1998 ... and the lives that changed for ever

Personalities of 1998
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There goes another year and what, you find yourself asking, did you do with it? For some there may have been the excitement of a new job or addition to the family; for others the year will have slipped by, leaving them and their worlds unchanged. But for certain people 1998 will be a year they can never forget, a year when they became caught up in the nation's news. The footballer Michael Owen won a place in the hearts of teenage girls and grown men alike. The parents of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence finally began to see the truth about their son's killing revealed although this was mixed with the pain of knowing that justice would never be done. And for the Blue Peter presenter Richard Bacon, it became a year he will always regret. Over the following pages we look at the people who, for very different reasons, will think of 1998 as a year that radically changed their lives

Aimee Mullins (left)

The disabled model who walked off the catwalk and into the headlines

For his London catwalk collection in October, Alexander McQueen designed something a little special. Along with the clothes - the sharply cut jackets, the bumster trousers and the tiered flamenco dresses - he also created a couple of shapely artificial legs which looked like sexy high-heeled boots. They were worn by a rather special model - Aimee Mullins. The 23-year-old American was born without any fibulas and had her legs amputated below the knee on her first birthday. Since then she has learnt to ski, set records for the 100m, 200m and long jump at the 1996 Paralympics, and embarked on a successful career as a public speaker.

However, it was strutting her stuff on the catwalk which made her front- page news around the world. "Disabled model steals McQueen show," screamed the headlines and the interest from the paparazzi was so great that Mullins was obliged to move into a hotel. "I knew it was going to be a big deal," she admits, "but I didn't know it was going to be quite that big."

Ever since, she has been inundated by letters of support. "Ninety five per cent of them are from people who have no disability at all, but relate to what I'm doing, which is challenging the norm," she says. Indeed, Mullins sees herself as part of a movement, questioning received ideas of beauty. "People are starting to realise that feminine strength is what's sexy and beautiful," she asserts. Recently, she has done shoots for US fashion titles such as Harper's Bazaar and Jane, but has turned down numerous offers. "I really laid low after the McQueen show and took time to regroup. In the spring, however, I plan to come back to modelling at full force." Ian Phillips

Derek Draper (right)

The PR fixer who lost everything and returned to the fray

If Derek Draper were a wine, the summary of the 1998 vintage would run, "superb early season, virtually destroyed by violent summer hailstorm, but recovery against all the odds to make a good tip for the future". Draper, 30, is the archetypal New Labour yuppie technocrat, the man who personifies all that the party old guard hates. For the first six months of this year, his star was rising. He was pulling in a large salary as a director of the lobbying firm GPC, remained close to the government, and had a weekly column in The Express. Ironically, it was the lance of Old Labour that flung him off his horse, in the form of the Observer, to whose undercover reporters he boasted: "There are 17 people who count. And to say that I am intimate with every one of them is the understatement of the century." He also said his newspaper column was vetted by Peter Mandelson.

When the story broke, in July, amid a storm about Labour "cronyism", Draper resigned from GPC and was sacked from his column. The Telegraph promptly signed him up to write for them, but last month he gave that up, too. However, the energetic Draper, whom an acquaintance describes as "a show off, but a good-hearted one", is back. He's putting the finishing touches to a blockbuster political novel, has started a Sunday morning chat show on Talk Radio, and has more offers of work from Fleet Street. It could turn out to be a vintage year after all. Darius Sanai Neville and Doreen Lawrence (above) The parents of Stephen, fighting for justice

If you peered over the heads of the massed ranks of QCs, junior counsel and solicitors, you could just make out two figures at the front of the room: a diminutive woman, scribbling furiously, and a tall, broad-shouldered man, hunched over the table.

Doreen and Neville Lawrence spent much of this year on the fourth floor of an anonymous office block in an insalubrious part of south London, listening in silence as the investigation into the murder of their son Stephen was dissected in remorseless detail at the long-awaited public inquiry.

The composure of this extraordinary couple rarely cracked, even when the five youths widely believed to be the murderers made their swaggering appearance before the inquiry. Just now and again, Neville would get up and walk, unhurriedly, out of the room - a sign that he was hearing something intolerable and needed to collect his feelings in private.

