57 things we learnt in 2015: From Kate Moss’s sandwich spat to Stephen Hawking’s One Direction fandom

Some of our news nuggets from 2015 advance the sum total of human knowledge - but not too many, you'll be pleased to hear

Heartbroken One Direction fans sought solace in an unlikely source, after Professor Stephen Hawking said: 'One day there may well be proof of multiple universes… and in that universe Zayn is still in One Direction.'
Heartbroken One Direction fans sought solace in an unlikely source, after Professor Stephen Hawking said: 'One day there may well be proof of multiple universes… and in that universe Zayn is still in One Direction.'

1. Major football tournaments can be deliriously enjoyable

When England jetted off to the small town of Moncton in Canada for the Women's World Cup in September, only a few (including The Independent on Sunday) cared. But then they made it to the knockout stage. And beat the hosts in the quarter-finals. Could they end 49 years of hurt? In a word, no; they lost to Japan in the semis. But in one last hurrah, they beat England's old nemesis, Germany – one of the pre-tournament favourites – in the third-place play-off, earning them acres of positive coverage. See, fellas? That's how you do it.

2. The colour of 'The Dress' was decided. Finally

Even to habitual frock-watchers, the fuss elicited in February by "The Dress" – an internet meme of a bandage-stretch elastic and lace number that some saw as contrasts of blue and black, others as white and gold – was exceptional. I wound up comparing a Comme des Garçons show to it, in that they're both about your perceptions of them, rather than, perhaps, the reality. Incidentally, its colour was confirmed as blue and black. Which is as I'd thought all along.

3. We still can't trust companies to keep our information secret

TalkTalk, VTech, Carphone Warehouse, Ashley Madison – a growing list of companies whose defences against cyberattack were breached in 2015. The target? Us. Our names, our dates of birth, email addresses, credit-card details – any snippets of personal information that might be lurking on the servers. The law that casually requests companies to take care of our data was shown to be woefully inadequate, and the advice we were given was often unhelpful; in October, shortly after we were advised to visit Experian to check that no one had applied for credit in our name, 15 million people had their personal data nabbed from… yes, Experian. As our stolen data floated about online, the likelihood of it being cross-referenced and used for identity theft increased, and the fear of that happening left us susceptible to bribery scams perpetrated by people who didn't even have our data in the first place.

4. Don't shoot lions. Especially lions with names

Of all the things that might have caused global outrage and public mourning this year, the killing of a lion by a Minnesotan dentist in July probably wouldn't top anyone's list. But this wasn't just any lion. This was Cecil (one name, like Beyoncé). When Walter J Palmer paid $50,000 to go on a game-hunting trip to Zimbabwe, he had no idea he'd go on to kill what was – according to Cecil's Wikipedia page (obvs) – "the best-known lion in Hwange National Park". Celebrities lined up to pay tribute. American talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel cried. The dentist received death threats and was forced to go into hiding. But in Zimbabwe his death went largely unnoticed. As Jean Kapata, minister of tourism in neighbouring Zambia, put it: "The West seemed more concerned with the welfare of a lion than of Africans themselves… In Africa, a human being is more important than an animal. I don't know about the Western world."

5. It's not cool to take a slice of the pizza tips

In September, the Unite union won a campaign to stop Pizza Express bosses from deducting an 8 per cent administration fee from credit-card tips paid to staff. Not only was the chain forced to reverse its policy, but other restaurants were revealed to indulge in similar practices. Giraffe, Ask and Zizzi were among others to drop the charge.

6. Restaurants no longer need offer a choice

The Potato Project (opened in October), Zelman Meats, The Good Egg (both November… you get the idea. This evolution in eating out is fine if you know what you are in the mood for (and restaurant insiders say there are many more of these "single-product" openings coming) – but you'd have to forget about taking a date whose taste doesn't entirely match yours.

7. Ed Miliband once set fire to a carpet and covered it with a prayer mat

When a young Treasury adviser came to Doncaster to seek to be selected as the Labour candidate, he stayed with Martin Winter, former mayor of the town. Winter later fell out with him and wrote about his "bumbling oddball" guest for the Mail on Sunday in January. Miliband's worst faux pas was to move a heater and burn a hole in the carpet. To cover the damage he bought a Christmas present of a rug, which turned out to be a Muslim prayer mat, "with special padding for the elderly or infirm".

