28 December 2021:Spain’s bad 6th wave; Desperately seeking truckers and non-farting cows; Celeb awards; & Other stuff.

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable
Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’


Oh, dear. Not a good place to be returning to in early January, where there is “generalized chaos in the streets”. Says El Pais: The perfect storm of Spain’s 6th coronavirus wave: Omicron is spreading at Christmas, with few restrictions in place, and waning immunity. Let’s hope it really is no worse than a bad cold. Or even flu.

Cosas de España/Galiza  

Truckers are in short supply in Spain, as in other EU countries. All the fault of Brexit, of course.

The minister of Health would like Spaniards to eat less meat, possibly because of all that bovine flatulence. I wonder just how minuscule the impact on climate change would be if everyone in Spain became vegan overnight. And, if plants are eventually given the same rights as animals, they might have something to say on the subject.

News of a new high-speed train service. Assuming you live in one of the places already well served. Nowt for the rest of us.

Talking about moving from place to place . . . Does anyone know if the Senate has, in the end, quashed the rule that one can exceed the speed limit by 20kph when overtaking? Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas reported a couple of  weeks ago that this was in the offing.

More recently, Lenox has noted that the animal protection laws proposed by the government’s collation partner – Unidas Podemos have been blocked by the Ministry of Agriculture, as hunting laws and rules are built into the mix. 

I  read a decent article on Pontevedra city which contained this comment: Saint James’ Day (sometimes known as “the festival of the devil”) falls on July 25th and celebrates the battle between good and evil with music, traditional dress, traditional games, a fair and fireworks.”I’ve never heard of that alternative name and,  more to the point, neither have my local Spanish friends. There is, for kids, a Festival of the Devil in the city but it’s at the end of August. María?


Good point? China’s avalanche of shoddy exports is a threat the West can no longer ignore. It’s time for a ‘conscious uncoupling’ from tatty Chinese goods that go straight to landfill.



Finally  . . .

To amuse . . .

Fi sally, finally . . . A treat for you from one of my favourite columnists:- 

Caitlin Moran’s Celebrity Watch Awards 2021: From Tony Blair’s hair to Cher’s social faux pas, Bernie’s mittens to billionaires in space, it’s been a year to remember. Or forget

Look, this is not an awards ceremony, OK? Although you all knew it would be happening — as it does, right here, every year — and we’ve all had a few drinks, and I’m wearing a Santa hat and naked from the waist down, this is not a party.

Although, if it is a party, I am assured that all rules and regulations are being adhered to. And the person who assured me was me, so — no need to worry there. Let’s move on. This matter is now closed.

[Thirty seconds later]

Oh God, you’re still talking about all the “stuff”, aren’t you? All the “allegations” and “facts” and “possible crimes”. I have to say, that’s not the festive spirit! You guys are being jolly negative about someone who is doing their best, which is literally true when you consider what a wide yet also terrible spectrum of lacklustre shit shows you have to compare it with. Well, if you will carry on carping, it looks as though there’s only one thing for it: I’m going to have to crack out the DEAD CAT AWARDS 2021! Er, I mean, the CELEBRITY WATCH AWARDS 2021!

Let’s inject some JOKES ABOUT FAMOUS PEOPLE into the nation’s arms! Let’s GET AWARDS DONE! LET THE GONG-GIVING COMMENCE! Although let it be understood there aren’t any actual awards — just the offer of them. Soz.

It has been a strange year in the world of celebrity. As second, third and fourth waves of Covid have come and gone, we’ve returned to, and then departed from, “normality” half a dozen times or more now. As we approach the second anniversary of Covid sweeping the world, we can observe that, while loads of people have died, Covid has worked out quite well for the famous because: facemasks!

“I can just run around Sephora, & go to Drs, & no one knows who I am!” Cher wrote cheerfully on Instagram at Christmas last year, alongside a picture of her in a pink mask, proving that every cloud has a silver lining; or an expensive pink silk one, as the case may be.

