I have learned many things this week.
Firstly I learned that Le Creuset is the bees knees when it comes to cooking utensils. Jen was genuinely over the moon when she brought home a Le Creuset duck-egg blue casserole dish. It seemed to be the final piece of the jigsaw, as though the household was complete. Then Jen taught me that not even Le Creuset stoneware casserole dishes should be put on a gas hob. The result was shattering – not just to the dish, but to Jen as well. That was when I learned that asking a devastated person if they’ve “calmed down yet”, is not the most appropriate of questions.
Then I watched one of my oldest friends marry the love of his life and I learned all kinds of things along the way. Most of those lessons were scattered in amongst the speeches, and I think that’s where I’ll leave them. But as far as school days go, you can’t beat a beautiful wedding.
Yet I think the most important lesson fell somewhere inbetween, when I glimpsed how the world was going to end…
It started as we sat in the car outside our house, about to leave for the future bride-and-groom’s to pick up our invitation. That’s when I noticed it.
The fuel light was on.
Almost immediately I felt the pressure of my best man duties bearing down on me. Andy, I knew, had spent weeks resisting the urge to send the invite by Royal Mail… if only because he believed in me more than he did the country’s national mail service. Now, with the wedding just two days away, I really needed that invite. It was all on me. Failure was not an option.
‘Shall we stop at a garage on the way?’ I asked timidly.
‘Nah,’ said Jen. ‘It’s fine. I’ll get some tomorrow.’
‘How long has it been on red?’
‘Only a couple of weeks.’
It’s fine, I thought. She knows what she’s doing.
Thankfully, we survived the 12 minute journey to Andy’s house. There we drank tea and held palaver with the soon-to-be-weds. As the evening drew to a close, Andy finally presented me with the invitation. There was a gleam of pride in his eyes as he handed it over, knowing that he had chosen wisely. I was just relieved to finally have the whole thing made official and the date and time confirmed.
Wedding invitation sorted, we headed home. That was when I remembered something even more important. ‘Can we go the Asda on the way back?’ I asked Jen. ‘I’m going to need milk for the morning.’
Need, is the most important part of that sentence. Without milk there would be no cup of tea to send me off to bed. Without milk there would be no bowl of Shreddies in the morning to set me up for the long day of wedding preparation. In short, without milk I would simply fail to function as a useful member of society. This, I am certain, is a problem shared by all.
Then I remembered the fuel light. ‘Or is it too far out the way?’ I asked. ‘Will we need a garage first?’
‘Nah,’ Jen said confidently. ‘We’ll be ok, diesel lasts forever doesn’t it?’
At that point – literally at that point – the engine cut out and the car slowly rolled to a halt. The car had run dry and we were stranded… in the middle of Ullet Road, just half way home.
The milk! That was my first thought. How am I supposed to get the milk now!
I had grown up in a world powered by the black fuel, but all at once the false comfort it offered was swept away. I was an ordinary man who found himself battered and his dreams shattered. In the splutter of an engine, I lost everything. I became the shell of a man; a burnt out, desolate man; a man haunted by the demons of a milkless tomorrow. A part of me died on that road. The soft part.
I had to become something else if I was going to survive. I had to become a warrior.
So I phoned my friend, Craig.
Like an angel descending from the heavens, he arrived some ten minutes later. Together we took to the road in search of petrol… or at least that’s what he thought. I’d be lying if I said scouting for milk wasn’t the main cause.
Fortunately, the nearest petrol station was just a couple of minutes away. They’d sold out of milk, but they did have diesel. I bought an oil can and filled it up – splashing flammable, smelly liquid all over myself. We took the fuel back to the car and poured it in. Unfortunately the car didn’t start straight away, but thinking it just needed to soak in, I thanked Craig and sent him home to bed.
Half an hour later and the car still hadn’t started. I had my dad on the phone, trying to talk us through getting it started without flooding the engine. Nothing. Eventually, Jen gave up and phoned the car manufacturers. Once they’d had a good laugh at us for driving the car dry, they said we would need more diesel.
With Craig gone, we had no choice but to tackle the highway on foot. Despite its lack of milk, we set off for the same petrol station as before, our petrol can in hand. The journey was almost unbearable. The rain was coming down hard, so I didn’t see the turd until my foot sank into it. Yes, it was the biggest dog shit I had ever seen, but I didn’t let that slow me down. I trudged on.
When we reached the petrol station we thought we had found our salvation. But the cashier had other ideas. ‘We’re closed,’ he said, cashing up. Jen, tears in her eyes, relayed our tale of woe and asked if he could be our hero. ‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘My replacement is on his way, you’ll just have to wait.’
I would have told him that we were also out of milk, but despite his lack of humanity, I knew it would be too much for him to bear.
Thankfully, it wasn’t too long before his replacement arrived. He was much more helpful and sent us on our way with a smile. By now I was smelling ever more fragrant and feeling a deep animosity for open flames.
Once more, the road was long and hard, but we finally made it back to the car. With the additional fuel the car started up first time, and the relief almost broke me. There must have been tears in my eyes when Jen said, ‘Now let’s go the Asda and get that milk.’
The 12 minute journey may have taken us 2 hours, but I can tell you I have never drank a more satisfying cup of tea than I did that night.
By some miracle we survived, but I have no doubt now how the world will end. It will end when the black fuel dries up and our world splutters to a halt. The delivery trucks and milk floats will stop too, and without their milk the people (at least the ones who don’t just die) will descend into anarchy and destruction. Except the dairy farmers.
They will be the kings of the world that follows.