evans and rachel



I was a bit bemused by this six-episode sitcom at first, as it seemed such a departure from what Ronnie Barker usually does, but then Ronnie Barker was an unusually gifted and talented individual who could play whatever character he put his mind to, so maybe there’s nothing so bemusing after all about his creating the persona of Plantaganet Evans, a true individual if ever there was one.

He’s a self-centred, egotistical Welshman living in Wales who takes photographs for a living, but he’s no common or garden snapper. Oh no. He’s an artist, an artiste, for whom conditions have to be ‘just so’ before he can click that shutter. Unappreciated in his time, like most geniuses(!), his business is largely unsuccessful, even though there’s plenty to photograph in such a beautiful spot.

Oh, and he does that old-fashioned photographer thing where he sticks his head under a black cloth before he takes the picture, so he’s clearly not using a crappy disposable camera from Boots in a plastic package, lol. He’d probably puke in rage at the thought of such cheap shoddiness…!

His appearance is extremely flamboyant, as befitting the true artiste. He favours big, wide-brimmed hats, big floppy bows in place of a tie, and velvet suits with a real handkerchief in the breast pocket. Very Oscar Wilde. He might even be wearing a smidgeon of black eyeliner for good measure. He’s also the local agent for a certain brand of Scandinavian wood-burning stove on the side, but he doesn’t make much dosh from that. We know this much because we see the defective stove in action, that’s why…!

So, with whom does he share his life, his home and his life’s work? The answer to all three is the attractive and much younger Rachel Harris, a Welsh lady with lovely curly hair who wears tight pencil skirts with fluffy angora cowl-necked sweaters in pale pastel colours. She journals daily about her life with the great man.

She used to work in the office of a haulage/heavy goods firm before Evans ‘rescued’ her and put her ‘in black stockings,’ having no use at all for the functional cotton underwear she used to favour when she worked in haulage.

Now she’s Evans’s photographer’s assistant and live-in housekeeper-cum-girlfriend-cum-all-round-Girl-Friday. She takes great pains to point out that ‘I have my own apartment,’ though, as she’s deeply uncomfortable at the idea of ‘living in sin’ with a man.

She longs for marriage, both as she actually loves the rascally Evans and also because she wants to formalise their living arrangements in the eyes of the ever-watchful community, but Evans is a commitment-phobic rogue who dangles the carrot of marriage over her head at all times, and always just tantalisingly out of reach.

So, basically, Rachel cooks and cleans for Evans, she runs his business and takes his bookings and she carts around his heavy photography equipment with only a little help from Practically Toothless Willie, Evans’s non-talking, alcoholic chauffeur-cum-handyman, who’ll ‘get the hang of it’ eventually.

She wears the sexy underwear he favours- he’s a leg man who adores the sight of a couple of shapely female pins in black stockings- but what does she ever get back in return? He’s stingy with the housekeeping (she frequently has to dip into her own savings to keep the house afloat) and he won’t commit to a wedding date, although he’s quite happy to be engaged indefinitely. Poor Rachel! She could be an old maid before the smug, self-satisfied git that is Evans ever gets round to naming the day.

Her judgemental, prudish sister Bronwyn and her prim and proper husband Probert, who works for the council, are the people who give Rachel the most trouble about ‘living in sin’ with Evans. They even try to get the new vicar involved at one point.

I love the conversation they have when they’re watching out their bedroom window one day as Rachel climbs awkwardly into Evans’s old-fashioned vintage motor car. The car doors don’t work, you see, so it’s a running joke that Rachel has to yank up her tight pencil skirt in order to climb over the sides, thereby flashing her black stockings and suspenders to all and sundry. Bronwyn heaves a huge sigh from across the street and says sadly: ‘I’m glad our old mum isn’t here to see this.’ ‘Where is she then?’ replies Probert. ‘At the hairdresser’s,’ deadpans Bronwyn mournfully…!

There’s more comedy in ‘the mad cyclist,’ and also in Olwin ‘Home Rule’ O’Toole, a fanatical Welsh ‘freedom fighter’ who loves Rachel and keeps trying to get her to leave Evans and go off with him. ‘I’d have married you in a heartbeat,’ he keeps declaring dramatically, but Rachel isn’t swayed, even though a bird in the hand is always worth two in the bush.

