Friday, 10 April 2009

Things That Made Us Go "Hmmm..." Part 2: Coronation Street In The Late '60s To Early '80s - "Bloomin' Snobs!"

Coronation Street? Flippin' 'eck, not exactly swish was it? Ooh, they were a right rough lot round there. Apart from Annie Walker of course. And she was right stuck up...

When I was a kid/early teen, as Bill Podmore began his reign as producer of Coronation Street and got into his stride, I adored the show. But my mother and aunt often used to puzzle me. Watching the show through a haze of fag smoke, every so often they would cry "Bloomin' snobs!" Snobs? The Corrie crowd? Apart from Mrs W, of course! Surely they were dead common? Just like us?

But recently, viewing episodes from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, I have to say there were many times when the well-heeled scriptwriters' view of grotty back street life, in what was a very grim financial era, was rather inaccurate.

Take Maggie Clegg. A great favourite of mine, but would she really have been stocking fancy herbs at the Corner Shop in the late 1960s? I'm afraid, coming from a district not very far removed from Corrie myself, I'm not convinced.

Then, in 1976, Emily informed Renee Bradshaw that a shop in Rosamund Street was stocking peppercorns and was surprised that Renee wasn't. Well, none of the small shops in my area, nor even the local Co-op were doing so. We'd never even heard of them. Wasn't Weatherfield a little too upmarket?

Sometimes the Street was too upmarket, sometimes the other way. In 1978, Renee was selling Lobster Bisque soup (What?!) at the corner shop. Ridiculous! In the episode concerned, unemployed Suzie Birchall actually commented to unemployed Gail Potter that they were living in a depressed area. So, what the hell was Renee playing at?! Had she bought some cheap reject stock from Harrods? Later, in 1979 or 1980, Renee moaned at Alf for buying in a stock of frozen Chinese food that she was sure wouldn't sell. Sorry, Renee, luv, but I'm sure Chinese nosh would have had a much better chance of selling than Lobster Bisque soup!

Also in 1978, Ray and Len sailed close to bankruptcy. The Langtons were already struggling with their mortgage on No 5, and couldn't afford to run a car. But as soon as the financial crisis was averted, Deirdre asked Ray for a "cheap" microwave oven! Mad!! Microwave ovens had been available since the late 1960s, but they were very expensive - even the cheapest was not cheap in 1978. Anne Fourmile in George & Mildred was better off than Deirdre - but even she didn't have one!

Until the 1980s, microwave ovens were the playthings of those who had some dosh to splash around (more here).

As it happened, Deirdre didn't get her microwave oven, but even the request was, quite frankly, absolutely potty!

1978 seemed a bit of a prime year for the Street being rather too posh.

As a poor working class boy of the 1970s, spaghetti for me and everybody I knew, came in tins. It seems the same was true of Corrie - Hilda Ogden told Renee she didn't want to buy any because Stan got in such a mess with the stuff!

But then Mavis Riley decided to cook a meal for local OAPs at the Community Centre.

As we know, Mavis was into "fancy" cookery, and her decision to cook Coq au vin was perfectly in keeping with that. As was Ena's reaction to the news - she was not enthusiastic!

However, when Eddie Yeats burnt the original offering, Mavis decided to substitute spaghetti bolognese. Yes, for a party of OAPs. When I first ate spag. bol. (being a dog rough, real life Corrie-type person, it was years later) I found there was an art to eating "real" (untinned) spaghetti. You had to wind it round your fork with the aid of a spoon - or get in a right old mess.

But the OAPs of Weatherfield managed it without a hint of dribbled sauce or a spot of difficulty with the pasta strings, nor any advice - although they'd never eaten it before - and Mavis was seen sprinkling the loaded plates with Parmesan cheese. An acquired taste if ever there was one - especially to working class suet-and-spuds English taste buds way back then!

And then Ena declared it the best meal she'd ever eaten in the Community Centre!

I worked with the elderly in a residential home a few years later and they never requested - and we never dreamt of serving - such a meal! The idea of someone scalding themselves with hot spaghetti did not appeal.

Back in the day, I never really knew why Mum and Auntie cried "Bloomin' snobs!" I enjoyed the show, and didn't pay much attention to such details. And I didn't know a great deal about life.

But now I see exactly what they meant.

Coronation Street was fabulous back in those days, but I must say that viewing those episodes now, some of the trends and attitudes portrayed were most certainly not representative of life as it was lived in a real working class back street.

One can only surmise that it was Mrs Walker's influence? As she said: "One does one's best to raise standards."

In 1980, our Annie started serving soup at the Rovers, and as Bet saucily told Len Fairclough, who was amused at the concept:

"We're moving into the '80s - didn't you know? Soon, everything you need will be available under this one roof - and I do mean everything!"

Except Lobster Bisque soup, spaghetti bolognese and microwave meals.

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