LITTLE GUIDE TO UNHIP
In the BBC2 series Balderdash & Piffle a definition was given of cool. ‘Cool defies definition - call yourself cool and you’re definitely not.’ If we consider the two words ‘cool’ and ‘hip’ as having similar meaning, then so it must be true of their opposites, unhip and uncool, which is what this little guide is concerned with: unhipness in all its shades and colours (as long as it’s beige).
There are plenty of fads and behaviours which may be better described as naff, such as karaoke, and have therefore been excluded from this guide. Similarly, some if not all reality TV may be viewed as naff but not necessarily unhip. For instance, some reality TV may be considered tacky but can be hip in an unhip sort of way.
In other instances, there are those things once regarded as very unhip that have enjoyed a revival or reinvented themselves, such as wearing your hood up. Dressed in such a manner you would now be considered a hoodie with all its street connotations where in the sixties you would have looked a proper nana. Other examples include bingo, bridge, Abba and The Eurovision Song Contest (Terry Wogan excepted). You only have to compare ‘Hard Rock Alleluia’, Finland’s 2006 winner, with Dana’s ‘All Kinds of Everything’ from 1970 and you’ll know what I mean. On the other hand, Miss World and Jeux Sans Frontier got stuck and have never (yet) become kitsch or retro to my knowledge.
Similarly, things that were viewed as hip at one time, political activism of the left persuasion, say, now seem a throwback, though certain individual campaigns, each with its own catchy slogan, have enjoyed credibility in the last two decades: Axe the Tax (the Poll Tax), Kill The Bill (The Criminal Justice Bill) and Don’t Attack Iraq (Anti-war Protest) are but a few.
But this guide is more concerned with the things that have never and, in all likelihood, will never become hip.
1 - Gilbert O'Sullivan
Remember all those songs with great melodies and whacky words? ‘Ooh-Wakka-Doo-Wakka-Day’, ‘No Matter How I Try’, ‘Matrimony’ and ‘We Will’? Lyrics like: It’s not surprising when you come to think of it what it is that makes people swear, you only have to sing one bleeping thing and they’ll be bleeping every bleeping word. Or: I don’t think the registrar will be very pleased if we turn up an hour late like two frozen peas. Gilbert might well ask why oh why oh why he hasn’t had a resurgence when so many of his contemporaies have gained credibility with time. But poor old Gilbert remains as unhip as ever. Possibly even more than ever. Gilbert O’Sullivan was first and foremost a songwriter which would normally grant an artist immunity from the vagaries of fashion. But when Gilbert O’Sullivan went out, he never came back in. He remains stuck in the seventies for all eternity: quaint, frizzy-haired and forever saddled with that initial gimmick which soared him to fame and he probably rues to this day. The one of dressing up as an Edwardian schoolboy, complete with cap, tie, shorts and socks to appear on Top Of The Pops. For five minutes it was a novelty, but gimmicks are hard to live down and maybe that contributed to his overall lack of credibility, though the lyrics of ‘Clair’ couldn’t have helped, for what was seen as sentimental avuncular innocence in 1972, is now regarded with dubious cynicism at best in these days of child protection.
Our Gilbert may still do tours for all I know, but you wouldn’t shout it from the rooftops if you had a ticket. Somewhere, among my old album collection is a Gilbert O’Sullivan album which I acquired in a swap with a boyfriend. It was never meant to be a permanent exchange, more a situation of ‘You can borrow my Gilbert O’Sullivan and I’ll lend your Led Zepp.’ When the liaison finished he ended up with the better deal, this boyfriend, while I was saddled forever with Gilbert. This was only vindicated by the fact that it had felt tipped graffiti all over it: Join The Red Revolution and Kevin Keegan King of the Kop and other LFC achievements from the seventies. Maybe he had some foresight, this ex, that this was the album to scrawl on; this was the album to lend your girlfriend and never ask for back. So if like me you own up to ever having owned any Gilbert O’Sullivan records in your collection, I salute you.
