Every year, thousands of news stories get overlooked, lost in the welter of major international events.
They are, for the most part, simple tales of a human dimension, not involving war, disaster or political unrest, just stories which illustrate the extraordinary in the everyday, the amusing, the absurd, the often lurid and the downright bizarre.
Here, then, is a selection of some of those “offbeat” stories which offered an insight into human nature in 2004:
ZHENGZHOU, China: A Chinese couple raised their only child for 13 years in the belief it was a girl, until a visit to the local hospital alerted them to the fact that he was really a boy with underdeveloped sexual organs. They did not realize anything was wrong until they were baffled by a “reaction in the lower half of his body” whenever he watched pretty women on TV. Doctors concluded he was suffering from a rare disease causing sexual organs to be somewhat hidden from view and performed a successful three-hour operation to correct the problem.
RATCHABURI, Thailand: A group of Thai Buddhist monks were arrested and defrocked after holding a spate of rowdy drug and alcohol parties. Villagers complained about their wild behaviour and drug-taking at the local temple. Five of the saffron-robed monks tested positive for amphetamine pills and a sixth was blind drunk.
COSENZA, Italy: A driverless railway engine thundered nearly 200 kilometres (120 miles) through southern Italy at 80 kilometres (50 miles) an hour before staff managed to derail it. The driver had set the locomotive in motion, leaned out to see if the line ahead was clear, then slipped and fell from his cabin. Another railway worker tried to jump aboard and stop it but failed and the train gathered speed until it was finally switched to a track with a long incline and it smashed through buffers at a disused station before finally coming to a halt.
ZAGREB: A South African who fell in love with a Croatian beauty he has never even spoken to, travelled halfway round the world in search of the woman of his dreams. Keith van der Spuy saw the woman only twice, on a boat and in a nightclub, while on holiday in the former Yugoslav republic but could not get her out of his head and returned to Croatia weeks later, with two diamonds in his pocket, to track down the haunting blonde — but, sadly, to no avail.
JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities seized a consignment of 80,000 cans of dog food disguised as gourmet goose liver pate. The Bulgarian product was originally marked as “Chicken for dogs” but was relabelled “Domestic birds’ liver pate” and “Pate de foie gras”. The importer had also forged a kosher certificate to fulfill the requirements of Jewish dietary law.
LONDON: An aide to Britain’s royal family lost his job after attempting to sell one of Queen Elizabeth’s traditional Christmas puddings on Internet auction site eBay. Ben Church, a 25-year-old office administrator, was sacked and marched out of Buckingham Palace after he tried to sell the pudding for 20 pounds (39 dollars, 29 euros). An unnamed colleague told the Daily Mirror: “It’s really mean and petty to sack him so close to Christmas, all for the sake of a pudding.”
SEOUL: Three South Korean dogmeat lovers face a 70,000-dollar lawsuit after cooking and eating their employer’s pedigree dog. The men, employees at a car-hire firm, killed and served up the expensve Jindo dog in the traditional Korean soup dish, Boshintang, while their boss was away.