So let’s turn to our first award of 2021 . . .

The Celebrity Who Would, for Various Reasons, Always Be Recognised, Even if They’re Wearing a Mask award

The first nominees are the actors Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Jake Gyllenhaal, all of whom took part in summer’s weirdest celebrity fad: admitting they don’t wash.

 “I don’t wash my body with soap every day,” Kunis revealed in a podcast interview, before revealing she does soap “certain areas”: “holes and soles”.

As her husband, Kutcher, nodded in agreement, he clearly inspired fellow thesp Gyllenhaal to confess his non-regimen to Vanity Fair a week later: “More and more I find bathing to be less necessary. We naturally clean ourselves.”

As anyone who has ever owned a bottom will be able to confirm, this idea that “the body cleans itself” is hogwash — as in you will smell like the wash of a hog if you adhere to it. But at least it means that — mask or not — we will know if we are near Kutcher, Kunis or Gyllenhaal. If we’re standing downwind of them.

However, the award for Celebrity Who Would, for Various Reasons, Always Be Recognised, Even if They’re Wearing a Mask goes to . . . Rod Stewart! This summer the secret of his iconic hairdo was revealed by a former employee and, contrary to what many have long believed, it isn’t that he simply copies the hair of any middle-aged woman called Pam. No.


“[It] was created by putting mayonnaise on his hair and rubbing a towel on his head, really fast,” his former tour manager Elliot Saltzman revealed.

So that’s Kutcher, Kunis, Gyllenhaal AND Stewart you’ll be able to positively identify, even if they’re wearing facemasks: if you can smell the hog or see the Hellmann’s, you know it’s the real deal.

Most Celebrityish Behaviour of 2021 award

Our second award is always a crowded field, and in spring we learnt that Beyoncé and Jay-Z now own “the world’s most expensive car” — a custom-built £20 million Rolls-Royce with “compartments in the rear that house a champagne cooler, a Christofle picnic set, cocktail tables, matching chairs and a full-sized parasol”.

Finished in blue, it tops out at 155mph but doesn’t seem a terribly appropriate vehicle in which to voyage out for the picnic that it has been tooled up to facilitate. As far as I’m aware from my observations, more than 50 per cent of picnics take place in the layby of A-roads on the way to Dorset — meaning the turbulence from passing trucks would knock over that parasol in seconds.

The other 50 per cent of picnics take part in the main public car park of the beach at Woolacombe, and Beyoncé and Jay-Z just aren’t going to want to reverse a £20 million Rolls-Royce into the only parking space available after 9.30am in August — the super-narrow spot between a VW camper full of stoners and the big recycling bins.

In the summer, meanwhile, Chris Martin from Coldplay pulled a classic Celebrity Behaviour Moment — trying to be humble while also being a Total Rock Star. “Last year was quite an eye-opener,” he told BBC Radio 2. “I was, like, who am I without Wembley Stadium saying, ‘You’re awesome’? I’m trying in my life right now not to attach too much to being a pop star. I’m trying not to get my self-worth from external validation.”

As the BBC website went on to note, in a peerless piece of side-eye, “[Martin] was speaking as Coldplay unveiled their new single, Higher Power, on board the International Space Station.”


But the award for the most celebrityish behaviour of 2021 must go to the former tennis star Maria Sharapova, who has launched a variety of businesses. As Hello!informed us: “Her business interests include health, fitness and beauty. Plus, there’s celebrity — in the form of an app called Charly, that lets people message the famous.”

It was the last-mentioned venture that intrigued me. So, something that allows people to be in contact with, and share time with, famous people, called Charly? This sounds so familiar! I’m trying to put my finger on it. I keep wanting to say “toilets in the Nineties” — but I don’t know why.


New Medical Product of the Year 

Several contenders here. In May there was much hilarity when it was announced that the bastion of middle-class propriety, Marks & Spencer customers, can order a Viagra-style sex pill from Ocado. As yet high street retailers have not followed suit with their own product range — a pity, as I would like to live to see Tesco tweak its slogan, appropriately, to “Every little, helped”.