She’s holding out for the roguish scallywag Evans, despite the fact that he’s an incorrigible old flirt who openly eyes up anything in a black stocking, the disgraceful old codger. There are worse places to spend your life than on the delightfully quaint street where they live, on a pretty hill surrounded by the most picturesque Welsh scenery, but whether he’ll ever make an honest woman out of Rachel before either of ’em die is anybody’s guess. Why is he so averse to trying matrimony? I mean, it’s not that hard, surely? He’s bound to ‘get the hang of it’ eventually…


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

You can contact Sandra at:


going straight



Aw, I absolutely loved this follow-up to PORRIDGE, the hit sitcom that sees Ronnie Barker as habitual criminal Norman Stanley Fletcher, aka Fletch, being incarcerated in Slade Prison for his continued recidivism. He can’t say he wasn’t warned, lol.

GOING STRAIGHT sees Fletch leaving prison at last, and with a new determination to go straight for a change as well, brought about by the realisation that he’s already spent far too much of his adult life behind bars. He says goodbye to McLaren, the last of their gang on the inside, gets ‘checked out’ by Milton Johns and heads outside to civilian life.

Episode One sees him sharing the train home with his old nemesis from Slade Prison, Mr. MacKay, the tough-as-old-boots Scotsman whose aggressive adherence to rules and regulations has caused him to clash with Fletch on more than one occasion.

Fletch has an opportunity to get revenge on Mr. Mackay when a couple of criminals board the train looking for a ‘patsy,’ but he doesn’t go through with it. Deep down, I think the two men have always had a grudging respect and admiration for each other, and I for one am in floods of tears when they shake hands as equals, as men and friends, and go their separate ways at the end.

In Episode Two, we see Fletch having trouble adjusting to civilian life. His wife has upped and left him for a man named Reg, and his lovely blonde daughter Ingrid has more or less shacked up, in the family home, with a certain lorry-driving Lenny Godber, Fletch’s best mate from Slade Prison and his protegé as well.

Fletch took Lenny under his wing in Slade and helped him to adjust to prison life, while always having an eye to getting out, of course, and now here’s Lenny Godber indecently mauling Ingrid in front of Fletch’s very eyes. It’s very hard for poor Fletch to stomach, much as he will always have a soft spot for Lenny.

Shouldn’t he perhaps get a job, to help him re-adjust to society and life in Civvy Street? No flaming way! Not when he can ‘borrow’ Lenny’s articulated lorry so he can drive to the Essex countryside in the hopes of pulling a ‘Shawshank Redemption’ and digging up some moolah he buried there in another lifetime… Fletch complicates everything unnecessarily while kidding himself he’s actually in search of a simple solution, doesn’t he…?

Episode Three sees Fletch regain some of his faith in human nature when he helps a young runaway to get back onto the straight and narrow, and in Episode Four he actually- hallelujah!- gets a real job as night porter in the Hotel Dolphin, courtesy of his parole officer. He looks so smart in the suit he wears to work, and he takes such a real pride in the work he does there that it’s lovely to see. We’re all genuinely rooting for him to do well and not to slip back into crime.

Ingrid is so incredibly proud of him and Godber is too, and when Fletch brings home his very first pay packet in a small brown envelope, it’s a real day for celebration. That, and also a day for getting back from Fletch what he owes everyone. Even his lanky, grotty teenage son Raymond has his hand out for the share of Fletch’s earnings which is owed to him. Welcome to the real world, Fletch…!

Episode Five sees Fletch nearly losing his precious job over an imagined jewellery scam involving a young Nigel Hawthorne (YES, MINISTER), and in Episode Six he battles his old demons as he tries to earn money dishonestly to pay for Ingrid’s wedding to Godber.

Angry that his estranged wife and her fancy man are shelling out for a lavish reception while Fletch himself hasn’t a bean to contribute, he takes a job as lookout and getaway driver in a bank job. This could be the start of the slippery slope for Norman Stanley Fletcher. Will he take the easy money and risk prison, or will he turn his back on crime forever and live happily ever after with Ingrid and Godber? Our prayers are with you, Fletch…!

If poor tragic Richard Beckinsale had lived, there might have been another series or two made of this much-loved and superbly-written sitcom. As it is, these six episodes are extremely precious in more ways than one, and I look forward to learning them by heart myself in the years to come.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

You can contact Sandra at:





‘Norman Stanley Fletcher, you have pleaded guilty to the charges brought by this court, and it is now my duty to pass sentence… You are an habitual criminal who accepts arrest as an occupational hazard and presumably accepts imprisonment in the same casual manner. We therefore feel constrained to commit you to the maximum term allowed for these offences. You will go to prison for five years.’

