The End Of The World
Week 5

James Leavey's


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By James Leavey

While scanning several ‘Non-Smoking Vegans Live Forever’ websites last night, to see how the other half lived, I came across one that asked me a series of deeply personal questions about the current state of my mind, body, and all those politically-incorrect habits that help me make it through the night. It then threw this information into an additive-free pot, stirred in some complicated equations – and out popped the number of years I had left to live.

I decided to sign in as a 22-year-old, chain-smoking, hard-boozing, crack-snorting, sheep-shagging, McDonald’s-devouring, sun-worshipping, Neo-Nazi, bisexual, drug-pushing desperado from Baghdad. The website wobbled a bit, links fell off the screen, and the smug little icon that resembled a well-known celebrity medical practitioner informed me that I should have died 123 years ago.

Then I found a site devoted to the Survivalists, a coterie of self-important Geeks, who may one day end up sharing the ruins of this planet with that other hardy species, cockroaches.

I don’t know about you, but the idea of being left alone with this motley collection of mostly-middle-class oddballs (the people, not the cockroaches) is enough to make me reach for the ‘Successful Suicide in One Easy Lesson’ handbook.

Then I thought, supposing I was one of the last men alive, what on earth, or anywhere else, could I do that was useful" I’d probably end up taking the minutes of meetings, while everyone else got down to rebuilding my local Deli’s cheese counter.

If my skills as a writer are unlikely to set the world back on its feet, what of the current generation of university graduates, who seem to mostly end up as telesales executives" "If you’re the ideal candidate," says one of the classified advertisements in this week’s Media Guardian, "you’ll be lateral-thinking, ideas-generating, self-starting and team-playing."

Yeah well, that may be fine for a London-based researcher who writes reports on the market-branding of a gay ballet school in the Bronx. But are these skills enough to rebuild a house in such a way that it won’t fall down after the first stiff breeze" Or kick-start a farm into growing enough food to sustain a colony of roaches"

Fortunately, there are plenty of books that can turn us all into instant experts on any subject, and I nipped round the library for one on survival. "Too lonely"" It asked, in chapter one. "Ring Alcoholics Anonymous, the Samaritans, your local Citizen Advice Bureau, 999 or Dial-a-Prayer…"

There’s not much point, if the phones no longer work, or if no one answers.

"Cold, hungry, dying of radiation poisoning"" It continued, in the next chapter entitled, ‘Cheer up. You’re not dead yet.’

After which I’d had enough. And decided to use the book for fuel, whenever the needs arises.

None of which answers the Life’s Just a Bloody Lottery question of what good any of us would be at surviving the imminent crash of the world’s financial markets, never mind a nuclear strike by some mad terrorist who wasn’t keen on how some people spend their Sunday mornings, i.e. in a church.

It’s time, I thought, to hone up on the best skills I currently possess: the swift popping of corks out of bottles of single Malts, and the expert cutting of Havana cigars in preparation for their ignition.

As for making it the next column…ring me next week, if you’re able.

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