Corrie Street Nov. 30/14

Illiteracy Skills

Faye reacts to illiteracy you-sent-me-messagesAmid all the tutting about ‘why didn’t your teachers notice?’ and ‘why didn’t you tell me?’, Faye made the best observation about Tim’s inability to read: “You must be dead clever”. Getting by in a word-based world when you can’t read has to take great skill. Hiding it from everyone, including your nearest-and-dearest, takes even more skill.

Sally, and pretty much the whole street, found out about Tim’s illiteracy. She made it all tim-in-letter-slotabout her, but that’s understandable at least to an extent. He did not adequately explain his frequent absences and his presence with Anna. Sally feared he and Anna were having an affair, and seeing him give Anna flowers seemed to confirm it. Even Maddie came to believe he was doing the dirty on Sally.

So, as Sally chucked his belongings out the upstairs window, he had little choice but to tell you-want-himher what he and Anna were really up to – reading lessons. He’s embarrassed that everyone knows. Sally goes from gobsmacked to self-recrimination, that she hadn’t noticed, to Tim-recrimination for not trusting her enough to tell her and ask her for help. After all, she points out, she has plenty of experience from helping Rosie and Sophie with their homework, and look how well they turned out.

annaAnna gets a chance to rub Sally’s nose in her erroneous conclusions about “Anna Slutty Windass” and plans to continue the lessons with Tim. But it will be duelling teachers because Sally quickly did her internet research and gathered her glossy magazines as teaching aids.

If I were Tim, I’d take up Faye’s offer of help.  Much more straightforward and much less emotionally loaded. Also she would be likely as good if not better at teaching. If I were the show’s producer, you-can-readI’d link this storyline to the new community centre. Where better to have adult literacy classes? It would bring the centre back to our screens and make use of a brand-new set. It would also show a real-life issue with both characters we know  and a larger community.  I would feel bad for subjecting poor Tim to Yasmeen’s attentions because, for sure, she’d be there with bells on.  But it would be fun to watch.

Corrie Street Nov. 23/14

Parental Disappointment

simon-pleads-with-peterFriday saw leave-takings, and sad hearts. Peter took his taxi ride off the street. He is off to Portsmouth to get himself together. Cilla is off back to Wolverhampton, with ches-watches-from-windowFiz. Both Peter and Cilla have damaged relationships with their children. They succeeded in repairing some of the damage done, but not all, with the help of others.

Peter Barlow

Soon after getting out of prison, Peter realized he needed to get away. Carla was not go-back-to-normalgoing to forgive and forget, he had no job or prospects, the temptation to drink was there, he couldn’t let his very wary son down again or his ever-hovering father. Even the Barlow house was a constant reminder of Rob, and therefore Tina. Time for a fresh start.

Simon pretended he didn’t care when he a-right-cowheard his father’s news. He’s built a huge defensive wall around himself. But that wall collapsed and he pleaded with Peter to stay. Out to the bench for chips and a talk they went. Along came Carla. She quickly saw what was going on and fixed the impasse father and son were at.

Carla asked Simon to be honest about his feelings toward her and carla-hugs-simonshe paid him the same respect by doing the same about him. Peter was horrified, but it did the job. Simon saw that he was not the only one with mixed feelings about people and that events, past and present, couldn’t just be magically swept away. Sometimes life sucks but, with luck, there are others around you who feel the same way and together you might muddle through.

Cilla Battersby-Brown

cilla-and-fiz-at-bistroAt the same time as the Barlows were sorting out packing and life’s vagaries, so too were the Battersby-Browns. But no Chesney coming to the good-bye party. He has accepted that, this time, his mother is genuinely ill and in need.

Ches has tried to keep that in mind while thinking about his own childhood. But that childhood is not ches-and-sinead-in-kebab-shoplong ago. He does have a bit of distance to give him some perspective, and what it tells him is that maybe his mother does regret her actions. But she still came back to them only because she needs their help – just like always. He has had to come to that conclusion all on his own. He hasn’t had the help from others that Simon got from Carla.

cilla-gets-in-carWith soft heart and good intentions, Sinead has pleaded with him to forgive Cilla. And Fiz, so happy to have yet another person on a short leash, quickly forgave, forgot and moved on to her controlling form of fussing over.

