Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Jan. 29/12)

Sitcom du Jour

A double-date at Roy’s Rolls, or four platonic pals enjoying a meal as Norris preferred party of four dining at cafeto think of it. Either way, Mary was spectacular. Her partner in spectacularness was Sylvia, known for that evening as The Waitress.

Mary, Norris, Emily and Dennis enjoyed a three-course meal courtesy of Roy. The free meal was the price Mary exacted for Sylvia having locked Norris, deliberately, in the café washroom overnight. Sylvia as their waitress, hand and foot, was the penance Mary exacted of her.

Sylvia glaring at Mary and Roy placating bothEmily offering to pay for her meal since Dennis had joined the original aggrieved three. Roy, white towel over arm, graciously saying you all are welcome. Mary in grande dame fashion, eagle-eying Sylvia just as Sylvia was eagle-eying her.

“Locate your inner cow”

soup du jour Mary asks Sylvia about menu“What is your soup du jour?” Sylvia refuses to answer Mary’s question if it’s not in “the Queen’s English.” Roy says “leek and potato.” “I want to hear it from The Waitress,” Mary trills, gimlet eyes on Sylvia. “It’s up there, sur le board” is as far as Sylvia will go in reply.

When Emily tsks tsks, Mary suggests, “for tonight leave your Christianity at home and locate your inner cow.”  When Emily continues being apologetic to Roy and Mary telling Emily to locate her inner cowSylvia, Mary whispers “imagine John McCarthy.” “Hostage John McCarthy?” asks Emily. The British journalist held hostage for over five years in Lebanon by the Islamic Jihad.

The scene was a good payoff for a week of OTT plots. Truly enjoying Sylvia, I’d looked Sylvia putting priced sachets on counterforward to her taking over the café. “I survived the Blitz and four Labour governments” she said when Roy asked if she could handle it. A new classic! Carping about portion sizes and about Becky laying about the café as if it were her living room was believable and funny. But charging for condiments and milk for tea? Nah. Even if she tried, Roy would have stopped it immediately. It got too silly.

Norris looking through washroom window at SylviaOf course, the writers had to do all that to get to the big event – Norris flouting the new rule of paying for washroom use. And Sylvia locking him in all night, hence the free dinner. I’m glad the dinner scene was worth it because I hadn’t been too happy up to that point.

Julie and Brian OTT

Even with my other favourites, Julie and Brian, I felt let down. It started wonderfully, Julie in that fabulous ’40s dress and hat needing Julie in Bistro accusing Brian of flirtinga bit of Rovers’ courage to get her through her date and plan to get Brian into bed. And she was great in the Bistro, the unsteady walk, the near miss with the chair when she sat down. But again, it then went too far in silliness. Not the actors’ doing – they were brilliant. But it seemed like the writers were writing for a laugh track.

Julie and Brian’s date spiraling out of control was plausible. But it became a sitcom scene. Sylvia instituting new rules in the café –not even plausible, at least not beyond snatching back a strip of bacon from a full English breakfast.

Norris Poirot

Norris ColeDavid Suchet as PoirotBut a new image stuck in your mind forever? When thinking of how to find the missing Norris, Mary suggests a recreation of the scene. “Who should play Norris? One of the Suchet brothers, I think. The one who plays Hercule Poirot.” Emily: “David, but he’s a very big actor now.” Bwahahaha.  Watching Poirot will never be the same.

Francis Family Books

If you had the sad job of picking the topic of the last novel you would write, I don’t think you could choose better than Dick Francis did. Crossfire, co-written with son Felix and published in 2010 by Michael Joseph, is the final book in his long and illustrious career as a mystery novelist. Dick Francis died in 2010 at the age of 89.

Amazon link for Crossfire by Dick Francis
Click for Amazon Link

Crossfire is a great story and a family effort. You don’t need to google anything to know the experiences of three generations of the family are in it. The horses, stables, races and racing industry amongst which Dick Francis lived are there, as usual. But our hero is a wounded Captain in the Grenadier Guards, recently returned from Afghanistan.

