Posts Tagged ‘ivy’

6.2 Car and Garter

In which Compo feels the need for speed…

BOB: Can I admit to a little tingle of excitement every time we reach the debut episode of a regular character?

ANDREW: Please do! We’d best enjoy the experience before saying goodbye to people becomes a more common occurrence.

BOB: Oof, you morbid soul. But ladies and gentlemen, it’s Wesley Pegden! As soon as I saw smoke billowing from beneath a garage door, and the sound of a muffled explosion, I knew exactly who we were going to meet.

There’s a classic opening line to this episode as well: “How do you get marmalade off a ferret?” asks Compo. It’s one of life’s eternal mysteries, isn’t it? Also, an exchange that I remember heartily laughing at back in 1982, and my dad doing likewise…

           COMPO: When you straighten up, why doesn’t the blood rush straight to your feet?

           FOGGY: You don’t think anything’s going to be in a rush to get to your feet…

Brian Wilde’s delivery is a perfect mix of warmth, self-satisfaction and disdain. And I cannot help but feel hugely sentimental whenever I hear a line in anything that made my dad and I laugh together. I know them all when I hear them… in Fawlty Towers, Monty Python, Porridge, you name it… as soon as I hear that line – even if it’s for the first time in thirty years – I’m transported back to the front room, and a little routine we would play out: if we both laughed simultaneously at the same thing, then immediately afterwards we’d exchange a fleeting look of mutual appreciation across the room. It was completely involuntary, and my mum found it fascinating. But I’ve always shared a sense of humour with my dad, and we absolutely bonded over TV comedy. And he had fabulously progressive tastes… I know plenty of my contemporaries who were banned from watching The Young Ones when they were kids, but I was introduced to it by my dad. He loved it, and we watched it together… along with all of the edgiest 80s TV comedy you could think of. One of the highlights of my early teenage years was staying up late on a Friday night and watching the likes of Who Dares Wins on Channel 4 with him. Thanks, Dad.

And I’ve just realized that the above paragraph makes it sound like my dad is dead! He’s not everyone, he’s fine. Cancel the flowers.

ANDREW: Good to hear, I’m always on the lookout for a guest reviewer…

BOB: I love Gordon Wharmby in Summer Wine, although has he been surrounded by a bit of urban mythologizing over the years? I’m sure I remember reading somewhere that he was a local amateur dramatics enthusiast without a previous professional acting credit, but that does him a bit of a disservice. True, he wasn’t a trained thespian and combined part-time acting with a day job as a painter and decorator, but he had been part of Oldham Repertory Theatre, and had also done small parts in Coronation Street, amongst others.

What I didn’t realise was that he’d actually auditioned to play the angry man on the roof at the end of the previous episode, In The Service Of Humanity! It’s a one-line part (“Hey, bring back that ladder!”), but he impressed Roy Clarke and Alan JW Bell so much that they asked him to read for Wesley in Car and Garter. Bell, apparently, found him “absolutely real”, and the part was his. However, Wesley was – I’ve read – previously earmarked as a guest role for a well-known TV actor! Anyone know who that might be? This could be Summer Wine’s April Walker moment!

ANDREW: I wonder if, as they were casting this part, Clarke and Bell were specifically looking for a Fred Dibnah type. The Bolton-born steeplejack first rose to fame in 1978 and, although it never struck me until now, Wesley’s likeness to the man is striking.

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A brief detour to the café sees Sid being harassed by Ivy. Has the phrase, “In the kitchen” ever been spoken with such menace? What really struck me about the scene, however, is the smattering of applause it receives at the end. This is unusual in Summer Wine land and, although I’m not trying to be critical, I don’t understand what the scene did to elicit such a reaction. It’s not a standout. Perhaps scenes routinely received this sort of reaction and, under newcomer Alan Bell, a tiny snippet accidentally made it through to the final edit.

BOB: There’s a staggering scene in Clegg’s house that actually made me rewind the DVD to double check that I’d heard it correctly. They’re talking about Sid, and Foggy – rather amazingly – delivers the opinion that (brace yourself) “Ivy seems him as something of a big dick”.

Whhhhhhhhat?!?!? It’s not even a one-off. “There are far too many boring, serious beggars about,” muses Clegg, immediately afterwards. “We need all the big daft dicks we can get”.

