Coronation Street is currently being repeated on ITV3 with two episodes in the afternoon. It has now reached Christmas 1992.

The pleasure of watching these old episodes is not just the understated humour or the welcome slip into barely disguised double entendres but the emphasis placed on character.

Instead the modern day drama concentrates on plot.

Who next will contract a physical or mental disease pulled from the deepest pages of a medical dictionary; or a crime committed usually found when watching one of the darker detective series?

Soap operas as we once knew them were welcome escapism from a day at work and to enjoy with the family over tea, or dinner.

I find myself complaining at the TV – bring back Reg Holdsworth, the Machiavellian supermarket manager who outside work became the sleazy and sometime charming man about town, who would beguile any female that took his fancy and just as valiantly fail.

Where have the Wiltons gone? Both in dressing gowns the under-achieving middle-management Derek brought the aspirational lower middle class Mavis a cup of hot cocoa at bedtime only for a brick to come crashing through the window of the wrong house, their house.

And Jack and Vera Duckworth who seem to spend their entire married life arguing but as we all know love each other to the ends of the earth.

I could go on but must mention the very lovely Racquel who last week was the subject of a kindly wind-up from Des Barnes and Jim MacDonald who persuaded her that the ‘OG’ against her footballer boyfriend’s name in the paper was a very special goal, one he had scored all by himself, without the help of his team-mates.

Then of course there is ex-Army cook Percy Sugden and sporting the most colourful tinted hair, Phyllis Pearce. Both quite wooden but often spoke a great deal of common sense, railling against the extremes of the modern world.

I never quite ‘got’ Bet Gilroy nee Lynch but watching these old episodes I realise what a wonderful character she was and how she held the series together.

It may be a few months yet but I can’t wait for characters like the local master butcher Fred Elliott – I say Fred Elliott – to appear. This is a pleasure yet to come.

Along with the introduction of Roy Cropper who kept the keys to his flat on a long piece of string which was attached to the insides of his rather old maid type shopping bag.

I am reminded of Brian Chivers who was in the same class as me at secondary school.

He lost so many expensive fountain pens his mother attached the latest one to the inside of his blazer with a piece of strong. One day he pulled on the string and there at the other end was the top to his pen; the working, bottom part had disappeared into the same vacuum in space as all the others.

You may ask what my reveries on old episodes of Coronation Street are doing in my blog on Hertford.

Many factions in Hertford have never left the safety of their memory of how the town used to be and how they wish it was to this day. They oppose change for the sake of opposing change; meanwhile the world outside carries on without them. What is left is a town with no soul, no shops and very little else to recommend it.

I once had to explain to a bemused visitor seeking Hertford Castle that he had just left the Castle grounds unaware that the ‘Castle’ is really just the gatehouse as restored by Henry XIII. He had travelled many a mile to be so disappointed.

I am reminded of Jim Dixon the anti-hero of Kingsley Amis’ novel Lucky Jim. He is coerced by his superior to deliver his lecture on the subject of Merrie England. Just in time Dixon comes to his senses – Merrie England never existed. It is an invention of people who still live there in their minds.

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By John Barber

John Barber was born in London at the height of the UK Post War baby boom. He had careers in Advertising, International Banking and the Wine Industry before becoming Town Centre Manager in his home town of Hertford. He has been writing professionally since 1996 when he began to contribute articles to magazines on social and local history. His first published book in 2002 was a non-fiction work entitled The Camden Town Murder, a hitherto unsolved murder case from 1907.