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Series 8 Episode 5: The Woollenmills Of Your Mind


In which Compo gives up his knees for Nora Batty…

Andrew: I think we’ve been spoiled by Alan Bell’s episode openings for this series, because the static, wide shot of Nora’s steps that greets us here suddenly feels out of place – just by virtue of not being the rolling hills of the Holme Valley.

Bob: We don’t get many episodes starting first thing in the morning though, do we? But a toast-nibbling Compo is being chased from those steps, and – for the second episode running – Howard is cleaning the windows, so all feels right with the world to me.

Andrew: Intentional or not, I love the fact that even Compo’s toast is a bit scruffy!

Bob: Holmfirth is being overrun by joggers in training for ‘The Yorkshire Marathon’ – which, in 1985, was a Roy Clarke joke, as no such thing existed… but now it does! The inaugural Yorkshire Marathon took place in 2013…

Andrew: If those parentheses represent the suggestion that we should get involved, then I’m afraid that’s just one hare-brained scheme too many for my liking! I’m with the clearly fearful Clegg on this one; the sight of runners in training is a shortcut to indicating guilt and self-loathing. Actually, I might be projecting, there.

Bob: You milksop! I’m with Howard here… ‘I’ve got this urge to push myself to the frontiers of human experience’. I like his style. I remember, as a student, once boldly proclaiming to my housemates that I intended to bring myself up to an Olympian level of physical fitness. Running was free, swimming was cheap, and I had the loan of a rather rickety bike and time on my hands, so what could possibly go wrong? Six months wasn’t a long time to follow a punishing daily regime of triathlon training, and I was genuinely convinced that – by the summer – I would have a physique that would put Daley Thompson to shame. The fact that I was expounding this theory while sitting in the Wagon and Horses eating Scampi fries, drinking Robinson’s Best Bitter and smoking my way frantically through a packet of twenty Silk Cut was neither here nor there.

And a lovely bit of physical comedy here, too – in one seamless take, Foggy takes an old lady’s arm to help her across the road, gets lost in a deluge of joggers, and emerges on the side with a baffled-looking adolescent fitness freak on his arm. It’s fantastic, and I had to wind the DVD back to see how it was done!

Andrew: In the café, Ivy is keen that her clean floors remain unsullied until they have dried. She’s at full volume here, but something occurs to me that I’ve never really registered before – Ivy and Clegg rarely interact, do they? If Ivy yells at Foggy, he’ll jump out of his skin and try to fight back with some wartime nonsense that winds her up even further, but Clegg doesn’t really acknowledge Ivy’s barked orders, and she acts as though she can’t hear his airy musings. They barely even make eye contact here!

I quite like that. The two longest running characters, when positioned alongside one another, seem to operate on completely different planes of existence. Does that make sense, or am I having another funny turn?

Bob: I’ve never noticed that! Maybe Clegg just isn’t offensive enough to truly get on Ivy’s wick? Compo, meanwhile, is concerned that Nora is unhappy. ‘The world’s leading expert on rice pudding?’ stammers Foggy, splendidly. ‘What do you want to make her happy for, she’ll only be miserable…’ What a delightfully Northern attitude… I’ve known generations of grumpy Teessiders over the years who have positively revelled in their own misery, and seem to draw their entire life’s purpose from it. I was once walking away from a 3-0 Middlesbrough win, a fortnight before Christmas, a result that had sent us to an unprecedented fifth place in the Premiership… and got locked into a conversation with hangdog old timer who solemnly told me it was ‘the worst bloody Boro side I’ve ever seen in my life’.

I like Foggy’s declaration that Nora takes great pleasure in ‘sudden deaths’, too. My Mum is exactly the same! She only buys the Evening Gazette for the Deaths column. ‘Ooooh, let’s see who we know…’

Andrew: Is Compo off his trolley here, or is he actually able to perceive the subtle changes in Nora’s behaviour that would suggest she is feeling neglected? It isn’t just lust on his part any more, is it? He really cares for her. With Wally such a passive figure who can’t wait to escape from her, is Compo actually her soul mate?

Bob: We’re definitely entering very poignant territory here… Compo gets sentimental thinking about the death of Marilyn Monroe, and upset that she passed on thinking that nobody cared about her. And declares that Nora should never have to suffer the same fate. This has to be Roy Clarke’s own sentiment, surely? It’s really touching and heartfelt.

Can we put ‘Fragrance’ into the Names Database? A girl that Compo claims to have once dated, she was a dab hand with a shovel, and ran away to work on an oil rig. Is this nonsense, do you reckon? Compo isn’t really known for his tall tales, but usually – when he reminisces like this – Clegg or Foggy will chip in with memories that back up his story. But this time, even Clegg clearly doubts the veracity of it all! Is Compo showing off to make himself look tough in the eyes of Crusher?

