BBC

Series 4 Episode 5: Who Made a Bit Of a Splash In Wales, Then?

In which Foggy finds romance!

Bob: Well, Roy Clarke has certainly decided to tinker with the format here… we’re suddenly pitched into an opening sequence in which Foggy appears to be on the verge of abruptly leaving the series! Amazingly, he’s found romance with an attractively mature lady in Wales. I’ll admit I was expecting some kind of pay-off in which it transpires that the relationship isn’t all that it seems (‘It gives them both the illusion of romance’ muses Clegg)… but no, Foggy and his lady seem to be genuinely in love, and his friends are left pottering around Holmfirth, miserable, lost and bereft of his company.

Until, of course, they decide to hire a car and pay him a visit… with Sid and Ivy in tow, under the pretext of visiting Ivy’s sister en route. And so we get some more curiously frank 1970s attitudes to sex… as Ivy clambers into the car, Compo brazenly attempts to look up her skirt – his childlike persona veering dangerously into bona fide sex pest territory. And then Sid openly admits he was ‘hoping to get round a few of those Welsh barmaids’! Is this idle male banter, or were unreconstructed 1970s husbands generally accepted to like ‘a bit on the side’, and their long-suffering wives just stood back and… well, suffered?

Andrew: Don’t ask me; I was but a glint in some café owner’s eye back then!

The Oncoming Storm

The Oncoming Storm

Bob: We see Clegg driving again, becoming increasingly nervous and incompetent behind the wheel of the car. There’s a lovely scene where our heroes are lost in the Welsh countryside, and there’s clearly a hell of a summer storm brewing in the distance! The skies are absolutely black, and full of thunder. Clearly just a happy accident, but it creates a gorgeous late-summer atmosphere.

It nicely foreshadows the tense scenes with Foggy as well, as Compo and Clegg finally arrive at his Welsh retreat, finding him holed up with his charming lady-friend and her seemingly frosty mother. The relationship between Foggy and Compo is nicely played by Wilde and Owen here… he’s genuinely mortified by Compo’s very presence in the house, clearly desperate not to offend his new, middle-class companions. He’s like a teenage boy, ushering his first girlfriend away from his embarrassing parents. It actually feels very odd to see such familiar Summer Wine characters in very well-to-do suburban 1970s settings… the house, the street and the cars on the drives are right out of Butterflies or Terry and June. It’s a stark contrast to the soot-stained terraces of Holmfirth.

Andrew: I get the impression that, had Clarke thought of this idea a few years later, this scenario would have warranted a feature-length episode. The idea of Compo and Clegg being sooo lonely without Foggy that they’ll drive across the country to hassle him is a lovely idea, but thirty minutes isn’t really enough time to do the story justice. I could quite happily have spent that amount of time watching Compo kick the back of Ivy’s seat as they potter along the M56. According to Google Maps, it would have taken them an hour and nineteen minutes to make it to the Welsh border. That’s a long time to be stuck in the car with Compo, even if he does claim to have washed that morning.

When Jean Boht comes in...

When Jean Boht comes in…

Bob: And, in a nice side-story, we actually meet Ivy’s sister, with Jean Boht putting in a fine snooty turn, well-served by some prime Roy Clarke dialogue. ‘I don’t think I’ve seen you since I papered the lounge,’ she trills, ‘I hope you like pale mustard’. You can almost smell the simmering social tension between the two sisters.

Andrew: She seems a bit wasted here. As you say, it’s a wonderful scene and performance. Even if the character doesn’t make her way back into the series, her spiritual sisters will continue in Clarke’s writing – see Edie Pegden and Hyacinth Bucket for a couple of examples of one of the writer’s favorite archetypes.

Bob: The episode ends, predictably, with Compo and the aforementioned frosty mother-in-law getting on like a house on fire (‘I want to see a pair of corsets hanging over the end of me bed’, he muses, longingly) and – even more predictably – with the injured Foggy rolling down a hill towards a shimmering lake.

Andrew: I actually rolled my eyes a bit when it was first hinted that Foggy would end up in the lake! Even the studio audience seemed to cluck at the fact that twist was coming. Then, just at the last minute, it was all saved by some good old-fashioned retribution.

Bob: All in all, it’s a very un-Summer Wine episode, and it never quite feels like it belongs to the rest of the series. An odd experiment.

And how did Foggy and his lady friend actually meet? Perhaps it’s best we never know…

Series 3 Episode 4: Cheering Up Gordon

S3E4a

In which the boarding house bathroom caper continues…

Bob: I’d forgotten this was a two-parter, and was surprised to find us still in Scarborough at the start of this episode! And – wahey – this is the first episode I can remember actually seeing on TV back in the day, because I distinctly recall an earnest school morning discussion between me and my friend Doug Simpson about the nature of the ‘popsicle’ scene…

Foggy: Lots of people swim in the North Sea.
Clegg: Only if they fall off a boat…
Compo: It’ll turn your popsicle blue!

It must have been a repeat, as I didn’t know Doug until 1983, but I clearly remember us debating whether Compo, when referring to a ‘popsicle’ was actually referring to… well… you know… he couldn’t be, could he? But now, 28 years on, I think I can safely say that – yes! He is! Filth, from Roy Clarke! Whatever next? Well… a semi-naked Brian Wilde, that’s what…

Andrew: When Foggy decides to strip off (PHWOAR) and venture into the sea, he’s really not that old-looking is he? In fact, Brian Wilde was only around fifty at the time. This struck me with Clegg in the first series as well. Summer Wine has this reputation for being ‘that show about old people’, but for the first half of its run, it isn’t anything of the sort.

Keep behind the barriers, ladies...

Keep behind the barriers, ladies…

Bob: Wilde was 48/49 during the filming of this series, so no – by today’s standards he’d barely be considered middle-aged. He’s only a decade older than me! Do we assume that the character of Foggy is meant to be considerably older than Wilde, given that all three of the main characters were clearly schoolfriends, and that Clegg and Compo are obviously closer to sixty than fifty?

Great scene anyway – there’s a studio audience member who’s absolutely howling with laughter as Foggy runs into the sea, and I love that kind of thing. It’s probably just me, but studio audience laughter these days seems much more smooth and generic than it used to be! There are lots of 70s sitcoms where you can pick out individual audience members laughing, with lots of coughing and little outbreaks of applause as well. It’s very charming.

Andrew: Absolutely. There’s one chap who yaks his way through a good chunk of Dad’s Army  and one particularly hysterical woman during Are You Being Served. And, for me, they’re pretty much  series regulars!

Bob: And in terms of dialogue, I think Roy Clarke is absolutely on fire at this stage. I laughed heartily, by myself, all the way through this episode – it’s just full of little gems. His writing for Wally Batty in particular is magnificent…

Nora: Are you going to sit there while he insults me?
Wally: No, I thought I’d go and have a look at the lifeboats.