The Lawrences know that the racist gang that stabbed Stephen to death in 1993 will probably never be brought to justice. But five years after the murder, the inquiry finally provided them with some answers about what went wrong in the early days and weeks. Next year will bring the report of the inquiry chairman, Sir William Macpherson. Stephen's parents hope that his recommendations on investigating racial crime will help ensure that no other family has to endure their torment. Kathy Marks

Waheed Alli (above right)

The coolest peer in the realm

Until this year, you could have been forgiven for asking "Waheed who?" Media types knew that Alli was the business brains behind Planet 24, the company which makes The Big Breakfast for Channel 4. No one else had heard of him.

That changed when the press cottoned on to the fact that Waheed Alli had friends in high places. Very high indeed: he is a confidant of the Prime Minister, a regular visitor to Downing Street, one of "Tony's cronies". When Alli, 34, was appointed to Panel 2000, the Government's "Cool Britannia" advisory committee, it was whispered that Tony Blair relied on him as an authority on British "youth". He was clearly a man of influence and, intriguingly for some, he was also Asian and gay.

Breathless articles were written about the lavish parties thrown by Alli and Charlie Parsons, his boyfriend and business partner, at their peacock- patrolled mansion in Kent. Guests were said to include Cabinet ministers such as Peter Mandelson. And any doubts about Alli's position at the heart of the New Labour establishment were dispelled when Blair appointed him a life peer in the summer. His influence, though, is not merely political. At a recent fundraising gala for Stonewall, the gay lobby group, Mo Mowlam confided to the audience that she had telephoned Alli to seek his advice on what to wear that night.

Despite all this, Baron Alli of Norbury in our London borough of Croydon - as he is now styled - is a painfully shy man. He has not given an interview since 1993 and has a publicist who declines to speak on his behalf, even off the record. Kathy Marks

Jane McDonald (below)

From docu-soap discovery to singing superstar

"I'm a household name; I've had a Number One platinum album; I've met Prince Charles; I've become Yorkshire Woman of the Year; had two follow- ups with the BBC, including my wedding; the sell-out tour was unbelievable; Frankie Vaughan has invited me to the Water Rats do and I talk to Barbara Windsor all the time."

That was 35-year-old singer Jane McDonald's year. This time 12 months ago, she was earning pounds 12,000 a year as a nightclub singer on board a cruise ship. Jane, now well on her way to millionairedom, was one of a handful of "ordinary" people who were catapulted to national fame by the defining television format of the late Nineties, the docu-soap.

"Within two weeks of the first episode [of BBC1's The Cruise] being shown everything started to happen," Jane says, still breathless as she recalls the showbiz smorgasbord laid before her. "I was surprised by how quickly it snowballed but I took my time to decide on the offers coming in. I'd worked for 15 years to get that far and I didn't want to blow it."

Jane's trajectory shows no sign of tailing off: "I'm just about to start recording another album, there'll be another tour, obviously in bigger venues, a TV special over Christmas and I'm talking to Mentorn Films who want me to do my own TV show." And if it all ended tomorrow? "You know, it doesn't really bother me because I never expected to get this far. I'm just enjoying it, and if it stops tomorrow, that's fate." Michael Booth

Michael Owen (right)

Britain's sporting hero of the year

Some strikers score 15 goals a season, good ones get 20. Very occasionally an exceptional player will only have to score one goal to trigger an explosion of endorsement and worship. His likeness will be Blu-tacked to countless teenage bedroom walls and sensible, grown men with careers in the media will eulogise him on national television. This is known, in footballing terms, as a good season.

It seems hard to believe that Michael Owen started 1998 like any other teen sensation recently established in a top Premiership side. He scored the only goal in Liverpool's defeat of Newcastle on 20 January but still there was no hint of the delirium to come in the heady World Cup atmosphere of Saint-Etienne.

Even when Owen weighed in with a season's haul of 22 goals he had to content himself with back-page star status. In Casablanca, in the run- up to the World Cup, Owen notched up his first international goal against Morocco at the tender age of 18 years and 164 days - the England team's youngest ever goal-scorer.

By the time he lined up against Argentina in the second round of the World Cup, he had two goals to his name after an inspired substitute's performance against Romania. In the 10th minute of the Argentina game he was nudged over by Ayala for a penalty, which Shearer took and scored. Six minutes later he collected a pass from Beckham and set off on his own towards the Argentine goal. Ignoring the attempts of Jose Chamot to dispossess him, he left a distressed Ayala standing, finally lashing the ball past Roa for an extraordinary goal.