8. Don't take investment advice from the bloke who washes the kit

In October, the financially well-upholstered England rugby union team suffered an embarrassing exit in their home World Cup when they couldn't even make it out of their group. Who'd have thought that picking a rugby league player with less than six months' union experience (we're looking at you, Sam Burgess) would have resulted in a debacle? Or that when the coaches are at odds with each other, the team is less than unified? Poor Stuart Lancaster was out of his depth – but when it transpired that some of the players had taken questionable financial advice from the kitman, the prevailing view was that they deserved all they got. Thankfully, the Rugby Football Union have swallowed their pride and hired an Aussie to sort them out.

9. China can still spring a Shanghai surprise or two

The Shanghai Stock Market fell by 30 per cent over just three weeks in early July – but that was just the prelude to an even greater shock: on "Black Monday", 24 August, shares fell 8.5 per cent in a single day, Shanghai's biggest collapse since 2007. Pundits dubbed this "the Great Fall of China". But while their stock market collapsed, the Chinese finally agreed to take a stake in EDF's proposed Hinkley Point C civil nuclear reactor on the Somerset coast, leading security sources and unions to warn that the Chinese could use the deal to get access to British technology. Whipping out his own little red book at the despatch box, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the Tories had allowed China's Communist regime to nationalise Britain's assets.

10. If you can't Instagram it, forget it

Many in the food world, and anyone who has either lived or worked in London and didn't have much money, lamented the November closure of The Stockpot in Soho 

Every year, hundreds of restaurants go to the wall, victims of rent rises, staff leaving, changing fashions (or occasionally just being rubbish). New ones pop up in their place all the time – the adored Mayfields in east London has become Pidgin, which early reports say is terrific. But many in the food world, and anyone who has either lived or worked in London and didn't have much money, lamented the November closure of The Stockpot in Soho, marking the end of an era of cheap'n'cheerful, but resolutely unInstagrammable, dining.

11. You can say the most ridiculous things and still be frontrunner for the Republican nomination for US president

The Palinisation of US politics accelerated when Donald Trump took the lead in the polls in the race for the Republican nomination in July. He thought Barack Obama's birth certificate was a fraud and recently said: "I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering" as the towers fell on 9/11, an absurd fiction. The only consolation is that the betting markets, which may or may not know better, have Marco Rubio as the favourite.

12. Kanye West's clothes don't come cheap

A ripped wool sweatshirt from his debut collection, dubbed "Yeezy", costs £1,620. Yikes. The line is an oddly inaccessibly priced collaboration with Adidas Originals, presented as part of New York Fashion Week in September via an arty-farty installation devised with contemporary artist Vanessa Beecroft. Maybe that explains the gallery-level prices?

13. The Lidl class is on the march

Alas, poor Tesco, we knew you well. But increasingly Brits would rather shop in those discounted giants Aldi and Lidl. In November, the pair's share of the grocery market hit 10 per cent for the first time, while the biggest supermarket, Tesco, slipped by 2.5 per cent to 27.9 per cent, amid a Serious Fraud Office probe into its accounting scandal.

14. Repeated cheesy demands can be effective

After years of being unable to communicate the idea (or even the reality) of cheese using emoji, in October we were finally given what we wanted by Unicode, the body that formulates international standards for computer text. The Japan-centric pictograph system finally took on an international flavour, with the introduction of the hot dog, the taco, the burrito, popcorn and, yes, a wedge of cheddar; our cheese dreams finally came true.

15. The Kardashians can actually keep a secret

A rekap for anyone not living in kivilization: in June, the artist formerly known as Bruce Jenner – Olympic medallist and Kardashian patriarch – was unveiled as a woman on the cover of Vanity Fair. Photographed by Annie Leibovitz, the image of Jenner in a cream corset became a viral sensation and @Caitlyn_Jenner broke Barack Obama's record of the fastest person to gain a million followers on Twitter. Whatever your thoughts on the media circus that is the Kardashians, "Call Me Caitlyn" was a transgender tipping point, or as the Vanity Fair writer Buzz Bissinger put it: Jenner may end up being "the most socially influential athlete since Muhammad Ali".

