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David Cottrell: Going out on a limb to prove I can bluff with the best.

Byline: David Cottrell

PINOCCHIO had a nose that grew. Apparently, I've got a dimple of deceit. Which is to say I'm rubbish at bluffing because every time I try to pull someone's leg at Space Towers it automatically manifests itself, thereby giving the game away, straightaway.

At least that's what I'm told, but I beg to differ. Among old friends I still dine out on one practical joke that involved a straight face beyond the call of duty.

Roughly this time too long ago, I'm working on a football magazine and we've been invited to take part in a five-a-side tournament at a big music festival. We need two celebrities or ex-pros in our team.

Staff writer Dan is our best player. He's also the most credulous and, due a series of unfortunate episodes on past assignments (sleep-walking across a Dubai golf course before being wok en by security guards on the 18th green with his trousers round his ankles, that sort of thing), is haunted about being a ``Jonah'' or jinx. Anyway, he does the ringing-round.

Result - we get broadcaster Dominik Diamond, who qualifies by having a ridiculous name. Now we just need an old footballer. I suggest a famous former Liverpool player whom I'll call Dicky Mint. Dan rings him, and Dicky's made-up. The phone slams down triumphantly - this calls for a celebration. We settle for a fag in the 26th floor smoking room, careful not to flick our No1s anywhere near the fire hazards that are the crusty tour T-shirts and kelp-like hairdo's of the NME staff, who've colonised the room on account of them chain-smoking to a man, woman and gender-unspecific troll.

So, I ask, who'd you get? ``Dicky Mint, '' declares Dan proudly. Very funny, I reply, who'd you really get? ``Why? What's wrong with him?''

Mid-puff in affected disbelief, I say that I'd only been messing and hadn't he heard the news - about Dicky losing his left peg in a tragic DIY accident and being fitted with a false one?

Dan is wan. Back downstairs, a few nudges and winks and everyone's in on the fun. Dan's on the blower to Mick, the tournament's Cockney organiser, asking whether it's a problem if one of our players has a prosthetic limb.

Like something out of a film, Dan winces and holds the phone away from his ear. What sounds like a tiny, helium-voiced version of Mick explains very clearly down the receiver that, to the best of his knowledge, nowhere in the rules does it say that entrants can field ``a five-a-side team with nine f legs. ''

Dan, fraught, is back on the line to Dicky. Is he sure he'll be all right, what with his leg and that? ``Me leg?'' Yeah, y'know, your leg? ``Er, yeah. It's fine, no problem. So, do I need to bring my own boots?''

Bottom lip aquiver, Dan asks if he can call him back. All around the office, shoulders are quaking and tears are streaming down cheeks. Finally, despite the manic head-shakes of sadistic colleagues, I crack and put him out of his misery.

What goes around comes around, though, and it wasn't long before the great god Payback came knocking on my door. But then, that's another story.

CAPTION(S):

David Cottrell is editor of Space magazine
COPYRIGHT 2005 MGN Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 17, 2005
Words:549
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