The rest is a tale of countless slow-motion replays and misty-eyed documentaries and, two weeks ago, the accolade of BBC Sports Personality of the Year, a nicely timed 19th birthday present. But on the pitch, the adulation has faded as England and Liverpool have struggled to recapture last season's form. He might belong to the collective memory of the nation but, in the pursuit of honours, Michael Owen's destiny may lie in playing on the continent. Sam Wallace

Scott and Ally Svenson (Ally, left)

From a hot latte to pounds 50m global merger

All she wanted was a good latte but Seattle Coffee Company's Ally Svenson has ended the year with much more. "We were desperate for good coffee in London. We weren't trying to build an empire," she insists. But that's what she and her husband Scott did, and this year they merged it with Starbucks, the US coffee giant that made Seattle famous. It was a move that made them millionaires many times over.

"We knew nothing about what we were doing, but I always knew the coffee scene would take off," Ally says. And how. From the one coffee shop in London's Covent Garden she opened in 1995 and worked in every day, their chain numbered around 80 by the time Starbucks offered them and their investors pounds 49m worth of shares.

The Svensons opened Seattle Coffee Company units where customers wanted and needed their caffeine fix; these are steadily being rebranded as Starbucks, of which the thirtysomething Scott and Ally are now respectively president and communications and brand development director in the UK.

Just as they were so profitably signing away the name people had learnt to link with good coffee Seattle-style, they moved house and had a second baby. The deal was completed the last weekend in May, the baby was born the last weekend in July. On their home front one more development has had a significant effect on the habit that made it all happen: with a professional espresso machine plumbed into their new kitchen, the Svensons can at last get coffee the way they want it without going to the nearest Starbucks. Caroline Stacey Richard Bacon (right)

The children's TV presenter caught with cocaine

Blue Peter presenter Richard Bacon started 1998 as the darling of a million little girls. Earning pounds 60,000 a year - pretty good for a 22-year-old - he had already gained a reputation as a hard-livin' dude after a number of publicised drinking binges. Just how hard he lived was revealed in October. Two days after the show celebrated its 40th birthday, the News of the World broke the story, "Blue Peter goody-goody is a cocaine-snorting sneak."

The dreamboy had, it seemed, developed a busy nose. Bacon was out of the frying pan and out of a job, reviled by every cocaine-snorting tabloid editor in the country and, worst of all, defended by Chris Evans and Songs of Praise's Diane-Louise Jordan. But within a month, this snowstorm in a teacup had been overshadowed by the antics of fellow kiddy heroes Jamie Theakston (punch-ups and infidelity) and Ant McPhalin of Ant and Dec (drunken brawling).

So what does next year hold for Bacon? Apparently he has already turned down pounds 20,000 to present a World in Action special on drug abuse and received loads of sympathy calls when he appeared on Talk Radio. Children's TV may be a closed world for him, but this incident could give him perfect credibility for a future in teen programming. Serena Mackesy

Roger Tomkins (below)

A daughter lost to CJD and a wife to cancer

Roger Tomkins, 52, was one of the first people to give evidence to the BSE Inquiry when it began hearings in March. Many were moved to tears by his description of how his daughter Clare was dying at the age of 24 from new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, caused by eating BSE-infected food.

He described how Clare had turned into a helpless victim of the incurable illness. "The worst thing," he said, "was sometimes at night, when she would howl like a sick, injured animal. She started to hallucinate."

Clare died on 22 April but for Mr Tomkins, the pain continued. His wife Dawn, 54, had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She died on 9 June. "Like your worst nightmare come true twice," is how he describes it. "It's the sort of thing that happens on the news, to somebody else. You never, ever, ever think it will happen to you." A daughter and granddaughter survive.

In June the engineering company where he had been a director for six years was sold, and he took a redundancy settlement which meant he has not had to seek further work. Instead he attends the continuing BSE Inquiry almost every day: "It helps me a great deal. I don't want Clare to have died in vain; I want to find out the people responsible, for them to be held accountable." The Inquiry is expected to report next year. Charles Arthur Billy Adams

The ex-terrorist, from prison to peace

Billy Adams was freed from jail in September. The former loyalist prisoner got out six months early, as part of the programme of early releases laid out in the Good Friday peace agreement. "Things were very strange at the beginning," he says. "But I'm out for a while now and I'm getting the hang of it."

While in the Maze, Adams had been a spokesman of sorts for UDA prisoners but since his release has been concentrating on re-establishing his life. "The hardest thing is relationships with your friends and your family. While I was in both of my parents died. My three children were young when I went in, and now they're wee teenagers."

