Posts Tagged ‘Compo’

Summer Winos on Tour

Hello folks! Sorry that it has been so long since we last updated the site, but we’ve both been a little run off our feet. In the meantime I have finished editing a video that should have been ready for the launch of this blog. It’s slight, but we hope you enjoy. Click the little HD symbol for a higher quality version.

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4.7

4.7 A Merry Heatwave

In which Christmas comes early for Nora’s brother Billy…

BOB: This is marked on the DVD as the Christmas Special, but it’s a curious bit of scheduling… the previous episode from Series 4 – ‘Greenfingers’ – was broadcast on 14th December 1977, in the usual Wednesday night slot, but ‘A Merry Heatwave’ actually went out on New Year’s Day 1978, a Sunday. The final episode of Series 4, ‘The Bandit From Stoke-on-Trent’ was then shown on Wednesday 4th January. So is ‘A Merry Heatwave’ officially part of Series 4 or not? These are the things we need to know…

ANDREW: The series is in desparate need of an Andrew Pixley. Perhaps we should see if he’s free?

BOB: Whatever the airdate, it sees Summer Wine celebrating its first Christmas special in typically perverse fashion… the episode is set during a summer heatwave, but a distraught Nora needs to create an unseasonal festive period so she can send the pictures to her brother Billy in Australia, who isn’t expected to live to see the real thing. Yes, more death and terminal illness! ‘This time he seems to have his heart set on it,’ wails a hysterical Nora in the café, prompting our heroes to rally around with paper chains (Oh crikey, I spent MONTHS of my childhood making paper chains for Christmas. The whole of our household decorations were held together by juvenile spittle) and tinsel.

ANDREW: It’s a gloriously stifled and enforced Christmas they throw together and one that isn’t helped along by Foggy’s cinéma vérité aspirations behind the camera. Then again, watching Wally and Nora struggle to appear as if they are enjoying themselves while wearing festive hats, one doesn’t get the impression that the real holiday season goes any more smoothly.

BOB: Some nice Sid and Ivy moments in this episode, including a great set-piece in which they’re actually kissing in the café – with Ivy seemingly encouraging Sid to attempt to turn her on! It’s a scene that’s clearly a riff on a similar routine between Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot… and with mentions of Joe E Brown fresh in the memory from a previous episode, you have to conclude that it’s one of Roy Clarke’s favourite films.

Even Nora’s attitude seems to have been softened for the festive period… she has her hair tumbling down and is wearing a floral blouse! She actually looks… quite… nice (hit me with something, Drew). And, amazingly, she can’t take her eyes off Compo’s ripped trousers. ‘It draws you in like something mysterious…’ she ponders, turning her head sideways to get a better look. It makes you wonder…

ANDREW: While I feel hitting you with something is an entirely justifiable punishment for such wicked thoughts, it really is a testament to Kathy Staff’s performance that we are so totally convinced by her Nora costume’s usual padding and dowdiness. 

BOB: Some cracking one-liners in this episode, all of which made me laugh heartily…

Compo: ‘She came from a good home’
Clegg: ‘Yes, for unmarried mothers…’

Norah: ‘Billy has great difficulty in passing water…’
Clegg: ‘Can’t he move inland?’

Clegg: ‘Tommy Warburton had to give up a certain married woman’
Compo: ‘Fancy giving her up when she was certain…’


A very enjoyable episode, all told. And, of course, Nora’s cousin Billy rallies by the end and runs away with his nurse. All is well in 70s sitcom-land.

ANDREW: Yes, although we’ll never see him, I will forever imagine Harold Bennett in the role… 

4.4 + 4.5

4.4. Flower Power Cut

In which the Grim Reaper looms large…

BOB: Drew, I remember one of the first conversations we ever had about Summer Wine, and you said it was ‘essentially three old men talking about death’. I think this episode is pretty much the epitome of that! We start with our heroes being almost mown down by a speeding hearse containing their late friend Murdoch (‘the first time he’s ever passed us without raising two fingers’ – Compo) and from here onwards we get 28 minutes of vaguely surreal musings on the nature of mortality.

