Summer Winos (4.2+4.3)

4.2 Getting On Sidney’s Wire

In which Compo shows a tender side and Foggy sleeps with the fishes…

BOB: The opening scenes to this episode are my idea of heaven… idling away a sunny afternoon beneath rustling tree branches and – splendidly – neither Compo, Clegg nor Foggy have any idea which day of the week it is. Foggy – of course – bristles at this (‘We ought not to be just sitting here in the sunlight’) but it feels to me like a pretty damn fine way to live. Again, we see the closeness between Clegg and Compo, and I can’t help but see them as a kind of senior, Yorkshire version of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn… substitute the River Holme for the Mississippi and you’re just about there. Although I’m not sure where Foggy comes into proceedings. Joe Harper, perhaps? Or even Injun Joe?

ANDREW: The way in which they struggle to remember what day it is takes me back to those long summer holidays during primary school. They seemed to stretch on forever and, just like Foggy, we were lost at sea without a timetable. In fact, since I still work in a school and still get most of the summer holidays off, I continue to find myself in the same predicament!

BOB: Meanwhile, back at the café, there’s a pepper spillage and suddenly Compo, with tears streaming down his face, finds himself being comforted within the ample bosom of Nora Batty. I’m sure I’ve read that Kathy Staff used to repeatedly request that Roy Clarke write more tender scenes for Nora, as she didn’t want the character to come over as a complete battleaxe… there had to be some compassion there to make the character believable. And here we see it in droves… it’s a lovely performance from Kathy, as Nora takes Compo into her front parlour (the very thought!) and continues to console the conniving little twerp.

ANDREW: It’s clear to me now that Roy Clarke must have something of an attraction towards a comforting bosom (don’t we all?). Nora’s particular brand of sympathy foreshadows the similarly – ahem – ample comforts that Nurse Gladys Emmanuel would offer Granville in Open All Hours.

BOB: It’s nice to see that Nora clearly does have a certain tenderness towards Compo… if she genuinely hated him – as seems to be the case on the surface – then the relationship just wouldn’t work onscreen. Nora would long since have moved away, or taken out a court order, or had him battered by some intimidating nephew or other. We need occasional respites like this just to justify the fact that they tolerate each others’ existence for so many decades. And, just for a few seconds, Compo is clearly transported right back to that mysterious VE Night encounter!

I’ve just noticed in this episode that the café has been decorated as well! In the first series the filthy walls are clearly visible… the one behind the counter, in particular, is absolutely black with mould and long-ingrained damp. It’s a really grotty little place. Now, though, it’s covered in clean, fresh wallpaper! Clearly done by Sid under duress while Ivy bellowed from the kitchen. And now she she’s got him installing a temperamental buzzer on the café door… hence the ‘Sidney’s Wire’ of the title. A strange thought struck me when I saw that title… do Sid and Ivy ever reveal their surname?

ANDREW: You know, I don’t think they do! That’s quite strange when you consider how often the characters are referred to by their second names; whether it’s Mrs. Batty as opposed to Nora or the derogatory Symonite leveled at Compo.

BOB: I actually spent far too much of this episode trying to decipher the posters on the café wall. There’s an advert for ‘Underbank RLFC vs Mayfield’ – both still functioning Rugby League sides, with Underbank being based in Holmfirth itself. And, next to it, advance notice of ‘Meltham AFC vs Fanthorpe’. Proper football this time, and although Meltham AFC are still going strong (they’re a non-league side, also based in Holmfirth), I can’t find any sign of a Fanthorpe FC anywhere in Yorkshire. Anyone else want to have a go?

Underbank RLFC – http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/underbankrangers/

Mayfield RLFC – http://www.mayfieldrl.co.uk/

Meltham AFC – http://www.melthamafc.co.uk/

Nice touch, though – especially as, I assume, the café scenes were filmed in a studio at TV Centre? So presumably someone brought a load of local nick-nacks down from the location filming in Holmfirth, and used them to decorate the studio set? That’s attention to detail, that is. Some would call it love.

ANDREW: Maybe we should return the favour, design a huge Summer Wine banner, and go cheer on the next Underbank home game? I’m sure we could turn Hazlehurst’s theme into a chant.

