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I Convinced a Children’s TV Presenter to Prank my Boyfriend for Christmas

You really CAN do anything you set your mind to — or you can get a celeb to do it

By emPublished about a month ago 12 min read
Image by author: me, my Ben, and our Barney

“I can’t believe how lucky I am to love you.”

It was 2021, sometime between summer and winter, a few months after meeting and falling for my boyfriend, my soulmate, Ben. I was, still am and will always be mesmerised by his very existence. He’s perfect. He’s everything I could ever want. He’s like a fictional character in that he is particularly unreal, and I can never be too sure that I haven’t just made him up, instead grasping hands with the molecules of air that make up my imaginary partner. I mean, I’m a writer. It could happen.

Anyway. It’s 2021. Tiny animated hearts burst around my head every time he walks into a room. An audience applauds — or maybe it’s just my heart pounding so frenetically at the sight of the bloke I’m obsessed with. I just can’t believe my luck in being able to call him mine.

Which is why I’d often tell him this, holding his handsome little face in my hands, staring into his cosmic latte eyes and whispering it, over and over, over and over, enchanted by everything about him. I wanted him to know how much he meant to me.

But it’s important to note, no matter how perfect he is, he’s still a boy.

Hence why his reply was often this:

“Imagine if I was just pretending to be with you, haha. What if this was an episode of Prank Patrol and outside the door is Barney and the ninjas, ready to burst in and reveal that I’m only here as a prank. Hahahaha.”

Ha. How romantic.

Now, before I continue, if you don’t already know, you’re probably wondering what Prank Patrol is—it’s British TV gold. A children’s show aired on CBBC back in 2007.

The premise is this: kids literally apply to be on the show to prank their friends, with the help of the presenter, Barney Harwood, and his team of prankster ninjas. Whether that’s a fake music video that a girl wants to convince her best friend they’re starring in, or a haunted museum that one mate has set up for another. Whatever the theme, some random British child got pranked on TV — and that’s the kind of content we other British kids loved to see.

It’s classic comedic viewing; timeless, humorous and now about to happen to, well, us.

Ben made that same Prank Patrol joke a lot throughout the first few months.

Which led us quite nicely to the midweeks of November, Christmas glowing red, green and gold on the horizon — our first festivities together — and along with it came the pressure of I have to get him something absolutely show-stopping. This is our first gift-giving occasion and I want to show him how lucky I am to love him in the form of a gesture that not even Santa himself could take credit for.

But also, I wanted to get him back for his little crafty comments. So I combined the two — and I had an idea.

For hours one night back in November of 2021, I scoured the internet searching for the CBBC presenter in question. Never before had I harassed a celebrity online — many faceless strangers, sure — and I was ill-equipped for the hunt. Where you do you begin? How reachable might he be? Is this even going to be possible?

I found him on LinkedIn. I paid for the premium service so I could reach out to him (cancelling immediately after). And at almost half 8 on a Monday evening, I crafted my introduction to the Master of Tomfoolery, Himself.

It read (and this is verbatim):

Subject: the weirdest message you’ll ever receive, quite prankly

barney harwood: I am about to request the Weirdest™ christmas favour from you in exchange for the Weirdest™ gift of thanks. but before I bombard you with a whole load of unsolicited content, I just wanted to make sure that was okay first? here’s a tiny no-context glimpse to either entice you or enrage you from the depths of your soul: barney, you made my childhood — now you’re ruining my life (this is a joke (ish). you’ll see). and now I am kindly asking that you help to ruin my boyfriend’s (again, also a joke (ish). you’ll see).

(Full disclosure, when I’m writing a message to somebody, to anybody, even TV royalty, I tend to boycott capital letters. I don’t know why).

Image by author: a screenshot of the first message I sent

He replied, an hour and a half later that very same night:

Ok. I’m intrigued. Tell me more.

Oh, how he probably regretted saying that. Because then I sent him a tome:

Holy crap I’m sweatin’ joy I did not expect this and I’ve just had to spend 11 solid minutes staring at the moon and eating handfuls of grated cheese. Now I’m ready. (I apologise in advance for the length of what I’m about to lob your way):

Barney, you’re driving me barmey (sorry, I just couldn’t waste that opportunity). I’ll try to keep this short (you should know I’ve never been able to fulfil that desire. My hair is long, my journal is chunky and I don’t believe in portion sizes. So brace yourself).

I met my boyfriend in the butt-end of July and we fell in love pretty fast. Like TV fast. Quicker than Tracy Beaker knocked back that garden worm. I’m a writer you see, and he’s a barista so I quite literally depend on him for my survival. Coffee and ink is a pretty potent love potion it seems. And because I just couldn’t believe how lucky I was (and am) to have bagged myself such a boy, I kept telling him:

“Are you even real? Are you fictional? Did I write you?” (I’m that good)

And him, being a boy (my apologies to your kind), took that opportunity to tease me. And has done every seven minutes since. He replies, every damn time, with:

The prank patrol crew are just outside. GOT YA.

