Saturday, 27 December 2014

Peter’s Pompey Paradise

(This post was originally posted by Martin Leay on the Coronation Street Blog in November 2014.)

People of Portsmouth – lock up your daughters, sisters, wives and mothers; beers, wines and spirits – because Peter Barlow is in town.

Actually, it’s probably too late, such is the havoc the renowned imbiber of women and alcohol is likely to have already wreaked on the South Coast.

What is it about The Waterfront City that always lures Peter back? As Carla astutely observes, “he always goes down there… he licks his wounds and then he comes back with his tail between his legs”. A fine analogy for the dirty dog that he is.

A quick glance at Peter’s Weatherfield-Portsmouth migration patterns on Corriepedia throws up the following timeline:

• 2003 – with his life in ruins after being busted for bigamy, Peter moved to Portsmouth and set up a business there.

• 2007 – Peter returned to Coronation Street worried about Tracy's relationship with Charlie Stubbs. When Tracy went down for Charlie’s murder, Peter returned to his life in Portsmouth.

• 2009 – Peter entered rehab in Portsmouth and whilst battling the booze was unable to kick his other habit – he had a fling, cheating on Leanne (not for the last time, obviously).

• 2014 (May) – before her death, Peter gave Tina his credit card and told her to buy train tickets so that they could run away together and start a new life in… Portsmouth. It’s not surprising that Peter Barlow is irresistible to women with those kind of promises!

• 2014 (November) – to avoid the judgement of Weatherfield residents and constant reminders of the past, Peter abandons his son (again) to seek solace in Portsmouth (again).

Now, I’ve been to Portsmouth – many times. It has heritage and a lot more besides but it has never had the spiritually healing effect on me that it seemingly does on Peter Barlow. That said, last time I was in Southsea, the Honest Politician were offering selected pints and jägerbombs for £2.50 – a price that must compare favourably even to The Rovers. To use Pompey parlance, you’d have to be a right dinlow to miss out on a deal like THAT.

Portsmouth has a pub on every corner, a fact that could seriously scupper Peter’s desire to “sort (his) head out”. After a menacing medley of pints and jägerbombs, I boarded a bus decked out in amazing facts from Britain’s naval history. I remember thinking it’s no wonder that Peter Barlow is so enamoured with the home of the Royal Navy, with whom he served for 20 years.

And you know what they say about sailors having a girl in every port? Well, maybe Peter has an old squeeze down there – perhaps the same woman he bunked up with after that stint in rehab. Ah – women, wine and song – the perennial pursuits of Peter Barlow. Will he ever really change?

I know it’s been a fortnight now since Peter’s departure but it’s taken me that long to reflect on the exit of my favourite ever Corrie character. It feels good to break my silence.

I’ve always been drawn to the duality within Peter Barlow – the Jekyll and Hyde conflict between the good friend, father and husband he is capable of being; and the selfish and destructive alcoholic womaniser he seems powerless to resist turning into.

At his best, Peter is a man that other men aspire to be like (charming, cool, charismatic) but at his worst he is someone we all fear becoming (reckless, ratty, reprehensible). He is a brilliantly complex character played with great skill and sincerity over many years by Chris Gascoyne. And as I always say when defending Peter Barlow – it’s all Ken’s fault.

Peter will be missed but as noted on Emma’s excellent exit blog (link here) it feels the time is right, somehow, for the character to be rested and I doubt he has ‘gone to Portsmouth’ for the last time. He will return rejuvenated at some point, I’m sure.

But what of his exit? Blog readers may have picked up on the scathing write-up in The Metro (read it here) which described Peter’s departure as “a dull cop out” arguing that even Peter wouldn’t walk out on Simon, especially not since the thought of being reunited with his son is exactly what kept him going while inside. It makes the point that a character as fascinating as Peter deserved more fanfare. What do you think? Was Peter’s departure a damp squib?

Perhaps it was – a bit – but moving to Portsmouth in times of trouble is hardly out of character. And we all know that Peter’s character, while fascinating, is also deeply flawed.

Flawed though he may be (and who isn’t?) I still think Portsmouth’s Visitor Information Service should update their marketing strategy. I’m no PR guru but I’ve got an idea for their next tourism drive…

By Martin Leay

Twitter: @mpleay

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