Classic Coronation Street

As with the Classic Emmerdale post, I have also been watching Classic Coronation Street on ITV3, and I’ve watched even more of it due to the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown.  Here are some random thoughts about Classic Corrie. This is covering a slightly longer area, I think I started watching Corrie earlier, but vaguely late ’80s to mid-1995.

Hilda Ogden was a bit before my time, but she left a legacy! I remember people talking about her. Plus, shopkeeper Dilys Price in Fireman Sam seems to have been modelled on
her, and Fireman Sam was one of my early childhood shows. Is Fireman Sam the Corrie to Postman Pat‘s Emmerdale? I don’t know.

Hilda’s three flying duck ornaments (her “muriel”) is one of Coronation Street‘s most iconic symbols. I think originally though they belonged to Elsie Tanner, but they certainly became associated with Hilda. The scene after the funeral of Hilda’s husband Stan when she finds his glasses is certainly a tearjerker – and I didn’t even have decades of watching Hilda and Stan like most viewers would have!

Her final episode was broadcast on Christmas Day 1987. It was watched by 17.97 million viewers, and combined with the omnibus repeats, the final figure was a humungous 26.65 million viewers!

Hilda decides to accept a job offer to be a housekeeper to Doctor Lowther in a village, which would mean moving in there. There’s a whole new community for her to be a
part of. She says she’s leaving behind the unhappy memories of her time in Coronation Street and taking the happy ones with her. She also gets a surprise farewell party at the local pub The Rovers Return, where she sings the Gracie Fields song ‘Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye’. Hilda gets a mega happy ending, but I think she was a character who very much deserved one.

While Hilda Ogden is Jean Alexander’s most well known character, the first character I saw her play on TV was Auntie Wainwright in Last Of The Summer Wine. Speaking of
Last Of The Summer Wine, I was surprised to see Jean Fergusson have a key role in Hilda’s exit storyline! Jean Fergusson is probably best known for playing Marina in
Last Of The Summer Wine, but in Coronation Street she played Helen Ashcroft, Doctor Lowther’s sister-in-law who takes Hilda to look around the house before she accepts
the new job and home. Jean Fergusson would appear again in Corrie twelve years later in 1999, playing Gary Mallet’s mother, and eleven years after that she appeared again in 2010, playing Dorothy Hoyle, and I remember was well received as a character! She was part of the ludicrous got-a-bit-beyond-a-joke-to-be-honest John Stape indentity theft/serial killer storyline, but people seemed to geniunely like her.

Like Hilda Ogden, Ivy Tilsley is another legendary Corrie character who was slightly before my time, but left a shadow. When I was starting to watch Corrie, I think it was the beginning of the end of Ivy’s time on there. But I heard about the whole debacle with her lips. I did see Lynne Perrie in Kes, a film I saw a few times, and she was great in that.

Seeing these repeats I was mostly seeing Ivy for the first time. Honestly, for all the reputation Ivy has as a horrible person, I felt a bit sorry for her. Everyone seemed very dismissive of her, and they were quite unsympathetic about the fact that she never really got over her only child (Brian Tilsey) being murdered. Maybe she was a bit of a religious zealot, but I don’t think she was any more unpleasant than most of the characters. I’ve seen a few comments online that in hindsight Ivy wasn’t as nasty as they remembered. In any case, Lynne Perrie’s portrayal of her was brilliant. She played Ivy as person, not as a personality trait.

Ivy’s exit isn’t really an exit as such, she just… disappears from the show. One day, she just isn’t there anymore. At the time, I wondered if I’d missed a few episodes, but no, that’s how it happened. She’s talked about fairly often, and there is an explanation – she’s gone to a convent, and a little later she dies offscreen.

Bet Gilroy was my favourite character at the time, and on rewatch that hasn’t changed. If anything, I’m reminded just how good a character she was. She was camp glory, with her beehive hair-do, cigarette holder and everything in leopard print. But there was a lot more to her than that. She’d come through so much. She was a maternal, supportive figure to stepgranddaughter Vicky and ditzy barmaid Raquel, and was willing to help (such as going out of her way offer Ken Barlow a room at the Rovers when he had nowhere to stay). Bet was also a strong leader when it came to running her pub – she certainly didn’t take any nonsense. She had humour, glamour, mostly knew when to be kind and when to be tough. She had it all, really!

