The star of the Connor double wedding was the dress. Eva’s wedding dress. In the back room of the Rovers, in Adam’s law office, at the altar, in the water fountain and finally on the window ledge. The wedding really became the tale of the adventures of a wedding dress. It was a character in its own right over three episodes at the beginning of the week.
Eva could wear a burlap sack and make it look good. But the dress did look magnificent on her, and she in it. A lot of story was written around the actual events of the wedding. Tense and sad and funny – a lot happened during a double wedding that didn’t happen.
But pretty much I just watched the dress. Its last appearance was it falling into a sheet being held by wedding guests. That was Tyrone’s emergency plan to catch Eva if she fell or jumped.
Standing on the window ledge, shouting that she loved Aiden, her foot slipped. She panicked and froze, unable to get herself back in the room. Aiden ran upstairs to pull her in. But the lace on the dress skirt snagged on the window frame.
Eva cared about her fabric comrade in arms so wouldn’t let Aiden just pull it and her through the window. She did not want to rip the lace. So she told Aiden to untie the back and pull her out of the dress back into the room. Without her in it, the lace unsnagged and the dress came loose and fell to safety.
According to an interview with Catherine Tyldesley in what’sontv, Eva’s wedding dress had five stunt doubles. I hope costume protection observers ensured that none of the six dresses were harmed in the making of these episodes. I hope too that the beautiful location survived as well. It is Kingsley Hall, home of the Earl and Countess of Derby, in Prescot, Merseyside.
My name’s Liz Dawn. I play Vera Duckworth. I bet all your listeners will recognize this voice!
What’s Vera like?
Well, actually, Jack and Vera, they’re the best – most happily married couple in Coronation Street. Really! Because every time they have an argument, well, it’s a form of endearment! It’s not really like it looks, it’s a caress!
Well, Vera, she’s quite happy. In this day and age, she’s got her job, her husband’s working. I go play bingo with Ivy. Great corner shop, great Rovers Return. I’ve got lots of friends. Really she hasn’t a bad life, don’t you think? Compared to some people. I don’t know what it’s like in Canada, but we’ve got so much unemployment, you know. I’m so happy that Jack’s got this job in the pub. and he don’t really do owt wrong.
He just has these pigeons he loves. I don’t know whether you’ve seen the pigeons. Oh, he loves them. We’ve got them in the yard and every morning he goes out and feeds them. and he listens for them cooing.
Do you know much about pigeons? Well, they’ve got a sound of their own. And they’re filthy! So he’s having to clean the cages out, you know.
She should have an affair
Apart from that, actually, not a lot happens for Vera. I think she should have an affair. With Reg Holdsworth in Bettabuy. Because I worked at this supermarket. He’s a bit manic looking, Reg Holdsworth. But I think Vera could quite feel as if she’s come up in the world, you know, having an affair with a manager. Do you know what I mean – after Jack! She’d think she’d quite done well for herself.
What’s she like really: well, she’s down to earth. She likes a laugh. Some people think she’s nosy but she’s not really. It’s just her way, do you know what I mean?
I don’t think Vera will ever be able to afford to go to Canada. How much is it to go to Canada? [₤300, 400] Oh! I mean, our Jack can’t even get his glasses mended. You know our Jack, he wears Elastoplast around the edge. You see, that is about five pints to Jack, to get them repaired. That’s what he’s like, really, you see. He’d rather spend money for beer than have his glasses repaired.
Vera since 1974
Oh, do you want me to be Liz now? I get mixed up sometimes. I go into an identity crisis. Sometimes I’m Vera and sometimes I’m Liz. Right, well, my name’s Liz Dawn. I’m married, got 4 children. I’ve got 4 grandchildren.
I started off singing in working men’s clubs, you know, to earn a bit of money, extra money. Then I joined Equity to do ‘extra’ work. But when I joined, it was just around the time when we had a lot of Northern directors, and story writers that wanted the real thing. So anyway, I landed on my feet. It just happened the right time. And I had quite a few cameo parts in good plays.
