Real life

In defence of panic buying

9 October 2021

9:00 AM

9 October 2021

9:00 AM

The filling station on the road out of the village was like a scene from Mad Max.

People were all but jumping on top of the petrol tanker that had pulled in to unload its bounty. As desperate drivers screamed and shouted, it wasn’t so hard to imagine them swinging from the doors of the cab, attempting to hijack it, while the driver inside beat them away with the end of a sawn-off shotgun.

The forecourt was a seething mass of screeching people on the verge of savagery, not so different from the Thunderdome.

After a while, I noticed that everyone was fighting over the same four pumps while two at the furthest side stood empty. I leapt out of my car and ran over to the vacant pumps, which turned out to be diesel only.

Who was in charge here? Nobody, it seemed. But then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if a diabolical Aunty Entity, played by Tina Turner in a chainmail dress slit to the waist, turned out to be running this Waitrose garage just outside Guildford.

I waved my arms in the air. ‘Does anyone want diesel?’ I shouted into the sea of cars. One woman, alone in her VW Golf, wound down her window and said yes.

‘Then you go ahead to that pump there,’ I yelled. ‘I’ll follow you.’ She nodded, looking petrified as all around her half-crazed people screamed and fought. Another car quickly came up behind me as I filled up, the driver begging me: ‘Leave some for me!’

Did I keep going until my tank was full? Yes, I did. There would be plenty for everyone, since the Hoyer tanker had pulled in only an hour earlier. The desperate people had descended from as far away as Hammersmith, the lady at the checkout told me as I paid, which is a good 30 miles north of this Surrey village.

The man behind me managed to brim his tank too, and the fuel did last for another 24 hours. The next day, when I passed, the sign had gone up saying they had run out.

If there is one thing about this crisis that is making my blood boil it’s the suggestion that we should all take a chill pill.

Why are we bitching about those who respond to a fuel supply crisis by buying £70 worth of fuel when they find it?

The builder boyfriend and I have four horses to check and feed every day and if we can’t get to them, believe me, the first uptight, over-opinionated, cocker poo in a stupid harness-walking Surrey leftie to pass by and find them without hay in a grazed-out field will be calling it in.

If this gets worse, we could put the horses into carts or ride them to places. You know, use them in the traditional sense, to get around. Or just go the whole Mad Max in a camel-drawn wagon. I’m sure that would outrage the liberals plenty. Callous couple use animals as mode of transport.

Don’t knock it, it’s more environmentally friendly than the public transport around here, which you need a car to access. Because the roads have no cycle lanes, or pavements, you have to drive to the nearest station in order to get on a train.

A bus does pass by our high street every now and then. It drops you at a leisure complex a few miles away where you can then get a ‘park and ride’ into the town centre. I suppose you might get there in the end. It would be no good if you were in any kind of hurry to do something specific, like a job.

A lot of my friends in London don’t seem to have noticed the crisis because they just hop on a Tube. As Metropolitan types always do, they drive the debate, blaming those of us poor yokels in the sticks who are pictured on the news in unseemly jams at filling stations. They roll their eyes at the audacity of people trying to move themselves around.

When I got home from brimming, I ran upstairs to find the BB retired to bed looking at old cars on Facebook Marketplace on his iPhone. ‘I hope you filled your V70 up earlier.’ He has an estate so he can put his ladders on the roof and, you know, work.

Of course we both dream of a zero carbon era — we think of little else — but until we win the lottery and become so rich we don’t need to do something so clumsy as earn money, we won’t be able to buy snazzy new vehicles that don’t guzzle fuel.

He yawned. ‘I put £40 in earlier.’ ‘Are you mad?’ I screeched. A few days later, he was coming round to the whole panic-buying thing.

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