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Comment > Golden Couples: Lucas and Vanessa by Si Hunt

Last week UK viewers, along with the residents of Ramsay Street (or at least the ones that happened to be filming that day, as per usual) bid a tearful farewell to long-suffering couple Lucas and Vanessa. They left in the traditional way, waving tearfully from the back of a departing car. Personally, I wish a tradition had been made of the Martin/Scully crossover back in the nineties, when one family drove out of Ramsay Street and their replacements drove into it a few seconds later, in the same shot. As it is, we have to wait a little longer to find out who is stepping into the shoes of the weak-willed mechanic and his cup-cake making Italian wife, but whoever it is they will be unlikely to be in for quite as turbulent a time as these two have faced.

Lucas was the brother of annoyingly-perfect Dan Fitzgerald, who spent much of his time locked into an interminable courting battle with Libby Kennedy, she a stubborn ambassador of the mantra that "a man is still wrong if there's no woman in the room to hear him speak", he a sparkly-smiled fan of the "let's talk it over" approach to relationships (at length). Lucas was by comparison, refreshingly flawed, with his goofy smile and motorbike. We would later find out that Lucas was a gambling addict, giving him a bond with his best friend Sonya (she seemed to be addicted to everything, viewers almost afraid to ask if there was anything she wasn't addicted to. Maybe she just enjoys going to support meetings). This provided some interesting storyline opportunities, as if he wasn't falling for the assertive women on the Street (Libby, Elle, Steph) he could always be relied upon to fall off his motorbike or be lured into an illegal gambling den to spice up the more pedestrian goings on with sheep and goats over at the Kennedys.

Lucas' other major trait was his work as a mechanic. In the first of a series of stunning coincidences, following the difficult death of his Father (they hadn't spoken for years) Lucas was left enough money to set up Fitzgerald Motors, soon to become the one-stop shop for oily drama. On many subsequent occasions fistful of dubious cash would be thrust between individuals over a car bonnet, a vehicle would be sneakily repaired after a hit and run or one of either Lucas or Chris would collapse, unseen, behind a Yeut in need of desperate medical attention. Being a mechanic also meant that, naturally, a mechanics course started up at Erinsborough High, although so far Chris is the only graduate, the generous Lucas taking him on as an apprentice.

Vanessa Villante was, interestingly, brought in entirely to spice up Lucas' storyline potential. In one of the more risqué Neighbours storylines, the tortured grease monkey had been behaving rather "loosely" by bringing young women back to the one-time Ramsay House (what would Mrs Mangel have said?). I forget why he was living at Number 24 at the time, but Lucas has moved his oily bags into just about every house - and men's shed - in the Street over the last six years. Some time later, ushered in by shots of classy high heels stepping from a taxi, Vanessa swept back into Lucas' life and announced she was pregnant with his child. This would force him to finally settle down, although not, regrettably, for a long time yet, as it was the start of the infamous Lucas/Vanessa/Doctor Rhys love triangle. Doctor Rhys was a champion in the screwed-up stakes, making Lucas seem as level-headed as Helen Daniels by comparison, but he fell in love with Vanessa and promised his poor wheelchair-bound mother that he would bring home his bride (a Yoda-like figure, she seemed almost to know this was never destined to happen). Ever fickle, Vanessa then had no choice to but to finally relent and agree to marry Lucas - only it wasn't a real wedding, not yet. First, the odd couple tried to convince her parents they were in a real relationship, when it was only a pretend one, even though Lucas wished it was a real one which it wasn't despite her expecting his baby. Things were pretty confusing for all of us back then. Being Italian, this involved lots of scenes with Vanessa's mother throwing her hands up and crying "Moncha Bella!" when the deception was uncovered. For a time it seemed like Lucas was doomed to watch the suave medical genius bring up his child, until luckily, after months of viewers screaming “JUST TELL HER!” at the screen, fate dealt a lucky hand of cards to Lucas, and Doctor Rhys dropped down dead in a car park.

One couldn't help but like Vanessa. Perhaps it was because, unlike the Libbys and Stephs of the Street, she wasn't that desperate to throw off the traditional shackles of being a woman, overjoyed at motherhood and becoming famous for her cupcakes, hundreds of which were somehow knocked up in the tiny kitchen at Harold's. Not that having baby Patrick, Lucas and Vanessa's pride and joy, was an easy ride. The poor mite was born with a multitude of problems and had to stay in intensive care at Erinsburgh Hospital for very long time in a storyline that seemed to be played out in real time (it certainly felt like it). The public health service in Erinsborough is obviously leaps and bounds on from the one we have here in the UK, where you are turfed out of bed the morning after giving birth, as Lucas and Vanessa were provided with their own flat to live in during Patrick's long period of covalence. Eventually, not long before he dropped down dead in a car park, Doctor Rhys sold his Range Rover and the funds were raised to nurse baby Patrick back to health, bringing Lucas and Vanessa's problems to an end once more, at least for the moment.

Not that Vanessa was perfect, by any means. In one memorable storyline, in echoes of Lucy Robinson's career with Ambrosia magazine, her shady past as a "naughty" model came to light, with Lucas forced to buy up every copy of the offending publication. In one of those moments of Neighbours' charming discretion, it was never quite clear how much Vanessa had "gotten off" for the mag, although unfortunately this just made viewers imagine the very worst over scenes of poor Chris staring goggle-eyed at the unseen centre fold and being no doubt scarred for life. How he ever looked at her cupcakes in the same way again is a mystery.

It's unfortunate that viewers didn't get to see more of the happier times for Lucas and Vanessa, although of course this is not the way that drama works. There was soon a wedding at Charlie's (you could understand not opting for Lassiter's Lake after that business with the exploding gas bottles but really, the local pub?) in which neither of their families showed up, before another string of unlikely fortune saw off the pair to, at last, a happy ending. First, Vanessa’s ex Alec showed up in desperate need of giving her lots of money, which was handy as Lucas had just gambled away the cash needed to pay for their new home, and then mysterious benefactors put in generous offers for both their apartment and business. Convenient, but who really cares. This is one relationship that could have easily ended in ruins, with Lucas packed off to prison for the Robbo Slade murder or in a grim roadside death at the ends of his death-loving motorbike and Vanessa driven into the arms of another of the Street's handsome young men. It was nice to see them disappear into the sunset with a bit of happiness for a change and, who knows, maybe they will one day return. Okay, it seems unlikely, but if the Street ever needs another gambling bikey, then a re-cast Patrick could always knock on Toadie's door in fifteen years looking for a place to stay. Until then, we will miss Lucas - charming, refreshingly flawed, a lucky loser, and plucky and pretty Vanessa. Harold’s cake counter will never be the same again.