There are memorable moments of her having cocktails, singing karaoke and excercising with leopard print chest expander, and I remember all those first time round. On rewatch, this moment probably isn’t hugely significant, but I quite liked it:

Bet is looking back at her life so far. “You lose people as you get older. Mind you, the hurts not the same as when you were younger”. She talked of the “earth-shattering pain” she felt when she was a teenager when she split up with her first boyfriend, whose name she can barely remember now. In contrast, after the disintegration of her marriage and her husband Alec leaving her – Alec was “someone who’s been everything”, and of course it hurt a lot when he walked out on her, but she knew that life goes on and she’d cope.

Alec Gilroy was a good character too. Part of me liked the fact that Bet was more than capable of running the Rovers on her own and that her character didn’t need him, but Alec was still missed and it was a pity not to have him and that partnership around anymore. I remember him leaving, and returning briefly, when he and Bet try to stop his granddaughter Vicky Arden marrying Steve McDonald.

I loved purple haired Phyllis Pearce, and on the rewatch I still adore her. She was a very popular character at school – I remember a lot of kids, boys and girls, doing impressions of her gruff voice. In the show, hairdresser Fiona Middleton I think summed up why Phyllis was so popular with fans: “I hope I have that much spirit when I’m her age. She has a heart of gold.” Phyllis definitely added some flavour to the show.

A charater I appreciate a lot more on rewatch than I did at the time is Rovers barmaid Tanya Pooley. I wouldn’t say I like her more – whichever way you look at it, she’s a toxic, nasty piece of work. But, she comes across as a real person – she’s not a ridiculous OTT spite machine like, say, Tracy Barlow was in the 2000s-2010s. Plus, on a superficial level – Tanya looked fantastic! She was gorgeous and chic.

Tanya only seemed to be attracted to men who were married or already in a realtionship – single men just don’t do it for her, it seems!

She has an affair with Alex Christie, who was already married, and Tanya cheats on him with bookie Des Barnes, who was at the time going out with Raquel! Alex is Des’ boss and Tanya works at the Rovers with Raquel, making this extra messy. Des and Raquel run into Tanya and Alex at a takeaway, which is more than a little awkward, but it doesn’t blow up totally until Des comes to Tanya’s flat above the cafe, and has a fight with Alex! Raquel sees this, and is heartbroken. After the fight, Alex fires Des, but also thanks him as he was going to leave his wife for Tanya. Then Tanya dumps Des, telling him he’s no good to her now he doesn’t even have a job! The cafe is wrecked as well as the flat, so the cafe owner, Alma Baldwin, is justifiably angry, and already fed up with Tanya’s antics, she evicts Tanya!

Tanya is a bit of bully in that “mean girl” sort of way towards Raquel. It’s partly that Raquel is the other young, pretty barmaid in the Rovers, and also that Raquel is everything Tanya is not. Raquel is sweet, innocent, ditzy and a hopeless romantic. Tanya is acidic, malicious, cunning and a cruel cynic.

An excellent episode is the one first broadcast on Friday the 16th of September 1994. I remember it, and if anything it’s even better on rewatch!

Raquel Wolstenhulme has lost her place on the modelling course she was on. She has confided in Bet, but doesn’t want other people to know. She’s then a bit upset after Des comes to see her – he is apologetic, but it’s reopening old wounds. She also gets a delivery of the Newton & Ridley calender she posed for – she is Miss. February, in leathers and on a motorcycle, with a slightly Michelle Pfeiffer-in-Grease2 look. Barman Jack Duckworth wants to show it to the customers in the Rovers, though Raquel is a bit reluctant. When Jack does, and puts it up over the bar in the Rovers, Tanya is annoyed at the men in the Rovers saying how gorgeous Raquel looks in the calender. She storms off in the back room where she tells cowboy lorry driver Charlie Whelan, Bet’s current boyfriend, that she’s hates how everyone makes out that Raquel is Snow White and she is the Wicked Witch Of the West! Er… well, if the boot fits, Tanya… She then gets the info out of Charlie, by saying that she’s concerned about Raquel as a friend!

Then in the bar, while they are talking about the calender again, Tanya tells them all Raquel has packed her modelling ambitions in because “some London photographer
told her she had no style, no poise and no class, but what do they know, eh Raquel?”. Then Raquel goes to the back room, humiliated, Tanya goes on “You know what they say, you can take the girl out of the backstreets, but you can’t take the backstreets out of the girl”. Des says to Tanya “You really are a grade A bitch”.

