Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Jan. 30/11)

Needs a home

"With a bit of sparkle, she'd be quite pretty", Becky looks at ChloeTuesday, Becky reaching to the computer screen, to the girl with the challenging eyes. Chloe, 9 years old, seven siblings most of them in Scotland, needs a home – a forever home. Steve and Becky are looking at a website of children available for adoption.“ You’d think they’d be all puppy eyed wouldn’t you.” Becky sees herself in Chloe’s eyes and story. Steve sees her too. Please pick Chloe, please please, I say to my screen.

I know it wouldn’t work – not right now. Becky’s on too much of an emotional rollercoaster, in an emotional wringer, whatever way you want to put it. She’s had too little time to get used to the thought of having a baby, then losing a baby, then losing another she didn’t even yet know had existed, then having to think about never  being able to carry a baby to term at all, ever. A bad womb, a womb that kills babies. Not an easy thing to accept about your body for any woman, ever.

Becky & Steve look at adoptive children website - needs a homeIt’s too soon to take a 9 year old as your own. You’ve got too many open wounds, and likely so does she. It’s too soon to hope that your wounds can help heal hers, and hers yours. But Becky, having psyched herself up for motherhood, wants a baby now! And, if she can’t adopt a baby, this little girl has spoken to her.

Becky would be a perfect match for Chloe, for pretty much any child who has knocked around in the child welfare system. She could both understand and not be taken in. But it’s too soon. Chloe would be a rebound child.

In a follow-up scene, Steve recognizes that and also gets cold feet for Amy’s sake. He doesn’t articulate it verySteve says "I'm not saying never" to adoptionwell, but I see his point. It’s one thing bringing a baby into the world of another child. That child is the older sibling then. It’s a different thing bringing in a child that’s older than the already present child. Different dynamic for everybody. I think Becky could cope, I’m not sure Steve could.

And at this point, they haven’t even thought about the vetting process they’d have to undergo. They see themselves as a stable married couple, sure, with some ups and downs in their past. I shudder to think what a social worker would see. Hayley and Roy thought they were ideal adoptive parents too, and so did most of the viewing world. But Social Services didn’t think so. I maintain Social Services was wrong and some children and a wonderful couple have paid for that error, but it’s the child services people that get to make the rules. I don’t want to see Becky crushed by those rules too.

Audrey and escorting

Audrey leaving, after Rita says "get out"In another story – my assessment of Audrey’s maturity was wrong. She doesn’t totally understand ‘escort’ protocol. I felt sorry for her and embarrassed for her at the ball and terrified by her when she went to Rita’s house on the attack. But wow! Tuesday’s confrontation wasn’t a cat fight, it was tigresses going at it!

The Lady Audrey, at the ballAnd the dress Audrey wore to the ball. She looked so beautiful. I hate where this story seems to be going but Audrey and Rita, and Claudia, have been magnificent. And poor Emily, caught in the middle of Audrey and Rita – “I’m not declaring war on Poland, luv,” Audrey said. Perfect.

Seeing the world the Alzheimer’s way

walking in hallway, space and timeWith Alzheimer’s, how is space and time perceived within your head? Take walking 20 yards down a hallway, from your room to the dining room. Halfway through, you can’t remember where you’re going. How can you not remember what takes maybe a minute to do, even at a walker-assisted pace?

I got a clue from something my husband said when we were trying to puzzle this out. “Well, when you’re a little kid, a hallway can seem enormously long. Then when you see it as an adult you realize it’s not at all.” I said “yeah, but kids are little so they walk slow. It takes them longer to get down the hallway  so maybe it would seem really long.” And then the penny dropped for me.

Space and Time

If you’re old and incapacitated, it takes you longer to walk down the hallway, just like it does when you’re a child. Add in loss of short-term memory, and maybe you indeed are empty tv room in nursing home at dinner timeon a long and winding road. Someone with Alzheimer’s can forget what was said or done five or 10 seconds before. Walking those 20 yards to or from the dining room takes longer than that. So halfway down the hall, that person may have forgotten where they’re coming from or where they’re going. They’re likely to find their way to their immediate destination because if they keep going straight, they’re going to run into it. But an hour or two later, trying to find their way back? Or even that there is a “back” to which to go?

