Now he writes exclusively for us.
With barely a fortnight to go until Christmas and the end of 2014, I have been dipping in and out of old newspapers and trawling the internet (as I do a lot) and looking back on whether this year would go down as an annus horribilis in the annals of history, or an annus mirabilis.
Having concluded my research, I just don’t know.
The cynics amongst us would suggest that it is extremely unlikely that we will ever have anything but bad years from now on, with such misery and inequality prevalent across the world, as well as on our own doorstep.
I have widely commented on various aspects of such things over the course of the past year. So I thought I would, as is occasionally my wont, indulge myself in a few personal high-points (although “personal” in the sense of things that made me laugh or titter, rather than things that happened to me “personally”), as much as anything else to attempt to persuade myself that it has, indeed, been a good year all told.
There was the bizarre story of the convicted criminal serving a lengthy sentence in the US who escaped from a Kentucky prison in his prison-issue uniform, only to plead with the authorities to let him back inside once temperatures sunk to below minus 20.
And the first Pastafarian politician elected to office (for those who have never heard of it, Pastafarianism is a movement which promotes a light-hearted view of religion and opposes the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in schools in America; also known as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster – yes really!). It is almost too crazy to be true, (and you might say “Only in America”) although there has been a trend of almost equally as crazy by-elections in the UK recently, which would suggest the world is going mad.
And I had to laugh when I saw photos recently of a nativity scene which had been set up in a hardware and electrical store, with all the characters portrayed by Henry Hoover models: Charles, George and Edward playing the role of the wise-men and Henry and his partner Hetty playing Mary and Joseph. There was even a knitted version of Henry playing baby Jesus.
By all accounts, sales of hoovers went up hugely as a result, so perhaps not as wacky as it might seem.
But my favourite story of late has been the birthday party in a German Zoo for two polar bears, who were given the gift of traffic cones from the keepers to celebrate. However, as always happens when there is a party and traffic cones, the polar bears eventually reverted to stereotype and began doing exactly the sort of things you would expect from drunken twenty-somethings on a night out – if you get chance to scour the internet at any point, have a look at the photos... simply hilarious.
Almost as hilarious, in fact, as the story, as yet unverified, that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has banned anyone in the country from using his name. Aside from banning any newborns from taking the name, he has instructed party officials to compile a list of any residents of the country who have the name and then for a “training programme” to be implemented whereby they will be “encouraged” to change their names voluntarily. Can you imagine anyone wanting to be called, for example, David Cameron over here?!
All stories which made me laugh this year, and there were plenty more, of course.
Before finishing this week, I wanted to ask you, as you might expect, to spare some thoughts for those who will not perhaps be enjoying their Christmas as much as everyone else, for whatever reason.
If you are minded to support charities at this time, please do so – there are so many wonderful organisations working hard, with little finance, to make lives better and provide more opportunities. If you are thinking of giving a really special gift, then just a few quid here and there to any one of these fabulous organisations would be a brilliant idea.