Unhip rating *****
Just picture it. Sky above looks gloomy. You’re looking reasonably passable today, hairwise, then raindrops start spitting on your head. That’s OK, you can live with a bit of spitting. Sky grows darker, rain falls steadily. The cool people are sauntering by without a care in the world and, crucially, without a bit of strutted canvas above their heads, braving the elements, not deterred by a bit of rain. You carry on for a few more steps, the wet stuff now perceptibly dampening your trousers. You don’t want to be the first. You wait in a shop doorway for the rain to stop, even though you have a brolley on your person (though waiting in doorways is also uncool, unless it’s a downpour, especially if you outlast the old folk sharing your doorway who have all made a brave dash for it after a few minutes.) A few old ladies around you are springing their brollies open and clicking them aloft. You hold out, then it’s Sod It, as you rummage through all the other unhip clutter in your bag (see section 50). You pull out your foldaway brolley with the dodgy spokes (lose one unhip point here: a battered one is slightly less unhip). At least yours isn’t a patterned or spotted or pastel-coloured one or - heaven forbid - one with ears, any of which would gain you a couple more unhip points. Until recently I would have held that the unhippest of all would have to be those see-through birdcage things coming half-way down your body that briefly flapped to life in the seventies. But now they’re enjoying a revival, at least in retro-type shops, along with other bright plastic items, complete with sixties spots and swirls.
Of course, if you’re the queen or king of unhip you will throw your brolley up to the elements the moment you run from cover. You won’t care either what your brolley looks like as long as it does the job. If the job is to keep your hair in place, you can move yourself slightly down the unhip scale. But if the job is to keep you dry and save your chest from all manner of possible respiratory infections should you perchance be exposed to a few drops on the damp wind then you can count yourself as majorly unhip.
I’ve got friends who wouldn’t be seen dead with a brolley. They enjoy - or have convinced themselves they enjoy the feel of the rain on their barnet and skin. “It’s only a bit of rain,” they’ll say, suddenly walking ahead or pretending not to be with you as they narrowly miss getting their eyeball perforated by that vicious little contraption in your hand.
Let’s face it, it’s hard looking hip with this canvas-covered spider over your head, especially when a force nine gale decides to rip through its rafters, turning it inside out as you battle to return this bat out of hell to its former glory. F*** you, you shout at it (or flip you, if you’re truly unhip) as if it had a personality of its own, finally giving up the ghost as you survey the collapsed wreckage you’re still clinging on to for dear life. The less unhip among you will then toss it in the nearest litter bin, the futility of it against such a force having finally dawned on you.
But even if you do get the thing home in one piece, the question is where to put it. If you don’t want it smelling like socks that haven’t seen the inside of a washing machine for half a year, then you have to put it up to dry. There it is for all to see, a symbol of your unhipness as it blocks the hallway or the bath or provides hours of fun for the cat as he skids it across the kitchen lino. Of course, you can always go into the public loos and dry it, fold by fold under the drier, watching with satisfaction as each drip is whizzed into oblivion, and while you’re at it you can dry off your trousers by holding up a damp knee to the nozzle. You may get some strange looks, but as an unhipster, you’ll be undeterred by that.
Unhip rating ****
3. On Holiday in Austria
Not Barcelona, Prague, Goa or Thailand, all of which might be considered hip holiday destinations in differing measures. Even my trek to Albania, if not the in place to go, is nevertheless not what you’d call unhip. It’s cotra-exotic and might be a conversation starter or stopper, but the Austrian Tyrol? Hip it ain’t, especially if you go in your twenties as we did (my sister and I) and by luxury coach. A then acquaintance of mine, on hearing the choice of our proposed holiday and the method of transportation, exclaimed: “Austria by coach? My mother goes on those tours and she’s about ninety.”
This acquaintance was, of course, right. As we chugged across the Rhine en route to our destination, there were plenty of tonsures, shiny pates and purple rinses swaying sleepily above the antimacassars. Apart from one youngish woman who was only on the tour to accompany an elderly relative, the next nearest age group to ourselves were forty-somethings and relative younglings in the scheme of things. Maybe, if we’d been going skiing in Austria we may have just got away with it.
Perhaps Austria will be forever unhip because of associations withThe Sound of Music, immortalized by Julie Andrews singing about whiskers on kittens and bright copper kettles. Maybe it’s the pretty wooden chalets festooned with flowers, the mountains, the lakes - all sparkly clear and not a puff of pollution in sight. Pretty is rarely hip. And it was very pretty in St Wolfgang in the Austrian Tyrol - our base for the week. Of course, Austria wasn’t my choice of holiday abroad. I blame my sister. If I was going to get her abroad, then she wanted peaceful vistas, and coach transport from door to door, suffering as she was from a particularly severe strain of travel phobia even worse than my own. To go abroad at all was a major milestone.
