The truth will out, even in the small print

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The Independent Online
How well do you think you follow the news? I mean, outside the big headlines ? Oh yes, we all know that Chris Evans has left the BBC even if we have no idea who Chris Evans is, and we know that everyone except the media is bored with the coming election already, but how well do you know the small but significant stories in the news?

All right. Here's a test. Simply read the following news stories purportedly garnered in the last seven days and say which ones you think are false and which ones are true. Here's a clue. Only one story is true.

1. Bath City Council has ordered a resident, Malcolm Hines, to take down and rebuild his new house, because the style is wrong. He had it designed in neo-Georgian style to fit in with Bath's classic Georgian facades, which suited the city fine. They have no quarrel over the look of the house. Where Bath and Mr Hines parted company was over the standard of building. Mr Hines had his house built to the best modern specifications. Bath City Council points out that in Georgian times almost everything was hastily constructed, jerry-built and skimped, and that those elegant facades concealed a multitude of sins. To achieve true authenticity, therefore, a new Georgian building should be badly built. Mr Hines's is not. Therefore he has been ordered to rebuild it badly.

2. A man who was arrested in Tetbury on a charge of "stalking" the Prince of Wales has been released without being charged. He admitted that he was in the habit of following close behind the Prince, but claimed that this was justified on the grounds that he was Charles's official private detective. Gloucestershire police are said to be "embarrassed".

3. You have just missed your chance to buy drugs in your McDonald's hamburger. It has been discovered that marijuana was being added to some hamburgers in a McDonald's in Connecticut. A window-worker catering for the drive- through trade had been adding marijuana to Happy Meals for children. He is under arrest, and children in Connecticut are now being deprived by McDonald's of free marijuana.

4. The reason that Germany's bid for the World Cup in AD 2006 has been favoured is that all three leaders of the main British political parties agreed in private to urge the international football body not to consider England's bid. Most politicians would rather die than risk having the World Cup here, with all the attendant expense, violence, mess, civil unrest and media overkill. "Look what happened to Atlanta after the Olympics!" they say. As nobody knows what happened to Atlanta after the Olympics, this is puzzling; but perhaps this means that nobody now wants to go to Atlanta. But did anyone want to go to Atlanta before the Olympics either?

5. A man in New York is suing Andrew Lloyd Webber for $12,000,060. This is on the grounds that he went to see the Lloyd Webber musical Cats and fell asleep during the first number, not waking up until the end of the show. During the time he was asleep he had the most distressing nightmares in which he dreamt that he had not, after all, been abused as a child by his parents but had had a really happy childhood. As he is currently suing his parents for $12m for childhood abuse, this has caused him undue suffering, as he may now have to withdraw the case. None of this would have happened (he claims) either if Lloyd Webber's music had been good enough to keep him awake or if a member of the cast had come and woken him up by inviting him to a bit of audience participation, as he had been led to expect. He is claiming $12m for the emotional distress and $60 for the price of the ticket.

6. A trainee conjuror in Wolverhampton needed an audience to practise with, so he put some coloured balloons on the gate outside his house. Over 20 boys and girls turned up that day in party dress, thinking that there was a party going on, even though they had not been invited. They admit that they had a good time and that the conjuring was good but they are now suing the trainee magician for not giving them going home presents. He is counter-suing them for gate-crashing.

Right. There were the six stories. Have you made your mind up which was the true one?

Well done! The true story was the McDonald's marijuana story, which appeared in the International Herald Tribune on 30 January. I am sorry they sacked the man, personally. Giving away free marijuana was the first nice thing I had heard about McDonald's in ages.