In Hoon can we trust any longer?

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The Independent Online

One of the commonest delusions we suffer from is that we keep up with the news. The fact is that almost all the news bypasses almost all of us.

Don't believe me? Then it's clearly time for another of our little tests!

Here's how it works. I shall offer you four stories from the last week's news coverage, one of which is made up by me. What you have to do is spot it. Ready? Here we go then!

1) Geoff Hoon has proudly taken the credit for a life which was saved during the last Gulf War. And he claims the life was saved precisely because the supply of equipment was so badly organised.

Sergeant Robert Cahoot - the man whose life was saved - readily bears this out.

"I was on manoeuvres two months ago not far from Baghdad when orders came through that I was to take off my body armour and hand it to a colleague who was about to go into one of the worst trouble spots. So I took off my body armour and went to give it to him, 30 yards away. As I was handing it over, a grenade thrown by a dissident landed just where I had been a minute earlier and went off!

"If we had had enough equipment, and we had all had body armour, I would have been hit by the grenade and killed. I can only thank the MoD for being so inefficient. And Mr Hoon, of course."

2) The voting on the recent series of "I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!" did not go quite as was reported on TV. After the fourth round, viewers were so fed up with the chirpy Geordie antics of Ant and Dec that more voted for them to be thrown out than any of the celebs. This voting was discounted, and the information suppressed by the TV company, as it would have put them in a bad light.

3) The elderly Earl of Strathgowrie, who has no children, was due to be succeeded when he dies by his nearest of kin, his nephew, the Hon Angus Telfer. Angus emigrated to Australia many years ago and his death was reported from there about four years ago. Cause of death was, it seems, a fatal accident on a golf course.

However, it now turns out that Angus - who had an aversion to inheriting the title or the extensive house and death duties of the earl - had faked his death to escape the inheritance. Not only did he not want the responsibility, he didn't want anyone in Australia to know his noble background, so he took a new name and moved to Perth. But an acquaintance of Angus' from Sydney recognised the "dead" man on a visit to Perth.

Lawyers are still trying to make out if it is illegal to fake your own death if there is no profit motive involved. The elderly earl has no comment to make, as he has been senile for years and has no idea what is going on.

4) A man has been arrested for carrying an empty litter bin on a London Tube train.

Sidney Redlane has been accused of taking the bin to Paddington in order to facilitate an explosion. Ever since litter bins have been banned from certain major London rail termini, in case terrorists left bombs in them, it has been almost impossible to get rid of litter or indeed to conceal a bomb. Redlane agrees that he was taking the bin to Paddington, but says he runs a small stall on the concourse selling fudge and is so appalled by the litter, which he believes drives customers away, that he was taking his own waste paper basket to work. Police, who are instructed to halt all suspicious movement of litter bins on public transport, are working on the theory that the fudge stall may have been set up as a terrorist front.

Well? Did you spot that the story about the fudge stall at Paddington was a load of hooey ? Well done!

Of course, the others were all fabricated as well. But that's modern journalism for you. Honestly, who can you trust these days?