Tempting Providence TNL

If you’re near London Ont. you’ve got a couple days left to see a grand play at the Grand Poster for Grand Theatre's Tempting ProvidenceTheatre.  Tempting Providence, by Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador, runs until Friday March 31st.

It’s the story of Myra Bennett, a British nurse who came in 1921 to Newfoundland for a planned two years.  She married Angus Bennett from Daniel’s Harbour and stayed on the Northern Peninsula until she died in 1990 at the age of 100.  We saw the play several years ago in Cow Head, near where Mrs. Bennett lived.  My dentist, who knows nothing about Newfoundland or outpost nursing, saw it in London last week.  Like us, she loved it.

The play tells her story, but it’s really the story of all the nurses who looked after the health of those living in far-flung and isolated communities on Newfoundland’s west Myra Bennett from northernpeninsula.cacoast.  They did everything from birthing babies to surgery if need be.  Many, like Nurse Bennett, came from England.  Others were from Newfoundland and took nursing training in St. John’s.

In remote areas of the island, nurses were pretty much the entire medical system.  There were Grenfell Mission doctors based in St. Anthony and a few cottage hospitals, but the nurses scattered in small communities were those first called upon and sometimes the only source of medical help.  Today, we would call them nurse-practitioners in that they did much more than nurse training alone teaches.  Many stayed for their allotted time only but others, like Mrs. Bennett, stayed and nursed those who had become their neighbours and family throughout their lives.

Mary Francis Webb, Flat BayThere were also local midwives and healers without formal education who learned by assisting someone more experienced.  Many local healers were Mi’kmaq, using barks, berries and animal parts in medicines.  Some were believed to be able to “charm” illness away.  Mary Francis Webb of Flat Bay was one of them.  Well-known and respected, she served a huge area extending way south of her Bay St. George community right up to Corner Brook.

Nurses, midwives and healers traveled anywhere any time they were needed.  They also raised children, grew gardens, tended animals and did all the work that other Newfoundland outport women did.  Some of the informally trained midwives supplemented their education with formal training if they could.  All worked with doctors, calling on them when they needed specialized skills.  But if the doctor couldn’t get there, they had to rely on their own skills.  Cecilia Benoit wrote Midwives in Passage about Newfoundland’s traditional and professional midwifery.

scene from Tempting ProvidenceTheatre Newfoundland and Labrador’s Tempting Providence conveys the hardship and the beauty of an outport nurse’s life – the place and the work.  It’s a lovely play, transporting you to the Great Northern Peninsula of a century ago with the use of a simple white sheet and talented actors.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Mar. 25/12)

Faye walks away while Owen and Ches watchTuesday, while looking at Faye flounce off as he and Ches unloaded materials, Owen said it best:  “It wasn’t a shed, it was her sanctuary.”  So why is he replacing the shed with a flaming fishpond!  Faye has not been reluctant to voice her feelings about tearing the shed down, even though it was her foot that went through the rotten floorboards.

Monday at the kitchen table, Anna and Owen discussed with Ches and Katie what to do with the shed and its rotting floor while Faye listened and Katie, Ches and Faye listening to shed replacement ideasglowered, and said she wanted a shed.  I really thought Owen would say he’d replace it with a smaller one.  That way Anna can get some sunlight in her back yard, Faye has her shed and everybody’s happy.  I figured Owen would call it a playhouse or Wendy house and tick Faye off by treating her as a child, but she’d get over it and enjoy the new shed with a solid floor.

But a fishpond?  Ok, it would be nice and even if Anna really really wants it too, isn’t she looking at that child?  Doesn’t she see that Faye’s need for a bolt-hole is important?

Faye listening to Anna say a fish pond is a wonderful ideaI confess, Faye would have cause to fear being sent back to Child Services if she were with me.  I would sleep with one eye open in the same house as that girl.  I think she might be the reincarnation of Lizzy Borden.  With all her nasty tricks and major league pouting, I was very surprised to find my heart aching for her while they talked about the fishpond.  “Give that girl a shed!” I screamed at the tv, “can’t you see she needs a place to escape and she needs to see that her opinion and wishes are as valuable as anyone else’s.”

