Miles Kington: Harry Potter has a great deal to answer for

Anyone who was at one of those old-school schools will remember that they were bleak, cruel places
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The Independent Online

Yes, it's time to test you on your knowledge of the news again! Every day lots of stories appear in the papers about man's idiocy and short-sightedness - but that's enough about the Bush administration. Today I am simply going to bring you four recent stories and tell you that one of them is genuine, in the sense that it was printed in the papers, and the other three are concocted in our secret laboratory where all week long we manufacture fake news stories and try to get them into The Guardian.

Yes, it's time to test you on your knowledge of the news again! Every day lots of stories appear in the papers about man's idiocy and short-sightedness - but that's enough about the Bush administration. Today I am simply going to bring you four recent stories and tell you that one of them is genuine, in the sense that it was printed in the papers, and the other three are concocted in our secret laboratory where all week long we manufacture fake news stories and try to get them into The Guardian.

Can you spot which is the genuine one? You have 24 hours to decide, starting now.

1. The existence has been revealed of a boarding school which teaches only subjects made popular in recent films. St Osbert's, in Hertfordshire, was founded less than 10 years ago, at the start of the Harry Potter craze, to satisfy a new demand to send boys away to boarding school.

"From nowhere," says the headmaster, Stephen Fry, no relation, "there came this enormous nostalgia for the old days of prep schools and dormitories and prefects and house competitions and heaven knows what. Now, anyone who was at one of those old-school schools will remember that they were generally bleak and cruel places, but most people didn't know that and had a image of summer afternoons and the crack of cricket ball on willow, and rooks in the elm trees, so I capitalised on this by buying a failing country house hotel and opening a new boarding school.

"We specialised in Latin, for which there was a passing appetite, but over the years we have added all the other subjects recently made popular by Hollywood. Ballet, after Billy Elliot. Marine history, after Titanic. The geography of New Zealand, after The Lord of the Rings..."

2. Mr Wu, a Chinaman who was going on an internal flight in China, decided to take his much loved tortoise with him. As it was forbidden to take livestock on the plane, he decided to strap it to his back, inside his clothes, and bend over as if he was a hunchback. But as he went through customs a security guard became suspicious, and Mr Wu was arrested for the illegal transport of animals which might be useful in a plane hijacking.

3. It has become fashionable for artists to recreate a whole house and call it an installation, but unexpected trouble has overtaken one such house. It has been occupied by squatters. This is the building created by artist Philip Hengist for a Manchester arts festival, in which, using information gleaned from all the interiors painted by Vincent van Gogh, he attempted to produce the "Van Gogh House".

Critics greeted it as the ultimate Van Gogh experience. So, unfortunately, did a homeless family who moved in one night and have taken up residence. As it seems impossible to get rid of them, Mr Hengist is trying to persuade them to dress up in period Dutch peasant costume and become "the Van Gogh family". So far they have not acceded to his request.

4. Police in south London were puzzled to discover that there seemed to be more speed bumps, or sleeping policemen, in Garstang Road than there had been before.

PC Bob Milton, who often drives down the road, knows subconsciously just how many there are, and became aware that there seemed to be one more than usual. The police investigated and found that an extra speed bump had been added to the sequence.

"If you looked closely," he said, "you could see that it was slightly different from the others - rougher, not so well built. So we had it dug up, and we found that it contained a dead body. Someone had gone to the extraordinary lengths of disposing of a corpse after a murder by putting it in a new speed bump. It might well have gone undetected for years."

Police are appealing for anyone who may have seen people mixing and laying concrete at night in Garstang Road.

Well? Did you have a funny feeling that Mr Wu and his tortoise were too good to be untrue?

Damn! You got it in one! Next time I'll make it harder!

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