Saturday, 21 June 2014

Our Top 50 Favourite Characters - 34: Carole Sands

Carole has a mug of tea and misses Kevin...

Think of groundbreaking soap females donning greasy overalls and becoming garage mechanics and the first character who comes to mind might be Charlene Mitchell/Robinson, played by Kylie Minogue, in the Australian Neighbours serial during the mid-to-late 1980s. But, in the early 1980s, Crossroads got there first with a young woman called Carole Sands, played by Jo-Anne Good.

Carole made her Crossroads debut in late 1981. She became housekeeper to David and Barbara Hunter. Carole was a poor, working class girl - looking after her widowed father and siblings. She was a bit of a political activist, again something of a first for Crossroads, and activated Barbara's social conscience, and, to some degree, David's.

Carole fell in love with married Kevin Banks. It was a very pure and innocent relationship, no sex involved, but there was no doubt her feelings ran deep - and he reciprocated. Arthur and Kath Brownlow became concerned as Kevin was influenced by Carole's political fervour, and they were sceptical about her view that the government was allowing unemployment to rise to bring inflation down. This was a contentious view advanced by some people in the real world at the time, and was something of a surprise as Crossroads had never featured politics in this way before.

Carole was something of a breath of fresh air.

In early 1982, she persuaded Kevin to join her on a march for jobs in King's Oak. Unfortunately, Kev's wife, Glenda, suspecting nothing, opted to join them. The march turned into a mini-riot - local villains wanting to settle a score with a local police officer had infiltrated it - and Carole accidentally ended up in hospital - courtesy of PC Ashley Lamont.

Lamont called at the hospital to apologise and to explain what had happened on the march, but Carole mocked him, telling him that the police should go after real villains, after all, Eddie Lee was serving time for a crime he hadn't committed...

Barbara had confided the story of Eddie Lee, which had served as inspiration for one of her novels, to Carole. Carole had promised to keep it secret, but Lamont had irked her - and so...

The situation caused some complications for Barbara, but things looked up for Carole when she landed a job at the Crossroads Garage. Sharon Metcalfe, previously secretary there, had progressed to manager, and she took Carole on. The way now lay open to Carole becoming a mechanic. 

Kevin tore himself away from Carole and went to work away for a while to save his marriage. Carole was broken hearted. Later story-lines saw her coping with her father Ken being manager at the garage and his subsequent accident and brother Colin, who was dallying with Diane Hunter.

I'm not sure how Carole ended up. But I'm sure she's out there coping somewhere. And, no doubt, a fully qualified mechanic of many years standing by now.

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 35: Mr Lovejoy

 Mr Lovejoy: "Really, Mr Booth! This consomm√© has all the flavour of dish water..."

Just slightly in front of Mr Booth in our popularity stakes is his fellow chef Mr Lovejoy, played by William Avenell. Mr L was known as Gerald by hardly anybody. He was a very correct man, very formal, and it was a surprise to learn after his arrival at Crossroads in the late 1960s that he had a somewhat turbulent and colourful past, which had resulted in a change of surname - from Brandon to Lovejoy. He also had a daughter, Tessa,  who married motel manager Nick Van Doren. The couple bought a hotel together, and asked Mr Lovejoy to invest in it and work with them there as chef. But Mr Lovejoy, who had been a shareholder in the Crossroads Motel since the late '60s, felt that his first loyalty was to Meg Richardson. He advanced Nick and Tessa the money they needed, but remained at the motel.

His relationship with fellow Crossroads chef Bernard Booth was all that it should be, both were highly professional, but there were some very long-winded exchanges between the two, along the lines of: 

Mr Booth: "Mr Lovejoy! I can assure you I know perfectly well how to prepare a Spanish omelette!"

Mr Lovejoy: "Then why not do so, Mr Booth? Your current method will lead to a finished omelette that has the consistency of shoe leather, and very little flavour..."

Mr Booth: "Mr Lovejoy, I really must protest..."

And so on. And on. And on. You get the picture!

Sadly, none of these exchanges seem to have survived the mass wiping of Crossroads episodes, but I remember them fondly.

I'm not sure how Mr Lovejoy finally left the motel. Did he have a closing storyline? If anybody remembers, I'd be interested to know. William Avenell died in 1976.

