Thursday, 31 July 2008

1980 - The World And Beckindale

1980 was the first faltering step into a new decade which would bring massive change to all our lives. So, what was it like in the real world and in Beckindale?

For a start, forget the rewritten version of the 1970s - that decade was, in reality, no gloriously funky idealistic love fest. 1960s idealism vanished like spit on a griddle in the early 1970s, and in 1980 Jack Sugden (Clive Hornby) was asking the Rev Donald Hinton (Hugh Manning) whatever happened to idealism? From the conversation, it's evident that idealism had been gone for some time!

Not that there wasn't any idealism in 1980, but the 1970s had eroded it with a thick layer of cynicism, anger and violence.

Beckindale was in some ways still lingering in the distant past. Traditions were strong and storylines featured the annual village show, the Butterworth Ball cricket match and, regularly, Sam Pearson (Toke Townley) insisting that the old ways were best.

In 1980, there were no hand held mobile phones. Indeed, Judy Westrop (Jane Cussons), staying at Joe's house in Demdyke Row, phoned her father from a call box as Joe was not "on the phone" at all! In the street where I lived, which was working class poor, only one household had a phone in 1980.

The year saw the release of the ZX80, but computer technology was still alien in most of our homes. And whilst the internet had been invented as part of the American defence system back in the 1960s, the World Wide Web would not be invented until 1989. Video technology had been around for a very long time, but domestic video recorders only a few years. In 1980, just 5% of UK households had a video recorder. They were hugely expensive to buy and monthly rental commitments were also costly and unwelcome in those hard-pressed times.

As for telly, we had three TV channels - but as BBC2 was minority interest (or just plain "highbrow"), it actually felt like two.

New on telly in 1980 were Yes Minister, Juliet Bravo and Training Dogs The Woodhouse Way. This was also the year that fledgling American soap Dallas suddenly peaked with the phenomonal "Who Shot JR?" story line.

In Beckindale, folk didn't spend a lot of time gazing at the goggle box in 1980. In fact I don't think I saw any characters watching TV in the 1980 episodes I viewed recently. There were, of course, better things to do. Jack, Joe (Frazer Hines) and Matt (Frederick Pyne) philosophised and debated in the fields (especially if series creator Kevin Laffan had written the episode!), Annie (Sheila Mercier) cooked away at her faithful Aga, made chutney, went to a WI conference and arranged the flowers in church, old Sam Pearson took up oil painting, Dolly (Jean Rogers) delivered meals on wheels and worked at the local playschool, Amos (Ronald Magill) kept Mr Wilks (Arthur Pentelow) well occupied with his moods and fads, and Seth (Stan Richards), who became a permanent full-time character in the summer of 1980, made mischief.

The vicar comes to tea at Emmerdale Farm.

In the news in 1980, England got its first nudist beach on April 1 - in Brighton, where else?! Racial tensions flared briefly, a foretaste of the turmoil to come in '81, and after much humming and hawing we were going to the Moscow Olympics - a highly controversial decision.

Behind The Iron Curtain, Lech Walesa formed Solidarity, and a beastie that would ensnare us all burst from behind the Curtain: the obscure Hungarian puzzle, Magic Cube, was remanufactured to Western World standards and renamed Rubik's Cube in 1980. The first of these arrived in the UK just before Christmas, and there was an initial shortage, but in the spring of 1981 we were fully stocked and they were everywhere.

In the Emmerdale Farm saga, a Cube appeared on screen in 1982.

The personal stereo, invented in Japan in 1979, reached the UK in 1980 - and was known as the "Sony Stowaway" here until 1981 when it was patented under its original name - the Sony Walkman. I haven't spotted any of these in my viewings of early 1980s Emmerdale Farm episodes yet.

Space Invaders, invented in Japan in 1978 and first exhibited at a UK trade show in 1979, were making huge waves - and eating up lots of pocket money. In Japan, a new game arrived - Puckman. Within a year, it would be renamed Pac-Man and by about 1982 was beating Space Invaders hollow in the pocket money wars in the UK.

In the Beckindale of 1980, Space Invaders did not seem to exist, although they would be making an appearance in 1981. But it seemed there were more pressing things for the villagers to puzzle over in 1980. The re-emergence of a feminist movement in the 1960s was making people question their traditional roles. But could one of Beckindale's staunch olde worlde types cope with his daughter becoming a farmer? That question was raised in 1980.

Children should be seen but not heard was Elsie Harker's maxim, so imagine her distress when Jackie Merrick (Ian Sharrock) filled her pristine little cottage with glorious sounds like Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps Please!

Beckindale was a staid community, a safe haven for the likes of Nellie Ratcliffe (Gabrielle Blunt), but in 1980 it gained two permanent teenage characters in the shape of Jackie and Sandie (Jane Hutcheson).

And the fact that the sanctity of marriage was not all it used to be was brought home by the fact that Jackie and Sandie's mother, Pat (Helen Weir), was planning to divorce her husband, Tom (Edward Peel).

Fashion in 1980 was hit and miss. Flared trousers harked back to the late 1960s, and were still to be seen in 1980. The '70s had found it impossible to step from the '60s shadow fashion-wise. New Romantics flounced onto Top Of Pops - but, of course, there were no Adam Ant "looky likeys" in Beckindale.

