Tuesday, 20 April 2021

A Tribute To Reg Watson: Daily Life At The Crossroads Motel...

The modernistic 1950s/60s style buildings of the old Crossroads Motel! In her autobiography, My Life At Crossroads, Noele Gordon wrote about a painting of the motel (and it was featured in Reception for some years). Was this it? The Malvern Hills in the background?

What a wonderful place the motel was!

This picture has long been a paradise to me - a representation of a place which came to mean a great deal to me during my childhood, and a bustling place, full of well-loved characters.

I can happily wander around it for hours.

It has inspired me to write a Lost Episode In The Life Of Crossroads scenario...

It's set in the early 1970s - the dreadful hangover of 1960s youth fashion being sported by thirty, forty and fifty-somethings, almost enough hair lacquer to induce rigor mortis, and blissful days at the motel, with Meg in charge and cosy chat and trivial differences mixing with comedy, pathos, intrigue, high drama and a little social comment in the storylines...

It's not a spoof. So many episodes have been wiped that I wanted to try and recreate one of the motel eras I fondly remember which has largely disappeared from the archives.

And the wiped episodes are mostly from the Reg Watson era - which is a tremendous tragedy. I always remember the Crossroads of those days being absolutely thrilling - the dog with its leash wrapped around Meg's grandfather clock as the clock ticked away the minutes to a suspected bomb going off; Diane frantically searching for Nicky and thinking he'd wandered into a dumped fridge on some waste ground and suffocated; Stan almost striking Jill and Jill saying: 'That's right! Show me the REAL Stan Harvey!' before they began kissing passionately; Sheila going into labour at the motel; Meg talking a suicidal man down from a ledge...

Reg Watson's era was magic. I enjoyed each and every era of Crossroads, as you know, but the original master had his own very approach which established the show as a viewers' must-watch.

File this under 'fan fiction'.

See what you think...

The story so far: Mrs De Courcy-Brown, a guest at the motel, has been wreaking havoc with constant complaints about everyone and everything. Vera Downend was horrified when the lady booked herself an appointment at the salon. Things were not much happier in the kitchen, where perfectionist chefs Mr Booth and Mr Lovejoy were not getting on. Tish Hope was intrigued by the arrival of a new lady guest, and decided to tell Meg about her. The new guest seemed strangely familiar...

OPENING THEME, THEN...

8.05am: Don Rogers delivers the first post at reception - and gets a frosty reception from Diane Parker, who has heard the latest about poor Pat Mackenzie's romance with Don. Diane has decided that Don is of the 'I love myself, who do you love?' type of person. Di's frosty front doesn't faze Don at all. Di scowls as he leaves, whistling happily. The man had once made a pass at Mrs Richardson, which proved his arrogant insolence for all time!

8.34am: In the kitchen, Mr Booth and Mr Lovejoy are not happy. Mr Lovejoy is about to prepare Beef Wellington, but Mr Booth has come up with some trendy modern tips which have brought a swift glower from his colleague: 

'Mr Booth, Beef Wellington is a classic dish, best cooked and served in the classic manner.'

'Quite, Mr Lovejoy, but one can always improve. The Montpelier Hotel restaurant in London has had considerable success with...'

'This is not London, Mr Booth. It is the English countryside. People come here to enjoy tradition. This is Shakespeare country. London fads have no place here...'

'Quite so, Mr Lovejoy, but that is not to say the people around here, or visiting here, are all country bumpkins. There are some who may appreciate some modern sophistication...'

And so on. And so on. And so on.

9.06am: In the sitting room, Meg and Tish are looking at quotes for repairs to the motel's tiled swimming pool surround. Tish talks about the new woman in Chalet Eight, who booked in the night before, and says there is something oddly familiar about her. Meg is puzzled.

'You think you've met her before?'

Tish frowns.

'Well, not met her exactly, but certainly seen her... it's very puzzling, but I had the oddest feeling...'

'What's she like?'

'Well, Italian or Spanish, I think. Very beautiful. Strikingly so. And yet she looked unhappy... haunted... and terribly tired...'

'What's her name?' asks Meg.

