Saturday, 9 July 2016

Say It With Crossroads...


You know, we live in amazing times. Just think back. Before Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989, we couldn't have dreamt of so many things... like easily and cheaply going on-line to create our own greetings cards. And what better for those who appreciate the finer things in soap than a card featuring the recipient's favourite Crossroads character?

The years can never dim the appeal of Crossroads.

It's as good for us today as it's always been (to nick an advertising slogan that people of Crossroads vintage will almost certainly remember!).

This card, presented by a friend of this site to an old pal of his and featuring the one and only Jack Haig as Archie Gibbs, went down a storm.

So, who do your friends love from the Crossroads universe? Meg? Jill? Sandie? David? Shughie? Amy? Mr Paul? Valerie Pollard? Whoever, you can produce a card that is well and truly personal!

 These are the days of miracle and wonder, to quote Paul Simon...

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 12: Adam Chance


Jill adored Adam - except when he called her "Jilly". Adam gave his view on Jill in 1988 - he'd never met such a daffy woman...

Adam Chance, played brilliantly by Tony Adams, was King's Oak's Mr Fox - a very foxy customer indeed! Of great charm, and capable of great kindness, nonetheless he could be a bit of a sly one.

In fact, more than a bit.

Accountant Adam first breezed into King's Oak in 1978. He was a great support to Meg, who was reeling after the death of her husband Hugh, and the revelation that Hugh's finances were not at all healthy. Adam bought a few shares in the motel to help Meg as she was forced into selling some, and she ceased to be the majority shareholder. At first Adam was around only intermittently, but he settled down in 1983 to marry Jill Harvey and remained in the village until 1988.

But it was not an easy courtship.

Or marriage.

Adam's biggest hoorah in his early years was bringing millonaire's daughter Miranda Pollard to the motel in 1980. And her father, J Henry, soon turned up as well.

Adam acquired a boat and romanced several lucky ladies there before becoming engaged to Jill Harvey in 1982.

But he was tempted by newly arrived rich bitch Valerie Pollard, who was out to score points against her loving husband, the aforementioned J Henry. Adam spent the night with her on his boat. And Valerie cleverly dropped this little gem of information into a nice "drinkies" session with her dear hubby, Adam, Jill and the Hunters in the motel bar.

J Henry was furious, Jill was distraught and gave Adam back his ring, and Adam left England.

And that seemed to be that.

But, in 1983, Adam returned to King's Oak. He wrangled a job as motel manager in exchange for his shares in the business, and Jill, who had voted for him to be awarded the job, began to tremble.

And soon the engagement was back on again.

David Hunter suspected that Adam was up to no good, simply out to marry Jill for personal gain, but what he really wanted was hard to know.

That's what made Adam such fun as a character.

After the wedding, Adam unveiled one of his flashes of genuine kindness. He'd secretly arranged for Jill to be reunited with her mother Meg on their honeymoon in Venice.

Adam's relationship with David Hunter could be fraught, but he showed another flash of kindness when he spoke to Sarah Alexander on David's behalf during her pregnancy. Adam wasn't keen to go and talk to her, but he did. It didn't do any good, but all the same...

In 1985, foolish Adam made a pass at new motel boss Nicola Freeman and, when Jill twigged what had happened, it snapped their marriage in two.

Adam remained at the motel, and managed the new leisure centre - often clashing with yuppie lad Daniel Freeman, step-son of Nicola. He had a fling with employee Tara Shaw and, when the  motel was sold to Bomber Lancaster, tried to drop Nicola in the cart by revealing a confidential file to the new boss man which criticised her management of Crossroads. But Bomber wasn't daft.

Finally, Adam and Jill were reconciled. Jill had her doubts, but Adam convinced her that they could regain control of the motel - or rather the King's Oak Country Hotel - as Bomber Lancaster had decided to sell up.

Jill dithered and dallied, finally decided that her future lay with Bomber's PR man John Maddingham, and Adam faced defeat. The hotel was sold to the Three Crowns company, with none other than Adam's old enemy Daniel Freeman as its representative!

It was a bitter pill to swallow.

Adam left.

