"What a 42 carat plonker!"
It is said that you should never judge a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes. With this in mind, I owe the memory of Joan Mavis Trotter a sincere apology.
Like many others over the decades, I sat and listened to her son Derek, reminisce fondly about his “classy” mother, even though his shared memories were inadvertently painting an all too different picture of her for us, the viewer. She may very well have been the first woman on the Near Area estate to smoke menthol cigarettes but unfortunately, this alone does not an elegant woman make.
Similarly, when Trigger’s Aunt Renee explained to Del through euphemism how his mother used to “help” Freddie the Frog out after “befriending” him, Del’s insistence that “she would help anyone out - she was a very friendly woman, my Mum,” again, did nothing to change my less than glowing impression of her.
Jump forward 23 years to last Sunday and, after reading the programme blurb for Rock ‘n’ Chips, I sat down to watch with a certain amount of hesitation. Would this spoil all the incredible work the Trotters had done over the years in endearing themselves to the public? Would John Sullivan stand accused of dragging a national treasure through the dumpster for the sake of an hour and a half’s light entertainment?
Well, no actually, not in the slightest. I had thought I would watch the entire programme through a gap in my fingers; however, I very quickly warmed to all the characters and not only smiled at many of the references to days gone by, but was also treated to several ‘laugh out loud’ moments.
Finally, we were being presented with the chance to ‘meet’ characters who had died long before the first series ever made it on to our screens. And not only meet them, but be very impressed by them. How on earth do you emulate a young Del’ Boy after he was played brilliantly for so long, by David Jason? Well, hats off to James Buckley for not only carrying it off perfectly, but for not over-playing the part. In fact, everyone should be applauded for doing just that – no-one attempted to reinvent any of the individuals we all know here. Merely, they enhanced our understanding of those characters and life in Peckham in the 1960’s.
And so to my apology.
Far from being the tawdry, ‘befriender’ of men that her devoted son unwittingly portrayed her as, Joan Trotter in fact turned out to be an attractive, smart and savvy woman who worked tirelessly to support an abusive husband and her lazy father-in-law, all the while dealing with the unwanted attention and advances of her sleazy cinema boss. She handled the difficult cards life had dealt her with extreme dignity and courage.
Her brief romance with Freddie Robdal – which should ultimately be frowned upon (like her son Derek’s business activities) – was sensitively and affectionately done; she fully deserved the attention that Freddie gave to her. It is little wonder then that the child with her genes, turned out to be the kind, sensitive and considerate adult that Rodney turned out to be.
Very well done Kellie Bright. I’m sure Joan Trotter would have been delighted to have you play her as you did. You managed to inspire the same amount of affection for your character in 90 minutes as it took the male members of the Trotter clan many years.