It’s a very blunt, Northern, 1970s attitude to death as well. Unsentimental, almost, which rings true for me… ‘Eeee well, when it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go,’ was one of my Gran’s catchphrases whenever a friend or a neighbour sloped off this mortal coil, and my parents now are equally stoic. Us pampered youngsters are cosseted and grew up in an age of gigantic medical advances, but for their generation, death was far more commonplace. Part and parcel of everyday life, if that’s not too perverse a turn of phrase. They’d lived through World Wars, lost young and old friends and relatives to all manner of illness and disaster, and still maintained that stiff upper lip.

And so we get that most staple of 70s sitcom scenarios… an open coffin in the parlour, with Compo even straightening the corpse’s wonky tie. ‘He knew he were dying, I telled him…’ muses Murdoch’s widow Annie, almost proud of the accuracy of her prognosis.

ANDREW: I found the entirety of this episode quite awkward (Not in a bad way) and I think the coffin scene was the height of this. The curtains are drawn and that set is tiny and absolutely dominated by the casket. Just look at how hunched up our trip seems to be; their movements are just as restricted as those of their friend in the coffin when forced back into a scene of domesticity they have moved beyond. The look Clegg gives Murdoch’s wife as she talks about she and her sister foretelling the man’s death is at once hateful and terrified; we know what really killed the poor sod.

I also love Compo’s request that no scruffy bugger’s like himself be aloud into his own funeral. It gets back to what you said about unsentimentality; Compo can make throwaway comments about his own mortality over the body of a dead man because he knows and accepts that his own passing will be along sooner rather than later.

BOB: From the funeral onwards, we enter into a world of almost-surreally morbid whimsy. Clegg asserts that flowers are alive and have feelings, and I can’t decide whether he’s genuine, or just trying to wind up Foggy. Compo, meanwhile, decides to attack life with fresh vigour. ‘I want to feel the blood rushing through me wellies…’ he proclaims. Using Murdoch’s funeral as inspiration, every line of Roy Clarke’s script then urges us to celebrate life, and vitality, in every shape and form. It’s one of the most overt and positive messages from the writer I can ever recall seeing in Summer Wine.

And it culminates in the splendidly surreal sight of Compo, Clegg and Foggy sitting cross-legged in a sun-dappled dingly dell, playing ‘Greensleeves’ to the plants on three discordant recorders. It’s bizarre and beautiful – like a scene from some wigged-out 1960s Summer of Love documentary. Summer Wine on acid, and a nice climax to one of the strangest and most atypical episodes we’ve seen so far. And the closing credits roll over a shot of Murdoch’s flower-strewn grave, just to ram the message home further. That’s where we’re all heading, so we should make the most of things while we still can.

ANDREW: Although he does turn things on their head at the end of the episode, I reckon that Clegg was really jarred by Murdoch’s funeral and his own near-death experience at the start of the episode. The moment where they are discovered by the birdwatchers is probably the point at which he snaps out of it!

Listen to the studio audience, though. They really don’t know what to make of Clegg during this episode. Actually, this is something I’ve picked up upon in quite a few of the episodes so far – Clegg at his most existential and whimsical seems to be an incredibly difficult character for the audience to get their head around. Compo will swear a bit and the audience will roar with laughter, but when Clegg goes off on a tangent there’s an almost reverential hush. In any other sitcom this might be grounds to scale back on this aspect of Clegg’s character in order to make room for more jokes, but Clarke is clearly in love with him. Of all the characters, Clegg is Clarke’s alter-ego and I love the fact that he’s using a mainstream, flagship sitcom to set the world to rights in such a unique way.

BOB: Couple of interesting little contemporary references I noticed… would the conversation about Foggy being an ‘unqualified poof’ make it into a mainstream BBC1 sitcom today? Or is that purely a product of its time? And I thought Foggy’s comment about Compo looking like ‘an ancient Sex Pistol’ was funny, if surprisingly jarring for a Last of the Summer Wine script. Always had Foggy down as more of a Buzzcocks man, myself…

4.5 Who Made A Bit Of A Splash In Wales, Then?

In which Foggy finds romance!

BOB: Well, Roy Clarke has certainly decided to tinker with the format here… we’re suddenly pitched into an opening sequence in which Foggy appears to be on the verge of abruptly leaving the series! Amazingly, he’s found romance with an attractively mature lady in Wales. I’ll admit I was expecting some kind of pay-off in which it transpires that the relationship isn’t all that it seems (‘It gives them both the illusion of romance’ muses Clegg)… but no, Foggy and his lady seem to be genuinely in love, and his friends are left pottering around Holmfirth, miserable, lost and bereft of his company.