The King's Oak Country Hotel receptionist did not even acknowledge his farewell.

Adam was resurrected for the Crossroads revival series in the early 21st century.

But that all turned out to be a dream.

Thank heavens.

One of the show's greatest characters, Crossroads's Mr Fox will never be forgotten...

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 13: Miss Tatum


Dear Miss Tatum was a first class postmistress.

 Miss Edith Tatum, played by Elisabeth Croft, ran the village post office in King's Oak for years. She had been a dutiful daughter, giving up her freedom to look after her ailing mother as a young woman, but she wasn't bitter. The post office was something of a village hub and Miss Tatum was a great friend to many - including postman Vince Parker.

In her early episodes, Miss Tatum owned a dog called Jupiter, who landed her in court for sheep worrying. The court ruled that Jupiter must be removed from the countryside, and Miss Tatum hit upon the happy solution of moving to her house in Portsmouth - and inviting young Sandy Richardson to stay with her as he was moving there too. 

When she returned, Miss Tatum became the linchpin of the village post office.

Always very polite and with old fashioned English manners, Miss Tatum coped well with the village's rascally poacher Archie Gibbs. Archie was always one to ruffle feathers, but Miss T would admonish him with a stern: "MR GIBBS!"

During the 1970s, Miss Tatum gradually faded from the show. She was often more involved as village background or in other character's storylines rather than having prominent stories of her own, but, nonetheless, remained a highly popular character.

Miss Tatum attended Jill and Adam Chance's wedding in 1983, and that was her final appearance in the show, although she remained in the village off-screen. Doris Luke stayed with her for a while a year or two later. 

Miss Tatum was a tremendous favourite of ours. A clean living, kindly woman, of the sort that don't seem to exist in soaps these days.

She had no secret children scuttling out of the woodwork, or other unseemly secrets in her past.

And, whilst all alone in the world as far as family was concerned, she was a very positive character.

"Now, can I have three seven pence stamps and a stiff-backed envelope please, Miss Tatum? And have you heard about the latest goings-on at the motel? I was just talking to Mrs Turtle and she says..."



Thursday, 26 May 2016

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 14: Tish Hope



Mrs Hope - actress, motel director. receptionist, antiques shop owner, mother, grandmother, long suffering wife...

If Meg Richardson/Ryder/Mortimer was the motel's marvellous matriarch, then Tish Hope was a sort of lovable aunty figure.

Tish, played by Joy Andrews, spent a lot of time at the motel. She became a director in the late 1960s, and from then on was often found, as Joy Andrews once said "glued to the reception desk".

Tish was a former actress - going by the name of Venetia Dawn - and was often recognised by guests at the motel. An attempt to revive her career in 1969 did not end happily.

The mother of the Reverend Peter Hope, vicar of the parish of King's Oak, Tish was keen for him to marry motel waitress Marilyn Gates, working class Brummie though she was. No snob, our Tish.

With a little intervention from her goodself, the match was successfully made.

Although she was a widow, there was hope for Mrs Hope in the marital stakes - another Mr Hope, in fact - or rather Captain Ted Hope of the Merchant Navy.

The pair married in 1970.

Tish had become a grandmother, and waved farewell to her son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter as they went abroad so that Peter and Marilyn could do missionary work in the early 1970s.

Tish was held at gunpoint by the awful Harry Silver (who looked rather like that 1980s charmer Sid Hooper) as the 1970s got underway, and suffered the loss of her home in a disastrous fire. 

But life goes on.

When Ted retired from the Navy, he and Tish were kept occupied running their own antiques shop in the village, the Hope Chest, and Tish's work at Crossroads.

And Ted's regrettable tendency to commit adultery.

All the nice girls love a sailor...

Although a charming man who clearly loved his wife, Ted also fancied himself as something of a carefree romantic, and this caused a rift in his marriage and a separation in the mid-1970s.

The Hopes were reconciled, but, at the end of the decade, Ted was tempted again - this time by Lloyd Munroe's daughter, Kathryn Fischer, who sported a severe 1920s bobbed hairstyle and was given to  wearing a 1920s/30s gangster style suit. 

This striking woman appealed to Ted and once again his marriage sailed close to the choppy waters of divorce.