'Mrs Sanchez, that's what she wrote in the register,' says Tish. 'But that name rings no bells with me at all.'

'Oh well, I daresay we shall find out more. How long has she booked in for?'

'A week. Yes, I daresay I'm being silly. She'd probably just flown into the country and flying doesn't agree with everybody...'

They return to the swimming pool quotes.

10.04am: Amy Turtle is outside Chalet Eight with her cleaning things.

She knocks on the door. There is no reply and she uses her key to enter the chalet.

A beautiful raven haired woman sits up in bed, looking at Amy in alarm.

'Who are you?!' she asks, in a heavy Italian accent.

'I'm the cleaner,' says Amy, peering through the gloom as the curtains are drawn.

'I do not wish for any cleaning,' says the woman, sinking back onto her pillows.

'Aren't you feeling well?' asks Amy. 'There's a bit of flu going about.'

'No, I am fine,' the woman sighs.

Amy is curious. 'Don't I know you?' she asks.

'I have never seen you before in my life,' says the woman. 'I have never been in England before. Now, leave me, please - and lock the door again as you go!'

'Oh, all right then, keep your hair on.' Amy leaves, looking very puzzled.

11.14am: Mrs De Courcy-Brown, a very grumpy lady who has been staying at the motel for a week and causing many headaches with her constant complaints, is at Vera Downend's salon to get her henna tint reinstated. Vera has heard of the lady, and tells Bernice they must be careful not to give cause for complaint.

'I think she's something in local society, and that would do us no good at all,' says Vera. 'I actually recommended she go to Henri's in Merryfields, and I never do that, but she insisted on coming here. I'll take care of her personally.'

'I haven't got all day,' says Mrs De Courcy-Brown testily. 'I'm not paying for you two to exchange chit-chat, you know.'

'Oh well, here goes...' says Vera to Bernice. She walks over to where Mrs De Courcy-Brown is sitting in front of one of the mirrors. 'Nice morning isn't it?'

'Horrid. Absolutely horrid,' says Mrs De Courcy-Brown. 'The sun is insipid and the breeze is absolutely biting. Beastly time of year.'

Vera sighs.

'Well, how can we help you today?'

'You can restore my hair colour,' says Mrs De Courcy-Brown. 'I have an important function to attend next week. I expect an excellent result, and I haven't got all day!'


11.18am: 'Ah, the aroma of a classic Beef Wellington cooking,' says Mr Lovejoy to Mr Booth in the motel kitchen. 'There's nothing like a classic dish, prepared well.'

Mr Booth sniffs and gives a vinegary smile: 'Very nice, I'm sure.'

'I wish you two would pack it in,' says Mrs Witton, slicing carrots.

 Amy Turtle comes rushing in:

'You'll never guess who we've got staying in Chalet Eight!' she cries.


END OF PART ONE


PART TWO


11.25am: Mr Booth is moaning at Mrs Witton in the kitchen.

'I always enjoyed Miss Penn's presence in this kitchen,' he says. 'She was a kindred spirit. Such a shame she got married in some ways. I would have been quite happy to offer her a full-time permanent position here.'

Mrs Witton sniffs.

'Well, from what Amy said, that Miss Penn hung on your every word and thought the sun shone out of you,' she says. 'That's why you'd be so happy to have her here, if you ask me.'

Mr Booth looks offended.

Mrs Witton turns to more interesting topics as she finishes washing up a tureen:

'I wonder if Amy's right about that woman in chalet Eight...'

11.28am: Vera is interrupted while doing Mrs De Courcy-Brown's hair by an urgent phone call. It's Wilf Harvey, in a phone box near the canal. He's spotted a gang of youths hanging around the boat and has called the police. Vera gets anxious and dashes off to the boat. 

'I haven't got much, luv, but I don't want to lose it,' she tells Bernice before she leaves.

Bernice steps in to finish Mrs De Courcy-Brown's hair.

11:54am: In the sitting room, Meg is preparing to go and see Jill. She and Tish discuss their children.

'I do worry about Peter and Marilyn being so far away,' says Tish. 'But they do seem to be happy. I had a lovely letter yesterday.'

