Summer Winos»Uncategorized»Series 7 Episode 3: The Waist Land

Series 7 Episode 3: The Waist Land


In which Foggy gets physical, physical…

Andrew: As they take their usual stroll through the countryside, our trio stumble across a health farm and a parade of reluctant joggers. Is it just me, or does the first appearance of the fitness fanatics mark the point at which Last of the Summer Wine suddenly feels very, very 1980s?

Bob: Absolutely! We’ve already had Rubik’s Cubes, and now it’s time for a withering look at the fitness craze that swept the country. And, from about 1981 onwards, it suddenly seemed to be everywhere. In the 1970s, there were no such thing as ‘gyms’. There were ‘gymnasiums’ and they were occupied solely by amateur boxers and ‘body-builders’… men with large moustaches who spent their days lifting long poles with a dumbbell on each end. But suddenly, new, swanky gyms were occupied by middle-class executives popping out to do treadmills in their lunch hours. And paying a fortune for the privilege. There was one near my house called ‘Gym and Tonic’! With a little crowd of amateur boxers outside it, shaking their heads and weeping.

I remember my Dad finding it hilarious, as he spent pretty much my entire childhood lugging heavy things around building sites. No gym (or tonic) required.

Andrew: What’s our excuse, then?

Bob: We’re natural athletes. We don’t need to work at it. And hey, it’s hard to imagine an exchange like this taking place in a modern sitcom…

Compo: It’s where they come to get slim.

Clegg: It’s nearer than Bangladesh.

Harsh, but put it into context… well into the 1980s, I definitely remember an attitude of ‘finish what’s on your plate, and be grateful for every mouthful… there are people abroad starving to death’. I think to my Gran’s generation, idea of actually dieting to lose weight felt like an incredible indulgence, and rather ungrateful. She’d grown up in the East End of London during World War I, and food was scarce. And she’d raised a family in the midst of World War II rationing; and the subsequent austerity years. You didn’t turn down food; you were thankful for it. You said grace. And Clegg – a man of a similar generation – would have had this attitude, too. He’s not laughing at the starving of Bangladesh here, he’s bemoaning the self-indulgence of a new generation of Brits.

Andrew: You’re spot on, but I bet the BBC would still make a kneejerk decision to cut that if the show was repeated on BBC2 today!

While we’re on the subject of notable lines, there’s also this:

Foggy: I wish I knew the tormented history of this old barn.

I love these men!

Bob: I’m slightly surprised that Foggy believes the barn is haunted, as I’d always had him down as a rationalist man of science! Or is that just part of his front? Like his fictional military derring-do, is it a façade to hide the nervous, timid man underneath? Either way, this scene of him telling ghost stories from his army days is beautifully played. It’s actually quite chilling. I could listen to this all day.

You can't get the Staff...

You can’t get the Staff…

Andrew: Oh, I think it’s perfectly in character. It’s a side to his fantasy life we haven’t really seen before, but a valid side nevertheless. From the beginning, this series has been about a bunch of displaced blokes staving off boredom and I think this is just another coping mechanism on Foggy’s part! They’ve stopped for lunch in old barns before, so what can his brain come up with to make this feel less humdrum? Ghosts!

Something else I’d never picked up on before is that Foggy has what today might be described as a social disorder. He obsesses to his heart’s content about the idea of the barn being haunted, but he isn’t having a conversation. This is something that happens a lot – he goes off on one, but doesn’t really pick up on the fact that Clegg and Compo are either mocking him or just not interested. He just bulldozes his way through the scene.

Bob: Any psychoanalysts out there want to have a crack at Foggy? And hey, some more early 80s loveliness – Clegg drops Adam and the Ants into his musing! I like the way Compo wonders if the health farm refugees are ‘a group’ as well… a word you NEVER hear in that context any more! Are One Direction ever described as a ‘pop group’? Never. It’s all ‘bands’ these days. I miss the days of the ‘group’.

Andrew: You mean the good old days of earnest groups like The Archies and The Banana Splits?

Bob: Don’t diss the Splits, man. Clarke has utter disdain for the 80s health craze, doesn’t he? His fitness fanatics are pale, speechless zombies, driven so such extremes of feebleness by their diets that they can barely operate as human beings. A life wasted in pursuit of ‘carrot juice, sauna and manipulation’. And a delightful contrast to Compo with his doorstep sandwich and Foggy with his ‘Normandy pate’! We’ve talked before about how Summer Wine is a celebration of the freedom that old age brings… the indulgence of the second childhood, unfettered by passing fads and expectations; and this is virtually a battle line drawn up between that attitude and the neurotic, hyperactive madness of the young professionals. We’re left in no doubt as to who has the healthier approach to life.

Andrew: Sorry, what was that? I was too busy salivating over Compo’s sarnie.

Bob: Oh, a brilliant scene in the café here. Nora is working there! In a maid’s outfit! And plum duff has been replaced by treacle tart on the menu. NOTHING escapes my beady eye, Drew. So watch yourself.

