Summer Winos»Uncategorized»Series 3 Episode 3: The Great Boarding House Bathroom Caper

Series 3 Episode 3: The Great Boarding House Bathroom Caper

In which the holiday season is upon us…

Andrew: The first of a two-part seaside adventure? Oh, Mr Clarke, you are spoiling us. It is a little odd seeing the trio let loose outside of the confines of the Holme Valley, and the idea of packing up all your characters and sending them on holiday has become something of a sitcom cliché over the years, but within the context of these episodes I think it works. Compo, Clegg, Foggy, Ivy, Sid, Gordon, Nora and Wally aren’t off to sunny Spain for some atypical glitz, glamour and antics – they’re heading for a weekend in Scarborough. This minibreak is suitably low rent, cheap and cheerful; Carry On At Your Convenience without the razzmatazz.

Bob: Indeed, and it’s a lovely, unexpected treat to have the title music and opening credits playing out over shots of the seaside! I’m expecting to be overwhelmed with nostalgia during this episode, as family visits to Scarborough were a regular feature of my 1970s summers. There’s every chance we might see my Gran in the background, stepping from a Bee-Line bus and picking sand from a bag of greasy chips wrapped in a copy of the Daily Mirror…

'You look like a National Health gigolo'

‘You look like a National Health gigolo’

There’s a nice line from Clegg in the opening scenes, as they’re waiting for the bus to arrive – ‘The older I get, the more I seem to like dozy people’. I can appreciate his sentiments… as I race towards my 40th birthday, I do tend to find deep thinkers and over-analyzers increasingly hard work. We all need a Compo in our lives, and he’s resplendent in a lovely stripy blazer in this episode… as Foggy puts it, ‘You look like a National Health gigolo!’

The interaction between Wilde, Sallis and Owen in these opening scenes is superb… so incredibly fast, and funny, and nuanced. I can actually see a bit of Harpo, Groucho and Chico in them. Cue Drew’s ears pricking up!

Andrew: I guess what we see of Scarborough in the background of this episode represents the beginning of the long, drawn-out end for the traditional British seaside holiday. By the mid 1970s foreign travel was just about becoming affordable for working class families and certainly by the time my family visited the town in the 1990s, a seaside getaway seemed like the exception rather than the rule. I think I can pinpoint why; from what I remember, nothing had progressed in terms of the tourist industry in those twenty-odd years. In particular, the boarding house at which our trio stay seems eerily familiar. I can almost smell the aroma of stale cabbage and not-so-freshly laundered sheets. Then again, maybe we just went to a crap B+B!

Bob: Does anyone even say the phrase ‘boarding house’ any more? You’re right, it’s very evocative… all tatty lace curtains, floral wallpaper and an octogenarian waitress in an Edwardian maid’s outfit. And yet, despite this, there’s still a beautifully-observed scene in the dining room where Ivy – bless her – affects a very well-heeled voice to compliment the landlady. ‘Seldom have we received such service,’ she trills, in exactly the same voice that my mother affected when answering the phone throughout the 1970s. It was still an age where ‘speaking nicely’ was considered correct social practice, and despite her working class Yorkshire background, clearly Ivy would be mortified to think that anyone could consider her (gasp!) ‘common’.

Bob's Gran not pictured

Bob’s Gran not pictured

Andrew: The thought of Sid and Ivy going on holiday with three old blokes that loiter around their café might seem a little odd, but the fact that they do creates a cozy sense of community. I don’t think the concept of community breaks really exists any more, does it? I remember that, when I was in primary school, practically our entire street would pile into a coach and visit Beamish for the day. It was an annual event; a byproduct of the fact that the street was originally built for workers at the nearby paint factory and that pretty much everyone who lived there still either worked there, had retired from there, or knew somebody eligible who could get them tickets. That’s all over now, and has been for some time… as families moved away, retirees passed on and the sense of community in that street gradually faded away. I know it’s not quite the same thing, but this episode has succeeded in making me a little nostalgic for a change!

Bob: I’m absolutely overwhelmed with nostalgia by this episode, but – as I expected – it’s Scarborough that’s doing the trick. There’s a beautiful scene where Compo, Clegg and Foggy mess around in the Penny Arcades, and it’s the arcades as my Gran would have loved them – no fruit machines or Space Invader machines yet, just one-armed bandits and Shove Ha’Penny. The sun beats down on sandy pavements, and unsuspecting holidaymakers bustle past in cheesecloth shirts and flares, immortalized in a little piece of TV history. It’s absolutely a window into my early childhood.