In July, meanwhile, the website IFLScience ran a story that covered a lot of ground in a short space of time: “There is absolutely no good reason to pump stock cubes into your anus,” it read — an unnecessarily censorious stance to take, many felt. Must the nanny state ruin everything?

Reading on, however, we learnt that in the Democratic Republic of Congo “stock injection” is, apparently, a genuine problem: there is a fad for women to inject liquid bouillon into their bottoms in the belief that the salt will make their buttocks bigger. There’s even a hit pop song, Ntaba Ya Bandundu, that chronicles the phenomenon and hands out world-weary advice: “You have already used eight from the ten stock cubes you took from the kitchen,” the song starts. “Use the remaining two to season the beans.”

The medical advice is, of course, not to use stock cubes in this way. Because there is a chance you will fall gravyly ill. Jus say no.

For those who could not, or did not want, access to bum-gravy, another, more accessible, genital fad was available. Scrotox. “Scrotox? Isn’t that one of the baddies on Doctor Who?” you might ask. And, given how many there are, it could still be the case.

However, in this instance, it is a procedure described to Hello! magazine by Lesley Reynolds, co-founder of the Harley Street Skin Clinic, a favourite of the stars, who explained it thus: “It’s where Botox is injected into the scrotum — to make it less wrinkly,” she said, immediately raising a lot of questions. Not least: if men are now pursuing modern injectable technology to “en-youth-enate” their clackers, what kind of feedback are they getting from those who observe the results? Is it the same as when women have it injected into their faces: lots of people staring at it, then saying with a sigh, “I just can’t tell how you’re feeling any more”?

Or, maybe worse: “Wow, it’s really weird: they kind of remind me of Nicole Kidman now.”

Most Cancelled of 2021 award

To a new, but very necessary, award for those who Got Cancelled in 2021. Of course, as anyone who has spent any time on social media will no doubt be aware, cancellation comes to us all in the end. That’s how social media works. Andy Warhol’s infamous rule needs a slight tweak, thus: “In the future, we will all be cancelled for 15 minutes.”

Accordingly there are many, many nominees. The worthy ones included Johnny Depp (found to have been guilty of assaulting his ex-wife Amber Heard), Marilyn Manson (now accused by multiple women of physical and mental abuse) and R Kelly (the R&B star found guilty on multiple counts of “cult-like” behaviour in imprisoning, abusing and gaslighting women).

However, social media being what it is, many of the cancellations were . . . less needful. In the spring the world’s most exciting teenage pop star, Billie Eilish, was cancelled after revealing she didn’t know how expensive cereal is. MailOnline most succinctly conveyed the hoo-ha with the headline “Billie Eilish reveals she paid $35 for CEREAL (but did not realise she had actually bought 70 boxes until later). Eilish: ‘I didn’t know that that’s expensive’.”

Consequently, Eilish was excoriated for being “out of touch”, “disgusting”, “a diva” and “a typical celebrity who is OVER” — leading me to wonder if any of these people actually knew any teenage girls. None of them has any concept of either quantity or measurement for things they purchase online. My teenage daughter bought a chest of drawers on eBay for a “bargain” £10 — only to realise, when it turned up in a Jiffy bag, that it was for a doll’s house. It’s a perfectly normal mistake and, therefore, I CANCEL THIS CANCELLATION.

Another cancelling that needs cancelling came with Cher’s month in Social Media Jail after her tweets about the trial of Derek Chauvin, accused — and eventually convicted — of the murder of George Floyd.

Watching the live, televised trial, a clearly emotional Cher tweeted: “I Know This Is Gonna Sound CRAZY, But . . . I Kept Thinking . . . Maybe If I’d Been There . . . I Could’ve Helped.”

Predictably, an outcry ensued, with Cher being accused of “white saviour complex” and declared as “cancelled”.