We HEART Seabrooks!

Andrew: All credit to the BBC Costume Department here. As wonderful as Kathy Staff is, the moment she gets into something other than her usual wrickled stockings and pinnie, Nora all but disappears for me. It’s like when I see you without your crop-top.

Bob: When you’ve got abs like us natural athletes, it’s a crime not to show them off. I bet Kathy Staff got ‘letters’ after this.

This is just a perfect scene between Ivy, Sid and Nora – lovingly written, and with three fine actors all bouncing off each other. ‘If their mouths are hanging open it’s lust, if they’re clamped tight shut it’s larceny’, snaps Ivy, delivering her withering judgement upon the male species. She’s in fearsome form here… she’s even tearing a strip off Nora, and Nora is incredibly insecure in her presence! It’s not the first time we’ve seen genuine tension between these two characters, but I can’t remember Ivy being so dominant before. Nora is a part-time battleaxe, but Ivy is the real deal.

Andrew: Yes, I love that. Until this point, Nora has been superhuman in her power of intimidation, but Ivy is a real force to be reckoned with. It makes her less of a caricature, somehow.

And can I just take a moment to appeal for help with my new obsession? I want the bullfighter poster than can be seen on the café wall in this episode. After innocently wondering whether I could track down the same print online, all I was able to turn up were a plethora of similar, but not quite right, items. I’m obsessed. Also, does anybody recognise the seaside scene on the postcard pinned to the wall behind the counter? I want to know where Sid and Ivy holidayed after Scarborough!

Bob: Bullfighting?! Really? Who are you all of a sudden, Gateshead’s answer to Ernest Hemingway?

And so Foggy decides to make a fortune by flogging illicit pies and packets of crisps to the half-starved Health Farm mob. Initially, I thought this was a bit out of character for Foggy… surely he’d approve of people trying to improve their physical fitness? But I suspect it’s the middle-class, executive, resolutely ‘modern’ nature of it all that he disapproves of. If the nation wants to get fit, then bring back National Service! Harumph.

HUGH LLOYD KLAXON

HUGH LLOYD KLAXON

Actually, Foggy does seem a bit odd here… his schemes are usually borne out of a misguided desire to help and improve society, but here he’s just out to make a few quid. Mrs ‘Fatcher’s Free Market Economy finally hits Summer Wine country! Great to see that the crisps are Seabrooks, though… the KING OF ALL CRISPS. Fiercely independent and non-corporate, and delightfully crinkled. And they once sponsored Captain Sensible’s political campaign ‘The Blah Party’, so I’m with them all the way.

Oddly enough, the deputy leader of the Blah Party, Boney Maroney, stood in the Holme Valley North Council Elections in 2008. Foggy could have voted for her.

Andrew: I can see your point about Foggy, but what I find more off-putting than his plan being out of character is that it feels like all-too-familiar sitcom fayre. Maybe it’s just me, but I find that’s very little about this plot that feels specific to the Last of the Summer Wine that we’ve grown to love. This is reinforced by a supporting cast who, while fun, look and sound like they could have wandered in from the set of another show entirely. I can quite imagine a pleasant early 1980s sitcom about these characters stuck in a health farm, with our trio lending support as the B-plot to one of the episodes.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still very enjoyable; it’s just not what I would describe as… Summer Wine-y.

Bob: Hugh Lloyd, though! Over to you, Drew…

Andrew: Hugh Lloyd! Television character actor stalwart Hugh Lloyd can improve anything by up to 50%. His presence even made the execrable Doctor Who story Delta and the Bannermen watchable… kind of. He only appears in one scene here, in which he dithers over whether or not her should treat himself at Foggy’s tuck shop and covets a pork pie, but he’s an absolute joy to watch. However, his character still feels like he’s walked off the set of an entirely different series. This is such an odd episode!

Bob:  Delta and the Bannerman is bleedin’ magic, you heathen!  I thought that was a fun episode, and resolutely of its time. But I like that! Archive TV fans often complain about old telly looking ‘dated’ but that’s what I want from it. TV should reflect the times in which it was made, and I can fully imagine Roy Clarke rolling his eyes at the The Kids From Fame and Olivia Newton John’s Physical video and sitting down to write that episode. And good for him.

Anyway, these are the two cafe nick-nacks that Andrew is keen to identify. Can anyone help? First up, the postcard… any idea where this is? (NB We don’t think it’s Gran Canaria)

 

 

 

 

 

 

And secondly, where can old Torero T. Smith here get hold of this bullfighting poster?

11 comments

  • Visit site
    April 23, 2015 11:20 amPosted 2 years ago
    Darren Stephens

    “Clarke has utter disdain for the 80s health craze”

    I think it’s deeper than that. The health craze is just a symptom of the bigger problem. Remember, this is 1983, and the battle lines are being drawn in wider society. The post-war consensus is being torn down, and quickly.

