Calls for Cally pet shop to get plaque after claims famous ‘dead parrot’ sketch was made there
Michael Palin wrote: 'This particular part of the Caledonian Road is a grey, wet, messy part of the world'
12 November, 2016 — By Koos Couvée
Cally Pets owner Jim Dove holding Peazy, a sun conure parakee
IT is regarded as one of the funniest sketches Monty Python ever produced, the stuff of true British comedy legend.
The Dead Parrot sketch, from the Monty Python’s Flying Circus series, portrays a conflict between disgruntled customer Mr Praline (played by John Cleese) and a shopkeeper (Michael Palin), who disagree about the vital state of a “Norwegian Blue” parrot.
There are two recordings of the sketch, and the Tribune has learned that the 1971 version, which appeared in the film And Now for Something Completely Different, was filmed at a pet shop in Caledonian Road.
Miraculously, more than 40 years on, it is still a pet shop – Cally Pets.
Speaking to the Tribune this week, owner Jim Dove said: “I never really looked into this. But in the [second] video, you can’t be entirely certain, but the counter is where ours used to be.
“I’ve had the shop for 10 years, I bought it off a mate who had it for five years. He bought it off someone who had it for 15 years, so it does not quite get you that far [back to 1971].
“But I certainly don’t know about another pet shop on the Cally. It’s absolutely possible – except we don’t sell dead parrots.”
In the sketch, Mr Praline is furious that he’s been sold a dead animal, describing the bird variously as “deceased”, “bleedin’ demised”, “passed on”, “expired and gone to see its maker”, “a late parrot”, and “run down the curtain end and joined the choir invisible” – poking fun at the many euphemisms for death used in British culture. The shopkeeper insists the parrot is only “restin’”.
Former Labour councillor Barry Edwards has suggested the shop could be a candidate for an Islington People’s Plaque next year.
The green plaque scheme – not to be confused with English Heritage’s blue plaques – was set up by Islington Council to encourage people to vote to honour three historical people, places or events with a plaque.
“I would’ve thought something like this, to highlight a place a bit more light-hearted, might be worth doing,” said Mr Edwards.
“It’s remarkable that it’s still a pet shop. Most shops will have changed completely and usually at least twice since that time. It’s unusual that it’s carried on.”
In Michael Palin’s Complete Diaries, the actor writes of the day he came to the Cally to film the sketch: “It’s a grey, wet, messy day and this particular part of the Caledonian Road is a grey, wet, messy part of the world.
“In the pet shop there is scarcely room to move, but the angel fish and the guppies and the parrots and the kittens and the guinea pigs seem to be unconcerned by the barrage of light – and the continuous discordant voices.
“We’re finished by 5.30. Outside the shop is a little boy whose father, he tells us, is coming out of the nick soon.
‘What’ll you do when he comes out?’
‘I hate him.’
‘Why do you hate him?’
‘He’s a ponce.’
“All this cheerfully, as if discussing what kind of fish fingers he likes best. As I walk back to the caravan a battered-looking couple argue viciously in a doorway.”