Hit & Run: Pranks for the memories

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The Independent Online

In the age of fake Facebook and Twitter profiles for everyone from Malcolm Tucker to Cheryl Cole ("Ah man look at this pickcha a Ladee Gawgaw! Shiz lost it man!") has April Fools' Day lost it's caché? If everyone is in on the joke, has the fool finally lost its fun?

In its favour, April Fools' Day has been duping gullible types for centuries. According to wheeze-cataloguing website Museum of Hoaxes, the origins of April Fools' Day are still a mystery, though the most popular theory states it originated in a change to the French calendar in 1564. That was when the beginning of the Gallic year was changed from the end of March to the beginning of January. Slow-coaches who didn't keep up were the victims of practical jokes. A popular gag was having a paper fish stuck to your back (we're guessing you had to be there, but that's quite sweet, isn't it?). The practice became forever attached to 1 April – what the French still call Poission d'Avril.

Since then April Fools' Day has trod a fine line between satire and warm-hearted rib-tickling. In 1957 the BBC reported that Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop, prompting a slew of inquiries from members of the public asking how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. In 1997 Taco Bell announced it had bought that Philadelphia-based symbol of the US Revolutionary War, the Liberty Bell (much forehead-slapping ensued). The April 1998 issue of the somewhat specialist-interest journal New Mexicans for Science and Reason contained an article claiming that the state of Alabama had changed the value of pi from 3.14 to 3.0 (one for the maths fans, then). There's also plenty of British newspaper tomfoolery. In 1981 the Daily Mail described a Japanese long-distance runner who had entered the London Marathon but had misheard the instructions and thought he had to run for 26 days, not 26 miles. And what about the rumours that Fabio Capello employed Uri Geller to offer him medical advice? There's nowt so queer as folk!

Even if an April Fool can turn around and bite you on the bum – no one believed it when it was reported that Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his father on 1 April 1984 – at least most of those partaking eventually come clean. You won't get that with a fake profile of Stephen Fry's sister.

So long live April Fools'. In that spirit, we've made one of the above examples up. It's an April Fool about an April Fool – how cutting edge is that? (If you didn't spot it, see right for the fake Fool.) Social network imposters come and go. May practical jokers, side-splitters and jolly japesters dominate this day for centuries more to come.

Rob Sharp

Why Saturday school can be a snooze

Shadow Education Minister Michael Gove this week proposed that, under a Conservative government, state schools should open on Saturday mornings, giving disadvantaged children extra educational benefits currently available to a minority.

Between the ages of seven and 18, I went to a independent schools where I was made to attend lessons on Saturday morning. Which means that I enjoyed approximately six months more education than many of my contemporaries. Though "enjoyed" may be the wrong word: while I was learning the French conditional tense, or toiling over Henry IV (Parts One and Two), or typing "5338008" on my unnecessarily complex graphic calculator, I could have been smoking, playing kiss chase and five-a-side football – neither with much success – or poking frogspawn with a stick.

I might also have got more sleep; Saturday school started at the lie-in-unfriendly hour of 8.45am. Studies suggest that sleeping late is a biological necessity for teenagers, who run the risk of depression if they have less than nine hours sleep. That said, one of my teachers was just as disdainful of Saturday school as her pupils, so we invariably spent double History (11.20am-12.40pm) watching her box-set of The World at War – which gave us a great opportunity to catch 40 winks.

Tim Walker

Blair: on-message, off-key

What a slick performance from Blair, back in the UK to rouse the troops for his old mate Gordon. Or, as he probably now says, his "ole buddee". For the ex-PM now not only to tans just like a southern Californian, and diets like an Upper-East Side New Yorker (he's taken to heart that adage about never being too rich or too thin). Blair, born in Edinburgh, now sounds like a Midwestern executive who spent some time in Sydney and never got over the jet lag. "It's a wunnerful pleasure," he drawled to Labour Party members on Tuesday in Sedgefield, weirdly inflecting his voice upwards, questioningly, just like a teen who's been watching too much Neighbours? He then overcompensated with a Dick Van Dyck flourish: "To be back 'ere in the Labour club..." Not since Steve McLaren's hurdey-gurdey tinged interview with Dutch TV in 2008, or Mick Jagger's Deep South (via Dartford, Kent) twang, has an English native sounded so bizarre. And he gets paid for this?

Susie Rushton