30 December 2011

Read the year 2010

What does one do if one is too ill to do anything strenuous, but too healthy to lie in bed all day? One reads. And as I was ill for much longer than I expected I not only got frustrated, but I also was in the luxurious position to read more in a week than I had done in the preceding six months. The reader may already have noticed I read a magazine, but most of my reading concerned books.


My choices were somewhat eclectic, as one can see. I started with “Essays in Cornish mining history”; need I say more? Neil had given it to me, and it had wrestled its way to the top of my to read list. But then I thought the time had come to dive into Schott’s Almanac. And then I went on to Thomas Hardy; that will be another blogpost.

The last week of the year traditionally is one for looking back. And commonly on the year coming to an end, but I chose one before; when I, at the end of the year 2010, saw this book, I figured it would be a splendid monument to my affair with the UK. It was an overview of the first year I lived for the whole year in this country, and therefore it would likely be the year in which my opinion on it would be largely constructed. The year by which I would remember it! And now, yet a year later, it may be interesting to see how someone else would have documented that pivotal year.

In reality, this almanac covers rather the academic year 2009/2010: September 2009 to September 2010, but that only makes it even better suited for my purpose. And it covers all big news world stories of that time: the Haiti earthquake, the Gulf oil spill, Eyjafjallaj√∂kull, Greek debt, and all that. And of course the big UK stories: the UK elections, the rampant UK gunmen, parliamentary expenses, the Chilcot inquiry (on the legitimacy of the Iraq war), the cat in the wheelie bin, Catholic abuse scandals, William Hague, the Stig, the Pope’s visit... the book did quite what I hoped it would do!

Some of the things that coloured the UK year were: the person of the year; the mili-cleg-eron. “A well-schooled, Oxbridge-educated, London-centric, white, married, heterosexual, 40-something male.” And some of the words of the year: media stacking (using several types of media at the same time), showmance (a showbiz romance faked for PR reasons), iPod oblivion (the inattentiveness of those engrossed in iPods, iPhones, etc), twillionaire (a twitterer with more than a million followers).

And beside that it offered an interesting range of trivia, some of which I will reproduce here. It claimed that a poll by YouGov/Softwareload indicated that 92% of Brits think that bringing a laptop on holiday will not result in arguments, and that one by Orange suggests that 58% of British men lie to their friends about having seen classic films.

The most popular baby name in 2009 (according to Bounty) for a boy was Jack, and for a girl Olivia; interestingly enough, the top ten of both genders was practically identical to a 2010 poll by OnePoll which gave the most regretted baby names. The most common regret in parents seems to be giving their child a too common name...

A Girlguiding survey showed that girls up to 11 years old are mostly dissatisfied with their hair & teeth, and older girls have as their biggest physical complaint that they think they’re fat.

Headbanging leads to modest head injury if the range of motion is over 75°.

The percentage of children that have ever smoked has gone down 1997-2008.

Homicides in 2008/9 are mainly performed using sharp objects. The next likely way to meet your violent end differs for men and women; for men the no.2 is being hit & kicked, while for women it’s strangulation.

The oddest book title in 2009 was, according to the book trade, was “Crocheting adventures with hyperbolic planes”.

The Darwin award 2009 went to two blokes who tried to blow up an ATM, but misjudged the amount of explosives needed; they also blew up the entire building, and themselves.

One of the nominees for the igNobel prize was a team of scientists that had invented a bra that could, in case of need, be quickly converted to two face masks.

A newly identified Australian snail was baptised Crikey steveirwini.

Travel website Zoover asked their visitors which Euroean males were considered the sexiest: Italy won, and Switzerland came last. OnePoll asked what accent was the sexiest, and the reply was: Irish; strangely enough, the top 10 contained 6 versions of English. Probably because of English domination, I guess...

In 2008/2009, London had 847 fast food outlets.

The global economy is suffering, and one seeks a way to try to measure the gravity of the situation; there’s many economic indices, some of which are not so well-known; such as the Hemline index (skirts get longer in economically trying times), and the popcorn index (healthier economy = more popcorn eaten in Odeon cinemas).

In the period 1997-2010, the business most on the rise was the lap dancing club, with a >1000% increase. Other big winners were drive- through restaurants and betting shops. The biggest losers were sports/social clubs, with other big losers being livestock markets and hospitals.

The National Biblical Literacy Survey showed that 5% of Brits know the Ten Commandments, 57% knew 3 or more, and 16% couldn’t name any. Curiously, 41% of non-church-goers knew the “golden rule” (Do unto others as you would have them do to you) compared to only 31% of self-declared church goers.

The science museum polled Brits for their most common lies to their significant other: the top 3 for men is 1) I didn’t have that much to drink 2) Nothing’s wrong, I’m fine 3) I had no signal, and for women it is 1) Nothing’s wrong, I’m fine 2) I don’t know where it is, I haven’t touched it 3) It wasn’t that expensive.

Nothing like some trivia to clear the clogged head!

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