From greatest generation to the most selfish nation | Blaise Tapp

It wasn’t too long ago that children everywhere would quiz parents and grandparents about what they did during the war.

Friday, 1st October 2021, 5:08 pm
No fuel at Sainsbury's in Farlington, Portsmouth, as queues build at the petrol station on September 25, 2021. Picture: Richard Lemmer

As a snotty-nosed schoolboy, every elderly relative or acquaintance who crossed my path would be mithered into justifying their wartime CV.

What loved ones did to defend their country 80-odd years ago is largely a great source of pride although, thankfully, it’s no longer a question that is likely to be asked by children in this country in the future.

Instead, a question some might want to ask of their relatives in years to come is: Did you hoard toilet roll during the pandemic or fill up jerry cans full of petrol when there was more than enough fuel to go around?

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If future generations want to get the measure of their elders they could do a lot worse than ask how they behaved when things started to become a bit difficult.

There are still people today, some 18 months on from the Andrex Apocalypse, who still have family packets of supersoft three-ply in their garden shed.

It is highly likely that some of these heroes will have found room in their sheds for gallons of hastily purchased unleaded.

If ever there was a time to be ashamed to be British, it is this week, an embarrassing moment in history when towns were brought to a standstill by queues of motorists trying to fill up their tanks, despite the repeated pleas by both the fuel industry and politicians that the nation’s supplies were where they should be.

By Sunday evening, there were reports that up to 85 per cent of the nation’s non-motorway petrol stations were out of fuel, turning, what was, a situation to keep your eye on into a bona fide crisis.

But it needn’t have been this way.

If you haven’t been stuck in them, the huge tailbacks have been a sight to behold – I witnessed a family getting out the deck chairs and snacks to watch the drama unfold at one particular petrol station.

But this bleak episode, which followed a week when most of us faced the prospect of a significant hike in our gas bills this winter, along with fears that we could be in for yet another sub-par Christmas, is far from amusing.

It strikes right at the heart of what is wrong with society – a society where looking after number one is the top priority for so many people, a fact that genuinely makes me want to weep on a regular basis.

We need to be clear that many people who have waited, sometimes for hours, for the privilege of sticking a nozzle into their motor’s fuel tank, were in real need of fuel, but we also know, due to the sheer numbers of vehicles stuck in gridlock that many didn’t need to be there.

It’s early autumn – nobody I know is going anywhere interesting while the majority of my mates are still working from home, so there is very little reason for millions of us to fire up the motor.

During the first few days of the fiasco, I was adamant that the third of a tank that I had in my car would be enough to get me through well over a week of school runs, trips to supermarkets and one scheduled work commute.

Then life happened and I spent most of the weekend shuttling up and down the motorway, meaning that I was dangerously short of petrol.

Fifth time lucky, I managed to find a station with unleaded and only had to wait for three minutes before I put in half a tank’s worth – all that I needed for at least a week or two.

The bloke in front of me who not only filled up his tank but also the four jerry cans in his boot, also got a piece of my mind.

He, along with many others, was on the wrong side of history.

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