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Scene from a senior life – (1)

Martin Roberts attempts harakiri whilst trying to open a tin can


Having found in my fridge a forgotten – but not ancient – triangular tin of foie gras, picked up at the Eurotunnel supermarket on the way back from my most recent trip to the WW1 Western Front cemeteries, I opted to eat some on toast immediately.

This decision was partly influenced by the lady staying with me having just announced that she had recently heard graphic details of how badly ducks are tortured in producing the delicacy and that, not only I would never be allowed to eat foie gras again but – if she ever found any in my cupboards – she would throw it out.

I don’t know how often you personally open a tin of foie gras – I mean, as opposed to one of your servants doing it – but it’s not the easiest task for anyone like me who was hopeless in both carpentry and metalwork classes at prep school fifty years ago. It doesn’t help that I’m left-handed.

After wrestling unsuccessfully for several minutes with a standard (i.e. right-hander) tin opener – the fundamental problem was getting the cutter thingy to traverse around the rather sharp corner at the end – I seemed to apply perhaps a little too much force and succeeded in virtually slicing off the end of my left hand index finger via contact with that part of the edge of the tin lid that I had managed to prise open.

The deep jagged wound then bled profusely, causing a degree or urgency and panic in those around me as, for several minutes, my hand was held under the cold tap and about half a roll of kitchen towel was applied in an attempt to stem the flow that was pre-ordained to fail. For quite a time.

Meanwhile, because the toast had popped up from the toaster just at the point where I had my little ‘accident’, my main concern was naturally applying the foe gras and eating it before the toast got cold. (I much prefer toast that is piping hot, almost melting the meat before you get to it).

Others in the room seemed not to appreciate my chosen priority, feeling that the finger tip about to drop off should have come first.

Nevertheless, a man must not be deflected from his fodder.

Some five days past the incident, I now have the time and inclination to look back.

The one thing I have noticed is just how often, and for what, you use the index finger of your left hand in daily life. Especially if you’re left handed.

It’s not normally something you think about much, in fact it’s definitely the kind of thing that gets filed under ‘Taken For Granted’. Just occasionally it nurtures the soul to be reminded of this sort of humdrum fact of life.


As I was just finishing the last of my tin this evening, for some reason that famous Alan Bennett ‘vicar’ sketch from Beyond The Fringe came to my mind – the bit where he compares life to a tin of sardines – “… there’s always a little bit in the corner which you cannot quite get at”.

I know just what he means. It’s the story of my life.


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About Martin Roberts

A former motoring journalist, Martin lists amongst his greatest achievements giving up smoking. Three times. He holds to the view that growing old is not for the faint-hearted. More Posts