It’s frustrating, also flabbergasting: “your room is down the hall” – “what hall?” Maybe it’s a little easier to understand if you think of it as a very long walk, like a two hour trek nursing home roadway in winterfrom point A to point B through the woods. When you reach the end, you probably can’t remember every detail of what the starting point looked like. You’d have to go back there to refresh your memory. With Alzheimer’s, maybe walking that hallway is more like a trek through the woods. The staff are the signposts along the path, pointing out to walkers the right way to go. With space and time, maybe the path will be visible for at least a moment.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Jan. 23/11)

Movin’ on down

Peacocks & Allahans look at listing for house Dev likesA scene I liked in a storyline that’s not up to par. First, the scene (a two-parter): Sunita and Dev in the Rovers talking to Ashley and Claire about living on the side of the street that has, as Dev says, “outdoor loos”. (Sunita had learned from Kirk that Maria is planning to put her house up for sale.)

Claire and Ashley have lived on both sides of the street, and know whereof they speak. Claire defends her house, that it’s not “pokey”. Ashley takes the middle of the road – yes it is “a bit” but it’s all right.

I was touched when Dev came around to the idea of living on the street by Sunita’s argument that the moneyDev agrees to call Maria about her house saved could help put the twins through university. You could see the Dream on his face; his kids doing what perhaps he wished he had. Now, I just remembered he’s already got one kid, Amber, who has recently started university in London. Still, I guess you have dreams for all of them and, at times, those dreams can seem impossible and enticing. And with these kids, he hopes, he’ll see what he didn’t see with Amber: the childhood before university.

Plot-driving Sunita

But the storyline: it’s a plot-driven clunker. Throughout it, I’ve been embarrassed for Sunita. She is bright and level-headed, yet nothing that has come out of her mouth about this mania to move has made a lick of sense. Since the beginning, you could see the writers’ planning meetings behind it and you should not be able to see that. With Sunita back, they want to put her and Dev more in the centre of things, and that means physically closer to the Street. Ok, they’ve got some mileage out of the unsuitability of Dev’s flat. Although I don’t remember it ever being described as small before. It’s a luxury apartment, not a pokey little flat.  Even as that, it may well not be suitable for kids.

Sunita arguing for saving moneyBut Sunita’s arguments that the twins need stability, that their present house means nothing to them. It’s the only house they’ve known! What would have no meaning for them whatsoever is Coronation Street! They were infants when they moved into that house. And she and Dev moved into it, so it wasn’t too far from the shop before. Plus, Dev has seven shops. Why should he be closer to one than the others?

You could pick holes in Sunita’s arguments forever, but the point clearly – too clearly – has been the need to have Sunita and Dev back in the Street. Ok, but please write it in a way that keeps Sunita’s brain evident. It’s been bad enough to watch Dev, formerly Mr. Cool and Suave, turn into a buffoon, but now Sunita?

Plot-driving Jason too

Having, in the same episode, Jason fall and suffer amnesia so that he doesn’t remember that Tina has broken up with him? Everybody has to tippy-toe around to not upset him. Perhaps it was just an unfortunate coincidence of writing ideas.

But Sunita’s storyline already had me thinking too much about Days of our Lives’ writing. Please, character-driven, not plot-driven! There are other ways, more true to character, to get Dev and Sunita to buy Maria’s house.

Losing Sgt. Ryan

Police in funeral procession for Sgt. Ryan Russell from CTV websiteTuesday morning, I turned on the tv to watch my tape of Coronation Street. On CBC, I saw the funeral procession for Sgt. Ryan Russell of the Toronto Police Force. So, for the next several hours, I watched the procession and the funeral. 

There were over 12,000 police officers, firefighters, EMTs and soldiers. The streets, lined with people watching the procession, were silent. The funeral in the huge Metro Convention Centre was beautiful and sad. It was also a forceful reminder of the risk taken every day by men and women who choose policing as a career. And a reminder that they are people with spouses, children, parents and siblings – family, friends and colleagues have lost an important part of their world.

