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Sunday 28 December 2008
David Randall: Arise, Lord Ali... Is it the end of the world as we know it?
The scandals, the sleaze, the celebrities – and the extremely complicated science. Our writer jiggles his tea leaves and detects mayhem ahead
19 – National Credit Card Burning Day
In the New Year's honours list, Tony Blair's old PR man, Alastair Campbell, is ennobled. He says this is an unexpected honour for such a down-to-earth, pretty straight kinda guy as himself. He takes the title of Lord Campbell of Clayton Le Moor in the county of Lancashire and Wapping in the county of Murdoch, but insists that people still call him plain old "Sir" and says he intends to be "The People's Peer".
On the 13th, at the High Court, the former wife of Paul McCartney, Heather Mills, begins suing Associated Newspapers for libel. In her statement of evidence, she denies she is given to embroidering the truth, and says that she is a superior being from the planet Tharg, invented the internet, plays midfield for Berwick Rangers, is in a secret relationship with the Grand Duke of Lichtenstein, once hosted 'Antiques Roadshow', and is the mystery genius who wrote many of the Beatles' hits. The case continues.
Worldwide rejoicing at the inauguration of President Barack Obama, but it's not all good news. Four days later, Jonathan Ross returns to the nation's screens when his suspension by the BBC comes to an end. He denies he is being kept on a strict rein by corporation executives, and says his shows will continue being "edgy". His first guests are the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the General Secretary of the Women's Institute. Interest rates fall to 1.5 per cent. Interest rates in Jonathan Ross fall even further.
7 – Feast of St Manolo of Blahnik, Martyr to Fashion
In New York, as further details emerge of the Madoff fraud scheme, Conrad Black issues a statement from his prison cell in Florida saying he wished he'd thought of it first. He added that he deplores corporate greed and the spending of huge sums of money on frippery. His wife is later seen arriving for visiting time in a pink limousine with shoes and bag to match.
Towards the end of the month, the BBC begins screening its new costume serial, adapted by Andrew Davies from the children's classic 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe'. Within minutes, the BBC switchboard is swamped with complaints about the sex scenes, "inappropriate language", and introduction of characters not in the book. A BBC spokesman says: "The author of the screenplay felt that the bedroom scene and Giant Rumblebuffin's encounter with feral youths outside an off-licence were essential to bring out the underlying dynamic of CS Lewis's story."
23 – Feast of St Carluccio (service charge added)
On the first weekend of the month, Crufts is held – the first one since the scandal over inbreeding in pedigree dogs. The Kennel Club denies this practice goes on. The Best in Show Award is won by "Lord Montmorency de Favalon", a two-year-old TransCarpathian Gigantic Mountain Dog, with a luminous coat, eyes set the regulation half a metre apart, and 28in serrated tail.
Meanwhile, in the final 'Top Gear' of the series, the "star in a reasonably priced car" is Conservative leader David Cameron. His time is not a fast one, partly because the track was wet, but mainly because he twice used the speaking tube to ask his chauffeur to slow down.
National Innumeracy Week (22-43)
ITV launches an utterly honest local-rate telephone voting programme. Many viewers are unsettled by this, especially when the service is abruptly withdrawn at noon. They then notice the date – 1 April – and the penny drops. An ITV spokesman says: "We hope everyone enjoyed the joke. If you didn't, ring our complaints line on 0960-374 569 (calls charged at £2.50 a minute)."
A nationwide hunt is launched after a nine-year-old Southampton girl is reported missing. Frogmen search lakes, officers conduct house-to-house inquiries, and 'The Sun' offers a £50,000 reward. Her parents make a televised appeal, but the detective leading the hunt says he now fears the worst. After two days, the girl is found hiding behind the sofa of her own home. Responding to criticism, a police spokesman said: "This was a complex inquiry carried out according to the Small Missing Persons Guidelines (2006), which proscribes the order in which we do things. There are also a large number of central, local, and quasi government agencies with which we have to liaise. We also have to meet certain targets, which set the number of doors to be knocked on, lakes to be searched, and village ponds to be dredged. While we are glad the girl has been found, we are also pleased to report that all mandatory targets were met, and indeed, in the case of sheds checked and electricity sub-stations searched, exceeded."
4 – Feast of Noggin the Nog (20th cent)
After another bout of eastern European bloc voting, the Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow is won by the autonomous republic of Nagorno -Karabakh with their singalong entry "Nistakh Dibllo Lnistravod Ablomovichistrant Ivintra Moi Ngg-Ponnbradoi Magevich Klantovro" ("Hello").
Back in Britain, a senior producer is fired after the "Springwatch" infra-red cameras show live night-time footage of couples dogging in a Norfolk wood. A spokesman says: "It is unfortunate that Bill Oddie was not wearing his spectacles at the time. He identified the activity as mating, but not, regrettably, the species. He thought they were albino badgers."
18 – National Depressing Literature Month begins
In Crawford, Texas, the George W Bush Foundation is launched with donations totalling $3.76bn from oil and logging companies. The former president's foundation will work to provide humanitarian aid to multi-millionaires.
