Friday, 24 January 2014

An old antidote to Coronation Street poison

It’s been a morbid week in British TV.  The ITV soap opera, Coronation Street featured the ultimate act of self-destruction. Hayley Cropper, the transgender wife of Roy, had been battling pancreatic cancer. Hayley feared that the painkillers for cancer would affect her mental faculties, and instead committed suicide by gulping down a cloudy-white cocktail of lethal drugs.  

I used to watch Coronation Street as a child, but unexpectedly, I gave up watching it after Roy and Hayley became a couple. I felt that they were both characters in their own right, more powerful on their own than together. Roy had been this very bookish, rather emasculated fellow who had a nerd’s sixth sense for detail. When he started in the café, he insisted on letting the cups drip-dry, as opposed to drying them with a t-towel because, ‘drip-dry is more hygienic’.  He helped a kid on the street with their maths homework, and was so scholarly that he unnerved the cocky Mike Baldwin. 

In 15 years, he’s gone from helping kids with schoolwork – to lying on the marriage bed while his wife used poison to destroy her life essence. 

Hayley and Roy’s pairing was always a contrived one, but it held the viewers’ attention:  would arch conservative Roy stay with Hayley? And would she have the patience to bear with him? When they met, Hayley had the ordeal of explaining to naïve Roy that she would be having surgery to become a woman. Roy panicked at first - but he learned to love her for herself – or so we thought.  

Last Monday night’s Corrie may have pulled in an extra 2 million viewers, but I think viewers will soon leave the street. Even if you agree with the actress who played Hayley, Julie Hesmondhalgh that assisted suicide should be legalised, and think it’s ‘a simple thing’, you have to admit that the storylines are falling apart. Roy and Hayley’s union was an implausible romance that ended in the most unromantic way possible. 

The fact that he did not stop her from killing herself leaves a permanent doubt in the viewers’ mind as to his depth of feeling for her.  If you love someone, you do not wish to hasten their demise, but want as much time as possible with them. It seems a cliché, but whenever I meet someone who has lost a loved one, they lament, ‘if only I had had one more day…’

Not only is Hayley's suicide in the worst possible taste – but it has also ruined 15 years of scriptwriting.  

Had Hayley truly trusted in Roy, surely she would not have been overwhelmed by fear that the side-effects of the painkillers for pancreatic cancer would addle her with confusion? Is it not the point of a marital union that one spouse catches the other when they fall? In sickness and health and all that?

On the subject of surgery and painkillers…  When Hayley first walked onto the street, she was full of talk of becoming her ‘true’ self by having surgery that would make her a woman. Now, if she was able to endure the anaesthesia and bottles of painkillers that her surgery entailed… Why was she so daunted by the painkillers for cancer?

The writers on Corrie may have to learn that the viewers will not trust their weak storylines. Trust, like the soul, once it’s gone to God, does not return.

I can offer an antidote, if you’ll pardon my use of the antonym for poison.  In the 80’s there was a being-tempted-to-suicide storyline in Golden Girls.  The episode was Not Another Monday, penned by Gail Parent. Spunky Sophia is caught completely off guard by her friend Martha who wants to die at her own hand as opposed to ‘dying by inches’ because of her angina and high blood pressure. Of all the episodes in the entire seven seasons of Golden Girls, this is Sophia’s finest hour…

Here is a five minute version with all the relevant scenes….

Here is the whole episode…

The theme of suicide does run in Gail Parent’s work, most notably her novel Sheila Levine is Dead and Living in New York, which concerns a young suicidal woman who has had 15 sexual partners and an abortion, but is cynically dissatisfied with life. It is not an anti-abortion text, but the ending is surprising.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

You may call me Little Miss Sunshine!

The wonderfully thoughtful and intellectual Mulier Fortis has very kindly nominated me for a Sunshine Award. Now, I will delight in leaping through the following hoops…
Write 10 pieces of information about yourself.   

CAUTION TO READERS: You need a sense of humour to read parts of the next section.  At least have a tank of oxygen and a defibrillator at hand. 


1. I am an emotional Benjamin Button. If Mr Button was born old and became younger, then I was deadly serious as a child, and have become more light-hearted with age. From sulks to smiles. From seriousness to high spirits.  In my first year at school, the teacher was trying to take a photo and I turned my mouth into a sullen frown. “Smile Mary, go on, smile. All the other girls are smiling,” said the teacher. “I don’t like the other girls, and I won’t smile like them,” was my retort. The teacher took a sharp intake of breath and let the matter rest.

