It was a splendid week on Corrie Street. The Jubilee festivities were just grand, with the bunting and flags and pictures of Queen Elizabeth. The Street party was wonderful, as were the costumes of 60 years of pop singers. I’m glad Steve told us he was dressed as John Lennon. My guess was Elton John or John Denver. Eva and Sunita – I guess if you’ve got it, flaunt it! And they did, I say, they did.
Dennis and Rita’s wedding lead-up was great. Exciting. Was she going to get to the church on time or at all? But she did and the bad guys were caught and Kirsty and Tina reached an understanding if not friendship. The wedding itself was lovely. I got a tear in my eye when they said their vows.
It was a week of great scenes in storylines and visuals. But the showstopper for me was this shot of Tyrone’s living room. How could anyone spend time in that room and keep their sanity! It was bad enough when Vera and Jack put that nightmarish dark wallpaper up. The only good thing I could see about Kirsty moving in was that she would replace it. But no, they’ve added “elements” to it. I wished they’d just pan the camera around slowly so I could see it all, but I was afraid it would burn my retinas if they had.
As a MINI person, I did love the Jubilee commemorative flag with a shiny MINI in the middle of it. I don’t understand it. 2012 is Mini’s 55th anniversary. I want one. Maybe it’s just part of what all British or British-connected companies did this year in issuing Jubilee editions or commemorative stuff. I really want one. I just wouldn’t put it on an already overloaded living room wall.
The history of tacky décor is a long and honourable one on Corrie Street, starting with Hilda Ogden’s wallpaper “muriel” and the plaster ducks. And the Duckworths climbed new heights of tackiness with the stone cladding followed by “The Old Rectory” name plaque. Then, presumably wanting to surround themselves fully in the experience of hideousness, they put up the wallpaper.
Vera would be proud of what Tyrone and Kirsty have done. And I guess I can take solace in the thought that, as long as that wallpaper stays up, a bit of Vera and Jack will always be with us.
In real life sad news, actor Geoffrey Hughes passed away last Friday. He played Eddie Yeats, the Ogden’s lodger and the source for the ‘muriel’, on Coronation Street and Onslow, the bane of Hyacinthe’s existence, on Keeping Up Appearances.
The back cover of Dick Francis: A Racing Life, a biography by Graham Lord, calls it “warm, affectionate, yet sharp and perceptive.” I usually read the jacket information before starting a book. This time I didn’t. I’m glad because I know it didn’t skew my impressions of the book.
The only word of that description with which I would agree is “sharp.” I found the book sharp to the point of nasty and petty. The first page puts the thesis forth that Dick’s wife Mary probably wrote the novels. Throughout 373 pages of text, Lord jibes and pokes about it at every chance.
The argument is that Dick Francis did not like or do well in school and that Mary did. Dick quit school as soon as he could to become a horseman. Mary went on to university, gaining a degree in French and English. Lord illustrates with facts and speculation what he calls “the most amusing literary camouflage since Marian Evans pretended to be George Eliot.”
An apparent fact is that Dick repeatedly said that Mary should be named as co-author. But Mary and the publishers thought the books were more marketable under the name of a champion jockey. Lord does paint a picture of the personalities of both Dick and Mary. What I take from his portrayal of Dick is of an unassuming man who was honest as a jockey and in all other aspects of his life. The impression of Mary that I gained from Lord is that, as they say, she wasn’t backward about putting herself forward.
Mary Francis – Researcher or writer?
There has never been any hiding of the fact that Mary did much of the research for the books. In Lord’s book, I learned that she turned many of the novels’ subjects into businesses or avocations for herself. She became a pilot and ran an air taxi service, she bought into a wine importing business and she took up photography to the professional level. All this was to better research Dick Francis books. With the literary aspirations that Lord says she had, I am amazed that she did not claim the credit for them if she believed herself to be the sole or major author.
