Former much loved ‘Coronation Street’ actress Jean Alexander (Hilda Ogden); once voted Britain’s greatest soap star, has died three days after her 90th birthday.
Ms Alexander died yesterday, having been re-admitted to hospital on her birthday, after feeling unwell. Stars of Coronation Street have paid tribute to the actress, describing her as a “legend”.
Born in Liverpool; Ms Alexander won the hearts of TV viewers here in Ireland as the sharp-tongued cleaning lady. Rarely viewed without a set of tightly-wound plastic hair curlers hidden under a headscarf; saw vast numbers of her fans tuned in daily to watch her interaction to get her ineffectual spouse, Stan Ogden [Played by Bernard Youens (born Bernard Arthur Popley)], out of the pub and into work.
An estimated 30 million viewers watched her farewell episode, when she made her decision to leave Weatherfield in 1987.
Following her exit from ‘Coronation Street’ she became a mainstay of BBC sitcom ‘Last Of The Summer Wine’; playing the part of a somewhat eccentric bric-a-brac shop proprietor known as ‘Auntie Wainwright’.
In 2005 Ms Alexander was voted ‘the greatest soap opera star of all time’. Offers to memorialise her in a statue, Ms Alexander was reported as stating, “I just couldn’t see myself stood on a pedestal cast in bronze and knowing my luck, the Southport seagulls would find me and do their worst, as they have done before – usually when I have just washed my hair.”
It is understood that Ms Alexander suffered a stroke in 2014 and had been living in a nursing home prior to her death.
“Begorrah, you’re starting early this morning Mickey”, said John, as he opened the front door of his well known licensed premises in Liberty Square, Thurles.
Mickey, darted through the open doorway, having first checked there was no one who had been watching his earlier period of loitering.
“What’s news today Mickey”, asked John, as he climbed to the far side of the bar counter. “Give us a pint of lager and a half one in a hurry”, said Mikey. “Jasus I landed on me feet yesterday, didn’t I get a job as me incapacitated father-in-law’s Carer. Sure you remember Noel Meagher, he used to drink here all the time. “Great stuff”, said John, believing that just maybe a solution to Mickey’s worrying ‘Bar Slate’ problem might be reaching a positive conclusion.
“Yea”, said Mickey, “Eight hours a day, seven days a week”, before gulping down his first pint, like a man close to critical dehydration. “So what are you doing out of work here so early, at this hour of 11.00 bells”, asked John. “Put me up another pint there”, said Mickey, positioning himself behind the wide wooden bar pillar; placing him at least out of main view of the open bar window.
“Thank God I’m finished for the day”, said Mickey, “I’m off early because unlike other people I understand that work is all about time and motion; short time and even less motion, which can be easily achieved through the performance of careful planning. If the truth was known I should be planning Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s budget, for next Tuesday.”
“Explain”, said John. Mickey took another drink from his second pint, followed by a sip from his half one. “Better still, I’ll give you an example”, said Mickey adding more water to his Paddy Power.
“Me father-in-law Noel’s visiting District Nurse told me this morning that it might be a good idea if I found time to wash the toilet bowl and groom Noel’s dirty tom cat. So what did I do to speed things up? said Mickey
“Well”, continued Mickey, “Firstly I opened the front door of Noel’s house, ensuring that there were no humans between the bathroom and that outgoing exit. Then I lifted the lid of Noel’s toilet, before adding about a 1/8th of a cup of hair shampoo to the water in the bowl. Next I picked up Noel’s tom cat and carrying him towards the bathroom; making sure of course to soothe and gently talk to him. Next with one unexpected smooth movement, I put the tom cat into the toilet and closed down the lid with lightening speed.
“Now”, said Mickey, “Here’s is a good tip well worth remembering; you may need to stand on the toilet lid”.
The cat of course, in attempting to further play, will gently self agitate the water, making ample suds; Oh and never mind the noises that come from the toilet; because from my own personal and previous experience, the cat is actually enjoying itself. Next flush the toilet at least twice. This provides for a kind of ‘power-wash and rinse effect’.”
“That accomplished”, said Mickey, “Stand well behind the toilet, as far as you can, before quickly lifting the lid. Sure the cat will rocket, screaming as cats do most nights, out of the toilet; streak through the bathroom and head for the front door; like a primary student when the school bell rings at 3.00pm; where it will quickly dry itself off.”
“Two jobs done in half the time”, said Mickey “Both the commode and Noel Meagher’s tom cat will both be sparkling clean for at least another day or two. Now that’s real planning worthy of any government Minister for Finance.”
