This issue of
Citylife

Crackers Anyone?

“What did your last slave die of?” I asked Mrs. D as she told me to go and get the mop and bucket from the outside cupboard.

“Disobedience” she said in an icy tone.

Fair enough and so I got the aforementioned items and set about helping to clear up the bottle of red wine that I had spilt on the tiled dining room floor. The lab was busily lapping it up by the time I got back. And so was the poodle. As this happened in our first meal of the year, I hoped that it was not indicative of things to come.

Especially as, if you believe the various apocryphal soothsayers, this year could be our last. The Mayan Long Count calendar ends at the finish of its thirteenth cycle or B’ak’thun (thanks Wikipedia) on December the 21st. Or the 23rd depending on how you interpret the data which, when you think about it could make for one hell of an “Everything Must Go Sale!” on the 22nd.

So welcome to the “End of the World”. Every Sunday at 10 p.m., according to the National Geographic channel, which is interesting as I would have thought that once would have been enough. Prophecies of the earth being hit by a mega-asteroid, scorched to a cinder by a solar flare, the earth’s magnetic poles switching or a new and deadly virus wiping out humanity abound. And that is before we throw in the various religious theories that Armageddon is on its way. Some people do appear to be quite worried about this although personally, I think it’s a load of bollocks.

It is true that the Mayans were an advanced civilisation for their time. They could be considered to be a regional superpower and were one of the first in central America to have a written representation of a spoken language. The calendar that is ending is one of several that was used and in particular was for astronomical cycles that they had established based on detailed observation for hundreds and hundreds of years.

This meant that they could predict where stars and planets would be in the future but a calculation would have to be made for each day to work that out. As a cycle contained 144,000 days, that is a lot of maths. So my theory as to why the calendar ends is much more straightforward. Picture the scene, some 1,200 years ago, somewhere in Central America.

“Dad, can I stop doing this now?”

“How far have you got?”

“1,872,000 days.”

“2012 eh? That should be enough for now. We can always start again later. Let’s go and catch an armadillo for lunch.”

And there you go. The real reason that the calendar stops. The fact that the Mayan civilisation then disappeared as a major player meant that they never got round to starting the next cycle. They would not have known that all this equated to 2012 as that comes from our Gregorian calendar and is based on an assumption of when their Long Count calendar starts. Any one of the catastrophes mentioned above could happen at any time but to happen on one particular day? Nope.

Still won’t stop people spouting their rhetoric though and so I have a prophecy of my own that I would like to share. This will be the “Year of the Nutter”. We will see and hear from more of them, beamed into our TV sets or going viral on the net, warning us about the upcoming Doomsday. This is both good and bad as on the one hand, my blood pressure will rise as I hurl abuse at them on the screen; on the other hand, as soon as there are no lunatics out there then that surely is the end of the human race isn’t it?

On the bright side, if we survive this year then I am sure that you will be relieved to know that there are many more cataclysms scheduled for the coming years. In fact, almost one for each year, and so in preparation for this, Mrs. D and I sat down to prepare our bucket lists “just in case”. We started on a joint one, things we could do together, as a couple but we couldn’t agree and started individual ones instead.

Hers was sensible; go there, see that, do this. As she looked at mine, she just shook her head and started crossing things off. Grossly unfair. I mean, what was wrong with an afternoon in a hotel room with the “Cheeky Girls”? It was my list after all wasn’t it? Everything I put into it just fell out again, just like that old song.

“There’s a hole in my bucket Dear ‘Liza, dear ‘Liza…”

It’s going to be a long year.