As you know, it is the tradition on April Fool’s day to prank friends, colleagues or family. But some large practical jokes have appeared in newspapers, websites or been broadcast on radio or television.

Here is a list of 10 very famous ones.

In 1957, the BBC aired an episode of the Panorama program about an increase in spaghetti crops due to a very mild winter and the elimination of the spaghetti weevil, showing footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti off trees. Spaghetti was relatively unknown in the UK at this time and so huge numbers of people were taken in, including the director-general of the BBC, Ian Jacob, who admitted to looking up “spaghetti” in his encyclopaedia. The BBC received many phone calls from viewers wanting to know how to grow their own spaghetti tree, to which the BBC replied “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”

In 1962, Swedish National Television showed a 5 minutes special on how to get colour television by placing a nylon stocking in front of the TV, due to a change in light reflection which allowed colours to show through. The special included in-depth physics to explain the phenomenon and a huge number of viewers tried the trick.

In 1976, British Astronomer Patrick Moore told listeners on BBC radio that at 9.47am that day, a rare alignment of Pluto and Saturn would cause gravity on Earth to decrease temporarily. He told people that if they jumped up in the air at that exact time, they would feel a floating sensations. Many listeners tried and called BBC radio to say they had experienced the effet, a lady even claiming that she and her friends had floated out of their chairs.

In 1998, Physicist Mark Boslough wrote an article in the April issue of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, using the name “April Holiday” hinting that in Alabama, a law had been passed that redefined Pi from 3.14 to 3.0 to bring it closer to the biblical value. Many state legislators were inundated with phone calls warning them to left Pi alone.

In 2011, Google announced that it would introduce Gmail Motion, a new technology allowing people to write emails using only hand gestures. The company explained that the system would use a webcam and a spatial tracking algorithm to monitor a person’s gestures and translate them into words and commands. A message could be open by making the gesture of opening and enveloppe. Although it was a practical joke and by then Google had earnt quite the reputation with its 1st of April jokes, a few days later, programmers demonstrated that such a system would be possible using existing technology, even if not very practical.

In 2002, Tesco, a chain of British supermarkets put an ad in the Sun announcing that it had financed the development of genetically modified “whistling carrots”. It explained that the carrots had been specifically created to grow with tapered holes in their sides. When fully cooked, the holes caused the carrot to emit a signal indicating that they were done.

In 1980, the BBC reported that Big Ben was going to be revamped and given a digital display. The report featured people reminiscing about Big Ben’s past and announced that the clock hands becoming obsolete, they would be sold to the first four listeners to call in. One Japanese man onboard a boat in the Atlantic send in a bid via radio. The BBC was inundated with calls from listeners furious that Big Ben was going to be interfered in. Very few people found the hoax amusing and the BBC had to spend several days apologizing.

In 1998, fast food giant Burger King came up with a stroke of marketing genius. They took a full-page ad in USA today and announced the creation of a “left-handed Whopper” with all condiments rotated 180 degrees so as to be easier to hold for the left-handed part of the population. A surprising number of people went to the fast-food outlets asking for the new whopper. An even more surprising number asked for a “right-handed” version of it!

In 1989, Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin, decided to drum up some publicity for his new airline by landing an UFO shaped hot air balloon in Hyde Park in London. Unfortunately, the wind blew it off course and sent the balloon to a field in Surrey but the hoax worked and a few motorists, travelling on the M25 called the police to report the presence of the UFO.

In 1977, the newspaper, the Guardian published a 7-page travel supplement on the tropical island of San Serriffe in the Indian Ocean. The report was packed with in-jokes such as the main islands’ names- Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse and the capital’s name Bodoni which is a type of font. Kodak decided to add to the credibility of the story by having an ad asking readers to share their holiday snapshots of San Sherriffe before noon on that day.

 

 

April Fool’s Day, as it is known, is a day when people play practical jokes on each other and spread hoaxes. Sometimes, jokes happen between people but sometimes, newspapers, magazines and other media publish fake stories, with an apology rectifying things the next day.  april-1-fool

Yet, the origins of this day are quite obscure. One of the most prominent theories is that in 1582, France adopted the Gregorian calendar which moved the first day of the year from April 1st to January 1st. But some people continued to consider the 1st of April as the first day of the year. Little by little, these people were mocked and pranked. And so the tradition started.

Other people argue that it is derived from early pagan renewal festivals to mark the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring.

What is sure is that there have been references to a day of merry making in other cultures like India, or other times like Roman Empire.

The style of April Fools’ pranks has changed over the years. Sending the unsuspecting on pointless errands was an especially prized practical joke in those earlier post-Julian days.

Although the style of April Fool’s pranks has changed over the years, sending an unsuspecting person on a pointless errand is still a strong favourite.

