Corrie Street Feb. 23/14

Gooseberry

Michelle may tell him he’s thick, but Steve sometimes seems smarter and more insightful hardly-said-two-words-to-methan even he thinks he is. In scenes on Thursday and Friday, there is deftness in the writing and portrayal of Steve, first with Michelle and then with Andrea.

He tries to explain to Michelle why he is unhappy about Lloyd and Andrea dating. It’s a friendship thing, he says, one with Lloyd and a separate one with Andrea. He wants the situation with both to stay as it is. He tries to explain the nature of best friends and how the entrance of a third person changes that, steve-explainseven when the third is also a friend. One party can end up feeling like an outsider, a gooseberry. He is the one feeling that way, especially with Lloyd and Andrea changing friendship to romance. Michelle cannot understand. All she can see is that he is being ‘stupid’, as usual, or that he is interested romantically in Andrea.

Michelle sees Steve’s jealousy as indicating only that he doesn’t regard her as a friend or michelle-lookswant her as a lover. Steve is caught in the impossible situation of trying to explain to his partner why another woman’s friendship is important to him, when he doesn’t really understand it himself. The dynamics of emotional connections are very hard to disentangle. It is especially difficult to do with an audience of an already jealous girlfriend who appears unfamiliar with the complexities of friendship. Michelle listens, but you can see her mind so busy working along her own lines that she does not hear him.

Most of us know from experience what Steve is saying about friend alliances. We know Michelle’s fears too – the heartbreak that awaits when professed ‘friendship’ masks something much more your-flaming-historythreatening. Both are speaking truths, and they are truths that might overlay or disguise each other. Is it a case of the gentleman doth protest too much? Is Steve trying to avoid something as simple as the fact that he fancies Andrea? I didn’t know at the end of the scene. There is, of course, a bit of wishful thinking on my part. With the way Michelle has been toward him lately, I’d rather see him with anyone but her.

Friday, Steve told Andrea he had mixed feelings about her going out with Lloyd. Andrea was delighted; he was jealous therefore he must like her, oh happy day she thought. But he cut the moment short before she could tell him how she felt.

always-will-beShe got another chance a bit later. As she leaned toward him, ready to tell him how she felt about him, his face showed that he was very quickly assimilating what she was about to say. He averted it, by talking about mates and how happy he was to have her as one. She stopped what she’d been about to say and said yes, mates, that’s us.

The switch in direction was not so smooth that they couldn’t see what had happened, but it was enough that they could pretend that the other wasn’t saying something awkward. Nicely played, Steve.

Corrie Street Feb. 16/14

The Eulogy

One and a half minutes:  the length of time Roy spoke at Hayley’s funeral.  His words dark-cornerencompassed their love, their not so easy road toward happiness together, his devastation at being without her, and his anger at her choosing to leave him.  What his words didn’t say, his face did.

The late Sir John Betjeman, British poet laureate, said about the writing and acting on Coronation Street:  “Not a word too many.  Not a gesture needless.”  That is Roy, as David Neilson and the writers presented him during Hayley’s illness, death and maybe especially in his unintended eulogy.

roy-looking-at-coffinRoy is angry at Hayley, angry that she is gone and that she did it deliberately.  He wanted as much time as possible with her, no matter what that might cost her in pain and fear.  He couldn’t express his anger while she was still alive.  But after her death, he could and did.  The messages she left for him – a to-do list, the photograph album, the words of “what Hayley wanted” from the lady who will conduct the service – all increased his anger and his feeling of his life and needs being sidelined by “what Hayley wanted.”

colourful-coffinIt all boils up at the funeral that he did not want to attend.  The music of Queen, who Hayley liked and Roy didn’t.  Roy looks at the organic materials coffin holding Hayley’s body and fumes. All the while, Fiz talks and cries about how wonderful Hayley was.  He interrupts; he’s going to tell the truth about Hayley, she was not a saint, was not perfect.

Bach’s Violins

Then he looks at the coffin again, and his face changes.  The love comes back in his eyes and he talks about what Hayley meant to him.  The anger is gone, although his loneliness and bereavement are not.  He sits down, spent, and the service continues.  It ends and the final music is Hayley’s choice again, of course.  It is a choice she made for Roy:  Bach’s daffs-on-coffinConcerto for Two Violins and she had told the pastor why she chose it.  She understood Roy’s explanation of its perfection of harmonic ‘voice’. Therefore she picked it as a reminder to him of the harmony of their two human voices.

