Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Once Around Weatherfield Challenge - Part 2

Once Around Weatherfield - the story so far - Paul Lowther was Colin Jackson in 1981, Gabrielle Daye made occasional appearances as Beattie Pearson from 1961 to 1984.

I've had a terrible day. I got soaked waiting for the bus, fell off a medicine ball and cracked my knee at the gym, and as if THAT wasn't enough, the miniscule gym I use was densely populated by young people from a dance company today. Made me feel positively geriatric. Glancing in one of the full length mirrors, I was horrified to discover that the scene, ancient old me and the chirpy, hyper-healthy little perishers,  resembled Uncle Fester and the Kids From Fame working out together. To cap it all, I've just discovered that I can't get annual leave from work and I'm going to have to toil on MY BIRTHDAY!!

So, I've decided to be a thorough ratbag and set you a stonkingly hard Once Around Weatherfield challenge. You remember Once Around Weatherfield? It's our new quiz in which we show you a photograph of a minor character from the Street's 60s/70s/80s era and ask you to identify the character and the performer and write a little about both, thus earning yourself the glory of publication here at Back On The Street.

I began the Challenge by demonstrating how it's done with a write-up about the 1981 character Colin Jackson and the actor Paul Lowther - that's here - and then I presented Beattie Pearson played by Gabrielle Daye as the first mystery photograph. Reader Sue Bennett did us absolutely proud with her write-up about the performer and the character. You can read that here.

So, for this challenge, this stonkingly hard challenge, we have a "blink and you'd miss her" minor character from 1980. She appeared in just TWO episodes! And, to make it even harder (because I'm feeling super-grumpy today) the photograph shows the actress in a different TV role in 1985, not in her role as the 1980 Coronation Street character. She looked very different in The Street! You'd have to be an absolute Corrie genius to work this one out, and I'm not expecting answers any time soon!

The mystery lady is pictured below. Ha! Now, I'm off for a smug chortle in a Radox bath. Good luck! xx

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Violet Carson on Ena Sharples...

 Violet Carson at home with Ena Sharples.

When I was a kid in the 1970s, Ena Sharples of Coronation Street was a lovely character. OK, she could speak out occasionally - as when Bet Lynch moved in with Mike Baldwin as his... er... "housekeeper" in 1976, but, in the main, Ena was a very lovable figure, cherished by the community around her.

It wasn't always so, of course. The original Ena Sharples of the crackling black and white days of the early 1960s had been a fiercesome, fiesty harridan, often completely unreasonable, often almost foaming-at-the-mouth.

I was unaware of that Ena until the mid-1970s. I wasn't born until 1965, you see, and, being so young, had no memory of the days when Ena had told Elsie Tanner, Florrie Lindley, Christine Hardman and many, many others where to get off.

Then, one bleak mid-1970s Christmas, I saw an episode of the Street in which Annie Walker and Betty Turpin reminisced about days gone by in Weatherfield. The episode was largely composed of flashbacks and there, suddenly, was Ena, in a hospital bed in 1960, letting her "friend" Martha Longhurst have it, all guns blazing. Ena's awesome tirade ended with her furious face close up to the camera, and I found myself shrinking away from the TV set. It was almost a "duck behind the sofa" Dr Who-style moment!

After that episode, I looked upon Mrs Sharples rather differently!

WOW! What a baggage she had been!

During the 1970s, a gentler and far more reflective Ena was often absent from the Street as Violet Carson's health declined, and she made her final appearance in 1980. Not that it was planned that way, and Ena's departure that year was low key as it was fully intended she would return.

Violet Carson died in 1983.

So, how did she become Ena? What did she think of Ena? What was Vi Carson really like? Here are a few choice observations from the actress who created a soap legend...


As young girl, Vi had learned to play the piano, and her sister, Nellie, was learning the violin...

"Harold Jones, the musician who was teaching Nellie, was leading the orchestra at the old Market Street cinema in Manchester. One day, they wanted a relief pianist in a rush - they always want you in a rush or not at all - and Harold suddenly said, 'Send Vi down and see what she can make of it.' I was petrified with fright. I was only fifteen and I clutched the sheaf of music so hard it was all squashed out of shape. But once I put my fingers on the keyboard, everything seemed to come right. In fact, they gave me the job on the spot and I stayed for two wonderful years."


"When this 'Ena' thing cropped up I didn't want to know. I was getting out of the Northern scene - not that I despised it. I am fiercely North Country (being Mancunian). But I was moving. The magic of Shakespeare swept me off my feet. And then I'm back saying 'Eee, by gum' in the Street. It has trapped me. It has made me, if you like. But it has destroyed me. Nobody sees me or anything about me..."

"When they said she was difficult to play, and they couldn't find anybody to play her, I said: 'Don't be ridiculous. I've lived with this woman all my life.' There's one in every street, every town, every country in the world. She's always there. She pontificates. She routs those who won't work. She praises those who will. She's there when there's a new baby. There if anybody's sick. We had one next door when I was a little girl. When anything was wrong, she was there. I said to them at Granada: 'Why do you find this casting difficult?' They'd had twenty-four actresses down for the thing. It was ridiculous.

"I said I was too large for the part. That it was written for a little woman. It wasn't until afterwards that I found Tony Warren had based the character on his grandmother, a big woman. That is why the others had fallen down. I romped home. It was easy. I was back in my childhood with the woman next door. And that was it."


"I'm a bit like her. I don't suffer fools gladly. I can't stand hypocrisy. I'm a plain Jane really, like she is. I speak my mind. I actually like household chores such as cleaning the fire grate But in lifestyle and outlook she and I are poles apart.".


"I loathe milk stout. I only pretend to drink it in the Rovers. I like good food and brandy and ginger is my favourite tipple."


Vi had a long career before Ena Sharples, including six years as pianist for Wilfred Pickles on the popular radio show Have A Go! There is no doubt that Ena eclipsed that success and in some ways eclipsed the real Violet Carson, the actress, the personality. Back in the early 1960s, with the Street just beginning to take off, Vi said:

"I don't want to be Sharples - that old bag - all my life. I want people to remember Violet Carson."

