Carry On Up the Khyber
There’s a scene in Carry On Up the Khyber where Bernard Breslaw as Bungitin, the Afghan tribesman, charges down the valley in what is supposed to be the Khyber Pass towards skinny little Charles Hawtry dressed in a kilt as a member of the First Foot in Mouth Scottish Regiment.
The whole premise of the very funny and clever script is that the Scottish troops wear nothing under their kits and so the local population of Berpers under the Khazi of Kalibar are too terrified to take them on in battle. Sounds pretty reasonable to me. The sight of a whole regiment of big hairy Jocks with the kilts flying around their waists would put me right off my aim. When Saint Talbert Rothwell wrote the script, Peter Rogers, the producer, took the crew off to the Beacon Beacons in Wales to film scenes, including this one where the whole Indian Mutiny begins because Charles has defied regulations as it’s cold up in the pass and he’s wearing drawers, disproving the myth. So authentic were the costumes, and especially the setting, that one old soldier wrote to congratulate Ralph Thomas, the director, in taking the crew to Afghanistan to film it. The old soldier said he recognised the very spot where the action took place. I bet Sid James, Joan Simms, Hattie Jacques, Kenneth, Charles, Barbara and the rest who have given me such delight over the years got a huge laugh out of that.
So here we are standing in the very spot (yeah, right!) where the action really did take place, in Wales, not Afghanistan, thank God. It’s all impossibly high hills bathed in golden leaves, sudden vertigo-inducing drops, lichen-covered pale grey granite, grass so green it looks like it’s been colour saturated in Photoshop, and white, fluffy sheep that look like they’ve just been in a spin cycle with a box of Cold Power. Some are so far away and so high up the mountains they look like specs of dandruff on a shoulder of the jolly green giant. By the time they’d arrive back at the farm at the end of the day they’d need to be fattened up again.
For some reason I can’t help myself from thinking of Narrogin, and how this is just so unlike that in every way imaginable. The stone-walled lined lanes are as narrow as the car, save for barely a nano-whisker, and twist and turn every few metres so we round the corners very carefully fully expecting, with some justification it seems, a local in a big fat Jag to come belting round the next one at Top Gear speed.
And when Colleen, our GPS girl with the lilting Irish accent, says, ‘Turn around when possible,’ we both just laugh. The road is so narrow that next spot to turn is way down the mountain and probably back in England. Although we’ve only been away from our wives for, what, less than a week, we’ve already been having serious discussions on what Colleen must really be like. How sad is that, eh? Maureen O’Hara, starred with John Wayne in several movies, including Fort Apache, one of John Ford’s cavalry trio, and as I’ve always had the hots for her and so I sort of imagine Colleen being just like her. It’s a pity GPS isn’t a bit more interactive so I could ask her what she’s wearing.