Wednesday 10 October 2018

Guest Blog: Carry On and Me

I'm delighted to bring you another lovely guest blog with a Carry On theme. Helena has written about how she came to find the Carry On films and what they have meant to her over the years. It's a really nice read and I hope you enjoy it.

I need to fess up from the start to you all. I am not English. I need to tell you this because as someone who was not delivered into an environment that is intrinsically tuned in to the culture and humour that only the English understand ‘Carry On, I truly believe taught me and my sisters how to be British.

From a very young age when I first witnessed the black and white ‘Carry On s’  ...I was introduced to the subtlety’s of self depreciation, innuendo and British post card humour  which in my everyday immediate circle I never encountered. I had never been on a British seaside holiday and I had never seen a saucy postcard. My experience of ‘the Battleaxe’, ‘camp gentleman’ and vixen etc was extremely limited.

I almost osmotically put two and two together and started seeing these characters in my own environment. I could see how some of my neighbours and teachers store keepers kind of fitted some of these stereotypes. It came alive in my little world.

As an adult I now can I truly appreciate the genius scripts and the comic timing. In addition I can also critique the depiction of women and other not so great things but taken in the paradigm of when they were made I consider the ‘carry Ons’ as works of cinematic art.Yes I can see that the men are lecherous idiots and the women one dimensional and the actors behind the smiles had sad stories. But they shaped my childhood which was largely introspective and based on black and white television. My sisters and I did not look that deeply at the time. As we watch them now we still laugh despite what we know and nostalgically think of an innocent less politically correct world which we know was not necessarily better but less censored.

As I began with confessions may I lay my cards out …these are my own personal favourite top three.

My sisters and I have scrutinised analysed and debated into the small wee hours on this and after much deliberation and reflection we have concluded that these are the beacons in the carry on portfolio and no further discussion is needed. Some of the Carry Ons are far better than others in my humble opinion. Some try too hard to get the laughs .The latter I felt lacked the articulate wit of the early scripts and were just plain smutty. The top three are;
 In no particular order:

Carry On Screaming
Carry On Cleo
Carry On up the Khyber.

My sisters and I have watched these three films so often we can break out into quoting the scripts at whim. While my parents worked day and night in the restaurant trade my sisters and I would cuddle up to watch a carry on whenever it was on TV.

I recall on one particular occasion my mother was home and we were watching the last scene of Khyber ,the dinner party scene and she stood in the middle of the  sitting room staring at the tv screen and said;

‘Why are they eating when there is war?’

The three of us guffawed. And I piped up ‘because they are British mum ‘

She still did not get it. But we did. It was the essence of the British stiff upper lip.

You did not capitulate, certain things were important. A good claret, dressing for dinner, not being rattled. Keeping order not allowing anything to spoil the punctuating rituals that make life civilised. Literally carrying on so that those that wish to de rail the nice order of British life were shown that they could not whatever they did. I may have been young but it was insidiously being embedded into my psyche. To the point when I was Nursing and faced with a builder that had split his head with a dado rail and had plaster all in bits in his hair in casualty I merely responded ‘oh dear you seem to have been a little plastered’ my homage to dear Joan.

My sisters and I were being disconnected from the Greek Mediterranean histrionic responses we were used to. In addition we were learning that you can have an empire and be the land of Shakespeare and routinely take the mickey out of yourself which Carry on did so perfectly. 
Small references within ‘Carry On’ would only make you giggle if you are part of the everyday life in Britain. In ‘Carry On Cleo’ the slave market was’ Marcus & Spencius’ which is just sublimely witty and only funny if like me you knew the addiction and affection the British have towards that particular retailer especially in the 60s and 70s.

Other lines are almost childishly endearing in their deliver include ‘Frying tonight’ always caused side splitting mirth with the three of us especially when we all shouted it out in my dad’s fish and chip shop. My father glared at us as he chucked the chips into the hot oil and we in uniform chorused the famous words.

The Carry On films have long been a part of my family’s entertainment life. The mad humour, double meaning jokes, the classic lines "Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!" from Cleo, all reveal the British sense of humour. They are also a cinematic catalogue of a countries social change; in many areas for example, Sexual attitudes, homosexuality, workers’ rights foreign holidays.

My family and as kind of first generation migrants took them at face value. We had no presumptions that we were watching art and they had no important message. They were simply an affectionate sideways look at Britain, and all the eccentricities and quirks showed what made Britain.

It was an austere Britain of class, sexual repression and spam sandwiches and smog.
I went on to train as a nurse and my colleagues and I fought against the saucy nurse stereotype throughout the 80s . Barbara Windsor has a lot to answer for. But in truth we loved the Carry Ons and I have met many Consultants that have that God like Kenneth Williams’s presence and Dr Nookys among the houseman. We also lament the demise of the compliant patent that obeyed us and did as they were told in deference. Maybe Charles Hawtrey , Sid James et al were predicting the patient rebellion of the future in Carry on Matron ,they knew their rights.

So finally let me say the Carry On films are a British institution for those of us of a certain age’ in the words of Dr Tinkle Enigma’
 … (Of course famously responded to by Mr Roper ‘Oh Im not having another one of those’)

So let’s just carry on watching laughing and enjoying!

A big thank you to Helena for taking the time to write this wonderful guest blog. If you would like to have a go yourself, please either email me at or send me a message via Twitter.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

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