Rest your rant at the end of the Universe

I was more than a little bit cheesed off. Everything was ready: emails bearing the comforting message, “Sorry, but Edwin is out of house for the Big-E” were set to spam you all at the twitch of a wrist, the video link was up and running, my testament was written on a post-it for those inheritors who would never collect, all my outstanding bills were burnt (who needs ‘em?), a film for the very last picture show was waiting in the DVD player (“Clockwise” with John Cleese: better to go out laughing, rather than yearning for Keira Knightly in my second choice “Pride and Prejudice”), I’d got my favourite leather recliner in position, with lots of cushions (don’t want to suffer unduly, do we?), chosen my last bottle of very ancient port. Everything was ship shape; washing-up done, note left for Harker (in case she survives) and the grocer (probably enjoying a bit of pitch-forking by now) and, well … I even went out and bought a really fine cigar.

What a fizzer! What a damp bloody squid! No fire, no brimstone. Just a chorus of cynical laughter from all those spoilsports who were too mean-spirited to let the rest of us enjoy our little eschatological bit of disaster porn in the first place.

The end of time

My generation has grown up with the end of the world. It was always there, like Carlos Casteneda’s death, just over our left shoulder. It was going to be an atomic inferno triggered by a rogue Russian missile. Then it was going to be a giant meteorite collision. Then it was going to follow in the wake of the last of the Kennedys. Then it was JR Ewing getting shot (seriously, some weirdoes saw that was a sign of the End Times). Then it was going to be North Korea going nuclear and biological. Then it was going to be Three-Mile Island and Tschernobyl. Now either a new ice-age, or global warming are the front runners … there has never been a lack of candidates.

Of course, the world will probably end on a slow Thursday with a sort of muted groan, like something serious and expensive finally giving out on your car. We’ll all look at each other with that “oh-oh” expression and then notice that the earth seems unnaturally cloying. Gravity will bring us down like stranded whales as the entire planet, victim of too much cosmic grit and satellite debris clogging its hitherto almost frictionless progress, finally grinds to a mournful, creaking halt.

There is little doubt that many of us would much prefer a good-old, righteously Christian apocalypse to such a pointless fade-out. So last Saturday’s opportunity for shutting-up shop on a high note came as a brisk and welcome refreshment break in the long catalogue of recently predicted techno-dooms. It was going to be a great show. Edwin would cease to rant on an upward curve. We could all go joyfully to the maker of our own choosing.

The need for closure

There should have been angels ascending and descending celestial ladders, collecting armfuls of the “quick” and the “dead” to be saved or cast down There should have been a sky heavy with blood-black cloud, sulphurous and dark as a John Martin canvas. There should have been graves opening, towers toppling, entire continental plates sliding sideways into the boiling ocean. There should have been trumpets and a deep, sonorous, symphonic surging punctuated by the crashing percussion of shattering crags, imploding cathedrals and falling meteors. There should have been lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth. And through it all, even above the sound of the awful Reverend Harold Camping droning out references from St. John the Revelator, there should have been the sound of the Drood, doubled up with laughter as Mr Cleese stops at literally nothing to keep his equally weighty appointment with the Headmasters’ Conference.

Let’s face it; we’ve all suffered from this religion malarkey for far too long. It takes our eye off the ball and the main chance, tells us we should turn the other cheek to the draculine taxman and the mugger, the bully and the braggart, and then lets us down again and again when we do just that. It presents itself to us in myriad guises, several of them venomous, each riddled with inconsistencies, while demanding our absolute allegiance to one of them as the least-bad alternative. It seems to be pretty much immune to our prayers and yearnings – however much these may help maintain our own self-assessment – blithely over-riding decency and good-sense, unconcerned for our welfare and dismissive of many of our core values (such as the right of everyone to have a whack at the piñata or at least their day in court). The good and the true, the brave and the lively, the incandescent genius and the sweet-natured spirit still die too young while the narrow-minded, the cold-blooded, the hectoring bigot, the money-grubbing manipulator, the worm-tongued seducer of dreams and even the downright evil are left to flourish. We could really use a big, stock-clearance, an “everything must go”, car-boot sale of a final audit just to give us closure and let us move on. What the Navy Seals 6 did for Osama, what Truth & Reconciliation did for Ruanda and South Africa, “The Judgement” could do for humanity: a clean sweep, a fresh start, a chance to re-emerge from our own ashes under new management with a new logo and a new slogan: JAM TODAY!

The Last Trump

Having survived 1984, “Neighbours”, Thatcherism and Reaganomics, swine flu and SARS pandemics, the return of the bubonic plague, Armageddon I (the first Gulf War, apparently), the all-consuming and hard-disc-melting millennium bug (what a non-event that turned out to be!), Armageddon II (the twin towers and the second Gulf War going on and on and on) … I was all geared up and gung-ho for this one to be for real at last. So you can imagine how more-than-slightly-miffed I was to wake up in my Chesterfield with a splitting headache and a mouth full of dead rodents and roofing felt, rather than to emerge from a silver cocoon, clad in shining white raiment and looking like Brad Pitt in “Legends of the Fall”. I shall definitely not be listening to any more of Harold Camping’s predictions, unless they are for a smart tornado to do a precision erasure of his house and church. The “Last Trump” turned out to be nothing more than The Donald withdrawing his candidacy for 2012 … no bang, not even a whimper.

But speaking of 2012; isn’t that meant to be our next chance at planetary destruction, albeit a more secular version? Indeed, Roland Emmerich has already made the movie with the unlikely John Cusack being un-funny for once in the role of harassed Dad trying to get his kids through the End of the World with only a few scratches. So it may really happen. Maybe I should still stock up on corned beef.

Edwin Drood

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