It is the moment in the year when, by age-old tradition, anyone with a public voice is asked to list their favourite books, films or CDs of the year. This habit of Christmas log-rolling gives endless innocent satisfaction to its participants, allowing them the double pleasure of showing off their own intelligence and sophistication while plugging the work of pals, family and colleagues. Those of us in the grumpiness trade, have an altogether tougher time. What of the people, animals and stories of whom we have had altogether too much over the past months? Surely they deserve a Christmas list, too.
In certain saloon bars and dinner parties in the Home Counties, there will be a middle-aged male (minor public school, right-wing, hopeless with women, you know the type) holding forth and making bad jokes. He is ignored. Give the same type a TV programme, and suddenly his every asinine comment becomes a mini-typhoon of media opinion and outrage. Who in truth is not thoroughly bored of this man and his rival professional controversialists?
Runners-up Liz Jones, Rod Liddle, Ricky Gervais.
The mini-message form is tremendously exciting to the media. Celebrities stalk themselves, providing easy, pointless stories. There are amusing little rows to follow. In spite of its name, the noise Twitter makes is not like birdsong, which tends to be joyful and sustained, but is brief, direct and occasionally startling – a shout, a whisper, a giggle, a wolf-whistle. It is time for a bit of Twitter silence.
Runners-up Mark Zuckerberg, Mumsnet, Spotify.
The Banned List
“Someone watches over us when we write. Mother. Teacher. Shakespeare. God,” Martin Amis once wrote. As from 2011, the list should be revised to, “Mother. Teacher. Shakespeare. God. John Rentoul.” What was once an excellent idea by Rentoul, pillorying lazy and often evasive clichés used in public life, has become something of a scourge. Where anything is being written or said, there are spies on hand to report inappropriate phrases. Journalists, writers and politicians live in fear of a new literary Stasi.
Runners-up The Campaign for Real Apostrophes, The Literary Review Bad Sex Prize, ‘Crimewatch’.
Pippa Middleton’s behind
From the moment when bored photographers at the royal wedding snapped the unexceptional back view of the bride’s sister, the semi-royal bottom became an object of erotic yearning for frustrated monarchists around the world. Last week, it landed its owner a £400,000 deal with Penguin. What next? Bronze buttocks on a plinth in Trafalgar Square? The mania has become a national embarrassment.
Runners-up Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, Robbie Savage.
These two luckless caged animals have yet formally to meet their public, but the Scots and the pandas, we have been told, are made for each other. Already we have heard altogether too much about their silly names, their dull basic diet, their famously limp sexuality – and the pandas are probably not much better. There was a big-money deal between Alex Salmond and the Chinese in which these poor old bears were bargaining counter. No more needs to be said.
Runners-up Polar bears, the cuckoo, ‘War Horse’.