Summer Winos (2.1 + 2.2)

2.1 Forked Lightning

In which Clegg slips a gear and the trio attempt to ride a bicycle made for one.

ANDREW: So, we kick off with series two and there’s not much from the outset that would mark this out as being a second run.

After Clegg damages his, umm, equipment, slipping from his bike he describes the condition as, “Best described as forked lightning.” It’s a very genital fixated episode, really, what with Compo’s discussion of his “person”, but I have literally no idea what the episode title refers to here! Am I missing a reference?

BOB: You’ve clearly never impaled your cobblers on a bicycle frame! Ah, the youth of today. I think it’s just a reference to the sudden explosion of pain and knacker-wrenching torment that Clegg goes through when the accident happens. I’m going to claim a little bit of Summer Wine for Teesside here as well…the people queuing at the bus stop break into a sterling rendition of ‘Nice One, Cyril’… A 1973 hit for Cockerel Chorus, inspired by Middlesbrough-born left-back Cyril Knowles, then playing for Tottenham Hotspur. ‘Nice One, Cyril’ was still doing the rounds as a popular playground song and catchphrase during my own childhood ten years later, even though we had no idea by then who ‘Cyril’ actually was!

ANDREW: At one point during this episode our trip attempt to board a number 47 bus that displays the destinations “Huddersfield” and “Holmfirth”. I think that has to be one of the only occasions that the town is ever named. For the most part Summer Wine takes place in a generic Yorkshire Never-Never Land and I kind of like it that way!

BOB: I didn’t spot that! I was too busy looking at the saucy bus conductress. I loved Compo’s innuendo-laden comment that she ‘took a lodger’… in more ways than one, clearly. Ah, lodgers… such a comedy staple of the 1960s and 70s, wiped out by Mrs ‘Fatcher’s property-owning boom of the 1980s! The possibilities of having a strange (and, obviously, young and virile) man living in the marital home kept British sitcom writers salivating for decades.

Good to see a very young Kenneth MacDonald as the Huddersfield mechanic as well… it would be another ten years before he found fame as Mike, the landlord of the Nag’s Head in Only Fools And Horses. I think his performance jars a little bit here, actually… he’s very good, but he gives a traditional ‘big’ 70s sitcom performance, whereas everyone else in Summer Wine so far has underplayed things.

ANDREW: The series does seem to be getting a tiny bit broader, though… in fact, is this the first example we get of three men rolling down a hill on a rickety contraption, only to crash into a heap at the bottom? The little wah-wah stab on the soundtrack when Clegg’s bike is run over puts us closer to traditional sitcom territory as well. It still, at this stage, feels like a natural part of their acknowledged second childhood, though, and not one of the showpiece stunts that came to embody the series in later years.

I love the way Ivy responds to Compo’s cheeky advances. It almost seems like a gut reaction for her to chase him off, but once the scruffy get is out of sight she’s quite clearly pleased with the attention. This kind of little character moment keeps cropping up and it really does mark the series out as something special. There’s always something more to the characters that the stock types they might first appear.

BOB: I loved that, too! ‘Tha’s got a chest like a proud pigeon’, says Compo. She gives him his usual comeuppance, but then – when he’s out of sight – admires her own heaving bosom proudly in the café mirror. There’s some classic Roy Clarke dialogue in this one, actually… I liked Clegg’s comment on Compo’s smoking habit – ‘On a clear day, you can hear the wind rustling through the undergrowth in your lungs’. Poetry, that.

I think we might have another Summer Wine first in this episode, too… in that lovely pub scene (‘Any distinguishing marks on your… person?’) Compo refers to Blamire as ‘Elsie’. For the next 27 years he’ll regularly call the authority figure of the trio by a traditional lady’s name, but is the first time he does it? I can’t remember noticing this in any previous episodes.

ANDREW:I had never noticed that motif, but now that you mention it, yes this does look like the first in a running gag!

BOB: And a glorious homage to Butch and Sundance at the end, with Sid freewheeling Clegg’s bike around the square as our heroes break into a chorus of ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’. Everyone’s suppressing genuine, bubbling laughter, Ronnie Hazlehurst’s music swells to accompany them, and it’s all clearly been filmed on the most beautiful, sun-drenched 1970s afternoon. Heavenly.

2.2. Who’s That Dancing With Norah Batty, Then?

In which Blamire tinkles the ivories and Compo contemplates life down under.

ANDREW: Norah and Compo’s neighbour Gloria emigrating to Australia sets something of a precedent as Norah ends up moving there when she’s written out of the show. I might be misremembering, but I’m sure other characters move down-under as well. I wonder if Roy Clarke sees it as the perfect antidote to Yorkshire gloom.

BOB: Emigrating to Australia was a big thing in the 1960s and 1970s… it was seen as the ultimate antidote to working class British life, not just Yorkshire. The Kinks even made a concept album about it (‘Arthur Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire’, from 1969 – check it out, it’s their best album) and the cliché of barbies on the beach on sunny Christmas mornings was a huge draw for many disillusioned Brits tired of the darkness and drizzle. I’d be surprised if there were any families around in the 1970s that didn’t lose at least one member or close friend to the lure of the Antipodes. I certainly did  – I’ve got quite a few cousins that have been over there for nearly forty years now.

