Andrew Sphikas – palm dealer to the parishes

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Andrew Sphikas has just had a delivery of palm reeds from Spain and he’s getting his orders out for Sunday – crosses, branches, different sizes, different combos.

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At his shop on Mare Street in Hackney, he’s cutting and binding and boxing up. He’ll do you a deal, if you’re quick.

If you fancy it, he’ll throw in some altar candles, a box of lovely incense, some miracle perfume, an icon of Our Lady. And candles and tapers. If you want beeswax tapers, 100% genuine, he can sort you out. He particularly likes the beeswax ones because they’re nice and bendy.

“You use candles at your church?” he asks, smiling like a softy, “you like candles?” and then the killer question: “how big is your congregation?”

“That’s pathetic,” he says, when I tell him, “that’s just embarrassing. But I guess that’s the Church of England for you. Any case, you’re not really into your candles, are you? We like the Russians and the Romanians, the Greek Orthodox and the Catholics. They’re into their candles, they love their votives. We can shift thousands of votives.”

I resort to some desperate cliché: “better to light a single candle than curse the darkness.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll look after you too,” he says, “We don’t discriminate at Candlemakers. We can meet all your paschal needs.”

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