16. Old cows are in demand

It started, arguably, with the opening of Kitty Fisher's in Mayfair, back at the very start of January. One of the most talked-about dishes was Galician beef, a sharing platter of ruby-red meat with a thick band of fat at one end. Chef Tomos Parry's expert handling of old Spanish dairy cows made it (arguably) worth the £75 price tag. Now other great restaurants such as Lurra and Chiltern Firehouse are using beef from the eight-years-and-upward milkers. Getting old and fat is in fashion? When can humans join in?

17. Uploading a video of your baby dancing to Prince is fine

The legal case surrounding the video of 18-month-old Holden Lenz dancing to "Let's Go Crazy" was resolved after seven years in September. Universal Music didn't want it online; Holden's mother couldn't see the problem. Her lawyers argued that this was an example of "fair use" that couldn't possibly damage Prince's artistic reputation or livelihood. A judge agreed. In theory, a revolutionary win for the little guy; in practice, a small battle in a much bigger copyright war.

18. The better England get at cricket, the quieter Kevin Pietersen becomes

This time last year, English cricket was dealing with the fallout from Kevin Pietersen's book, in which he slagged off all and sundry. Oh, how we laughed. Then England flopped at the World Cup in January. Cue a stream of digs from KP, who had since assumed the role of know-it-all fan shouting abuse from the sidelines. But after England won the Ashes in August, silence. For a satisfyingly long time. Until last month, when the team slipped up against Pakistan. This time armed with a video selfie stick, back Pietersen came, like a tenacious verruca, spitting out words such as "pathetic". At least now the England team know how to shut him up: keep winning.

19. Our gadgets began eavesdropping on us

"Is this microphone working?" Voice-recognition technology sent gigabytes of random burblings back to HQ for analysis. While Samsung, Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft were at pains to stress that this was an entirely benign process, there was an increasing supposition that Big Brother might be listening. December saw parents up in arms about the interactive doll Hello Barbie, which asks your child a question and then – horror of horrors – sends his or her answer over the internet.

20. The Queen won the Game of Thrones

Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning British monarch 

The moment Queen Elizabeth II realised she'd kicked her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, to the curb to become the longest reigning monarch EVER!!!! was met with her usual unrelenting enthusiasm on 9 September. The 89-year-old said the title was "not one to which I have ever aspired". Oh. OK, then. Luckily the internet was on hand to mark the milestone with all kinds of Game of Thrones jokes ("Elizabeth of House Windsor, mother of corgis, wearer of pastels, keeper of the Iron Throne"). But when you've reigned for 23,226 days, over 16 realms, and put up with 12 PMs, maybe nothing fazes you. Even grainy footage of the "Royal Heilness" doing a Nazi salute just bounces off the sides these days. Beat that, Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons.

21. If you want to be a millionaire, buy a two-up, two-down

The housing market battled it out with Piers Morgan's Twitter account for copyright to the word "Boom!" this year. In October, the average cost of a home in England hit £300,000 for the first time, up 7.4 per cent on October 2014, according to the Office for National Statistics. Mike Hussey, the chief executive at developer Almacantar, claimed that the UK is in the middle of a 15-year property boom, which is good news for London home-owners. In October, Rightmove predicted that the capital's average home will cost £1m by 2020.

22. Michael Gove doesn't like 'doesn't' and 'can't' and other contractions

As new Lord Chancellor in June, he instructed his civil servants to write "does not" and "cannot" out in full. And not to start sentences with "However".

23. Jeremy Clarkson really likes a steak

Considering his positively caveman views, Jeremy Clarkson was never going to kick off about a lack of quinoa salad in the buffet. But few could have predicted the Top Gear presenter's reaction to being unable to order a steak after a long day's filming in March. Producer Oison Tymon allegedly bore the brunt of Jez's wrath (in the face) and the resulting "fracas" meant that Clarkson was suspended. More than a million people signed an online petition demanding he be reinstated, and even David Cameron waded in, but a public sacking and a pending lawsuit later, the BBC's loss (gain?) is now Amazon Prime's gain (loss?), depending on your views on car programmes with a side- order of casual racism.

