Corrie Street Aug. 30/15

Simon Sez

Simon says sorry, Simon says dad says only cowards hit women. Then simon sez to not-tell-him-anythingSimon goes off and strikes a woman – his mother – again. Kicks, hard shoves, nearly fists.

So not one scene, but all with Simon all week. Amy Barlow has long been the child who made me tense up every time she came on the screen – not knowing what she might do. Now it’s Simon. My favourite, he frightens me.

simon-in-barlow-houseNo matter how many times he reverts to the scared child and pleads with Leanne for forgiveness, no matter how many times she forgives and consoles, next minute he’s turning on her, verbally and too often physically.

It’s difficult, just the two of them. A boy approaching adolescence, wanting to establish himself as a person independent of his mother. A boy who has experienced so much trauma already. She isn’t his “real mother”, he repeatedly points out to her. She holds herself back from reminding him that she’s the only mother he has known.

got-nought-to-do-with-himLeanne cajoles and soothes, tries to understand, reprimands and punishes. Then he kicks her. She, I think, is frightened of him. And with reason. He appears to have no self-control whatsoever. While there may be good reasons for that, the physical target of his frustration is her.

Leanne hides her injuries

She so far has told no one. Excuses are made for her injuries. This week, Simon was hurt when she repelled another attack by him. He cannot-say-anything-everdoesn’t want anyone to know what really happened, so both of them are lying about it. He is holding it over his mother, however, with innuendo. One word from him and she’d be considered a child beater. And even if he says nothing to anyone else, he gives her reminders that she hurt her child. That makes sure her guilt level stays up. Never mind the wounds and bruises that child has inflicted on her body.

Frightening. And we don’t know if Simon knows yet that Grandma nip-out-with-EcclesDeirdre left money for him and Amy. We’re seeing how it’s eating at Amy, who wants to get her hands on it now. How will Simon react? He ought to be proactive because I think Amy is probably already thinking about how she can cut Simon out and keep it all for herself.

Aside from that, it’s nice to see Eccles back, but what’s up with her transformation?

In real life, sad news this week. Marguerite McDonald died in Ottawa August 24th. The first host of CBC Radio’s The House, she had been married to the late Harry Elton, Coronation Street‘s original producer. Condolences to her family.

Bathing Jamie

Jamie hated baths, indeed Jamie hated water. He was a Collie mixed with something, clearly not a water dog. He had long Collie hair with a thick undercoat. On his feet, legs and Jamie eating watermelon photo D Angerbackside, he had long fluffy hair. His hair knotted and matted. Jamie also hated being brushed.

Every so often, when we’d screw up the courage or when he was particularly filthy, it would be bath time for Jamie, whether he liked it or not. We tried every type of bath arrangement – the tub in the house, buckets of warm water and a hose outside, a combination of both. Sudsing him up was very hard to do, and thoroughly rinsing him even harder. Then brushing him! Chasing him around trying to take a swipe with the brush. Leg-locking him on the floor so he couldn’t get up while I brushed as quickly as possible trying to get knots out. Cutting matted hair out. It was not pleasant for anyone.

Why don’t you take him to a groomer?

A friend, looking at his filthy, smelly coat one day, said “why don’t you mose-photo-Ruby-Angertake him to a groomer?” “A groomer for Jamie, yeah right!” I said with disdain. It was ok for her. She had a Newfoundland dog who had a job. Moses was official mascot for the Signal Hill Tattoo so he had to look good. He wouldn’t even fit in a bathtub and, with his job, had been to groomers since he was a pup. Poodles and foo-foo dogs went to groomers. Big old country dogs like Jamie did not. But it was a hot summer and poor Jamie was feeling it. He had big clumps of winter hair sticking out all over him, the dag ends on his behind were stiff with filth. He flopped out, panting in the heat. I thought, why not?

Salon appointment for Jamie

I booked an appointment at a groomer. I warned them he was filthy and did not like baths, brushing or strangers poking at him. On the day, Jamie reluctantly entered a building that smelled of shampoo. Two massive men came to meet us. They were the groomers. Two thoughts popped into my head: at least they can handle him if he bolts, and how on earth did these guys get into dog grooming. They looked like they’d be more at home on a fishing boat than a dog salon. I never asked them, I couldn’t think of a way to do so without sounding like I was stereotyping them or groomers.

I came up with an explanation that amused me. The welding retraining classes were full and all that was available was dog grooming. This was at the time of the cod fishery moratorium in Newfoundland and a whole new industry – retraining programmes – had sprung up. Government and private education facilities were turning fishermen and fishplant workers into welders and hairdressers in quantities sufficient to service the whole continent.