Anna looking unhappy as Faye tells off OwenAnna has taken Faye’s wishes into account in the past, even allowed the child to control her behaviour and relationships.  She sneaked around with Owen because she knew Faye would be upset if she knew they were romantically involved.  Of course Faye knew, she can see around corners and through walls.  She’s a demon child.

But, one time, when there’s something that would make a huge difference to Faye and not disrupt any one else’s life, Anna acts like Faye is part of the wallpaper.  She totally ignores her wishes, then adds insult to injury by telling her that she’ll like the fishpond.  Owen saying sorry to Anna after Faye leaves the table in a huffNot in this lifetime is what I think about the odds of Faye liking the new back garden.

And if Owen understands what the shed means to the child, why isn’t he building her another one? A small shed and a small fishpond might fit in the back garden.

Fanshawe Riot: Educating fools?

Last weekend, St. Paddy’s Day, London Ont. joined the ranks of cities of fools.  Violent, Burning car and London Ont. rioters St. Patrick's Day 2012vandalizing fools.  Students at Fanshawe Community College in the city’s east end overturned cars and torched a CTV news van.  Houses near the campus were damaged and several people were injured.

Over what?  High tuition fees?  The upward spike in unemployment among young people?  The political struggle in Syria?  Outrage over the Kony 2012 video?  Nope, just too much partying and too much green beer.  And, important to note, Fanshawe is in the suburbs, not downtown.  There aren’t a lot of bars and clubs around, no one congregates there other than the college students and area residents.

Fleming Drive house after 2007 party damageThis isn’t the first time Fanshawe students have run amok for no apparent reason.  From Canoe News: “Oct. 30, 2009: About 500 people at a student party on Thurman Circle near Fanshawe College pelt police with beer bottles, overturn vehicles and smash windows.  Police charge 22 people.”  There was at least one such incident a year before that.

But these were before last year’s Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver, also starring foolish youth going nuts.  In that case, their home team lost the game.  Not much of a reason, granted, but at least a reason.  In London?  Nobody seems to know, but everybody Pacebook page posted on imgur.com and reshared many timesseems to have lost patience.  Some of those involved have posted on Facebook and other online sites.  You’d think they’d have learned after Vancouver – don’t take pictures with your phone and don’t post on Facebook!  Police are going through the material, online and contributed to them.

Local tv news said local high school students and “some University students” were involved as well.  The University of Western Ontario is the only university in the city.  Glad to see you’re putting the high cost for your education to good use.

The only major vandalism I remember when I was at Western was, once a year, the engineering students bricked up the bridge that was a main access to the main campus.  UWO bridge looking east toward Richmond Street entranceEveryone knew it would happen sometime in the academic year, including maintenance staff who would dismantle it in the morning, early bus drivers with a load of students anxious about being late for class, and profs with morning classes who knew few students would turn up.  It was pretty funny, the thought of students out there all night long blocking off the bridge as quickly as they could.  And they always did a good job of it, putting their learning to practical purpose.  Even, so I heard, competing against the previous classes that had done it, with each year’s job assessed on the length of time it took to demolish it.

I don’t know if they still do it.  Yes, it was vandalizing university property and, yes, it inconvenienced people.  But I don’t think too many people really minded.  The Police in riot gear watching fires near Fanshawe March 18 2012engineers were using what they were learning and we all took pride in how well they had done the job.

Throwing bottles?  Bashing in windows?  Overturning cars?  You don’t need higher education to do that.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Mar. 18/12)

Sleep tight big fella.  Words for both Schmeichel and Lloyd at the end of Monday’s Ches talking to ill Schmeichelepisodes.  Thank you, Carmel Morgan, for two perfect episodes.  Sad and perfect.

The death of Schmeichel was beautifully done.  Ches talking to him while waiting for the vet, telling him how frightened he was, how much he needed his help through the next stage of his life, telling him he loved Gary, Kirk and Ches with Schmeichelhim.  And earlier, Kirk speaking up for Schmeichel’s right to not suffer, saying “I don’t know all the words for the body parts in Latin or owt, but I know a dog who’s had enough when I see one… If he could talk, he’d say Ches dude, no more operations, thanks but no thanks.”