I think Violet was a victim of her own success. Had she not been such a fine actress, then Ena would never have become the legend she was - and, indeed, still is - and would never have been able to eclipse the already established media personality who played her in the eyes of the public.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Ena Sharples - The Teapot!

My Ena Sharples teapot - a comforting presence?!

Today, lovies, Andy is not feeling very well. In fact, I've had a stinking cold for a week now. The onset on the symptoms began last Saturday, which was my last day at work before beginning a week's holiday, and I've been feeling dog-rough ever since. Great timing, eh?

Anyway, today, as I snuffled my way through a box of Kleenex, my loving wife left me to go to her place of work with the following expression of sympathy: "Don't forget the dusting and hoovering, will you, darling?"

Being a thoroughly good lad, well brought up, I've been flicking a duster around.

You know what it's like when you've had a picture or ornament for years? You don't really see it? It just doesn't register as you waltz through your day-to-day to round? Well, today, I suddenly became aware of an ornament in our hall - an Ena Sharples teapot my wife bought when Adam were a lad, and the expression on said Mrs Sharples' face, as depicted on't teapot, made me feel quite Minnie Caldwell for a moment!

"Oooh, Ena!" I said.

Anyway, I thought you might like to see the teapot, which was made by the Bovey Pottery Co and created by Peter Rogers. Lovely, innit?!

This brings me on to the fact that I have some great Violet Carson Ena Sharples material lined up for this blog. It'll be here very soon.

I'd put it on today. But I've clinkers to riddle and pots to side.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Speak Easy - September 2013

Victor Pendlebury and Derek Wilton express themselves in 1984.

Interesting question from Lorenzo here:

Did Coronation Street seem dated in the 1970s and 1980s? I've read that it lost touch a bit after the 1960s.

In some ways, Lorenzo - it portrayed a cosy, old style community that many folk in the '70s and '80s could only remember fondly. But the '70s and '80s were definitely present. The rising crime rate - and even that very new terror, gun crime, were examined in the 1970s, as was rising unemployment, inflation and other topical things, and the 1980s saw the Street experiencing many changes in trends and pace, with topics such as yuppies and computers featuring, as well as more crime - and a whole new development of houses, shops and industrial units. The Rovers Return and Corner Shop were also modernised during the 1980s.

Lindsey says:

I don't think you've been featuring enough stuff from the good old Corrie days recently. You used to feature loads from magazines, newspapers, TV listings, etc. Could we have more?

Well, Linda, we have had some brilliant '60s stuff in recent months - including an aerial view of Weatherfield from a 1960s TV Times, but, just for you, here's a few TV listings pics and captions from the 1980s - Channel edition TV Times.

Would you trust Hilda? Hmmm... Rita looks none too sure in 1981... 

Eddie Yeats - the barmpot - used Mike Baldwin's flat as his own to impress the lovely CB lady Stardust Lil (Marion Willis) in 1982... Trouble ahead...

Marion meets Stan Ogden... and Eddie looks none too pleased...

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

1982: Stardust Lil And Slim Jim - CB Radio Comes To Coronation Street, But Could Marion Really Talk The Lingo?

 "Breaker break, good buddy! Hope you're hearing me wall to wall and tree top tall!"

Or summat like that.

CB radio was one of my top fave crazes of the 1980s. It was a decade packed full of crazes, Rubik's Cube, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, deelyboppers, dancing flowers, Trivial Pursuit, to name but a few, however CB stands out as one of my fondest memories.

Citizens' Band radio was invented in America by a man called Al Gross in the 1940s, and it had been up and running there since the 1950s. In England, CB usage had been known on a very small scale since the mid-1960s, but it was illegal. Films and songs like Convoy heightened interest in CB in the late 1970s, and in 1980 an illegal craze went spiralling out of control.

In 1981, the illegal CB craze had grown to such proportions that it was wreaking havoc in some quarters, with a hospital claiming it was interfering with heart monitoring machines, and a fire brigade desperate to track down a chattering CB'er who kept "fanning out" onto their frequency via a faulty CB. The UK Government decided to legalise CB during 1980, but this did not happen until 2 November 1981. Then, shops sold out of CB's and the craze went wide. It was at its peak in 1983, with 300,000 licences sold.

In 1982, the craze reached Coronation Street where Eddie Yeats (Geoffrey Hughes), former lovable bad lad turned binman, met the love of his life via CB... over to the TV Times, 2-8/10/1982:

CB slang and the language of love

Actress Veronica Doran has a problem with some of her fans - she can't understand a word they say.

It all started a few months back when, as Marion Willis in Coronation Street, she was driving a florist's van for a living which was fitted with a Citizens' Band radio.

Under the romantic call-sign of 'Stardust Lil' she made contact with another CB fan, the far from skinny 'Slim Jim', alias Eddie Yeats. And as every fan of the Street now knows, the language of the airways became the language of love as they met, fell for each other and became engaged.

"I still get a lot of mail from CB users,' says Veronica, 'and lots of invitations to their get-togethers.'

But Veronica is the first to admit that before the Coronation Street part she had never used a CB radio and the esoteric language of CB fanatics was a total mystery to her. Most of it still is.

'I had to tell one person on the phone that I hadn't the faintest idea what they were talking about," she says.

The Eddie/Marion romance is still fondly remembered, and, of course, the two finally married in 1983. I loved the way The Street sometimes tapped into crazes of the moment for story-lines. This was one of the very best examples.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Coronation Street 1982 - When Weatherfield Met Ambridge...

The BBC Radio 4 serial The Archers and Coronation Street were alike but unalike back in the '60s, '70s and '80s. Both were soaps, both had some notable characters, but, whilst none of The Archers characters had the style or breeding of Annie Walker (tragically, there wasn't a single Beaumont of Clitheroe in the vicinity of Ambridge), the radio farming saga seemed much posher somehow. I was more at home with the Rovers Return and Corner Shop of the Street than at Grey Gables or Nelson Gabriel's 1980s wine bar.