Bathing and brushing by professionals

At the salon, I left a panicked looking Jamie in the large hands of these large men. I warned them of his escape tricks and said to just stop and phone me if he got freaked out. I went home and bit my nails for three hours until they phoned. “You can come for Jamie now”, one said, “we’re just drying him. Oh, he was perfect!”

Jamie after bathing photo Dorothy AngerI went into the salon and saw my dog standing on the grooming table, leaning into the blow dryer that was “finishing him off.” He wagged his tail and smiled at me. And continued to lean toward the dryer and the man holding it. When they lifted him off the table, he continued to stand very close to them wagging his tail and looking adoringly into their faces. They looked at me like “owners, they know nothing!” Jamie was light and fluffy, his baby-soft hair sprang out around his body like a halo. They showed me the huge pile of hair they’d cut and brushed out of Jamie. They told me there’s a knack with the wrist motion so that you just flip quickly through a dog’s hair instead of dragging and tugging.

I paid them, twice what future visits would cost, they said, now that the hard work was done. They tied a scarf around Jamie’s neck and he pranced out, the happiest and proudest dog in the city. On our way back to the car, he beamed at everyone he saw. Needless perhaps to say, Jamie went to his groomers regularly for the rest of his life. Every time, he bounced in like “hi, I’m back!

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog Jan. 5, 2011

Corrie Street Aug. 23/15


tracy-cries-outside-bistroFriday ends with a cliffhanger – the hope that Tracy truly repents her actions. She not only deliberately started a fire that killed two people, she has let her intended victim, Carla, take the blame for it.

She doesn’t know the torture that Carla is putting herself through, and the consequences of that for not only Carla but for everyone who robert-sees-tracy-cryingworks in the factory. Of course if she did know, she likely would be so pleased that she would keep quiet and enjoy the show. I don’t think Tracy can change that much.

I know the hopefulness that I feel this weekend, based on Friday’s final scene, will be short-lived. Tracy will not tell all to Robert. Even if wish-she-was-still-hereshe stayed determined to do so, someone would stop by for a chat. Or a kitchen emergency at the Bistro would mean he would have to leave with a ‘tell me later’. The truth will not out, I fear, this quickly or voluntarily from Tracy.

Good Tracy?

I don’t know that I’d like to see Tracy become a good person. She’s very good at being bad. I do like the nuances that she’s shown lately. Trying way too hard to change her ways at home and make amends.

what-an-evil-worthless-cow-i-amThe cooking attempts where you hold your breath, waiting for her explosion and pots to hit the wall. They were actions, and scenes, that went way over the top. More subtle was Friday’s sewing effort, where she repeatedly stabbed her finger with the needle. But she kept trying, laughed at herself and told Ken why she was doing it. She wanted to learn to do the things that her mother had always done for her. It sounded genuine.

A heartfelt gesture

what-i-have-doneHer despair and guilt seemed genuine too when Sophie brought Maddie’s stuff into the shop to sell. She needs money to hold a memorial do. Tracy was lovely, offering £200 without even looking through the box. Sophie appreciated a heartfelt gesture, but didn’t realize just how heartfelt it was and why. Tracy’s guilty look was a clue. But, without knowing what Tracy and we in the audience know, there’s no way she could pick up on the significance.

tell-meI like the Tracy of this week – still herself, brassy and shameless – but showing vulnerability and wondering what her mother would say and seeking out those answers, and actions, for herself. But will she confess? We’ll see next week, but I’m putting all my money on no.

Backyard Birds

bluejay-photo-d-stewartMy knowledge of birds is minimal. There’s brown ones, speckled ones, starlings, other big black birds, robins, doves, cardinals and jays. We have all of these in our backyard and I’ve got to know some of them and their little bird sounds. My husband feeds them and last year he moved the feeding platform closer to the house. So sitting at the kitchen table or standing at the sink, I can watch them at the feeders and in their main tree. It’s quite a world.

A loose cannon cardinal

For two years now, we’ve had a loose cannon cardinal and his long-suffering mate. Bucko believes in fighting anything he sees. His career in aggression began, at least at our house, by flinging himself hard at the basement window and pecking at it. The window is birds-photo-d-stewartdirectly above my husband’s desk. Thud, thud, ping, thud – non-stop all day long, hitting the window. Lights, decals – nothing stopped him.

Then he expanded his arena of activity. The car side mirrors he would fly at in a frenzy. While flying from basement window to driveway, he noticed a window at the front of the house and began attacking it. That window provides a lot of entertainment for the cats, with a chair conveniently located for them to watch the neighbourhood. A bird flying straight at the window provided a cat mega-show with front row seats.