Andrew: Compo’s exclamation that Crusher has been ‘blackberrying with a coloured bird’ really dates the series here, not just for the indelicate racial descriptor, but also his judgement of her punk attire. He makes her sound less like a real person and more like Molly Sugden dolled up for Are You Being Served! By the way, I’m pretty sure that this has been cut for the series’ recent satellite and cable broadcasts.

Bob: Oooooh, a comedy vicar! You don’t see many of those these days.

Andrew: The one thing that can still strike fear into the heart of the formidable Ivy. Don’t worry; we’ll be having plenty more of those before the series has finished.

Bob: And more poignancy here, as our trio ponder on their respective romantic lives. Compo describes Foggy as ‘sexless’, which Foggy denies… actually, is he claiming to have a secret lady friend here? Let’s not forget, Foggy is the only member of the trio that we’ve actually seen enjoying any kind of active love life – back in Series 4, he went to stay with a charming lady in Wales! And Clegg chips in with his heartbreaking observation that ‘my marriage worked reasonably well… and then she died, which I always took as a form of criticism’. This is really good stuff, and the show hasn’t been this emotionally raw for quite some time.

Andrew: It’s beautifully written, which makes me feel all the more guilty for observing the following piece of pointless trivia: as our trio travel between the café and Nora’s house, they follow the correct geographical route through the town – a rarity for film and television! Oh, and I can’t remember where we last left this, but the shop at the end of Compo and Nora’s road is now G.W. Castle Ltd. I’m determined to keep track of it changing hands through the years, so please let me know if I miss a sudden change!

Bob: It’s sad to see Joe Gladwin looking a little slow on his feet, but these scenes between Nora and Wally really bring these episodes to life. He’s checking to see if her ‘wireless’ is too loud, as they’ve clearly had a complaint from a neighbour! What a delightfully dated scene in two ways, 1) nobody says the word ‘wireless’ any more… apart from me, when I’m on the wireless. I use it all the time, just to confuse any passing teenagers. And I undoubtedly got it from my Gran, who used to refer to a tiny, battered transistor on the kitchen top as a ‘wireless’, and the merest mention of the word is enough to transport me back to those days, cleaning out a bowl of pudding mix while Terry Wogan burbled in the background. Oh, and 2) Nobody cares about upsetting their neighbours with loud music any more. I once lived next door to two girls who seemed to run a boutique nightclub in their front room from 6pm onwards every night.

‘Don’t you come here complaining about me and Jimmy Young,’ snaps Nora. In 1985, Jimmy Young was doing his ‘JY Prog’ on Radio 2 from 10.30am – 1pm every weekday, in the days when Radio 2 still had the spirit of ‘The Light Programme’ lingering on, long before the days of Chris Evans and Jeremy Vine. Nora would have lapped it up. I can’t find anything from 1985, but here’s a compilation of Radio 2 clips from 1989 that sweeps me back. Jimmy Young starts at 8 mins 30 secs…

Bob: Another really sweet scene, as Compo gives Nora a tiny flower that he’s clearly half-inched from somewhere, and she looks secretly thrilled… until she sniffs it. ‘He lets them damn ferrets get everywhere’, she barks. I LOLed, as any passing teenagers might say. There you go, a tentative olive branch from me to the younger generation.

Andrew: I’d stick to the wireless if I were you.

Bob: And another little moment where we should celebrate the genius of Ronnie Hazlehurst, as Compo attempts to go running to impress Nora, and a Summer Wine-esque take on the Chariots of Fire theme sparks up! Beautifully done. I like this little exchange as well, as Compo wheezes past…

Foggy: Do you know the way to Chesterfield?
Clegg: It’s no use asking me about foreign travel.

This really has the feel of an early episode! I was expecting a grand stunt at the end, but no… they just quickly sack off the fitness campaign and head to the pub to get pissed! Which is startlingly reminiscent of my own experiences.

Andrew: The pub they’ve visited this week is The White Horse at Jackson Bridge, should anybody be keeping track of these things. It’s one of the most frequently-used locations from the series and nestles just below Clegg, Howard, and Pearl’s street. Not the street used in this series, mind you. But that’s a story for another day…

Bob: And as they emerge from The White Horse into the night, Compo is singing a song that begins ‘There was a man, he had a wife…’ and is clearly about to descend into filth. Does anyone know the rest of it? Knowing Roy Clarke, it’ll almost certainly be real.

