Saturday, 31 October 2009


Here I sit, a contented hen, clucking to myself and watching with pride as my chickens scatter over the farmyard that is the media. Trailing their clouds of glory. Newspaper editors, news editors, war correspondents and dazzling columnists all spent their egg days under my watchful eye.

None more distinguished than John Edwards who ranged the world for the Daily Mail and who is still in retirement spinning round the planet like a restless top.

The Daily Wail is a very odd newspaper. I usually wake at five and immediately reach for the lap top to download Mail Online. Not for its personality. It is the most spiteful tabloid. Never happier than when gleefully photographing the cellulite of ageing pop stars and actresses. Endlessly making your flesh creep. The Express has its Crusader: the Mail should carry Dickens' Fat Boy. Looking on the bright side is anathema to that mournful assembly of type. Nevertheless, I read it. It has the best stable of columnists of any daily newspaper.

This week it struck a rare happy note. No need to worry about Global Warming. We are within a frog's leap of the End of he World.

The Mayans, it assures us, calculated that a lunar month - the period between successive new moons - lasted 29.5305 days, just 34 seconds away from its actual length. Their Calendar ends abruptly on December 21, 2012.
Not only the Mayans. Michael Drosnin, in his book “The Bible Code”, claims to have found encoded biblical descriptions of the Earth being pounded by comets in the year 2012.
Lawrence Joseph, author of “Apocalypse 2012”, claims gravitational and energy forces operate from the centre of the milky way. If disrupted, they would throw our bodies and our planet out of kilter, resulting in catastrophe.
This theory is debunked by David Morrison of NASA,.who also refutes a popular internet theory that worldwide devastation will be caused by Earth’s magnetic polarity suddenly changing and throwing its direction of rotation into reverse. He says: ‘The magnetic polarity does change every few hundred thousand years and the last time was about 400,000 years ago, but there is no evidence to suggest that it will happen again any time soon.'
It would at least prove that God ,the driving cause, is a woman.
David Morrison also dismisses the idea that a mysterious planet known as Nibiru is heading towards Earth at an alarming rate.
“If this thing really was only three years away from hitting Earth, it would be the brightest thing in the sky apart from the sun and the moon,’ he says. ‘It would have been tracked by thousands of amateur and professional astronomers all over the world. You just can’t hide a planet.’
The last planet that beat up on us 65 million years ago wiped out the dinosaurs.
That is as maybe. But it happened. Ask a dinosaur.
Searches of the cosmos up to 100 years into the future by NASA’s Near Earth Object Program led to them reporting that there are no serious threats in the offing and, even if a sizeable projectile did hit us, it might not wipe us out altogether.
‘There would be global firestorms and severe acid rain,’ says Don Yeomans, manager of the programme. ‘But all of these effects are relatively short-term, so the most adaptable species, like cockroaches and humans, would be likely to survive.’
That is no doubt what they told the dinosaurs.
There isn't a lot of comfort in the reassurance by Bill McGuire, Professor of Geophysical and Climate Hazards at University College London, that we are 12 times more likely to experience the explosion of a super-volcano. He defined that as an eruption that expels 1,000 cubic kilometres or more of debris, enough to obliterate an area the size of Yorkshire.
Keep your eye on Yellowstone Volcano in Wyoming. It could explode with the force of 1,000 Hiroshima bombs and plunge the planet into a nuclear winter.
‘There would be great clouds of sulphur gas that would mix with the water in the atmosphere to form a veil over the Earth, cutting out sunlight and dramatically cooling the Earth’s surface,’ says Professor McGuire. ‘A super-volcano probably wouldn’t kill all of us, but there would be a devastating impact on our global economy and society.’
Try as I may, I get very little assurance from that.Though I suppose cockroaches
are laughing up their wing cases.
Scientists agree we are not immortal. Diminishing supplies of hydrogen in the sun, as in all ageing stars, will cause it to swell up and engulf us before collapsing in on itself and becoming a ‘white dwarf’.
The good news is that this is unlikely to happen for another four billion years or so. And since none of the other aforementioned fates is likely to befall us for a very long time to come, if at all, we are probably safe to get on with our Christmas plans for 2012.
We cannot be too complacent about mankind’s longevity, however.
The Earth’s magnetic field - crucial for deflecting solar radiation and channelling it into belts that harmlessly circle the planet - will diminish to the point where it can no longer protect us from the sun’s rays. This would lead to an epidemic of cancers and a major disruption of the food chain.
Compasses would stop working, animals would be unable to find their way back to breeding grounds, and the weather would become less predictable. The Earth would become unstable, unleashing a series of natural disasters.
When the Daily Mail puts the frighteners in, it doesn't mess about.
Nor is it without its believers. Years ago it claimed that the Scots were descended from an Egyptian pharaoh's daughter. Muhammad Fayed had obviously brooded over this for some time. This week he bought himself a kilt and made a bid to be King of Scotland. Fayed King of Scotland and Blair President of Europe?
Let us pray the Mayans were right.

I am told that the biggest TV audience watches “Strictly Come Dancing” and the X Factor and that Simon Cowell, that curious little man with a perma-tan doing his best to live up to his hair-do, has made a fortune thinking them up.
Thinking them up? I have been avoiding amateur contests like them since Ralph Reader did his appalling Gang Show. Parroted by Carol Levis, Hughie Green. Name me a monster and I will give you a talent contest. Pubs have been doing them for years. And while we are talking TV, what is the point of having such state of the art technology as Freeview and Fetch if you only use it to repeat programmes ad nauseam? The BBC is getting rid of many of its top executives. Not enough.


Ken Ashton emails:

My grandson, Jacob is five.
Each Friday, they are given a book to take home for their Mum to read to them and make comment.
This week's book is a paperback novel about pirates and the intro reads...
'Yo-ho, me hearties, let's get into town, drink some rum, crack a few 'eds, scour the brothels and what if we catch crotch pox?'

The author Michael Cox says in his website;
'... working as a trainee spiv, encyclopaedia salesman, whippet wrangler and rose grower, Michael became a teacher, using his spare moments to write stories, paint pictures and hide inside other people's imaginations. He enjoys visiting schools.'
Which reminds me. A new X Ray machine planned for airport security shows naked bodies and concealed bombs. Fears of paedophilia mean it cannot be used on children. They will be examined by the old method. Running hands over their bodies.