We worried the cardinal was going to injure, even kill, himself but he hasn’t. He must have a very hard head and beak. His mate is around, although you don’t see her as often. I think she goes to cardinal violence support group meetings. To give him his due, he hasn’t been fighting at the window since spring, so I think he’s helping out with the nesting. In the past week we’ve seen a young male and female cardinal, last year’s now grown up children, I think.

A Budgie escapee

Last fall there was a rare visitor to a backyard bird neighbourhood. A yellow budgie. Escaped or lost, it was flitting around by budgie & friends photo d stewartitself around several houses near ours for a couple weeks. I tried to coax it to me, but nothing doing. It started spending more time in our backyard trees and I noticed it hanging around the other birds, the little brown over-wintering ones. They’d fly en masse from their tree to the feeder and back. After staying a bit apart, the budgie started flying with them.

One late fall day, with snow and gusty winds, I feared for the budgie and figured I’d never see it again. Although it was becoming a hardy wild bird, it wasn’t meant for weather like this. I was amazed, and happy, to see it fly to the tree with the little brown birds, all buffeted by the winds but soon settled in snugly. But a real winter storm with more snow and higher winds hit the next day. I spent a long time watching, hoping to see the flash of yellow. But I didn’t. The brown birds were all around, but I never saw the budgie again. It survived several months outside, was accepted by the other birds and, I like to think, had a grand adventure. Better than just falling off the perch.

Hawks cruising for birds

baby-hawk-photo-d-stewartOn and off over the past few years, we’ve had hawks. One, early this spring, was very bold – sitting right on the deck. Even one time fighting with a metal ornamental rooster that lives on the deck. Even when I can’t see a hawk, I’ve come to know when one is around from the frenetic activity and squawking of the little birds. And hawks have to eat too. We’ve had three deaths so far this year in our bird town – a tragedy for the bird families, lunch for the hawk.

starling photo d stewartThe starlings hang out in the big trees while the little birds are eating. Then they decide it’s big bird time. Two or three of them move to the feeding platform and the little birds – even macho-man cardinal – fly back to their trees. The starlings sit on the platform, bopping their heads to their internal rap beat, looking cool. Their iridescent neck feathers glint in the sun. They peck at food, they bop, they survey the scene, peck and bop. Then they fly away and the little birds flutter back.

Doves sit on the fence soaking up the sun, they scratch around in the spilled seed below the feeder. They snooze on the feeding platform. The redwing blackbirds flit and trill their song, and I watch them all.Redwing Blackbird photo D Stewart

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, June 1, 2010


Corrie Street Aug. 16/15

Clearing for Cathy

cathy-breathes-in-a-bagCathy makes me uneasy. It’s the hoarding mainly, plus the weird way she looks at people. She’s like a deer on the side of the road and you don’t know if she’s going to jump away or right in front of your car.

Due to go to Roy’s for dinner, she pulls a book she wants to give him out of a teetering stack. Everything on top of it falls and traps her underneath. Roy eventually rescues her, but the accident gives him the hook he needs to try and clear out some of the mess. Health and safety hazard, he tells her.

cleared-living-roomChes, Tyrone and Fiz are deputized to clear a small space while Roy gets Cathy away from the house. Pleased with their efforts, they go further and clear out the whole living room. When she returns, Cathy is horrified. I am anxious, which way will she jump? Both, it turns out. She first turns on them in a fury for touching her stuff. Then she apologizes and tries to appear grateful for their help.

Fiz wants to help

time-to-get-used-to-itIt is when she is thanking them that I begin to feel sorry for Cathy. Not for her hoarding or her excuses about why she does, but for the fact that she now has Fiz wanting to help. Few things are more horrifying to think about than Fiz setting her sights on you, wanting to help you.

Fiz has been at loose ends in her helping since her return. Roy is oh-cathy-pleasemanaging without her. He got his driver’s licence. He is coping with being without Hayley. He and Carla are handling their friendship without Fiz to run interference. He’s found a new friend, who is keeping him busy enough with worrying about her. So, like manna from Heaven, Cathy can be Fiz’s new project!

Crossroads of clearing

flip-a-switch-and-i-would-be-betterCathy might be at a crossroads. Roy’s rather careful handling of her stuff and her psyche might get her to relax her grip on the accumulated junk. She might be wily enough to outmanoeuvre Roy. It’s too early in his efforts to tell. But having Fiz barge into a very unstable physical and mental environment might truly send her over the edge.