Another laugh out loud moment for me, meanwhile, at their discovery of Howard teaching Marina ‘the rudiments of jogging by night’! Oh, there’s a euphemism to relish. And we end with a drunken Compo hobbling to Nora’s window to tell her he’ll always care for her. Oh, what a lovely, sweet, romantic episode. I really wasn’t expecting that at all. It’s almost a rumination on the nature of (platonic?) love, and the importance of… well, just being there for the people that you care about. And how easy it is to forget that. I loved that.

Andrew: There is a very strange moment during this sequence that I’d love to get to the bottom of. As it’s set outside of Nora’s house, the scene was obviously filmed on location. But for just one shot of Compo being doused with water, we cut to what is clearly studio videotape. I wonder if something went wrong on location? Was there a hair in the gate? Did the camera get splashed? I suppose that’s the one shot that, if it was technically deficient, couldn’t just be cut around in the editing – you want to see Compo getting drenched! I bet the answer to that one lurks in the BBC Written Archives Centre somewhere. Fancy another romantic weekend away, Bob?

Bob:  Me, you and a warehouse full of internal BBC memos? You know how to show a middle-aged man a good time. I’d love to! We might even find out why this episode is called The Woollenmills Of Your Mind. Does anyone have any idea? Did we miss something?

23 comments

  • Visit site
    August 3, 2016 11:41 pmPosted 1 year ago
    Jakob1978

    Compo’s blackberrying line survived in the most recent showing on GOLD. Interestingly we do get to meet Crushers girlfriend (and she is a punk with coloured hair) but not till after he leaves (it’s the last mention of Crusher in the show). I love Crusher falling through the table and Ivy’s rant “Razor sharp he’s not, but what he’s already fairly bright at is being a silly begger”

    I think this is the best of this series, though whenever I watch it, my abiding memory is that strange scene at the end you mentioned. The difference between film and video is something you just get used to in classic tv, but the effect of doing it for one scene is really jarring. I think the fact it’s a night scene makes it look even odder, as you go from the night scenes where the lighting is quite white and realistic, to Bill Owen in the dark studio lit by golden yellow lighting.

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      August 4, 2016 8:24 amPosted 1 year ago
      Bob Fischer

      I suspect it’s something that most people just wouldn’t have noticed at the time… especially on the smaller, standard definition tellies we had at the time.

      I can actually remember commenting to my Mum when I was small that ‘things look different when people go outdoors on the telly’… and she – quite understandably – had no idea what I was talking about. I was born to be a TV geek.

      Reply
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    August 4, 2016 8:02 amPosted 1 year ago
    Jonathan Linsley

    The Woolenmills of your mind title, i always thought was a Yorkshire translation of the Sixties song “Windmills of your Mind” from the Thomas Crown Affair, sung by Noel Harrison. The Holme valley was once full of Woolenmills. The song itself won an Oscar and has a wistful quality and actually mentions the end of Summer and the Autumn leaves. I think Roy Clarke was referencing that when talking about love in later life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEhS9Y9HYjU

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      August 4, 2016 8:21 amPosted 1 year ago
      Bob Fischer

      *slaps forehead*

      I love that song, and just never made the connection! In my defence, it’s early in the morning…

      Reply
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        August 4, 2016 9:23 amPosted 1 year ago
        Andrew T. Smith (Author)

        I made the connection with the song, but the title still has beggar all to do with the content of the episode! I’d like to think Clarke just appreciates a good pun.

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          August 4, 2016 9:30 amPosted 1 year ago
          Bob Fischer

          As Jonathan says though, it’s a wistful episode about the importance of love as we grow older, and that’s a strong theme of the song as well.

          Reply
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            August 4, 2016 9:50 amPosted 1 year ago
            Andrew T. Smith (Author)

            I stand corrected. That’ll teach me for not reading the comments correctly!

            Reply
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              August 4, 2016 9:57 amPosted 1 year ago
              Bob Fischer

              I hope Crusher gets you in a headlock.

              Reply
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    August 4, 2016 8:03 amPosted 1 year ago
    Chris Orton

    The ‘Deaths Column’ phenomenon was always something of a routine in our house too, with that page being the first that I remember my mam turning to in The Northern Echo each morning. The strange things is that… I’ve started doing it. Do you think that it is some sort of in-built programming?

    And ‘wireless’ is a word that I still use too in the correct, original, context. Its a word that has come to have a completely different meaning these days though, as I believe that it is now something to do with those new-fangled computer things.

    Reply
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      August 4, 2016 8:27 amPosted 1 year ago
      Bob Fischer

      Don’t worry about those, they’ll never catch on.

      The odd thing is, I have no recollection of my Mum having any interest at all in the Births or Marriages columns. It was all about the Deaths! I guess if there was a marriage or a birth that she should know about, she would be invited to the wedding or the christening. Nobody sends out invites to funerals, though… you have to read the paper!

