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Secret Path

Chanie Wenjack died October 23rd 1966. He was twelve. He and two other boys ran away from their residential school, taking a Chanie Wenjack the secret path jeff-lemire-cbcsecret path north into the bush. They wanted to go home.

The other boys succeeded. They found their uncle’s cabin and stayed with him. But Chanie’s home was much farther away. He didn’t know where exactly, so he left on his own to continue walking until he found it.

He didn’t. Chanie died of exposure following the train track he hoped would take him home. He did get home, in the end. Indian Affairs sent his body by train and then plane home to Ogoki Post, 600 km north of the residential school he attended in Kenora, Ontario.

fort_albany_residential_school_students-c1945-edmund-metatawabin-coll-u-of-algoma
Fort Albany residential school, ca 1945, Edmund Metatawabin Collection, University of Algoma

Chanie, or Charlie as he was called at the school, was Ojibwe. He is one of thousands of First Nations children who died at residential schools in Canada. The stories of the dead and the survivors have been told to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

‘The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack’

Chanie Wenjack’s story was told at the time of his death. A 1967 article in Maclean’s paints a bleak picture of a boy’s unnecessary death and of unwanted institutional life. Author Ian Adams:

“The jury found that ‘the Indian education system causes tremendous emotional adjustment problems.’… But the most poignant suggestion was the one that reflected their own bewilderment: ‘A study be made of the present Indian education and philosophy. Is it right?'”

1948-letter-bc-teachers-federation-project-of-the-heart
Christmas Vacation letter to parents 1948, Kamloops Indian Residential School. Click for larger view.

50 years on, Chanie Wenjack’s story is being told anew. Gord Downie, of The Tragically Hip, and graphic novelist Jeff Lemire tell it in song and pictures. The Secret Path is a elegy, and eulogy, for Chanie and all the children forced into residential schools. Joseph Boyden published a novella, Wenjack, imagining the final days of a too short life.

project-of-heart-bc-residential-schools
“This powerful graffiti message by an anonymous artist was painted on all of the doors of St. Michael’s Residential School before its demolition in 2015.”

For over a century, children were taken away from their families, and their languages and their identities. Many also  were abused sexually and psychologically. For all, however, the direct or indirect assumption that their First Nations cultures were not good enough was abuse. It probably takes as long to rebuild a culture as it does to kill one. So it’s going to take a long time to recover.

The photos of the door and the letter are from Project of Heart: Illuminating the hidden history of Indian Residential Schools in BC (BC Teachers Federation pdf).

Corrie Street 23 Oct 2016

Dance Instructor

norris-tells-freddie-much-betterNorris Cole, Ballroom Dance Instructor is back. And it is so nice to see him. On Monday, amid the stories of angst and intrigue, deceit and vengefulness, he was a small oasis of civility. Also a harking back to bittersweet memories of Roy and Haley and the Tower Ballroom at Blackpool.

Three years ago, Roy wanted to give Hayley an item on her bucket norris dance instructor with freddielist – dancing at the Tower Ballroom. Hayley had taken dance lessons and could dance beautifully. But Roy could not. Norris therefore offered Roy his services as dance instructor. Norris has hidden talents, one of which is experience in competitive ballroom dancing. So he became the fairy godmother for a magical time for Hayley and Roy on the dance floor.

begin-spinAnd now, he’s doing the same, I hope, for Freddie and Audrey. Freddie thinks he has the moves – and he probably did during the nights of the Zambezi nightclub. But ballroom dancing? Not his thing then, and a lot of time has passed since his dancing days.

But Audrey has said she’d like him to take her dancing. So he must freddie-spins-outsharpen up his moves. At the garage, Luke helps him out. They think they are doing quite well. Until Norris happens along and tells them just how atrocious they both are.

tyrone-luke-and-norris-shockedSo he takes over. With his instruction, Freddie gets the hang of it. Until they attempt a spin, and off Freddie goes across the floor. Right over a tool box. He breaks his wrist.

Dance plans obviously are on hold until his arm heals. He passes on Audrey’s offer to stay with her, opting instead to stay with Tyrone freddie-on-floorand Fiz. But I hope the dancing storyline doesn’t end there. I hope we get to see Freddie and Audrey out on the tiles.

