One and a half minutes: the length of time Roy spoke at Hayley’s funeral. His words encompassed 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 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 time 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 had 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.”
It 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, as 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.
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 Concerto for Two Violins and she had told the pastor why she chose it. She understood Roy’s explanation of its perfection of harmonic ‘voice’ and 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 to understand his mourning.
The actions and characters of this story are of course fictional. But being fictions provides 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.