My best and worst stories of 2014


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With this column having been in existence for a smidgen more than 12 months now, it seems right to use the rapidly approaching year's end as an excuse to round up and celebrate some of its more, ahem, memorable people and events.

Welcome, then, to my first (and, let's be honest, possibly last) awards, celebrating the stories that raised a smile or a grimace along the way in 2014.

Most pointless insight

The year kicked off in fine style, with a pre-"consciously uncoupled" Gwyneth Paltrow offering her and her associates' tips on how to survive January through her website Goop. "Wear warm clothing", "Keep your socks on in the house" and "If you have a fireplace, use it" being a few of the open letters on offer. Where would we have been without her? Outside in the cold with no clothes on, shivering. That's where.

Best 'open letter'

Last year's obsession with the "open letter" continued apace – with Dylan Farrow, "moderate Muslims" and that bloke whose paella went cold outside RBS being just a few of the folks adding memorable missives to the canon.

But the "open letter" of the year was actually a blog post on a site called Raptitude by the writer David Cain. "Dear Young Men" contained more wisdom than a Stephen Fry quiz show and included such nuggets as "Ignore what everybody says about their sex lives. They are lying", and "Think of women as being just like you, rather than some other species...."

Honourable mentions go to Barrowford Primary School in Lancashire ("We are concerned that these tests do not assess all of what makes each of you special and unique …") and Leo Holder, whose Facebook tribute to his late father, the actor, dancer and choreographer Geoffrey Holder ("You're not gonna believe this. He's got a morphine drip, an oxygen mask on, his eyes closed, AND HE'S CHOREOGRAPHING!") was a heartfelt thing of truth and beauty.

Most amusing publicity blurb

The PR campaign of the year was surely the comedian Lewis Shaffer's spiel for his Edinburgh show, Success Is Not an Option. "Twenty-two years in comedy and I am still doing these poncey shows in dingy subterranean bars …. If my show is a success, I will have been a failure in predicting its failure. If my show is a failure, I will have just been a failure. So, no matter what happens, I'll have been a failure."

Worst campaign

Too many to mention, but clothing label Ground Zero sending out invites to its show on 11 September takes some beating.

Dumbest interview question

A World Cup, a Winter Olympics, the "Tour de Yorkshire"... there was no shortage of sporting gigs at which pundits could wheel out that meaningless "So, how do you feel?" question. So, it takes a very special talent to ask the dumbest interview question of the year. Step forward Samantha Smith, from Australian TV's Channel 7 who was tasked with posing the courtside questions to Canada's Eugenie Bouchard.

Bouchard had just reached the semi-final in her first stab at tennis's Australian Open. And what did Smith go for? "If you could date anyone in the world of sport, or movies, who would you date?"

Must-have item

When Michael Gove got shuffled away from his education role in July, it presented a problem for a lady called Kat Stiff in Brighton. Stiff had been doing a roaring trade in crocheted Gove voodoo pincushions, but who would people want to stick needles in with Gove gone?

Inspiration struck in the form of the Nigel Farage doll, and since then Stiff has been "struggling to keep up with demand". Although, it must be noted, the real damage to the Ukip leader in 2014 surely came from members of his own party.

Most surprising research

The "Are you kidding?" award of the year is a tie between the ASK Pizza group's revelation that 7 per cent of British people admit to boiling their pasta in a kettle and the two American researchers from Carnegie Mellon University who revealed that if we were to actually read all of the privacy policies we encountered on the internet each year, it would take us, on average, 76 days.

No wonder, then, that some of us are taking short cuts with our penne.

No rhyme or reason

The latest in a regular series of limericks based on recent events:

As another strange year comes to pass,

Our obsession with fame turns to farce,

Dapper Laughs' fall from grace,

Renée Zellweger's face,

(Not to mention Kardashian's arse).