The authors’ thanks are given to Lieut. William Francis, Army Air Corps and Grenadier Guards, for his assistance. He is the grandson of Dick and son of Felix. So the horse and racing elements of a Dick Francis are there, as is information and insights about a different topic. This time, that other topic is the Afghanistan war and the physical and psychological realities of being injured by an explosive device. You see the trauma of being back home but having to deal with the injury and the sudden loss of your career and your passion – soldiering.

Dick Francis and family

banner photo from Grenadier GuardsThe book is a tribute to Lieut. Francis and his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan and elsewhere in war. It is also a tribute to Felix for carrying on his father’s work so well. And, of course, it’s a tribute to Dick Francis, master storyteller and steeplechase jockey. In his racing and writing, he has probably taught more people about the intricacies of horseracing than anyone else. And no matter what the villains of the piece do, the love Francis has for horses and his respect for their abilities and heart is always apparent.

Dick Francis’ books were written with the help of his family. His late wife, Mary, helped with research, writing and editing. Her interests and knowledge, such as in photography, were also reflected in the plots of some of his books. Felix, their younger son, helped his father with many of the books, taking an increasingly active part in the creation of Grenadier Guards Band on Horseguards Parade, Anon. 2008the latter ones. The last three Dick Francis books are published with both Dick and Felix as co-authors.

After his father’s death, Felix has continued writing under his own name. I have not read his solo efforts yet but, based on the co-authored books, he learned well from his father. And with Crossfire, I feel I have got to know the family better. I am glad that they let me see the post-war feelings of a wounded veteran. They did it with a deft touch, put in here and there in a very good story of chicanery in the racing and investment businesses.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Jan. 22/12)

Sympathy for the devil

I never thought it would happen: I felt sympathy for Kylie and appreciation for Gail. sympathy for Kylie saying she could not lose Max againWhen Kylie told Gail she wanted Max to be put up for adoption, she explained why.

She would never be able to be a good mother. Her own mother had told her that, had said the best thing she could do for the kiddy was drop him off on a stranger’s doorstep. She hadn’t done that and she’d heard her own mother’s voice in hers when she dealt with him. He’d be better with someone who knew how to be a mother. She would be just like her own mother. She wanted better for Max. And she couldn’t go through losing him again.

Gail putting arms around KylieAnd Gail shut up and listened. She sat on the stairs beside Kylie and put her arm around her. After Kylie had bared her soul, she hugged her and said she could be a fine mother and that she and David and Nick would help.

I hadn’t expected to react as I did to this scene at the beginning. It started with Gail asking why Kylie didn’t want to fight for Max. When Kylie said she just didn’t and it was her business not Gail’s, Gail launched into her. David has been nothing but supportive of you blahblahblah, she went on. I said to the screen “You call that supportive? Supportive is helping someone clarify what they want and why, then respecting their decision. It is not ramming what you want down their throat!”

David was being supportive of the idea of having Max with them. That is not to say that he would continue being supportive in the event of Max actually being with them. David sulking on bench where Kyle finds himAnd he certainly wasn’t being supportive of Max not being with them, which was what Kyle wanted. Whatever her reasons were, she had made her decision crystal clear in my opinion.

Believing that Kylie should not have custody of a goldfish, I thought her decision was the correct one for her, Max and her marriage. David should not be responsible for the welfare of a goldfish either. But I softened when I listened to her explain why she felt she’d be a lousy mother. What her mother did to her is not right. What Gail did is right.

Despite the sympathy and surprising understanding shown by Gail, I think Kylie still was railroaded Gail says she will be there for Kylie and Maxinto seeking custody of a child that she may or not be able to give stability. But it was nice to see beneath Kylie’s horrible brassy surface and see a vulnerable young woman who does occasionally have a serious thought. It was also nice to see her and Gail look at each other with something akin to respect and warmth.

Becky after Kylie and David say they are seeking custodyWhat was very sad was seeing Becky when she learned David and Kylie were seeking custody. Becky needs Max and I think she could give him a stable and loving home.

By the next episode, Kylie was back to being her hideous self. But I’ll never again be able to watch her with my previous loathing: she dropped the shell and let us see behind it. I liked what I saw.

