19 February 1985. What a day. The first ever episode of Eastenders was televised. Is it a coincidence that this year 19 February will be a Thursday, and that’s when they intend to answer the question, “Who killed Lucy Beale?” Ah, so maybe it wasn’t Abi Branning then?

Which of the ladies out there doesn’t love a soap opera? Come on, you can tell the truth, we’re all friends here. Ok, I’ll go first.

“My name is Susan and I am an Eastenders addict. I cannot miss an episode of Eastenders.”

I gave up on Corrie years ago, partly because I didn’t have time to keep watching it, and I stopped with Emmerdale when it Joe and Jack Sugden changing their boots for slippers when they’d come in from a hard days graft out there with the sheep. I always had a secret crush on Joe Sugden anyway, and it wasn’t the same after he left. I never did get into Brookside or Hollyoaks, although the occasional episode of Home and Away didn’t do me any harm. I seemed to miss Neighbours completely, although even I know about Scott and Charlene… Jason and Kylie.

This building was previously Bethnal Green Police Station
This building was previously Bethnal Green Police Station

Why do I like Eastenders so much then? Well, I think probably because, if ever I’m having a bad day, it makes me realise that my life just isn’t that bad. Ok, I’ve made some bad choices over the years, particularly where the male of the species is concerned, but I’ve never had a husband who murdered my ex, nor one who locked me in a basement and told my family that I’d committed suicide. Of course, I’m talking about Denise and Lucas. What a waste of a good looking man. You see, you’re beginning to feel better already aren’t you?

And I’ve never had a husband who’s shagged my son’s wife (actually, as I don’t have a son, that would be impossible, but it’s the thought that counts). That, of course, is Max and Stacey.

Then what about old James Willmott-Brown? Who remembers him? One time area manager for Luxford and Copley (the brewery that owns the Vic), he bought the Dagmar in Turpin Road and converted it into a wine bar. All was going well until Dirty Den got his villainous associates to interfere so the Dag started to fail as a business. Meanwhile back on the ranch, Willmott-Brown rapes Kathy Beale (there’s an awful lot of that rape business going on in Albert Square, I’d move if I lived there). As if that wasn’t enough, he came back three years later and tried to rekindle his “relationship” with Kathy. Now if that’s not enough to push you over the edge, so far that you end up marrying a Mitchell brother, what is? Again, I tell you, I am grateful for my life.

Houses in East London
Houses in East London

What about Sharongate? Come on, you must remember this one… Sharon and Grant were married but then she did the dirty deed with his brother Phil, to whom she is now married. Talk about keeping it in the family. Thinking about it, there aren’t too many of them who wear specs down in the square, so perhaps they all have eyesight problems and that’s why they end up with so many mismatched relationships?

Of course, I do watch other television programmes as well. I’m a big fan of NCIS with Mark Harmon (another mammoth crush) and little Hot Chocolate got me into NCIS LA. Rizzoli and Isles, Castle, The Closer, Midsomer Murders, the Inspector Alleyn Mysteries… Mm, my choices seem a trifle directional… I also love the comedies like Blackadder, Miranda and Outnumbered. In fact, I think Outnumbered was incredibly clever. If you haven’t seen it, I commend you to try to find it somewhere online or catch up. The kids actually ad libbed some of their lines when they were young, because, I suppose, children are immensely funny without meaning to be and it came across as more natural.

I love a good bit of telly and I admire screen writers. I’ve tried doing it and I find it one of the most boring processes that I have ever come across in my life. Or maybe I’m just not very good at it so I perceive it that way. It’s common sense, I suppose, but in screen writing, nothing is left to the imagination, as opposed to in a novel, when a lot isintentionally left to the imagination.

Maybe I just live an extraordinarily boring life, but I don’t have the kinds of dramas that happen in these TV shows. I have the odd bit of mugging, identity theft, a few problems with my teeth and cats and a bit of flooding under the house, but nothing really, so I like to take myself out of my own reality and put myself in someone else’s. Just for a little while, to make me realise that my problems are not that bad. Got to go now, Eastenders is just about to start.


© Susan Shirley 2015


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