But, come on. You’re not telling me that if actual Cher had been there people’s behaviour wouldn’t have altered somewhat? I once watched an entire Starbucks in Crouch End borderline lose its mind when Simon Pegg turned up and ordered a latte, and that was before he was in Mission: Impossible. I’ve walked down Oxford Street with Gok Wan and seen him literally stop traffic. I don’t think it’s outside the realms of possibility to believe that if something as absolutely bizarre as If I Could Turn Back Time hit-maker Cher intervening during an arrest happened, it would have made that day different — humans behave very oddly around celebrities. If Cher is to be accused of anything, then, it should be “celebrity saviour complex” — but that is, of course, a far more nuanced issue than simply cancelling her. Personally I never mind people who are basically saying, “I wish I could have helped.” In an awful world they are not the most awful thing.

And so this cancellation is also CANCELLED. In fact, ALL CANCELLATIONS ARE CANCELLED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. As is this award.

Cor, Billionaires, What Are They Like? award

Another category new for 2021, this award springs from a great need to keep a watchful eye on the behaviours of those people who are so unfathomably, inhumanly rich and powerful that their reality is rapidly becoming as distanced from ours as, well, their multiple spaceships are from Earth.

The question we must ask is: in 2021, whose behaviour was the most addled with godlike amounts of power and cash? In October Max Hodak — Elon Musk’s business partner — took to Twitter to reveal, excitedly: “We could probably build Jurassic Park if we wanted to. Wouldn’t be genetically authentic dinosaurs but [shrug emoji]. Maybe 15 years of breeding + engineering to get a super exotic novel species.”

As you would expect, this tweet was met with undiluted horror. The gist of all the replies was encapsulated by one that read: “There are several movies about why this is a bad idea. For your ease of reference, they are all called Jurassic Park.”

A great deal of 2021 was, of course, taken up by the penis-off — sorry, “space race” — between Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson. In a vibe that is best described as “arks for arseholes”, all three are competing to become the first straight white male billionaires to jet off and leave our burning planet behind. To retool Neil Armstrong’s infamous quote for this new era, these ventures are all “one small step for a man but a giant VIP area for literally just three men, and whoever they’re banging at the time”.

But the winner of the Cor, Billionaires, What Are They Like? award must, inevitably, be Musk, who was also named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. Time nominated him for a series of long and worthy reasons, but my reasoning is simply down to the fact that in August his stint as guest presenter of Saturday Night Live meant his net worth dropped by $20 billion overnight after a single joke he made about cryptocurrency. This is a fact that will, surely, long remain a world record for the Most Expensive Gag Ever Written — eclipsing the $1 million cost of the amusing multi-car pile-up in The Blues Brothers by a long, long chalk.

Most Iconic Image of 2021

If we are to remember 2021 with a single image, what would it be? January provided a strong contender: Bernie Sanders’s Mittens. During Joe Biden’s inauguration, for which the great and good turned up in designer coats, splendid hats and, in the case of Lady Gaga, a bulletproof ballgown, Sanders proved a studied contrast by seemingly coming as Larry David in a classic episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm titled “Larry Wears His ‘Peevish’ Mittens”.

However, this image cannot win, as I think we are all united in believing, due to the unprecedented hecticness of 2021, that Bernie Sanders’s Mittens happened at least five years ago. That it happened in the same year as, say, Kendall’s 40th birthday in Succession seems unfathomable.

Tony Blair’s Lockdown Hair made a strong running. Unveiled in May, during an interview on Newsnight, it prompted a whole country to shout “Prog-rock Gandalf!”, “Doc from Back to the Future!”, “Albert Steptoe!”, “Fagin!”, “Peter Stringfellow!” and “Tony Blair in a terrible wig!”

Iconic in a bad way was a photo that surfaced in January of a gentle manatee, floating in the waters off Florida, on to which someone had carved the word “TRUMP”. Emotionally, this does seem like the single image that most succinctly describes Trump’s impact on the world: everything has to be about him, including the arse of a blameless and presumably apolitical mammal.

