Published: 05:00, 26 December 2021
| Updated: 10:11, 26 December 2021
Oh, what a year.
If at points 2021 felt like the 1993 movie classic Groundhog Day had crashed head on into the 1998 cinematic spectacle Armageddon we're here to assure you this was not the case and this real-life blockbuster is still rolling... we think.
Scroll down for the readers' choice award poll
How do we know this? Well, for a start, not even Quentin Tarantino could dream up half of the following tales.
You join us to celebrate the weird and frankly baffling stories to emerge blinking into the daylight in the past 12 months.
The kind of stories to be relentlessly hunted down by the below-the-line KentOnline commenters.
People calling themselves things like BigKeith and Rochester&Crude would take aim at them as they made their first tentative steps into the county's traffic-choked, Brexit-drenched news landscape.
Then they'd open fire with 'How is this news?!' and 'Slow news day?!' and 'Who?!', attempting to gun down these humorous tidbits of current affairs.
But there's very definitely a place for stories like that and this is very definitely the place to celebrate them.
So, without further ado, welcome to the inaugural Weird and Baffling News Awards (WABNAs).
The Nigel Farage award for celebrity moment of the year
What better way to start than by honouring a celebrity?
Kent is home to many A to Z listers and some of them sometimes get into scrapes.
Sometimes the celebrities aren't even from Kent and sometimes they're not even from this side of the Atlantic.
An honourable mention in this category goes to Tiger King Joe Exotic's animal-print-loving, allegedly mariticidal nemesis Carole Baskin.
The US-based sanctuary owner took aim at Smarden-based The Big Cat Sanctuary following the birth of an extremely rare jaguar cub in May.
Somewhat ironically The Big Cat Sanctuary previously had to deny any links with Carole's Big Cat Rescue after an online onslaught.
But back on Kent's shores for the big prize and there was one household name whose prolific mishaps in 2021 elevated him well above the competition.
KentOnline is delighted to present this year's Nigel Farage award for celebrity moment of the year to... Nigel Farage!
The mustard chino-clad Brexit talisman emerged from a faded red phone box in March to announce he had signed up to online celebrity messaging site Cameo.
For £67.50 – later upped to £75 due to demand – he'd record a personalised message for you and your loved ones.
But the Westerham dad-of-four was pranked again and again.
A month after launching his Cameo career he was tricked into wishing Hugh Janus a happy birthday then twice in October he was fooled into sending messages with hidden IRA meanings.
First he shouted "up the RA" to "the lads" and days later he yelled "tiocfaidh ar la", which is a phrase used by the IRA and means "our day will come".
While Nigel, 57, is no longer taking bookings on Cameo he's still available on rival site 'Thrillz' for £74 where he declares: "Outside of London, I get treated as a hero and never have to buy a drink. In London, I need full-time security!"
The Dartford Crossing motoring story of the year
"Spectacular", "terrible" and with a two-star TripAdvisor rating the Dartford Crossing celebrated its 30th birthday this year.
So to honour Kent's most despised piece of infrastructure we've named an award after it. You're welcome National Highways.
Perhaps the most appropriate recipient is Justin Scrutton.
Sick of waiting in queues at the bridge and on the M25 the chauffeur paid £250 for the number plate M25 FKD.
But deserved as it may be he's been pipped... by a bollard.
To be specific an anti-terror bollard in Canterbury.
While it may not have snared any terrorists yet it's effectiveness cannot be denied.
Drivers attempting to tailgate others through the city's defence system were hoisted into the air time and time again.
Officers were taunted by onlookers after their patrol car became lodged on the retractable road block.
Dumbest criminal of the year
'You're going home with a suspended jail term!'
It's unclear if that was ever chanted at Sam Turner from the Priestfield terraces.
But that's exactly what happened.
The 47-year-old broke into Gillingham's stadium three times in December 2020 and January this year.
Clad in club stash the dad-of-two made off with historic ledgers, booze and even a safe containing a £45,000 ring.
Turner's crimes unravelled when police followed drag marks around the corner to his front door.
In an outcome blasted as "farcical" by chairman Paul Scally, Turner was handed a suspended two-year jail term in May.
An honourable mention goes to the man who failed a road side drugs test after his car, sporting a cannabis-themed bumper sticker, was stopped.
