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The end of the world is now just a year away ... thankfully

I have been asked by Her Majesty's Government to reassure readers of the Belfast Telegraph that the world is not coming to an end next year.

Yup, no sooner do we see off Harold Camping, the nutjob in yonder America who told us the world would cease last month, than we get more loonies hopping forward and declaring that next year is when it's really going to kick off.

Look, I'd be happy for the world to end. Basically, the place gets on my wick. But I'm fed up with these chumps getting our hopes up.

The latest venue for apocalyptic optimism is Franceshire, where the Gauloise government fears mass suicide by citizens who believe we're all doomed in 2012. December 21, to be precise, so I'd hold off on those Christmas presents.

Economic concerns, earthquakes and threatened pandemics have tipped many fragile citizens over the edge, leading them to believe the game's up.

Many of these starey-eyed souls are heading for the hamlet of Bugarach, in the south of France, because that's obviously the only place that will survive the storm.

Bugarach is a bit odd, right enough. The internet is awash with bilge-based myths about it, not least the idea that a mountain nearby is surrounded by a magnetic force.

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Locals say the mountain is "upside-down", with the top layers of rock older than the lower ones. That's a conundrum, right enough. However, it doesn't necessarily imply there's an underground entrance to another world, as some intellectuals maintain.

Experts agree that all religious people are mad but an anti-sect watchdog organisation has warned the French government that Bugarach is attracting the cream of the puddings - notably the American Rathma School of Enlightenment.

It has established six settlements in the countryside around Bugarach, pushing up property prices and unsettling the locals with fulminations about Atlantis and immorality. Atlantis was a mythical civilisation under the sea that reached great heights of culture until it was destroyed by a property boom in 1726.

The Ramtha School follow the teachings of a being coincidentally called Ramtha, a Lemurean real estate developer who fought the Atlanteans 35,000 years ago. The Lemureans were a monkey-like people with big eyes. Rathma discovered the secret of immortality, shortly before he died.

Other groups include the Raelians, founded by a former sports-car journalist - I haven't seen a picture but I'm guessing he's got a moustache - who has had repeated encounters with aliens. They told him to get a life.

Yesterday-ish, a spokesman for Miviludes, the aforementioned sect-monitoring organisation, grabbed a megaphone and addressed the French people thus: "We shouldn't get paranoid" - loud cheers - "but when you see what happened at Waco in the United States, we know this kind of thinking can influence vulnerable people."

Waco was the unfortunately named venue where 80 folk died after the Branch Davidian movement clashed with federal forces.

The Branch Davidians had split from the Seventh Day Adventists, who had split 24 hours earlier from the Sixth Day Adventists and, well, it was all downhill from there.

We mustn't laugh. Who knows, maybe on December 21, 2012, the loonies around Bugarach will have the last laugh. Until December 22, when they wake to find the big wheel is still turning - and that there are dark rumours of a property slump in the area.