Cathy blames her hoarding on her husband’s death – wants to keep just-click-my-fingerseverything around her, nothing changing. I don’t think it is more than a couple years since he died. If she can accumulate that much in that short a time, Roy is taking a big chance having her stay in his small and orderly flat. She could fill that to bursting in a week! Especially if Fiz comes anywhere near to rock the boat of instability.

i-want-to-show-you-somethingTo be fair, Fiz did caution Tyrone that maybe they should do as Roy said and clear only a small space. But for perhaps the first time in their relationship, she gave in to Tyrone. You never listen to Tyrone, Fiz, why now?

Zucchini Boats

baked zucchini boats photo D StewartGot huge zucchinis? Stuff them. Here is how my husband makes them using left-over spaghetti sauce. The ingredient quantities below are for one zucchini, which makes two zucchini boats. Adjust amounts according to the size and number of zucchini. The one he used was about 10 in. or 25 cm.

Make zucchini boats

zucchini-scooped-out-photo-D-StewartSlice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out the soft part in the middle. He discards the seeds and keeps the pulp. Chop that up and put it in a frying pan with chopped onion. Cook the mixture until it’s soft. Zucchini has a lot of water in it, so leave the pan uncovered so as much water as possible evaporates.

Make the stuffing

adding-spaghetti-sauce-photo-D-StewartAdd green pepper, mushrooms, hot sausage or whatever you like. Add half a cup of breadcrumbs. When everything is cooked through and the mixture is fairly thick, add about three-quarters of a cup of your leftover sauce. Heat it through.

Fill and bake

Put the zucchini boats in a baking dish and spoon the stuffing mixture filling-zucchini-boats-photo-D-Stewartin them. Grate cheese – parmesan, cheddar or mozzarella – over the tops. Pour a bit of water in the bottom of the dish so they don’t stick to the bottom. Put in a 350° oven and bake, uncovered, for about 45 minutes until the zucchini shell is nice and soft. If your zucchini has grown to monster size, the outer skin might stay too tough to eat but you can still scoop out the insides.

A giant zucchini emergency and no spaghetti sauce? My Cheese Stuffed Zucchini is also delicious, and vegetarian.


Corrie Street Aug. 9/15

Playing with Bethany

bethany-looks-toward-fayeBethany, the character and actress, is beginning to interest me. This week she has made me cringe while also making my heart ache. She’s a school girl, but is way too cool for school. She is trying to enter an adult world in which she fears she isn’t cool enough.

Dog and Gun regular

She’s sneaking off to play with the big kids – Callum, Gemma and the callum-gives-baggie-to-bethanyclientele of the Dog and Gun. She has to navigate her own way through the unknown territory of drinking without being scolded, and delivering substances in small packets to sketchy looking guys. She’s learning how to collect information and use it to her own advantage, as in getting money for a school trip to Paris out of Callum. But she hasn’t learned that he might be collecting blackmail material on her at the same time, which he is.

callum-asks-for-baggie-backWhile she is illegally drinking in the Dog and Gun, and is carrying a small baggie for delivery, the police with a sniffer dog raid the pub. Callum manages to get the envelope from her and pass it to Gemma. Gemma is caught with it. But Bethany gets nothing but a bit of advice from a cop – “you shouldn’t be here.”

Out of her league

She’s a girl who does know there are things she should not do, like bethany-terrifiedmake deliveries of anything to run-down houses, on grounds of both morality and safety. She’s scared out of her mind during the police raid. She knows she’s way out of her league with Callum, emotionally and in blackmailing skills.

bethany-and-callumBut she’s falling for Callum. He’s an older man and a “bad boy” who treats her as an adult and as an attractive woman. An added bonus is that he’s her mother’s boyfriend, a fun way to hit back at her mother for whatever.

Just kids on the street

On the street, she’s treated as a kid. At the café, Anna suggests that she and Faye “could get together for, I don’t know, a play.” You can see the loathing come off both girls at the very thought of being faye-and-bethanyanywhere near the other’s orbit.

This was a truly excruciating scene. Neither one of them said more than a couple words. Meanwhile Anna and Sarah just kept digging themselves in deeper with each of their many words.

Water for Elephants

water for elephants dvd amazon link
Click to buy on Amazon

(from 2011*) In the past week, I’ve been sent two Facebook requests to boycott the film Water for Elephants. ADI (Animal Defenders International) says that Have Trunk Will Travel, trainers of the elephants in the film, use abusive methods. This contradicts the trainers’ statement that they only use positive reinforcement. I watched the 2005 video ADI provided, and I think I don’t know enough about elephants to know.

