It was reported in The Independent yesterday that out of respect for the Queen Mother very few newspapers had run April Fool jokes this year. (Did the Queen Mother disapprove of April Fool jokes, then? I had no idea.) This was a pity, because if the April Fool joke survives at all, it survives only in newspapers and the media. We like to kid ourselves that we are a nation with a sense of humour and that one way of demonstrating this is to play idiotic practical jokes on each other before midday on 1 April, but I can't remember the last time I was witness to an April Fool joke in the flesh. If it wasn't for the presence of them in the press, I would half believe they had vanished altogether. And now, because of the Queen Mother, they have vanished from the press as well.
Or have they? I am not so sure.
I would like to point to Exhibit A, a current copy of the Radio Times. I would like to turn to pages 134-135, which list all the BBC radio programmes for 1 April, April Fool's Day, 2002.
I would draw the jury's attention to the listing for Late Junction, the eclectic Radio 3 programme which nightly presents interesting if fragile examples of world music, jazz, roots music, folk music etc etc. A week ago, for example, they offered "Garifuna music from Belize, part of John McLaughlin's 'Apocalypse' and 16th-century tunes played on multi-tracked orpharions and citterns by Dante Ferrara". Garifuna? Orpharions? Yes, if you could make one criticism of this varied programme, it is that it does tend to be precious and arch.
On Monday their menu read as follows. "Verity Sharp covers the seminal work of Bucks Fizz, and explores the legacy of Eighties composers Stock, Aitken and Waterman. Plus part of the Ursonate sound poem by dadaist Kurt Schwitters, Frank Zappa playing the bazouki and Mongolian ethno-jazz from Borte."
Now, although it tends to be arch and precious, it seldom gets as arch and precious as that, and when you find a Radio 3 programme talking about "the seminal work of Bucks Fizz", you know that someone somewhere is pulling somebody's leg. I fancy that Late Junction decided to pull its own leg with this billing, and put it out as a joke. (I don't think the misspelling of "bouzouki" as "bazouki" is part of the joke; sub-editing on the Radio Times is very hit and miss these days.)
The trouble is that once you start inspecting radio billings for April Fool content, you start to see possibilities everywhere.
"Margaret Metcalf grew up believing that the father she'd never known was a war hero. But in a painful journey into history, she uncovers the real truth of how he betrayed his family and his country, and became the only British officer to fight for the Nazis."
That was listed at 8pm on Radio 4, and my little antennae started waving at the possibility of a hoax. It also followed a comedy drama offering called "Just Plain Gardening, by Jyll Bradley with Jonquil Panting", and however long I stare at the names Jyll Bradley and Jonquil Panting I can't convice myself that either of them is real. One of the actresses is listed, implausibly, as Julie Desmondhalgh. There's an actor involved called Carl Prekopp... Hmm... If this wasn't all on 1 April I'd be prepared to believe them.
Then my eye flits across to the lunchtime recital on Radio 3, given by a solo cellist called Pieter Wispelwey, and I wonder what are the odds against a cellist, or indeed anyone, being called Wispelwey. Then my eye wanders to Night Waves, where "Richard Coles talks to Tom Paulin about 'The Invasion Handbook', the first instalment of his new poem about the Second World War, which opens with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles and charts the origins of the war through the collapse of the Weimar republic and Hitler's rise to power", and I find myself wondering what the odds are of even such a lugubrious figure as Tom Paulin sitting down to recreate the Second World War and the two decades previous to it.
But then my eye wanders to the radio listings for today, Wednesday 3 April, and I see that Gardener's Question Time comes from Gibraltar and I think, No, that must be a joke, and then I think, No, it can't be a joke, because it's 3 April, and then I think, Maybe there are joke programmes every day and I just hadn't noticed.
Except, of course, when someone royal dies, and there aren't any radio programmes at all.
Or was that a BBC joke of some kind?Reuse content