Yesterday I was saddened to hear of the passing (on Christmas Day) of Neville Buswell. In the late 60s and into the 70s when Corrie was Corrie, I sat glued to my favourite TV programme with a bag of salt ‘n’ shake and loved to love the love-triangle of Ray Langton (Buswell), Ken Barlow and Deirdre Hunt. While Ken was the principled man of letters, Ray with his shoulder-length locks and flared jeans, was the gobby bad-boy of the street, the Lothario with attitude who could chasten his prospective mother-in-law with a pithy “Shut it, Blanche!” He was the original soap heart-throb and pin-up making people like me want to be like him.
In 2005 when I was Story Editor on the soap, we brought him back from his oasis in Vegas, to die… in the arms of his daughter Tracy (Kate Ford) whom he hadn’t seen since she was in nappies. It was a lovely story with poetic bookends and a joy to work on, because by now I knew what it was like to be a maverick and I knew what it was like to be like Ray. I wrote the audition script and attended the shoot, proud and excited to meet the man now balding but back in the 70s a fringed icon who wouldn’t have been out of place fronting a band like Sweet. The fact he left England in the first place to become a casino manager only added to the romance.
Neville and I formed a brief friendship before he returned to The States, sipping ale in the Knott Bar across from Deansgate Station, sharing bowls of mussels for our drinking arms and trading views on travel, politics and anything else refreshingly not remotely television. We kept in touch for a long time afterwards.
Funnily enough, if you’ll forgive the irreverence of that word, I am going to a funeral tomorrow, that of another old pal of mine called Perry. I knew him for years, from the naughty days of football. He was a bad-boy too and I will mourn his loss with mirth. I couldn’t sleep last night for laughing.
But when I woke up this mourning got me thinking, that it only feels right for death to be announced in January, when everybody already seems miserable. Much better is it not that if we’re to snuff it, we do so this month, when the streets are never quite aired and everything and everybody looks and feels like punctured mistletoe.
More to that it got me thinking how selfish I was on that Summer’s day last year when I felt the game was up, fastened a belt around my neck and jumped, wanting only to end my life and spoil my loved-ones’ fun in the sun.
No, if we’re to go at all, and nowadays I don’t want to, better to go in January – get the mourning out of the way and leave the rest of the year for kicks. A dying season in the casino, when the cards lie face up and it’s time to shuffle away. “Shut it, Mark!” Amen.