So then I ended up in Coronation Street. And that were 1974 when it was Ken Barlow’s old factory. He managed the factory, and that’s where it all started really. And I’ve been in it ever since.
Next Ena Sharples
I’m hoping to be the next Ena Sharples, you know. I want to be in the snug, with an hairnet, drinking milk stout, with Ivy and a few other old cronies. Wearing big bloomers. Because I just love the programme.
[Did you watch it before you were on the show?] Yeah, I thought it were brilliant: oh, look at this! It’s so different than the programmes that were around at that time. Everybody spoke ‘very nice’, ‘very posh’. Weren’t a bit like real life, not in the North anyway. And that’s how I started.
I think It’s more of an institution now. It’s not a soap really, is it. After thirty-two years, I think it’s part of people’s life. If it came off it’d be like taking the 9 o’clock news off. People have just grown up with it.
The Duckworth Doorknob
We have a tour – Granada Tours – here, and people come round, there’s thousands come round a day, from all over the world. And they keep pinching my stone cladding! I don’t know, it’s a bit of memorabilia or whatever it is.
And one week they took the doorknob. What they thought they were going to do with the Duckworth doorknob I don’t know! They sent us out to do a scene, it was in the old factory. I came out of the factory, walked over the road, and I said to the prop man where’s my doorknob? He said them bloody tours again! I said what do you mean? And he said somebody’s took your doorknob. I said the doorknob! Can you imagine, it’d be stuck on somebody’s mantlepiece. They’re having cups of tea and boiled ham sandwiches and say ‘oh look, did I tell you that’s the Duckworth doorknob?’ Oh dear!
Duckworths visit Canada
I went over with Easter Seals, in Ottawa. Me and Bill. It were hard work. We were only there a week, 6, 5 days, something like that. But we raised a lot of money for charity and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it.
[Why do you think people in Canada and other countries watch?] I think it’s memories isn’t it, well, people that’ve gone over. People who’ve gone over to live there. I think it’s a piece of home, don’t you?
So that’s how it started, yeah. Time flies, doesn’t it. People say to me, did you think you’d be in it so long. Well, it’s just part of my life now. It’s hard work, it’s a fast show, it’s a 3 half hour programme a week. So you haven’t really time to look around. In my head sometimes it’s 1982, you know.
[Do you do any other work, other acting?] No, not acting, because our contract is very binding. You can’t do other things and quite rightly so. Because that’s what makes the characters believable. I mean, they’re a bit unbelievable aren’t they if you see them on other programmes.
And I think Granada has always had the right idea about how things should be. You know, the programme and how it should be run. I think it’s always been looked after, people kept their eye on things. ‘Hang on, you can’t do a pantomime and be in this.’ Well, you can’t anyway, it’s too – you couldn’t do a lot of things in this programme. It’s too time-consuming, you know.
Well, I’ve got to go. Because my husband’s waiting for me. But I’ve enjoyed talking to you and I’d like to wish your listeners all the best. When you go home, just say Liz Dawn, or say Vera says, look after yourselves.
In March 1992 I was lucky enough to meet actor Liz Dawn in her dressing room in the Granada Coronation Street studios. This is a slightly condensed transcript of our conversation. There is a lot of laughter in the actual tape. A lovely woman who made you feel right at home. Thank you, Liz – and Vera. (Meeting Jack Duckworth has more on my interviews with Liz and Bill Tarmey, our Jack.)
Rita flat on her back, eyes wide open, being wheeled in a hospital bed along a hospital corridor. Visible to her only a white ceiling panel, a light panel, ceiling panel, light panel, repeat and repeat.
My gut clenched. I’d been there. Walking alongside a hospital bed along a long white hospital panel. The elderly woman on the bed lying flat on her back, staring up at that same pattern of ceiling panel and light panel. Mewling with fear, trying to turn to see where she was – seeing only long walls of unbroken white. Screaming and struggling to get off the bed, to get away.