Raquel is in the back room in tears and is being comforted by Bet, who then tells her to dry her eyes and “powder that button nose”, and she’ll be back in a bit.

Bet then goes out in the pub, and it is such a great moment, as she sacks Tanya on the spot!

Bet tells her “You’re poison Tanya, always were, and always will be. I was a fool to give you a second chance. I want you out of here now, and I never want to see your evil little face in my pub ever again!” – the pub, which is packed, is all silent, as Tanya walks out. Definitely one of my all time favourite soap scenes!

Tanya’s proper exit is leaving with Charlie. He returns a couple of weeks later, coming crawling back to Bet because, surprise surprise, Tanya was just using him. Bet tells him she isn’t going to take him back, and too right!

Tanya created a lot of drama in her brief stint on the Street, and she was the first time I heard the word “bitch”, due to other characters talking about her, so I think Tanya will always be a special soap character for me. Apparently Eva Pope, who played Tanya, has been asked several times to make a return, but always said no. Part of me would like Tanya back, but another part of me thinks that her time was great as it was, and soap comebacks are often a disapointment anyway, so why ruin that?

As I mentioned Tracy Barlow, I like the Dawn Acton incarnation more than the Kate Ford one. The Dawn Acton version of Tracy is gobby and bratty, but I think she had
a good chemistry with Anne Kirkbride as Deirdre. I think my all time favourite Tracy Barlow moment has to be that famous line where Tracy says to Deirdre “I hate you,
you rotten cowey tart!”

This is where it might get controversial, but there are characters I dislike on rewatching.

The stuff with Derek and Mavis Wilton really hasn’t aged well. A lot of Coronation Street characters in the past seem older than their age, and I think Peter Baldwin and Thelma Barlow, who played Derek and Mavis, were a bit older than their characters were meant to be, but, it seems strange that Derek and Mavis in ’80s/’90s Corrie are meant to be in their 50s – they seem so much older! My parents are in their 60s now, and I can’t believe that late ’80s/early 90s Derek and Mavis are meant to be younger than them!

A lot of viewers have been said that in hindsight Derek treated Mavis pretty badly. To be honest, as a kid I always thought that! He constantly berates her and blames her for his own failures (and he has plenty of those!). I get the impression that Derek was always intended to be a pompous buffoon, but watching it in 2020, he’s very… trying. That said, so is Mavis. She’s overwrought, and I never noticed this first time round, but she’s can be very snidey.

But it’s not just that. The “comedy” of them has aged terribly. It’s just so corny and old fashioned and drab. The fact that some of their biggest storylines are centred on things like a dead budgie and a missing garden gnome says a lot. Speaking of that garden gnome one, it goes on for a while as well. Norris Cole was introduced as a work colleague of Derek’s. Norris always thought Derek’s name was Dirk, and God, did they stretch that out – Norris was even referring to Derek as “Dirk” at Derek’s funeral! It is strange seeing Norris with brown hair instead of white hair! Also, I notice that shopkeeper Rita Sullivan doesn’t like him much. That would change when he would work with her in The Kabin newsagents for years!

Percy Sugden. I quite liked him when I was a kid, but watching now – he’s really annoying! I can understand why all the other characters seem to see him as someone
they put up with. He lodges at Emily Bishop’s house, and even she just barely tolerates him! He’s just a moany old man who complains about everything. That is literally all he does and his only purpose. People like that do exist, but he is irritating. I think, for whatever reason, a character like Percy Sugden worked a lot better in the 20th century than it does today.

Audrey Roberts, again I didn’t mind her first time round, but on the rewatch, she’s awful! Her husband Alf Roberts becomes Mayor of Weatherfield, which makes her Mayoress by default. But she’s too lazy to do anything civic, so Alf decides to ask Betty Turpin to take over the mayoress role. Now it’s probably forgivable that Audrey didn’t want to have to do the mayoress stuff just because her husband wanted to be the mayor. Except that when there’s a royal visit, Audrey suddenly wants to be the mayoress again. As Betty puts it, “When it’s old folks homes and planting trees, Muggins here will do, but when it’s posh dos and royalty, she’ll be coming!”. Audrey doesn’t stop there, she makes a lot of bitchy comments about Betty’s appearance to anyone who’ll listen, and keeps flirting with the chauffer Brian for no other reason than to make Alf jealous. Then there’s a time she arranges it so that she and well-off butcher Fred Elliot open a leisure centre which Alf and Betty are supposed to be opening, by phoning the leisure centre up saying she and Fred will come half an hour early and make sure the press photographers are there – and to top it off, she steals the speech Alf was going to make as well! When Alf gets an OBE, Audrey brags that the press are doing a feature on her at home – but it was only ever
going to be about Alf, and she’s put out when the photoshoot is in the Rovers among customers. Audrey says in that same episode “there’s very few compensations with being married to Alf” – yeah, aside from the fact she’s literally living off his money and basking in any reflected glory his status might bring! She’s a massive spendthrift too – courtesy of Alf’s credit card, of course! I think Audrey has become a slightly different character in present day Corrie, but, still.

