Saturday, 18 May 2019

KNITWEAR AT THE CROSSROADS



WENDY SHETLAND AT THE CROSSROADS MOTEL


I mean – it says it all really doesn’t it?

I can imagine the little old ladies rushing out to buy this knitting pattern book for the princely sum of 75p in 1984. After all, the garments inside were modelled by David and Barbara Hunter, Adam and Jill Chance, Miranda Pollard, Paul Ross, Diane Hunter, John Latchford, Kath Brownlow, Doris Luke, Iris Scott, Kevin and Glenda Banks and my personal favourite – Sid Hooper and Joe MacDonald.

Adam and Jill Chance - Knitwear (Tank Top for him)
John Latchford (Arthur White) - Comfy Cardigan


The boys are back in town  - Joe Macdonald and Sid Hooper

The book is from1984 and therefore features a mixture of “classic” knits for characters like Doris, and more edgy geometric patterns for the youngster, Iris. Actually,  I can quite easily picture several generations of families sitting round the table wearing Crossroads inspired knitwear, not wanting to offend Grandma, who has been busy with the “double-knit” and “chunky” for months.

The booklet features the Crossroads Motel logo and pictures of the Golden Valley exterior – even if the photos inside the booklet were taken at the Holiday Inn, Birmingham. It credits the cast and producer of Crossroads personally and from 1984 is possibly one of the last official tie-in pieces of merchandise until the quick flurry of goodies that were released in 1988 at the end of the series.

Speaking of the photos, John Latchford and Iris Scott have never looked happier - David and Barbara simply ooze style and sophistication in their matching lilac knits and Paul Ross proves that both the sleeved and sleeveless version of a traditional sweater pattern are suitable whilst enjoying a cocktail in the motel bar.

My wife is quite a good knitter, and while I would really like Adam’s patterned tank-top, I think at my age, John Latchford’s comfy cardigan is probably more appropriate.

If you’re interested in finding out about the history of the “Wendy” knitting patterns, there is a wealth of information on the website of the owners HERE. It details the struggles of one family to keep a family business going in adverse trading conditions and cheap competition from elsewhere. Meg Mortimer herself would be proud of them!

The knitting pattern is I suppose an extension of the fashion items in the two “Crossroads Specials” from 1979 and 1982. The 1979 one features my favourite photo of actor Tony Adams sitting on several boxes of flammable gas in a fetching knitted jumper and bright yellow wellies.

Adam Chance - Explosive!

Now if you think that’s bizzare – what about the 1970’s introductions to Crossroads featuring “Mrs. Cherry “giving updates on the recent events in the motel? I absolutely love the fact that the producers just went with this idea. Can you imagine the production meeting where it was suggested that they film someone knitting (or doing crochet – I’m not an expert), whilst a high pitched voice-over goes through the update? 

"Mrs Cherry" introduces another episode... whilst knitting.

Of course, no blog entry about knitting would be complete without a passing reference to perhaps the most famous piece of knitwear to ever feature in a soap – Benny’s hat, which interestingly was the idea of Paul Henry himself. In the 2001 “Crossroads Story” he recalls:

Paul Henry as Benny Hawkins - with woolly hat.

“I turned up at the audition with my weekend stubble, my brother’s woolly hat and a simple smile. And Benny was born.”

The little woolen hat also features in the lyrics to Paul “Benny” Henry’s song “Waiting at the Crossroads” – and you can find out more about that HERE. So "famous" and striking was the image of Benny in his hat, that it often featured in Crossroads spoofs...

Benny Hill as "Benny" in a Crossroads sketch.
Mike Yarwood - and hat
Lenny and Paul Henry in "Spot The Benny" - (He's the one on the left)

A few years ago, Paul (and hat) featured in the Comic Relief music video to "500 miles".

Paul Henry (and hat) in the video to "500 miles" for Comic Relief.

Just recently year, Paul was on TV talking about Crossroads, and the hat made its most recent appearance on the box – so it seems its place in TV history is secure.

The most recent outing for the little woolen hat.

So there you go – Crossroads – the soap for knitting fans. Possibly not the kind of tag-line the producers were going for – but it would seem - Crossroads was not the only soap at it.....

Emmerdale - Knitting Patterns

Eastenders - Knitting Patterns

Coronation Street - Knitting Patterns


Sunday, 14 April 2019

MEG'S GREEN PLATES - REPLICA


WEDGWOOD JASPERWARE - THE CASE OF THE WANDERING ORNAMENTS


In the 1979 Crossroads Special, one feature mentions that “It’s the little things…that make a difference to the smooth running of the show -

Like making sure that the clocks tell the correct time and that the ornaments and pictures in Meg’s sitting-room are in the same place for each episode.”

From the 1979 Crossroads Special

Now we’ve already established that I have a ‘thing’ for collecting replicas of Meg’s ornaments. You can find out about the trials and tribulations of finding one piece in particular just HERE, but there are some pieces that everyone seems to remember. Just recently I had someone ask whether I was going to add Meg’s green and white plates to my collection.