Am I being incredibly prudish here? It’s hilarious, but I always thought ‘dick’ was up there with ‘cock’ and ‘prick’ as an insult I wouldn’t have expected to hear in Summer Wine! Certainly not in this later era, anyway. The reaction from the studio audience suggests that they’re a bit taken aback as well!

ANDREW: Well, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the genital connotation in the word is attested in an 1891 dictionary of Farmer’s Slang. Then there is the idiom “Clever Dick”, which has been used as recently as a 2012 game show C4 hosted by Anne Widdicome entitled Cleverdicks. I realise that none of this answers your question, but it’s nice to make the effort sometimes.

BOB: I still think this is filth, and should be banned. Neverthless we get to the crux of the episode… Wesley is building what he sees as the ultimate high-performance car, and needs a test-driver, and our heroes volunteer Sid for the job, believing it will increase his standing in Ivy’s eyes. Interesting to see that, in these early stages, Wesley clearly isn’t taken with Compo’s sense of humour – there’s a real prickliness to their exchanges.

ANDREW: And then we encounter another odd audience response. Bell cuts to a close-up of Foggy and the audience roars with laughter. It isn’t until a few seconds later that we cut to a wide shot which reveals Sid in his ridiculous racing gear. Usually, during this kind of sitcom gag, the set and performers are shielded from the audience. They only see the action play out on monitors, just like viewers at home. I’m convinced these moments have something to do with a change in production techniques, maybe the studio floor layout had been modified.

BOB: I didn’t notice any of this! It’s all real to me, guv. What is this ‘studio floor’ of which you speak? Ivy, meanwhile, is having none of Sid’s daredevil exploits and forbids him to take part (as well as taking a little sideswipe at his implied proclivities – “Don’t be making a fool of yourself if that bus conductress comes in, and don’t have her poking my sandwiches with her bell finger!”) and so – predictably enough – Compo is roped in to drive Wesley’s cobbled-together sports car.

ANDREW: It’s a cliché, but women really are unpredictable sometimes. Just the other week, Emma was upset with me. By way of apology, I baked her a loaf of break in the shape of, erm… a big dick. While I was baking, this seemed like the greatest idea in the world, but it didn’t go down well… so to speak. What I’m trying to say is I sympathise with Sid!

BOB: Bake one for me. We’ll eat it together while we watch Getting Sam Home. I’ll look after you, my angel. 

ADDREW: As for the Bus Conductress, I like to think she’s the same feisty character we saw during series two’s ‘Forked Lightning’. I seem to recall you took a shine to her.

BOB: I can’t remember her! I’m such a fickle fool. There’s a bizarre twist here… Nora is actually impressed! And, not only that, she wears the garter that Compo gives her to keep her wrinkled stockings up. And proudly gives him a tantalizing glimpse of it! I’m not sure how I feel about this, actually… it’s very funny, but would Nora actually do that? Although I can also see the argument that we need to see a certain affection reciprocated between them, otherwise you’re just left wondering why she doesn’t just call the police on him every week.

ANDREW: Like I said, unpredictable.

BOB: I also wonder if this the episode that really kick-started the whole ‘wrinkled stockings’ phenomenon. I know they’d been mentioned in the series before now, but Compo’s hatred of them is major plot point of this episode. And it was around this time that wrinkled stockings became one of the major cultural identifiers of Last of the Summer Wine… you certainly wouldn’t read an article about the show (or about Kathy Staff herself) without them being mentioned, and I think that might have stemmed from this very episode.

ANDREW: Yep. This will become one of the series’ most celebrated running gags and eventually leads to this oddity…

I’d love to know who plays the onlookers in this episode. They’re a small crowd and they don’t look like actors. I wonder whether they were locals, crewmembers, relatives of crewmembers… anybody know?

BOB: What strikes me most about this episode is that Alan Bell was spot on with regards to Gordon Wharmby – he is indeed “absolutely real”. It’s a fine performance, and a great encapsulation of that breed of middle-aged Northern men who spend all of their spare time in overalls beneath a car and need a garage (or a shed, or just some private space to retreat to, unencumbered by female tutting and clucking) to retreat to. I see a lot of my Dad in Wesley.

