“Here we go, for another session of ear-bending.” – 30th August, 1, 6 September 1976

Hello again campers! Let’s continue our journey through 1976. I might get to the end of the year by the time I die.


I believe Bet was espousing clipping some youths round th’earole. More on that later. Just look at those earrings.

The biggest drama in these episodes is Gail being cited as co-respondent in the Thornleys’ divorce. This whole sub-plot is an argument for “sex liberation”, as Hilda puts it in a conversation with Stan, as having to prove your spouse has committed adultery with a slutty, slutty homewrecker seems both hopelessly old-fashioned and stupidly sexist. I did a little googling to find out when no-fault divorce became accessible, and it appears to have been after the Divorce Reform Act of 1969, when a two year separation would suffice without having to prove the “matrimonial offence” of adultery. We’re in 1976 here so unless Weatherfield is like Brigadoon and only appears once a century, the screenwriters are fudging the law for better drama. (Although the couple aren’t separated and Mr Thornley is making noises about fighting his wife’s divorce request which would, I assume, be some sort of reason to have Gail involved? I’m increasingly confused and I need to stop myself from reading more journal articles about the history of UK divorce law. I’m nearly 42. I don’t have much time left on this earth.) Aaaaaanyway, poor old Gail gets given the sack from shop owner Mrs Matthews (who, you’ll recall, was also carrying on with Roy Thornley, Sex God).


I mean, how could any of us possibly resist?

Mrs Thornley, at the request of Elsie, turns up to discuss Gail’s… well, not exactly *innocence*, but naivete. As you might expect, she won’t have a bar of it.


Mrs Thornley: the textbook definition of unimpressed.


No really: SHE MAD.

After that little exchange, no wonder Elsie remarks “t’s not tea I want, it’s a double gin and tonic.” Gail flees with a suitcase but is brought back to the stationer’s for a cup of tea and some comforting words with Rita. This scene is filled with gems, including “don’t come over all dramatic and hard-bitten, it doesn’t suit you” and  “take life in little bits, instead of big chunks. It’ll only give you indigestion.” TELL ME MORE WISE THINGS OF PERSPICACITY AND DISCERNMENT, RITA LITTLEWOOD (or as she referred to herself here, “Gypsy Rose Littlewood“)! I AM YOUR DISCIPLE!


Don’t run off to London without having a chat with Rita, Gail.



Fashion Corner 


Gail’s jeans in these episodes make me so uncomfortable. That level of binding can’t be good for your, um, nethers.


This is how Elsie looks when she first wakes up in the morning, and I aspire to this level of louche glamour. Black polyester peignoir, bouffant hair and a cigarette. Damn right.

Bet, who was soaked by some unimpressive water-pistols of errant youth (more on that below), got semi-undressed to dry off, much to Stan’s delight and Mrs Walker’s horror. She was given one of Mrs Walker’s polyester numbers to wear instead and was not too subtly slut-shamed for her troubles.


Even for Bet, this is a whole lotta boob. Annie Walker looks stricken by the mammaries.


Not only does the poor woman have to wear this bepatterned middle-aged monstrosity of respectability, but Mrs Walker won’t even let her undo the top button! The indignity.


The Coronation Street of Things

As you know, I am always on the lookout for a nice prop, and here we see Ken’s blue patterned toaster making a reappearance (with a cute bevelled mirror in the background).


Cheer up, Gail. You may have been called a “trollop” by Mrs Thornley but you’ve still got your job. OH WAIT

A moment for us all to savour: Hilda put her ducks up on the new wall for the first time!


The middle one keeps falling down, but she’ll soon whip it into shape.

And not exactly a prop, but some practicality-based Rovers musing: it occurred to me that not only do the loos appear to exist in the exact same spot as Ken and Albert’s downstairs, but there is a dartboard right beside them! Imagine wending your way through an obstacle course of sharp flying objects thrown by drunk people to have a slash! I know English people in the 70s were probably pretty adept at holding their liquor since they were constantly mildly squiffy, but this is surely a head injury waiting to happen.


Bet, Alf and Ken all look just as worried as I am about Eddie hurling pointy missiles right by the gents’ door.


As an aside, why don’t people play dominoes in the pub anymore? You’re far less likely to end up bleeding.




Salad or Fish?

Albert is dutifully doling out his vegetables from the allotment and has also organised to sell the bulk of them direct to the local Darby and Joan club. Various people are getting lettuce! With which to make DUNDUNDUN – SALAD! You all know how I feel about salad. Ne’er-do-well Eddie rejects his lettuce and radishes out of hand, saying he can’t stand them and that he’s already “bursting with vitamins”. (You see, the lower on the social totem pole you go, the less likely you are to eat lettuce. MY THEORY HOLDS.)


These are the floppy-leafed lettuces my mother grows and so I have a fondness for them.

And merely for posterity, here is an immortal exchange between Bet and Betty about a paramour:

“Betty, what were t’name of that fish man what fancied you?”

“Fish man!?”

“You remember, he fetched you a salmon that time.”

“… Bert Goslin. And he was a master fishmonger.”

He sounds irresistible! Who wouldn’t want to go out with a MASTER FISHMONGER?


Stuff Which Is Very Different Now 

1. Elsie, in her quest to talk to Mrs Thornley about the divorce proceedings, rifling through an actual phone book! How quaint!


Not shown: Elsie waiting 30 long seconds for the dial to return between each digit of the phone number. How did we even survive??

2. Renee wacking some larrikin kids who were touching her stock across the knuckles! Imagine going down to the dairy and getting the bash nowadays!


Renee, mid-bash.