Norman Painting, who played Phil Archer and wrote numerous episodes of The Archers, did not seem to be a huge lover of Coronation Street, which he mentioned in his autobiography Forever Ambridge, and HV Kershaw, Corrie producer and scriptwriter, was not overflowing with praise for the rural radio soap in his autobiography, The Street Where I Live.

But in 1982 the folks down Weatherfield way were happy to help their soap world comrades in Borsetshire...

From The Stage and Television Today, September 23, 1982:

Getting together in the interests of the listener, Granada has loaned the sound of Alf Roberts' shop bell to The Archers, who were having trouble with theirs. From the left, at the recording, Coronation Street's series planner, Gordon McKellar, Bryan Mosley, assistant sound recordist Ian Maclegen, and film sound recordist Ray French.

I used to love the sound of the Corner Shop bell. It was last heard in Coronation Street in 1985, when Alf Roberts had the shop modernised. I'm not sure how long it lingered in Ambridge!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Once Around Weatherfield Challenge - Part 1 - THE WINNER!

 Gabrielle Daye - 1939 Spotlight entry.

Absolutely chuffed to little mint balls with this response to my first Once Around Weatherfield Challenge. This is a new feature where I pick a bit-part or recurring character from the Street's past, stick a photo of him/her on here, and ask you lot to tell me about the character and the performer. The first chosen was the marvellous Beattie Pearson, Albert Tatlock's mean and prickly daughter (played by Gabrielle Daye) and the entry to the Challenge I received below has bowled me over because it's so insightful and detailed. I never expected owt like that! So chuffed am I, I'm going to award a special prize - an Alfred Roberts Corner Shop mug from 1985 to the winner, SUE BENNETT, and to Sue - I say CONGRATULATIONS AND MANY THANKS! I received two other entries - many thanks to Colin and Pat for those. Please keep trying! There'll be more Once Around Weatherfield challenges (and prizes!) soon.

And, without further ado (I've got to fix a hole in't cludgie roof this afternoon), here's Sue's biography of Mrs Beattie Pearson and actress Gabrielle Daye!

Regarding your Once Round Weatherfield challenge, the answer is actress Gabrielle Daye, who played Albert Tatlock's daughter, Beattie Pearson, in the Street as a recurring (occasional) character from 1961 to 1984.

Beattie took after her old Pop in that she was mean with the brass, but Albert had a kindness and generosity of spirit under his crusty facade that was not so obvious in his daughter. She was married to Norman, who, in rare appearances, seemed to be a bit under her thumb. Early on, it was stated that Norman and Beattie had children, but this seemed to be rewritten very quickly. 

Albert was critical of Beattie, and although he stayed with her and Norman on occasion, was actually much closer to Ken Barlow, who had married his niece Valerie in 1961. Even after Valerie's death in 1971, Albert stayed close to Ken, who spent long spells living with him.

Albert was also close to Ken and Val's twins, Peter and Susan, his great-nephew and niece, who were born in 1965. He often visited them in Glasgow and was delighted on the rare occasions they visited the Street.

A chance remark of Beattie's in the '80's revealed that she charged her father a bit "for his keep" when he stayed with her.

When Ken married Deirdre in 1981, Beattie was concerned that she would be left to look after her father and made waves. She was highly relieved when the Barlows finally opted to continue living with Albert.

As Albert grew older, Beattie became concerned about her inheritance, No 1 Coronation Street. As she said in the early 1980's, it was the house she had been "fetched up in", and she faked some kind of sentimental attachment to it - which was a thin cover for her concern for the bricks and mortar value of the place. After Ken married Dierdre Langton and Albert offered them the house, Beattie was furious and stuck her nose in, creating bad feeling. In the end Albert accepted payment for the house from Ken, though less than its market value. Beattie reproached Ken about that, but Ken told her it was all Albert would accept. Beattie remained concerned about her inheritance - fearing that Albert would spend the money before he died and she'd get nothing.

Albert died while staying with Beattie and Norman in May 1984. Beattie redeemed herself slightly by presenting Ken with his Military Medal.

Gabrielle Daye did not appear in Coronation Street after 1984. The last mention of Beattie Pearson I recall came in December 1988, when the Barlows were going to pay her a visit, which indicated they had stayed in touch.

Born in 1911, Gabrielle Daye was an accomplished actress who appeared in numerous films, TV and theatre roles. Her TV work dates back to the genre's early years - the 1940s. She died in 2005.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Susie Blake - Before Bev Unwin...

Here's a quickie teaser question for you! Susie Blake appeared as Bev Unwin in Coronation Street, but she's seen in our photograph playing a very different role on a very different TV programme way back in the 1980s. Can you tell me - who was she then?

Speak Easy - August 2013

I've been driving my long-suffering Mrs daft with modern day electronic dance music - it's all so evocative of my '80s heyday and I can't get enough! "A hustler's work is never through..."... "in your throes as the dust settled around us..."

Anyway, back to more relevant topics, and a very kind message from Llifon, who organised the poll we recently mentioned which saw Alf Roberts being voted as favourite Corner Shop owner of all time.

Hi Andrew,

Thanks again for the ment of my poll on your blog. I don't know if you saw it, but I also did a poll asking people for their favourite 1980s moment. And the winner was Hilda weeping over Stan's death. You can see the results here.

I don't know if you want to mention it on your blog? I'll also be making polls looking at moments from the 1960s and 1970s in the coming weeks.



P. S. I noticed in your profile you like 20th century history like me. I studied it in uni.

Cheers, Llifon, and it's a great pleasure to link to the poll you mention. Yes, I'm really fascinated by 20th century history - particularly the 1910s, 1920s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1980s. Although, I hasten to add, of those decades the 1980s is the only one I really remember! Looking forward to more of your polls - thanks for getting in touch.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Were The '80s Better Than Now?

