NEVER ENDING DOOM AND GLOOM: But the good news is, after what we’ve been through, a ‘Winter of Chaos’ and three day week would be like a walk in the park

by Colin Campbell

THE term “neverendum” was coined to describe the SNP/nationalists agitating for the break up the UK in poll after poll till they finally succeed, if they ever do.

Now it could equally be applied to the neverendum of bad news emblazoned over newspapers and swamping the TV channels.

Workers hunker down in the 1974 three day week.

We’ve just emerged from 18 months of virus trauma, stress and fatigue and now are being assailed by new crises from every angle.

I went into Tesco at Tomnahurich Street in Inverness on Monday, where the shelves are supposed to be virtually empty – except they’re almost full – to buy a paper to read about the weekend football. The front page of the one I had in mind screamed: WINTER OF CHAOS: POWER SUPPLY CRISIS; THREE DAY WEEK; SHELVES RUN EMPTY. Inside there was probably: NHS WILL BE OVERRUN for good measure.

That paper remained unbought. Who wants to waste money on wading through page after page of alarmism and speculation declaring we’re all doomed?

I gave up a lifelong habit of buying papers, something I thought would never happen, sometime last year. It wasn’t a sudden, conscious choice. The daily dose of virus terror, chaos and scaremongering became excessive and wasn’t something to bring home for leisure time perusal.

“Bad news sells papers” was the accepted wisdom throughout my career in print. Back then it was probably true. But not any more it isn’t. Many people have had enough of it over the past 18 months. No wonder newspaper circulations are tumbling ever faster.

And now, with the virus threat receding for the vast majority of people, there’s a new onslaught of famine and pestilence to worry yourself sick over, if you’re so inclined.

Tesco pitched in yesterday saying they fear food supplies will not be sufficient for everyone to have a very merry Christmas, and that people should plan and buy ahead.

This is a significant variation from the traditional, more benign observation that “Christmas starts earlier every year”, referring to Christmas crackers and gift boxes and festive music jingles appearing in stores around now.

At least we’ll be spared the endless Christmas ads on TV. By around November presumably there’ll be nothing left to advertise or to buy.

And yet despite pictures circulating throughout the media of long, empty shelves, every store I’ve been in Inverness still has rows of long, full shelves, maybe with a gap or two here and there.

When the “panic buying” is supposed to start is anyone’s guess. But it certainly hasn’t arrived yet.

I remember the three day week in 1974, under the government of Ted Heath, to conserve coal supplies due to industrial action by miners.

It lasted from December 31 until early March, with TV shutting down at 10.30pm, cinemas closing, some people working shorter hours and various other changes and restrictions to normal life. It didn’t seem that terrible at the time. And here’s the good news.

Compared with what we’ve been through over the past 18 months any repetition would be like a walk in the park.

I very much doubt it’ll happen anyway. Scaremongering is a habit that seems very hard to give up.

That’s not to say there aren’t genuine problems but who knows who to believe anymore.

Anti-Brexiteers want the worst possible winter for everyone, as do the SNP. For the latter, the lust to promulgate the “broken Britain” slogan never goes away, and if it comes at the cost of genuine hardship for some people, that’s a price well worth those folk having to pay, if it helps convert them to the cause of “freedom!”

The irony is that papers and TV news which have never passed up an opportunity to put the worst possible slant on the virus with fearful projections which have frequently proved miles off target also carry extensive articles and features on the detrimental effect on mental health.

As well they might because they’ve played a key role in causing it.

What next? Another dramatic downturn in mental health caused by the supposed “WINTER OF CHAOS” to come? People being driven over the edge because they’re already stricken with anxiety because they won’t be able to buy a Christmas turkey?

Rising fuel costs for the elderly are one serious, obvious worry. So I hope the council will be more generous this year in providing a big increase in the money they pay out to provide assistance from the Inverness Common Good fund compared with the miserly pittance they’ve made available up to now. And I hope that’s already under consideration. If they were able to raid the fund to provide a vast amount to fund the hated Gathering Place, they should give a similar priority to helping keep old folk warm.

My main memory from the three day week was an observation from a government minister that people should consider sharing a bath to conserve heating costs. Many folk of my vintage will remember that also.

It generated ridicule of course but also widespread amusement. People were more easy going and more inclined to see the funny side in adversity back then. Nowadays of course such a suggestion would result in the offender being branded callous, heartless and evil, with round the clock TV demands for him or her to resign and be exiled to Rockall in disgrace.

As for the neverendum of relentless doom and gloom many people, and not just the comfortable or well off, will refuse to bow down to it.

Despite the screaming headlines and the raving politicians, resilience will see people get through it, yet again.

And if Christmas Day does have to be sausages and beans, and cold custard for dessert – sounds ok to me – then at least it’ll be like a latter-day classic to remember.

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