Until, of course, they decide to hire a car and pay him a visit… with Sid and Ivy in tow, under the pretext of visiting Ivy’s sister en route. And so we get some more curiously frank 1970s attitudes to sex… as Ivy clambers into the car, Compo brazenly attempts to look up her skirt – his childlike persona veering dangerously into bona fide sex pest territory. And then Sid openly admits he was ‘hoping to get round a few of those Welsh barmaids’! Idle male banter, or were unreconstructed 1970s husbands generally accepted to like ‘a bit on the side’, and their long-suffering wives just stood back and… well, suffered?

ANDREW: Don’t ask me; I was but a glint in some café owner’s eye back then!

BOB: We see Clegg driving again, becoming increasingly nervous and incompetent behind the wheel of the car. There’s a lovely scene where our heroes are lost in the Welsh countryside, and there’s clearly a hell of a summer storm brewing in the distance! The skies are absolutely black, and full of thunder. Clearly just a happy accident, but it creates a gorgeous late-summer atmosphere.

It nicely foreshadows the tense scenes with Foggy as well, as Compo and Clegg finally arrive at his Welsh retreat, finding him holed up with his charming lady-friend and her seemingly frosty mother. The relationship between Foggy and Compo is nicely played by Wilde and Owen here… he’s genuinely mortified by Compo’s very presence in the house, clearly desperate not to offend his new, middle-class companions. He’s like a teenage boy, ushering his first girlfriend away from his embarrassing parents. It actually feels very odd to see such familiar Summer Wine characters in very well-to-do suburban 1970s settings… the house, the street and the cars on the drives are right out of Butterflies or Terry and June. It’s a stark contrast to the soot-stained terraces of Holmfirth.

ANDREW: I get the impression that, had Clarke thought of this idea a few years later, this scenario would have warranted a special length episode. The idea of Compo and Clegg being soo lonely without Foggy that they’ll drive across the country to hassle him is a lovely idea, but there’s not really enough time to do the story justice in thirty minutes. I could quite happily have spent that amount of time watching Compo kick the back of Ivy’s seat as they potter along the M56. According to Google Maps, it would have taken them about one hour and nineteen minutes to make it to the Welsh border alone. That’s a long time to be stuck in the car with Compo, even if he does claim to have washed that morning.

BOB: And, in a nice side-story, we actually meet Ivy’s sister, with Jean Boht putting in a fine snooty turn, well-served by some prime Roy Clarke dialogue. ‘I don’t think I’ve seen you since I papered the lounge,’ she trills, ‘I hope you like pale mustard’. You can almost smell the simmering social tension between the two sisters.

ANDREW: She seems quite wasted here. As you say, it’s a wonderful scene and performance. Even if the character doesn’t make her way back into the series, her spiritual sisters will continue on in Clarke’s writing – see Edie Pegden and Hyacinth Bucket for a couple of examples of one of the writer’s favorite archetypes.

BOB: The episode ends, predictably, with Compo and the aforementioned frosty mother-in-law getting on like a house on fire (‘I want to see a pair of corsets hanging over the end of me bed’, he muses, longingly) and – even more predictably – with the injured Foggy rolling down a hill towards a shimmering lake.

ANDREW: I actually rolled my eyes a bit when it was first hinted that Foggy would end up in the lake. Even the studio audience seemed to cluck at the fact that twist was coming. Then, just at the last minute, it was all saved by some good old-fashioned retribution.

BOB: All in all, it’s a very un-Summer Wine episode, and never quite feels like it belongs to the rest of the series. An odd experiment.

And how did Foggy and his lady friend actually meet? Perhaps it’s best we never know…

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. 

Summer Winos (3.5+3.6)

3.5 The Kink In Foggy’s Niblick

In which Foggy takes to the green and Compo makes a tidy sideline in recycled balls.
BOB: Given that it’s a series centered around working class Yorkshiremen, it’s surprising how tiny a part football plays in Summer Wine… I can’t remember any characters expressing much interest in the sport at all. I’m assuming that it’s a reflection of Roy Clarke’s lack of footballing enthusiasm, so it feels slightly incongruous in this episode to see Foggy, Compo and Clegg bundling their jackets into goalposts and attempting a kickabout… even if it’s a matter of moments before Foggy sprains his back and professes that, actually, he’s more of a golfing man instead.

