Yesterday I accidentally started an urban myth, when my Twitter/Facebook status indicated that I had been on a train delayed 'due to escaped puma at Penrith'. Although I never imagined anyone would think this was literally true, a few people did and the story was spread. In fact I was quoting Reginald Perrin, from the 1970s TV series; Reggie would arrive at work every day with an excuse for lateness, as explained and shown here; one of these excuses as I recall was 'escaped puma at Coulsdon'. So I often say this when delayed on public transport, making it one of my habitual overused sayings, like 'I'll have a latte please', or 'They're just dust beneath our chariot wheels'.
I don't set out to deceive, I just sometimes say things which might appear to me to be more interesting that the unadorned reality. I'm worried now that other (to me) obviously ludicrous things that I've said may be taken as true, thanks to my plausible deadpan delivery. For instance, when I hand down managerial wisdom to my team, I sometimes preface my instructive homily by saying something like 'When I was in prison (or the army, a monastery, on a pirate ship etc) the first thing I learned was...' Hopefully the blank looks with which these conversational gambits are received mean that no-one has noticed, or cared.
Although I can claim not to be a deliberate verbal prankster, the acquisition of a colour printer a few years ago did inspire me to create some unreal physical items. Again, I assumed they would be seen as satirical but a couple of times the recipient (always my friend Paul, for some reason) initially thought they were real. Paul used to be in some kind of frequent-flyer scheme with Emirates Air, which tickled me unaccountably. One Christmas I made a card 'From the customer services team at Emirates Air', adorned with signatures in different inks. The front was a picture of a desert with the festive slogan 'May your offspring own a thousand camels!' Until he found out it was from me, Paul was impressed with Emirates for this bit of customer care... so I suppose everybody was a winner.
Another time, I sent a festive greeting from self-help guru Tony Robbins. Apart from a pic of a grinning Tony on the front, I remember it saying something like 'At this time of year I like to think of the inspiring journey of our Lord - born as a helpless baby and executed as a common criminal. What could be more empowering than that?' Again, the imagined sender got all the credit though with a certain level of bafflement.
However the birthday card from Archbishop Makarios was seen through immediately, and I haven't bothered with anything like that since, unless you count the letter from French rail company SNCF sent (from France) to one of my colleagues demanding payment for an unpaid fare.
Perhaps my new year's resolution should be to leave the plain truth unvarnished.