Summer Winos»Uncategorized»Series 6 Episode 7: From Wellies to Wet Suit

Series 6 Episode 7: From Wellies to Wet Suit

In which Compo gets into (not very) deep water…

Bob: And so we reach an episode that was famously Bill Owen’s favourite, and it starts with a question that nails Compo’s ‘child in an old man’s body’ persona beautifully. ‘What makes water wet?’ he muses, lying flat on the grass and waggling his fingers in the stream. ‘Why does it feel different to dry?’ Lines like this make me wonder if Roy Clarke took some of Compo’s dialogue from his own children, as it captures so perfectly a child’s sense of fascinated bafflement at the way the world works.

Andrew: You know, I was sort of dreading reaching this episode. Am I right in saying that this is the first one we have watched that is always guaranteed to be used in clip shows, documentaries and tributes? I know we’ve already had episodes that are big on slapstick, but this pratfall-heavy episode has always marked the end of the low-key, dialogue driven era of the show to me. That’s why it’s so nice to find that its opening is so dialogue driven. And what dialogue it is!

There’s also a really nice directorial touch, as the first shot pans across to reveal our trio’s feet – including Compo’s wellies. We literally do go from wellies to wetsuit, then!

Bob: Oh, well spotted! This exchange made me laugh out loud as well…

Foggy: Let’s look for bubbles…

Clegg: That’s a hell of a name for a big, fat angry bloke…

And lo, Sid rises from the water in a rather saggy-looking wetsuit. It seems to be a running theme in Summer Wine that men are desperate to keep their harmless hobbies as guilty secrets from their wives… ‘Wives never understand’, grumbles Sid. Why was that, then? Was it a financial thing, do we reckon? When early 1980s household budgets were tight, was it seen as an unnecessary frivolity to splash the cash on pastimes that needed expensive gear? It’s hard to imagine a man like Sid in 2014 managing to keep a time-consuming hobby like scuba-diving a complete secret from his missus. He’d be Tweeting about it all the time, for a start… #ivymustneverknow

Sid rises from the depths…

Anyway, good to see our first abandoned farm building for quite some time!

Andrew: Here’s a rarity… we have Compo giving the call to adventure! Usually it’s Foggy having to talk his mates into outlandish schemes, but Compo is all for getting into the water. Not just up to his ankles, either; he plans to go in ‘all over’.

Bob: There’s a lovely, summery feel to this. On the seven-minute mark, a white butterfly flies right into the camera! And Compo singing ‘You Are My Honeysuckle’ while clumping about in flippers only compounds the feeling of an idyllic, sun-soaked afternoon. This must have been filmed in the summer of 1981, which pretty much reflects my memories of a long, sun-baked school holiday that year. Much of it spent messing about in remote barns and riverbanks on Paul Frank’s farm! I was Compo.

Andrew: A nod to Ronnie Hazlehurst, as well, who quickly drops in a further refrain from ‘You Are My Honeysuckle’ as Compo tussles with a farmer’s dog. There are some really great musical moments in this episode. You know, if these music cues still exist, I want them. You must know at least one record producer who would jump at the chance to release a deluxe ten disc box-set of Last of the Summer Wine music cues.

Bob: I’d give Phil Spector a call, but I believe he’s busy. Hey, what a great scene between Foggy and Clegg, as they reminisce about their 1930s schooldays in Compo’s absence! ‘Him and Cloggy Hopwood (NAMES DATABASE!!) must have stuffed hundreds of beetles down my trousers’, muses Foggy, affectionately. The dynamic of the trio is such that Clegg and Compo usually seem like the more natural double act, effectively stepping into line as Foggy’s reluctant footsoldiers, so this is a nice reminder of the fact that Foggy and Clegg are close, lifelong friends too. And genuinely enjoy each others company.