3. Plus said larrikin kids had the saddest excuse for water pistols I have ever seen. Where is your pump-action super-soaker, 70s UK?


That green blob inside the glass is a water pistol. This is pitiful. No wonder punk happened.

4. Deirdre waxing eloquent about her future baby’s “little brown arms and legs”. a) The chance would be a fine thing, we haven’t seen the sun in Weatherfield for weeks and b) PUT SOME SPF50 ON THAT CHILD YOU NEGLECTFUL MONSTER.

Eddie Is My Muse

Eddie is a constant source of delight to me. Here he is telling Renee that he shouldn’t be gainfully employed because  “the vacant jobs ought to go to the most deserving…. You’d hardly call me deserving, now would you?”


Tell me anything in a Scouse accent and I’ll accept it, Eddie. Even Paul McCartney saying “Rockestra” was a good idea.

What the what?

Finally, this is hella weird: a slow-mo final shot of the naughty kids running to the sound of synths. I had a confirmed-by-Google feeling this is meant to be a reference to Logan’s Run, which was released in June of 1976. Never let it be said this show can’t be topical!


“We’re not all as green as we are cabbage-looking” – 18?, 23, 25 August 1976

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This has been an unconscionably long hiatus, during which all of YouTube user Auntie Corrie’s vintage Coronation Street playlists were deleted thanks to ITV getting unreasonable about copyright violation. (It’s a bit rich of ITV to get all precious about this, since they haven’t released the complete run of episodes for purchase anywhere.) I am therefore remaining deliberately vague about where I’m now, with some difficulty, watching them. There are still some episodes I can’t find, but we’ll struggle forward anyway. I also lost my job as a researcher, found another more time-intensive one as a librarian, and went on two big trips. All of these things affected my blogging progress adversely. Still, onward! Do we even remember what was happening? Something something Bet’s cleavage Ernest the plonker Ken eating salad? Righto then.

The episode from the 18th of August appears to have been lost to the mists of time and copyright violation; I think I got halfway through it before ITV exercised their power as our evil overlords, and I didn’t get screenshots. Still, our invaluable friends at Corriepedia inform us that Ray discovers a load of plumbing stock has been stolen from the building site they’re working on, and Len tells the contractor. Jack Barker (Orange Hat) and Doug West (remember, the dodgy blokes from dahn saaf?) do indeed steal tiles from the site, and Len and Ray are deeply suspicious. Meanwhile the stripper from the Gatsby club, Josie Steel, goes through her routine at home with Plonker Ernest (depressingly for us all, she’s fully clothed at the time. I’m really keen on seeing 70s foundation garments!). Emily walks in halfway through and lays the hammer down, then goes to the Kabin and has a showdown with Rita, who throws her out when Emily basically calls her a stripper!


None of you have watched Fuller House, right? Good.


The Bishops apologise to each other and Plonker Ernest tells Emily that he’ll give the job up. I think I speak for us all when I say damn, damn, damn. This was ripe with possibility. And boobs.

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How much Mavis is looking forward to meeting Derek’s mother.

Mavis is taken (rather unwillingly) to meet Derek’s mother. On the motorway! In a car! This visit is cringingly awful, as Derek’s mother is a complete martinet and Mavis is in full terrified witter. Derek and Mavis’ unmarried flit to the Lakes for a holiday is given a full puritan going-over, followed up with some rather pointed remarks about the advanced age of both parties, leaving Mavis in a jellied heap on the drawing-room sofa. (Also, dude, Mavis is apparently 39! I… was not expecting that. At some point Mrs Wilton makes reference to a “Dr Crippen“, who was apparently the first wife-murderer to be caught with the aid of wireless telegraphy. The more you know!)

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This is not a look I would want to see from my future mother-in-law.

I love the shot choices in these scenes, in which Derek and Mavis seem lost in huge rooms presided over by his mother.

Mavis is sent out to the greenhouse to look at her would-be mother-in-law’s “vine” (a greenhouse! A greenhouse! This is the middle-classest thing of all! One could even grow ingredients for SALAD in it!), and Derek is told emphatically by Mrs Wilton that Mavis will “not do”. “She’s nice to the point of being a walking ice-cream sundae! But that’s not the point – she’s also YOU in a tweed skirt!… Neither of you could decide what time of day it was in a room full of clocks!” Aw, poor Mavis. Also, ouch, truth bombs. “Any mother of Derek’s would eat prospective daughters-in-law and spit out t’pips,” says Rita wisely during the post mortem in the Rovers.

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The visit to Derek’s mother, summarised in three portraits. 1: Mavis. Poor Mavis.

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2. Mrs Wilton. This is more terrifying than anything I could imagine.

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3. Derek, staring into the abyss.

Speaking of going places in cars, Mrs Walker returns this episode from her suspiciously sudden visit to her daughter’s after her first driving lesson. You will recall that there is some speculation that she crashed the driving school vehicle, but it’s more than Bet and Betty’s lives are worth to ask her directly. Betty obliquely refers to Mrs Walker having a “rest” and is coldly shut down. “The Evening News is a good paper if you’re looking for a job, love,” says Bet after witnessing their exchange. Ooof. Bet mentions pointedly to Mrs Walker that “some lady” had “bashed” another car at her driving school. “I wonder who it was?” says Mrs Walker, all innocence. Bet ponders whether the general public of Weatherfield should be warned that another lesson is in the offing. “They are our brothers and sisters out there, Betty, roaming round the streets, unaware of what is going to lurch round the next corner like a demented kangaroo.”

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These two though. (Also, check out the ice bucket!)

