Sunday, December 29, 2019

LOOK BACK AND WONDER—News Stories of 2019 (Part 1)

Zoë Sharp

As this is my last MurderIsEverywhere blog of 2019, it seemed only right to look back at just a few of the oddball news stories that have caught my eye this year.


In January, it was announced that by the time the average child in the UK reaches the age of ten, they have eaten eighteen years’ worth of sugar. As part of the pre-Brexit preparations, the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, awarded a £13.8m contract for additional ferries to a start-up company that didn’t actually own any ships and had never operated such a service before.

A yacht called Wild Eyes, which was abandoned in the middle of the Indian Ocean in 2010 by teenager Abby Sunderland, who was attempting a round-the-world voyage, was spotted floating upside-down near the Australian coast after eight and a half years adrift. A beach in Ireland disappeared overnight. Two teenage Indian girls posed as boys for four years in order to keep their father’s barber’s shop going when he became too ill to work. They were honoured by the Indian government. The British intelligence service, MI5, was named among the best LGBT-inclusive employers by the equality charity, Stonewall.

Wild Eyes, floating off the Australian coast


The largest collection of protective symbols to ward off evil were found in a small cave in the East Midlands at Creswell Crags. Researchers discovered that the stripes on a zebra deter flies from landing on it. They experimented by dressing horses up in striped rugs. Numbers of Scottish Terriers—the most famous incarnation of which is possibly the piece in Monopoly—have fallen to an all-time low. Susan Rennie published a dictionary of author Roald Dahl’s most inventive expletives.

A Scottie dog


The rape prosecution rate in England and Wales fell to a five-year low. Scientists from the University of Stirling claim that plastic ‘nurdles’ washed up on Scottish beaches carry dangerous sewage pathogens, raising concerns that cholera could be carried this way from India to the USA. A ten-year-old girl, Sky Brown, is set to compete for Team GB at the 2020 summer Olympics in Skateboarding. Sky, born in Japan, will be twelve by the start of the games. She has been skateboarding since she was four. Climate change is melting glaciers to reveal the bodies of climbers who died attempting Mount Everest. NASA had to cancel a planned all-female spacewalk because they didn’t have enough spacesuits in the right size. And courts in the UK have been seeking translation services for teenage slang used in texts so they can be used in court.

Sky Brown, courtesy Bruce Adams, Daily Mail


A study showed that cats can actually recognise their names when you call them. They may still ignore you, however. Scientists have discovered that electrical brain impulses can temporarily improve memory capacity of older people. Half of the UK is owned by less than 1% of the population. The iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burns. A white beluga whale wearing a harness spotted by Norwegian fishermen was thought to be a Russian special ops experiment. An impaired sense of smell in later life is thought to be an early sign of dementia.

Russian-trained (allegedly) white beluga whale


Scrabble allowed the use of the word ‘OK’ as well as others such as ‘fleek’ and ‘bingeable’. Therapy dogs were introduced at Aberdeen Airport to help relieve travellers’ stress. An Anglo-Saxon burial chamber discovered in Southend-on-Sea yielded a host of treasures. A copy of DH Lawrence’s LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER used by a judge at the book’s 1960 obscenity trial, with the naughty bits carefully marked up, which was sold at auction to a foreign buyer, was prevented from leaving the UK.

Parts of an Anglo-Saxon drinking bottle and cup

Technology billionaire, Robert Smith, pledged to pay off the student debt of the entire 2019 graduating class at his alma mater, Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA, at an estimated cost of $40m. An app called Digi Police allows commuters being groped on Japanese trains to ask for help silently. And fantasy writerTerry Pratchett predicted the rise of fake news back in 1995, according to his biographer, Marc Burrows.


walrus tusk chessman bought for £5 in 1964 turned out to be one of the Lewis chessmen and was valued at up to £1m. Japanese women submitted a #KuToo petition against being forced to wear high heels in the workplace. Detection rates in England and Wales fell by 28% after number of detectives dropped by more than 600 in nine years, study revealed.

Walrus-tusk Lewis chessman

Spanish statue that had been botch-restored was given the proper ageing restoration process. Record TV audiences watched England compete in the Women’s World Cup quarter-finals. And a certain Mr Boris Johnson promised that the UK would leave the EU on October 31, “do or die”. Hmm…

Statue of St George in Navarre, before, after, and after the after

The second half of the year next time. What have been your favourite quirky news stories of the past year?

This week’s Word of the Week is apotropaic, meaning supposedly having the power to avert evil influences, misfortune, or bad luck. From the Greek apo, meaning away, and tropos, to turn.


  1. Thank you, Zoë, for a true treasure trove bibliography of our wild and zany soon to pass year. Serendipitously it gave me a bushel basket of interesting ideas for what to do over the weekend. Happy New Year, our love! Mr. & Mrs. S.

    1. Thanks, Jeff. Glad you enjoyed it. And congratulations again... although what's preventing you from becoming Mr Z rather than Barbara becoming Mrs S...? :)

    2. She doesn't wish to soil her family escutcheon. :)