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 36: Mr Booth

 A favourite King's Oak pairing: Crossroads chefs Mr Lovejoy and Mr Booth.

Mr Booth, Bernard to close friends only (and Shughie McFee), played by David Lawton, arrived at the Crossroads Motel in 1969 to fill in after a slip-up over a temporary chef who did not arrive. Mr Booth took over the kitchen and made such a good job of it he stayed on. He also ran an escort and employment agency.

Prissy and particular, Mr Booth was the perfect foil for established chef Mr Lovejoy. I thoroughly enjoyed their whitterings to each other about the correct way to prepare various dishes and run a kitchen in the early 1970s. Mr Booth was interested in the notion of ESP (extra sensory perception) and fancied himself as an amateur Sherlock Holmes.

Mr Booth was a bit of a bungler and his boss, Meg Richardson, would react with a wince whenever he assured her: "Leave it to me, Mrs Richardson!"

Underneath his starchy exterior, Mr B was actually a kind and caring man. He left the motel for a while, but returned at the end of the decade, married to a young woman called Helen. The marriage was not happy and complicated by Helen's behaviour, but the couple finally patched things up and Helen became pregnant. 

It was hard to imagine Mr Booth as a family man, but he left the motel in 1979 to be with Helen who was enduring a difficult pregnancy, and the best wishes of dedicated viewers (like me) went with him.

As Mr Booth was a permanent recurring character, often absent from the screen for fairly long periods of time, David Lawton had a favourite excuse he'd invented to cover each absence: "If anybody needs me, I'll be in the storeroom," Mr Booth would say. Legend has it that the poor man once spent six months in there! 

I do wish that some of Mr Booth's conversations with Mr Lovejoy still existed... The wipings of these was a major crime. They held me absolutely spell-bound!

Our Top 50 Favourite Characters - 37: Stan Harvey

 Stan Harvey and Jill Richardson discuss their future in 1971.

Working class Stan Harvey, played by Edward Clayton, the son of pigeon loving Wilf and elocutionist/hairdresser Sheila back in the 1970s, was a surprising suitor for posh young Jill Richardson, but the two fell deeply in love and married. Jill was keen for Stan to get on in life, and an interest in the motel garage proved lucrative.

The Harveys' daughter, Sarah-Jane, further cemented the couple's happiness, as did a move into a large, comfortable house called Chimneys. Those were good days.

In 1977, Stan spent some time on business in Germany and it was during his absence that Jill had an affair with her step-brother, Anthony Mortimer. She became pregnant, and the situation pushed her marriage onto the rocks and eventually destroyed it. Stan ended up with custody of Sarah-Jane, and married a German woman. 

At this time, Stan was made out to be a bit of an insensitive git in the Crossroads scripts. It was suggested that Jill had only drifted into Anthony's arms because of Stan's dedication to getting on in business and that she'd been neglected by him. But in at least one existing episode from the early-to-mid 1970s, Jill is seen pushing a resisting Stan on to succeed in business, so the later story-line seems simply an attempt to vilify the character as he was being written out, and the production team obviously wanted the viewers to sympathise with Jill.

Jill was still in love with Stan deep down. She tearfully confessed this to him on the phone at Christmas 1980. Stan hung up. There was no going back.

A couple of years later, Stan, his wife, and Sarah-Jane left England to live in Germany. He returned briefly to the motel in 1985, a happy man, seemingly with no regrets.

Stan was another of those Crossroads characters, like Vince Parker, who would probably have been good company for a pint down the local. He had that all important aura of believability - a nice, everyday bloke. He grounded Jill - who could be more than a little topsy-turvy when left to her own devices - and the couple seemed to work well together.

I was sorry when the character was written out. But if he hadn't been then Jill's marriage to Adam Chance in the 1980s would not have happened, so every cloud...

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters: 38 - Walter Soper - "Uncle Wally"

Kath Brownlow tried to look pleased when Walter Soper turned up for his second visit.

Played by the late great comedian Max Wall, Walter Soper, known to Glenda and Kevin Banks as "Uncle Wally", was a cousin of Arthur Brownlow who turned up in King's Oak in late 1982, apparently to "pay his respects" to Arthur's widow Kath and her daughter Glenda. Perhaps that was part of the reason for his visit - who knew with Uncle Wally, but another motive quickly became apparent: he wanted a long-term cosy billet with three square meals a day, and the odd drop of booze.