That’s his response to everything. Every time he tells me how he feels, he postfaces it with “better delete Barney’s number now then.” I’m pretty sure you and your team are going to be the groomsmen at the wedding I’m going to ditch him at (just kidding!). It’s a running theme now and he takes immense pleasure from me never quite knowing if you and your ninjas are lurking round the corner.

These are how all of our cute moments together unfold (and these are direct quotes):

Us: *being in love*

Me: I can’t wait to live with you.

Him: Imagine move in day, as I’m moving my stuff in and you just hear like 4 sets of footsteps coming up the staircase and a well organised, uniformed film crew just barge in.

Me: love you knobhead!

Him: love you too!

Me: *skeptical* you sure?

Him: promise (calls off prank patrol for now)

Me: *exists*

Him: imagine if this was all just an episode of prank patrol lol would you kill me

Me: *thinks about how I’d kill him for much less*

So not-so-short story shorter: I love him with all my heart and several others — and I need payback. And I was wondering if I could rope you into the revenge plan? I know it’s so much to ask and I am a Stranger™ on the internet, but my mom always told me “don’t talk to strangers. Talk AT them” (think I’ve succeed there) and so here I am, being weird and asking for weirder:

Would you mind perhaps doing some kind of super short video pretending that the 4 months we’ve been going out (lol fast I know. I talk fast, eat faster, love fastest) has all been some elaborate prank? (Don’t worry, this doesn’t have any potential for upset. He’ll understand immediately that this is a joke. There’s no risk of damaging his mental health or me or worse; him deprogramming CBBC from the tele)

I know it’s so much to ask and I completely completely understand if it’s a no, a nope, a nein! But sometimes you just have to put it out into the universe if you want the universe to aid you in pranking your boyfriend. You know?

Oh and the weird crap I can offer you in return? Nothing of Actual Value™ but I will write anything for you. I’ve written a love letter to Leibniz biscuits for a Penguin writing competition (and won. They sent me 6 boxes of the biccies). I’ve written a roast battle from the perspective of Sue Sylvester from Glee, tearing into my own mom. I’ve written a short story about a guy so precious about his personal space he peels his own skin off (inspired by Rick and Morty). I’ve written about OCD and B&M and I once applied to work at Lidl, and in the cover letter I decided to go rogue and — instead of a generic letter — I copied in the James Morrison “When I Was Little” lyrics and replaced “little” with “Lidl”. I didn’t get the job.

Also my mom makes cards, my dad works at Jaguar Landrover, Ben (my boyfriend) works at Caffe Nero — so I can send you a card and a car and a coffee. Whatever you fancy; you name it.

This is so long and I’m so sorry and imagine if this isn’t really you (hello Imposter Barney. If you’re still in, I am. I’m not fussy. I’m revengeful).

(PS I love Ben interdimensionally and I happen to howl with laughter every time he makes a Prank Patrol reference — which is always. This is half revenge half Christmas pressie he’d never expect. You’re doing Santa’s work now).

And finally, despite having to tackle an essay-length research project just by sifting through my incessant reply, he said:

Firstly, it wasn’t a real garden worm.

Secondly, real Barney here. Hi.

Thirdly, Landrover in white please.

Fourthly, disregard thirdly. This will be my Christmas present to you.

Send me your email address and I’ll see what I can do. I will need some things from you.

You ready for this?


So Barney and I began plotting, planning, pranking.

After a month of back-and-forth messaging — most of which was more about Friends episodes and where his fellow ninjas had since ended up (one now lives in Canada!) — we hadn’t really made an official plan. I only knew that Barney was up to something, something cool, something for us, and I felt incredibly honoured to have wrangled my own tele friend to sort out a Christmas gift for my soulmate on my behalf (I also got Ben a white chocolate handgun, just in case you were wondering).

And honestly, you have no idea how desperate I was to tell Ben, the person I tell everything to, that somebody we grew up watching for years was scheming with me to get him. Half the battle was ensuring that me and my journal kept it schtum.

Anyway. Then came Christmas Day.

And there it went.

Boxing Day, too.

Nothing. Nada. We had yet to prank my soulmate.

Why? Because Barney Harwood had actually come down with Christmas Covid. It was 2021 and Covid was 19 back then, lurking the streets at all hours trying to get with anybody who passed by. It couldn’t be helped. I understood entirely. I was just happy that all of this had had the potential to occur at all.

Until December 27th, 6:59pm. I was playing Monopoly with Ben and his mom and dad, secretly glancing at my phone under the table as Barney sent me a video. 6 minutes and 7 seconds long.

