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.