ANDREW: Actually, what impressed me most about this one was the direction. I know I’ve harped on about a couple of production oddities, but the film sequences really sparkle in this episode. Bell’s signature landscape shots perfectly puncture the studio bound and character based stuff and one sequence, where Ivy returns to the café only to flee upon seeing Sid in his racing get-up is really dynamic. Just look at some of these shots.

Picture 12

Picture 14

All in all, good stuff.

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5.4 Deep in the Heart of Yorkshire

In which Sid’s gotta do what Sid’s gotta do…



BOB: A lovely opening to this episode with some nice direction… Compo, Clegg and Foggy are sitting in trees, and – although we hear their voices – we don’t actually see them. We only see their respective tree trunks! It’s really effective and funny.

ANDREW: And what’s more, this opening shot in which literally nothing happens lasts for 44 seconds. That would never be allowed now, but I love it. For the sake of a completely made up comparison, the average shot in an episode of Mrs. Brown’s Boys lasts 0.003 milliseconds.

Interestingly, IMDB lists Martin Shadlaw as “Studio Director” for this episode and Sydney Lotterby as “Director (Uncredited)”. If this really was the case, I suspect this filmed opening to be Lotterby’s doing.

BOB: Compo’s use of old Yorkshire fascinated me as a kid as well, and these opening scenes are full of his ‘thees’ and ‘thous’. From an early age I was intrigued by language, and the way that different people shaped it to their own ends. It’s incredible to think that Bill Owen was, in reality, a rather well-spoken Londoner. In a way it’s a shame that Compo is the role that SO defines his career in the public eye, as I think his work in perfecting the character is hugely underrated. People assume he was like that, but in fact it’s a consummate acting performance. One of the finest-ever on TV, I’d say.

ANDREW: I’m happy to agree, but I must confess that I’m almost as clueless as the average Joe when it comes to my experience of Owen’s career. If fact, the only over appearances of his I can recall seeing in full are those he made as part of the Carry On team. I think this shall be my required viewing for tonight, sorry it isn’t complete:

BOB: And so the scene is set for a fun episode when our trio spy Sid creeping in the woods with a roll of bedding, and – naturally – assume he’s out for a bit of extra-marital fun. ‘He’s never happy unless he’s getting his divvy,’ chortles Compo, after Clegg speculates that the Co-Op girl is the object of Sid’s affections.

And it’s 42p in the café for three cups of tea and three buns! Welcome to 1979, everyone. Ivy senses that our heroes know something about Sid’s absence, and gets incredibly emotional about it all. ‘He goes all to pieces if he can’t get good gravy…’ she sobs. Again, a nice glimpse of tenderness behind the classic sitcom Jack The Lad/Battleaxe façade of their marriage.

ANDREW: Once again, Jane Freeman endears herself to me with this fantastically layered character. Ivy’s aggression here is very much based upon fear rather than loathing and the way in which she treats our trio more like naughty children than the usual daft old men points towards a very motherly side that doesn’t get the chance to come out very often. “I tried to talk him out of it… I keep hitting him!” she howls without a hint of sarcasm. Sid has run away and she’s acting just as much like her little boy has gone missing as her husband is cheating. She’s phenomenal.

Our trio then seek to console Ivy by suggesting Sid is too much of a, “horrible looking menace” to attract anyone to have an affair with. Poor John Comer; he’s not that bad!

And what is Clegg’s shake of the head all about as he pays Ivy?

BOB: At 10 minutes 30 seconds into the episode, you can catch a fleeting glimpse of an overhanging boom mic! In an age of super-slick TV with Hollywood production values, stuff like this warms the cockles of my ancient heart.

ANDREW: That’s the second time this series and completely disproves my theory that the soundmen were just bored during an earlier episode because this one is ace!

BOB: We see sensitive sides to both of the main Summer Wine women in this story. As our heroes retreat to the pub (for Compo, oddly, to declare the he’s in love with Ivy), they’re joined by Nora Batty who swiftly knocks back a brandy and a real ale. ‘But if you’re planning on getting me tipsy so as I don’t know what you’re doing, forget it’, she warns.

ANDREW: In case they ever make another episode of Summer Wine, I think we should start campaigning now to be two of the extras milling around in the back of the pub. It’s an art form.

