x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

It's not over ... the real Doomsday arrives on Tuesday

Contrary to the Mayan apocalyptic prophecy, we're still here. And for men on Christmas, that's a lot of extra headache.

So how was the Mayan apocalypse for you? Did you have a good one? Perhaps you hunkered down in your bombproof cellar surrounded by enough tins of preserved meat and bottles of water to sustain a small state for several months? Maybe you spent your final moments telling your partner how much you loved them? Or perhaps you just took the dog for a walk.

If you're reading this you'll already have surmised that the expected Armageddon, predicted by the long-lost civilisations of Central America and expected to destroy planet Earth and all who dwelt on it sometime on Friday, didn't materialise.

In fact the whole shindig proved (as apocalypses so often do), to be something of a damp squib. The world didn't stop turning, and several hours after the anticipated deadline I found myself in the same old humdrum existence, staring blankly out of the window of my north London home and pondering the same dilemmas that have troubled mankind since the dawn of time (namely, who'll win the English football League and whether I can justify eating another chocolate biscuit).

The odd thing about these Armageddon scenarios is their monotonous regularity. Not so long ago the American evangelical network announced we'd all be consumed by fire and brimstone - on May 21, 2011 to be precise. Before that it was Nostradamus who averred the Earth would be hit by an enormous comet; and who can forget the Millennium bug, which (we were assured) would plunge cities into darkness, send planes plummeting from the sky, and cause the meltdown of everything electronic from the Nato early warning system to our local traffic lights?

But of course none of this happened. It never does. And, as sure as night follows day, the doom-mongers trotted out the same lame excuse to explain the delay. "We got our calculations wrong," they say, "What we really meant was …" and out comes another date, usually some way hence, whereupon the whole rigmarole begins again.

You might think I'd be glad to find myself still alive and kicking, but with the festive season approaching, the one drawback to this latest Doomsday fiasco is that I still have to face the ordeal I most dread, and one which the Mayan cataclysm would have spared me. I talk of course, of what to buy my wife for Christmas.

If there is one ritual guaranteed to make all red-blooded men feel that life's no longer worth living, it's the prospect of shopping for presents for our spouses. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus isn't part of some ancient Mayan prediction, but the title of a best-selling book that attempts to shed some light on the vast spiritual and emotional chasm between the sexes; and the gulf is never wider than at this time of year.

Our better halves know a good book or a sports DVD is all it takes to make our cheeks flush and our eyes sparkle. But trying to guess what to get for them is an altogether knottier philosophical problem.

There's something gently heartbreaking about watching men in department stores attempting to source the gifts that will make their partners' lives complete. Bottles of scent, items of jewellery, swish handbags and opulent sweaters, each item costing a month's wages; you can see the male of the species, in shops the length of the UK, turning each possible purchase over as if trying to decipher ancient runes.

Worse still, it makes us vulnerable to attack from shop assistants. "Ah, I see you're interested in this new fragrance sir?" they say, spraying a sample onto a strip of paper and waggling it beneath our noses. "Nice isn't it? You'll detect the notes of citrus and the musky undertones. And it's only $200 for 60 millilitres."

Over the next few days our own domestic Armageddon will be played out in countless homes up and down the country. The look of bewilderment as our partners unwrap the gift, the unmistakable sneer of dismay, and then the brittle smile of feigned delight for the bottle of scent they didn't want, the shoes they'll never wear, the jewellery they'll return the moment the holiday's over.

All this would have been circumvented if only those darned Mayans had done their sums properly. As it is, I've now got to set my jaw, sharpen my elbows, and brave the hordes of miserable, anxious men wandering disconsolately up and down Oxford Street in search of inspiration.

The next few days may be the end of the world - at least, there will be times when it will seem like it.


Michael Simkins is an actor and writer based in London

On Twitter: @michael_simkins