Young mechanics are regularly sent to ask a more senior colleague for a tube of elbow grease, young doctors for a bucket of dehydrated water, and young carpenters for a bag of rubber nails.

So next time someone asks you to get a left-handed screwdriver, a tin of striped paint or a glass hammer, check the date. You might have been pranked!

Oxbridge boat race

 

Amongst the popular sporting events occuring between March and April in the UK, is the ever popular Oxbridge boat race, a set of annual rowing races with eights, boats with 8 rowers, between Oxford University and Cambridge University boat clubs. It takes place on the River Thames in London either on the last week end of March or the first week end of April. The course is 4.2 miles long (6.8kms) between Putney and Mortlake.

The members of the teams are known as blues since Cambridge rows in light blue while Oxford rows in dark blue. Team members must be students of their respective universities and although they are all amateurs, their training schedule, 6 days a week for 6 months before the event, is very intense.

The first race was held in 1829 and has been an annual event since 1856, with the exception of war times. To this day, Cambridge has scored 81 wins against 79 for Oxford. A dead heat was recorded in 1877.

The race is now a British national institution as more than 250, 000 people watch the race live from the banks of the Thames each year and another 15 to 18 million also follow the race on television.

The tradition was started in 1829 by Charles Merivale, a Cambridge student and his friend Charlds Wordsworth, an Oxford student. Cambridge challenged Oxford to a race at Henley-on-Thames and promptly lost the race. Oxford rowed in dark blue as 5 of the crew members were from Christ Church College, Oxford, whose colours are dark blue.

The second race in 1836 took place between Westminster and Putney. The two following years, the place of the race gave rise to many disagreements and in 1839, the race moved officially to London.

The tradition continues today with the loser of the race challenging the winner to an annual rematch.

 

 

 

Although Easter is often about chocolate, here is a treat that isn’t.  Eaten all over the Commonwealth, Hot Cross Buns are a typical Easter treat, without an ounce of chocolate in sight.

Hot Cross Buns Makes 15 buns

Ingredients:

300ml milk (+ a little extra)

50g Butter

500g bread flour (+ 75g for cross)

1 tsp salt

75g caster sugar

1tbsp vegetable oil

7g yeast

1 egg beaten

75g sultanas

50g mixed peels (orange and citrus)

1 apple peeled, cored and finely chopped

1 tsp ground cinnamon

3 tbsp apricot jam for glaze

Recipe

1 Bring the milk to the boil, then remove from the heat and add the butter.

2 Leave to cool.

3 Put the flour, salt, sugar and yeast into a bowl.

4 Pour in the warm milk and butter mixture, then add the egg.

5 Using a wooden spoon, mix well, then bring everything together with your hands until you have a sticky dough.

6 Tip on to a lightly floured surface and until smooth and elastic.

7 Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl.

8 Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hr.

9 Add the sultanas, mixed peel, orange zest, apple and cinnamon.

10 Knead into the dough, making sure everything is well distributed.

11 Leave to rise for 1 hr more covered by some well-oiled cling film.

12 Divide the dough into 15 even pieces.

13 Roll each piece into a smooth ball on a lightly floured work surface.

14 Arrange the buns on baking trays lined with baking paper,

15 Leave enough space for the dough to expand.

16 Cover with a clean tea towel, then set aside for 1 hr.

17 Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7.

18 Mix the flour with about 5 tbsp water to make a thick paste for the cross.

19 Draw a line along each row of buns, then another to create crosses.

21 Bake for 20 mins until golden brown.

22 Melt the apricot jam. While the jam is still warm, brush over the top of the warm buns and leave to cool.

 

 

 

Amongst the thousands of chocolate available for Easter, one famous egg stands out in particular.  A landmark of Easter in most Anglophone countries in recent years, the Cadbury Creme Egg is as popular as ever.

Why all the excitement for a chocolate egg, you might ask? CAdbury Creme Egg

The Cadbury Crème Egg is no mere chocolate egg. It has a thick milk chocolate shell, filled with a white and yellow fondant which imitates the inside of a real chicken egg and is unique on the chocolate market.

In the UK, it is the best selling confectionary item between New Year and Easter, with annual sales exceeding £200 million and a brand value of £55 million.

The Crème egg as we know it today was introduced in 1963. It was renamed Cadbury’s Creme egg in 1971.

Sales really took off in 1975, when Cadbury Creme Egg became a cult through the power of TV advertising.

About 1.5 million Cadbury Creme Egg eggs can be made every day at the Bournville factory. They’re made in two halves, both filled with white and one additionally filled with yellow fondant. The two halves are closed together quickly and there it is – a Cadbury Creme Egg.

Oh and incidentally, if you are tempted, one Cadbury Crème egg represents 150 calories.

