1 April 2012 – April Fools’ Day
Traditionally the day of the year when people play pranks on other people. Usually your friends but there have been instances where pranks have been played on people through newspapers or radio that have got completely out of hand.
The origin of April Fool’s day or All Fools Day is very is uncertain but it is generally accepted to have started around 1582 in France when the reform of the calendar under which Charles IX changed and the Gregorian Calendar was .introduced with New Year’s Day being moved from March 25 – April 1 (New Year’s week) to January 1.
Probably the most memorable radio prank was in 1938 (not strictly an. April Fool’s Hoax as it was in October, but the effect was the same). Orson Wells, a budding director at the time, who was to acquire fame as an actor (in Citizen Kane) had an idea for a radio production that he believed would strike fear in the homes nationwide in the USA.
In order to publicise his production of the adaptation of HG Wells’, War of the Worlds, he started an hour-long programme by creating a series of news bulletins describing a Martian invasion as it was supposedly happening. When a fictional reporter broke the news that astronomers were monitoring strange activity on Mars, chaos prevailed, bulletins rushed in from around the country reporting Martian sightings. The Secretary of the Interior in Washington, DC, urged people to stay calm, even as the Martians were allegedly destroying cities .In the final stage of the invasion, tripods descended upon New York City. “wading the Hudson like a man through a brook”. Thick poisonous gas suffocated New Yorkers, and the signals cut in and out to .indicate destruction.
After the broadcast an announcement came that the plot was the stuff of fiction. Wells intentionally withheld this reminder from the middle section of the show, so that anyone tuning in. .after the introduction, had no idea of the hoax. For a short period, chaos reigned. Even today it is said that Orson Welles caused the greatest prank in the history of the radio.
What might also have been considered an. April Fool’s hoax was the government’s announcement today that they were adding VAT to freshly baked food. This would catch most of the junk food suppliers and as all the details had not been disclosed, there was speculation verging on the absurd. For example, if you are in a bakery who have just produced a tray of hot doughnuts from the oven., if you chose to buy one at that stage you will pay VAT on it. However, if you waited until they had cooled down and were on display, presumably they would be Vat free. Unfortunately, this is not a hoax but as I have not seen a full report on this proposal I cannot really comment further.
The other matter which has caused quite a stir was the alleged possibility of the oil tanker drivers striking over the Easter period ( which, of course, is a time which would create most chaos and inconvenience the greatest number of people). However, we are now told that this was never a reality as the unions had to give seven days notice after balloting their members, and as a ballot had not even taken place, to organise things in order to strike over the holiday period would have been almost impossible
The trade union Unite made hay of this by saying that there never was going to be a strike over Easter as talks were continuing. However, before the unions came clean on this there were queues round the block for people trying to fill up their cars. Of course, the government took the brunt of the blame for the ensuing chaos.
The government also announced about this time that they intended to increase the passenger tax on airline flights. The short-term flights to Europe would only add a few pounds to the ticket but the longer flights were more serious from the passengers point of view. For an example a family of four flying to Australia would have to pay something in the order of an additional £260. The government justified this to some extent by reminding us that the airlines were not charged VAT on the fuel that they consumed. (I wonder why not?, There must be a very good reason as it would be a natural way of raising a lot of new revenue. I suppose if we were the only country to add VAT the airline fuel we would lose a great in a business).
Add to this the election of George Galloway, the self confessed friend of Hassan, and, so far as I know the only member of the Respect Party was swept into Parliament with a large majority by the Asian population of Bradford.
So with all of this you can appreciate it has not been a good week for the government although the Bradford by-election, which was a solid Labour seat, should have given Ed Milleband, the leader of the Labour Party, more of a headache.