Thursday, 6 December 2007

Christmas DVD Preview 2008 Part Two

That Bit on Hi-De-Hi! Where Peggy and Spike are Dressed as a Pantomime Horse Riding on the Back of a Real Horse (For Some Reason) and Boozy Old Mr Partridge is There Drinking Booze and Eating a Banana and he Looks at the Booze and Looks at the Banana and he Throws the Banana Away

RRP: $45.60

From Britain’s best-loved comedy comes Britain’s best-loved scene from Britain’s best-loved comedy! Everyone – WITHOUT FAIL – remembers where they were when they first saw this textbook piece of al fresco slapstick. Now it’s available in a special extended collector’s edition for you to own. (Well, for you to buy, let’s be honest, but if we talk about you ‘owning’ the thing that sounds more cosy and less rampantly profit-orientated. To tell the truth, we don’t care if you stick the thing up your arse, as long as you paid for it).


The famous scene in question, shorn of the rest of the programme it appeared in and shown entirely out of context (and probably cut to ribbons to boot, I’ll be bound).

Commentaries from everyone - and we mean everyone – involved. Jeffrey Holland and Su Pollard contribute fulsome praise for each other’s acting talents and other trad reminiscences along ‘the BBC tea kept us going’ lines.

The late Leslie Dwyer’s private diaries are ransacked and read out by a computer with his voice in a similar manner to that Tom Baker messaging service.

The late Simon Cadell does the same with a comic ‘review’ of the scene written by ‘Joe Maplin!’

Paul Shane applies his ‘rules of comedy’ to the scene. In song!

Barry Howard grins painfully, and Felix Bowness spends five minutes silently jumping up and down and ranting about something or other (audio only).

Someone in the production office suddenly gets the faint, sickening inkling in the back of his mind that this gag might be a rip-off of something WC Fields did in about 1932, but no-one bothers to go out and check.

Bonus Features:

Su Pollard’s ‘Oo Makes a Luvverly Cupp-aaah!’ donkey advert for Ty-Phoo!

Plus five more hours of solid Pollard!

Coming Soon:

That Bit Where Barry Whispers to Yvonne what Joe Maplin Means by the Term ‘Merchant Bankers’, and Yvonne Winces.

‘Pies, Pies, Who Wants a Custard Pie?’

The Complete Gladys-Sylvia Stand-offs (Commentary by Barry Davies)

Knit Yourself Funny!: Jeffrey Holland’s Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Woollen Versions of Every One of Spike’s Comedy Costumes

‘I Just Sort of Stood Next to the Webb Twins and Waved’: A Personal Journey by Chris Andrews.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Christmas DVD Preview 2008 Part One

Let's Make An Aimless Noise Right Here!: Twenty five years of arts-funded dustbin banging.

RRP: $13.99

Stomp, the internationally famous troupe of tiresomely eager-looking DIY percussionists, have been making a vaguely rhythmic noise on amusingly prosaic bits of waste metal for a quarter of a century, under various aliases so as to avoid detection. To celebrate this year's announcement that Stomp's act will not only be opening the 2012 Olympics Game, but will in fact be replacing them, and everything else, on British television for the entire fortnight, this DVD brings together for the first time every televisual appearance of the noisome crew's various incarnations.


Pookiesnackenburger's dustbin-tapping Heineken ad!

Every awards ceremony appearance Stomp have made to the end of 2006, which at last count was 263, though it feels like about 739. Bonus disc includes footage of ceremony audience looking nonplussed, bored, restless, in pain etc.

Yvette Fielding gamely joining in with a couple of kids banging plastic pipes with wooden spoons as Urban Strawberry Lunch take over the Blue Peter studio! For five minutes!

Every Yes-No People appearance on Andrea Arnold's slightly odd lunchtime eco-warrior magazine A Beetle Called Derek!

Ben Elton making that gag about someone nicking all the Yes-No People's instruments on Saturday Live!

The titles to late, lamented proto-Word Magazine Channel Four music show Wired, featuring the percussive stylings of the Yes-No People. And to enable you to enjoy the music better, we've handily blanked out all those distracting computer graphics with a big picture of a bloke in overalls grinning like a loon!

They were probably on that thing with Craig Charles and all, but I can't bear to look.


The Genesis of Stomp: leading players talk about the collective's formative years, including the moment one of them saw the start of the video for Down Under by Men at Work and thought: 'I'll have that!'

