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Goodbye Gran: Edna Doré Passes Away At 92

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She may have been ninety two years old but it was still a shock to hear about the sad passing of actress Edna Doré  who died peacefully in her sleep just before Easter. Those who knew the Kent-born actress have revealed that she was as tough and as fun as the characters she was known for playing, and to her audience, she gave the impression who would live forever. And through her vast amount of acting work on stage, screen and radio, she will.

In Open All Hours

In Open All Hours

Born Edna Lillian Gorring,  Doré entered the world of showbiz as a dancer in the 1940s. After a long and successful career in theatre, she then turned to television acting in 1960 while still continuing to act in theatre. Over the years the actress had roles in many well known TV shows such as The Liver Birds, Tenko, Terry and June, Open All Hours, The Bill, Casualty, A Year In Provence, Love Hurts, Eyes Down, and Gavin and Stacey. And that’s not even a fraction of the talented actress’s work!

In Eastenders with Pat Coombs

In Eastenders with Pat Coombs

 

However for many, Doré  will always be best known for her role in Eastenders as Mo Butcher, Frank Butcher’s battle-axe mother who really knew how to put the fear of God into her family. This was the first time I’d seen Doré on screen and she played Mo from 1988 until 1990 and funnily enough, she’d trained to be an actress along with the late Anna Wing, who played the legendary Lou Beale. A harsh, bad tempered, old lady with an intense hatred for her daughter-in-law, Pat, not to mention a dislike for her grandson Ricky’s Asian girlfriend, Shireen, Mo was initially not a likeable character.

Even though I was only a little girl at the time, I knew that Mo was not a nice lady, and she was often horrid to Pat – I remember Mo once giving Pat a whack across her face. However, after a while, Mo started to soften a little; she was less sharp although she never lost her toughness. She was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and went to live with her daughter, thus marking Doré’s departure  from the show. The character eventually died off-screen in 1992. It was a storyline for which Doré received acclaim and prior to this, she had also played another character suffering from Alzheimer’s, Mrs. Bender in Mike Leigh’s 1988 film, High Hopes.

As Eastenders' Mo Butcher

As Eastenders’ Mo Butcher

 

Doré went on to star in other films including Nil By Mouth, Tube Tales, Weak At Denise and All Or Nothing and also acted in radio, performing in a number of plays, one of which, Bringing Eddie Home by John Peacock featured ex-EastEnders actors Bill Treacher, Tilly Vosburgh, Todd Carty and Joe Absolom. It seems as though there wasn’t anything that this talented lady couldn’t do.

 

One of her roles which I don’t think is spoken of enough, is her role as Gran in the 1980s BBC comedy series Streets Apart, written by Adrienne Conway. Once again Doré played a tough-talking, no-nonsense lady who did as she pleased but was definitely more likeable than Mo Butcher. Gran raised her granddaughter Sylvia from the time she was a little girl, and even though Sylvia went on to become a huge success as a literary agent and moved a world away from her East End roots, the two characters have a very special bond, despite the differences, which is lovely to see. In fact, it is these very differences between Gran and Sylvia which created a lot of the humour in the show: Gran is very feisty and direct with absolutely no heirs and graces and her antics often annoy or embarrass Sylvia. To most people, Edna Doré will always be Mo Butcher, But to me, she will also always be Gran from Streets Apart. And if ever I’m fortunate to be a gran, I know exactly what kind of gran I’d like to be – a very mischievous one with a great sense of fun!

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Her personal life seemed to be as successful as her professional life. Doré married  the actor, stage director and writer Alexander Doré in 1946 and they remained married until Alexander’s death in 2002 – a feat virtually unheard of in today’s showbiz world. The marriage produced a son, Michael and Edna later became a grandmother of four.

A young Edna Dore

A young Edna Dore

Edna Doré’s agent, Belinda Wright paid tribute to the actress, saying, “I’d known her for more than 30 years and she was a wonderful actress and great fun.”

Paul O’Grady, her co-star in BBC sit-com Eyes Down, also paid tribute, describing Doré as “a remarkable lady” and “a bundle of fun.”

“We got sent home from rehearsals one day for laughing,” began Paul, “I won’t tell you why but Edna said: ‘In my 70 years in the business, I’ve never been sent out of rehearsals’.

“She had a remarkable career. She might be gone but she’s not forgotten by me. I had a ball with Edna, what a laugh she was.”

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Those of us who were not fortunate to have met her can believe that because her sense of fun came through in many of the roles she played. What a lovely way in which to remember her.

Rest in peace, Edna.

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Posted by on April 27, 2014 in Gone Too Soon

 

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Kinder Surprise: The Hidden Surprise Heston Did Not Think Of!

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Also available as a pack of three

Also available as a pack of three

It’s Easter – a time for all things chocolate and egg-shaped! As there were four of us kids when we were growing up, you couldn’t move in our house for all the Easter eggs that were cluttering up our house. But of course they would never last long because we could easily demolish that bumper supply in record time! I look around now and how much chocolate do we have? One chocolate bunny and four mini eggs which have barely been touched. I must be getting old!

