I’ve long felt that when Brits panic, it’s time for the rest of the world to immediately sit up, take a quick look around themselves for unusual sights such as invading extra-terrestrials and Sachin scoring his 100th 100 and then dive under the bed.
‘Don’t panic.’ Those are the more or less perfect two words written—in “large, friendly letters”—on the cover of The Guide in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Only a Brit could have written them— and only a Brit like the late writer Douglas Adams. This Sunday Adams would have turned 60, and a grateful nation, led by actors and writers, is paying tributes to a man who has made millions laugh out (often embarrassingly loudly in public) while turning the pages of his tragically few books. Everything that Adams wrote was designed to keep us from panicking— just as the British World War II poster advised all to ‘Keep calm and Carry On’. Is the universe about to end? Well then, instead of panicking, head to the nearest bar, as did Ford Prefect (himself a roving alien, don’t ask). Ford: Six pints of bitter. And quickly please, the world’s about to end.
Barman: Oh yes, sir? Nice weather for it.
Creationism gets your goat? Don’t panic. Imagine a puddle, as Adams did in 1998, waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in —an interesting hole I find myself in—fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’
Adams’ Hitch Hiker’s Guide, published when he was 29, sold more than 14 million copies worldwide, and was followed by the series of best-selling titles The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe; Life, The Universe And Everything; So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish; Mostly Harmless and posthumously, The Salmon of Doubt. Getting late for work because you are too busy chortling over Adams?
Don’t panic. As Adams once said, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”