Drifting into Doom: Book

link to DRC Pub for Drifting into Doom by Earl B. Pilgrim
Click to see on DRC Publishing

It was a dark and stormy night when I began reading Earl Pilgrim’s Drifting into Doom: Tragedy at Sea. Winter rain blew at the windows and tree branches hit the house. Reading about two men drifting in a dory during a January 1883 storm on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, I got chilled and thought “I knows how you feel!” Then I recollected myself, realized I was in a warm house, on a couch, with the wind and rain outside. No, I had no inkling of how Howard Blackburn and Tommy Welsh felt.

The story of the Banker schooner Grace L. Fears and the loss of one of her dories is itself a harrowing one. Trawling cod from tiny two-man boats set off the side of a schooner was a hard way to fish, especially for the dorymen. Many lives were lost on the Grand Bank fishery.

This is the story of the loss of Tommy Welsh, a 16 year old 1890 painting, G. F. Gregory, Storm King at seafrom Grand Bank on the south coast of Newfoundland. It is also the story of the saving of the life of his dory mate, Howard Blackburn, an experienced fisherman originally from Nova Scotia who worked out of Glouchester, Mass.

Blackburn got the dory to shore near the tiny settlement of Little River (later called Grey River) on Newfoundland’s south coast. His frozen fingers and toes could not be saved but his hands and feet were by the skill of a local woman called Aunt Jenny Lushman. She was helped by a Mi’kmaq woman named Susie Bushney. Experienced healers and midwives that they were, neither woman had ever dealt with frostbite so severe. But Mrs. Bushney’s advice and Mrs. Lushman’s steely nerves kept Blackburn alive.

Howard Blackburn in later life sailingBlackburn went on to become a well-known businessman in Glouchester and a world adventurer. His dorymate Tommy Welsh was buried in Little River. The story of these men was not lost on the Grand Banks. Accounts were published at the time and Pilgrim uses these to tell a tale that lets you get to know them, the Blackburn family, the fishing company personnel and the people of Little River and Burgeo. As the cover blurb says, it keeps you “spellbound”.

The Lushman Family

Another story came from this one. Aunt Jenny Lushman lives on her own with her grown children. Without a Mr. Lushman. That’s the other story. As a photo of Grey River by Holloway 1933result of publicity over Blackburn’s rescue, the story of what happened to Mr. Lushman came to light. It is also one of unbelievable happenstance and hardship. Probably it too is not an isolated case of people lost and believed gone, but it is one that became known. Its loose ends could be tied up. It is as epic as is the story of Howard Blackburn.

Jenny Lushman’s husband and one son left Little River for the United States in search of work. I found the story of what happened to them in a December 1912 Newfoundland Quarterly article by Sir Edward Morris.* You’ll want to be tucked up in your Snuggly while reading it too. Thank you, dear reader Jim F., for this book. And Newfoundland filmmakers? Movie here!

*See my transcription of Morris’ NQ article at A Tale of the Sea and  my post A Tale of the Sea, etc. for more. The entire Dec. 1912 NQ can be seen at the MUN digital archives (link in previous paragraph). For books on Amazon by Earl B. Pilgrim, click his name.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Jan. 15/12)


Monday’s theme seemed to be parenting, or not. Heart-breaking for so many characters. Three parent-child bonds struck me in particular.

Sylvia and Roy

parenthood - Sylvia talking about the child Roy as he overhears Hayley is at the end of her tether with Sylvia’s remarks about her in loco parentis skills with Hope. Inferred, but not said, is because Hayley is really Harold, how could she be expected to cope with a baby.

Hayley’s unusual flash of temper causes Sylvia to explain her own feelings about being a parent – of Roy. It’s not complimentary to Roy, and he overhears. But through the non-verbal Sylvia and Roy in cafe discuss Roy's childhoodform of communication that they seem to have, they come to understand the other’s position. They reconcile to the extent that Roy defends his mother against Becky’s wisecracks to her! Who’da thunk it!! And Sylvia, with the support of Roy and Hayley, indulges in cooing and cuddling baby Hope. Oh, I think Sylvia is an absolute prize. I’m liking her more each week.

Sean and Dylan and Marcus

Sean and Marcus discuss fatherhoodNote my arrangement of the names: Sean, Dylan, Marcus. That’s how Marcus is feeling – tacked on at the end. While he is expected to tend for the child as if he’s his own, he can’t cross that invisible line into feeling like a parent. Seem familiar? Becky and Amy?  As much as I like Sean, if he doesn’t get over himself and this “I’m the daddy” foolishness, I won’t be blaming Marcus if he heads for the door.