The old folk wore what they were used to - and had been used to for donkey's years. Sandie and Jackie looked vaguely out of date - during the last couple of years of the '70s drain pipe trousers had been coming back into fashion and it was surprising to see Jackie in 1980 tramping around in the type of walloping great flares that had been so new, fresh and exciting in 1968 and had stagnated for much of the 70s.

But then that wasn't much brass about so clothes were often kept until the last ounce of wear had been extracted from them.

In the world of real life fashion trends, donkey jackets were becoming a youth fashion statement.

The biggest change of 1980 was the election of Ronald Reagan as American president in November. More than anything else, this was the pivot which set the 1980s on course. What happened in America had a great effect on the rest of the world, and it was in America that the '80s dream of wealth came about - the term "yuppie" was coined there c. 1981 or 1982 - and the decade altered dramatically.

But in 1980 there were no yuppies. And certainly nobody at all like that in Beckindale.

The old order in the village had taken a severe knock in 1978 when large farming corporation NY Estates had bought the local manorial family's house and land. In late 1980, a link was forged between the old established Sugden family and the corporate newcomer when Joe went to work for NY Estates.

Many Beckindalers still went to church and the vicar took his job very seriously indeed.

In the pop charts, we loved D.I.S.C.O., Ashes To Ashes - the video was absolutely groundbreaking, Ant Music ("Don't tread on an ant, he's done nothing to you..."), Oops Upside Your Head (down on the floor please!) and To Cut A Long Story Short...

On at the flicks were The Empire Strikes Back and Breaking Glass.

But Beckindale folk didn't worry about going to the pictures. There was far too much going on in the village...

Having taken a look at the background year to this special month of Back To Beckindale features, it's time to climb into our own personal Tardis, set the co-ordinates, take a quick trip through the time tunnel and step outside into Beckindale, 1980...

The birds are singing. The sun is shining. The air is sweet and cool. But there's a smell wafting in the breeze, a very disenchanting smell indeed... a kind of evil fishy odour...

Click on the 1980 Month label below from 1 August onwards to read more...

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Matt And Dolly, The 1980s And Emmerdale Farm...

Matt and Dolly at home on Emmerdale Farm in the 1980s.

A couple of interesting e-mails...

Richard asks about my views on Matt and Dolly Skilbeck and the part they played in the Emmerdale Farm saga in the 1980s. And were the characters reconciled when Dolly left the show in 1991?

Matt and Dolly were two of my favourite Emmerdale Farm characters - they were Mr and Mrs Average, and provided a bit of everyday normality in a show which had a number of larger than life characters.

It wasn't easy for Jean Rogers to step into the role of Dolly in 1980, she spoke of how complicated it felt playing a character originally portrayed by another actress in several newspaper interviews. But she soon made Dolly all her own.

I think it was a great shame that the couple split up in the Stuart Doughty era, and I believe that after this both seemed a little lost as characters. Matt's departure in December 1989 saddened me.

This blog is not really about the 1990s, but I thought it was daft that Dolly was then seen to get involved with a bit of a villain, and to have an abortion. This last act seemed very out of character and didn't ring true at all. Actress Jean Rogers was herself unhappy with this storyline as Dolly had lost two children during pregnancy and absolutely loved kids.

Were Matt and Dolly reconciled? Well, Dolly did leave for Norfolk, where Matt was living, and, although it was never stated on screen, I'm a romantic and I hope they were.

Certainly, when I discuss Emmerdale Farm in the 1980s with friends, the mere mention of the names "Matt and Dolly" usually brings forth fond smiles and a flood of recollections.

The pair are soap legends!

Chrissy Lawton writes:

I like Back To Beckindale, it covers a time before I was born and I'm really surprised that Emmerdale Farm was so popular in the 80's, because Wikipedia says it wasn't! Why did you pick the 80's for your blog?

No disrespect to Wikipedia, but anybody can write anything on there and I do find it misleading at times. Various 1980s magazine and newspaper articles reproduced on this blog show that Emmerdale Farm was rating well and very much "in the public eye" long before the plane crash storyline of late 1993.

To answer your question, I loved Emmerdale Farm as a kid in the '70s, but soaps evolve, and for me the most enjoyable era was 1980 to 1987 - with the arrival of the Merricks, Alan Turner and Mrs Bates, Archie Brooks and Eric Pollard, and Seth Armstrong settling down as a fully fledged regular character. The 1980s were also the golden era of Amos and Mr Wilks.

I have started another Emmerdale Farm blog covering 1972-1979, but my main interest in the show remains with the 1980s

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Uttered In The '80s Part Two...

"I'm that hungry I'd eat the oven door if it were buttered!" -

Amos Brearly, 1986.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

All Next Month...

Please click on image for details...

1989: The Death Of Jackie Merrick

Advertised on TV in 1989 - Ian Sharrock as Jackie Merrick was featured on the cover of the last of the original "Emmerdale Farm" novels, "Wives And Lovers", by James Ferguson.

