The best things that happened in 2014

Freya Sanders 4 January 2015

It’s not easy to keep track of things from inside the bubble. Cambridge students reflecting on the landmark events of 2014 are likely to be able only to dredge up vague memories of Katie Hopkins hating on ‘fat people’ at the Union or a rudimentary understanding of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. But if the positive has passed you by this year, fear not: here are 14 excellent things that happened – in Cambridge and beyond – last year.

1. Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize
Two and a half years ago, the Taliban tried to put a stop to the dauntless work of this Pakistani activist. They failed and, now 17, she has been honoured for that work.

2. Cambridge University agreed to pay its staff the Living Wage
After the tireless efforts of the Living Wage campaign, run by Cambridge Universities Labour Club and CUSU, the University announced in July that all its workers would be paid at least £7.65 an hour.

3. The Women’s Boat Race took place at Henley for the last time
After years of inequality and apathy, Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club announced in March that this year the Women’s Boat Race will take place on the same day, in the same place, as the Men’s. Head to Tideway on 11th April for two lots of nerve-wracking, throat-hoarsening races.

4. The world’s tallest man met the world’s shortest man
On Guiness World Record’s Day in November, Sultan Kösen (8ft 3in) met Chandra Bahadur Dang (1ft 7in) at an event in London. Meanwhile, the record for the most people eating breakfast in bed by 388 folks in Shanghai; and the chorus line at the Moulin Rouge in Paris broke the record for the most simultaneous cancan kicks in 30 seconds.

5. Ed Miliband ate one bacon sandwich…
…and generated one hell of a meme template.

So much meme potential.

6. Landfill waste was successfully turned into airline fuel
A scheme piloted by British Airways showed the conception that landfills are full of useless materials to be rubbish. The project has funded a plant, which will be built in Essex this year, to convert non-recyclable waste that would otherwise be incinerated into aviation grade fuel.

7. Britain won the world Scrabble tournament
For the first time in 21 years, a Briton won at the world Scrabble tournament in November. 33-year-old Craig Beevers, who hails from Guisborough, is only the second Briton to gain the title. He triumphed with the word ‘talaq’, a noun signifying a Muslim form of divorce that gave him 42 points.

8. Stephen Hawking supported the ice bucket challenge
The Caius fellow and Research Director at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology made a video over the Summer expressing support for the social media sensation, which aimed to raise awareness and funds for his condition, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Because Professor Hawking has recently had pneumonia, his children took the hit for him.

9. We discovered that 40million years ago, there were mega penguins the size of humans
Fossils found just off the Antarctic suggest that these ‘mega penguins’ would have measured 6ft 8ins from beak to toe. 

10. Crepeaffaire opened in Cambridge
The sublime bakery can be found on Green Street. On the average visit, all students ought to consume ‘I’ll Have What She’s Having’, the Camembert & Cranberry crêpe and a healthy slice of their overdraft.

11. Jennifer Lawrence said “Anybody who looked at those pictures, you’re perpetuating a sexual offence. You should cower with shame.”
Because she took time to publically retort, some expected Jennifer Lawrence to remain silent in the face of hackers who stole intimate photos of her and other actors. Far from cowering with shame, however, Lawrence brewed a formidable, unapologetic response, exclusively published for Vanity Fair in October, that expressed her disgust towards the objectification of actresses: “People forget that we’re human”. At the end of the year, Lawrence topped the Forbes list of Hollywood’s highest-grossing actors.

12. Taylor Swift gave the media a hearty and well-deserved two-fingered salute
A similarly tenacious young woman, Taylor Swift was also scathing about the media last year: her two singles, ‘Shake it Off’ and ‘Blank Space’ bit back – eloquently and serenely – at the establishments that have labelled her as an airhead or senselessly criticised her relationships for the sake of entertainment. Both songs topped charts worldwide, while Swift’s album, ‘1989’, was the most successful of 2014.

Take that, Daily Mail.

13. A man in Poland dressed up his dog as a spider
Sylwester Wardega and his beloved dog Chica became internet sensations in September with the release of ‘Mutant Giant Spider Dog’. In the video, Chica, dressed as a tarantula, is artfully let loose on unsuspecting members of the public. At the time of writing, it has received 124,344,355 on YouTube.

14. Cambridge win University Challenge
Obviously the highlight of most Cambridge students’ respective 2014’s was our triumph over Oxford in the 43rd series of University Challenge, that most illustrious of quiz shows. The finale, presided over by the forbidding Paxman, saw Trinity College, Cambridge beat Somerville College, Oxford by a margin of 105 points. Further proof that knowledge of obscure trivia is more likely to bring glory than one’s degree; so maybe this year we should think about sticking our heads out the bubble occasionally.

Images: Google, YouTube