Leanne and Stella and lost baby

Leanne at top of stairs calling after PeterLeanne finds out she’s pregnant right when she’s dealing with her biological mother returning and wanting to play happy families. She is lashing out unreasonably at Peter about Carla and pretty much everything. Peter’s response is to go into a huge sulk and talk of going to Portsmouth. Oh, that makes sense, Peter.  When Leanne realizes she’s gone too far with insulting Peter, she goes to the top of the stairs to call after him. Trips, falls all the way to the bottom. Stella sees Leanne at bottom of stepsOf course, Stella is the one who finds her. In that she’s stalking Leanne, it’s not surprising.

In the hospital, Leanne and Peter are told she has miscarried. She is devastated, Peter not so much. Relief? Guilt? Disappointment? All three? Stella, like a bad penny, turns up. When Peter is not in Leanne crying while Stella reappears at the hospital room doorthe room, Leanne gives way to her sorrow and sobs her heart out. Who comes into the room but Stella. And no, she doesn’t back out of the room. She sits on the bed.

But just when I’m thinking “Good Lord woman, haven’t you got the sense to go Leanne crying in her mother's armsaway!”, Leanne turns toward her, clearly thinking the same thing I am, but then folds herself into her mother’s arms and sobs. Maybe at that moment, she’d have done the same if it had been a post sitting on her bed, or Norris. But it’s her mother.  And her mother, for the first time since Leanne was a baby, has the chance to comfort her child. Unfortunately, it’s over the loss of Leanne’s own child.

James, Ken and the ’60s

James fights Ken to get phone awayAnd a fourth. On Wednesday James admits all to Ken, and blames him and the 1960s for it all! It’s a version of a defence I remember using in my own childhood: ‘I didn’t ask to be born!’ Even after he knocks Ken down and leaves him unconscious on the floor, Ken protects him. Is that parental love or guilt or just reacting in total disbelief? I don’t know.

I’m not alone in my picks. Bluenose Corrie has a post on the same Monday scenes and there’s a comment on Corrie Canuck about Leanne and Stella at the hospital.

Tourist Board TV

Last night I watched the first episode of Arctic Air, CBC’s new series Arctic Air banner cbc website - tourism tvset in Yellowknife and surrounding lands. Tonight Republic of Doyle, set in St. John’s, returns for its 3rd season.

Major sponsors of both shows are their respective provincial tourism departments. I Newfoundland and Labrador plane at Arctic Air hangardon’t know if that is the reason why there’s a plane with the Newfoundland and Labrador logo at the Arctic Air hangar. It might also be in recognition of the fact that there is a disproportionate number of Newfoundlanders employed in the North West Territories, both in government and private industry. Either way, it was a nice touch.

Arctic Air struck me as kind of ‘North of 60 does Dallas’. There’s the bad exploration DC-3 flying over waterguy, from away. There’s the conflicted hero, from ‘here’ but been away. There are the crusty, savvy locals. There’s the nice pretty girl and the not-so-nice pretty girl. There are locals (Dene and white) and come-from-aways, so we will always have someone who needs northern cultures and terrain explained and those who can do so.

And we have the terrain and the DC-3s – both starring ‘characters’ DC-3 engine and wing Arctic Air opening shotof the show. As trainee pilot Dev said, these planes fought the Nazis. And Dev himself, played by Stephen Lobo, is an absolute treat.

I want to like Arctic Air. Early in last night’s episode, I wasn’t sure. I’d seen these characters and dramatic conflicts before. But, by the end, I wanted to see how Dev makes out as a pilot. The rest of it, I can kinda predict.

Republic of Doyle banner cbcTonight, we get Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism’s offering – the Doyles sleuthing in old sinjohns. It’s another show where you can see its television history. It’s been compared to the Rockford Files, aptly, but as homage rather than copycat.

Weather: Tourism ideal vs. actual

The Doyles do argumentative father and son well. And they place it in the glorious backdrop of St. John’s. I’ve wondered how much leeway they have to build into their shooting schedule to get all those sunny days. I can imagine cast and crew being woken up at dawn, after weeks off – “looks like a fine day, byes, let’s get at her!”

