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Comment > Let's Keep In Touch! by Moe

The recently returned Gail Robinson had been long forgotten in Neighbours for over a decade before we were treated to a mention of her name a few months after the return to the show of her ex-husband Paul in 2005. Prior to that, the last we had heard of her was back in the early 1990s when Gail had given birth in Tasmania to triplets Cameron, Robert and Lucinda, remarried and asked Paul to sign over custody of the kids to their new stepfather. After that; nothing. But while we can't obviously be treated to weekly updates on what past characters are up to in their new existences away from Ramsay Street, it is always nice to have the odd reference thrown in about what they're up to now – be it in the form of a postcard, telegram at a wedding or a phone call to one of the remaining neighbours.

In the early years of Neighbours, when characters had left Erinsborough it never felt like the end. Only rarely did a character leave and never be heard of again. Maria Ramsay holds the distinction of being the first character to leave town, but she was constantly mentioned by the remaining Ramsays for a number of years. When Max celebrated his birthday, she phoned to wish him well. And when Max left town himself, it was after Maria had called to seek a reunion. With Max and Maria reunited and living happily in Brisbane, a Ramsay Street wedding didn't go by without a telegram from the couple, including the memorable one at Scott and Charlene's wedding where they spoke of how there was hope for the Robinsons now that they had a Ramsay to sort them out. Max had also played a part in a storyline that nearly split Scott and Charlene up, as he had arranged an apprenticeship for her up in Queensland. But just as Charlene was about to leave, she opted to stay with Scott and had to call Max to tell him thanks, but no thanks. Max was last mentioned in 1992 when Madge, the very last Ramsay in Ramsay Street, left the show and reminisced in one of her final scenes about when she had first come to Erinsborough to live with Max.

Julie Robinson was another early departure. Hot on the heels of Maria, Julie left Erinsborough to marry Philip Martin and raise his kids Debbie and Michael. Again, Julie's name tended to crop up whenever there was a wedding. She sent a telegram to Des and Daphne's wedding, and was all set to return in the flesh for Scott's wedding only for one of the kids to be struck down with measles at the eleventh hour. Still, she saw plenty of Lucy, who spent several school holidays with her before she was expelled from boarding school and returned to Ramsay Street permanently. Julie and the Martin clan eventually made it back to Erinsborough in the flesh – although rather strangely it was for the funeral of Todd, one family member Julie had never actually met. What was even stranger was that Todd's sister Katie only got one mention in and amidst the funeral, when their mum Annette said she had to get back to Adelaide because she didn't want to leave Katie alone for too long.

The zany Dr. Clive Gibbons had made such an impression during his time on the show that it was hard to forget him and he was regularly mentioned by characters after he had moved to a neighbouring borough. Memorably, he lent his colourful car Bertha to Scott and Charlene on their wedding day and sent a telegram to cover his absence as he was assisting in an operation on the big day. He eventually returned on screen in 1989, briefly moving into No.28 with Des and Melanie. His return also brought us mentions of his brother Graham as it was Graham injuring himself that led to Clive departing once again, this time to take over Graham's surgery while he recuperated. Clive also mentioned the long forgotten Susan Cole, who he had been madly in love with, and we learnt, via Helen, that Madge still kept in touch with her.

There have been plenty of updates forthcoming throughout the years on the lives of the original Ramsay Street lovebirds Scott and Charlene. Only months after Scott had joined Charlene in Brisbane to start their new life together, Jim and Henry had to join them when a truck ran into the side of their new house and major rebuilding had to be done. Charlene became pregnant in 1991 and the couple announced their happy news in a telegram at Helen's wedding to Michael. And after baby Daniel was born, we were even treated to a few photographs of the new arrival when Madge returned from visiting her grandson. Daniel played a part in a storyline years later when he was knocked down by a car and hospitalised for a number of months, requiring Madge to take an extended break from Erinsborough in order to help Scott and Charlene out. It was at this time we also learnt that Charlene and Scott had had another child (presumably in the years Madge was living away from Ramsay Street), a little girl called Madison. More recent references to the pair have come from Harold and Sky, and only recently, Paul mentioned how Scott had been the King of the Mullets in the Robinson house in the 80s but his hairline had now receded – an accurate reflection on how Jason Donovan's hairstyle has changed since playing Scott!