I went to Sara Gruen’s website. She wrote the novel on which the movie is based. She is a supporter of animal welfare and several Tai, in ADI videospecific animal sanctuaries. While the author of the original material may not have much say over the movie production, having read her other novels, I couldn’t imagine Ms. Gruen not caring about the animal stars of a work in which she’s got a vested interest. But I still don’t know.

I don’t think the trainers did themselves a favour by saying they only use reward-based training methods. No way electric prods look like positive reinforcement. But used in conjunction with reward? Necessary for effectiveness and safety? I Tai lifting Sara Gruendon’t know. I do know that they and bull hooks do not look nice. But the appearance of something shouldn’t be the sole criterion for judging it. Lots of things don’t look nice, but there may be valid reasons for their use. Also, anything can be an instrument of cruelty if used incorrectly or to deliberately inflict pain. A dog’s leash, a horse’s reins.

Two things this controversy made me think about:

1. Shock collars. Many trainers condemn their use, saying they’re just a lazy way to train a dog. Other trainers sell them to people (I got a Shock_collar-Polymath38-Wikicommonssalespitch on their virtues when talking to a trainer about my dog’s poop-eating habit.) I know a barky dog who can live happily in an apartment building because she wears an electrified “bark collar” when left alone. Without it, I don’t know what would happen. But the bottom line is, those collars administer shocks of varying intensity to dogs. And electric shock is not only used for retraining bad behaviour. “Invisible fencing” relies on a shock if the dog gets too close to the boundary. It’s selling like hotcakes.

2. When learning to ride, my teacher told me “kick him” when my horse would not move forward with just verbal clucks. I kicked a bit. “Harder” she yelled, “kick him like you mean it.” I couldn’t. I felt I was betraying our friendship by kicking him. She told me to watch the horses in the field and see what they do to each other. I did, and sure enough, I watched ‘my’ horse give his best friend a big old kick when Spurs_western_lostinfog-wikicommonshe got too near the hay. There is no way I could ever kick as hard as he did.

When I learned to kick, he looked back at me like “ok, you’re learning horse language now!” I learned to use spurs, a riding crop and a longe whip. As importantly, I learned to keep my hands steady. Reins jerking ‘giddyup’ style does cause a horse pain. With me knowing proper use of equipment – and my limbs – we began riding as a team.

All methods of control and training can be abused and therefore cruel. All, aside from sheer brutality, can also be used correctly. Until I try handling an elephant, I won’t opine on how to do it.

*First posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog May 12/11. Since then, I’ve read Water for Elephants and it is absolutely wonderful.

Corrie Street Aug. 2/15

Stuffed Marrow

Thursday, Tracy’s ex-husband comes to apologize to Ken for his deirdre-recipe-bookbehaviour after Deirdre’s funeral. Ken is looking through Deirdre’s cookbook.He tells Robert about her stuffed marrow – an endurance test to eat, he says, but he’d give anything to taste it just once more. Robert offers to make it.

It doesn’t matter to me how many secrets Robert Preston is hiding. It Julian-Kay-as-Robert_Preston-1996Tristan-Gemmell-Robert-2015doesn’t matter if he’s a totally different man from years ago. He has redeemed the poor stuffed marrow. Like Ken, that makes me feel disloyal to the memory of Deirdre. But, in truth, she did no good service to what is a wonderful dish.

stuffed marrowStuffed marrow, or stuffed zucchini, is hollowed out squash halves filled with a thick tomato and ground beef sauce baked with cheese on top. (Here’s my recipe.) The flavours and textures of the zucchini and sauce make a lovely combination. It’s very easy to make and it needs the huge zucchinis that you really can’t use for anything else.

Unfair to marrows

I have enjoyed all the scenes over the years with Deirdre’s stuffed ken-watches-robert-cookmarrow, and the eye-rolling about it from everyone but her. But I feared that Coronation Street did an injustice to the dish. If I, who love it, felt trepidation every time it was announced that she was making it, how would someone who had never eaten it feel if it were served to them?

It is so easy to make that I never thought about someone just not making it very well. I thought it was perhaps a personal vendetta robert-with-ringing-phoneagainst the vegetable on the part of a writer or producer. “Mam’s never smelled like that,” Tracy said, “it smelled more like a dogfood factory.” Ken didn’t disagree, saying he felt disloyal to Deirdre but was actually enjoying Robert’s version.

So, although the scene maligned Deirdre and her cooking skills, the reputation of the stuffed marrow was restored. And for that, no matter what might come, I thank Robert.

I also thank Martyn Hett for a wonderful stuffed marrow cooking lesson.