Back in Britain, the retail trade suffers a further devastating blow when Colleen McLoughlin loses her credit card. It is not replaced for eight days, during which three designer dress shops in Manchester are forced to go into administration.
In the Queen's birthday honours list, Russell Brand is knighted for services to broadcasting, and Cherie Blair is made a life peer, taking the title of Baroness Booth of properties in the counties of Avon, Buckinghamshire, Durham and Middlesex.
Andrew Sachs Support Week (23-29)
After Andrew Davies's 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' is taken off the air, the BBC begins screening its next costume serial, also adapted by Andrew Davies – 'Emil and The Detectives'. Within minutes, the BBC switchboard is swamped with complaints about a scene in which Emil is seen extracting a confession from a suspect with the aid of lead piping, and later shown falsifying his notes of the interview.
England go three down in the Test series against Australia after an innings and 792-run defeat. The next day, the selectors announce they will, in conjunction with the BBC, run a 'Cricket Idol' event to choose the next team. Celebrities will be filmed in the nets with viewers voting by phone for who will play against Australia.
17 – Feast of St Pancras (expect delays)
With the new side selected by telephone voting, England lose the toss after captain Jade Goody calls, "Edge!" instead of heads or tails. John Sergeant and Cheryl Cole open the bowling, and the Australians, disconcerted by Ms Cole's shorts, collapse to 15-8, before rallying in the face of the underarm spin of Joan Bakewell. They eventually reach 87, before John Prescott from the Kirkstall Lane end, as ever, cleans up the tail. England, after a disastrous start, declare at 212-5 thanks to a superb double-century stand between John Noakes and Janet Street-Porter. On a crumbling pitch, Joan Bakewell, now reverting to daisy cutters, tears through the Australians for an England victory by 48 runs.
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority announces all records for A-levels have been broken, with a pass rate of 99.999999 per cent. The one failure is a pupil from Droitwich who not only failed to write some approximation of his name on the paper (thus meeting the minimum pass mark), but ate it. He will re-sit in January after a period of intensive coaching. In London, Jeremy Clarkson launches National Self-Esteem Week.
National Inappropriate Behaviour Awareness Week (18-24)
After 'Emil and the Detectives' ends its run, the BBC begins screening the next costume serial adapted by Andrew Davies – 'Noddy Goes to Toyland'. The BBC is swamped with complaints about Noddy's involvement in people trafficking, and the scene in a lap dancing club.
In a bid to shed the Conservatives' "nasty party" image, leader David Cameron orders George Osborne to undergo cosmetic surgery to remove the sneer on his face.
Feast of St Fabio of Capello (second leg)
A storm erupts as the parliamentary mace and Black Rod's rod are stolen from the Commons. It is learnt the next day that Sergeant-at-Arms Jill Pay had let in two men wearing sheepskin coats who assured her they "had business" inside. She said they seemed nice blokes and were obviously not stopping long as they had left the engine of their van running, with a colleague behind the wheel. Speaker Michael Martin said Ms Pay would not be resigning as "it was a mistake anyone could make", an early departure would damage her final pension entitlement, and "anyway, she knows too much".
In Switzerland, after nearly a year out of commission, the Cern Laboratories Hadron Collider is set for relaunch. But, at the last minute, a malfunctioning flux capacitor causes postponement again.
15 – Feast of St Peter of Foy and Hartlepool (12th cent)
In an interview, Gordon Brown admits he once experimented with Irn-Bru, but didn't swallow.
As economic news brightens, with a fall in unemployment and repossessions, Robert Peston, deploying stresses on words entirely at random, tells BBC viewers: "No ONE predicted this. It IS very worrying." And the Hadron Collider is still not working. Electricians called round but no one was in so they went away. They can't come the following week as they've got a lot of jobs on, but if the lab blokes want to make sure someone's in during the day, they'll try and fit them in between 8.30am and 5.30pm some time in the next month.
Diversity Stakeholder Liaison Week (14-20)
Calamity strikes the final of 'The X-Factor' when it's learnt that likely winner Daphne suffers from a rare condition which means her tear ducts don't work. Realising that this means viewers will be deprived of sobbing at the moment of victory, a recount of earlier telephone voting is ordered. Daphne is disqualified, and a girl who can't sing, but can cry, is substituted.
There is further good economic news, with a rise in house prices, and a further fall in unemployment. Robert Peston tells viewers: "This is NOW beyond apocalyptic. Run FOR the hills! Burn THE bedclothes..." He is interrupted by Huw Edwards: "Sorry, Robert but we have some breaking news. The Hadron Collider in Switzerland is finally about to be started, in [looks at watch] 10 seconds' time. As we reported at the top of the programme, many people have feared this could bring about the end of the wor.....".
German conservatives are destroying Europe with austerity, says economist Thomas Piketty
Man dies instantly after shooting firework from top of his head
Florida teacher sentenced to 22 years in prison for sexually abusing three pupils
Children are being segregated in British schools, report warns
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state
Tsipras to come up with new plan to save Greece within 24 hours – as Germany admits embattled nation now needs humanitarian aid
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