Out-pranking a nine-year-old

Lion, Drink, Zoo, Cat


A Saturday morning and a voice calls out from the downstairs loo – ‘It’s like a murder scene in here, ketchup everywhere. Clean it up Jemima.’

Rupert is getting ready for work, and none too pleased. Now he’s joining me in the upstairs bathroom. ‘Sorry, can I just get in and wash my hands? She’s got it everywhere, handprints on the door, smears all over the basin.’

I head downstairs, my routine can wait, and I need my early morning tea. Jemima has an eager look on her face, like she’s expecting something.

Then I realize.

‘Jem, there’s ketchup all over the milk! This isn’t how you do April Fools.’

‘It is.’

‘It’s really not, you’ve got the wrong end of the stick.’

‘No, you have.’

The argument escalates and I send her up to her room, then find myself distracted by the dishwasher that needs emptying. But soon enough I open the cupboard for the tea bags, and am showered in home-made confetti. This time I do actually laugh, a severe headache hasn’t been helping my sense of humour failure.

She’d rigged a toilet tube inside the cupboard, attaching it with wool to the door, so that once opened the contents fall on an unsuspecting head. Snippets of wool, the contents of the hole-punch and a rubber crab litter the work surface and fall from my hair.

I think it’s my turn. What can I possibly do? I like the story of the washing of the lions, a prank in the 1800s, when, it was claimed, lions were ceremonially bathed in the moat outside the Tower of London. A quick search on the internet and I’m looking at a ticket online – it is stamped by a Perry B Greville. There’s scope here for a family yarn, perhaps Rupert will feel like taking this on when he’s in a better mood.

Jemima might fool for it, but she’d be expecting a trip to London, and it’s not the day for it. It does need to be something visual for her, something immediate. I know. I type in a few words and I’m all set.

‘Jemima, I’ve got something to show you.’

The sound of a small stampede and she’s back downstairs.

‘What is it?’

‘It’s about a special harvest, I thought you might be interested. It happens about now.’


She climbs up onto the sofa and pulls her knees into her chest, expecting a nice long viewing.

‘Is that what spaghetti looks like when it’s growing?’

‘I guess so,’ I say, in a non-committal kind of way. If she glances at my face I’m sprung. I try to smile on one side of my face only, it sort of works.

‘I want to eat it straight off the tree.’

‘It would be nice, wouldn’t it?’

The clip ends and she hasn’t guessed.

‘That was a bit boring,’ she says.

That was a bit easy, I think to myself.

She’s in the kitchen banging cupboards again. I wonder what’s next.

‘Oh, I spent ages doing that,’ she says.

I join her and see her looking into her now empty toilet role tube.

‘That was a good one,’ I tell her. ‘It was the surprise of it. It’s not meant to be a terrible shock.’


I grab a pen and notepad and start my shopping list. ‘Spaghetti,’ I write at the top. I’ll cook it tonight, then I really should tell her. But I might not.





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