Corrie Street 16 Oct 2016

Celebrity

Funny how the timing of fiction sometimes perfectly matches reality. Celebrity – its connotations and effects – has been all over the news celebrity pic tim-takes-selfie-with-tommythe past week. And then, on our Canadian screens on Friday, it comes to Coronation Street.

Steve, Tim and Tyrone nearly swoon when they meet Weatherfield County footballer Tommy Orpington at the Rovers. He is there to meet with Michelle about his wedding. They happen to be there when he walks through from the back.

play-sheet-by-tim“Happen to be there,” after spending the day planning how to do that, by accident. Tim even worked out a play sheet on where to stand so that they would accidentally bump into him.

Their mouths hang open when they see him. They can barely reply when he says hello and introduces himself. Then they follow him like ducklings, eyes like huge saucers. He takes it in stride, he’s used to it.tim-steve-and-tommy

Probably the actors knew how to do the look of starstruck fans because they would see it on the faces of people who meet them in real life. The only thing that struck me as unrealistic was that everybody else in the bar wasn’t crowded around Tommy too or at least gawking more openly.

As for Michelle, Fiz and Audrey staying back from the cluster of men tyrone-leaps-from-the-tablearound Tommy, yes, I can see that. Michelle is trying to be professional in her business dealings with him. And although she’s not likely to say it, she believes fawning attention should be on her. Fiz appears to be struggling to deal with the fact that Tyrone slipped his leash. Instead of choosing to sit with her sipping his drink and discussing whatever, he took off like a shot to meet his hero. And Audrey? She’s just sitting back, enjoying the scenery, I think.women-watch-huddle-around-tommy

I googled Tommy Orpington to see if he is a real soccer player. He’s not. He’s actor Matt Milburn, formerly of Emmerdale. I’m surprised they didn’t get a real footballer to make a guest appearance. tyrone-stares-at-tommyCelebrity cameos work well for the celebrity and the show, usually. They can come back to bite you if you don’t watch yourself. Donald Trump and Billy Bush found that out last week.

Still, the fictional star footballer Tommy Orpington has made me a fan of the fictional Weatherfield County team.

hilda-coronationstreet-wikia-com_wiki_muralIn sad real life, Jean Alexander died Friday at the age of 90. She was for many years the incomparable Hilda Ogden. The rollers in her hair and the flying ducks on the “muriel” on her wall will never be forgotten. (A Guardian tribute)

In sad Corrie life, I was wrong last week about Maria’s reaction to Ozzy’s death. She and all did it beautifully. We will miss you, Ozzy,

Corrie Street 9 Oct 2016

Ozzy and Maria

caz-enters-doorwayWhen Caz came in to give Maria bad news on Friday, my heart sank. I guessed what it was, and I had an idea how it would be received. Ozzy was sick, and Maria would make it all about herself. Caz’s words confirmed the first. The second by Samia Ghadie’s superb facial expressions.

Through her eyes you could see the hamster running around the wheel that is Maria’s brain. But Ozzy is my last connection with Liam. Oh, aside from my son. What will I do??? Why did Liam die??? And leave me all alone??? Aside from the dog and the kid, of course.

maria-says-whatIf it goes the way it looks like it will, Monday’s episode will be heart-rending. For Ozzy, and for Kirk. You know that he truly loves Ozzy. Dealing with Maria will be painful for us all – characters and audience, well, me at least. I want to see Ozzy mourned, not a loss for Maria. If I’m right about Maria, it will be herself that she’ll be crying over. And Kirk will have to take time from his own grief to tend to her.

kirk-carries-ozzyThe best thing for Kirk about Maria being his sister, I think, has been Ozzy and little Liam. He always takes care of them both when Maria is off in self-absorption of some kind. And he has fun with them – fun for them and for himself.

Maria does always take Kirk in when he needs shelter, but a lot of eye-rolling is involved. Like now, she wants desperately for him to patch things up with Beth. I suppose that is because she cares about maria-in-shockhim and his happiness as she says. But the added benefit is that it would get him out of her house.

Right now, her allocation of space and time for others is being spent on Caz. Homeless, messed-up Caz is her pet project, and will continue to be until Maria is bored by it, can’t handle it, or finds a new project. Then Caz will get the boot. Time’s up, you’re sorted, see you later.

