A Time to Be Born

by John Finch

Episode Number: 20
Director: Tim Jones



Edwin Ashton   Colin Douglas
Jean Ashton   Shelagh Fraser
Margaret Porter   Lesley Nunnerley
Freda Ashton   Barbara Flynn
Sheila Ashton   Coral Atkins
Sefton Briggs   John McKelvey
Tony Briggs   Trevor Bowen
Michael Armstrong   Mark Jones
Harry Jenkins   Jack Woolgar
Mary Foster   Joan Heath
A Police Sergeant   Gerald Turner



The Ashton Home   Mary Foster has been loaned to Jean, to help with the cleaning chores.

She asks when Margaret's baby is expected, and Jean replies that the due date is early next week.

Mrs. Foster wonders whether Margaret will marry the father, but Jean explains that John has not officially been declared killed.

As Mrs. Foster is about to leave, she asks if Jean could use her help for a couple of hours in the morning, and Jean gratefully accepts the offer.

Edwin arrives home to discover that Michael has been there all day long with Margaret, despite the fact that he works nights and cannot have slept.

When Edwin suggests that Jean let Michael live with them until the baby comes—saying that he saw Michael's new place, and it turns his stomach—Jean flatly refuses, calling such an arrangement impractical.

A Garage   In a secluded outside pen, Sefton shows Tony the pig, which Harry Jenkins (Mrs. Foster's brother) has christened "Adolf."

They go inside, and Sefton gives Harry a package of potato peelings for the pig.

Harry reminds Sefton that he plans to cut the pig's throat that night, but Sefton responds that he would like to talk with Harry about that, inviting him to stop by the house beforehand.

The Ashton Home   Margaret is sleeping in her bedroom, and Michael tenderly makes certain that she is tucked in bed properly.

In the kitchen, Jean gives Mrs. Foster some potato peelings to pass along to Sefton for the pig.

A few minutes later, in the living room, Michael informs Edwin that Margaret has not been so well today but that the doctor will be seeing her tomorrow.

Freda comes in, asking to have a look at the letter Philip sent, but her father says he left the letter in his jacket.

Edwin tells her that Philip met up with a neighbour, young Jack Bannaclough.

Freda cattily remarks, "Wasn't he the one who was shouting that he wasn't going to join up?"

Though the comment clearly was directed toward him, Michael says nothing in response, and Freda adds, "Well, it's all talk, if you ask me."

When Freda leaves the room, carrying a rack of dry nappies, Edwin apologises to Michael for his daughter's rudeness.

Michael is philosophical about it, saying Freda is entitled to her opinion of him, "Which is obviously very low at the moment, over and above the pacifist bit."

Both men agree that women generally are more practical than men, accepting the world as it is.

Edwin recalls the time, many years ago, when he and Jean were house-hunting, and Jean kept touching some damp patches on the wall, hurting the feelings of the prospective sellers.

He asks Michael if he has found a house yet, and when Michael replies no, Edwin proposes to inquire whether Sefton has any available properties, an offer that Michael politely rejects.

The Briggs Home   Sefton confesses to Tony that he has bartered away Harry Jenkins's portion of the pig for a steady supply of black-market scotch.

Tony does not approve of his father's attitude of "If everybody's doing it, why shouldn't I?"

Sefton will need to pay Harry back in cash, a distasteful situation that makes him stare at his glass of scotch and lament, "It's like drinking liquid gold, that."

The Ashton Home   Freda answers the front door and lets in Sheila, who says David will be ringing her sometime before ten o'clock.

In the living room, Sheila tells Edwin that she hopes to have the kids with her and David for Christmas—if it is not too late.

"Too late for what, love?" wonders Edwin, and Sheila replies, "Oh, me and David, I suppose."

She is hoping that seeing the kids might remind him that he has a family—because his recent letter was the first one for two months.

He only writes to her, she says, whenever his conscience is bothering him.

Edwin attributes their problems to the war, but Sheila points out that not everybody's marriage is breaking up because there is a war on.

On the brighter side, she tells her father-in-law how much fun it has been having Doris with her.

Sheila quips that she can laugh through life with Doris, Mrs. Thomas can adopt the kids, and David can have his women.

Then, becoming serious, she declares that she never should have married David.

Likewise, she adds, Margaret should never be allowed to marry Michael—not if it is just for the baby.

Edwin argues that children, Peter and Janet included, should not have to grow up without a father.

The Briggs Home   Sefton asks Tony about Jenny Graham and tells his son that she seems to be a very nice girl.

The doorbell rings, and, as Tony is leaving, he lets Harry Jenkins into the house.

Over drinks, Sefton offers to buy out Harry's half of the pig with cash.

But Harry refuses, contending that he has promised bacon to so many people that he needs that commodity much more than cash.

Harry departs from the room, leaving Sefton in a most awkward—not to say unlawful—position.

In the kitchen, Harry informs his sister that Sefton is trying to buy out his half of the pig.

He will not accept the offer, however, finally sticking up for his rights against "the mean, old so-and-so."