‘Ronnie Barker will be remembered for Fletcher in PORRIDGE long after everything else he was in has faded from memory.’ DAILY EXPRESS.

This comedy series set in an English prison is just so good, I’m genuinely gutted that I can never again watch it for the first time with new, excited eyes. I’ll be re-watching it, however, hopefully many times, and I’ll remember it till my dying day as possibly the best, funniest and also the most warm-hearted and true-to-life sitcom I’ve ever seen. Gorblimey, I’m tearing up here. Whatever would Fletch say…?

Norman Stanley Fletcher, better known as Fletch, is a petty criminal whom the Beak is sick and tired of having up in front of him, charged with yet another offence involving thieving or fraud. This time, Fletch is hit with a good stiff sentence… five years in Her Majesty’s Slade Prison, a fictional nick up North somewhere, Cumberland I think, surrounded by moors and suchlike, so escape won’t exactly be an easy option.

Fletch is a hard-as-nails, tough-as-old-boots old lag from the big smoke. Muswell Hill in London, to be precise. Every sentence ends with ‘intcha?,’ as in, aren’t you? and ‘an’ all,’ as in, as well, too, also.

He’s perpetually chewing gum, he doesn’t react with any surprise to the things he hears and sees in the nick because he’s seen and heard it all before, and he’s got his own rather skewed sense of morality. It’s okay, for example, for Fletch to nick a tin of pineapple chunks from the kitchen, but the lag who in turn steals the tin from Fletch is the lowest of the low, innit?

This time round, Fletch has a new young cellmate called Lenny Godber, played by the dreamily handsome Richard Beckinsale who was tragically dead of heart failure by the age of thirty-one.

Fletch, rather grudgingly at first, takes Lenny under his wing, but the two soon find themselves to be friends for life, partly cemented by the confidences they exchange in the wonderful two-handed episode in Series One called ‘A NIGHT IN.’

As well as being drop-dead gorgeous, Lenny is surprisingly thoughtful, insightful and sensitive for a house-breaker serving his first sentence. He’s got an unusually wide vocabulary for a con and a philosophical turn of mind, and he uses the prison’s training programmes and courses of study to better himself.

When Fletch kindly arranges to steal the History O Level Exam papers for a nervous Lenny, Lenny has no trouble deciding that he wants to pass the exam the honest way. Which is just as well because Fletch’s man Warren, dope that he is, has only gone and nicked the wrong bleedin’ paper, ‘asn’t he? Much good the Biology papers will be in this instance.

Fletch doesn’t understand Lenny’s constant quest for self-improvement. He personally just wants to do his time in peace and quiet, if anyone will ever let him. He particularly just wants to lie on his top bunk with the Page Three Stunna of the day and have himself a nice time, nudge nudge, wink wink. Let’s just hope the visiting party from the Home Office have the manners to knock before they enter his bloomin’ cell, lol.

Mister Mackay, or ‘Scotland the Brave,’ is Fletcher’s nemesis, a screw who’s firm but fair. In his own words, he holds all the lags in equal contempt…! Getting one over on Mr. Mackay, whose exaggerated accent and gestures are almost criminally funny, is probably the thing that brings Fletch the most pleasure in life inside.

You see, the little victories Fletch manages to wring from Mackay in particular and the prison system in general are what makes life behind bars bearable. Look out for Fletch’s hilarious description of how the terminally regimented Mr. Mackay has sex with his wife. Bellows: ‘Stand by your bed…! One, two, three… knickers down… NOW…!’

Mr. Mackay has a foil, of course (for every bad cop there’s a good cop), in the form of the nervous, rather jittery but undoubtedly kind-hearted Mr. Barrowclough. He’s a progressive thinker who believes that the men in his care are there to be rehabilitated and treated as human beings rather than lowlives for whom there’s no hope. Mr. Mackay thinks Barrowclough is for the birds because of such forward-thinking and modern ideas.

Of course, Barrowclough’s lovely good nature means that he can be easily taken advantage by Fletch and the other lags, but it’s nice to see as well that not every screw thinks that the prisoners are irredeemable scum who should all be locked up and the key thrown away for ever.

Poor Mr. Barrowclough has a miserable home life courtesy of his domineering wife Alice, so much so that he often wishes, as he tells Fletch, ‘that I were in here wi’ you lot…!’ Fletch’s skills as a marriage guidance counsellor are in great demand, not just with Mr. Barrowclough but also with the other lags, so much so that everyone’s in shock when it transpires that Fletch’s own wife has left him for another man… or has she…?

