That gasoline smell.

Sorry, I’m a little bit confused. Like I can smell gasoline. When did Britain become a third world country? Not that we use that term anymore because we have nicer, more optimistic and less honest descriptions like ‘developing’. Try telling the general population of Haiti that they’re ‘developing’ and they’ll very likely put a Vodou (correct spelling, trust me) curse on you, shortly before or after telling you to fuck off home. In truth every country is technically ‘developing’ since we have yet to identify any one nation that has reached utopian levels of perfection and performance, including Norway – simply look at the gleaming, spotless futurism of Dubai and then tell me with all confidence that the UAE would be the perfect place to live. Fat chance you’d get me moving out there any time soon. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that Britain feels like it has fallen on hard times. Again.

Last year taught us that the toilet roll is right up there in terms of currency in a crisis. Now more than ever before, with our fancy plastic moolah, have we learnt to appreciate that while money may be good for all kinds of things you still can’t wipe your arse with a £20 note (well, you can if you wanted but it wouldn’t necessarily deliver the results you were after, and it is a touch more expensive). Similarly, and never mind the breaking part, you can’t break eggs making an omelette if you don’t have any eggs to start with, so keep in mind to thank them when they’re around. Good fortune abound, toilet roll and eggs are not at the very edge of a horrifying existence: you don’t need eggs to survive and you can always find something to clean up after your dirty, animal motions but pity the person with no petrol to play with; that’s when you see the sparkle in the eyes drain away to be left only with glassy puddles of desperation. Oh, how we need our petrol. It’s enough to break your heart.

I’m old enough to remember the last time getting your hands on some petrol was a big enough problem to make you wake up worried. It was the early Autumn of the year 2000 and across the country HGV drivers and farmers were mighty miffed at the price they were paying for their fuel. Naturally no one was over the moon about fuel prices but not everyone has a tractor or an HGV, and it is probably very hard to blockade an oil refinery using a Nissan Micra. I was driving a Nissan Micra (no cock extension required back then) at exactly the time when a load of HGV’s and tractors started to blockade various oil refineries and storage depots across the country and watched along with every other terrified rube as petrol stations began to run out of the one thing they were actually useful for (unless you enjoyed, as now, selling your shoes to buy a packet of Werther’s Original). I was there in the queues that went round the block, and the next two as well. I watched as Tony Blair didn’t do an awful lot to help, his apparent indestructability beginning to waver. I was amongst the many that bought an auxiliary fuel can, and I wish I knew where it was now because I could really use it. If I could get within 500 yards of a petrol pump, that is.

Not being able to get your hands on some petrol is a many layered pain in the arse; certainly layered enough to keep you awake at night. You can join the queue of course, but that doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get any fuel, and this will hurt even more if the prick in front of you gets the last dregs and drains the tank dry (they will supress a smile and shrug in your direction with feigned sympathy). There is a chance you will be exposed to or involved in some manner of fracas or hullaballoo, and if you’re anything like me you’ll know that people like us don’t come out of situations of that type a winner. If you are reluctant to join a line and clog the roads you must, like an old, injured lion just roam around, without success, looking for the easiest target available, but this will sap your patience and energy, not to mention waste valuable drops of car juice every time. If you’re lucky you may have a fairly full tank already but even then you have the stress of wondering how long the crisis will go on for, all the time watching the gauge wind back on itself every day, as you start to cancel every journey that isn’t strictly essential and your whole life beyond basic gets put on hold. Tick tock, tick tock.

Today, in our ongoing British petrol crisis we are told that the army is on standby (I assumed the army are always on standby, otherwise what else are they doing and who the hell else is on standby if not them?) to man some trucks and get our stations open again. The government (who insist the situation is easing, as if they have to queue for anything but a handjob and free champagne) are blaming the people for panic buying and being selfish. The people are blaming the media for stoking up a problem that might never have happened, and the media are blaming the government, the people and pretty much anyone else available because there is only so much time they can spend on telling us that R Kelly is a massive sex offender, and is anyone at all surprised about that anyway? We are told that Britain is short of 100,000 HGV drivers, and within the industry that is referred to as “a fucking lot”. To add to that it seems that the only solutions available are either bad ones or ones that at best will only paper over the cracks until the next crisis comes along. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic, I should at the very least be grateful and happy that tomorrow I might wake up. For another day in our sweet, twinkling version of British utopia. At least petrol (or gasoline, as Colonel Kilgore calls it) smells great, in the morning or any other time of day. I haven’t had a whiff for at least a week, and that definitely doesn’t smell like victory.

G B Hewitt. 28.09.2021

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