Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Past Is A Bucket Of Ashes

Last year I delved into the archives, first to 1979 and then to 1989.  I'd always meant to go back and have another look sometime, but life got in the way, plus all that brown wallpaper and miserable food and relentless Ivy Tilsley got to be too much.  However, I've not had much on this week, so I turned back to YouTube to find out what was happening on the Street this week thirty-five years ago.

Episode Broadcast November 3rd 1980

We start off with Deirdre Langton, as was, hammering away at a teacake with a butter knife.  She's meant to be preparing it for the school girl customer, but she actually looks like she's trying to beat it into submission.  Ivy Tilsley is also there, wearing a headscarf and complaining because Brian has lost his job and Gail's pregnant.  They bemoan a woman's lot, and Ivy gestures to toddler Tracy sat on the side: "When she's grown up and got married it'll be just as bad as it is today."  Oh Ivy, you have no idea.

The girl with the teacakes goes outside, and I realise she's not a school girl at all; she's just really young.  She's stopped by a lad who's like every Bay City Roller combined into one unfortunate package, and who has a truly indecipherable accent.  I think it's Brummie, but it might be Scouse.  Apparently he and the girl were caught by a policeman drinking in Len's yard the night before, which is embarrassing for her because her dad's a copper.  I have absolutely no idea who these people are; given the lack of acting talent displayed by the boy with the hair, I assume he's a competition winner.  The girl tells him she's not to see him again, even though she wants to, while I'm distracted by the ridiculous proportions of the gap where number 7 should be.  The bench practically touches the sides; no wonder Dev was so stressed when Amber came to stay, there's barely enough room in that household for a small chihuahua.

In the fancy Tilsley household, off in a cul-de-sac somewhere, Gail is looking miserable as Brian rolls out of bed at 10:30 in the morning.  She tells him he should be at the job centre, but he says there's no point really.  There's a red bill on the mantlepiece, and they are both worried about money; perhaps if Brian stopped going for elaborate shampoo and sets with frosted tips they'd have a bit more cash to spend.  Ivy has offered to lend them her savings of two hundred quid, but Gail rightly doesn't want to be in debt to the rancid troll, and so they agree to economise by skipping meals.  I should point out that Gail is heavily pregnant at this point.  I don't know much about obstetrics but I'm pretty sure eight months pregnant women shouldn't be starving themselves.

Len Fairclough and Eddie Yeats are delivering a sideboard to Elsie Tanner; Len tells Elsie that she needs to rein in "that lad".  This seems to be Brummie/Scouse boy, and the not-school girl is called Karen.  He has something to do with Elsie - I'm guessing he's her grandson, spawn of Linda Cheveski.

In the pub, Albert Tatlock is looking pensive, and Betty offers him a bob for his thoughts.  He asks what the soup of the day is, and if it's home-made.  Annie Walker takes offence, pointing out that he asks that every day and she gives the same reply every day.  Albert suggests "you might have started slacking," to which Annie, the magnificent beast that she is, replies, "Standards are to be maintained; hopefully raised, never lowered."  On the other side of the bar Eddie is drinking with one of his binman mates, Johnny, who is played by Jack Smethurst of Mind Your Language infamy.  This immediately makes me anxious that he's going to come out with some kind of casual racial slur and make my rewatch awkward; fortunately, he's only interested in talking to Annie about her rubbish.  Apparently, she should fill her big catering tins of soup powder with rubbish before putting them out, so she can fit more in the bin.

Naturally Albert is outraged that she's charging 20p for home made soup then getting it out of a tin; Annie says that there isn't always time to make soup from scratch, but only charges Albert 10p.  She then lets rip into Eddie and Johnny.  Eddie says that people's rubbish tells you a lot about a person; he helped some woman who was staggering across Rosamund Street the day before, only to find out why she was staggering when he went to her bin and found seven empty Pot Noodles and fifty six bottles of cider.  I'm mostly astonished that they had Pot Noodles in 1980.

The long haired one is definitely Elsie's grandson - he's having lunch at hers.  Apparently he's called Martin, and he is quite possibly the worst actor I have seen, and remember, Brian Tilsley has already been in this episode.  Elsie gets a call from Karen's police inspector dad: he wants to come round for a word.  END OF PART ONE.

Ken is flirty with Deirdre right over the top of Tracy's head - no wonder she's so messed up.  He buys her some chocolate buttons - Tracy, not Deirdre - and they agree it's very civilised that they can still talk now they're not going out.  Deirdre says "it's nice we've done the things we did and can still be friends", which brings up all sorts of images I'm never going to get out of my head.

Karen's dad, who has a West Country accent for some reason, turns up at Elsie's and they have a row about the suitability of her liaison with Martin.  Elsie fetches herself a drink from her new sideboard - she filled that quickly.  There's a brief scene with Brian once again suggesting they borrow money off Poison Ivy, and Gail still telling him that it would be a fate worse than death, then we return to Elsie trying to reason with D I Oldfield about his wayward daughter.  They're in love, she says, but the policeman storms out, unconvinced.  Speaking of things that are unconvincing, Martin's at the yard, whinging to Len about how unfair it is that people are making such an issue about him getting a sixteen year old girl drunk so he could feel her up in a builder's yard.  I may be paraphrasing.  Len is paternal, and wishes that he'd had a builder's yard of his own to do his courting in.  At least I've finally deduced that Martin's meant to be Brummie.