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There is nothing better in the world than the women of Coronation Street cackling over some absurdity.

The mystery is solved when the driving instructor informs the pub at large with the, uh, encouragement of Mrs Walker, that a dray horse kicked the vehicle – although he does seem rather nervous about his tale. Mrs Walker heads off to “burn rubber” for her next lesson, triumphant once more. “Off into the bright blue yonder, as our fighter pilots used to say.” Bet, the eternal smartarse: “Some of ’em never came back, Mrs Walker.”

It’s all kicking off at the building site as the tile theft is discovered and Len reports it to an unseen supervisor. Daan Saaf with the Orange Hat declares that this is “victimisation by a member of another union!” (This is the kind of thing that sends me down a rabbit-hole of research: wouldn’t they all belong to the same union, as builders? Were there several competing unions? Was it regional?) In any case the southerners strike because orange hat has been accused of theft, an action which he smugly calls “industrial democracy”. (I am amused by the small-c conservatism of Coronation Street here: it’s all very well to have unions, it seems to be saying, but not if they’re used as an excuse for skiving off work. Heh.) The supervisor appears and gives them a bollocking and their strike lasts all of five minutes. Have the courage of your socialist convictions, lads!

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The supervisor – who my husband notes looks like John Malkovich in Rounders – meets a convention of silly-hat wearers.

Unfortunately the only conviction likely is a criminal one for Orange Hat, as he sabotages some scaffolding while Len is away. It’s Ray Langton who eventually comes a cropper and is taken away in an ambulance! Flamin’ ‘eck.

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Ray watches a bit of building site descending upon his head at speed.

One of Orange Hat’s friends confesses to Len and Terry that the scaffolding was deliberately meddled with, and Things Are Tense. “I’m gonna thump you for being a thief, a layabout and a lazy bastard,” says Len menacingly to Orange Hat. Two of those things seem kind of similar, but the line and the following punch-up are delivered with such gusto I’ll forgive him.

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Cliffhanger: Gail appears and has been cited as “co-respondent” in the divorce of the married chap she was seeing earlier! I can’t wait!

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That Gail. Such a femme fatale!


During these episodes there were so many fun facial close-ups at the building site that I amused myself with the theory that Len, Ray, Terry and Orange Hat were recreating the video for Abba’s “Knowing Me, Knowing You“.



“There’s only one thing worse than staring at a typewriter all day, and that’s going out wirra fella who collects beer mats.” – Deirdre

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I can’t tell you how many screenshots of Deirdre I take. SO MANY.

“I were born sexy.” – Rita (Damn right!)


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Let’s all take a moment to appreciate the sheer glory of Terry’s muttonchops.


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Who has ever poured boiling water like this? I do not understand. Nor, by the looks, do Terry and Ray.

9, 11, 16 August 1976 – “Look, Elsie, what have you got against him, apart from the fact that you hate his guts?”

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Mrs Walker’s driving ensemble. I want to marry it.

You’re probably sick of me overthinking Ken Barlow by now, so perhaps I will turn my attention to overthinking Mrs Annie Walker, Rovers Return landlady, behaviour regulator and overall status-grubber. Because Coronation Street is quick to punish those getting above their station, her aspirations and faux-poshness are ripe for ridicule. As I was watching these episodes, however, I began to wonder about how the show constructs the audience for these mocking storylines. Are we meant to be laughing at Mrs Walker because we identify with the unashamedly working-class? In that case, why are Hilda, Stan and Eddie, the lowest on the totem pole, also often associated with hilarity and mockery? We laugh at them too. But ah, you say, we laugh at Hilda because in her own way, she is trying to get above HER station by emulating Mrs Walker (remember, her wallpaper escapades from some episodes back were an attempt to imitate the landlady’s redecorations). It’s “know your place” all the way down. This led me to pondering whether the Street’s audience is constructed as upper-middle class: do we exist in a place where we can laugh at everyone aspiring to what we have? That seems strangely mean-spirited for a show that often treats working people’s lives and desires with dignity and generosity. It’s true that the audience – and, indeed, the non-social climbing characters – see themselves as “real” rather than fake; we understand the pointlessness of pretending, since other people can see right through it. Perhaps the construction of the audience is even more idealistic than I have at first supposed: are we meant to exist *beyond* class? Does Coronation Street imagine a place in which petty social climbing of all kinds no longer exists? Thus, we laugh at it because we have perspective?

It may be a mildly problematic combination of all of these things – we laugh at foolishness, but also at aspiration. In any case, I’m not going to let it spoil my enjoyment of Mrs Walker’s driving lessons, for which she is kitted out in the sort of ensemble suitable for playing bingo with the Village People.

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Whitney Houston was singing “The Greatest Love of All” about this hat.

It was bought, of course, in Sylvia’s, where Mrs Walker’s doubts about donning slacks (remember when that was controversial? I do. Barely) were assuaged by Elsie in this fashion: “Come on Mrs Walker, if it’s not too late to start driving lessons, it’s not too late to wear trousers.” The simulation lesson goes well enough but after her first practical road-based outing, Mrs Walker suddenly disappears to “her Joanie’s” for a visit. There is much speculation about what might have happened, particularly from beady-eyed Hilda. “Summat’s happened on that driving lesson. And she’s gone off because she doesn’t dare show her face…. we’ll get to know. Muck always rises to the surface in the end.” An unconfirmed clue in the form of a phone call from Nellie Harvey appears – she reports that she saw a driving school car being towed away after a crash.

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Hilda be speculating.