Video by author: a 30-second intro clip of the full video

Barney Harwood, at his keyboard, composing a song to say to Ben that we’d been pranking him all along.

We hurried off to his room to watch the video, Ben confused and a little frightened as we sat on his bed and I unlocked my phone, his eyes bulging when he recognised the man on the screen. We watched the video. Ben jolted at the mention of his name, thinking Barney and his ninjas were actually speaking to us live, or even lurking outside the front door with a camera crew in tow. Then he settled, and we grinned, we laughed, I watched Ben’s face for half the video, and at the end of it, Barney invited us to see him panto, two days later, in a city we’d never before been to.

It was epic.

Needless to say, we agreed. We sent giddy and grateful voice-notes, we booked trains and a Premier Inn, Ben booked last minute time off work and I wrote a small Friends-themed poem on the back of some Friends-themed paper to give to Barney when we met him.

At the panto, he reserved two tickets just for us.

Ben and I had both had a nervous poo before we found our seats. There’s something about meeting your heroes whilst they’re busy slaying on-stage dragons voiced by Sara Davies from Dragon’s Den — yeah, it’s nerve-wracking, sweat-dribbling, bowel-moving fun!

We were front row. Barney — sorry, Prince Derek — shouted us out on stage. Then he scuttled into the audience, during the show, and sat beside us, still in character, still performing, and still we can’t believe that after he finished, he invited us out for a pint.

Image by author: our VIP panto tickets

Naturally, post-matinee, we followed him out of the theatre and through the streets of Northwich to a quaint little pub like children straggling behind a parent. Me and Ben were gripping hands, white knuckled and nervous, not because we were afraid, but because we were in awe! In shock! In Northwich! Trailing somebody we watched when we were 12, wide-eyed beyond the screen.

Three days prior, Ben had no idea that his favourite CBBC presenter knew of his existence. Three days prior, I had no idea what kind of prank Barney would present us with. Three days prior, neither of us expected to be in the county of Cheshire, watching a pantomime for free and swapping inspirational life advice with a TV icon.

But here we were. Me and Ben sat opposite Barney, three pints between us, talking about how to do a little good in this world by doing what you love, to help others. Barney really had some heartening stories. We listened, enthralled by his every word — and vice versa. We could have chattered away to him for hours, but as is the nature of being a performer; he had to get back for his evening show.

So we hugged him, took an awe-struck selfie (see the header photo), thanked him a million times over, wished him good luck and waved him off — with the promise of keeping in touch in the future.

Then we stayed behind, digesting it all. For a while, Ben and I just grinned manically at one another, buzzed not from the beer and cider, but from the life-changing adventure born from an extremely out-there message I’d sent on LinkedIn. We took a photo with his pint glass — Barney had lipsed that thing! It would be worth thousands on eBay — and then wandered back to our Premier Inn home for one final night, basking in the glow of the goodness of people, some strangers, some celebrities, some dragon-slaying royals — some willing to do a little something for somebody they don’t even know simply because they can.

Image by author: our little spontaneous celeb-invited fairytale adventure — in Northwich

Barney checked in on us for a while after that.

Me and Ben messaged, voice-noted, FaceTimed him. Told him about our creative endeavours whilst he let us in on some of his. This wasn’t just a one-off moon-shot, this was a TV star who wanted to help us reach for our own clusters of them.

He really did inspire us. Ben quit being a barista — two years later, he has his dream job now. I write, for a full-time living. We try to squeeze in as many random adventures as we can.

Sadly, I haven’t harassed any more celebrities on the internet — but I’m still putting myself out into the universe in different ways. Extending and enhancing our existence in the weirdest ways, so that our stories are fuller, our pages our thicker, our lives are lifier. And because I want to experience every corner of this universe with my soulmate that we possibly — and impossibly — can.

Like I said in 2021, I really am obsessed with him. Then, now and forever.

(And Barney Harwood, if you’re reading this: prank you, for everything, from the centre-stage of our hearts. If you have any loved ones you want to prank with some less notable weirdos across the way — we’re your ninjas-in-arms, always).

Image by author: the pint glass in question

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About the Creator


I’m a writer, a storyteller, a lunatic. I imagine in a parallel universe I might be a caricaturist or a botanist or somewhere asleep on the moon — but here, I am a writer, turning moments into multiverses and making homes out of them.

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Comments (2)

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  • Heather Hublerabout a month ago

    This had me smiling from ear to ear and a bit nervous in the middle for what the prank would be! I so love that you shared this :)

  • Paul Stewartabout a month ago

    hahahha. Ths was joyfully sweet, and hilarious. Well done on such a long (I like that you mention not being able to do short stuff hah) And Barney...what a legend. Thank you for the laughs!

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