Nora: You talk yourself into being miserable.
Wally: No I don’t, I just have to listen.

Nora: I don’t know what people must think. You’re on holiday.

Wally: Not really. If you’d come by yourself, then I’d have been on holiday. Remember that smashing fortnight when you had to go and nurse your mother?

I could listen to this all day. Joe Gladwin is just extraordinary – nobody has ever made twisted, hangdog misery so sensationally funny.

Andrew: Compo’s nephew Gordon is a pleasant addition as well. As our representative from the younger generation he’s clearly fond of his ‘Uncle Bill’ but has no interest at all in the trio’s time-wasting activities. In fact, he’s not really interested in any silliness at all.

Bob: We’ve seen a few of Compo’s family in these early episodes, haven’t we? Surprising, as he always seemed to be much more of a loner in later series. Gordon’s another lovely, world-weary character – very nicely played by Philip Jackson, who’ll forever be the Abbot Hugo in Robin Of Sherwood to me! He still pops up regularly on TV, but this is one of his earliest roles.

I have to mention that extraordinary scene on the beach as well, where Sid and Ivy – and there’s no easy way of putting this – discuss their sex life!

Ivy: You never talk to me, not even when me make love…
Sid: Not much to talk about is there, the rate we go at it? You still do it as if your mother’s watching.
Ivy: You should try and rouse me more…

Given that they spend most of the programme at violent loggerheads, you’d be forgiven for being amazed that Sid and Ivy have a sex life at all… and, in broader sitcoms, great comic play would undoubtedly be made of them being trapped in a loveless, sexless marriage. But their relationship is nothing of the sort – at the beginning of this scene, Ivy is wistfully lost in a romantic magazine, dreaming of the lithe-limbed lotharios that inhabit its pages. She absolutely wants to be loved and to be seduced, and still dreams that Sid can be that dream-like hunk in real life.

'You should try and rouse me more...'

‘You should try and rouse me more…’

I think we learn a lot about Ivy in this sequence… the fact that he falls so short of her ideals again and again is clearly the source of her constant anger and frustration at Sid. And, maybe, against the male gender as a whole? None of the idle, child-like men in Summer Wine are a match for the perfect, silky-voiced lovers in her books and magazines, and yet she can’t give up on the hopeless dream that, one day, Sid just MIGHT be. She really can’t. She has to keep dreaming… and just taking what she can from Sid in the hope that, some day, things WILL be perfect. 

An unexpected bit of sauciness at the end of the episode as well, when Compo heads out on the pull, and succeeds in bringing four women back from a local nightclub – one each for himself, Foggy, Clegg and Gordon! We only ever hear their screeching voices outside the boarding house door, but by crikey… you can just smell the gin-soaked breath and stale Benson and Hedges, and see the smudged lipstick and laddered fishnet stockings. And all in vain, because Gordon – bless him – is already enjoying a quiet game of chess with a charming redhead called Josie.

Clegg, predictably, runs upstairs. ‘Supposing they’d raped us…’ he trembles, later, reminding us that Summer Wine isn’t ready to settle into cosy teatime whimsy just yet.

Anyway, I loved these episodes. Can you tell? Absolutely my favourite of anything we’ve seen so far, and I think the series has hit an extraordinary peak at this stage. I genuinely can’t wait to carry on. 

Series 3 Episode 2: Mending Stuart's Leg

In which our new trio click into action, and scale the dizzy heights of the café roof…

Andrew: Whereas Blamire was seemingly happy to do anything, provided he was doing something, Foggy definitely seems to require a mission in life. Instead of aimlessly roaming the hills, our trio now head out on expeditions; and instead of loitering in the café, the greasy spoon is used as their base of operations, be they inspecting Sid’s roof or mending Stuart’s eponymous leg. The tone has already shifted from those early, meandering installments.

Bob: Ha! How odd, I was actually going to say that after a couple of tightly-focused episodes, we’re back to a bit of old school meandering! This episode is filled with delightful non-sequiteurs, many of which are provided by Foggy. ‘I made a good contact yesterday if you ever want any offcuts of polystyrene,’ he muses, a propos of nothing, in the opening scenes. ‘I see there’s been another failure in Soviet agriculture,’ he ponders later, during a gap in the conversation. I laughed out loud, as I did ten minutes later at the following exchange:

Compo: What’s wrong with me trousers?
Foggy: I realise you’re a socialist, but you could invest in another pair. You don’t have to wait for the council to pull the old pair down.

Contrasting political viewpoints, social and sartorial comment and a genuine, stunning laugh-out-loud gag in the space of two lines. Even if you knew nothing whatsoever about Compo or Foggy, you could still infer so much about their characters just by reading those two lines. Now THAT’s writing.

Insert your own Freemasonry joke here...

Insert your own Freemasonry joke here…

Andrew: And here we have it, the first instance of Clegg chickening out of something; in this case he sheepishly declines the opportunity to climb a rickety ladder and inspect some slates.

Bob: Yes! Foggy has instantly become the instigator and director of their activities, and Clegg now seems firmly entrenched as the reluctant non-participant that he remains for the next three and a half decades.

There are a few little character moments that intrigued me in this episode… I think, Drew, you mentioned that an earlier episode very subtly alluded to the fact that Sid and Ivy were childless, and I missed it completely. This time, following a classic argument, we get Ivy wistfully musing ‘Oooh, if I’d had kids…’  and the sentence is left for us to finish ourselves. There’s a definite sense of regret and melancholy that hangs over this fleeting scene.

And good to see Mr Wainwright back at the library! With another doe-eyed young acolyte – Miss Moody – now in tow.

Wainwright: I used to dream of leading the people into a better society…
Miss Moody: Maybe you still can?
Wainwright: (respectfully) There’s so much paperwork.

Fabulous.

‘There’s so much paperwork…’

And is it me, or does Compo’s shouted riposte to Nora as she rebuffs his advances yet again (‘It wasn’t like this on VE Night!’) suggest that they had a brief romantic tryst thirty years earlier, presumably before she married Wally? It’s an absolute revelation to think that his feelings towards her aren’t just the unrequited lust of an old letch, but an attempt to recapture a sensational night of passion from their long-lost salad days, on an occasion of unparalleled emotional release for the whole country. If that’s true, it must have been one of the most glorious nights of Compo’s life, and brings a whole new perspective to his character and motivations. He wants to feel young and happy and virile again, and rekindling a fleeting encounter with Nora has become fixed in his mind as the only way to do so… even though her appearance and personality have – we assume – been completely transformed since then. He just doesn’t see that, though! One of our constant sources of comedy so far as been exactly why Compo lusts after this sour-faced battleaxe – it just seemed inexplicable. But at last we have an answer! To Compo, Nora will always be the vibrant 20-year-old lass that gave herself to him at the ultimate national celebration. I actually feel like 37 years of Summer Wine suddenly makes a lot more sense!