A downloadable PDF of Stomp's secret plan to infiltrate and destroy the Tap Dogs, The Blue Man Group, Cirque De Soileil and any other quirky-yet-Royal-Command-friendly novelty act on the planet by 2009!

Over To You! The Stomp ethos is all about joining in (after you've purchased the official product), so here's a step-by-step guide on how to go about setting up your own tappity-tap refuse collective. Includes tips on dustbin lid-sexing, and how to choreograph those routines where one of you walks about pretending to look bored, then starts flicking at a tin can or something, and the rest of the team leap up one by one to add to the spontaneous fun. Plus how to clear Covent Garden market of all shoppers in under ten minutes!

Saturday, 1 December 2007

'There's a ten shilling note! Remember them?'

Well, by popular demand, here's Kate workshopping a mime accompaniment to her selective-appeal-era 'Ealing comedy in four minutes' There Goes a Tenner on Stansfieldian gantrified roustabout Razzamatazz.

No need to go through a step-by-step deconstruction of this, as it's pretty much all of a piece, but do watch out for:

00:00 : Razzamatazz's helpful overhead display for non-Cockney viewers: 'KATE BUSH THERE GOES A TENNER £10')

00:00 - 00:20 : Kate's tribute to Michael Palin's tentative, Ministry-rejected silly walk.

00:35 - 00:40 : Leather trousers, T-shirt, prancing about - why, it's Sally James in Four Bucketeers mode! (According to one comment here, La James presented this very episode. The news that evening contained a grim bulletin on a nationwide spate of teenage spontaneous combustion.)

00:55 : 'Audience joined in with the 'waiting' mime rather nicely, I thought.' 'I think they were just confused, Alistair.'

01:20 : Pull-focus on MG horn, Mr Director!

01:52 : Missed opportunity - A. Pirrie or similar fails to hove into shot dressed as Edward G Robinson.

02:30 : 'Have you ever wondered what would happen if they made a Rita Tushingham Muppet? I think it might look something... like this!'

02:50 : A ukulele mime - lovely.

03:05 : Admit it, you've secretly been spending this entire song thinking, 'I wonder if they're going to..?' Well, they do! They do!

And for comparison, here's the official video version, which isn't that amazing, apart from the Great Big Pendulum:

See, surely the video for this song should have Kate herself playing the three (or is it four?) gang mambers she does accents for in the song, with loads of wobbly split screen. Or have I misunderstood things?

Friday, 30 November 2007

The Kate Bush Tactics Truck #1

In these fractious and turbulent times (and I sincerely hope someone's enjoying that cream horn I was saving for later, chiz chiz), we look for guidance to the great artists of history. A world of shifting consequences can, we hope, be imbued with some sense of order if we study the classics. And nowhere, surely, is there a greater repository of spiritual and geopolitical wisdom than the video oeuvre of Kate Bush.


Let's start off with something accessible and basic. Nothing particularly legendary about this track, manifestly ace though it is, and positively fantastic for a fourth-off-the-album potboiler. But the Bush attention to detail didn't slack at these moments, as the gloriously overwrought video shows.

1) 'It's a film...'
We start off with loads of dry ice, and various historical figures including a WWII pilot standing about and waving, which is clearly a reference to A Matter of Life and Death. Er, or Close Encounters. Or The History of the World Part One. Anyway, it's a film reference of summat or other. Oh, and here comes Kate. Notice how, at this stage of her career, she somehow manages to be mumsy and girly at the same time. (Furtively adjusts Adidas bag on lap.)

2) Springwatch 2086
What every well-dressed post-apocalyptic twitcher should be sporting as they perch nimbly on a basalt plinth to watch the sky boil away. (Time Machine-style giant scorpions not pictured.) Here Kate's just about to hand over to Bill, who's got some terrific news about the family of house martins in that Swaffham rectory.

3) 'S-T-I-M-I-L-A-T-I-N-G! Stimulatin'!'
A kestrel for a knave, or rather for no other reason than it looks great. This sleek bird of prey is never more at home than in front of the Life on Earth title sequence. (Kate also turns up at about this point dressed as Napoleon while someone empties a watering can over her head, which is self-explanatory, really.)

4) Qua-diddly-qua-qua!
Time to step things up a gear, with the tried and tested gambit of flamenco dancing furiously towards the camera with a bunch of oddly-dressed mates. Ten years later, R&B videos would consist of nothing else, but here it's just another choreographical dumpling in Kate's cultural stew.

