I’ve learnt many things in this life, one of them being this: if you get an email from your editor asking if you’d like to join Julie Goodyear for some Corrie-related gardening, you say yes.
So, in the interests of popular culture reporting, I find myself at Stockport B&Q on a busy Saturday afternoon. This is where the Queen of the Cobbles is putting in a rare personal appearance to officially open the store’s new kitchen and bathroom showroom.
You may not automatically think ‘Bet Lynch’ when contemplating DIY. But the shop was keen to get a local personality and there is no-one more Manchester or more full of personality than Ms Goodyear.
The store had seriously gone to town with a fantastic Rovers Return set built by the staff, a leopard print wallpaper-covered shopping trolley and leopard print balloons. Among the staff, there was a real air of anticipation, including hushed whisperings of “she’s in the delivery bay, I just saw her”.
They were right. Soon the tannoy announced (to a bunch of perturbed shoppers, it has to be said) that today they were unveiling the new showroom and “Bet Lynch from Coronation Street is in Bathrooms”.
Bury’s answer to Bette Davis appeared bang on time, bedecked in leopard print and with the trademark Bet hairdo, flanked by an entourage of husband, PA and make-up lady. A true northern powerhouse, she rolled up her sleeves and got stuck in like the pro she clearly is. She even had a leopard print pen people – old school attention to detail.
Sadly, our favourite pint puller wasn’t about to get her hands dirty with a gardening demo. But she was more than happy to supervise a member of staff as well as fan Peter Hartley in stuffing plants into planters which she duly filled with filthy innuendo too saucy for Northern Soul‘s family-friendly pages. Hartley did start her off by exclaiming a plant was too big to which she replied “slide it in” He was a perfect foil.
Goodyear has had mixed press in recent years with a Marmite performance on Celebrity Big Brother and an uncomfortable but compelling appearance on Piers Morgan. Today though she was fabulous. She mingled with everyone, played with kids, had her picture taken and totally played to her strengths, seemingly oblivious to the totally bonkers situation of Bet Lynch in B&Q. It was hilarious to watch shoppers looking for paint or stopcocks taking a second look and saying, “is that Bet Lynch?”. It’s not what you expect in B&Q is it?
She drew gasps from everyone when she leapt into a bath and cocked her leg over the top for a photo opportunity. To say she knows how to work the camera is an understatement and the official photographer looked like he’d gone to heaven.
The superfans were out in force. Martyn, bedecked in an ‘Absolutely Bet’ t-shirt, proudly displayed his Deirdre Barlow leg tattoo. Goodyear had him in stitches as she told a story about a man who had Bet on his inner thigh and, when she went to sign it, his nethers popped out of his shorts.
Gerard, another huge fan, brought books from the 1980s for her to sign along with a picture of his mate dressed as Bet. “She’s so funny, really down to earth” he gushed. “We love her because she’s so dry”.
What did our heroine make of the day? “Today has been a cracking day. What a fabulous store and the staff here are amazing.”
Then, as quickly as she arrived she left, leaving shoppers scratching their heads and the rest of us feeling that any future trips to B&Q are never going to live up to this crazy afternoon. Nice kitchens too.