Besides, he adds, "Pennies have the habit of changing into pounds—if you hang on long enough."

The Ashton Home   Sheila comes into the kitchen and reports to Jean that John is fast asleep and that Margaret has requested a few biscuits to nibble on.

Jean confirms that Margaret will be sent to Shropshire for recuperation from her back injury, once the baby is born.

When Jean suggests that Margaret seems a bit quiet, Sheila agrees, describing her behaviour as "not quite with us."

With a worried look, Jean confides that Margaret told her that she has not felt the baby for days and that she felt "heavy."

Tony comes into the living room, where he tells Edwin that Michael and Margaret are at odds over whether to summon the doctor.

Both men profess to liking Michael, and Edwin says he wishes that Jean, Freda, and Sheila felt the same.

Tony wonders whether Edwin thinks it would help matters if he showed them which side he was on, but Edwin fears that would only make it seem like the men were "ganging up" again.

When Tony asks if the limited partnership has been set up yet, Edwin responds that he does not know, stating, "If I get the job, I get it. The asking days are over."

Freda enters with cocoa for the two men, offering saccharin rather than sugar because the ration book is depleted.

She complains that having a "permanent visitor in the house" is to blame.

Edwin defends the visitor, claiming that Michael offered to contribute his own ration book to the cause, but Jean refused to accept it.

Then Freda bitterly comments that David has not rung, adding that she feels sorry for poor Sheila.

Edwin contends that David might be flying, and Tony says sometimes he himself cannot get to a telephone.

Those words of support for David impel Freda to accuse the men of "always ganging up," a statement that, in this ironic context, brings laughter to Edwin and Tony.

Edwin carries cocoa to the others, and Freda continues to pout.

Tony asks her, "Whatever happened to that sweet little kid who used to have a crush on me?"

Freda denies the accusation, so Tony wonders who her current "grand passion" might be.

He suggests "Kangaroo Jim" (her Aussie friend, Owen Thomas), but she sees nothing funny in his teasing.

She snaps, "I'm not little Freda any longer, and if you… You don't know anything about me—any of you," and tearfully storms from the room.

Jean and Sheila are preparing some bread and dripping in the kitchen, and David still has not rung.

Sheila must leave soon, possibly missing a chance to talk with David, so Jean asks her to stay the night instead of going home.

As the family is eating, Edwin suggests that Michael, exhausted from lack of sleep, be allowed to stay the night.

Jean, however, will have none of it, explaining to her husband that she already has invited Sheila to stay, so there is no extra bed.

"I told you, didn't I?" she asks innocently, and Edwin frowns at this transparent fabrication.

The Briggs Home   Sefton is browsing idly through a stamp album when Mrs. Foster comes in, telling him that Tony is having a bacon sandwich in the kitchen—but rightfully, out of his ration.

Then, as his housekeeper is leaving the room (carrying away Sefton's empty bottle of scotch), he asks her whether she might have a word with her brother, Harry Jenkins, about the pig.

She, however, refuses to have any role in such an illicit venture, and she parts from her resentful employer on acrimonious terms.

Just as Mrs. Foster is leaving, Tony comes into the house, and Sefton informs his son about Harry's long history of making money on the sale of black-market pork products.

Sefton reveals that the pig will be slaughtered that very night and says he would appreciate Tony's company as he keeps watch.

Tony exclaims, "Take part in an illegal enterprise, wearing the King's uniform?"

Sefton is adamant, though he concedes that perhaps Tony should wear his civvies.

The Ashton Home   Edwin and Sheila are discussing David's latest failure to telephone her, despite pledging in a letter to do so.

He is just thoughtless and forgetful, says Edwin—he just has not changed.

But Sheila thinks otherwise, that David has changed, back to how he was before she married him: a lad with a future.

David is expecting to receive a commission soon, Sheila explains, but she is dreading that day instead of feeling proud of him.

He does not want her, she claims, and she sensed that very thing when she once wanted to transfer her NAAFI assignment closer to his base, and he objected to having her there with his friends around him.

Though Edwin tries his best to cheer her up, Sheila is despondent when she goes to bed.

Edwin walks into the living room, where Jean is piecing together a jigsaw puzzle.

He confronts her about why she invited Sheila to spend the night while refusing to extend the same courtesy to Michael.

Jean replies, "Because she is family," and Edwin counters with, "She is beginning to become a victim of this family."

So is Michael, he states, but Jean alleges that it is Margaret who is the real victim.

When Edwin claims that Margaret and Michael want to spend the rest of their lives together, Jean tells him she is not so sure about that.

If she were as certain as he, she would accept their plans—and she promised Margaret as much.

Edwin cautions her that this is a promise that someday she will be bound to honour.

The Garage   It is after midnight, and yet Sefton and Tony are still awaiting the arrival of Harry Jenkins.

Finally, Harry comes in, accompanied by his workman, Terry, whose job it is to hold down the pig while Harry cuts its throat.

Sefton and Tony stand watch, and a loud yelp is heard when the pig is slaughtered.

