Millvina Dean


In this blogposting...
*In Memoriam
*Words of the Year
*The Year’s Worst Jargon
*The Birds
Now, read on, Macduff...

This posting is by way of saying Goodbye to 2009. It was a funny old year, what with one thing and another, but all in all I think we’re probably well rid of it.

I’ve scanned the dozens of emails, cuttings and notes that are scattered all over the place here and have realised that there’s quite a lot of truckshunting ground I didn’t get round to covering last year. So I reckon I should start 2010 by tying up a few loose ends left over from 2009.

Here goes....

It’s not just the year we are saying Goodbye to. Although, in several of last year’s postings, we remembered to bid farewell to many of the people who passed out of the world during the last twelve months, I have discovered, amongst my clippings, that three people of note left us uncommemorated in this blog. Well, two people and an animal, actually. So let’s start with...

...(pictured above) who was the last survivor of the Titanic disaster on 14 April 1912. She was rescued from the wreckage aged only three months and, for the rest of her life, shunned the publicity her unusual status gave her. She died, aged 97, on 31 May last year,

One of those names absolutely everybody knew way back in the 40s and 50s but which, nowadays, usually only garners a quizzical ‘Who?’.

As a kid, I can easily - and very pleasantly - remember how startlingly pretty she was in the two of her films I can recall watching: Gone To Earth, a first-class melodramatic weepie of the highest order (from 1950) and The Song of Bernadette (from 1944), the romanticised Hollywood version of the legend of St Bernadette of Lourdes. She won that year’s Best Actress Oscar for her performance.

I actually bought the DVD of The Song of Bernadette quite recently. It’s one of those films that lodged itself in my impressionable - not to say fey - young mind, like I Remember Mama (Irene Dunne’s best performance ever) (Who?), the Ealing comedies, Fred and Ginger or A Man For All Seasons.

...was a giant tortoise that arrived in the Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes in Paris from the Seychelles in 1923. He was by far the oldest and largest of the five giant tortoises kept there and weighed 250kg. Indeed, he had to be moved around using a forklift. (What on earth can the French be for ‘forklift’?)

Kiki was 146 years old when he died in early December. Even so, he was by no means the oldest of his kind. Harriet the turtle was reported to be 175 years old when she died in 2006 in Australia and Tu’i Malila, a tortoise who died in Tonga in 1965, was 188 years old. Just imagine it.

To cheer up the festive gloom just before Christmas, the RSPCA issued a press release giving details of some of the calls it had received over the year. Together, they prove that the British are unquestionably and irredeemably bonkers...

A woman called the advice and cruelty hotline to ask how to remove a spider from her sink...
A hotel owner called to complain about ducks quacking...
A cat-lover wanted to know why her new pet wasn’t purring...
A driver rang in to report a slow-moving tortoise on the hard shoulder of the M6 - which turned out to be a deflated football.

See what I mean? Awesome.

The Oxford English Dictionary has given details of the new words which it intends to add to its mighty tome. It does this every year round about now, having trawled more than 2bn words during 2009 in newspapers, magazines, online and on-air. How many of these would you have known?

Snollygosters...shrewd, unprincipled people
Jeggings...a ‘portmanteau’ word combining ‘jeans’ and ‘leggings’
Tweetup...a meeting organised through Twitter
Simples...anything easy to achieve (from the ‘compare the meerkats’ tv advert) delete a friend from Facebook; this is the most-used new addition to the OED this year, although, in Britain, it vies with ‘unfriend’ for popularity
Staycation...taking your holidays at home; a proposal to ‘anglicise’ this to holistay failed
Hatinator...a cross between a hat and a ‘fascinator’
Hohum...a New Zealand word for someone who prefers to observe rather than take action.

Good or what!

It’s your turn to decide when and where the January AGM should take place. I’ve read all of the permutations in the Comments box to posting 187 and all it gave me was a headache. Keep Commenting or email me here.

And remember...a splendid time is guaranteed for all. Even if nobody turns up.

For the last decade I have been boring anyone who would listen to tears with my campaign to change the way we refer to this century’s years. Why ‘two thousand and...’ rather than ‘twenty oh...’? On the model of ‘nineteen oh four’, why not ‘twenty oh four’?

I thought no-one was listening. But - eureka! The BBC has finally sanctioned the use of ‘twenty ten’ rather than ‘two thousand and ten’. Unbelievably, none of the credit for this advance in the use of English has, as yet, been sent in my direction. Watch this space.

You are probably as pig-sick of the weather as I am. Snow, ice, slush, rain, sleet, idle winds. But please remember that, however cheesed-off we are, the birds are much worse off than us. Please don’t forget the toll this weather takes on the birds that grace our countryside, towns and gardens. Feed them! The RSPB website gives advice on what’s good and what’s not.

Please don’t forget.

...this is Simon Hoggart’s suggestion for the very worst official jargon of 2009. It’s from a White Paper called Smarter Government.

‘We will align the different sector-specific performance management frameworks across key local agencies, thereby increasing the focus on indicators relating to joint outcomes.’

I do not believe, for a single moment, that anybody, anywhere, knows what that means.

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