Hope Against Hope

by John Finch

Episode Number: 19
Director: Gerry Mill



Edwin Ashton   Colin Douglas
Jean Ashton   Shelagh Fraser
Sheila Ashton   Coral Atkins
Margaret Porter   Lesley Nunnerley
Freda Ashton   Barbara Flynn
Robert Ashton   David Dixon
Tony Briggs   Trevor Bowen
Michael Armstrong   Mark Jones
Celia Porter   Margery Mason
Owen Thomas   Mark Edwards
Cowking   Lennard Pearce
A Corporal   Michael Craze
An Air-Raid Warden   Harry Littlewood
A Nurse   Sandra Downes



Michael Armstrong's Flat   Michael staggers out of the bombed-out building and onto the street, where there is fire and destruction all around.

He is coughing from inhaling the smoke, and the left cheek of his face has suffered a cut that is bleeding.

The Ashton Home   At that same moment, life seems relatively normal in the Ashton household, as Jean, Freda, and Robert come inside from the Anderson shelter.

Freda asks her mother if someone should wait up for Margaret, but Jean says she is over at Michael's and so will not need to be let into the house.

Freda is surprised at how accepting of that scandalous notion her mother now seems to be.

Michael Armstrong's Flat   Michael is sitting aboard an ambulance wagon while an air-raid warden asks him questions for the written report.

In response to his queries, Michael tells him that the person for whom they are searching is his friend, Mrs. Margaret Porter—and she is pregnant.

The Ashton Home   Edwin returns home from the air-raid post, just in time for Robert to make him some cocoa.

Freda seems unhappy that Margaret is spending the night with Michael, stating that she does not think her older sister cares about him all that much.

When Edwin asks her if she would prefer that Margaret raise two children without a father, Freda argues that she would not want Margaret to be stuck with someone who is wrong for her, for the rest of her life.

The Hospital   A nurse invites Michael to visit Margaret, but just for a minute.

Margaret has been sedated, so she speaks to him very groggily, twice having to be reassured by him that the medical staff is aware of the baby.

She asks Michael if his house is all gone, and he answers yes.

Margaret laughs and comments ironically, "And so there's nowhere to live together."

When she suggests that he no longer wants to live together, that he wants to go and fight, he responds, "No. No. No. I don't know."

As her mind wanders, she mentions that her Uncle Sefton promised them a flat for John to come back to—a painful statement that brings a glimmer of tears to Michael's eyes.

The Ashton Home   Edwin answers the telephone, and it is Owen Thomas, Freda's Australian airman, who tells her that he is going on leave and would like to pay her a visit.

In the kitchen, Jean says she supposes that Margaret will be living with Michael on a permanent basis.

Edwin responds that he his not so sure, seeing as how Michael might decide to renounce his conscientious objector status.

Jean seems none too pleased about that, contending that Michael owes Margaret a little certainty.

Edwin snaps back that they would have been living together weeks ago, except that Jean did not face up to it at the time, and they were waiting for her to get used to the idea.

The doorbell rings, and Edwin goes to answer it.

That is when Freda enters the kitchen, beaming with happiness and informing her mother that Owen is coming for a visit while on leave.

Just as Jean is about to go upstairs, to change the sheets on Margaret's bed for the visitor, in comes Michael, with a bandage on his cheek and his left arm in a sling.

Aboard a Train   Sheila is having a pleasant conversation with a corporal.

She tells him that she accompanied her husband back to the base, but there was no lodging to be had in the vicinity, so she spent the night in the train station's waiting room.

The train reaches the corporal's stop, and he remarks that an "old battleaxe" has been glaring at him for the last half hour, wanting him to relinquish his seat.

He departs, and into the compartment comes that old battleaxe, who turns out to be none other than Celia Porter.

Celia does not recognise Sheila, who is sitting directly across from her, so Sheila introduces herself, explaining that they met at John's and Margaret's wedding.

The Ashton Home   Robert comes into the living room, still dressed in his pajamas, and Freda gives him the sobering news that Margaret was injured in the air raid last night.

He asks how badly, and Freda says it is her back and her legs, mainly.

She confirms that Margaret was at Michael's, but that he was not injured seriously enough to require hospitalisation.

They can go visit her tonight, Freda says, and offers to fix her brother some breakfast.

Robert is not very hungry, explaining that he has lost his hearty appetite because of repeated bouts of sea-sickness.

When she suggests that he will get used to it, Robert quips, "Nelson didn't."

The doorbell rings, and Robert answers it in his pajamas.

Owen is standing there, alongside a telegram boy.

Freda and Owen kiss, and Robert reads the telegram, dismissing the boy with, "No reply."

When the boy does not leave, Owen gives him the tip that he was awaiting.

Freda scans the telegram, which reads, "Please look after Celia. Coming to see you. Not well. Harry Porter."