Other characters include: Ingrid (Patricia Brake), Fletch’s sexy blonde daughter who comes in on visiting days with ‘unfettered knockers,’ much to the other prisoners’ interest; and Mr. Geoffrey Venables, the posh prison governor whose ivory tower existence away from the crims of Slade Prison renders him ineffectual at dealing with most crises; after all, when Jim McLaren (Tony Osoba), the black angry Scottish bloke, is up on the prison roof after a scrap at the footy match, it’s down to Fletch to talk him down. McLaren, an orphan, was found as a baby ‘up a side-alley wrapped in the Glasgow Herald.’ Just like a bag of chips, the poor lad. No wonder he couldn’t go straight.

Then there’s the ‘genial’ Harry Grout (Peter Vaughan), the most powerful prisoner in Slade prison and the least genial bloke you’re likely to meet. He even gives Fletch the willies. He never goes anywhere without his muscle man for back-up and, if Grouty wants a favour, you’d damn well better do it, or else you might just get your face re-arranged… and all for free an’ all…!

Alun Armstrong (THIS IS PERSONAL: THE HUNT FOR THE YORKSHIRE RIPPER, DAVID COPPERFIELD, BLEAK HOUSE) has a cameo as a Geordie con called Spraggon, a former illiterate who’s now writing his first book. Maybe a tin of snout will release his Muse? Dudley Sutton from LOVEJOY plays Reg Urwin, a prison trustee who wants a helicopter out of Slade and ten grand in used notes. Hang on a minute, Reg, and we’ll see what we can do…!

Christopher Biggins plays the cuddly kitchen trustee Lukewarm, surely the first openly gay character on British television? David Jason (OPEN ALL HOURS, ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES, A TOUCH OF FROST), brilliantly made up as an auld fella, plays crafty old Blanco, Lukewarm’s cellmate, who’s been inside seventeen years for topping his wife.

He swears he’s innocent, however, does old Blanco, and so Fletch and the lads set up a campaign to prove said innocence. Shame they’re wasting their time. He may not have offed the wife, but he’s definitely guilty of summat, all right, the cunning old lag…!

The box-set I own has all three series of the show on it, plus two cracking little Christmas specials and an hour-long documentary, presented by Johnny Vaughan, about how great the show is and why it just might be Britain’s Best Ever Sitcom. I have no problem with any of that, lol.

I’ll leave you with Fletch’s invaluable three-pronged piece of advice for any new inmates to Slade Prison, with which, by the way, Mr. Mackay doesn’t altogether agree: One, bide your time; Two, keep your nose clean and your head down; and Three… (altogether now!)… DON’T LET THE BASTARDS GRIND YOU DOWN…!


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

You can contact Sandra at:


open all hours



‘G-G-G-Granville, f-fetch your cloth…!’

‘You can’t move around here for grocers in your bosom.’

This is the warmest, nicest and funniest television I’ve watched all year. It’s really and truly the best of British in the sitcom line. My only regret is that I didn’t discover it sooner. It’s the story of Arkwright’s Corner Shop and all who sail in her, namely Albert E. Arkwright the grocer, his n-n-n-nephew Granville and Arkwright’s state-registered lady love, one Nurse Gladys Emanuel, who lives over ‘t’ road.

Arkwright has three aims in life. One, fleecing his customers of every possible half-penny and sending them home with much more than they came in for. A slice or two of bacon? Well, why not buy a nice hand-mirror, antique clothes horse or out-of-date packet of Jamaica ginger cake to go with that, my love? The customers leave, bemused, time after time, gobsmacked at the way that the sneaky, unscrupulous Arkwright has managed to part ’em from their hard-earned cash.

Two, preventing his curly-headed, constantly daydreaming nephew, Granville, from discovering a life outside their cosy little Yorkshire shop. Granville yearns for a woman, for the bright lights and clamour of the local disco, for foreign travel and Chinese architecture and a yacht on the Riviera and the finer things in life, but how the heck is he supposed to achieve any of these exotic delights when the shop opens in ‘t’ middle of ‘t’ night, namely, at sun-up, and doesn’t shut till nine o’clock at night…?

Three, breaking through the fortress of ample bosom that is Nurse Gladys Emanuel to her softer inner core without getting one of her nifty left hooks, although getting stuck in the outer bosom would suit Arkwright (and Granville!) just fine, come to think of it. They could set up shop in her splendiferous frontage without any hesitation whatsoever, it’s so nice and warm and comforting there.

