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...