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Monday, 25 April 2016

Nasty blouse: Thirty years ago in Weatherfield

I bet we've all done it. Found ourselves on a wet weekend afternoon with a heaving basket of ironing and the need for something to accompany this dreariest of chores. In my hour of need, I reached for th'interweb and decided on a dose of Classic Corrie. What, I wondered, was happening on the cobbles exactly thirty years ago?

Back then to April 1986. Within seconds I suddenly realised that this was the perfect homage to the recently departed Victoria Wood. I thought I'd been transported into one of her As Seen on TV sketches. Our first shot is of Hilda in an Acorn Antiques style situation where she is having a one-sided conversation on a clunky telephone. Perhaps she was trying to avert her eyes from the frankly terrifying sight of Bet. To say that she looked a touch 'butch' would be to understate the fact. There was Bet, sporting some hideous short wig and wearing a shirt and tie. No sign of Betty, who was probably parading around Gateways club in a bowler hat.

The action, such as it was, continued at number one which was brightly lit and hollow-sounding. I groaned as the hopeless Susan Barlow came into view. Wendy Jane Walker's portrayal of Daughter Barlow was never very convincing and was even less so given that here was a twenty year old girl dressed in a nasty tie-necked blouse. Summoning up as much dullness as she could, Susan told Ken that she and Mike had parted company. For a while she appeared to be speaking to herself, Ken mumbling somewhere off camera until he walked into shot. We were back to Acorn Antiques again. Anyway, this tedious scene dragged on for several months or until the brightness of the studio lighting scorched the retinas of all involved.

From our lofty viewpoint in 2016, lots about 1986 Weatherfield seems impoverished. We were whisked into the unappealing world of Rovers barmaid, Gloria Todd. 'Glo', as we don't fondly remember her, was living in some kind of hutch, attempting to fry eggs on a one-ring stove whilst trying to prevent her man-made fibre blouse from rendering her no more than a human torch. Glo was serving her eggs up to Alan Bradley whilst simultaneous removing privileges from her jailbird ex, some bloke called Steve. Again, we were treated to an actor who wasn't so much fresh out of drama school, as never having turned up to register on day one. Steve woefully BELLOWED his lines in order to make himself look a bit edgy. Sadly, he was despatched by Radclyffe Hall (Bet) in a  memorable Rovers scene where she offered him sage advice and second-hand cigarette smoke. Bet was more man than Steve would ever be.

Thank heavens! The familiar face of Audrey, perming hair in the front room of number eleven (another memory of Victoria Wood as Ena ranting on about 'that Valerie Barlow' . . .) Aud had done something unspeakable to Gail's thatch, leaving the latter looking like a severely electrocuted King Charles Spaniel. Gail liked her new 'do' but admitted that it would be reeking of chip fat before long. She'd had it done for her date night with Our Brian who by the looks of things, had had his tresses teased in Blow & Go. You can only surmise that Brian and Bet approached each other's wig stands in the dressing room.

We were then treated to a piece of location film (still pre-video days for Corrie) where Mike and Susan are trying to force a crusty old vicar to marry them. The vicar, having been confronted with the tie-necked blouse, seemed wary but gave in just to silence the monotone Susan.

Hilda, meanwhile, had been involved in an odd little storyline. The phone call had been apropos a hospital visit to her friend Ada . No, I've no idea who she was either. Anyway, this mythical Ada woman was breathing her last and so Hilda jammed a hat on her head (well done wardrobe department, another masterpiece of styling) and set off for Weathy General. Moments later she's back, weeping over the death of the unseen Ada. Bet ushers Hilda into the back room for a sherry and a couple of Prisoner Cell Block H videos.

We are now approaching the high points of the episode, the plots that will have us reaching for the on switch later that week. Viewers discover that Audrey is inflicting pain of pensioners by applying rollers a little too tightly. Thankfully, the old dear in the chair hasn't been given one of those slightly obtuse names that all of Audrey's clients have now. No 'Mrs Arsewick' or 'Mrs Bumcleft'.

At number one, Deirdre, a vision in subdued lilac and grey, tells Ken that she intends to help Susan who, and I quote, 'knows nothing about anything'. With this level of warmth and compassion, it's easy to see why Deirdre made for such a natural local government official.

Glo had one final confrontation with the Badly Acting Man who may have been drunk or possibly just bored. In the confines of Glo's flat-ette, he called her a bitch several times before running out of steam and exiting stage left.

For Hilda though, a happy end to the day. She may have wasted 10p on a bus journey to see her dead friend but hallelujah, dear old Ada's will had been published within seconds of her demise - and Hilda was about to inherit the old dear's riches! Or was she? I can't wait to find out . . . the next time I'm burdened by ironing.

By @bridglondon

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9 comments:

Tvor said...

Superb!!!

Adam said...

Brilliant post!

Anonymous said...

Was this post written by an EastEnders fan?

Anonymous said...

What? You don't remember one of the most moving storylines of the 80s? Ada left Hilda Rommel the cat.

Lily Bigfield said...

Laughed out loud at this. Radclyffe Hall! LOL,as they say int' modern world.

Clinkers (David) said...

Ada, bequeather of Rommel. Now I remember!

Anonymous said...

More of these, please please please!

70sStreetFan said...

Yes,I remember that bizarre Bet hairstyle. I think it only lasted a week or two. That mid 80s period was a bit of a strange period for the show. It was adjusting to the loss of so many central characters in 83-84,and also suddenly having to contend with the then new Eastenders. It made a few dodgy decisions,none more so than bringing back the very wooden Wendy Jane Walker to play Susan in a very contrived and unconvincing attempt to reignite the Barlow-Baldwin saga.

Anonymous said...

I would love to find out I inherited a cat - what a lovely surprise for Hilda! :)

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