I hoped that Ozzy would live forever or just disappear from our maria-looks-at-ozzyscreens never to return and never to be explained. The prospect of dealing with his death is even worse because he’s  Maria’s dog. Because that means dealing with Maria as well as with the tragic loss of a lovely dog.

Corrie Street Oct. 2/16

In All His Glory

He had me fooled. But I’m enjoying seeing the real Todd back. I liked the nice Todd too, the Todd who cared about his family and wanted todd-says-billy-has-himto be a good boyfriend to the Vicar. I felt good about Todd turning over a new leaf or returning to his original leaf – the nice, bright and conscientious boy he was before he went to that London.

But he’s not. It turns out it was Todd who “complained” to the Bishop about said Vicar and boyfriend cohabiting. He did it with Billy’s best interests in mind, so he says and Billy believes. Make Billy think about the restrictions that he was living with in order to be part of a billy-says-todd-made-him-doubtchurch that would not fully accept him.

Billy ends it. He tells Todd “I always thought your lack of empathy was a defence mechanism. But this is the real you, the real Todd in all his glory.”

Sooo, that’s the end of Todd and Billy. But not the end of Billy having the scales lifted from his eyes. He tells Sean that, despite how it was done, he is questioning his vocation.

Todd is genuinely upset that he couldn’t keep the good person up front in his psyche and actions. He wishes he were the person Billy the real todd in all his glorythought he was or could be. But, if you are bad, you might as well be full-bore bad.

He joins forces with Phelan. He has tried to convince his mother that Phelan is scamming her and Jason and anyone in Weatherfield foolish enough to buy into their flat conversion. She tells him that he is being vindictive and hateful and just wants to ruin her happiness.

Before everything comes undone with Billy, he got Phelan to admit todd-realizes-billy-is-leaving-himwhat he was doing. Yes, it’s a scam, don’t tell your mother. Phelan has some sort of plan to shut him up and calls him to meet at the building site. Phelan’s partner Vinnie has a simpler plan. He brings his toolbox to the site. Shut Todd up permanently.

On his way there, Todd meets Billy, finds out Billy knows about the phoney complaint call, and whatever Todd had planned for the meeting changes. He’s in, he tells them. He stipulates his conditions, billy-walks-away-from-toddto protect Eileen and Jason. Phelan and Vinnie, gobsmacked, agree. It’s a partnership where all three partners would be advised to sleep with one eye open. But especially Phelan and Vinnie because, if I were a betting person, my money would be on Todd.

Corrie Street Sept. 25/16

The Vicarage

Billy and Todd sitting in the vicarage garden. What a beautiful place! Todd brings up the obvious, something I was hoping he wouldn’t do. billy and todd in vicarage gardenSomething I hoped he’d let Billy bring up, if he is thinking of it and he likely is. Should Billy leave the priesthood?

Looking at the vicarage, inside and out, I can’t help feeling that Sean would make a better vicar’s spouse than Todd would. Oh, he’d say and do things he shouldn’t but he’d at least make an effort to fit in with the congregation, no matter how unsuccessful that effort may prove to be. Todd? I don’t think so.

billy-looks-at-todd-in-frustrationFriday, I wondered if the complaint about Todd and Billy sharing the vicarage was because they are gay or because they are living together ‘without benefit of clergy’. Would it be ok if they were married? Would it be equally unacceptable to the complainant if it were a man and woman living together unmarried?

So I googled the Church of England, assuming that to be the church in question although it’s never been specified. If so, a married Vicar Billy isn’t an option. Gay clergy are required to be abstinent. todd-says-only-billy-can-decideMarriage or indeed living together in a same-sex relationship isn’t an option.

That’s too bad. Just in terms of this story, I was hoping for a wedding. I don’t think Billy and Todd would last five minutes together, but I enjoy a good wedding. I’d prefer it to be Billy and Sean, but I guess that ship’s sailed.

As it is, I don’t see anywhere for Billy’s story to go but for him to billy-thinks-about-optionsseriously contemplate leaving the church. And that would be a sin, not his but that of the situation that prevents him for reconciling his calling with his emotional life.

