Belfast Telegraph

There’s no place like home... that’s just as well given the cost of petrol

By Nuala McKeever

Have you heard the expression Peak Oil? It refers to the time when oil extraction reaches its highest point and then goes into terminal decline — ie, we start running out.

Now, I remember being told in science class in 1979 that oil was going to run out soon. And we’re still running on it today.

But, there’s no doubt the world will run out of oil some day.

What we saw last week was a taste of Peak Petrol. Ok, we didn’t run out, but people behaved as if we were about to.

They panicked. Then they panic-bought. Some of them even got into fights about it with other panickers.

One poor woman ended up burnt, trying to pour petrol from one container to another, in her kitchen, beside a lit stove. Panic does strange things to the human brain.

Last week’s shambles over petrol brought back memories of other times of panic in my lifetime. In the 1970s here, we always seemed to be running out of something or another.

The lights went off, the water went off, there was a potato shortage (hard to imagine in the land of the spud) when we were introduced to the delights of Smash — instant potato powder about which the only good thing was the TV advertisement with the hysterical aliens.

But the shortage I remember most vividly was when we ran out of bread. Yikes!

All around me in my primary school class, wee girls were panicking because their mothers didn’t know how to make bread, so if they couldn’t buy it in the shop, they were doughless.

My mother came into her own in these times. She could knock out soda bread and wheatens and farls and anything floury and light at the drop of an apron. We never went without. We were smugly panic-free in our house.

But a world without petrol, that would be a different thing entirely. Even my Ma couldn’t get the car going no matter how much lightly-kneaded dough she produced. Unfortunately, cars don’t run on egg sodas.

I was half-welcoming the idea of an Easter without petrol.

I imagined a huge collective calming down of us all, as we realised we couldn’t jump into the car and dash off to some destination where we’d do pretty much the same things we do close to home.

I pictured people re-discovering the novelty and pleasantness of just walking to the shops, making coffee in the house as opposed to paying three quid for it in a National Trust/shopping centre/garden centre/visitor centre café somewhere, or taking a bus or a train to the seaside or the city or downtown.

The pressure to ‘go out and enjoy yourself’ is heightened at this time of year. Longer days, better weather and school breaks all push us to seek out entertainment somewhere else.

But how much fun are people actually having in these ‘other’ places.

How often do you return from a trip to a place of interest and think: “Wow, that experience was just amazing and the small pot of tea for one and traybake were really good value for money and much nicer than anything I could have made myself?”

I’ve decided to experiment without the car as much as possible. Petrol’s too dear anyway.

I’m just going to enjoy life right here. My tank may be half-empty, but my glass can still be half-full.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph