Tuesday, 20 June 2017

TV Times 17th June 1967

A selection of articles and adverts for the week of 17th June 1967.

The State of the Nation

An article promoting The State of the Nation in which the Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, will face tough questions on his economic policy. There will be questions from men from unions, men from industry, men from the City, a man from a university, a man from the press, a man from France, a man from America and from the man in the street.

At the time, the UK economy was viewed rather poorly due to a trade deficit. Basically, the UK imported more than it exported. The books had not been great for a number of years but 1967 was the year things really went to pot. The 'international situation' mentioned at the bottom is likely to be the Six Day War. This would raise the price of petrol, putting further pressure on the government. There were also a number of major industrial strikes throughout the year. By November, the government would take the decision to devalue the pound. £1 went from equalling $2.80 down to $2.40, the idea being it would make British goods cheaper abroad. Less than a fortnight later, the UK was denied entry to the European Economic Community (EEC), or European Union (EU) as it is has now become.

Harold Wilson's address to the nation attempted to reassure the public.

Play Bill

A 20-year-old Felicity Kendall is in Friday's Half Hour Story, 'Gone and Never Called Me Mother'.


A couple of readers are frustrated by a lack of repeats and they would particularly like to see 'some of the better plays' again.

Repeats are few and far between in 1967's TV Times. Actors' contracts and limited broadcasting hours mean they provide little appeal to broadcasters. Children's programmes are the most likely to be repeated, including the likes of Thunderbirds and The Adventures of Robin Hood. Also, in this issue, there are repeats of popular series, The Saint and The Avengers.


'Carter's have made me feel younger, brighter and more healthy' says Mrs G. Aldridge of Walsgrave, Coventry. 'Carter's are a safe, gentle but certain laxative'.


'Things happen in colour - remember them in colour'

Although photography had been around for some time, it had been many years before portable cameras were available to the masses. Like television, it began in black and white and so manufacturers then have to try to push the benefits of paying more for colour film. There are few colour pages in 1967's TV Times and even fewer colour adverts. The most likely candidates to pay extra for colour are tobacco companies and film or camera manufacturers. The Kodak adverts usually play on emotions and often contain photos of children. Even today, it is still the case that people start taking more photographs once they have children. This spur of the moment photo of a beautiful view with a figure in shadow is an interestingly slightly different take. Having the rest of the page in black and white also really draws attention to the colours.

Monday, 29 May 2017

TV Times 27th May 1967

A selection of articles and adverts for the week of 27th May 1967.

Miss Anglia Will Need Beauty Plus...

This article sets out to find some hints on 'How - To - Make - Yourself - Sparkle - Before - The - Judges' for Miss Anglia '67. I must say I am baffled by the whole beauty competition concept. Despite all the claims made in this article about personality and 'an inner beauty', it all feels rather hollow. If it is genuinely considered at all, the comment that personality is there 'to garnish your natural feminine appeal' makes it clear what really counts. Who wants a garnish?

Interestingly, the article does turn to four women and only one man to seek tips.

'But who would have sound advice to pass on to the girls? I decided to ask the people who devote a lot of their time to the world of love, marriage, beautiful women, handsome men - the writers of romantic fiction.'

Barbara Cartland, Sylvia Thorpe, Ivy Ferrari, Mary Burchell and Walter Boore are the authors consulted. They all provide variations on the personality trope.

First place gets £200, second takes £100 and both go through to the National Final of the Miss ITV competition. Third place receives £50. These are not insignificant sums in 1967 and would undoubtedly be a large part of the appeal for many of the young ladies.

Lessons that go on and on...

On Wednesday Siggy and the Changelings shows two new primary schools that have adopted an unstructured school day. Lessons are not rigid and flow among one another. The recently abandoned 11+ exam has opened up the possibilities for different teaching styles. The writer, Graeme Kay, went to visit both schools and encountered a couple of interesting aspects.

'When I rang Royce to make an appointment a 10-year-old answered the phone. A nine-year-old makes his daily rounds as the school weather man, checking temperatures and issuing weather bulletins.'

The article describes the schools as radical and being unfamiliar with a typical 1960s' primary school day, it is difficult for me to judge. Some of the ideas certainly ring bells with my own education many years later. A teacher describes an English, Maths and baking lesson all in one as, 'the children write and read out the recipe, hence the English lesson. Then when we take it from the oven, the cake is cut into fractions - halves, quarters, eighths, and so on. Thus we get a maths' lesson before the children demolish the cake.' There is also a photo of a girl measuring a boy with the caption telling us, 'Learning arithmetic this way gives children a personal interest.'

The children appear to flourish. John England, a headteacher and former president of the National Union of Teachers praises the schools, before going on to make a firm point. 'But let's get one thing straight. You can never take all the drudgery out of school work. At some point a child must get to grips with a subject or problem he doesn't like.' An official from the Manchester Education Authority pointed out that most schools don't have the resources of these two, which also both have far fewer pupils than most schools.

Wish You Were Here...

Anthony Morton, Sue Nicholls, Noele Gordon and Lew Luton pose on the shore.

Four of the Crossroads regulars pose in Djerba, Tunisia, whilst taking a break from filming there. I am absolutely baffled as to how Crossroads ended up filming in Tunisia and the cast must have thought all their Christmases had come at once. How does a soap opera centred around a hotel in the West Midlands end up in Tunisia? We want some beach scenes - where shall we go? I grant you the West Midlands region is not awash with coastline. If we wanted to go to the beach for the day when I was a kid, it was at least a four hour round trip. However, though they may be slightly less beautiful, there are nearer sandy parts than Djerba, Tunisia.

Swing Through Summer With Bulmers!

Send off the paper or foil seals and you can save money on a beach towel, a folding table, an insulated bag and sleeping bag. The sleeping bag has an 'attractive, gay cotton cover'. All you need to do is buy several, I presume, bottles of Woodpecker or Strongbow cider. I had never heard of Woodpecker. Wikipedia states sales to have declined by a third since 2001 and yet Sainsbury's claims it to be the third biggest draught cider in the UK. Oddly, I am inclined to believe the former.

The Harry Driver Story: Part One
Triumph Over Tragedy

A scriptwriter for George and the Dragon as well as Coronation Street, Harry Driver discusses how he got his success. After contracting polio, Harry was paralysed from the neck down but eventually persisted to become a writer. Harry was 25 when he contracted polio, something that surprised me because I had only ever heard about polio being contracted by children. Harry's descriptions of his suffering really convey what a terrible disease it is. 'All this rubbish about having thoughts and feeling sorry for yourself. In fact, you're just interested in breathing for the next ten minutes, nothing else!' He spent over a year lying in an iron lung, where the nurses fixed up a mirror so he could see who he was talking to and was able to watch television. Harry seems to have picked writing as one of the few jobs he could do despite being paralysed. He was very concerned about being able to provide for his young family. Overall, the picture painted is a devastating one. Harry may have made a success of himself, but there would be many who didn't. It is odd to think of such a debilitating disease still being so prevalent up until the 1950s.

Speaking out

(Mrs) M. Edgar of Harrogate, Yorks. is appalled at the use of Americanisms in The Avengers as she heard 'petrol being referred to as gas, and flat as apartment'. TV Times takes a sarcy tone, saying she wins the prize letter for that week. Her prize? '5 dollars and 88 cents.'

Mrs Jacki Boardman goes all the way with Frigidaire!

Ooh-er etc. The young lady looks ecstatic to be surrounded by drawings of modern white goods. Apparently there was the money for a photograph of her but alas, not of any of the products.

Over 250,000 Women enjoy wearing this wonderful Girdle every day

For only 16 shillings a month for five months, you could enjoy this 'light as thistledown but immensely strong' Girdle. For who-only-knows-what-reason, they need to know your occupation or 'Husband's if married'. Quite why you would need to know someone's husband's occupation before sending them a Girdle is beyond me.

Leaving School?

School leavers are invited to send for a book on the Royal Navy. The top line is appropriate for the time of year but virtually every issue of TV Times seems to have at least one advert for the armed forces. This one has three. National Service had only ended a few years before and though the armed forces were being reduced in size, there was still a need to woo young recruits in. Good prospects, decent pay, the opportunity to travel and learn a trade all usually feature in these adverts.

Why doesn't someone bring out a refrigerator as carefully made as my Singer sewing machine?

'Someone has!' Although the name is usually associated with the sewing machine, it appears Singer branched off into other products. Fridges seem a rather bold move but 'You can trust SINGER'.

The trousers that look after themselves

Two women admire a pair of men's trousers because they won't have to iron them.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

TV Times 20th May 1967

A selection of articles and adverts from TV Times for the week beginning 20th May 1967.

Lanning at Large - Up With The Cup!

It's FA Cup Final week and ITV are covering it - Tottenham Hotspurs and Chelsea. The BBC will be broadcasting the match too. Not many club matches were broadcast on television at all as there were still concerns about match attendance numbers. But the FA Cup Final provides the choice of both BBC and ITV's coverage! Dave Lanning's Lanning at Large segment is a regular feature of TV Times and this week he has been to visit the FA Cup trophy.

The location of the cup is top secret so he starts to feel as though he has stepped into a clandestine world. The World Cup was stolen in Britain the previous year so 'big-time soccer is understandably jumpy about its silverware'. Lanning writes, 'no official is permitted to be photographed with the Cup' but fortunately he is not an official and a cheery photo accompanies the article.

Nonetheless, he describes the cup in detail. 'The end of the rainbow is 19in. high, 10in. wide, and weighs 175oz'. For those of you who only do metric, that is 48.26cm high, 25.4cm wide, and just under 5kg. As the cup weighs 11 pounds, Lanning reckons that must be why the players all pass it around so much in the victory lap - 'it gets to be quite a weight for one man to carry for a whole lap, particularly after 90 minutes of flat out football'.  One oddity of the article, and indeed for others of this period, is the interchanging use of 'football' and 'soccer', as we now usually regard the latter as an American word.

Among the facts we learn is the Cup is the third trophy for the FA Cup. The first was stolen in 1895 and the second withdrawn in 1910 after it was found to have been duplicated. Lanning is shocked at the low value of the cup - it is insured for £300, around £5000 today. For scrap silver, it would fetch about £75 (£1250 today). No small sum but perhaps not enough for a cup 'kings, queens, legendary soccer skippers have held'. This trophy would be retired in 1991, after becoming too fragile.

We also learn that 'in 1955 Newcastle's jubilant players, about to swig the celebratory champers, found a set of false teeth in the bottom' and 'in 1964 West Ham startled soccer by drinking milk from the Cup'.

I won't spoil the score because you can watch six minutes of highlights below, courtesy of British Pathé. A 'faces in the crowd' section at half time makes it well worth it. Also look out for Tottenham captain, Dave Mackay, kissing goalkeeper, Pat Jennings.


Granada is launching a new programme showcasing talent from the North. It will be a 'nightly three-minute showcase for newcomers'.

First up on Monday is 13-year-old Kathy Jones. The commentator helpfully tells us 'I hate this song' though admits her version 'makes it sound most attractive'. Kathy Jones would later play Tricia Hopkins in Coronation Street from 1973-6 and present A Handful of Songs in 1973.

Two Yorkshire lads, Lenny Westley and Danny Clarke, form Foggy Dew-o. They would release two albums the following year but Lenny then went into hospital with a rare lung disease. Some time after his recovery they started up again and lasted several more years before disbanding in 1973. Fun fact: Danny's real name was Granville.

Jazz-blues seven-piece, (The) John Evan Band, are set to be the most successful as they are the forerunners to Jethro Tull. Ian Anderson gets a credit as 'the composer and bearded vocalist'.

I was unable to find out any information about either Bill Brennan or The Cumbrian Folk so one presumes they found little long-term success from their 15 minutes of fame. This is a shame as I would have liked to have found out more about Bill, 'a contact lens consultant'.


