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Spanish Secrets: Four Candles

Craig Briggs gets to work in the garden, but as the unforgiving Galician terrain results in another broken fork handle he is reminded of one of the most famous of all British TV comedy sketches.

To aficionados of classic British comedy, the title of this short tale might ring a few nostalgic bells. To those unfamiliar with this amusing reference, let me explain.

In 1971 the BBC introduced a comedy sketch show called, “The Two Ronnies”. It featured the comedy duo, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett. Due to the shows overwhelming success it was produced annually until 1987.

One of my favourite sketches from the show was entitled, “The Hardware Shop”. Its comical use of the English language has become the stuff of bar-room legend.

In the sketch, Ronnie Corbett was a hardware shop owner. Ronnie Barker enters as a rather scruffy and broad-accented customer.

Barker steps up to the shop counter and asks for four candles. The shop keeper, Corbett, duly obliges and places them on the counter in front of him.

“No”. Say Barker, “four candles”.

“Well there you are,'' says Corbett, “four candles.''

“No”. Barker declares! “Fork 'andles! 'Andles for forks!”

This gem of hilarity sprang to mind whilst I was working in the allotment. It came just seconds after hearing the unmistakable crack of Ash as the handle of my garden fork snapped in two. My stony plot of land had claimed its fourth garden fork.

In addition to these, two pickaxe handles have also succumbed to this unforgiving terrain. Before those were the three Spanish hoe handles, sacrificed in an attempt to tame this barren land.

The Spanish hoe should not be confused with the delicate weed removing English hoe. A Spanish hoe is a formidably heavy agricultural tool. It is wielded from high overhead through a broad arc, powerfully scything through the earth.

After the loss of all these garden tools, laughter seemed preferable to tears.

Let’s hope that cultivating this rocky earth is worth the losses and the effort.

My fork’s demise was hastened by the impending arrival of a full moon. This perfect opportunity for planting vegetables could not be missed – according to the locals at least. As a gardening novice, who am I to argue with centuries old folk-lore?

We reached our astral deadline with a flurry of activity and hours of back-breaking digging. Planting potatoes, onions and garlic in straight parallel rows was a much swifter task than preparing their beds.

Scattered around the house in an assortment of different pots and trays are peas, beans, carrots, leeks, parsnips, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, and a whole host of other vegetables and salads. Every inch of sunlit space is occupied with plastic tubs sprouting healthy green shoots.

A change in the weather has temporarily halted our planting, but with spring in the air, it shouldn’t be too long before we can start again. After which we can sit back, rest, and wait to enjoy the fruits of our labours.

To end this tale in the vein on which it began; a friend wrote to Melanie recently. She described the trouble she was having cooking a chicken that had been diagnosed with bird flu. Every time she put it in the oven it sneezed and blew the gas out.

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Copyright © 2006 Craig Briggs


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