Gary being there for Ches, listening to him talk about Schmeichel – “not an average Great Dane, the Greatest Dane ever”.  Gary helping Ches take Schmeichel home from the vet clinic, not questioning or chiding, just helping, and nodding an apology to the Katie saying to Ches you think you are doing what is bestvet.  Even Katie came through in the crunch.  She came back home and just once reminded him of his responsibilities, lack of money etc.  Then she shut up and was as supportive as it seems she could be.

Only two things I would have changed. No one, including the vet, mentioned Schmeichel’s age in regard to the wisdom of any operation.  Eight is old for a Great Dane.  That alone would be cause for concern with surgery or anaethesia.  Other than that, the vet’s advice was spot on.  Also, I wish Kirk had been there when poor Schmeichel was euthanized.  He meant more to Schmeichel and vice versa than Katie.  But maybe her presence was meant to Vet, Katie and Ches after Schmeichel passes awayshow the moving on of Ches’s life with her and not with Schmeichel and Kirk.  The actual death scene was beautifully and sensitively done.  At the final shot of Ches’s face, as Schmeichel’s laboured breathing ceased, part of my mind (the part that wasn’t crying) thought where are they going to go now?  Commercial break?  Can’t go to a noisy or silly scene.  Can’t go to a tense dramatic scene either.  Got to give time for Schmeichel’s demise to sink in.

Going back to Lloyd, morose in his living room, with Steve and a few cans for company was perfect.  Lloyd was emotionally and physically drained, from losing Cheryl and Lloyd grabs Karl in Streetcars officedefending her to Karl.  Earlier in the cab office, Karl had tried to cheer Lloyd up by saying “a free-loading pole dancer with a kid in tow – you’re well shot of her, man.”  I’m with Karl on this, but it wasn’t the time for Lloyd to hear it.  And he needed to release his frustration, so he attacked Karl then fired him.  Steve separated them and sent Lloyd home.

Steve went around (at Tracy’s suggestion) with some beer to keep him company.  Lloyd Lloyd and Steve and beer cans in Lloyd's housetalked about anything other than Cheryl.  He says he overheard Katie say she liked the name James for a boy – James Brown, and she didn’t even know who the child would share a name with.  Lloyd said “my cousin married a woman named Cat Stevens.”   Steve asks “Did she change her name?”  “Why, because Cat Stevens did?”  “No, because she got married.”  “Dunno but she’ll always be Cat Stevens to me.  Then again, so will Cat Stevens.”

After Schmeichel’s death scene, when we go back to Lloyd and Steve, Steve suggests Ches telling Schmeichel I love youthey hit some bars.  Lloyd’s up for it.  I hope they have a good time and Lloyd sleeps well.  He deserves it.  And Schmeichel, rest in peace.  You are the Greatest Dane.

I wrote about Great Dane health issues here.

Schmeichel, the Greatest Dane

Peter Schmeichel 1991 from WikipediaThe name Schmeichel is well-known to two groups of people, soccer fans and Coronation Street fans.  Peter Schmeichel is a great Danish goalkeeper who played for Manchester United.  It was in his honour that young Chesney Brown named his Great Dane puppy.

Schmeichel the dog has been on Coronation Street since 2003.  We watched him grow up.  Sometimes we wondered where he was when months would pass without sight of or reference to him.  Then he’d reappear – and steal the scene.

This week, on Corrie’s Canadian airtime, Schmeichel was euthanized.  It was the saddest death scene I’ve seen in a long time.  He had not been feeling well and liver disease, probably cancer, was the vet’s diagnosis.  It was a very sad time for Schmeichel’s fans and fans of Young Schmeichel and ChesChes and his friend Kirk.  They have both been Schmeichel’s lifelong faithful companions.

Liver disease claimed the life of my beloved German Shepherd Jack, so I know how Chesney feels.  Here’s information on symptoms and treatments.  It’s not a problem associated more with Great Danes than other breeds.  There are those too.  Addison’s Disease, bloat or gastric torsion, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism and cardiomyopathy are named as particular dangers for the breed.

Gastric torsion or bloat is common in all deep-chested dogs.   Precautions to take are avoid vigorous exercise right before or after eating, feed more small meals rather than one large one, and put food and water bowls in an elevated stand to lessen chances of gulping air down with the food (click here to see my easy way to raise bowls).  If your dog has severe stomach discomfort, get him or her to a vet Schmeichel's death scene with Ches and vetimmediately.  Gastric torsion (flipping and twisting of organs) can kill very quickly.

