Wednesday, December 22, 2004


This is the time of year when we should think about those less fortunate than ourselves. This year, perhaps we should consider Ken Barlow from "Coronation Street", the man for whom the phrase "most people live their lives in quiet desperation" could have been written.

Ken is the only character to have survived from the first episode of "The Street" 40-odd years ago. At that time, he was the quintessential angry young man - no doubt he'd been on the Aldermaston marches, complete with duffel coat and "Ban The Bomb" placard. Now he was back up north, however, his poncey soft southern ways were not going to cut it and he would have to learn to know his place. Since then, he has been trapped.

Ken has probably always fancied himself as a Dr Jonathan Miller type - a renaissance man who has a keen love of the arts and sciences. In the 1960's, due to the breaking down of class divisions, he would have assumed it was only a matter of time before he was hanging around gallery openings with the likes of Joan Bakewell, David Hockney and Princess Margaret. Instead, he got a job as a teacher in Weatherfield, where he will remain until he rots.

There is not much light in Ken's life - quite literally. He lives in Britain's dingiest house, where the decor has changed from khaki, to sludge, back to khaki again, and this reflects on the inhabitants. Ken's wife Deirdre is correspondingly one of Britain's most drabbly dressed women. The family all seem to want to get away from each other. Not surprisingly, as they are somewhat unpleasant people. Deirdre's mother Blanche is a poisonous old bat and the daughter Tracy is not only a bitch among bitches but what my dad would have called "a distasteful woman" (let's leave it at that).

No, there's not much for Ken to look forward to, apart from the odd performance of "The Cherry Orchard" at Weatherfield Playhouse, which will be sparsely attended and where Ken will sit, glasses held in hand in that affected manner, occasionally sweeping his hair out of his eyes and glad to be away from his appalling family, if only for a couple of hours. But he rarely grumbles. Like the middle classes he would love to be among, he bears his problems with grace - or at least until they build up to the point when he can take no more. At which point, beware, as his fury knows no bounds. His infamous "I'M BORING!" rant at Deirdre when he discovered her affair with arch nemesis Mike Baldwin must have sent people running for cover, erm, maybe.

So for Ken, this Christmas gives him a chance to reflect on all his thwarted dreams this year.

The rest of us, in real life, by comparison, have probably had it dead easy.

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