Thursday, February 21, 2008

Vera Duckworth - an appreciation

I should have written this weeks ago, but just like Legoland the Elf felt when Gandalf Mithrandir Stormcrow the Grey-White was swallowed up by Moria's fiery hole, the grief was just too near for me. (Moria being a mine for dwarves, not a lady called Moria.)

As I mentioned previously, it's all down to the sad passing of Corn Nation Street icon Vera Duckegg - seamstress, bingo-goer, fishwife, gobby cow, pub landlady, rasher-frier, mother to an ungreateful Terry, wife to a henpecked Jack. She will be missed by all, particularly viewers who were hard of hearing and could seldom make out what anyone else was saying.

Like Sally Fletcher, I grew up with Vera Duckegg. But whereas Sally was like the little sister I never had, Vera was like the battleaxe my mother never was. She was part of a proud Corn Nation Street tradition of brassy lady characters with a voice like a braying donkey and a fiery temper that would strip the fur off a badger, and she leaves behind a fine apprentice in the hatchet-faced Janice Battersburger who melts aluminium window frames by licking them once with her forked tongue.

For years, Vera worked for Mike Baldwin - also deceased - and it was around this time that I came to know her. Her life back then mainly revolved around getting into trouble at work, getting fired from work, getting re-hired after some grovelling, removing the face and limbs of anyone that looked crooked at her, throwing out Jack's tea when he didn't come home in time for it and making copious use of the words 'cock' and 'tit'.

As in: "Aw-rah cock, I'm going down tit Rovers." Or when angry: "Ere yow, I'm going down tit Rovers! Ta-ra cock."

Vera's life was one of struggle to make ends meet. That and enduring embarrassment at having the initials VD.
On top of poor finances, she also had to put up with having a son nasty called Terry who on top of being a proper bastard and trouble-maker, was strangely swarthy and Italian-looking so was clearly someone else's child as well. Terry's pal was the dim-witted Curly Squats, the son Vera wished she had instead of the one who wasn't hers but she had to tolerate anyway. Curly, who like a black dog called 'Snowball' actually had straight hair, was in the show for seventeen years without doing anything else other than collect bins and play glumly with his telescope in the loft until Terry robbed it and sold it for beer that he drank with the other cocks, down tit Rovers.

It all changed for the better though when the Duckeggs gazumped Elizabeth and her husband Bug Jum McDonald for the licence to run tit Rovers. Bug Jum was a Northern Irish character sympathetically treated by the script writers in that he was an alcoholic womaniser and jailbird who took murderous, temple-bursting rages at the drop of a hat, watched videos of leggy women in stilettos standing on small rodents and who once beat the shit out of himself because there was nobody else around.

The Duckeggs securing the running of tit Rovers brought financial security for the first time in their lives, clearly evidenced by Jack being able to afford glasses that weren't held together with a band aid. However, it all came tumbling down with some dodgy deal or other and Vera and Jack were plunged back into poverty, which suited the script writers perfectly because they hadn't a clue what to do with a Jack and Vera that actually had money.

And lo, the last years of their lives were played out in front of the telly, scrimping and saving as before, taking in another dim-witted lodger called Fermanagh and his dog Harmonica. A tense time for all came when Jack had a heart attack but like all soap characters with coronary difficulties, he ate salad and drank tomato juice down tit Rovers for about a week and then went back to guzzling beer and eating fry-ups with no adverse effects. His failure to win on the horses, even once in 45 years of daily visits to the bookies, never took a toll either.

Over the years, Vera and Jack's sex life was never exactly racy. In fact there was no hint of sexual relations between them at all (giving further credence to doubts over Terry's origins) until an episode in the late 90s when Vera had too much to drink and got amorous with a very reluctant Jack. It was the sort of high comedy that tips Ore Jewleean head-first into a boiling bucket of multiple orgasms, as poor Jack trudged up the stairs for begrudging coitus with his wife, right before the mournful closing credits rolled. This sex session clearly took alot out of them both because it was on their 50th Anniversary some years later that they next attempted to make love, in a garden shed at Fermanagh's allotment, where Jack had taken to going to read the paper in peace while pretending to grow carrots. Alas, not even the prospect of open-air fornication could stir Jack to action, and Vera's back was annoying her as well, so they both decided they were past it and cheerfully agreed that there should never be any affection between them ever again.

This had echoes in their final scene together some weeks ago when a sentimental Vera told Jack she loved him and asked him to say it back, but the gravel-voiced husband, uncomfortable with the dirty rags of intimacy as it were, just ignored her and went down tit Rovers instead. He came back faithfully on time for his tea to find that Vera had seemingly fallen asleep in her chair, and the cold, clammy feel of her hand told him everything he needed to know - either she'd got her arm stuck while stuffing a chicken again, or she had popped her clogs. Subsequent investigation confirmed the latter.

Vera was dead. Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.

13 moos and woofs:

Thriftcriminal said...

I'm a bit hung-over this morning, causing the picture of Vera to briefly appear to float free of the screen in front of me. I thought it was going to attack me and got a bit distressed.

Terence McDanger said...

Personally, when I stare at it for a long time I can see the face of Jesus.

Then again, I have been licking multi-coloured frogs down the woods again.

Susan said...

A 75-yoyo wok AND a television? Look who's living the posh life, must be EAST Cavan you're in...

I mainly dropped in to tell you there's a new paying market listed at duotrope, looking for humour if you're interested:

Get paid for it McDanger--you've got that wok to pay off you know.

Baino said...

Haha . .I have no idea what you're talking about but Kudos for being a Home and Away fan (although it's always been Neighbour's poor relation). Don't you fret pet, there will be reruns a plenty! Now, I'm off tut pub with me flat cap and a bike!

Terence McDanger said...

Baino it's off TIT pub. We must strive for accuracy when we're taking the piss.

As for being a home and away fan, I wasn't really. I just have three sisters and now live with a woman. Nuff said.

Wait till I get going about fucking Blind Date with Cilla Black. Oh Jesus.

K8 the Gr8 said...

Your eulogy brings a tear to my eye, I have missed Conyournation st. so much since I lost out on cable! Now that Vera's gone I'm just a mess, it's like there's nothing to look forward too any more. Except Martin King of course...

Terence McDanger said...

Ah K8! T'is yourself! I have heard so much about you. You'll be pleased to learn that your heavily bearded Dad (everyone else's grandad, weird for you I'm sure) thinks you're the absolute shit! Honestly, he never stops going on about you, so it's nice to make your acquaintance.

I shall look back at this tomorrow, when I'm sober, and be embarrassed but also just a little proud at having the commitment to quality and presence of mind not to ignore the many typos I made typing this. I'm not so sure I've got acquaintance right but I'm going to live on the edge and wing it a bit. Fuck it sure, it's Saturday night.

That will be all. Taknhs for sotppnig by!

Terence McDanger said...

Yes, yes, as predicted, I'm mortified. Drink should be banned.

K8 the Gr8 said...

Dude! Don't say that! I know they say that drunken blogging/commenting is a mistake but I've no idea why. There have been perfectly cromulent words invented on the basis of a drunken typo!

I LOVE the way you write :)
(And that your word verification has the word 'NUTZ' in it.)

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