Beth, I think, could help Ches understand his mother and his relationship to her. But she is still trying to figure Cilla out herself cilla looks back at houseand, like Carla, Beth doesn’t do touchy-feely. Maybe Simon and Ches would be the best support group for each other. They both know what it’s like to be let down by parents but still go on loving them.

Corrie Street Nov. 16/14

Poor Tracy Luv

Poor tracy luv lies on couch, wedding presents in frontFirst scene Monday in the Barlow living room, Ken and Tracy amid the leftovers of her wedding. He’s trying to make her feel better. Telling her how it would have been worse if the wedding had gone ahead, how she ought to be glad that Peter is getting out of prison and Rob going in, as soon as the police find him. Things could be worse. She isn’t alone, she has Amy.

She does not take comfort from his words. In fact, she gets extremely angry at him. I feel sorry for Ken, he’s trying his best to give her perspective, to make her see the good rather should-be-necking-cocktailsthan just wallow in the bad. But I feel sorrier for Tracy. She doesn’t want to hear that right then. She doesn’t care that her brother is exonerated, that she still has her family.

The life she thought she had ahead of her is gone – in an instant, poof. She is alone, and a laughingstock whose fancy wedding was totally destroyed, with an almost-husband who is a murderer. She’s back to being a single mother living with her parents. And she’s got wedding presents to return and a pile of wedding stuff and arrangements to get rid of and pay for. What she wants to hear is “poor Tracy luv” over and over again.

“He are a large arsehole, missy”

I once read a short story about a woman just dumped by her boyfriend, riding in a New York City cab. She told the cabdriver the whole story, at length, and cried. He probably didn’t want to hear it, didn’t really understand what she was even saying, and had to navigate traffic. All he said, every time she paused for breath, was “he are a large arsehole, missy, he are a large arsehole.” Those words comforted her. They, or Tracy walks out, saying to ken leave me alonea Ken variation of them, were what Tracy needed to hear right then.

Later in the week, to my great surprise, I felt sorry for Tracy again. She turned Rob in. She did what is easy to call ‘the right thing’, but it broke her heart all over again. Friday, she was herself again, opening and criticizing wedding gifts (with no plans to return them) and blaming Carla for everything. Another surprise: I was glad to see the real Tracy back.

World War I

World War I Canadian recruiting posterIt seemed like a good idea at the time: that’s the explanation I come up with for why World War I started. Virtually the entire world became embroiled in war due to one disorganized act of violence in Serbia against the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife was the politically small spark that lit big militaristic hopes and expansionist dreams.

WWI historian David Stevenson said on CBC’s Sunday Edition that negotiation and compromise could have averted war. No one imagined it would be a four-year-long worldwide bloodbath. Would they have been more cautious if they had?

According to Margaret McMillan in The War that Ended Peace, the 19th century had been peaceful between nations in Europe. Conflicts were internal, distant or between specific nations. General war in Europe was not something even the eldest person alive in 1900 had experienced. There were no memories setting off warning bells.

World War I painting by Frederick_Varley_German_Prisoners-1920
German Prisoners, Frederick Varley, 1918-20, Canadian War Museum

In The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman quotes the former German Chancellor in 1916 saying, “How did it all happen?” Then-Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg replied, “Ah, if only one knew.” During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, having recently read Tuchman’s book, President John F. Kennedy told his brother Bobby that he didn’t want somebody writing that about him in years hence. He reached a settlement with Russia. A veteran himself with a brother killed in WWII, Kennedy had memories of war.

A Family War

World War I photo British cavalry en route to Vimy Ridge
British cavalry en route to Vimy Ridge, Imperial War Museum

WWI was a family war, not just for those with loved ones fighting, but for the protagonists. The heads of the three major participant nations were cousins. Kaiser Wilhelm II and King George V were grandchildren of Queen Victoria, as was Tsarina Alexandra of Russia. The mothers of George V and Tsar Nicholas II were sisters. The Kaiser and Tsar were 2nd cousins. All had been friends since childhood. But once declarations of war started, they couldn’t help each other.

Nations piled in like a bar fight. To help friends, attack enemies, make a score, settle a score. Some had no choice: imperial powers immediately brought in their colonies. Very few remained neutral.

