“Life is rather like a tin of sardines – we’re all of us looking for the key.” – Alan Bennett

Well Alan Bennett was right up to a point. Apart from the fact that the keys on a tin of sardines are more or less useless.

In the old days opening a tin of sardines was a war with many battles. The first battle was to insert the tab from the lid into the key, the second was to start twisting the key to remove the lid, only to find that you had inserted the key the wrong way,  the lid being barely open and once hooked on, the key was impossible to remove. Then you had to remove the lid using knives, pliers and brute force and you were certain to end up with mashed sardines and a pool of olive oil, mixing in with the blood from the gash you received from the tin lid.

However reader, things have moved on science has advanced. Last night when I came to open my tin of sardines, I saw before me not a key but a ring-pull. I inserted a finger into the ring pull, in the usual manner and pulled, gently at first and then exerted firmer pressure. Then with a satisfying pop, the ring-pull came off. I then of course used the can opener. It is nigh on impossible to negotiate the corners of a sardine can with a standard can opener. So with the help of a knife and pliers I finally removed the lid. I then mopped up the blood and olive oil and put a plaster on my finger.

The story doesn’t end there, once I had administered first aid, I took a look at the contents of the can. Three, yes only three measly little sardines, back in the day (as they used to say), there were four plump little fish wedged side by side. In this can they would have had room to move around. Not lengths necessarily but definitely widths. Mind you without their heads they would have been lucky to swim anywhere.

To me, this puts sardines in the same category as the diminished size Wagon Wheel, the thickness of chocolate on a Club biscuit and the number of crisps in a pack.

I ate the sardines with lemon juice and black pepper on a bagel.

Alan Bennett was almost right about life being like a can of sardines – oily, bloody and a bit of a swindle.

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