Editor's comment April 2014
PUBLISHED: 15:27 02 April 2014 | UPDATED: 15:28 02 April 2014
Cotswold Life's editor Mike Lowe looks back at some particularly memorable April Fool hoaxes - and announces a new columnist who has played his fair share of pranks upon the unsuspecting public
I have always been a fan of April Fool hoaxes – well good ones, at least. I was too young to remember the famous (infamous?) Panorama programme that introduced a naïve British public to the spaghetti trees of southern Switzerland in 1957. The BBC was inundated by inquiries the following day as a nation only accustomed to tins of Heinz asked how to grow their own pasta. The Beeb advised them to stick a strand of spaghetti in a pool of tomato sauce and wait. I do wonder how many of the estimated eight million people who watched the programme gave it a go.
I do remember the classic Guardian hoax of April 1, 1977 – a seven-page supplement celebrating the existence of the fictional Indian Ocean island of Sans Serriffe and its sister atoll, Bodoni. So beautifully detailed was the prank that many readers wrote in remembering happy holidays on the islands while other, more worldly, correspondents wrote on behalf of the Sans Serriffe Liberation Front complaining about the pro-government slant of the supplement. (It should be remembered that home computers and desktop publishing did not exist in those innocent days so the names of fonts weren’t part of our everyday vocabulary.)
The reason I mention these hoaxes is that it is entirely appropriate that April is the month in which we introduce our new columnist, Mr Dom Joly, a consummate prankster in his own right. Although he probably won’t thank me for mentioning it, his Trigger Happy TV series at the start of the millennium was utterly sublime and redefined forever the notion of hidden camera shows. The soundtrack was pretty special as well. We first interviewed Dom back in 2008 when he lived in Quenington. He was clearly in love with the Cotswolds then, and still is today. I hope you enjoy his contributions.
If I were to nominate my own April Fool this year, I may have to be as ungallant as to mention Martin Horwood, the MP for Cheltenham, who has decided that he cannot back the proposed A417 loop that would alleviate the problems at Nettleton Bottom and improve the Air Balloon roundabout and the descent into Brockworth. Mr Horwood is concerned about the impact on a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. (The only relevant SSSI to be found on the internet is a small quarry at Birdlip. No cuddly animals involved, just some vaguely interesting rocks.)
Well frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. This ridiculous piece of road is a major link between the Midlands and the M4, carrying over 33,000 vehicles a day instead of the 18,000 planned for. More to the point, there have been almost 350 casualties and more than 30 fatalities on that road in the past 15 years. Something must be done, and if that means despoiling a tiny, tiny fraction of the 790 square miles that comprises the AONB, then so be it.
It might be good to be green, but sometimes it’s even better to be sensible, particuarly where people’s lives are concerned.
This article by Mike Lowe is from the April 2014 issue of Cotswold Life
For more from Mike, follow him on Twitter: @cotslifeeditor