24. Cher is never too old to model

Only Cher could net a magazine cover and an advertising campaign as she entered her 69th year

There's an old gag that after a nuclear war, the only things to survive would be cockroaches and Cher. But only Cher could net a magazine cover (Condé Nast's achingly cool Love magazine, in July) and an advertising campaign (the equally cool Marc Jacobs, in June) as she entered her 69th year. She doesn't need to turn back time: Cher's exactly where it is, then, now and forever.

25. Winning the Tour de France is a piece of…

Maybe it was a blunt protest concerning the doping insinuations aimed at Chris Froome. Certainly, the Team Sky rider had put in a stunning solo climb on stage 10 of July's Tour de France in July. Whatever the reason for the French spectator hurling the contents of his bladder at the 30-year-old as he was on the way to a second tour title, it didn't put the British rider off. Incidentally, the questions over Froome were quietened in early December when he released eight years' worth of physiological data. It transpired he is no doper; he is merely superhuman.

26. The opinion polls usually overestimate the Labour vote

Remember where you were at 10.01pm on 7 May? The moment the exit poll was published to a nation divided sharply between two responses: "That can't be right," and "Of course." We thought the pollsters had learnt from a similar mistake in 1992, but if we look back, Labour did worse than the polls suggested in 1997, 2001 and 2005. It was the 2010 election that threw the number-mongers off: it was the only recent election in which the opinion polls got Labour's share of the vote about right. This year, back to erroneous form.

27. Modesty becomes the England men's football team

In October, Roy Hodgson's England qualified for the European Championships with a perfect record of 10 victories from as many matches. Where were the "We're going to win it" headlines and open-top bus parades? Thankfully, nowhere to be seen. England managed a similar record in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup – and bowed out at the group stage. k

28. Capes and dance routines don't mix

Madonna's spectacular backwards tumble while dressed as a sexy matador at the Brit Awards in February launched 1,000 memes

Madonna spent 2015 comparing herself to Nelson Mandela, humping tables at press conferences, and snogging Drake on stage. But it was her spectacular backwards tumble while dressed as a sexy matador at the Brit Awards in February that launched 1,000 memes. Madge's cape was supposed to be ripped off by a backing dancer in a spectacular flourish. Instead, the Queen of Pop ended up on her arse. Ever the pro, the 57-year-old bounced back up and finished the routine.

29. Grown adults sat through 10 meetings and agreed to carve Labour's pledges on a monolith

In early May, when journalists were first told that Ed Miliband would be unveiling a stone monument bearing his promises, they weren't sure if it was a joke or not. It wasn't intended to be: it was devised by economics adviser Torsten Bell as a rather literal way of saying the party would really, really keep its promises this time. In planning meeting after meeting, the idea, and the £30,000 bill, was nodded through. Now believed to be in a lock-up in an undisclosed south London location (and not the garden of 10 Downing Street, as planned).

30. Sir Stuart Rose is no quitter

It was something of a surprise to see Lord Stuart Rose, M&S's much-lauded former chairman, unveiled as the frontman for the campaign for the UK to stay in the EU. Lord Rose was previously critical of the bloc, but at the launch of Britain Stronger in Europe in October, he accused those wanting Brexit of being "quitters".

31. Kate Moss really likes a sandwich

Kate Moss was escorted off an easyJet flight by police in June for "disruptive behaviour", after they allegedly ran out of sandwiches

Jeremy Clarkson (no.23) wasn't the only hangry celebrity on the rampage. Kate Moss was escorted off an easyJet flight by police in June for "disruptive behaviour", after they allegedly ran out of sandwiches. The fact that Kate Moss – who made an estimated £4.6m in 2014 – flies easyJet is brilliant enough, but she also called the pilot a "basic bitch" as she was dragged from the plane, bringing 2015's hottest diss to the masses.

