The Knife is Too Dull, Dear Liza, Dear Liza

One day last summer while we were still staying in a hotel, we were walking through one of the old neighborhoods of Sevilla and heard the brief trill of a pan flute. About 30 seconds went by and the trill was repeated and continued to repeat — a little louder, a little closer each time. Finally a man turned the corner walking a bicycle, a pan flute in his right hand. On the back of the bike was a knife sharpener. The pan flute was his calling card as he walked the streets offering his services.


A short time later we moved into our own place. One morning, I heard the trill of the pan flute, looked down from my balcony and saw the same man walking our street. Since then, we’ve regularly heard and seen two other pan-flute-playing knife sharpeners announcing their presence. They use the same basic trill, although one adds a little flair by playing one up-scale and then one down. The two guys we regularly see now have their sharpening machines attached to their motos, which they walk alongside. This morning, while enjoying a nice quiet breakfast at Niños del Flor (Flowerchildren) — a café we love but would prefer to not have to walk to every morning but must because El Sanedrín downstairs stopped serving breakfast, heavy sigh — one of these knife sharpeners was parked across the street from the café sharpening knives. The noisy moto acts as the sharpening machine’s power generator. Fortunately, he wasn’t there very long.


I have never been able to grab a good shot as one of the guys is walking by. This morning I was too lazy to get up and walk closer. I did manage to capture just a bit of the “music” a while back (when we were enjoying breakfast right outside our door, on our own plaza, at El Sanedrín).


Strike Up the Band
As I sat and typed this little post, a small marching band (brass and drums) walked below our windows making excellent music. So nice that things are back to normal in town.

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

14 thoughts on “The Knife is Too Dull, Dear Liza, Dear Liza”

  1. Neat little customs and ways to catch your attention and make a living. You live right in the midst of everything and what a good way to get to know the culture.

    1. Jim:
      find the traveling knife sharpeners charming and I love their ability to change with the times. (I have a feeling that didn't originally walk around town alongside their Suzukis.)

  2. I got a chuckle out of the notion that passing parades are normal.
    I hate sharp knives! I like my knives less dangerous and threatening so I never sharpen them–I know, people tell me that you're more likely to get cut on a dull knife, but this works for me!

    1. Ms. Sparrow:
      Don't they have daily processions where you live? How strange!

      The first "steak knives" I owned cost $1 for the set of four and couldn't cut through butter. Jerry likes his knives sharp; I just need to remember how sharp they are when I wash them, since I never use them for any other reason.

  3. I didn't realize that I had my sound turned on high and nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard the pan flute…

  4. Is your title from "There's a Hole in the Bucket"? I heard that song 50 some years ago on a teeny-bopper TV show back in Tacoma, Washington. Kind of a funny tune.

    I'm glad they are back to giving you the parade (or at least a marching band) you so richly deserve.

    1. Jo:
      I was going to post a video (just still images) of Harry Belafonte and Odetta singing the song at Carnegie Hall in 1960. Their rendition is the best I've ever heard.

      And, yes, I'm glad, too, that my people haven't let me down.

  5. Hello Mitch:
    This really takes us back in time. We rather think that we have not seen a Knife Sharpener on his rounds since the 1950s when, in Britain, they used to be quite commonplace. The Pan flute is somewhat shrill, necessary we imagine to be heard above the traffic. Have you taken any of your knives for sharpening? Ours could do with him here!

    1. J&L:
      I had never seen a knife sharpener making rounds in this way. I can imagine them walking the streets of NYC in the '50s, but I lived in the suburbs until '64. It's charming… shrill and charming.

      Jerry has always sharpened the knives himself. I try to avoid sharp objects (especially if it has to do with cooking).

  6. Can't say which sound I'd rather NOT hear – his flute or the knife sharpener.

    Unlike J & L I don't recall itinerant knife sharpeners in 1950s Britain at all, or at any other time. Perhaps they were mainly located in southern England, whereas I was raised in the industrial north where we didn't use knives – we ate with our fingers. (I jest, of course!).

    Jo Calk, above, is correct. Harry Belafonte (with 'Odetta') had a minor British hit here with that record in 1961 – when I'd have been 14/15. It was for quite a long time a regular feature on record request programmes. Perhaps it achieved similar 'heights' in America.

    1. Raybeard:
      The flute is much less painful from a distance. Much prefer that over the moto!

      I'm pleased to know that you were taught how to use utensils. Do you still use them? (Considerably less dishwashing to do.)

      I had just replied to Jo about Harry Belafonte and Odetta before seeing your message. They were definitely big in the States, too. I love that song and their version, again, is the best there was.

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