Lean Advent Calendar – Dec 4th

I was struggling a bit for the 4th Dec, the only idea that kept recirculating around in my head was the “Four Hoursemen of the Apocolypse” which I thought wouldn’t be very festive!

So finally, after due research, I bring you day four, “Four Candles” by the Two Ronnies.

This reminds me of how some senior managers behave, when they are less than clear to their subordinates about what they are trying to achieve. In my experience, clarity of information is critical do avoid duplicated effort and rework.

Here’s a recap of the sketch, which was voted one of the funniest British comedy sketches of all time.

At Ronnie Barkers memorial ceremony held at Westminster Abbey, his procession was led with 4 Candles, not the usual 2 in memory of this clever piece penned by him.

Also the original script, rediscovered in 2006, sold at auction for 45,000 pounds in 2007!

From Wikipedia:

The sketch opens with a throwaway joke as the hardware shopkeeper (Corbett) hands a lady a roll of toilet paper, saying “mind how you go”. The lady exits and the shopkeeper is then confronted by a customer (Barker), who is holding a shopping list. The customer then requests what sounds like “four candles”. The shopkeeper then takes out four candles, but the customer merely repeats his request and the shopkeeper is confused. The customer rephrases his request to reveal he in fact wanted “fork ‘andles” (handles for garden forks.)

He then asks for plugs. To try to avoid a similar mistake the shopkeeper asks what kind and is told “a rubber one, bathroom”. Believing that he is asking for rubber bath plugs the shopkeeper gets out a box of them and asks for the size. The customer’s answer is “thirteen amp” revealing he in fact wants an insulated electric plug.

He next asks for saw tips. Confused, the shopkeeper asks if he wants an ointment for “sore tips”. After a better explanation the shopkeeper explains they do not have any. This causes little or no frustration.

He then asks for “o’s”. This item causes the most frustration with the shopkeeper bringing a hoe, a hose (“‘Ose! I thought you said “‘oes!”) and pantyhose to the counter before working out what he wants are the letter O for the garden gate – “‘o’s as in Mon Repos”. The box of garden gate letters is noticeably difficult to get to and put back, requiring a ladder.

When he asks for “peas” the shopkeeper, believing him to be asking for the letter P for a garden gate, is understandably annoyed as they are in the box he has just put back. The customer waits for him to get the box down before better explaining what he wants – tins of peas. At this point the shopkeeper first suspects it may be a joke.

He then asks for “pumps” and the shopkeeper asks him to elaborate. The customer complies by asking for “foot pumps”. The shopkeeper brings a pneumatic pump to the counter. The customer then reveals he wants “brown pumps size nine”. At this point the shopkeeper becomes convinced that the customer is playing a practical joke on him.

After he asks for washers the shopkeeper, out of desperation and annoyance, recites a long list of possible items. The customer then explains he wants tap washers, almost the only type of washer that the shopkeeper failed to list.

At this point the shopkeeper, having had enough, snatches the shopping list the customer has been holding to complete the order without any confusions. However, he then seems to take offence at something written on the list. He decides he cannot tolerate the customer any longer and calls his assistant from the back to complete the order. The assistant reveals that the request was for billhooks. The audience is intended to infer that the shopkeeper misread it as bollocks or pillocks.

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