But it all came out in the wash. In soap, men must be naughty and women must suffer, and poor old Tish forgave Ted in the end.

Again.

Tish was last seen behind the reception desk at the motel in 1980.

She was mentioned a few times afterwards, but I've no idea what became of her and Ted.

She was a true Crossroads legend, surviving much, but always kind, dependable and gracious.

Soaps simply don't make 'em like her anymore.

Which is a bit of a swizz, if you ask me.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters: 15 - Shughie McFee

Shughie McFee, magnificently played by Angus Lennie, was a chef at the Crossroads Motel from the mid 1970s until around 1984/85 - although he was invisible for several years at the end!

Proud Scotsman Shughie drew a squawk of disgust from Amy Turtle when she saw what was going into the haggis he was preparing. Sadly, Scot though he was, he couldn't really play the bagpipes, although he did once try to hoodwink everybody into thinking he could.

In the best traditions of a Crossroads chef Shughie, once called "Shughie McCradock" by waitress Diane Parker, was highly temperamental. He could puff himself up and bluster with the best of them. But underneath it all, Shughie was actually quite a sad and lonely little man. And there was a slight whiff of the Walter Mittys about him. Remember his wonderful flat, which turned out to be anything but?

Romance eluded Shughie although he tried (remember Avis Tennyson?), but Doris Luke did turn his shirt collars for him.

So that was nice.

Shughie worked with Bernard Booth for part of his tenure in the motel kitchens, and called him "Bern-ard". Why? I think Shughie was trying to sound posh. But, whatever the reason, it was very funny.

The highly strung chef had a nervous breakdown in late 1980, putting spiders in a desert served to a motel guest, hiding the store cupboard keys in the food mixer, and then attempting to wreck the motel kitchen. He was caught in the act by Kath Brownlow. Shughie was consumed by guilt as he hadn't been there when his mother had died, and this had triggered his strange behaviour. Mrs McFee had had a brief but unhappy stay at the motel just before her death and had tried to persuade Shughie to return to Scotland, as she was unwell. Shughie suspected her of malingering, a doctor's examination suggested only indigestion, but she'd died just after returning home.

He recovered and was there in 1981 when the staff drank a toast in reception to the newlywed royals, Charles and Diana.

But, later, 1981 saw his last on-screen appearance, although he continued to work at the motel for several years after.

The reason for Shughie's disappearance from our screens seems to lay with the production team, who decided not to build a new kitchen set after the motel fire in the November of 1981.

No kitchen scenes. No Shughie.

But although he was off-screen, Shughie was often mentioned and indeed even had a couple of storylines, bizarre though that may seem! Remember Kath Brownlow packing him off to the dentist? Mr Paul telling Jill he wanted rid of him and a new chef (preferably Swiss) for the kitchens? I was quite worried about that! "Shughie can't leave!" I muttered. I was mightily relieved when Mr Paul revealed that he'd only been teasing.

And yet, at the time, we hadn't laid eyes on Shughie for at least two years!

I loved Shughie. Sadly, Angus Lennie is no longer with us, but I still treasure a lovely letter and some photos I had from him many years ago. 

And Shughie is my all-time favourite Crossroads chef.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 16: Doris Luke

Doris Luke featured in a 1984 knitting book, based on the Crossroads characters. That cardigan is actually rather dressy by Doris's standards.

Dear old Doris Luke was a born spinster - no, I don't mean "batchelorette". Doris, played by Kathy Staff, had spent her younger years looking after her poorly parents. Not that she begrudged them - no, not our Doris - she loved her parents and said it had been a pleasure to care for them. But it left her rather on the shelf. Her attitude didn't help. She arrived at Ed Lawton's farm as housekeeper in 1978, and was a bit of a hatchet-faced dragon at first. But she quickly mellowed. According to soap writer Hilary Kingsley, Doris even forgave Benny Hawkins's pet goat Starry when it ate her best hat.  If this was indeed so, the episode seems to have been wiped - although I think I recall something...

In November 1978, Doris was transplanted to King's Oak, and worked at the motel as vegetable cook. She also helped out in the village shop for a while, until a bad fall landed her in hospital, and later did a spot of housekeeping for Reg Cotterill.