I found a childhood photo that demonstrates that glum mood. 

Then at 18, a smile threatened to break forth… 

And now as a 20-something, smiles abound….

Well, who wouldn't smile after getting roses?

2. In the same vein, when I was younger I used to only read books of a depressing nature, and have grown into happier books. As a teenager I used to enjoy reading turgid tragedies and painfully gritty realism. The thought of reading the same books now literally turns my stomach.  

3. Not a book that I enjoyed, but the one that had the strongest influence on me was undoubtedly Bernard Nathanson’s The Hand of God.  I’m struggling to put into words the impact that Nathanson’s biography had on me. It was like reading the book changed my genetic code and rewired my brain. I knew that I was a new person for having read it. It instilled in me a compulsion to stop abortions.  Reading his descriptions of how his own girlfriend had an abortion in 1945 when he was 19, and then how 20 years later Nathanson performed an abortion on his own child were some of the hardest descriptions that my eyes have been subjected to.  

When I lived in New York, I was determined to get to know Bernard Nathanson, and after pestering him with calls, he invited me to his home in Manhattan. When we were finished talking he said, “thank you so much for visiting me. I’m so glad you took the time. Your visit has meant a lot to me. I will pray for you.”

The photos that I took of Nathanson and me were burned in a house fire. But I did save the book that he signed from that fire.

 As you can see, the fire licked the cover, but not his dedication. 


4.  There is one reason why I have not dated more. Most people presume it’s because I can’t find men who are prayerful. But that’s not the real reason. It’s because I have a highly sensitive sense of smell. No kidding. I have the olfactory powers of a bloodhound on speed. MI5 should hire me for special sniffing assignemnts. I will pick up on the most remote off-putting smells released from a male, and it dampens the attraction that I might otherwise feel. 

5. OK, stop badgering me! I am ready to divulge. I admit it: I have a HUGE CRUSH on a London-based actor.  A friend of mine keeps joking that she will pick up a copy of The Daily Mail and see photos of me and him having a clandestine stroll around Kensington. #Ishouldbesolucky This actor chap has beautiful ears. In fact, his ears are nicer than mine, and this could lead to an imbalance; the man should not have prettier ears than the woman. But much more importantly, he smells wonderfully.

6. I’m crazy about dogs. I covet t-shirts and jumpers that have dog patterns on them. One great advantage to living in West London is that there are whole zoos of dogs on every street. Every type of exotic pooch has been brought from the most remote parts of the globe to be paraded on High Street Kensington. They say Londoners are a cold, indifferent bunch. But if you tell them that their Congolese sheep-dog has ‘a lovely coat’, as I often do, then you will see a broad smile spread across their faces.  In South Kensington, you see guard dogs skulking around corners, the high-powered Rottweiler that guards the plush domains of the super-wealthy. I shy away from them.

7. If I ever leave journalism, then I will become a dog-groomer. There is a dog-grooming salon on Gloucester Road, and I asked the owners which are the requirements for their employees. They told me about a reputable 18 month dog-grooming course. 


8.  I LOVE writing for The Catholic Herald.

9.  I published my first piece of journalism when I was 18.

10. His Hermaneuticalness will love this. A week ago, at a Christmas dinner party, a kind friend gave me a smoking lesson. I wanted to learn to be a glamorous smoker who exhales like Rita Heyworth. This involved coaching me on puffing out the smoke gracefully, but I still cough out the smoke in billows like a house on fire. The smoking lesson was to prepare me for two upcoming jobs. I am preparing to interview two smokers, and have been given a tip-off that if I smoke during the interview and offer cigarettes to the smoker-interviewees that I’ll get better answers! I’ve been warned that if I don’t smoke, that the interviewees will cut short the interview, and leave me so they can be in the company of fellow smokers.  By the time of the interviews, if I still don’t smoke elegantly, then I can get the interviewees to coach me on the dark art of smoking and write an account of it. 

Nominate ten fellow bloggers "who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere."  Leave a comment on the nominees' blogs to tell them of the award.

Most of the blogs on my blog-roll have already been nominated. So, I went a’searching on Mr Linen’s blog. Richard Collins has a remarkable blog-list and has a way of finding Catholic bloggers who are very sincere and write edifying blogs. 



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