The Year in Review: The other stories that had everyone talking

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The Independent Online

No.1 Totally Gaga?

Were we really surprised when Lady Gaga walked the red carpet clad in what appeared to be a series of sewn-together steaks? The outlandish singer chose the now-notorious "meat dress" to attend MTV's Video Music Awards in September – just a few weeks after she posed for Japanese Vogue in a meat bikini. Still, the outfit made instant headlines. Animal rights activists were suitably outraged and the fashion world left speechless. All the while, costume shops around the world rubbed their hands in glee. Naturally, the gruesome outfit became the go-to garment for Halloween inspiration. Meat chic. Alice-Azania Jarvis

No.2 Reality, stranger than fiction

For a sizable portion of the population, the words "Ann Widdecombe" could, until recently, send a shiver down the spine.

These days, they're more likely to inspire the warmth reserved for bonafide National Treasures – because that is what Widdecombe has become. It's all thanks to Strictly Come Dancing, of course: Widdy's willingness to be dragged across the floor by Anton De Beke has won her more fans than shackling pregnant women ever could.

Not so Gillian McKeith, whose appearance on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! saw her transformed from torturer to tortured. Another bush tucker trial, Gillian? Alice-Azania Jarvis

No.3 The Eyjafjallajokull ash cloud

Its name was Eyjafjallajökull, but no one could pronounce it. For Brits, stranded both at home and abroad, it was simply "the volcano". Following the Icelandic eruption in April, flights across Europe were grounded. What followed was prolonged tug of war between the airlines and the Government over whether it was safe to fly in the ash-filled air. Gordon Brown, soon to receive a grounding of his own, insisted it wasn't, while every airline claimed it was. In the meantime, tourists tried to make their way home by rail, boat and bus – while would-be tourists languished at home. Alice-Azania Jarvis

No.4 Why would anyone bin a cat?

Lola was lonely. Perched on a wall in a suburb of Coventry, on a still August day, she was minding her own business when confronted by a complete stranger. Friendly at first – tactile, even – this stranger, a bank worker from Rugby called Mary Bale, soon turned nasty. In fact, within 20 seconds, Lola was being tortured. Her ordeal would last 15 hours. It was only then, when 26-year-old Darryl Man heard her purring, that her torment ended. Yes, purring: Lola was a four year old tabby – the one that 45 year-old Bale dumped in a bin, in an eccentric, wanton act of cruelty.

The story went viral. The clip had several million YouTube hits within a week. Caught on the CCTV cameras outside Mann's house, Bale, a customer services assistant at RBS, stroked Lola a few times before looking around and then nonchalantly dumping her into the adjacent wheelie bin. A Facebook campaign demanded: "Death to Mary Bale." Police allegedly offered protection. After the election, she was the second most searched for subject in domestic news this year. The RSPCA questioned her. She apologised profusely. I used to be a choir singer, she pleaded. Two months later she escaped with a £400 fine. Lola, reports suggest, is doing fine. Bale's mother Celia, meanwhile, said her daughter "loves cats". Amol Rajan

No.5 Save the nation's sweetheart!

It was a bad year for students, a bad year for the Labour Party, and a bad year for Cheryl Cole. While revelations of her husband's indiscretions filled the papers, the picture-perfect pop star seemed, miraculously, to tumble in the public's estimation. Then, worst of all, Cole was diagnosed with malaria, contracted while on holiday in Tanzania.

After collapsing on a photo shoot, she was rushed to intensive care where she stayed for several weeks. During a tearful interview with Piers Morgan, she declared 2010 the "worst year of her life." It's not hard to see why. Alice-Azania Jarvis

No.6 Who shot the Emperor?

Who killed the Exmoor Emperor? It was the stuff of instant West Country legend. The giant, 24-stone red stag, apparently reaching 9ft from the ground at the peak of its spectacular antlers, and thought to be the largest wild land animal in Britain, was shot dead in the middle of the annual rut. Early suggestions that it was a callous banker, tipped off by a greedy local landowner and seeking taxidermy or antlers for his London abode, left the country agog. And then, when grainy images of the "marksman" and his "victim" were printed in tabloids, the story became a worldwide phenomenon, repeated in breathless prose from Delhi to Dar es Salaam.

Evidence, alas, came there little. Nobody could find the severed head, or the beast's legs and hoofs; nor was there testimony as to when, and where exactly, the alleged slaughter occurred. Was it all a stitch-up by the photographer? Is the Emperor with us still? Answers on a postcard – addressed to Exmoor. Amol Rajan

No.7 Raoul Moat, Paul Gascoigne and the chicken

Submerged within the ghastly tale of Raoul Moat, the gunman who rampaged in early July through Rothbury, in Northumberland, was perhaps the most curious sub-plot of the year. The facts speak for themselves. Paul Gascoigne, the troubled former England footballer, arrived on a Friday night, hoping to smooth negotiations with between police and the fugitive. He arrived with "a can of lager, some chicken, a mobile phone, and something to keep warm" – and a fishing rod. He told Metro Radio: "He is willing to give in now. I just want to give him some therapy and say 'come on Moaty, it's Gazza'. He is all right – simple as that, and I am willing to help him. I have come all the way from Newcastle to Rothbury to find him, have a chat with him. I guarantee, Moaty, he won't shoot me. I am good friends with him." That doesn't fully make sense, but then neither does the whole episode. Gascoigne's agent, Kenny Shepherd, said: "He's doing what? I am sitting having an evening meal in Majorca. I'm speechless." Amol Rajan

No.8 Moyles' rant

Times are tough, and we're all having difficulties making end meet. Which might explain why public sympathy didn't exactly overflow following Chris Moyles' on-air rant about his pay. Or, more accurately, his lack thereof: the Radio One DJ (salary: c£600,000) had not received his money, thanks to an administrative error.

He retaliated with 30 minutes of live moaning, complaining about the Corporation's "lack of respect".

The incident was far from an isolated one; other members of staff have since complained that their salary hasn't always been forthcoming. If only they were so lax when it came to the licence fee. Alice-Azania Jarvis