Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Wednesday 10 April 1963

Elsie Tanner's in the midst of a rent dispute with Coronation Street's dastardly landlord Mr Wormold, and is doing her best to keep out the bailiffs.  Despite timid best wishes from her neighbours, only her sort-of love interest Len Fairclough's willing to help her out.  He comes round to change her lock for her, and much sauciness ensues.

Len suggests they barricade themselves in, though Elsie's sceptical: "I don't see us defying the whole world with two tins of corned beef and a tin of pineapple chunks."  When she ventures out to the Rovers later, Jack Walker asks her if it's worthwhile making trouble.  In Pat Phoenix's uniquely tough, world-weary way she replies, "Trouble and me have been pals since I sucked my first dummy".  Who this first dummy was is left to our imaginations.

The Street's other Leonard, Gamma Garments' Mr Swindley, is wracked with his own pompous brand of guilt after giving Elsie some rash legal advice which has just made her situation worse.  Going round to number 11 to apologise, he's taken aback when a perplexing note's thrust at him through the door.

"Get knitted?!"
Elsie's not the only person in financial trouble this week.  Since the departure of her beloved lodger Jed Stone, Minnie Caldwell's been struggling to make ends meet.  With a heavy heart she visits Val Barlow's home salon to cancel her hairdressing club membership, forgoing her traditional Whit Week perm.  Silly, kind-hearted Minnie's the show's most straightforwardly lovable character, and seeing her in distress is genuinely upsetting.

By contrast, Harry and Concepta Hewitt seem to be going up in the world, with Harry calling in to the Rovers to buy - of all the extravagant things - a bottle of wine.  The Hewitts have got some posh new friends coming round for a steak dinner.  The wife insists on wine (you know what women are), but it wouldn't be Harry's preference: "There's nowt nicer than swilling down a steak with lager," he tells Jack (banal as this might now seem, in 1963 lager itself would have been quite an exotic, continental drink: both Harry and Concepta are acquiring tastes far fancier than the average Street resident).

Ena Sharples overhears the conversation from her lair in the snug.  Her disapproval of Harry's new pals - "them from the central heated semis" - triggers a conversation with her cronies that perfectly defines their individual characters, as well as being fascinating for anyone interested in social history.  Shallow, aspirational-if-only-she-could-get-the-chance Martha Longhurst sees the traditional working class community as something to escape from, and she's fiercely proud that her daughter Lily's moved to a "nicer" area: "They keep themselves very much to themselves in these better-class districts, you know. Not like round here, where everybody knows what day you change your vest."  Her latest boast is about the new cocktail bar in Lily's lounge: "all black glass, with silver squiggles."  Minnie, of course, has a far more generous view of where she lives, appreciating how neighbourly everyone is.

Ena, always the brutal realist, scorns Minnie's romantic views - if Minnie's neighbours have been kind to her it's because "they've got a weakness for dumb animals in this country."  Her own view  of Northern working class communities - and people in general - is damning: "They wouldn't give a blind man the time, most of 'em... the brotherhood of the working class - it's a right fallacy, that is.  Fair-weather friends, all of 'em.  You can live alone and die alone for most of 'em."

On a lighter note, Bessie Street school heartthrob Ken Barlow's embarrassed to find himself the object of an enthusiastic crush from sixth former Rita Spears.

The episode ends with an extravagantly tarted up Rita turning up on Ken's doorstep, much to his wife Val's amusement...


  1. Is this available on DVD? The dialogue you quote is absolutely cracking. "Them from the central heated semis" indeed.

    1. Yes, it's on the Network 1960s Coro boxset, which is utterly brilliant.