|"Okay Ivy, what's on the menu?"|
I fell in love with the TV show, “Last of the Summer Wine,” in the mid-90s. Foggy, Norman, and Compo’s misadventures led them all over the Yorkshire countryside. Over the years, series creator Roy Clarke assembled a large cast of characters, often too large to include everyone in every episode. Yet two things seemed certain. Whatever “the boys” got up to, Compo usually provoked Nora Batty, and the trio would end up at Ivy’s Café.
Yet Ivy’s Café was never spelled out on its windows, but merely CAFE. So it came as a surprise to me when, a few years ago, the BBC began issuing the 1970s episodes on DVD in Region 1 (for the U.S. market). Suddenly, the boys didn’t encounter just Ivy in the Café, but a man as well. I came to realize that this man was her husband Sid, and the café was named after him.
At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of Sid. Like most people, he seemed a jumble of contradictions. Sometimes he was a meticulous owner, refusing to give Foggy a paper napkin unless he purchased more than just a cup of tea. Other times, he dispensed food and drinks without regard to the cost. Some days the trio’s antics irritated him. On others he shared Foggy, Norman, and Compo’s childlike enthusiasm. Yet, if Sid erred more in one direction than the other, it seemed he secretly longed to sneak out of the café with his friends, and share in their life of irresponsibility.
Earlier in his life, Roy Clarke had worked as a policeman in a small Yorkshire mining town. Everyday, he watched the workers spill out of the Earth, like ants abandoning their underground world. After long shifts working in dark, confining, and dangerous environs, these men sought to shake off the day’s responsibilities with a little revelry. Yet the town offered them little in the way of diversions.
Roy Clarke noticed that the women in this town were made of even sterner stuff than the men. Yes, their husbands might hew the rocks from the very Earth; they braved claustrophobia, dust-inhalation, asphyxiation, and the constant danger of tunnel collapse, yet it was these browbeating Yorkshire women who kept the men from spending all their hard-earned money on drinking, gambling, or letting off steam in some other manner that would get them into trouble. Later, when he created “Last of the Summer Wine,” Nora Batty became a personification of those tough miner’s wives. Sid’s wife Ivy was another.
|Ivy (and Compo) keep me in line.|
Like most of us, Sid yearned for adventure, but had someone who constantly reminded him to be responsible. He might bark at Compo, Foggy, and Norman, particularly when their attempts to help him do some job in the café ended up wasting his time (or otherwise earned Ivy’s ire), but he secretly admired them for their freedom.
Occasionally, Sid found some excuse to join his friends in their forays, such as to the golf course, or, in the 1977 episode “Jubilee,” to help the vicar with the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations. In the feature-length special, “Getting Sam Home,” he used the café’s catering van to help his friends. It seemed that Sam, having returned that same day from the hospital, had yearned to visit his “affectionate friend” after his wife went to bed. Foggy, Norman, and Campo helped him get there, but the visit proved too rigorous for his delicate constitution. To save Sam’s wife from humiliation, Sid helped Foggy, Norman, and Compo quietly return Sam’s body before his wife realized he had snuck out. Then, when Sam’s wife kept her husband’s body in the shed until the viewing, he helped them transport the body back to…say, you don’t want me to tell you the whole story, do you?
|"Hold on a minute! |
What's all this about 'Exterminating' my dessert?"
Sadly, John Comer, who played Sid, died in 1984. “Getting Sam Home” was his last appearance on the show. Due to his advanced throat cancer, even his voice had to be dubbed by another actor. Yet it is a testament to Sid’s enduring spirit that Ivy carried on running the café in his name right up to the end of the series: nearly thirty years later. Now, when I watch “Last of the Summer Wine” episodes filmed after John Comer’s passing, I remember how Sid’s eyes usually lit up when his friends entered the café, and how, occasionally, he talked Ivy into letting him tag along with Foggy, Norman, and Compo for a little revelry.
I miss Sid.
Thanks for reading,
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