For Adams, life has constant reminders of the Troubles - he lives beside a barricade in north Belfast. "I don't think I'll see it coming down," he says, "but I hope my kids will. It'll take another generation to get rid of the hatred." Patrick Hartley Robbie Williams (above)

The reborn pop star who exceeded expectations

We're all still slightly worried about Robbie but things are definitely looking better than they were this time last year. The nation's irritating younger brother has blossomed into something unique in modern popular culture: a lightweight to be taken seriously; a pop star who behaves exactly how we would if riches, fame and adulation were showered down upon us; and a celebrity still obviously troubled by his past and struggling candidly with the pressures of life.

A year ago his debut album, Life Thru A Lens, had recorded disappointing sales and his record label, Chrysalis, had waved goodbye to a pounds 2m investment. Then came the hit single, "Angels". "I Hope I'm Old Before I Die" followed, and his second album, I've Been Expecting You, was a critically acclaimed Number One. Robbie, the UK's biggest-selling artist of 1998, has provided the soundtrack to the year and fed the insatiable appetite of the tabloids with stories of heroin use, marriage proposals (to an All Saint, no less) and rehab.

There are no second acts in the lives of pop stars, or at least there aren't supposed to be, but wee Robbie is already on his third incarnation (from boy-band joker, to embarrassing indie wannabe, to a star in his own right) and you shouldn't bet against reinventions to come. The savvy that ensured a writing credit on his material (a lesson learnt from his experiences with the parsimonious Gary Barlow) have brought riches and, it seems, self-respect. "I'd like to be a cross between Tom Jones, John Lennon, Chuck D and Gene Kelly," he says. Don't bet against it. Michael Booth

Gordon Campbell Gray (below)

The hotelier who gave us the last word in luxury

At the start of 1998, hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray was the little-known owner of an empty office building in central London. Twelve months later, the same site is now the five-star hotel One Aldwych, and its proprietor is famous for introducing a new concept to luxury accommodation: "stealth wealth".

Basically, stealth wealth means modern and understated rather than flash and showy. "For me, it can just be having the right light to read your book," says Campbell Gray. "I recently stayed in a well-known hotel in Paris where I would have gladly exchanged the grand piano and the Louis Quatorze candlesticks just for that."

Comments like this are what made Campbell Gray's name in the media frenzy that followed the opening of One Aldwych last August. But has the stealth wealth label stuck? "Yes, I'm getting a wee bit tired of the jokes now," he says. "I have just bought a very special car and people say to me, `Oh yes, very stealth wealth.'"

Despite the ribbing, Campbell Gray ends the year content with his success. "It is a dream come true," he says. "But if I see another canape ... " Marcus Field

Mary Allen (below)

The phantom of the Royal Opera

The former secretary general of the Arts Council, Mary Allen, started 1998 in seeming control of the beleaguered Royal Opera House, in her role as its chief executive. But all was not well. There had been rumblings about her swift arrival in the job the previous year - made possible by the personal intervention of the then chair of the board Lord Chadlington, who suggested her to the new Culture Secretary Chris Smith within days of Smith's appointment. Once installed, further questions were raised when her understanding of the workings of the opera repertoire proved to be shaky, while Gerald Kaufman roasted her alive during the Commons select committee hearings. But when Sir Colin Southgate, the new chair of the board, discovered she had been unable to keep her widely admired director of opera Nicholas Payne from defecting to the rival English National Opera, her departure became merely a matter of timing.

Following her "resignation" in March (with a financial settlement to cushion the blow), she retired to the country, suggesting she was one of a long line of female martyrs suffering at the hands of a misogynist administration. As she licked her wounds, she found solace via Simon & Schuster, which published her A House Divided, or, as others prefer to call it, My Mistakes and How To Make Money Out of Them.

Since then, she has had an even shorter career as chief executive of London Marriage Guidance. Alas, the organisation's financial difficulties meant they were ultimately unable to employ her, so they retained her as a financial consultant instead. However, her recent ubiquity at major arts news events suggests an imminent return to her former sphere of activity. David Benedict

Malcolm Curnow (below)

The bereaved father who forced an inquiry

This time last year few people knew much of the Bristol heart scandal. A year on, thanks to the efforts of people like Malcolm Curnow, it is seen as the most important medical disciplinary inquiry of the decade.

