Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Telling Stories

Before I begin this post, I'd like to make it clear that this not a photograph of Gordon Brown throwing a tangerine during a fit of pique. Most definitely not.

However, that story - and the way it was repeated by the media - did make me chuckle. It's so easy to get caught up in a flight of fancy (also known as a Big Fat Fib), make up some silly story - purely for self-amusement, you understand - and then a week or so later have it repeated back to you as fact.

I went to a high school on top of a hill in Yorkshire. There are many hills in Yorkshire, but I'd prefer to be vague about this particular hill to avoid any recriminations. The Head Teacher was very proud of his All Weather Playing Pitch, an enormous, brown, gritty expanse on which we could play various sports against other High Schools - football, hockey, netball - and lose.

The All Weather Playing Pitch was almost at the top of the hill, but at the very top of the hill was a telecommunications tower studded with satellite dishes, aerials, sharp metal things, wires and the like. It could be seen for miles around.

This was the period of the Cold War. Reagan had his quivering finger over the Red Button and was just waiting for Nancy's astrologer to divine a propitious date to bomb the shit out of Russia - or so we all thought.

On a dull day in February, I happened to mention en passant to a friend that there was a nuclear fallout shelter under the All Weather Playing Pitch, but that in the event of a nuclear strike - and the telecommunications tower would surely attract a nuclear strike? - only teachers would be allowed in. The pupils could all go hang - or something more atomic.


Only an hour later, during a lesson on Tudor law-making, Duncan Jacques stood up and shouted at Mrs Jenkins, "I don't think it's at all fair that we won't be allowed in the nuclear fallout shelter!"

Of course, Mrs Jenkins didn't have a clue what he was talking about. In fact, none of the teachers who were asked to defend this indefensible position (during Lat. Hist. Geog. Lit. Arith. Fr.) knew what the pupils were talking about. But the more they denied any knowledge of the Top Secret Bunker, the more the pupils became convinced of a pedagogic conspiracy. One group even went so far as to dig holes in the beloved All Weather Playing Pitch in search of the secret hatchway.

Some say confession is good for the soul, but memory of this just makes me want to tell more stories ... That's not good, is it?

By the way, did you know that during the Triassic Period, Liverpool was off the East Coast of Java?


  1. You're not alone. I once told factory colleagues, purely out of boredom, that I was the 7th Earl of Doncaster. Preposterous, I know, but it just tripped off the tongue. Then I found myself propping up my claim with tales of lost fortune and crippling costs of running a crumbling estate. Now I've written this down, I'm wondering if I really did say it!

  2. Brilliant, Martin! I mean, m'Lord.

    And did you also know that the first banana eaten on British soil was eaten in Bristol in 1477? There was a public unpeeling which was very well attended.

  3. I'm not going to believe a word you tell me any more - but I love the idea of made up facts.

    I have the opposite problem - I tell the truth and everyone thinks I have invented it. I REALLY was a magician's assistant.

  4. And the band played Believe It If You Will!

    To be fair, every time BB takes her coat off doves flutter from the sleeves, a disgruntled rabbit has taken up residence in her bobble hat (he's disgruntled because he's used to a better class of hat), and NEVER under any circumstances ask her for a hankie.

  5. ey! ey! ey! I'm levitating RIGHT NOW.

    Very nearly missed this - I shall have to find a way to subscribe to your comments too (lots of people have a box to tick, but not Moptop, oh no!)

  6. That's only because I remain unconvinced that the Internet will ever really catch on, so I shan't waste my brain cells on learning how to install a 'button'.

    What 'button' is this?