I suppose the flaws of those characters were part of their charm, and they have a status as iconic Corrie characters and all that, but just like I said, when rewatching these episodes, I didn’t like them.

I never liked the Platts, and that’s not changed on rewatch. Martin’s a smug wanker, and Gail… well, she wasn’t known “Gail The Wail” for nothing! It’s most evident after Martin sleeps with a nurse after a Christmas party. When this is revealed and inevitably causes chaos, Martin is actually impertinent enough to be smug and condescending about it all, when HE’S the one who has cheated! But Gail moans and handwrings about it for ages, takes it out on her kids, her mum Audrey, her work colleagues and customers in the cafe – people who it has nothing to do with! And she doesn’t listen to Alma who’s trying to help, or her doctor, or anyone else for that matter. She just goes on and on about how could this happen to her. Still, as grating as Gail is, Martin’s such a prick you don’t want to side with him even a bit. So, yeah, not a fan of the Platts!

I was very young when these were on first time round, so I had forgotten a lot of the storylines. But I remembered most of hairdresser Denise Osbourne‘s! I guess she
made an impression on me back then and I must have paid more attention to her storylines. I know I found the one with taxi driver Don Brennan stalking her pretty scary
at the time! The arc of Denise’s pregnancy in particular was something I remembered a lot of. Denise going out with Ken, getting pregnant by him, then losing the baby, but it turned out to be twins, and one twin survived, and was born, and named Daniel Osbourne.

One interesting thing on rewatch though when seeing Denise in hospital with the pregnancy is the nurse Sister Treece. She is played by Sue Cleaver, who would five years later join the cast as a regular, but playing a completely different character, Eileen Grimshaw!

Daniel Osbourne would come back as an adult in Coronation Street in 2016, and now in 2020 he has a newborn baby of his own, Bertie. So it is interesting seeing these old episodes Daniel’s birth and the events leading up to it.

I also remember Sophie Webster being born, and the fact she was originally named Lauren, but her older sister Rosie kept calling her “Sophie”, after her dolly. But eventually parents Sally and Kevin decided they liked Sophie better as a name, so they changed it. Sophie Webster is still in the show now, so again it’s interesting watching back seeing how some characters who are now adults in the main show were born.

Though when they retcon a present day character to being born in the past, such as what they did with Emma Brooker… Emma was revealed to be the daughter of Fiona Middleton and Steve McDonald after a fan theory, due to Emma having a similar appearance and career choice to Fiona. But looking back at these episodes from when Steve and Fiona are together, you can’t help wondering how that happened. Steve and Fiona never seemed to have a particularly great relationship at the best of times. And
the answer for it not making much sense is that, well, back then it wasn’t supposed to have happened!

Steve has a twin brother, Andy, and it wasn’t one of those times when they got real twins to play them. I remember an interview the actors Simon Gregson (Steve) and Nicholas Cochrane (Andy) gave in a children’s magazine in the ’90s, where they admitted they don’t really look like they were brothers, let alone twins- they said “We look about as alike as Mavis and Bet!”. But I guess that doesn’t matter too much, as they were well cast for their characters. Steve was a daft lad who spent more money than he could afford, gambled, borrowed from loan sharks, had out of his depth business ambitions, and girlfriends who were often angry with him for all those reasons. But he was charming enough to get away with it – up to a point, anyway, it often came back to haunt him, getting beaten up and ending up serving time in prison. Andy was a, mostly, sensible and intelligent student who had stable part time jobs in the supermarket or the pub, although he dropped out and re-enrolled back in uni a couple of times.

