TTYF! SICK REVIEW OF THE YEAR / DECADE/ CENTURY/ MILLENNIUM 1999
Written mostly by Kevin Warne (KNW) with some less funny bits from John Harrington (JH)
1999, what a bargain sounding year as no end of "not so funny as they think they are" writers quipped. Such a bargain in fact it only lasted nine months for most of them as they scribbled their thoughts in September to catch the deadlines for the January editions leaving themselves time for the endless polls and reviews of the decade, century and millennium. Nice to know, in one poll, the teenagers of this country, that font of considered wisdom, decided Robbie Williams was a more influential musician these last thousand years than every classical composer bar Mozart. It could have been worse, had the poll been conducted twenty-five years earlier Beethoven et al would have been eating the dust of Donny or even Jimmy Osmond.
It was a year that passed quickly in a world of ever faster change where the advent of e-mail and the internet mean I feel very old fashioned and dated waiting until Samoa has said farewell to the year before writing about it. A review in the first week of January, what a slouch.
Politically it was the year the government of Tony the infallible reached "mid-term" still riding high aided by the opposition of William the hopeless. This, despite a failing health service and transport problems so severe Two Jags Prescott had to create bus lanes on the motorways to allow our Tone to avoid them. It was the year Michael Portillo, the man who provided one of our favourite images of the twentieth century by getting ousted at the election (two years ago!), ended his wilderness walk and, thanks to a considerate Allan Clarke, started his 2007 general election campaign. Out of the closet and out of the wilderness at the same time, a formidable achievement. The party he wants to lead continued to crumble like the proverbial leper's handshake, a third world organisation bankrolled from a third world tax haven.
The country suffered some shocks during the year; Jill Dando left large numbers distraught at the thought of suffering Gaby Roslin on New Year's Eve and a Korean jumbo caused grief in Essex when it crashed on take off from Stanstead but sadly missed Harlow. The English cricket team restored some sense of normality by failing in the World Cup and losing to the Kiwis. Meanwhile, in football, Manchester United added to the nation's woe by winning the treble (FA Cup, Premiership and the European Runners-Up Cup) and England manager Glenn Hoddle lost the plot by claiming "at this moment in time I never said them things about those people". He was talking about the physically impaired but not the England football team. His demise let in lucky Kevin Keagan, the man who spent most of the year on planet Zog, the only place where they still think England can win a major championship. The only man who ever has, Sir Alf Ramsey, died, not a wealthy man, shunned and appallingly treated by the Football Association who nevertheless still shamelessly called on his long ago triumph to suggest England should be seeded in Euro 2000.
Sir Alf: the most famous Essex boy ever?
Abroad, Clinton escaped impeachment and maintained a grip on the presidency while another family dynasty finally lost any pretence of their's when John F Kennedy Jnr crashed his plane. The usual rock throwing between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir moved up a notch as both went nuclear and the Russians continued to beat up the Chechens. We also had the obligatory Balkan war to keep the Western defence industry going with the Chinese being taken out for a change instead of providing the take away.
The year had more than its fair share of disasters both natural and man-made, perhaps a sign of more to come. Planes seem to fall out of the skies more regularly than normal and a good year on the railways, safety wise, came to an abrupt end just outside Paddington. The fact that trains and planes are still several times safer than travelling by car did not stop the "something must be done" merchants calling for millions of pounds to be spent on making these modes of travel safer whilst the motorist is allowed to carry on killing people and polluting the environment at an astonishing rate. (In fact statistics indicate that if you spend your whole life in a plane you will live for 1,820 years).
If you think the Paddington train crash was bad you obviously didn't see the wedding photos of Posh and Becks or catch the staged romance between gingers Evans and Haliwell. Which adaptation will evolve faster in humans: the bigger brain or the extra two fingers lodged permanently down the throat?
Being the last year of everything there was a lot of tidying up. The Germans and Japanese settled claims for past war crimes with the dwindling band of surviving victims, except for British POWs because we need their investment (the Germans and the Japs, not the POWs who remain a bloody nuisance and a drain on our resources). Several other former colonial powers made muted apologies for past excesses but we are still waiting for Arsenal to apologise for that awful green and blue away kit of several years ago.
It was a better than average year on the deceased front. We had some underrated female entertainers like Dusty Springfield and Madeline Kahn pass on and a bumper crop of thespians. Bob Peck stalked his last dinosaur, Oliver Reed quaffed his last drink, DeForest Kelly (Bones from Star Trek) announced "I'm dead Jim" and Derek Nimmo laughed his last drain like laugh. Buster Merryfield (Only Fools and Horses) went to the great tower block in the sky and Derrick Guyler, long forgotten desert rat and janitor from Please Sir!, simply wore out according to his relatives. George C Scott (Patton), Victor Mature and Dirk Bogarde added the heavyweight dimension. Stanley Kubrick died as his last film was released.
Bones (well he is now)
"I'm dead, Jim"
At the lighter end Ernie Wise joined Eric and Johnny Morris took his animal voices with him while Rod Hull killed himself helping Emu adjust the aerial during a Manchester United game. This will doubtless lead to a pernnial quiz question: "In what year did Hull go down as a result of Manchester United losing to Inter Milan." (not to mention the joke: What does Rod Hull use to do his washing? Ariel, followed by Bounce). Whilst almost on the subject of sport Payne Stewart, the golfer, died in a bizarre flying accident which was harsh justice for the only US Ryder Cup team member who seemed genuinely mortified by his teams trampling on the games traditions, and American greats Wilt "the Stilt" Chamberlain (basketball) and Walter Payton (American Football) went too. In politics we wait years for ex-politicians to go and then they snuff it as soon as we've forgotten they are still around; Willie Whitelaw, the man who secretly negotiated with the IRA back in the eighties while Ken Livingstone was slayed for publicly talking to them moved on. Joshua Nkomo led the international field by some distance.
As for the future we had much talk of the internet revolution and the arrival of e-commerce which offered opportunity for explosive growth in credit card fraud. The mobile phone proliferated allowing people to fry their brains into a vegetative state commiserate with the rubbish they were talking.
Thirty years ago the snake oil salesmen calling themselves scientist predicted we would be either living on the moon or down here driving electric cars powered by free electricity generated by clean safe nuclear power stations although as I recall they didn't say much about home computers, mobile phones or the internet. Now they claim they can see the day of the cloned humans and genetically modified babies and food. 1999 was the year the world human population passed six billion.
As the year came to an end I laid awake one night listening to another of those increasingly frequent gales and thought of the natural disasters of the year; earthquakes in Greece, Turkey, Taiwan and Columbia, floods in Europe and Venezuela, avalanches in Austria, storms in Pakistan, here and America and drought across Africa. Maybe, I thought, while this over confident ape arrogantly suggests it can almost play God mother nature is flexing her muscles and clearing her throat ready for the new millennium when she will start to deal with this plague on her planet.
And so to the awards
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