Andrew: It’s a lovely scene. We get a nice glimpse into Foggy’s background, too. His mother struggled to come to terms with the way he was turning out as an adolescent and used to look at him with a deeply disappointed expression every time she passed him his Horlicks before bedtime. No wonder he feels the need to overcompensate all the time.

And his commending of Compo with ‘That’s my boy!’ a short time later takes on somewhat of a Freudian overtone as a result.

Bob: Foggy as Compo’s surrogate Dad? I can see something in that!

And so Compo is the new owner of Sid’s wetsuit, and predictably wreaks havoc in it, clumping around the town and country. As he enters the café, Jane Freeman gives a scream worthy of any Doctor Who companion! She should have joined Peter Davison’s TARDIS team in Arc of Infinity. Come on, imagine that! She’d be great. John Nathan-Turner would have snapped your hand off for that.

Andrew: Then, for what I think is the first and only time ever in the show, we are carried into the next scene via an optical wipe. What is this, Star Wars? Very odd.

Is it the rubber? The machismo?

Is it the rubber? The machismo?

Bob: Just thank your lucky stars George Lucas was never asked to direct Last of the Summer Wine. We’d have had a CGI Wally. Instead, we cut to two middle-aged women in the corner shop, and a completely unexplained exchange about ‘this wooden thing, it’s a replica of what they used in the old days’.

‘That gentleman friend of our Edna’s would know’, comes the reply. ‘He’s very well-travelled in the paper towel industry’.

Oh, Roy Clarke is the KING of the non-sequitur! Just magnificently funny and – more importantly – it feels real. I’m a bit of a nosy parker myself, and gain immense pleasure from overhearing snippets of out-of-context conversation in supermarkets. I once saw one smiling, elderly lady reach up for a packet of fishcakes and gleefully say to her friend ‘…and the next thing she knew, he had his shirt off and his camera out…’, which made me laugh all the way down to spices and condiments (aisle 5).

If you see me coming in Tesco, it’s best to shut your trap.

Andrew: We don’t make enough time for passing oddballs in today’s society, let alone today’s sitcoms. I’m as guilty as the next man, mind you; with my headphones in and my iPhone on, I’m never going to be able to effectively eavesdrop on little old ladies.

Bob: I was a little bemused by the following scene, in which the wetsuit-clad Compo inadvertently destroys the shop, knocking over the magazine racks in a cascading domino effect as the place falls apart around him.

Andrew: As soon as I saw those shelves, I thought to myself, ‘those are going to fall over, collapse or be otherwise disturbed’. There’s something about the whole set-up that just screams BBC Special Effects and Scenic Department.

Bob: It’s brilliantly done, but it feels more like a scene from Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em than Last of the Summer Wine. So I was intrigued to read in Alan JW Bell’s book From the Director’s Chair that it was actually Bill Owen’s suggestion! It looks great, but I’d have been interested to see the original scripted version, in which – apparently – Compo just stands there in his diving gear while the two ladies continue gossiping, oblivious. I like a bit of silent underplaying.

Andrew: You can absolutely see why this was one of Bill Owen’s favourites – it’s so Compo-centric! He gets to do pratfalls, wear a silly costume, has some fantastic lines, and then there’s ‘You Are My Honeysuckle’!  I wonder if Sallis and Wilde felt a bit put out at all during this one?

Bob: And so we reach the climactic stunt sequences… soundtracked by Ronnie Hazlehurst’s immaculate pastiche of the Jaws soundtrack, as Compo’s flippers slap their way down the steps! ‘Have you gone berserk???’ screeches Nora, and it’s hard to argue with her sentiments. And ‘berserk’ is a word that you don’t hear enough of these days. People were always going ‘berserk’ when I were a lad. Dogs, too. Dogs went ‘beserk’ a lot. Bring back the berserkers, that what I say. Let’s all go berserk!

Andrew: Steady on, that man. Would you settle for going wild? How about potty?

It’s not a particularly clever or outstanding line, but for some reason I’ve falled utterly in love with the way Staff delivers, ‘Keep your fishy fingers away from my body!’