18 October, 1989 - Alan Bradley (Mark Eden) is in court, but more trauma for Rita lies ahead...

I was thinking about my birthday yesterday. It's approaching over yonder horizon - 18th October to be exact. I'll be forty-eight. With this in my head, I riffled through all my Corrie memorabilia to find this Granada TV press pic from that date in 1989. Was life better in the 1980s, I wondered? No paranoia about "stalkers", no CCTV watching our every move, a political scene that was the subject of fierce dabate/adoration/protest amongst the electorate - unlike the apathy of today...

I certainly think Corrie was much better back then. Amazingly, Sky TV was just beginning in 1989, and the World Wide Web just being invented - it would not be operational until a year or two later. Less complicated times, with some absolutely cracking telly, I think.

Not all jam of course - no rosy coloured specs here, but I still think better. People seemed more concerned, more united. I don't recall ever living in a peaceful, lovey-dovey era. As far as I'm concerned, the "flower garden" '60s thing is a complete myth, but I still think people were a bit more caring in the 1980s than they are now. We didn't watch soaps in the constant hope of tracking serial killers or witnessing a gigantic explosion, for instance. We cared about the characters, enjoyed an occasional "blockbuster" story-line, but also savoured the far more common everyday trivia stories.

I wonder how much our multimedia world of today has contributed to the fragmented society we currently live in? There seem to be so few points of connection. Pubs are dying out round my way, and TV is no longer the great shared experience it once was.

Maybe I'm just getting old(er)! But I do have a sneaking suspicion that during the 1990s we grew smug and hypocritical - and complacent. We rewrote the past, let the politicians get on with it, and kidded ourselves we were lovely now the big bad '80s had gone.

Maybe it's just because I'm getting old (er!) but I can't help wondering...

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Once Around Weatherfield - Part 1

So, at long last here is the first part of our Once Around Weatherfield challenge! Once Around Weatherfield focuses on the bit-part and recurring characters of Coronation Street's 1960s-1980s era, and asks YOU for the details! Who is the lady pictured above? Who did she play? What do you know about the character and the performer? Write us up a nice little biography, and we'll publish it! See our introductory feature here to get the full idea.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Speak Easy - July 2013

Got something to say? Well, spit it out, chuck! Here, your voice can be heard. Well, read really... 

Thanks for all communications received... here's a little round-up of recent goodies...

Firstly, thanks to Kevin, who e-mailed us about the late actor Paul Lowther, Colin Jackson in The Street in 1981. Kevin sent us a later publicity photograph of Paul, and recalls living in a shared house in Balham, "Gateway To The South", London, with him in the mid-1980s. He remembers having great fun acting jokingly about life up North with Paul. Thanks for that, Kevin! As we said before, we were very impressed with Paul's portrayal of Colin Jackson and wished the character had become a regular on the Weatherfield scene.

Pauline asks:

Why did Coronation Street employ a full-time archivist, but still messed about with the age of the Barlow twins in 1978?

It's a puzzle, Pauline! We do know that archivist Eric Rosser disagreed with the move. We can only imagine that Bill Podmore and co didn't want to wait until the character would have been old enough before launching the story-line about Peter Barlow wishing to join the Navy. As we say, the Barlow twins' age was righted in 1986, when they celebrated their twenty-first birthday and as far as we know further such tweakings of established facts (or retcons as they become known in the world of popular fiction during the 1980s) were resisted until the 1990s.

 Craig asks:

When did Annie Walker retire? I've read 1984, but I've also read that Doris Speed last appeared in 1983.

Easy one, this, Craig. Doris Speed last appeared on-screen in October 1983, when the actress disappeared from the show due to ill health. It was hoped that she would return, so Annie didn't actually retire from the Rovers until 1984.

Sara says:

I'm looking forward to your "Once Around Weatherfield" feature as I fancy trying my hand at writing a biography of a minor character. When do you think the first part will appear? Keep up the good work, by the way!

Cheers, Sara! The first "Once Around Weatherfield" challenge will appear next week, so please stay tuned.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

1984: The Other Side Of Alf Roberts...

Bell: DING! Corner Shop customer: "Oooh, Alf! What 'ave you got on?"

Alf: "I'm doing me New Romantic today. Barm cake is it, lovey?"

Customer: "Barm CAKE? Barm POT more like!"

We were great fans of the character of Alf Roberts here at Back On The Street, especially during his 'Corner Shop cornerstone' era of 1980 to the early 1990s. There was summat about Alfie being the main person behind that shop counter... as Street producer Bill Podmore once said, he was "a Mr Green the grocer waiting to happen if ever there was one", and, although essentially not a very exciting character, he was a brilliant example of Mr Average, played with great integrity and skill by actor Bryan Mosley. We loved Alfie.

But as for exciting, impulsive, etc, etc, well, no he wasn't, lovey. But Bryan Mosley was not Alf, as Weekend magazine revealed in May 1984:

Did you know that Bryan Mosley was a founder member of the Society of British Fight Arrangers? He taught the likes of actors Terence Stamp and Tom Courteney how to handle a rapier and sabre. Couldn't see Alfie doing that, could you? Anyway, back to the Weekend magazine article for some edited highlights...

There's more to Bryan Mosley than the staid shopkeeper of Coronation Street

It's always a dull day for Alf Roberts in Coronation Street. He's about as interesting as the rows of baked beans in his corner shop.

That's how most people, even the show's diehard fans, see poor old Alf, who is played by Bryan Mosley. Alf's never happy unless he's worrying about something and despite having man-mad Bet Lynch as a lodger, his only excitement is going off to a council meeting.

But he doesn't have to be a bore. He could be lively, witty - even a bit of a ladies' man. That's what the man who knows him best reckons. Bryan Mosley should know. He's been Alf for more than 20 years and feels that the character has become a forgotten soul.