      Reply
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    August 4, 2016 3:26 pmPosted 1 year ago
    Nick Griffiths

    Nora’s reading of the death’s column reminds me a little of Northern Flying Circus where Clegg ploughs through the column and finds a mutual acquaintance has passed. I think it’s a way of keeping awareness of one’s own mortality.

    I like how Compo eyes light up at the thought of a Norman Clegg sex scandal when Clegg says “he had to get married.” The punchline line being because she wouldn’t take no for an answer is a good retort and his his view that his wife dying was a sort of criticism is quite wistful.

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      August 5, 2016 4:00 pmPosted 1 year ago
      Bob Fischer

      Can we have ‘Norman Clegg Sex Scandal’ on a t-shirt?

      Clegg’s marriage fascinates me… he doesn’t appear to have had any real affection for her at all, but he can’t have been THAT unhappy, surely?

      Reply
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    August 5, 2016 4:11 pmPosted 1 year ago
    Chris Orton

    I get the impression that Clegg’s marriage that was something that he didn’t really have much enthusiasm for at all – it was just something that had to be done in order to get through life.

    It was probably more or less arranged for him by his parents with very little involvement from himself: they would have sorted it that Mr & Mrs Smith’s nice girl from three doors down would be the candidate. The daughter would probablly have been very keen on the arrangement, having admired Clegg for years and would have been delighted to have ensnared him.

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      August 6, 2016 10:46 amPosted 1 year ago
      Bob Fischer

      This is verging on Summer Wine fan fiction, Chris!

      And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Maybe we should have a section on the website? 😉

      Reply
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    August 5, 2016 6:02 pmPosted 1 year ago
    Imagine

    Perhaps an ageing Bill Owen preferred getting doused with water in a heated studio rather than on location?

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      August 5, 2016 11:08 pmPosted 1 year ago
      Bob Fischer

      That’s a VERY good point…

      Reply
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        August 6, 2016 7:27 amPosted 1 year ago
        Andrew T. Smith (Author)

        But he gets doused with water on location doezens of times after this. Plus I don’t think Alan Bell would have let him off so lightly!

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          August 6, 2016 10:48 amPosted 1 year ago
          Bob Fischer

          We need to go to the BBC archives, Drew. This needs investigating properly. It’s the Summer Wine version of JFK or the moon landings… maybe we’ll never know the full truth. My money’s on Stanley Kubrick having filmed the studio insert on a secret set.

          Reply
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    August 6, 2016 2:17 amPosted 1 year ago
    Nina Simpson Moyer

    I always think that Clegg had a good marriage, in one of the episodes, he muses that he hopes that if there is a heaven it will have respectable married couples drying clothes on a clothes horse by the fire… Then he says, it’s amazing how close you get really. There are other times where he says “she turned out quite well really”.

    I think he just really was not interested in getting involved again.

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      August 6, 2016 10:49 amPosted 1 year ago
      Bob Fischer

      Oh, that’s really sweet! That must be in an episode to come, is it? Look forward to that.

      Reply
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        August 7, 2016 7:38 pmPosted 1 year ago
        Nina Simpson Moyer

        Yes probably further on than the one you are on. My fav part of the show was with Clegg, compo and truely, but I did enjoy Alvin and Nora too.

        Reply
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    August 6, 2016 11:14 amPosted 1 year ago
    Chris Orton

    Yeah, but I’m not doing any of that slash fiction.

    Reply
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    September 11, 2017 1:35 pmPosted 1 month ago
    Simon S

    Howard seems to be a fixture already from that start, someone Clegg can look down on for once. It’s not obvious at this early stage that his interest in the Yorkshire Marathon will be less noble than he claims.

    Ivy putting newspaper down seems a bit self-defeating, there’s rarely any other customers in there. Crusher’s hope to claim it’s “so nearly dry” is another spark of smartness from him, though how he copes with a neck splinter so stoically is incredible.

    Clegg misses his goldfish more than his dear wife.

    Compo wistfully wants to cheer Nora up by improving his image. Wasn’t that the point of dressing in leathers two episodes ago? Mind, his loss over a wall-builder called Fragrance (who evidently didn’t miss him) is another thing…

    When trying Foggy’s crash course in training, Compo looks more dressed for rugby. But there’s a nod back to the hang-gliding pigeon when he’s hung from a tree as his friends chatter (about Wedgie Benn and Chesterfield) and ignore him.

    The video shot of Compo getting soaked may have been a re-take later, it’s an odd gag when she’s just thrown him his flower back.

    Reply

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