I remember roaring with laughter at this episode as kid, but – oddly – watching it now, I think it’s probably the weakest we’ve seen so far. Still enjoyable, but it feels like a bit of an anti-climax following the superb Scarborough two-parter.

ANDREW: Yeah, it’s OK, but there’s something just a little bit forced about it. Sallis and Owen in particular seem to be playing it far broader than usual. Perhaps they noticed that the script wasn’t quite up to the usual standard and felt the need to compensate.

BOB: Still some interesting bits, though… is this one of the only occasions on which we see inside Foggy’s house? Albeit only his attic, where Clegg gives us a lovely, surreal monologue about ‘the den of the great wardrobe spider’… take note, Steven Moffat.

I did wonder about Foggy’s domestic situation here… it’s mentioned in his first episode that he’s returning to ‘an empty house in Arnold Crescent’, which I assumed he’d inherited. But now he appears to have an unseen landlady living on the premises! I know I shouldn’t get too wrapped up Summer Wine continuity, but this is the stuff that keeps me awake at nights…

Once Foggy’s decidedly wonky golf clubs have been retrieved, we head to the posh clubhouse and – ultimately –  the local green itself, where predictable antics ensue. Again, we get a line that seems very un-Summer Wine with the benefit of hindsight… Compo, on spying a troupe of stern-looking lady golfers, says ‘Fancy being up for municipal rape and finding that lot on the jury’. I wonder what Mary Whitehouse thought? 

ANDREW: The plot itself is also a bit broad, and not particularly tailored to the series. One could just as easily drop Del Boy, Rodney and Boycie or Bob and Terry into this situation without having to change the lines too much. That indefinable Summer Wineyness isn’t to be found, though it’s hard to pinpoint why.

BOB: When Compo was making a nuisance of himself in the clubhouse, demanding beer and peanuts to Foggy’s embarrassment, I thought of Bob and Terry too! And you’re right… Compo’s rampaging around the golf course, swiping wayward balls to sell back to their owners, is pure Del Boy. 

It does have one great line, though – Foggy’s description of Compo as ‘what you’d get if you tried to summon up a small evil spirit at midnight in an Oxfam shop’ had me chuckling.

ANDREW: You do have to give Clarke credit for that title though, possibly his finest so far and everything one could ask for from the series. The perfect blend of whimsy and the observation of archaic oddball terminology or a knob joke, take your pick.

BOB: A lovely mixture of all three, I think. It IS a great title, and one I remember causing much hilarity at school when this was repeated back in the early 1980s.

3.6 Going To Gordon’s Wedding


In which Compo, for once, is best man.

ANDREW: Amazingly, we’ve jumped from the series’ weakest episode thus far, to one of the strongest. Clarke really has put his all into this finely observed, half-hour farce. To say he is “back on form” doesn’t do this installment justice.

BOB: Yep, I enjoyed this too. Nice to see Compo’s nephew Gordon back in the series, although you wonder how long is meant to have passed between installments, given that that Gordon is now marrying Josie, the elegant redhead he met in Scarborough only two episodes earlier! It’s a very 1970s wedding – all giant buttonholes, disapproving mothers and good-natured punch-ups over Tetley’s Best Bitter. And Gordon’s not the only returning character here… we get another cameo from Paul Luty as Big Malcolm, Compo’s towering relative, last spotted duffing up Foggy in the first episode of this series.

It all reinforces the feeling of Summer Wine being a running story taking place in a small, close-knit community, and it struck me that Foggy’s arrival seems to have heralded a slight stylistic change… in Blamire’s two series, our three heroes are very much portrayed as outsiders, literally spending their days around the peripheries of town life, sitting in disused barns and abandoned factories. In Series 3, we’ve seen MUCH less of the countryside… the show has been far more grounded in sitting rooms, pubs, cafes and boarding houses, and Compo has been shown to be pretty close to several members of his extended family. It has to be a deliberate move.