Easter is famous for its religious ceremonies and for eating chocolate.  Here is a list of funny facts you may not know about Easter.

  • The traditional act of painting eggs is called Pysanka.
  • Sales at Easter time make up 10 per cent of UK chocolate spending for the whole year.
  • The name Easter owes its origin from Eastre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess who symbolises hare and egg.
  • On Easter Sunday in Scotland and North-East England, some people have great fun rolling painted eggs down steep hills. This is also popular in parts of America, where people push the egg along with a spoon.
  • 76% of people eat the ears on chocolate bunnies first, 5% go for the feet and 4% opt for the tail.
  • Every child in the UK receives an average of 8.8 Easter eggs every year – double their recommended calorie intake for a whole week.
  • In medieval times, a festival of ‘egg-throwing’ was held in church. The priest would throw a hard-boiled egg to one of the choir boys, and then tossed from one choir boy to the next. When the clock struck 12, whoever held the egg, was the winner and got to keep the egg.
  • The UK’s first chocolate egg was produced in 1873 by Fry’s of Bristol.
  • The White House hosts an Easter Egg Roll on the front lawn each year. This tradition was started by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878.
  • The custom of giving eggs at Easter has been traced back to Egyptians, Persians, Gauls, Greeks and Romans, for whom the egg was a symbol of life.
  • The tallest chocolate Easter egg ever was made in Italy in 2011. At 10.39 metres in height and 7,200 kg in weight, it was taller than a giraffe and heavier than an elephant.
  • In 2012, London hosted the world’s biggest-ever Easter egg hunt.
  • The exchange of eggs for Easter dates back to a springtime custom older than Easter itself in which eggs were given as a symbol of rebirth in many cultures.

You all know Queen Elizabeth the second.  But did you know that the first English king was French?  Who was he?  William the Conquerer of course.  If you’ve ever wondered how to remember the list of English kings and queens, the fantastic team of “Horrible Histories” (the BBC Children TV show) are here to help with the following song.  Try to sing along (the lyrics are included!)

We couldn’t talk about Ireland without mentioning one of the most famous Irish drinks.  Here are 10 facts about Guinness that you might not know.

1 Guinness is an Irish dry stout (a stout is a type of beer). It is brewed in almost 60 countries and is available in over 120 countries world wide.

2 Annual sales of Guinness total 850 million litres. In comparison, that represents the yearly wine production of the Veneto region in Italy.

3 The burnt flavour of the beer comes from roasted unmalted barley, which was introduced in the middle of the 20th century.

4 The thick creamy head of the beer comes from pouring the beer through a special tap. First, the waiter holds the glass at a 45° angle below the tap until the glass is three quarters full. The beer is forced at high speed through a specific plate at the end of the tap which creates small bubbles of nitrogen. The initial pour is left to settle and then the waiter fills the rest of the glass until the head is slightly domed over the top of the glass.

5 Nearly 40% of Guinness is consumed in Africa. Guinness owes 5 breweries worldwide and three are located in Africa. Nigeria, which boasts one of these breweries is the world’s second-largest Guinness consumer. Ireland comes third, Great Britain first, and Cameroon fourth.

6 Guinness is rich in iron and antioxidants and yet a pint of Guinness only brings 210 calories, about the same as a pint of orange juice (220 calories). For your information, a pint of full fat milk brings 320 calories while a pint of coke brings 232 calories. Guinness might after all be good for you!

7 To pour the perfect pint, it is said to take 119.5 seconds.

8 What we know today as the Guinness book of records was created in 1955 as a marketing giveaway.

9 Guinness is not just good as a drink. It is also fantastic added to your cooking. It has found its way into Irish stew, in sauces and even poured on top of vanilla ice cream for extra flavour.

10 This last fact is for you, my Vegan friends. I am sorry to say that Guinness isn’t vegan friendly. You see, the manufacturing process of Guinness involves isinglass. This is a product used as a finishing agent to settle suspended matter in the beer vat. Although you don’t normally find it in the beer since it is at the bottom of the vat, some traces might end up in the beer. And unfortunately, isinglass is made from fish.

 

 

David's joke

David’s joke

Three Irishmen, Paddy, Sean and Shamus were stumbling home from the pub late one night and found themselves on the road which led past the old graveyard.

“Come have a look over here” says Paddy, “It’s Michael O’Grady’s grave.  God bless his soul.  He lived to the ripe old age of 87.”

“That’s nothing”, says Sean, “here’s one named Patrick O’Toole, it says here that he was 95 when he died.”

Just then, Shamus yells out “Good God, here’s a fella that got to be 145!”

“What was his name?” asks Paddy”

Shamus stumbles around a bit, awkwardly lights a match to see what else is written on the stone marker and exclaims “Miles, from Dublin”.