Corrie Street Sept. 18/16

Writing on the Wall

Writing on the wall literally and figuratively for Steve. Graffiti was the apt background for a shifting of his world, which would now be controlled by Nick.steve-and-nick-graffitiLet’s go for a drive, Nick said to Steve. Then he parked beneath an overpass. Time for a talk about what’s what and what will be, he told Steve.

The talk spanned Wednesday and Thursday’s episodes. Likewise, the graffiti spanned the bridge and covered every girder. It was so much there that it almost overshadowed what was happening between Nick and Steve.steve-and-nick-girdersI don’t know if this was a location or if set designers created it. It was like an artist’s rendition of an architectural plan – the idealized more than the real. If that overpass doesn’t exist somewhere in Greater Manchester, it should.

It set the mood perfectly for an almost surreal scene between the two men. Their discussion, complex and lengthy, was about the future life of an unborn child and all the people who would be part of that child’s life – or wouldn’t be. They battled and negotiated as if in summit talks over policy and procedure.nick-and-steveAnd they were, I guess. It was a summit on claiming and rearing a child: how, where and with whom. Steve was surprised. So was I. I hadn’t really thought about where Nick fit in this little drama of family secrets. I don’t think Steve had either. He, like me, has been preoccupied with Liz and how long she would be able to keep quiet about who was Leanne’s real baby daddy.

I, unlike Steve, was also worried about him. How long could Steve maintain a neighbourly interest only in Leanne’s pregnancy and baby. And, of course, even if they all pulled it off, when would some medical emergency happen that required the child’s biological parentage to be investigated?nick-with-cellphoneWhat I hadn’t thought about was what kind of power this situation gives Nick in the short and long term. He can keep everybody’s lives just as they want them – or he can blow them apart. And he made that very, very clear to Steve under that bridge, amid the graffiti.nick-walks-away-from-steveThe t-shirts for this storyline wouldn’t be about whether momma was happy. Instead, they’d read “If putative daddy ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

Corrie Street Sept. 11/16

Soap Cliché

liz-fumes-michelle-looks-at-picsIf something makes you think soap cliché, that’s good reason to not do it. Wife and girlfriend pregnant at the same time screams soap cliché. It is one thing having Leanne get pregnant by Steve. And another thing for Michelle to want a last chance saloon baby. But both happening at the same time? Soap cliché.soap cliché with mcdonald and platt womenFrom the glass half full perspective, the Corrie writers are having fun with it. Secretive meaningful looks shoot across rooms. Conversations lapse awkwardly when the wrong person or topic is introduced. Steve and Liz doing Laurel and Hardy as they try to hide their whispered arguments and strategy sessions.

They huddle together, gobsmacked, as Leanne and Nick announce that they are having a baby. Steve trapped in a room with his momma and baby mommas all together. A horrified Liz stands apart from the gail-smiles-at-nick-and-leannebonding taking place on Thursday  between Gail, Leanne, Michelle and, theoretically, her. You can almost see the steam coming from her ears while Gail goes on and on about Platt babies and the special joy of her firstborn’s firstborn.

But it’s not all slapstick and grimaces. Liz cannot believe that Steve can live across the street from his own child and watch it be raised as a Platt. And, perhaps more accurately, that she cannot. He, however, furious liz chagrined stevethinks the arrangement works well for all. He will have a baby with his wife. Leanne will have the baby she has long wanted. Nick will be a daddy. There will be a grandchild for Liz and a grandchild for Gail. Glass half full.

Liz warns Steve that the truth will out. You cannot keep a secret like this forever. And secrets like this should not be kept. It’s not fair to anyone. So, glass half empty.

When the truth is revealed, it will be a big story. A story that could liz-with-happy-face-steve-withoutstand on its own, in terms of what happens with Michelle and Steve, with Nick and Leanne and with Steve and Leanne. It doesn’t need another half, a second baby. Adding a pregnancy for Michelle as well just makes it a soap cliché.

Corrie Street Sept. 4/16

Swing Set

slide at o'connell parkLooking at a photo on my wall of the slide at O’Connell Park in Sussex, near the swings. Swings! Bethany broke the swing set! Bethany thinks she’s fat. It doesn’t matter that it was missing a bolt, she thinks her weight broke Lilly’s swing set.