After he has had a chance to get away from the cacophony of grief and solicitude that has surrounded him in Weatherfield, he will come back to the photograph album that Hayley made for him.  Then, and until then, he will grieve in his own way.  If he did go to see his mother, I think she is the best person he could have chosen. She would understand his way of mourning.

The actions and characters of this story are of course fictional.  But being fictions roy-seatedprovides a buffer perhaps, allowing us to absorb the realities of the emotions expressed, of love and loss, sorrow and fear, and anger over natural and human decisions.

Corrie Street Feb. 9/14

Aftermath

aftermath Carla and Anna at bedroom doorCarla and Anna in Hayley and Roy’s room, afterwards. Their shock, realizing Hayley is dead. She lies curled in Roy’s arms. He isn’t aware they’re even in the room. They see the glass on the bedside table, used. They know what happened although they say not a word to each other or Roy.

anna-puts-glass-awayAnna takes the glass and washes it. She didn’t hear the stern warning Hayley gave Roy: don’t touch the glass, this was my action alone. Anna finds Fiz at the Rovers and breaks the news to her and all in the pub. (In the pub tableau of small groups assimilating the news, especially poignant was the thought-filled sadness of Emily, Rita, Dennis, Norris and Deirdre. They all know first-hand how it feels to lose the person closest to you.)

When Fiz goes to Roy’s, you see the differences in how people handle crises and who roy-with-hayleymight be actually of more help. Carla and Anna knew something was up even before Hayley took her fatal drink. Both felt Hayley had acted oddly the last time they had seen her. Anna had some warning; Roy had told her weeks ago that Hayley planned to kill herself. So let’s focus on Carla and Fiz. Neither of them knew Hayley’s intentions.

Carla had an uneasy feeling from when Roy wheeled Hayley in to the factory for an evening visit. Just out to take the air, Hayley what-I-wanted-to-saysaid, but Carla knew something was up. With Fiz, Hayley specifically asked her to come with Tyrone and the children. Fiz came in her lunch break, Tyrone had to stop a job he was in the middle of, and they hauled the kids out of daycare. Baby Ruby had a sniffle so they didn’t want her near Hayley. Hayley had to shout give me that baby, an unpleasant scene that Hayley felt bad about after. Despite these uncharacteristic actions, Fiz saw nothing worrisome.

carla-and-anna-exchange-looksSeeing Hayley so unexpectedly dead, Carla put two and two together very quickly. She and Anna stood quietly with quick looks at each other as if communicating how best to deal with Roy and what they knew, and with Fiz. Fiz howled about how upset she was, if only she’d known, what she’d wanted to say, she’d thought there was time, etc. Roy felt compelled to say “sorry” to Fiz. As if her comfort was more important than his, even Hayley’s.

carla-anna-with-royIn the aftermath, Carla was there, mentally organizing what needed to be done and carefully watching Roy. She stood quietly, spoke of practical matters when warranted, touched Roy only briefly when it seemed appropriate. Fiz followed him like his shadow. Glommed to him, saying what can I do to help, I’m so upset, and on and on. Not for a second did she back off, listen to Roy or even truly look at him, or stop imposing her needs and wishes on him.

The irony of this is that it is Carla who is believed by others, and herself, to be no good in an emotional crisis and to lack empathy. Fiz is thought by others, and herself, to be the roy-listens-to-fiz-cryepitome of caring and sharing, in tune with the emotional life around her. Especially with Roy and Hayley, it is Fiz who has the longer and closer history. But in a crisis of these proportions, I know whom I’d want around me, and I think Roy would agree: Carla. Fiz would make me want to jump off a cliff.

She Loves You

Some things you will never ever forget. One, for me, is Ed Sullivan introducing “these CBS Beatles ad on tvyoungsters from Liverpool.”  Hands clenched on head, pulling at hair, “eek, aah, oohh”.  In the living room with parents, sitting on the floor in front of the television, screaming. Watching John-Paul-George-and-Ringo, February 9, 1964. I still can hear “well, she was just seventeen, and you know what I mean, the way she looks, is way beyond compare.”

Even now – old enough to realize that my parents must have been looking askance at each other, each blaming the other’s gene pool for having produced such a half-wit of a child – the memory sends shivers through me. After that and before, I watched bands I loved on girl-in-audience-screenshotEd Sullivan’s “shew”.  But the Beatles were “way beyond compare.”

I think we in North America were lucky in our introduction to them. They were already an established sensation by the time they came on tour. We already knew it was ok to like them; indeed being Beatle-crazy was de rigueur. Probably in England, there had been girls who said ‘they’re ok but it’s Frankie and the Fruitcakes who are really going to make it big.’  In light of knighthoods, billions in sales and historical perspective of the musical and social change started by the Beatles, those girls probably still feel a bit silly.

Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein made a way bigger misjudgment. According to Terry O’Reilly on CBC’s Under the Influence, Epstein let someone else market Beatles products – at a 90/10 split, the 10% going to the Beatles. Who didn’t buy a Beatle wig? And I had Beatles cards tv screenshotBeatles bubblegum trading cards, uncut sheets. My father got them from a friend at O-Pee-Chee Gum. I cut them into individual cards, not keeping even one whole. I could have retired on the proceeds of those.

The fact that none of the plentitude of Mersey Beat bands ever matched the Beatles’ success does not deny the success that many did achieve due to the spin-off effect. The Beatles were not created in a vacuum; they were influenced by their contemporaries and they opened doors for others.

In September 1964, the Beatles came to Toronto. My mother would not let me go, despite wheedling DC5 London Ont UWO Archives lfpress.com James Reaney 3Nov2011and tantrums. Two months later, my friends and I stood along Oxford Street in London (Ont.), waiting for the Dave Clark Five to drive past. They were playing at Treasure Island Gardens and, again, my mother said I couldn’t go. But being in that crowd of girls on the street, screaming our heads off, made up for a lot. The Dave Clark Five weren’t the Beatles, but they were close enough. Tellingly, I have no memory of the Rolling Stones coming to London the next year. That suggests their music was beyond my pre-adolescent ken.

Beau-Brummels-Teen-Aug-66-beaubrummels.tripod.com_laugh_60sjpgTerry O’Reilly mentioned a 1960s band called the Beau Brummels. They were from California but their music and foppish suits seemed British. And, maybe more importantly, their name put their records alphabetically right after the Beatles in record bins, thereby increasing their sales.

I will be watching the Beatles special February 9th  on CBS. I’ll probably sit on the floor as close as possible to the tv, maybe scream a little. For sure I’ll cry a little for four lads, and a girl from long ago.

Corrie Street Feb. 2/14

Strawberry Jam Forever

When the vanload of strawberries for Hayley arrived, all I could think of was olives – cases and cases arriving at the Bistro. A continuing joke, with olives popping up hayley-first-strawberrieseverywhere there was a Platt. Please, oh please, this can’t happen with the strawberries. The out-of-season berries are the only food Hayley has been able to eat. But they are unavailable. Possibly Hayley’s appetite for them has gone as well. But finding strawberries becomes a mission, a way of doing something for Hayley. For her friends and Roy, it’s a way to take action and thereby maybe stave off her death.

But I feared her seeing those piled-up crates of strawberries, filling up the café. What would that do to her? Knowing the effort, time and money they had spent to show her they care. How can she strawberries in cafereciprocate other than by eating her way through them? She saw them: I expected to see her throw up.

How is this going to end? Are we going to have flats of strawberries appearing at Hayley’s funeral? Will a moldy, rotting pint of berries appear on a café windowsill weeks from now? Please make them go away! But don’t let them be wasted. That alone would kill Hayley, watching good food go to waste. Take them to the soup kitchen! Where’s helpful-Hannah Sophie when you need her?

make-a-suggestionAnd there’s Emily Bishop. She sees lights on in the kitchen and comes to the door. It’s a strawberry party.  Smoothies, daiquiris – anything and everything in which strawberries can be used. She suggests jam. Of course, and what a wonderful idea. So Mrs. Bishop oversees Fiz, Jenna, Kirk, Roy, Carla and whoever else is there in a production line of boiling and bottling. Mary comes in with jars, her mother’s prize-winning preserves recipe and a whole lot of attitude. Emily makes room for her at the stove. She also tries to keep Carla occupied so her culinary ineptitude doesn’t endanger the actual cooking.strawberry jam jars filling

They had a great time. Hayley came down to see what the noise was about. Her doing so covered the bases, addressed my concerns. She saw her friends having fun and doing something useful – all due to their love for her. Mary turned it into a competition, of course, and asked Hayley to judge the winner between jam and preserves. I recall her doing this before, taste-testasking Hayley to choose in a cook-off that Mary spontaneously created. This time, as in the past, Hayley declared it a tie. Still, it’s a refreshing indicator of Mary’s acceptance of the vagaries of life (and maybe her self-absorption) to not let the spectre of death stop her from putting someone on the spot. Hayley probably appreciated being treated normally.

cute-little-jarsThe strawberry jam is a testament of love for Hayley and it will remain, an edible memorial to her.