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Double Deckers - To the countryside

Episode 6: Summer Camp
First shown: 17 October 1970 (US), 4 February 1971 (UK)
Director: Harry Booth
Writers: Harry Booth and Glyn Jones
Appearing apart from the Double Deckers:
Melvyn Hayes as Albert the Street Cleaner
Betty Marsden as Millie
Hugh Paddick as Gerald
George Woodbridge as Farmer Giles

Plot

Albert and the gang go camping, much to the annoyance of a couple camping in the next field, but entirely with the approval of the local farmer. Japes ensue when their donkey misbehaves, and then it rains overnight.

Soundtrack

I've put the French version of the opening song up top; "Into the Countryside" is by regular series song-writers Ivor Slaney and Michael Begg, and features some cinematography reminiscent of Procul Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale" (which is from 1967 so it cannot be a coincidence). Do have a watch.

"Granny's Rocking Chair" is a beautiful sweet little song, where for the first time we see the Double Deckers as Billie and her backing singers (minus the sleeping Tiger):

Double Deckers - Grannie's Rocking Chair par love15

"Granny's Rocking Chair" is credited to a Mair Somerton-Davies, of whom little else is known except that she is also credited for a 1966 single by a band called Situation. At least, little was known of her until I contacted her daughter, who told me:

Mum was an amazing lady - she had a group called the Tip Toppers we were based in Watford and used to raise money for mentally handicapped... also we regularly used to put on performances for the elderly and had concerts at Watford Town Hall. Mum had two bands one called Tiles Big Band the other called Manego - these were in addition to the Tip Toppers and also she was a Drama Teacher Song Writer, Teacher and also helped people with speech impediments.

"Granny's rocking chair" actually started off as "Granny's Rocking horse" but then as she put it to music it became "Granny's Rocking Chair". The original theme song for the double Deckers was actually written by Mum but in those days they changed a small part of it and she was never paid royalties on it. The song was called "Get On Board" and the original line was "get on board all you people" and they changed it to "get on board with the double deckers" therefore rewriting some of the melody... originally an album was to have been released called The Kids Next Door... it was a shame she was never fully recognised for her amazing talents.

Let that recognition start here.

(And while we're on music, note the nod to Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice for an early scene with the donkey.)

Glorious moments

This is a real delight of an episode, with two excellent songs and some excellent comedy moments. The potential villain, Farmer Giles, turns out to be a good guy; and the actual villains, the snooty camping couple, are redeemed by ἀγάπη after ὕβρις and νέμεσις.

Less glorious moments

There's a slightly nasty element of class sneering at Millie and Gerald, who are clearly not as respectable as they think they are. (And they sleep in separate beds; and she's unaware of his military record. Interesting.)

What's all this then?

This is so totally derivative of the 1969 film Carry On Camping that it actually has one of the film's main performers, Betty Marsden, in a very similar role. (Though there is no equivalent here of the memorable Barbara Windsor shower scene; this is a kids' show, after all.)

Where's that?

The bridge is the one at Tyke's Water Lake in the grounds of Haberdasher's Aske's School for Boys, three miles from the studios where most of Here Come the Double Deckers was made. The bridge also featured the previous year in the opening titles of several of the Tara King episodes of The Avengers, and was soon used again for the pre-title sequence of Dracula A.D. 1972 starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. The pupils at the school at this time would have included Britain's current minister for Europe, David Lidington, and also my mate Andrew who works for the European Commission.

The other locations are nearby.

Who's that?

This episode has an particularly high-powered guest cast for its time.

Betty Marsden (Millie) was born in 1919, and was particularly well-known for her regular roles in the 1960s radio comedy shows of Kenneth Horne, Beyond Our Ken and Round the Horne. She also appeared in two Carry On films, Carry On Camping, as noted above, and a small part in the 1961 Carry On Regardless. She also plays the tipsy slave auctioneer Verlis in Assassin, a particularly camp episode of Blake's 7. She died in 1998.

Hugh Paddick (Gerald), born in 1915, was also a veteran of Beyond Our Ken and Round the Horne, where he played Kenneth Williams' sidekick and together they made an unsuspecting public aware of Polari. Other than that, he tended to be a straight man to the likes of Tommy Cooper, Jimmy Tarbuck and Morecambe and Wise, though he got two now-forgotten sitcoms of his own, Rentaghost fore-runner Pardon My Genie (he was the Genie) and Can We Get On Now, Please? in which he played the quietly brilliant clerk of the court. He died in 2000.

George Woodbridge (Farmer Giles), born in 1907, was typecast as playing yokels, inn-keepers and farmers in horror films. But at this stage he was moving into more friendly territory, and he really hit the big time as Inigo Pipkin, the kindly old puppeteer in the ITV children's show of the same name, first broadcast in 1973. Unfortunately he died that year, only a few weeks into the filming of the second series. Pipkins, as the show was renamed, actually worked his death into the plot, brave territory for a children's programme. The show ran until 1981.

Glyn Jones (co-writer and script editor) has been mentioned here a few times. I posted about his life here and the extracts from his autobiography relating to Double Deckers here.

See you next week...

...for The Pop Singer.

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