THOUSANDS of people across Britain are planning an early start to the weekend today as the Icelandic volcano presented them a fascinating new excuse.
Innovative shirkers are claiming that ash from the massive eruption 800 miles north of the British Isles has interfered with the electrics in their car, or obscured their view of the bus stop.
Julian Cook, a sales manager from Peterborough, said: "It's very bad here. You can't see your hand in front of your face. In fact, I'm not 100% sure I still have hands. If I do I'll see you on Monday, probably."
Helen Archer, an accounts assistant from Stevenage, phoned her office to say that she would not make it in because her only pair of volcano-proof shoes are currently being repaired.
She added: "There's quite a lot of lava running up and down my street. Normally that would be okay because my Nine West pumps have a special anti-lava attachment, but unfortunately they are in the process of being cobbled. Good day."
The eruption has also stranded thousands of Londoners after tube drivers claimed volcanic ash in the upper atmosphere makes it impossible to drive a train through a tunnel.
Vulcanologists say the eruption has been caused by increasing pressure in magma chambers beneath the North Atlantic Plate, while leading economists claim it is nothing more than churlish, volcano-based revenge for Britain seizing the assets of Iceland's pathetic little banks.
Meanwhile there are growing fears that the massive ash cloud may be unable to prevent tonight's party leaders' TV debate.
Gordon Brown has accused the Tories of a 'do-nothing' approach to volcanoes, while Lib Dem treasury spokesman Vince Cable has chartered a steam boat to Reykjavik, promising to put all the ash and lava back in to the big hole in the middle.
Despite last minute appeals the debate is now likely to go ahead at 8.30pm and then take up at least 45 minutes of Friday morning as millions of non-volcano affected voters come into work armed with a series of teeth-grindingly vacuous observations.
Tom Logan, from Finsbury Park said: "Yeah, I've been telling people I'm definitely going to watch it but I'm not. I'm going to watch a DVD about freaks while eating a bucket of M&S cocktail sausages.
"I'll let you know how it turns out."