St. John's streetI lived in St. John’s a long time. I know summer fog and drizzle. I know early spring when you’re ready to gnaw your own leg off to get out of fog and snow and rain. But you are trapped.

Even if you had all the money in the world, planes aren’t flying, ferries aren’t sailing: the weather is too bad. We don’t see that weather on Republic of Doyle. And it is beautiful and awe-inspiring in its own right – once you stop trying to gnaw your foot off and look at it and feel it. But I forget that weather while watching RoD. I remember glorious days with sunshine reflecting off brightly painted old buildings, just like on the tv.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Jan. 8/12)

The Real James

“Your little James is a psychopath!”  My husband said that at the end of Wednesday’s James at Roof and Refugeepisode, with some considerable glee. He’d been telling me for weeks that James was up to no good. “No no, he’s Ken’s grandson and he’s working at a homeless shelter.  He is good,”  I said adamantly. What I didn’t say so often is that he’s also Ken’s real-life son.Therefore, to me, he has to be a good character. Well, the actor James Roache who plays James is the son of William Roache who plays Ken Barlow.

Sophie transferring funds onlineIt has been clear for quite some time that something wasn’t quite right with James and his stated plan to expand from a soup kitchen to a home for the homeless. But I did the visual equivalent of putting my fingers in my ears and saying “lalala I can’t hear you!”

My attitude toward this has reminded me of an essay about soap opera audiences entitled “They killed off Marlena, but she’s on another show now”. (The title translates as “the writers killed off the character of Marlena and the actress who played her is now on another show.”) That paper is about the layers of viewing in which soap fans engage and the shorthand they use to discuss both the fictional and real-life stories. But in my refusal to accept that James could be a scam artist I was going way beyond that. I was headed into the realm of delusional fans who write real life letters to fictional people or worse.

Good for its own sake?

Sophie and Sian at refuge construction siteI’ve had to wake up and smell the plasterboard in the Roof & Refuge remodeling job. I still was hoping against hope that the invisible Rob, overall shelter manager or whatever, was scamming James. That it was Rob absconding with the money that Sophie stole from her father. But I’m afraid James is the bad guy.

Aside from him being Bill Roache’s son, James’ perfidy upsets me because I liked having a new character genuinely concerned with helping others. Yes, Emily works at the charity shop but that isn’t horribly surprising. She’s involved with her church and she believes it is her Christian duty to help others. It was nice to see someone else thinking the same way, but without the premise of religion behind it. Not since Emily’s nephew Spyder have we had someone who believed it was valuable to do good for its own sake.

And he’s a scam artist, and a practiced one at that it seems. The smooth steps by which he got Sophie so involved and guilt-ridden that she would commit the only real theft there has been – against her own father – suggests he has done this before. And he’s James telling Amy she will be left aloneBill Roache’s son. I am devastated.

And technically, he’s a sociopath. Although by his behaviour to poor little Amy on Friday’s episode, he might well veer to psychopath yet! “My secret friend can take Mummy away again, back to prison, and Grandma and Granddad and you’ll be left on your own – with me.”

“They killed off Marlena…” by Louise Spence is published in an excellent edited volume by Robert Allen (1995) To Be Continued…: Soap Operas Around the World.

Musée Acadien PEI

If you have a drop of Acadien blood in your veins or if you just enjoy Permanent gallery, Acadian history, Musee Acadien, Miscouchethe distinctive sound of an Acadien fiddle, a place for you to go is the Musée Acadien in Miscouche, near Summerside.

A library full of binders of historical records, drawers of documents 3 generations of Acadian women with petsand compilations of genealogical research. I was there with only a few hours to spend, and a broad interest in all Acadian families with any connection to Newfoundland Mi’kmaq. That’s a pretty tall order for assistance from archivists. I figured I’d just poke around and get a feel for what was there. Instead, files and books were pulled out and stacked on a table for me. “Here, these might help you,” museum director Cécile Gallant said.

