Summer Winos»Series 9»Series 9 Episode 6: The Ice-Cream Man Cometh

Series 9 Episode 6: The Ice-Cream Man Cometh

In which Compo’s little wiggly thing lets loose…

Andrew: They seem to have had a stretch of good luck weather wise this series, haven’t they? This could be false memory syndrome, but my recollection is that earlier series were often rather grey and overcast, whereas the reservoir we open with here looks positively Mediterranean. There’s something very alien about the landscape, actually – I could see Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant walking around this location!

Bob: That’s a Doctor Who reference, everyone – and I distance myself from it. It does look idyllic, though… and I like Clegg’s use of the phrase ‘creepy crawly’! Nobody ever says ‘creepy crawly’ any more. I also like Compo’s skilled approach to the noble art of sucking your ice-cream through the bottom of the cone. That’s impressive. I once knew a girl who could drink an entire cup of tea by sucking it through a Twix with the ends bitten off. We had some interesting evenings in.

Andrew: My God – we’ve only just reached the second scene of this episode and we’ve already been presented with two beautifully directed sequences. Once again, Alan Bell is a master of camera movement and blocking. Instead of using editing to introduce our trio in close-up, the camera instead performs a sweeping ballet around them. It’s a lovely contrast to the sound of Compo slurping at the bottom of his ice cream cone, and is the absolute lifeblood of a long-running series.

Bob: Funny thing was, she didn’t really like Twixes. I used to eat what was left of it once she’d finished.

Andrew: I take back what I said about the weather – it’s clearly been pissing down outside of the cafe!

Bob: Sorry, were we meant to be watching something? Oh, yes! We’re in the cafe! Aw, a classic Roy Clarke exchange here, with Ivy and Clegg discussing Compo’s laissez-faire approach to personal finance…

Ivy: You almost have to admire him, the way he’s led such a worthless life with so little income.

Clegg: Properly handled, poverty can be within the reach of everybody…

No other sitcom writer would ever write a line so dropping with pathos and social comment. None at all.

This little scene also features a sensational ‘only from Roy Clarke’ reference to the childhood indulgences of our main characters. When Pearl and Nora arrive in the cafe together, Compo exclaims excitedly ‘Heyup, it’s the Dolly Sisters!’ It had to a be a reference to something, and a little digging reveals… the Dolly Sisters were identical twins Rose and Jenny Dolly; vaudeville dancers and silent movie stars whose heyday on Broadway barely extended beyond the mid-1920s.  It’s easy to imagine that Compo would have fostered a crush on them during his very early childhood; and doubtless the 1945 film of their lives, with June Haver and Betty Grable as Rose and Jenny respectively, would have had a run-out at the local Holmfirth fleapit… possibly just as Compo was returning from wartime service? It’s wonderful that Roy Clarke was keeping their legacy alive, almost 60 years after the sisters themselves had faded into obscurity.

Andrew: Seymour pines for the days when ice-cream men peddled their wares around on bicycles. Again, this feels like a callback to a bygone Edwardian age. He’s the Peter Davison of Summer Wine!

Bob: Is that another Doctor Who reference? That’s it, you’ve filled your quota. I know what you mean… there was definitely an Edwardian ambience around in British pop culture in the early-mid 1980s; not just Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor in his cricketing flannels, but also Chariots of Fire and Brideshead Revisited and no shortage of pop stars sporting floppy fringes and plus-fours. Seymour seems to tap into that; there’s a feeling of ‘faded Empire’ about him. Much moreso than Foggy, he lives in the past. Foggy never felt like a man out of time, just a deluded fantasist. Whereas I think Seymour would happily flip a switch and return to his presumably idyllic ‘between the wars’ childhood.

With regards to ice cream, I like Compo’s little throwaway line here, too… ‘I could never afford one. What with the beer and the fags, there was nowt left for non-essentials.’  

Andrew: I’m not quite sure what sets her off – Seymour producing an inflated rubber ring for Compo’s bad back, or Compo and Clegg’s reaction to it – but one woman in the studio audience lets off a magnificently donkey-esque laugh at this point. You don’t really get idiosyncratic laughs like this in modern sit-coms, do you? I suppose sound recording and mixing technology is at a stage where one can probably pick and choose exactly which sections of the audience you want to hear at any given moment, but I miss the days of being able to zero in on the odd eccentric.

Bob: There’s a run of episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus where a woman with an absolutely howling laugh is really noticeable throughout… I’ve since seen suggestions that it was actually a pre-Fawlty Towers Connie Booth!