As if all that wasn’t enough to seriously dint one’s credibility, to heap further unhip points on our already dangerously high quota, the tour was half board. So there we were, sitting by the uncool Wolfgangsee, minding our own business, when at midday we had to troop in out of the sun and sit at a long table with the other sixty and seventy plusses, fluted napkins at the ready, drinking tomato soup, followed by cheese salad (for the vegetarians) some creme raspberry delicacy for dessert, topped off with coffee (for most), tea for those of us caffeine-dodgers (some more unhip points awarded here).
However, there were one or two face-saving matters which lost us some of our unhipness.
Firstly, there were two choices of accommodation: the Hotel Post as featured in the holiday brochure, a typically Austrian timbered affair with flowers cascading from baskets, and there was the Schloss Eibenstein. The courier read the names of the people for the Hotel Post - the ‘Posties’ as he referred to them - and our names didn’t feature. The rest of us soon learned that we would be staying next door in the Schloss Eibenstein (from then on referred to us as ‘Eibies’ by our courier). We soon discovered the schloss wasn’t ‘just next door’. It was up the lane, its great turrets rising above the lake. Ann, my sister, looked on horrified when, having climbed the ramp, was confronted with a lift (another phobia of hers and therefore verboten). The brusque Austrian woman indicated to us that even the lowest rooms were somewhere up in the clouds, but luckily she directed us to the back entrance to the schloss where another zig-zagging ramp with a gradual incline cut out a lot of the height and admitted us to what would be our dining area. We still, however, had a steep ascent up many flights of spiral stairs to the top floor, so far up it was like being in a high rise. With our key in hand, we searched all doors down a long ornate corridor with chandeliers, paintings and thick carpeting until we came to the room at the end. In our room was a tiny vertiginous balcony off some French doors, but you would have had to be seriously suicidal to stand on it, the drop comparable to a cliff edge. My point being, the Schloss Eibenstein was more hip than the picture-postcard Hotel Post. The schloss had a modern side, and a creepy old-fashioned side with turrets, gargoyles, red and green ivy, balustrades and all manner of nooks and crannies. One evening, on the way back home to our schloss we discovered it pitch black. There were no lights to illuminate the way, gates were closed over the entrance doors, the steps were chained off. However, we managed to find one open door in the light of the moon. We half expected a count to appear; this was where Austria met Transylvania lending it a smear of credibility.
The second face-saver was that we left the main party in Salzburg on the Thursday to meet up with an old schoolfriend of mine who was working as a holiday rep in Austria. That was definitely a hip thing to do, going off the main drag and meeting up with an old mate in Mozart Square. OK, it was still Austria, but it was a city famous for its wrought iron, and we even saw a few punks!
Of course, all hip things come to an end, as we said au revoir to said friend and boarded our coach at three o’clock. Valuable time was wasted as the coach stopped to view The Sound of Music house across mud flats, enabling the rest of the party to take snaps. Needless to say we didn’t plummet to these new depths of unhipness.
Unhip rating *****
That is - of the musical instrument kind. And especially of the descant kind, unless you’ve got some party trick up your sleeve, like playing it with your nose or something.
But just what is it about this little holey wind instrument with a big noise (a shrill noise in the wrong hands) that makes it so unhip? Is it those childhood associations of Our First Musical Instrument when we would sit for hours driving not only mum, dad and the cat spare but also the neighbours’ Siamese four doors along with our rendition of ‘London’s Burning’? When the high and low notes sounded worse than Bronchial Billy’s voice breaking, a whole gamut of sounds squeaking out uninvited? When great splodges of dribble stippled our Learning The Recorder Book 1?
Nay, this may be part of the story, except the mouth organ should be similarly damned in that case. But the mouth organ grows up into a very hip harmonica with all its bluesy connotations. Similarly, the tin whistle, though a close cousin of the recorder in looks, is about as far removed from it as your grandfather’s fourth cousin’s great aunt is from you. Where the tin whistle is a creator of fast and furious Irish jigs, the recorder has a much more earnest face, arising from its role in early music. To be fair, you could probably accuse any of the early musical instruments of being uncool - flute, harp, lute or lyre - but being more exotic and rare, and the fact that they’re not taught in infant school, probably saves them from a fate worse than unhip.
That’s not to say there’s no skill required in recorder-playing. The serious recorder musician will probably be able to play several sizes: usually descant, treble and tenor, and will have progressed from plastic to superior wood - pear or rosewood or cherry - to match the superior level they have now accomplished.