'Near or far, I don't think we ever stop worrying about our children,' says Meg.

She goes to see Jill. Tish begins work on a mound of paperwork, and Amy bursts in. She's been dispensing the news about the mystery woman's identity around the motel and has finally reached the sitting room. She's very disappointed to learn that Meg has just left for Jill's...


1.04pm: Vera Downend arrives back at the motel to see a woman with hair a bizarre shade of orangey red sitting at a table. She asks Diane, who is still on reception, about her.

'I thought you would know,' says Diane. 'She came from your salon. It's Mrs De Courcy-Wotsit - you know, the old battleaxe that's been running us all ragged. Her hair looks the colour of tomato soup, doesn't it? Still, there's no accounting for taste. What's this I heard about some sort of upset to do with the boat?'

Vera is gazing at Mrs De Courcy-Brown in horror.

'Oh, everything's OK, Di. Just some yobs hanging about. I don't know what kids are coming to. Sad really. Wilf Harvey phoned the police, but the kids'd cleared off by the time they arrived.'

She looks at Mrs De Courcy-Brown again.

'Oh my gawd! Mrs Thingy wanted henna. What on earth's Bernice done? I shall never hear the last of it!'

Bravely, she steps forward to talk to the dragon lady.

'Well, well, it's you!' says Mrs De Courcy-Brown, severely. She glares at Vera.

'Yes, I...' Vera is so petrified her tongue freezes.

Suddenly, Mrs De Courcy-Brown laughs.

'My dear girl, don't look so worried!' she says. 'I'm being very naughty and pulling your leg. Your young lady explained that you had to rush off an emergency errand. Clearly, my hair was a little beyond her.'

'Yes, I'm very sorry,' says Vera.

'Don't be!' says Mrs De Courcy-Brown. 'When I saw myself in the mirror I laughed and laughed. My dear, I haven't laughed since my husband died last year. I've become very tetchy, very difficult. I was taking my pain out on others. I felt I would never laugh again. But when I saw my hair... well! Dear Roderick, my husband, always had a marvellous sense of humour, you know, and I felt he was laughing with me. Don't you worry. You've done me a great favour - and my new hair colour will be the talk of Warwickshire for the next few weeks!'

'Well, at least let me give you a refund, if you've paid,' says Vera.

'I wouldn't dream of it!' says Mrs De Courcy-Brown. 'This hairdo has been worth its weight in gold. It's brought me back to life. You've no idea what it feels like to be able to laugh again - and to feel that my dear Roderick was laughing with me. For the first time, I felt he was still at my side... I've missed him so dreadfully, and I've behaved very badly. This really feels like a new beginning.'

2.46pm: At the Hope Chest, Ted Hope is chatting with Miss Tatum.

'Such a lovely chess board,' Miss Tatum is saying. 'My dear father had one just like it.'

'Well, it's definitely pre-Victorian,' says Ted. 'It interests you, Miss Tatum?'

Miss Tatum looks embarrassed:

'Oh dear, Captain Hope, I don't want to mislead you. I'm not thinking of buying it - I have so many sentimental keepsakes from the old days already, and space is at a premium in my flat. I really just wanted to look at it.'

Ted is gallant:

'Well, you look as long as you want to, Miss Tatum,' he says. 'You're more than welcome - and it's nice to see you.'

A car roars to a halt outside and a door slams. Then a swarthy, dark-haired man in a sharp suit and dark glasses enters the shop.

'Can I help you?' asks Ted.

'Can you tell me the way to the Crossroads Motel?' says the man in a heavy Italian accent. 'I have gone astray.'

Ted gives him directions then says:

'Visiting these parts, are you?'

The man looks at him through the dark glasses.

'Well, I am here, so that is so,' he says, and leaves.

Miss Tatum and Ted listen to the car revving up outside and screeching off. Tish comes in, looking perturbed.

'Nearly got run over just now by a beastly red sports car,' she says. 'Horrid looking man in sunglasses driving it. I had to leap for the pavement. I'm lucky to be in one piece.'

'The young gentleman was in here,' says Miss Tatum. 'He did seem in rather a hurry.'

'I rather think, Miss Tatum, that the young man might not be a gentleman,' says Ted.