Andrew: Pearl’s difficulty in engaging with Ivy and Nora’s questions about ‘relations’ is delightful, as is the revelation that, on their honeymoon, Howard showed her a picture from a book… of a jam roly-poly. I’m definitely not one of these people who pines for a bygone era of television where sex wasn’t on everybody’s minds (because I don’t think that age ever really existed!) but this frank, honest, and utterly disinterested exchange does mark Clarke’s writing out as unique. I also really like the idea that Ivy, Nora, and Pearl are a trio having separate adventures of their own!

Bob: Oh, I absolutely love this scene. Not only does it have Nora Batty using the phrase ‘a man of powerful appetites’, but it has some sensational silent acting from Jonathan Linsley in the background, slowly wiping the window behind our gossipping trio, and becoming utterly engrossed in their conversation, with his jaw literally dropping. Do we imagine that Crusher is, essentially, an innocent? In theory, a 25-year-old biker shouldn’t really be outdone in the bedroom talk department by Nora Batty, but it’s part of Summer Wine’s eternal charm that he’s clearly shocked to the very bottom of his turn-ups.

Andrew: In complete contrast to the other ladies in the episode, Glenda is clearly desperate for a bit of excitement in the country with Barry, who isn’t really designed for the task – bless him. Sarah Thomas does an excellent line in sexually frustrated bread-buttering, too.

Bob: Sexually frustrated bread-buttering! That’s the most erotic thing you’ve ever said on this blog. If you’d said that when we’d been outside Sid’s Cafe, I’d have been polishing the windows behind you with my face on the floor. I honestly couldn’t work out if that whole scene was just laden with filth! Barry wants to go for a ‘nice, long ride in the country’ so he can ‘listen for that valve slapping’. I’ve never heard it called that before.

And I’m sorry, but from Clegg delving into Compo’s trousers to look for a ‘little wiggly thing’ to Compo’s rubber ring letting out a series of sensational comedy farts… I am in bits. Absolutely creased up laughing, with tears rolling down my face. There is nothing as funny as flamboyant, squeaky, rasping flatulence in a sitcom. Especially in a car. Next to a woman sniffily attempting to ignore it and look in the opposite direction. I know, I know. I am eternally eight years old.

Andrew: Arriving at Edie’s house, Seymour is pleased to see that Wesley has done as asked and prepared a pedal-powered ice-cream cart. Bloody quick, isn’t he? I did wonder if the title of this episode was every going to actually pay off.

Bob: Oh, that’s just men of a certain age, and a certain era. My Dad was the same when I was a kid… he’d decide over breakfast that he was going to knock through the kitchen wall, and by teatime that night he’d be finished, with soggy wallpaper hanging over the new bits. On more than one occasion I’d go to school on a morning, and when I returned at 3.30pm the house would have a different layout.

Compo also sarcastically suggets that Seymour ties a ‘bag of coal round my neck, and I can flog a few Sun-Brite nuts…’ which took me back. We were still going strong with a coal fire in the front room in 1986, and a local coalman who came round with a delivery of nuts (of the anthracite variety, not salted or roasted) every fortnight.

Andrew: Seymour’s line ‘That’s it, go on and throw away all that commission’ is very odd indeed. It seems to have been dubbed in post-production, but sounds to me more like somebody doing an impression of Michael Aldridge than Aldridge himself. Either that, or he had a bad throat. And Ronnie Hazlehurst can’t resist a few bursts of O Sole Mio as part of his score for Compo setting off on the ice-cream cart. The man’s a daft genius!

Bob: That was a lovely touch! I laughed at Compo’s wild duck call, too. Essentially, I just like funny noises. And I like Compo’s attempt to sell ice-creams resulting, essentially, in him losing control of his bike and ploughing into Howard and Marina. Amidst more duck calls. And probably a comedy fart in there somewhere. And mention of Raspberry Ripples. I’m in heaven!

Andrew: Here’s a thought. If Howard ever did get up the courage to leave Pearl and shack up with Marina, would his relentless inane conversation and cowardice inevitably turn her into Pearl as well?

Bob: Inane conversation? Howard? I’ve just spent a week cooped up in a tiny Edinburgh apartment with you. Believe me, Howard is David Niven by comparison. There wouldn’t be time for conversation if Howard and Marina ever actually got it together, anyway. They’d be too busy slapping valves.

Andrew: There were some nice moments here, but little to really to get ones teeth in to. I’d rather they’d skipped the business with Compo’s farting truss in order to devote more time to Nora and Ivy’s advice on conjugal relations. I suppose it’s a sign of a rich cast and developed characters that I suspect that what, say, Wally and Nora are getting up to is more interesting than what’s actually happening on screen!