Doris was not in the best of health. Her lengthy absences from the screen were sometimes explained by health matters, or not mentioned at all. The truth was, Kathy Staff was also, of course, Norah Batty in the BBC's Last Of The Summer Wine, and so she flipped between the two shows throughout her time in Crossroads.

Loyal to her friends, Doris kept an aunty-ish eye on Benny, was a great pal to Kath and Mac, and told Alison Cotterill off for losing touch with her friends when she briefly returned to King's Oak in 1983.

In the early 1980s, Benny Hawkins wanted to buy Doris a house in the village, but of course Doris could never take his money. She offered to live there with him and look after him, but he refused and said he didn't like houses.

So, that was that. 

Father Fate, Dame Fortune, or whoever, did not smile on Doris. In 1981, she was attacked and mugged at home, and 1982 found dear Doris reflecting on her lonely life and grotty little bedsitting room at Mrs Price's house in King's Oak.

And then her old wartime love Tom Logan returned from France.

And he began determinedly courting Doris all over again.

Doris was uncertain - could they really rekindle the magic of forty years ago? And he'd gone a bit Frenchie-fied with his neckerchief and love of escargo. The way he wolfed his food in public at the motel restaurant was hardly the way an English gentleman would behave. Yes, he certainly seemed... different.

But, finally, the two became engaged. Tom wanted to buy the post office in King's Oak, and all seemed set fair, until the doubts set in. On both sides.

The couple parted. Tom left.

Doris dithered. Had she done the right thing? She contacted Tom. He had had third thoughts too. So, Doris left the village, it seemed to marry him.

But, of course, Doris could never be accused of being lucky. Tom died. and she returned.

A further period of ill health followed, and during this Doris found great comfort in looking after Katy Louise Banks, the baby daughter of Kevin and Glenda. 

Doris called Katy "Kitty" and grew to adore the child, which did not please Glenda, who was looking for a child minder, not an extra grandmother figure for her baby. 

Aware of the problems she was creating, Doris became distressed and wandered off with Katy for a few hours, causing great concern. On her return, she told Glenda that she didn't think she should see the child any more. Glenda had been about to tell her in no uncertain terms that their child minding arrangement was at an end anyway.

Doris's sister, Edna Tilling, turned up in 1984 and was totally unlike Doris. She was spolit and somewhat neurotic. Doris was going to stay with her after an operation on her veins, but Edna ditched the idea when her daughter, Gloria, arrived. Doris left to recuperate with friends in her old district of Peachy. 

In early 1985, she wrote to Benny to tell him she was housekeeping for some old acquaintances back there.

Doris was a lovely character - earnest and caring, and beautifully played by Kathy Staff, a great actress and much-loved by the public. She returned briefly for the revived Crossroads series in the early 21st century, but didn't stay long - sprouting a gay nephew in her brief time on the new show. Who was his mother I wondered? Gloria? Edna? Incredible! But then, in Dallas 1986 fashion, the revival turned out to be a dream.

And a good job too!

I do hope Doris found some happiness...

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 17: Marilyn Gates



Carlos puts the world to rights whilst Marilyn Gates tries to lather up some enthusiasm for the washing up in the motel kitchens back in the mid-1960s.
 
Lovely, squawky Brummie waitress Marilyn Gates, played by Sue Nicholls, was a fixture at the motel in the mid-to-late 1960s. Village girl Marilyn was apt to get into scrapes and often bemoaned the romantic complications in her life.

Sue Nicholls had auditioned for the part of Meg's daughter Jill, complete with Brummie accent. Can you imagine how posh Meg would have coped with such a daughter? It might have been fun, but with Jane Rossington getting the part of Jill and Sue the part of Marilyn, we had the best of both worlds.

Marilyn was popular at the motel - a good friend to Diane, Carlos and Josefina.

Marilyn squeezed a lot of living into her youthful years in King's Oak. She became a beauty queen and even tried her hand at singing  - a ballad called Where Will You Be? which was released as a record in real life. Marilyn also accompanied Meg and other staff to Tunisia after a wartime bomb blew up the Crossroads kitchens.