5) Taking Tiger Mountain by Dancercise
How many videos during this period ended up in a big warehouse full of rubble with loads of blokes with flags running about? Red Box, Killing Joke, Duran Duran, er... Bad News's Burning, Looting, Raping, Shooting... you can think of a hundred more. The end result: when the Berlin Wall finally fell, those delirious, epoch-defining 'hands across No Man's Land' parties looked strangely familiar.

6) 'Hey, Superman, where are you now..?'
Genesis's Land of Confusion, there's another! Which also featured a bloke dressed as Superman, though not running about as prattishly as this one.

7) Going to a Go-Go
Never let it be said Kate lost her sense of goofy fun at this point. The Ninth Wave may have been a tad heavy on the conceptual song cycle roughage for some listeners, but she wasn't above ending her videos with a joyfully daffy auntie-left-alone-with-the-Bailey's-on-Boxing-Night wig out. 'See you next time, on Blockbusters!'

Friday, 23 November 2007

Kangabang '82

It's 1982! Fun, love and experimentation are in the air! The Space Shuttle is finally working! The ZX Spectrum is teaching us to laugh! And an entire generation of young men are - cough - beginning to come of age. If you could sum up this year in a single image, what would it be? Might it be the one, say, at 2:25 here?

Yes folks, for a certain segment of the British populace nothing says 1982 quite like Kate Bush wanking off a laser beam. And just off camera, don't forget there's Rolf Harris and Percy Edwards, beavering away in their booths. 'Hey, that's OK, Junior. I am confused also.' Tony Benn writes: 'Thish ish exshactly the short of thing I was pushing towardsh when I accshepted the poshition of Poshtmashter General.'

And here's something in better taste - Very Good Taste, in fact.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

No Really, Who IS this Clown?

I’d have mentioned this even if I wasn’t namechecked in it, honest, but Talk About the Passion is a podcast about fandom wherein rubber-limbed former Play School presenter Ben Baker interviews a worshipper of a different area of pop ephemera every single day. If you would like to join in at home you’ll need a candle, some bread, and the 1973 Trumpton annual with you.

Today’s guest is TJ Worthington, the subject is Watch with Mother, and the rest writes itself. One of the points raised was the indefinable scariness of the clown who appeared at the end of Camberwick Green, operating the credit roller. It’s usually agreed by scholars that this terror is down to a mixture of our natural fear of clowns, the slow, deliberate movements of this particular one, and that crashing discord at the end.

But there are a few other horrifying things about this scene. Here’s a summary of the latest research.

Well, we’re not given any clues, are we? That snazzy purple and brown striped wallpaper aside, our poor friend seems to be in limbo, vis-à-vis the geography of the ‘Green. This leads inevitably to point 3).

Well, we do have other clues, but they just make things more worrying. There’s a lute in front of him. Now this must mean a) he’s tapping into the Fairport Convention market; b) He’s Sting; c) He’s fallen through time from the 16th century like some kind of Catweazle-esque children’s-programme-within-a-children’s-programme; or d) Camberwick Green itself takes place in the 16th century, and not modern times like you thought! Ha! Fooled you all along! (Copyright M Night Shyamalan.)

If we take the most rational explanation – ie that he’s the Catweazle of Trumpton – then we must unhappily conclude that the poor sod, fresh out of his own era and maybe a little groggy, has been kidnapped and forced to do toil in the credit dungeon for the term of his natural life. PC McGarry (number 452) is on a Madeline-style quest to find the fellow (Codename ‘lost dog’). When he first arrived in Camberwick (quite an event in itself for a village visited most days by nobody whatsoever) he enchanted all around with his eccentrically medieval ways and delightful ballads detailing his aliases in various European countries. That stripy wallpaper leads to Jonathan Bell being the most likely culprit, luring this temporal immigrant to his go-ahead farm with the promise of easy labour and plentiful beer and wenches, then sending the hapless bloke down below for lifetime of slavery. A Masonic handshake at the farm gates keeps PC McGarry away – but for how long? Paddy and Mary Murphy investigate! Etc.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Telly Selly Time #2: Instant Doggerel

They say time is a two-way street. The further one gets from a specific period, the vaguer memories become, but simultaneously it can be brought into sharper focus. The 1980s are a case in point. By now, there's a whole phalanx of clichés - shoulder pads, big mobile phones, ra-ra skirts, that British Gas share price unveiling ceremony on the side of a skyscraper that didn't quite work - which enable the lazy and the half-bothered to miss the point as effortlessly as they can with any other previous decade. But similarly, little bits of ephemera float to the surface, mundane little noodles which just happen to sum up a time in thirty seconds more accurately and succinctly than a thousand Peter Yorks. And here it is.