I think there’s an onrunning storyline in Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em as well, with Frank and Betty contemplating the move? I haven’t seen those for a long time, though.

Anyway, isn’t Gloria lovely? It always seems slightly incongruous when Roy Clarke introduces younger characters to Summer Wine, but I wish we’d seen more of this giggly, earthy redhead – there’s a nice, threeway dynamic between her, Norah and Compo, with Gloria clearly being very fond of them both. She reminds me of the young housewives I used to see around Teesside in the 1970s… all headscarves and Nimble bread. Apparently Angela Crow, who plays her, was a Coronation Street regular in the early 1960s, but I’ve never seen any of those episodes. She still seems to be acting regularly on TV, bless her.

ANDREW: Yes, she was in Corrie. In fact, I’ll soon be looking at her first appearance as Doreen Lostock as part of another marathon on this blog!

BOB: Is this the first mention of Norah’s wrinkled stockings as well? We’re ticking off the ‘firsts’ here!

ANDREW: Any thoughts on the new librarians, Miss Probert and Miss Jones? I’m not quite sure what to make of them yet and certainly miss the animal lust of Mr Wainwright and Miss Partridge. Aren’t series that underperform in the ratings supposed to add sex rather than take it away? Then again, I’m definitley getting a little bit of a velvet-tipping vibe from the new duo.

BOB: Oh, definitely comedy lesbians, in the traditional sitcom ‘comfortable shoes’ style. Some lovely Roy Clarke dialogue again… ‘We’ll have an entire section labelled FOR DEGENERATES and see who has the nerve to browse through it…’ ‘That Mr Charlesworth has had Sex Amongst The Eskimos for eight weeks now…’ The early 70s was the era when ‘proper’ sex began to infiltrate mainstream culture for the first time – the age of the Confessions films, Linda Lovelace and a legion of ‘mucky books’ appearing in mainstream shops following the relaxing of the obscenity laws in the 1960s. I remember my parents having a book called Dear John by Olle Lansburg that clearly fell into the Sex Amongst The Eskimos territory, although I imagine with the benefit of hindsight it’s incredibly tame! I’m with Miss Probert, though. Ban the lot of them.

ANDREW: Yeah, yeah; having spent the night in your spare room I feel it necessary to point out your hidden stash ofWrinckled Stockings Monthly.

BOB: I noticed a nice thing about Michael Bates in these library scenes as well… he varies his Yorkshire accent. Clearly Blamire wants to ‘better himself’ and so Bates plays many of his scenes with an almost RP voice, but when Blamire gets angry or frustrated he slips into broader Yorkshire. Mollie Sugden used a similar technique as Mrs Slocombe, but Bates is much more subtle.

ANDREW: Shep the shell-shocked Lollypop Man is quite a wonderful creation, this cantankerous old army veteran who hates children but who giggles like a schoolboy himself at the mention of one of Compo’s old flames.

BOB: That’s a great scene… Shep is played by Jack Woolgar, who was forever popping up as tramps and dirty old men in 1960s and 70s TV shows. And another bleak, deserted outbuilding being used as a shelter for layabouts and middle-aged smokers! Again, Angela Crow puts in a lovely performance when Gloria turns up to joins them, and breaks down into little sobs as she realises what she’s leaving behind. Lesser writers than Roy Clarke would have heaped on the pathos and wrung every last emotion from the scene, but no… our heroes give her a cigarette and drift away, leaving her with her thoughts. And there’s 1970s Britain for you, again… there was much less time for sentiment and self-indulgence. Three fifty-year-old men know full well there’s nothing they can say to a crying thirty-year-old woman, so they gently leave her alone and wander off to find something else to do. It’s a very different era.


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jakob Pieterson on June 30, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    Although it’s never named in dialogue there’s a lot of signs showing they’re in Holmfirth. The bus (again) at the end of the Xmas special “Whoops” (my personal favourite episode of all) has Holmfirth as the destination. And later on, they seem a lot more relaxed about showing signs and notices in the background. An episode on GOLD a couple of days ago (All that Glitters is not Elvis) clearly shows a sign for “Holmfirth Methodist Church”.


    • Posted by Jakob Pieterson on March 30, 2012 at 11:29 am

      and replying to myself nearly a year later, the recent DVD release which includes Last Post and Pigeon, allows us to see clearly Compo’s Passport which clearly shows that he was born on 26th Febuary 1923 in Holmfirth


  2. Posted by Prue on August 17, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Just letting you guys know that I absolutely love this blog on ‘Last of the Summer Wine’! I look forward to each entry and have been devastated that there hasn’t been one for so long! I’m not even sure LOTSW was even shown in Australia, but I have been addicted to it for years, ever since I bought myself a copy of Series 1 for Christmas. Now I have up to Series 20. So don’t be shy in posting more blog entries for LOTSW!!!!!


    • Posted by Andrew T. Smith on August 17, 2011 at 12:08 pm

      Thanks for the kind words, Prue. Things have been a little busy around these parts lately, but we’ll try our best to resume normal service over the coming month or so. We have a couple of entries ready and waiting to be posted, but we would rather build up a little stockpile first.



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