Shropshire Star

Peter Rhodes on Abba etiquette, keeping calm and the French imitating the British

As this is a Monday-to-Friday column, I won't be able to torment you on April Fool's Day tomorrow with spoof news reports of haggis hunting in Scotland or dinosaurs found in a municipal boating lake.

No afros allowed

So instead, a day early, let me break with tradition and share with you some classic April Fools' gags for 2023. Here goes:

Firstly, members of the rowing fraternity have been asked not to refer to a missed stroke as “catching a crab”, on the grounds that this “normalises cruelty to animals.”

Next, fans attending an Abba tribute show are requested not to wear the group's trademark 1970s afro wigs on the grounds that this is “culturally insensitive”.

Finally, some of Agatha Christie's greatest whodunnits have been edited to remove words including “oriental” and “native”.

My apologies. It turns out that all of the above are genuine news stories from this week. The problem is that this world is becoming such a strange and unbelievable place that we're all fools now.

In the 1930s the artist Pont raised a smile with his cartoons explaining The British Character including such foibles as “Not Being Intellectual”. “A Weakness for Oak Beams” and a “Strong Tendency to Become Doggy”. One of his best cartoons showed English passengers on a sinking liner still eating dinner as the water rose in the dining room, entitled: “Love of Keeping Calm”.

But what's this? An image from this week's riots in France has appeared with the caption “Welcome to Paris” showing diners chatting coolly in a street cafe as petrol bombs explode in the background. Do the French not understand that this is the British way to behave and they are mimicking us? Dammit, how culturally insensitive can you get, mes amis?

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the children's author Anthony Horowitz announces that he will no longer make his villains ugly or deformed. In his new book, the baddies are “perfectly ordinary looking”.

I am sure Horowitz is inspired by kindness, so good luck to him. However, it does not alter the fact, as the old saying goes, that by the time you're 40 you have the face you deserve.