The end of every fight might lay the seeds for the next. The terms of peace in 1919 made The War to End All Wars become The War that Caused World War II. It also redrew the world’s map, ended monarchies, birthed the Soviet Union and led to the end of colonialism.

Youth Mourning, George Clausen, 1916, Imperial War Museum
Youth Mourning, George Clausen, 1916, Imperial War Museum

The valour of those who fought and those who mended the damage got done what had been started. But most likely they all asked themselves the Chancellor’s question, “how did it all happen?” The estimated 16 million military and civilian war dead never got an answer.

 

Corrie Street Nov. 9/14

Chances and Choices

It was Ken really, talking about Peter in jail, of Simon growing up without a dad and he-is-innocentcarrying the shame of his father being a convicted murderer. Perhaps not the time nor the place, but it got the job done. Until then Carla hadn’t summoned the courage – or disloyalty – to turn her brother in. She had not succeeded in convincing him to do it himself.

Let him have his day, Rob had asked, let him marry Tracy, let the horses and carriage not go to waste. Let him have his whole life in fact. He would make better use of freedom than Peter would. Peter would drink his life away in six months, Rob predicted. What would Carla be left with then? If he stayed out of prison, Rob promised her he’d have a good and long life and produce nieces and nephews to make up for the baby she lost. If tough-on-you-too carla decides to turn rob inonly she would keep quiet about him killing Tina, it would work out best for (almost) everybody.

Carla knew just forgetting was impossible. So too was tapping out the number for the police, until she saw Ken and heard his words. Still, she gave Rob a fighting chance. She warned him the police were on their way. He could decide whether to stay or run. He chose the latter.

Twisting realism

There was time to think and talk before the ceremony because of a little twisting of realism in the story. Tracy’s entry to the wedding horses at entrancehall was delayed because Amy forgot her flowers in the carriage. She realized it just after the horses had left.

It’s a bit unbelievable that the horses would leave immediately after dropping Tracy off, with nobody to see her in her princess coach and matched greys. But the need to retrieve the forgotten bouquet gave time for Carla to make her decision, call the police and break the news to Rob.

michelle-in-fieldIt also gave us the opportunity to see a stocking-footed Michelle running full-tilt across a field. And that was worth a great deal.

Corrie Street Nov. 2/14

Community Work

“Not only is she a bossy-boots, she has a flair for the dramatic.” Norris summed up Yasmeen Nazir and her ‘community development’ perfectly.Jamila House Community Centre

I admire Yasmeen, while also being frightened of her. She will tackle anything and anyone and, when she sees a need, she fills it. The community needs a library. She has the skills to make that happen. She also has the foresight to see that a volunteer-based library can be more than that. It will meet more needs and therefore work better if it is a community resource centre. It ought to be an integral part of local life, developing and nurturing interests and skills and connecting people.

So why does she decide to name it Jamila House? It’s a lovely tribute to her late daughter-in-law, but that’s the key to why it is a mistake. Her family are the only people who know who Jamila is.

Zeedan-and-NorrisZeedan was justifiably offended when Norris asked if a Jamila was a hairy fruit or giant rat. Those were the best guesses from those waiting for the grand opening. Why should they have to guess when it’s supposed to be their centre? It is said about comedy that if you have to explain the joke, it ain’t funny. I hope Zeedan thinks about this, rather than just having a pout. Perhaps he can explain to his grandmother the difference between ‘top-down’ and ‘grassroots’ organization.

I did it My Way

Something else Yasmeen might think about is the lack of involvement in this project by Roy, her initial comrade in arms in the fight for a library. If he’s not all over this, there’s a problem with it.

YasmeenThus far, the most accurate name would be The I-did-it-my-way Yasmeen Centre. Or maybe Just Yasmeen’s (as in NIck’s in-a-snit renaming of the bistro).  But local history even that recent is known to her only second-hand. She hasn’t been around long. If residents had been consulted, I bet one suggestion would be Elliott House, honouring the building and its long-time proprietors and community members, Fred Elliott and his son Ashley Peacock.

The archetypal ‘bossy-boots’ service professional?  Conan the Librarian.