Cliff Richard gets a full page colour photo to tell us his series, Cliff!, is back on Wednesday. We are told little about it with TV Times seeing fit only to give us the most vital information: 'there will be 14 girls - three singers and 11 dancers'.

Armchair Theatre: The Snares of Death

This play starring Richard O'Calloghan and Alfred Burke is described as a black comedy. Set in 1919, it depicts an undertaker in a small town. There are only so many people in a small town and apparently not enough of them are dying so the undertaker (Burke) 'plots a way out of his troubles with a forged death certificate'. Intriguingly, 'the plan takes a macabre twist when Rupert (Callaghan) decides to elaborate on the scheme'.

The other Richard O'Calloghan play alluded to in this preview is The Division, which goes out on Thursday. The Armchair Theatre previews in TV Times are often excellent like this. An increasingly frustrating problem presented here is finding out the episodes exist but are not released on DVD. However, we can present a colour photo of Alfred Burke printed in TV Times. This would often be the only way of seeing stars in colour. When I was watching Public Eye and first reached the colour episodes I was shocked to discover Alfred Burke had blonde hair as I had always presumed it to be dark! There are also a couple of colour photos from the set of 'The Snares of Death'.

Susan Maughan - Ideal Traveller

A singer, Susan Maughan enjoyed success throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. Her column in TV Times usually specifically addresses women and contains fashion, make-up and housekeeping advice. What else could a lady want... Here, she informs us 'a housecoat is a must'.

Do It Yourself - Tampax Tampons

The crux of this advert seems to be that if you can put up a bookcase then you can insert a tampon. What baffles me is it seems to imply someone else was doing both of these things before.

Russian Cameras and Radios

I love that the advert includes a map to show readers where Russia is but fail to label the UK on the map. 'from RUSSIA - the nation that photographed the MOON!' 'DON'T BE CONFUSED BY IMITATIONS! MAKE NO MISTAKE - OURS IS RUSSIAN!' I have some doubts about the Soviet Union's technological prowess in consumer goods. An item described as 'AN IRON CURTAIN MIRACLE!' and 'NOT JUST A RADIO BUT TECHNOLOGICAL MAGIC!' just doesn't inspire a great deal of confidence in me.

These are part of a full page advert from a mail order company, Headquarter & General Supplies, which is quite possibly the blandest name for a company ever invented. In fact, it sounds like a cover name along the lines of James Bond's Universal Exports. Whilst looking them up I ended up on a couple of dodgy websites so I am still not convinced of their legitimacy. However, they did exist and eventually had a number of physical stores before going bust in the 1970s.


This is far from the sexiest of ads for Levi's but is probably the most badly illustrated.

Friday, 12 May 2017

TV Times 13th May 1967

A personal pick of articles and adverts from TV Times for the week of 13th May 1967.

A Cathedral For Our Times

Two pages are given over to an article by the Archbishop of Westminster on the opening of The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool's new Roman Catholic cathedral. It had more glass than any other cathedral in Europe and the central altar was constructed from a 19 ton block of marble imported from the exotic climes of Yugoslavia. Having visited Liverpool and had the cathedral pointed out to me from a tour bus, I can say with confidence that today (well in 2013 at least), it remains a stunning building. In 1967 the opening ceremony was televised, though Cardinal John C. Heenan lamented, 'The pity is that colour television will not be available'. Colour was on its way and due to be launched later that year. I could not say for certain but I reckon the chances of a religious programme being one of the first to be shown in colour would have been slim. All the same, the programme is on for over an hour on Sunday evening. The feature goes on to describe the cathedral as 'the most exciting building to be erected in Britain for 25 years'. I would like to see TV Times' definition of 'exciting', considering the Post Office Tower had been constructed only a few years before. A magnificent colour photo of the new cathedral graces the cover of this issue.