“By the way”, said Mikey, “Would you be interested in buying half a dozen 1 litre bottles of Harpic at half price, which, as far as the Health Service Executive are aware, have found themselves shall we say, ‘Surplus to Actual Requirements’; if you know what I mean.”
I received hundreds of telephone calls today seeking an explanation as to why the doors of the Confraternity Hall, here in Thurles, Co. Tipperary, had been left wide open for the past three nights.
Following intense investigations, as always by Thurles.Info, we have learned that a serious accident occurred in the hall building at around 9.50pm on Saturday night last.
As most people locally were aware; it was ‘Karaoke Night’, for Senior Citizens on Saturday night last, in this well known venue. After a strong vocal performance by senior amateur singers, namely Alice Ryan, Micky Brennan and Pajoe Maher; latter who were all accompanied on piano by 90 year old Nancy Dowling, it became time for the much anticipated and invited guest star, ‘Ivan the Hypnotist’.
Ivan, an English speaking Russian nursing physiologist (He gave up nursing when he discovered he could make more money as an entertainer working just 3 hours each week.), much to the excitement of his doting fans, explained that he was going to put all of his audience into a deep trance. “Yes, each and every one of you and all at the same time.” promised Ivan.
It is reported that you could hear a pin drop in the Confraternity Hall, as Ivan carefully withdrew from his waistcoat pocket a large, beautiful, Victorian, gold pocket watch and chain.
“I want each of you to keep your eyes firmly focused on this watch”, said Ivan, holding the watch high above his head for all and sundry to view. Ivan began to swing the watch gently back and forth, while quietly, in a deep hypnotic voice, chanting; “Watch the watch — Watch the watch —- Watch the watch.”
The focused Senior Citizens slowly became mesmerized as the timepiece swung from left to right. Their seventy five pairs of ‘peepers’ remaining fixed firmly on the reflected stage lighting coming clearly from the gleaming surface of the gently swaying hypnotic tool.
Then, suddenly and for no obvious or apparent reason, a link on the watch chain snapped, resulting in it falling heavily to the stage floor; before bursting into hundreds of small pieces on impact.
“SHIT,” said Ivan.
Twenty five people were later removed by road and air ambulances to Limerick University Hospital, suffering from serious gas inhalation problems; where they currently remain on blanket-less trolleys. A hospital spokesperson from the Health Service Executive (HSE), has confirmed that none of the injuries are regarded as immediately life threatening.
We understand it took nine gallons of Jeyes Fluid, 10 part-time cleaners, twenty five volunteers from Thurles Civil Defence; all working over the last two days to clean up after this accident. Doors to the Confraternity Hall are expected to close tonight following an inspection today by the Health Information & Quality Authority (HIQA).
‘Ivan the Hypnotist,’ who remained, thankfully, uninjured following the accident, is not expected to be invited back to perform in Thurles again; well not in the immediate future anyway. (Well look at our last government; are not a combination of short memories and time, surely great healers?)
Monday morning saw an elderly Thurles man, Paddy Fitzsimons, preparing for his death in his bed. Paddy had persisted and defied the prophesy of his doctor the week before; latter who had announced to Paddy’s much younger wife Bridie that he, Paddy, “wouldn’t see this world past Saturday night”.
Paddy, aged 75, had been ‘heading down hill’ rapidly for some time past and had spent most of the last 10 days drifting in and out of disturbed sleep. During episodes of wakefulness his past had often flashed before him, so it came as no surprise when his nostrils appeared to signify a presence of the smell of his favourite scones, apparently wafting around his small bedroom.
Dropping back into a mild coma, Paddy again awoke some 20 minutes later; to an even stronger, fresher scone aroma. Taking a painful gulp of air through his nasal passages, deep down into his lungs, he realised this delicious smell was in fact no hallucination; rather an actual reality. He called out for several hours to his wife Bridie, but his faint vocal sounds went unheard and unanswered.
Now gathering all his remaining strength, Paddy reached out slowly and grabbed a bar on the left side of his bed; before dragging himself into a half sitting position. Resting on one elbow he eased his legs over the side of the bed. Having briefly rested from this exertion, he reached for his aluminium Zimmer Walking Frame and after several agonising attempts later; he managed to get on his feet and into an upright stance. Leaning on the frame, he began to shuffle slowly in the general direction of the nearby kitchen, in his bare feet.