The emphasis is on Acadian family history. But there are some church records from the nearby Lennox Island Mi’kmaq First Nation. I started there, recording information as fast as I could. Then I flipped through other files, recording names Earle Lockerbyand dates that seemed relevant to “my” people. I looked at two huge published volumes of Acadien genealogy by Jean Bernard. Vol. 1 was “A”: in PEI, for Arsenault. It was also in the gift shop. I bought it. It seemed likely that everyone in PEI is somehow connected to the Arsenault family. I also bought Earle Lockerby’s Deportation of the Prince Edward Island Acadians. If I could read French, the gift shop has many more books on Acadien history that I would love to have.

Museum exhibit rooms

A quick tour of the exhibit rooms. A whole room with a permanent 3rd painting in Acadian series by Claude Picard, Musee Acadien PEIexhibit of paintings by Claude Picard, depicting the creation and official adoption of the Acadien flag in the 1880s. In another room, a temporary display of the lives and work of Acadien women. Exquisite photographs, both professional and family snapshots. Spinning wheels and kitchen tools, knitted and sewn goods, the implements and products of women’s hands.

St. John the Baptist Church cemetery beside the museum. Names so familiar to me from Newfoundland west coast families. I’d see these same names if I went to a graveyard in Louisiana. Same families, but their move wasn’t voluntary. In the 1750s, when Britain Cemetery gates, Miscouche beside Museumtook control of North America, the expulsion of the Acadiens began. Many were sent to what’s now the US, especially Louisiana where they became Cajuns, adding their heritage and language to the cultures already there. Others were “returned” to France on ships, to a homeland they’d never seen before. Acadiens escaped to Quebec and Newfoundland or hid out and were missed by the British. Some stayed in their new homes. Some returned to their homeland when it was safe.

carved panel telling Acadian history on side of Museum building, MiscoucheIn the museum and the cemetery, you get a sense of how vast Acadian history is in time and geography, and how strongly rooted it is in this small island.


Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Jan. 1/12)

Eunuchs and Parasites

Tracey telling Sylvia about Hayley's sex changeOnce they’d decided it was necessary, Hayley and Roy didn’t have a chance to tell Mother Cropper the truth about Hayley’s sex change. Tracy Barlow, trademark sneer in place, was happy to enlighten Sylvia even while Roy was shooing her out of the café.

The three Croppers then had a moment of Sylvia looks askance at Hayley as she explainsmutual self-revelation. Sylvia tried to avoid it, but Hayley said ‘sit down’ in a tone that even she had to obey. Hayley then reverted to herself, trying to placate and explain. Sylvia reverted too, pronouncing on the abnormality of Hayley, Roy and their relationship.

Roy changed his usual way of dealing with his mother. His love of Hayley takes precedence over even his fear and dread of his Roy tells Sylvia to leave if she cannot accept Hayleymother. He told her that even though she had absolutely no money and he and Hayley had been happy to welcome her into their home, he was happy to see her walk right out the door if she could not accept Hayley as his wife.

The mix of emotions in Sylvia’s response – in words and expression. Memories of his childhood flickering across her face, her frustration or incomprehension of his ‘differentness’. “There was no help in those days,”  she says. Roy says, “you were ashamed.” Maybe she Sylvia explaining her feelings about Roy as a childwas but she wasn’t going to admit it. “Disappointed,” she says. Then she speaks of her pride when she saw him with a business, a wife, friends, standing in the community – normal is the unspoken word. Then the shock of finding out Hayley is transgender.

Becky speaks truth to Sylvia

She’s an intelligent woman and a caring one despite the crusty exterior. As Roy said, “this morning, you thought the world of Hayley.” She knows that too. She will come around. And it’s Becky who will help, just as Sylvia will cause Becky to rethink her pity party.

Sylvia talks to Becky about eunuchs and parasitesBoth of them exiled upstairs to the apartment while Hayley and Roy do make-work in the café, trying to avoid their houseguests. Sylvia decrying the state of a world where you don’t know who or what anyone is. “Cavorting with eunuchs and taking in parasites” she says, that’s what Roy has done. “I don’t know what she is.” “She’s Hayley Cropper, simple as that,”  Becky turns to Sylvia and replies.

Sylvia suggests to Becky that it might be time for her to sort her life out and make up Becky telling Roy and Hayley she is going to find Stevewith a husband who clearly loves her. Becky listens to her. And two difficult women of different generations and worlds take stock of each other. I think they see themselves mirrored and they like what they see, although both of them would deny it to the bitter end.