Bob: SKIP THE FARTING TRUSS?!?!?! What madness is this?! Honestly, I genuinely loved all of that. That episode provided my biggest source of belly laughs for quite a while. Great fun, and just a lovely, silly romp.


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    August 31, 2018 10:49 amPosted 3 years ago
    Nick Griffiths

    I have a distinct feeling Seymour’s attempt to revive the “Stop Me and Buy One” Ice Cream salesmen is ahead of it’s time. Considering the vintage and retro trend taking place at the moment, I reckon Seymour’s idea would be lapped up today. No doubt the dreaded Hipster variation would crop up no doubt be pulled by a Penny-farthing.

    Funnily enough I still remember the handcart ice cream men being about my hometown during the summer at various points. Certainly common enough to appear in an episode of Chucklevision in 1993 as well.

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      August 31, 2018 11:19 amPosted 3 years ago
      Andrew T. Smith (Author)

      I can absolutely see hipsters invading the world of Summer Wine. Keen to take advantage of the trend, Foggy lists Compo’s place as an Air BnB.

      • August 31, 2018 6:15 pmPosted 3 years ago
        Nick Griffiths

        No doubt Foggy would also recommend Auntie Wainwright’s as a must visit.

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    August 31, 2018 11:29 amPosted 3 years ago
    Bob Fischer

    I was racking my brains to recall if any ‘Stop Me And Buy One’ men were around on handcarts when I was a kid in the 70s and 80s, but I don’t think they were… it was all just vans playing jingly versions of ‘Greensleeves’. When and where did you see them, Nick? I’m intrigued!

    • August 31, 2018 6:14 pmPosted 3 years ago
      Nick Griffiths

      I remember them being in Telford Town park normally around the garden and band stands which at the time wouldn’t have had access for vans. Occasionally in the Town Centre opposite Debenhams and a few in Shrewsbury. There may even have been a few on small scale local events like Kids Club sports days.

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    September 9, 2018 7:20 pmPosted 3 years ago
    L. Grey

    Well, here’s a question that might well not be concretely answerable, but nevertheless: what do we make of the class relationship between our three main characters, particularly with relation to Seymour? He’s certainly the most ‘high-status’ of the three, possibly the most ‘establishment’ third man we get in the series (maybe Truly, come to think of it?), but what exactly IS Seymour? He went to grammar school, yes, but did he go to university? Did he just have enough money (inherited- see below- or earned through some lucrative earlier career?) spare to buy a ramshackle old building and set it up as a school, which I think was permissible back when he would have been headmaster, or did he have to prove himself as an assistant master at schools first? It certainly sounds that the Utterthwaite Academy (as the name of course implies!) was entirely under Seymour’s control, so it’s not as if anyone would have appointed him headmaster, if that makes sense.

    We initially don’t have any inkling that Seymour knows ‘his chaps’ before meeting them in his first episode (well, special); later they refer to mutual acquaintances from school and elsewhere, and eventually it’s more-or-less directly stated ‘we lost touch when I went to grammar school’ (countered by FOTSW, but that’s of course of dubious ‘canonicity’ to LOTSW). In the LOTSW ‘canon’, that appears to have been the last they saw of Seymour, who then returned home in Uncle of the Bride and they reunited.

    If one takes FOTSW into account, however, Seymour appears to have been at school with the others, gone to grammar school, then been at a loss to do anything but join the Co-op, which rather puts all my previous speculation to the sword, but frankly FOTSW clearly necessitated putting all the eggs in one basket, so to speak, and I’m not sure if there was ever a definitive statement regarding how seriously things from FOTSW should be considered to impact LOTSW (which, of course, isn’t rock-solid regarding its own internal consistency). I recall the girl who played Anita Pilsworth in FOTSW said in her interview with a site dedicated to that series that she was supposed to have been Clegg’s wife; clearly this doesn’t fit with him having met ‘Edith’ at a ‘chapel dance’, but on the OTHER hand, is she likely to have been mistaken about the central point of her character? It’s surely more likely that she was told this by the people who hired her.