In the pub, Eddie is trying to make things up with Annie Walker by producing a half-empty tin of hair dye he found in her bin and trying to return it to her - "it must have cost a fortune!".  Given that he does this over the bar in a bellowing Scouse accent it's not exactly discreet, and Annie unsurprisingly takes umbrage.  She storms into the back while Hilda cackles, "you're not very wise in the ways of women."  Meanwhile I have a slight panic over the stuff I've put in my wheelie over the years.

Brian meets Ivy and Bert in the pub, and asks to borrow that £200.  Ivy, obviously, has no problem with this, because it gives her a chance to have yet another one over her daughter in law.  She promises to get the money out the next day.

Annie Walker is on the phone to the Cleansing department of the local council, leaving a message for the manager because he never seems to be at his desk.  She points out that she is a former mayoress of Weatherfield and she wants her binmen changed immediately to a different crew.  I don't blame her, to be honest.

Gail is watching telly on a little portable; when her show finishes, she picks it up and moves it across the room to the top of the sideboard.  I bet she's glad she hasn't got a 50" plasma.  Brian returns home, tells her he was in the pub, had his tea at his mam's, and is going to borrow that £200.  This does not go down well with Gail, unsurprisingly, and she orders him to go and beg for his job back, or she'll do it herself.  CREDITS.

Episode Broadcast 5th November 1980

Elsie is reading the paper in a pair of enormous specs that make Deirdre's look positively compact.  She must have the vision of Mister Magoo.  Martin appears, still terrible at acting, and says that if he can't keep sexually molesting drunk teenage girls he's going to go back to Birmingham.  This is apparently a bad thing.

Eddie and Johnny are in the ginnel behind the Rovers, anxiously debating whether they should fetch the bins or not.  They are rightfully terrified of Annie, and unconvinced by their supervisor's suggestion that she might have changed her mind.  She appears in the back door in a glamorous fur lined dressing gown and informs them that she will wait for a different crew to come and collect her refuse, thank you very much.

Deirdre and Ken are flirting in the shop again, this time over Ken's purchase of a box of matches; it's all very Bogart and Bacall, if Bogart and Bacall ever talked about the pilot light going out in the kitchen.

Brian is looking for jobs in the paper, and is insulted when Gail suggests he takes a job as a storeman, telling her that he's a mechanic.  She points out that he got fired from being a mechanic - I still don't know why - and again suggests he go and beg for his job back.  Brian refuses for various male pride related reasons that won't feed the rapidly gestating foetus in her belly, then storms out to go door to door looking for jobs, which is obviously a lot less demeaning.

Karen's dad is still on the warpath for Martin, and turns up at the builder's yard wanting a word.  Len tells him that Martin's not a bad lad, though he is a rotten actor, but Oldfield disagrees.  About the first part, not the second.

Ivy and Bert are having their dinner in the Rovers; I'm not sure what they're eating, but it looks like reheated Pedigree Chum.  Perhaps Albert Tatlock should check what other tins Annie's got round the back.  Ivy's going to withdraw the £200 that afternoon; Bert tells her not to be smug or bang on about being right when she hands it over.  Ivy tells him she's not stupid, and Bert rightly pulls a disbelieving face.

Martin is waiting for Karen to go back into the factory, and we discover he can't even act when he's just standing still.  A couple of urchins ask for a penny for the guy as he drags her under the viaduct and tells her he's going back to Birmingham.  You'll never guess who happens to be passing by: that's right, Mr Oldfield, and we are left hanging on that cliffhanger as we head into the adverts.

PART TWO, and Mr Oldfield sends Karen back to work in Baldwin's Casuals while he growls menacingly at Martin.  Martin cowers for a bit then says it won't be a problem for much longer because he's going back to the Midlands.  For some reason this stops the older man in his tracks.

Gail picks her way round a wreck of a car to find Brian's old boss, looking very Rita Tushnigham in A Taste of Honey.  He slides out from underneath, and he looks like he's wearing a disguise, because he's buried under a curly perm and a moustache.

Eddie has let the penny for a guy urchins into the pub to harass the locals, because apparently he really wants to wind up Annie Walker.  She's not there, fortunately, but Fred Gee is, and he tries to send the kids off.  This was the good old days when you could go for a pint and not have some caterwauling infant ruining your alcoholic stupor; there was no such thing as a Family Room in the Rovers.  The boys go into the Snug and try to get cash off Albert Tatlock; he tells them they're too early and, when Eddie informs him that it is actually November 5th, he says they're too late.  Good old Uncle Albert.

