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Holland Park Press

A Raving Mad Mountain

30 November 2012 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar

The Maya calendar ends on 21 December 2012. Is the end of the world really near? It reminds me of the millennium bug. But the Mayas are really worrying certain people, or in other words, these are the people who are getting ready to travel to Bugarach, a village in the south of France.

Between 21 and 23 December the French authorities are planning to deploy two hundred policemen and forty-five firefighters to cordon off the village, in order to protect the two hundred inhabitants against the anticipated crowds of people who want to be rescued.

I’ve never understood why you would want to escape if the rest of the world perishes, but I leave people to their hobbies.

The village is located at the foot of a magic mountain called Pech de Bugarach. Apparently this mountain forms a gateway between different dimensions. True believers are convinced that on 21 December ‘aliens will come to rescue humans from the apocalypse .

At the appointed hour, the mountain will split open and release spaceships to rescue anyone who happens to be nearby, rather like in Thunderbirds. I’m just a bit afraid that the human race isn’t putting forwards its best specimens.

So afterwards we’ll have the spectacle of an alien giving a live interview on the home planet’s evening news: ‘I thought the human race was something special, but look at the characters sitting in our spacecraft!’ They show pictures of present-day druids, twelve hippies and David and Victoria Beckham, who happened to be in the neighbourhood.

Jules Verne could have taken his inspiration from the stories about Bugarach for his novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Yet that was actually fiction. Through the centuries a lot of myths have been generated about Bugarach. Mary Magdalene is supposed to have lived in a nearby cave. Of course, why not Mary Magdalene? Maybe we can enlist Dan Brown to write the sequel. Even Anne, Jesus’s grandmother, has been spotted in the area. ‘Sister Anne, is anyone coming?’

Men who had fallen into a ravine and were not rescued until days later found that their beards hadn’t grown. Children who fell into the same ravine were unharmed but couldn’t remember a thing.

Others claim that the mountain is of some importance to the Cathars. In the south of France anything mysterious has a link to the Cathars.

A Swiss researcher who was ‘closing in on the secret’ and was in contact with ‘contemporary Cathars’ died in mysterious circumstances. However, there are conflicting reports, from ‘he disappeared into the ground’ to ‘he simply died in his bed in Switzerland’.

‘Atlantis’ is mentioned regularly, and there are people who claim that Nazis are living underground and have founded a Fourth Reich.

This last claim has a touch of humour. So you’re ready to be rescued and the mountain splits open, only for a platoon of Nazis to march out.

Fortunately, the Pope has told us that the world won’t end on 21 December. This would have been rather unlucky, just before the festive season. The Pope predicts that the world will end but he doesn’t want to be pinned down to a date. In principle, anyone can come along. Besides, the Belgians normally go on strike on 21 December, and that is bad enough.

In Belgium, going on strike just before the festive season is an annual national event. Of course, it is never during the festive season, but only just before Christmas that they all take to the streets against cuts of a few per cent.

And I’m due to cross the Channel by Eurostar on 21 December. I think I’ll pack my torch. So, at the moment, I’m just a little bit more afraid of the Belgians than of the end of the world.

My mother, too, is standing in front of a door to another dimension. If the Belgians halt all rail traffic, I can’t go home. So, if the Belgians go on strike again this year, I’ll predict now that we may well avoid an Armageddon, but I’ll probably explode with rage.

© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press

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