BOB: The tender scenes with Nora have clearly put Compo in a romantic mood, as there’s a nice wistful scene towards the end of this episode, where Compo reclines against a back alley and ruminates upon his former romantic glories. ‘I used to do a bit of courting round here, with Mary Daggles. Forty years ago… I wonder if she still thinks about me?’ he ponders.

ANDREW: Yep, this is the sort of scene that is making the series for me so far. Clarke’s little character moments act as a nice contrast to his increasingly knockabout plotlines, but they’re not overly sentimental. They’re very grounded and personal and… well, Yorkshire, I guess.

BOB: It’s beautifully played by Bill Owen, and – again – it’s Clegg alone that’s the recipient of this more thoughtful side of Compo. He never seems to open up like this in Foggy’s presence. I occasionally find myself thinking about youthful scrapes that happened – to my horror – over thirty years ago, and the depiction of similarly melancholy angst in this scene is pitched perfectly.

ANDREW: I have to highlight the closing scene as well. Just one sustained shot of a public toilet with our heroes chatting away from the inside in voice over. It’s nice to know that wall graffiti hasn’t changed in the forty years since this way made.

4.3 Jubilee

In which Compo yearns for Leningrad, and Foggy tussles with bunting…

BOB: A refreshingly untypical episode for two reasons… firstly, it’s date specific! It’s set during the week of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations, which took place during the first week of June 1977. Despite the 1970s trappings of all the episodes we’ve seen so far, Summer Wine somehow still seems to exist in an almost timeless bubble, so it feels rather incongruous to be able to pin this episode down to an actual date. And, although it wasn’t broadcast until November 1977, the events of the Jubilee would still have been fresh in viewers’ minds. I never think of Summer Wine as being remotely topical, and I can’t think of any other episode that ties in so closely with specific historical events.

ANDREW: I can only think of one. Last Pigeon and Post’ was broadcast at the turn of the millennium and similarly features a bunch of the characters involved in a church-run pageant/home movie. You’re right though, it is strange.

BOB: Secondly, there are LOT of politics in this episode! OK, so Blamire always had an implied air of conservatism (small ‘c’), and you’d surely have Compo down as an old-school Labour man, but – prior to this episode – this stuff has always just been inferred character background, and has never dominated the dialogue. Here, in the opening scenes, we get a full-on political argument between Foggy and Compo, after the latter reveals that he yearns to visit Leningrad!

‘You mean these last few weeks I’ve been passing my humbugs onto a communist?’ splutters an aghast Foggy – bearing in mind that, in 1977, Russia was still very much depicted as the Evil Empire in British popular culture. There are mentions of Arthur Scargill too, and – when Foggy accuses Compo of having ‘true blue English legs’, he receives the indignant retort ‘There is nothing about my anatomy that belongs to Maggie Thatcher’!

Thatcher was still leader of the opposition to James Callaghan’s Labour government in 1977, but had already gained her ‘Iron Lady’ nickname, bestowed upon her by the Soviet Defence Ministry after she delivered a scathing anti-Russian speech in the unlikely setting of Kensington Town Hall in January 1976. It’s intriguing to see Roy Clarke using the background of the Silver Jubilee to draw up distinct political battle lines between Foggy and Compo, and the episode as a whole feels like an acknowledgement of the idealogical schism in Britain at the time… we were a country decking out our streets in bunting, fairground rides and jam tart-laden trestle tables while simultaneously sending The Sex Pistols’ ‘God Save The Queen’ to No 1 in the singles charts.

