TV's Get Smart agents.
By all accounts the world could end in 20 days. It's quite depressing reading if you Google it with talk of ''cataclysmic'' events such as the arrival of the ''solar maximum'', which is an interaction ''between Earth and the black hole at the centre of the galaxy'', or the collision of Earth and the mysterious planet Nibiru all being predicted. And then there's those pesky Mayans who have been foreshadowing our doom on this date for centuries.
And just to rub it in, WIN television is screening the John Cusack disaster movie 2012 at 8.30pm on Saturday - well according to Monday's TV Guide, which, some might say, is less accurate come the weekend than the Mayan calendar itself.
I'll be tuning to 2012 for sure. In it, Cusack - who I've always been fond of - takes his children camping in Yellowstone National Park just as the volcano it sits in decides to erupt and signal the beginning of the end. Having visited Yellowstone ourselves this year it was brought home how incredibly real this outcome might actually be.
Bubbling pools of mud, steam, the sulphur smell … something was happening underground … but I digress …
And then just last week, sportsbet.com.au, an online betting portal, sent out an email saying it had opened a market on Armageddon. I'm used to getting their emails about who'll win the cricket or Big Brother, but taking bets on Armageddon?
Will the world come to an end? If you're predicting yes then you'll get good odds at $501.
No pays a paltry $1.01.
(''Even if punters do tip the end of the world, it is going to be pretty hard for them to collect their winnings if none of us are here but we will do our best!'' said sportsbet.com.au's Shaun Anderson in the email. You've got to love a bookie with a sense of humour.)
A market has also been created on how it all may end.
A killer virus is the favourite at $21 followed by another ice age ($26), a super global storm ($34) and a worldwide earthquake ($41). If we're all eaten alive by zombies, sportsbet.com.au will pay $1001.
It's all a bit of fun, I realise, but even just thinking about the end of the world got me to thinking about what I would actually do with myself if I really only had 20 days left to live. Twenty days is a little long to go on a bender, as some colleagues thought they might do, and a little too short to be jetting off to Paris or anything. How would I spend the next 20 days? Here goes.
1. I'd bake every day. There's something about cake. And biscuits and slices. The very act of baking is calming and therapeutic and the pleasure it brings people is immeasurable. So what if we put on a few kilos in 20 days. I'd rather die fat and happy. And cake would always be accompanied by a catch-up and a cup of tea. Made in a pot kept warm by a tea cosy. I'd find the ritual in it all again.
2. I'd read every day. How many books do I have piled on the floor next to my bed? Too many for 20 days. I'd gamble on a couple of latest releases but make sure I re-read Pat Conroy's Prince of Tides and James A. Michener's Centennial.
Two books that changed the way I thought about writing. And on December 19 I'd start something by Stephen King.
3. I'd learn to play the piano. OK, I've left it a little too late. But surely there's something on YouTube that would teach me how to play Ode to Joy in 20 days? Either that or I'd pay something to come and play for me. Or get my daughter, who herself is in the midst of learning the same tune, to play every day.
4. And I'd sing more. I used to sing once. In a group. I don't have a terrible voice but it's not fabulous either but there's nothing quite like singing aloud. Even if it's only to yourself, in the shower, or the car, or somewhere where no one can hear you. But if the world was ending I'd sing out aloud wherever I chose. It's not over until the fat lady sings.
5. I'd be honest with people. And tell them what I really think. That I love them. That I've had enough of them. That what they did hurt me, or healed me. That they make me laugh, or cry. That things they've done have changed me, for good and bad, that I can't imagine living without them. Family and friends who matter would know that they did.
6. Lost loves. I love the loves I have now but I wonder what happened to two particular boys who broke my heart millenniums ago. How did their lives turn out? I hope they were happy, despite how miserable they made me feel at the time. I hope they had every chance to love, as I had, to live, as I had. I hope they were happy and their lives were filled with every joy they deserved because, despite the fact I thought they were bastards, they weren't really.
7. I'd dance more. Like singing, I miss dancing. Whether it be slow dancing, or disco crazy nightclub dancing, I'd get on my boogie shoes. The kids are always up for quick dance. As they say on iCarly, ''random dancing''! There'd be plenty of it.
8. I'd get to the beach. This is a hard one. As mentioned before 20 days is too short to go anywhere. I'd want to be at home for the end of the world. But I couldn't pass on the chance for one last dip, to be able to watch the sheer joy on my family's faces that they get when riding the waves. Who wouldn't want to die with sand between their toes?
9. I'd stay home. Canberra is a magical place. And if we're forced to actually take notice we'd realise that. Clear skies with views to the stars - all the better to see that meteorite the size of Texas coming our way - mountain vistas, greenery all around. Pay attention to sunsets over the Brindabellas. Revel in how quiet it is here. I'd revisit some special places. We'd picnic on Regatta Point, the place where I realised this was the man I wanted to be with for life. I'd drive around Lady Denman Drive past the zoo, where, despite the fact the area was ravaged by the bushfires of 2003, I'm still reminded of my journey to the obstetrician with my first baby. I'd go to Dickson Pool and eat fish and chips in the early evening, when the cooling breeze comes in. I'd lie on the front lawn with the kids and watch the clouds. I'd be home.
10. I'd learn to braid my daughter's hair. And all those other things a mother should be able to do.
11. I'd watch the whole series of The X Files. Because, obviously now, something is out there. Game-changing television. And Gilligan's Island, Get Smart and F Troop. I'd rather die laughing.
12. I'd laugh more. We could learn something from children when it comes to laughing. Tell stupid jokes. Listen to stupid jokes.
13. I'd pat my dog more. He's trying. In every sense of the word. But anyone who licks your toes is a true friend and loves you unconditionally.
14. I'd look through old photographs. And be happy with my life. It has been good. Because here are the photographs to prove it.
15. I'd stop cleaning the house. A big move for me. I think I'd have to sweep the floor and maintain the toilets and change the sheets but that's about it.
16. I'd make an effort to have a proper dinner every night. We'd dress for dinner, have flowers on the table, two courses and conversation. But if our elbows were on the table or we spoke with our mouths full so what?
That would fill 20 days wouldn't it? Further Googling revealed that there's a New Age interpretation of the end of the world, that the date marks the start in which ''Earth and its inhabitants may undergo a positive physical or spiritual transformation and that 2012 may mark the beginning of a new era''.
Now what would happen if I just started doing these things anyway?