3.00pm:

Meg walks into reception.

'You go home now, dear,' she tells Diane. 'I'll take over here.'

'Ooh, ta, Mrs Richardson - me feet are going up in flames!' says Di.

A peal of laughter echoes across reception. Meg looks in surprise at Mrs De Courcy-Brown, who is chatting to Vera at her table.

'Good heavens! Mrs De Courcy-Brown, laughing! And what an unusual hair colour!' says Meg.

'Ah, all down to the miracle of Vera's salon!' says Di. 'Mrs Wotsit's a new woman!'

'Well, I never!' Meg is amazed.

'Did you hear about Mr Booth and Mr Lovejoy this morning?' asks Diane. 'I just saw Mrs Witton.'

Meg frowns:

'Yes, I did. They're both such perfectionists and their ideas don't always coincide. I hope things go all right on Thursday.'

'Why, what's happening on Thursday?' asks Di.

'Well, our fame is spreading,' says Meg. 'Largely thanks to the efforts of Mr Lovejoy and Mr Booth, the restaurant is absolutely booming. We're getting lots of local people coming in, as well as motel guests. The Castlewich Clarion is sending somebody to review the restaurant and interview the chefs.'

'Oooh, not together, I hope!' says Di.

'I must try and make sure that doesn't happen,' says Meg. 'I'll suggest to Mr Lovejoy that, as head chef, he should have an interview to himself. That might work. They're such lovely men aside from their professional temperaments - you remember how kind Mr Lovejoy was to Josefina - and Mr Booth always means so well...'

Amy comes dashing in.

'MRS RICHARDSON! I've been stuck over at the cafeteria - they've had a leak and I've been mopping up. Has anybody told you about Chalet Eight yet?'

Meg looks blank:

'Chalet Eight? Oh, well... Mrs Hope mentioned something this morning about a new guest she was a little intrigued by. Seemed to think she'd seen her somewhere before...'

'She has!' affirmed Amy. 'And I know who she is!'

Di, in the act of leaving, pauses to listen.

'It's Sophia Canterbelly!' says Amy dramatically.

'Who?' Meg is puzzled. 'Oh, do you mean Sophia Catriabelli, the actress? But she disappeared - simply vanished... it must be at least three years ago.'

'Are you saying she's staying here, Amy?' Di asks, grinning.

'That's exactly what I'm saying!' says Amy. 'I've seen her with my own two eyes. And you remember how she disappeared, don't you? It was in all the papers.'

'Her husband went to prison, didn't he?' says Di. 'He was a big businessman and he was found to be linked to the mob or something. It was all over the papers for ages, the trial. Then he got sent to prison - and a few others went with him - and she simply disappeared. Never heard of since.'

'That's right,' Meg nods gravely. 'Some thought she couldn't stand the publicity...'

'And others thought she'd been bumped off by enemies of her husband who'd been implicated in the trial,' says Di. 'Crikey, yeah, he made a lot of enemies during that trial, didn't he? I suppose she might have been bumped off.'

'She hasn't been bumped off - and that's a fact,' says Amy. 'She's here, now, in Chalet Eight - and when I saw her this morning she looked scared to death. Scared out of her wits!'

Roll End credits.

Final scene at end of episode: The closed door of Chalet Eight...



Monday, 22 March 2021

Our Crossroads Favourites: David Hunter

David Hunter had a very contrasting 1980: the horror of being shot in the motel office by his deranged ex-wife, Rosemary, and marriage to the lovely Barbara Brady.

David Hunter, played by Ronald Allen, was Meg's partner in the motel through most of the 1970s. He was a close friend and confidante of hers for years but, in the early 1980s, suddenly began to resent her sentimental regard for the motel as a 'family business' (which, in reality, it hadn't been since she first sold shares to Mr Lovejoy and Mrs Hope in the late 1960s), and became determined to get more profit out of the place.

David was an absolute boon both to Meg and the motel for a decade.

But he wouldn't have featured that highly in my personal Crossroads greats list if it hadn't been for his final three years in the show. I always liked David, but I always saw him as a bit of a background character - the main emphasis being on the Richardsons. If David had a romance, it always felt a bit like filler to me - simply to give the character something to do.