Me trying to figure out what was wrong, what was causing such profound fear. Aside from the anxiety that illness and hospitals engender, aside from dementia and hospital-administered sedatives. I looked up and kept my eyes up as I walked along. White ceiling panel, light panel, ceiling panel, light panel. Repeat and repeat, as far as you could see. It was terrifying. And I was walking, not ill, with all my wits about me.
Whoever created that small moment in Thursday’s episode has also been there, I think. Thank you. Hard job, to make something so quiet come so alive on screen. (Especially in the midst of the craziness of such a wonderful hen party as Eva’s!)
But that sigh -, that stark hospital corridor ceiling, seemingly never ending – conveys everything about the disorientation and fear felt by anyone in pain and anxious about what’s going to happen in a hospital.
For people with Alzheimer’s or any dementia, it must be horrible. Already disoriented maybe and in a new, strange place with no landmarks. Only a white ceiling interspersed with lights.
Hospital beds crank up to a sitting position. If the few seconds needed are available, doing so may ease the person in the bed. Seeing the context of the hallway – walls, floor, doorways – not just an unending ceiling going who knows where. Allowing the mind to paint unimaginable horrors on a blank white canvas that is really only ceiling and light panels. But you can’t see the whole when you’re flat on your back.
To call yourself a rider, one horse can give you your best final test: a school horse. Horses ridden in lessons build up knowledge of what makes a good, and bad, rider. When you can ride a school horse consistently well, you can say, why yes, I do ride.
School horses are the most even-natured and tolerant creatures in a stable. That is why they give lessons and the divas of horsedom do not. School horses will figure out what the mixed cues you’re sending actually mean. But not forever. When they deem it time, they require you to do it correctly. They make you search for the answers of how to ride.
Like every student at Butternut Stables in Hampton, I started on Denny. He is an old hand at lessons. He is quiet and gentle with little kids. With older students, he assesses their abilities and acts accordingly. Sometimes he helps you learn and sometimes he simply amuses himself. Just depends how he feels at that moment.
Anything a neophyte rider can do wrong, Denny knows. Anything a horse can do to foil a rider, Denny knows. He has a neck of steel that he can lock in place if he wants to go a different direction than you want to go. An hour on Denny is a full workout – legs, arms, and patience and willpower.
Ride on the wind
But Denny and every school horse I’ve ridden like to show you what they can really do. When they figure you can handle it, they’ll take you for a ride on the wind. “You wanna go faster? Okay!” You can only hang on. You’re trying to remember what you’re supposed to do. Your human teacher yells ‘legs, seat, reins!”
With or without you doing anything, your Pegasus suddenly snorts and stops. You put your parts back where they belong in the saddle. Then, as if he had never seen that vast plain in his ancestral mind’s eye, your horse goes back to plodding along.
At some point, you learn how to keep your legs, hands and seat where they’re supposed to be. Your horse slows down when you ask, speeds up when you ask. You’re working together. And running like the wind is fun. Yeehaw!
After riding other Butternut horses, I went back to Denny. I wanted to see what I’d learned. Quite a bit. What a massive thrill when we agreed on what we were doing!
But he’s a tough examiner and I never passed my finals with him. Denny and his stablemate Oreo recently retired to a life of leisure. Both great teachers, they will be missed by their students. Happy trails, boys.
Sadly, Oreo’s trail ended too soon. He passed away Oct. 26th. Robin’s Moocho Denero (his registered name) will not be forgotten.
Thursday, Newton & Ridley held a launch for a new craft beer at the Rovers. More secrets than beer got spilled.
Tracy and Ken arrived just in time to see Peter holding a pint up to his lips. They went into full ‘no, no, no, how could you Peter, I knew this would happen’ mode. ‘Eh? What’s the problem?’ from the brewery rep. Evidently, Newton & Ridley doesn’t do extensive background checks on their licensees. They did not know Peter’s history with alcohol. Nor did they know about his time in jail. Steve, ever helpful, let that one slip.