ANDREW: There’s some lovely domestic material here, from the competitive mothers and the forced jollity of family gatherings to Clegg’s brilliant comparison of weddings and flying, “When you consider how many weddings there are it makes you realize what a safe way it is to go. It’s just that, in regard to weddings, if there is an accident then it’s usually rather a nasty one.”

BOB: Yes, I love the scene in the Gordon’s mother’s sitting room, the sheer awkwardness of making polite conversation with distant family members, suffocated by floral wallpaper and that ominous, ticking clock. The desperate, nervous laughter and the young, randy couple snogging obliviously on the sofa.

Do we assume, then, that Gordon’s flighty and giggly mother – clearly three sheets to the wind by the middle of the morning – is actually Compo’s sister? It’s never specified, but the way she greets him at the door (‘Lovely to see you love, I knew you wouldn’t let me down,’ she beams, proudly, stroking the shoulder of his suit) is every inch the actions of a proud sister rather than a more distant relative.

ANDREW: I guess we’ll find out for sure come First of the Summer Wine, if Clarke remembers she exists by then.

BOB: If so, it’s intriguing to note that Foggy seems to take something of a shine to her, repeatedly vying for her attention and attempting to take photos of her! Can you imagine the comic potential if that relationship had developed? Oh, the shame he’d have brought upon the proud Dewhurst name… 

ANDREW: There’s also a nice line in physical comedy, and unlike The Kink In Foggy’s Niblick it doesn’t seem forced. Compo’s buttonhole, the noisy wedding present, the damaged best man and Foggy’s ongoing feud with Big Malcolm are all nicely signposted and extend naturally from the characters and situation.

BOB: Indeed, and I loved Josie’s line to her father outside the church, flicking up her bridal veil and hissing ‘You see it so many times on wedding photos… embarrassed fathers pining for their overalls…’ Never a truer word spoken, and – again – a fine, pithy and beautifully concise bit of writing. We learn so much about both Josie and her fathers’ characters – and the relationship between them – from that single line.

ANDREW: What strikes me most of all is how big and confident it seems. A lot is packed into twenty-nine minutes in terms not only of situation but also the sheer number of characters involved. The world of Summer Wine suddenly opens out to include extended families and old friends like Gordon and Malcolm.

BOB: And all drenched in that glorious 1970s sunshine, on washed-out 16mm film. All is right with the world, and I want to carry on… 

Summer Time is Here Again

Hello and welcome back to From the Get-Go, now re-christened Summer Winos. As you can see, we have redecorated the place in a manner that better reflects our on-going Last of the Summer Wine obsession. This isn’t to say that we have given up on Public Eye, but those updates take time to realise and, if I’m honest, deserve a home of their own where they may garner a little more attention.

Over our break, Bob and I have been building up a backlog of Summer Wine commentaries that will ensure that this place will be updated regularly for months to come. Let’s crack on…

Summer Winos (3.3+3.4)

3.3 The Great Boarding House Bathroom Caper

ANDREW: The first of a two-part seaside adventure? Oh, Mr. Clarke, you are spoiling us. It is a little odd seeing the trio let loose outside of the confines of the Holm valley and the idea of packing up all of your characters and sending them off on holiday has become somewhat of a sitcom cliché over the years, but within the context of these episodes I think it works. Compo, Clegg, Foggy, Ivy, Sid, Gordon, Nora and Wally aren’t off to sunny Spain for some atypical glitz, glamour and antics – they’re heading for a weekend in Scarborough. This minibreak is suitably low rent, cheap and cheerful; Carry On At Your Convenience without the razzmatazz.

BOB: Indeed, and it’s a lovely, unexpected treat to have the title music and opening credits playing out over shots of the seaside! I’m expecting to be overwhelmed with nostalgia during this episode, as family visits to Scarborough were a regular feature of my 1970s summers. There’s every chance we might see my Gran in the background, stepping from a Bee-Line bus and picking sand from a bag of greasy chips wrapped in a copy of the Daily Mirror…

Nice line from Clegg in the opening scenes, as they’re waiting for the bus to arrive – ‘The older I get, the more I seem to like dozy people’. I can appreciate his sentiments… as I race towards my 40th birthday, I do tend to find deep thinkers and over-analyzers increasingly hard work. We all need a Compo in our lives, and he’s resplendent in a lovely stripy blazer in this episode… as Foggy puts it, ‘You look like a National Health gigolo!’