But as an incorrigible optimist I cannot give the award to something so dolorous, and so I must turn to another, and more hopeful, arse — and declare that the Most Iconic Image of 2021 is Flare Up the Bum Man.

Oh, Flare Up the Bum Man! How brightly shone your moment of fame! In your arse! During the chaotic celebrations before England’s defeat by Italy in the final of the Euros, Flare Up the Bum Man — aka 25-year-old Charlie Perry — became, briefly, a national hero. Drunk in Leicester Square, and having cheerfully admitted to “banging . . . a load of powder”, Perry expressed his pride in England’s sporting prowess by inserting a lit flare into his anus, surrounded by a cheering crowd. This bold moment with “nature’s candlestick holder” — emblazoned on the front page of every newspaper the next day — was, for many, the highlight of the occasion: the People’s Red Arrows, if you will. A piece of street theatre that evoked “55 years of hurt” in the most physical way possible. It was if someone had said: “Alexa, show me the best idea young English men have had to express happiness.”

Wherever you are, Charlie Perry, I hope you are enjoying your festive break. And that your bottom is healed enough for you to celebrate your winning of this award in your now traditional manner.

Headline of the Year 

This has always taken, as its inspiration, the moment when, legend has it, Ernest Hemingway was challenged to come up with the most powerful story in the shortest number of words, and replied with: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” This category is like that, but more . . . stupid.

Our contenders are as follows:

The Sun’s: “Plumage à trois: Thomas the blind bisexual goose who was stuck in a two-decade-long love triangle with two swans dies aged 40”

New Hampshire Public Radio’s reassuring: “Actually, Trump was NOT wearing his pants backward at a weekend rally”

Metro’s: “Cheeky cow goes for a ride on a water slide after escaping slaughterhouse”

Stereogum’s: “Shakira says nobody helped her when wild boars stole her purse”

IFLScience’s: “A surprising number of sea monster sightings can be explained by whale erections” — something that certainly puts a new slant on Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.

BBC News Northern Ireland’s none-more-Brexity: “Agriculture minister Edwin Poots issues jelly and gravy shortage warning”

But the winner goes to the Daily Mail, with its punchy “Richard Bacon shuts down rumours he snorted cocaine off the Blue Peter tortoises” — primarily for the promise that there is future information to be revealed re: the Blue Peterdogs, Blue Peter cats and, possibly, a couple of presenters.

Stupidest moment of 2021

Sad to say, it wasn’t hard to rack up numerous nominees for this award: 2021 really might have been our stupidest year on record. In August 100 antivaxers attempted to storm the BBC in protest at the broadcaster’s “pro-vaccine propaganda”.

Unfortunately for the protesters the building they attempted to storm was the BBC’s old White City complex, on Wood Lane — which the BBC sold in 2012. In the present day the building mainly consists of executive flats, the west London branch of Soho House and a couple of TV studios that are rented to production companies — which means the protesters were essentially attempting to invade Loose Women, The Graham Norton Show and about 50 freelancers on laptops watching Jack Whitehall play ping-pong with a friend.

Of rival not-thinking-ness was the “healing” solution proposed by Elizabeth Chambers — soon-to-be ex-wife of Armie Hammer, the actor who has, in one of 2021’s darkest stories, been accused by numerous women of an obsession with cannibalism.

Understandably upset by these allegations, Chambers has repeatedly stated her disgust with Hammer, and posted multiple Instagram posts about how she is trying to “move on” from this trauma. Unfortunately, in one of them, Chambers shows herself trying to remove “bad vibes” from their former marital home by engaging in a common “white magic” ritual: burning sage.

“How much sage is too much?” she asked her followers, waving a burning bunch around her head.

Although I am all for Chambers coping with this horrific incident in whatever way gets her through, I would just caution that, if you are dealing with someone accused of being obsessed with cannibalism, making yourself smell of stuffing is perhaps not the safest way to proceed.