That could all change this year. Will leap year's tradition of encouraging women to propose to the men they fancy bring romance into Alf's loveless life? He's not had much luck with his amorous adventures since Renee, his screen wife, died - in spite of a brief skirmish with Gail Tilsley's mother (played by Sue Nicholls).

"Alf did actually propose to her," says Bryan. "But secretly I think he was rather relieved when she turned him down. It would have been an uneasy alliance although it might have livened old Alf up a bit. He certainly needs that."

He chugs through the least dynamic lines of script, making as much of Councillor Roberts as he can but convinced that the character has hidden depths.

"I see Alf as a man with hobbies - like studying for an Open University course or wood-whittling. I know he collects magazines about the two world wars bought from Rita Fairclough's Kabin and I suspect he is fairly knowledgeable on the subject but nobody ever does find out.

"Once in the early days he fell out with a character called Brian Rawlinson who insulted a pal of his. Alf laid into him furiously and had to be pulled off by Len Fairclough. And remember the first thing that he and Renee did after returning from their honeymoon? They had a blazing row. But these days Alf never seems to lose his cool."

Beneath the calm, predictable character, Bryan thinks that Alf is pretty lonely - secretly looking over the available women in The Street.

"I don't think that it's only marriage that he is after - a steady companion and a bit of affection would be enough, I feel."

Well, there's always dear old dependable Mavis Riley (played by Thelma Barlow) who's got the biggest library of Mills and Boon romances. "Oh, no. Definitely. She's not Alf's fancy at all. There's no way they could get together."

Bryan thinks that Alf would prefer a younger version of Annie Walker as his 'steady'. "Annie has a snobbish attitude, but Alf enjoyed her company when she was his Lady Mayoress, because she shares his sense of decorum."...

He has plenty of fan letters and proposals from women who see Alf as their ideal mate: "They write saying he's cosy and comfortable, reliable and solid," he says, "and their idea of a perfect husband.

"But I think Alf would rather stay as a batchelor, with a few more flirtations and the chance of finding the companionship he needs. He's very fond of Deirdre you know. Her presence in the shop brightens him up no end and she brings out his sense of humour.

"I'm happy to play Alf. He's a friend and a cornerstone in the dramas of The Street."

So he was. And we loved him for it. We always loved Alfie, but the era 1980-1993 stands as our favourite for the character. We never thought his marriage to Renee worked (although we loved Renee too - as an individual!), but from 1980-1985 the shop scenario settled with Alfie, joined by Deirdre, behind the counter to become a lovely cosy part of Street life. In 1985, things certainly livened up for Alf when the dear old 1960s-style shop went all modern as a mini-market and he married wonderfully awful Aud. 

But he remained the dedicated shopkeeper - a natural Mr Green the grocer, just as Bill Podmore had envisaged.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Tracy Langton/Barlow - The Way She Was...

Christabel Finch, seen here in a signed photograph from the early '80s, was the very first Tracy Langton. The photo made me think of the first few years of Tracy's life, back in the days when soap operas were so much less sensationalised and so much more sane. Well, usually!

Poor little Tracy Langton! Born in January 1977 to proud parents Ray and Deirdre (Deirdre wanted to call her Lynette but Ray baulked at that as a first name and registered her as Tracy Lynette), this little girl soon found life was a bit of a puzzle.

In 1978, Tracy's loving daddy moved away to Holland, and, in 1979, she and her mum moved from No 5 Coronation Street to live next door at No 3 with "aunty" Emily Bishop. 1980 brought another change of residence, as Emily married Arnold Swain (or thought she did) and Deirdre and Tracy relocated to the flat above the Corner Shop, where Deirdre began work after the death of Alf Roberts's wife, Renee.

1981 brought yet another move, with Deirdre marrying Ken Barlow and moving with Tracy into that glorious museum piece, No 1 - home of Mr Albert Tatlock, grouch of that parish.

So, by the time she was five, our Tracy (luv) had lived in four different locations in one tiny terrace. What a feat!

But, apart from that, life was pretty simple for Tracy back then. Wasn't it?

Hmmm... well...

In the late 1970s, as well as her father walking out on her, she was kidnapped from outside the Rovers Return, moments before a lorry careered out of control and hit the pub. And in the early 1980s she managed to lock herself in the lavatory at the Corner Shop. What a calamity!

More on the early life and times (and changing faces) of our Tracy soon.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

On The Menu To Celebrate the 2000th Episode...

Here's the Sun newspaper's wonderful cartoon image of Ena Sharples jumping out of a cake to celebrate the 2000th episode of Coronation Street in 1980. But what was REALLY on the celebration menu? Well, we took a peek, and would you believe there wasn't a barm cake to be had? Nope, the big nosh-up included smoked salmon, saddle of lamb and "strawberry surprise" (whatever THAT was!).

Eee, lovey, weren't it posh?!

The mouth watering menu for the great 2000th episode celebration...

Friday, 5 July 2013

Colin Jackson - Played By Paul Lowther

What the Mrs doesn't know... Colin Jackson (Paul Lowther) faces a stressful time at the Tilsleys' in 1981.

I've had a couple of enquiries about the "Once Around Weatherfield" Quiz, and so have decided to demonstrate how it should work, using the first character selected, Colin Jackson, played by the late Paul Lowther.

The idea is to identify the pictured character and the actor concerned in each instalment of the quiz, and then write a piece about the character, the story-line and the actor who played the role. It must be as accurate as you can make it, but you can include your opinions - as long as you make it plain that they ARE your opinions, and a spot of humour never goes amiss. This, to show how it's done, is my piece on Colin Jackson and actor Paul Lowther.

Colin Jackson turned up in the Street's story-line in May 1981, the husband of Sue, played by Kate Lock. Sue was a friend of Gail Tilsley's and a neighbour on the Buxton Close estate, where Gail and Brian lived with their baby son, Nicky.