The arrival of the Merrick family in Beckindale in 1980 had me becoming a confirmed fan of Emmerdale Farm. I'd liked the show since I was little, but there had been no permanent characters I could really identify with at peer group level. Jackie and Sandie Merrick were very much youngsters of the era, having experienced childhood in the miserable, militant and increasingly cynical '70s, they were now experiencing teenagehood in what seemed set to be another grim decade.

Okay, sometimes they listened to Shakin' Stevens and wore "fogey" clothes that your average early '80s youngster would not have been seen dead in (the Emmerdale Farm wardrobe department had never been hip and funky) but that aside they were mixed up enough and stroppy enough to have fitted in with me and my pals. They seemed pretty real.

The Merrick family had originally appeared in the show during its first season in 1972, but at that time Jackie and Sandie were small children. Both child and adult members of the family were portrayed by different actors and actresses. Tom Merrick was portrayed by David Hill, Edward Peel and Jack Carr during his occasional appearances in the '70s and '80s. In 1980, Helen Weir, Ian Sharrock and Jane Hutcheson made the roles of Pat, Jackie and Sandie their own. There were other changes: in season one, Pat's Christian name had been Ruth and she had been the mother of three children.

Jackie, as we know, was the (at first secret) son of Jack Sugden. He matured, settled down to farming, married young Kathy Bates and then, in 1989, was suddenly killed off.

His mother, Pat, had already been killed off in a car crash storyline in 1986, and sister Sandie and step father Tom (who, although only an occasional visitor, had made a lot of waves) had left the scene. So Emmerdale Farm, which had been full to the brim of Merrick storylines from 1980 to 1989 was suddenly almost Merrickless. Only Jackie's widow, Kathy, retained the name. But not for long.

Jackie was killed whilst out hunting a troublesome fox. He had a £10 bet with Pete Whiteley that he could kill the fox, which was causing problems around Home Farm. Unfortunately, Jackie's shotgun trigger snagged as he left his vehicle to pursue the fox, and the gun went off...

The story of Jackie's sudden end was played absolutely "straight", but there was a hint of 1980s tongue-in-cheekness about one of the songs playing on the car radio as the poor lad lay either dying or dead: What Have I Done To Deserve This? by the Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield!

The car battery ran down, the headlights and the music faded, and that was that.

Seth Armstrong found his young friend's body and took the news to Emmerdale Farm. Joe Sugden went to Demdyke Row to break the news to young Kathy that she was now a widow.

"What have I done to deserve this?"

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Above The Scenes...

Not behind the scenes but above with this view of the Emmerdale Farm kitchen set from 1985. Jackie Merrick (Ian Sharrock) has brought girlfriend Sita Sharma (Mamta Kash) to see the family. Seated at the table are Jack and Pat Sugden (Clive Hornby and Helen Weir) and Sandie Merrick (Jane Hutcheson). On the sofa by the fire are Annie Sugden (Sheila Mercier) and Henry Wilks (Arthur Pentelow).

Monday, 14 July 2008

The Great Emmerdale Farm Merchandise Explosion...

From "The Hotten Courier", Yorkshire Television publicity material for "Emmerdale Farm", summer 1988. No such offers were featured in the September 1984 edition of the publication. The times were certainly changing...

In the early-to-mid 1980s, Emmerdale Farm fans could look forward to buying the continuing series of novels, some cheese and knitting wool, and an occasional magazine. But by the late 1980s, after the advent of EastEnders and Neighbours, it was evident that soap sold and that realisation was not lost on Yorkshire Television.

So, would it be a Seth Armstrong badge or fridge magnet? How about a shopping bag? A bookmark? A mug? A tea towel - or even a walking stick badge?

The choice was yours...

The Woolpack T-shirt was actually featured in the series - a gimmick adopted by Amos Brearly to pep up trade in the continuing war with The Malt Shovel.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

1985: Kathy And Nick Bates Arrive...

Having secured his secretary, Mrs Bates, accommodation in Beckindale after the break-up of her marriage to Malcolm, Alan Turner was delighted to accept an invitation to dinner from her. He arrived punctually, all spruced up and clutching a magnificent bouquet, with hopes for the evening which went way beyond the planned menu of his hostess...

So, imagine his shock and dismay when Mrs Bates' door was answered by two youngsters, who introduced themselves as Kathy and Nick and explained that Mum was still upstairs, but that they had been instructed to make him welcome.

Having envisaged an evening alone with Mrs Bates, and having had no idea that her children were living with her, Alan was terribly disappointed. Faintly stroppy and terribly crestfallen, he thrust the bouquet at Kathy - "These are for your mother!"

This was the first appearance in Emmerdale Farm of Cy Chadwick as Nick and Malandra Burrows as Kathy.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Terence Turner

From the Emmerdale Farm Celebration Edition 1000 Episodes magazine, 1985:

Terence Turner arrived on his father's doorstep in April this year having been sent down from Oxford where he was studying agriculture. Far too sophisticated, he feels, for a farming career. Terence has been trying to make his fortune ever since with a series of unlikely schemes such as "home-made" lime pickle and rock climbing. He is currently working on a dry ski slope project. Arrogant and lazy, Terence can nevertheless be amusing when he wishes, and he's recently been going out with Sandie Merrick, much to the consternation of the Sugden family.

