This year, in the tabloids...
It must be true… the best tabloid stories of 2013
A MAN who has been late for everything from work to first dates and even funerals was diagnosed with a medical condition - chronic lateness. Jim Dunbar, 57, says he finds it impossible to gauge how long even the simplest things will take. Recently, he allowed 11 hours to get to the cinema and still missed the start of the film. He was diagnosed during an appointment at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee - for which he was 20 minutes late.
The merchant navy has come up with a secret weapon in the fight against Somali pirates: Britney Spears. According to officer Rachel Owens, who works on a super-tanker off the east coast of Africa, the pirates can't bear Western pop music, and scatter at the first strains of Spears's hits Oops!... I Did It Again and Baby One More Time, blasted through giant speakers. "It's so effective, the ship's security rarely need to resort to firing guns," she said.
Indian sentries spent six months monitoring "Chinese spy zones" violating Indian air space, before discovering that the lights in the sky were actually planets. Border troops carefully documented 329 sightings of unidentified objects between August 2012 and February this year, which violated the Line of Actual Control 155 times. But when astrophysicists examined the charts, they pointed out that the "drones" were Venus and Jupiter.
An American football team turned down the final request of a lifelong fan. Scott Entsminger, who died earlier this year at his home in Cleveland, Ohio, had "respectfully" asked that six members of the Cleveland Browns act as pallbearers at his funeral - so that "the Browns can let me down one last time". The Browns declined, but said they'd present the family with a team jersey instead.
A householder tried to get out of paying for his TV licence by claiming that he only used the light from the set as a lamp for reading. Another said he hadn't bothered to get a licence because he had stolen his TV.
Wealthy Americans have found a cunning way of jumping the queues at Disney World: they simply hire a disabled person to act as their "tour concierge". For $130 an hour, the "concierges" pose as a family member, using their disability privileges to get the whole group straight onto rides. "This is how the 1% does Disney," said one member of Manhattan's financial elite.
Witches in Swaziland were warned this spring not to fly their broomsticks more than 150 metres above the ground. Magic broomsticks are covered by a ban on heavier-than-air transportation devices flying into the country's airspace without authorisation. "A witch on a broomstick should not fly above the limit," said a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority.
A British tourist complained after being offered a dish of "cervical cancer" at a restaurant in Poland. Owen Durray, 32, was perusing the menu at Bee Jay's in Poznan when he found this unappetising-sounding item: "cervical cancer served on a beetroot carpaccio". The chef later explained that it was meant to say "crayfish", and added: "We will be having a word with our translator."
A prisoner who'd smuggled a mobile phone into a jail in Sri Lanka, and hid it by stuffing it up his bottom, was rumbled when the device began to ring. The 58-year-old, serving ten years for theft, had to be taken to hospital in Colombo to have the phone extracted.
A Chinese man who arranged a secret assignation with a woman he'd met online ended up coming face-to-face with his own daughter-in-law. Both had used false names and photos when setting up their accounts. To make matters worse, the woman's husband had grown suspicious and followed her to the hotel in question. "When I opened the door to my room, I don't know who was more surprised, her or me," said the man. "She immediately turned around and ran off down the hallway, straight into her husband, my son. He attacked her, and then he attacked me."
A Newport woman revealed that she'd developed a useful disorder that makes her do housework in her sleep. Claire Bartlett, 50, sleepwalks around the house, dusting, washing dishes and even cleaning windows. "I think it's every housewife's dream," she said. "I don't feel tired afterwards. If anything I'm relieved when I wake up and find everything is done. I've even started leaving out the dirty dishes, hoping my subconscious self will clear them away and do the washing up for me."
A publican's novel take on a scarecrow caused a stir when a passerby mistook it for a real person, and called the police to warn them that a man was being abducted by moles. Sam Harrison, 60, from Banbury in Oxfordshire, had created his scarecrow (pictured) for a local competition.
A Chinese zoo was forced to apologise for trying to pass off a dog as a lion. Visitors to the People's Park in Henan Province complaied when the "African Lion" started to bark. Zoo staff confessed that they had caged a Tibetan mastiff because they couldn't afford the real thing. Elsewhere, visitors found a mongrel in the timber wolf's cage, and two giant seacucumbers in the reptile house, which keepers had claimed were snakes.
China's state-owned newspaper, the People's Daily, got an imposing new HQ this year - a 500ft skyscraper shaped like a penis. The building was still under construction when the jokes began - and it became so intense that censors had to step in. The search terms "People's Daily" and "Building" were blocked on Weibo, the equivalent of Twitter, so users began resorting to double entendres, noting that the "organ" of the state had "risen up."
Dog-lovers in Argentina paid hundreds of dollars for fashionable toy poodles - only to discover that their pets were fluffed up ferrets on steroids. One pensioner bought two of the creatures from a market in Buenos Aires, but when he took them off to the vets to have their jabs, he was told that they weren't dogs, but what are locally known as "Brazilian rats". The ferrets had been given steroids to make them bigger, and had had their fur blow-dried and re-styled. ·