The interaction between Wilde, Sallis and Owen in these opening scenes is superb… so incredibly fast, and funny, and nuanced. I can actually see a bit of Harpo, Groucho and Chico in them. Cue Drew’s ears pricking up!

ANDREW: I guess what we see of Scarborough in the background of this episode represents the beginning of the long drawn out end for the traditional British seaside holiday. By the mid 1970s foreign travel was just about becoming affordable for working class families and certainly by the point at which my family visited the town in the 1990s a seaside getaway seemed like the exception as opposed to the rule. I think I can pinpoint why; from what I remember, nothing had progressed in terms of the tourist industry in those twenty-odd years. In particular, the boarding house at which our trio stay seems eerily familiar. I can almost smell the aroma of stale cabbage and not-so-freshly laundered sheets. Then again, maybe we just went to a crap B+B!

BOB: Does anyone even say the phrase ‘boarding house’ any more? You’re right, it’s very evocative… all tatty lace curtains, floral wallpaper and an octogenarian waitress in Edwardian maid’s outfit. And yet, despite this, there’s still a beautifully-observed scene in the dining room where Ivy – bless her – affects a very well-heeled voice to compliment the landlady. ‘Seldom have we received such service,’ she trills, in exactly the same voice that my mother affected when answering the phone throughout the 1970s. It was still an age where ‘speaking nicely’ was considered correct social practice, and despite her working class Yorkshire background, clearly Ivy would be mortified to think that anyone could consider her (gasp!) ‘common’.

ANDREW: The idea of Ivy and Sid piling into a bus on holiday with three old blokes that loiter around their café might seem a little odd, but the fact that they do creates a cozy sense community. I don’t think the concept of community breaks really exists any more, does it? I remember that, when I was in primary school, practically our entire street would pile into a coach and visit Beamish for the day. It was an annual event; a byproduct of the fact that the street was originally built for workers at the nearby paint factory and that pretty much everyone who lived their still either worked there, had retired from there, or knew somebody eligible who could get them tickets. That’s all over now, and has been for some time, as families move, retirees passed on and the sense of community in that street gradually faded away. I know it’s not quite the same thing, but this episode has succeeded in making me a little nostalgic for a change!

BOB: I’m absolutely overwhelmed with nostalgia by this episode, but – as I expected – it’s Scarborough that’s doing the trick. There’s a beautiful scene where Compo, Clegg and Foggy mess around in the Penny Arcades, and it’s the arcades as my Gran would have loved them – no fruit machines or Space Invader machines yet, just one-armed bandits and Shove Ha’Penny. The sun beats down on sandy pavements, and unsuspecting holidaymakers bustle past in cheesecloth shirts and flares, immortalized in a little piece of TV history. It’s absolutely a window into my early childhood.

I think we need to give a little mention to Ronnie Hazelhurst at this point as well, his scores are so evocative and carefully-crafted… over the scene I mentioned drifts a lovely, lilting flute rendition of Scarborough Fair, and it’s just perfect. A fabulous episode.

3.2 Cheering Up Gordon

BOB: I’d forgotten this was a two-parter and was surprised to find us still in Scarborough at the start of this episode! And – wahey – this is the first episode I can remember actually seeing on TV back in the day, because I distinctly recall an earnest school morning discussion between me and my friend Doug Simpson about the nature of the ‘popsicle’ scene…

Foggy: Lots of people swim in the North Sea.
Clegg: Only if they fall off a boat…
Compo: It’ll turn your popsicle blue!

It must have been a repeat, as I didn’t know Doug until 1983, but I clearly remember us debating whether Compo, when referring to a ‘popsicle’ was actually referring to… well… you know… he couldn’t be, could he? But now, 28 years on, I think I can safely say that – yes! He is! Filth, from Roy Clarke! Whatever next? Well… a semi-naked Brian Wilde, that’s what…

ANDREW: When Foggy decides to strip off (PHWOAR) and venture into the sea, he’s really not that old looking is he? In fact, Brian Wilde was only around fifty at the time. This struck me with Clegg in the first series as well. Summer Wine has this reputation for being, ‘that show about old people’ but for at least half of its run it isn’t anything of the sort.