You'll have to bear with your ISP as you chug through that daytime telly address caption, I'm afraid. And don't be fooled by that absurdly ostentatious Rover advert - it may look like the commercial in question, but it's the one that comes next which holds the real riches. Let's go!

"I'm a fashion model!
I'm right on top!"

Ooh, there's so much going on here! Well actually there isn't, but it looks like there is, and maybe that's the point. The basics first - it's the mid-'80s, and it's fashion. First thing we hear, naturally, is the frenzied sound of the auto-wind mechanism on an Olympus Trip. Yes, it's been a good five years since Girls on Film, but the old grams are the best. To accompany this, the visuals have gone for that Paintboxy cut-'n'-paste look, a la The Clothes Show when Selina Scott and that woman who makes belts out of Coke cans were still on it. A kind of not-quite-experimental 'let's make the telly look like a pace of Blitz!' effect, which of course never works, and thus adds to the charm.

The only appropriate musical accompaniment to a slightly aimless Paintbox wilderness is, of course, a slightly aimless Fairlight wilderness. Hence the sloppily-applied guitar chord samples. (Nearly two years before Tone Loc, ad fans! And nearly two years more rubbish, but never mind.) And over the top? A rapping model, of course. Despite the best efforts of Whose Line is it Anyway? by 1986 it was still possible to go on the telly and rap in a sort of plodding, Mr Plow way in whatever accent you liked, thus embarrassing anyone under seventeen. (Nowadays of course, you have to try your damndest to sound a bit 'street' and do lots of bits of business with your knuckles, thus embarrassing everybody.) The accent our model friend has chosen, of course, is Squeaky Sloane, a sort of transitionally girlish register somewhere between Anneka Rice and Toyah Willcox. This should make things all the more annoying, but actually it's rather sweet, rendering the opening lines more in the manner of a small child plundering the dressing-up box than a haughty bitch pushing her ill-gotten career in your face.

"Always busy!
No time to stop!"

Of course you are, dear! Never mind the fact you seem to have hit on a job that doesn't actually require you to move a muscle. (In fact, our friend's head, if you look closely, has been severely restrained in order to make that bit of 'changing outfit' telly magic work, seemingly in one of those Victorian neck-braces Henry Fox-Talbot used to screw dowagers into prior to one of his famous hour-long-exposure daguerreotypes.) But what we have here is a daintily rapped example of that great 1980s advertising innovation, The Bird's Eye Fallacy.

Bird's Eye, as the slogan had it, was 'the bird of freedom', liberating people from their busy routines by flogging square lumps of cod in unopenable bags. Of course, everyone knew that to heat up one of these tasty polythene-cocooned creatures, or indeed to pop a breeding pair of its close cousin, the Findus Crispy Pancake, under the eye-level, took as long if not longer than it would to, say, make a nice sandwich or something. The only time you would, logically, choose the former over the latter is if you just plain couldn't be arsed making a nice sandwich, and would be happy with the relative surfeit of starch, red hot parsley sauce and guilt that came from making a pact with the Bird of Freedom as long as it let you off all that daunting business with the bread knife. So it was understood, almost from day one, that 'your busy lifestyle' was flattering code for 'your lazy fat arse', and advertisers and consumers got on with their busy lives accordingly.

"I drink Instant Bovril when my body's on go!"

Now, you might think the incongruity of the product in this fashionable context would constitute a 'steps back in amazement!' reveal. Not a bit of it. There it is, plain and businesslike, in her hand (after she's changed into a weird-looking 'and this is me' leotard ensemble). A lesser advertiser would make more of that incongruity: There'd be a big posh flat in Frankfurt or somewhere international like that, with all the models lounging elegantly about drinking Perrier and Moet and stuff like that. Then, in walks the Head Model (whoever she was at the time - Marie Helvin or Koo Stark or Maria Whittaker - I'm no expert) drinking openly from a mug of - shock on the untermodels' faces! - Bovril! In fact, this was done a few years later, with Jerry Hall being all smugly contrary with her beverage (Your Mum: 'Cuh! Bet she's never touched a drop in her life!'), but that's in the distant future. Here it's just brought out - literally - of nowhere like a cow-based cousin of the Nescafe beans. There's also a doctoral thesis to be written on the linguistics of the phrase 'my body's on go', but that's for greater minds than mine to wrestle with.