In one episode, Steve has a Simpsons t-shirt, while Andy has a Black Bag t-shirt. Black Bag was the Viz parody of Black Bob. I don’t know how much thought from the costume department went into the T-shirt choice, but in any case, the subtle difference in taste in cartoon T-shirts made sense. Steve likes the big new-ish (at the time) American TV show, Andy likes the slightly obscure ironic parody cartoon from a UK comic.

The twins get a 21st birthday party in the Rovers, with a big white cake with a blue ribbon and candles. Raquel comments that it’s amazing how the twins have such different personalities. Bet deadpans that it “kicks astrology into touch right enough”. While raising a toast to the twins, Vicky drops in the bombshell that she and Steve are engaged! I suspect it was partly to rub it in the face of Steve’s only-recently-broken-up-with ex-girlfriend Fiona! Later, Fiona gets a revenge of sorts, by handing Vicky all Steve’s unpaid bills, with Fiona saying it’s not her problem anymore, this is what Vicky’s taking on with Steve!

Andy was due to have a big storyline with his relationship with Amy Nelson. They were supposed to get married, but the storyline ended abrubtly – and the reasons for it are due to extremely sad events in real life. Louise Duprey, who played Amy, apparently found the fame and attention she got from being on the show to be too difficult to cope with. She suffered a nervous breakdown and when it became clear she wouldn’t be coming back, it was decided to write Amy out. Amy’s final scenes were performed by a pre-Spice Girls Mel B! Tragically, Louise Duprey died in 2000.

The Samir Rachid storyline I remember. Well I think most people do! Whatever your opinions on it, it was certainly memorable! Deirdre Barlow goes on holiday to Morocco
and meets a waiter there named Samir (initially the characters pronouce it “Shamir” – this is until the Moroccan embassy informed Granada TV that “Shamir” was the Hebrew pronounciation of the name, not the Muslim one). They have a holiday romance, and he comes back to the UK to be with her!

Samir is in his early 20s, so there is a bit of an age gap between him and Deirdre. Though, not quite as much as is made out on the show. I was surprised to find out Deirdre is only about 39/40 when this storyline was happening! Everyone, including Deirdre herself, acts like she’s a pensioner! Tricia Armstrong even makes the point that she assumed Deirdre was an old lady due to how people talked about her! Still, Deirdre and Samir do look a bit of an odd pair. I mean… you can see why people basically assume he’s her gigolo or that he’s trying to rip Deirdre off.  You can’t help but feel for them, though, as they geniunely love each other. They face trouble from immigration authorities, and disapproval from other people on the Street, though they do get married and then are more or less accepted as part of the community. They move back to Morocco, until Tracey overdoses on Ecstacy (it was the ’90s, obligatory for soaps to have an Ecstacy storyline!) meaning she needs a new kidney. Neither Deirdre nor Ken are a match, and Tracey’s biological father Ray Langton is uncontactable, but amazingly, Samir is a match!

Deirdre says “It’s all coming right for us”. If that wasn’t enough of a soap opera red flag, then in Samir’s final episode, there’s talk of “our last day together” and “the last meal” – it’s about his kidney operation, but talk about tempting fate! He goes for a walk by the canal, and he is beaten up by a gang of racist thugs, meaning his skull is fractured and he has a blood clot.

When she is at Samir’s bedside at the hospital, Deirdre has already anticipated the worst, and it is broken to her by hospital consultant Mr. Mitchell, who asks her if they still have her consent for his kidney to be used, and his other organs, which Deirdre grants. It’s all quite low key, but it is deeply sad.

Deirdre decides that Samir shall be buried in Morocco, saying “I don’t need a grave to remind me of what I’ve lost. I’ll have that every time I look at my daughter!”. Deirdre is extremely bitter about what has happened, not least towards Tracey, but it’s understandable. Rita comes to see Deirdre, admitting that she can’t say anything that hasn’t been said before or will be said millions of times after, but that the pain will get easier, even if it never goes. Deirdre says she wishes she’d died with Samir, or that Tracey had died instead of him! Rita sums up the futility there – “Two lives going instead of one? Where’s the sense in that?”.

John Middleton played the hospital consultant Mr. Mitchell, and he would be best known for playing Reverend Ashley Thomas in Emmerdale. But he was a bit of Grim Reaper before he was cast as a vicar! He had an earlier role in Corrie, playing John Hargreaves, a man who accidentally ran over and killed Lisa Duckworth. In Emmerdale he played PC John Jarvis, a police negotiator at the siege where Shirley Turner was shot dead, and then he was Mr. Mitchell, who talked to Samir and Tracey about the kidney donation, and later has to ask Deirdre if it could still go ahead.