Cardiomyopathy is associated with either heart beat irregularity or heart congestion.  It claimed the lives of two Doberman friends of mine (here).  It can kill quickly or slowly, but either way, it’s not curable.

Hip dysplasia is where the bone doesn’t fit properly in its socket and is a common problem especially in large breeds (but can affect small dogs too).  Care taken when they are pups can help.  A food that helps their body and bones grow at the same rate so their bones give adequate support for their weight.  Keeping your dog from getting Schmeichel with Ches in clinic penoverweight at all ages avoids extra strain being put on bones.

Like other giant breeds, Great Danes don’t have a long life span: 7 to 10 years, so Schmeichel’s on-screen lifetime was accurate.  Still, like Ches, I hoped he’d live another ten.  Ches went through every emotion and response when faced with the finality of his dog’s illness, but he reluctantly made the right decision.  Weigh the probabilities in pain and trauma for the dog against the possible outcomes, and don’t let the dog suffer needlessly so that you feel you did everything you could.

Schmeichel 4 on Coronation Street set with trainer, Ozzie and actorsI wish the real Schmeichel all the best in retirement.  He, also named Schmeichel, is the 4th dog to play the role, taking it over from his grandfather.  He truly will be missed.

Here is my scene of the week about Schmeichel.

Tales from The Street

The big Corrie bus has rolled into Canada:  McDonald father and son and the Peacocks.  Poster for Tales from The StreetCharles Lawson (Jim McDonald), Nicholas Cochrane (Andy McDonald), Stephen Arnold (Ashley Peacock) and Julia Howarth (Claire Peacock) started a tour of Ontario and Alberta last weekend.  They come to my area – Southwestern Ontario – at the end of March.  Yippee!

Here is the full schedule and, for London (March 30th) and Ancaster (March 29th), tickets are here.  While none of the four are on the show now, Stephen is the only one for whom the door is closed with Ashley having died in the tram crash.  So we can hope we’ll see the others on the cobbles again.

I had the pleasure of meeting Nicholas Cochrane years ago when I was researching Other Worlds.  His character, Andy, was still a student and we talked at the school then McDonald family Coronation Street 1989used as Weatherfield Comp.  Nicholas got the part of Andy right out of school and had no training other than high school drama class.  Working on Coronation Street every day with actors who had a wide range of experience, he said, provided a great education.

youtube photo tribute to Jim McDonaldNicholas worked closely with Charles Lawson.  Jim McDonald is maybe my favourite Corrie character and that is due to his portrayal by Charles Lawson.  When you look at the parts of Jim, there really isn’t much to like.  He isn’t a great father, you can hardly call him a good husband, he probably was a good soldier but he never found success or happiness in any other endeavour.  He’s quick-tempered, even violent.  But.  He’s also witty, warm-hearted, generous with his time and love, and a guy you’d like as a friend.  Charles Lawson plays the whole man, in all his complexity.  Jim is kind of a Janus, so he is, and you see his good face and his bad face, sometimes at the same time.

The Jim and Liz story I have never forgotten is when she told him about a long-ago Jim hauling Liz out of car 1996affair she had with his Army buddy.  He exploded, hauled her out of the car, hit her and left her on the pavement.  It was shocking, as was the aftermath when she and he continued to deal with it.  The violence was delved into, with his sons confronting him and also examining their own relationship with him, pre- and post-beating.  It also showed Jim’s examination of himself and his relationship with his family.

Liz on ground after Jim drives awayI had those episodes on tape.  I showed scenes to my Popular Culture class to illustrate how a “social issue” story can be presented effectively.  I contrasted it to a wife abuse story on the soap The Young and The RestlessY&R’s involved a character, back after many years away, and her husband and daughter who hadn’t been seen before.  It said the right things and gave information about what a woman should do in a situation of domestic violence.  But, while you were horrified, it didn’t really connect.  These weren’t people you knew.  And then they disappeared so you didn’t have to think about them, or the issue, again.  With the McDonalds, all aspects of family violence were looked at without preaching, through the vehicle of a family you knew well and continued to see.  You couldn’t help but care.

