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Unusually rewarding: Under-the-radar accolades

Images representing the awards Image copyright Getty Images

As the old year draws to a close and the new one beckons, it is a time for reflection and assessment. Best-of-the-year awards are doled out - think Sports Personality of the Year, Song of the Year, Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

But there are others which tend to go under the radar. Lewis Hamilton, famous for driving round circuits very fast, is well-known. Zenny Smith - UK Toilet Attendant of the Year - is less so.

Here we pay tribute to the men and women who have been awarded some of the more unusual annual accolades.


Born to be mild: Dull Men of the Year

Image copyright Neil Brittlebank and Kevin Beresford

Neil Brittlebank and Kevin Beresford have the dubious honour of being two of the dullest men of the year - as awarded by the Dull Men's Club.

Mr Beresford, from Redditch in Worcestershire, produces books and calendars about roundabouts, while Mr Brittlebank, from East Ardsley in Yorkshire, collects bricks.

Do they think they are dull? Their opinions differ.

Mr Beresford has embraced the epithet. "I don't mind being called dull. Women like dull men. They know I'm not going to run off with [pop star] Lady Gaga.

"Maybe my wife found me a bit too dull though. Sorry - I mean ex-wife. We went on holiday to Spain and all I did was look at roundabouts."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lady Gaga - unlikely to be impressed by milk bottles and postboxes?

Mr Brittlebank, however, said neither he nor his wife consider their pastime dull.

"I say we are an ordinary couple with an interesting hobby. Admittedly we don't get out as much as we did, so we have had to scale down the collecting a bit.

"Now we like people to bring us bricks. Although it has been reported we have thousands, we don't. We have about 300."

But Mr Brittlebank bemoaned the fact bricks are becoming "less interesting".

He said: "What you get now is a lump of hard clay with holes in. Nothing as interesting as having the manufacturer's name on."

Mr Beresford has exciting plans for the future, he said.

"Next year I plan to branch out and do books of postboxes and milk bottles."


Can you dig it? Gravedigger of the Year

Image copyright Karen Harvey

Jonny Yaxley, a cheery man from Didcot in Oxfordshire, holds the coveted title of Gravedigger of the Year, awarded by the Good Funeral guide.

There's more to his gravedigging than simply producing a hole in the ground, he said.

"It's about attention to detail. I make sure the hole is perfectly rectangular. After the machines have done the basic hole, I get in there with a chisel and make sure everything is straight.

"Then I put a few wheelbarrows' worth of leaves at the bottom, which softens the impression of it just being a damp cold hole in the ground."

Was gravedigging a long-held ambition?

"No, I wasn't keen at first but I like it now. It's the last thing you ever get to do for someone. It's where they are forever, so it has to be done properly to show someone cares".

The prize? A little statue of Anubis, a jackal-headed god associated with mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion.

"Last year, winners got a miniature coffin but the statue is much better," said Mr Yaxley.

"Putting Anubis on your mantelpiece is great, but having a coffin hanging there would be a bit strange.

"People tend to steer clear if you have a coffin dangling from your shelf."


Bog standard: Toilet Attendant of the Year

Image copyright Loo of the Year Awards

Zenny Smith, from Orton Malborne in Peterborough, is the proud holder of the title UK Toilet Attendant of the Year, conferred on her by the British Toilet Association.

The Loo of the Year Awards, which started in 1987, "help focus the spotlight on 'away from home' toilets throughout the UK".

Ms Smith, who is the attendant at the Northminster Public Conveniences, attached to Peterborough City Market, said: "I'm very excited every day to clean the toilets for visitors."

The prize? A large trophy and a certificate, as well as the immeasurable reward of personal satisfaction.

The 56-year-old began the job in 2008 and said: "I enjoy my work, doing the best job I can and making people happy.

"I'm very happy to win and surprised as well. I keep looking at the trophy.

"I'm always cleaning, every part of the bathroom. I enjoy all parts of my job, even when it's cold."


Sheds heaven: Shed of the Year

Image copyright Joel Bird

Joel Bird's shed, in north London, has an allotment on the roof - which Mr Bird said "provides me with a way of life".

Usually wearing a leather hat, he gardens, cooks and has even had the occasional bath on top of his shed, overlooked by blocks of flats.

He said: "Last year I grew a really decent crop including potatoes, courgettes, leeks, beetroot, onions, carrots, corn, broad beans, peas, mange tout, garlic, asparagus, tomatoes, rhubarb and strawberries, as well as a herb garden.

"I have a little cooker up there and I often relax and make myself a warm veg sandwich.

"It's a little mini countryside which keeps me sane in a city."


Basket case: Coffin Supplier of the Year

Image copyright Roger Fowle

Roger Fowle, from Fowlmere, in Hertfordshire, said he had seen an increase in trade since he won the Eternal Slumber award for coffin-supplier of the year.

Not only does he provide bespoke coffins, he holds workshops so people can make their own.

In some cases, literally their own.

"I had a woman in her fifties come to weave her coffin. She was fit and healthy but wanted to make coffins for herself and her husband. They were going to be kept in her attic".

Mr Fowle encourages people to use personal belongings to make their casket special.

"Friends and family of one of the deceased used two garden hoes as locking bars, a bird net from the garden rolled and woven in the handles of the coffin, sheep's wool, trouser braces woven into the lid and a spanner and a bicycle chain."

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