Sunday, 10 April 2011

Corrie at 50! The musings of Mavis -Remembering Thelma Barlow.

Over the course of the past half decade Coronation Street has delighted in serving up some of the greatest double acts ever to grace the small screen. Mavis Wilton (nee Riley) was one half of the funniest and warmest double acts during the Street's past fifty years. I am of course referring to that Of Mavis Riley and Rita Fairclough. I pay homage to the great Thelma Barlow whom, as Mavis, made dithering a well inspired art form!

Although born in Weatherfield, Mavis was brought up in Grange-Over-Sands where her parents, despite being tee-total, ran an off licence. Mavis first appeared in the Street in 1971 at Emily Nugent and Ernest Bishop's engagement party as a friend and colleague of Emily's from the mail order warehouse. Mavis was later a bridesmaid at Emily and Ernest's wedding. She was later to secure jobs at the local vets as a receptionist and the corner shop, but a more lasting job came when she was hired by Rita Littlewood to work at The Kabin newsagents at 14 Rosamund Street (around the corner from Coronation Street itself). Mavis and Rita were complete opposites - Rita, sexy and self assured, Mavis mouse-like and dowdy - but they worked together very well and a genuine bond of love and affection was formed between them. And one of the greatest Coronation Street double-acts was born. Rita often despaired at the wrong choices Mavis made in life, particularly when it came to men, and outsiders might have thought that Rita bullied her; in reality, Rita was only looking out for her.

In 1983, the unspeakable happened when not one but two men wanted to marry her. She wanted both of them, but had to choose between Victor Pendlebury or Derek Wilton. In the end she choose Derek, but jilted him at the altar as she wasn't convinced of the strength of her feelings for him. Her guilt at having done this turned to indignation when she learned that Derek had jilted her too, as he felt the same.

However, Mavis decided Derek was the man for her, after she found that he indeed did have functional XY Chromosomes. When Mavis finally said "I do" to him in September 1988, she meant it. Her marriage to Derek was a surrealist one - the other residents of Coronation Street looked upon them as something of a joke, but neither cared as they had each other. They would spend evenings reading aloud to each other reading the newspapers and discussing the events of the day. Their happiness was cut short in 1997 when Derek died suddenly. Mavis was quick to hit out at his funeral, at the people who had considered them a joke, saying that they had loved each other and that was all that mattered.

Mavis surprised Rita when she suggested that they should go into business together. They discussed the possibility of running a guest house in Cartmel, a town in the Lake District. Rita went along with this for a while, but both realised it was a bad idea - as Rita said "We'd end up throttling each other before t'week were out." Mavis went ahead with the idea, bought the guest house, and Mavis and Rita had an emotional farewell, ending a partnership of 25 years.

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