Series 3 Episode 6: Going to Gordon's Wedding

In which Compo, for once, is best man…

Andrew: Amazingly, we’ve jumped from arguably the series’ weakest episode thus far, to one of the strongest. Clarke really has put his all into this finely observed, half-hour farce. To say that he’s back on form really doesn’t do this episode justice.

Bob: Yep, I enjoyed this too. It’s nice to see Compo’s nephew Gordon back in the series, although you wonder how long is meant to have passed between instalments, given that that Gordon is now marrying Josie, the elegant redhead he met in Scarborough only two episodes earlier! It’s a very 1970s wedding – all giant buttonholes, disapproving mothers and good-natured punch-ups over Tetley’s Best Bitter. And Gordon’s not the only returning character here… we get another cameo from Paul Luty as Big Malcolm, Compo’s towering relative, last spotted duffing up Foggy in the first episode of this series.

Is this Compo's sister? We're not sure!

Is this Compo’s sister? We’re not sure!

It all reinforces the feeling of Summer Wine being a running story taking place in a small, close-knit community, and it struck me that Foggy’s arrival seems to have heralded a slight stylistic change… in Blamire’s two series, our three heroes are very much portrayed as outsiders, literally spending their days around the peripheries of town life, sitting in disused barns and abandoned factories. In Series 3, we’ve seen MUCH less of the countryside… the show has been far more grounded in sitting rooms, pubs, cafes and boarding houses, and Compo has been shown to be pretty close to several members of his extended family. It has to be a deliberate move.

Andrew: There’s some lovely domestic material here, from the competitive mothers and the forced jollity of family gatherings to Clegg’s brilliant comparison of weddings and flying… ‘When you consider how many weddings there are, it makes you realize what a safe way it is to go. It’s just that, in regard to weddings, if there is an accident then it’s usually rather a nasty one’.

Bob: Yes, I love the scene in Gordon’s mother’s sitting room… the sheer awkwardness of making polite conversation with distant family members, suffocated by floral wallpaper and that ominous, ticking clock. The desperate, nervous laughter and the young, randy couple snogging obliviously on the sofa.

Do we assume, then, that Gordon’s flighty and giggly mother, clearly three sheets to the wind by the middle of the morning, is actually Compo’s sister? It’s never specified, but the way she greets him at the door (‘Lovely to see you love, I knew you wouldn’t let me down,’ she beams, proudly, stroking the shoulder of his suit) is every inch the actions of a proud sister rather than a more distant relative.

Andrew: I guess we’ll find out for sure in First of the Summer Wine, if Roy Clarke remembers she exists by then.

Bob: If so, it’s intriguing to note that Foggy seems to take something of a shine to her, repeatedly vying for her attention and attempting to take photos of her! Can you imagine the comic potential if that relationship had developed? Oh, the shame he’d have brought upon the proud Dewhurst name… 

Josie. She's a pussycat.

Josie. She’s a pussycat.

Andrew: There’s also a nice line in physical comedy, and unlike The Kink In Foggy’s Niblick, it doesn’t seem forced. Compo’s buttonhole, the noisy wedding present, the damaged best man and Foggy’s ongoing feud with Big Malcolm are all nicely signposted and extend naturally from the characters and situation.

Bob: Indeed, and I loved Josie’s line to her father outside the church, flicking up her bridal veil and hissing ‘You see it so many times on wedding photos… embarrassed fathers pining for their overalls…’ Never a truer word spoken, and – again – a fine, pithy and beautifully concise bit of writing. We learn so much about both Josie and her fathers’ characters – and the relationship between them – from that single line.

Andrew: What strikes me most of all is how big and confident it seems. A lot is packed into twenty-nine minutes… not only the situation itself, but also the sheer number of characters involved. The world of Summer Wine suddenly opens out to include extended families and old friends like Gordon and Malcolm.

Bob: And all drenched in that glorious 1970s sunshine, on washed-out 16mm film. All is right with the world, and I want to carry on… 

Series 3 Episode 7: Isometrics and After

In which Foggy yearns for physical jerks and Compo puts something nasty in a matchbox…

Bob: After everything I said about Series 3 having a distinctly different tone, we’re suddenly back to a very traditional Summer Wine episode – in fact, I’m even tempted to wonder if this instalment might have started life as a Blamire episode, it’s so reminiscent of that earlier style. There’s a lot of meandering and musing in the countryside, a typically lusty Wainwright diatribe in an extended library sequence, and more than a few gritty political references. 

Andrew: I get the impression that Roy Clarke is a hoarder of ideas and gags, stockpiling material that could come in handy later on. As you say, this does feel a little like an episode from the first or second series, but there are examples from much later on as well… the first feature length episode being based upon an older novel, or the characters of Howard, Pearl and Marina being extracted from a touring stage show. That’s the benefit of everything being written by one man, I suppose; nothing goes to waste!

Operation Swordblade won't help you now...

Operation Swordblade won’t help you now…

Bob: And to cap it all, we begin with a marvelously morbid speech from Compo… ‘When tha’s dead, tha’s dead,’ he ponders, ‘I saw our Walter when that safe landed on him, and if he was having any sort of afterlife, he wasn’t enjoying it’. Again, just beautifully economic writing – from a single line we learn about Compo’s atheism, his dubious family background, the grisly death of his relative and his gruesomely black sense of humour. When Roy Clarke is on form, his dialogue is just unbeatable.

Having described this episode as being evocative of the earlier style, there is one major difference – Clegg’s character. We were frequently surprised in Series 1 by Clegg’s swearing and his use of some surprisingly fruity (and grumpy) turns-of-phrase, but in this episode he deliberately swerves to avoid even the most minor of cussing… ‘People who want to be nice are a pain in the ar-r-r-m…’ he stammers. And, having been the main instigator of adventures during the Blamire years, he now steadfastly refuses to join in with Foggy’s exercise regime. The gentrification of Clegg is complete!

Andrew: And he’s clearly been scarred by Blamire’s canoeing scheme. Having been forced to walk through the town in a swimming costume, Clegg has no desire to go through a similar experience. I love the lines, ‘I should be reluctant to start anything that might involve taking me vest off,’ and ‘This latest plot of yours has the squeak of plimsolls and the flash of nipples about it. Or is it the flash of plimsolls and the squeak of nipples?’ That pretty much sums up the reason I’ve stayed away from the swimming baths for the past ten years…

Bob: There’s a lovely scene in this episode where Clegg and Compo wander to a babbling brook without the isometrics-obsessed Foggy, and we get a real impression of just how close a friendship they’ve forged over the decades. ‘There’s some good rabbit droppings here!’ exclaims a gleeful Compo. ‘Fill your pockets kid, there’s nobody looking,’ grins Clegg and the warmth between the two characters is a joy to behold… two very disparate characters on the face of it, but Compo’s enthusiasm for the base and grotty aspects of life seems to bring out a childlike glow in Clegg as well.

