April Fool’s Day and the art of war

BY lunch time today I will have killed someone.

I hope it’s the little sod next door. I remember last year when he stood at the gate and told me there was as a cat widdling on the lettuces. I rushed round to the back yard wielding an axe to discover the lettuces were unblemished and the world was at peace.

Back at the gate the lad from next door was wetting himself with delight as he gasped, “April fool, April fool.”

I should have hit him then. With the axe.

It’s come round again, in case you hadn’t noticed. And in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s today.

My dictionary defines an April fool as “one who is sportively imposed upon.” This quaint, Dickensian definition fails to recognise that “sportively” is a relative term.

At my high school, where we hated the principal, Mr Grant, we painted weedkiller on the oval in letters a metre high so when he looked down from his third floor office he could read “Eff off Grantie”.

Oh it was very sportive.

When I was six my sister and I manoeuvred pillows above doors and my father dutifully walked through and allowed himself to be felled. By the age of 12 we were using books and at 16 it was trip wires at the top of the stairs. By then he was spending April Fool’s Day in a state of terminal anxiety.

It’s bound to happen. It’s in the nature of human kind that it needs to increase the dose to achieve the same result. It doesn’t matter whether it’s medicine, drugs or fun.

The little ratbag next door is probably planning something a lot more diabolical than an imaginary cat. A taipan in the letter box would not surprise me. It won’t be very many years before I’ll be checking that the brake pipes on the car are still connected before I use it.

The trouble is the whole thing has become a bit of a yawn. I have an encyclopaedia that suggests an April Fool’s Day jape is in the genre of telling a colleague there is someone standing behind him when there isn’t (how droll!).

We’ve moved on a bit since then. Every newspaper in the land feels April first offers the perfect opportunity to publish news reports that responsible journalism prevents them inventing during the rest of the year. Like plans to demolish Castle Hill and use the spoil to pave Cleveland Bay (apparently the Yanks did toy with the idea during the war – and not on April 1, either, which won’t surprise anybody).

And our kids no longer go into paroxysms of laughter over a plastic dog turd on the table. They’re more likely to find a real one, and put it a paper bag on your doorstep, where they’ll set light to the bag before they ring the bell and run.

If you stamp out the flames with your foot you’ll make their day.

I know a teacher who now opens all doors with the help of a plastic bag ever since super glue added a new and exquisite malice to an old gag.

And another who won’t use the lavatory on April Fool’s Day without first dropping something in it – ever since the time someone stretched Glad Wrap over the bowl.

But two can play these games. When next door’s odious little prodigy comes smirking round with some childlike prank up his snotty sleeve I’m going to tell him I’ve wired the gate to the mains power – and I have!