Thirteen long Baktuns ago, way back on August 11 3114 BC our time, the world began. We’ve had a pretty good innings ladies and gentleman – cured all sorts of disease, created great art, invented the printing press, jazz and the X Factor, and generally had a good laugh. But time is up.

With the end of the world nowhere in sight, there was a festive feel in Bugarach as two spacemen in amateur-looking silver suits ambled down the street. They had come all the way from Lille, northern France “for a bet”.

Three green-faced ladies with antennae strolled down the road – all locals.

One of them, Catherine Tricoire, said: “I don’t believe in the end of the world but intend to eat and drink well,” she said. “My parents live here and have been bothered by anonymous callers in the dead of night telling them that the extraterrestrials have arrived.”

Catherine’s uncle, Georges, 72, a retired construction worker, smiled at his niece from beneath his red beret. “For the past 50 years I have wandered over every single inch of that mountain, I know every rock, nook and cranny and everything what has been said about Le Pic de Bugarach is nothing but lies,” he said.

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