You wonder what their relationship was like during the decades when Clegg was married? I can only picture a classic Bob and Terry relationship, with Mrs Clegg surely disapproving of Compo’s presence in ‘her’ Norman’s life. And yet, in these latter years, they’ve absolutely rekindled what was surely a close childhood bond. And utterly regressed to those halcyon days. It’s great to watch, and Sallis and Owen make a fine double act.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!

Andrew: I can imagine the two barely seeing each other while Clegg was married, and don’t forget that Compo was married for a bit as well. It all contributed to the impression we have of them making up for lost time by spending so much of their retirement messing around in the countryside.

Bob: And brace yourself, but we have another historic Summer Wine ‘first’ to report… this is our inaugural sighting of Compo’s legendary matchbox! And it’s the mild-mannered librarian Miss Moody who has the honour of being his first female victim… screaming in horror as Compo shows her the terrors within. What a fabulous running joke, and how gloriously evocative of that bygone generation of Northern men – my childhood was filled with strange neighbours and elderly relatives who kept all manner of gruesome souvenirs for posterity… owl pellets, teeth, and full menageries of stuffed and pickled beasties.

Andrew: The tradition still continues. I’ve told you about my Mam and her box of loose teeth, haven’t I?

Bob: No. And you must feel absolutely at liberty to keep that information entirely to yourself.

Andrew: I genuinely have no idea of what Compo could have in that matchbox, though. I wonder if Clarke ever knew?

Bob: Interesting to see that Nora is now working in the café! There were suggestions in an earlier episode that she didn’t have much time for Ivy, but Sid (in a nice piece of continuity) now seems to have acquired the mobile chip van that he was saving for, and so Nora provides an extra pair of hands in the café – ‘because she doesn’t have recognisable boobs’, according to Ivy. I like to think the thawing of their relationship began during that idyllic weekend in Scarborough earlier in the series, but then it’s possible I think too much about these things.

Farewell, Mr Wainwright

Farewell, Mr Wainwright

Andrew: No, I think you’re on the money there. There was a nice sense of community in those episodes and, given that Ivy was on her best behavior at the Bed and Breakfast, I’d like to think she and Nora were brought together by forced civility. I think those two episodes actually kickstarted what later develops into the extended Summer Wine family, clearly marking out characters like Sid, Ivy, Nora and Wally as continuing regulars rather than guest artists.

Speaking of guest characters, we say goodbye to Mr. Wainwright once again, this time for good. It makes sense really, as the library isn’t used much now that the series has found its feet in the countryside and café, but I’ll miss his political spin on… well, pulling. It’s actually quite nice to leave him at this point. When first introduced, Wainwright was the intellectual dreamer with his eyes on a Eliza Doolittle protégé, but in this episode it’s clear that Miss Moody is more on the ball than he is.

Miss Moody: Elliot’s Wasteland is depressingly real, Mr Wainwright.

Wainwright: Absolutely. I can’t understand why the council doesn’t slap him with a compulsory purchase.

Bob: And, in a charming finish to a hugely enjoyable third series, our three heroes actually ride into the sunset on horseback. Surely Roy Clarke’s little homage to the golden age of the Hollywood Western? It’s amazing to contemplate that it’s barely half-a-dozen episodes since we were first introduced to Foggy Dewhurst, and yet the series now seems unthinkable without him – what a huge testament to Brian Wilde’s skills as a comic actor. We’re about to enter, arguably, the golden age of Summer Wine

Series 2 Episode 6: Ballad For Wind Instruments & Canoe

In which our trio pursue canoeing, and fail to drop Compo right in it…

Andrew: This really is the first of the stunt episodes. While there have been elements of physical comedy in the past, nothing matches up to a canoe ride. Still, though, the decision to take to the river in a canoe extends naturally from the trio’s status as layabouts. However, the sight of Compo dangling over a bridge, and of the trio in Victorian bathing suits, must be the broadest comedy the series has offered so far. A sign of things soon to come… it all looks rather appealing, though.

Bob: Yes, I thought the same… this is the first of the real ‘caper’ episodes, in which our heroes embark on an unlikely physical escapade that inevitably ends in disaster. Usually with the involvement of a large physical prop… and, of course, in this case it’s the canoe that drifts into their lives as they idle away an afternoon at the river’s edge.

Andrew: Speaking of stunts, this must be apex of Clegg’s adventurous spirit. The character I grew up with would be far too worried to go diving into the deep end of a stream, let along propose a canoeing expedition. I wonder if the incoming introduction of Foggy will prompt this evolution.

Drew's time-travelling Steve Pemberton

Drew’s time-travelling Steve Pemberton

Bob: Clegg’s very adventurous at this stage, isn’t he? This is the latest in a few examples of Clegg desperately wanting to break away from the confines of Holmfirth and go out… well, adventuring. ‘The key to thousands of tranquil miles of British pollution,’ he deadpans. ‘Mile after mile of waterway, we can get drowned almost anywhere…’ I wonder how long it’s meant to have been since his wife died at this point? You get the impression he’s been through a long recovery phase and is now keen to start enjoying himself and testing his mettle a little.

Andrew: Post-Traumatic Spouse Disorder.

Bob: Interesting that you mention Foggy, as I thought a few of Blamire’s lines in this episode pre-empted the introduction of Brian Wilde’s character. In particular, the opening scenes where he’s musing about his military career… ‘I’ve seen men delirious with jungle fever,’ he barks. ‘I’d like to see you lot try to make a camp in a mango swamp’. Roy Clarke definitely carried over some of this attitude into Foggy’s character, with a crucial difference… with Foggy, it’s made very clear that his military musings are almost all complete fantasy, and his ‘hard man’ trappings are constantly debunked and undermined by Clegg and Compo.

With Blamire, there’s no such debunking – so we have to assume that his stories are all actually true, and he’s genuinely a force to be reckoned with. It’s official – Blamire’s absolutely hard as nails!

Andrew: Has Steve Pemberton travelled back in time in order to play Arnpepper? It’s an uncanny physical and vocal resemblance. It’s a great character part, and the template for many Summer Wine eccentrics to follow.

Bob: Yes, Arnpepper is a fine character, although I didn’t spot the resemblance to Steve Pemberton! He looks more like Ronnie Corbett to me. His introduction is great, though…  drifting half-submerged along the river, two minutes behind his wayward canoe. ‘Howdo lads, have you seen a canoe?’ he shouts, casually, to our heroes. ‘What colour?’ deadpans Clegg. Brilliant stuff.

And it’s nice to see another scene in a disused farm building, as he attempts to dry off and bequeaths his canoe to our three heroes! John F Landy, who plays Arnpepper, did a lot of fine TV character acting in the 1970s and 80s. He pops up in Minder and Boon, amongst many others.

