Wednesday, 31 May 2023

TV On The Radio #10: Last Of The Summer Wine

This weekend was the 50th anniversary of Last of the Summer Wine, a sitcom about a bunch of ridiculous Yorkshire pensioners that ran for a total of 31 series before it breathed its last in 2010. I know this because I live in Holmfirth, the village (although it calls itself a town, it's not a town really) in which the show was set, a village which has thrived on LOTSW tourism for half a century. On Saturday, while Sam and I were trying to do our shopping, we had to navigate coach loads of fans (most of them now older than the show's characters) and cosplayers... yes, there were people wandering around dressed as Compo, Foggy, Clegg and Nora Batty. It was, as always, a right pain in the arse.

I watched the show as a kid, because it was just what you did round here. The main appeal was in working out where the location shots were filmed... increasingly, as the years went by, they weren't filmed in Holmfirth at all, but in surrounding villages such as Meltham, Honley, Marsden and Slawit (Slaithwaite) which is where I grew up. The show outlived most of its original cast: Michael Bates, who played Cyril Blamire in the original series, died in 1978. He was replaced by Brian Wilde as Foggy, who stayed with the show, on and off, till the mid-90s. Compo, who gave his name to the local Fish & Chip shop, was the show's main character until actor Bill Owen's death in 1999, after which he was replaced by his son, Tom. Of the originals, only the great Peter Sallis, the voice of Wallace & Gromit, outlived the show, though he was reduced to a sit down role by the final series, replaced in the "action" sequences by younger comedy actors such as Russ Abbott and Burt Kwouk. The show became an old folk's home for British thespians, with Brian Murphy, Frank Thornton, Thora Hird and Jean 'Hilda Ogden' Alexander joining the ranks over the years. Though I bailed out in the late 80s, my mum kept watching it, and still enjoys the repeats on UK Gold (or whatever it's called these days). Summer Wine is a time capsule of a certain type of Yorkshire village and its inhabitants... ironically most of the people who live in Holmfirth these days are comers-in. Compo probably wouldn't be able to afford a house round here anymore. (I barely can.)

Although the phrase "Last of the Summer Wine" sounds like it could originate from a Keats poem, it was actually coined by the show's creator, Roy Clarke, as a metaphor for living out the dregs of one's life in fine style. With that in mind, anyone referring to LOTSW in song must be familiar with the show itself, right?

It's just you and Foucault and my bass guitar
And I've seen you walk on water
And you wash your feet with my hair and my tears
I loved you in the runs the last of the summer wine.

Your guess is as good as mine.

Where have you been, Sonny Jim?
Where have you been all this time?
Drinking the last of the summer wine
On the run in the sun
High on the rocks
West of the Cox 

Well, that's just Unbelievable.

Last of The Summer Wine
First of the Christmas Sherry
I guess it's just
Same poison, different berries

The Hoff name-drop got that one in here. 

This, on the other hand, I actually like... and not just because it also mentions Spider-Man...

Enough time has passed now 
We look like the cast of the Last of the Summer Wine

Mainly because I love the rest of the lyric...

'Cause my friend
You are worth the extra petrol
You are worth the extra data
You are worth the lunch I can't afford
Oh dude I'm like this with all my friends but
Can I come over and platonically play with your hair?
Can I come over and platonically play with your hair?

Pickle Darling are from New Zealand. Which means they must watch Last of the Summer Wine there! Bizarre.

Now here's Dennis Waterman. Yes, that one.

You said your last "I love you"
Drank the last of my summer wine
Took your shadows from my wall, babe
Took everything I thought was mine

As far as I know, Dennis never appeared in LOTSW. But he should have done.

Now, you might be expecting me to close today with this one. (Or you might not. It's hardly a Top 40 smash.)

But no. I'm going to cheat a little. Any excuse to play Nancy and Lee...


  1. Just love that song by Nancy and Lee. Suspected it would be the closer.

    You live in a beautiful part of the country but yes, must be annoying having to fight your way through the tourists. Has the word cosplay been around for long - it keeps popping up in things I’ve been reading. People have always dressed up but now a term for it.


    1. I've been aware of cosplay since the 90s at least. It's particularly prevalent in the comic book community, but appears to have become more mainstream in recent years. But yeah, the term almost seems to have replaced "fancy dress" nowadays.

  2. Another one of those themes - from the master Ronnie Hazelhurst - where you can (almost) sing the title of the show to the music.
    In fact, a quick Google shows that the Mike Sammes Singers did indeed sing to the tune (Never knew that - everyday is a schoolday).

    Sunday Evening: "Do you want to watch TV or have you got some homework to finish"
    Me (on hearing the first few notes of the opening music): "I think I have some homework to do"

    1. I dont think we were the target audience.

  3. Brilliant post, Rol, even if it does describe a pain in the arse experience! The prospect of Compo lookalikes wandering around the place is simultaneously amusing and horrifying.

    I've somehow managed to get through life without ever seeing an episode of LOTSW in full, but Foggy, Compo and Clegg are ingrained in the consciousness as classic comedy characters. There were quite a few shows focusing on "living out the dregs of one's life" shows in the 80s and 90s as I recall: Waiting For God, The Golden Girls and of course One Foot In the Grave. I'm struggling to think of a modern day equivalent that has tapped into this quite as effectively.

    1. They used to call me Victor Meldrew when I was in the 6th Form!

  4. My pals and I are in a WhatsApp group called LOSW.We are often referred to approximately as the Whiners.

    1. I can picture you rolling down a Scottish hillside in a bathtub full of charity shop CDs.


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