Summer Winos»Uncategorized»Series 2 Episode 4: Some Enchanted Evening

Series 2 Episode 4: Some Enchanted Evening

In which Wally Batty makes his entrance… and beats a hasty retreat…

Andrew: For this episode, I’ve decided to take a risk. Ever since moving in with me, my partner Emma has been exposed to far more wrinkled stockings that she ever signed up for. Still, she’ll happily accommodate Ronnie Hazlehurst blaring through the living room, and even professed to enjoy our trip to Holmfirth in 2009 (although I’m still not 100% convinced of that). Would asking her to review an episode alongside us be a step too far? There’s only one way to find out… say hello, Emma.

Emma: Hello. And I did enjoy Holmfirth, even if your Stephen Lewis impressions nearly sent me mad. Oh, and it was funny watching you and Bob wee in a school field.

Bob: I remember being caught short under a tree on a long walk back from the pub, but it wasn’t a school field was it? We were in the woods! Compo would have been proud of us.

Bob and Drew in Holmfirth, 2009. Gahaha, I 'ate you Butler, etc

Bob and Drew in Holmfirth, 2009. Gahaha, I ‘ate you Butler, etc


Andrew:
Anyway, what’s your background with Summer Wine?

Emma: I used to watch it with my Grandad on Sunday afternoons. We’d have tea, pickled onions, egg and salad. I’ve got mixed emotions, I suppose… happy memories, but it makes me miss my Grandad.

Andrew: This is our first, full-on taste of the Compo/Nora dynamic that will dominate much of the series from now on. He’s truly in heat!

Emma: He’s really seedy, isn’t he? And the thought of him and Nora? Urgh! I’m actually struggling to understand his accent as well. Does it soften as the series go on?

Andrew: It softens as the episode goes on!

Bob: Does it? I always thought Compo’s accent was really consistent – especially considering that Bill Owen was a rather well-spoken Londoner. I remember being fascinated as a kid by his archaic Yorkshire vocabulary… all those ‘thees’ and ‘thous’. I’ve always been intrigued by language and the way it varies through the generations. When I was a kid, I had an elderly next-door neighbour called Jim Cogan, who had been a coal miner in his working days and spoke with a very thick County Durham accent, and used vernacular that clearly dated from his youth… which, amazingly, was probably around the time of the First World War. I struggled to understand him sometimes when I was very small, and that both baffled and fascinated me. It’s a different accent, but the way that Compo speaks always reminds me a little of Jim.

Andrew: I definitely think there’s a slight difference between his accent during the location filming and during the studio sequences. Perhaps his accent naturally softened a little when performing in front of a London studio audience? As you say, though, he’s completely convincing throughout.

Bob's pin-up!

Bob’s pin-up!

Bob: There are couple of nice 1970s references in these early scenes as well. Compo’s TV delivery man ‘caught the manager adjusting the horizontal hold on her from the record counter’, and Blamire mentions whooping cough! I don’t suppose anyone encounters horizontal holds or whooping cough much these days, but it’s nice to know their legacy has been immortalised in this episode.

Emma: My mam had whooping cough just the other month! I didn’t hear her whoop that much, just cough. She’s fine now.

Bob: I feel terrible now.

Andrew: And here he is… Wally Batty. Bob’s idol.

Emma: Why? He’s a bit boring, isn’t he? Just ‘muh muh muh’ (Emma is attempting her own Stephen Lewis impersonation). He reminds me of Drew. No, not really!

Andrew: I don’t think I’d mind! Besides, I should remind you that – in our first six months of living together – both of us ran home to our mams’ houses for a bit of respite. Admittedly, we didn’t sneak out during the night, pants in hand, but the principle is the same.

Bob: Wally is brilliant! It’s a fabulous performance from Joe Gladwin – so downtrodden and gloomy, and yet with a fabulous rapier wit. He’s Eeyore in a flat cap and britches.

Nora: (Pointing to Compo) Are you going to let him do what he likes to me?

Wally: What’s there to like about it?

Brilliant. Again, I see a lot of Jim Cogan in him. Men who had married young, worked like a bastard every single day for fifty years, and now just wanted to eke out their remaining days with pipe, pigeons and ale. Bodies absolutely knackered by decades of back-breaking graft… I don’t know if it’s ever specified what Wally did for a living, but it was clearly bloody hard going and you can see every second of it etched into that face, and piled on top of those hunched shoulders.

When I see Wally Batty, I realise that I really did grow up in a very different era, even to you two fine people. I saw men like Wally all over the place in the 1970s… they were there, I absolutely knew them. But I don’t see them anymore.

Bob shows Emma the benefit of his experience, Holmfirth 2009

Bob shows Emma the benefit of his experience, Holmfirth 2009


Andrew:
Joe Gladwin is fantastic. I’d like to believe that he just was Wally Batty as I can’t imagine him playing anyone else. Character isn’t just written onto his face, it’s chiselled.

I find this whole episode a bit strange, overall. Again, there’s a bit of a nasty streak that one wouldn’t expect of the show’s later years. I guess it also proves that Roy Clarke never had a master plan, as the whole Nora/Compo plotline is played out in it’s entirety in the space of a single half hour. This is as close as they come to getting together, but both will be going through the motions for years to come.

Bob: Compo occasionally seems rueful about his bachelor status here… there are a couple of moments when it’s clear his longing isn’t just about the pleasures of the flesh. He’s envious of Wally having a woman to care for him, and look after him. We see him in bed, in his long johns, drinking brown ale and reading True Romances magazine as the radio plays out his request for Nora! Sent in under the pseudonym ‘Lonely Brown Eyes…’ its rather touching.