In the main, I saw him as Meg's friend, business partner and supporter.

Let's canter through David's Crossroads era...

David arrived at the motel circa 1970 as a director and quickly became Meg's closest ally outside of her family - despite her initial suspicions about him. She feared he was pals with her murderous ex-hubby Macolm Ryder. 

But David was not, and quickly proved his worth to Meg. Whenever a crisis threatened he was there for her, and vice-versa.

David's family life was a disaster - his wife, Rosemary, was a drunk and a neurotic. Son Chris seemed a nice enough lad, although not unaffected by his mother's influence, but a change of actor and direction saw him becoming a pain in the neck and, inadvertently, positively dangerous. And then there was David's rascally Uncle Timothy.

David was hugely popular - when he struck Rosemary in one storyline, viewers' opinion backed him, which is pretty unheard of.

David searched for love. Was Laura Marshall the one? Or Kate Hamilton, mother of truculent Lucy? Or what about journalist Kelly ….? No. None of them were.

Having divorced Rosemary, David seemed destined never to find true love again.

And Rosemary still lent on him. Whenever she had a crisis, David flew to her aid.

David had no luck in love and found plenty of other angst in the 1970s - including awful Jim Baines and his wife, Muriel, squatting in his cottage. He also had a brush with a gambling addiction.

And then Hugh Mortimer died in 1978 - while being held captive by a terrorist group with links to David's son, Chris.

In 1979, Meg ceased to be the majority shareholder in the motel, with Adam Chance holding the balance of power.

The 1980s began hopefully for David as he became engaged to Barbara Brady. However, the very night of their engagement party, he was shot in the motel office by the deranged Rosemary.

Adam sold David some of his motel shares, making David the majority shareholder - and this led to a clash with Meg.

1981 saw David facing a huge crisis. He learned that Rosemary had married him bigamously and that Chris was not his biological son.

David colluded with millionaire J Henry Pollard to sell the motel to him, but when that failed, didn't mend his bridges with Meg.

And finally, in November 1981, Meg departed on the QE2.

David's marriage to Barbara nearly collapsed, but the two were reconciled and faced the future together.

For me, now, David entered his greatest era.

I loved his relationship with Barbara; his prickly (but rather droll) relationship with J Henry Pollard; the way he saw through Valerie's accusation of sexual assault against Mr Paul (David described the Pollards as 'deadly Daddy and murderous Mummy' in 1982); his chivalry when Kate Hamilton turned to him in a crisis; his distrust of, and occasional alliances with, Adam; and his fatherly attitude towards Jill. I once had a fascinating conversation with Peter Ling, co-creator and storyliner for Crossroads, on that last subject and will talk about that in a future post.

And then, in 1984, the serpent entered paradise and swept David straight into a passionate kiss.

This particular serpent was one Sarah Alexander - an old love of David's - and very soon she was pregnant.

Sarah made it clear - she wanted both David and the baby - or just the baby. She'd make access rights for the child's father extremely difficult if David did not join her.

But David didn't love Sarah and did love Barbara.

In 1985, the couple left to start life afresh elsewhere.

Poor David. Finding out that his son was not his biological son, that his first wife was a bigamist, and being denied access to a child that was biologically his.

We wished the Hunters well - and those final three years of David's reign at Crossroads will always be remembered as a golden era for us here at the blog.

And a golden era (one of many) for the show.

Friday, 19 March 2021

Our Crossroads Favourites: Valerie Pollard

Valerie in 1982: 'Birmingham? Darling, where on earth's that?'

Valerie Pollard, played by Heather Chasen, only appeared intermittently in Crossroads from 1982 to 1985, but she certainly left her mark on the motel - and our affections.

We adored Valerie.

Naughty but capable of being very nice, Valerie popped a button off Adam Chance's shirt upon her arrival in April 1982 - and bore him away to his boat for a night of 'lurve'.

This resulted in the breaking of Adam's engagement to Jill Chance - and the departure of Adam on the midnight plane to Paris - to avoid the wrath of Val's husband, J Henry Pollard.

