In 1841 a British writer called Charles Mackay wrote a book called ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds’.

In it, Mackay outlined an event from 200 years previously when in Holland a rather deluded individual offered 12 acres of land for a single tulip bulb.

Apparently this was not an uncommon thing at the time.

Tulip bulbs were something like shares in America in the 1920s; constantly increasing in prices and seemingly making almost everyone a fortune.

Then in February 1637, the entire market in tulip bulbs that had seen entire farms offered for a flower collapsed.

While not knowing for sure, I expect that those who had sold their farms for a pretty flower were perhaps a bit dismayed come March 1637.

I was reminded of this little snippet recently.

Mrs Doyle had been talking to a relative of hers who lives in a capital city and relayed to me that the relative in question had gone to the local supermarket for some basic provisions and had been surprised, and a trifle stunned, to discover that the entire store had been picked clean of toilet paper.

When enquiries were made it was found that the situation was linked to the coronavirus outbreak.

I was, at the time of Mrs Doyle’s reciting the anecdote, scoffing about the stupidity of people and stated loudly that said relative should see the light and move to

Narrabri, where people are far too sensible to engage in such ridiculous behaviour.

I mean to say, a bug with “flu like symptoms” (read – the flu) breaks out in China and then Italy and people in Australia rush to stockpile dunny rolls?

What next?

Will they stockpile asthma puffers to protect themselves from car accidents?

Or if bushfires threaten will they rush to buy coffee?

What possible help could 50 rolls of biodegradable toilet paper be when you have a cold?

I do not keep as close an eye on Chinese, Iranian and Italian news as perhaps I should, but nowhere have I heard reports suggesting that those unfortunate souls who have died from the coronavirus could have been saved, if only someone had applied two dozen rolls of toilet paper to the affected area.

So with confidence I told Mrs Doyle to tell her relative to leave the fast lane of slow people and head west to Narrabri.

As you know, I am Narrabri’s number one fan, or at least a season ticket holder in the fan club.

So imagine my surprise when heading to gather provisions this week, I discovered that, sadly, woefully, Narrabri had succumbed, not to coronavirus, but to an even worse disease, stupidity.

Yes, my horrified eyes beheld empty rows of shelves in Narrabri and signs saying that supplies had run low due to “unexpected demand”.

I could not deny the evidence of my own eyes.

A town that had been to me a bastion of friendliness, welcome and sensible, measured response, now brought low.

It was a bitter pill to swallow and caused much mirth amongst the Doyle in-laws.

So I am now much quieter about the glories of Narrabri.

But on the upside, I have some tulip bulbs to sell and I think I may just get a good price.

Bill Doyle is The Courier’s occasional guest columnist

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