Was I?

Of course I was!

The green plates in question are actually Wedgwood “Jasperware” and they are really easy to get hold of.

Episode 1971

According to Wikipedia, HERE, “Jasperware, or jasper ware, is a type of pottery first developed by Josiah Wedgwood in the 1770s. Usually described as stoneware, it has an unglazed matte "biscuit" finish and is produced in a number of different colours, of which the most common and best known is a pale blue that has become known as Wedgwood Blue.”

“Relief decorations in contrasting colours (typically in white but also in other colours) are characteristic of jasperware, giving a cameo effect. The reliefs are produced in moulds and applied to the ware as sprigs.”

“The fired body of each piece is naturally white but usually stained with metallic oxide colors; its most common shade is pale blue, but dark blue, lilac, sage green (described as "sea-green" by Wedgwood), black, and yellow are also used, with sage green due to chromium oxide, blue to cobalt oxide, and lilac to manganese oxide, with yellow probably coming from a salt of antimony, and black from iron oxide.”

The green plates actually feature throughout the time that the sitting-room appeared in its green colour-scheme in the programme. Once the sitting room is redecorated to brown, they are understandably taken off the shelves – never to be seen again.

The plates also appear in the black and white episodes, but since they are lacking any colour it is impossible to say whether they are the same ones. Certainly the colour publicity photographs from the early 1960’s appear to show them as being pale blue, along with the walls, but this might just be an issue with the photos in question...

Pale blue or green?

But back to the 1979 Crossroads Special, and the exact placing of Meg’s ornaments.

I’ll leave you to look at the screen captures below and decide for yourself on how successful this was. Perhaps Meg just liked to move her collection around?

Episode 1304
Episode 1674
Episode 1736
Episode 1891
Episode 1900
Episode 1971
Episode 1978
The "brown" era - Plates have gone!
First surviving appearance - Episode 496
Episode 497
By Episode 1009 the collection looks a little sparse!

While we’re here…..“Everything on this simple looking set had to be meticulously planned.”
 
"RESTUARANT" - Apparently
Really?

Sunday, 17 February 2019

ROYAL SOUVENIR - REPLICA


1977 SILVER JUBILEE LOVING CUP

Now we know that Meg was partial to porcelain – I’ve already looked at various figurines in her sitting room – but in 1977 the following piece made it onto the set of the Crossroads Motel.

A 1977 Royal Stafford ‘Loving Cup’ - commemorating the Silver Jubilee. 




It appears in various places in the Sitting Room set, but mainly on the nest of tables or on top of the bureau. There isn’t really a lot to say about it if I’m completely honest, but it does look nice so I was keen to add one to the collection.


Another piece of royal memorabilia that I should also mention is the picture that appeared in reception where the “bar” used to be. Although it is sometimes thought to be a painting, it is in fact a photograph of Queen Elizabeth ll & Prince Philip in The Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle, taken by Peter Grugeon in 1975.



Again, there isn’t much to say about it – but the “Royal Portrait” is so iconic, that it has appeared in various spoofs over the years…

"Now That's What I Call Television" - Crossroads

Actually had TWO royal pictures - this one....

....and the correct one!

2018 Episode of "Endeavour" - "Passenger"


While I’m here, and I’m thinking about royal connections, perhaps I should mention the queen of soap….

It’s a title that has been claimed by many over the years, and I’m not here to argue about it –for me there can be only one.  Noele Gordon.

When Nolly left Crossroads in 1981, a magazine was published: “Goodbye Meg”. The writers knew that she was TV royalty – They described the magazine as “marking the end of Noele Gordon’s 17 year reign at the Crossroads Motel.”

Goodbye Meg

And what a ‘reign’ it was.

Across the UK, and in the Midlands especially, Noele was like royalty – visiting TV transmitters, making public appearances, opening shops and fetes, promoting charities….

Who can forget the scenes of 1975’s ‘royal wedding’ when Meg and Hugh finally tied the knot? Birmingham City Centre brought to a standstill as thousands upon thousands of well-wishers lined the streets… souvenir magazines and records for sale in the shops…

Of course, Noele was no stranger to royalty.

Opening of Broad Street Studios in 1970

In 1970, Princess Alexadra (the queen’s cousin) opened the new ATV studios at Broad Street in Birmingham. During the royal visit, Nolly performed a feinting scene – much to the amusement / bemusement of the royal guest.

Noele Gordon - Royal Variety Performance 1974

She holds the distinction of being the first female host of the Royal Variety Performance in 1974 where she met HRH The Queen Mother.

Noele Gordon and Princess Anne

She met Princess Anne at silver jubilee gala and (on another royal visit to the studios) even had to explain to Prince Phillip why an actress was dressed as a woman of “easy virtue”. Apparently, during this visit, Prince Philip told Noele that he and the queen sometimes watched Crossroads.