Sue sat at home "staring at the walls", while Colin worked as a salesman - selling fitted kitchens. Colin had done his time as an electrician, and made it plain to Gail and Brian that he had "drive". Sue was quite a strong person herself, but seemed happy to let Colin make the decisions. For instance, there would be no baby until they had a video tape machine (very expensive in those days and very rare in the nation's living rooms!) and a larger house. Sue thought that the estate was snobbish, that people walked by your house pricing up your curtains, and was glad to have found a friend there in Gail.

Colin was of the "I Love Myself, Who Do You Love?" breed of men. He fancied himself something rotten, and thought that Gail fancied him too.

The Jacksons seemed rather more modern than the Tilsleys, and were something of a breath of fresh air. It was good to see other residents of Buxton Close, and to break away a bit from the financial worries and squabbles of Gail and Brian.

Unfortunately, the Jacksons didn't last long. Colin offered to fix Brian's record player, and when Gail said he'd be useful if the TV went wrong, Colin took it as a green light to make a pass at her. He leeringly told her that she should tell Sue he was needed to attend to the TV (or "the box" as he called it), clearly inferring that would be a cover for something quite different, if she wanted him to visit. For some reason, Gail (I would have thought she'd have had some inkling of trouble brewing after Roy Thornley - she wasn't exactly Snow White) did not pick up on Colin's double meaning, and the next thing we knew was that the Tilsleys and Jacksons were off on a riverside picnic together.

Once again, Colin made comments to Gail that most 1980's women would have seen for exactly what they were, like the fact he'd rub her sun tan lotion in if ever she wanted him to, but Gail was blissfully oblivious.

Get the feeling Gail was a bit of a plank?

Colin made his pass at Gail after the picnic, with Brian out at work for the evening. Gail was outraged and slapped his face. Colin retreated, but the next day caught up with her while she was out with Nicky, and asked her not to tell Sue. She said she wouldn't.

Colin heaved a huge sigh of relief, which made my wonder about his feelings for his wife. He clearly DID value his marriage, and I wondered about the Jacksons' relationship. It seemed fertile ground for further exploration, and I was impressed by the energy and sensitivity the actor brought to the role.

Playing a cad is not easy! Stopping the cad from becoming a stereotype, particularly with rather a thin script (the Jacksons, being brief stayers, were not very rounded characters) is even harder.

Sue wanted Gail and Brian to go away for the weekend with her and Colin. She and Colin visited them and Sue was determined to get them to say yes. Colin's expression flitted from tight smile to discomfort and on to fear as Sue made her case. The Tilsleys had conferred, and Brian had agreed not to spill the beans to Sue about Colin's unwanted attentions to his wife. But they couldn't possibly go away with the Jacksons for the weekend! They were all ready with their reasons not to: Brian couldn't get time off work. Sue told him to tell his boss his pet duck had died; Gail's mother was coming for the weekend. She could come anytime, Sue said...

Sue quickly became offended by Gail and Brian's excuses. Colin looked even more stressed (I admire actors who can subtly convey a great deal of emotion simply with facial expressions!) and the friendship was declared over. Sue flounced out, Colin made to follow and Brian grabbed hold of him by the collar and warned him never to go near his wife again. That was the end of the Jacksons.

Gail said it was a pity because she liked Sue.

But Colin was, of course, a thoroughly bad lot. She didn't need to say that!

Five years later, Gail revised her opinion about adultery and had an affair with Brian's cousin. Those TV times were changing...

RADA trained actor Paul Lowther also appeared in Dr Who and Casualty later in the 1980s, and the 1991 TV movie Prisoner of Honor.

I found his portrayal of Colin Jackson very convincing and particularly admired the way he played the scene in which Sue tried to persuade Brian and Gail to go away with her and Colin for the weekend, unaware of Colin's play for Gail. A baddie Colin may have been, but Mr Lowther's portrayal at that point almost made me feel sorry for him!

Colin couldn't keep up that tight smile as Sue tried to tempt the Tilsleys into a weekend away from it all...

I think the Street really needed some racier couples on a permanent basis back then. But it wasn't until 1989 and 1990, with the arrivals of Liz and Jim McDonald and Des and Steph Barnes that it got any.

The Jacksons were a vague hint of the shape of things to come!

I was very sorry to discover, whilst researching this article, that actor Paul Lowther died in 1992. His work as Colin Jackson - husband of Sue, former-electrician-turned-fitted-kitchen-salesman, the man who wanted a video tape machine before he wanted a baby, and the man who fixed Brian and Gail's record player, before disgracing himself with Gail - remains a fond memory of an outstanding minor character from the Street's glory days.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Coronation Street, 1989...

October 1989... and the Street is undergoing a revolution. A whole new street is coming to the old street, with new houses, shops and industrial units...

How the production team teased us! What would the new side of the Street look like? On 11 December 1989, an episode filmed in November, we glimpsed the nearly completed building which houses the salon today. The building work was to be completed by the end of 1989, as the show filmed in advance, and complete unveiling was due on-screen in early 1990.

In October 1989, the Daily Mirror reported:


BY 'ECK! Whatever are they doing to our Street?

They must be glued to their nets over there between the Rovers and Alf Roberts's corner shop, gawping at all the amazing goings-on on the other side of the country's most famous cobbles.

For this is the Street as we've never seen it before. The bulldozers have moved in. Mike Baldwin's factory has been demolished. In its place they are putting up a complete new block of buildings. The site is sealed off, with high boards to keep out peeping Toms, nosey journalists and visitors who daily tour the TV studios, trying to catch sight of the stars at work.

All the lorries and bulldozers bear the name of Maurice Jones, the fictional character who has brought out Baldwin and is developing the site, throwing the whole Street into turmoil. Actor Alan Moore laughs mischievously as the cameras roll and the actors go about their business, while the brickies work away. He says: "I've become the new Mr Nasty of the Street - and I'm enjoying every minute of it."

But what exactly are they building? The producers are keeping that a strict secret. But one thing is certain. The Yuppies won't be moving in on the people's street.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Evil '80s: Part 1 - Sally Seddon/Webster

"Go into business on your own account, Kev, let's get our own house, Kev, brush that scambled egg out of your 'tache, Kev..."