The Hospital   Edwin and Jean are in the waiting room, both of them thinking about John.

Jean states that Margaret could lose the baby, and, with a frown, Edwin says, "Oh, no, that would finish her."

Michael will only marry her because of the baby, she speculates.

When she contends that the baby's death would be a release, Edwin is appalled.

"For her or for you?" he asks, and Jean alleges that he does not understand her at all.

Accusing her husband of responding to the world with his heart instead of his mind, she claims that Margaret and Michael do not care for each other.

Edwin declares, "You don't know that," and Jean says he would see this to be true, if John came back.

But Edwin counters by saying that John is dead, rotting somewhere with two tags around his neck.

Jean remarks that she is glad Mrs. Porter and Margaret cannot hear him say such a thing.

He asks a rhetorical question: would she wish it upon John to come home to this?

A nurse approaches and invites them to see Margaret, who she says is very cheerful.

Edwin and Jean enter Margaret's ward, greeting her with smiles and words of love.

Aboard a Train   Sheila and Celia are chatting about Wales, John, and finding something to eat while travelling.

As the train reaches Liverpool, Celia sees how terrible the destruction has been.

She explains to Sheila that it is Mr. Ashton she wants to see, to show him a letter she has received—about John.

Celia lets Sheila read the letter, and Sheila offers to help Celia locate the queue for the ferry across the Mersey River, where Edwin works.

The Works   Edwin has invited Michael for a frank discussion on whether he plans to enlist or remain a conscientious objector.

Michael describes how difficult it can be to register as a C.O., losing all of one's friends.

He professes to hate fascism but rejects bombing innocent people as an appropriate response to what the Germans have done.

Working in a hospital, he sees more effects of the Germans' heinous deeds than do most people.

Michael confesses that his anti-war convictions are not as unshakable as he once thought they were.

As for the question of Margaret, he tells Edwin that he would still want to marry her even if she lost the baby.

He wishes that he could be sure that Margaret would have the same answer, but sometimes he thinks their relationship is based solely on the baby.

Tony comes in, and the philosophical discussion comes to an abrupt end.

The Ashton Home   Freda has shown Owen how to change a nappy, but he is not so sure that he could do it on his own.

She says Robert is at the hospital, planning to rely on his charm to see Margaret before visiting hours begin.

Owen asks if she thinks he has charm, and she replies no, but that he does have something.

"What? Like a uniform?" he blurts and then instantly regrets the comment.

Freda speaks of Peter Collins and how the war takes people away forever.

After awhile, she laments, you forget even what they looked like.

Owen apologises and places his hand affectionately upon her knee.

She objects to the advance and politely requests that he remove it immediately.

He wonders aloud why it is that she blows hot and cold when he is there with her, and she suggests that maybe she is just starting to take him seriously.

The Works   Tony and Edwin are discussing Sefton and, of course, Edwin's future position as managing director.

Celia enters, and Edwin re-introduces her to Tony, whom she met the night John departed for France.

After Tony leaves, Celia says how neglected by the Ashton family she feels since moving away from Liverpool—"Out of sight, out of mind."

Suddenly, Celia becomes quite faint and must sit down for a moment.

Edwin informs her that Margaret is in hospital after being injured in last night's raid.

When Celia asks if the baby is all right, Edwin is startled for an instant, until he realises that she is referring to John George.

Celia says Harry is not well, which, she claims, is why he did not accompany her to Liverpool.

Edwin informs her that Harry sent a telegram to let them know she was coming, and she wonders why her husband would do such a thing.

Finally, Celia gets to the point of her visit—she received a letter from a man who found John's note to his father, reminding him of Celia's birthday.

She asks Edwin to accompany her to the man's place of business—a public house—but when Edwin hesitates in accepting, Celia becomes indignant and begins to leave.

Edwin offers to go by himself, as it might be very distressing for her, but she snaps back, "John's my boy, Mr. Ashton. Why should I ask you to go?"

Celia tells Edwin that she has always known John was still alive because "the other telegram never did come," the one confirming his death.

Edwin agrees to go with her, but he makes her promise to keep the trip to themselves.

The Hospital   It is not visiting time, but Robert is sitting in a chair next to Margaret's bed when she awakens, thanks, he explains, to his charm with the nurse.

He tells her his next trip probably will be to the States, and he asks her what he should bring back for John George and…

Margaret apologises for embarrassing him by having a baby and no husband, but he says that he understands, to which she responds, "No, you don't."

The Ashton Home   Freda and Jean are preparing food, prior to going to the hospital to see Margaret.

They fear that Celia Porter might arrive before they leave, which would make it an awkward visit, in that she would be certain to invite herself along with them.

At least Michael will be working tonight, observes Jean, so he will not be there to further complicate matters.

That is just as well, she adds, because the baby might never come.

