Saturday, 2 April 2011

Who's laughing now?

Where I grew up in the north of England, we were loosely aware of an autumnal occasion called Mischief Night. No-one seemed to know exactly when it fell in the calendar, what it was supposed to represent, or what the rules of engagement were. All we did know, was that it was kind of a Trick or Treat thing, but one that rarely ended with a plastic pumpkin full of sweets.

As a consequence, it became a way of legitimising random acts of light vandalism. We weren't terrorising the community, we were simply acknowledging our cultural heritage. Whatever that meant. None of our pranks weren't funny or inspired, but for one evening of the year we felt compelled to go through the motions. 

I feel the same way about April Fool's Day. There's nothing amusing about giving people with a bad sense of humour licence to wind you up for a few hours. And the news media are the worst culprits of all. Reading the Metro yesterday, I found myself flicking through the pages to see what ridiculous bullshit would pass for a great April Fool's joke. Maybe I'm just becoming more cynical, but I actually struggled to work out which was supposed to be the gag article.

Sure, there was a dubious story about unicorn bones found at the Tower of London, plus a piece about plans to produce an edible edition of the paper. But the most ridiculous item of all, concerned Nicolas Sarkozy's £10,000 Kevlar umbrella, designed to protect him from assassins' bullets, as well as any bricks dropped by the disgruntled inhabitants of high-rise housing. Problem is, that last story was genuine.

Suddenly, you're reviewing every news item with a forced sense of incredulity. At one point, I even found myself rolling my eyes at the Chief Executive of who'd posted pictures of himself shooting an elephant in Zimbabwe. Turns out, that one was true as well.

When you rely on news sources to feed your blog content, you need to know that you're working with reliable information, rather than lame attempts at seasonal japery. So when I saw an article yesterday about some curious new footwear commissioned by Betfair to celebrate 100 years of the National Hunt festival, I was certain I'd found another stupid example of April Fool's filler. But no - this was originally reported a couple of weeks ago, meaning that someone really did think that people want to be seen at the races looking like the front end of a centaur. 

For £1,300 (which all goes to charity) you too can clop around the Cheltenham racecourse in a pair of high-heeled hooves. And guys - no need for you to feel left out, as they're a unisex design. OK, so you might look like you should be communing with unicorns in the Forbidden Forest, but at least they're better than UGGs. April Fool's day may only come once every twelve months, but stupidity is a year-round phenomenon.

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