    Seymour’s grandmother was on the Education Committee; does this mean she was likely to have been of some status in the community (presumably the answer is ‘yes’ AFTER she was appointed, but was she, for example, head of the W.I., or the magistrate’s wife, or something?) or was ‘being on the Education Committee’ something anyone could volunteer to do, like being a school governor? Michael Aldridge’s own fruity RP always comes close to escaping through the thin veneer of Yorkshire accent he uses (possibly ‘in-universe’ the fading over time- and through association with his former life- of Seymour’s ‘Edie voice’ that he used for the benefit of parents?), so that lends strength to the whole image of Seymour as of a higher social grade (if only marginally) than Clegg and Compo. You can almost imagine Seymour’s father having, say, a small but thriving business, or perhaps even being the local G.P., or (although there’s nothing to suggest this) maybe vicar; something respectable but not too high-faluting. As you gentlemen mentioned above, there is a genuine, unfeigned sense of ‘faded Empire’ to Seymour that one doesn’t tend to encounter so distinctly in people who weren’t/ aren’t of that ‘officer class’/ Colonial Service type, at least in my mind.

    Then there’s of course Edie to consider, whom, despite her ‘Weslah’ voice, is clearly just as down-to-Earth ‘Yorkshire’ as the others, if perhaps a little more houseproud (although maybe that impression only arises because of Wesley…).

    One other thing- on Seymour’s last appearance, Compo mentions he’s only going ‘twenty miles’; can we assume (if only to make it all less sad!) that ‘off-camera’ Seymour paid the odd visit, or the lads visited him? I can’t imagine him never visiting his sister again, at any rate! I don’t think any mention is ever made of Seymour having died, whether around the time Michael Aldridge sadly did or later. For that matter, I like to think of Foggy as having had Brian Wilde’s very respectable innings, in bewildered- but not unhappy- matrimony with the postmistress! One of my favourite thoughts about Last of the Summer Wine has always been all the adventures we DON’T see (quite the thought, considering we had 37 years of episodes!)- for example, regarding Seymour, there’s almost a year between his first appearance and the next Christmas special, then in our time another ten month gap before the next series begins, and so on… Foggy even makes some comment on his return about having been gone ‘five years’, indicating it’s been ‘real time’, so to speak; that’s a lot of days we never see, which is a nice thought!

    Oh dear… forgive the length of this comment!

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      September 10, 2018 9:01 amPosted 3 years ago
      Bob Fischer

      Oh, nothing to forgive, Mr G… this is the stuff we thrive upon! Thanks for such a fascinating post.

      With regards to class, I think there’s often an unstated whiff of the Cleese/Barker/Corbett ‘I look down on him…’ sketch about the main Summer Wine trio; although it’s never explicitly stated, you suspect that Blamire and Foggy would think themselves a little loftily superior to Clegg due to their military experience; Clegg has lived a live of respectable middle-class boredom; and Compo is absolutely proud of his non-working working-class grot. But it’s probably most pronounced during the Seymour period, as he does repeatedly make it clear that he sees himself as a ‘class above’ most of the other characters in the show.

      I think one of the nice things about Summer Wine is that it’s left for us to decide how much of our characters’ backstory is fantasy. We assume that Foggy’s stories of derring-do are all in his head, and Clegg and Compo regularly fall about laughing at them, but does anyone from Foggy’s past ever actually turn up to actively disprove them? Without that, there’s always a sliver of possibility that at least some of them might be true, and that’s tantalising. And I guess the same reasoning applies to Seymour, and his claims to upper-middle-class academia. Although the fact that Seymour’s backstory took place in close proximity to Holfmirth makes it more easily contradicted by the locals… and the Utterthwaite Academy was quite clearly real, although possibily not as grandly successful as he makes out. But still… a lot is left to our own judgement.

      And I quite like the fact that the backstories (in both LOTSW and FOTSW) are inconsistent, as it feels ‘real’ to me. Peoples’ recollections of their younger days DO change as they get older, and real-life events become hazy anecdotes that change with the re-telling. My parents are in their late seventies now, and some of the stories they tell of their younger days are now different to the versions of the same tales that they told when I was a kid. And the same is happening to the stories I tell of my childhood… when I meet up with old schoolfriends, and discuss events of thirty years ago, it’s remarkable how different our memories can be, and how the vividness of memory varies. I have one friend whose recall of our schooldays is staggeringly detailed (even down to the order of lessons on our timetables) but I’ve met others who can’t remember the names of teachers that they saw every day for years on end.

      I lilke to think Roy Clarke’s scripts reflect that a little… we’re all the main character in our own personal sitcom, but all the personal sitcoms are different! Having said that, I’m increasingly of the opinion that it’s best to think of FOTSW as a parallel universe Holmfirth…

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        September 10, 2018 9:33 amPosted 3 years ago
        Andrew T. Smith (Author)

        Never apologise for a comment that embraces our overly analytical approach – keep this up and you’ll end up the official fact-checker!


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