BOB: And, again, what a knack for Northern dialogue Roy Clarke has. Lesser writers would have written the line ‘so I don’t know what I’m doing’, but no… it’s crucial to have the extra ‘as’ in there! ‘So as I don’t know what I’m doing…’ is pure Yorkshire dialect, and perfect for a woman of Nora’s age and background. It’s the little touches like that that make me appreciate what an immaculate little world Clarke has created here.

ANDREW: I fall back on quoting dialogue far too often, but the following is one of my all time favorite exchanges thus far. Here’s Compo and Clegg discussing Foggy’s lack of amour.

COMPO: He’s hasn’t got any romance in his body at all

CLEGG: Ah, But he’s got a knife with attachments for opening cans.

That’s Foggy’s entire character summed up in just twenty-one words. Talk about economy!

BOB: And why is Nora upset? Because Wally too has vanished. With a bedding roll underneath his arm. It’s a lovely running theme in Summer Wine that both Nora and Ivy spend their lives belittling and dominating their husbands… until there’s a possibility of losing them, at which point the veneer of the impassable Northern woman cracks, and we see the love and insecurity beneath. They spend their lives chasing their spouses out of their houses, but depend whole-heartedly on them coming home every night.

And it’s great to see Compo, when actually left alone with Nora in the pub, feeling genuinely terrified!

ANDREW: He has no idea what to do with her.

BOB: It’s the old Billy Liar syndrome… he lives within his fantasies, and shares the ribald talk and imaginings with his male friends, but runs scared at any hint of them actually coming true. The idealized romance that he pictures inside his head is clearly a safer retreat than the reality of it all.

And so, the conclusion… Sid and Wally aren’t having affairs after all, they’re part of a Wild West group, sneaking into the woods to wear chaps and cowboy hats, practicing their quick-draws around crackling campfires. This scene is massive in Lancashire and West Yorkshire, isn’t it? I used to live in Lancaster in the early 1990s, and you’d see loads of middle-aged men wandering around pretending to be Gary Cooper. Whistling Hank Williams songs in the queue for the bus outside the Infirmary.

ANDREW: Are cowboys an obsession peculiar to our parents and grandparents generation? They grew up in an era where Westerns were part of a staple Film and Television diet in the way that police procedurals are today. Barely anybody makes Westerns now. Unless that Doctor Who from a few weeks back counts.

Saying that, the obsession did recur a bit in the late 1990s as well. Remember when line dancing was the done thing?

I should point out how well structured this episode has been, as well. We began with the disembodied voices of an off-screen trio and we reach our climax with the disembodied voices of Sid and Wally, who are reluctant to reveal their cowpoke attire. Very neat. And is it just me, or does Sid look remarkably like Lou Costello in this costume?!

Abbot and Comer?

BOB: Great episode, anyway – fun and warm-hearted.

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 (3.3+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. 

Summer Winos (3.1+3.2)

REMINDER: Our Compo-tition is open to entries until the 18th!

3.1 The Man From Oswestry

In which Compo and Clegg befriend the world’s most deadly ex-army corps sign writer the same height as John Wayne.

ANDREW: Losing one of the three main characters so early on in the run could easily have resulted in the end of Last of the Summer Wine, but Roy Clarke is firing all cylinders here.

BOB: Absolutely, this is a fabulous episode – really top notch British comedy. Full of great lines and alternating lovely pathos with some brilliant laugh-out-loud comedy. And superb performances from everyone. It’s as though all involved felt they had to be really on top of their game for what’s effectively a relaunch of the whole series.

ANDREW: Poor Compo. He’s devastated to have lost Blamire, and it’s totally believable. The opening scene in which Compo and Clegg visit the café and lament the loss of their friend to a Welsh widow are very clever on Clarke’s part. It reminds us of how essential the ‘third man’ is to the series’ premise and sets us up to welcome Foggy Dewhurst with open arms. Without Blamire, Clegg is reduced to fretting over oil stains on his trousers and some of the sparkle is gone from Compo’s impish eyes. Without a third man, the last of the summer is turning into Autumn for the duo. They need an authority figure to push them out of their comfort zone and force them into diverting situations.