Last June, the General Medical Council, after examining the deaths of 29 babies, concluded that the Bristol surgeons James Wisheart and Janardan Dhasmana had continued to operate, despite their poor success rate, long after they should have stopped and that John Roylance, the former chief executive of the infirmary, failed to intervene to prevent them.

Mr Curnow's daughter Verity was one of those who died. Last year he set up the Bristol Heart Children's Action Group, gathering together 25 families. Now 250 families are in the group and his fight for justice has "become a full-time job - about 10 or 12 hours a day".

The GMC inquiry was not enough for the families. They relentlessly lobbied the Health Secretary Frank Dobson for a public inquiry - and got it. "We've been proud to be a part of it," said Mr Curnow. "All we were seeking were simple answers - why did the system fail us and how was it allowed to continue for so long? It won't bring our children back, but if we've changed the Health Service so that no other parents will have to endure the pain we went through, it will have been worth it." Glenda Cooper

Jane Couch (right)

The boxer who fought for the right to fight

For some the sight of two women laying into each other in a nightclub may be depressingly familiar. But the contretemps at Caesars Palace in Streatham, south London on Wednesday 25 November was distinguished by the presence of a referee and the total absence of white stilettos.

Simona Lukic had not been looking at Jane Couch's boyfriend. Neither had she knocked over her alcopop. This was Britain's first licensed female boxing match and Jane Couch, the Women's International Boxing Federation's welterweight title-holder, made short work of her German opponent, stopping her in three minutes, four seconds.

Couch took the title from France's Sandra Gieger in May 1996 and has defended it in New Orleans, but only this year did she gain the backing of the British Boxing Board of Control after taking them to court for restraint of trade.

Earning just pounds 5,000 and a slice of the gate for the fight, Couch is unlikely to make much money in England. But if she could get a fight with top US female boxer Christy Martin, she could hit the jackpot. The poor quality of her opponent in Streatham, however, renewed fears that, at the moment, there are not enough quality opponents for women fighters. The "Fleetwood Assassin", as Couch is known, will have trouble changing public opinion. Winning other arguments should be less difficult. Sam Wallace

Magnus Mills (right)

The bus driver on the Booker shortlist

"I thought the book would do well, but you can never be sure," reflects Magnus Mills, author of the 1998 Booker-shortlisted novel, The Restraint of Beasts. "I was warned beforehand that it could be a flop."

The warning wasn't necessary: few British novelists have had a year like him. The book was optioned for filming while it was still in manuscript form. Over the past 12 months, publishers from France to the Czech Republic have bought up the translation rights. In July, Mills's US publisher received a fax from Thomas Pynchon, who broke his legendary silence to praise the novel. Mills's reaction was blunt: "It was just one of those moments were you think, `bloody hell!'" Booker shortlisting put the novel into the bestseller charts, with a little help from the fact that his life is a PR dream: when not at his word processor, Mills drives the 159 bus between Brixton and Oxford Circus. "Most of the first interviews I did were about buses. I think they were a bit disappointed I wasn't more like Reg Varney."

"It's changed my life, but in unexpected ways. I thought I'd just pack my job in, but now the chance has come, it's turned out not to be so simple," he says. So far, he's continued working, taking the odd day off for signings and media events. He's also written a second novel, All Quiet on the Orient Express. However, Mills may get off the bus in January, when he starts work as The Independent's radio critic. "I don't think it would be very fair on the readers, if they knew I had two jobs." Matthew Sweet Shaun Russell (below)

The continuing trials of Josie's father

Shaun Russell is a model of human dignity in the face of unimaginable adversity. As Michael Stone began three life sentences, Dr Russell said he had sympathy for the man who murdered his wife and daughter and left his other little girl for dead. Stone had had a troubled childhood, he said.

The three-week trial in October at Maidstone Crown Court was the final act in the tragedy that tore apart Dr Russell's family. He lost Lin, his wife of 23 years, and his six-year-old daughter, Megan, on that summer afternoon in 1996. His life now revolves around Josie, 11, still recovering from dreadful head injuries.

Dr Russell did not attend the trial; he could not face the sight of Stone in the dock. But when the verdict loomed, he left the Snowdonia village where he and Josie now live, and went to stay with friends in Kent. The outcome brought relief, and then anger and sadness. What haunted him, he said, was that whenever he tried to picture Lin and Megan, "it's the terrible image of them on the mortuary slab lying side by side".

