Column: The first rule of panic buying is we don't talk about panic buying
Saw a great tweet the other day which said it was impossible to talk, or write, about panic buying without actually prompting panic buying.
Last year it was toilet rolls, this year it’s petrol.
With dire warnings that petrol pumps were empty, we all did the least helpful thing possible - we queued and filled up.
The media copped much of the blame for creating the panic - a situation that suited our utterly hopeless political leaders who dodge accountability at every opportunity - as it transpired only a handful of forecourts had run dry.
We heard the headlines but didn’t listen to the analysis, although we had plenty of time to scroll through rolling news pages on our phones while we waited in line to get to a pump.
Add in shortages of just about everything, and it feels as though this country has fallen off a cliff.
Tanker drivers appear to have vanished, en masse, into the night talking with them the keys to the lorries. Nothing to do with Brexit, though - no need to mention the ‘B’ word, absolutely no need, it’s all just tickety-boo.
Supermarket shelves are festooned with notices apologising for limited availability, shelves are wastelands as supplies of just about everything start to wither.
Some have taken to filling only the front of each shelf to fool us into thinking everything is normal.
If you’re in the middle of any building project, good luck managing the budget as costs rise and the work takes longer and longer to complete.
It feels like the darkest of days are just beginning.
We’re not in control of anything right now, hence the panic buying and selfish knee-jerk approach to stockpiling. As long as we’re okay nothing, or no-one else matters.
But what if we suddenly become the person on the other side of the road with no fuel, no heat, little food, and nothing in the bank?
What if it’s our cancer treatment appointment or surgery that’s cancelled because the lights go out?What if we cannot make ends meet, or get the help we need in a crisis?What if more companies collapse and jobs are lost?Right now, the scariest thing is it any of that can happen to anyone - and the safety net of the welfare state is so fragile we will almost certainly plunge straight through.
That we are led by an utterly hopeless Prime Minister, who looks bewildered as events unfold all around him, just adds to the sense that this island is rudderless right now.
Boris Johnson is a one-man car crash at the wheel of a government which seems content to do as little as possible to help the people in most need - real, desperate need.
At a time of real concern, you look to your leaders to give re-assurance, to speak with authority and to be decisive. Instead we have Johnson, a man who quotes Kermit the Frog from The Muppets in a speech to the UN on climate change.
People my age will recall the winter of discontent in 1978-79 and its power cuts and life by candlelight
What lies ahead feels much scarier.