Sunday 19 November 2017

Bonding over Carry On Regardless

My grandfather passed away back in 2009. We were never really that close, in fact in my younger years I was almost scared of him. Looking back, he really was the Scottish incarnation of Arthur Lowe's Captain Mainwaring from Dad's Army. He was rather gruff, officious and pretty much always right. Pomposity was his default setting and he loved nothing better than meddling in some low level civic intrigue at the local council, church or down the golf club. A big fish in a small pond.

Why am I writing about this? Well recently I watched the brilliant Carry On Regardless for the first time in a while. I had written up a blog about Kenneth Connor's wonderful performance in that film and decided to refresh my memory in case I had missed anything. I know Norman Hudis always said it was the least favourite of all the films he wrote for the series, but I love Regardless, its episodic nature and the huge cast of well-loved character comedy actors and actresses it found a temporary home for. It might not have the gloss of Carry On Nurse or the warmth of Carry On Teacher, but I'll always have a soft spot for it.

Watching the film gave me a sudden flashback to many years before. As a small boy I sat and watched Carry On Regardless one Saturday afternoon with my grandfather. I had yet to discover the sheer joy of the Carry On films and sat watching this old black and white film completely unaware of what it was really. It was at a time when Channel 4 were running a matinee selection of classic British comedy films each Saturday afternoon I think. My mum and gran had probably gone off shopping or to the garden centre. Wherever they went it took them much longer than most other people - their mouths always worked faster than any other part of them.

By the time I was a teenager I had started spending Saturday afternoons with my dad watching our beloved Kilmarnock football team (or Kilmarnock-nil) as they are perhaps better known. In the early 1990s though, my dad went alone and I often stayed put at my grandparents' house. I didn't often stay with my grandfather as he rarely talked, the living room thick with a fug of pipe smoke and some form of sport blaring out on the television - usually golf. I hated golf then and I hate it even more now. For some reason there was no golf that afternoon, instead there was Carry On Regardless and it was a revelation. 

When I first watched it, Regardless would only have been about thirty years old but it seemed to have come from a different age altogether. I had no idea who any of the funny looking people were - I had yet to fall in love with Joan Sims or become entranced with Sid's crinkly face. I was intrigued by the funny little man with the big nostrils although at that stage I didn't know I'd become rather obsessed with his infamous diaries. I loved the pratfalls, the funny voices and basically just seeing a bunch of grown ups having fun and behaving like kids!

One of the few times my grandfather and I really shared a laugh about anything was that wonderful scene when Joan Sims takes on the job of collecting invitations "in her hot little hands" at the wine tasting. It's always been a favourite of mine and Joan is on sparkling form, getting a rare opportunity to be the star of the scene, and quite a long scene it is too. As she gets progressively more tiddly on screen, we both started to laugh and it became infectious. Tears of laughter streaming down our faces. It's a lovely memory to have of someone I was never really that close to. So thanks Joan for making us laugh and giving me that memory and thanks Norman for writing Regardless. You might not have cared for it much, but I'll always have a great big soft spot for it.

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