HOW did you spend Sunday April 1 this year? Did you apply for Google’s latest mobile mail app, ‘Gmail tap multitasking’ – particularly useful, we’re told, for people “with fat fingers” – which replaces the Qwerty keyboard with just two keys: a dot and a dash.
Or order a bottle of Eau de Arsene cologne?
Or book a trip to the centre of the Earth with Richard Branson’s new travel company, Virgin Volcanic?
For decades April Fools’ Day has given everyone a great excuse to have a bit of fun.
Or, I should say, for centuries – one of the first references to springtime hoaxes is in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, when a vain cock is tricked by a fox in the Nun’s Tale.
In more modern times, perhaps most memorable is the BBC’s classic 1957 Swiss Spaghetti Harvest story.
The three-minute report resulted in hundreds of calls from viewers wanting to buy spaghetti bushes.
Then in 1986 there were some fake job advertisements connected to the abolition of the GLC, which had disappeared on 31 March at midnight.
Some rather bizarre requirements were listed as desirable, including an ability to write “in mumbo-jumbo”.
And how about the world’s oldest camera having been found in China’s Outer Focus Mountains?
Or a Scottish council’s plan to build a huge river bridge constructed entirely from glass over a beauty spot so it would be invisible?
Those past decades must have been the last days of innocence.
What was stated in the papers was generally taken to be gospel. Nobody was looking for the spoof article. Truth, after all, was sacred.
In subsequent years, readers have become too canny to be taken in easily, and front-page spoofs are often all too blindingly obvious.
Although this year’s had the advantage that the latest news is almost too bizarre to accept as genuine.
Take the real, political hot-potato stories which read more like April Fools’ jokes.
Like, for instance, George Galloway’s ‘Bradford Spring’ by-election victory.
Or the British government’s plans to snoop on the internet. With real stories like these, who needs Virgin Volcanic?
Nora Johnson’s novels, Soul Stealer & The De Clerambault Code (www.nora-johnson.com) available from Amazon in paperback/ eBook (€0.89; £0.77) and iBookstore. Profits to Cudeca