The moment that moment became The Moment

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The Independent Online
Today I am proud to bring you the climax of this year's Moment of the Year Award ceremony. Here is the conclusion of the speech by Lord Crudwick, chief executive of the National Sound-Bite Library, sponsors of the Moment Of The Year Award.

"Of course, not all great moments are in the public domain. it may be that some of the moments that distinguish 1994 are, for some of us, very private. If you have discovered this year that your wife is having an affair with your MP, or that your husbandis a serial killer, that moment could well be the most enduring of 1994 for you. For the rest of us that private moment means nothing.

"It might well be, just to take a hypothetical example, that I shall look back on 1994 as the year in which I received an apparently inexplicable salary rise of £350,000. I do not know. What I do know is that were I to receive such a rise I would have deserved every penny of it, as it is well worth it to keep people like me out of harm's way."

There was some laughter at this, not all of it good-natured. But Lord Crudwick persisted.

"Every time that some top executive receives what is called an inexplicably huge salary increase, we would do well to remember that the amount he gets may be exactly the same as the amount he owes to Lloyd's, and that he gains nothing from it at all."

Pausing only to wipe a tear from his eye, Lord Crudwick smiled bravely at the huge crowd.

"But such private momemts of grief have no place at an occasion as this. Our common cultural experience is based on such shared momnents of joy as that of watching John Patten getting the bum's rush, or Asil Nadir relocating his operations to Cyprus, or the discovery of oil under Windsor Castle, or the opening of the Channel tunnel.

"Indeed, there was a strong movement among the judges to make the opening of the Channel tunnel the Moment of the Year, were it not that nobody could quite remember if it were really open yet. And there are more important things to remember ..."

"Such as the first free and democratic elections in South Africa!" came a cry from the hall.

"I think not," said Lord Crudwick with a smile. Important, maybe, but they hardly qualify as a moment. To qualify as a great moment of the year, you have to have something instantaneous enough to be etched on the public's image. A man sailing round the world does not qualify, however fast he sails. The moment of that same man sailing into Plymouth in triumph does qualify.

"Do not forget that the British public has been carefully trained by us in the sound-bite industry to react only to instant images, not to issues and carefully thought out theses. We must not let them down by giving a prize to the electoral process in South Africa."

There was a respectful hush in the hall.

"It would have been nice to have had lots of nominations from football, our national sport, but they seem few and far between. Or sub judice, in the cases of Messrs Terry Venables and Bruce Grobbelaar. We received many requests to include a moment of Bruce Grobbelaar letting in a goal, but of course this was too difficult, as there was no way of telling if it was a genuine moment or not ... "Turning now to more spiritual matters, this has undoubtedly been the year ot the female cleric, the year in which the Church of England has finally granted equal job opportunity to women. There are some who would say that it was a desperate measure, not unlike the act of a boys' boarding school suddenly finding it is running out of male pupils and hastily admitting girls to keep from going bankrupt. This is something the Catholic Church cannot be accused of, though it seems to have landed them in trouble, as I gather that recruitment to priesthood is at an all-time low. Not that it is much use turning to the Pope for help, as he now spends all his time writing turgid best sellers ..."

There was some unrest among the audience at this sideways drift into irreverent talk and one, braver than the rest, yelled out: "Stop shilly-shallying and give us the Moment of the Year!"

"Certainly," said Lord Crudwick, obligingly opening the envelope. The moment of 1994 is the moment when ... when eight Tory MPs escaped from the high-security Conservative government camp, went on the run from the whips and have remained uncaptured ever since. Those eight, who have provided the only spark of interest in Westminster this year, are in this building at the moment. They think they are on their way to a late-night discussion on Maastricht. If my calculations are correct, they should be coming through that curtain ... now!"

And as he spoke, eight blinking forms emerged into the bright lights, shielding their eyes and peering round, unable to understand why 2,000 people had risen to applaud them.