Sunday, 5 April 2015

My April Fool Mea Culpa

My 2015 April Fool prank on Jon and Matt (delivered jointly with the help of one of our parliamentary candidates) along with Iain Dales recollection of his 2010 story about local Returning Officers going on strike in protest at having to count votes during the night time, resulted in me reminiscing (with a degree of guilt) about some of my earlier pranks - and a sudden desire to "fess up". 

My first confession (and apology) is to friends in Southampton - even though my prank was deserved retribution. It was the mid 1990s and I had arranged a dinner date with someone I had been wooing for a long time. Not wanting my "friends" to gatecrash and ruin my chances, I had maintained absolute secrecy and even booked a restaurant many miles away in Winchester, where I wouldn't be "stumbled upon". Unbeknown to me, however, someone had heard me on the phone and let slip the venue. When we arrived at 8pm the restaurant was almost empty, even though it was a Saturday night. Then, to my horror, over the next 30 minutes almost every table around me was taken by groups of two and four, until I was completely surrounded by 'friends' from home - who spent the evening reminding me loudly of previous indiscretions and recounting embarrassing drunken tales. I waited 8 months for my revenge, but it came in the form of over 30 early morning phone calls to my friends house, all of which had been in response to posters on lampposts and shop windows advertising a "house clearance sale" along with instructions to "phone early for an appointment to view what's on offer". Apparently the householders were "emigrating imminently to New Zealand" and selling off the entire contents of their home. No offer refused, though the buyer must collect. Bargain hunters should "phone from 6am on Sunday for an appointment to view later that day".

My second confession is to the wonderful ladies who ran the Conservative Ladies' Committee in Wallasey. The mid 1980s were a gentler and less suspicious age - and before the advent of desk top publishing printed matter was taken at face value. A letter therefore on what looked like 10 Downing Street notepaper, complete with a Westminster postmark, would almost certainly be believed, which probably (and thankfully) wouldn't be the case now.  The letter in question was from the "Senior Correspondence Clerk" and was to inform the Ladies' Committee that the Prime Minister had personally asked the Party Chairman, John Gummer MP, to visit their weekly coffee morning to thank them for their recent efforts on behalf of the Party.

As the weeks passed there was no mention of the letter or any VIP visit and I assumed that the 1 April date on the letter had been spotted and the matter consigned to the dustbin. That was until the day concerned. My Mother, who was a regular attender at these events, told me later that day that when she arrived all the Ladies were wearing their best dresses and all had had their hair done specially. The table (upon which was normally placed a plate of slightly stale biscuits) was groaning with freshly made cream scones and home-made cakes. The old green crockery had been replaced with fine bone china cups and saucers, lent by various members and supporters. As the minutes ticked by every sound of a car door slamming was greeted by the Officers jumping to attention and waiting by the door in a receiving line, only to look crestfallen when another regular member walked-in. Finally, at midday the Chairman announced, "Ladies, I am sorry - we were expecting a special guest but it appears he has not been able to come. Please start on the food." At this point a dog-eared letter was produced and passed-around for all to see.  The date the letter was written and soon spotted and announced, much to the merriment of many (who were not all fans of the somewhat aloof and grandiose Chairman). 

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