Stephen Marchant (Terence Turner):

The other day Stephen Marchant was standing in Boots, innocently queing to buy a tube of toothpaste, when a young girl rushed over and spat at him: "I hate you!"

The other shoppers politely glanced away, assuming it was some lover's tiff, but Stephen had never seen the girl before and in fact she wasn't even talking to him. Her venom was intended for Terence Turner, Alan Turner's unpleasant son.

Stephen Marchant and the arrogant smoothie Terence have very little in common. Unlike Oxford-educated Turner, Stephen is an East Ender who left school as soon as he could for a series of dead-end jobs. He went to America and worked for a time as a DJ on an American radio station. Then he returned to England and has spent the last five years working in theatre in Bristol.

"If I wasn't an actor I'd work in conservation or some form of ecology," says Terence.

Out riding...

In late 1985, Terence was in charge of organising the shoots at Home Farm. But Alan wasn't happy. Terence's presence in the office at NY Estates was a thorn in Alan's side - and also Mrs Bates's. As she told Alan, she didn't quite know who her boss was!

Terence had a habit of putting his foot in it and, discussing the menu for an upcoming Shoot with Mrs Bates, spouted: "Now, what about a wine? Don't get any of that awful plonk the old man blew his money on!" Of course, he was totally unaware that his father was in the room. Until it was too late.

At the Woolpack, Terence chatted up newcomer Kathy Bates: "I'm on my own. You're on you're own. I fancy you. Well, if you fancy me let's get back to Home Farm, put some sounds on very loud and er... we'll get something together. I think you know what I mean."

Kathy basically told him that she wasn't interested. And she told him that what the locals said about him was quite wrong: "Pillock's nowhere near it!"

Terence moved over to the bar and tried to get back in Sandie's good books. He invited her back for a "nightcap". "Thanks, Terry," said Sandie, who had overheard his conversation with Kathy. "But I'd only be in the way!"

Terence was puzzled: "Sorry?"

"Well, I thought Kathy Bates would be there?"

"Very funny!" and Terence left the pub.

Sandie told Jackie that she didn't really know how she had ever liked Terence.

"This village is really starting to get on my nerves," said Terence to his father back at Home Farm.

Despite his differences with his son, Alan was greatly looking forward to having him at home over the festive season.

"Well, it'll be all right over Christmas," he replied. "I thought we might have a bit of a party. You know, nothing lavish - a sort of in loco Lord of the Manor do."

Terence broke the news that he would not be in Beckindale for Christmas: a friend had phoned, he had rented a cottage in Ireland over the festive season - "with plenty of booze and a bit of skirt", and had invited Terence to join him. Terence eagerly anticipated being saved from a "celibate Christmas".

Alan was downcast: "You've made up your mind?"

"Nothing to keep me here, is there?" asked Terence.

"No. No, I suppose not."

After Terence had retired to bed, Alan switched off the Christmas tree lights and retired to his own room, his plans for the festive season in tatters.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Harry Mowlam: Brute Of Beckindale

Ah, Beckindale in the early-to-mid 1980s...

Annie at her Aga, Amos behind the bar at the Woolpack, the Rev Donald Hinton being concerned for the spiritual welfare of his flock, our Jackie making a mess of things, Grandad Pearson making a crib for the Christmas nativity, Jack and Matt creosoting a fence and talking about the meaning of life...

1980s? Some said it was so sleepy it could almost have been the 1880s! As one viewer told Toke Townley: "Emmerdale Farm isn't about how life is, it's about how life should be."

Then, BANG! POW! the late 20th Century burst in, turning village life upside down, in the shape of Harry Mowlam.

Harry had a brief innings in the show in late 1983 and early 1984, when Matt and Dolly fell out with him over his mistreatment of his dog. But in 1985 he blew back in to Beckindale - worse than ever, chip firmly on shoulder.

Mr Mowlam had a cruel, villainous streak a mile wide and was quickly involved in a security van robbery.

As 1986 began, the man turned his venom back on to the Skilbecks - and finally there was a terrible fight with Matt, entirely initiated by Mr Mowlam, and the man ended up dead, with Matt accused of his murder...

Life in Beckindale had never been absolutely cosy - the early years of the programme had featured murder, suicide, rape, a teenage pregnancy, adultery, arson and a gun hold up. But Beckindale had never seen the likes of Harry Mowlam before.

The part was an acting triumph for Godfrey James - Mowlam, whether wallowing in self pity, bantering in the Woolpack, battering Matt Skilbeck or menacing Dolly, was absolutely believable, a bearded hulk of a man, as turbulent and changeable as the Yorkshire weather. And thoroughly twisted.

From the Yorkshire Evening Post Emmerdale Farm 1,000! supplement, 1985:

He's the nastiest man ever to walk the streets of Beckindale. A big, bearded loudmouth whose loathsome behaviour earned him a smack across the face from Dolly Skilbeck.

Godfrey James, who plays the hated Harry Mowlam, has even been spat at in the street by real-life old ladies who take exception to Harry's wild antics on the box.

"Mowlam is thoroughly hated," said Godfrey. "He's a nutcase. He's a bit touched."