Plonker Ernest is still moping about the place, taking in washing and fending off needling remarks from all and sundry. Mrs Walker attempts to be kind: “Everybody’s doing it these days, swapping roles, it’s –” “No disgrace, no, none at all,” says Ernest, his stricken face giving the lie to every word. Hilda comes right out and tells Ernie he’d “make somebody the perfect wife”.

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I wonder how white their whites get hanging in such grim environs?

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Ernie isn’t such a “perfect wife” that he’ll do the bloody ironing.

Given this constant aura of gender-role judgement it’s no wonder Ernest jumps at the chance to play the piano two nights a week at the Gatsby club, even if one of the nights is a “stag”, at which a stripper and a blue comedian perform. “There’s nights and NIGHTS, isn’t there, in places like that,” says Hilda judgementally. (Betty has had quite enough of judgey Hilda and tells her “the only reputation you’ve ever had is for yakking, tooting, and generally muck-raking.”) You will recall that Ernest got into rather a lot of trouble for attending one of these stag nights as a customer earlier in the year, but even grim-faced Emily can’t dissuade him. “Tell me, do you need your music for the stripper, or can you play that kind by ear?” she says, witheringly.

Another great drama of these episodes is the discovery that Gail’s fancy-man is, as suspected, married with children. Gail refuses to believe this for quite a while. “I happen to be kinky for monsters, ” she says simperingly to him. (OH MY GOD, GAIL. If only you could see some of the chaps you wind up marrying in the coming decades you’d realise this is your most prescient line of dialogue ever.)

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Elsie’s face when she’s talking to The Wife.

Deirdre in Fine Pregnant Form Corner

Pregnancy obviously agrees with Deirdre, as she has been a delight in these episodes (and has given this post its title). Ray doesn’t much like her new looks: “Talking about freaks, what have you done to yourself?”

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Deirdre is wearing this bead-heavy boho ensemble and Ray’s… area is very… constricted. I am concerned that he may not be able to father any more children.

But Deirdre is unfazed. “Us with mercurial temperaments usually have brains.”

Deirdre is also giving Gail-the-married-man-shagger no quarter after Gail ignores her advice about kicking her curly-haired Lothario to the curb. “I can tell you this, love. From now on you can stew in your own flamin’ juice.”

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At one point she also says to suspicious-of-foreigners Ray “we don’t get much trouble with t’KGB round ‘ere” which, as a sentence divorced from any context and delivered in a thick Weatherfieldian accent, delights me no end. Viva pregnant Deirdre!

Holy Crap That Was a Reference To Bertolt Brecht Corner

And speaking of Deirdre, in her capacity as secretary for Len Fairclough’s building company, she mistakenly turns down a big contract because she thought they were too busy. Len, to Ray: “Mother Courage here has said that we couldn’t fit it in!” The ways in which this show surprises me are many and varied.

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Mother Courage, upset after being yelled at by Len

The contract is salvaged and the stage is set for a showdown with some rival builders. You can tell they’re baddies because they’re Cockney and they have facial hair. Anyone coming oop north from daaan souf cannot be trusted!

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I would say this was the hat of the week, but have you seen Mrs Walker’s driving cap? Go on. Scroll back up and drink it in.

Local References Corner

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Sometimes Coronation Street mentions New Zealand and I am, of course, duty-bound to report these moments. Ena, of some acquaintances: “They emigrated to New Zealand. I believe they’ve done very well for themselves. Though they were as thick as two short planks.” JUST WHAT ARE YOU IMPLYING ABOUT MY HOMELAND, MRS SHARPLES?

Sparkling Dialogue I Can’t Bear To Leave Out Corner

“Three things that should never have been invented: eight o’clock in the morning, twenty-year-old blondes, and plums.” – Rita in a philosophical mood

“According to him, everybody’s either bent or on the fiddle.” – Rita, of Eddie (and possibly my new epitaph)

“That’s extortion, that is, with a capital X.” – Eddie, of Rita’s cafe prices

28 July, 2, 4 August 1976 – “You’ve got to be a bit mad these days. Helps to keep you sane.”

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Bet isn’t in these episodes, so no screenshot of her. Here, Ken would like you to have a tomato instead.

I’m not really even sure what else I can say about salad, at this point. It’s like I’m in some sort of weird semiotic time-travelling dance-off with the past scriptwriters of Coronation Street. Each post in which I overthink characters eating salad seems to be greeted with another episode in which the salad ante is upped. Perhaps, like the alternate universe of the “Berenstein” Bears, this blog also exists in another dimension, where it concentrates on deconstructing the motivations of The Munch Bunch.

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Me and you and a salad too.

This is all a rather roundabout and possibly incomprehensible way of saying that bloody Ken Barlow is eating salad again. And, moreover, talking about salad. While, if you can believe it, BRANDISHING his salad ingredients on a fork at hapless Uncle Albert. “For a man to reach your considerable age, Uncle Albert, without ever having eaten a tomato, seems to me to be remarkable… it is a most satisfactory comestible, from both aesthetic and alimentary points of view.”

No, seriously, you guys. HAVE A TOMATO. KEN DECREES IT.

No, seriously, you guys. HAVE A TOMATO. KEN DECREES IT.

Honestly, Ken, couldn’t you go back to philandering and neglecting your children? “What are you going on about?” asks Uncle Albert, testily, quite clearly wondering how he’s managed to be landed with such a smug wanker for a nephew.

Albert makes a desperate escape from Ken and his tomato soliloquy.

Albert makes a desperate escape from Ken and his tomato soliloquy.

Albert is too busy worrying about the unfair distribution of his bingo winnings with playing partner Bertha to be messing about with salad ingredients. He even shows up at Bertha’s grim brutalist block of flats after a few rums to shout outside her window.

