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Monday December 10, 2012

Why some pranks can get out of hand

The recent maelstrom following the hoax call made by two Australian radio presenters to the King Edward VII hospital gave me pause to think about pranks I’ve carried out over the years.

On 28, December it will be Día de los Santos Inocentes, the day of the innocents, here in Spain, an opportunity for jokers to have fun at their friends’ expense in similar vein to April Fool’s Day in the UK. Since living here I’ve enjoyed having the excuse to pull the leg of Majorcan friends and had similar jokes played back on me. At a friend’s lunch party I managed discreetly to plant giant plastic ants in the salad causing hysteria among the guests while he served up raw prawns at another dinner, managing to keep a straight face when an awkward embarrassment followed and everyone toyed with the food on their plates.

As a child I looked forward to the first of April and planned many a jape with meticulous care. Then it struck me how boring it was to have just one day a year in which to play mischievous jokes on friends so it became a bit of a hobby. Unfortunately this spilled over into my working life, occasionally getting me into very hot water. As a graduate trainee in the press office of a national charity, I decided one April Fool’s Day to pretend to be a journalist and faking a northern accent rang a team member to complain about factual inaccuracies in a newly released campaign leaflet. I never believed for a second that I’d be taken seriously but sadly I was. Ten minutes after I’d made the call from another office in the same building I discovered the press office in disarray. The upshot was that my incandescent boss sent me to the Director General to be disciplined but instead he roared with laughter and told me that the press office should have been more on the ball. Despite the brouhaha my forgiving boss promoted me to senior press officer not long after.

The years and pranks rolled by. Only one male friend seemed to have the upper hand on masterful pranks until in revenge for one of his, I called his PA and disguising my accent told her that I was a seamstress calling about the repairs I’d made to the crotch zone of his lycra batman costume. Even he had to admire the ingenuity of that one.

And then it all came to an abrupt end when I was running my communications consultancy in London. In an attempt to promote a client, a good industry chum and I played a harmless prank on a journalist friend. What we thought might at best make a diary snippet became front page news and ran and ran for months. We were never found out and happily it was a cheery story that made all parties concerned hugely happy and dare I say it, prosperous. Luckily for us it didn’t have dire consequences but it rather put a stop to my somewhat puerile pranking pursuits. Well, almost.

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