BOB: Wilde was 48/49 during the filming of this series, so no – by today’s standards he’d barely be considered middle-aged. He’s only a decade older than me! Do we assume that the character of Foggy is meant to be considerably older than Wilde, given that all three of the main characters were clearly schoolfriends, and that Clegg and Compo are obviously closer to sixty than fifty?

Great scene anyway – there’s a studio audience member who’s absolutely howling with laughter as Foggy runs into the sea, and I love that kind of thing. It’s probably just me, but studio audience laughter these days seems much more smooth and generic than it used to be! There are lots of 70s sitcoms where you can pick out individual audience members laughing… lots of coughing and little outbreaks of applause as well. It’s very charming.

ANDREW: Absolutely. There’s one chap who yaks his way through a good chunk of Dad’s Army  and one particularly hysterical woman during Are You Being Served who, for me, have just about become series regulars.
And in terms of dialogue, I think Roy Clarke is absolutely on fire at this stage. I laughed heartily, by myself, all the way through this episode – it’s just full of little gems. His writing for Wally Batty in particular is magnificent…

Nora: Are you going to sit there while he insults me?
Wally: No, I thought I’d go and have a look at the lifeboats.
Nora: You talk yourself into being miserable.
Wally: No I don’t, I just have to listen.
Nora: I don’t know what people must think. You’re on holiday.
Wally: Not really. If you’d come by yourself, then I’d have been on holiday. Remember that smashing fortnight when you had to go and nurse your mother?

I could listen to this all day. Joe Gladwin is just extraordinary – nobody has ever made twisted, hangdog misery so sensationally funny.

Compo’s nephew Gordon is a pleasant addition as well. As our representative from the younger generation he’s clearly fond of his ‘Uncle Bill’ but has no interest in the trio’s time wasting activities. In fact, he’s not really interested in any silliness at all.

BOB: We’ve seen a few of Compo’s family in these early episodes, haven’t we? Surprising, as he always seemed to be much more of a loner in later series. Gordon’s another lovely, world-weary character – very nicely played by Philip Jackson, who’ll forever be the Abbot Hugo in Robin Of Sherwood to me! He still pops up regularly on TV, but this is one of his earliest roles.

I have to mention that extraordinary scene on the beach as well, where Sid and Ivy – and there’s no easy way of putting this – discuss their sex life!

Ivy: You never talk to me, not even when me make love…
Sid: Not much to talk about is there, the rate we go at it? You still do it as if your mother’s watching.
Ivy: You should try and rouse me more…

Given that they spend most of the programme at violent loggerheads, you’d be forgiven for being amazed that Sid and Ivy have a sex life at all… and, in broader sitcoms, great comic play would undoubtedly be made of them being trapped in a loveless, sexless marriage. But their relationship is nothing of the sort – at the beginning of this scene, Ivy is wistfully lost in a romantic magazine, dreaming of the lithe-limbed lotharios that inhabit its pages. She absolutely wants to be loved and to be seduced, and still dreams that Sid can be that dream-like hunk in real life.

I think we learn a lot about Ivy in this sequence… the fact that he falls so short of her ideals again and again is clearly the source of her constant anger and frustration at Sid. And, maybe, against the male gender as a whole? None of the idle, child-like men in Summer Wine are a match for the perfect, silky-voiced lovers in her books and magazines, and yet she can’t give up on the hopeless dream that, one day, Sid just MIGHT be. She really can’t. She has to keep dreaming… and just taking what she can from Sid in the hope that, some day, things WILL be perfect. 

An unexpected bit of sauciness at the end of the episode as well, when Compo heads out on the pull, and succeeds in bringing four women back from a local nightclub – one each for himself, Foggy, Clegg and Gordon! We only ever hear their screeching voices outside the boarding house door, but by crikey… you can just smell the gin-soaked breath and stale Benson and Hedges, and see the smudged lipstick and laddered fishnet stockings. And all in vain, because Gordon – bless him – is already enjoying a quiet game of chess with a charming redhead called Josie.

Clegg, predictably, runs upstairs. ‘Supposing they’d raped us…’ he trembles, later, reminding us that Summer Wine isn’t ready to settle into cosy teatime whimsy just yet.

Anyway, I loved these episodes. Can you tell? Absolutely my favourite of anything we’ve seen so far, and I think the series has hit an extraordinary peak at this stage. I genuinely can’t wait to carry on.