Her comedy runs through me thicker than the writing in a stick of cigarette shaped rock. Earlier today, I saw some green moss forming at the top of our steps, and said to the BF: "we'll have to have a go at that with the Jeyes Fluid," which isn't one of her lines, but sounds like it could be. Her language was precise, and elegant, and infinitely quotable. Get a few gay men of a certain age round a pub table and the lines will start to drift in. "You've a look of Eva Braun - did you know?" ... "I said, excuse me, I was wearing leather shorts before George Foreman had a ukulele" ... "So I leant over - tapped her on the cleavage with a pastry fork"... "Emotional farewells, dear; they take more out of you than a hysterectomy" ... Mention Urmston and get told there's two ways to get there. Go to post a letter and mentally hear "walk, walk, walk to the pillar box". Spot Peter Barlow on Coronation Street and complain about when he went "off up to Scotland. Coming back after twenty years without so much as a Scottish accent." (It can get tiring). And that's without mentioning her Great Railway Journey, "Crewe to Crewe", where she traveled on the Caledonian Sleeper and went to Whitby and Battersby and Carnforth and basically did this blog, only better.
Her death upset me because I realised I'd never get to meet her and tell her just how much she meant to me. How her funny, clever, sad, heartbreaking words filled me up and made me happy year after year after year. I wanted her to know that. I think a lot of people wanted her to know that. I hope she did know that.
The reason I'm bringing all this up isn't just a belated obituary. Her passing prompted the excellent Network to release a box set, Wood Work, which collected together her work for ITV. It's largely her very early stuff, before As Seen On TV, when she was still trying out her voice and her style. There's Wood and Walters, her first sketch show, hamstrung by a deathly silent audience and co-stars who are very much not Duncan Preston and Celia Imrie. There's also Screenplays, a collection of her three one-off plays: Talent, Nearly A Happy Ending, and Happy Since I Met You. It's the last one that brings me to something resembling a point: the final scene is filmed in Manchester Victoria's buffet, and it was instantly recognisable.
That blue and white marble is still there, now scrubbed up of course. The tables are a little classier, now it's a craft beer emporium, but it's still definitely the same. The same can't be said for the view in the other direction.
It's like a film with Albert Finney. The big empty space outside, now filled in with the Cheetham School of Music. Station Approach actually in use as a road, rather than as a pedestrianised route for the Arena. Low buildings and mist. Then that big radiator and the plastic dinner hall chairs. This is the cafe part of the refreshment rooms, a Pumpkin when I visited back in 2014, prior to the station being refurbished with its not actually meant to be collapsible roof. The 1981 version is very, very British Rail:
I'm fascinated by the pork pie salad - was it really anything more than a Melton Mowbray on a pile of lettuce? It cost 94p, anyway, a very Ministry of Works price. Fruit juices were 24p, and a cup of tea was 16p. I like the cafeteria from a retro, nostalgia, good old days perspective, but that doesn't hide the fact that this modernist canteen had no place in that glorious marble buffet.
There's also an earlier scene where Julie Walters is out on the station platform and it gives a glimpse of what Victoria looked like pre-Arena, pre-teflon roof.
At least, I assume it's Victoria; it looks so different - there are only six platforms now, for a start. The next departure is for Wigan Wallgate, so it does seem to be right. But then Julie goes down some steps which lead to a subway, a bit like at Stockport.
That building behind the man staring at the camera doesn't seem to exist in present-day Victoria either. Any railway experts want to confirm? (Incidentally I always hated those red phone boxes with the big pane of glass).
Manchester Victoria was linked to the late great Ms Wood one final time in June, when Sue Devaney hosted a celebration of her life there. There were songs and quotes and people dressed up in berets (something I have never done, and I never will). I didn't go because, well, did I mention the people in the berets? But also because I think I'd have found it way too sad. For a day it became Manchester Victoria Wood station, and frankly they should have kept it that way. She was a legend, and I'm sorry she's gone.
Yes, definitely Victoria. The subway was the only way to get to the island platforms on the through lines. 12 and 13 was the first island, with 14 and 15 beyond, and then 16 at the back. All this was swept away. In the shot on 12 the platform you can see in the background is 11, now platform 3.
Historically, 11 was the platform that extended westwards into Exchange station, but that was long gone when I arrived in 1980.
I think it's Chetham School of Music.
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