Back in England, Marilyn fell in love with the dishy new King's Oak vicar Peter Hope, but feared she wasn't good enough for him. His mother, Tish, thought otherwise, and finally Marilyn and Peter were married.

And then things went a bit odd.

Sue Nicholls left the serial, and her character was recast. Following the template laid down by early Coronation Street, recasting in English soaps wasn't very common back then, but Crossroads bravely recast Marilyn, completing altering the character in the process.

Nadine Hanwell, the new Marilyn, was dark haired whilst Sue Nicholls was fair. Ms Hanwell's Marilyn spoke very good middle class English, while Sue's Marilyn's accent had been of the glorious Brummie variety. Ms Hanwell's portrayal of Marilyn was perfectly all right, she was obviously a highly competent actress, but her Marilyn was quite wrong after Sue's version.

The new Marilyn was the perfect English country village vicar's wife. The old one strove to be that, but she was dead common (like me) and given to comic storylines.

What were the Crossroads production team thinking of?

We adapted to the new Marilyn and grew to like her.

But we'll always remember Sue's Marilyn with greater affection.

What a shame so few episodes featuring her exist today!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 18: Tommy "Bomber" Lancaster



Ah, what might have been if Crossroads King's Oak had become King's Oak and Tommy "Bomber" Lancaster's reign as hotel owner had continued!

But it was not to be.

I thoroughly enjoyed Terence Rigby's portrayal of Mr Lancaster.

Bomber was the owner of the Red Ox chain of eateries, a rich, self-made Brummie, living at posh Lady Byron Lodge.

And he was a pal of former motel char Amy Turtle.

Seeing her again rather freaked poor old Jill Chance out.

Bomber bought Crossroads in early 1987, and set about stamping his mark on the place. Of course, this was the late 1980s, so it had to have a theme - Bomber tied it into the history of King's Oak and its connections to the English Civil War, naming the bar "The Merry Monarch" (complete with flame stitched seating), and wondering if he could get away with telling guests that the big oak tree out the back by the bins was the one King Charles had (reputedly) hidden in.

Bomber had a wife - Mary - and two daughters, Debbie (called by some at Crossroads "Debbie Dreadful") and  Lisa. Debbie was down-to-earth, like her father, Lisa, the complete opposite - a globe trotting good time girl, mixing happily with the yuppie set.

Bomber was a great student of human nature. He was aware that Adam Chance was sneering at him and that Jill was looking down at her nose at him, but he sorted them both out. When Adam ended up drinking the naff plonk he had bought for Bomber's dinner party, it was no more than he deserved. 

Bomber also spotted that Barry the barman was fiddling the till.

Mary Lancaster died in 1987, leaving Bomber devastated.

But he persevered.

He decided to change the name of the dear old motel. Crossroads Motel? That was so old hat, so down market - so 1960s. King's Oak Country Hotel was surely more like it...

Jill Chance was initially against it, but she was jollied along by John Maddingham, Bomber's "ideas man". 

Bomber also decided that Charlie Mycroft added a touch of class to the place, and took him on to the permanent staff. 

Christmas 1987 found Bomber coping with his grief as he faced his first festive season without his beloved wife, and then the bombshell news that his steady, down-to-earth daughter Debbie was pregnant, with no father on the scene.

At first, he was furious - and thought that he had failed as a father. But after Lisa intervened, Bomber held his hands up and told Debbie that he wanted her to stay at Lady Byron Lodge, and that he would welcome and love his grandchild.

In 1988, Bomber sold the newly-renamed King's Oak Country Hotel.

"And that's an end to it," he said.

I thought it was a great shame because I liked the Lancasters and I thought there were endless possibilities with Tommy at the helm at the hotel. There were even rumours that Nicola Freeman was to have returned permanently if the show had continued, as a possible chalk and cheese romantic interest.

The Lancasters had great potential - gruff old Tommy, with his head for business and knowledge of what made people tick, and his beautifully contrasting daughters - shaggy permed yuppie puppy Lisa and Brummie sounding Debbie, who shared her dad's "from-the-ground-up" approach to business, if not his knowledge of humour nature. "Deadly Dave", father of Debbie's sprog, safely back in Spalding with his wife and kiddies, would vouch for that. Debbie had been sure he was a good bloke.

