Once upon a time an anchovy swam in the vast ocean with all its friends.
They flittered and darted, avoiding the jaws of sharks and salmon. Unbeknown to them, a far more sinister danger lurked. A danger so dastardly, planned and executed with such cunning, that there was no escape. As they innocently played Pin the Leg on the Octopus a net was ploughing towards them. The anchovy was scooped up, suffocated, gutted, salted and laid out in a small rectangular tin with a number of its friends.
Weeks passed in oily darkness. One day, the lid was peeled back. The anchovy was thrown onto a bed of soft green leaves next to a strip of capsicum.
“I didn’t watch Two Fat Ladies for nothing,” a woman’s voice said.
No-one chose the anchovy. It was left alone on the salad platter after all its friends had gone. Just as it was being pushed off into the chook bucket, it was seized. This time it was snuggled beneath the mushy warmth of a plum pudding. Even the anchovy knew it didn’t belong there.
“This is for Clare,” the woman said, passing the bowl to someone. “Don’t say anything about the little stowaway.”
The anchovy lay, cradled in a heady mixture of steam, sultanas and brandy. Bliss. However, that comfort was brief. The pudding was lifted away. The anchovy heard a squeal and the peel of a girl’s laughter.
“Oh, Anne, you are awful. Poor Clare. Throw that out and have another bit.”
Once again the chook bucket loomed.
But the anchovy’s final hour had not yet come.
The woman, Anne, snaffled the anchovy as it headed to the scraps. “It seems a shame to waste you,” she said.
Then all was silent, dark, warm and comfortable. The anchovy lay very still for a long time.
“Goodnight, Clare. Merry Christmas. Sleep well.”
Thud on the little fishy. Then a sniffing and a scuffling and a throwing back of the big-soft that had covered it.
“What the…? Anne!”
Next morning, the anchovy met its end at the chooks’ annual feast.
And a legend began.
Not far from where our little marine friend had once lived, was another school of anchovies. They, too, were caught in the big net. They, too, were crammed into tiny tins.
One day, one of those tins was sitting on a shelf in a shop.
“My, my, what have we here?” Anne said. Hands. Trolley. Beep. Bag.
After that, things were a whirl for the tin. It was stuffed inside and pulled from ugg boots, wrapped in birthday paper along with other more appropriate gifts, inserted into a hollowed out book and otherwise hidden. Back and forth with stealth, cunning and hilarity the little green tin of anchovies went until one day it found itself in a suitcase bound for a far away land – a green and pleasant one. Heigh ho for a big adventure!
Not so. Upon reaching the country, the tin was stuffed into a desk drawer inside the wrapper of a secret chocolate stash.
Ring ring. “Hello Clare. It’s Dad. I’ve arrived at Anne’s. I’ll let you know when she finds it.”
And so, the anchovies settled down for a wait amongst the pens and post-its and small pottery bowls of staples, erasers and paperclips.
There’s no saying the exact time the tin was unearthed, for chocolate is a substance consumable at all hours of any day in any circumstance. Suffice to say, it emerged.
For a time the tin enjoyed its new home. It frolicked in English gardens,lost itself in brambly hedges and visited ancient churches.
It was an integral part of Christmas festivities
and soon learned the special preparations that are necessary for walks in that cold land.
However, the day came when it recognized the feeling that had been creeping up on it: it was time to return to its Australian girl.
This is the usual anchovy’s-eye-view of such a vessel…
…but the tin was aboard, asserting its social standing.
A waxy man makes waxy food in the kitchen. (Perhaps a little salty flavour is needed to counter the tastelessness?)
This is of no concern to the tin but does illustrate the origin of one English word.
And so, bon voyage, little fishy friend. May the winds of fortune (as well as the non-figurative winds) favour you. However, with your firm flaps at the helm such wishes are hardly necessary. (Tears, waving handkerchiefs, streamers.)
By the way, a visit to the ss Great Britain is highly recommended.