Ordinary Extraordinary

This is something a bit different to planes; I wrote this article back on 8 February 2015 at the time of actress Anne Kirkbride’s passing as a tribute that never saw the light of day. Being a Coronation Street fan, I thought it was only right to post this now.

Anne Kirkbride as Deirdre Barlow
The Late Anne Kirkbride as “Coronation Street” stalwart Deirdre Barlow

For over forty years the British public have grown up watching the trials and tribulations of an ordinary woman. An ordinary woman with an extraordinary life; the thrice married housewife (if you don’t count the fourth re-marriage to husband number 2), an eighteen-month prison sentence being wrongly accused of fraud, a passionate affair with the local “teddy-boy”, and a cantankerous mother and a cold heart murderess daughter for a family. So, for over forty years, this was an ordinary woman that we opened our hearts to, an ordinary woman we grew up with. But why?

“This is my life right here, cigarette in my hand, in a pokey little backyard, house full of people that I’ve known most of my life, eat sausage rolls and drink sherry. Might not be glamorous but it’s real.”

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Deirdre Hunt makes her Coronation Street debut with screen mum Blanche (Maggie Jones) in 1972

In 1972, nine years before I was born, a young dolly-bird named Deirdre Hunt found her way in to the fictional Manchester suburb called Weatherfield, lighting up a cigarette and using her feminine charms for a free brandy and coke. Forty-two years later that same Deirdre Barlow was near breaking point; grind down by the forthcoming trial of her stepson who was in custody for murder (he didn’t commit the crime), mum Deirdre lost her cool in her own dining room. “Jelly shouldn’t run, it should wobble.” And with that, smashing her homemade trifle against the wall, our Deirdre was gone forever. But what was it that made her such a compelling woman? Why did we take her in to our hearts during the seventies, eighties, nineties and noughties? What was it that gripped us by Deirdre? Was it her suicide attempt in 1979? Or how about her fairy-tale wedding of 1981? Maybe it was her passionate affair with her neighbour in 1983? Or who can forget her booting out her adulterous husband in the winter of 1989? Did she entice us with her Shirley Valentine love affair and subsequent ill-fated marriage to a Moroccan toy-boy by 1994? Or did she infuriate us when she got sucked in by a conman who sent her to prison in 1998? Maybe it was that penny-dropping moment when she finally realised that her evil daughter did commit murder after all in 2007? Or maybe none of the above?

“I like your potpourri in the bathroom. You don’t see much potpourri nowadays.” Deirdre said drunkenly coming down the stairs singing to Rihanna’s “We Found Love”. This is why we loved her. This is what made her compelling. She was ordinary. Living in a little terraced house, with her dry tiresome husband, worrying about the day-to-day struggles of life; “Six jobs are turning into four, so we’ve all got to reapply.” We could identify with Deirdre. We all knew a Deirdre – albeit a little less drama free – but she was there; queuing up in the post-office, doing the school run in the mornings or sipping on a G&T in the corner of the pub and having a gossip with the girls.

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Free The Weatherfield One in 1998

Above all the drama, the trials and tribulations, Deirdre brought us humanity in the most extraordinary way but nonetheless a way in which we identified. And so the time has come for us to say a final farewell to Deirdre. We thought she would live on until old age but sadly this was never to be but we’ll never forget her; slicing up ham in the corner shop where she worked during the eighties, despairing of yet another issue her daughter had brought on her “Oh Tracy-luv”. We will never know what her next pair of spectacles will be and we will never witness that happy-fair-after with her husband, Ken. But Deirdre will live on; in our hearts and minds because we believed in her and that is the testament our Deirdre gave us.

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Deirdre with her mum Blanche, daughter Tracy, husband Ken at Number 1 Coronation Street

Anne Kirkbride played Deirdre in “Coronation Street” from 1972-2014.

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