I really should have taken a better note of the date when I got up at 2.30am today to travel to the Airport! I suppose an early start, lack of coffee & a distinct need for sugar made me take my eye off the ball, but perhaps they’re just excuses & I should just accept that I am a gullible soul & was well and truly caught by one of the hoax news stories that abound in France on 1st April.
As a child I remember the bizarre & sometimes ludicrous stories that appeared on the news bulletins on April Fools’ Day, when it was still OK for some parts of the news to be light-hearted, or designed just to raise a smile. The ‘Spaghetti-Tree’ hoax of the late 1950s had gone down in history as one of the best & so to be honest any news story on 1st April was always treated with a very substantial pinch of salt!
In more recent years there have been various ‘April Fool’ stories that have raised an eyebrow, but they’ve never really been taken that seriously & with the advent of Social Media that has continued, although sometimes (especially at the moment) every-day stories have more than just the sense of the bizarre about them.
In France though 1st April seems to sit at a totally different level, with the wonderful tradition of the ‘Poisson D’Avril’ and the elaborate & quite detailed hoax stories from the major news outlets. Today saw a new initiative from the Govt to launch cycle borrowing schemes in main airports http://www.freewheelingfrance.com/blog/free-bikes-in-france.html – as well as the ‘incredible’ news that an ‘extinct’ Pyrenean Rock Penguin chick had hatched in the wild http://www.adventurecreators.com/pyrenean-rock-penguin amongst many other gems.
The ‘Poisson D’Avril’ itself (The April Fish) is a wonderful tradition, where children (in the main) attempt to attach a paper fish to an unsuspecting friend, in the hope that they will walk around for the rest of the day without knowing it’s there – giving them the title of ‘Poisson D’Avril’.
The Fish has been associated with April 1st in France since the mid 1600’s when the Gregorian calendar was introduced, moving New Year from the end of March to 1st January. The theory that abounds is that back then news travelled slowly and people living in remote or rural areas were unaware of the change and continued to celebrate the New Year on 1st April. This led to jokes being played on them, including being sent on ‘fools’ errands’ or having a fish attached to their backs. Why a fish was used isn’t really clear, although it’s thought to relate to the avoidance of meat during Lent, or alternatively that it’s close to the dates for Pisces, although it actually falls within the Aries sign, which would make a ram more appropriate!
The fish though has become a clear symbol for April 1st in France and it’s lovely to see this tradition continuing and thriving – even the supermarkets are in on the joke!
I’m pleased to say that I managed to get through the day without a fish on my back, but the terribly gullible side of me was caught out earlier when I saw a Facebook Post from http://www.luberon.fr announcing the imminent opening of a cable car on the South side of the Luberon to take visitors to the summit of the Mourre Negre, which offers astounding views in every direction. I thought that I hadn’t noticed anything about it in the papers before, but on the face of it I could almost understand why there would be demand for such a facility, especially as the walk to the summit is quite a hard hike, (although our 80 year old neighbour here does it on a regular basis to watch the sunrise) and new projects are regularly being introduced & driven forward at a rate of knots.
It wasn’t until much later, (post coffee, food and my brain catching up with my body) that I saw a post from Virgin about a new plane with moving wings. It was only then that I suddenly remembered the date & realised that I had fallen for the cable car story – hook line & sinker!
Hey ho, I’m happy to hold my hands up to this one & feel a total prawn, which I suppose is relatively close to being a fish!
Next year I must make sure I flag the date to make sure I’m fully prepared & ready to skip over those stories that just might be there to catch me out!