That happened half a day after I’d watched Thursday’s episodes. I’d seen her open the package she had received. I’d realized the bottle of pills she quickly hid were diet pills. I recognized that, ok, Bethany’s storyline about bullying and body image is going to start up again. bethany on swing setBut I hadn’t connected it with the breaking swing.

I was worried about the bolt that was left over. It’s not just an extra, I thought. I was surprised, but glad, that Lilly refused to test drive her new swing set. If it was going to break on someone, it was good that it was Bethany. She’s old enough to take the fall without real damage, and also young enough.

swing-collapsesBut, for her self image, she was absolutely the wrong person. The laughter of the others echoed a bit maniacally, like it would in her mortified head. And Max teasing, “Bethany’s fat.” Exactly what Bethany thinks.

David’s laughter was a release for him, one he clearly needs. I don’t david-grips-boltknow how tightly wound he is. Way too tight if he grips a bolt so hard it cuts his hand as deeply as that one did. Maybe, like me, he was glad it wasn’t his little girl on the swing.

Despite the laughter, it might have been just an embarrassing moment for Bethany. It was, after all, in her own back yard with only her family and Craig around. And he, as he told her later, knows what it’s like to be picked on.

But he took a photo of her as she hit the ground and shared it on craig-takes-photosocial media. A thoughtless act, not intended with any malice, but one that cannot be taken back. Bethany was right to be upset about it. It would give loads of ammunition to those horrible girls at school. And taking it down after the fact does no good. It’s out there and probably had already been reshared. Removing it gives it greater significance than it had.

bethany-on-groundSo good writing and good construction, Corrie people. The two events – the swing set breaking and the diet pills – come from different angles back to Bethany’s storyline of teenage angst, self image and bullying.

Corrie Street Aug. 28/16

Goodbye to Kylie

Her funeral was the formal goodbye to Kylie. But after all that, late at david says goodbye to kylienight, David said his own goodbye at her grave. He needed to be with her. He needed to not have to be strong for his kids, to not have Gail, Audrey, Bethany, Sarah wittering around him asking if he was ok. Just cry and pour his heart out to her, lying in the ground.

The Funeral

The funeral and the circus that accompanied it took a lot out of him. He was a part of some of the circus. In the street while paying respects to the hearse, Todd confronted Sarah about what he had done to protect her. Finally she realized that he thought she had killed Callum and had blamed Tony only to protect her. No, she said, david-head-down-at-graveshe hadn’t killed him. Who did then? She nodded her head toward the coffin, meaning Kylie had. But Todd looked at the person standing behind it – David.

So a big confrontation between Todd and David at the cemetery with Todd vowing he would go to the police and clear Tony’s name. He was willing to protect Sarah at the expense of his own brother’s happiness, but not David.

David feared that Todd would do what he said and turn him in. He also feared that Todd would learn that it was in fact Kylie who had done the murdering. He also wanted to keep the whole thing from his whole family, planning to sort Todd out on his own. Stress, on top of making nice at the funeral and seeing that his kids were ok. Stressful just standing by your little son’s side as he gives a eulogy for his mother. Hoping he’d be ok, hoping that the doubting family wouldn’t be proven right. They weren’t. Max did fine. His words about his mother were lovely.kylie-platt-cross

Funeral Side Stories

After breathing a huge sigh of relief that all went off well, David didn’t know half of what else was happening. Sean came to the church just in time to see Billy breaking up the fight between Todd and David. Billy then held Todd back, just a little too long, a little too close, with a little too much care. Sean knew exactly what was happening and why he’d been dumped.

And Kylie’s mourners from The Dog and Gun didn’t show up at the funeral, but they did send flowers. David saw those and stomped david-talks-to-kyliethem to shreds. Macca turned up on the street afterwards, and attacked Gemma. Craig saw, intervened and called the police. He feels his action redeemed his inaction the previous time, when Kylie was killed. Gemma warned him about the perils to him and herself about involving the police. But, in gratitude to Craig perhaps, she spoke to the officer truthfully about what happened.

The funeral was a colourful goodbye to Kylie, literally and figuratively. David did right by her in his planning of it. But now, with the public mourning done, how does he cope?david-clenches-hands