Albert wants his ten pounds and he shall not be denied! Have pity, Albert. Look at her building.

Albert wants his ten pounds and he shall not be denied! Have pity, Albert. Look at her building.

She finally appears at Albert’s with his share of the winnings, saying her husband told her to keep them. A kiss on the cheek is misinterpreted and her husband appears to challenge Albert to a fistfight!

Ena: available to break up fistfights between old coots for a small fee.

Ena: available to break up fistfights between old coots for a small fee.

The other thing I was not expecting was a storyline about Mavis Reilly’s boobs. To be strictly accurate, we are considering the appropriateness of Mavis’ newly bought sun top in a work environment. Mavis is, of course, deeply worried that her staid little halter will… well, I’m not sure exactly. Cause a riot? Make Derek keel over and implode around his nether regions? In any case Rita encourages Mavis to show off the… goods while serving punters in the stationers (it’s also a cafe at this stage, since Roy’s Rolls is some decades away).

Mavis Reilly, cafe waitress and bombshell.

Mavis Reilly, cafe waitress and bombshell.

Rita puts Ken up to waxing eloquent on the subject of Mavis’ sex appeal: “Are you going to wear that on your holidays? You’ll be a sensation!”

Mavis, delighted by Ken's attention to her boobs. Be careful, he'll tell you all about tomatoes if you're not careful.

Mavis, delighted by Ken’s attention to her boobs. Be careful, he’ll tell you all about tomatoes if you’re not careful.

The contrast with good-time-girl Gail and last episode’s visible nipples could not be more obvious. Gormless Fred undoes all of Rita’s good work, overdoing the compliments by droolingly telling Mavis “You’re coming out, aren’t you, in more ways than one!… If you went round a building site like that, you’d have them dropping off the scaffolding like hailstones!” Mavis disappears witteringly into the back room in shame.

Mavis, rather less pleased by Fred's attention to her boobs.

Mavis, rather less pleased by Fred’s attention to her boobs.

Shame is not in Gail’s vocabulary, as she welcomes the sleazy owner of Sylvia’s, Roy Thornley (who, as you may recall, is also in a relationship with Sylvia herself) into the boutique for lunch and a sneaky bottle of wine while Elsie is out.

Roy supplies Gail with a fine vintage. Nose-hold-worthy, even.

Roy supplies Gail with a fine vintage. Nose-hold-worthy, even.

Who could resist this man?

Who could resist this man?

There is much giggling and innuendo until Elsie returns to give Gail one of her patented tellings-off, but her words fall on deaf ears. Even after giving Roy some dire warnings, the relationship continues, Gail giggling and dashing off in all directions as the mood takes her. I have a bad feeling about this.

Elsie is really giving it heaps on the tellings-off.

Elsie is really giving it heaps on the tellings-off.

There is much pointing.

There is much pointing.

No, seriously, A LOT of pointing.

No, seriously, A LOT of pointing.

Point! Point!

Point! Point! (When did we stop pinning clothes on shop walls as a display choice? Can we go back there?)

Plonker Ernest gets an enormous tax bill and spends a fair bit of time woe-is-me-ing his way around the Rovers Return. Ne’er-do-well Eddie Yates, unable to understand the idea that anyone might have a work ethic or require a regular wage, can’t work out why Ernest is upset in the first place. “There he is, living a life of gracious ease and quiet contemplation.”

Ernest turns off the radio as it is mockingly playing Helen Shapiro's "Walking Back to Happiness" at him. They've always known how to use incidental music to great effect on this show.

Ernest turns off the radio as it is mockingly playing Helen Shapiro’s “Walking Back to Happiness” at him. They’ve always known how to use incidental music to great effect on this show.

Eventually poor Emily feels compelled to go secretly to a jeweller’s and sell her engagement ring for a hundred pounds, then gets a job at the hospital as an orderly.

The stricken face of a woman about to sell her engagement ring.

The stricken face of a woman about to sell her engagement ring.

Which is quite nice, as it goes.

Which is quite nice, as it goes.

When she suggests Ernest get a similar job as a hospital porter he balks at the idea. Then she comes home from working all day and *still* has to peel the potatoes.

Poor Emily hasn't even got her coat off yet.

Poor Emily hasn’t even got her coat off yet.

PULL YOUR FINGER OUT, Plonker Ernest. Times are tough. Why does Emily have to do all the running around here?

And speaking of running, Mrs Walker is about to start a different sort of exercise: trying to catch up with her fellow landlady friend Nellie Harvey from the Conservative Society, who appears on the scene brandishing a set of car keys and a snazzy white Mini Cooper. Annie Walker’s face as she realises her status has fallen below appropriate obsessive social-climbing levels is a sight to behold.

Nellie and her hat appear to lord it over Mrs Walker.

Nellie and her hat appear to lord it over Mrs Walker.

Sweet ride, Nellie!

Sweet ride, Nellie!

She sees Nellie rollin', she hatin'.

She sees Nellie rollin’, she hatin’.

Offered a lift while waiting for the bus: the ultimate indignity!

Offered a lift while waiting for the bus: the ultimate indignity!

No seriously: SHE HATIN'.

No seriously: SHE HATIN’.

She rings around all of her friends in an attempt to get some dirt, finally discovering that Nellie took 86 lessons in order to pass her test. (Although I grew up in the era of the rotary-dial telephone, I had forgotten just how long it took to laboriously enter six or more numbers.)

Mrs Walker discovers teh 86 lessons. This should be in the dictionary to define schadenfreude.