Playing the villain comes easy to the surprisingly mild-mannered Godfrey. Off-screen, he's nothing like the man who gets up the noses of everybody down on the farm.

But bad guy parts have regularly come his way in films and TV.

And he's so convincing, it often lands him in trouble with people who can't tell the difference between fiction and reality.

He might have got spat at for looking like Mowlam, but his part as a hard man in "The Sweeney" almost got him beaten up in a London pub.

"I was down in the East End when these characters tried to have a go at me," he says. "They wanted to see how tough I was."

The East End is Godfrey's home ground. He was born there 54 years ago, the son of a greengrocer who, he says, "didn't like the idea of me becoming a woofter actor."

After a brief stint as Harry in Emmerdale Farm, Godfrey James was invited back a couple of years later for a longer run.

Filming in Yorkshire means long spells away from his home in Pevensey Bay, East Sussex, where he lives with his wife Vivienne - "she's a cracker" - and spends his leisure time at sea in his own fishing smack.

They've been married for 32 years and have a daughter, Tracy, 24, named after the film star Spencer Tracy. She works as a nurse.

He doesn't like hotels, so he's brought his caravan north and let it come to rest in a pub car park.

He's managed to convince the regulars that he's not quite as distasteful as Harry Mowlam. They even play dominoes with him.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Mrs Bates

From "The Hotten Courier", Yorkshire Television "Emmerdale Farm" programme publicity, September 1984.

Mrs Bates, who arrived in Beckindale in 1984, had a broken marriage, two teenage children and a nightmare boss in Alan Turner at NY Estates. But she coped. The character's amusement at Alan's various acts of stupidity and her quiet, caring nature added a great deal of "must watch" factor to Emmerdale Farm.

Mrs Bates was not originally intended to be a major character, but Diana Davies added something to the role which ensured that she was. Richard Thorp (Alan Turner) recalls:

"Oh, Alan was an absolute stinker in the beginning, he rubbed everyone up the wrong way. The major influence on him was Mrs Bates who was played by Diana Davies. In the very first scene we did together I was losing my temper, ranting and raving, so she sent me up and it came across when we did the scene."

The Alan Turner/Mrs Bates NY Estates scenes were terrific to watch.

Mrs Bates ranks as one of my all-time favourite Beckindalers.

Diana Davies autograph from the 1980s.

From "Wilks" To "Mr Wilks" - Credit Where It's Due!

Give that man a medal! Mr Wilks listens to yet another of Amos' bizarre schemes in the 1980s.

From 1972 until the early 1980s, the character of Henry Wilks, portrayed by Arthur Pentelow, was always listed in the closing credits as "Wilks". Initially, Henry, a retired businessman, was seen moving to Beckindale and was very much an outsider.

But that changed.

In the 1980s, Henry's partnership with Amos Brearly at the Woolpack Inn was in its golden era, and the popularity of that partnership - and the character of Henry Wilks - was acknowledged by altering "Wilks" to "Mr Wilks" (which, of course, Amos always called him) in the programme's end credits early in the decade.

A lovely and thoroughly English quirk (such formality!) which was later echoed by the listing of Caroline Bates (Diana Davies), Alan Turner's long suffering secretary at NY Estates, as "Mrs Bates" in the closing credits. In the NY days, this was the title Alan always used, and, even after the character's Christian name was revealed, "Mrs Bates" remained in the closing credits.

"Emmerdale Farm" closing credits from 1980 - "Wilks"!

Spot the difference - "Emmerdale Farm" closing credits from 1983 - "Mr Wilks"!

Eric Pollard 1988

From The Hotten Courier, Yorkshire Television Emmerdale Farm programme publicity, summer 1988:

Actor Chris Chittell has got used to being the man they love to hate in "Emmerdale Farm", but he has no sympathy for the rogue he plays.

As the disgraced antiques dealer, Eric Pollard, he has terrorised Sandie Merrick, hatched a series of shady deals, and has even been suspected of having shot Henry Wilks' son-in-law, Paolo.

Chris has good reason to disapprove of the dealer's underhand way of doing business.

He says: "Pollard has shown himself to be the worst kind of conman - preying on old folk to try to trick them out of valuable items of furniture.

"My grandmother has had several experiences of men like Pollard calling round and trying to buy antiques from her. One man had his eye on her Louis XIV cabinet in gilt and marble. So many old people have things they think they must get rid of because they've had them for years. They can be so trusting."

Chris says a common ploy is to agree on a price for the item, then the furniture is taken away. The conman then returns the following day offering less money than earlier agreed.

Fortunately, Chris' grandma wasn't fooled by the trick. But Chris hopes that Pollard's bad habits will alert Emmerdale's audience to the dangers of selling on spec to a respectable-looking character.

If Chris looks at home among all those antiques, it's not surprising. For the 39-year-old is a keen collector in real life.

He spends much of his spare time hunting down bargains in junk shops around his home in Newark, Nottinghamshire.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

The Wonderful World Of Amos And Mr Wilks

Arthur Pentelow as Henry Wilks (or should that be Mr Wilks?!) and Ronald Magill as Amos Brearly. These two ran The Woolpack Inn and shared the living accommodation from 1973 to 1991.