Peering through old, partially misted eyes, Paddy eventually located a tray, piled high with his favourite small, baked, quick bread scones. Could he be already in heaven he thought or were these scones perhaps one final earthly act of love from a devoted wife; seeing to it that he would “shuffle off his mortal coil” a happier man? Would she be splitting and buttering these warm rich biscuits, before serving them with jam and clotted cream, as she was often wont to do on certain special occasions in the past.
With his mouth watering and believing that he was alone; Paddy steadied himself, before mustering up one final physical effort. Throwing himself towards the table’s edge, he managed to land perfectly on his knees in a somewhat crumpled state of posture beside the table. Resting for a moment Paddy reached out his trembling, withered hand; his target a scone sitting precariously on the edge of a wire cooling tray. No sooner than he had achieved this goal; from nowhere came a chastising sharp slap across the back of his bare knuckles. Same came courtesy of his wife, who had armed herself with a long handled wooden spoon.
“Feck off and leave them bloody scones alone” Bridie yelled, “There won’t be enough for your funeral.”
His inspiration had become fully formulated after Pat Tobin had read about “Miss Jenny”.
Miss Jenny, latter a London ‘girleen’, who back in the 1820’s, had made a living selling used, hand-washed Condoms; reselling them at very affordable prices to those best described at being at the lower end of the social ladder.
In 1986 Thurles native Pat Tobin, who ran a combined Grocery and Chemist business here in Liberty Square, Thurles, was ‘feeling the pinch’, financially, like so many other small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s). The controversial Health (Family Planning Amendment) Act, of 1985, which liberalised Irish law governing the sale of Condoms, to people over 18 years, had at this stage been fully enacted. This law meant that no longer had persons to visit ‘North of the Border’, or indeed present a Prescription, while attempting to purchase such personal and intimate unmentionables.
However Pat’s problem was that such sales were still somewhat limited to certain categories of places named in this Act. For Pat, the future ‘looked on the up’, again financially, following his visit to a certain Galway Tent, and after a chat with Charlie, he ‘got the nod’; yes his small pharmaceutical premises would, most definitely, be included as one of the places where such then very contentious products could be freely purchased.
[Note: This political promise now cancelled Pat’s already developed ‘Plan B’, which was to obtain Crocodile Droppings; to be imported into Ireland, from the Nile region of Egypt, under the cover of ‘Organic Fertiliser’, after he had learned that prior to the mass production of rubber; amorous ancient Egyptian women had successfully used crocodile pooh as a pessary, to avoid unwanted pregnancy.]
Based on this now promise from the very lips of ‘The Man who would be King’, Charlie himself; Pat set about obtaining a reliable supplier who would provide a product with outstanding elastic properties, and with same located; Pat ordered the minimum initial consignment of 5,000 packs.
Maybe it was a poor public telephone kiosk connection on the day, or was it a failure to fully understand Pat’s strong Tipperary brogue; either way, one week later Pat received 25,000 packs of three, arrayed in varying sizes. Pat, at the time of placing his order believed that such items would only be used on weekends, e.g. 1 for Friday night, 1 for Saturday night and 1 for Sunday night. However, due to this disastrous logistical error and aware of his existing poor finances, (not to mention the enormous cost of return postage), Pat decided it would be best to hold on to the full consignment.
To encourage massive sales, Pat set to work on a plan, deciding to boost retail trade with a careful but strong worded advert in the local Tipperary Star newspaper. Logically, Pat believed that locals known to him would be too embarrassed to purchase, so he needed to attract those less familiar customers from Tipperary’s outlying towns and villages. So, after much consideration, Pat came up with a strong wording and an enticing marketing strategy. “Condoms For Sale At Half Price – Will Be Fitted By A Blonde Female“, ran the exciting headline in the following weeks local paper.
Solitary sheep farmer and Upperchurch native, Micky Ryan, normally came down from the hills, above Thurles, once a week; usually on a Friday, to draw his State Old Age Pension entitlement and to pick up a few necessary groceries. With two Collie sheepdogs, both restrained with lengths of binder-twine and usually wearing a well patched dungarees, together with larger than required heavy Wellington boots, Micky entered the less frequented business premises of Pat Tobin & Son.
Having already read Pat’s advert in the previous weeks Tipp Star, Micky was not surprised to encounter a blonde lady in the form of Pat’s wife no less, working behind the counter; busily watering down, as was her custom, the fresh creamy milk which had been delivered a short time previously.
“Excuse me Mrs”, said Micky “Would you be the woman who fits those Condoms?”
Mrs Tobin smiled, “Indeed I am Sir, and how many will you be needing?” “None”, replied Micky loudly, “But would you be a decent girl and give your hands a good scrub, before you slice me up a quarter pound of cooked ham.”