32. Russians take drugs, Kenyans might – but Paula Radcliffe definitely doesn't

In November, a World Anti-Doping Agency report confirmed that Russia's athletes indulged in state-sponsored doping. A swathe of suspensions of Kenyan administrators by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) followed, again due to doping failures. Our Paula, meanwhile, was furious at being "tarnished" by insinuation, thanks to the Department of Culture Media and Sport Select Committee. She felt forced to go public with a "robust" denial of the allegations and, indeed, was later cleared by the IAAF. Oh, and she ran a 2 hour 36 minute marathon in her London swansong, with minimal training. And no drugs. Just to make that clear.

33. Diane Abbott has met her match

At a meeting of Labour MPs in September, new MP Jess Phillips asked Jeremy Corbyn why he had failed to appoint a woman to shadow any of the four great offices of state. Diane Abbott said it was a "sanctimonious" question. Phillips said: "Who the f**k do you think you are?" and told her to "f**k off." Asked what Abbott did in response, Phillips said: "She f**ked off."

34. The court of the Prince of Wales is basically Wolf Hall

A book by Catherine Mayer – a Time journalist who met Prince Charles and interviewed some of his aides – claimed that his household is so torn apart by power struggles and treachery that courtiers nicknamed it "Wolf Hall". The Heart of a King, published in February, caused a flutter about the alleged inability of "the Boss" to control the "backstabbing" among his staff.

35. The regulator who shoots first gets shot

Was he jumped before he was pushed? Martin Wheatley famously said he would "shoot first and ask questions later" when he launched the Financial Conduct Authority in 2013. But he quit as chief executive of the City regulator in July, amid rumours that George Osborne was not prepared to renew his contract out of frustration over his adversarial approach to the big banks.

36. Everybody wants a piece of McQueen

The life of Lee Alexander McQueen was celebrated in all kinds of ways this year

The life of Lee Alexander McQueen – a British fashion designer of exceptional creativity who died by his own hand in February 2010 – was celebrated in all kinds of ways this year. Some were conventional: the exhibition Savage Beauty, paying homage to his work at London's V&A Museum, netted an audience of 493,000 between March and August, becoming the most-visited show in the institution's 163-year history. Others were slightly more seedy: a sensationalist play devoted to his life, and two tell-all books with lurid titles – Gods and Kings and Blood Beneath the Skin – which, with their revelations of childhood abuse and sexual extremes, made for grim reading. Did they sully the legacy of McQueen? No – but they perhaps dimmed its glow a little.

37. Justin Bieber now owns the eggplant emoji forever

There are now two types of people in the world: those who have seen Justin Bieber's penis and your gran. For the latter, here's why Twitter was flooded with pictures of "Jerry" (what fans call his penis) in October. After rumours of retouching done to expand his "package" in his Calvin Klein ads, formal discussion about the size of Bieber's manhood started doing the rounds. But when paps caught him strolling around sans clothes in Bora Bora, it was the first time the world had seen the little guy. Or not so little guy. Obviously this had nothing to do with his new album coming out.

38. Given anyone or anything a bad review? You might be next

The realisation among customers of the car service Uber that they were being rated by drivers caused widespread consternation. As the "sharing economy" continued to grow, ratings became a two-way street; while messy Airbnb guests got one-star ratings from their scrupulously tidy hosts, the owners of Molten, a restaurant in Mt Eden, New Zealand, took to Facebook in April to award a disgruntled customer "zero stars out of five". Ratings systems are presumably meant as an incentive to be nice, but in reality they've bred paranoia and resentment.

39. Stephen Hawking is worried about the future of One Direction

It was a dark day for One Direction fans on 25 March, when Zayn Malik (the "edgy" one) announced he was leaving the band because he wanted to be a "normal 22-year-old". Although for most of us that would mean moving back home after uni and getting a zero-hours contract at a call centre, for Zayn it meant shaving his head, breaking up with his Little Mix fiancée, Perrie Edwards, and recording a "more mature" solo album. Meanwhile, heartbroken Directioners sought solace in an unlikely source, after Professor Stephen Hawking said: "One day there may well be proof of multiple universes… and in that universe Zayn is still in One Direction."