BOB: I love the opening scenes, with Compo idly kicking tin cans around the square outside the café as he waits for it to open. It’s the second childhood syndrome again, isn’t it? He’s absolutely the kid with no friends in the corner of an empty playground. In the previous series we saw Clegg and Blamire struggling to hold a conversation in the temporary absence of Compo. Clegg and Compo aren’t quite THAT bad, but in the scene in the café, it’s clear that their lives are going to be much less interesting without an authority figure to rail against. ‘It’s times like this, when I’m low on fags, that I really miss old Cyril Blamire,’ says Compo, which is as profound an outpouring of emotion as you’d ever get from a Yorkshireman in the mid-1970s.

ANDREW: It’s nice to see that Blamire’s absence has been accounted for and that, rather than ignore his departure; Clarke has given the character somewhat of happy ending. Last episode we were talking about Blamire’s tragedy being routed in his lack of personal relationships, but he is now happily shacked up with “a certain lady.”

BOB: Yes, great to see the unseen Blamire being given a happy send-off. The letter that he sends to them (as read out loud by Clegg, to a tittering Compo) is superb, and almost a pre-curser to the hilarious missives that the never-seen Joe Maplin would dispatch to the staff in Hi-De-Hi. ‘Thanks to the Labour government, when the Russians finally come, all we’ll have left to throw at them is one Welsh-speaking Alsatian,’ he writes, building up to the revelation that Foggy Dewhurst will soon be returning to Holmfirth and joining the merry gang.

We’ve talked before about how we’re constantly dropped into an established Summer Wine world that’s existed long before the series started. Even early in this episode, we hear Compo talk about characters that we’ve never met and probably never will… ‘Vernon Hislop broke his pelvis – I had an eyewitness account in the bookies from a bloke called Trigger’.

Foggy is the most audacious example yet. In most other sitcoms, a new main character like Foggy would be as unfamiliar to the existing characters as he is to us viewers, and we’d get to know and appreciate his qualities and quirks together. But, as you’d expect in a close-knit community like Holmfirth, everyone already knows Foggy, and it’s us viewers that are on the back foot from the beginning. ‘A great long gormless streak from Arnold Crescent,’ as Compo describes him, ‘his mother wore brown boots’. Roy Clarke’s attention to detail in making Clegg and Compo’s memories -stretching back five decades to their collective childhoods – so complex and real is a joy.

ANDREW: There’s a lot of buildup to Foggy and I love Compo’s recollection that, “He looked like a pencil with a rubber on the end.” When he does turn up, Foggy is a tempest in a green kagool; as Clegg says a genuine fourteen-carrot guilt edged barmpot.  It’s lovely to see Clegg come to life at the sight of this maniac. It’s as if the character has regained his purpose; sort of like the toys in Toy Story who are lost without somebody to play with them.

BOB: There’s a glorious moment when Foggy is rummaging maniacally in his pockets for his notebook, and Clegg turns to Compo and gives him a look of utter, heartfelt joy. It’s only a fleeting second or two, but you have to wonder if there’s a little bit of Sallis’ true feelings in that look – it’s a real ‘everything is going to be alright, after all’ moment, and Sallis seems to be genuinely revelling in Brian Wilde’s performance.

And quite right too, because Wilde makes an absolutely magnificent debut. From the first second he appears, marshalling the troops on the bus into Holmfirth, Foggy is a fully-formed, three dimensional character, and a brilliant one to boot. Bereft of Blamire’s self-confidence and brashness, it’s made clear even at this stage that Foggy’s military exploits are pure fantasy, scarcely concealing a timid and awkward man who lives largely inside his own mind. And yes, it’s played for laughs, but Wilde’s performance is so nuanced and perfect that all of Foggy’s tics and quirks (The meditative ‘planning sessions’, staring into space with a rigid expression of silent concentration, are my favourite) are never anything less than believable. We’ve ALL met the smalltown loners and dreamers that weave themselves a fantasy persona… it’s a fictional staple made famous by Walter Mitty and Billy Liar alike. Foggy is the latest in a long line of these characters, and it’s absolute TV magic from the off. A sensational creation and a stunning performance.

