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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Next Year's News

One of the cleverest and funniest writers in Britain today is Craig Brown, whose "Way of the World" column appears in the Daily Telegraph and is pounced on over there by connoisseurs of good parody. wit

I used to know him quite well and saw him often but can't seem to get even an email through these days.

Last time the elder girl was in London she went into the publishers to try to get a contact address, but the puffed-up idiots on reception refused on security grounds and wouldn't even forward a note.

For all my moping and sighing as the home-sick ex-pat, I probably couldn't take even 24 hours in today's blairist wonderland and would hop right back on the plane to good ol' Bainbridge.

Anyway, Craig's gazed into his crystal ball and come up with some good ones, of which the funnier or more accessible are reproduced below.

I've paid particular attention to those likely to cause most offence to correctitude buffs.

Who knows? His legal advisors might get wind of this doubtless breach of reproduction rights, alert him that some geezer across the Pond is flashing his adroit prose around, and we finally  get to chat.

January

• Peter Bazalgette announces Endemol's new reality TV series, Big Suicide Bomber House, in which 10 suicide bombers compete for the chance to blow one another up. "Let's not be snobbish and undemocratic about this - this programme will be at the cutting-edge of successful suicide-based TV, and will add to our growing portfolio of modern, forward-looking, suicide-based infotainment," says Bazalgette, putting on his serious voice at the launch, adding: "If Shakespeare were alive today, I have no doubt he would be appearing on Celebrity Big Brother."

February

• Faced with a declining audience, the BBC's Top of the Pops changes its name to Top of the Butts and does without the music. "For some time now, 55 per cent of the programme has been devoted to close-ups of pretty girls wiggling their bottoms back and forth," explains BBC chairman, Michael Grade. "Our audience surveys tell us that the vast majority of the audience find the accompanying music a tiresome distraction."

March

• A severe shortage of deaths of much-loved former celebrities so far this year has resulted in the public growing increasingly restless to express its grief. Media bosses agree to hire a contract killer to "hasten the ends" of a former disc-jockey, two former celebrity chefs, three former chat-show hosts, four former sportsmen and five former pop stars. "It's what they would have wanted, if they were already dead, which they soon will be, bless 'em," explains top PR Max Clifford.

• Professor Christopher Ricks launches his scholarly new book, Harris's Visions of Paradise, subtitled The Unearthly Vision of Rolf Harris. The book is applauded by critics for the light it sheds on the many layers of meaning behind Harris classics such as Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport. "What exactly does Harris mean when he pleads with his previously unnamed friend Jack to 'Take me koala back' before adding - plaintively, beseechingly, but perhaps above all, unknowingly - 'He lives somewhere out on the track, Mac'?". This is the question posed by Ricks in Chapter 5: "Back to Where? The Question of the Koala". Ricks concludes that the Koala is, in fact, God and the Kangaroo Satan. "But where" he asks, "Does this leave the wallaby?"

April

• Speaking outside Number 10, at 10.30 am on April 5, Tony Blair announces he will be stepping down as Prime Minister. At 10.33am, Gordon Brown comes out of Number 11 and declares his candidature for the leadership of the Labour Party. At 10.35am, Tony Blair pops back out and explains that, actually, he didn't mean right now.

• Channel 4 screens a two-hour drama-documentary about the life and times of Mahatma Gandhi. "It is as a powerful, thought-provoking, serious and deeply considered drama about the great Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi," announces Channel 4 Head of Drama, Peter André. But some historians complain that the drama, Randy Gandhi, contains scenes that have no historical reality. These include steamy romantic alliances with, among others, Princess Margaret, Dorothy Macmillan, Dame Edith Sitwell, Gracie Fields, Diana Dors, and others. To the specific charge that the scene in a taxi involving Gandhi and a drunken Charlotte Church could never have taken place, as the two protagonists were never alive at the same time, André replies that it has an emotional truth that surpasses the purely literal.

May

• Tessa Jowell announces new plans to curb excessive eating in restaurants. "For too long, restaurants have been used by people who want not just one course, but two-, or even three-course meals" she explains to a hushed Commons. "But all the information suggests that the vast majority of ordinary, decent people want the Government to help them in their fight against obesity. With this in mind, we intend to restrict restaurants to serving only lettuce-based starters, with no main courses or puddings except with a special licence, which will only be granted to proven anorexics."

June

• There are celebrations in the streets when word gets around that, for the very first time, a Stella McCartney dress looks perfectly OK on a shopper who tried one on. "It had to happen sooner or later," says a delighted spokesman, "but we never for a moment expected it would happen as quickly as this."

August

• A leading medium claims to have received the very first message back from the late Sir Edward Heath. Sir Edward has expressed his dissatisfaction with heaven. "I'm afraid that whoever is in charge here really doesn't know the first thing about running paradise. One could do without those tiresome harpists for a start. It was all done so much better in my day."

• A new survey suggests a 350 per cent increase in unnecessary surveys over the past three years. "This must be good news for the whole Unnecessary Survey Industry," says a leading spokesman for the USA (Unnecessary Survey Association). Surveys carried out for the USA over the past week have revealed that children prefer watching television and eating potato crisps to reading a classic of world literature and sipping water, that people in built-up areas are more likely to suffer from petrol fumes, that most people prefer ice-cream as a pudding rather than as a main course, and that the South of France continues to beat Birmingham as a favourite holiday location.

September

• Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt announces new restrictions on the wearing of belts. "In recent years, I have been increasingly concerned at the unprecedented increase in the number of people who are wearing their belts too tight. This may cause pain in the stomach area, and is a drain on our health and counselling services," she announces to the Commons. "With this in mind, the Government is introducing immediate legislation to restrict the number of inner holes on all belts. We will also be announcing a new Beltwatch Hotline, allowing members of the public to report on those they spot attempting to wear their belts too tightly, or to drill new and illegal holes in their belts."

October

• Dr Jonathan Miller begins a new television series in which he casts doubts on his own existence. "I find it impossible to believe in someone as clever as myself," he reveals.

November

• Former Washington ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer takes his place among the other contestants on I'm a Celebrity - Get Me Out of Here! Sadly, his first bush-tucker trial, in which he has to be buried in a box full of rats, is suspended following complaints from the rats.

December

• The most recent findings by the Unnecessary Survey Association reveal that 90 per cent of Christmas presents are bought in the three months leading up to Christmas. It also emerges that 95 per cent of people like to pull their Christmas crackers with other people, compared with just five per cent of people who prefer to pull them by themselves. Of the five per cent who pull crackers by themselves, the majority describe themselves as "sad" or "very sad indeed".


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