The best part of elaborate practical jokes is the planning. The planning has to be so good that a) the joke must not go wrong. b) It looks to the person it’s being played on that it’s the most horrendous thing ever - with no escape but to deal with it. c) Is to make sure there is always a distant question mark in the back of the persons mind and d) not let it go on too long as they might either lose the plot and do something they might not normally do.
With this in mind, let me tell you a story about something I once did, it’s quite long – but I think you will enjoy it. Please Note; I don’t do this stuff anymore (sadly). But then, if someone needed a joke doing…… hmmmmm.
So some long standing friends were to get married, for the sake of argument we’ll call them P (the guy) and S (the lass). We were sat in our local pub one Friday night when they told us all they were getting married and had set the date. After the girls had a field day asking questions, my former wife asked about Best man and Maid of Honour etc. P just turned to me and said “you’ll do it wont yer”. A little gobsmacked and not sure what to say, it became assumed that I had agreed.
Now I really wasn’t sure what to make of this and was a little put out with not being asked properly. So the planning was set in motion – he was going to pay with every ounce of emotion I could draw out of him LOL.
Firstly, he would know I would get him with something when I organised the Stag Night, so whatever I did had to make him feel that the Stag Night pranks would be the end of it – NOT SO….
The best part was that they thought they would be reasonably safe with my then wife being involved, as she was by far my most calming influence.
In the UK (like many countries) we have Health and Safety laws and these are enforced by the HSE or Health and Safety Executive and it transpired that a friend of ours was the head store keeper at the HSE engineering headquarters in Sheffield. As this was before we had computers and printers at our disposal I asked him for a load of letter headed paper, compliment slips and business cards.
P & S lived in and ran the Rising Sun Inn in the Hope Valley in the Derbyshire Peak District. This place had a very popular restaurant, was a hotel and also did functions like Wedding Receptions – indeed; P&S were going to use the place for their own Wedding Reception.
The wedding date set with only a few months to go and my plans were afoot. Firstly the Stag and Hen night. We knew that they would be terrified about this so we set about the ‘Great Bluff’.
The stag night consisted of a pub crawl down West Street in Sheffield, I contacted a landlord of a pub en-route and dropped off a ‘Ball and Chain’, so that at a given time P’s name would be called out and he would have this thing manacled to him publicly. This would also make him worried because it would be obvious by then that a degree of planning was at hand. The Ball and Chain was a real one and very heavy.
The Hen Night; S had to wear the arbitrary hand made dress, this however took an interesting turn as attached to the dress were many keys. This later proved awkward because as S got more drunk she started pulling the keys off and trying to discard them.
The night culminated in P being chained to a lamp post in the centre of Sheffield his clothes having for the most part been removed. S soon appeared and used her keys to release him.
We followed this with both parties taking over an Indian restaurant for the rest of the evening.
P&S now believed that not only was the Stag and Hen night over, it had been fun without anything too scary happening.
Two days to Wedding.
Having had the Stag and Hen night midweek, this allowed for the clear headed final wedding preparations and of course my own – Cue Rob Whitaker….
Rob was a carpenter for the local council and a good one at that. Because councils are full of ‘job-worth’s’ type people, when it came to Health and Safety – they knew this subject well. Also, Rob was one hell of an actor, I mean the guy should have done it for a living; he was a total natural – The problem? P knew him!!
Ok, the background;
On learning I was to be best man by assumption months before, I contacted County Life Inn’s area manager Phil (who was the previous landlord at the Rising Sun) and P’s boss at this point. I told him what I wanted to do, but also asked him to set the stage.
Firstly I needed to know all possible areas of weakness in Health and Safety and more over, environmental issues too – room by room. Then I needed him to lay down the law at the group’s monthly meeting with all pub managers. The remit was that if any pub failed a H&S inspection, the responsibly would rest solely on the shoulders of the manager, as such Country Life Inn’s would no longer wish to continue their relationship with that manager and they would be removed from their position immediately. This of course would also mean the immediate loss of there accommodation. Phil was game and said he would do his best and indeed he did as P was talking about if for weeks.
By now we had made up very convincing fake ID’s and documents, added a phone number that would have someone manning it and briefed Rob. The whole thing is not to take more than 40 minutes
Friday, the day before the Wedding at 09:00
The Rising Sun was actually running a wedding reception that afternoon and Phil the area manager was due to arrive at 11am.
09:30 Rob (now as Mr Renaults from the HSE) walks through the door of the Rising Sun in smart suit and wearing glasses (which he does not actually wear).
He meets P and after a degree of reluctance P offers some rooms for Rob to inspect – Rob rejects them and asks for the keys to the rooms that he knows there are problems with! As Rob later pointed out, it was at this point he was sure the blood started to leave P’s veins!
09:40 My wife turns up at the front door of their accommodation to make sure S does not get involved.
Rob checks everything, really, the inspection runs to over 1 hour 30 minutes.
While inspecting the Kitchens, P (thinking he recognises Rob) gets one of the staff to shout “Hey Rob, do you want a cup of tea”. Rob didn’t even flinch.
10:30 Phil the area manager turns up early.
11:00 They all sit down and Rob list 47 violations (97% of which were erroneous). As such he tells them he has no option but to issue a notice of immediate closure on the Rising Sun that will remain in effect for 28 days unless they can prove that all violations have been sorted out.
Phil tries to come to some arrangement and negotiates with Rob – Rob isn’t having any of it (Phil later told me that within minutes he thought that my practical joke had been over ridden by a real HSE inspection and was becoming more and more nervous).
11:30 Rob leaves the Rising Sun, in his wake P and now Phil both fully believe the closure notice is for real.
11:35 S is told what we’ve done and that she must sit tight until I give the all clear.
11:45 Rob arrives at the Travelers Rest pub to brief me – I could not believe my ears.
12:00 I walk into the Rising Sun and I’m greeted with some nasty comments from P. I ask what the matter is and P refuses to divulge. Phil is starting to look relieved.
Let me put this into perspective – for P at this moment, his life is over. He has lost his job, his home, his wedding is off and further more he has to cancel the wedding reception that is booked in for that afternoon and therefore destroy someone else’s wedding day. Everything he has achieved and worked for in the last three years has gone.
I can honestly say that to this day I have not seen a more bloodless face on a living thing in my life.
While we’re having a cup of tea (coffee in my case) I notice the HSE documents badly hidden on the table, I ask what is with the HSE stuff and P replies that it is nothing.
At this point I look at him without one ounce of emotion in my face or voice and say “Well it’s not as though I’m called Mr Renaults or anything”.
It takes not more than about 4 seconds for it to register with P’s ensuing explosion of just about every known expletive. Moments later S, Rob and my former wife walked in – much to the relief of Phil the area manager.
It was a great wedding and fun reception.
P&S had booked a honeymoon in a castle on a Scottish island and the day after the wedding they had to dash off quite early to make sure they caught the ferry. They almost missed the ferry due to the car nearly catching fire; this was due to large number of Kippers I had attached to the engines exhaust manifold with wire. Apparently P required the use of a chisel to remove them. They did make it to their intended destination, but their car had a whole new aroma.
If you’re ever in the Peak District and go through a little village called Bamford – you might want to go and talk to the guy in the Post Office Store about this. He would be P.
Be quick though because from what I understand he’s trying to buy a Vineyard on South Island, New Zealand.