ANDREW: Even the supporting characters recognize the suitability of this new recruit, with Compo’s cousin Big Malcolm remarking, “If you can keep him alive, you might get some mileage out of him.” Clarke is almost winking at the audience at this point and whispering, ‘Yeah, this new set-up is going to work out.’

BOB: I was convinced for a couple of seconds that it was legendary TV wrestler Big Daddy making an appearance as Big Malcolm! ‘I get these… murderous tempers,’ stammers Foggy, slamming a kung-fu palm onto the pub table, seconds after toasting the mysterious ‘Operation Swordblade’ with a heavenly-looking half-pint of bitter. I could watch him all day.

ANDREW: “On the whole you shouldn’t say anything to me that you couldn’t safely say to John Wayne.” What a line.

3.2 Mending Stuart’s Leg

In which our trio click into action and scale the dizzy heights of the Café roof.

ANDREW: Whereas Blamire was seemingly happy to do anything, provided he was doing something, Foggy definitely seems to require a mission in life. Instead of aimlessly roaming the hills, our trio will head out on expeditions and instead of loitering in the café, the greasy spoon is used as a base of operations, be they inspecting Sid’s roof or mending Stuart’s eponymous leg. The tone has already shifted from those early, meandering installments.

BOB: Ha! How odd, I was actually going to say that after a couple of tightly-focused episodes, we’re back to a bit of old school meandering! This episode is filled with delightful non-sequiteurs, many of which are provided by Foggy. ‘I made a good contact yesterday if you ever want any offcuts of polystyrene,’ he muses, a propos of nothing, in the opening scenes. ‘I see there’s been another failure in Soviet agriculture,’ he ponders later, during a gap in the conversation. I laughed out loud, as I did ten minutes later at the following exchange:

COMPO: What’s wrong with me trousers?
FOGGY: I realise you’re a socialist, but you could invest in another pair. You don’t have to wait for the council to pull the old pair down.

Contrasting political viewpoints, social and sartorial comment and a genuine, stunning laugh-out-loud gag in the space of two lines. Even if you knew nothing whatsoever about Compo or Foggy, you could still infer so much about their characters just by reading those two lines. Now THAT’s writing.

ANDREW: And here we have it, the first instance of Clegg chickening out of something; in this case he sheepishly declines the opportunity to climb a rickety ladder and inspect some slates.

BOB: Yes! Foggy has instantly become the instigator and director of their activities, and Clegg now seems firmly entrenched as the reluctant non-participant that he remains for the next three and a half decades.

There are a few little character moments that intrigued me in this episode… I think, Drew, you mentioned that an earlier episode very subtly alluded to the fact that Sid and Ivy were childless, and I missed it completely. This time, following a classic argument, we get Ivy wistfully musing ‘Oooh, if I’d had kids…’  and the sentence is left for us to finish ourselves. There’s a definite sense of regret and melancholy that hangs over this fleeting scene.

And good to see Mr Wainwright back at the library! With another doe-eyed young acolyte – Miss Moody – now in tow.

WAINWRIGHT: I used to dream of leading the people into a better society…
MISS MOODY: Maybe you still can?
WAINWRIGHT: (respectfuly) There’s so much paperwork.

Fabulous.

And is it me, or does Compo’s shouted riposte to Nora as she rebuffs his advances yet again (‘It wasn’t like this on VE Night!’) suggest that they had a brief romantic tryst thirty years earlier, presumably before she married Wally? It’s an absolute revelation to think that his feelings towards her aren’t just the unrequited lust of an old letch, but an attempt to recapture a sensational night of passion from their long-lost salad days, on an occasion of unparalleled emotional release for the whole country. If that’s true, it must have been one of the most glorious nights of Compo’s life, and brings a whole new perspective to his character and motivations. He wants to feel young and happy and virile again, and rekindling a fleeting encounter with Nora has become fixed in his mind as the only way to do so… even though her appearance and personality have – we assume – been completely transformed since then. He just doesn’t see that, though! One of our constant sources of comedy so far as been exactly why Compo lusts after this sour-faced battleaxe – it just seemed inexplicable. But at last we have an answer! To Compo, Nora will always be the vibrant 20-year-old lass that gave herself to him at the ultimate national celebration. I actually feel like 37 years of Summer Wine suddenly makes a lot more sense!