And if you have ever been unhip enough to attend a recorder group to which I hold my hands up, you will soon be a party to the number of accessories exacted by the humble recorder. This is where unhip meets anorak. The recorders themselves are unzipped from a posh little pouch, snug enough for the dog to sleep in, together with grease pots, mops, brushes, pull-throughs and thumb-rests of every description. As if that wasn’t enough, Recorder Woman (and she nearly always is female) has her own music stand to boot. And you do feel like booting it, especially if you’ve ever tried erecting or dismantling one of the things. Fortunately, I wasn’t quite unhip enough to arrive with the early birds ( see Section 11) and by the time I rolled in, the recorder teacher would have assembled a few to save time.
On one occasion I bought a tenor for a tenner so I could try my (spanned) hand at the tenor parts - the tenor with its deeper sound and more manly trunk making it considerably less unhip than the squeaky old descant - but all good things must come to a dead stop as is the way with the lazy and the procrastinating.
Perhaps my most unhip tale about recorders lingers in my mind because of the hip context from whence it arose. Myself and two friends went to a red-green revolution camp at Headcorn in 93. I hadn’t been camping since the age of eleven and thought it’d be a hip thing to do, admitting me to the same club as those who did Glastonbury and the WOMAD. (The fact that I packed a potty for peeing was another sign of my general unhipness, but I wasn’t going to get soaked pumps and have my arse stung my nettles several times a night for anyone).
On the programme of events and talks happening that weekend, there was mention of ‘bring your own instrument’. But when the first night and half the next day had passed without a musical instrument in sight, I decided to ‘come out’ and say I’d brought a recorder and had anyone else brought any instruments? Suddenly, all the hitherto secret instruments were brought out for an airing. Having brought a recorder wasn’t in itself unhip, there was another recorder in the camp belonging to a long-haired forty-something hippy who almost made recorders look hip. The fact that he had one at all immediately shot mine up in the credibility ratings. But - and this is where I gained all my unhip points in one fell swoop - having only played my recorder to music I piped up with “I’ve got some early recorder music books in my case”, somehow imagining us all playing along like some orchestra. I could almost see the guy (to whom I’d let this slip) thinking: how unhip. But he was careful not to say it. Instead he said, “Mmm. Or we could just improvise.”
And improvise we did. There was a young violinist, playing fast and furious, whirling about, accustomed as he was to busking in London, while my fellow recorder-player was ad libbing. He said I should just go for it and I needed to be more confident, though I was only slightly progressed from ‘Three Blind Mice’.
Unhip rating ****
5. Sanitary Towels (especially with wings)
Sanitary towels are for the pubescent, for new mothers and for the elderly, everyone knows that, don’t they?
As ten and eleven-year-olds we used to talk about “white rock” which was, of course, a code for tampons. That was where you aspired. Sanitary towels were just a messy stepping stone along the way, although there were those precocious, envied girls who bypassed the whole sanitary towel thing and went straight for Tampax or Lil-lets.
Your first period was a great talking point and source of pride; yours to have and hold, from this day forward, until menopause do us part, and for the first few months you accepted the cumbersome looping of towels into a piece of plastic in specially designed knickers with names like New Freedom, presumably because they liberated you from the old belts of the previous generation. Womanhood was a novelty, as were the pains and rust stains in your pants where the pad had slipped out of the loop.
The next generation of pads dispensed with belts and loops entirely: peel and stick was the thing. Occasionally, I would have a go with my mum’s Tampax, carefully scrutinizing the diagram and going through the steps but somehow I coudn’t get the technique or the angle right, and me and sanitary towels were destined for a few more years of unhappy wedlock.
Then one day I discovered slender tampons in the pink packets. Ultra-skinny, they slid in, and there was no stopping me. I graduated from Slender to Regular to Super to Super Plus all in the space of a few periods (having always been cursed with heavies) . The first couple of days of my periods were so heavy, in fact, that I still had to continue with the towels as a supplement to the tampons until I questioned the wisdom of using tampons at all, especially with all the stuff about Toxic Shock, and they fell out of favour. With me, at any rate. Besides, sanitary towels had come a long way, hadn’t they? You could even buy fragrant disposal bags to wrap and tie them up like pretty purple parcels in your plastic bin so that you would (almost) never know. A far cry from the days when you wrapped them in newspaper and burnt them on the fire. But if you preferred to keep environmentally friendly, there were eco towels that were unbleached and washable. There were towels to suit your every whim, thin pantie liners for your light days, absorbent pads to keep you dry and odour-free, and there were sanitary towels with wings.