Actually there were TWO Woolpacks. The first was declared unsafe due to subsidence in 1976, so the pair relocated to premises elsewhere in the village.

Mr Wilks was a warm hearted retired businessman. Amos was... well... erm... it's not easy to summarise Amos. He was childish. Pompous. Usually rigidly formal. Given to rapid fads and enthusiasms. He was also naive and very good hearted. Underneath it all.

The character of Amos evolved. When he became Beckindale correspondent on the Hotten Courier, he puffed himself up like a peacock. But it took until the early 1980s before the character was refined and honed to perfection. Watch any 1970s episode of Emmerdale Farm, and I think you might agree that Amos was quieter, more restrained and dour than in the 1980s - when he was gloriously potty, pursuing fad after fad in quick succession, bridling at Mr Wilks' attempts to bring him down to earth and generally being a wonderful nuisance.

1980 was an absolutely pivotal year for the Amos character - with Seth Armstrong leaving The Malt Shovel bar to become a regular at The Woolpack, and Al Dixon joining the cast as Walter, Amos became more animated, fad-ridden and bizarre than ever before!

The '80s were a truly splendid era during which Amos and Mr Wilks story lines abounded, as the show became an all-year-round soap.

Do you remember the time when Amos got into transcendental meditation? The time he went "upwardly mobile" and took up golf with Alan Turner? The time he turned to bee keeping? The time he baked a cake? The time he was cursed by a gypsy? The time...

If all these sound like Amos-only story lines, rest assured that Mr Wilks was always there, advising, trying to moderate his friend's behaviour, and generally suffering!

Fortunately, Mr Wilks had friends elsewhere or he would, no doubt, have gone insane!

Amos and Mr Wilks have a disagreement in 1980...

... and they're still at in 1989. Dolly Skilbeck (Jean Rogers) looks on.

A pain in the neck to Amos was one of his best 1980s customers and arch enemy, Seth Armstrong (Stan Richards). How he loved to wind the big key in Amos' back! In 1980, Amos commented disapprovingly on Seth's loyalty to the Malt Shovel. Seth was just becoming established as a regular character back then, having first appeared in a few episodes in 1978. From 1980 onwards, Seth switched to The Woolpack, and absolutely loved to get under Amos' skin! Remember the time he booked two strippers (and a python!) to perform at The Woolpack - much to Amos' horror? Amos ordered them out and the pub was wrecked by irate customers!

Seth holding court at The Woolpack in 1983. Walter (Al Dixon) says nowt and concentrates on his ale. Al Dixon first appeared as the silent bar propper in September 1980.

Seth and pal.

"Sunday People", June 9, 1985. Apparently Jenny the donkey's braying could sometimes be heard when the "Emmerdale Farm" crew were attempting to film in Esholt - so it was decided to bring her into the story!

Joint Pipe Smokers Of The Year, 1986.

Picture the scene: it's 1980 and only 5% of UK households have video recorders. In fact, video technology had been around for yonks, but domestic players and recorders only a few years and they were highly expensive. So, unable to tape your favourite shows to keep and keep again, you bought novels of all the storylines.
Shadows From The Past, by Lee Mackenzie, was the 10th Emmerdale Farm novel (there would be many more) and was published in 1980. The author was excellent at bringing Amos and Mr Wilks to life on paper. Here, Amos has been awakened by a strange noise, and goes to investigate. Mr Wilks, disturbed by Amos' movements, follows and demands an explanation...
"There was somebody here. I heard him."
"Heard what?"
I heard a... There was a... A sound."
"You probably woke yourself with your own snoring, Amos."
"I do not snore, Mr Wilks," said his partner, offended.
"How do you know if you don't? Have you ever stayed awake to listen?"
"How could I stay awake and..." Amos realised his leg was being pulled. "I'm serious, Mr Wilks. Someone is in the Woolpack."
"I tell you I heard a sort of a thud -"
"A sickening thud?"
"Eh?" Amos read very little and knew nothing about well-worn cliches from the thrillers of bygone years. "It was more of a... chunk."
"A chunk of what?"
"A sound like a chunk. Like this." Amos picked up a jug from the top of the fridge and put it down on the metal top. "Like that, only louder."
"It was something falling over."
"What, then?" Amos waved a hand. "Nothing's fallen over."
"Aye," Henry said, rather dry. "Everythings just as usual."
"In here." Amos agreed. "But who knows where else he's been? He suddenly clutched his dressing-gown in the region of his heart. "The till!" he cried.
He rushed out into the bar. Henry followed, much more slowly. Accustomed as he was to Amos' funny ways, this amused him only a little. As a man approaches the golden years, he needs his sleep.
Amos went to the till, rang up 'no sale' and found the money still there. It's to be understood that this money wasn't the whole day's takings. Those were upstairs under lock and key in a box below Amos' bed. The money in the till was a peace-offering to any burglar who might get in: Amos reasoned that if a man got something, he wouldn't creep upstairs and murder you in your bed.
He had a low opinion of how much a burglar would be satisfied with. Nevertheless the one pound note, one fifty pence piece, and four twopence pieces were still there.
"You see?" Henry said. "Nobody's got in. If they had, they'd have taken that."
Amos was shaken. Then he said, "I disturbed him at it. That's what it is! The chunk I heard - that was the till being pushed shut."
"Funny sort of burglar who bothers to close the till when he's disturbed," Henry rejoined, rubbing the back of his neck and stifling a yawn. "Come on, Amos, let's get back to bed."
"Nay, Mr Wilks, I tell thee - someone's been in here. I can feel it."
"Clairvoyant, are you?"
"Mr Wilks, I'm C of E as well you know..."
Excellent stuff - and the best was yet to come!