Kath actually enjoyed Uncle Wally's company, but Glenda and her hubby Kevin most certainly did not. They wanted him out and made no bones about it. Uncle Wally dreamt up a cock-and-bull story about having loaned Arthur some money years before which had never been paid back. The hint was that perhaps he was owed at least a little hospitality because of it. He spent many a pleasant evening with Kath, reminiscing about Arthur and watching wonderful films on the telly - like The Beast of Clapham Junction. His stay stretched on into 1983.

Finally, a job as a car park attendant threatened Uncle Wally's idyllic existence (well, it would have been idyllic if hadn't been for Glenda and Kevin) and he beat a hasty retreat. Before he left, he told Kath that he'd made up the tale about Arthur and the loan. Knowing Arthur as she did, Kath was already well aware of that fact.

With Uncle Wally gone, Kath sailed close to a nervous breakdown as the impact of Arthur's death and the resulting loneliness finally hit her. But Glenda and Kevin were able to advance their plans for a test tube baby, and Glenda actually was pregnant when Uncle Wally turned up again later in 1983.

Of course, he was the same as ever. But this time other accommodation was soon found for him at Mavis Hooper's boarding house, and she was most sympathetic about his bad back, suggesting brown paper on it and a hot iron run over that for pain relief.

Finally, Uncle Wally succumbed to the inevitable evils of work when a job as night watchman at the Crossroads Motel was offered to him. He made it plain that he expected certain conditions, but then acquiesced. He was finally beaten, it seemed.

I'm not sure what happened to Uncle Wally after that. Or even if he appeared again. Perhaps he changed his mind about the job and scarpered? In 1984, Mavis Hooper simply mentioned in passing that he had "moved on". 

I liked the character. It was all a little sad really. Uncle Wally may have been a bit of a pain but, lacking any descendents, he had nobody to look after him in his old age (not that kids and grandkids are any guarantee - far from it!) and he really wasn't asking for a lot.

Mind you, he was a bit of a pain in the neck.

Still, as he was played by Max Wall, I couldn't help liking him!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Our Top 50 Crossroads Characters - 39: Miranda Pollard

It was the '80s and money was no object for Miranda Pollard. But her life could be stormy...

Miranda Pollard, played by Claire Faulconbridge, first arrived at the Crossroads Motel in 1980. She was romantically involved with Adam Chance. 

Miranda's father, J Henry Pollard, was a millionaire businessman who soon arrived in King's Oak too. Oh dear! Miranda's parents would later prove that a millionaire's daughter's lot in life is not always a happy one...

Miranda flitted in and out of King's Oak in the early-to-mid 1980s. When her mother, Valerie Pollard, first arrived at the motel in 1982, we saw just what a nightmare marriage Miranda originated from. Poor girl!

However, Miranda did not always help herself. She was determined to have her way and enjoy a weekend in Paris with Paul Ross, restaurant manager and her father's secret spy at the motel, but her mother found out and sent her an anonymous letter, claiming that she was also a former lover of Mr Ross. Miranda informed the police about the letter, unaware of who the author was, and it fell to her father to bribe the investigating police officer, Sergeant Annette Halls, thus ensuring the trail of evidence did not lead back to Valerie.

Miranda was dispatched, but soon returned, insisting that her father give her a place on the board of the motel, or never see her again. She had already proved herself a competent secretary and J Henry cobbled together a minor role for Miranda which kept her happy (ish).

Despite her frightfully rich background, Miranda was not a snob and was a popular member of the motel staff. In 1984, she became romantically involved with Dr Lawrence Wilcox of the King's Oak group practice, but quickly turned her attentions to Douglas Brady, brother of Barbara Hunter. This, of course, did not work out. Knowing Douglas, how could it? 

In 1985, Miranda was raped. Her mother Valerie visited King's Oak one last time and left with her daughter. Miranda was not seen at the motel again.

I remember Miranda as a glamorous member of the motel team, who (like so many soap heroines) made unwise choices in romance, but was generally likeable and dependable, despite an occasional flicker of a spoilt little rich kid mentality. This served to make the character more interesting. The rape was an exit story-line I found genuinely shocking. I was sorry to see her leave.