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When I was a boy there was a comedy duo on television called Morcambe and Wise. Eric Morcambe and Ernie Wise were the nation’s favorites, and became the very essence of Christmas. Never mind the kid in the stable, or the Queen’s speech, or even the dinner, the highlight of the day (after the presents, of course) was always the Morcambe and Wise Christmas show. Mom, Dad, Grandad, Grandma, my younger brother Roy, and me huddled together in our tiny living room like shipwreck survivors, sat bathed in the flickering radiance of our 10” black and white TV set. Every time a couple so much as kissed on a TV show, a rarity in those days, grandma would lift her considerable bulk from the settee and storm out of the room, dragging granddad behind her. Many were the hopeful glances dear old granddad threw at the rapidly disappearing screen.

 One Christmas about halfway through the show Morcambe and Wise appeared dressed in ridiculous Chicken costumes. In particular Eric Morcambe’s thick, black-rimmed glasses peering from beneath the cockscomb headgear have us laughing before they’ve so much as uttered the first cluck.

“Morning Ernestina”

“Morning Erica.”

“I saw that rooster giving you the eye again yesterday.”



“He was not.”

“Was too.”


There is a sudden furious clanging of bells and a flashing of lights and both chickens screw up their faces. Two eggs roll down a chute below their roost. Eric puffs out his cheeks, wipes sweat from his brow with a feathery arm, and they resume their conversation.

“Giving you the hairy eyeball he was.”

“I’m telling you –“

Again the furious bells and lights cut in and they squeeze out another two eggs.

“Is it just me or are they getting closer together?”

“What do you mean, what? The bells and the lights and that and then we have to lay another egg?”

“I don’t know.”

“Wearing me out this is.”

“Wearing you out?”

”Yes, and another thing my little chickadee – ” Eric deadpans the camera, grins, then returns to the conversation “ – why do we do that every time the – ”

The bells and lights erupt again and out two more eggs roll down the chute. One of the eggs is huge. This time Eric’s contorted face is accompanied by one of his trademark yelps of pain, “wa-ha-heeey.” Ernie seems unaffected but Eric is puffing and panting and there are tears of laughter streaming down my cheeks.

“I mean,” Eric continues, “What happens to them?”

“Our eggs.”

“The humans want them.”

“The humans? The humans want our precious little babies.”

“They are not babies, they’re unfertilized.”

“Not if that rooster has anything to with it they’re not.”

The settee groans under the shifting weight of my grandma as she tries to decide whether that warrants a disgusted exit from the room.

“Well what do they want them for then?”

“You mean you don’t know?”

“Well … they eat them.”

Eric looks at the camera, horrified, then back to Ernie.

“Eat them?”

“Don’t they know where they come from?”


And that’s enough for grandma who is up off the settee with a grunt, dragging a smirking granddad in her wake. Mom sniff and says “disgusting”, but her eyes are laughing. Dad is howling with laughter and I’m joining in even though I have no clear idea why.

“What?” my kid brother Roy wants to know.