Montmorency not pictured...

Montmorency not pictured…

Andrew: Arnpepper mentions Look North. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Look North mentioned on television outside of… well, Look North. Now that it is mentioned I have a strange feeling of ownership. ‘That’s my local news programme, that is!’

Bob: I felt exactly the same, although I feel a bit of a party pooper in pointing out that the Yorkshire version of Look North is different to ours… it’s a separate programme made by BBC Leeds. But lines like that work wonders in grounding the show to a very specific place, and giving the characters a base in reality. Arnpepper is an eccentric, surreal character, and therefore exactly the kind of man that would want to get his five minutes of fame on regional TV! And oh, in the 1970s, regional TV was always more than happy to oblige.

There’s a nice line in that strange pie-eating scene in the café as well. Sid offers to pay for the pies, to which Ivy angrily retorts ‘You know we’re saving up for that mobile chip van!’ A van that I don’t think we actually see onscreen for another eight years, when it becomes a crucial part of the Getting Sam Home feature-length special that I know we both adore. Although that show is based on a novel that Roy Clarke wrote during these early years, so I guess the mobile chip van was heavily in his thoughts during 1974/75!

Andrew: Archaic reference alert! Compo refers to Blamire as Joe E. Brown during the biggest gob completion. That almost flew over my head, but rekindled some memories of old-time Hollywood comedy. Today, he’s probably best remembered for delivering the final line in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot. Here’s the gob in question:

‘Well… nobody’s perfect!’

Bob: Indeed, and I noticed Compo actually says Joe E Brown’s legendary line ‘Nobody’s perfect’ later in the episode! I wonder if Roy Clarke had seen Some Like It Hot around the time he wrote this episode, and thought he’d pay a subtle homage? Although Joe E Brown died in July 1973, so I suppose it might have been a personal tribute to Joe himself? Whatever, it’s a clever little touch.

As you’ve said, the closing scenes are very broad (especially the swimming costumes disguised with leaves and branches – far more conspicuous than just walking home in the costumes themselves!) but the canoeing scenes themselves are heavenly… the sun-dappled river, the shady, rustling trees and our three idle heroes drifting lazily into nothingness. It’s almost a metaphor for the show itself at this stage.

Series 2 Episode 4: Some Enchanted Evening

In which Wally Batty makes his entrance… and beats a hasty retreat…

Andrew: For this episode, I’ve decided to take a risk. Ever since moving in with me, my partner Emma has been exposed to far more wrinkled stockings that she ever signed up for. Still, she’ll happily accommodate Ronnie Hazlehurst blaring through the living room, and even professed to enjoy our trip to Holmfirth in 2009 (although I’m still not 100% convinced of that). Would asking her to review an episode alongside us be a step too far? There’s only one way to find out… say hello, Emma.

Emma: Hello. And I did enjoy Holmfirth, even if your Stephen Lewis impressions nearly sent me mad. Oh, and it was funny watching you and Bob wee in a school field.

Bob: I remember being caught short under a tree on a long walk back from the pub, but it wasn’t a school field was it? We were in the woods! Compo would have been proud of us.

Bob and Drew in Holmfirth, 2009. Gahaha, I 'ate you Butler, etc

Bob and Drew in Holmfirth, 2009. Gahaha, I ‘ate you Butler, etc


Andrew:
Anyway, what’s your background with Summer Wine?

Emma: I used to watch it with my Grandad on Sunday afternoons. We’d have tea, pickled onions, egg and salad. I’ve got mixed emotions, I suppose… happy memories, but it makes me miss my Grandad.

Andrew: This is our first, full-on taste of the Compo/Nora dynamic that will dominate much of the series from now on. He’s truly in heat!

Emma: He’s really seedy, isn’t he? And the thought of him and Nora? Urgh! I’m actually struggling to understand his accent as well. Does it soften as the series go on?

Andrew: It softens as the episode goes on!

Bob: Does it? I always thought Compo’s accent was really consistent – especially considering that Bill Owen was a rather well-spoken Londoner. I remember being fascinated as a kid by his archaic Yorkshire vocabulary… all those ‘thees’ and ‘thous’. I’ve always been intrigued by language and the way it varies through the generations. When I was a kid, I had an elderly next-door neighbour called Jim Cogan, who had been a coal miner in his working days and spoke with a very thick County Durham accent, and used vernacular that clearly dated from his youth… which, amazingly, was probably around the time of the First World War. I struggled to understand him sometimes when I was very small, and that both baffled and fascinated me. It’s a different accent, but the way that Compo speaks always reminds me a little of Jim.

Andrew: I definitely think there’s a slight difference between his accent during the location filming and during the studio sequences. Perhaps his accent naturally softened a little when performing in front of a London studio audience? As you say, though, he’s completely convincing throughout.

Bob's pin-up!

Bob’s pin-up!

Bob: There are couple of nice 1970s references in these early scenes as well. Compo’s TV delivery man ‘caught the manager adjusting the horizontal hold on her from the record counter’, and Blamire mentions whooping cough! I don’t suppose anyone encounters horizontal holds or whooping cough much these days, but it’s nice to know their legacy has been immortalised in this episode.

Emma: My mam had whooping cough just the other month! I didn’t hear her whoop that much, just cough. She’s fine now.

Bob: I feel terrible now.

Andrew: And here he is… Wally Batty. Bob’s idol.

Emma: Why? He’s a bit boring, isn’t he? Just ‘muh muh muh’ (Emma is attempting her own Stephen Lewis impersonation). He reminds me of Drew. No, not really!

Andrew: I don’t think I’d mind! Besides, I should remind you that – in our first six months of living together – both of us ran home to our mams’ houses for a bit of respite. Admittedly, we didn’t sneak out during the night, pants in hand, but the principle is the same.

Bob: Wally is brilliant! It’s a fabulous performance from Joe Gladwin – so downtrodden and gloomy, and yet with a fabulous rapier wit. He’s Eeyore in a flat cap and britches.

Nora: (Pointing to Compo) Are you going to let him do what he likes to me?

Wally: What’s there to like about it?

Brilliant. Again, I see a lot of Jim Cogan in him. Men who had married young, worked like a bastard every single day for fifty years, and now just wanted to eke out their remaining days with pipe, pigeons and ale. Bodies absolutely knackered by decades of back-breaking graft… I don’t know if it’s ever specified what Wally did for a living, but it was clearly bloody hard going and you can see every second of it etched into that face, and piled on top of those hunched shoulders.

When I see Wally Batty, I realise that I really did grow up in a very different era, even to you two fine people. I saw men like Wally all over the place in the 1970s… they were there, I absolutely knew them. But I don’t see them anymore.