But just last week a colleague inadvertently brought up another childhood memory of the egg-shaped variety when he mentioned that he had bought a pack of Kinder Bueno to snack on. I immediately thought back to when sis and I were at infant school and Dad would always come home with a Kinder Surprise for us. At first it was just the one but it soon became obvious that we were not going to share, so Dad eventually saw sense and would buy us one each.

Is that a surprise I see..?

Is that a surprise I see..?

Kinder Surprise – the stuff little kids dreams are made of! First made in Italy in 1973 by Ferrero, A Kinder Surprise is a hollow egg-shaped chocolate shell, about the same size as a regular egg. The shell is made up of two types of chocolate – scrummy milk chocolate on the outside and delicious white chocolate inside.

Contrasting chocolate egg with toy

Contrasting chocolate egg with toy

The two halves of the egg are fused together so it looks like a whole egg but with a little light pressure, the egg will split to reveal the hidden surprise – a plastic capsule which contains a small toy which is usually made of plastic and usually needs assembling. And in case you haven’t guessed, it’s primarily meant for kids!

But that didn’t stop me from heading out to the supermarket in search of this forgotten gem. Unlike a lot of things from my childhood, Kinder Surprise has not been obliterated and it is still very much alive and well! I picked up one for me and Hubby – and was amazed when on presenting it to him, he had absolutely no idea what it was!

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I later found out that this is because the sale of Kinder eggs in the States was prohibited due to a 1938 act banned the sale of sweets which had a toy or trinket in it. This was further enforced in 2012 as the toy part was considered a hazard for small children. So poor Hubby missed out as a child! Not that he was particularly impressed with it now – it was me who was jumping up and down all excited!

I don’t believe it’s changed very much since I was a child. The foil wrapper still uses the same colours. The only difference being that my wrapper contained an image of a Disney princess thus giving a clue as to what was inside. Also the plastic capsule is no longer in two parts. Instead it is now a single piece of plastic with a hinge on one side – and extremely difficult to open!

Cinderella - courtesy of Kinder Surprise

Cinderella – courtesy of Kinder Surprise

I thoroughly enjoyed my little trip down memory lane. I even took the Cinderella figure I’d assembled in to work the next day and was asked when I was going to turn twelve!

“Don’t you mean six?” laughed another colleague.
“Oh my gosh, is that thing plastic?” asked another colleague as he examined the figure before shaking his head and walking off. Well I’m sorry but Kinder Surprise have yet to include miniature Royal Doulton figures in their toy capsules!

And six years old or not – I’ll most definitely be buying them again!

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Video

Duty Free: The Total Comedy Package

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TV Show: Duty Free

Genre: Sit-com

Plot: Two couples meet on Spanish package holiday – and an extra-marital fling begins with comic results.

Series: Three plus Christmas special

Made by: Yorkshire Television. Although the show was set in Spain, it was filmed  in a Leeds studio. Only in the concluding Christmas special were some scenes filmed on location in Spain.

Ran from: 1984-1986

Written by: Eric Chappell and his secretary Jean Warr. Chappell is also the mastermind behind Rising Damp, Only When I Laugh, Home To Roost  and many other hit sitcoms.

Starred: Keith Barron as David Pearce

Gwen Taylor as Amy Pearce

Neil Stacy as Robert Cochrane

Joanna Van Gyseghem as Linda Cochrane

The late Carlos Douglas made reccurring appearances as Carlos the waiter, while Mind Your Language regulars George Camiller and Juan Ramirez also made appearances. Special guests Frazer Hines from Emmerdale Farm and TV prsenter Judith Chalmers – two well known faces in 1980s Britain – appeared as themselves.

Carlos Douglas as Carlos the waiter

Carlos Douglas as Carlos the waiter

 

I have often thought about Duty Free over the years, so I was extremely excited when I finally got a chance to view all three series once again. The first time I watched it was when it was broadcast for the very first time in the ’80s. The second time I saw it was just a few weeks ago when I was well into adulthood. Wow, a gap of thirty years! If that doesn’t make you feel old, I don’t know what will! I have no idea why I waited so long to view the show again but I was amazed that my old and often forgetful head, managed to remember so many scenes. Incidentally, I have no idea why a child of infant school age was allowed to watch a sit-com about randy Brits abroad – and it seems as though I’m not the only one. A look at forums indicates that for many, this was compulsive family entertainment. Yeah – if you say so! Funnily enough, I don’t actually remember watching this with my family. As I recall, my mum was usually in the kitchen getting Dad’s dinner ready while he’d be on his way home from work. So I was actually watching it by myself.

 

Illicit lovers David and Linda

Illicit lovers David and Linda

 

And the story goes like this…

Two British married couples – The Pearces and The Cochrans – meet at the hotel they are holidaying at in Spain and begin socialising together. In each of the two marriages, there appears to be an air of discontentment with one half of each pairing yearning for something more from life. Robert is an ultra-English, pompous xenophobe who stifles his elegant and free-spirited wife Linda, who in turn is keen to break free of the restraints that Robert has imposed on her. While over at the Pearces, Amy is quite happy with her lot in life and is determined to make the most of it. David, on the other hand, crushed at being made redundant, seems bored and frustrated with life and is searching for something new and exciting.

