We’ve all told the occasional porky.
At college I told my English teacher that my parents were part of an experimental nudist group which met weekly at the local church and as part of their beliefs ate only fish, tomato soup and blueberries.
He was a little surprised on parents’ evening to find my mother and father rounded, sane individuals, though not half as surprised as my mum and dad were when their son’s English teacher asked for details of the nudist group they attended.
I therefore have a little sympathy - only a little, mind - for Mohammed Islam.
As you may have seen in the papers, Mr Islam has been hailed worldwide as the boy genius who, by the age of 16, had made £46m after spending his school lunch breaks trading stocks and shares.
He began doing this, apparently, at the age of nine and midway through his time at New York’s Stuyvesant High School, was trading oil and gold futures and equities.
Mr Islam told journalists he had purchased a BMW (though he’s not old enough to drive it), rented a luxury flat in Manhattan (though his parents wouldn’t allow him to move out of the family home yet), and been offered jobs at several large investment firms on a starting salary of £7,000-a-month.
Asked what his ambition was, he replied, ‘to be a billionaire by this time next year’.
Asked at 16 what my ambitions were, I’d have replied, ‘to finish level 5 of Pacman on the computer, ask Laura Bland out on a date (I sat next to her in Geography - her name was misleading, she was gorgeous), and buy some Clearasil to treat the spots on my chin’.
When I first read Mr Islam’s story I thought it sounded slightly too good to be true.
I mean cast your minds back to dinner-times at secondary school.
I used to go in the canteen and get burger and chips for £1.49, drop a few stink bombs near the headmaster’s office, then head outside to kick a football around.
When I was in fifth year - or Year 11 as I believe it’s known these days - we were deemed old and sensible enough to be allowed home if we desired.
As I lived right next to the school this was quite handy and thus, accompanied by a group of friends, would spend a pleasant hour eating chips and playing on the snooker table my dad kept in the garage.
He’d often return home of an evening, go to pot a few balls, and say to my mum ‘do you know, Pat, I just can’t understand why there are so many gravy stains on this table’.
But my point is this. At school, dinner-time was for messing about, hanging around with your mates, and doing very little other than rediscovering your lust for life after long and depressing mornings spent in the classroom learning about fractions and how to operate a Bunsen burner without setting fire to your eyebrows.
I know times have changed - we’ve got the internet now and today’s generation can access the whole planet at the click of a button - but even so, the idea of trading stocks at the age of nine seems, well, odd (the only stock I knew at that age was the Oxo my mam stuck in a casserole to give it a bit more flavour).
And so it has proved for, 48 hours after the story was picked up by media all over the planet, a by this point slightly alarmed Mr Islam admitted he made the whole thing up.
His confession has, of course, led to much condemnation (mainly from the embarrassed newspapers who printed the story in the first place without properly checking the facts) and there’s no doubt he’s been a bit stupid.
But for me the fact he told a very tall tale makes him a lot more appealing than if he really had spent his childhood years trading shares and amassing a fortune.
He is not, after all, a boy genius but, thankfully, just like the rest of us - human, and prone to lapses of judgement.
* No column next week as it’s the day you receive underwhelming gifts from relations and stress about whether the turkey is properly cooked.
So from me, a very happy Christmas and thanks for reading.
Fashion World has gone Bonkers
I know I’m getting old but just what is the fashion industry coming to?
Out shopping for Christmas presents the other day, I came across this item of clothing in a well-known women’s store.
It is, to my eyes, a women’s blouse with seven-eighths of it missing.
I was so bemused I asked the shop assistant what it was for.
‘It’s an accessory,’ the young girl said, shooting me a look that said ‘typical bloke’. She explained that, like a man might wear a tie, you slip it over the top of a plain outfit to jazz it up a little.
Of course the obvious response to this is why not buy a jazzier top in the first place and save yourself the expense of having to buy two items of clothing at double the price?
The world has gone bonkers.
* A friend of mine rang to book a table at a Chinese restaurant the other day and was asked for her name.
She said Ferguson, to which the man taking the call replied ‘sorry?’
‘Ferguson’, she said.
‘Sorry?’ he repeated.
‘Ferguson,’ she said again, ‘as in Alex, ha ha’.
‘Can you spell that please, Alex?’ he replied.
It was at that point she gave up...