My View - Alun Owen

An interview with writer Alun Owen, who has written the first play in a new series, Half Hour Story. He feels some drama has too much padding and 30 minutes (25 minutes, 30 seconds with adverts) is ideal for certain stories. 'Television is ideal for the small cast in a confined space, capturing a small moment in time'. A modern series that represents this perfectly for me is Inside No. 9. It often tells a story in real time and utilises a small but excellent cast. Alun Owen's greatest claim to fame is for writing the screenplay to The Beatles' first film, A Hard Day's Night, for which he was nominated for an Oscar. His Half Hour Story, 'Shelter', is included with other episodes from the series in an Alan Clarke collection.

Swing into the Seventies with Stork

Stork, the margarine company, are inviting us to 'Swing into the Seventies' with a competition to win 'one of many fabulous prizes of the future!' There are 50 first prizes of a colour television. 'These sets receive both colour and black and white. Colour programmes are expected to start later this year'. It is a decent prize too as the sets are 25 inches! My last CRT one was only three inches bigger. As well as the tellies there are many other 'trend-setting' prizes on offer too. 50 second prizes of a 13 inch black and white portable, 100 third prizes of a cassette tape recorder, 100 fourth prizes of a portable record player and finally, 2000 fifth prizes of your choice of an LP. To enter, go to a shop, pick up a Stork competition pack, choose four programmes 'in the order they would best appear to make an enjoyable evening's viewing for all the family', say which would be the best in colour, then send it off. Are you a couple? Do you live alone? Best make it up. Stork wants viewing for all the family.

By now, adverts for colour televisions are starting to crop up a lot in TV Times so readers will be well aware of the looming change. For many though, the price difference compared to a black and white set, as well as the higher licence fee, is going to be too much. It will be about ten years before the number of colour licences overtakes the number of black and white ones.

A CHALLENGE to This Week's team

Jeremy Isaacs' article on current affairs programmes is most interesting. There is concern in television land that everything has been done before and they worry about attracting viewers with something new. He also points out how short a period current affairs on television has been around for - a little over ten years. He gives an insight into early programming, saying, 'Only ten years ago, television did not dare to report by-elections, to put hard questions to Prime Ministers, to deal with unmentionables like illegitimacy or abortion, to devote more than a few skimpy minutes to any serious topic, no matter how important.' It really does give insight into how much has changed and how quickly.

Isaacs goes on to emphasise the difference made by current affairs programmes by 'responsible treatment of difficult topics' - the 'responsible' part is perhaps a swipe at any drama explorations. 'If people today are more tolerant of the mentally sick, the unmarried mother, the homosexual, it is undoubtedly because television has broken down barriers to communication'. It is difficult to measure this of course but Isaacs asserts these have been 'taboo' topics so to see them discussed at all could well have been a first for many viewers. He also mentions the fact that with television, it brought these subjects into the home. For some, this would probably have been horrifying but nonetheless, it was bringing them closer to reality.

Finally, a mention of the future. From July, 'Every week-night, at 10 o'clock, ITN will mount a half-hour news programme of a type not yet attempted in Britain'. For me, News at Ten has always existed so it is quite odd to think of it as once having been something completely different. The daily news was shorter prior to this, though there were longer weekly current affairs shows. News at Ten was expected to prove a serious challenge to them: 'The producers of weekly current affairs shows will have to ask themselves, even more forcibly than before, not just: "What have we got to say?" but: "What have we got to say that someone else hasn't said already?"'

Tivvy Club - Keeping Britain clean

As I understand it, Tivvy is the little creature in the corner and the Tivvy Club was something children could send off for. A letter in another issue revealed that the messages printed in TV Times could be decoded with information sent through as part of the club.

This Tivvy Club section intrigued me as I had never heard of a tax on soap. Tivvy informs us it was brought in by Charles I and removed by William Ewart Gladstone in 1852.

Viewpoint is the page for viewers' letters and one reveals that a previous issue's Tivvy cartoon demonstrated something quite dangerous.

Goblin Teasmade

In some ways, a Teasmade seems like the best invention there ever was for Britain. But then central heating became widespread and getting out of bed in the winter seemed a lot easier than setting up a Teasmade every night. Nowadays, if you really want to, you can set kettles to boil from your phone.

