Summer Winos (1.1+1.2)


In which our heroes rid Compo of evil spirits, loose a front door key and attempt to attend a formal dinner dance.

ANDREW: I like the way that the first episode of the series proper opens with a shop of some kids mucking about on a field, because even in these early episodes the theme of pensioners reverting to adolescence is quite clear. They giggle over adult magazines, loiter at bus stops and fail to get in to a posh dance; an episode of The Inbetweeners with an old-age cast!

BOB: As for the plot, it’s typically light… Blamire gets his hair cut, Compo loses his house key while being upended in the library to shake evil spirits from his head, and the trio blag their way into the dinner dance to retrieve it from Wainwright the prissy librarian – before retreating, typically, to the backroom where Sid ferries them bottled beer and chicken butties from the buffet.

But it doesn’t matter, it’s a hugely enjoyable start to the series proper. Good to see Compo flick an authentic 1970s V-sign at the end, as well.

Andrew: Actually, with that V-sign and Clegg’s mention of rape in mind, it’s probably worth noting that the first three episodes of the series have awarded a ‘12’ certification from the BBFC. I’m not trying to suggest that this means that the early years of Summer Wine are a den of filth, but they are a little at odds with the cosy, family friendly, innofensive reputation that the series had in its later period. Just look at that topless calendar at the back of the barber’s shop!

BOB: And more fabulous early 70s grottiness! Have a good look at the café in this, it’s absolutely filthy. The walls are coated in damp, grime and cobwebs. A fantastic double act from Sid and Ivy, though, and you forget how much of an important figure Sid was in these early series… he has the one line in this episode that made me laugh out loud:

IVY: I came here to dance, but fat chance of that with you. You don’t even know how to hold me.

SID: (MAKING A STRANGLING MOTION) Put your neck in there…

Roy Clarke’s love of odd Northern dialogue shines through constantly. The devil’s in the detail, and Clegg gets most of the best lines. He talks of Compo making a nest, a ‘simple construction of mattress fluff and old Sporting Chronicles’. He pricks dinner dance doorman Charlie Harris’ pomposity with the splendid riposte ‘I’ve seen you making imitation rude noises for the entertainment of the Young Conservatives’. Although, a heartbeat later, Compo’s perfectly-timed aside, ‘And your Eileen had to get married’ is laced with brilliant old-school Northern nose-tapping knowingness.

I loved Mrs Patridge’s comment about her 12-year-old son as well… ‘he’s never been strong, and everything goes to his chest’. Roy Clarke’s ear for the rhythms and absurdities of speech is just perfect. I could hear my mother saying that line, word for word, in my own grimy, early 70s childhood. Does anyone talk like that any more?

1.2 Inventor of the Forty Foot Ferret

In which Compo is persuaded to visit church.

ANDREW: Before we begin properly I’d just like to note the title of this episode. I love ferrets and I think Compo is partly to blame. As a kid, his descriptions of the slinky little angels made them seem so exciting; you could stick them down your trousers!

BOB: You’re a freak, Smith.

ANDREW: This episode is all about class and religion really. You have Blamire as  the bossy, middle class church-goer, Compo as the scruffy, sub working class atheist and Clegg as, well, just Clegg really. He gets my favorite lines of the episode; “Who needs eternity? Suppose you’re waiting for a bus.” Again this is a series that has come to be identified with the likes of Songs of Praise but in these early episodes Clarke is questioning whether organised religion has a point at all!

BOB: I thought the depiction of faith in this episode actually spoke volumes about early 1970s society. Blamire, every inch the conservative Christian, is never the butt of the joke… instead, its Compo – gauchely suspicious of the church and its conventions – that we’re encouraged to laugh at. Christian faith in the early 1970s was still a cornerstone of British life, and it’s treated seriously here.

For an extra bit of poignancy… the church they visit is clearly St John’s in Holmfirth, where Bill Owen is now buried. They walk very close to his current resting place in one scene.

ANDREW: This isn’t angry, boundary breaking satire, though. The characters take the mick out of each other but in the end they’ve all ended up in the same predicament and despite what they believe or say they’re just mates. If anything Clarke seems to be encouraging acceptance and tolerance. Sort of progressive for its time really.

On the other hand, there is a very 70s rape joke and Cleggy says poof! In light of this I take back everything I said about the use of the word orgasm earlier in the series. The word poof is the one that feels out of place now.

BOB: Both of those lines gave me a jolt as well! Clegg comments that Blamire’s mother ‘brought up a little poof’, and Compo tales the wartime tale of ‘Hilda Mason and those four Yanks… everybody knew it were rape, but she were never prosecuted’. Did you spot the delightfully incongruous swearing in the café as well? Compo tells Sid that his wife left him for a ‘pissing Pole’.

All just more examples of the grittiness that gradually dissipated as the series continued, I guess. In that context, the portrayal of Mr Wainwright, the librarian, and his married fancy lady is interesting. They’re clearly the prototype for Howard and Marina, and yet while that latter relationship feels like a bit of playground kiss-chase (they never seem to get further than a chaste cuddle… actually, do they ever even kiss?) the extra-marital affair here is much more lusty, and we’re clearly led to believe there’s been some distinctly heavy petting going on behind that mahogany counter.

I love the location work in this episode, too. We get out into the countryside, but it’s WINTER – not something we see a lot of in latter-day Summer Wine. It’s bleak and windy and desolate, and we spend a lot of time in a delightfully derelict and ramshackle old mill. Was this the workplace that Compo spent much of his life avoiding? I’d like to think so.

And yegods… Jane Freeman’s legs in the cycling scene at the end are truly a sight for sore eyes.


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