Evidently, surrogacy agencies also don’t do extensive background checks on their applicants. In the background of the chaos that was the Rovers’ launch sat a potential surrogate mother for Toyah and Peter. She had come to meet them so she could decide if she wanted to carry a child for them. So the process had moved past the administrative level to the actual nuts and bolts of surrogacy, the woman with whom you’d be sharing a joint pregnancy.
Toyah and Peter are not going the private route that Izzy and Gary did, with getting their mate Tina to carry their baby. Toyah and Peter are doing it the official way, through an agency with presumably vetted surrogates and parents-to-be. The individuals’ backgrounds, family structure, support system, skeletons in the closet – I’d think the agency social workers would check all that out, not the surrogates themselves. A lot of omissions on Peter and Toyah’s application form seem to have slipped past the administrative office.
So the surrogate, Jackie, get to see Peter and Toyah and the fam in their natural habitat. Leanne snarling, Ken preaching, Tracy snapping, Steve being – well – Steve. That makes it a lot more fun for us to watch, but I would stay away from that agency on either side of their service provision.
Jackie decides to be their surrogate after all. Maybe, after hearing just a fraction of the tangled hedgerow that is the Barlow-Battersby family tree, she figures a kid born by surrogacy will feel that he or she has the most normal and boring ancestry of them all.
Newton & Ridley too maybe should review their vetting process. If only the licensee’s suitability is significant, then only Toyah’s background should matter. If the licensee’s partner and/or family is considered to be part of the pub management, which is reasonable, then Peter’s history should not be a surprise to the brewery at this late date. And if the rep at the launch just isn’t in the brewery information loop, then alcoholism, baby daddies or anything else is not any of his business.
I was going to pick the scene with Rita saying Len would be home soon. But then Friday, we saw her notes. Reminders to herself about who is who and important bits of information about them. Norris is allergic to nuts, Jenny is marrying Johnny.
So Rita knows what’s happening to her. She won’t acknowledge it, maybe thinks it’s just normal forgetfulness. I thought that too, when her confusion and forgetting things started. But no, this week’s incidents seem to point only one direction – to Alzheimer’s or similar dementia.
The only people who are picking up on it are Gemma and Rosie, the two least likely to be listened to by anyone else. But maybe it’s good that it’s them. They both are compassionate. Both know how it feels to be dismissed and looked down on by others. They will take care of Rita, I think, and preserve her feelings and her dignity as best they can while also facing facts.
I like Gemma and Rosie together. That surprises me because, on their own, I find them exhausting to watch. So when they teamed up, I expected them to be doubly wearing. But that’s not the case. Their thickness and their enthusiasm play well together. Maybe it’s because neither is always the ‘straight man’. Each of them can be the smart one compared to the other. Whatever it is, it works brilliantly.
The Lady of Law scene at the beginning of the week, where Rosie scared off Gemma’s horrible friends, showed how effective – and hilarious – their partnership can be. Now, with Rita, we’ll see new facets of Rosie and Gemma individually and together.
If it is an Alzheimer’s story, it’s going to be disturbing and very sad. But I’m happy if it plays out with Rosie and Gemma being the guides into it for Rita and the others. Maybe it’s because, of everyone on the street, Rosie and Gemma are most aware that they do not have the answers. And that is maybe the most important thing to know, and remember, when dealing with Alzheimer’s.
You can’t change it, fix it or explain it. You can just go with it. Rosie and Gemma are already used to doing that in their own lives. I think they’ll be able to help Rita do it too. I hope so anyway.
See my ‘Look at Bingy’: Alzheimer’s and Distraction for more. Also, if you’re on CBC’s Coronation Street episodes site, be careful! The one marked Friday is a double. Monday’s first episode is in there too. Remember, we’ll now be getting two episodes on Mondays.
