Ashley Peacock just put himself in the ranks of splendid curmudgeons of Weatherfield. In a kitchen table scene Tuesday, Claire and her mother extolled the virtues of living in France. He listened to the advantages of bilingualism for the boys, then said what he really really thought when they talked about the possibility of him continuing to work in the meat business in France.
He argued that French butchers would not welcome him setting up shop in their midst and “it’s all union over there.” “When it comes to meat, trade over there never forgot what them farmers did to our sheep.” “That happened 20 years ago,” Claire said in reference to the 1990s diseased sheep and cattle tragedy and ban on British meat. “Some things you never forget,” he pointed out.
Claire’s mother said that the village where she lives is filled with British ex-pats who share his views and that “you’ll have them queuing all the way to Paris.” “Little Englanders” Claire said they called them. English people who shared Ashley’s world view, living happily away from English soil. No, not having any of it was Ashley. And this was when he truly joined the pantheon of unforgettable and timeless Street men.
He got red of face as he said, “If being a Little Englander means proper weather, proper ale, proper footie, proper – I don’t know, you name it – then I’m guilty as charged. Now I’m off to Rovers for a nice pint of warm ale and a plate of Betty’s Best of British hotpot.”
It was like seeing his father when Fred was being the quintessential “English butcher” in attitude. Stan Ogden, Albert Tatlock, Ken Barlow’s dad – the proud Englishmen I’ve seen in video episodes of the early years when men would pronounce on what was right with England and wrong with everywhere else.
It’s ironic that this episode, broadcast in the UK in October 2010, aired 10 months later in Canada on same day as Salford and Manchester were going up in smoke. The riots that started the weekend before in London spread north. Young rioters smashing windows, firebombing cars and buildings, looting stores. I heard a CBC radio news interview on the street with a young fellow in Manchester. Everybody’s doing it, he said, so he had just joined in. Wonder what Ashley – and Albert Tatlock – would have to say about that.