2010 started in a rather similar vein to how it ended. With the weather being just about the most talked about topic. It was winter and...... guess what? It snowed! Would you credit it. This was an unmissable opportunity for the various television news channels to despatch, in many cases, their most junior 'I'll do anything for a bit of airtime' journalists to stand beside frozen motorways, on motorway bridges and, for the most daring, on top of huge piles of grit to tell us, well, it's snowing. Of course we knew that just from looking out of the window, but just in case we hadn't noticed, it was on every single television channel as well. For days they stood in their allotted position, trying hard to smile through chapped lips and frozen eyelashes, to tell us it was still snowing. Yes, we know. They interviewed foolhardy drivers who had ventured out, despite severe weather warnings, with nothing but a shirt and a packet of Minstrels and then, surprise, surprise, got stuck in the snow, some for days, reduced to drinking melted snow and eating their fellow passengers if it got really bad (OK, well not quite, but from the dramatic way this completely natural phenomenon was reported, you'd think so!). Everyone blamed the Labour Government. While responsible for many things, the weather probably wasn't one of them.
It was also an unmissable opportunity to tell the world how crap the country is, how it falls apart at the first millimetre of snow - only occasionally mentioning that it was the heaviest snow in decades - and showing stock footage of hardy Eastern European bravely carrying on in spite of several feet of snow. At the same time they were telling us there are too many 'bluddy foreigners' in the country. Strange how this huge influx of Eastern Europeans has done nothing to improve our ability to manage a snowfall in winter. Get them out of the potato fields of Cambridgeshire and into Emergency Planning I say!
Come the end of November, which would make it just about winter, and bugger me, it snows again. The same reporters, asssuming they hadn't frozen to death first time round, suddenly found themselves for the second time in a year standing by frozen motorways, on motorway bridges and on top of mountains of grit telling us the glaringly obvious. It was snowing! Strangely similar shots of sliding buses and skidding cars appeared all over the TV screens.
Having learned nothing from the previous snowfalls, the good British public continued to ignore the severe weather warning and head off to the pub, naturally getting stuck and finally arriving several days later via a Red Cross emergency station in the village hall. It was however, a great opportunity to show some fine examples of community spirit with farmers taking to the roads to help clear them, manfully transporting midwives to pregnant mothers and doctors to hospitals. Hooray for the farmers! Meanwhile the BBC continued to trot out the misinformation that if you cleared the path outside your house and someone slipped and fell they'd sue the ass of you so the good British public by and large stayed inside and expected someone else to do the snow clearing. "What do we pay our Council Tax for?" demanded 'Bob in Leicester'. 'It's a national disgrace. Someone should do something about it' railed 'Betty in Milton Keynes. Neither felt inclined to do anything about it themselves.
It was only when we had the second Big Freeze that attention was drawn to the Governement's Snow Code that stated categorically that this was untrue. Once again, the media used it as another opportunity to tell the world how we couldn't cope while conveniently forgetting to mention that the snowploughs were even struggling in Moscow and the whole of Sweden, now unused to heavy snowfalls in winter, had ground to a halt. Everyone blamed the Government - a different one this time - and still the Eastern Europeans had not got those jobs in Emergency Planning.
By March though, it was all forgotten. In France, a 69 year old English grandmother was storming the dancefloors from Cannes to Paris with her unique mix of techno and Abba. Well French music always was shite!
It was a better year for HM the Queen. Prince William the Horsefaced announced his engagement to the perennially perky Kate Middleton and, in less time than it took for a Royal Correspondent to say 'Gold digger', the previously entitled Wills and Kate became William and Katherine, a right proper royal couple. Thank God this heir to the throne didn't have to try and find himself a virgin. He presented his bride to be with his mother's engagement ring - cheapskate - and in their first interview as a soon-to-be-married couple, Prince William told the world that he thinks of his mother in everything he does. Not EVERYTHING William, please God! That's borderline illegal. The meeja has, of course, spent countless hours speculating on everything from the venue to the colour of her knickers. Everyone from her old Brown Owl to her sister's piano teacher were interviewed for the lowdown on Katherine. As if we care. If nothing else, it will give those avid royal fans the chance to bore us all stupid with the latest addition to their collection of Royal Wedding mugs.