My impression after reading about Nathan Winograd is that it’s animal shelters that need redemption. He is Director of the No Kill Advocacy Center in the US and is giving a lecture and workshop at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre Apr. 14th  . I don’t get star-struck that often, but this sounds like one very impressive man.
In 1993-94, he turned the San Francisco SPCA from a kill processing plant to a shelter where animals got homes. Killing healthy animals “declined 100 percent” and for sick or injured animals “it declined by about 50 percent” (Redemption). He did the same at the Tompkins County SPCA in upstate New York.
Are these places with less of an ‘animal problem’? Not likely. If you can do that in San Francisco, heart of ‘disposable land’, or upstate NY amid wilderness that people would see as perfect for dumping Fluffy, you can do it anywhere! Here is how Mr. Winograd looks at shelter management, from a 2007 article by Christie Keith.
“If … motherless kittens are killed because the shelter doesn’t have a comprehensive foster care program, that’s not pet overpopulation. That’s the lack of a foster care program.
“If adoptions are low because people are getting those dogs and cats from other places because the shelter isn’t doing outside adoptions (adoptions done off the shelter premises), that’s a failure to do outside adoptions, not pet overpopulation.
“…If animals are killed because working with rescue groups is discouraged, again, that’s not pet overpopulation. If dogs are going cage-crazy because volunteers and staff aren’t allowed to socialize them, and then those dogs are killed because they’re quote-unquote “cage crazy,” because the shelter doesn’t have a behavior rehabilitation program in place, once again, that’s not pet overpopulation; that’s the lack of programs and services that save lives.”
Animal Shelter Plan B
Commonsense, when you approach it from the shelter side of the equation. “If a community is still killing the majority of shelter animals, it is because the local SPCA, humane society, or animal control shelter has fundamentally failed in its mission… And this failure is nothing more than a failure of leadership. The buck stops with the shelter’s director.”
He describes his second day at the Tompkins Co. SPCA. “’My staff informed me that our dog kennels were full and since a litter of six puppies had come in, I needed to decide who was going to be killed in order to make space. I asked for ‘Plan B’; there was none. I asked for suggestions; there were none.’
“He spoke directly to his staff, saying, ‘Volunteers who work with animals do so out of sheer love. They don’t bring home a paycheck. So if a volunteer says, ‘I can’t do it,’ I can accept that from her. But staff members are paid to save lives. If a paid member of staff throws up her hands and says, ‘There’s nothing that can be done,’ I may as well eliminate her position and use the money that goes for her salary in a more constructive manner. So what are we going to do with the puppies that doesn’t involve killing?’” Wow.
Phelan goes into a dark, dingy cellar at the end of Monday’s episode. He carries a grocery bag. He pulls out a box of chocolate eclairs. He’s talking to someone, telling them how nice it is of him to bring them food, to look after them. Then he eats the eclair.
The eclair reminds him of his mum, his childhood. She sometimes would buy a few chocolate eclairs from the posh bakery. They, and what they represented, made him want the good things in life. He found the easiest way to get them, however, was by doing bad things.
So now, he tells his unseen audience, he’s at a crossroads. Good things in his life – his newfound daughter, Eileen presumably, life as a nearly respectable resident of Coronation Street – make him want to not have to deal with the bad things still remaining – his unseen audience in that dank cellar being one of those. He quotes Fagin in ‘Oliver’, “I am reviewing my situation.”
Without saying whether he’s choosing the left or the right path, he heads back up the stairs. Does he toss the food within reach of the person in the room? Or does he take it with him? Don’t know.
A lunge, and a chain clinking as it pulls to the end of its tether. Then a face – Andy. Remember him? Eight months ago, he disappeared after discovering too much about Phelan. (Also see my Dream Sequence.)
Andy was trying to get away, packing a bag as fast as he could. But Phelan caught him and clunked him over the head with a laptop. We haven’t known if he was dead or alive.
Alive, and not actually looking that much worse for wear after eight months of being chained to a wall in a cellar. No light. No room to move. Phelan brings food, but it seems he also eats it while telling Andy how very delicious it is.
