One of the shortest and best tall stories in my big collection emerged from a brave but vain attempt to interview Spike Milligan about the serious side of humour on BBC Radio Norfolk during the 1980s. I should have known better.

He insisted on making news bulletins a bit later than scheduled by playing tunes on the studio chamber pot I used for “pot luck “ draws on the Dinnertime Show, Then he settled on uttering important announcements in his best Eccles voice from The Goons’ zany cast of characters.

His final gem reduced us both to convulsive laughter and, in my case, a sincere hope there was nothing too serious in the bulletin waiting to be aired :

“Edgar Thrump, an unemployed welder in a jelly factory, was today arrested for lying about his height in an attempt to get into the police force.”

Spike earned his comedy stripes with off-the-wall lines such as this. It came reverberating back not long after when I heard about Dereham Articulate Speakers setting up an event for enthusiasts to share their favourite tall stories.

Those blessed with a cynical streak might suggest voluble politicians, smarmy commentators and bonus-loaded captains of industry can provide plenty of suitable material on the road to a general election with massive dollops of exaggeration and hyperbole. 

Then there are flocks of so-called celebrities with shameless egos and football managers, players and pundits well to the fore who don’t go round he houses as much as move to a completely new estate in attempting to explain away certain types of results.

Like the Championship boss who claimed: ”If we played like that every week we wouldn’t be so inconsistent” , the hardened defender who told his interviewer: ”I think the action replay showed it to be worse than it actually was,” or Bill Shankly when he gruffly opined: “The trouble with referees is that they know the rules but they don’t  know the game.”

Of course, yarns carrying loads of embellishments, and with plenty of power to add, used to be common coinage among flocks of farmworkers across the region, especially when numbers multiplied to gather in the corn and sugar-beet harvests. Youngsters and newcomers to the pastoral scene were prime targets of uproarious leg-pulling.

The number of naïve lads sent for tins of striped paint, pails of dry water and rolls of sloping wire netting to keep rain off the chickens tended to reach epic levels on long summer days when home-made entertainment went with fourses under the hedge.

One old Norfolk boy marked my debut as a Saturday morning apprentice on the land with stunning news he’d found s cow’s nest. Following him in keen anticipation of extended my grasp of nature beyond the bike-shed academy, I had the good sense to laugh as he unravelled six empty milk bottles in the ditch.

No doubt that little incident raised a few chortles  in the pub that night and earned me another “sorft young tewl” epithet. I was in good company after hearing about a farmer round Litcham way who sent his foreman to borrow a cross-cut saw, his mangolds were so big he couldn’t get them on the cart.

“Please. Sar. my marster would like ter borer yar crorss-cut saw . His mangles are so big he can’t  git them on the cart,” said the foreman.” Well, bor,” replied the neighbour, “dew yew tell yar marster I’m wholly sorry but my crorss-cut happen ter be stuck in one o‘my taters.”

Perhaps my favourite tall story with a delightful twist at the end concerns a holidaymaker and a local who had been fishing on opposite sides of the bank at Horning on the Norfolk Broads.

They met in the village pub that evening.

The visitor cordially  greeted the homegrown angler and said: “Do you know, I caught a roach today and it was a good four feet long. How did you get on?” The old Norfolk chap drained his glass, pushed it across the counter and scratched his head.

“Dew yew know, I pulled out an old lantern. Must he’ bin ‘bowt a thousand year old if that wuz a day.  I’ll tell yer suffin ’else. That wuz still alight.”

The holidaymaker was taken aback, not least because it was the done thing for the angler who had fared best to buy the next round. “What are we going to do about it, then?" he asked.

“Well, ole partner,” replied the Norfolk sage. “If you tearke two foot orff  yar roach, I’ll blow the light out in my lantern.”

Spike Milligan would surely have rubbed his hands with glee at that one. He always kept a tin of glee on his scribbling desk.