"One cup - twenty calories!
That's real low!

And another thesis please, Doctor, on what led her to substitute the winsomely transatlantic 'real' for the more appropriate 'really'. But then we are moving in a mad and confusing world, where you could be strapped to a brace in Milan one day, and screwed to a support in New York the next. Perhaps to reflect this mind-boggling chaos, our man at the Fairlight chooses this moment to unleash his piece-de-resistance, accompanying the pack shot with a couple of bars of The Beach Boys' Help Me Rhonda played on car horns by a performing seal. Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman and Nigel Ogden combined couldn't have put it better, whatever 'it' is. Less successful is that echoey 'yeah!', presumably meant as a yelp of agreement from The Woman in the Street as to the product's Bovrilly goodness, though it's more likely to put you in mind of the poor girl who had to go on Top of the Pops, stand behind a sweater-clad Bill Withers, and mime to those 'Hey! Hey!' samples that plagued that '80s Lovely Day remix. Even Kit and the Widow would have trumped that.

"It's quick to mix, it's the taste for me!
Instant Bovril: naturally!"

So we've had Point One of this advert - Bovril = slim = models! But the luckless copywriters have been given two points to get over in their allotted thirty seconds by the Beef Corporation of London (or whoever), namely the inherent naturalness of the stuff. That's a mechanically-extracted essence of beef carcasses, a product of the industrial revolution, as repackaged into instant powdered form during the heady, nuclear-powered days of the space race. Good luck with that account, old chap! Oh, and the china cup may provide the requisite modelly glamour, but it's breaking one of the cardinal rules of advertising, which clearly states that all homely drinks - Bovril, Horlicks, Cup-a-Soup, Lemsip - must by law be consumed on camera from a big colourful mug with the product's name emblazoned on the front. You muck about with this sort of thing at your peril.

"Whatever the city, you'll hear my voice!
Instant Bovril, the natural choice!"

Not so much tying things up as floundering with them for thirty seconds in the manner of Clive Dunn trying to put up a deckchair, then giving up and throwing them in a heap in the corner of the room, our model signs off before being wheeled away to the catwalks of Paris, with only her Olympus Trip and Swan jug kettle for company. It's been special. Indeed, this ad holds its hypnotic power to this day, if the likes of this fellow are anything to go by. Ah, those illustrious blue eyes...

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Whoops-ooh! Aren't you looking slim, mum?

There is no significance in this choice of image whatsoever.
In my day, 'milf' was a word used as an abbreviation for 'Milford Haven' when giving hurried written directions to Pembrokeshire boy scouts. Nowadays it has a slightly different meaning.

I won't go into its creepy acronymic derivation here. (Why not Google the word yourself? Don't forget to present your findings to the boss!) Suffice to say it's yet another lexicographical gift bestowed upon us by the world of pornography, they of 'fluff', 'wood' and 'maudling' fame. Its existence, rather depressingly, implies that the supply of pictures of women old enough to have been in the audience for Razzamatazz is now a niche market in the flesh trade, to be filed away alongside one-legged mulatto hookers, Mexican dwarf pimps and other Tom Waits song subjects.

All very grim of course, but yet... what a great word! Clearly no thought at all has gone into its coining, as what could sound less feminine? It sounds like the nickname of a 1930s Sheffield millworker who eats dripping sandwiches and plays overlapping full-back for the factory team on Sundays. ''As thee cleaned them bung-throttles out yet, young Milfred?' ''Appen as not, Gaffer Willoughby. Ahm still up t'me trussies wi' untafflin' yon clag-shunter.' And what about Milf Lunn? Milfred Pickles? Milf Harris? Acker Milf! Milfred Milf!

The more you say it, the more abstract it becomes. (And the more you get funny looks on the bus, but that's a small price to pay.) So, if English is indeed doomed to become the international language of the nasty little dickhead by 2021, at least let's have more words like 'milf', which are funny as well as crass. Make mine milf!

