After a splendid Christmas, I am returning to the normal world in an even more apocalyptic frame of mind than usual. I am an unapologetic fan of Christmas in all its tinselly sparkly silly-games naffness. Those of a Scroogular bent, who mutter darkly about consumerism and outdated religious celebrations and so forth miss out on the fact that while all this is reasonably true, none of it is the point. The point is having a big meal with people you love and giving them presents. As you can see, the Christmas spirit is still alive in me (outliving my resolutions, which vanished inside a box of After Eights last night).
Anyway, despite these lingering festive feelings, I can’t help but be alerted to the clear signs of the apocalypse that have occurred in recent weeks. I’m not talking about the mass deaths of birds in Falkoeping and Arkansas, though this is undoubtedly a bit weird, but about two other signs: firstly, the closure of Prospero’s Books in Crouch End. Crouch End losing its proper bookshop is like the ravens fleeing the Tower of London: an obvious portent of doom. The manager cites a massive rent hike and competition from Amazon as the main reasons for closure. I am considering a move to Hay-on-Wye, or, far better, Wigtown in Galloway, where they have a more acceptable bookshop-to-head-of-population ratio.
The second Sign is the news that universities will be awarding marks to students who show ‘corporate skills’. This alone is enough to have me leaving a glass of sherry and some biscuits each night for when the Messiah comes down the chimney, blowing his referee-whistle to indicate the End of Days. I think very soon the day will come when the concept of a degree will be entirely divorced from that of education, shifting into the realm of qualification. It will prove not that the student in question has learned anything about English Literature, or Anthropology, or whatever, but will just show that they are reasonably well-trained candidates for future employment, given their presentation skills, their knowledge of Team Building, or whatever other bollocks forces its way on to the curriculum.
Rather than any attempts at repentance, I have decided to spend the world’s last hours reading the stack of interesting books I got for Christmas, including The Great Empires of the Ancient World. What always strikes me about these civilisations is the paradox in the way we think about them. We call them ‘ancient’, though it’s the Sumerians and the Parthians and the Minoans who were the young worlds, the very newest. Their remnants may be decaying gently in museums and galleries, but ours is more truly the ancient, crumbling civilisation.