Bob shows Emma the benefit of his experience, Holmfirth 2009

Bob shows Emma the benefit of his experience, Holmfirth 2009


Andrew:
Joe Gladwin is fantastic. I’d like to believe that he just was Wally Batty as I can’t imagine him playing anyone else. Character isn’t just written onto his face, it’s chiselled.

I find this whole episode a bit strange, overall. Again, there’s a bit of a nasty streak that one wouldn’t expect of the show’s later years. I guess it also proves that Roy Clarke never had a master plan, as the whole Nora/Compo plotline is played out in it’s entirety in the space of a single half hour. This is as close as they come to getting together, but both will be going through the motions for years to come.

Bob: Compo occasionally seems rueful about his bachelor status here… there are a couple of moments when it’s clear his longing isn’t just about the pleasures of the flesh. He’s envious of Wally having a woman to care for him, and look after him. We see him in bed, in his long johns, drinking brown ale and reading True Romances magazine as the radio plays out his request for Nora! Sent in under the pseudonym ‘Lonely Brown Eyes…’ its rather touching.

Andrew: But brilliantly undermined when the DJ refuses to read out Compo’s list of things he’d like to do with Nora and advises him to seek out a solicitor before attempting any of them. It’s a list you don’t want to spend too much time contemplating!

Bob: There’s a nice bit of sleight-of-hand from Roy Clarke in this episode as well… for a while we’re genuinely led to believe that Wally HAS left home for good, and that Compo is sparking up a fully-blown relationship with Nora. At this stage of the series we haven’t seen that much of their cat-and-mouse games, so we’ve no reason to believe that it couldn’t actually happen.

That swinging bachelor lifestyle in full

That swinging bachelor lifestyle in full

I love the scene in the café, where Blamire and Clegg contemplate life without Compo as part of their regular routine… Blamire has a rant about the unions, Clegg muses about the possibility of God returning to Earth as an insect, and the conversation just doesn’t work at all. They both as much as admit that they don’t actually have that much in common… they need the common factor of Compo to bounce off, to unite them as a trio. It’s very tight and disciplined characterisation from both writer and actors.  And a neat twist on the time-worn cliché of the teenage boy getting his first girlfriend and abandoning his mates at the drop of a hat. Here the ‘teenagers’ are all pushing sixty, but the same principle applies.

Andrew: Emma, as a lady of the female persuasion, what did you make of the representation of women here?

Emma: Well, they’re all lesbians or husband abusers. There are no desirable women, at least not by normal standards. Then again, going back to when I first saw Summer Wine, I can recognise a bit of my Grandma and Grandad in the relationships depicted here. A bit less abusive, but with a lack of love on the surface and something more underneath. My Grandad wasn’t a Wally, though, and gave more back in return!

Andrew: What did you think overall then?

Emma: It was fine. A bit slow, though… not much seems to happen.

Andrew: That’s kind of why we like it.

Emma: Yeah, but you’re both weird.

Bob: I’ve been trying to shoehorn this in for a while, but you’re right… Summer Wine works very differently from most other sitcoms of the era. You watch most 1970s sitcoms and they’re very formulaic. You have a small bunch of regular characters in a recognisable place, and every week there’s a plot device that’s set up in the first five minutes, spirals out of control to comedy effect with hilarious consequences, and is resolved in the last five minutes. Often with some kind of grand finale… a stunt, or a special routine, or some other way of hammering home a grand punchline. Then the reset switch is pressed so we can do the whole thing again next week.

Early Summer Wine isn’t like that at all. Lots of episodes have no real plot at all, they just… drift. Especially in these early series, our three heroes usually aren’t facing any particular problem or pursuing the kind of quest that would normally drive the plot along, they’re just wandering idly through town and countryside, and we follow them. Guest characters drift back and forth through the episodes, often contributing nothing whatsoever in traditional plot terms, but simply adding colour and depth to the world we’re being presented with. There’s often no natural end to the episodes, they just fade out with a gentle fizzle. It’s all about character and atmosphere at this stage, and it’s a breath of fresh air. It feels real, like we’re eavesdropping on randomly-selected thirty minute segments of these characters’ lives and daydreams. It’s absolutely why I like it.

Andrew: Summer Wine land definitely feels like it has existed long before the cameras start rolling, and I think it’s mainly the multitude of acquaintances and passers-by who drift in and out the episodes that contribute to this. It’s just a lovely place to spend some time, even if it can be grim. Will you come back for more, later?

Emma: I guess I wouldn’t object too much. I’ll go back to Holmfirth if we can stay at the same place, with the nice breakfasts and mad dogs.

Bob: I’d forgotten about the dogs! I’d love to go back. We need to stay somewhere with a TV and DVD player so we can watch a couple of episodes while we’re there!

EXCLUSIVE: An Interview With Stuart Fell

I’ve been run over by hovercraft… and in the film Willow I was crushed by a horse… Read more

Series 6 Episode 6: Serenade for Tight Jeans and Metal Detector


In which Compo has a change of scenery…

Bob: As you know, there’s very little in life makes me happier than a good non-sequitur, so the opening lines to this episode put a huge smile all over my beardy, middle-aged chops.

Foggy: I understand the Co-Op has some big reductions in winceyette pyjamas.

Compo: Nigel Hinchcliffe’s nose has turned septic.

Clegg: Two thirds of the human nose could be below the surface.

Alright, let me witlessly dissect these little moments of genius. Foggy’s line is magnificent. He doesn’t start with ‘I’ve heard…’ or ‘Did you know…’, he says ‘I understand’. ‘I UNDERSTAND’!!! Implying that his knowledge of winceyette pyjama reductions has been imparted via a series of clandestine espionage raids conducted by special forces at dawn. In the flaming Co-Op. Two words that speak volumes about his delusions of military grandeur.

And ‘winceyette’! Does anyone ever say ‘winceyette’ any more? Foggy is so precise about every aspect of his mundane existence that he even has to specify the pyjama material in question, lest anyone assume he was sullying his insider nightwear knowledge with references to clearly inferior nylon products. Although such pyjamas were definitely called ‘flannelette’ when I were a lad. Still, the principle of raised-nap cotton fabric is the same. 

Upside Down… Clegg, you turn me…

Andrew: I must admit that I had to take to Google in order to find out what ‘winceyette’ actually means. It’s not just raised-nap, it’s a cotton flannelette with a nap on both sides, apparently. You know, it’s been ages since I’ve had a nice pair of pyjamas. Do you think one of our readers might send some in if I put the call out?

Bob: Only if you put Nigel Hinchcliffe in the names database. Owner of a septic nose. Which was nearly the title of a Top 40 hit for Yes in November 1983. 

Andrew: When Foggy asks, ‘Is that a view or is that a view?’ I thought to myself, ‘Yes, Foggy, it is.’ Alan Bell really knows how to make the most of the natural beauty of his locations, even during his earliest episodes.

Bob: Yes, there’s definitely been a deliberate decision to show off the locations a lot more.