At the end of the year, Peter Phillips who in 2008 had married the rather unroyally named Autumn Kelly, a Canadian who would, according to Buckingham Palace, be known as Mrs Autumn Phillips -as opposed to what, one asks? - had presented the Queen with her first great-grandchild, well, it was Mrs Phillips who did the needful obviously. With the prospect of a Princess Chelsy, what next? Will the unfortunately chavvily named ladies call their offspring Sauvignon and Shaniqua?
The only thorn in the royal side continued to be the incorrigible Sarah, Duchess of York, who was caught in the sort of meeja sting that is on the verge of becoming boring, trying to sell audiences with her husband for cash. Why? Why? Why? He has all the ennui of Prince Philip but without the possibility of one of those deliciously politically incorrect morsels falling from his lips. I've met both of them and give me Prince Phillip any day.
Talking of political incorrectness, Mel Gibson, dear, dear Mel, who I also met in my Shepperton Studios years, was one of the undoubted villains of 2010. His opinions have never been his greatest asset, seesawing as they do between the ludicrous and the downright offensive, and publications of a tape of his, er, how shall we say, exchanges of views with his ex-girlfriend, revealed that you can take the man out of narrow-minded, bigoted Oz (just certain elements of Oz society I hasten to add) but you can't the narrow-minded bigoted Oz out of the man. Shame that.
Sport saw some highs and some lows, the highs being Mo Farah breaking athletic records like I break fingernails, and becoming the first Briton to run the 5,000 metres in under 13 minutes. Still it wasn't enough to bring him a nomination in Sports Personality of the Year which saw, to me, the unlikely shortlisting of a Darts player. Sports and Personality always seem a bit of an oxymoron to me anyway but come on, darts is a leisure pursuit not a sport. Do they train for hours in the gym like athletes or swimmers? Do their finely honed bodies arouse envy in the populace? Mind you, with the UK becoming in 2010 the fattest nation in Europe, perhaps this is where we are going wrong. We are modelling ourselves on the 'sportsmen' in the Embassy World Darts (or whatever) and not the European Athletics Championships. World darts champion is a bit like being the World Melon Seed Spitting Champion. Darts is only played in the UK with the addition of the odd Dutchman so using the title 'world' is probably contrary to the Trades Description Act.
Tiny Tom Daley did his stuff on the 10 metre board and showed the difference between the body of an athlete and the body of, well, not an athlete though possibly a darts player, when he shared the board with James Corden in Sport Relief. Quite how he survived the miniature tsunami caused by Mr Corden's entry into the water is anyone's guess.
Lows where undoubtedly the abysmal performance of some of England's richest sportsmen and their manager, the incomprehensible Mr Capello in the World Cup the most exciting bit of which was the predictions of an Octopus in Germany. German fans, annoyed at his refusal to predict a win for them, threatened on several occasions to grill him. He died rather ignominously later in the year. This was followed later in the year by the equally dismal performance in the England 2018 World Cup bid. We sent Prince Horseface, David 'Babyteeth' Cameron and David 'intellectual prozac' Beckham. The Russians sent a statuesque brunette in a tight fitting zebra-print dress. Who d'ya suppose won? I like to think that my 'Keep England World Cup Free' scribblings across the World Cup petition in our local Morrisons played some small part. FIFA proved itself to be as corrupt and corruptible and so many of the game's top players which was no surprise really.
Equally unsurprising was the revelations in Julian Assange's Wikileaks site that Afghan politicians are corrupt, Colonel Gadaffi is not that nice and Prince Philip (see above) is a bit of a loose cannon and as prickly as a pear. Still, when the poor bloke was arrested and threatened with deportation a whole host of C list slebs such as Bianca 'who the hell is she, oh yes I remember now' Jagger and Jemima 'I'm a good Muslim gel' Khan, ran to his rescue with their wallets open to pay his bail. It seems that we must preserve the freedom of Mr Assange to tell us the patently obvious and crushingly dull at all costs. Still, it gave Barack Obama another opportunity to deflect attention from his own dismal political performance as did the Gulf Oil Spill.
