probably wise to the whole wooden animal thing by now."

But Alastairmemnon raised his hands.

"Heroes, I am your leader not only because no one else wanted to do it, but also because I am prepared to make the difficult decisions. And I have made the difficult decision to carry on doing exactly what we were doing before. Now is not the time to be changing course. I am sure that if we just stick to our plan, clamber into this wooden tortoise and have Woakesey wheel us up to the Trojan lines, we'll turn this war around."

And so it was that the brave warriors followed their leader up the ramp into the hollow tortoise, as the gods had a good chuckle in the commentary box, and vultures once again began to gather on the pavilion roof.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here