Friday, September 09, 2005

Arena - Private Life of the Ford Cortina

1982. My dad leaves home to be with a woman 20 years his junior, I become the man of the house and get myself a job, and my one friend goes and kills himself. So of course I couldn't give a flying fuck about the Ford Cortina. Especially since I have my dad's old Vauxhall Viva.

But I should care. Because 1982 is the end of an era. After 19 years of production, the Cortina is replaced by the new hi-tech Sierra. And Britain will never be the same again.

How the change affects Ford's employees, we are not told. Are there redundancies and factory closures? How do people's jobs change, what with the Sierra being hi-tech and all that? We're none the wiser. Because this is a quirky film. It is about our quirkiness. The great British public.

Exhibit A - The couple from North East England who write a eulogy to Ford. Their Cortina has done 100,000 miles and will even now take them to Cornwall for their holiday.

Exhibit B - The CB radio buff/Cortina souper upper in his 'Street Legal' blue Cortina pick-up with its Capri engine.

Exhibit C - The black South Londoner who's owned 3 Cortinas and says the Cortina is the black man's Rolls Royce.

Exhibit D - The company car drivers, employees of Thorn EMI, all of whom seem to drive Cortinas - the higher up the ladder, the more expensive the model.

Exhibit E - The extremely quirky National 1600E Owners Club, including the ageing gentleman who writes poetry comparing his Cortina to his wife.

All very well and good. But Arena is an arts programme. And quirky arts programmes require quirky artists. So we get:-

1. Alexei Sayle - a really bad comic actor doing really unfunny sketches in a jokey Essex-man voice. And a song which lasts twenty minutes called 'Road Rep' about a saleman who customises his company Cortina.

2. Tom Robinson - in his young, free, and single days. "I once did a song called 'Wish I had a grey Cortina', now I've got a Morris Minor blah blah blah."

3. Paul Welton and the Weltones - must have been a fictional band. New wave pub rock with Human League type girls. Paul says that all Cortina owners are called Terry, have perms, highlights, and are dripping with gold. Paul looks like in 2005 he would be in a Weller tribute band. It's what he was born to do.

4. Sir John Betjemen - nutty old John says a Cortina driver is probably an executive, someone who thinks about cash and not about scenery, someone who doesn't travel in steam trains which of course is the only civilised way to travel chuff chuff chuffety chuff. And the word 'Cortina' 'sounds a bit foreign, a bit South American, and not quite human'. Come, friendly bombs and drop on John.

5. Fiona Richmond - who says she likes to get dirty under a bonnet. But the Cortina sounds uninteresting to her.

The artists have spoken, thank Christ for that. But I did learn something. And this is what I learnt:-

The Cortina was named after an Italian ski resort.
The Cortina logo design was modelled on that of the Cortina sandwich shop somewhere in London.
Fiona Richmond doesn't stir my loins like she did 30 years ago. Too posh.


  1. I don't really have anything to say because I don't know anything about cars, but I do like your new blog.

  2. Thank you, Caroline. I know less than nothing about cars. And I can't park for toffee.

  3. Anonymous1:17 PM

    Geoff, what do you know about Paul Welton? I just saw a clip of the 1982 programme and saw this guy. I used to be a friend of Paul Welton back in the '60s, and this one really looks like him.

  4. Sorry Anon, I know absolutely nothing about him.