Sgt. Ryan Russell

Sgt. Russell was a recreational hockey player and a major hockey fan. Legendary Montreal Canadiens goalie and senator Ken Dryden spoke to CBC on behalf of the Canadian government. Sgt. Russell was fatally struck January 12th trying to stop a stolen snowplow on snowy Toronto streets. All part of a quintessentially Canadian story Mounted police at head of cortege for Sgt. Ryan, CTV websiteperhaps. And a story, and fear, shared by the thousands marching; police officers from across Canada and the US, firefighters, EMTs, members of the Armed Forces, RCMP in red serge, traffic wardens, K-9 unit dogs and horses from Toronto’s Mounted Police. If it isn’t you who steps into the line of fire, it might be your friend.

I have a cousin who is a retired OPP officer. I never gave it much thought. Bill was a cop, and other cousins were mechanics, one worked in an office, one in a grocery store. Different jobs for different interests. I never really thought that, for over 20 years, Bill put himself deliberately in danger. We all can get hit by a bus or be attacked by a crazy or evil person. But cops seek out the crazies and evil-doers. That is their job. Thank you, Bill, and all of you.

Photos are from CTV‘s website. Thanks, and thanks to CBC and Global for devoting five hours of airtime to the full funeral. There is a trust fund for Russell’s son Nolan at CIBC.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Jan. 16/11)

SWF looking

Rita & Audrey talk in salon - SWF lookingFriday, Audrey and Rita had an interesting conversation about paying for companionship. To the news that Lewis is an “escort” hired occasionally by Audrey, Rita’s reaction was what probably most of us think – “a gigolo!” with a titter of laughter.

Audrey denied there was any gigolo-related activity going on, just someone to talk to. “On the meter,” Rita scoffed. She told Audrey that she could find men for companionship or whatever without resorting to paying for them. Audrey doubted the likelihood of that.

Lewis & Audrey "off the meter"It was a sad scene, two widow women talking about finding interesting single men. But more than that, it was reassuring. These women know that they are “of a certain age”. But their age was not something they discussed. Audrey said you watch a movie and fall in love with Gregory Peck or Cary Grant, an oblique temporal reference. They are smart women who know their own minds and know the state of available male-hood in their neighbourhood. Their age and past history of relationships were not the issue, rather a way of giving perspective to their opinions.

Renting companionship

Dramatically, and as discourse, it was thought provoking. Rita’s shock and hint of titillation at the thought of hiring a man was countered by Audrey’s dispassionate assessment of her situation and the purpose of Lewis in her life. You rent a movie for entertainment of an evening, why not rent an evening of good conversation?  Why not indeed – it can be pretty hard to come by.

Norris busy with his new camera phoneWhat strengthened her thesis was that she did not tell Rita that Lewis was “off the meter” when Norris had seen him and Audrey together. Had Rita known that, she would have seen the whole thing differently. She probably would have said, oh so you’ve become friends outside of “work” then. But Audrey didn’t say it, and therefore she kept the discussion on the plane of payment for services, with the type of service being the point.

SWF – 1.0 and 1.1

Sian & Ryan head to the bedroomThis civilized introspective look at being single and having needs for companionship was beautifully placed in the show. Following it was a continuation of a scene that dealt with the same topic, more or less, from the other end of the spectrum.

It started in the episode before. Ryan had suggested that he and his girlfriend and Sophie, in a blind-date Sophie interrupts everyone's planssituation with a friend of Ryan’s, watch a movie at his place since his mother was out. Ryan and Sian watched maybe 5 minutes of the film before heading to the bedroom. Yuck.  Friday, Sophie and Ryan’s friend are still watching the movie while Ryan and Sian are behind closed doors. So Ryan’s friend figures it’s time to put the big moves on Sophie. Double yuck.

It was realistic, as those who choose to remember their teenage years of raging hormones know. And it was cheap and disgusting, as anyone who is past those years also knows. But, dramatically, it was a superb counterpoint for the scene with Audrey and Rita analytically and emotionally looking at the need for human contact.

A Charity of Your Choice

When making funeral arrangements, it’s common to think of a charity to which the deceased person would like memorial donations to go. card for charity donations in memory ofIt’s a nice way of remembering somebody and lasts longer than flowers. Unfortunately, what also lasts longer than flowers, even perhaps the benefit of your donation itself, are the solicitations in the mail that you will continue to receive from the deceased person’s charity of choice.