With wings - makes it sound graceful, almost angelic, when in reality the last thing you feel like doing is flying. How can you feel hip when every time you have to replace one of these winged beasts you have to peel off three strips, one from the main spine of the ST and the other two from the pair of wings. Wings that have to be stuck to the underparts of your underpants. They used to say: “Make sure you’re wearing a clean pair of knickers in case you’re knocked down by a bus”. Your dread nowadays woud be if you were knocked down by a bus and your wings were showing. Of course, there is supposed to be a logic to this wings business (the squeamish better skim over this next bit); they give a wider area for your monthly discharge, the wingless sanitary towel somehow never catching those leakages from the extreme boundaries. But there are those of us who find that no matter how wide the wadding area - our leaks will find a way round somehow. A sort of Parkinson’s Law - the blood expanding to fill the space available, and that may be too much information for the seriously unhip.
Unhip rating ****
What is it about this insipid, innocuous colour that gives us gooseflesh? Is it the association with little old ladies in shapeless cardigans, outsize skirts, crimplene trousers, waist slips, nylons, all in various gradations of this hue? Is it that inexorably slip into a world of beige as we age? With age, comes beige! Let’s face it, beige can’t hurt, it can’t excite, it can’t rile or move us. It’s as safe and inoffensive as its close cousins - vanilla, Madeira and magnolia.
You may just get away with beige (which you call a marginally more hip fawn) if your dress or top or shirt has some sort of redeeming style or material or pattern. Compare a short crepey dress with catchy motif, to a knitted cardigan; a beige leather three piece suite to beige damask curtains and you’ll see how beige can be redeemed in this way.
Think of your most hip idol and see if they are wearing or have ever worn beige. It would be a cool caramel or a trendy tan on their hips.
But if you hang out in beige (in more ways than one) - that sago pudding of the colour world - then I raise a cup of weak tea in your honour .
Unhip rating ***
7. Morris Dancing
Derived from the Spanish or Flemish Morisca, it is said, Morris dancing came to England in the late 1400s, and may also be a lingering of old fertility rites which you’d imagine would lose it a few unhip points.
Whatever its origins, every self-respecting folk festival should have Morris dancers and the less unhip among you wouldn’t be seen within a mile of them. In your bandanna and cut-offs, you will saunter from pub to marquee (the long way round if necessary to avoid the Morrismen) where some Irish folk rock or Blue Grass is playing. If perchance you should take a wrong turning and stumble across the Morrismen, you certainly won’t hang about to watch fully-grown men with bells on their legs bashing sticks with each other and the ground, primeval roars emanating from their throat areas. Though if you should linger, when in company, you’re duty-bound to say “I loathe Morris dancing” lest any seed of doubt be planted in said companion’s mind; lest your wayward glances toward the Morrismen be misinterpreted as interest or - heaven forbid - admiration. Just to make doubly sure your companion gets the message, you back up your original statement with “Don’t they look prats?” before your final “I thought there was meant to be some Afro-Caribbean drumming and dance here, mate”.
Of course, none of this will mean a thing to all you inveterate unhipsters. No trying to look cool for you; on the contrary, you will lap up every jingle and thwack, every ‘yeehaw!’ and hankerchief wave from the Morrismen (or women to that matter) as you marvel at their energy and exuberance, their rhythm and timing and symmetry - a small number of you even tempted to take it up yourselves as a good way of keeping fit and making new friends.
Unhip rating ****
It’s not really possible to mention Morris dancers without a passing reference to that other famous relic of the folk festival: the folkie. He can be spotted at any folk festival or folk club: always over fifty, always with a beard, and usually with right hand cupped over his ear as he yodels out ballads about fair damsels with child who never wedded to he will be.
Unhip rating ***
9. No Accent
The way you speak says an awful lot about you and your affiliation to the in crowd - or not. Accents are linked to region, ethnic group and class, and if you don’t have strong, identifiable roots in any of the aforementioned, you’re already at a disadvantage in the hip rankings.
If you have a northern accent - be it Scouse, Geordie, Yorkshire, Lancs - you’re ultra hip, the Gritty North always winning hands down against the Wussy South. When people talk of wimpy southerners, they’re not talking East Enders or those born within the sound of Bow Bells, they’re referring to the shires and the Home counties (people who say golly and gosh and crumbs instead of fuck and shit and bollocks)(See Section 40).