Mrs Walker discovers the 86 lessons. This should be in the dictionary to define schadenfreude.

Nellie comes over for a cup of tea and the battle of backhanded compliments begins. “DO have another piece of Battenberg Nellie: I know YOU’VE never succumbed to this modern fad of weight-watching.” “It was so VERY VERY brave of you to tackle modern traffic conditions at your time of life.” RuPaul’s Drag Race should be watching this for lessons in High Bitch.

Nellie appears and opens both saloon doors like a western gunslinger. Showdown at the driving school corral!

Nellie appears and opens both saloon doors like a western gunslinger. Showdown at the driving school corral!

The offending Battenburg cake.

The offending Battenberg cake.

At some point in the proceedings Annie drops the hammer of 86 lessons down, saying that one generally needs one lesson per one year of life. OH NO SHE DIDN’T! Nellie’s posh accent drops as she storms out of the Rovers back room, challenging Annie to learn how to drive in fewer than 86 lessons if she’s so marvellous. I can’t wait to see what transpires when Mrs Walker gets behind the wheel.


This guy! What a specimen! Hair, pants, shoes, everything.

This guy! What a specimen! Hair, pants, shoes, everything.

Oh look! This wonderfully coiffed lady...

Oh look! This wonderfully coiffed lady…

... gets re-used at Sylvia's later on.

… gets re-used at Sylvia’s later on.


Damn, Deirdre. Just... DAMN.

Damn, Deirdre. Just… DAMN.

Thumbs up on Elsie's collar and sleeves; thumbs up on Gail's tee.

Thumbs up on Elsie’s collar and sleeves; thumbs up on Gail’s tee.

The men of the Street are really not doing themselves any favours with these strategic unbuttonings.

“The less you expect, the less you’re disappointed.” 19, 21, 26 July 1976

[Oh dear, at the rate I’m blogging these I’ll never get out of 1976! Tell my family not to get the flu next time, would you? Still, onward!]

Screenshot 2015-08-16 at 2.52.19 PM

How overtly a soap opera reflects the times in which it was made can be both deliberate or unwitting. From a distance of nearly forty years, in a country halfway around the globe, certain things are particularly striking, although they may not have seemed oh-so-1970s to the show’s creators at the time. (So brown! So orange! So polyester!) But in other ways, Coronation Street makes deliberate attempts to grapple with current affairs – sometimes more successfully than others. As we saw in the previous post, the record-breaking heat wave and drought in the summer of 1976 went rather to the heads of anyone filming on Albert Tatlock’s allotment. And now, as Plonker Ernest and Emily get to grips with the closure of his photography business and his subsequent interactions with the government-run job centre (what was I saying about brown and orange?), the “real world”  in the form of the UK’s 1970s recession encroaches a little upon the Street’s tiny, almost hermetically sealed community.

Ernest enters the job centre with the look of a condemned man.

Ernest enters the job centre with the look of a condemned man.

The job centre is very... orange.

The job centre is very… orange.

It also does a nice line in too-long poster slogans.

It also does a nice line in too-long, redundant poster slogans. “Do you want advice about the best type of job for you?” Well, I am IN THE JOB CENTRE, so maybe?

This woman apparently organises people to go into jobs using a filing cabinet, a pen and paper, and a telephone. WHAT IS THIS ANALOGUE SORCERY?

This woman apparently organises people to go into jobs using a filing cabinet, a pen and paper, and a telephone. WHAT IS THIS ANALOGUE SORCERY?

If I cast my mind back through the episodes I’ve watched so far, little remarks about how tough times are for working people have been sprinkled throughout the dialogue (Alf nearly quit his job at the post office but decided against it; Ena and Albert both watch their pennies and find their pensions hard to live on), but this is the first storyline in which a well-established, adult, employed character comes up against the possibility of hardship to an uncomfortable extent. Ernest misses out on a job as a photographer; he fails to qualify as an “executive” for another job placement programme. Emily realises that the unemployment benefit isn’t enough for them to live on and goes out to search for work outside the home herself, which Ernest, as befits a plonker, finds terribly emasculating.

Ernest and Emily dealing with their equipment. I would make a smutty joke here but I have too much respect for Emily.

Ernest and Emily dealing with their equipment. I would make a smutty joke here but I have too much respect for Emily.

That darkroom is now The Darkest Room, amirite?

That darkroom is now The Darkest Room, amirite?

Hilda is actually rather pleased by these developments, saying that this is what she’d heard on the wireless as “the irreversible flow of wealth to the working class” (note that salad-eating Ernest and Emily are, to Hilda, middle-class, even if they live in the same sort of house she does). “They’ve had it their way long enough,” she says smugly. “It’s time for the rest of us to have a bit of what’s going.” I must say that the “flow of wealth” isn’t really evident in the finances of the rest of the Street’s residents. Hilda later philosophises of Ernie: “He can’t cope with failure, you see, while my Stan’s got certificates for it.” Greater ambitions for those further up the ladder can mean greater disappointment later. Why aspire to anything, if that’s how it all turns out?

So much for the “high” storyline; the “low” storylines involve the unsuitability of married friends/lovers, a subject ripe for amusement and entendres. Albert Tatlock wins a mighty sum on the bingo (speaking of brown, whew, that bingo hall) and, as befits a swinging bachelor, gets glommed onto by a fellow elderly lady hoping to become part of a housie-playing team.

The bingo hall: this is the brownest, 70s-est place of allllll the brown 70s places.

The bingo hall: this is the brownest, 70s-est place of allllll the brown 70s places.

Guess who won that hundred pounds? Albert Tatlock, that's who.

