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My Enormous Gherkin

a gherkin in a can.jpgAs I passed through Orly airport on Saturday (about to fly home to Berlin), the woman running the x-ray machine frowned. She signaled to the man beside her. He frowned, and  signaled to the second woman, further along the conveyer belt.

The second woman grabbed my rucksack as it came out of the X-ray machine.

"Is this your bag?" she said in French.

Oui, I said.

She frowned, perhaps at my pronunciation, and began to pull on her black gloves. I tried to think what the heck I was carrying, that could look so suspicious on an X-ray. The woman plunged her gloved hands deep into my rucksack, and rummaged. I remembered what she was going to find just before she found it...

 Let us pause a moment, while I give you a little backstory.

I had spent the previous few days just outside Paris, working on the stage version of Jude: Level 1. I had wished to bring my noble co-workers a gift from Berlin, to give them strength for the coming ordeal, but there is no point bringing wine to France, chocolate is a problematic present, and what else is there? In duty-free I had almost despaired when I saw the discreet pile of cans marked in big letters Get One!, and in little letters, 1 große echte Spreewälder Gewürzgurke.

The perfect gift from Berlin! A huge local gherkin, in a can. "The gherkin snack from the homelandplace for gherkinfans" as the can said. ("Der Gurken-Snack vom Heimathof für Gurkenfans.")

 So I loaded up with enormous gherkins, one to a can, and brought them to France. We had one each. However, I was so busy I forgot to eat mine, and thus it was that on my way back through Orly airport this refined French lady now found herself holding my enormous gherkin, canned, in her black-gloved hand. "What," she said in elegant French, "is THIS?"

I was distracted from her question by the dawning realisation that I was living through a postmodern, canned version of the great moment in the rockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, when bass player Derek Smalls sets off the metal detector at an American airport by walking through it with a cucumber, wrapped in tinfoil, stuffed down his pants.


Blinded by this vision, I couldn't remember the French for gherkin. Our conversation got increasingly surreal as she tried to guess what the lurid, warty, green thing, pictured on the can, might be. "Get One!" didn't really help, and she couldn't read German. At one point you could see her thinking "Glow-in-the-dark vibrator? Dildo?" In French. ("Vibrateur phosphorescent ? Dildo?")

Seconds from disaster, we finally communicated. "Cornichon!" I cried. "Ein große, er sorry, c'est un grand cornichon."  "Ah!" she cried, enormously relieved. "Un cornichon!" All smiles, she handed it back to me, and I was able to bring meine große Essiggurke home to the banks of the Spree.


(An aside: I am shocked to discover that, according to Google, nobody in the long, rich, and well-documented history of the world has ever, before this glorious day, used the phrase "My Enormous Gherkin" on the internet. This seems to me extraordinary. Hardly a day goes by when I don't say it at least twice.)

References (33)

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Reader Comments (10)

Wasn't there a song that used to go

It's long and green and looks obscene,
and always has me burpin'.

I forget he next line..

A great big pickled gherkin..

April 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNoel (Null Set) Kenny
Julian, My Mother has a saying."You can't be in Nenagh and Borrisokane at the same time, no matter how long your legs are".

Tour Dates are as follows.

May 2
Limerick Dolans 10th Anniversary – Sharon Shannon’s Big Band with Shane MacGowan, Mundy & Dessie O Halloran

July 5:
Pogues Festival 'Bobital-Terre Neuvas', Brittany, France
July 12:
Pogues T in the Park Festival, Scotland
July 13:
Pogues Oxegen Festival, Ireland

July 20
Killarney Festival, INEC – Sharon Shannon’s Big Band with Shane MacGowan, Mundy and Dessie O Halloran

July 25
WOMAD Festival, Bath, UK – Sharon Shannon’s Big Band with Shane MacGowan, Damien Dempsey, Mundy & Dessie O Halloran

August 1
World Fleadh Portlaoise – Sharon Shannon’s Big Band with Shane MacGowan, Mundy & Dessie O Halloran

August 16
The V Festival, Chelmsford, England
August 17
The V Festival, Stafford, England

Pogues probably Japan or Australia (or both)
Sorry. that was meant to be a continuation of a different thread. but you get the gist anyway.
Your mother is the Dalai Lama of North Tipperary, Noel.
May 1, 2008 | Registered CommenterJulian Gough
I found this through Noel, whom I don't actually know and who doesn't know me, but anyway I found it and now I can't get the phrase "my enormous gherkin" out of my mind and so I'll have to blame both of you for that. Anyway if it had been a dildo in a can they probably would have just passed you right through. Those crazy French.
May 2, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermaryelle
C'est vrai, c'est vrai...
May 2, 2008 | Registered CommenterJulian Gough
They're still talking about you. qu'est-ce qui se passe avec ce mec? Il a dit c'était 'un grand cornichon' mais je n'en crois rien … sa petite amie … la pauvre. XD
May 2, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermaryelle
March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTIMMY
It's long and green
And it looks obscene
And it always leaves me burpin'

But I must confess
What I like best
Is a great big pickled Gherkin.

Hi tankya! :)
October 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJamie
The song about a gherkin is called 'Great Big Pickled Gherkin' performed by Stan Holden in the 70s. He was one of my teachers at school.
August 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPhil

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