Similarly, accents from more far-flung regions, especially if they have a Celtic flavour, Scottish or Irish or a touch of something even more exotic, like Jamaica or Trinidad & Tobago, are also quids in. With such a flavour in your favour, whatever you say sounds streetwise, worth listening to, style is all.
And accents are linked to that peculiarly British thing we call class. Granted, class may be less clear-cut as it once was - no more graftin downt pit, and the fact that you reside in a suburban semi may say little about you, other than you can afford such a residence, bought or rented. But like it or not, class still permeates society today as much as it ever did. Tony Blair may believe he helped to break down old entrenched class divisions, but by appealing to Middle England he is the embodiment of the new middle class, and he has the lack of accent and hipness to prove it.
Unlike some of the other unhip things so far mentioned, the lack of a thing (accent) perfectly sums up another lack of something (hipness).
Of course, the less unhip among you, may try to disguise your misfortune by putting on an accent. My sister and I on another holiday of ours (Llandudno 1976), spent the whole week talking in broad scouse (we lived in Liverpool so did a good line). So convincing was our vernacular, in fact, that even our fellow Bed & Breakfasters, an elderly couple from the West Midlands, referred to us as their ‘Liver Birds’ for ever after and were none the wiser when they continued to send us Christmas cards year upon year until their demise.
But for the less thespian among you, take heart. There’s a place opening near you soon where you can buy accents. My friend bought one the other week, though she had to return it because it didn’t work. The assistant said, “Let me see? You haven’t put it in right.” My friend tried again with the help of the assistant. “Ah, I think your tongue’s the wrong shape,” said the assistant, and offered my friend a choice of other accents. “Maybe something a little softer would suit madam,” suggested the assistant. “One that would melt in the mouth - that would better suit madam’s gentle temperament.” The moral of this tale is - you may buy or even steal an accent but you still may not carry it off.
Unhip rating **
10. Vicar of Dibley
Class is also an important factor in our next unhip contender - that well-known sitcom The Vicar of Dibley. Unlike its Channel 4 rival, the enormously hip Father Ted, Dibley lacks those aforementioned hip prerequisites: stong sense of class, ethnic identity and religious affiliation. Father Ted is working-class, Irish and Catholic, giving it heaps of advantage from the off. Dibley, on the other hand, is set in a stuffy old country parish (even the name Dibley has a more silly sound to it than Craggy Island) with a cast of the most unhip characters you’re ever likely to encounter, with the exception of the vicar herself. On the committee (a very unhip thing itself as we shall see in Section 47) meeting as it does in an equally unhip draughty old church hall, we have the pompous David Horton presiding over the members; we have the old farmer, Owen whatshisface, giving us too much information in the form of his lavatory habits or the part of a cow’s anatomy where his hand has been stuck for the best part of the day; we have Hugo, David’s spoony-eyed, wet nelly of a son; Jim Trott whose talk of Swedish masseuses and whose N-No No No No Yes threatens to trap him forever in caricature; we have boring old Frank Pickle (though his sexuality saves him some unhip points) and we had Letitia Cropley - famous for her culinary experiments where marmalade and Branston Pickle might find themselves bedfellows in the same cake - until she died in one of the series, possibly from imbibing one too many of her unpalatable parsnip brownies. Furthermore, Letitia Cropley also mentioned that king of unhip, Gilbert O’Sullivan himself, in one episode. And, of course, we have the vicar’s right-hand woman, ditsy Alice Tinker, the female answer to Father Dougal. However, it’s not just the fact that Alice is dopey middle England and Dougal is simple Oirish - taken out of context they are much of a muchness, even as part of their double act, Geraldine and Alice, or Ted and Dougal. Rather, it is the whole backdrop and interplay of characters. Dougal and Ted have altogether grittier characters to deal with, be it Father Jack and his mad-eyed outbursts for drink! gairls! arse! Mrs Doyle and her endless ‘Won’t you just have a cuppa tea, so’, John and Mary, the epitome of marital bliss when face to face with Father Ted Crilly (in spite of the medical evidence of their domestic strife - a leg in plaster, a head gushing blood) or a whole host of off-the-wall priests who put in an appearance from time to time.
But take away the rest of the cast and the trestle tables, and Dibbers occasionally has its hip moments, like the jokes after the credits, saving it from holy unhipdom.
But if you’re a true Dibberholic and have never watched Father Ted, then hats off to you - or should that be dog collars?
Unhip rating ***