Guess who won that hundred pounds? Albert Tatlock, that’s who.

Albert is hugely worried that she’s also interested in becoming a “Baby Let’s Play House” team, if you know what I mean, nudge-nudge-wink-wink-say-no-more. His worries are compounded by the news that she is married and word on the street is that her husband is a bit of a hardarse.

Albert's would-be bingo partner. And her HAT.

Albert’s would-be bingo partner. And her HAT.

He spends a lot of time hiding from his new pal, until the hubby turns up and gives the bingo partnership his blessing. I also get my first glimpse of Vera Duckworth, who is both married to an offscreen husband AND Fred the barman’s possible boom-chicka-wow-wow paramour.

Vera! And associated Pal in Headscarf!

Vera! And associated Pal in Headscarf!

The only thing standing in the way of Fred’s sexytime is his landlady, one Mrs Annie Walker, who shall henceforth be known as The Distilled Essence of Cockblock. She originally thought Fred’s lady-friend was going to be a possible replacement for his dead wife, so she is horrified by Vera’s marriedness and “common”-ness and makes sure to insert herself into their backroom socialising as a terribly inconvenient chaperone.

Fred, your spiffy outfit will count for naught.

Fred, your spiffy outfit will count for naught.

No one does fake-polite like Mrs Walker.

No one does fake-polite like Mrs Walker.

Or, indeed, judgey bitchface.

Or, indeed, judgey bitchface.

And in more The Heat is On scenes, Gail and her visible nipples start seeing the owner of the fashion boutique (who is technically her employer) for boozy lunches, under the baleful eye of Elsie, who Does Not Approve. (Mavis purchases a sexy top under the guidance of Gail and I can’t wait to see her wittering shyly around in it on some future date.)

Gail and the boss-man.

Gail and the boss-man. And two other friends.

Elsie does not approve.

Elsie does not approve.


Rita, to Len: “You ARE a fella, aren’t you? Or is it where you’re having your hair cut lately?”

Len, to Rita: “Give us a packet of chewy. And less lip, otherwise I’ll thicken it for you.” URKH.

I am mesmerised by Rita's face and Len's unbuttoned shirt.

I am mesmerised by Rita’s face and Len’s unbuttoned shirt.


The UK’s heatwave seems to have made the men of the Street come over all peculiar-like. First Len, then Fred:

Screenshot 2015-08-18 at 2.39.30 PMAnd, terrifyingly, Ken wielding a carpet-sweeper in this amazing ensemble:



I mean, honestly. How are we meant to concentrate on the storyline?

I mean, honestly. How are we meant to concentrate on the storyline?

I can't tell you how happy I was to see him put on a tie. Although not as happy as he seems to be, apparently.

I can’t tell you how happy I was to see him put on a tie. Although not as happy as he seems to be, judging by his expression.


Albert spends some time trying to find out who carved his name into his allotment marrow, first giving Eddie a bit of a going-over. Eddie: “I might look like a villain, but I wouldn’t harm a vegetable to save my life.”

The offended marrow.

The offended marrow.

Albert eventually, by process of elimination, works out that Ray was the culprit and bursts into the Rovers shouting “It’s you what vandalised my marrow!” I wish there was some way to use this sentence more often in my everyday life.

5, 7, 12, 14 July 1976 – “And what did your last slave die of?” “The same as what you will, lovey.”

Screenshot 2015-07-17 at 11.00.43 AM

Many apologies for the longer-than-usual gap between this post and the last. My life interrupted my Coronation Street viewing, which I’m sure you all agree is completely unacceptable. Especially when there is Plonker Ernest wielding a scythe like the grim reaper to contend with! Poor old Plonker Ernest. He’s been to the accountant and his photography business is going belly-up in the recession. As befits his plonkery, he does a bit of whining at Emily and a bit of shouting at Albert Tatlock before wending his way to the allotment to scythe down some overgrown grass. He and Albert discuss the difficulties of the economy and being older and out of work. (The director went a bit mad on “rural idyll” shots of bees and flowers in the allotment scenes, which seemed rather out of character for the Street. Perhaps the heat was going to his head.)

Plonker Ernest grimly wields a scythe.

Plonker Ernest grimly wields a scythe.

Summer days, make me feel fine, Albert Tatlock's allotment's on my mi-i-ind.

Summer days, make me feel fine, Albert Tatlock’s allotment’s on my mi-i-ind.

Honestly, this is just a tiny sampling of the flower shots. It was most unnerving.

Honestly, this is just a small sampling of the flower shots. It was unnerving.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, as Deirdre and Ray have their combined anniversary/birthday party without falling out irrevocably over the cost. An as-yet-unseen Blanche comes to the rescue over the phone, saying they can use her house (which seems to be downstairs from their flat?) for free to throw the shindig. I must say this seems rather out of character for the Blanche we come to know and love in later years, but perhaps she was having a brief moment of generosity. “Foreign muck” watch: Ray gets rather sniffy about Deidre’s plan to make some lasagne for the party, since he has never heard of it (!!!). The recipe was supplied by the street’s resident gourmet chef, Mavis, but the fact that the pasta contains spinach and is therefore green was a bridge too far for Ray. He’s happy to stick with the pies supplied by Renee’s shop – and so is Ena, who has the brass neck to come by the shop and take some of the food before it’s even been delivered, using the rationale that she was invited to the party but isn’t going, so she deserves some of the spoils.

Ena helps herself to the party food before it's actually at, you know, the party.

Ena helps herself to the party food before it’s actually at, you know, the party.

And with a spread like this, who could blame her? Yikes.

