Peter Rhodes on peeks into history, the sitting-down campaign and why the best TV comedy is the shortest-lived

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

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Fawlty Perfection

THANKS for your family memories, those snippets passed down the generations and providing a keyhole into history. A reader writes: "My Grandmother died in 2015 aged 103. She could remember her own grandmother who was born in 1844. Queen Victoria had ascended the throne only seven years earlier!"

WHICH reminds me of the 90-something chap I interviewed who grew up in a village where, all day and every day, one old villager proudly wore the army medal signifying that his father had fought in the Battle of Waterloo, 1815.

FAWLTY Towers has been voted the greatest British sitcom of all time. Part of its success was in following the old showbiz advice: "Always leave 'em wanting more." There were only 12 episodes of Fawlty Towers, starting in 1975, and every one was a cracker.

FORTY years on, Fleabag (BBC1) has just followed John Cleese's same snappy formula - two series each of six episodes, ending this week with Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) walking into the distance with one last half-smile at the camera. There were many loose ends and some great plot possibilities but Waller-Bridge, the creator, says there won't be another series. It becomes a little gem, glistening forever in the generally muddy waters of TV entertainment.

IN total contrast, Last of the Summer Wine ran through 31 weary series and 295 increasingly unfunny episodes and I bet you can't remember any of them.

THIS week I admitted wearing a coat from C&A whose last UK store closed 18 years ago. I should have added that my favourite anorak, now 30 years old, was from Dunn & Co which ceased trading in 1996. If you're a bean-counter, making clothes last this long is a crime against the nation's economic growth. On the other hand, if you're buying new clothes every week at bargain prices, have you any idea what sweatshops they are made in? My ancient Dunn anorak carries three reassuring little words you used to see on lots of clothes: "Made in Britain."

STILL on clothes, work trousers are the quiet revolution among gentlemen of a certain age. If you feel your denim days are over but you're too young for cavalry twill, work trousers are the perfect, low-cost item, complete with fleecy lining and enough zip-up pockets to lose your dentures and bus pass for days on end. However, I can't help noticing that my latest pair do not have a fly. This could be an oversight. But it might be part of the sinister feminist campaign to make men sit down in the loo.

GERMANY has traditionally been a stronghold of loo stander-uppers. They have a delightfully sneering term for a henpecked man who sits down: Sitzpinkler.

INCIDENTALLY, as sunny days beckon and I trawl through the online hotel-booking websites, it is astonishing how many establishments list among their attractions and facilities: "Toilet paper." Five-star living, eh?

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world


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