Posts Tagged ‘norman clegg’

5.3 The Flag and Further Snags

In which Foggy’s plan finally comes to fruition!  

 

BOB: Good grief, it’s a sequel! I hadn’t looked too closely at the episode titles, so I really wasn’t expecting that, and really… the previous episode had nothing about it that suggested a second part was essential to conclude the story. I just assumed Foggy’s plan to erect the flag had come to nothing, like pretty much all of his ideas so far. Here’s hoping things pick up in this episode. I’m desperately in need of an Empire Strikes Back!

ANDREW: Maybe the BBC ordered one more episode than Clarke was expecting? That might explain why The Flag and its Snag felt so padded.

BOB: And crikey, we start with an incest joke. ‘Billy Butterwick had a cousin on the railway once,’ giggles Compo. ‘She said she wouldn’t tell her mum, but she did’. Hear that scribbling? That’s Mary Whitehouse taking notes. 

Nice to see Stan Richards in this episode, bumbling about the Railway Parcels Office when Foggy goes to collect his flag. Later to become hugely famous as Seth Armstrong in Emmerdale Farm, although he only made his Emmerdale debut in 1978, so probably hadn’t quite achieved national treasure status when this aired!

Stan Richards as Seth Armstrong in the long running Yorkshire Television soap ‘Emmerdale’

ANDREW: He’s gently sinister here. I bet his house is full of unclaimed goods from the sorting office. I love Compo’s method of breaking into Foggy’s parcel. There’s something primitively satisfying about opening a package without having to turn to a cutting implement. Don’t laugh, I’m afforded very few opportunities to feel manly.

BOB: Nice bit of physical comedy here as well, with Compo’s trousers being pulled asunder by the snagged string on Foggy’s parcel. I laughed out loud. Trousers ARE funny.

ANDREW: And it’s executed much more effectively than last week’s farting about with Donkeys and dry stone walls. Perhaps that’s the luxury of sitcom rehearsal time at work.

Our trio ventures back to base in order to solve Compo’s predicament, said base being the café, of course. This just a sign of my unobservant nature, but this is the first time I’ve noticed that Sid and Ivy have their prices written up on a chalk board behind the counter. Egg and Chips for 55p and a cup of tea for just 5p – lovely.

BOB: An unexpected but rather lovely bit of character development in this episode… Wally Batty is a member of the Old and Ancient Order of Bullocks! Obviously Roy Clarke’s gentle spoof on Freemasonry, although there’s a distinctly smalltown feel to all of this… they meet in the café, and Wally – we learn – has become a Bullock to advance his standing in racing pigeon circles. And, you have to assume, to get out of the house.

Something we rarely see in Summer Wine here as well… proper, hammering, filthy torrential rain. Foggy even has a brolly! There’s a real ‘end of summer’ feel to this episode, and already I like it much more than the previous installment.

ANDREW: Certain sitcoms seem to have been blessed when it comes to location shooting. Dad’s Army is another example of a series where nary a drop of rain is glimpsed. Red Dwarf, on the other hand, always seems to have the worst of weather for their trips outside of the studio.

So the trio heads off to see “the Commodore” and we’re treated to two 1970s staples; a scantily-clad, shrieking  woman and some ghastly, brown, flower-patterned curtains. The way in which Clarke has the Commodore bastardize Kenneth Grahame is also very cheeky.

BOB: Alright, can I introduce an element of actor geekery here?

ANDREW: Can I stop you?

BOB: Robert Lang, who plays the ex-sea cadets Commodore ‘entertaining’ a young lady on his houseboat, was something of a theatrical powerhouse. He was talent-spotted by Laurence Olivier in the early 1960s, who’d seen him playing Theseus in the RSC’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Olivier tapped him up and encouraged him to jump ship to his newly-formed National Theatre Company! The famous critic Caryl Brahms once described him as having ‘quiet grandeur, cogency and gravity’, all essential qualities for a guest role in Last of the Summer Wine.  

Robert Lang in ‘The Sandwich Man’ (1966)

And his young lady is a tiny role for Maggie Ollerenshaw, one of my favourite actresses. And clearly one of Roy Clarke’s too, as she’s also Wavy Mavis in Open All Hours, and went on to play Clegg’s mother in First of the Summer Wine! I love her, she’s got brilliant comic timing.

ANDREW: I knew that I recognized that voice from somewhere!

BOB: The final stages of the episode are quite odd, in that our heroes are actually separated in a way that I don’t think has really happened before. Foggy steams ahead on his flag quest, while Clegg and Compo stay behind.

ANDREW: Well, it is raining.

BOB: I like Compo’s remark about Wally’s pigeon – ‘That’d go well wi’ a few tatties’, which reminds me SO much of the stuff my Dad would say around this time… I had a pet rabbit, which he would (JOKINGLY!!!) remark would make for a cracking pie with a few carrots and peas. The legacy of a wartime childhood, I guess.

ANDREW: My dad wasn’t so lucky. He was unknowingly fed his rabbit after my Grandad’s weekly pay was delayed. Perhaps that’s why I was only ever allowed a hamster. Who wants to eat a Hamster?

Wally really reminds me of one of my Uncles here. He always has, but a think it’s his pride in his racing pigeon photos. With my uncle, it was whippets, but it’s still very familiar. And I mean this as a compliment should you ever read this, Lar! (It’s my Auntie Sue who might knack me should she believe I’m comparing her to Nora by proxy).

BOB: And so – amazingly – Foggy’s plan comes to fruition! He DOES raise his flag on the top of the hillside! Until it falls over, obviously. But is this the first of Foggy’s harebrained schemes that’s actually reached a successful conclusion? It’s a watershed episode!

ANDREW: Dare we attempt to restage his attempt on our next trip to Holmfirth? It’ll have to be on a smaller scale, of course, but the idea of a Brian Wilde memorial flagpole strikes me a rather beautiful thing.

BOB: I enjoyed that, anyway. A huge improvement on the previous instalment with some great guest appearances and funny moments.

ANDREW: And a fantastic punch line. All in all, I think that just about redeemed the last episode. Still a very strange two-parter, though.

Advertisements

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.

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 (1.1+1.2)

1.1 SHORT BACK AND PALAIS GLIDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.2 Inventor of the Forty Foot Ferret

In which Compo is persuaded to visit church.

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

BOB: You’re a freak, Smith.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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