Dr Russell has his work cut out. He cares full-time for an extrovert girl on the verge of adolescence, who remains deeply traumatised. He has barely had time to grieve himself. One wonders how he manages to cope. His response is that Josie "keeps me on track". Kathy Marks

George Michael (above)

Out of the closet and into the charts

Being a pop star is very different from being a cabinet minister. For a minister, being outed can mean being out of a job. But a pop star's sexuality can be made public in similarly embarrassing, park-related circumstances, and he can finish the year with a hugely popular Greatest Hits album whose very title - Ladies and Gentlemen - is a jokey allusion to the event.

On 7 April, a stranger exposed himself to George Michael in a Beverly Hills public toilet, and Michael returned the greeting, little realising that the stranger was Officer Rodriguez of the LAPD. "Zip Me Up Before You Go Go" went the Sun's headline, but Michael wasn't killed by the publicity, he was made stronger.

"I've had the privilege of being seen in my worst possible incarnation and people being all right with it," he told Q magazine last month - and he wasn't talking about the "Club Tropicana" video. Where once he was viewed as a po-faced recluse, now he was a rebel hero who had defied entrapment and tabloid homophobia with candour, style and cheeky humour. His first release was "Outside," complete with a video that sent up his arrest, and the lyric, "I'd service the community/ But I already have, you see!" You can afford not to take yourself so seriously when the world is taking you seriously again. Nicholas Barber

Marjorie Longdin (below)

The winning ways of William Hague's aunt

"I keep thinking it's a dream and I've spent this money and I'm in dire trouble," laughs Marjorie Longdin as she ponders her pounds 856,000 lottery windfall. Marjorie's was one of the year's more improbable news stories. Marjorie is, you see, William Hague's aunt. "He did ring to congratulate me," she says, "and I've had a long chat with him since."

Marjorie, a widow for the past 18 years, has no plans to share her winnings with her beleaguered nephew though. "Oh no, he's my sister's family, they can look after themselves. I've got four - two boys and two girls between 35 and 45 - they're having fun!" The spending spree has already begun: "The first thing I bought was a new watch. I'd bought a fake Omega the weekend before my win when I was on holiday in Tunisia, so I translated it into the real thing. I've generally bought small gifts, the odd Doulton figure, handbags, things that folks wouldn't buy themselves; I've had three or four begging letters but Camelot advises that you send them on to them because if you get involved it could make you miserable. I have promised to buy a new gate for the churchyard, though." Michael Booth Salman Rushdie (below)

The final end of the fatwa?

The year that really changed Salman Rushdie was 1989; on Valentine's Day that year, he found himself under the fatwa's malign spell - internationally famous for all the wrong reasons. This year has changed him almost equally radically, however - back into a man who can live an (almost) normal life.

His Special Branch minders are still in place, and will no doubt continue to be for years to come. Iranian groups have repeated their willingness to assassinate him, and the price on his head has been increased. In September, however, the Iranian government withdrew its blessing for his murder.

For Rushdie - bouncingly gleeful when I spoke to him just after the news was announced - that was what counted. He had always made it clear that the prospect of a crazy taking a pot shot at him did not scare him as much as the prospect that a government, with huge resources, might try to get rid of him. Now, there is a sense that the dogs have been called off.

For Rushdie, 1998 has been a year of rebirth. He has been able to live peacefully with his wife and young son; his new novel is almost finished; his treasured Haroun and the Sea of Stories, a magical polemic against censorship in the form of a children's tale, has been triumphantly staged at the National Theatre; and a government no longer wants to murder him. All in all, not a bad 12 months - and it shows. In the words of one friend, "He's lost weight, he's on great form - very trim, very energetic, very happy. It's wonderful." As icing on the cake, France looks set (according to exceedingly well-placed rumours) to award Rushdie its highest literary honour, making him a Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres in the next few weeks, as a recognition that the ordeal is over. In short: from satanic madness to a genuinely brave new world. Steve Crawshaw Stella McCartney (above)

Tragedy and triumph for Linda's daughter

Stella McCartney will, of course, remember this as the year she lost her mother Linda to breast cancer, and perhaps for her it is an irrelevance to comment on anything else. But 1998 was the year that 27-year-old Stella began to move towards centre-stage in the world of fashion design. Her trademark slick satin, girly lace and romantic ruffles had already blown the winds of change through the rather demure ready-to-wear house of Chloe. And having long ago silenced the snipers (including Karl Lagerfeld), who griped that her success came solely as a result of her father's name, McCartney's third collection, shown in Paris in the autumn, was universally praised for its lack of pretension and for its classic appeal. "It pissed me off that people imply I'm only here on the family name. Maybe the press would give me an easier time if I was a trust-fund smackhead," she retaliated at the time.