It’s no wonder that David and Linda feel drawn to each other and they begin an affair. The recurrent plot involves the illicit lovers trying to escape their respective partners so that they can be alone together – and at one point attempting to run away together after their affair has been discovered – and being thwarted every time. Carlos the waiter often finds himself somehow involved in the foursome’s shenanigans.

A touch of class

When it came to social class, the two couples are poles apart: The Pearces are working-class northern socialists who are having to make ends meet after David’s redundancy (they spent David’s redundancy money on the package holiday)  while the Cochrans are affluent, well-travelled, well-cultured middle class Conservatives –  evident from their accents, their pursuits, and their political beliefs. The issue of David’s unemployment is quite a topical touch because as much as I get misty-eyed about my childhood years, those who were old enough to remember would know that unemployment was rife in the ’80s with many people being made redundant and finding it difficult to get work.

What makes David different from the other characters, is that while they are all content with their class status, David seems quite embarrassed by his, much to Amy’s annoyance. And David’s discomfort is further emphasised upon meeting the Cochranes and he desperately tries to reinvent himself and make himself appear more affluent and more cultured than he really is – although part of the reason for this reinvention is to woo Linda. It is Robert who realises that David isn’t quite who he says he is – and he gathers most of this information by looking at David’s tatty style of dressing and his one pair of shoes – not realising that the one pair of shoes is because Amy forgot to pack the others! The episode where Judith Chalmers and the Wish You Were Here team (another blast from the past!) arrive at the resort to film an episode of the hit travel show, produces much hilarity as David, desperate to impress as usual, drops his voice to appear more middle-class, while a furious Amy really plays up those northern vowels!

My memories – old and new!

Even at a very young age, I knew that David and Linda were very ‘naughty people’ and that David wasn’t very nice to Amy. I can now see that David was attracted to Linda because she was vibrant, exciting and glamorous, while Amy was too homely and mumsy. The way she fussed over David anyone would think she was his mother rather than his wife! And Linda was attracted to David because of the fanciful picture that he’s painted of himself in order to make himself look more dashing and cultured. And of course he was a huge improvement on boring Robert!

However that’s not to say that Amy isn’t also quite attractive. In fact by the time we reach the more final series, she becomes better looking  thanks to a new hairdo and wardrobe. Not only that but she’s extremely strong, feisty and gutsy. Many women would have walked out on their marriage as soon as hubby started playing away – but not Amy. She’s determined to fight for her marriage and proves to be more than a match for simpering, sappy Linda. Quite frankly, Amy can do a lot better than a weak man like David so I have no idea why she would want to hang on to him but the song Amy performs at the talent show in the final ever episode where she sings about not being able to help loving someone says it all.

An excited Amy and Linda get to meet Frazer Hines

An excited Amy and Linda get to meet Frazer Hines

 

I was amazed by just how much I remembered since the first time I watched Duty Free: The scene where Amy hurriedly stuffs an illicit note from Frazier Hines asking her to meet him in secret in her mouth and pretends she’s chewing on caramel; David sneaking into Linda’s room while she is sleeping and asking if she would like an ice-cream – only to find that he has woken a hysterical stranger as Amy very cunningly swapped room tags; the characters taking part in a talent show. But my favourite scene of all has to be from the very first episode when an irritated Amy shoves Linda into the fountain while attempting to take her photo. It was only when I watched the episode the second time, I saw that Amy had actually done it deliberately – and who could blame her?  A classic moment!

Amy and David Pearce

Amy and David Pearce

 

The humour was based on the same type of Fawlty Towers farce with lots of hiding in cupboards; sneaking down hallways; stashing incriminating evidence; coming up with the most outrageous lies in order to cover tracks… but for reasons I cannot understand, it hasn’t really stood the test of time. General opinion seems to be that it’s dated and unfunny. Dated, well that’s a matter of opinion (although it was thirty years ago so it’s never going to seem current!) but anyone who thinks it’s unfunny needs to listen to Amy’s one-liners. She had some classic howlers and Taylor’s delivery and timing was impeccable. There are however some questions which were never really answered: did David and Linda have a full-blown affair or did it never go beyond illicit snogs and holding hands? Was it true love or just lust? Was David’s marriage to Amy really over – or was this just a mid-life crisis? And why on earth did this couple continue to socialise together even after the affair was uncovered?

The fab four!

The fab four!

I’m also amazed that a show which featured the same holiday romance in the same holiday resort with the same holiday makers lasted three seasons! The second series picked up exactly where the first left off but what I liked about the third series was that it began a year after the holiday makers returned home and viewers get a glimpse of Amy and David’s life away from Spain. I remembered the first series much better than I remembered the other two so it was great to catch up. I don’t think I’ll leave it until another three decades before I watch Duty Free again and I am determined to see the Christmas special which I can recall ever so slightly. Whatever people may think about this comedy series, it will always have fond memories of it.

 

 

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Posted by on April 8, 2014 in Comedy Shows

 

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