Many moons ago, I began a series on this blog entitled Sadistic '60s, Savage '70s, Evil '80s. Those posts were designed to highlight the darker side of each decade as it was lived in Weatherfield. But, as regular Back On the Street readers know, blog posts here tend to be few and far between. However, having already launched the Sadistic '60s and Savage '70s strands ages ago, I'm now ready to give you the first glimpse of the evil side of '80s life as experienced in that little back street sandwiched between Viaduct Street and Rosamund Street.

And what is my first topic of conversation here? Betty Turpin being mugged? Suzie attempting to bed Gail's Brian? Hilda being knocked on the head by a burglar? Rita nearly being smothered by Alan Bradley? Nope. It's Sally Seddon/Webster. I have the greatest respect and even liking (if her interviews are anything to go by) for actress Sally Dynevor, who made her screen debut as the other Sally in early 1986, but Ms Seddon/Mrs Webster drove me up the wall from the start. And I wondered at the calculated cruelty of the Corrie production team for foisting her on us. It was pure wickedness, I reckoned.

And here's why...

Sally made her debut when she was splashed by Kevin Webster as he motored through a puddle whilst she was stood on the pavement. From then on, Kev's life changed drastically. And so did the lives of the viewers as squawking Sally, with her horrifying nasal twang, became a Weatherfield regular.

What was up with the girl? For a start, her family were considered to be dog rough, but that was nothing to judge her by. No, give everybody a fair chance, that's what I say. But Sally quickly developed from a squawky, possible vixen type into a squawky, smugly married type, and, whilst her gloriously wayward sister, Gina, sometimes dreamt of being a yuppie, Sally went all out to push her hubby up the upward mobility ladder. Surely he should have his own business, instead of working for Brian Tilsley? Surely they should have their own house, instead of living in the Corner Shop flat? And so on. She wanted it all. And she wanted it now.

On top of that, Sally invaded the aforementioned Corner Shop in 1987, getting a job behind the counter, and squawking "Mr Roberts" this and "Mr Roberts!" that all day. Despite her crawling way of calling him "Mr Roberts", she could sometimes be incredibly patronising, even downright rude, to her employer, who was old enough to be her father and, as the Corner Shop cornerstone of the Street, deserved respect, and her dreadful smugness increased to such an extent we wanted to fetch up our nouvelle cuisine.

And as for being a modern Miss/Mrs... what the hell was Sally doing squawking away to Shakin' Stevens's Lipstick, Powder and Paint at a party in late 1987? I mean, good grief! No House Nation? Nope. Was she simple? And whilst both Kev and Sal were supposed to be contemporaries of mine, it never seemed at all obvious to me when it came to their attitudes. What a pair of young fogies! When Sally squawked in the Corner Shop in the early 1990s that children were much cheekier than when she was at school, I was amazed. Sally was born in 1967. Me in 1965. When I was at school, the kids' language would make a docker blush, some terrorised local people, we striked and rioted at the comprehensive school I attended, and Sid Vicious and glue sniffing were trendy. Where on earth had Sally gone to school? One did wonder if some of the scriptwriters were getting a bit past it, putting rubbish like that in young characters' dialogue.

So, whenever Sally appeared, I wanted to squawk myself - "OH MY GAWD! NO!" - and run from the room.

Having said all that, what a fabulous actress Sally Dynevor is! I approached on-line interviews with her in more recent years with great trepidation, expecting that Sally D just had to be Sally W in reality, so convincing was that dreadful screen entity. But far from it, she seems self-effacing, witty and downright nice.

If only Sally W could have been!

But then again, characters who make us want to lob a brick through the TV screen are a highly necessary part of soap opera. And I haven't watched Corrie or any other soap since the late 1990s, so Sally W might be absolutely lovely by now. She might have mellowed into a real luv.

Although I somehow doubt it!

She's definitely a fitting topic for the first in our Evil '80s strand.

More on the Sadistic '60s and Savage '70s soon.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Alf Roberts Voted Favourite Corner Shop Owner

Alf Roberts was wedded to the Corner Shop in Coronation Street from 1980 when he inherited it from his wife, Renee, until the early 1990s. In 1985, Alf dragged the Corner Shop out of the mid-1960s and into the mid-1980s by converting it into "Alf's Mini-Market", but the words "CORNER SHOP" appeared for the very first time on the main sign above the door - and remained there. When he retired, he took the bacon slicer with him as a souvenir. So devoted was he, that he bought the shop back again after the untimely death of its new owner in 1993!

Well, this news is slightly out-of-date, in fact it happened in May, but we're finally doing some updates here and, as you know, being a retro Coronation Street blog, our updates usually concern the past, and this one is no different!

We were delighted to discover that Alf Roberts was voted by Coronation Street Blog readers as their favourite Corner Shop owner (read all about it here). Alf, played by Bryan Mosley, inherited the Corner Shop when his wife Renee was tragically killed in a road accident in the summer of 1980, and from then on was wedded to it - even after he married Audrey Potter in 1985! We sang Alf's praises in 2010 on this blog (here) and we're so happy that his time as owner of the Corner Shop is so fondly remembered by Coronation Street Blog fans too.

Here's to the memory of Alf, and Bryan Mosley - the actor who brought him to life on-screen.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Back On The Street - The Big Question: " 'Oo's She?"

Well, lovey, we couldn't be bothered with a Sunday roast. Bought some barm cakes from Alf Roberts at the Corner Shop yesterday and 'ad 'em for our dinner today - three 'am, two cheese 'n' a corn beef. We've sided pots and we're just puttin' our feet up with a nice box of mint imperials. Before we settle down to a lovely evening in front o't telly, we thought we'd give yer a little bit of a brain teaser: here's a young madam who lived in Weatherfield many moons ago. She were nowt but trouble - yer can ask anyone, ask Ida Clough - but who were she? Ooh, nasty perm. But they were all the rage when she lived 'ere.