"I am more jaded than I was a year ago," says McCartney. "But that can be positive. I don't fret about things so much since my Mum died. I'll never meet anyone else like her - I just hope I have some of her qualities."

"Looking back I'd sum up the year as emotionally challenging. As for how it has changed me, well how much space have you got? My ambition for 1999 is simply to make it better." Michael Booth

Guy Ritchie (below)

Moving in the right direction

"Didn't go badly did it?" laughs film director Guy Ritchie, whose year has been dominated by the critical and popular success of his first feature film, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. "It all really happened within a week, after we'd sold the film in June. We had a hell of a time selling it. And people were looking at it and saying, `This is a piece of shit.' "

But that film, a tale of East End gangsters and likely lads, made on a budget of pounds 1m and starring Vinnie Jones, has subsequently taken $20m at the box office. So has the cash started rolling in? "I believe so, but I haven't had time to spend any money," he says. And what about the celebrities who flocked to herald the new movie messiah? "I am sick of being asked about Madonna [whom he dated briefly], but it wasn't just Madonna who gave me compliments, it was Tom Cruise, it was all the heavyweights. But it happened quickly and it hasn't stopped since then, so I certainly haven't had the time to enjoy it."

The 39-year-old stops and ponders for a moment, "but then, I'm not quite sure what you do when you're supposed to be enjoying it. Anyway, I'm too busy struggling with the next film, I'm sitting looking at my typewriter as we speak." Michael Booth

Frank Field MP (above)

The minister without portfolio

Will Frank Field be the Enoch Powell of the Labour Party? Both are/were bitter, marginalised intellectuals, and both spent the year/years following stormy resignations sniping from the backbenches. Field ponders whether to take this as a compliment: "Enoch was a personal friend of mine, I liked him, but I'm not aiming for that."

Field's resignation from the post of welfare reform minister, after failing to bag the post of social security secretary in the July reshuffle, has consigned him to sit on the backbenches. Any regrets? "No. On the first day in the post, I thought, gosh, this is what I was made for, but things turned out rather differently for all sorts of bizarre reasons. But I do miss the people I worked with, and Mick who drove me."

You might expect to find Frank Field embittered by the character assassinations that followed his resignation (government spin doctors branded Field "childish", "a complete disgrace" and a "failed joke"), but he denies any ill-feeling. "Face to face, Gordon [Brown] and I are very friendly ... when I handed in my resignation, Tony Blair was very pleasant." But he has no intention of going quietly. "Next year I will really begin laying the foundations of my ideas about welfare reform." You can hear the spin doctors sharpening their knives in anticipation. Michael Booth

Dr Eric Griffiths (above)

A hard lesson for the Cambridge Don

The British media loves an eccentric academic, but here was one with a twist. For a week in August, Dr Eric Griffiths of Trinity College Cambridge became a figure of ridicule for the nation, roundly condemned for his bullying of 18-year-old Tracy Playle, a comprehensive school student who had the audacity to apply to read English under him.

During her interview, Dr Griffiths had, said Playle, reduced her to tears by mimicking her accent, telling her she was talking "gibberish", and asking, "Have you heard of Hitler?" Discussing a poem that contained a line of Greek, he sneered, "Being from Essex, you won't know what these funny squiggles are."

The papers had a field day, with a grudging, ungracious apology from Dr Griffiths, but not before revealing that he was the Liverpool-born son of a docker. His mother offered further humiliating details. "He never had elocution lessons ... he recited Shakespeare then played his voice back over and over until he felt he had got it right." "He played with the girls and he liked skipping," added a former neighbour.

Baffling to foreigners, this was a story that encapsulated the preposterous iniquities of the British class system, before leaving its protagonists to return to their lives. Playle triumphantly secured a place at Warwick University, Griffiths continues to lecture at Trinity. Michael Booth

David Shayler (above)

Agent for the not-so Secret Service

David Shayler has no plans to squawk again - unless he runs out of money in the next six months. Not that he would stoop to selling a story, he hastens to add. Absolutely not. "But it's important that people know the things that I've got to say."

