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Review of 2001 Monday, 24 December, 2001, 09:43 GMT
2001: The silly stories
Square melons
The fruits of another pioneering 12 months in Japan's greenhouses
As the New Year looms, BBC News Online looks back at some of the lighter stories to make the headlines.

One of the most amusing came when a group of Australians launched an impromptu mission to recover 1,000 cases of beer spilled in a New South Wales river.

The ale arrived in its watery resting place after a road accident. Some of the beer was recovered, but the rumour quickly spread that much of it was free bounty.

Owner of the nearby Hillcrest guesthouse Clive Parker told the BBC that police had tried to stop people helping themselves, but had been overwhelmed by the sheer determination of the locals, some of whom hired scuba gear to go into the river and retrieve the prized bottles.

"If you put up a sign saying free beer a lot of people will come running," he said. "I'm sure people have been lending each other their flippers and things."

Pigs might fly

Staying down under, another notable Aussie achievement saw the laying to rest of two long-held myths surrounding pigs.

Miss Piggy
Miss Piggy caught in mid-flight
Miss Piggy the piglet entertained the crowds at the Royal Queensland Show in Brisbane with her amazing high-diving act, proving conclusively that pigs can fly as well as swim.

Another of the year's glittering achievements was undoubtedly the 'return' of the pioneering square melon, unveiled once more in Japan.

Farmers solved the age-old problem of how to produce a cubic fruit more than 20 years ago by growing the melons in appropriately shaped glass containers, but the latest batch came out of greenhouses in June in a blaze of publicity.

Researchers at Leicester University discovered that playing songs such as Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water, and popular 1950s standard Moon River to cows succeeded in relieving tension - and boosting milk yields.

Water beds in the cow shed
In December, American scientists went one stage further devising the first bovine waterbed.

"Everybody is trying to pamper their cows these days because anything that makes a cow more comfortable increases her happiness and productivity," said New York State farmer John Marshman, who has provided most of his herd with a bed.

But humans - this time in Sweden - were not left out. Stress-busting 'laughing instructors' were introduced on underground trains.

Annette Ullskog, a spokeswoman for the operating company, Connex Tunnelbanan, explained that their passengers really needed a good giggle.

"A laughing instructor is a person that tries to make you laugh by laughing themselves," she said. "When you hear other people laughing, you can feel that you are starting to giggle by yourself."

Olav on the up

Some Norwegians were left wondering what the impact on national security would be following the promotion of a certain Major Nils Olaf.

In August he became the army's first honourable regimental sergeant major.

Nils Olav the penguin
Nils Olav gets his gong

And the fact that he is a penguin, living at Edinburgh zoo in Scotland, does not seem to have hampered his career in the slightest.

Norway has sponsored a penguin at the zoo since the 1970s, and the current incumbent of the prestigious title received due reward for his promotion with an extra ration of fresh fish.

Gobbler gobbled

Such VIP treatment was not, however, extended to a rare turkey discovered on a remote Indonesian island off the coast of New Guinea.

Scientists greeted the discovery of the Bruijns Brush Turkey with great excitement, as the elusive beast had not been seen since 1938, and was presumed extinct.

Their delight turned to dismay when it emerged that hunters who had made the find had eaten the evidence.

Rub of the green

There was better fortune for an Irish man who became the accidental recipient of 300,000 Euros.

Euro notes
Mr Hickey joined the single currency rather sooner than expected

David Hickey from Dublin went to his bank to buy IR£1,500 of Spanish pesetas before traveling abroad.

But instead of 300,000 pesetas Mr Hickey was credited with 300,000 Euros - a considerable windfall.

As the money was paid into a foreign account, a loophole in the law meant that the cash could not be recovered without Mr Hickey's consent, which he was reluctant to give.

"They probably will catch up with me in the end, but this will take a year and a half maybe to sort out, so while that's happening maybe I'll make a bit of interest on it," he said.

Cheeky forgery

Another questionable banking incident happened in the United States, where a cheeky female forger succeeded in passing off a dollar bill with a difference.

She saw the two zeros after it and thought [it was] a hundred

Mike Tracy, shop owner

An unidentified woman made off with $197 change after paying for an ice cream with a ficticious $200 bill bearing the face of President George W Bush.

Because the note was not a copy of an actual US banknote, authorities could not bring any counterfeit charges, but could press a claim of theft by deception.

The ice cream shop owner told the BBC that he was treating the incident as a learning experience, and would not sack his employee.

Toilet festival

The WTO's global conference in Singapore hit the headlines in November.

World Toilet Organisation summit poster
The other, equally vital WTO

However, this was not the high-brow World Trade Organisation, but the less well known but perhaps equally vital World Toilet Organisation.

Master-of-ceremonies Jack Sim, who is also president of the Restroom Association of Singapore, told the BBC he was looking to raise the profile of what he described as an "essential service that has been taboo for a long time".

One of the conference's key findings to which it recommended urgent attention was a major discrepancy between the size of mens and women's toilets.

Links to more Review of 2001 stories are at the foot of the page.

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Links to more Review of 2001 stories

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