I’ve always thought that, at the very least, dying should mean that people can raise money for a charity or cause meaningful to them. They’re who died, not me. If I want to contribute to things I care about, I should do that off my own bat. However, I’m starting to see a benefit to the requests for “a donation to the charity of your choice”:  I’m already on the mailing list.

Give at a funeral to a charity that you don’t usually support, and you’ll be getting letters, address labels and notepads for the rest of your life, asking that you “once again” show your generosity. I want to tell them – it wasn’t your cause I was being generous toward. I gave in memory of my friend or relative. Take me off your list!

Mailing Lists

Why should memorial donations even make it to the mailing list? These donations are receipted by the organization as being “in memory of” so they know why you gave. If they wanted to save postage and goodwill, it might be wise to not include you on their mailing list.

charity address labels and solicitation lettersAnd how do charities that you’ve never donated to – for yourself, from door-to-door canvassers or at funerals – get you on their list? I can only assume that they bought a mailing list that had my name on it. And that had to be from an organization I donated to a funeral. The groups I donate to do not send mass mailings or share mailing lists.

This crowd – in the photograph – I don’t recall ever giving so much as a nickel. Now, they’ve sent me a nickel in hopes I’ll add to it and write them a cheque. Nope. But at least it partially compensated me for my time shredding the letter with my name printed throughout it. And also ripping the plastic window out of the envelope so that it can be recycled. That’s more than you get from a lot of them. And I’ve got these nice address labels that I didn’t ask for. I’ll just put them with the 20 other sheets I’ve received from organizations that I will never donate to again. Because I am trying, by playing dead, to get myself off their mailing lists.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Jan. 9/11)

Ashes to Ashes

Platt family ready for Joe's funeral - ashes to ashesWhatever the Joe McIntyre storyline was like, his death has been perhaps the most entertaining I’ve ever seen. His funeral Monday was an absolute gem.

The ‘fun’ in ‘funeral’ started with the gathering of the mourners on opposite sides of the street when the cortege was forming. Norris and Dev, like a Greek chorus, Grimshaws & Tina ready for Joe's funeralintoning “decorum” as they observe the hostilities.

Then, in the chapel, the interruption of the solemnity by the noisy arrival of Graeme, late because he had to catch a bus to the chapel. Next, the almost as noisy departure of Tina because she couldn’t stand the sight of Gail in the pew across from her.

Then the cat fight between Gail and Tina, with Audrey taking up the “decorum” motif.  Then the moment at which I broke up laughing – the physical fight in the aisle when David is going for Tina and Jason is trying to stop him.

David and Jason fighting in churchThe poor minister, hissing “start” at the organist and trying to get everyone singing nicely. Oh my, too funny for words. I watched it in two time zones and again on tape. Church events often are very Minister singing despite chaosgood in Corrie, but usually the chaos occurs in weddings. (Remember Karen and Steve’s?) This time it was poor Joe’s funeral. And Gail doing a little public service announcement for mental health issues in her impromptu eulogy! If I were Tina, I’d have gone for her just for that.

Simon and Rita home

More impressive scenes, also on Monday – Simon turning up at home safe and sound. A relief certainly, also a Simon in Peter's arms, Leanne relievedsurprise. I don’t want to complain about a missing child story having a happy ending, but. The subsequent wrap-up was very quick, with Simon’s “two trains and a bendy-bus” explanation of how he got back, and George’s contrition and promise to leave Simon and the Barlows alone. After the previous days of mounting tension in Blackpool, I felt like telling Simon myself, “don’t ever ever do that to me again! I was worried sick.”

The story seemed truncated to me. I’d thought maybe there had been a last minute reshoot or cutting of whole scenes, and maybe there was according to what I read on line from last year. Anyway, Leanne leaning against the doorframe crying with relief and Peter hugging Simon to his chest saying “my baby” brought me to tears.

Rita, back on Coronation Street cobblesAnd a black taxi pulling up on the street, and the glorious Rita getting out of it. Looking fabulous in her white furry coat, saying “it’s good to be back.” All I could say to the screen was “well hello Rita, it’s so good to have you back where you belong.”

