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Cheer up, it's not the end of the world, is it?

HELLO.

Can. You. Hear. Me? Sorry to shout. I just wasn't sure if there'd be anybody left. We're all still alive, then? Voice at the back: "I'm not." Yes, very funny.

You're right, though: the end of the world is a laughing matter. All across the planet some call Earth, tittering reaches a crescendo today as the latest apocalyptic prophecy turns out to be another load of oracles.

If you bought a Mayan calendar last year you'll notice that it only goes up to December 21, 2012. I'm afraid that, from today until New Year, you'll just have to count the days on your fingers.

The ancient Mayan calendar completes its 5125-year cycle today, leading some to conclude our time is up.

Oh lordy, when will this Armageddon stuff end? Why do we go in for it so much? Well, not me, and probably not you either. But even you and I have probably speculated about the end of life on Earth, just as we ponder our personal demise.

Most of us conclude that, for the Earth, there are a few billion years to go, until the sun switches off the light. We could nuke ourselves into oblivion, of course, courtesy of some fag-smoking ned in North Korea. But I'm confident the CIA is on top of that situation.

There's nothing new about the end of days. There was Armageddon in the Bible, of course, with its prediction that Jesus will appear amidst the chaos to have another ill-advised shot at the Messiahing.

Pagans weren't beyond a spot of terminal prognostication either. The more or less satanic Vikings, still revered by peculiarly Celtic-looking folk in parts of Scotland today, wound down the clock with Ragnarok, basically a massive pagger involving a giant wolf. Aye, whatever.

Over the last couple of centuries, there's been no end of wee sects getting in a tizzy, sometimes with tragic consequences: mass suicide and so forth. But the latest cataclysmic applesauce has been more widespread and has had a longer lead-in time, with movies and all sorts dedicated to the theme. Not that it's all doom and gloom.

Today, in London, various themed events are taking place, as citizens cock a snook at the doomsayers. The Last Supper Club is offering a three-course apocalypse-themed meal for £35, which includes being fed sausages and having your heid massaged by Greek gods. Out of the frying Pantheon into the fire, as it were.

Comedian Robin Ince and telly scientist Brian Cox are holding an end-of-the-world show tonight at the Hammersmith Apollo, with various theories being discussed by experts in annihilation. Well, it's nice to have a hobby.

What about the Mayans, or technically I'm told the Maya, themselves? They started it with their stupid calendar. Or – all together now – did they?

Top complainers say it's only Judaeo-Christian heid-the-baws who are getting their robes in a twist. Descendants of the Maya themselves are just going about their business in Central America.

Generic pictures generally show them wearing peculiar millinery but, apart from that, they seem pretty normal. Elsewhere, however, there has been much arm-flapping and running aboot. In Russia, a country ever given to mystical foreboding, panic-buying broke out at the shops. Same in the US, where survivalist kits — a hammock, some matches, a special hat – have been selling out.

The ever-subtle Chinese listened carefully to Mayan enthusiasts in their own country. Then arrested them. In the French village of Bugarach, thousands of devotees have arrived to pray that aliens living in a nearby mountain will rescue them.

They believe the mountain houses a garage containing UFOs. Intelligent life, right enough: ever since it became the focus of internet-fuelled rumour, on-street parking in the village has been hopeless.

We mustn't laugh. No, damn it, we must. It's the only way to stay sane. And look on the bright side. If you're looking for survival equipment, perhaps as a Christmas gift to a loved one, there'll be lots on sale at slashed prices tomorrow.

There will be a tomorrow, won't there? Hello. Are you there? What's that rumbling sound?

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