Four months of incarceration in a Paris jail have done nothing to diminish the self-importance of the former MI5 agent, infamous for his sensational allegations about the activities of the security services. It's been a rollercoaster year for David Shayler, who had thought himself safe in his bolthole in France. In August, he was arrested out of the blue. Last month, a French court abruptly threw out Britain's extradition request and he was free once again.

But if Shayler comes home, Special Branch will be waiting for him. "I was a political prisoner; now I'm a political exile, like Solzhenitsyn," he states down a mobile phone from Paris. "I acted in the public interest. I did it because I love my country."

Shayler has been hurt by an unsympathetic media that has criticised everything from his whistle-blowing motives to his dress sense. His choice of attire on the day he was released - the shirt of his favourite soccer team, Middlesbrough - was a snub to the British government, he says huffily. "They would have expected me to wear a shirt and tie. Anyway, the Boro' is part of my identity." Kathy Marks

Justin Rose (below)

Fairway to heaven

What chance did a young man from the sweet green hills of Hampshire have in the summer media frenzy surrounding tennis's Tim and football's Michael? Yet, Justin Rose, a 17-year-old trespassing in the old boys' game of golf, took the Open by the scruff of the neck and stayed on the leader board to the very end.

When Rose began his assault at Royal Birkdale he had not yet turned professional. At 17, and still not paid, he equalled the Open record's lowest-ever amateur score with a glorious second round 66. On his final round he chipped 45 yards out of the rough to leap into fourth place and confirm his billing as golf's great young British hope.

Things have not been quite so splendid since Rose thrilled the crowds at the Open. After turning professional in time for the Dutch Open in July, he failed make the halfway cut in nine four-round professional tournaments. In San Roque, Spain, at the European Tour Qualifying School, Rose bowed out 73rd in a field of 80.

When Tiger Woods left the amateur game at the age of 22, he pocketed $40m [pounds 24.5m] in endorsements. Although Rose will have to rely on wildcard invitations for the big tournaments next year, he still has enormous potential - golf is a game that relies on the gentle maturing process to mould its stars. Woods is already a US Masters champion. Rose's talent and affability suggests that his star will burn just as long. Sam Wallace

Amy Jenkins (right)

This girl's life

The BBC2 series This Life was a viewer-led television phenomenon with the second and final series generating acres of newsprint, countless accolades and cementing the careers of its stars. But its creator, 31-year-old Amy Jenkins, has only just begun.

This year ex-law-student Jenkins, the daughter of political columnist Peter Jenkins (her stepmother is Polly Toynbee) has consolidated her position as one of this country's most talked-about scriptwriters. She's been dubbed the Lynda La Plante of the MTV generation, writing the screenplays for Elephant Juice and How To Get A Boyfriend, while simultaneously landing herself a two-book deal with Hodder & Stoughton worth pounds 600,000 (her debut novel, Honey Moon, is the story of a young woman who falls in love with another man while on her honeymoon), a far cry from the pounds 200 she received for the proposal for This Life.

Hollywood, as they say, beckons and Jenkins is more than ready to take on Tinseltown on her own terms: "I liked the idea of writing a big Hollywood- type story and at this stage in my career I didn't want to take on Hollywood, get commissioned, then get sacked and have William Goldman write it. So I thought the best way of doing it would be to write a book and if Hollywood wants to make it, let them." Michael Booth

James Appleby (right)

Out-of-work graduate to yo-yo champion

James Appleby's year was pretty normal until 29 November. That's when the 23-year-old's life spun in an entirely different direction. Appleby, of Roath, Cardiff, took home the title of British yo-yo champion at the Children's BBC Big Bash Exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre. The Cardiff University physics graduate began yo-yoing just this year and is now at the forefront of the latest craze to hit the UK.

Appleby will represent his country at the World Championships in Hawaii next April and stands to earn more than pounds 50,000 a year in appearances and endorsements according to Yo International, which represents Appleby. Not bad for a guy who learnt his craft in a shop, showing customers what the little gadgets could do.

Appropriately, the new-found profession of the physics graduate has everything to do with physics, but seems more adventurous. "I've gone from a physics graduate with slim-to-no-hope of finding a job in my field, to being paid to travel around the world and have fun," says Appleby. In a life filled with ups and downs, it appears that Appleby has found the perfect application of his science. Richard O'Malley

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