While Scott and Charlene garnered stacks of updates through the years, other characters haven't been so lucky. Zoe Davis briefly returned to visit Daphne in hospital when she was suffering from meningitis, but was never heard of again, save for Lucy reminding Jim of his disastrous relationship with her when he took up with another younger woman, Caroline Alessi, in 1991. Shane Ramsay was often mentioned in the initial months after he departed, mainly because he was still supposedly living nearby. Still, at least his swimming trophies adorned the Ramsay sideboard right up until 1992. Marlene Kratz was literally lost at sea, it seemed, as from the moment she waved goodbye to her Ramsay Street friends to set sail on a three-month cruise in 1997, up until her appearance on Annalise's documentary in 2005, nobody ever referred to her again. Similarly, characters such as Mike Young, Sharon Davies, Matt Robinson, Ryan McLachlan, Josh Anderson, Cameron Hudson, Wayne Duncan, Mark Gottlieb, Ben Atkins, Jo Hartman and Taj Coppin could all be six feet under for all their old friends in Ramsay Street know. We've never heard a whisper of what fate befell them once they exited Erinsborough.

Other characters have largely been forgotten but we did get the odd update on their status in life after their departure. Eileen Clarke fell in love and married after she settled in the UK near her old friend Mrs Mangel (Des and Jamie flew over for the wedding), Beverly divorced Jim about a year after she moved to Perth, Christina Robinson relocated to Sydney with Andrew (presumably after Paul went to jail), Lauren Carpenter opened her own riding school in Queensland and gave birth to a baby boy called Mason and we recently learnt that the all-grown up Toby Mangel has bought himself a farm in the Kimberleys. The Willis' horrid Auntie Faye was seen phoning the house when Gaby was due to give birth and she is known to have settled in Paris after fleeing the street in 1991. Danni Stark contracted Malaria a few weeks after moving to Malaysia and boyfriend Luke Handley flew out to be with her and later called his friends in Ramsay Street to say he was staying there permenently. The off-screen wedding of Mal Kennedy and Catherine O'Brien in 2000 meant we got to hear Sarah Beaumont had given birth to a girl, Antigone, and a few years later, we discovered she had split from husband Peter after she contacted Karl seeking a job reference. Paul McClain has, by all accounts, become quite the star player for the Adelaide Crows as young Zeke was in awe of him when Karl and Susan recently mentioned he used to live in Ramsay Street. And we also learnt he's injured this season. When Penny Watts arrived in the show, she filled us in on what Tess Bell had been up to since jilting Darcy at the altar – she was working as a teacher in London.

The death of Neighbours stalwart Jim Robinson in 1993 meant we were treated to a stack of references to past characters. Due to the fact that so many of his relatives and friends had left and there was no way all the relevant actors could be reassembled for the funeral, the service was held off screen. As a result, we learnt from Helen that Paul and Christina and Lucy had all been back in town for the funeral, and Julie mentioned that Dorothy Burke had delivered the eulogy. Indeed, deaths have always been a good way for viewers to hear about past characters. Cody Willis' death saw Rick Alessi and Jen Handley send notes of condolence to her memorial service. Harold Bishop was seen talking on the phone to Philip Martin after the death of Madge.

The return in recent years of Sky Mangel and Jamie Clarke has provided us with glimpses of what their relatives are up to now. Jamie's dad Des had split with second wife Fiona, we learnt, relocated from Perth to Adelaide and had ended up suffering from depression for a number of years. Luckily, Jamie returned to Adelaide to be reunited with Des. Sky, meanwhile, brought with her the somewhat surprising news that Joe and Melanie – a match made in heaven when they left as newlyweds in 1991 – had divorced only a few years after their marriage. Darren Stark's return in 2004 also informed us that Libby had been keeping in touch with her best buddy Brett and Brett, in turn, had been keeping brother Darren posted on how Libby's life was going.

The 20th anniversary year, of course, saw a lot of character updates. Thanks to Annalise's documentary, we learnt that Danny Ramsay (last seen, and indeed, mentioned in 1986) had become a true Ramsay and effectively morphed into his old man, Max, Amy Greenwood was still working as an air hostess and still in love with Lance, Debbie Martin had moved back to New York and Mrs Mangel was still alive and well living with Jane in London. Doug Willis and Philip Martin also returned to Ramsay Street in the flesh for the documentary, and it emerged that the Willis and Martin clans were living side by side up in Darwin, Pam and Ruth seemed to be good friends, and Doug and Phil had both recently taken early retirement. Another character that was back in town for the occasion was Lance Wilkinson, who filled us in on what he and Allana had been up to since their trip around the States. They were now running sci-fi conventions, hence Lance's first reappearance on screen consisting of him being dressed as Darth Vader. And Annalise, we of course discovered, had actually married her beloved Sam Kratz five years previously, and was now a documentary maker for the BBC in London.

Although not exactly major plot points or of benefit to current storylines in any way, it is always a huge treat for viewers to be treated to a mini-update on what ex-characters are doing now. It makes the viewer feel that just as life has carried on for the characters who have remained on Ramsay Street, life has similarly continued for the characters who we no longer see. So let's hope that Harold gets the odd phone call from Charlene and Scott, Lou goes up to Queensland to visit Lauren and Paul makes the odd business deal with Rosemary – or better still, Mr. Udugawa – for a long time to come…