Watching in the present day, scenes with Raquel, Tricia Armstrong and Jamie Armstrong from 1995 – 25 years on, they’ve done well for themselves! Joseph Gilgun is a former child actor who has had a decent long term acting career – which, let’s face it, is pretty rare! Sarah Lancashire (Raquel) has had one of the most successful acting careers for a UK ex-soap star. And Tracy Brabin (Tricia) is now a Labour MP!

In fact, on rewatch, the Armstrongs were a good addition to the Street too. They are quite well remembered, but I think they would have gone down as great Corrie characters if they had stuck around a bit longer. Apparently, Tracy Brabin wanted to leave though, so they wrote Tricia and Jamie out.

Jamie was a cheeky scamp, and I remember at the time people saying they thought Joseph Gilgun showed promise and would go on to do well. Tricia had some entertaining moments on rewatch. She’s a cleaner at the Rovers and, due to her turning up late every morning and knocking off early every afternoon, Bet pays her the hours worked, not what she’s supposed to work, and tells her off for pilfering a packet of crisps for her son (Jamie) every day. Tricia takes umbrage to this, and quits. She gets another job almost immediately at Reg Holdsworth’s corner shop. She has another run in with Bet, who’s buying a box of chocolates for her staff. “A whole box” says Tricia, sarcastically, before pointing out Bet picked the smaller version of that box of chocolates.

Maud initially dislikes Tricia, thinking she must have got the job by having an affair with Reg (!) Tricia tells Maud she finds her to be “a miserable old bag who never lifts a finger and does nothing but snarl all day” (which is a pretty fair assessment!), and as for Reg, she tells Maud “If you think I’d let that slimy little toerag of a toad get within grabbing distance of me… the very thought of it makes me want to scrub myself in carbolic!”. Maud then warms to Tricia! Whether it’s because Tricia is one of the few people to actually stand up to her, or whether it’s because she sees Tricia as an ally for her against Reg, or perhaps both, who knows, but Maud now wants to get Tricia some tea and biscuits!

Maud Grimes is another character that I remember a lot of. Corrie always has to have a battleaxe or… several, and Maud often clashed with her son-in-law Reg, and her relationship with her daughter Maureen had its difficulties. Maud was mostly there for her sharp tongue, or “commenting”, as she put it, but she was fully rounded. She definitely had a more caring side to her, and there were moments of poignancy.

I wonder if Maud and Maureen were an inspiration for Patty and Libby Croker in Shameless? One thing on rewatch I’ve noticed is just how different Sherrie Hewson, who
played Maureen, looked then! It’s similar with Josie Clarke – Ellie Haddington has been in so many things since, and I always remember her brief stint on Corrie, but she looks so different now!

I remember scenes involving some of the older characters talking about the Second World War, as a lot of those of us who were children in the ’90s will have had grandparents who remembered the Second World War, and we learnt about it at school.

On D-Day in 1994, Maud, Maureen and Percy visit cemetries of soldiers in Normandy. It is quite moving, acknowledging those who lost their lives during the Normandy landings, and especially so for Percy and Maud, as some of them were people they knew personally. Maud also reveals a long kept secret – Maureen’s biological father was an American soldier, and this is where he is buried.

Betty Turpin, best known for her hotpot, got a significant part in an episode broadcast on Monday the 8th of May 1995, the 50th anniversary of VE Day. Betty was reunited with Billy Williams, who’s recreating a pub crawl with a friend they did on VE Day, 1945, and one of the pubs was the Rovers Return. Betty and Billy fell in love during the Second World War but lost touch, and ultimately went on to marry other people. After meeting again in the Rovers on the 50th anniversary of VE day they go out again to a tea dance at a ballroom. It turns out they wrote each other letters and never got them – in one, Billy proposed marriage! He proposes it again (though it comes over as him asking Betty to marry him just so they can go on holiday!). They do get married eventually. This storyline was very sweet, though Billy wouldn’t be much longer for this world, unfortunately.

