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In some countries, including France, there is a strong connection between fish and April Fool's jokes. It seems the same is true on the pond, where Colin the grumpy Carp, plays a big practical joke on everyone.

Read by Natasha. Written by Bertie. Proofread by Claire Deakin. Illustration by Sophie Green.

Colin’s April Fool

Hello, this is Natasha.

I have a warning for you: If the date is April the first, you must be ever so careful because somebody might play a trick on you! I am reminding you all early, because last year I heard that some of you were caught out.

Yes, April the 1st is known as April Fool’s Day, and it’s the most famously tricky day in the calendar. In France and Italy, somebody might sneak up behind you, and stick a paper fish on your back. When your friends see you walking along with a sticky fish, they might call out, “April Fish!” But elsewhere in the world, almost any trick will do. So watch out! Now where was I? Ah yes, all this April Foolery reminds me of the time Colin the Carp played a big trick on the pond life.

It all started when Tim the Tadpole asked Colin a rather annoying question. He said, “Colin, why are you so fat?”

“Fat?” Said Colin. “Which Colin are you saying is fat? Not this Colin. It must be some other Colin you are talking to. My girth is just right for a carp’s.”

“Well Bertie said you should go on a diet,” squeaked Tim. And Bertie, who was sitting on a nearby lily-leaf thought, “Oh no, now he’s dropped me right in the sludge.”

“Humph!” Said Colin. “I don’t have a big gut, but that frog certainly has a big mouth. Diet? Pah! I only eat healthy food. Flies are pure protein. Look at those greedy ducks and swans! They stuff themselves full of stale white bread. It’s bread that makes you fat – not flies.”

“Well I only eat slime,” said Tim. “Mummy says that green slime is super good for you.”

Just then, some ducklings who were rather peeved by what Colin had just said, started to quack, “Colin is a fat fish, Colin is a fat fish!”

And Colin leaped right out of the water, flipped his tale, snapped his jaws, and sent the cheeky ducks scattering across the pond. A cross carp can make quite a splash, particularly if he is – a-hum – a bit fat.

That should have been that - but it wasn’t, because when Colin went back to his dark underwater cave, he was still really really cross. “It’s not fair,” he said to himself. “Everyone’s always picking on me. It’s because I’m the only one around these waters who has any brains. They’re just jealous of my super-intelligence. Well I’ll show them. I’ll play a trick on them, and they’ll all fall for it because they’re dumbos, that’s what they are - dumbos.”

Spring was already in the air, and Colin decided to wait until April 1st to get his revenge because April Fool’s Day is the best time of the year for all sorts of tricks. In the last week of March, Colin waited near the surface to see who would come down to the pond. He did not have to linger long before he saw a little grey bird called Micky land on the head of the fountain. He liked to drink the water that sprouted out of the fountain-nymph’s mouth. Micky was a cockney sparrow, and he was well known for his quirky sense of humour and his witty one-liners. In fact, he was so popular that he had almost 2000 followers on Twitter. Twitter is how news spread around the palace and the pond. The birds on Twitter like to sing the juiciest rumours. Half of them are untrue, and the other half are probably exaggerated – but everyone on the pond absolutely believes them. Perhaps I should say that everyone believes Twitter except for one fish – Colin is what is called a sceptic. He thinks that all rumours are, well, fishy – unless he has seen the proof with his own bulging red eyes. But he understood all too well that if you want to start a rumour flying across the pond, the first person you should go to is Micky.

“Psst, Micky!” Called out Colin, “Want to hear some news?”

“What sort of news my old China?” Trilled back Micky.

Colin grimaced. He hated being called, “My old China,” or any of those over-friendly names. You see, Colin is a traditional sort of fish, and he believes in old fashioned courtesy. But this was not time to give lectures on manners. He swallowed some pond water, cleared his throat, and said,

“I have the best sort of news. It’s a juicy scare story that will put everyone off their food.”

He could see that Micky was interested because the little bird started to hop from one leg to the other with excitement.

“Ooooh,” he whistled, “Those sorts of scare stories always go down a treat.”

“This story’s got wings,” said Colin, “It will fly and fly.”

“Dear Carp, pray do tell all.”

“Well it’s like this,” said Colin, “the royal scientist has been down at the pond recently, testing the water. Yesterday he looked worried, like he had seen the palace ghost or something. "Tut tut,” he said to his assistant. “The tests have come back on this slime, and it’s contaminated.”

“Hold on a mo," said the sparrow, “let me write that last word down.” He had landed on the bank and was scratching Colin’s words in the dirt with his beak. His letters were in bird speak, of course. “Con-tam-in-ated -what does that mean when it’s at home?”

Colin heaved a sigh. He wanted to say, “Oh dear, another dumbo. Am I the only one on this pond with any brains?” But he knew that was not the best way to keep Micky on his side.