Tragically lost potential, but still worthy of a place in our top twenty...



Thursday, 7 April 2016

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 19: Iris Scott



Oooh, Iris!

Played by Angela Webb, Iris was nice Kath Brownlow's 'orrible niece, who landed herself on the Brownlow family in 1980.

And then the trouble began...

Iris, to put it simply, was bad news.

In November 1980, she bedded cousin Glenda's boyfriend, Kevin, in his Auntie Marian's house.

The hussy!

She also came across some audio casettes belonging to American psychiatrist Lloyd Munroe. To be fair, Iris initially thought they were music cassettes, but when she discovered they were actually taped therapy sessions of Lloyd with Rosemary Hunter... well! And the revelation that Chris Hunter wasn't David's biological son...  that information was too good for a girl not to use, wasn't it?

Iris didn't get on very well with her grumpy uncle-in-law, Arthur Brownlow, and so decided to accuse him of... er... molesting her. The case went to court, but Iris ended up in prison for lying.

When she came out, she found Arthur's son, her cousin Ron, waiting for her. And the couple fell in love. This was brave fare for an early evening soap because, while first cousins can and do marry, such things were not really subject matter for soap drama back then.

Iris had a phantom pregnancy. Ron went off to work on an oil rig.

Iris formed a close friendship with her landlady, Mavis Hooper when she moved into her boarding house in 1981. Iris's genuine concern for "Mave" showed a different side to her nature and some of us began to warm to her. By Crossroads standards, Iris was rather a complex character - and actually a bit of a groundbreaker in an era when soap characters tended to be simply good or bad. Previously, a "nice" character might be capable of weakness, stupidity, bad behaviour through some kind of illness or a flash of temper, but the show had never invited us to care about a character who had behaved as badly as Iris.

Just before Christmas 1981, we met the cause of a lot of Iris's behavioural problems - her tarty mother Rose, who breezed into King's Oak wanting to mend fences, believing that Iris was expecting Ron's baby.

It was all very difficult. At first, Iris didn't want to know, but gradually she thawed, particularly after her mother moved into Mave's boarding house too, and decided not to go dashing off with daft dreamer Sid Hooper, Mavis's husband, who had taken a great shine to her.

Iris finally set off with her mother to London, but soon returned, stating that her mother's new feller had been making overtures to her. On this occasion, her primary reason for visiting was to aid Kevin and Glenda in their reconciliation after Glenda had walked out when Kevin had refused to "go in for" a test tube baby.

So, once again, Iris wasn't all bad.

She was also a great pal to Benny Hawkins.

That was the thing with our Iris. When she was good she was very, very good. But when she was bad...

Iris still had feelings for her cousin Ron, and when a pal of his visited King's Oak, Iris saw a chance to press her case, although Ron was now romantically involved elsewhere. This caused more aggro when Iris engineered it so that Ron's pal was caught in a delicate situation with another man's wife.

Iris became attracted to Gary Corbett, a young man who had attempted to burgle Jill and Adam Chance's house, Chimneys. She blackmailed Jill and Adam into taking him on as an odd-job man, threatening to reveal to David Hunter that he actually wasn't Chris's biological father. "You really are a bitch, Iris!" said the usually mild mannered Jill.

Iris's scheme was derailed when Adam called "Time" on the situation. David revealed that he already knew about Chris, and Iris departed.

Soon, Iris found an unlikely ally in J Henry Pollard, millionaire businessman, who was suffering ill health. He wanted to antagonise his fellow directors at the motel by having her around, but developed sympathy for her when she became his personal assistant and he got to know her. He later secured her a job in the motel bar.

Iris's on-off tenure in the King's Oak saga came to an end in 1985 when she became involved with a young drug addict called Pete Maguire. The lad died, and Iris soon left the area - this time never to return.

But she was genuinely a groundbreaking character - one never to be forgotten.

"I ain't done nuffink, Auntie Kaff!"

Come off it, Iris!