Val had only done it to get up her hubby's nose.

Valerie, of course, was a millionaire's wife, leading an elegant beach bum life abroad with a host of 'pneumatic young men' - as her husband put it.

And when J Henry imprisoned her in a grotty motel in the English Midlands, well, darling, you surely couldn't expect her to take that lying down, could you?

The motel bored Valerie so much she once ordered a Pussyfoot Special in the bar.

While Valerie and J Henry were at loggerheads, they actually DID care about each other. J Henry even told her how to spell 'grotesque' - 'q-u-e, not k'.

Poor Miranda, the couple's daughter, dodged the bullets flying between her parents.

Valerie once told Miranda she thought J Henry was the only member of the family who really knew how to love - and she didn't mean sleeping around.

What was so wonderful about Valerie was that you didn't know what to expect from her. Here was a rich super bitch who was also kind and considerate enough to give pregnant motel waitress Glenda Banks a lift home to save her catching the bus, and hand-hold distressed Kate Hamilton as she awaited a court appearance.

But she was also willing to falsely accuse motel restaurant manager (and her husband's spy) Paul Ross of sexual assault. Fortunately, David Hunter saw right through that - and Valerie just reacted as though she had been caught out in a piece of trivial mischief.

She also sent her own daughter an anonymous letter in an attempt to stop Miranda's romantic pursuit of Mr Paul - which caused much angst and resulted in police bribery.

Valerie lit up the screen. Her bitchery, her languidness, her kindness - she was fascinating and very witty to boot.

A Crossroads legend to us at the blog, she made Joan Collins of Dynasty look like Hilda Ogden after a bout of flu and sixty fags.

Fabulous.

Now, we're off to the bar to toy with the peanuts - and perhaps even order a Pussyfoot Special. Unless, of course, you'd like to show us your boat...


Friday, 12 March 2021

Our Crossroads Favourites: Nicola Freeman

Power dressing Nicola Freeman wasn't just a shrewd businesswoman...

Was it Nicola Freeman or Suzie Doyle? Actually, it was both, and she had also once been Nicola Delaney too!

Born to poor parents in a narrow, terraced street, young Suzie Doyle loved her father. But he was a drinker and spendthrift and Suzie's mother finally ordered him out, and remarried. Suzie and her stepfather did not get on, and when she became pregnant at the age of seventeen, she ran away from home rather than confide in her parents.

She had her daughter adopted, and went on through a series of jobs to work at the Playboy Club, where, as there were two other Suzies working there, she changed her name to Nicola Delaney. A complete break with her past.

Nicola's life was colourful, but she finally met and married Herbie Freeman, big wheel of the Major International Hotels group. She didn't love him at first - but learned to - a great deal. She didn't find his two children, Daniel and Joanna, so easy. In fact, Daniel greatly resented her.

After Herbie's death, Nicola became a big wheel in Major International Hotels herself, and in 1985 the group bought the Crossroads Motel in King's Oak. And Nicola came in to manage it.

She was an interesting character - at first appearing cool and clipped, but a sympathetic side to her nature quickly emerged. She was charmed by Benny (who solemnly called her 'Mrs Foreman') and sorry for Jill when her marriage disintegrated - after amorous Adam made a pass at her.

Also, during her time at the motel, Nicola endured her problem step-children, an affair with a married man, a fraught reconciliation with her mother - and her adopted daughter turned up.

When MIH sold the motel, she left - but may have been on the point on returning when the series ended.

Nicola was a great Crossroads character. She added much intrigue, glamour and sparkle to the years 1985-1987 at the motel.

And no effort was made by the production team to turn her into another Meg. Not that there could ever have been another!

Nicola was very much a character in her own right. The motel wasn't a family business, started in her own home. It was, first and foremost, a business.

But she definitely had heart.


My Vera Downend Fantasy...

As regular readers know, one of my absolute top-favourite Crossroads characters EVER is Vera Downend,  played by Zeph Gladstone.

Vera was the motel's hairdresser for much of the 1970s.

Vera was a confidante to many, and gave good advice, but was not so good at running her own life.

Well, many of us have a similar problem.