Andrew: But brilliantly undermined when the DJ refuses to read out Compo’s list of things he’d like to do with Nora and advises him to seek out a solicitor before attempting any of them. It’s a list you don’t want to spend too much time contemplating!

Bob: There’s a nice bit of sleight-of-hand from Roy Clarke in this episode as well… for a while we’re genuinely led to believe that Wally HAS left home for good, and that Compo is sparking up a fully-blown relationship with Nora. At this stage of the series we haven’t seen that much of their cat-and-mouse games, so we’ve no reason to believe that it couldn’t actually happen.

That swinging bachelor lifestyle in full

That swinging bachelor lifestyle in full

I love the scene in the café, where Blamire and Clegg contemplate life without Compo as part of their regular routine… Blamire has a rant about the unions, Clegg muses about the possibility of God returning to Earth as an insect, and the conversation just doesn’t work at all. They both as much as admit that they don’t actually have that much in common… they need the common factor of Compo to bounce off, to unite them as a trio. It’s very tight and disciplined characterisation from both writer and actors.  And a neat twist on the time-worn cliché of the teenage boy getting his first girlfriend and abandoning his mates at the drop of a hat. Here the ‘teenagers’ are all pushing sixty, but the same principle applies.

Andrew: Emma, as a lady of the female persuasion, what did you make of the representation of women here?

Emma: Well, they’re all lesbians or husband abusers. There are no desirable women, at least not by normal standards. Then again, going back to when I first saw Summer Wine, I can recognise a bit of my Grandma and Grandad in the relationships depicted here. A bit less abusive, but with a lack of love on the surface and something more underneath. My Grandad wasn’t a Wally, though, and gave more back in return!

Andrew: What did you think overall then?

Emma: It was fine. A bit slow, though… not much seems to happen.

Andrew: That’s kind of why we like it.

Emma: Yeah, but you’re both weird.

Bob: I’ve been trying to shoehorn this in for a while, but you’re right… Summer Wine works very differently from most other sitcoms of the era. You watch most 1970s sitcoms and they’re very formulaic. You have a small bunch of regular characters in a recognisable place, and every week there’s a plot device that’s set up in the first five minutes, spirals out of control to comedy effect with hilarious consequences, and is resolved in the last five minutes. Often with some kind of grand finale… a stunt, or a special routine, or some other way of hammering home a grand punchline. Then the reset switch is pressed so we can do the whole thing again next week.

Early Summer Wine isn’t like that at all. Lots of episodes have no real plot at all, they just… drift. Especially in these early series, our three heroes usually aren’t facing any particular problem or pursuing the kind of quest that would normally drive the plot along, they’re just wandering idly through town and countryside, and we follow them. Guest characters drift back and forth through the episodes, often contributing nothing whatsoever in traditional plot terms, but simply adding colour and depth to the world we’re being presented with. There’s often no natural end to the episodes, they just fade out with a gentle fizzle. It’s all about character and atmosphere at this stage, and it’s a breath of fresh air. It feels real, like we’re eavesdropping on randomly-selected thirty minute segments of these characters’ lives and daydreams. It’s absolutely why I like it.

Andrew: Summer Wine land definitely feels like it has existed long before the cameras start rolling, and I think it’s mainly the multitude of acquaintances and passers-by who drift in and out the episodes that contribute to this. It’s just a lovely place to spend some time, even if it can be grim. Will you come back for more, later?

Emma: I guess I wouldn’t object too much. I’ll go back to Holmfirth if we can stay at the same place, with the nice breakfasts and mad dogs.

Bob: I’d forgotten about the dogs! I’d love to go back. We need to stay somewhere with a TV and DVD player so we can watch a couple of episodes while we’re there!

3 comments

  • Visit site
    September 3, 2016 6:59 amPosted 1 year ago
    Simon S

    One of the weirdest episodes, as Compo again leaves the other 2 in the background. Perhaps the definitive episode for the Compo-Nora-Wally love triangle, but strangely handled.

    Wally finally leaves Nora – albeit not for long. Nora replaces him with Compo (!) who goes along with it (!!) even to the extent of doing up his house and his act (!!!) I know some think that the lovelorn workshy Compo must have had a breakdown, but Nora’s behaviour is so unusual as to deserve analysis.

    Yet Compo knows it’s only temporary, so is it worth the inevitable upset when Wally returns?

    And in spite of all this… I still wonder about that bedroom scene. Without knowing the lay-out of the houses on that street… where IS Compo’s bedroom (and don’t say upstairs!)?

    Reply
    • Visit site
      September 3, 2016 5:20 pmPosted 1 year ago
      Bob Fischer

      Does his bedroom move about a bit? It’s definitely upstairs (or at least the window that he frequently leans from is!)

      Reply
  • Visit site
    September 4, 2016 12:52 pmPosted 1 year ago
    Simon S

    It took me a long time to realise there’s a flight of stairs opposite his front door. So I can buy that bit. But I’m sure Nora’s kitchen (the window to the right of her front door) is above his downstairs window.

    If Gloria’s house is to Compo’s right, and I know he leans from a window in much later years… how large is his upstairs?

    Maybe I need several hours studying a picture of the front of their houses.

    Skipping way ahead, I know Alvin moves into Compo’s house, and it’s clearly massively redecorated with the staircase visible, but it seems an enormous space to fit alongside Nora’s house. No wonder he hasn’t got any money, with a place that size.

    PS In happier news, I agree that Wally’s a comic genius, and should have said so 🙂

    Reply

Leave your comment

Your Name: (required)

E-Mail: (required)

Website: (not required)

Message: (required)

Send comment