Gail is telling Brian's old boss that he's not sent her, but he really needs his old job back.  I suddenly realise that he's not in disguise, he's actually Bobby Knutt from appalling 1970s forerunner to Live at the Apollo, The Comedians.  Between him and Jack Smethurst I can only imagine what the language was like in the canteen at Granada between takes.  Bobby says he sacked Brian for a good reason, and I still don't know what it was, but apparently if word got round what Brian did it would ruin his reputation.  Now I'm imagining some kind of lurid act involving an Austin Maxi and a vat of lubricant.  Gail bursts into tears, as well she should, and Bobby asks when her "babby" is due.  Six weeks, she replies, a handy reminder that Ben Price is meant to be playing a thirty four year old man in 2015.  He relents, because who's going to turn away a blubbing up the duff Gail Tilsley, but tells her Brian has the "babby" to thank.

In the most shockingly unrealistic part of the programme so far, Martin is watching University Challenge on TV.  There's a knock at the door, and Martin tells Elsie it's his new girlfriend who has convinced him he doesn't need to leave Weatherfield after all.  She is befuddled, but hilarity ensues when it is revealed that his "new" girlfriend is Karen!  Her father has relented and decided they could see each other after all!  I have no idea why he changed his mind, but they all have a good laugh about it, before Martin takes her out to celebrate.  Presumably by giving her half a litre of Diamond White then trying to get a glimpse of her bra behind the chippy.

Brian finally arrives home after a day of tramping the streets, and Gail tells him Bobby Knutt has said he could have his job back.  Refreshingly, Brian is only momentarily outraged on behalf of his male pride, and they hug.

They're soon in the pub, getting a drink with Ivy and Bert.  At the bar, Ken and Eddie ask how Brian's job situation is; Ken suggests the until-recently unemployed Eddie has a word with Brian to buoy him up, but Eddie points out he was always quite happy with the life of an idle layabout.

I am flabbergasted when Ivy is not only nice to Gail, giving her full credit for getting Brian's job back, but also tells him "you've got a lovely little lass here and don't you forget it!".  No, don't you forget it, Ivy, because I'm sure next week you'll be calling her a harlot again.

At the bar, Annie thanks Eddie for continuing to drink in the pub despite their professional disagreement.  He says it's no skin off his nose, because he and his fellow workers have had a vote.  She won't be getting a new crew to collect her rubbish; until she accepts Eddie and Johnny as her binmen again, the Rovers has been blacklisted!  The credits run over a burning bonfire, which I like to imagine is the pyre Annie threw Eddie on once she unleashed her full wrath.

As with the 1979 episode, so many characters here are iconic, it's easy to slip into the show because you know who they are.  The obvious exception is Martin Cheveski, who is a truly awful character that it's hard to give a monkeys about; clearly the producers agreed, because a quick look at Corriepedia reveals that he was written out the following New Year's Eve, despite only arriving in the Street in June.  The main thing I will take away from these episodes is that, given the right circumstances, Ivy Tilsley could actually be nice.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  It's just plain wrong.

Many thanks to Aunty Corrie for putting all these episodes on YouTube in the first place.

Deirdre: A Life on Coronation Street - official ITV tribute to a soap icon. Available here.

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Llifon said...

This was Corrie in the middle of its golden era.

While both episodes didn't have very exciting plots, the characters involved were great: Annie, Elsie, Eddie Yeats etc.

Great synopsis once more Scott!

Graeme N said...

"A handy reminder that Ben Price is supposed to be playing a 34 year old man in 2015" fantastic!

Tvor said...

"I assume he's a competition winner"
Bwahaha but apparently stunt casting was around even then! ;)

Very odd that Linda's son has a Brummie accent. Didn't she emmigrate to Canada? Wouldn't her children have a Canadian accent, in spite of him coming from Birmingham now?

I think the only reason Ivy's being nice is because of that "babby".

Cobblestone said...

I don't think Jack Smethurst ever did 'Mind Your Language'; it was 'Love Thy Neighbour' he was known for, but more recently he also sold Jack Duckworth his allotment. He and his wife Julie now run a very nice B&B; I stayed with them for a couple of months when I was in theatre in their neck of the woods. He has a fine aray of stories.

Clinkers (David) said...

Lovely review! Recall that awful Martin character. Of course, what I really wanted to know was whether or not Ivy still had that hideous brown dinner service . . .

Anonymous said...

Lovely. That's when Corrie was worth staying in for.

Lily Bigfield said...

This was great, and it is wonderful to compare the character driven plots with those of today's episodes. I wasn't a regular viewer till 1988, and you've made me want to do some catch up viewing. (I do remember all that brown wallpaper, though).

Humpty Dumpty said...

One great advantage about the old episodes is that some residents had known each other for thirty years before we met them. The suggestions about what Elsie got up to during the war were fascinating and hooked viewers straightaway. These days, we witness everything and inevitably a lot of the mystery is lost.

Scott Willison said...

Cobblestone: Yes, sorry, it was Love Thy Neighbour. I got my horribly racist ITV sitcoms confused.

Thanks for being nice, other people!

Doodvid said...

Brilliant brilliant brilliant!

More please.

njblas said...

Martin Cheveski was born in Canada in 1964, but the family returned to the UK in 1966 and moved to Birmingham, where he grew up.

Tvor said...

Ah thanks njblas!

Jonathan said...

Nice to do these we shouldn't be afraid to hold up the past to the standards we hold today's Corrie to

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