It's April Fool's Day
"A pinch and a punch for the first of the month!" Today is the day for hoaxes, when the world's newspapers sneak fake tales into their august pages and small children prank one another until noon.
The greatest hoax of all time? For Brits, it has to be BBC 1957 Panorama's TV report on the Swiss spaghetti harvest, complete with footage of farmers pulling spaghetti down from trees. The BBC solemnly advised people who phoned in to place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.
For Americans, perhaps it's the baseball pitcher who could throw a ball at 168mph. He had never played, but a Tibetan monastery had trained his mind.
Natural Vodka Sprang Forth in Ukraine
It was on this day in 1976 that scientists first analysed a clear vodka-tasting liquid that was issuing from a spring in southern Ukraine, the grain bowl of the then Soviet Union.
Soil analysis of the area suggested that rainwater passing through remnants of grain left on the land over a period of hundreds of years had leached down to levels where ground temperatures were high enough to cause fermentation. As this fermented liquid percolated through ground rock it was clarified, and when it later surfaced as a spring it was, in fact, a very weak vodka.
Locals are believed to have been taking this naturally produced vodka and distilling it to a higher alc./vol. for many years but the process had been kept as a closely guarded local secret by peasants afraid of losing their natural source of inebriation.
Today we're having a giggle and drinking an April Shower....
We are also remembering Marvin Gaye
On this day in 1984, the soul singer Marvin Gaye got in a physical fight with his bullying, pastor father, Marvin Gay (Sr.). It only ended when his father shot him dead, then shot him a second time at point blank range - although he later told cops "I didn't mean to do it".
The man who brought us Sexual Healing, What's Going On and Got to Give It Up had suffered from depression and coke-induced paranoia, and tried to kill himself at least three times. Some believe, including the family, that his attack on his father was an attempt at suicide by murder.
Gaye died the day before he would have turned 45. In honour of a man who transformed the sound of Motown, inspired covers by everyone from Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin to Aaliyah and the Strokes, and shaped not only soul but R&B, we're drinking a Cuban Heal, created by Matthew Keegan, and full of natural, if not sexual, healing.
It's VAT's birthday
VAT, or value added tax, the bane of every British business, not to mention the consumers who pay it, was introduced this day in 1973. And you probably won't be surprised that when VAT came in, replacing the older purchase tax, it was half what it is today.
In Britain, it's common to think that Conservative governments are tax cutters. But that ain't necessarily so. Winston Churchill raised taxes during World War II until the richest paid 98% tax on incomes over £20,000. John Major raised VAT to 17.5%, while Osbourne and Cameron briefly cut the rate before hiking it again.
We are marking this occasion with a suitably confusingly named cocktail, the Nine-20-Seven. The name comes not for its ingredients (which include Licor 43), but the time when a customer asked the time. Or, given that the present rate of VAT is 20%, you may decide a 20th Century Cocktail more appropriate.