Big Fry - 100 day special offer!

Collect some wrappers and get money off a load of goods. The face of Big Fry is George Lazenby, who would achieve much greater fame a couple of years later as James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I particularly like the drawings of the various items here.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Auf Wiedersehen, Pet

Until last year, I believed Auf Wiedersehen, Pet was a sitcom set in a pet shop. I have no idea exactly why or when this image of a northern pet shop had formed in my mind. Suffice to say, it was a tad off the mark. One day, perhaps someone will write about the hilarious adventures of the employees at Perfect Pets as they grapple with escaped tarantulas and randy rabbits.

Yesterday - the TV channel - began repeating Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. The programme is a comedy-drama, a genre description that always leaves me somewhat hesitant. It makes me worry that the comedy will be mediocre and the drama will be lacking any real, well, drama. When I watched an episode for the first time last year, I didn't know what to expect and was left intrigued but not quite gripped enough to rush out to buy the DVDs. These repeats felt like the best opportunity to see the series fully.

It's the early eighties and tradesmen around the UK are struggling to get any work. Some have looked abroad and made some contacts in Germany, who are keen to hire them. In the first episode, we follow three blokes from the North East as they make their way over. The plan is to put in a few months' graft and save up before going back to their families.

The first episode, If I Were a Carpenter, does a good job of setting up the series. In the episode I had watched, one of the things I struggled with was trying to keep track of the characters. We are gradually introduced to them in this opening episode, ensuring I could learn most of their names. There is a lot to fit into this episode but we still manage to discover a bit of character background.

An initial summing up of the magnificent seven:

Neville (Kevin Whately) is a young brickie who desperately wants to make some money so he can buy a nice house in a decent area for him and his wife. He didn't want to go to Germany but feels he has no choice. He misses his wife a lot and appears to write her at least three postcards before they even reach their accommodation. 
Dennis (Tim Healey) is a family man with two young children and has worked in Germany several times before. He has convinced Neville to come over and is the one with the German contacts. We learn he and his wife have separated. 
Oz (Jimmy Nail) has a wife back home but unlike Neville, has no qualms about leaving her. He heads to a brothel on their first night in Dusseldorf. 
Wayne (Gary Holton) is a young Southern lad with long hair that has bits of blue in it. Most of the time he has headphones on and also seems to do quite well at chatting up the local barmaids. 
Barry (Timothy Spall) is a Brummie that Dennis has met in Germany before. He rides a motorbike and likes to stay in with peace and quiet. 
Bomber (Pat Roach) hails from near Bristol and in the first episode is planning to go home as he has work lined up there. However, the night before he is supposed to leave he gambles all his money away so has to stay on.
Moxey (Christopher Fairbank) is a Liverpudlian who doesn't appear until the second episode. He is warmly welcomed because he owns a dartboard. In later episodes, we will find out he is a convicted arsonist.

The second episode is titled Who Won the War Anyway? and instantly in my head, Basil Fawlty is screaming at his German guests, "Who won the bloody war anyway?"

There is plenty of German spoken very well in the episode; enough to convince me that some of the actors are the genuine article. Checking IMDB afterwards, I find they are. None of it is subtitled. I prefer this because I think it would be distracting and for the most part, it is not necessary. Some of the lines are simply background chatter and anyone could take a good guess at much of the rest based on the context. As I'm learning German myself, I do spend a lot of time trying to work out what is being said.

Oz is incredibly anti-German and wants nothing to do with them. He is there to work and have a good time. Though, funnily, his reluctance to be near the Germans does not extend to some of the women. He winds the rest of them up and is generally a bit of a dick. It does, of course, come back to the war. It's Dennis who points out that their fathers were probably fighting each other and this remark made me realise just how close the war still is for them. 1945 is the equivalent distance from 1983 as 1979 is from 2017. Apart from Oz, the workers have no real problem with the Germans, realising that the blokes they work with are not Nazis.

