April, 1976. Gender roles and sexuality: they’re funny old things, cock*. Elsie’s left her husband but can’t be seen to be shacking up with Len Fairclough, even if she is only staying in his back bedroom and it is a very modern 1976. That may very well be true, but “folk round here”, warns Ena Sharples, will not take kindly to a married woman living in those sorts of circumstances. But I’m more inclined to think the primness is a bit of a poorly maintained facade: there’s quite a lot of simmering… STUFF… going on. If it isn’t Deirdre and Ray talking about their amazing night of lovemaking (!), it’s ingenue Gail discussing her plans to “spread herself around” (yes, you read that right). Plus Ken Barlow’s been carrying on with the posh-ish married woman of his dreams (don’t get above your station, Ken!), and the episode I watched today contained an actual honest-to-goodness belly dancer at an illegal strip club, if you can imagine such madness on the cobbles. Bet Lynch, sharp-tongued barmaid and a woman I have always considered my spiritual adviser, had this exchange with Alf Roberts:
“Stag night at Gatsby.”
“You dirty old man.”
“It’s for charity.”
“Strippers’ convalescent home?”
(The man having his glasses fondled is Ernest Bishop, who has left his wife Emily at home wittering on with Mavis in blissful ignorance. In current episodes Emily speaks of the late Ernest in hushed and reverent tones. It’s rather refreshing to see here that actual past Ernest is, in fact, a bit of a plonker.) Bet, the only one who’s aware that half the Street’s married men are away watching naked ladies undulate, suggests that the entire male sex should be destroyed, but we know she doesn’t really mean it. Earlier in the episode Len Fairclough, official Man of the World, gives jilted, punched-in-the-face Ken some wry advice about the mysteries of womanhood. Ladies are apparently quite inscrutable, even if they’re not the ones doing most of the lying right now.
The longsuffering women of Coronation Street (Gail, a shop assistant with whom I am as yet unfamiliar, Ena, Rita, Betty) set up Elsie’s new room for her. Two of these women are still on the show. Does that blow your mind a little bit? It does mine.
Dated Tchotchkes Corner:
I am desperate to see these odd ornaments in Ken’s house close-up. The lack of film clarity is killing me here.
*It’s a term of endearment in Manchester. I swear to god.