Saturday, 5 July 2008

25 Years Ago - The Way Things Were - Gossip From Beckindale 1983 - Part 4

It all began in early 1983. Mr Wilks, ardent local walker, was fed up with the state of Primrose Dingle, and upbraided Alan Turner about it. The Dingle (known in NY Estates parlance as "HF7" - the "HF" standing for "Home Farm") was NY's property and was littered with builder's debris - it had been for some time.

Mr Wilks took his concerns to Alan Turner, who put pressure on the Estate workers to clear the Dingle of debris. Unfortunately, he rubbed them all up the wrong way - refusing to recognise their positions as skilled workers (their contracts stated that they were all "labourers") and also refusing them overtime.

NY Estates Union rep John Tuplin discussed the situation with his colleagues in the Woolpack one lunchtime - and things got a little noisy. The men were thoroughly fed up with Alan's high handed bullying. Disturbed by the noise, Amos Brearly scolded them all, telling them:

"I'm surprised at you lot. You call yourselves grown men and 'ere you are you behaving like... like a rabble! Do you want my honest opinion?"

"I think we're gonna get it!" said Daniel, amidst sniggers from the men.

Amos was undeterred: "Mr Turner's an educated gentleman - a born leader doing a difficult job in difficult times. And if he wants you to do a job I reckon you should behave like true Britishers and get stuck in!"

"And that's your honest opinion?" asked John Tuplin.

"It is!" said Amos, head held high.

"Right, lads!" And the men got up and left the pub.

Amos moved back to the bar. "That's the way to handle industrial relations, Mr Wilks! One word from me and they're off to Primrose Dingle. The voice of reason - that's all were needed!"

Voice of reason? Mr Wilks was not convinced.

The Woolpack was boycotted by the NY Estates men, and other villagers joined them. Mr Wilks had hoped that as Amos grew older he might become a little easier to live with. But it was not to be. The 1980s saw Amos becoming more fad obsessed and downright oddball than ever before. 1983 had barely started, but already Amos had competed with Sam Pearson to try and win a cruise in a competition, gone in for transcendental meditation and philosophy, and tried to get the Woolpack visited by Eric Birdwick, the hostelry reviewer on The Hotten Courier.

On the first night of the great NY Estates walkout, still hoping for a visit from Mr Birdwick, Amos had banked up a blazing fire - it was so hot that Walter, the pub's only customer did a previously unheard of thing - he took off his cap and loosened his tie. Peanuts laid out on the bar caused acrimony when Amos caught Walter eating them, and, finally, Walter walked out. Amos was devastated: "Walter! You can't!" But, flinging one last disdainful look over his shoulder, Walter did.

"What are we going to do, Mr Wilks?!" groaned Amos.

The next day, Amos refused to believe Mr Wilks when he said that Walter had joined the rest of the Woolpack regulars at the bar of the Malt Shovel.

"Nay, I'll never believe that!"

"Amos, you can't go around playing at God, laying down the law as you do, without upsetting some people. Nay, most people. Nay, all the people!"

Alan Turner came in, commenting: "Bit sparse in here today, isn't it?"

The story of the row with the NY Estates men came out and Alan was very impressed by this show of support.

Amos and Alan got chatting under Mr Wilks' disapproving eye, and Alan invited Amos to play golf with him the following day and to have lunch at Hotten Golf Club. Amos had never played golf before, but did not admit it. An invitation to the golf club just suited his upwardly mobile mood.

"I must be off - collect you about ten," said Alan. He left. Mr Wilks eyed Amos: "Lee Trevino, I presume?"

Amos was suddenly worried at the situation he'd landed himself in: "What am I going to wear, Mr Wilks? I mean, it's plus fours and spikes as I remember rightly."

"Plus fours!" said Mr Wilks, derisively.

"Only it's a long time since I trod greens," continued Amos.

"A long time, Amos?"

"Aye, well..." Amos squirmed.

"A very long time? Would it be more accurate to say never?"

Amos nodded.

"Then you've only yourself to blame!" said Mr Wilks.

However, Mr Wilks was a good friend. He made it plain that he did not approve of Amos' liaison with Alan Turner, but stated that he did not want to see him in a mess. He presented Amos with his own golfing equipment and clothes. Amos also approached Seth Armstrong asking him for any golfing paraphernalia he could provide in return for "good money".

A golf lesson in the snow was not a great success. Mr Wilks was impressed by Amos' swing, but little else. Things got a little heated.

"Don't adopt a tone of voice with me, Mr Wilks - I am trying!"

"You are, Amos - you are!"

