Coronation Street (28th April 1976)

Written by Barry Hill

Hilda’s getting no satisfaction at the corner shop. Gail might be behind the counter but since she no longer works there, the girl is disinclined to ruin her nail polish by serving Hilda with half a pound of bacon. “That were why I give all this up. Fat under fingernails. Reeking of strong chedder every time you go out.”

Mrs Ogden’s day gets no better after Elsie makes an appearance. Although the Elsie/Ena relationship has now settled down into a convivial mutual appreciation, there’s no such thawing of the Elsie/Hilda relationship (which remains arctic).

Before Mrs Howard enters, Hilda opines that if Elsie’s “doing her face, then she’s not a sixteen year old any longer is she? A touch of this and a flick of that might have worked wonders at one time but sandblasting does take a bit longer”. Ouch! Elsie’s rejoinder – that some like to make the most of what they’ve got whilst others gave up the ghost a long time ago – is equally cutting.

Ena, continuing to act as an unofficial marriage councillor to the Bishops, now turns her attention to Ernie. He’s dismayed at the prospect of having to explain to the Mission circuit superintendent why he was cavorting with strippers at the Gatsby Club. Ena’s advice is straightforward – all he has to do is pretend he was there to investigate immorality. After all, you can’t fight the evils of the flesh without knowing about them, can you?

This is a surprising move from Mrs Sharples as she’s never been backward in coming forward to denounce anyone whose moral character is a little suspect. Maybe it’s a sign of increasing age and increasing wisdom though – the seventies Ena does tend to be a more genial character and one who’s more tolerant of people’s flaws.

The slowly spreading grin on Ernie’s face shows that he’s keen on the idea. He has no compunction about lying to save his skin (whilst he might believe in God, presumably he’s decided that His vengeance will be mild for such a piddling transgression). Emily, as you might expect, is appalled at this state of affairs. She shows her disapproval by hoovering in a very loud way. Good old Emily.

David Williams has a nice comic turn as a customer at Sylvia’s (he’s come to buy a nightie). Given his eagerness it doesn’t look like it’s a present for his wife. This was one of Williams’ nine roles (between 1973 and 2013).

Frank Mills would later return to the Street during 1995 to 1997 as Billy Williams. Today he’s a one shot character – Ivor Mortlake – the Mission bigwig who Ernie has to lie to. His scenes are wonderfully entertaining – whilst Ernie warms to his task of painting himself as an upright moral crusader (like Lord Longford), Emily stands in the background with a face like thunder.

Ivor seems convinced by Ernie’s story and ends up by wistfully wondering exactly what iniquities go on at these terrible places! That’s a nice little character touch, which allows us to see that some upright moral crusaders would be happy to stray off the path every so often, given half the chance.

Alf has a little something more to do today than just propping up the bar at the Rovers. He’s depressed about the prospect of looming redundancies at the Post Office (which is where he’s currently employed). Many episodes of the Street, like this one, now function as social history time capsules – allowing us a snapshot about how the economy was faring. As we’ll hear time and again during these years, its usually not good news.

Moving onto lighter matters, it’s decided that Stan won’t do the Rovers any favours if he’s their Superbrain representative, so they decide to nobble him. This involves plying him with drinks (it’s like all Stan’s Christmases have come at once!) and sending the beffudled chap off in a taxi to the wrong pub. Meanwhile, Bet heads to the right pub where the next round is being held, and she wins through to the semi finals.

Hilda is incensed to hear this, not least because she doesn’t have a very high regard for Bet’s intellectual capacities. “What does she know about anything? Except throwing herself at fellas”. Hilda gives poor Stan an earbashing, which continues as the credits roll ….

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