Summer Winos»Uncategorized»Series 2 Episode 6: Ballad For Wind Instruments & Canoe

Series 2 Episode 6: Ballad For Wind Instruments & Canoe

In which our trio pursue canoeing, and fail to drop Compo right in it…

Andrew: This really is the first of the stunt episodes. While there have been elements of physical comedy in the past, nothing matches up to a canoe ride. Still, though, the decision to take to the river in a canoe extends naturally from the trio’s status as layabouts. However, the sight of Compo dangling over a bridge, and of the trio in Victorian bathing suits, must be the broadest comedy the series has offered so far. A sign of things soon to come… it all looks rather appealing, though.

Bob: Yes, I thought the same… this is the first of the real ‘caper’ episodes, in which our heroes embark on an unlikely physical escapade that inevitably ends in disaster. Usually with the involvement of a large physical prop… and, of course, in this case it’s the canoe that drifts into their lives as they idle away an afternoon at the river’s edge.

Andrew: Speaking of stunts, this must be apex of Clegg’s adventurous spirit. The character I grew up with would be far too worried to go diving into the deep end of a stream, let along propose a canoeing expedition. I wonder if the incoming introduction of Foggy will prompt this evolution.

Drew's time-travelling Steve Pemberton

Drew’s time-travelling Steve Pemberton

Bob: Clegg’s very adventurous at this stage, isn’t he? This is the latest in a few examples of Clegg desperately wanting to break away from the confines of Holmfirth and go out… well, adventuring. ‘The key to thousands of tranquil miles of British pollution,’ he deadpans. ‘Mile after mile of waterway, we can get drowned almost anywhere…’ I wonder how long it’s meant to have been since his wife died at this point? You get the impression he’s been through a long recovery phase and is now keen to start enjoying himself and testing his mettle a little.

Andrew: Post-Traumatic Spouse Disorder.

Bob: Interesting that you mention Foggy, as I thought a few of Blamire’s lines in this episode pre-empted the introduction of Brian Wilde’s character. In particular, the opening scenes where he’s musing about his military career… ‘I’ve seen men delirious with jungle fever,’ he barks. ‘I’d like to see you lot try to make a camp in a mango swamp’. Roy Clarke definitely carried over some of this attitude into Foggy’s character, with a crucial difference… with Foggy, it’s made very clear that his military musings are almost all complete fantasy, and his ‘hard man’ trappings are constantly debunked and undermined by Clegg and Compo.

With Blamire, there’s no such debunking – so we have to assume that his stories are all actually true, and he’s genuinely a force to be reckoned with. It’s official – Blamire’s absolutely hard as nails!

Andrew: Has Steve Pemberton travelled back in time in order to play Arnpepper? It’s an uncanny physical and vocal resemblance. It’s a great character part, and the template for many Summer Wine eccentrics to follow.

Bob: Yes, Arnpepper is a fine character, although I didn’t spot the resemblance to Steve Pemberton! He looks more like Ronnie Corbett to me. His introduction is great, though…  drifting half-submerged along the river, two minutes behind his wayward canoe. ‘Howdo lads, have you seen a canoe?’ he shouts, casually, to our heroes. ‘What colour?’ deadpans Clegg. Brilliant stuff.

And it’s nice to see another scene in a disused farm building, as he attempts to dry off and bequeaths his canoe to our three heroes! John F Landy, who plays Arnpepper, did a lot of fine TV character acting in the 1970s and 80s. He pops up in Minder and Boon, amongst many others.

Montmorency not pictured...

Montmorency not pictured…

Andrew: Arnpepper mentions Look North. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Look North mentioned on television outside of… well, Look North. Now that it is mentioned I have a strange feeling of ownership. ‘That’s my local news programme, that is!’

Bob: I felt exactly the same, although I feel a bit of a party pooper in pointing out that the Yorkshire version of Look North is different to ours… it’s a separate programme made by BBC Leeds. But lines like that work wonders in grounding the show to a very specific place, and giving the characters a base in reality. Arnpepper is an eccentric, surreal character, and therefore exactly the kind of man that would want to get his five minutes of fame on regional TV! And oh, in the 1970s, regional TV was always more than happy to oblige.

There’s a nice line in that strange pie-eating scene in the café as well. Sid offers to pay for the pies, to which Ivy angrily retorts ‘You know we’re saving up for that mobile chip van!’ A van that I don’t think we actually see onscreen for another eight years, when it becomes a crucial part of the Getting Sam Home feature-length special that I know we both adore. Although that show is based on a novel that Roy Clarke wrote during these early years, so I guess the mobile chip van was heavily in his thoughts during 1974/75!

Andrew: Archaic reference alert! Compo refers to Blamire as Joe E. Brown during the biggest gob completion. That almost flew over my head, but rekindled some memories of old-time Hollywood comedy. Today, he’s probably best remembered for delivering the final line in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot. Here’s the gob in question:

‘Well… nobody’s perfect!’

Bob: Indeed, and I noticed Compo actually says Joe E Brown’s legendary line ‘Nobody’s perfect’ later in the episode! I wonder if Roy Clarke had seen Some Like It Hot around the time he wrote this episode, and thought he’d pay a subtle homage? Although Joe E Brown died in July 1973, so I suppose it might have been a personal tribute to Joe himself? Whatever, it’s a clever little touch.

As you’ve said, the closing scenes are very broad (especially the swimming costumes disguised with leaves and branches – far more conspicuous than just walking home in the costumes themselves!) but the canoeing scenes themselves are heavenly… the sun-dappled river, the shady, rustling trees and our three idle heroes drifting lazily into nothingness. It’s almost a metaphor for the show itself at this stage.

2 comments

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    September 6, 2016 1:16 pmPosted 1 year ago
    Simon S

    The “what colour?” response seems a common joke at least as far back as WW2. When I bought my first car, I was telling someone about it excitedly. Guess what very same response I got?

    Arnpepper (“not THE Arnpepper?”) is another wonderful one-off, a harmless forerunner of our celebrity obsessed culture. Brawn and haslet indeed!

    It’s odd that Clegg seems the main spur of the expedition, still on his “we should get out more” kick from ‘The New Mobile Trio’. The canoe chasing has some silly moments (how do they get so far ahead of it that they can throw Compo off a bridge at it?!).

    The Mouth Manoeuvres award sketch in the café is a wonderful one-off (note Blamire limbering up by stretching his mouth before & after), with the perfect pay-off.

    Is this also the first of these music-esque titles that will crop up over the years too?

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    July 5, 2017 8:55 pmPosted 3 months ago
    Simon S

    “I’m pig-sick of being a non-entity – it’s got to stop!” In other hands and places, that would be quite a sinister line.

    “You’re going the same way as your Aunty Conny!”
    “There’s nowt wrong with my Aunty Conny.”
    “Oh? Then why won’t she come out of the wash-house?” – For me, there’s a lost world in the idea of the wash-house.

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