For those who've forgotten all about 'the worst environmental catastrophe of all time' which does rather seem to have been anything but, this was when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig which was drilling at depths previously untried to feed the insatiable US desire for cheap fuel exploded tragically killing 11 workers. Built in Korea, owned by a German company, flying a flag of convenience for the Marshall Islands and operated by Americans, it unleashed the biggest oil spill in US history leaving the British firmly to blame and footing the bill for everything from environmental clean ups to loss of revenue for pole dancing clubs. Under the hapless leadership of Tony Hayward, the man with a talent for saying the wrong thing that could equal Prince Philip, it led to one of the most distasteful displays of xenophobia by our Americans cousins since 9/11.
Barack Obama was seen striding across beaches, bizarrely with people swimming in the sea, railing against British Petroleum despite the fact that it had dispensed with the British bit some 10 years previously. Tony was called in front of a US congressional hearing led by a bizarre mish-mash of Spitting Image puppets where he kept saying he didn't know the answers to their questions which increased their ire and lent the proceedings an air of a frontier courtroom. No mention was made of the fact that the Gulf of Mexico is already the most oil-polluted sea in the world, nor of the Petroleos Mexicanos Ixtoc blowout 20 years previous, eerily similar to the Deepwater Horizon, which leaked over a third more oil into the Gulf than this ever did. The settlement BP will make will eclipse anything previously seen in the world of environmental disasters and certainly more by many billions than the US offered the Indian government after the Union Carbide disaster that still caused birth defects even today. Hey ho!
The Spring bought us another opportunity for xenophobia with the eruption of an unpronouceable volcano in Iceland that managed to ground internation airtraffic across the world. Stories of £3000 taxi rides back home, families spending a week on the floor of an airport departure lounge, a scene that was repeated again in December but for different reasons and yet another chance to moan about how the country was going to hell in a handcart led the media coverage. The airlines, having had a chance to tot up the amount of compensation they would have to pay to their stranded passengers suddenly decided, with the help of the Civil Aviation Authority, that actually, the volcanic ash wasn't really that dangerous and they could fly after all. Silly them! The Sprint also bought the equally unwelcome spectre of another General Election and the Leaders Debates which showed that a) Nick Clegg had a penchant for remembering names b) David Cameron couldn't say 'house' (hice) or properly (proply) and Gordon Brown, not for the want of trying, is biologically incapable of smiling.
Election Night saw the BBC and ITV graphics departments going into overdrive to demonstrate to an increasingly weary public exactly how badly the voting was going for Labour and the Lib Dems, despite Cleggy's courting of the student populace with a promise of no university tuition fees. I followed a septic tank emptying lorry the other day with the following words on the back 'this tanker is full of political promises'. That about summed it up as it turned out. With no clear winner, the Lib Dems were courted by right and left, and the British public were left in suspense for several days while deals were made and broken and the left wing press told us all we'd got what we deserved for not voting them back in. I would imagine that the Monster Raving Loony Party stood a better chance than them to be honest.
The end result was an unholy alliance of the Conservatives and LibDems, a sort of LibDem Con. From then on the only story was of cuts. Cuts to education, cuts to welfare and horror of horrors for the skinny mocha latte-drinking classes cuts to Child Benefit. Local governments reeled with the news that they would have to act a bit more responsibly with public money and get rid of thousands of superfluous staff. With 850,000 new jobs in the public sector created under the last government, the predicted 500,000 job losses still leave it top heavy, no consolation for those who will lose their jobs of course but then as someone who is new to the whole public sector thing in my own council, I still don't understand why my line manager is not the person I work for but someone in another office on another site several miles away. Our own council has axed all managerial posts where only 2 or 3 people report to that manager. What? You mean they actually had managers responsible for only 2 or 3 people?