ANDREW: It’s an odd coincidence that we’ve revisited this episode so close to a couple conteporary of royal events, Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton and the Queen’s upcoming diamond jubilee. I was quite comforted by the fact that not much has changed in terms of conflicting attitudes to royalty. It’s clear that Compo and Clegg aren’t really fussed about the jubilee, certainly not in comparison to Foggy’s loyalty to the crown. Thousands of people lined the route for the most recent royal procession, but to me they didn’t seem as visually impressive as the student demos we saw a few months beforehand. The more things change…

BOB: And so our heroes – including a sulky, reluctant, nose-thumbing Compo who has clearly firmly sided with Johnny Rotten and the boys, are roped into the Jubilee celebrations by the local vicar… John ‘Doc Morrissey’ Horsley, taking a day off from vital Reggie Perrin duties to make a charming little cameo. And, again, I’m transported back to my 1970s childhood… my earliest summers were filled with church fetes and school jumble sales, and barely a weekend seemed to pass without a procession of ‘floats’ passing by the windows of my Gran’s bungalow – motorized displays of national pride with local personages and their snotty-faced kids dressed up as traditional characters from the British history books, waving plastic flags on sticks as they whizzed through the estates. And, true to form, we get Sid as Jolly Jack Tar and Compo as Admiral Nelson. Does anyone bother with ‘floats’ any more? I can’t remember the last time I saw one.

ANDREW: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a float outside of Disneyland and fetes are definitely a dying art. Just last popped down to the mayday funfare at the local community farm. That used to be a big event when I was younger, with bouncy castles, falconry displays, arts and crafts, a car boot sale, army vehicles and kids dressing up in firemen’s outfits. Now the field in which the fare took place was half empty. The bouncy castles were still there, but the ‘Hook-a-Duck’ had been usurped by a ‘Catch-a-Pokemon’ stand and the arts and crafts seemed to be represented by one stall with a computer printed banner offering ‘Dog Confectionary.’ I suppose it’s a shame, but I also suppose it’s also just one of those things.

BOB: In the midst of the searing political debate, there’s a really nice moment of tenderness between Sid and Ivy, as the latter reminisces about their youthful dancing exploits. ‘You used to do the most lovely Fallita…’ she muses, and you can absolutely see the love in her eyes. As we discussed during the Boarding House episodes of the previous series, Ivy – despite everything – still adores Sid, and won’t stop believing that – someday – he’ll be the gallant, square-jawed lothario that she breathlessly reads about in her womens’ magazines. And Sid has, clearly, sometimes come close enough to that ideal for Ivy to keep the faith. Just as with Nora and Compo’s tender moments in the previous episode, there’s enough here in this relationship to make you appreciate why they’re still together.

ANDREW: At the moment, I’d have to say they’re my favorite characters. Over the past couple of series they appear to have surprised Clarke. They’re not at the forefront of the episodes, but he clearly enjoys writing for the duo and keeps finding these little moments for them. I can’t help but think of the spin-off that never was, Sid and Ivy travelling the Dales in their mobile chip-van!

BOB: Two classic Roy Clarke one-liners in this episode as well…

Ivy: When are you going to look at me sink?
Sid: Any time you can arrange to sink, I’ll gladly have a look.

Compo: I wonder what they’ll put on my gravestone?
Foggy: Something very heavy, I hope.

Both of these made me laugh out loud, in bed, by myself. Thanks, Roy. 

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by David on March 31, 2012 at 10:29 am

    ‘I used to do a bit of courting round here, with Mary Daggles. Forty years ago… I wonder if she still thinks about me?’.

    That little scene, which doesn’t have any plot function, rather sums up the series for me. A lovely, character driven scene.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Jakob Pieterson on April 1, 2012 at 12:32 am

    Getting On Sidney’s Wire, has my favourite visual gags in the early series as Sid walks along the plank and it bends so he’s basically on the floor with Foggy (sitting on one end) lifted up.

    I don’t really think the Cafe looks that much cleaner than before though….It’s true it’s a little bit cleaner, but it’s still pretty grotty (look at those vending machines!). It’s series 6 (Bicycle Made for Three) when it get’s it’s full paint and makeover.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Jakob Pieterson on April 1, 2012 at 12:38 am

    Oh…and I don’t think Sid and Ivy’s surname is ever revealed…Mind, it took 26 years for Howard and Pearls surname to be revealed on the show (it was first in one of the novels, but wasn’t used till the final series).

    Reply

  4. Posted by Jakob Pieterson on April 1, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    That line of compo’s wondering what they’ll put on his gravestone, takes on something extra if you know that they filmed that in the very graveyard that Bill Owen is now buried.

    Reply

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