Sarah Palin and Targets

The first time I saw Sarah Palin on television, I was impressed. It was soon after she was announced as John McCain’s running mate for the 2008 US presidential election. She was forthright with her opinions and seemed level-headed. I liked how she talked about being a woman – and wife and mother – with a political career. I might not agree with her political beliefs but I could respect her as a politician. That’s what I thought.

Sarah’s Targets

targets on SarahPac's Take back the 20 map of USIt went downhill from there, pretty rapidly. But never, even in my most extreme thoughts of “what stupidity is this woman going to do next” did I imagine she would post a list of Democratic party targets online, and show their geographical location on a map of the USA with marks that are very similar to gunsight cross hairs!

Gun imagery and reality

I had heard on tv about her statement that it was time to “reload”. Her choice of that word seemed incendiary and irresponsible to me, and I was sure it was deliberate on her part. Still, giving her the benefit of the doubt, I thought maybe she was just playing up her self- or media-created image as a rifle-toting, sharp-shooting “momma Grizzly”. Had I known about the list and map! I only found out about that on CNN today, the day a US congresswoman was shot in the head, 6 people were killed and many more wounded in a mass shooting in Tucson Arizona. The Arizona Congresswoman, Gabrielle Gifford, was on Sarah Palin’s list of targets.

Maybe there is no connection between these killings and Sarah Palin’s postings and tweets. But if there isn’t in fact, there is in spirit. An Arizona sheriff, shortly after the shootings, spoke of the spirit of “vitriol” in Arizona. That, CNN commentators agreed, could be extended to the whole of political discourse in the US at this moment. I don’t know what gets more vitriolic than marking a map with something very much like cross-hairs, even if it’s not meant to be taken literally. It is exactly that image of Palin – the gun-totin’ momma – that she has created for herself that makes her use of such language more problematic than with other people’s use of it. With her, it’s hard to hear the words ‘target’ and ‘aim’ without thinking of firearms.

Sanctity of fish life?

I watched a couple episodes of Sarah Palin’s Alaska recently. The one I watched had her and her daughter working on a fishing boat. They were processing halibut before putting them in the boat’s hold. Bristol, then Sarah, held the still-beating heart of a halibut. Both looked at it as the camera zoomed in for a close-up. I thought probably they were marveling at this little organ, strong, still beating, still alive even after it was detached from the halibut’s body. That’s what I was doing.

But nope. Bristol said something like “eew, gross”. Sarah looked at it solemnly for a minute and, just when I thought she was going to talk about the miracle of life, she shrugged, said “weird”. Then she flicked the still-beating heart over the side of the boat into the sea. So much for the sanctity of life, I thought.


Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Dec. 31/10)

God bless the child

Simon looks out at his fighting family - god bless the childNot really a “scene” this week – a shot and a background, both part of the same storyline. Poor little Simon, looking out the door at his feuding family. That child can tear the heart out of you. You can feel how confused and frightened he is about the behaviour of the pack of jackals (and jackasses) he now must live among.

Barlows fightingIt is rare to see child actors, especially ones so young, be able to carry their parts in a storyline all by themselves. Simon’s emotions and reactions do not need propping up or explaining by the adults at all. We’re more accustomed to children whose expression basically doesn’t change and we only know if they’re happy, sad or upset by the context of the story, indeed even the verbal explanations we’re given. “Look at —, he/she is upset now!” Okay, thanks for telling us! But we don’t need that with Simon. He tells us or shows us quite well on his own. I hope he stays on the show for a good long time.

And thinking of characters who may or may not require explanation – it was nice to hear John refer to Schmeichel this week. I’ve been wondering what happened to him. It’s been so long since we saw him or even heard him mentioned. Schmeichel is also a blessing to the show. Like Simon, he can hold his own in a storyline.


George & Eve with Simon on Blackpool pierNow the background of the week – Blackpool. So nice to see the beach and the arcades and lights in daytime and at night. I had a hard time concentrating on the story of Simon taking off because I wanted to see everything behind the actors.