Jack and Vera Duckworth are one of the most iconic Corrie couples. Vera worked at supermarket Bettabuys for many years… until she was caught bashing food tins on the
side of her trolley so she could get them cheap! Well, it turned out this wasn’t the first time she’d been caught doing it – they’d given her a second chance, but she kept doing it until she got caught again! Jack was annoyed with her, but he was hardly a saint himself. Soon after, Vera found out Jack hadn’t paid the council tax for three months. He claimed he’d spent that money on a caravan holiday for them and their grandson Tommy… but Vera had already given him some money for that, so most likely he’d lost the council tax money on beer and gambling! And, unbeknownst to Jack, Vera was two months behind on the mortgage payment. Basically, they’ve both been “robbing Peter and pay Paul” as the saying goes. Vera isn’t a regular churchgoer, but she visits one, and asks God for some money! On the same day, Jack’s estranged brother Clifford dies in an accident, and Jack and Vera were the beneficaries of his will, so obviously Vera feels guilty – but she needn’t have, really, as Clifford had no money to leave them anyway! They have an insurance man over, who is suspicious Jack and Vera want to fake their deaths, so leaves quickly. Ironically, they do come into some money from all this – from Clifford’s life insurance!

I misremembered when Maxine turns up. For some reason, I thought she was on the show before her future husband Ashley Peacock and future father-in-law Fred
Elliot, but they were both in before Maxine was! I’d also completely forgotten Maxine’s maiden name before she married Ashley (her maiden name was Heavey, if you’re wondering). Another thing on the rewatch, Maxine was talked about quite some time before she actually appeared – Fiona mentions going on holiday to Tenerife with her.

On the rewatch, there are so many inconsequentional things I remember! Like, I’ve forgotten so many important plot details, but there are little bits I remember. I suppose I was very young when this was on first time, and they were things I’d heard about before.

Every time some of the characters went to the seaside or stayed in a caravan.

Maud must have made an impression on me, as I strongly remember her being a fortune teller, and her checking the sell by dates while doing the shop stocktake.

Nicky Platt asking stepgrandad Don if he could watch telly at his house, and them getting fish and chips.

Steve McDonald sending his parents a postcard from Disneyland! When he’s supposed to be on probation! I always remembered his dad Jim’s reaction to that. “He’s in Disneyland, Florida, swanning about with Mickey flaming Mouse!”.

Reg’s toupee.

Reg, to fellow supermarket manager Curly Watts.
Reg: We’re in the same boat.
Curly: Yeah, the Titanic!

Reg later commenting that Napoleon said Britain was “a nation of shopkeepers”. Noticing these historical references shows I must have been a massive nerd even back then!

French mayor Valery Picot coming to visit Weatherfield, due to being the mayor of a French town which is twinned with Weatherfield. I remember him asking for a drink
which is a mix of “beer and limonade” – Raquel told him in English we call that drink shandy, and Valery told her that in French it’s called panache.

On the rewatch, something I noticed was that they were getting crap past the radar. Valery seems to thinks Raquel will be going to bed with him. And Raquel, when talking about her experience as a model says “I’m known for my hands, you know if it’s a hand job, well, though I say it myself”.

Raquel’s funniest moment, though, co-incidentally also involving the French language, is when she’s trying to learn French with Ken Barlow. She says someone taught her to say “Isn’t it a lovely day today?” in French, so he asks her to say it. What Raquel then says is “Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir?”, which doesn’t mean that. It’s funnier if you translate it/discover what it means yourself, so if you don’t what that translates to in English, if you look up or listen to the song ‘Lady Marmalade’ it might give you a clue!

On rewatch, I think people notice even more when areas local to them or where they grew up are mentioned – for me it’s Dewsbury and Huddersfield.

There’s a lot of Coronation Street/Emmerdale cast crossover in general. I’m not going to go through all of them, but:

One of the oddest that came apparent on these ITV3 repeats – Judy Brooke played Paula Barker in Emmerdale in 1991. In 1992, she played Paula Maxwell in Coronation Street – and, due to the ITV3 repeats, in 2019 she was seen in episodes of Classic Emmerdale and Classic Corrie on the same days!

Samantha Giles had brief appearances in Corrie, and Angela Griffin (Fiona in Corrie) had one in Emmerdale. That’s not the only Angela Griffin/Emmerdale crossover either. Fiona’s mother, Pam, was played by Elizabeth Estensen – who would later join the main Emmerdale cast as Diane Blackstock/Sugden – introduced as the mother of Bernice Blackstock, who, to bring this paragraph full circle, was played by Samantha Giles! Bernice would also marry Ashley Thomas, played by John Middleton.