Wednesday, 31 October 2007


This morning, while bumbling through notes for an article I've got to complete in a couple of weeks time, I found myself thinking 'Ho hum. Suppose I'll have to go and watch School for Scoundrels again, then.' Then I froze, having realised I'd just passed one of the tests commonly used in institutions to identify insanity.

I don't really hate the prospect of watching Terry-Thomas and co again. That's not physically possible. But that moment of madness made me wonder about the problems of making a vocation out of a hobby. The upsides are many and obvious: you get paid for having fun, you can justify spending that essential little bit more on stuff you'd otherwise have a hard time rationalising, and friends and family start to lay off the shouts of 'you're wasting your time!' A bit.

But there can be a downside, which is that you're in danger of exhausting the subject, exhausting your own patience and generally boring yourself rigid with the whole thing. As Patrick Moore used to say about the sun collapsing, 'Don't worry, that's not likely to happen for a good few billion years yet.' But occasionally you do start to wonder...

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Telly Selly Time #1: Castle's On the Air

If you're anything like me, any mention by rolled-up suits of the 'art' of advertising is enough to drive you nuts. Not necessarily due to sound political ideals (in fact, more of a general low-level nonspecific irritation than anything else), a firm belief was ingrained on our generation that nothing made to flog cold cocoa and wing nuts can even pretend to aspire to the levels of pure-spun art, like Picasso's Guernica or the Captain Zep theme. But sometimes an ad comes along that makes you wonder. Take a look at this commercial break from 1980, in particular the second ad in:

Nothing too remarkable about the elements here - a Geoff Love-ish backing over some reliably grainy 'living catalogue' vignettes with a spot of 'here are our hard-working girls' Real People Showcasing for good populist measure. Obviously the involvement of Roy Castle, never knowingly giving less than 110% percent of his considerable self, is a hint that things might get a little bit special, as is Woolies' track record with big Christmas extravaganza ads. (This isn't Christmas-specific of course, but it still overreaches your standard commercial by some way.) But this is somewhat mightier than even this promising pedigree would suggest. Let's start from the top.

"Sis finds Cover Plus the right paint and saves money on the white paint,
Larry carries ladders round with ease."

How the hell do you approach an opening line like that? We don't know how long Roy had to prepare his little bit of dialogue situation, but the nameless writer's doing him no favours here. Straight off the bat with what amounts to a tongue twister that's bad enough to speak, let alone sing along to a tune it doesn't even fit properly. But Castle, who may well only have seen this song hours or even minutes before the recording session, breezes through it with aplomb, refusing to make a meal of that hideous 'right paint/white paint' conjuncture and skating as nimbly as is possible over that mis-stressed 'and'. In fact, getting through the line intact, without fumbling a syllable or sounding like you're about to burst with scary madness, is no mean feat. All water of a Castle's back, you suppose, but the way he sinks down into the next line ('...with eeeeeeaaaase!') with such relish signifies that maybe Roy is as glad to see the back of it as we are.

Oh, and 'sis'? What's going on here? Either this woman is Roy's sister (which she isn't), or called 'Sissy' (which seems unlikely) or she's sibling to Larry, aka Jacko's mate off of Brush Strokes. But - spoiler alert! - at the end of the ad we see them cutely painting each other's noses in what can only be taken to be A PLAYFUL PRELUDE TO GETTING IT ON. Where this leaves Cover Plus is unclear. Anyway, time enough to pick that shit apart on Thursday's Kaleidoscope, as we're straight into the next vignette:

"He gets all the help he needs from his long extension lead,
And Fiona's
Flymo mower's sure to please."

Things are looking up in the lyrical department. Not only is this couplet something Roy can actually sing along to the tune he's been given, but the first line even has a bit of rhythmic bounce to it. Granted, this is all but done in by that wrong-footing 'Flymo mowers' howler, but you can't have everything. Roy sensibly eases back and takes it easy here, as he knows what's coming next, and it ain't pretty.

"This growing board
Even Jill can carry,
Just ad water - wow! - and Harry
Finds going straight for Woolies value really pays."

What in God's name is going on here? No sooner have we been introduced to the delectable Fiona and her mower in a change of scenery, then the camera's whipped away from her (bet she fumed to her agent when she saw the final cut) and plonked in a greenhouse, with Castle's breathless 'THIS GROWING BOARD!!!' scaring the shit out of everyone. It takes something special to make Roy Castle sound terrifying, but shouting 'THIS GROWING BOARD!!!' far too loud and far too fast because the idiot songwriter can't fit all the products into three verses just about manages it. It'd work for anyone. Imagine walking down a dark alley when Richard Briers leaps out from the shadows, bellowing 'THIS GROWING BOARD!!!' at the top of his honeyed voice. You'd run, wouldn't you?