However, 2021’s most 101 dumbness came in an interview with Richard Tice — the wealthy Brexiteer who has latterly occupied himself by supporting the amusingly shit political adventures of 2021’s Most Failed Actor, Laurence Fox.

When Fox crashed out of the London mayoral race with just 1 per cent of the vote — losing his deposit in the process — Tice attempted to put a positive spin on the disaster, by claiming this would allow him and Fox to pursue their true interest: opening a pub together.

Asked what the pub would be like, Tice replied: “It will be the home of things you can’t normally do, because the Woke Brigade won’t allow you to do it.”

I have to say, I’ve racked my brains to think of things that pubs aren’t allowed to do, given that I’ve seen the following in pubs: horses; strippers; fights where someone’s ear was severed; karaoke; violent racism; and a man dressed as a wizard selling mistletoe out of a burlap sack on Christmas Eve.

But, when pressed, Tice had an example of how the Fox & Gammon would be different: “You can have your own tankard,” he said proudly.

Yes! That will show the woke brigade! Woke people hate re-usable cups! Good move! You may now pop your “Stupidest Moment of 2021” award on the tankard shelf! Enjoy dusting it!

So, what have we learnt — if anything — in 2021?

● There is a fro-yo shop in California called, admirably, Humphrey Yogart. This was perhaps the only information offered during Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey that didn’t become an instantly politically divisive issue.

● Brian May, of the band Queen, has invented a new “badger-smelling” fragrance. Called Save Me, it apparently smells of earth, “some sandalwood, something a bit limey, and a hint of clean badger fur”. Sadly May did not reveal his badger-cleaning techniques.

● Angelina Jolie owns 125 million bees.

● ITV’s most complained-about moment of 2021 — with 57,000 calls and emails — was Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain claiming he “didn’t believe a word” of Meghan Markle’s claim she had been suicidal. The BBC, meanwhile, received 110,000 complaints over the blanket coverage of the death of Prince Philip. Intriguing stats for a population we are regularly assured is a) instinctively pro-royalty and b) “anti-woke”.

● The former Disney child star Demi Lovato claims there’s such a thing as “California sober”: when you “don’t do hard drugs, or prescription pills any more, but just drink in moderation and smoke weed”. This concept of “regional sobriety” presumably opens up the field for “London sober”: Valium, cava and cocaine; and “Wolverhampton sober”: cider, ket and glue. More regional variations to follow as and when celebrities invent them.

● Rosamund Pike has a ritual, on winning an award: she puts them in some manner of “graveyard of success”. “I bury them in the garden, with a little bit showing up,” she told The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

● It is possible to artificially inseminate a lioness — but it’s a process with “mixed results”. Or, as the RTE News Twitter feed put it: “Wildlife Reserves Singapore have released footage of its first lion cub born from artificial insemination. Simba was born on October 23, 2020. Sadly, the father, Mufasa, did not survive the electro-ejaculation procedure used to extract semen.” Poor Mufasa. One can only hope he “lives” on both through his cub, and the eventual biopic of his life, titled either The Loin Sting, Hakuna My Knackers or The Jerk-Cull of Live.

● However, I would argue that the single most important thing we learnt in 2021 was “the story of Lord Weidenfeld’s eyes”. In September a quote from Hugo Vickers’s Malice in Wonderland made it into The Sunday Times Culture section, which bares multiple re-exposures. Possibly daily. The fact/anecdote is thus: “Lady Caroline Blackwood confides to friends that when Lord Weidenfeld approaches a sexual climax his eyes pop out on stalks, literally, and have to be spooned back in, using olive oil.”

And that, my dear friends, was 2021! I’m so sorry! Let’s hope 2022 is marginally better. Let’s face it — it would be hard for it not to be. Stay safe and remember: if the Metropolitan Police feel there’s a “lack of the evidence” needed to investigate claims of an illegal party at Downing Street — presumably one of the most CCTV-riddled buildings on the planet — you’re probably fine to host that illegal new year’s rave at an abandoned branch of Carpetright in Chingford. The password is “Boris”.

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