The End of the Beginning

by John Finch

Episode Number: 13
Director: Michael Cox



Edwin Ashton   Colin Douglas
Jean Ashton   Shelagh Fraser
Margaret Porter   Lesley Nunnerley
Freda Ashton   Barbara Flynn
Robert Ashton   David Dixon
Sefton Briggs   John McKelvey
Tony Briggs   Trevor Bowen
Owen Thomas   Mark Edwards
Ted Fiddler   Bill Waddington
Alan Mills   Bill Dean



The Air-Raid Post   Edwin arrives and greets his supervisor, Ted Fiddler.

Ted says he heard that Freda was engaged to Peter Collins before the lad was killed in a raid.

Edwin says no, that in fact Freda had just "given him his cards," a situation that made his sudden death that much harder on her.

Edwin explains that he is more worried about Jean, what with Robert going to sea at the age of sixteen.

The Ashton Home   In the living room, Robert is telling Margaret that half of the British convoys go out to sea without proper destroyer escorts.

Jean comes in just long enough to overhear Robert's pessimistic assessment and then leaves.

Robert follows his mother to the staircase and attempts to ease her fears.

She asks him if his father has tried to delay his departure, but he says no.

Indeed, he adds, his father already has signed the papers, a fact that comes as a shock to Jean.

The doorbell rings, and Tony enters, explaining that he is just popping in there before going home to see his father.

They hear the sound of an air-raid siren, which Tony calls "Wailing Willie."

The Air-Raid Post   Edwin and Ted are outside, watching the skies.

Edwin waxes nostalgic and philosophical, pondering aloud how funny life is, turning a corner without really meaning to, and never being able to go back again.

German planes are heard, so the two men retreat indoors for cover.

The Ashton Home   Tony and Freda are sheltered under the stairs.

He tells her that he was sorry to hear about poor Peter.

When he asks about the Aussie boyfriend, Freda says her father invited him for Christmas, adding, "He might have asked me first."

An incendiary bomb strikes the house.

The Air-Raid Post   Edwin returns to the post just in time to receive an urgent telephone call from home.

It is Freda, notifying him that the house has been hit in the raid.

The Ashton Home   Margaret is extinguishing a fire in the garden, accompanied by her mother's fussy supervision.

Meanwhile, Tony, Robert, and Freda are upstairs, fighting a fire that does considerable damage to the attic.

Later, as the "firefighters" are congratulating each other and washing up, Edwin rushes in, only to hear Robert inform him, "Good heavens. We put that out ages ago."

As Edwin is changing clothes, Jean confronts him about his having signed Robert's papers.

He goes upstairs and sees that Margaret is cleaning up the damaged attic.

Not telling her father why, Margaret hurries down to the kitchen, where she urges her mother to inspect the attic.

But Edwin already has found what Margaret was trying to conceal from him—some old love letters from Jean’s younger years and her father’s will.

Freda reveals to Tony that she is thinking of joining the WRENS (the Women's Royal Naval Service).

The cousins discuss the war's effects on their lives.

When Edwin comes downstairs from his discovery in the attic, he seems to be a changed man, and he snaps angrily at his wife before rushing off to catch his bus.

The Briggs Home   The living room is in disarray, and Sefton explains why to Tony: the housekeeper, Mrs. Foster, has resigned again.

Sefton tells Tony that he has had the flu, but he refuses to ask Mrs. Foster to come back to work.

The Ashton Home   Owen Thomas has arrived for Christmas leave, and he thanks Jean for the hospitality.

She informs him that Peter Collins was killed in a raid, on the very night of their scuffle, and she cautions Owen that Freda might not seem quite like herself.

The Works   Tony tells Edwin that his father has had the flu and that Mrs. Foster has left.

He confides that he does not understand how his mother put up with Sefton for so many years, being so interested in literature and the arts.

Edwin laments that you can go through a whole lifetime thinking you know what is in someone else's heart, but you can never be sure.

Tony is shocked to hear Edwin say that he is seriously considering another job.

The Ashton Home   Jean is playing the piano when Margaret enters.

Tearfully, Jean thinks back upon her life and confesses to her daughter that sometimes she regrets the choices she made.

Margaret has brought the tin downstairs from the attic, and Jean sees that the love letters are no longer in it—nor is the large brown envelope that contains her father's will.

Mrs. Foster calls Jean on the telephone and asks her to check on Sefton's health.

The Briggs Home   Sefton is snoozing in a chair when Tony and Edwin arrive.

Tony exits to retrieve a bottle of scotch from his sea bag—an early Christmas present for his father.

When Edwin declares that an incendiary came through the roof last night, Sefton asks if the house is being repaired properly.