40. Streets are the new restaurants

Some industry heavyweights formed London Union in the summer, a company to turn the street-food vibe into big business. Sounds vanilla and cookie-cutter? Not so – first effort Dinerama (left), which opened in June, is excellent and their plans for 20 more permanent sites across the capital will bring imaginative, bargain eating to many who currently don't get it. If that doesn't convince you, check out the list of backers – a veritable Who's Who of food.

41. A Labour councillor believes that Vladimir Putin is being advised by aliens

 Simon Parkes, a Labour councillor in North Yorkshire, claimed in February that Vladimir Putin was being advised by aliens

Stranger even than the Ukip councillor who blamed rainy weather on gay marriage law last year, Simon Parkes, a Labour councillor in North Yorkshire, claimed in February that Vladimir Putin was being advised by aliens. "It's very brave of Simon," said Tony Richardson, one of his constituents. Parkes, who says he lost his virginity to an alien "holographic sexual experience" at the age of five, resigned from the council in April.

42. M&S can still shift

Marks & Spencer's fashion identity is… well, often seen as a contradiction in terms. But after more than a few false starts, this year it finally got things right. Thanks in no small part to a suede skirt that sold not to grannies but to Vogue editors when released in April, the retailer enjoyed its first annual increase in profits in four years, including a 0.7 per cent rise in "general merchandise" (ie clothing).

43. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act is a terrible law

As recently as May, Ed Miliband seemed likely to become prime minister in a hung parliament. This meant politics geeks became obsessed with the rules in the new law for holding an election before the expiry of the five-year term. The rules have never been used, but could provide endless scope for troublemaking by a party (the SNP, to pluck one at random) wanting to gum up the works.

44. Northern Ireland and Wales are better at football now the European Championship has increased to 24 teams

They were dancing in the streets of Bangor – both the Northern Irish and Welsh versions – when their teams qualified for Euro 2016 in October. Of course, the fact that there are eight more qualifying places than previously aided them a little. Heck, even Albania qualified. At least Scotland stayed true to type…

45. Adblocking is immoral – and your duty

Using software to block ads used to be seen as a nefarious activity, kneecapping online business. Then, in August, Apple unveiled its own adblocking software, while mobile networks pondered ways of relieving themselves of the burden of serving ads to our phones. Suddenly, the morality of adblocking became even murkier, and we weren't quite sure which evil corporate entity to side with.

46. Pharrell Williams listens to too much Marvin Gaye

There's always been a blurred line between "inspired by" and flat-out plagiarism, and Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke were deemed to be on the wrong side of it to the tune of $7.4m in March when they were sued by Marvin Gaye's children for copying "Got to Give it Up". No matter how much you might hate "Blurred Lines", the ruling set a dangerous precedent for songwriting. And although rumours that the Gaye family were also going to sue Williams over "Happy" turned out to be false, we're guessing Pharrell has thrown his Very Best of Marvin Gaye CD in the bin. Hopefully along with that ridiculous hat.

47. Sadly there is even less chance of Harry becoming King

Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana Windsor was born on 2 May

Before she'd even been born on 2 May, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana Windsor was credited with keeping the United Kingdom together, boosting the economy and securing a win for the Tories in the general election. Well, two out of three ain't bad. But bar the usual Kay-Burley-outside-the-Lindo-Wing hysteria, a royal baby girl was kind of a big deal. Under 2013's Succession to the Crown Act, princes no longer take precedence over their sisters, making HRH Princess Charlie (right) fourth in line to the throne.

48. It is difficult to warm to a tax exile, even when he wins a third F1 World Championship

Oh, how exciting the Formula One season was. In case you fell into a deep sleep before the end of the season (or, more accurately, five weeks before its close, in October, when the title was decided), a Briton won it. We should have been cock-a-hoop. But Lewis Hamilton says things like "chillax", spends his downtime taking selfies with celeb friends, and chooses to live as a tax exile in Monaco. These traits make him difficult to like.