Seth turned up with some frankly rather manky golfing gear. Amos accepted some golf balls (he was staggered when Mr Wilks estimated a price of £1-00 each for new balls), a pair of shoes and the cap seen in the picture above!

Amos decided to get in some practice...

... with and without a golf club, indoors at the Woolpack...

... but, sadly, his efforts only resulted in breakages. "Destroy the pub, as well as the good will!" said Mr Wilks.

On the morning of the big day, Amos was hoping that Alan might be diverted by important NY Estates business. He was not happy when Alan showed up, but put on a very brave face...

... which began to wobble by the time he reached the golf course.

Alan introduced Amos to Tufty Billingham and The Major. Tufty seemed all right, but as for The Major, complete with cigarette holder and fierce glare...

Oh 'eck!

In Tufty Billingham, Amos had found another Mr Wilks. He helped the beleaguered licensee to choose the right club for each shot, and was sympathetic to (and perhaps a little amused by) Amos' plight.
The Major was a cheat at golf. Had been at it for years, but nobody had ever caught him before. Whilst Tufty and Alan searched for The Major's ball, lost in the rough, Amos saw The Major grab hold of the ball and craftily relocate it. "It is me first, after all!" The Major crowed.
Amos thought it was all in the rules of the game, and happily copied The Major when it came to his turn.
"Now, just a minute!" said The Major.
"You can't do that, Amos!" cried Alan.
"But The Major's just done it!" Amos replied.
"Has he?" asked Tufty, with great interest (at last The Major had been caught out!). He turned to The Major: "Have you?"

The Major was outraged. "Right! That's it! That is it! The whole damn morning's been wasted! And now this!"
"Now, Major, I'm sure there's been some sort of mistake!" crawled Alan - he was out to cultivate The Major in the interests of NY Estates, and crawling was an admirable tactic in his book.
"But I saw him, he did it over there!" protested Amos, pointing to the spot. "He did it over there!" He turned to Tufty: "It's true - he did it over there!" He sighed: "I don't see what all't fuss is about any road."
"You're not allowed to do it, Amos, that's what all the fuss is about!" laughed Tufty. "Come on, let's go and have a drink."
And they trudged off through the snow. "Like I said, I just copied't Major!" said Amos.
"You actually saw him do it?" asked Tufty.
"Back there!" cried Amos.
"I'll tell you one thing, Amos - you're the first person ever to catch him red headed!" said Tufty.

Amos liked Tufty. Back at the club house restaurant, Alan and The Major excused themselves to use the Gents, and Amos insisted on buying Tufty a pint. It was then he discovered that he had left his wallet in the changing room. Going to retrieve it, Amos heard Alan and The Major talking at the urinal...
"Whatever persuaded you to invite him?" asked The Major.
"I told you, I owed him a favour," said Alan.
"The man's an idiot!" The Major opined.
"You don't think I wanted to bring him, do you? But he told me he could play," crawled Alan.
"The man's a liar as well as a buffoon," said The Major. "Not to mention an insufferable bore."
"I can't deny that," said Alan.
Amos was stricken. His upwardly mobile venture had found him hopelessly out of his depth. His happy day out was ruined. He suddenly saw himself for what he was on this occasion - a fool.
Back in the bar, he sought escape: "I'm sorry I had to leave you, gentlemen. Only I suddenly remembered I had to make a telephone call to my partner, Mr Wilks, on a matter of business, like. I'm afraid summat's turned up - which means I'll have to turn down your kind invitation to lunch, Alan. I'm sure you'll understand."

"Nothing serious, I hope, Amos?" asked Alan.
"Nay, I'd not call it serious - let's just say as it's summat I can't ignore," said Amos somewhat meaningfully.
Alan may have been a bully to his NY underlings, and a crawler to the likes of The Major, but even so he wasn't heartless. He insisted on running Amos back to Beckindale. Amos protested that he'd get a bus, then Tufty came to the rescue - he was passing through the village and would be happy to drop Amos off. He didn't want to stop for the meal - he only ever had liquid lunches.
"Well, I'd just like to say thank you, gentlemen, I'm sorry if I've inconvenienced you," said Amos. The heavy, meaningful tone was back again. "I've learned a lot from it."

Alan felt slightly troubled. "Strange," he said to The Major, as Amos and Tufty left.

"A relief, you mean," said The Major. "Glad to see the back of the fellow. Are you going to get me a drink then?"

"Yes, yes, of course - G&T?"

"And then I'll let you buy me lunch," The Major smugly toyed with his cigarette holder.

Alan was momentarily aback. "Oh will you?" Then he slid back into crawler mode. "Yes. Yes, it'll be a pleasure."
"I'll tell you what, Amos, I might well drop in on you sometime and sample that beer of yours," said Tufty as the pair walked to his car.
"And you'd be right welcome an' all, Tufty," replied Amos with sincerity.
"Well, cheer up - you haven't missed much!" said Tufty. "The lunches aren't that good and they're damned expensive too!"
Mr Wilks was eager for news back at the still empty Woolpack. But Amos quietly took his leave and went upstairs for a lay down. He had learned a bitter lesson. And with all his regulars now at the Malt Shovel, what on earth was he going to do?