And with a spread like this, who could blame her? Yikes.

The party itself is a bit of delight: Rita in a tee shirt! Everyone smoking up a storm and laughing uproariously! And it culminates in the announcement that the suspiciously non-smoking and non-drinking Deirdre is pregnant! (The dates are right for this pregnancy to turn out to be the future bane of the Street, Tracy. Urkh. Well, we won’t think about that, everyone. Let’s just have a moment of happiness with Deirdre before her entire life turns to custard.)




Smokin’! Drinkin’!

Flirtin'! (Successfully.)

Flirtin’! (Successfully.) (Also, whoa, lampshade.)

Flirtin'! (Profoundly unsuccessfully.)

Flirtin’! (Profoundly unsuccessfully.) (Also, whoa, cleavage.)

Rita tee-shirtin'!

Rita tee-shirtin’!

And an oddly staged pregnancy announcement: in the dark, behind Bet's hairpiece. This probably symbolises... something bad about Tracy.

And an oddly staged pregnancy announcement: in the dark, behind Bet’s hairpiece. This probably symbolises… something bad about Tracy.

Hilda and Stan have a corker of a storyline in these episodes, with the doofus Eddie Yeats as their willing accomplice. Hilda hears that Mrs Walker is having her flat above the Rovers redecorated with some snazzy wallpaper and decides to do the same with their living/dining room. A comedy of errors ensues: Eddie gets some mildly dodgy wallpaper from a mate and the non-faulty rolls are only enough to do three walls. He tries to talk Hilda into another pattern for one wall, but she is having none of it. Finally he supplies her with the most legendary of Hilda’s malapropisms – wallpaper that looks like a “muriel” of a mountainous country scene. Hilda is proud and delighted and Bet and Annie Walker are invited over for tea to view it. I think it’s fair to say that they, along with those of us at home, are… amazed. “I’ve seen nowt to touch it since Cinerama,” says Bet, in a daze. “Do you know dear,” Mrs Walker announces primly, “I feel just a little giddy.” Hilda notes that “either you’re one for the great outdoors, or you’re not.” The entire scene is gold from go to whoa.

Hilda is pleased with her new wallpaper.

Hilda is pleased with her new wallpaper.

Until Eddie tries to fob her off with some kiddy race-car stuff as a "feature wall".

Until it runs out, and Eddie tries to fob her off with some kiddy race-car stuff as a “feature wall”.

But never fear! The muriel is here!

But never fear! The muriel is here!

Mrs Walker's priceless expression when she first sees the muriel.

Mrs Walker’s priceless expression when she first sees the muriel.

Bet and Mrs Walker take tea with a proud Hilda.

Bet and Mrs Walker take tea in front of the finished muriel with a proud Hilda.

There are many meaningful looks.

There are many meaningful looks.

Ena has a fun storyline too, in which a couple of grifters roll into town and attempt to scam money for shower installation out of the local elderly, saying baths are far too dangerous. They pretend they’re from the council, but Ena calls in the big guns: Len Fairclough, who is not only a builder but a councilman. Ena, Len and Eddie sabotage the grifter just as he thinks he’s about to make away with forty pounds and a citizen’s arrest is made. There’s nothing like an “elderly woman gets revenge on manipulative criminal” storyline to make you feel satisfied.

Ena, suspicious of grifters.

Ena, suspicious of grifters.

Eddie gets the con man in a headlock while Len helps.

Eddie gets the con man in a headlock while Len helps.

Eddie, not long out of the big house himself, is touchingly pleased to have made a citizen's arrest.

Eddie, not long out of the big house himself, is touchingly pleased to have made a citizen’s arrest.

The many wonderful expressions of Ena Sharples: a triptych.

Screenshot 2015-07-17 at 11.05.01 AMScreenshot 2015-07-17 at 11.05.05 AMScreenshot 2015-07-17 at 11.05.06 AM


Salad watch: Emily and Ernest enjoy a salad while discussing their financial woes. I don’t want to belabour the point but it should be noted that they are also aspirational (photography!) and rather “posher” than some of their fellow characters. Weirdly, Emily appears to put ENTIRE hard-boiled eggs in her salad, which is rather profligate! What happened to slicing them up so they go further?

Seriously, whole hard-boiled eggs? What are you Bishops, made of money?

Seriously, whole hard-boiled eggs? What are you Bishops, made of money?

Pop culture corner: Deirdre and Ray are fans of The Kinks (this may explain Ray’s haircut. And name); Bet was humming Jimmy Webb’s “Didn’t We” while cleaning up the pub. (I find this pleasingly obscure. What, no “MacArthur Park” or “Wichita Lineman”?)

Spot the Kinks album above Deirdre's head! That is, if you can tear yourself away from her amazing pinny. And the gloriously clashing curtain print.

Spot the Kinks album above Deirdre’s head! That is, if you can tear yourself away from her amazing pinny. And the gloriously clashing curtain print.

Chillin’ like a villain: Deirdre’s doctor.

I mean, seriously. This dude apparently works ten and a half hours a week!

I mean, seriously. This dude apparently works ten and a half hours a week!

Ena Sharples’ front door fascinates me.

What is with the pointy semi-arch at the top there? Was this popular in the 70s? Can you still buy doors shaped like that?

What is with the pointy semi-arch at the top there? Was this popular in the 70s? Can you still buy doors shaped like that?

And finally, Ray carves some graffiti into one of Albert Tatlock’s marrows.

If you're not careful, Deirdre will stuff you one day. It's her signature dish, you know.

If you’re not careful, marrow, Deirdre will stuff you one day. It’s her signature dish, you know.