This being April Fools’ Day I decided to scan the Sundays for stories with a whiff of a spoof about them.
I was immediately drawn to the front page of The Sunday Times and the headline “Government to snoop on all emails”.
The intro sounded like a classic wind-up. “The Government is to expand its powers to monitor email exchanges and website visits of every person in Britain.
“Under plans expected to be announced in the Queen’s Speech next month, Internet companies will be told to install thousands of pieces of hardware to allow GCHQ, the Government’s eavesdropping centre, to scrutinise on demand every phone call, text message and email sent and website accessed in real time.”
The report continued with a quote from a senior industry official who described the plan as “mass surveillance”.
There is nothing in the article which openly suggests it is bogus, except for the fact that it is a totally mad idea which, if genuine, would put UK civil liberties on a par with those in North Korea.
I hope it’s a joke but with this ham-fisted Government you just never know.
The Sunday Express is a bit less subtle with their offering: “Chef makes right move for lefties...”
I’m not sure what purpose is fulfilled by the dots, but the byline says it all. The story is written by Ralf Polio and explains how “A cook school has caved in to demand by becoming the first in Europe to offer dedicated classes for left-handed people.
“Managers have purchased a range of new equipment for the new classes, including left-handed peelers, whisks, spoons and graters.”
The Sunday Express appears to be short of genuine news stories this week because in the same page there is another hoax.
“Now Grouse ousted by new goose” describes the launch today of a new whisky which celebrates the arrival of a migrant bird from Canada.
“Its smooth taste comes from a blend of fine malt whiskies including The McGonagall and Highland Snark. The Scotch will become the sister product to The Famous Grouse which is made in Perthshire and was first produced in 1897.
“A spokesman for the firm said: ‘We’re sure it will become another one of Scotland’s favourite whiskies, if only for a day’.”
I’ll drink to that.
The Mail on Sunday also joins in the fun with a piece written by Jock Storrie about Members of the Scottish Parliament being forced to wear tartan trousers in an independent Scotland.
Celebrity kilt maker Mae Dupp said: “This is a fabulous idea.”
Predictably the Opposition reacted with fury and a senior civil servant added: “I love wearing my suits to work and it is great on dress-down Fridays to be able to discard my tie, but there’s no way on God’s Earth I will put on tartan trousers to go to my office.”
The Independent on Sunday has a fascinating spread entitled “From spoof to truth” which describes the April Fool’s (sic) hoaxes that came to pass.
It lists ten made up stories which eventually came true. The pick of the bunch is Strip Poker which reveals that in 2006 Irish bookie Paddy Power announced he would be holding the world’s biggest strip poker contest. It generated so much interest, hundreds requested to take part, the Dublin based company decided to organise a real naked contest with 200 contestants just four months later.
The best thought-out April Fools’ story of the day, though, is found in The Sunday Post and is about Oor Wullie, Scotland’s most endearing and enduring comic character.
Readers are informed: “Today marks a groundbreaking moment in the history of The Sunday Post—here’s Oor Wullie in 3D!
“But there’s no need for special glasses thanks to state-of-the-art printing technology originally pioneered for the space industry.
“But you’ll have to be quick. Due to the sensitive nature of the special ink that has been used to create the image the 3D effect will only last until noon today.
“Our presses in Dundee have been specially modified under the supervision of Professor Vladamir Uvbinad of the Russian Federal Space Agency.”
The article goes on to explain the science was pioneered to assist cosmonauts regain perception when entering the earth’s atmosphere.
It advises the reader to put their left hand around their head and cover the right eye. “This is crucial,” says the paper, “as it stimulates the creative lobes situated in the right side of the brain which is also in charge of perception.”
Further advice urges readers to recruit a pal and get outdoors for best results.
Professor Uvbinad added: “When I first engineered this technology I never imagined it would feature such a famous comic strip character.
“We actually have a crew due back from a six month mission to the international space station just before noon today. I’ll be making sure the first thing they do is look at this picture of Oor Wullie to realign their brains!”
Well, if that doesn’t work nothing will.
The story was written by Euan Duguid and my special prize of a bottle of The Famous Goose is now heading his way!
COLIN GRANT worked as a journalist for more than 30 years and now runs Spectrum PR, a Glasgow-based media consultancy.