Canada AM with Corrie stars, CTVAnd the Peacocks – I look forward to seeing them.  I’m so sorry that Ashley will never grow old on the show and become the next Fred Elliot, I say, the next Fred Elliot.

The book below is not about Coronation Street, but the people it talks about could well live on the Street.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Mar. 11/12)

Rosie reading her story in the GazetteThere were a lot of great scenes this week.  The birthday party from hell with Rosie’s press coverage and Sophie and Sian’s hidden engagement rings, Paul telling Eileen about his wife’s illness and the toll it takes, Sally sniping during the prayer at John Stape’s funeral, Lloyd learning the truth about Cheryl and Chris.  Powerful scenes in a lot of good storylines.  But the story for me was Schmeichel.

Schmeichel on couch with Ches, Kirk and KatieMy heart started breaking early in the week, when Ches said Schmeichel wasn’t feeling well.  At that time, Ches was too busy with Fizz to fully attend to his dog.  That, I think, has come back to haunt him.  Kirk took Schmeichel to the vet.  Ches sees the dog bed out back, and no dog.  The vet kept him in overnight, Kirk explains, looks like liver disease, maybe cancer.

Playing grown-up isn’t as easy as Katie and Katie reads eviction noticeChes had thought.  Bills are overdue, including rent, an eviction notice is served. Katie is getting big as a house and, naturally, is concerned for the wellbeing and future of her unborn baby.  They might end up with another child as well, if the wheels of justice don’t soon clear Fizz of the murder conviction.  Katie and Ches are only 16 and 17.

Ches reluctantly accepts Owen’s offer of a loan for the rent.  He even asks if Owen At vet's office Ches arguing with Owenwould also loan the money for Schmeichel’s biopsy.  No, Owen says, not for a dog.  Be a man, son, you’ve got a baby coming.  Owen is right, of course, but he doesn’t realize what Schmeichel means to Ches.  He, Katie and Anna, the other principles in this story, did not know the lonely little boy who was saved by that dog.  They know he loves Schmeichel, but I don’t think they can know the depths of reliance he has on him.

Kirk and Ches with Schmeichel in clinicAt the vet clinic, Kirk said to Schmeichel “Daddy’s here” but that doesn’t fully describe the relationship between Ches and Schmeichel.  Since Ches was a child, Schmeichel has been his dependant but also his friend and support.  Ches’s mother has come and gone, the man he loved as a father – Les Battersby – has come and gone.  Even Fizz has left him, now due to circumstances outside her control but earlier too, when she put John Stape ahead of Ches.  Only Schmeichel and Kirk have Kirk comforting Chesbeen steadfast for Ches throughout all his growing up years.

I hoped that Kirk could get through to Ches, that euthanasia for Schmeichel is the best option.  Kirk knows that, but can’t get the words out right, and he believes Ches will make the right decision.

Schmeichel after biopsy with Ches and Katie in clinicChes needs someone older and wiser to tell him he’s not doing Schmeichel any favours and sometimes death is kinder for all.  Owen, even if he understood all that Schmeichel means to Ches, can’t do it.

Ches has a chip on his shoulder toward Owen.  He feels he has to prove himself to Katie’s dad, prove that he’s just as much as man as Owen is.  Well, Ches, you’re not.  Schmeichel with ChesYou’re a kid and you’re facing one of the hardest things in life – the decision to kill your best friend.  It never gets easier, you just learn that sometimes it’s the only thing to do and that keeping your beloved animal alive is something you’re doing for yourself, not your pet.

Interlibrary Loan

St. Thomas Public Library interlibrary loan slipI wanted a book a while back.  The public library didn’t have it and neither did the local bookstore.  Did I want to drive to London to look for it?  Or order it online?

I checked at the library again to see if maybe they had ordered it or if they’d want it for their collection if I bought it then donated it to them.  The librarian said “You can get it through interlibrary loan.”

Oh!  So, off to a different desk and my request was put in.  A couple days later, the book is in.  I looked through it with great excitement, wanting to know what library let me have it.  It came from Essex County Library.  How miraculous is that!