Alf Roberts from the Corner Shop - "Three 'am, two cheese, 'n' a corn beef". He knows who she was.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

The Elsie Tanner Guide To Coronation Street English

When an American friend of mine visited England in 2010, he was bemused at the variety of accents and variations of the spoken language he encountered. He took in Newcastle, the Lake District, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Birmingham, the Cotswolds, Cambridge, Dorset and Norfolk and was well fuddled by the end of it. "There are so many variations of spoken English in England!" he finally told me. "For a tiny country like yours, it's amazing! And I've never known why your toffs and royalty insert inappropriate r's into words. 'Orff'. That's stupid"

Speaking as somebody without any inappropriate r's whatsoever, but a man who calls a pudding a "pudden" and, furthermore, a man well acquainted with "Dickie's medder", I couldn't help him.

When Coronation Street was launched in 1960, it must have been puzzling for people in other parts of the country to hear that wonderful Northern version of the language which I personally hold very dear (my dad hailed from "up North"). So, in 1961, the TV Times appointed Mrs Elsie Tanner of No 11 Coronation Street (who, as a native, spoke the lingo fluently) to enlighten the rest of us poor saps. Here's what she had to say, with specially posed photographs of Pat Phoenix as Elsie and, in one of them, Philip Lowrie, her unfortunate son Dennis....

Been feeling a bit mithered meself lately...

So there are you are. Cheers, Elsie! And if anybody can fill us in on the origins of 'flamin' Nora' and 'flamin' Emma', our cup of happiness would runneth over...

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Coronation Street - A Typical Saturday In 1961...

From the TV Times, 1961, part of the series of articles published in that magazine to celebrate The Street's first year on air. This is a typical Saturday on the Street way back then - with Ken showing Frank Barlow a letter from David, Harry Hewitt cleaning the windows at No 7 and chatting with Concepta and Len Fairclough, Jack and Annie Walker out for a morning stroll, Elsie Tanner giving son Dennis a right lambasting for being a layabed, Christine Hardman being greeted by Mr Swindley and Miss Nugent, corner shop owner Florrie Lindley taking a break from sweeping the flagstones to chat with Esther Hayes and Albert Tatlock, and Minnie Caldwell and Martha Longhurst clocking everything on't corner. And where was Ena Sharples? you cry. Apparently off visiting her daughter and grandson. We hope it was a happy visit - but knowing Mrs Sharples in the early 1960s (fierce wasn't the word!) we wouldn't bet on it!

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Coronation Street District - Weatherfield, 1961

TV Times celebrated a year of Coronation Street in 1961, with a series of articles and illustrations. The above pic is an aerial view of the Coronation Street neighbourhood in 1961. Of course, it differs from what we might expect. Arkwright Street, family home of that upwardly mobile little madam Sally Seddon in the 1980s, hadn't been invented, there was a cinema just round the corner, and St Mary's Church was just opposite the corner of Coronation Street! Rather like St Clement's Church was opposite the corner of Archie Street, the street which provided inspiration for Corrie's architecture. A further attempt to depict the neighbourhood in a 1976 TV Times also had its problems as it moved Len Fairclough's yard out of Mawdsley Street! But then mistakes happen and in recent years soap history is often rewritten anyway.

I love the map above - take a stroll round Weatherfield as it was then envisaged - call in at Gamma Garments - where Miss Nugent is no doubt admiring Mr Swindley's antimacassars, note the posh bay window at the side of the Rovers Return (Annie Walker must have been chuffed to little mint balls!), and do a shift at Elliston's Raincoat Factory, having a Corner Shop barm cake for your dinner break. But be warned - I'd avoid the vestry at the Mission Of Glad Tidings if I were you!

Ena Sharples After A Few Milk Stouts Too Many?!

Titbits, June 1968. What a wonderful cover - Mrs Sharples looking super jolly with a thick coating of lippy! The article inside centres on the serious consequences of real-life gossip, but the cover is so flamin' funny we've filed it under "wot a laugh, lovey!"

Coronation Street Novels By HV Kershaw - Old Friends... New Faces - Mystery Solved

 Ena Sharples: " 'Old friends'? Well, I can't say any of us are old friends of YOURS - we knew your mother! And as for 'new faces'... We don't take very kindly to new faces round 'ere!"

Had a very nice e-mail from Joan, who has many kind things to say about Back On The Street, and posed a question:

I bought the three HV Kershaw novels based on the early years of Corrie in the mid-to-late '70s. I thought I had them all Early Days, Trouble At The Rovers, and Elsie Tanner Fights Back. Each one centred on a particular year,1961, 1962 and 1963, and they were very enjoyable as Mr Kershaw was heavily involved with Corrie since its pre-screen days. Recently, I came across an on-line reference to another HV Kershaw Corrie novel called Old Friends... New Faces. I've never heard of it before, and can't find a copy on eBay or anywhere. Have you got a copy?

Hello, Joan!

No, I'm sorry, I haven't, but as far as I'm aware, NOBODY has - because it was never published. And I got that information from Mr Kershaw himself back in the early 1980s. I had been to my local library and was looking at the massive volume called Books In Print - the "bible" of what was around in the books world in that day and age. No library computers then, of course. I checked HV Kershaw's listings, and came across Coronation Street: Old Friends... New Faces. I wrote to Mr Kershaw, who responded very promptly and pleasantly, stating that only three Coronation Street novels had been published, and that he couldn't explain the error in Books In Print, perhaps the library could? The library couldn't.

I can only assume that this publication was well and truly in the pipeline, but never arrived. 

I was disappointed because, like you, I had greatly enjoyed the first three volumes, and the title - Old Friends... New Faces - had whetted my appetite as it seemed likely to refer to the events of 1964, with the arrival of the Ogdens at No 13. I would have loved to have read Mr Kershaw's written version of the events of that year.

I've checked on-line, and I can only surmise that the Books In Print error has been carried forward into our on-line modern world.

But you can rest assured that no such title was ever published.