Edwin snaps back that it is Sefton's house, so he did not want to exceed his authority.

Tony comes back into the room with another visitor, Jean Ashton.

The Ashton Home   Freda is listening to the radio when Owen joins her in the living room.

Her reception for him is decidedly cool, and he wonders why.

When he asks what is the matter, she cannot put it into words, except to say that she just does not feel the same as when she last saw him.

Owen begins to get his gear and leave, but Freda begs him to stay because it is Christmas.

The Briggs Home   Jean asks for her letters, and Edwin complies, assuring her that he did not read them.

However, he does admit to reading her father's will, from which he learned that it provides the Ashtons with an inheritance of twenty-five percent of the estate, on the death of both of Jean's parents.

Jean defends herself for not divulging this to him and then turns the tables, accusing him of signing Robert's papers without consulting her.

Edwin angrily says, "Do you think you're the only mother who wants to hide her son?" and she answers with a question of her own: "You can say that to me?"

Tony brings in the tea, and Sefton cheerily proposes that they have a good old-fashioned family Christmas.

After Edwin and Jean have left, Sefton and Tony exchange gifts.

Sefton has given Tony the usual—a substantial cheque—but Tony has given his father a much more thoughtful gift—an enlarged photograph of both his parents at Scarborough, in a frame very similar to the one she used to have on her dressing table.

No, says Sefton, he gave that frame away to Mrs. Foster, a statement that visibly hurts Tony.

They discuss Edwin and Jean, and wonder why they seem to be having marital problems.

Sefton confides to his son that Edwin is handling things quite nicely at the works.

When Tony asks if he has ever complimented Edwin on his work, Sefton argues that too many pats on the back will only lead to complacency.

Sefton is concerned that a rival printer, Pringle, might try to "poach" Edwin away.

He supposes he can count on Edwin's loyalty after thirty years, but Tony expresses some doubt, especially in light of what he calls the Briggs family motto, which he recites as "There is no sentiment in business."

The Ashton Home   Margaret is very stressed, trying single-handedly to prepare the Christmas dinner while Jean is upstairs with a headache.

Belatedly, Freda offers to help, but Margaret reminds her that Owen is in the living room, all by himself.

Robert suspects that his parents' conflict was caused by him indirectly, but Margaret claims that it has something to do with work.

Owen offers to assist with preparations, so Freda asks him to help her set the table.

She becomes philosophical, declaring that sometimes she loves being at home, while at other times she is bored and would like to get away to some new place and live.

Edwin arrives, still sulking, and not far behind him are Sefton and Tony.

In their bedroom, Jean and her husband continue to bicker, and Edwin reveals that he might move into the attic when the roof is fixed.

Jean counters by telling him, "There'll be three empty beds in the boys' room when Robert's gone."

Later, downstairs, the family listens to a radio message by King George VI.

Sefton comments that it is in the Atlantic that the war will be won or lost, and there are ships going down every day.

Hearing that, Jean becomes tearful and must leave the room.

Upstairs, in their bedroom, Edwin and Jean wonder aloud whether they would have been happier married to someone else.

Edwin reveals that when he saw his dad in the autumn, the old man said goodbye to him with the dismissive statement, "So you're a manager now, then," making Edwin feel disinherited.

Looking back on thirty years, Edwin confides that only reluctantly did he accept his father-in-law's offer of a job.

He reflects back, "It's not that you don't know that there's a hedge growing up around you, but one day you look and it's six-foot high."

Jean explains that she did not tell him about terms of the will because she did not want to cut into his pride any more.

Edwin confesses that he feels trapped in his job, with nothing much to show for the thirty years he invested in earning a living.

They did all they could for Robert, he says, but now that the war is on, his future is up to chance.

Jean then voices what they both had been thinking—that the children do not really need them anymore—and Edwin cannot reply.

Tony has taken Sefton home, but the others, except for Margaret, have gone for a walk.

Edwin joins Margaret in the kitchen, and she asks him how her mother is feeling.

Suddenly she breaks down, claiming that she cannot stand another year of this.

Having lost all hope, she sobs to her father, "I want somebody to tell me that John is dead."

Edwin returns to the bedroom, where Jean has fallen asleep while reading a volume of poetry.

The book, Poems—Newly Selected by Siegfried Sassoon, lies opened to a First World War poem called "They," and Edwin proceeds to read its poignant message to himself:

  "We're none of us the same!" the boys reply.
"For George lost both his legs; and Bill's stone blind;
"Poor Jim's shot through the lungs and like to die;
"And Bert's gone syphilitic: you'll not find
"A chap who's served that hasn't found some change."
And the Bishop said: "The ways of God are strange!"

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