Phallic story of the year
Will there be a phallic story of the year category in a year's time? Will the WABNAs ever return? Will humanity survive that long?
All good questions but for the next 12 months you can relax in the knowledge that there was stiff competition in 2021.
Up until just a few weeks ago Canterbury council could have staked a claim to a second WABNA.
The authority ruled these fun-shaped planters should be given the snip after they were exploited by 'drunken louts'.
But the aforementioned pranksters were pipped at the last minute by a fellow joker from 15 miles down the A28.
Ashford mum Michelle Riley was bemused to find one of her dust caps had been replaced by a small, screw-on plastic penis.
"Annoyingly they took my original dust cap so now I have to go get another one... but to anyone who happens to be looking for a dust cap that looks like a willy, I've got one going for free," she said.
Most unfortunate coincidence of the year
Not since Manchester's ISIS Cafe had to change its name has a business suffered such misfortune.
Omicron Repro's owners made the most of the situation, though, dressing in HAZMAT suits for a photo opportunity under their sign.
Best animal story
Remember when people were fighting in petrol station queues and filling up plastic bags with diesel?
No, it wasn't three decades ago, it was three months ago.
Now all we've got to remember it is 30p more a litre and a lingering sense of shame.
We may have lost the plot but at least the animal kingdom kept its cool.
As Tesco's famous motto doesn't quite go 'Every nibble helps' and nowhere was that more accurate than a petrol station in Sheerness in Autumn 2021.
Rats gnawed through cables and jammed the prices, making it the cheapest forecourt in the land for a time.
With boards advertising petrol at 134.9p a litre and diesel at 136.9p, bosses decided the only option was to honour the rates for customers.
A very honourable mention here goes to the previously-lost-in-transit box of 250 individually test-tubed ants, some of which had miraculously survived their eight-month imprisonment by the time it was opened.
Council blunder of the year
When animal sanctuary Happy Pants' founder Amey James received an outcome to the charity's request to stay on their site in Bobbing she would have been understandably nervous.
But Swale council's refusal and reasons would have ramifications not just for the ranch.
"You're proposal is whack" read the response.
Luckily, the council managed to contact Amey before she had come across the decision.
“Obviously the comments are quite laughable, but if I had gone on there before I saw the email about the error I think I would have had a heart attack – I would have been properly panicking; the future of the ranch depends on this decision," she said.
Amey wasn't the only one.
An application to bulldoze a pub in Sheerness was given the go ahead, with the note “why am I doing this, am I the chosen one?”
Terry Rowse butchers’ request to turn into a takeaway was met with "no" and "just don't".
And the partial demolition of another pub in Sittingbourne was also approved with the words “incy, wincy, spider”.
The blunder was the result of a junior member of staff being unwittingly let loose on the planning portal while testing the system with decisions intended to remain unpublished.
Outstandingly bad contribution to the environment
In the end, it was a one horse race.
Tomatoes bursting out of sewage on the Costa del Kent? Surely it's a scene from some straight-to-DVD gore-fest.
But no, thanks to the outstanding work of a few employees at Southern Water this dystopian vision became a reality in 2021.
The horticultural horror show was the result of 21 BILLION litres of effluent being deliberately unleashed into the county's waters.
Up to 10,000 contaminated oysters are believed to have entered the food chain, dogs became violently ill after swimming, ships were damaged and one home was almost flooded during repeat spills.
In an unexpected turn conservationist Nik Mitchell went to Pegwell Bay and found hundreds of tomatoes growing out of seeds in human excrement.
Outstanding contribution to local news
Eccentric, driven, meticulous.
Three qualities embodied by the recipient of this award.
Plenty of people deserved to be celebrated in Kent this year but none were pushing the boundaries of possibility quite as much as him.
Over six years he used his weekly trips to Sainsbury's, Walters Yard, for research.
Parking in every one of the supermarket's 211 eligible bays he then ranked each space as either 'Avoid', 'Useful' or 'God tier'.
Sharing his detailed spreadsheet and diagrams on Twitter in a thread that was liked tens of thousands of times showed this was hugely important work.
Bromley dad-of-two Gareth Wild not only benefited the local news landscape but his community.
The readers' choice award
And finally, for the most important award of the year:
Happy New Year and may 2022 bring us plenty more of the above!