The impact of the war is brought much closer when Neville discovers an unexploded bomb on the building site. It's a great reminder that Britain bombed Germany's civilians too. Oz is bizarrely proud that it's a British bomb until it is pointed out that "it didn't go off". A local news crew come and interview Neville, drawn on the novelty that it was a British man who discovered the British bomb.

Neville has made friends with one of the German locals, Helmut Fischer, who invites him over for dinner. Together, they watch themselves on the evening news. Yet it is only Helmut who actually speaks any English. When Herman pops out to buy more booze after dinner, Neville is left with Herman's father. What follows is an awkward few minutes in which the two attempt to communicate. It was excruciatingly familiar to me. But I loved how well they both improvised. Herr Fischer Senior takes out a photograph album and starts showing it to Neville, pointing out a submarine that he was on. He tells Neville the name of it and Neville pieces it together, doing his best to explain that his own grandfather was on a vessel sunk by the submarine Herr Fischer had been on. Neville gets very excited during all this before saying of his grandfather, "He was killed." It is such a wonderfully odd juxtaposition to throw in, having Neville become so enthusiastic about this connection.

The Girls They Left Behind gives us a look at the wives of Neville, Dennis and Oz back in England. Neville is scraping together as much as possible to send back to his Brenda and Dennis likewise sends plenty back for his kids. However, we learn that Oz hasn't sent a penny back to his wife, Marjorie. What's more, she doesn't even know he's out there until she gets in touch with Dennis's wife, Vera.

Oz really is incredibly unlikeable. He's expecting Marjorie to claim benefits in his absence so thinks she should be able to get by without his money. Several of the other guys are shocked to discover Oz has a child too as he's never mentioned him before.

Dennis and Oz travel to see Sunderland play in Belgium. Oz gets hammered with some other fans and wakes up on a plane going to Newcastle. He has nowhere to go but home to Marjorie, saying he has come home because he felt bad about the letter she sent. But he's found out when the letter comes back in the post that morning with 'not known at this address' written on. Even worse, when he returns to Dusseldorf, he discovers the lads picked up his pay packet for him and, not expecting him back, sent it to the North East.

It's nice to see Oz get some sort of comeuppance for his behaviour. His marriage does not seem like it can last though. Knowing what Oz is getting up to in Germany, Marjorie decides to spend the night with a man who only leaves just before Oz arrives. Oz is content to spend all his money in the bar every weekend so it is unlikely he will change his ways.

In Suspicion, some money is stolen from Neville and a watch from Oz. The hut goes from a bunch of mates to men who all deeply distrust each other. It tests the new friendships and exposes the faults they all feel about each other.

Bomber's daughter has run away in Home Thoughts From Abroad. He becomes very quiet and is clearly deeply worried about her, eventually choosing to head home. He plans to take the train but the others all have a whip round so he can a flight. When she actually turns up in Germany the other lads make a good job of looking after. Despite her coming on to him, Wayne turns her down, feeling it a step over the mark.

Whilst the first few episodes have tended to focus on the three Geordie blokes, this one starts to give the others a chance to shine. Apart from his oddity of speaking about himself in the third person, we know little about Bomber before this episode. Wayne has also been absent, usually because he is off chasing girls.

A highlight of this episode is when some of the lads, missing home, decide to pay a visit to an Indian restaurant. Oz is at his dreadful best.

Oz: Would ya credit, eh? Indian waiter what cannae speak English! 
Dennis: Aye, well, we are in Germany, Oz. 
Oz: Well exactly. So why isn't he speaking English? I mean he's one of us, isn't he? I mean, this is a curry house, isn't it? Cannae get more British than that, can ya, eh?

The Accused was really hard to watch. A German girl insists Neville escort her home, though she is actually just trying to make her boyfriend jealous. Afterwards, the police arrest Neville but none of them speak English. He is terrified and has no idea what is going on. My limited German meant I picked it up slightly earlier than we are told but anyone could have taken a guess. The woman has accused Neville of sexually assaulting her. It is an utterly dreadful ordeal for Neville and the support of the other guys becomes important. A terrible thing is used to show just how close they have become.