Barlows & George on Blackpool street at nightIt’s been a while since we had a Corrie trip to Blackpool, and especially the night shots on Friday were spectacular. I’ve never been to Blackpool, always wanted to go. Thanks, Corrie, for the little New Year’s Eve trip.Carousel at Blackpool at night




bag of tomatoesFreezing is probably the easiest way to prepare a supply of tomatoes. In season, buy a large quantity of them or grow your own. At other times of the year, look in the reduced food bin for bags of tomatoes priced for quick sale.

Blanch to remove skin – or not

If you’re a purist, heat a pot of water to boiling. Keep it simmering and put the washed whole tomatoes in it for 20 seconds or so (blanching). Use a big slotted spoon to put them in and take them out. Run cold water over them to stop the blanching and cool them. Then cut the core out and use your small knife to gently peel the skin off. It should just slide off. Plum tomatoes are especially easy to peel, and make the best tomato sauce. If, like me, you’re not a purist and don’t mind pieces of tomato skin in your sauce, just wash the tomatoes and cut the core out.

Cut – or not – and cook

Cored whole tomato ready to halveThen half or quarter the tomatoes or, best for flavour retention, leave them whole and cook them. Add a tiny bit of water to your pot in order to keep the tomatoes from burning. Better yet, turn the heat on very low until they cook a bit and produce their own liquid.

You can add herbs and seasonings to the pot or just leave them so you can flavour them later when making the final product. Cook them, stirring occasionally, until they are soft. The length of time depends on the amount of tomatoes, the size and the tomatoes cookingdegree of softness you want. Figure on an hour to an hour and a half for a large pot.

When they’re done, open a large size freezer bag and stand it on end. You can also put it in a container, like a tall milk pitcher.

Fill freezer bags

Use your large slotted spoon to carefully spoon the tomatoes into the bag. The pitcher averts spilled tomatoes all over your counter until you get the hang of spooning and holding the bag upright at the same time. Two people doing this can also avoid accidents. Fill the bag about half full. Zip it up and it should lay almost flat.

Make sure the outside of the bags are dry so they don’t freeze together, and lay them flat on top of each other in your freezer, and presto, tomatoes ready for sauce-making. Each bag is about freezer bags of tomatoesequivalent to a large can of tomatoes. At harvest prices, four bags cost about the same as one can.

You’ll have tomato-flavoured water left. You can freeze it in small containers and use it like you’d use any vegetable stock, in soups or stews.

Freeze uncooked whole tomatoes

You can freeze uncooked whole tomatoes too – blanch and peel them if you like or just pull the stem off and wash them. Put them in the freezer on cookie sheets, making sure they are not touching. After they’ve frozen, bag them up and put them back in the freezer. You won’t be able to use them as “fresh” tomatoes, like in salad, but they’re fine for cooking. The only disadvantage is they take more freezer space than cooked ones do.


Two caveats about home-made frozen tomatoes. One: the slight thickness of the liquid that is in canned tomatoes isn’t there. I don’t know what is in canned tomatoes to give that, and I like it for helping the texture of your final tomato sauce. You get the same thing from home-canned tomatoes. Maybe it’s the heat-retention from long cooking. Maybe that’s what “stewing in your own juices” means. To approximate it with frozen tomatoes, I’ve added a bit of flour or cornstarch in the final sauce. I’ve also added canned tomato soup or tomato paste thickened with a bit of flour or cornstarch. You just want something that makes your sauce less watery.

Two: I watched Chef at Home once when chef Michael Smith was talking about tomato sauces. He prefers canned tomatoes over fresh because the lag time between picking and processing is less. Canned tomatoes, he said, literally are picked in the field and canned next door, within a very short period of time. Therefore, they are at the height of ripeness and freshness.

Also he prefers canned whole whole tomatoes plum photo D Stewarttomatoes to diced. Whole tomatoes, he said, require only one cooking process in their canning whereas halved or diced tomatoes require two. In your cooking, you ‘process’ them yet again, and each time they lose nutrients. So, despite the appeal of fresh tomatoes cooked slowly into a lovely pasta sauce, you’re actually better off with a can. Who knew?

If money is as much an issue as nutrients, there is a compromise. Supplement your store-bought can with cheap fresh (or frozen or home-canned) tomatoes.