I’m of two minds about this story. What happened to Andy had to be resolved at some point. Six months earlier would have been better. By now, it’s almost like an American soap where somebody miraculously returns from the dead with whatever silly explanation is deemed to test audience incredulity the least.
Phelan has to be caught. He must pay for his misdeeds. But I like Phelan, and he’s been edgy but good Phelan for long enough now that I’m willing for him to just continue that way.
I’m not buying the story, but I loved the scene. It was a glimpse into Phelan’s mind and soul. You could almost see that little boy, and his anticipation when he saw his mother come home with the posh bakery box. Chocolate eclairs – a delicious treat and the good life.
Basil is easy to grow, and each plant produces a lot. There’s only such much fresh basil you can use at any one time. So make pesto with that abundance.
On its own, it’s a light sauce for pasta or a topping for baked potatoes. Joy of Cooking says use 2 tablespoons per portion and mix with equal amount of butter. I toss pasta with maybe half that amount and no butter.
Use it as a seasoning for soups, stews or other types of sauces. Remember though it has an oily texture and pungent flavour, so best to start with a small amount and taste before adding more.
Here is how I make it – based on the recipe in Joy of Cooking (1997 ed.) with one big change. I use a blender instead of a mortar and pestle. I can’t compare the two directly since I’m not adept enough at using a mortar and pestle to have ever successfully made it that way. However, mine made with a blender tastes as good as pesto I have bought or had in restaurants.
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup grated Parmesan or Sardinia cheese
3/4 cup olive oil
I put everything in the blender and use the lowest setting. Toggling the switch on and off helps keep it from jamming. If the ingredients do block the mechanism, turn it off and poke around inside to stir things up. I use a chopstick. It helps to do that anyway so that ingredients blend evenly.
It makes enough to fill a small (227 g) cream cheese container with enough left over for a fettuccine meal.
Joy of Cooking Method
Joy of Cooking says put basil leaves in mortar and pound with pestle. Add garlic and pine nuts and pound.
Add cheese, until the mixture forms a thick purée. Very slowly add olive oil, stirring constantly, until it’s the consistency of creamed butter.
Put a thin film of olive oil over the top. Cover and refrigerate or freeze.
Parsley may be substituted, but of course the flavour is very different. (It’s really good too. Make it the same way, with the same quantities.)
Kirk to Jenny: “Eva’s Man U and you’re Weathy County.” He totally nailed it but, oh boy, what a thing to say.
Eva suggested a double wedding for her and Aiden and Jenny and Johnny. Not something Jenny would want ever with anyone. It’s her day and she wants to be the star. Sean says, if it were him, he’d only agree “if the rival groom were absolutely hideous.”
Kirk agrees it would be hard for anyone standing next to Eva because she is “like a goddess.” Having already made things bad, he then digs himself in further with his soccer league analogy about Manchester United and Weatherfield County teams.
Then Johnny tells her, that like it or not, she has to do it for Eva’s sake. No!!! She agrees in the end, but hardly graciously.
This wedding, if it happens, is going to be fun. It has all the potential anyway, and Kirk just topped it off. If there might be any way on earth that Jenny might ever willingly share the stage with Eva, Kirk’s words, Man U – Weathy County, will keep popping back in her mind. Bridezilla will not be an adequate term for Jenny.
Add to that Maria as Eva’s unwilling and unhappy bridesmaid, and both the wedding itself and the lead up to it should be wonderfully bitchy. Unfortunately, Maria is suspicious of what’s up with Eva and Adam. I so hope that those suspicions, which she has shared with Aiden, don’t derail the wedding.
Eva is going into this for revenge and public humiliation of Aiden and Maria and, now, his entire family. And she has the wherewithal to do it. Spectacularly, like a goddess. Like Man U at the top of their game.
Newfoundland Mi'kmaq, family history, Coronation Street, etc.