Monday, 21 April 2014

Wednesday 5 February 1964

Things have changed since our last visit to Weatherfield, at Christmas: for one thing, Dennis Tanner's dreams of being a music biz svengali have been put on hold for a bit - he's now working night shifts packing boxes (Kenneth Colley is among his workmates.  It's not something he's finding especially fulfilling.

It doesn't help that his supervisor can't stand the sight of him, and promises to have him sacked if makes one more mistake.

Another Street resident who's not having a brilliant time of it is Ken Barlow.  He's being all broody and, who's gone all brooding and bites poor Val's head off for caring more about him eating his dinner at the optimum temperature than his mental wellbeing.

"All you're fit for is mithering about me dinner!"
"I'm your wife, I'm supposed to give you your meals."
"If I'd wanted a housekeeper I would've got one.  I thought I'd married a person! Someone with feeling and someone who thinks something about me! And you don't even know what I'm talking about, do you? You never did!"

No wonder Val seems confused, she seems to have walked into a revival of Look Back in Anger.  She storms out - and who could blame her?

Her destination is the bedsit occupied by Dave Robbins (former Avenger Jon Rollason), a teaching colleague of Ken's who's recovering from an accident.  Being very much attracted to Val, he proves almost too good a shoulder to cry on as she reveals her fear that she and Ken have "married the wrong ones".

At number 11, Elsie Tanner's getting ready for a night at work, which is also play since she landed a position in the casino owned by her current boyfriend Laurie Frazer (Stanley Meadows).

Ken's at the Rover's, on the way to drinking himself into oblivion.  "A Scotch, Kenneth?" asks a scandalised Annie Walker when he gives his order.

The watching Ena Sharples puts Ken's fragile state down to the prospect of a nightclub soon opening on Coronation Street.  Martha Longhurst thinks the present generation's "moral behaviour" is the worst ever known in history, but Minnie Caldwell thinks there was plenty of "shenanigan" going on when they were young.  Ena's highly sceptical that Minnie would know a shenanigan if she saw it.

As Ken seeks solace at the bottom of a glass, Val returns home in a right old state.  Concepta Hewitt pops in to jolly her along, but ends up making things worse: Val mumbles the consolatory words Dave said to her and Concepta, assuming it was Ken who said them, insists that any man who could talk to her like that must be the right feller for her.

When Concepta leaves, Val makes her way to Ken's hallowed bookshelves (we see a copy of Anthony Sampson's Anatomy of Britain, precisely the sort of book we'd expect a Guardian reader like Ken to display in pride of place, and it's surely a safe bet that Richard Hoggart's The Uses of Literacy - which some have suggested was a key influence on Coronation Street - is nestling somewhere on those shelves too).  In a shocking act of desecration (well that's how I'd see it, anyway), Val pulls all the books down and tears out a page to scribble a note on.

Meanwhile, Dennis, deciding he doesn't want the stupid job after all, makes out he was responsible for smashing the contents of a crate purely in order to get fired.

Harry and Concepta Hewitt find a heavily inebriated Ken in the Rovers, and finally convince him to return home to Val.  When he gets there she's gone.  He's so drunk he barely notices the books covering the bedspread, and passes out halfway through reading her farewell note.

We end with Dave Robbins awakening from a nap to the unexpected sight of Val who, he's startled to discover, has left Ken for him.

This episode's written by probably Coronation Street's greatest writer of all, Jack Rosenthal, but it's not a particularly distinguished script, and the episode seems a bit of an odd choice to release on DVD.  The deterioration of Ken and Val's relationship is heart-rending, but most viewers watching retrospectively will know they get back together, and the lack of resolution to this storyline (I won't be featuring another episode here till May, by which time the whole thing's bound to be forgotten) is really just frustrating.

1 comment:

  1. Wednesday February 5th 1964,Granada Television's Coronation Street Episode when Kenneth & Valerie Barlow were at loggerheads when the young girl knocked down and killed by a lorry at Bessie Street School and he had a lie down on a bed and he sat up and smoking a cigarette and he is depressed and she walked out in a blazing row and at Rovers Return Public House run by Jack & Annie Walker as mine hosts when Kenneth Barlow enters the pub for a scotch whiskey and Harry & Concepta Hewitt having a go at Kenneth and he is in not a very good mood to listen and the snug with Ena Sharples,Minnie Caldwell & Martha Longhurst listening in.

    Terry Christie,from Sunderland,Tyne & Wear.