Nurse Gladys Emanuel, Arkwright’s betrothed, with her fabulous head of burnished red-brown hair, is one of those old-fashioned visiting nurses who’d drive round her little parish seeing to different patients. Changing a bandage on an old lady’s wound, checking on a newborn baby and its poorly mum, seeing that a bedridden old gent has managed to eat something after his operation, stuff like that. The travelling nurse is very much part of Britain’s distant past. I enjoyed hugely having that lovely nostalgic element included in the show.

Gladys Emanuel, played by the magnificent Lynda Baron, is a fine figure of a woman. No skinny little young one she. On the contrary, she’s broad in the beam with more front than Blackpool, and it’s no wonder the lovestruck Arkwright risks climbing a ladder at his age to catch a glimpse of her famous frontage leaning out of a window in her negligée. She won’t marry Arkwright until her never-seen mum no longer needs looking after, and Arkwright’s just going to have to knuckle down and wait.

Nurse Gladys is worth waiting for, though, as Arkwright well knows. She’s a woman any man would be proud to call his own, warm and good-humoured with a ready laugh. It’s brilliant, though, the way she slaps away his groping hands time after time and always has a cutting quip lined up that’s guaranteed to put him back in his box.

She’s determined to get him to spend a few quid as well, which for a man as stingy and parsimonious as old Arkwright is like pulling teeth without anaesthetic. Good luck getting Arkwright to prise open the old Oxo tin that holds his precious takings, Nurse Gladys Emanuel. If anyone can do it, you can!

There’s a running joke in the show about Granville, who’s of uncertain parentage, being part-Hungarian. Arkwright’s quite cheeky about his own sister, Granville’s long-deceased mum, having been of loose morals, flinging her knickers to the four winds whenever anyone asked her to.

Granville isn’t altogether averse to being part-Hungarian. It appeals to the part of him that yearns for excitement, glamour, mystery, bright lights; anything, in fact, that takes him away from the mundanity of pricing tins of carrots and pushing the old shop-bike loaded down with deliveries up yet another poxy hill in the rain…!

Arkwright’s Super-Stores is the housewives’ choice for sure. Kathy Staff (LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE) was bloody hilarious as the plain speaking Mrs. Blewitt in the earlier episodes. Stephanie Cole as the Black Widow, aka Mrs. Fer-fer-fer-fer-fer-Featherstone, did duty as the Resident Cranky Auld One in the later episodes.

Liz Dawn, Vera Duckworth in CORONATION STREET, had one line in a very early episode. Him off THE BILL (Eric Richard) played a cameo role once as a man trying to flog a washing machine to Arkright. Good luck with that one, mate. He’ll want cheaper than what you’re offering, you mark my words. Teddy Turner (CORRIE, EMMERDALE) also had a small role. Barbara Keogh (Lilly Mattock from EastEnders) was Mrs. Ellis.

Maggie Ollerenshaw played the ditzy, terminally indecisive Mavis, or did she? I can’t quite make up me mind! Paula Tilbrook (Betty Eagleton from Emmerdale) was Mrs. Tattersall. Barbara Flynn played the Milk-woman who every morning delivered two pints and a pot of unrequited love to the head-over-heels Granville. I personally thought she was a bit of a tease. I don’t believe she had the slightest intention of ever letting Granville have the top off ‘t’ milk, the snooty little hussy. She were only leading ‘im on, she were.

Poor Granville, desperate to be part of Britain’s new generation of swinging young people, but he never has time to get his pinny off. Doomed to be an errand boy for life, the poor lad. Come and nestle for a bit in Nurse Gladys Emanuel’s bosom. That’ll make you feel better, lad. Just make sure Arkwright’s not watching…!

Arkwright the grocer is rude to everyone, racist, sexist, disrespectful to women, verging on dishonest the way he flogs his old out-of-date white elephant stock to his customers (remember when he tried to sell some kind of lead blacking to male customers as a kind of marital aid?), and yet he’s the cuddliest, most loveable rogue you could ever hope to meet.

I also love the delightfully mournful theme tune, and the fact that the show didn’t modernise as the years went on, but rather kept the olde-worlde charm that makes it so magical. The time of the corner shop that sold everything from turnips to braces for your trousers to the kind of lead blacking people used to put on old stoves (marital aids, my foot!) has passed, sadly, to be replaced by the age of the supermarket and online shopping. Still, if we ever have a burning need for a small brown loaf and two teacakes, we’ll know where to go, won’t we? G-G-G-Granville, fetch your cloth…!


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

You can contact Sandra at: