The sad news of David Croft’s death has prompted me to reflect on my personal relationship with his work. It began when I was about five years old, I suppose, when I discovered ‘Allo ‘Allo, a series full of cheap gags and yet still audaciously funny. I do not recall a Sunday lunch with my family when I have not had occasion to pass the pepper mill with the phrase ‘It is old, but it still grinds’. Of course, I didn’t pick up on the innuendo upon innuendo at that age, but I did fall profoundly in love with the characters, as I still am. Unusual that a comedy series, and an unashamedly silly one at that, should engage one’s emotions so much.
I remember distinctly my mother or father telling me a year or so later that there was a TV programme on BBC1 that night which they thought I might like. It was Dad’s Army, repeated then (I think) on Tuesday evenings. They were right, of course. I’ve been infatuated with the very idea of sitcoms all my life, and Dad’s Army, one of my first loves, is still pretty much at the top of the tree. A lot of it comes down to the perfection of the performances – particularly those of Arthur Lowe and John Le Mesurier, from whom a minute tilt of the head is capable of sending the viewer into raptures, but also Arnold Ridley, John Laurie, and all the rest – but one has to give great credit to the writing too. One of the first episodes I knew, perhaps the first I ever saw, was ‘A. Wilson (Manager)?’ It has everything. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, you could pay no greater compliment to Croft’s memory than to sit down and watch it now. The series finished 35 years ago, and still it is repeated every week on BBC2. How many writers could make such a boast? Rest in peace, Mr Croft, and thank you.