Review of 2013: what happened in the news in August



The silly season was in full swing, with the world's most unusual car boot sale, the country where chewing gum is against the law, and the world's most dangerous shoes. But while we amused ourselves with frivolities, more sobering stories gradually emerged.

Debt worries and desperate measures showed that real life was much less amusing.


A debt management firm revealed that debt was keeping their clients up at night. They highlighted Croydon as the UK hotspot for debt worries, followed by Coventry, Northampton and Nottinghamshire. Meanwhile Belfast and Harringay in North London were revealed to have have the highest levels of unsecured debt.


Two similar crimes revealed the level of desperation hitting respectable families. A building society manager from Barnsley was jailed for four years after using her position to steal more than £250,000 from her family and friends. Between 1993 and 2012 she stole regularly to pay off debts run up by her two sons.

Meanwhile, a former Barclays Bank employee was jailed for two years after admitting that she'd stolen from internal accounts to cover payday loans. Over a three-year period, she stole £127,000 to service the loans, which she had taken out to meet gambling debts.

Lack of care

There was bad news for those requiring care. The Advertising Standards Authority criticised the 1,000 GP practices which use expensive 0844 numbers. It said that the 41p-a minute charges - if you're on some mobile tariffs - are misleading callers.

It also emerged that private care home costs had risen 9.3% in the last two years. The average cost of a room in a care home had hit the point of being more than double the average pensioner income - with an annual shortfall of £14,568.

The really silly

However, it was silly season, so there was a decent helping of daftness to take our mind off it. There was a great deal of competition for the silliest story of the season. One hot contender was NASA's virtual car boot sale. It announced it was having a sale of all sorts of bits and pieces which have clearly been lying around. From boxes of ring binders, to three 4,100 ton Shuttle launch platforms.

Then there was the revelation of Britain's most dangerous shoes. A survey revealed that 27% of drivers have been caught in a flip flop-related incident. The main problem is that because the shoes are not firmly attached, they increase braking times. There's also the risk that they may fall off and get stuck behind the pedals - 11% of people said this had happened to them.

But the winner of the season's silliest must be UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom, who this month claimed that billions of UK aid cash is used to buy Ray-Ban sunglasses, apartments in Paris, and Ferraris by corrupt officials in "Bongo Bongo" land.

Silly property

Then we had the daft property stories. These included the British fan who bought a flamboyant Las Vegas mansion once owned by Liberace - for $500,000. It went on the market earlier this summer, after being repossessed.

Then there was the couple who spent £450,000 turning a run-down cinema in Thorne, South Yorkshire, into an impressive family home. They initially planned to knock the building down, but planners insisted they keep the facade.

And there was the former garage in Highgate, north London, which appeared to have had the most minimal of makeovers before going on the market as a £250,000 studio flat.

Holiday craziness

The Foreign Office took the title for silliest holiday story, with its list of unusual laws to watch for overseas. These include a law forbidding feeding pigeons in Venice, outlawing the wearing of a bikini away from the beach in Barcelona, and chewing gum on public transport in Singapore.

A close second was Scoot Airlines, the budget arm of Singapore Airlines, which offered passengers the chance to pay S$18 (£9) to be upgraded to a 41-seat "ScootinSilence" cabin that is guaranteed to be free of children under the age of 12.

Holiday irritations

And aside from the holiday madness, there was time for a spot of holiday misery too. Pontins was rapped by the Advertising Standards Agency for promoting self-catering chalets, which had no oven or sink - and essentially just consisted of a toaster, a microwave and a fridge in a bedroom.

Meanwhile Ryanair apologised for refusing a refund to the family of 78-year-old Beryl Parsons, who died four months before her planned flight to the Canary Islands (apparently she died too long before her flight to qualify for her money back). After the news hit the headlines, the airline backed down.