    Clarke’s writing sometimes (looking back from now) has a wistful, older-world feel to it: a feeling of a place that doesn’t really exist anymore. Well, this is the time that marks the feeling that world is disappearing. It’s the dawn of the Yuppie age, and mass consumerism. I think he’s maybe taking a gentle swing at that culture. He’d been documenting the minutiae of a society that was starting to be hacked away at the roots, and now that society is being ripped away.

    Reply
  • Visit site
    April 23, 2015 11:50 amPosted 2 years ago
    Richard Thorpe

    Top P.C is North Bay, Scarborough. See google “North Bay
    Scarborough” and the same PC is shown on “images for…”

    Reply
  • Visit site
    April 23, 2015 11:56 amPosted 2 years ago
    Bob Fischer

    Darren, yeah… I think you’re right. It was age when completely pointless things (and utterly free things too… it doesn’t cost anything to eat healthily and exercise) began to be aggressively marketed to us as ‘lifestyle choices’. You can’t do exercise by yourself, unsupervised! You need EXPERTS to help you! And GEAR!

    Reply
  • Visit site
    April 23, 2015 11:56 amPosted 2 years ago
    Bob Fischer

    And Richard… fantastic! Thankyou!

    http://www.postcardsthenandnow.co.uk/Scarborough.html

    Reply
  • Visit site
    April 23, 2015 11:58 amPosted 2 years ago
    Chris Orton

    Do we know anything of Foggy’s family? I have a theory that he probably lived with his mother until his was about 45, at which point she died. She probably never went out of the house and relied upon her son to do all of her shopping, cleaning, cooking etc. So, you would have Foggy going around towns outside Holmfirth in a quest to buy lady’s garments without being found out and considered some kind of weirdo.

    I don’t think that his mother was an ogre or anything, more just a very demanding person who is slightly disappointed with her only son.

    Reply
  • Visit site
    April 23, 2015 12:04 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Bob Fischer

    Chris, you’ve thought about this much too much. 🙂

    According to this episode… http://summerwinos.co.uk/?p=1263

    …Foggy’s 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’.

    I see her as a domineering Phyllis Lumsden from ‘Sorry!’ type.

    Reply
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    April 23, 2015 12:21 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Andrew T. Smith (Author)

    Amazing work, Richard – that looks a close enough match to me! My guess is that Sid and Ivy’s postcard was manufactured a few years later, which would account for some small discrepencies.

    I’m going to take it upon myself to declare this postcard as evidence of continuity between series – they clearly picked it up back in Series 3’s ‘The Great Boarding House Bathroom Caper’ or ‘Cheering Up Gordon’.

    Reply
  • Visit site
    April 23, 2015 12:35 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Bob Fischer

    Why would they post it back to their own cafe, though? Eh? Eh?

    Reply
  • Visit site
    April 23, 2015 12:42 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Chris Orton

    Thanks for the clarification on Foggy’s mam, Bob. She would be very disappointed with him I think. She probably had him down as a future foreign secretary.

    Reply
  • Visit site
    April 23, 2015 12:49 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Bob Fischer

    Anyone any thoughts on Foggy’s house? I don’t think we’ve ever seen inside it, apart fom a glimpse of his attic in this episode…

    http://summerwinos.co.uk/?p=588/

    It’s suggested in earlier episodes that he’s ‘returned to an empty house in Arnold Crescent’ (which suggests to me that his Mum has died, and he’s inherited it) but in this episode he appears to have a landlady!

    Reply
  • Visit site
    August 20, 2017 1:21 pmPosted 2 months ago
    Simon S

    Now THIS is a great title.

    CLEGG: I like their Les… he can’t stand kids.

    Odd that they seem to be off on a cycling trip, and on better bikes than last time, but it seems more likely a scripting short-cut to get them to a far off Location.

    Nice to get a return of Compo’s doorstep sandwiches, and Foggy follows Blamire in his belief in pate… if not the paranormal.

    Lapsley is already clearly the weaselly quisling, much like that character in ‘Frozen’ who even looks like him! Feels weird to have such a depth of cast for once.

    Weird that Nora is back working at the café, where she briefly was last series, perhaps to stop Wally sneaking away there like he did last week…

    Foggy the capitalist sourcing stock from Sid’s café seems a bit short-sighted… wouldn’t Sid just undercut him, or send him to the wholesalers himself?

    Compo falls back onto his bike and then over a wall and into a tree!

    Seabrooks Crisps – Nuff Said 🙂

    Hugh Lloyd gets the shortest guest cameo since David Ryall perhaps, but he plays well off Foggy leering with £ signs in his eyes… though Clegg’s misgivings soon prove prescient.

    Pleased at Compo’s reference to Albert RN, which I’ve seen, and isn’t as funny as this. Clegg again is the fall-guy having to drag up. Foggy’s stick is as much a part of his persona as Compo’s wellies.

    CLEGG: There’s still some hope for the world if it’s full of timid little men.

    Reply

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