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Shortage, what shortage? Get ready for the ration books

July 8, 2018

This might sound a bit churlish as my compatriots in public places across England rely upon carbon dioxide to create fountains of beer every time we score in the World Cup. But as a veteran party pooper, I’m not quivering with anxiety at the current shortage of CO2. I don’t like fizzy drinks, be they Diet Pepsi or that toxic yellow liquid that masquerades as beer.

Fizzy drinks make you fart, belch and bloat. The alcoholic versions have no useful purpose other than to anaesthetise bored grown-ups at barbecues. Oh, and England football matches of course. So-called soft drinks turn our kids into hyperactive, screaming monsters. One famous lager is known in my neck of the woods as The Wife-Beater because of its ability to turn reasonably civilised men into raging lunatics.

A temporary shortage of the gas – or at least the pure form that has some use beyond saturating the atmosphere and frying the planet – can’t be a bad thing if it brings us a limited respite from the worst effects of its use in keeping us lubricated. That said, if I was reliant on somebody’s kidney arriving in good shape from sixty miles away to be transplanted into me, I might think differently.

But in this bone-dry British summer, it’s perhaps no bad thing to be reminded of what we take for granted. Another month of hot weather, and the farmers will be worrying about their crops. The potato harvest will fail and MacDonald’s will run out of French fries. Soon we’ll be appointing a Minister for Rain, just as we did in 1976. H2O will join CO2 in our ever-growing list of worries, conveniently diverting our attention from the imminent catastrophe of a disorderly exit from the European Union.

We in Britain are not used to shortages of what we consider to be the essentials of life. Just as we go into a screaming panic after a few days of snow prevent us from flying to our favourite winter holiday spots, we start fighting each other at the petrol pumps when, by reason of incompetence, politics or both, we run out of fuel.

A small number of church-going people deliberately deprive themselves of stuff they like – such as chocolate – during Lent. A much larger community endures the rigours of Ramadan. In both cases the deprivation is voluntary.

Despite the negative consequences of involuntary shortages – on jobs for example – we surely benefit from the temporary absence of commodities that we rely upon for our “normal” lives, because they remind us how fragile our normal actually is. Supply chains are not as robust as they seem. Remove a link and you have an instant crisis.

Nobody wants to see London transformed by kind of drought recently suffered by Capetown. But even if the rain returns, I can think of a few other shortages that might jolt us out of our affluent complacency.

Take lithium. It’s a rare metal used mainly in batteries. If we go short because of instability in one of the producing countries, we might have to cope with the unimaginable horror of not being able to replace our mobile phones every couple of months.

And what would our comfortable lives be like without regular shots of coffee? I hate to think of the crippling headaches I would suffer during withdrawal. I would probably have to resort Red Bull, the coffee drinkers’ methadone, until supplies got back to normal.

We need to be prepared for the worst. When the trade barriers go up, what will we do without iceberg lettuce, avocados, mangos and pomegranates? A thousand fancy diets ruined. Prostates endangered. Time for our grandparents to start regaling us with stories from the age of ration books

Since we’re rapidly approaching the point at which we have no friends any more, perhaps shortages will turn into permanent non-supply. Should we not therefore start stockpiling the essentials: cocoa beans, razor blades, toilet rolls, Prozac, AK-47s, bottled water?

Hell’s bells – I think I’m turning into a preppie.

From → Social, Sport, UK

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