Neighbours, one of the UK’s best-loved Australian telly imports, celebrates its 30th birthday today. Another favourite Aussie import Felicity Ward tells us how her relationship with the Ramsay Street residents started with obsession and ended in shame.
My relationship with Neighbours is much like my relationship with cats. The animals, that is, not the musical. I keep trying to love them and they just keep making me feel shame.
We went to bed very early as children, some would call it child abuse. Many long daylight savings days were spent trying to be cool with the fact the sun had hours of work left to do. We also watched very little television: none on weekday mornings and an hour on weekday evenings that included The Goodies, Roger Ramjet, Bananaman and Neighbours.
I don’t know why Mum let us watch Neighbours. We weren’t allowed to watch Home and Away because they used the word ‘bitch’ once, which was enough for Mum to shut it down forever. But Neighbours was a bit special for us. We got it – even though they had fancy things like swimming pools and VCRs and television dials that you didn’t have to change with a pair of pliers. My sister and I watched Neighbours religiously.
One particularly adorable (see: tragic) moment was when Scott and Charlene got married. Those words used to need no explanation. Scott and Charlene. We knew who they were. 30 years on; they are now echoes of their former greatness. They were Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan. Kylie F*cking Minogue (not many people know that is actually her middle name. Just one of the perks of being a Neighbours fan I suppose).
So on the televised day of Scott and Charlene’s wedding Mum allowed two very big changes in the way things were run in the Ward household (that’s our surname, not another character in Neighbours. Don’t think I haven’t held out for it though).
1) We were ALLOWED TO EAT DINNER IN FRONT OF THE TELEVISION! This was absolutely unprecedented. All media was off when dinner was on the table. We focused on food and each other (but mostly food). So for Mum to let us sit and eat – and possibly choke on – what was almost certainly another reheat of the monster batch of Hi Lo Mein she’d cooked at the beginning of the week, was a milestone.
2) She let us wear our flower girl outfits. My auntie, who worked at a clothing line where she designed and made ‘fashion’ outfits (I put the word “fashion” in inverted commas because it was the mid-80s and that was something of an oxymoron), got married two years earlier. For her wedding she designed some beautiful crimpled peach sateen dresses with a lacy sailor patch neck. Mmm mmm. We were beautiful. Wanting to show Scott and Charlene the same reverence we gave our family, my sister and I dressed up in our flower girl outfits – it seemed appropriate.
I watched Neighbours for many years to follow, peeking again when in the late 1990s Dr Karl Kennedy had an affair with a colleague. We still ask the question today: who in their right tinker would ever cheat on Susan? 147 years on; she’s still the best character on the show.
Years later it would come about that I was invited to a television awards night in Australia called The Logies. We call it the Bogies because we have the utmost respect for our cultural landscape.
We knew we weren’t going to win anything before we arrived but this was confirmed by our table that was located about a half marathon away from the stage. That meant one thing: we could get shit-faced.
Hours, and drinks, passed. One of the cast members of our show had made friends with Toadie from Neighbours and headed over to his table near the front. I put on some fitness shoes and joined him. There was a spare seat between Toadie and – would you believe it? – Susan (I am assured these are also their real names).
While I lolled on my friend’s lap and he and Toadie talked about meaningful things – like which of the Home and Away cast would bone each other – I looked to my right and noticed an opening. Susan looked like she was just itching for a chat with the pissed nobody crashing her table. Good news! I was up to the task!
I leant (slumped) towards her and introduced myself. She obliged. In my rewritten memory I think I curtsied. I then knew she was primed for my story about Scott and Charlene’s wedding; about the dresses, about the thrill of it all.
I went into glorious, drunken detail with that warm white wine breath everybody loves. I nearly fell off my chair breaking into the act outs. And then Susan said it: “Right.” And that was it. It was clear: she hated me.
I had ruined her table and her night and her personal space and Susan would probably tell this story to Dr Karl (they’ve since repaired their marriage). Fortunately I was drunk enough at that point to take my shame and pour it into another glass, one which would lead to me dancing at the after-party on some kind of coffee table that didn’t belong to me.
I think it was about that time that I stopped watching Neighbours.3831 Views
Felicity Ward is an Australian comedian, writer, actor and full time knucklehead, based in the UK.