Rumours are a dangerous thing. Whether true or false, the mere introduction of a rumour can dig into the middle of a person’s brain like an unrelenting earwig, and it’s not guaranteed to stop even when it’s reached the centre.
I felt this way at the start of 2018, when a work colleague indicated to me that Emily Bishop from Coronation Street was the mother of respected sports journalist Oliver Holt. Little did I know at the time that until I discovered the truth, it would be the cause of successive sleepless nights.
Investigating one of showbiz’s many mysteries
What do you do when you hear of such a bizarre piece of trivia? Scream uncontrollably? Run away and never return? Jump up and down until the pure ecstasy wears off? I decided to face my issue head on, but rather than running headfirst into a wall, I decided to take on Ollie Holt myself until I got my answer.
It didn’t take me long to get in touch with Mail on Sunday journalist Oliver Holt, who I tweeted to directly. Assuming he would be too busy to reply to simply old Geoff (me), I chose to do this every single day of my sad little life until he finally responded, and it returned with an interesting outcome that would stick with me until my dying day.
Day One – Tuesday 23rd January 2018 – 3:43pm
The opening day of my mission was just like any other prior to learning of this mystery. As soon as I was alerted to this rumour, I needed to find out the truth. I yearned for it.
My opening tweet to Ollie Holt was as plain, simple and professional as it possibly could be. I made it clear to him what I wanted to know and I didn’t over-complicate a single word. Despite my efforts, it fell on deaf ears, as he refused to acknowledge my question.
Day Two – Wednesday 24th January 2018 – 10:05am
I wish I could tell you that my hunger for knowledge could be quenched and that I was able to wait until the afternoon of day two to sensible ask Oliver Holt if his mother was Coronation Street’s Emily Bishop. I only wish I could tell you that.
The reality of the matter was that I simply needed to know whether the rumour was true or not as soon as possible. By 10:05am, I questioned the journalist and casual Stockport County FC supporter for a second time, this time trying to come across as more articulate in my approach. Despite my clear efforts to show more than just a mere handful of brain cells, he once again refrained from replying to me.
Day Three – Thursday 25th January 2018 – 10:54am
You’ll be able to tell that by this point, I was getting reckless. Not only had I scrapped my usually faultless grammar, but I also started to become visibly aggressive with Ollie – something that I never imagined would happen, and certainly something that I never wanted to happen.
Now, Oliver Holt didn’t become one of the UK’s most beloved football writers by cowering in the corner and waiting for fine fortune to find him. He had to be ruthless and – dare I say it? – forthright with his approach, or he’d end up being a dead end nobody like one of the football writers on the Daily Sport. In a presentation of his primal instincts, which I respected, Ollie refused to comment.
Day Four – Saturday 27th January 2018 – 8:39pm
By the time Saturday came calling, it felt as if judgement day was upon me, the grim reaper standing over me with his scythe pulled back in preparation for a crucial blow to my neck. The dread of what felt like inevitable disappointment delayed my next question over the space of two days, ruling out all of Friday, leaving a lengthy gap as I awaited a moment of strength to question Oliver Holt for a fourth time.
It took me until Saturday evening to ask Ollie if Emily Bishop was his mother, and this time I took a brash and admittedly outlandish approach. I reverted to the level of street slang that stood in a specific cultural era between 1993 and 1995 where PJ and Duncan dominated the charts with ‘Let’s Get Ready To Rumble’, Cab Calloway lived out his final year on planet earth, Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez – amongst many others – was born, and Yasser Arafat was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize. With all of these accountable facts sitting distinctly in my thought process, I started my question with an overfriendly ‘yo’ before stepping into territory that was all new to me at the time. Had I gone too far? Only time would tell, or at least it would if Ollie Holt paid me the courtesy of replying to my message.
Result: Oliver Holt is the son of Coronation Street’s Emily Bishop
Fourteen minutes after I asked my fourth question to Oliver Holt, I heard a bleeping coming from my phone which could have either indicated the assassination of a president or the start of a nuclear holocaust. Instead, it was what I’d prayed to every god in nonexistence for – a reply from Ollie Holt regarding his birth mother.
In his long-awaited message, he could have offered me a few showbiz stories of his past encounters with Ray Parlour and the boys or he could have given me an in-depth analysis of the day’s key games between Ipswich Town and Wolves, Brentford and Norwich City or Liverpool’s shock FA Cup defeat to West Bromwich Albion, but he cut straight to the chase and answered my question, confirming Coronation Street actress and national treasure Eileen Derbyshire as his mum.
Not that I can take a lot of credit for it, but times have changed since this social media campaign, and people are finally taking heed to shine a light over the search for the truth. It’s now been incorporated into the official Oliver Holt Wikipedia page, officially making it more true than the actual concept of truth itself. I can’t help but generate an immense feeling of pride at guiding the world to the truth. It must be a similar sensation for any whistleblower with an equal level of integrity and inner-strength. The best response I can give to the assumed thanks I would received behind close doors from across the country is an unquestionably modest ‘you’re welcome.’