Elizabeth Estensen was also in the Children’s BBC TV series Happy Families, one of the earliest TV shows I ever watched. It also starred Annette Badland, and Milton Johns, who appeared in Corrie as smarmy shopkeeper Brendan Scott – and I think that must have been the first time I saw an actor in Corrie who I recognised from being on another show!

There are so many Dingles that have been in Corrie! Most obviously, Joseph Gilgun first played Jamie Armstrong as a child actor, and would later as an adult would play Eli Dingle in Emmerdale in the 2000s. There’s also:

Lisa Riley (Mandy Dingle) as a trainee in the Corrie supermarket Bettabuys.
Mark Charnock (Marlon Dingle) as a pizza delivery boy.
Steve Halliwell (Zak Dingle) as a barman in The Queens, a pub Liz McDonald works at for a bit.

Even before/after what’s been shown on ITV3 (at the time of writing), Jacqueline Pirie (Tina Dingle) goes on to play Linda Sykes in Corrie in 1998. Sandra Gough played Irma Ogen in Corrie in the ’60s and ’70s before she played Nellie Dingle in Emmerdale in 1995.

There is “time capsule” stuff that you get with old TV shows, signs of the time they were made.

‘Set You Free’ by N-Trance gets quite a few plays!

‘Last Thing On My Mind’ by Bananarama in 1992 – which only got to number 71 in the charts! The Steps cover of it in 1998 is more well known, as it got to number 6.

‘Animal Nitrate’ by Suede gets a play as well.

A Stone Roses poster in Steve McDonald’s office, and Curly Watts wearing an Inspiral Carpets t-shirt.

The cafe sells cans of “Lemonado” – a Super Mario themed can of lemonade! Jamie Armstrong is eating a packet of sweets branded Sonic The Hedgehog. I don’t remember
those particular brands, but most of us who were kids in the ’90s will remember the whole Mario/Nintendo vs. Sonic/Sega rivalry!

Jamie Armstrong owning a Game Boy.

Tommy Duckworth getting a present wrapped in Disney’s Aladdin themed wrapping paper, and Sarah Louise Platt wearing Princess Jasmine pyjamas.

On a personal thing, another thing that has trigged memories is – my grandma had a lot of furniture that some of the characters in Corrie had! And my parents had a chip pan like the McDonalds had.

There is a scene where the Rovers gets a new till, and the words “online” and “modem” are mentioned, and people on there consider that brain baffling technical jargon! But yeah, in the ’90s computers just simply weren’t as part of everyday life as they are now.

That same scene also has a collection tin shaped like Sooty! The Sooty franchise changed from Thames TV to Granada Televison in 1993, so you had some Coronation Street actors making guest appearances in Sooty & Co. Though the one that’s most etched on my memory is the Sooty & Co episode where Matthew Corbett runs looking for a dog and turns and ends up in Coronation Street itself! I think the set for Corrie was next to the set for Sooty & Co at Granada Studios.

Sooty and Sweep also featured in the video for Coronation Street’s 1995 cover of Eric Idle’s ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’, originally from the film Monty Python’s Life Of Brian.

The Coronation Street version was credited as the Coronation Street Cast featuring Bill Waddington. Bill Waddington played Percy Sugden, so he was part of the Coronation Street Cast, but he sings pretty much the whole song, so that’s probably why he gets an individual credit. It reminds me of when in 2009 ‘Jai Ho! (You Are My Destiny)’ was credited as A.R. Rahman and The Pussycat Dolls featuring Nicole Scherzinger, despite Nicole Scherzinger being part of the Pussycat Dolls.

Anyway, the Corrie version of ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’ was released in December 1995, making number 35 in the charts. The video is a lot of fun! As I said, it features Sooty and Sweep, plus a snow covered Coronation Street, the Rovers Return decorated with multicoloured balloons and fairy lights with Betty behind the bar, cheerleaders, someone dressed in a Rudolf costume, Santa coming down the chimney, Gail and Maxine in Mrs. Santa outfits, Maud with some mistletoe, and ends with a conga line of people wearing Santa hats coming out of the Rovers, and Percy making a comment about Phyllis running off with the milkman!

The single was a double A side, with a version of the Frank and Nancy Sinatra track ‘Somethin’ Stupid’, performed by Amanda Barrie and Johnny Briggs, who played Alma
and Mike Baldwin respectively. In fact, in 1995, there was a whole album, with members of the cast singing old standards as their Corrie characters!

Watching Classic Corrie has been a nostalgia fest, and it has been very interesting to look back on! Again, I might do another post on it some other time.

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