Lord says that the physical afflictions suffered by characters are those suffered by Mary, not Dick. She had polio as a young woman, so does a character. She suffered from asthma, so does a character. Literary allusions are ones that would only be known to Mary with her education, not Dick with his. The portrayal of the male heroes and the female characters seem to be written more from a woman’s perspective than a man’s. It is Mary’s sensibilities, interests and afflictions that fuel the books, Lord says.
Racing and horses are central
Ok, but I would argue that those are story elements attainable through good research and from drawing on experiences of others. At the heart of Dick Francis novels is racing and horses. You are riding in the Grand National with the book’s hero. You know the horses as sentient beings through the eyes of jockeys or grooms. And that is not Mary’s experience. She didn’t particularly like horses or racing. And physical afflictions? The descriptions of broken collarbones and dislocated shoulders are from Dick’s experience.
Lord is disparaging toward Dick about his respect for the Royal Family. As an example of what he sees as Dick’s fawning, he says that Dick asked the Queen Mother’s permission before entitling his autobiography The Sport of Queens. Why, Lord asks, should Dick think it necessary to ask permission to use that phrase? Perhaps because the phrase is actually The Sport of Kings? By changing it to Queens, Francis was making direct reference to his riding career. At that time there were two Queens and no King. As well, he rode for the Queen Mother. Perhaps he was just being polite.
Graham Lord makes much of Dick saying that writing was hard for him. Hard to believe, Lord says. Maybe, but I’ve read more interviews with best-selling authors about the difficulty of writing than those saying oh, it’s a snap. There’s also cringe-making recitations of interviews with Francis by writers for literary journals where Dick could not discuss concepts of formalism or semiotics in literature. Oh, for heaven’s sakes, not being au courant with literary analyses is hardly proof that someone can’t put pen to paper and write a good story.
Before and after reading Lord’s book, I did not think that Dick wrote the books entirely on his own. Why wouldn’t Mary contribute, edit, add her own words? Especially with their long symbiotic marriage, it seems they became almost inseparable. Their son Felix also became part of the writing machine. But at the core of all Dick Francis books are horses, racing and jockeys. Neither Mary nor Felix lived in that world. Dick did.
Graham Lord better on James Herriot
In 1997, two years before A Racing Life, Graham Lord published James Herriot: The Life of a Country Vet – the “warm but incisive” biography its cover promised. Dick Francis: A racing life is not. At 262 pages, his Herriot biography is the length A Racing Life would be if Lord cut out the waffle. That would be most of the first three chapters and the long descriptive word lists throughout. I began skimming very early.
“For generations, the cream of British aristocracy and the crowned heads of Europe have intermingled to produce a bloodline like vintage champagne. Then what do they go and do? Pour in a quart of brown ale. I’m surprised they haven’t booked the Rovers for afterwards.” I have not heard such a wonderful summary of the debate of royalty marrying non-royalty as Mary gave about William and Kate’s wedding in Tuesday’s episode.
Like many, I have a favourable impression of Miss Kate Middleton, purveyor of party supplies, now Catherine, HRH Princess William of Wales, Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn, Baroness Carrickfergus. However, it will be hard to think of her again without picturing a quart of brown ale.
An advantage of being seven months behind the UK broadcast dates is that this week we got to relive the Royal Wedding. It was wonderful. The banner in the Rovers, the commemorative plate in Graeme’s apartment. It took me back to the all night television watching I did last April, and added some lovely twists.
It worked nicely into the Graeme and Xin immigration marriage story. Mary’s pronouncement that the primary purpose of Royal marriages is as alliances for purposes of bloodlines and politics, of course, flew right in the face of her earlier statement that marriage ought to be for love only. When she said the latter, she was justifying her reporting Graeme and Xin’s marriage scam to the immigration office. When Rita questioned her inconsistency in argument, she backed down gracefully and admitted she had done wrong in turning them in. She then, in her home on wheels, rode to their rescue. She helped Graeme find Xin, and singlehandedly changed a flat tire while quizzing them on their knowledge of each other.