It gets worse yet. You can see what they've tried to do with the next bit, splitting it up 'cleverly' over the stanza from 'carry' to 'Harry', but such winsome precociousness just hasn't the clout to register, what with 'THIS GROWING BOARD!!!' still ringing in our ears, and the whole thing just sounds like what it is, a muddled mess. Still, good on Roy for managing, in the middle of an unstoppable upward crescendo, to give that 'wow!' a seperate emphasis without derailing the rhythm, or giving himself a hernia.

"Everybody needs a Woolworth's store these days."

And relax! This is Larry's Easy Ladder times ten, as Roy, clearly feeling the burn in that wretched greenhouse, slips into the vocal equivalent of a velour lounge suit with undisguised gratitude. Also, note Jacko's mate winding up his extension lead to the left of the greenhouse. Are all these people supposed to be living together? What a strange extended family this is proving to be.

"This super switch-off kettle is what switches on Samantha."

At last, a quality lyric! Neither too clever nor too gallumphing, the easy alliteration enables Roy to bounce along after he's got his breath back from that regrettable episode of moments earlier. He's genuinely enthused - note how his native accent pushes its way past the transatlantic crooner stylings for the word 'kettle'. It's as if Roy's as excited about the kettle as Samantha clearly is. And why not?

"Brian's Binatone is great for his cassettes."

Another lyrical blinder seals this ad's greatness. Note the change in Roy's voice from desperation to admiration. He's sweated and strained over this song's many irritating quirks, and now his reward is some of the finest rhythmic poetry these Isles have yet produced. A newfound respect grows between composer and singer. This is MUSIC, people!

The rest of the commercial is relatively routine, tidying up the incestuous relations of the Woolies' DIY family (hopefully Social Services were alerted to Jill's predicament before it was too late), panning across some Chevron cassettes, a bloke with a dubbed on bass voice, which was considered inherently hilarious throughout the '70s and well into the '80s (Obie Benson of the Four Tops was well pissed off). Oh, and some strangely manic laughter over a cup of tea from a couple who are either so helplessly in love with each other every workaday act is filled with deranged mutual glee, or are dangerously unhinged and are about to borrow Larry's power tools to slaughter each other, and maybe Fiona as well if she's foolish enough to stick her pleasing Flymo nose round the door. Woolies would go on to grander things, peaking in the popular consciousness with Joe Brown's gargantuan concept meisterwerk, It's The Latest Greatest Ever More Spectacular Woolworth's Christmas Show, or Sales from Topographic Oceans as it's known in the trade. But those prog behemoths never matched the simple, freewheeling showbiz glamour of Roy Castle and the Homemakers, effortlessly evocative of the time a trip to Woolies was a real event, every store an Alladin's cave with pick-'n'-mix by the door, records at the back and, if you were lucky, Mark Hyland's sister who worked as Saturday girl on the third floor would let you and your mates sit on the swing seats when the manager was out. A lost era. Do they still sell growing boards, even?

Third Time's a Charm

Why am I doing this? Having started two blogs which quickly ran squealing under the voluminous petticoats of Dame Apathy, it might be argued that starting 'that difficult third blog' is asking for grief. A stronger man would think 'Now, hold on there just a minute, Derek [or similar Stronger Man's Name]. Have you actually got Something To Say, or are you just mindlessly pitching in to the latest daft fad that everyone else seems to be at, though tellingly about six months after half of them have decided it's all old hat now anyway? Put down the mouse and get your old fishing cap on. Take the greyhound for a walk along the canal. Fire up the old St Bruno. You don't need all this mimsy-whimsy neologistic nonsense. By the way, mine's a Mackeson's. Mellow and smooth. Rich and invigorating. A drink that brings liveliness back to tired bodies. Strength and life in every glass, when the long day's work is over at last. And still only 11p a pint. MACKESON'S STOUT sets you up wonderfully. '

Anyway, there it is, done. If you're reading this by accident in July 2009, and wondering why this is the only entry on a sadly sparse sliver of HTML, there's your answer. And with all that cowardly funk out of the way... let's go!