You could see it coming a mile away. Still it was good. Conflict between the bar staff, and Toyah asserting her credentials: I’ve got a diploma in conflict management. Liz, present customer and former bar manager, rolling her eyes.
Tuesday, Eva and Sean are in a snit with each other. It’s about a lot more than who’s going to replace the empty keg. It’s Eva feeling guilty about Sean and her other mates being out of a job at the factory due to her revenge plot. Although he doesn’t know for sure, Sean suspects that Eva had something to do with the factory break-in and the subsequent loss of jobs. At least she should clear the air, he seems to think, say for sure one way or the other what she knew and when she knew it.
So they’re sniping at each other about bartending minutiae – clearing tables, washing glasses, replacing kegs. Their sniping is not subtle. Both are too much the prima donna to do any performance low-key.
Their spat is embarrassing for Toyah and Peter, still finding their way as pub owners and staff managers. Especially with Liz there. They, you know, can see an invisible clipboard in her hand, checking off what they are doing wrong and how the whole place is going to pot.
Liz offers to sort things out with Sean and Eva. No, Toyah says, I can do it. I’m a trained therapist, trained in conflict management. Liz snickers. Come on, Sean, come on Eva, let’s sit down and talk this through.
Toyah put her therapist voice on and tried to initiate discussion. To little avail, Sean and Eva sat sullen and silent. Maybe Toyah would have had better luck if she’d used a talking stick, as Sally has done with her cat pepper mill. This method of facilitating discussion also worked surprisingly well for Sophie in mediation efforts.
But instead of Sally and her cat stick swooping in, Liz did. Look you two, leave your differences the other side of the bar, slap a smile on and get on with your job. Now! And Eva and Sean apologized, said they hated falling out with each other, babe, and got back to work. Toyah seethed.
Book-learning versus old-school common sense, in the traditional Corrie mode. An easy jab, maybe, but still a funny moment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Try as I might, nothing the rest of the week dislodged the sight of Michelle locked in the trunk of a car. Not that I liked seeing her held captive. You would be horrified for anyone bound and gagged and locked in a car trunk. It was more my thoughts about story and screen time while watching those scenes that stuck with me .
First: Oh no, poor Michelle! Then: hmm, will this last a while? Will she be off screen during most of it? When a character goes to prison, either because the actor is leaving or taking a break, we see a few prison scenes with them. Then they’re gone. Maybe actor Kym Marsh is taking a break. So Michelle will stay in that trunk for awhile and we won’t see her. That could work.
Just as I thought that, a Helpful Hannah came along and popped the trunk. Close it, lady, and walk away! But no, Michelle is front and centre on the screen again, snivelling and wanting revenge. Rich will pay for this! Oh thank you, Robert for pounding him to a pulp. You are my hero after all!
But it seems someone else wants revenge – Will. He is her high school boyfriend with whom she sort of had an affair last year. Now he is back and dating Maria. He’s also acting as other male protector of Michelle. If he had a moustache, he’d be twirling the ends evilly. It’s all a bit contrived, I think. But I can’t even work up any real outrage about such contrivances, just that the storyline exists at all.
I guess we’ll find out why Will is doing this. Maybe because she dumped him years ago or last year or didn’t rekindle things when she saw him a few months ago. Or maybe it’s revenge for that almost fling of theirs costing him his planned marriage to whatever the name of that awful fiancée was.
It’s a story of High Drama. Because we haven’t had any of that in, what, a month or so? But it involves characters with whom it’s difficult to empathize. Michelle – is Michelle. Crossed arms, superior attitude and constant carping. Robert – does anyone really care? Will – why? Maria – the interesting story involving her is the one with Aiden. With that one, I’m waiting with bated breath to see them both brought down. Her involvement in this storyline just adds to the ‘oh lordy, please make it stop’ response.
Fingers crossed, Robert and Michelle will go to Brighton as he suggested Friday. It’s not a car trunk but could do the trick. Oh please, stay a while.
Yes, Dev can be a buffoon. But love and loyalty run deep in him. Erica and her Romeo in overalls, his friend Kevin, hurt him to the quick.
Dev can be full of himself and neglectful of others. His image of himself often doesn’t match the reality. Insecurity? I think so. But it doesn’t take much for him to realize that his self-absorption is hurting others. Maybe he doesn’t know how to handle it but he does know how to acknowledge it. And he tries to make amends.
Erica has been dissatisfied with him and their life for a while – too settled, too ‘ok’. Tending the counter in a backstreet shop isn’t for her. Being taken for granted. Like Dev, she wants to shine, be the star of the show.
So she sought a new stage to showcase her awesomeness – Kevin Webster. You may well ask, why him? He was around and was readily available. That’s the only reason I can think of.
Kevin was dissatisfied with his home and love life because Anna is still dealing with physical and psychological trauma. In short, he ain’t getting none, physically or emotionally. So his eye started roving, and there was Erica. Looking good, wanting him and not backward about coming forward.
But when it came to crunch time – a rendezvous in a hotel – a phone call from Anna caused Kevin to go home. Nothing happened with Erica. But the intent had been there. Anna found out and pretty much took the thought for the deed. But she forgave him.
That left Dev being the only one in the dark. Erica was going to end it with him this week. Probably not tell him about Kevin, only that it wasn’t working. Then he got a buyer for the gym, which gave him the cash. He could build a new empire. Expand the kebab shop business, and put her in charge. No, never mind, she had nothing to tell him, everything’s fine. Business expansion? Sounds great.
Then Mary overheard enough to figure out what had happened with Erica and Kevin. She told Dev. He was devastated. But he also saw quickly that she would have been willing to stay with him and be happy as long as she was benefiting from his business plans. And he saw that she had been quite willing to sell Kevin out for those plans. His gym buyer is the same guy that had talked to Kevin about buying the garage. That conflict between business and friendship bothered Dev. But not Erica. Kevin might be her Romeo in overalls but, as she said, “all’s fair in love and property sales.” Dev didn’t know then how much of her truth she was speaking.
Newfoundland Mi'kmaq, family history, Coronation Street, etc.