Interlibrary loan isn’t new to me.  I used it in university libraries and never thought twice about it.  Needing academic books or papers, of course your own library will not have everything available but another will.  So your library will get it from another painting of library shelves Carl Spitzweg ca 1850library because you need it.

But my assumptions about interlibrary loan usage for academic purposes never translated into it for a book that I simply want to read.  If the library doesn’t have it, I have bought the book or requested it as my “buy a book” donation to the library collection.

All the way home from the library, I looked at that book that had come all that way to me.  And the whole thing was free.

Think about that in comparison with your bank.  You put your money in the bank, the bank uses it to make money for itself.  And the bank charges service fees for any transaction you do chart showing bank fee changesinvolving your own money and even the report cards on what’s happening with your money – monthly statements etc.  Your money is making money for the bank.

The library?  You reading a book is not earning the library any money.  You getting them to get you a book from another library is costing them a lot more money than you simply taking a book off your library’s shelves and checking it out.  But that search for the book you request, requisitioning it, having it brought to your library for you to pick up, then the whole process in reverse to get the book back to its own shelves: free.

Yes, that’s what public libraries are about.  A fee for such services would prevent some people from being able to use interlibrary loan.  But what about a voluntary donation?  library card catalogue photo by Dr. Marcus Gossler (Wikicommons)Libraries are as hard, perhaps harder, pressed in terms of budgets and having to figure out how to provide good service to the community while dealing with cutbacks.  There generally always is a donation box somewhere in the library, but how many of us think to actually put money in it?  I did when I got this book.

If I’d bought my interlibrary loan book, it would have cost me about $30.  So a donation of $5 to the library is a bargain for me.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Mar. 4/12)

Fiz saying I love the sinner as John nears deathJohn Stape’s death scene Friday was very touching.  Despite him being a total nutbar, I will miss him.  The character of John Stape was perfectly cast with Graeme Hawley.  I guess I’m hoping a bit that, on Monday, John suddenly returns from flatlining and makes his escape from hospital.

Especially for scenes like Thursday’s when he was schooling hostage Rosie in what to John explaining to Rosie from graph what happenedsay to the court to exonerate Fizz.

As he has said repeatedly as justification for his acts of crime and/or stupidity, he lives to teach.  So he had a bulletin board and markers and made a graph of all activities at the times of the deaths of the Fishwick mother and son and of Charlotte.  He also had photos and diagrams showing what and where to help Rosie memorize the facts.  During what had John marking Rosie's written testto be a very long night for both of them, he set Rosie homework about the sequence of events and tested her recall with written and oral quizzes.  Rosie with duct tape over her mouth, John in front of her using a pen as pointer going over the highpoints of the nights in question.  Then removing the tape so she could repeat the sequence back to him.  Rosie, in a wonderful combination of fear and ditziness, was not the ideal student John hoped for.  Oh, it was just perfect.  A masterpiece of writing and acting by both of them.

John in car booking flat viewingAlso perfect was the set up to this, his second kidnapping of Rosie.  Sitting in his car, calling the real estate agent to set up a viewing of Jason’s flat, he had to come up with a name.  He sees a guy guy with container of chips walks past John's carwalking down the street with a package of chips.  “Mr. Chips,” he gave as his name.  You knew that, even with her Oak Hill education, Rosie Webster would not think anything odd about that name.  And Jason?  No, he wouldn’t catch it.  I thought maybe Kevin would.   But it’s not really surprising that in the heat of the moment, realizing that his daughter is missing, Kevin wouldn’t take notice of such an iconic name in the world of fictional educators.


I did think, at some point, as John’s situation unraveled and more and more people became party, that someone would say ‘he called himself Mr. Chips?’  But, so far, no one has so maybe it will remain John Stape’s final and personal little literary pun.

There was another scene this week that was going to be my pick, but there will be more about it later, I believe, so I won’t tell what it was.  Also this week saw the real-life death of Davy Jones, known to the world as “the cute Davy Jones as Ena's grandson on Coronation StreetMonkee”, to connoisseurs of Corrie as a child actor portraying Ena Sharples’ grandson, and to the American and English horse racing world as a horse owner and former amateur steeplechase jockey.  His horses, children and wife will miss him sorely and so will we all.