When Vera was at the motel, I was having a very unhappy, dog rough, 1970s childhood. I won't go into details, but sometimes, in my mind, I used to visit her on the boat, and talk over my problems with her.

And, occasionally, I still do.

Yep, give me a pressing problem or a crisis, and I sometimes still find myself clambering aboard the boat, where I find Vera and tell her what's up. I find her, usually, listening to a transistor radio. The 1980s and 1990s haven't happened, of course, and there are no mobile phones or computers or whatever.

My wife thinks it's very funny, as I usually 'visit Vera' when there is trouble in my life and I can't sleep.

'Why don't you confide in the other woman?' she laughs. 'That usually helps!'

And I do.

And usually, very soon, before I even get through telling Vera what's keeping me awake, I'm asleep.

It's amazing the impact soap characters can have on our lives...

Vera: 'Yes, luv, it is amazing. Do you fancy a cuppa and a chat about it? I was just going to put the kettle on.'

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Our Crossroads Favourites: Amy Turtle


Hippies on the telly? Mr Booth's fancy cooking? Amy wasn't impressed. It was juicy gossip she craved.

Ah, Amy Turtle! Some people will snigger, but it's worth remembering that Amy was a hugely popular Crossroads character - in my family she was more popular than Meg Richardson - and from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, many working class folk would have frowned at criticism of the character or of the actress's performance.

Diminutive Amy, played by Ann George, was immensely popular not just with the tongue-in-cheek detractors of the show, but with its loyal and loving audience - who took the character seriously and cared for her.

So, Amy lived in the village of King's Oak and was first seen as a Brummie customer at Kitty Jarvis's shop, where she soon went to work. Amy then transferred to the motel as a kitchen hand and char. Gossip was Amy's great love and she wasn't very clever. The character's biography at ATV described her as an 'English peasant' - as were many of us viewers, of course. She dabbled in spiritualism and maintained contact with her deceased husband Fred that way. She was suspicious of big city living and hippies.

Amy Turtle was happy in her own little pond.

Much was made by mockers of the show in later years of an old story-line in which Amy had apparently been accused of being a Russian spy - Amelia Turtlovski. The episode/s no longer exist, and I don't recall the plot from my viewing years, but it has since been suggested that the whole thing was just a jokey comment made by another character, and not a story-line at all. Amy, of course, would have made an excellent spy. If anybody has any further information on this, we'd be fascinated to hear.

After the death of her son in 1975, Amy was caught shoplifting and we were all horrified when she was put in a police cell. She shamefacedly slipped into Meg and Hugh's wedding, and sat at the back. Things didn't improve when a wage packet went missing, and some uncharitable souls suspected Amy was the thief. She fled from the motel, briefly taking a job elsewhere under an assumed name to cover her shame, but was finally found by Jane Smith and brought safely back into the motel fold.

In early 1976, Amy went away to visit a relative abroad, and wasn't seen again until early 1987. Apparently, she'd been quietly living in the village and had come to visit the motel as a friend of its new owner, down-to-earth Brummie cove Tommy 'Bomber' Lancaster.

And she'd hardly aged a day.

Her presence seemed to rather freak out poor Jill Chance, and Amy made a few dark comments about Meg - who apparently would bellow like a fish wife if the chalets weren't spotless, but 'had a heart of gold'. 

Ann George made a few appearances as Amy at this point, and I loved them.

Her disappearance in the mid-1970s had left a huge hole in the show. Apparently there had been problems behind the scenes, and so the viewers lost a cherished character.

Oh well. 

Still, it was great to see Amy again in 1987, brief though her appearances were.

Another Crossroads legend, never to be forgotten. 

Monday, 31 August 2020

Our Favourite Crossroads Characters: Diane Lawton/Parker/Hunter


Diane! Another legendary Crossroads character and another huge favourite of ours.

Poor old Di, played by Susan Hanson, had a terrible time, as do all soap heroines. She'd originally arrived to win a beauty contest in the mid-1960s, then got a job as a waitress and kitchen hand at the motel. By the end of that decade she'd had a nervous breakdown after the explosion of an old wartime bomb which had devastated the motel kitchen.

