Alan Castle: Please remain calm, it’s the end of the world

YET again, the end of the world is nigh. Civilisation, as we know it, is on the verge of collapse. We only have a matter of days, at best, to prepare for our impending doom.

Has Alan Castle turned soothsayer, I hear you ask? Has he the gift of clairvoyance? Has he joined a UFO cult? No, but I can say, with some confidence, that the entire universe is about to break down around our ears.

Why? Because there’s (possibly) going to be a strike which affects our ability to refuel our cars. Maybe for a few days. The consequences are horrifying.

Even the Government has warned us to be prepared – don’t just fill your vehicle to the hilt, take a few jerry cans as well, just in case. And the Great British Public, in true spirit, has responded by making a manic dash to the nearest forecourt to avoid being stranded at home, heaven forbid, should the crisis drag on for more than a few days.

As a result, some stations have already run dry of petrol and diesel, only adding to the panic to buy, buy, buy while there’s still fuel to be had. Because it may never come back, you know.

I was tempted to join the queue at the Co-operative station in Alnwick, not only with my car, but my wife’s and also my lawnmower, just in case. Plus half-a-dozen five-gallon drums I had strapped to the roof.

But because of the impending disaster of the Easter Bank Holiday weekend – and the closure of the major supermarkets on Sunday – I had already used Mrs Castle’s motor to stockpile bread and tins of soup, should the shops fail to reopen on Monday.

I learned this valuable lesson last Christmas and New Year, having watched people struggling to simultaneously steer four trolleys down the aisles to counteract the looming threat of reduced opening hours over the festive period.

Like a swarm of starving locusts they had attacked the shelves, stuffing everything they possibly could into their baskets before other grasping hands could get to it.

With that in mind, I had no intention of being left behind this time. It cost me an arm and a leg, and I had to push a few pensioners out the way, but at least I now have a four-month supply of long-life loaves, should the worst happen. I’ve estimated that by rationing the soup to one tin a day for each of us, we should prevail. I bought 240 cans, to be on the safe side.

Mrs C has been complaining that she doesn’t like cream of asparagus, but I’ve no doubt that once society crumbles she’ll not mind. Uncertain times like this call for good old-fashioned British resolve and a stiff upper lip. We can’t afford to lose our heads, even though there is a crisis of epic, nay Biblical, proportions on the horizon. In the words of the famous wartime poster, we must Keep Calm and Carry On.

It was a good job I did the emergency shopping first, given that Co-operative decided to stick another penny onto the cost of a litre of fuel just prior to the panic-buying extravaganza. Maybe they thought that by charging £1.44 for unleaded and £1.49 for diesel, it would deter the anxious masses from spilling their wallets on the floor. But it seems to have had the opposite effect.

So here we are, me and the wife, sitting in the cupboard under the stairs, awaiting the onset of Armageddon. We’ve been here since Sunday. Remarkably, I can still get internet access, so the expected catastrophe might not have happened just yet.

When it does, I’d appreciate it if a Gazette reader can drop me a quick email before fleeing, so we can nail the two-by-four planks we prepared earlier against the inside of the door.

We must protect the soup from any scavenging marauders. Come to think of it, did I remember to pack a tin-opener?

Oh dear.