‘Keep your fishy fingers away from my body!’

Bob: Two wellies glued to waterskis made by Wally, and the whole shebang pulled by Sid’s motorbike… it’s ridiculous, but it works. A nice bit of overcranked film sees Compo being dragged wildly across the countryside and landing in a gentle country picnic. It’s very well done.

Andrew: It is, but again it highlights the ever changing nature of the show. Blamire wouldn’t be down for this. I’m sure I’ll get used to it and I’m sure I’ll get used to the increased physical comedy, but for now it just feels odd.

Bob: What a beautiful coda! Our heroes walk home, bathed in evening sunlight, looking forward to fish and chips. It really does remind me of those endless, childhood summer holiday afternoons, messing about with mates and scrapes, getting wet and grazed and sunburnt and tired, but filled with a sense of freedom and fun. And yeah, bugger it… it’s me and Paul Frank, on his farm, in that summer. I can see why this is Bill Owen’s favourite episode. He gets plenty to do, with some great physical business, but – more than that – it’s one of the best encapsulations yet of the show as the embodiment of the ‘second childhood’. Lovely.

Andrew: Sorry, but that ending didn’t do it for me at all. The whole thing seemed to just peter out with no surprises. Compo prats about in the water which is funny in and of itself, but nothing pays off. Maybe it’s my fault. I never did like summer evenings.

3 comments

  • Visit site
    February 10, 2015 11:55 amPosted 2 years ago
    Darren Stephens

    ‘Wives never understand’

    I don’t think it’s financial. I think it’s the dance as old as time. In the Roy Clarke, working-class and northern worldview, wives are essentially FPOs (Fun Prevention Officers), and as such, they must never know that you (a man) are doing anything that maybe construed as fun. Especially if it’s not with them. You’re supposed to be miserable in married life, and for the misery to be shared. The deal is that you get a night or two off: him at the pub, her at the bingo. But for the rest of the time you are locked into a cycle of grim despond.

    Anything that counteracts that, and accordingly lets men off their leashes, is strictly verboten. Wives have to be sensible and grown-up all the time, so why should the men be allowed to behave like kids? 🙂

    Reply
  • Visit site
    February 10, 2015 2:41 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Bob Fischer

    The older I get, the more I can see where Ivy and Nora are coming from. They’re frequently left holding the fort (or the broom, or the buns) while their husbands vanish without a word to act like children!

    Sid’s seethingly jealous of the liberties enjoyed by Foggy, Compo and Clegg, isn’t he? It’s painted in subtle shades, but it’s there throughout his whole tenure in the series.

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  • Visit site
    October 10, 2016 2:32 pmPosted 1 year ago
    Simon S

    FOGGY: Did you see who it was?
    CLEGG: I don’t know anybody with a hat like that!

    It’s a good start when the three of them are united against someone else, in this case one of Sid’s best hurrahs as a would-be Jacques Cousteau. As a set-up to get Compo into the wetsuit, it all comes together well, and I love Foggy’s wistful homage to “little £5 notes” as pets 🙂

    It’s nice to have some character stuff from Foggy too, a far cry from the would-be leader of men, as he relates his sad childhood to Clegg.

    FOGGY: By George, that’s one stroll down the high street I shall long remember.
    CLEGG: Amazing how many people you get to know in a small town… and how you seem to meet them all when you’d rather not!

    Compo’s newsagent scene is justly famed. It’s worth noticing which is the line of magazines he knocks off first…

    Foggy’s ruminations on twilight are another good character moment for him, and he and Clegg’s concern for Compo lead nicely to the main event of water-skiing. Unlike previous event episodes, at least it throws in this at the end, rather than building the anticipation for too long. Wally’s skis this time are not pigeon-based… the use of wellies is a great touch.

    And a final walk into the sunset in the search of fish and chips… sometimes it doesn’t get much better.

    Reply

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