Di also braved temperamental chefs like Carlos Rafael, Mr Booth, Mr Lovejoy, and Shughie McFee (or Shughie McCradock as she once called him), and the nosiness of the likes of Amy Turtle and Mrs Witton. The kitchen was not a particularly harmonious place, even without a bomb.

If all that wasn't enough, Di had a terribly shifty brother, Terry, who turned up at odd intervals to cause her heartache.

The start of the 1970s saw Di dealing with a drunken landlord and then involved in a heady romance with American film star Frank Adam, which resulted in an out-of wedlock baby, Nicky. Kindly postman and motel barman Vince Parker came to the rescue and married her.

The marriage broke up when Vince discovered that Frank Adam was secretly sending Di money for Nicky, and then Nicky got kidnapped. Di was frantic, thinking that the toddler has suffocated in an old fridge dumped on wasteland at one point, before discovering his father was the kidnapper.

Nicky now lived in America, with Di visiting him regularly.

Di had a brief encounter with the demon drink, but Prince Charming certainly didn't arrive. Clifford Leyton (Johnny Briggs - later Mike Baldwin of Coronation Street) and PC Steve Cater certainly weren't him.

Midway through the decade, Di visited her aunt and uncle, Peggy and Ed Lawton, at Heywoods Farm. Aunt Peggy fell and broke her hip, so Diane stayed on to help. She returned to the farm after her Aunt Peggy died.

It was at the farm that Diane met a simple country lad called Benny Hawkins, who called her 'Miss Diane'. The two forged a lasting bond of friendship, Benny gave her a kid - of the goat variety - and Diane taught him to read.

Back home, Di experienced another nervous breakdown, prowling around her flat at night committing acts of vandalism, and having no memory of it by daylight. Her flatmate at the time, Jane Smith, helped her to see what was happening.

As the decade ended, Di agreed to marry Chris Hunter so that Chris would receive some inheritance money. It was a marriage purely of convenience.

The 1980s saw Di sharing her flat with motel garage manageress Sharon Metcalfe. She developed an unrequited love for Dr James Wilcox, of the group practice in King's Oak, and her shifty brother, Terry, returned to wreak further havoc on a couple of occasions. On one of these, Benny came to Di's rescue, using his father's inheritance money to pay off Terry's shady money lenders, who were 'leaning on' Diane.

Poor old Benny, who was trying to make her happy, couldn't understand why she cried!

Di briefly tangled with oily restaurant manager Paul Ross - Mr Paul - and regretted it - although the man was supportive towards her later.

Di supported Sharon's efforts to help a local Down's Syndrome child in one of the show's best story-lines in 1983, and also became entangled in the war between J. Henry Pollard and Mr Paul, which ended up earning her demotion - from cold trolley waitress to simple waitress. She icily refused guilt-ridden J Henry's offer of financial compensation - she had her pride.

Various absences from the motel over the years, often seeing Nicky in America, had ended in Di simply walking back into her job, often after many months away. The 1983 demotion story-line came as something of a shock to us viewers, and reality caught up with her again in 1985 when, after a spell away, she returned to find no job available. Or at least not one suitable for her experience. Even her old pal Jill Chance couldn't help. 

On this occasion, restaurant manager Mr Paul's misfortune was Diane's gain, as she walked into his job after he was injured in a wages snatch.

Di finally had the job she wanted, but Mr Right still proved elusive. She settled into a cottage in the village, and endured the tender ministrations of Benny (herbal tea made with dried mixed herbs) when she had the flu at Christmas 1986.

In 1987, Di was involved in a car accident, but was seemingly OK. However, not long afterwards, she suddenly collapsed in the office at work. She had had a brain hemorrhage and died in hospital a few days later.

The nation wept, including me, but although it was meant kindly, Benny naming a donkey 'Miss Diane' was not a very fitting tribute.

Di was magic. She'd been in our living rooms for so many years she was like an old friend or older sister. Once again, that magical quality some Crossroads performers had to make their characters seem real shone through in abundance.

I always wished she'd found true love - married and been whisked away to run a plush hotel in the Caribbean or something with her new hubby.

But poor old Di never was lucky.