Dennis has begun seeing Dagma, a local German lady who works in the office on the site. However, he doesn't want the others to know anything about it for fear of what they will say. He does not want them discussing Dagma like they do other women. In Private Lives, Wayne is trying to teach Barry how to woo women and they end up chasing after some Swedish air hostesses. They are staying in a hotel, the same hotel where Dennis and Dagma have gone for the weekend. Dennis is not a happy man.

Desperate to get out into the country for the weekend, the lads pack up the car in The Fugitive. The highlight of this episode is Ray Winstone as an army deserter. When the lads bump into him he invents various stories to explain himself before the truth eventually comes out.

The Alien was the one episode I had seen before. The reason I struggled with it perhaps is that much of the attention is directed towards Magowan, a violent Irishman, who ends up sharing the hut. Through blackmailing the site boss, Herr Grunwald (they spot him in a porn cinema), they manage to get Magowan sacked. Unfortunately, he does nick the dartboard. The gang end up in the porn cinema looking for Neville, though it turns out he has been taking guitar lessons in a room above it. The porn cinema is a foreign concept to me as I am far too young to remember them, even if my small town had had one. Do any of them still exist? I think of them as a very 1970s' thing. Videos came along and gave full-colour porn to the masses. No need for middle-aged men to spend lunchtimes wanking underneath a trenchcoat. We moved on to the Internet, of course. Now everyone can do it however they please in the comfort of their own homes.

Perhaps the visit to the cinema is what inspired Oz in Last Rites to begin smuggling mucky videos back to the UK. He attempts to hide them in a coffin but it goes to pot when the guy ends up getting cremated.

The final few episodes of the first series, The Lovers, Love and Other Four-Letter Words and When the Boat Goes Out all have a focus on relationships and the prospect of going home. Oz goes out with a German girl who believes him to be the son of a tycoon. Meanwhile, Dennis is getting close with Dagma but has everything thrown up in the air when his wife, Vera, comes over. He believed she just wanted to finalise some divorce details but she confesses she isn't sure she wants the divorce. Dennis is left having to choose whether to give things another go or continue with his plan to stay in Germany with Dagma. He chooses his marriage because of the kids. I didn't want him to.

Wayne has fallen for a new German woman in the offices and deciding to become a one-woman man, chooses to stay in Germany. Neville can't wait to get back to Brenda and Bomber to his kids. Oz is happy to leave the Erics. Barry is taking his bike off to Saudia Arabia. Moxey wants to stay in Germany.

Everything is in place for them each to go their separate ways. Then, on their final night, a fire starts in the hut, destroying tickets, money and passports. It leaves the series open-ended.

Having loved the first series of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, I ploughed on enthusiastically with the second and then the third, at which point I chucked it in. I think the programme would have been better if they had all ended up back in Germany and it is certainly what I had expected to happen. Perhaps the writers felt the storylines were exhausted but with seven blokes, there was surely plenty more to explore. Moxey in particular never received a great deal of plot attention.

The second series feels a tad disconnected with the gang meeting in Birmingham, then going to Derbyshire and finally Spain. The third series comes around 15 years later and already things are out of joint because Gary Holton had passed away during the filming of the second series. Though both of these series do attempt to recreate the 'trapped' nature of the lads' original existence in the German hut, they never quite manage it. They are too close to family and home. There are also much greater story arcs. That first series is so very much about the characters, far more than any of the plots.

Personally, I will choose to think of Aud Wiedersehen, Pet as a one-off and I am content to ignore the existence of the later series. Becoming absorbed in the goings on of the hut was an enjoyable experience. Apart from anything, I have become fond of one or two Geordie turns of phrase, including:
"gan" for "gone"
"gadgie" for "man"
"bairn" for "child"
"Ha'way, man" as a general exclamation
The first series is magnificent and brings together some talented young guys. We get to explore some interesting characters, who are all quite different in their ways but have been thrust together by circumstance.