And the winner is... Nostradamus

AS THE seconds of the old century tick away, and we are about to go into a new era which will be totally indistinguishable from the last one, except that it's got a different number, like a car being given false number plates, it is customary on these occasions to give out awards for any acts or deeds of achievement, fame and recognition performed in the last 1,000 years.

In practice this tends to mean the last 10 years, as nowadays our short attention span means that most people can't remember anything about the previous 990 years. Nevertheless, I think you will be impressed by the antiquity of one or two of the awards in this millennial list...

Most enduring monument to bad taste of recent years

Shared between Norman St John Stevas and the Queen Mother's Gate in Hyde Park.

Most outstanding year of the millennium, at least in England...

AD1066.

Best fictional year of this century

1984.

Most overrated discovery of the last thousand years

Shared between chewing gum and America.

Most commonly used word in the 1990s of which not one person in a million could give the correct definition

Jurassic.

A wonderful example of a brand name which became famous even though there was no product

Britpop.

Special award for something given to Europe by the New World in revenge for the gift by us to them of syphilis

Tobacco.

Lifetime award for giving birth to art of political forecasting (ie making predictions whose value can never be tested)

Nostradamus.

Special camouflage award given to any mysterious phenomenon from the East which survived there for hundreds of years but didn't get noticed by us till 10 years ago, when we suddenly went bananas about it

Shared equally among feng shui, acupuncture, ginseng, aromatherapy etc etc etc.

Special publishing award for having remained on the best-seller lists for 2,000 years in the Christian Interest section, even though almost all of it was written by Jewish authors for the Jewish market

The Holy Bible.

Special award given to any male political leader who once dominated the known world and is now best remembered for having given his name to a method of childbirth

Julius Caesar.

Best sporting attempt by any superstition to disguise itself as a science

Astrology.

Special award for being the only jazz musician in history whose name was an anagram of "Svengali"

Gil Evans.

Special award for achieving the supposedly impossible task of penetrating the American market even though you're British

Benny Hill. And Princess Diana. And Andrew Lloyd Webber. And The Two Fat Ladies.

Short pause, while we try to visualise the image of Britain in the minds of people who only know us through Benny Hill, Lloyd Webber, Princess Diana and The Two Fat Ladies.

Thank you.

The Anthony Quinn award for being able to act in any accent in the world and make them all sound the same

Meryl Streep.

A special publishing award for being an ambivalent book which contains EITHER everything you have done in the past OR everything you are going to do in the foreseeable future but never both

A diary.

Another special publishing award for being the American publisher most mentioned by people in Britain, even though they haven't the faintest idea he was a publisher

Gordon Bennett.

Plenty more millennial awards coming in AD2099!

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