Saturday, January 19, 2008

The day I ate pie, chips and gravy with Vera Duckworth...

I was out last night so missed Vera Duckworth's passing. But I'm pleased that after 33 years, the Queen of Corrie went peacefully, slumped in her armchair, while Jack had popped to the Rovers for a swift half.

Liz Dawn - who gave us the much-loved Vera - is said to be suffering from chronic lung disease and asked to be written out of Corrie when her illness became too much to cope with the rehearsal demands in Manchester.

As Bill Tarmey who played her partner Jack said, Liz Dawn is a wonderful woman. She's also a life-long Labour supporter and I've had the absolute pleasure of meeting her a couple of times.

In 2002, I was working in the local elections in Burnley, Lancashire where we were fighting a threat from the odious and divisive BNP.

On the final weekend of campaigning, Liz generously offered to come to Burnley to meet Saturday shoppers to encourage them to use their vote to stop the BNP.

We arranged a meet just off the motorway and I accompanied her into Burnley, briefing her on the way. We were dropped just round the corner and only a short walk from the town centre, where a crowd had gathered to meet the TV star.

But just a few steps from the car, Liz had to stop to catch her breath and painfully asked 'is it much further...?'

Then, as she turned the corner, her fans spotted the star and surrounded her. In an instant, the pained expression had gone. The famous Vera smile was turned on, and the media cameras clicked away.

Pictures done, she spent time signing autographs and speaking with everyone who wanted to meet her. Then a young, rather star-struck reporter from the Burnley Express asked to interview Liz.

Liz was clearly flagging, so I suggested we found a seat in a nearby cafe and had a chat over a cuppa.

As we approached the crowded little cafe, Liz instantly perked up. Inside we managed to find a table and she was soon ordering pie, chips and gravy all round to go with the teas...

Election day in Burnley was eventful, but thankfully, the BNP were held to three seats on the local council. It was not good, but could have been much worse.

The following day, as I was driving home down the A1, my mobile phone rang and I was gobsmacked to hear Liz in the other end...

"Hiya Chuck. Liz here. Are you all right? Did we beat that nasty BNP...?"

Six years later, I met Liz again, at a glittering reception on the Corrie set at Labour Party Conference in Manchester where this snap was taken.

But as the champagne cocktails and the canapes flowed, it was clear to me that Liz, like Vera (and me!!!) would have preferred a plate of pie, chips and gravy...

Vera's gone, but I hope Liz enjoys many years of happy retirement...

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