I think we need to give a little mention to Ronnie Hazelhurst at this point as well, as his scores are so evocative and carefully-crafted… over the scene I mentioned drifts a lovely, lilting flute rendition of Scarborough Fair, and it’s just perfect. A fabulous episode.



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    June 28, 2011 12:01 amPosted 11 years ago
    David Brunt

    There was a nice run of early episodes around 1983/4, in one of those protracted gaps where there was hardly any new episodes. Most or all of Season 3 was in there.

    The ultimate classic audience voice is in “Steptoe and Son” – ‘Divided we stand’, where old man Steptoe’s trilby peeks out over the top of the partition wall as he walks past. Causing some old ratbag to squeal and shout “look at his hat!”.

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    June 29, 2011 6:01 pmPosted 11 years ago
    David Cook

    I reckon that Proust must have been a Yorkshireman, as, like Bob, I get a nostalgic rush watching this two-parter! While other comedies would feature their heroes travelling to such exotic climes as the Costa Plonka or Els Bels, here we get Scarborough. In a way it strengthend the shows realism for me, as not only was this a real place, but one where I used to go on holiday too.

    Watching our trio wander through the town, I’m reliving my ‘seventies holidays, re-experiencing the sights and sounds of far distant days, wearing silly hats like Compo, reading the saucy postcards like Clegg, playing the one armed bandits, half deafened by the rattle of coins and the ever-present bingo callers. I swear I can almost smell that special seaside smell (a mixture of ozone and fish and chips) and i have a broad grin when I glimpse the dinosaurs in episode two (dinosaurs, another icon of my ‘seventies childhood).

    All this nostalga almost (but not quite) over-runs the episodes themselves. Thankfull Clark and our heroes are at their peak (Foggy feels at this point that he’s always been there) and it’s great to see Sid and Ivy outside the cafe.

    Philip Jackson (he’ll always be Inspector Japp to me!) is fantastic as Gordon and it’s a shame that he only ever re-appears once.

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    June 30, 2011 5:15 pmPosted 11 years ago
    Jakob Pieterson

    I love these 2 episodes…even though i was born in 1978 we visited Scarborough every year (I still have to visit every year) and it hasn’t changed a huge amount.

    The thing which makes me smile is that the voices of the women at the end, are clearly Kathy Staff and Jane Freeman (Nora and Ivy)…you can recognise Kathy’s voice particularly when she shouts “Are you coming?!”.

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    September 10, 2016 4:57 pmPosted 5 years ago
    Simon S

    I suppose, speaking from the other coast, for Scarborough, read Blackpool.

    It’s a quirky set-up, slightly reminiscent of ‘Pate & Chips’. That Foggy is the one who leaves something behind in the café fits well with puncturing pomposity.

    A return for Compo’s stripey blazer is welcome, too.

    The ending is perhaps a bit inevitable, though it does provoke the game of “does Bill Owen at any stage give any indication that he’s carrying something heavy in those boxes?”

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    June 27, 2017 6:25 pmPosted 5 years ago
    George Kempson

    Yes i agree, it’s a belter of a two-parter, more so that it takes me back to my youth, with us it was my dads mate who owned a minibus, an Austin Morris if i’m not mistaken.
    With us it was either Rhyl in North Wales, or Morcambe, we lived in the Rossendale valley which would put us pretty much in the middle, mileage wise.
    I love this episode especially, it is so much about how it was back then, nostalgia oozing from every frame and i agree with Bob, the lilting flute does indeed give it a sense of the time, as it was in “Smiling Morn”, the flute in that episode just gets to me as it does in this episode.
    Philip Jackson played an excellent part as the dozy Gordon “come on Gordon” says Clegg as Gordon looks confused as to where they have all dissapeared to.
    Brilliant, just brilliant in every way.

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      May 16, 2020 3:46 pmPosted 2 years ago

      I agree with all you’ve said.while I’ve been on holiday walked down the street and to the property where the boarding house was meant to be. Had mixed feelings as most of the cast from the 70s now passed away.Also after Gordon was married never saw him in any other episodes sad really as I liked the character.


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