49. Just because a left-wing woman can make a comeback in 'Borgen' doesn't mean she can in real life

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, leader of the Social Democrats, became Denmark's first female prime minister in 2011, a few months after Birgitte Nyborg, fictional leader of the fictional Moderate Party, assumed power in the Danish TV series Borgen. But in June, Thorning-Schmidt lost an election to a right-wing, anti-immigrant coalition. Nyborg made a comeback as leader of a new party, but there is unlikely to be a second act for Thorning-Schmidt, who has been nominated as UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

50. Clean ain't always serene

The proliferation of healthy-eating books tapped into a latent guilt many felt about their diets, but although "Deliciously" Ella Woodward's first effort, in January, spent weeks at the top of the publishing charts and spawned a generation of green goddesses, there's been a hilarious backlash. Deliciously Stella's Instagram account is well worth a look; meanwhile, whether the long-term effects of replacing everything from moisturiser to butter and flour with coconut are a good thing is as yet unclear.

51. Party leadership elections are even harder to predict than general elections

Jeremy Corbyn got his name on the Labour ballot with minutes to spare on 15 June. "He'll come fourth," I confidently asserted.

52. Europe can overlook human-rights abuses to take part in really, really important additions to the athletics calendar

It'll be a pub quiz question in years to come: where were the inaugural European Games held? Outside of Europe, for half a point. In Baku, Azerbaijan, for another half-point. It began, on 12 June, with Lady Gaga warbling "Imagine no possessions" while sitting at a grand piano in front of an audience of oil zillionaires and the country's reviled president, Ilham Aliyev, at the opening ceremony. It ended with few even knowing it was still on.

53. Big names were in the changing room

Donna Karan departed her namesake label in 2015

Has there ever been a more tumultuous year for the global design scene? It began in January when Frida Giannini left Gucci after eight years, replaced by unknown Alessandro Michele, who reshaped Gucci's aesthetic entirely (basta sexy, buon giorno frumpy); then Donna Karan departed her namesake label; Alexander Wang left Balenciaga; Raf Simons split with Dior after just three years, while the biggest change of all was the departure of Alber Elbaz from Lanvin after 14 years. The latter two have yet to announce their respective replacements; the 2016 rumour mill is in overdrive.

54. Royal Mail minus the state equals exchequer windfall and executive bonus bonanza

The Treasury earnt £591m from its final delivery of state shares in Royal Mail in October. Offloading the remaining 13 per cent stake in Royal Mail, which was initially part-privatised in 2013, means that the postal giant now has no public owner for the first time since it was founded by Henry VIII five centuries ago. The harsh realities of being private are already clear: chief executive Moya Greene was posted a £1.52m pay packet, a 13 per cent rise, after making thousands of staff redundant.

55. The sugar and salt wars rage on

Horrified to hear in June that some San Pellegrino fruit drinks contained up to 10 tsps of sugar, I vowed never to force my children to have them instead of Coke (am trying for neither, but hey). Every year we see an endless parade of good for you/gives you cancer/burns fat/creates wrinkles news "reports" about food, but when they come from a reputable source and give you cause to modify your habits to be a tad more healthy, that's a good thing. See also New York's decision to make restaurants display the salt content of their dishes.

56. If you're rich enough, you can print what you like about the Prime Minister

In October, Michael Ashcroft published a book, Call Me Dave, which included implausible allegations about an initiation ceremony for an Oxford student society about which his co-author, Isabel Oakeshott, said: "There is no need for burden of proof on a colourful anecdote where we're quite upfront about our own reservations about whether to take it seriously."

57. You shouldn't play by the rules all the time…

It was one of the biggest controversies in golf – and it put the Solheim Cup on the map in September. Suzann Pettersen of Norway, playing for Europe, had penalised her American counterpart, Alison Lee, for picking up a ball close to the hole during the fourballs, believing the putt would be conceded. Pettersen was not wrong, according to the letter of the rulebook. But she had transgressed – nay, fair leapt – over the line of golf ethics. And it was all the motivation the US team needed: they won the tournament, having been four points down heading into the final day. Pettersen apologised profusely.

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