But we weren’t done with pontificating on the Royal Wedding. The immigration officer gave a republican view. “I’d line the lot of them up against the – well, I’d favour an elected head of state,” he opined in the Rovers as he pointed along the wall where he could imagine them all lined up. He looked at the royal lineage from the perspective of his position. He made the valid point that his job is to “stop marriages of convenience, marriages that let undesirable foreigners into this country. The Royal Family has been doing that for centuries.” During the interview in the apartment of “Mr. and Mrs. Proctor”, Graeme quickly realized that hanging the Royal Wedding plate had not worked quite as intended – to show his and Xin’s patriotism. He blamed its presence on a wedding gift giver and smashed it.
What a treat Bob Stephenson from the UK Border Agency was! I do hope he has to return to deal with Mary over the car crash they had – or anything (except Xin’s new visa being taken away). He and Mary together are just wonderful. I wonder if the Queen was amused by the episode.
And speaking of queens, Audrey meeting “Marcia” and friends Friday was, well, priceless. Please, can we see these ladies again?
It’s been quite a four days – perhaps best summarized with The Hat. Everybody’s had a go at this new game. Friday was the birth of The Hat.
Friday was a bank holiday in the UK so that everyone could watch The Royal Wedding. Millions of us elsewhere also watched. The Hat made its first appearance.
But while we were watching the fairy tale wedding, in the White House other events were being watched. Friday, so we learned, was also the culmination of 10 years of The Hunt for Osama bin Laden. The Hat was there, helping.
Also on Friday, Patrick Chan won gold at the World Figure Skating Championships in Moscow – hurray Patrick, hurray Canada. (no hat)
Sunday, Celebrity Apprentice was pre-empted in the last few critical moments (would Nene pleasepleaseplease be fired? No – she wasn’t, ohno!) The Hat should have been there – this is its natural habitat. Some of the outfits worn by these “celebrity” women would fit right in those worn by the Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice.
Why did President Obama interrupt The Donald? Osama bin Laden had been killed by US troops. Before this news was made public, The Hat had already found its way to bin Laden’s head.
Monday, Canada’s election produced an odd result. A Conservative majority with (for the first time ever) the NDP as official Opposition. The Liberals and the Bloc were pretty much wiped off the political map. Gilles Duceppe said his goodbyes to his party Monday evening, Michael Ignatieff waited until Tuesday morning. The Hat talked him into it.
And coming up on Saturday, hats will be big in Louisville. It’s the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby. Having done my bit at photoshopping The Hat, I’m definitely rooting for Brilliant Speed who kindly loaned me his head.
The Hat on Princess Beatrice is an AP photo from Friday’s wedding. The Hat on Michael Ignatieff was done by Jim Stewart. The others of The Hat are from Facebook. The photo of Patrick Chan is by AP and the boardroom photo of Team ASAP is from buddytv.
I stayed up all night and watched the Royal wedding pre-pre-coverage, pre-coverage, main event, balcony scene and after coverage. I switched between CBC and CBC NewsNet, CNN, an entertainment news show and went online to BBC.
Interestingly, my husband and I stuck with CNN for the actual wedding. Both of us usually choose CBC or CTV over any American channel for political, sports or ‘significant event’ coverage. But Piers Morgan was great. He, Anderson Cooper and their guests were informative and witty in their commentary. Donald Trump did a good thing with Celebrity Apprentice in introducing Piers Morgan to US media.
The wedding was beautiful, the dress was fabulous, the singing of God Save the Queen brought tears to the eyes, the balcony kiss was sweet and funny. I wish she’d ridden in the glass carriage to the Abbey, but it still was a total fairy tale wedding. Just one observation about the music in the ceremony – the lovely choir piece that was composed as a wedding gift sounded to me very similar to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast theme song.