Natural disasters were a feature of 2010 which started with the dreadful earthquake in Haiti which gave the meeja another opportunity to travel halfway round the world to stick their cameras in the faces of people who were suffering the most appalling anguish. Pictures of the injured and dead had us reaching for our wallets until we all started to suffer a bit of 'tragedy fatigue'. The meeja then turned their focus on the potential for civil unrest - in a country with no infrastructure? Well that would be a first wouldn't it? Reporters leapt on the slightest bit of handbags at dawn to show just how bad those rotten Haitians were and made us wonder if we should be asking the Disasters Emergency Committe for a refund. Criticism was levelled at the troops trying their best in impossible circumstances to distribute aid by a bunch of reporters that, quite frankly, just got in the way. Then along came the French to try and buy up a few orphaned children.
The flooding in Pakistan showed just how far anti-Muslim feeling had gone with people refusing to donate to those 'terrorists' and suggestions that spending more time on flood defences and less on religion would have been helpful. One boring person with too little to do did manage to calculate that the Pakistan government would have had to build 6 foot high flood walls along the entire length of it's rivers to avert this catastrophe but still the donations from some countries, notably Ireland, Italy and France came to less than £2000.
The late summer saw the arrival of yet another Pontiff on British soil, although this one didn't bother with the kneeling down and kissing the ground shenanigans of his predecessor. In a time of economic austerity the British government forked out millions of pounds to protect a man in a frock who had done his level best to protect a bunch of paedophiles and child abusers. Babies were shoved in his arms and my Aunty Margot, who has made jam and marmalade for much of the 20th and all of the 21st Century to raise money for the Poor Sisters of Charity was among a bunch of smiling, shiny faced Catholics invited to be 'in his presence' during his visit. In his presence apparently means 'in the same room as but not acknowledged by' but she was delighted to be in an aisle seat so she could get a good view of his Holiness's illustious garb!
The big story of the year end - apart from the weather - were the student protests against the LibDemCon's plans to raise tuition fees (see earlier for political promises) were hijacked by a bunch of anarchists who took out their dislike for civilised society by kicking three shades of shite out of a window at Millbank, the Conservative HQ and an abandoned police van while holding placards pronouncing 'this shit wouldn't happen at Hogwarts' and 'I don't believe in anything, I'm just here to miss PE'.
'Kettling' became the mot du jour with strangely diverse experiences recounted from within the kettle depending on the shade of the political journal in which it appeared. It was generally agreed to be a 'bad thing'. Perhaps they should just do what the French police did and use tear gas and Mace spray on the students, many of which were only 15 year old lyceens. It was genuinely refreshing to see so many 'mature students' at the protests. Well, that's surely the only reason that I kept seeing people who were patently older than the average student age.
The photo of the protests was definitely the misfortunate Charlie Gilmour, son of my hero Dave, swinging from the cenotaph. The 21 year old student of History at Cambridge issued a grovelling apology claiming he didn't realise that it was the Cenotaph. You'd sort of think that the words 'Our Glorious Dead' carved in the side might just be a little clue. I didn't believe in the dumbing down of education in the UK until I read that but now I'm not so sure.....
But I'll end my review of the year on a positive note with some of the more amusing news stories from 2010.
An Australian man claims his missing wife has turned up three decades later on Antiques Roadshow in Padstow
Her sister claims it couldn't possibly be her after seeing the footage because 'she'd never wear anything frilly'. So far, the mystery woman has not been identified
Cebu Pacific Airlines have put their safety demonstrations to the music of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry in the hope that jaded passengers will take notice
Sicilian man steals to avoid relatives on New Years Eve
A Sicilian man shoplifted sweets and chewing gum to ensure that he would spend New Year's Eve in jail and so avoid spending it with relatives
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy released an anthology of Japanese-style Haiku poetry.
"In a nearby ditch
Toads mating passionately
That's it. The EU really is done for!
Carpets of bluebells in the woods
9 hours ago