Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

Like most Brits my age I grew up watching the Australian soap opera ‘Neighbours’.  It was conveniently on at teatime and became a highlight of each weekday afternoon.  I became obsessed with the show, creating a scrap book and collecting ‘Neighbours’ cards and articles from magazines like ‘Fast Forward’ and ‘Big’.  I begged my parents to move us to Australia, preferably to a house on Ramsay Street where life seemed so much brighter.  Funnily, my own kids say the same to me after watching episodes of the new Australian cartoon sensation ‘Bluey’. 

‘Neighbours’ continued to be part of my everyday life, at university my housemates and I would gather in the living room twice a day for study breaks to watch it together – yes, we would watch the same episode twice!  It only became difficult to watch when I entered the world of work and wouldn’t be home during the day to catch it; this was before you could set your TV box to record everything or even access catch-up TV.

When my husband and I planned our honeymoon in Australia in 2012 we made sure that our itinerary included a stay in Melbourne and a tour of Ramsay Street.  It was a dream come true to visit the street and some of the sets – an absolute highlight of our holiday, even though it poured with rain the whole day.

One of my favourite characters is Susan Kennedy, the queen of Ramsay Street played by the incredible Jackie Woodburne.  Her character was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2007 and has experienced various flare-ups (when it has been convenient for the storylines).  You can imagine my excitement when, in 2019, it was announced that 6 of the ‘Neighbours’ cast, including Susan Kennedy, were heading to the London Palladium to celebrate 35 years of the soap.  I snapped up tickets in the 3rd row from the front and held onto them tightly for 3 and a half years as the show was postponed due to Covid.  During that time, we’ve been on an emotional roller coaster.  Last year the shocking news came out that ‘Neighbours’ was being axed, which was a huge blow to me and many of my friends who love the show.  And then, by some miracle, it was saved by Amazon, and now we can all breathe a sigh of relief as we await the new episodes on Freevee.

Last week I finally got the chance to head to London for my ‘Neighbours’ adventure, which included a chance to meet the cast before the show.  Going to London is a huge deal for me since my MS diagnosis.  I get overwhelmed by how busy and crowded it is and don’t cope too well with the underground and trains in general.  Leading up to the day I became more and more anxious about going and even considered cancelling my tickets.  I was fretting about the traveling and the exhausting timetable for the day – it was an evening show, which meant I wouldn’t get home until gone midnight.  My MS has rendered me a wreck in the evenings, and I have developed increasing anxiety about evening activities.  This is the time of day when my legs are at their heaviest and the spasms are at their worst, there are no words to describe how uncomfortable and painful it is, but I know that a lot of you reading this will understand.

Luckily for me, I happen to have a very good friend who is not only amazing at looking out for me but is also a nut of a fan of ‘Neighbours’.  Clare accompanied me on what turned out to be a very chilled and enjoyable day (and night) out – carrying my wheelchair up and down stairs and escalators – Thank you, Clare. 

When it came to the meet and greet I was surprised by how calm I felt.  You’d expect to feel a bit nervous meeting your heroes, but the cast all seemed so familiar that I felt I already knew them.  

Now, I’m not a crazed and deluded fan, I know that Stefan Dennis is not really Mr bad guy Paul Robinson, but even so it was difficult to separate the actors from their roles.  On meeting Jackie Woodburne I blurted out, “Hello, Susan!”  D’oh.

Jackie was the actor I was most eager to meet, and she did not disappoint, being as warm and friendly as she is on the telly.  I told her “I have MS, like you!”  Another D’oh moment!  Forgiving my dippiness, Jackie immediately engaged in a conversation with me about MS, admitting that the storylines do not often allow her MS to show.  I laughed and said that I wish I had her brand of MS, to which she replied, “Aww, I bet you do”. 

It was great to find out about the research she has done on MS for her role, and she told me about the respect her and the producers had in portraying the condition.  In fact, we really hit it off and I can confidently say that Susan Kennedy is my new best friend.  After all, when it was time to take some photos, she insisted on standing next to me and suggested that a separate photo be taken of the two of us together. 

Over a week on I am still buzzing from the experience, both physically and mentally!  My body has been pretty angry with me and is letting me know. 

But it was worth it.  One hundred percent.

5 thoughts on “Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

  1. Excellent post. Jealous of your super adventure and well done you. X


  2. Fantastic! I couldn’t think of going to London, using the underground….but its always worth remembering that sometimes things aren’t nearly as difficult as we fear!


  3. Wonderful Emily, so happy for you 😘
    I’m glad you have such an awesome friend that accompanied you.
    Fabulous pics of beautiful you with the cast xxx


  4. Karen McTaggart March 29, 2023 — 12:47 pm

    Wonderful post, glad you had a good time xxx


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