Royal Wedding Style
In the pre-coverage talk about the dress, there was a lot of emphasis on Kate’s sense of style. I was thinking huh? She’s got all the money in the Queen’s realm and all the advisors in the fashion industry and the palace to ensure that this dress is the epitome of elegance and high-style. How could she not look absolutely fabulous?
And then I saw the Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice. I saw you can have all the fashion mavens and money in the world and still look like you got dressed from a Salvation Army clothes bale. I liked their shoes though.
In my fashion assessment of the event, I divided the family women into two categories. (Kate and her sister Pippa, both stunning, were in their own category.) On the ‘regally elegant’ side were the Queen, Mrs. Middleton, Camilla and the Countess of Wessex. On the ‘WTF?’ side were Eugenie, Beatrice and the Princess Royal. Now, Anne I can accept – she generally always looks as if she grabbed whatever was clean and not wrinkled from her closet. She’s never been an icon of fashion; she has other things she’d rather do.
But those girls! I think that they’d like to be fashion plates, and they have the looks to do so. If they’d take half the owl eye makeup off and not wear clothes that are jumbled and way too busy and not flattering to their faces or figures in any way. And they sat right behind their Gran! So you couldn’t even look at the Queen without being distracted by the costume party escapees behind her.
I wish the new Duke and Duchess the very best. I don’t envy them though. One commentator said something like ‘this marriage cannot fail. There is no reason it can’t last: they’ve lived together, she’s been part of his world long enough to understand her role, they’re both mature enough. If it doesn’t last, the British monarchy will end with it.’ Gee, that’s not much pressure is it?
In June 1983 Charles and Diana, Prince and Princess of Wales, came to St. John’s on the Royal Yacht Britannia. Two years before, I had woken up early or stayed up late, can’t remember which, to watch their wedding on television.
I was very excited that they were visiting and couldn’t wait to go to the harbour front to see them. I didn’t want to go alone – it felt like an event that should be shared with friends. Turned out the only people I knew who were going were Irish Republican supporters going to protest. Well, you have to make the best of things, I thought.
So when the yacht arrived, I walked down to the waterfront with about ten people carrying placards and a rolled-up banner. We found a good spot as near the yacht as we could get, with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary staying near us, keeping a watchful eye.
Placards were distributed and the banner unfurled. Ten feet long, it read “England Out Of Ireland Now”. I have no idea why they gave me one end of it to hold.
When the Royal couple came on deck, the crowd went wild. Diana sparkled – well, like a princess. Even at the distance we were, you could see her astounding beauty. I too clapped and cheered and jumped up and down. The banner bounced awkwardly so I tucked the stick under my arm to keep it steadier while I clapped.
I turned around to look at my companions. In this huge crowd, only they were standing stock still, with long morose faces. Oops! I tried to curb my enthusiasm, but it wasn’t enough. One of the guys came to me and said, “stop clapping! We’re not here to clap!” Well, I was, and I hadn’t made a secret of it! Still, I tried to keep still and look serious.
The Yacht without the Royal Couple
A few days later, the yacht was in port without the Royal couple. Friends and I were in a downtown bar and some of the Royal Navy crew came in. They sat with us. Much later that warm summer night, going swimming seemed like a good idea. So we did. A sailor, fooling around, grabbed a girl’s ankle. She twisted and the ankle was seriously sprained. We had no car and she couldn’t walk. Thankfully, we had fit young men to carry her.
They felt bad for what happened, so invited us aboard the Royal Yacht the next day along with St. John’s dignitaries. Unfortunately, the injured girl couldn’t navigate the gangplank with crutches. The rest of us did and told her all about it afterwards. Our sailors showed us the salons, kitchens and bridge – everything but the Royals’ private quarters.
I was sad when Britannia was decommissioned as a Royal vessel. She was magnificent and deserved royalty. In 1997 I also got up early or stayed up late to watch the funeral of Diana, former Princess of Wales. This Friday I’ll do the same to watch her son marry Kate Middleton.