“Well,” he said, “It means that some nasty things have gotten mixed up with it. Green slime is not what it says on the tin, so to speak. It doesn’t come out of a tin of course, but if it did, that would be the general drift. This nasty stuff that’s got into the slime on the pond can make you grow an extra head or an extra foot. If you are a tadpole it can give you a second tail and stop you turning into a frog when you grow up. If you are a duck it can make you sink. If you are a bird it can stop you flying. So the message is, don’t eat slime. It’s extra-bad for you.”

“Ooooh,” said Micky. “I’m glad it’s slime, not worms. I love worms, and I would hate them to be contaminated. Thanks for the tip matey. Good one. I’ll tweet it out right away.” And he flew off to the top of the tree where the sparrows all meet to exchange gossip.

“What an irritating little chap!” Sighed Colin to himself, when he was gone. But it was a job well done, and before half an hour was up, Colin’s rumour was all over Twitter.

Now almost everyone who lives on the pond is partial to a bit of slime now and then. The frogs and tadpoles practically live on it. The wise old frog says that if you eat slime for your veg, and flies for your protein, you will grow up big green and strong. The water fowl (that’s a posh name for ducks, swans and geese, by the way) also love to gulp down the green stuff – and the slimier it is, the better it slips down their necks. In other words, all the pondlife think that slime is simply yummy.

Need I say what a commotion there was when the news came out that slime is bad for you? The ducks were quacking as they do when they are hungry, and the all the tadpoles were wailing, “Mummy, what are going to have for dinner tonight?” Only one tadpole was brave in the face of disaster. Little Tim said, “I know what I’ll do, I’ll ask Bertie because he knows the answer to every problem.”

When Colin the Carp heard Tim say this he scoffed, “Humph, that royal frog is overrated if you ask me.”

Tim found Bertie in a mournful mood. “It is the greatest calamity I have ever known,” he said sadly. “Even greater than the time the royal nanny banned us from eating chocolate for a whole month.”

All the mummy frogs who normally say things like, “Eat up your slime dear,” were swimming around saying, “Whatever you do, don’t touch the slime - you’ll grow two heads.”

And you could hear the tadpoles saying, “Eek slime! Get it off me.”

Deep down in the murkiest corner of the pond, Colin was chuckling to himself. “I’ll let them know next week that it’s all a trick,” he thought.

Over the next few days, if you came down to the pond and listened carefully, you could hear the stomachs of all the little tadpoles rumbling. If you saw Bertie the frog, he would have been decidedly without a spring in his jump. He was already starting to look quite skinny. “There’s not enough meat on those frog’s legs to feed a Frenchman,” thought Colin.

The weekend passed hungrily, and by Monday morning even Colin was feeling just a little bit sorry for the rest of the pondlife. He swam to the rock where Prince Bertie liked to sit and hold court.

“Hey Frog-Face,” he said. “April Fool! The food scare is over. It was all a trick. I made it up for a laugh. Ha! It’s safe to eat slime. It always was.”

“What?” Said Bertie, "Well I hardly think that was funny. We’re all starving.”

“But look how lovely and thin you’ve become,” said Colin. “You’re so super-skinny, you could be a model! Ha!"

“Well we must call a meeting,” said Bertie, “and let everyone know.”

The grey goose had the loudest honk on the pond, and she called the meeting. “Hey everybody,” said Bertie. “Colin the Carp has something to tell us all.” But Colin was nowhere to be seen. He was hiding in his cave. He wasn’t sure that everyone else would see the funny side of his trick. After all, they were all rather hungry – and when people and creatures are hungry they can be rather grumpy – fierce even.

“Come on Colin,” called out Bertie, “Everybody’s waiting for you.”

And the pondlife started to quack, cheap and chant, “Colin, Colin, Colin!”

Feeling rather bashful, he slipped out of his cave and swam up to the meeting point. Bertie said, “Ah here he is. Now Colin, let everyone know what you just told me.”

Colin made a fishy gurgling noise at the the back of his throat and said, “Er Ladies and Gentlemen, Frogs, Tadpoles and Fish. Er, somebody’s been playing a trick on you. It’s like this you see. The slime on this pond is perfectly okay. In fact, it’s rather good for you!”

He expected everyone to cheer, but his announcement was met in silence. A breeze blew an empty crisp packet over the pond. Even the usually normally noisy and excited ducklings were quiet. A frog, Tim’s mummy, spoke up, “Are you quite certain Colin? I mean, how do you know that the slime is safe to eat?”

Colin said, “How do I know? Well I’ve been eating it all weekend, and look at me!”

Nobody said anything until Bertie croaked, “But Colin, you’ve got two heads.”

All the tadpoles shrieked, “Eeek! He’s disgusting!” The frogs croaked, the water fowl honked, and there was uproar all around. Colin was horrified. He dived straight down to the bottom of the pond and shook. When eventually the clamour died down he heard Bertie call out,

“April FISH!”

And that was the story of Colin’s April Fool. I do hope that you enjoyed it. Remember, don’t get caught out by a trick on April 1st. And if you do play a trick on somebody else, make sure it’s a funny one, and not too over the top.

There are loads more stories on for all times of the year, so do drop by and listen to some soon. For now, from me, Natasha, bye bye!

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