Andrew: Outside Dougie’s Second Hand Shop, Foggy and Clegg shake Compo down for some cash. Literally. Nothing tumbles from our scruffy hero’s pockets as he is hoisted upside-down, though. Where else would he keep his betting money but in his wellies?

Compo: That don’t half make your eyeballs heavy. Suppose they dropped out?

Foggy: It wasn’t THEM dropping out that we were worried about.

Is that our first ball-gag since Forked Lightning? Also, how many extra site visitors will be sent our way via Google thanks to our use of the phrase ball-gag?

Bob: I think we’ll double our usual traffic. So possibly as many as seven.

Andrew: Foggy arrives at the café some time before Compo and Clegg, who we are told are lagging behind. We don’t often get to observe Foggy on his own, do we? Nothing particularly significant happens during this scene, but it’s odd to see him have a one-on-one with Sid.

Foggy reveals he has installed a new set of trousers on Compo, and Sid is shocked enough to send the items he is holding clattering to the floor. This prompts Ivy to emerge and, when told that Sid has received some startling news, presumes that her husband has been ‘seen with’ Mrs. Jessop! What do we think then? Is Ivy paranoid or does Sid play away from time to time?

Those new trousers in full

Bob: I reckon he has – years ago – and Ivy has never let it go. She’s deeply insecure, and desperate to hang onto him by any means necessary. ‘I’ve been expecting something like this ever since you started reading Harold Robbins’ she sniffs, the second Summer Wine reference I can remember to the grandaddy of the bonkbuster novel. Was Mrs Clarke a fan, do we think? The Carpetbaggers was the Fifty Shades of Grey of its time.

Nice scene in the café too, with a classic Clarke trope – the quickfire repeating of an unusual word of phrase by several characters, to almost surreal comic effect. Here, Nora accuses Sid of startling her by ‘rearing up’… the springboard for a delightful mini-sketch in which the phrase ‘rearing up’ is used over and over with increasingly exaggerated delivery. Clarke does this a lot – I have fond memories of an episode of Open All Hours in which Granville’s ‘dangler’ (calm down at the back there, it’s a medallion) gets similar treatment. The word becomes funny in itself, simply by dint of the repetition – but it’s important not to overstay your welcome with these things. It’s artfully done here, though. 

Andrew: Then in walks a post ‘trouser transplant’ Compo. Now, have I missed something or is there absolutely no explanation as to why Foggy chooses to do this now? Whatever the reason, Compo looks distinctly uncomfortable in his new skinny jeans. As a man who has been forced into a pair by his far more stylish partner, I have all the sympathy in the world for him. I believe they were first developed by the Spanish Inquisition.

Bob: You what??! No-one over the age of 19 should be wearing skinny-fit ANYTHING. Hey, a reference to ‘Bickerdyke’s dog’! That’s from Series 4 Episode 6, Greenfingers. Summer Wine is finally eating itself!

Andrew: We also get to learn a little more about Dougie from the Second Hand Shop, who has somehow managed to talk Clegg into purchasing a metal detector. Knowing what is to come down the line, it’s very easy to see the unseen second hand shop proprieter as a proto-Auntie Wainwright, another character who, in Sid’s words, ‘can sell owt’.

Foggy finds a Roman beer can

Foggy finds a Roman beer can

Bob: Foggy is mocked by his colleagues for getting excited about ‘buried treasure’, but metal detecting was a big hobby for men of a certain age in the 1970s! Seismic events like the discovery of the Mildenhall Treasure would have made a big impression on men of Foggy’s age.

It was an era when all kinds of oddities could be found with only the bare minimum of digging. Even in built-up towns, much of the ground remained undeveloped, and many deeply-buried treasures had been unsettled by wartime bombing and lay undiscovered on sites that had stayed largely untouched for decades. As a kid, I remember discovering centuries-old coins and the fractured remains of Victorian pottery while scrabbling around in our own back garden.

Andrew: I once found a copy of Readers’ Wives strewn along a hedgerow.

Bob: You were clearly from the posh end of town. It were all Razzle under our hedgerows. Hey, what a great Radiophonic noise when Foggy finally gets the metal detector working! I can imagine Malcolm Clarke slaving away for hours on that. Inbetween putting the finishing touches to the Earthshock soundtrack.

Andrew: Back on the hillside, Foggy thinks he’s stumbled across something Roman. It isn’t, of course. Instead, he’s found a beer can – Julius Tetley – and it’s off to the pub.

Bob: My dad would doubtless have called that an ‘ancient Roman beercan’! A nice, warm episode, anyway.

Andrew: I had some fun with this episode, particularly the scenes with the whole gang in the café, but it pales in comparison to the last two. You’re spoiling us, Mr. Clarke.

Series 6 Episode 4: A Bicycle Made for Three

In which our trio ‘get it continental style’…

Andrew: Have we reached another milestone? Does this qualify as our first truly iconic episode of Last of the Summer Wine? I think that clip from the climax of this episode, in which our trio tumble headfirst over the handlebars of their bicycles, is probably one of the most often used to represent the series in documentaries or highlights packages.

Bob: Yes, that clip has come to embody ‘three silly old sods plummeting downhill’ public perception of the series, hasn’t it? Whenever I mention our ongoing quest to non-Summer Wine fans, they always make reference to this kind of escapade. Which is a shame, as the absolute bedrock of the series for me is the dialogue and characterisation. All the rest is largely window dressing. Here you go, from the opening sequence…

Compo: I tried for a reserved occupation.

Foggy: There was no-one more reserved about taking an occupation than you.

A laugh-out loud joke with a wealth of information about both characters attitudes, backgrounds and personalities, all within the space of two lines. Perfect.

Andrew: There’s a lot of location work in this episode and it’s all beautifully shot, but doesn’t the transfer look manky? Doctor Who fans have been spoilt rotten with the amount of care and attention that’s been exercised in restoring that series’ many episodes, and the thought that the original film elements of many of these Summer Wine episodes could just be lying in a vault gathering dust is almost too much to take.

Bob: This probably makes me some sort of heathen, but I rather like a bit of grit and grain on vintage 16mm film sequences. Gives them a bit of character and period charm. I can spend hours watching a trapped hair fizzing away in the corner of the screen.

Andrew: I’d have to check the novel again to see whether it originates there, but the gag with the trio careening down a hill upon one bicycle is used again, in almost identical fashion, in the Getting Sam Home feature-length special the following year.

Bob: Spoilers!

Andrew: And who would have thought that a thirty-year-old episode of Last of the Summer Wine would become so topical in hindsight? Not too long ago, a video in which former American sitcom star Kirk Cameron and Christian minister Ray Comfort displayed support for the ‘Banana Theory’ went viral. The Banana Theory, in case you’re wondering, posits almost exactly what Clegg states in this episode, ‘If there’s no guiding hand behind the universe, how come bananas are just the right shape for your mouth’. Have a look!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2z-OLG0KyR4]

I wonder if they were fans (joke)? Within the context of Summer Wine, Clegg gets away with it, but as an argument for intelligent design it just doesn’t hold up at all.  Who would have thought that the battle of Darwinism and fundamental Christianity would intrude upon our little oasis of tranquillity?