Ann George and Prince Philip

Understandable really – but  I wonder if the queen has a ‘Meg and Hugh’ commemorative LP in her sideboard…

Sunday, 10 February 2019

PAUL "BENNY" HENRY - WAITING AT THE CROSSROADS


ANOTHER SOAP STAR MUSIC RELEASE...  THE TRICKY SECOND SINGLE


Crossroads was no stranger to the pop-charts over the course of its original run. I have already looked at a couple of releases: Sue Nicholls’ “Where Will You Be?” and IanPatterson’s “ANDY From The Television Series CROSSROADS Singing…

Today I turn my attention to “Paul ‘Benny’ Henry – ‘Waiting at the Crossroads’”.

No really.

Paul had already had something of a minor hit with “Benny’s Theme”, a song he performed in the show circa 1977 – It was often used to accompany the storyline concerning the death of Benny’s fiancĂ©, Maureen.  “Benny’s Theme” was released by Pye Records  in 1978, and in it, Paul was accompanied by the Mayson  Glen  Orchestra . It peaked at no. 39 in the UK Singles Chart in January 1978.

The follow up was “Waiting At The Crossroads” and it was released as a 7” single around December 12th 1980.

It was the first release on the “PEL” label, and a little bit of internet searching shows they had a “varied” list of artistes in the catalogue. Okay then. Three.

P001 – Paul “Benny” Henry – Waiting at the Crossroads / Love Affair.
P002 – Bernie Winters – Financially / Give Me a Cockney Song.
P003 – Mike Reid – The Patient’s Lament / The Bedpan Song.

The record repeats the trick employed by the Theatre Royal in Norwich when advertising their pantomime as featuring “Benny” – Let’s not forget just how popular the character was with the British public in the late 1970’s / early 1980’s.

Some ‘wag’ on the internet has commented (perhaps rightly) that the catalogue number is actually “POO 1” – and therefore a damning indictment of the record itself – and to be fair – it’s not my cup of tea.

I won’t bore you with the full lyrics here, but at one point Paul, no Benny…. even sings about his little woollen hat….

Here I am
Waiting at the Crossroads
Waiting at the Crossroads of my life.

Here I am
Waiting at the Crossroads
Hoping that someday I’ll meet a wife.

I know I’m not a very smart kind of chap.
But I’ll give her all I’ve got to give.

I would even give her my little woollen hat.
If with me she’d live

What the record does have in its favour is that the music video that was filmed to accompany the release…Benny – I mean Paul – No I mean Benny – walks around Gas Street Basin in Birmingham City Centre and interacts with various stray animals. He then retraces his steps, walks through some discarded plastic spoons…. Well they look like plastic spoons…



Gas Street Basin was literally down the round from the ATV studios where Crossroads was filmed, and the basin itself was often used as a location in the series.  In the video it is looking a little tatty – and I have to say that it looks a lot better these days.

The record was produced by Johnny Franks. The Music Associate was Ted Taylor and the sound engineer was Steve Taylor. “Waiting at the Crossroads” was written by David Rome and Tony Martell. The disc was manufactured and distributed by Spartan Records.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is probably everything you ever really wanted to know about this particular record…..Except (of course) a link to watch the video online…

Sunday, 3 February 2019

VERY VERY VERY LARGE FIGURINE. DID I MENTION IT WAS LARGE?


FIGURINE FROM MEG'S BUREAU - REPLICA


Okay – THIS time I have definitely gone too far. In fact my wife says that it can’t live next to other items in my collection - on top of the piano – in case the kids’ piano teacher sees it…but what could be so awful that it cannot see the light of day?

A figurine…

Quite a large figurine….

To be exact, a 13 inch porcelain figure of a dandy with questionable proportions and a very strange taste in fashion!

The figurine itself was a long-standing part of Meg’s sitting room and its first surviving appearance is in episode 497 from November 1966. 

First surviving appearance in Episode 497

The last appearance was Episode 3005 in September 1978 – There is no reference in the story-line to its disappearance after ten years.

It last appeared in Episode 3005 - September 1978
By Episode 3023 it was gone!

The figure had survived the various different colour schemes...

Late 1960's

Early 1970's

Mid 1970's

It is marked “G Girardi – ITALY – 670” on the base.

After a little bit of online searching I believe the designer of this piece was Giovanni Girardi. There are a fair few “Girardi” figures online at the moment with similar writing on them.  According to one online source:

During the years prior to the Second World War, Sculptor and modeller Giovanni Girardi was a former collaborator and Master of Design and Painting at the Torino based 'Lenci' studio.

The factory of the “Girardi Brothers” was opened in 1945.

This figurine has been bugging me for years – I have searched and searched – online and in antique shops, junk shops and in charity shops. Yet again – and quite remarkably – it came up as a suggestion on ebay based on my previous search criteria.

Just goes to show that when it comes to collecting, you should never give up hope!

How it survived for so long is a mystery, when you consider it was so close to the edge of the set!

G. Girardi 670 ITALY