Owen will be staying to look after John George, and Jean remarks that he seems to be in much better spirits than he was at Christmas.

Did he get a promotion, she asks, and Freda answers with a smile, "Hmm. In a way."

The Hospital   Tony arrives, and Robert asks who let him into Margaret's ward out of visitation hours.

The same "blonde nurse with the cheeky smile" who let Robert in, it seems, and they tease each other about who has a better claim on her.

The Ashton Home   John George can be heard crying when the doorbell rings, and Owen comes downstairs to answer it.

It is Michael, who explains to Owen that he managed to get off work and wanted to go to the hospital with the Ashtons.

As they already have gone, Michael begins to leave too, until Owen pleads with him to change John George's nappy.

Later, in the living room, Robert and Owen discuss Freda and marriage for a moment, and then Robert wonders whether John George needed changing, and Owen grimaces, "He did."

Robert tells him, "Hey, there was a cracking little judy at the hospital. I reckon I shall want to go back when my leave's up."

The Hospital   Celia is in Margaret's ward, fussing with the patient's pillow and declaring how much she hates hospitals.

When she tells Margaret that they should have been closer to each other, Margaret asks about Harry, and Celia huffs, "Oh, yes, you always got on with Harry, didn't you?"

Celia says her husband is not well at all, always having headaches, and when he comes in at night, he just sits there, staring.

And now, she continues, after an inconsequential visit to the doctor, he is lying in bed for a week, with the neighbours looking after him.

Freda comes in with a vase of pretty flowers, but Celia remarks how even flowers are not what they were before the war.

When Freda suggests that Mum and Dad might want to come in to see Margaret, Celia asks Freda to see if they can wait for a bit longer because they can see Margaret anytime.

Celia recalls that awful day when the telegram arrived, something she can never forget, even when she knows that all you have got to do is hang on and wait…and wait…and wait.

She breaks down in tears, remarking that seeing Margaret again has brought it all back.

Freda convinces her parents to go see Margaret—even though Celia has not yet left, and there are supposed to be only two visitors at a time.

Michael arrives with flowers, and Freda frantically intercepts him at Margaret's door and escorts him away for a talk.

Standing next to Margaret's bed, Edwin suggests that they all leave, as it is a long tram ride to "that address."

Celia makes ready to leave but asks to see John George again, "if nobody minds."

She and Edwin depart, but not until after Jean and Edwin have a bitter marital exchange of words.

Margaret and Jean are alone, and Margaret says she sensed that Celia could tell she was pregnant and that she felt like a whore.

When Jean asks if the doctors have said anything about the baby, Margaret looks sad and simply replies, "No."

In the hospital's dining area, Freda suggests that Michael come back tomorrow instead.

They have a hostile discussion about personalities until Michael asserts that Freda does not like him very much.

Freda acknowledges that she does not think he is the right sort of person for Margaret.

When Freda asks whether Michael will stay with Margaret if she loses the baby, he resents the question but answers yes.

A Pub   Edwin brings drinks for himself (liquor) and Celia (orangeade), as they wait for the man who found John's letter to finish waiting on his customers.

Celia remarks that you can see John when you look into John George's eyes.

In response to Celia's query, Edwin says that he does believe in God sometimes, and Celia comments that "He certainly has deserted us now."

Edwin makes her promise that she will not expect anything from this meeting.

She says she does not need miracles because it is what you feel in your heart that counts.

Mr. Cowking (who has only one arm) comes to their table, and he explains to Celia that he found John's letter lying on the ground.

Cowking explains that he was lost, not far from Tournay, trying to find his unit, and there was nobody else around.

Celia is visibly upset at the paucity of useful information and leaves for the washroom.

Now alone with Edwin, Cowking reveals that he had the letter a long time before he finally convinced himself to send it.

He adds the startling news that he found the letter on John himself.

John was unconscious and very bruised, and Cowking tried to locate a pulse.

Just then, he continues, German planes came over—strafing—and Cowking was wounded severely in the left arm, an injury that ultimately required amputation.

Cowking was staggering about, from loss of blood, when a couple of officers picked him up, placing John's letter with his own effects.

Then Cowking concludes with one further bit of information: just before the German planes arrived, he had the feeling that the injured soldier was not dead.

"You can't tell a woman a story like that, can you?" he says.

The Hospital   The next day, Michael goes into Margaret's ward, and they kiss.

He shows Margaret the flowers he intended to give her the previous day, until, that is, Freda nearly threw him out.

Michael informs her that he has decided against joining up, largely because of her and the baby.

Margaret tells him that she is not going to lose the baby, and Michael seems pleased.

She adds, "It would have been a way out for you, though, wouldn't it?"

"What makes you think I want a way out?" he asks. "I don't want a way out, do you?"

Margaret, suddenly pensive and a bit sorrowful, does not answer.

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