Bob: Wait until we get round to Open All Hours. There’s a full episode in which Granville and Mrs Featherstone discuss the implications of Sartre’s theory of Bad Faith and the direct contradictions it posits to Freud’s theories of the unconscious.

Andrew: Another couple of names for the database; Lily Matthews – With his scruffy khakis, Compo never had a chance with this RAF-mad girl. Lily was ugly, but only from the front. Then we get Mildred, a loud welder, apparently.

'I Sold Kirk Douglas The Dimple'

‘I Sold Kirk Douglas The Dimple’

Bob: And then we meet a new character – Junk-shop owner Percy Westerfield, or ‘Dirk’ as he now insists on being called. As soon as he appeared, I shouted ‘JOE MELIA!’ with unseemly abandon, making both dogs scatter in panic across the front room. A fine character actor, Joe Melia… beloved of us science fiction geeks for playing Mr Prosser in The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy, but he’s also the delightfully amoral journalist Ron Rust in A Very Peculiar Practice, the viewing of which – like archery practice on a Sunday – should be on the statute books as a compulsory weekly activity for all adults.

Good to see Dirk wearing a classic comedy slogan T-Shirt as well… ‘I Sold Kirk Douglas The Dimple’ is emblazoned unashamedly across his chest. The comedy T-shirt is a quintessentially 1980s phenomenon, and a couple of years before this episode aired you could barely move in Britain’s High Streets for ‘I Shot JR’ T-shirts hanging from shop windows. And wobbling beer guts. The practice still exists in the minds of weird 50-year-old men who proudly strut around in public wearing hilarious ‘If Found, Please Return To The Pub’ T-shirts, but the rest of the world – thankfully – seems to have moved on.

Andrew: I actually quite like Dirk nee Percy as a character and wonder whether we’re going to see him again?

Bob: He’s certainly a great ‘deluded’ character in the classic sitcom style. Despite being the owner of a rather run-down second-hand shop, he still considers himself to be a future millionaire, without ever stooping to being ‘your flash-in-the-pan overnight whizzkid’. Anyway, he allows Compo, Clegg and Foggy to rummage for spare bike parts in the shed, in order to construct a bicycle each to continue their two-wheeled adventures…

Andrew: One thing that really strikes me about this episode, particularly the scenes where the trio are putting their bicycles together, is just how much fun they’re having. There’s little in the way of moaning or complaining, and just look at the glee that Foggy and Compo exhibit when gently ribbing one another for their efforts. It’s a little bit special and reminds us why these characters continue to knock about together, despite their many setbacks and fallings-out.

Clegg, officially having fun

Clegg, officially having fun

Bob: Roy Clarke’s very good at that. Amidst all the friction between Summer Wine’s main characters, there’s always something that reminds you that – beneath it all – they’re actually very fond of each other. It can be a single line, or even just a warm glance between the barbs, but it’s always there. Very important.

Andrew: In a move that I expect will upset you, Sid’s Café has undergone some extensive renovations, doing away, as Clegg puts it, with ‘the homely air of neglect’. This doesn’t bother me at all, however, as the set now looks exactly as it did when I was growing up with the show. I think this was my first burst of nostalgia. I wonder if this move to brighten the place up is part of Alan J.W. Bell’s influence on the series.

Bob: Ha! I’ve written exactly that in my notes.‘They’ve redecorated – I don’t like it’. I suspect that, if we watched one of the Blamire episodes again, we’d be surprised at how filthy and run-down all of the sets and locations look in comparison to this brave new era. There was a real grimy, soot-stained bleakness to life in 1973 that was beginning to fade from sight in the spruced-up, computerized 1980s.

I’m glad you’ve got a nostalgia blast, though! You’ll be going all fuzzy on me from here.

Anyway, nice to see Nora and especially Wally making much more regular appearances in this series. Some funny lines for Nora in particular in this scene, including her musings on men. ‘I blame television,’ she grumbles. ‘They see all these funny ideas. People enjoying themselves…’

Andrew: Wally in whites almost doesn’t look like Wally.

Bob: I’m sorry, but you could dress Wally Batty up as Carmen Miranda and he’d still look like Wally Batty. There’s no getting away from THAT FACE.

Andrew: If Gladwin had stuck around for a few more years I’m sure  Roy Clarke would have had him dressed up as Carmen Miranda.

One thing this episode does– probably better than any episode so far – is to skilfully blend Clarke’s verbal humour with the slapstick elements of the series. I didn’t feel short-changed on either front and the episode’s comic climax, in which our trio tumble head first from Foggy’s new take on the tandem bicycle, is rooted within the series logic. Unlike Wally’s pigeon-shaped hang glider, I can totally believe that this is something Foggy would come up with and have the ability to construct.

They've redecorated. We don't like it.

They’ve redecorated. We don’t like it.

Bob: Yes, Foggy joins three bikes together by the handlebars to make a treble-seated monster, and it’s absolutely believable. The scenes in which they road-test the bike look lovely as well… freewheeling fun on a bright summers day.

Andrew: I also really enjoyed the scene with our trio attempted to eat ‘continental style’ outside the café. Ronnie Hazlehurst’s Parisian take on the series’ theme tune is beautiful, and the action is taken straight out of a Laurel and Hardy or Chaplin short from the silent era.

Bob: Absolutely! ‘They’re going to get it continental style’, deadpans Jane Freeman, refusing to allow our scruffy trio to slurp their tea in her newly-refurbished café. It’s such a well-worn 70s double entendre that I heartily applaud Roy Clarke for having the audacity to use it! There’s a whole scene in Are You Being Served – The Movie in which Captain Peacock and Mrs Slocombe debate whether they’d prefer it ‘English or continental style’. Their breakfast, of course. What else?

And you say Chaplin, I’ve written Jacques Tati in my notes! Same difference. Yeah, a lovely little homage to silent cinema, with our heroes’ attempts to eat in the yard being disturbed by unruly schoolkids, careless car-washers and funeral processions alike, all with barely a word spoken. All, as you say, accompanied by Ronnie Hazlehurst’s beautifully Gallic-sounding accordion music. We should probably talk more about Ronnie Hazelhurst on this blog sometime… he’s the unsung hero of Summer Wine. Didn’t he compose completely unique scores for every episode? I can’t think of many other TV shows in which the incidental music is such an integral and recognisable part of the atmosphere.

Andrew: All in all, probably one of my favourites so far.

Bob: Me too. Series 6 has been a joy so far, and I can absolutely understand why this was the year in which the show really began to elevate to national treasure status.

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