Thursday, 5 December 2019

CROSSROADS BIBLE


CROSSROADS BIBLE - PRODUCTION OFFICE DOCUMENT 1984

Collecting is a funny old business. Often it involves paying over-the-odds on online auction sites but every so often something fantastic happens – someone gets in touch and offers you items completely free of charge, out of the goodness of their heart…. That, and the desire to de-clutter their houses.

I was contacted a couple of weeks ago by Mike at the Crossroads Appreciation Society. He had been speaking with a member of the production team, who happened to have a few items stashed away in their loft and they were looking for a safe place to keep them.  I duly sent of an email to them and after a few days I was in possession of a fair collection of items that I will be talking about over the coming weeks.

So – to today’s item….

Have you ever wondered just how old Jill was supposed to be at the start of the series? Maybe David Hunter’s political leaning is something that you’ve mused over. Perhaps you’ve wondered how far away Jill’s house, Chimneys was from the motel...?

Well I can tell you exactly …

Jill was supposedly 19 at the beginning of the series. David would probably have voted Liberal, and Chimneys was a 20 minute drive from the motel.

How do I know such trivia? Well one of the items donated to the collection was the “Bible for Crossroads (at August 1984)”

It is basically a document that was written and compiled to inform scriptwriters and the production team about the history of the show, which in 1984 stood at twenty years worth of episodes.  It was also used to cross-reference and check that details about the characters’ past were consistent – After all, there are (apparently) fans out there that memorise every significant detail about the show… and that could easily spot continuity errors…. Perish the thought.

There is a brief one-page outline of the history of the programme, concerning Meg starting up the motel business in the early 1960’s, but otherwise the references to Meg are few and far between.

Start at the beginning...

The outline page tells us that “she has been seen once since her departure, when she made a flying visit to Venice, to wish Adam and Jill well on their honeymoon.” Interestingly, I suppose, the bible doesn’t refer to Meg being a character that could never return – as Producer, Jack Barton had made clear in 1981. Indeed, in 1985 there were plans for Meg to return to the programme on a part-time basis – but alas – there is nothing contained in the document about that.

The major characters all have sections of their own. The Brownlows are grouped together, including Iris Scott until Christmas 1980, when she breaks off into her own section.

There are a few errors that I have noticed – Jill’s first husband is called John Kane, when in fact his surname in the series was “Crane”. There is also question mark over when Jill and Stan married “1970?” – in fact it was 1971. The bible states that  “Iris Scott turned up on Auntie Kath’s doorstep, desperate and broke” – and someone has written in pen that she was “taken by Police on vagrancy” – which certainly gives more detail.

One of the most interesting details concerns the “Diane Hunter” pages and it involves her son, Nicky…

“Nicky is growing up as a sturdy, bright American kid; we have never seen him (since he was two years old) but he’s now thirteen (?) and one day he might come to England… How would Di cope if she suddenly found herself with a teenage son on her hands? 

But we must not run ahead  of our story…”

Then….

“It is time she met her Mr. Right and settled down at last; she’s not getting any younger – and maybe that’s what will happen… But with Di’s luck, she’ll just be settling down to dish up the spaghetti bolognaise (her speciality – she has limited range as a cook) in her tiny kitchenette on the night he pops the question – when her long-lost American teenage son will walk in out of the blue, and ruin everything…”

Now as I’m sure you’re aware – Nicky never did re-join Diane at the motel – indeed poor Diane died in April 1987.

Di Dies - before Nicky could return!

I love the fact that the bible hints at a storyline that we never got to see come to fruition – but what an interesting story that would have been… Certainly it would be a great way of keeping the character fresh and relevant. I think programmes such as “Neighbours” manage to do this very well, which is why long-established characters like the Kennedy family continue to be involved in major storylines.

So what of the bible?

Does it matter that the history of characters is kept consistent? Yes – I think the ‘payoff’ for long-time viewers when a piece of almost-forgotten history comes back is lovely and is a great ‘reward’.

I can think of a few recent examples  where characters in currently running serials suddenly do a “U-Turn” or change their personalities overnight. There’s nothing wrong with that in principle – plenty of people go through life changing experiences in real life, but in most cases the audience are quick to pick up on anything that affects the “reality” of the shows that they have invested time in.

But here’s the thing…. There’s no way that I would have the nerve to criticise anything in the bible – even if it slightly rewrites history…as the name typed at the end of it means that it is almost gospel.  The final paragraph says this…

“That, then, is how things stand after twenty years of stories woven in and around Kings Oak, and the staff, guests, and friends of the Crossroads Motel.

Peter Ling
Hastings
Sussex”

Peter Ling! Fantastic! Shame we didn’t get to see that Di storyline though...

Peter  Ling with Noele Gordon during the early days of the show.
Early On-Screen credit for Peter Ling and Hazel Adair - 1966

Still story-lining (and writing the show) in 1985
Credited on the last episode in 1988
And again in 2001

At this point I probably should briefly mention that the 2001 series didn't strictly stick to the established continuity of the 1964-1988 series.

Perhaps they should have read the bible!


Saturday, 16 November 2019

I LOVE MY BRICK... FROM THE ORIGINAL MOTEL


BRICK FROM THE CROSSROADS MOTEL

In 1964 the producers of Crossroads were looking for a location to be the real-life setting for Crossroads. The producer, Reg Watson had filmed at Walford College in Baschurch, Shropshire on a previous television programme and knew that it would be ideal for what they needed…

The college featured a modern 1960’s extension attached to an old manor house, with a lake in the grounds and nearby cottages  that could represent the village of Kings Oak. In fact it had everything that the producers needed – it was also a short drive from the studios in Birmingham AND it even had a ready supply of extras in the form of college students.

The college from above showing the motel, Meg's house and Kings Oak village

This version of the Crossroads Motel was seen on screen between 1964 and 1981, on the night of the infamous fire. Usually a static caption of the motel was seen, but filming regularly took place throughout the 1960’s.

To celebrate 1500 episodes in 1971, Noele Gordon and Roger Tonge posed for photographs at the college.

Crossroads celebrates 1500 episodes in 1971

And here is a shot of Noele Gordon and Reg Watson at the college...



I recently found this shot of ATV filming a scene with Meg’s house in the background.

A pause between filming - Crossroads at Walford College in Baschurch

"Meg's House" today

For many years, the location was unknown to fans of the programme, but I managed to find it in 2010 and this story even made the national press.

Daily Express Covers The Story
Shropshire Star Covers The Story

I produced a video comparing the locations on-screen to how they looked in 2010. You can watch that HERE. Fast forward 9 years and the college building was finally demolished as part of a modernisation programme. Fortunately a member of staff at the college knew of my enthusiasm for CROSSROADS and managed to rescue me a brick or two.

The motel during demolition - The brick comes from the right of the doorway.

Close up section of the wall during demolition.

Sadly I haven’t got enough bricks to rebuild a replica of the motel in my garden, but in the words of Father Jack in “Father Ted”…. “I love my brick!”

I love my brick!

Walford college in 1956 as the first phase of the "modern" extension was built
As the college appeared in Crossroads throughout the 1960's and 1970's


The same entrance in 2010

During demolition in 2019
Shropshire Star report on the demolition of the "chalet" block in 2010

Shropshire Star - Memories of filming at Baschurch
Production Schedule from 1965 showing various locations around the college and Baschurch village
Autographs of stars that filmed at the college in July 1965
Noele Gordon at Walford College, Baschurch - Filming Location for Crossroads



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?