Monday, 17 November 2008

Another 50 People Who Buggered Up Britain -- No. 28: Ruth Maddoc

I returned home in the small hours to find a comment sitting waiting for me on my blog. ‘Why Ruth Maddoc?’ asks Mutley the Dog. My brows revealed no degree of surprise over my late night mug of Horlicks. They’d spent a day with people who wouldn’t stop asking me the very same question. My eyebrows had become blasé, you might say; indifferent to what was becoming known as ‘The Maddoc Question’.

My list of ‘Another 50 People Who Buggered Up Britain’ has certainly caused some debate in celebrity circles but nothing has worried the ‘A’ listers more than the supposed illogical inclusion of Ruth Maddoc. In many a person’s mind, the woman is an innocent and any accusations hurled her way are as unwarranted as a hammer attack on the late Mother Teresa. In my defence, I have no problem with Ruth Maddoc. The woman may well be a saint, a veritable Teresa of the Welsh Valleys, and I don’t blame her one bit for what’s happened to the nation. My real gripe is with ‘Gladys Pugh’, the character she played on ‘Hi De Hi’. It’s my belief that the nation lost its senses around the time that Gladys first appeared on our screens.

‘Hi De Hi’ was the comic equivalent of Bovril: loved by many, hated by me. Some might savour the idea of cow pureed into a thick paste but I find it as appealing as minced udder or roasted horn. And when it comes to BBC comedies, I think there’s nothing at all appealing about ‘Hi De Hi’. I’d rather chew on raw bullock than listen to Ted Bovis sing Elvis, Peggy the Chalet Maid jumble up her words, or Spike dress up in another of his ‘hilarious’ costumes. Yet each of these are petty dislikes compared to the deep moral indignation I feel towards Gladys Pugh. The country hasn’t been the same since she arrived on the scene. Constantly aroused and breathy with desperation, she was the amateur nymphomanic with hair so black and cropped that it looks like it’s been mined right from the Welsh coal seam. I never appreciated Lisa Stansfield until she rid herself of the Pugh crop and the glockenspiel has had a similar low place in my opinion since Gladys first wielded the hammer to chime out those infernal four notes. There’s no coincidence that I’ve not holidayed in Wales since the days of ‘Hi De Hi’. Every time I hear the Welsh accent, I also hear ‘hello campers’. I see the prim seriousness, the predator in yellow, fascistically sexual and indifferent to the cares and needs of others. Gladys Pugh was the nation’s favourite apprentice vulgarian and was so thoroughly modern.

Her obsession with sex – I’m tempted to call it ‘repression’ but it was hardly that – transmitted itself to and through the nation. It’s still with us, sitting like a herpes scab on our collective lip, becoming almost deviant in its assumption that we are driven only by the pheromone. Pugh was the catalyst of the new England arising from the Thatcherite dream of the autonomous individual, liberated from work by shares and owning their own home. Instead of a nation of Morris Minors with slightly aspirating exhausts, we became a nation of gaudy Jaguars, loudly throbbing and boastful of our torque. The people who laughed at Gladys Pugh were the same people who suddenly began talking about sexual functions over the garden fence. Is there anything as dangerous yet modern as sexual functions over a garden fence? But I say it’s not something to be encouraged, especially not if you’ve got a wide herbaceous border.

To counter the Pugh Complex was Jeffrey Fairbrother, the epitome of English sexuality. Shy, retiring, slightly at odds with women but not without an interest in other shapelier Yellowcoats, Fairbrother was very much the epitome of the England of the 1950s. Yet he barely lasted a few series before he was replaced. He was our one and last hope. His failure our own to withstand the crudity that has since overcome the nation. The crass manner in which Pugh chased him was tantamount to a call to arms to all who now go gadding about the streets, casting off their inhibitions and cornering any mate in a darkened bus shelter or lay-by.

‘Hi De Hi’ was the place where a nation learned to make love in a stationary cupboard. We’ve moved on, of course. Stationary cupboard or cupboards on the move: there’s nothing that people won’t do to satisfy the Pugh Complex. Gladys taught the nation to be fiercely desperate. She led the charge, breathing her frustration in the faces of the disinterested. Predatorial and wily, Gladys Pugh is the abandonment of poetry, metaphor, and veiled meaning. She is overt and present, as erotic as the odour of an armpit. She is sexuality today in all its prurient, scatological, oozing and ejaculatory abandon. Hi De Hi campers. Hi De Hi.

7 comments:

Devonshire Dumpling said...

50 people who buggered up Britain top spot should go to Ainsley Harriot, Richard.
http://tinyurl.com/5sk8qk

The other 49 surely must be Ant and Dec (their bloody ego's take up sooo much space!)

Dick Madeley said...

Very goo, Devonshire. And so very true. I've always maintained that sausages say a lot about a person.

Dick Madeley said...

That 'very goo' was clearly meant to be 'very good'. Though, with Ainsley, 'goo' is perhaps a better word, though he'd call it something French and serve it up for pudding.

mutleythedog said...

Well that has queered my pitch, I hadnt really thought about any of that. I did enjoy her white skirt I must say.... and I always felt a bit sorry for her. I had always blamed Peter Purves and his sideburns for my feverish state of mind - perhaps Gladys played her part? As for Ainsley ? Did you know he was once in the Black and White Minstrels... yes.... really.

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