A little place in France is the place to be when the world ends, which is good news for local hostelries
‘The End of The World is Nigh!” A clarion call that has echoed through the centuries, ever since man staggered on to dry land, looked up to the heavens, and wondered what was keeping it all up there, and if it was all going to fall on top of him when he least expected it. The threat of Armageddon has been used by beliefs and religions ever since, to keep us all on the straight and narrow. Through the ages, seers, prophets, witch doctors and con-men have led their followers to places of safety from the oncoming Doom, claiming that the heavenly voices in their heads have assured them that they alone will be spared.
A hundred or more years ago, a preacher in the United States, inspired by visions and voices, gathered thousands of his faithful around him, and prepared them for the arrival of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who would, of course, spare them, while the rest of us were put to the sword. It clearly didn’t happen as predicted, but the preacher and his people took the optimistic view that God simply forgot, and they set up a new church to get ready for the next arrival of heavenly retribution. That church now counts its followers in millions.
In these more secular times, the fear of potential cataclysmic disaster seems no longer to be about God’s vengeance, but has reverted to our earliest ancestors’ fears of what’s out there, in the great beyond of the stars. A couple of years ago, hundreds were persuaded that a heavenly body, passing uncomfortably close to the Earth, would carry them off to a safer haven somewhere in the Milky Way. Another no-show.
The latest manifestation of this inclination of the numpty to believe anything extraterrestrial, and the more far-fetched the better, is taking place, as we speak, in a small town in the south-west of France, with the slightly unfortunate name of Bugarach. There, inspired by an ancient Mayan prophecy, thousands have gathered to avoid the end of the world, which will be on December 21.
You may wonder how the Mayan priesthood could have predicted such an event so precisely, more than 500 years ago, and not managed to foresee the conquistadores coming to annihilate them, but thousands of believers are making Bugarach boom, with the locals charging up to €500 a night for a bed in a barn. These people, for reasons known only to the extinct Mayans and themselves, believe that under the mountain of Bugarach (which bears a passing resemblance to the one in Close Encounters of the Third Kind), lies a dormant spaceship, which, as all hell breaks loose, and the rest of us once again will be expected to cash in our chips, will carry them off to a bright new world.