1995: thanks for the trouble spots

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The Independent Online
"We come now to the main award of 1995, the award given to the place in the world nominated the Trouble Spot of the Year."

These were the words which galvanised those who were still awake at the 1995 Independent Awards of the Year ceremony, which took place this week in the Canary Wharf Executive Disco Suite.

"As you know," said Lord Shareholder, head of the Independent empire, "every year we give recognition to one place which, more than anywhere else, has attracted bad news, bad publicity and planeloads of journalists.

"Sometimes I am asked why we bother to give recognition to a place of ill repute. I always make the same answer: we recognise these places of low repute because they draw the flak away from the places where the rest of us live.

"The value of a place like Brixton is that it makes us glad we are living in Pinner. We read terrible things about Bosnia, and part of us is glad that we have nothing so bad in Britain to worry about.

"That is why, in the past, we have honoured such places as Beirut, East Timor, Bhopal, Toxteth and Haiti. These are places which, in their own ways, might be very attractive places to be in at the best of times. Indeed, my lady wife and I have in the past spent enjoyable holidays in Beirut and Haiti, at the invitation of the government of the day, and we have once or twice driven speedily through Brixton and emerged none the worse. No Bonfire of the Vanities scenario there!"

An uneasy ripple ran through the star-pocked crowd, at the realisation not only that Lord Shareholder had referred to a hardback book but, at this rate, was going to go on all night. There were several calls of "Get on with it, you old windbag!"

"And so I shall," smiled Lord Shareholder. "Now, 1995 has been a good year for trouble spots. Bosnia has dominated the headlines. Rwanda, though far away, has done its bit. The West Bank has performed nobly. Northern Ireland has done remarkably well in a year in which we all thought it would fade from the map of international strife, chiefly because of the so-called'peace process', a strange new ritual invented by John Major and Gerry Adams, in which neither side gets together to talk about anything, and all sides refuse to give up their weapons.

"Is it one of these old favourites which has won? Or is it a younger contender such as Algeria? Algeria has not hit the headlines in this country, chiefly because we seldom report the doings of the ex-colonies of another country.

"Strange, is it not, that we faithfully report what happens in India and not in old Indo-China? That we print the news from Nigeria and not from Niger? That just because a place used to belong to the French we take no interest in it?

"When my good lady wife and I are looking for a relaxing holiday in the sun, or a weekend away from it all, we often jet down to the little French island of Reunion, confident in the knowledge that we shall get good coffee, good croissants and no British tourists ...

"But let us get straight to the winners. The top three trouble spots in the world are, in reverse order, as follows. Number three ..."

Here Lord Shareholder paused briefly as he attempted to open a large envelope.

"Number three trouble spot in the world is - 'Wherever Rupert Murdoch happens to be'!"

Happy laughter greeted this.

"Number two trouble spot is - Nigeria!

"And the number one spot, a place which this year has come to symbolise strife, unhappiness, bitterness, disinformation and open warfare is - Buckingham Palace!"

Rapturous applause.

"Right to the end of the year the Palace has provided endless strife. Who would have thought that this week we should find the Queen writing to her own child recommending him to get divorced, which is directly contrary to the teachings of the Church of which she is head. I could go on all night ..."

"No, no - spare us!" came many cries.

"Quite right too," rejoined the genial Lord Shareholder. "Enough of this tomfoolery. Let's get down to some serious drinking!"

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