Later, as the pig is hanging by its hind legs to allow the blood to drain, Harry congratulates himself, calling it "a real professional job."

Sefton agrees and hands Harry a cheque, payable to "Cash," which Harry accepts with the proviso that Terry also must be paid.

The Ashton Home   Mrs. Foster arrives to clean the living room, and Jean offers to bring her a cup of tea.

But no saccharin, insists Mrs. Foster, because she believes it dries up the bloodstream.

Just then, Jean hears the cries of Margaret from upstairs: "Mom! Mom!"

The Briggs Home   Tony is frying an egg, and Sefton confesses to him that he did not expect Harry to accept the cheque so cheerfully, as Sefton would have been willing to give him twenty-five percent more.

The telephone rings, and Sefton has a disagreeable conversation with Harry.

When Tony brings him a cup of tea, Sefton divulges that Harry has been telling people that the pig belongs to Sefton Briggs—and, worse yet, those people include a pair from the Ministry of Food.

The Ashton Home   Margaret is in pain, lying in bed as she talks with her mother, who says an ambulance is on the way.

When Margaret asks why Michael was not invited to stay the night, Jean explains that Sheila was with them, so there was not enough room.

Margaret tells her that five months ago—in May, when it was thought she might lose the baby—she still would have stayed with Michael.

She urges her mother to try to understand.

Downstairs, in the kitchen, Sheila imparts to Edwin the unsettling news that Margaret said she could not feel the baby move.

The Garage   Sefton arrives to talk with the governmental agents, but Harry tells him that they have come and gone, promising to call on him at the house tonight.

Furthermore, says Harry, they confiscated Sefton's pig and now are threatening prosecution.

The Ashton Home   Mrs. Foster is leaving as Michael arrives, and she blurts that Margaret's contractions have started.

Michael rushes to the kitchen, where Freda icily informs him that Margaret is in hospital.

Exasperated by Freda's attitude toward him, Michael shouts, "Why can't we be friends?" and assures Freda that he will never let Margaret down.

Tearfully, Freda confesses that she has been behaving very badly—very rude and very thoughtless—and she apologises to him.

They agree to be friends, but when Michael asks her to shake hands on it, she excuses herself and runs upstairs, crying.

The Briggs Home   Tony suggests to Sefton that he buy another pig from Harry, to satisfy his creditors with the bacon to which they are entitled.

Yes, that would solve one problem, concedes Sefton, but there is still that matter of prosecution.

Tony tells his father that he will just have to take his punishment, and he scolds him for getting mixed up in "this sort of enterprise."

"It's not a crime," claims Sefton, to which Tony responds, "Isn't it?"

Tony relates that he saw a couple of ships go down last month, adding that "It's got to be fair shares all around, isn't it?"

Sefton thinks better of contacting his solicitor, George Askew—word would be spread all around the club—so instead Tony suggests consulting a police detective whom Edwin knows, "to see whether it is a fine or prison."

The Ashton Home   Edwin, Tony, and Sefton are leaving to meet with the police detective, and Jean will remain at home in case there is a telephone call from the hospital.

A Pub in Liverpool   The policeman, a sergeant, assures Sefton that it is indeed lawful for the Ministry of Food to confiscate.

He finds it interesting, however, that they did not drop by the home of the pig's owner for further investigation.

That leads him to suspect that it could be “a bit of a con,” with a couple of chaps coming along, claiming to be from the Ministry, and taking the carcass.

Sefton is indignant, saying the owner should report such lawlessness.

The sergeant agrees entirely, saying it would be killing two birds with one stone—as the pig's owner is just as guilty of breaking the law.

The Ashton Home   Freda, who is ironing some clothes in the kitchen, reveals to Sheila that she is having an affair with a married man.

Sheila is shocked and presses Freda for more detailed information.

Finally, Freda concedes that the man in question is not even aware of her interest, an admission that lessens Sheila's concern and prompts her to identify this so-called affair as more of a crush.

Freda says she did not even like the man at first—and still doesn't, sometimes.

She supposes that this is because she can never have him, and she sobs that she can never tell anybody.

Sheila tries to comfort her, promising that it will pass.

The telephone rings, and Jean answers it, receiving some important news.

She asks Sheila to wake Michael because they must go to the hospital right away.

Heartbroken over her unrequited love, Freda continues to cry in the kitchen.

The Briggs Home   Harry Jenkins and Mrs. Foster are in the living room, as is Tony.

Sefton writes a cheque to Harry for the purchase of a butchered pig, which will be delivered in the morning—before daylight, of course.

As he leaves the room with his sister, Harry pauses long enough to give Sefton a small sample of the bacon.

Tony is suspicious, wondering why the Ministry agents never showed up and where that sample package came from, but Sefton suspects nothing.

In the kitchen, Harry is gloating over the deal he has concluded with Sefton, which prompts Mrs. Foster to caution him, "Heaven help you if he recognises it."

But Harry realises that one dead pig looks very much like another, intimating that he has duped Sefton into purchasing his own pig.

The Hospital   Jean is sitting on a bench in the waiting room, alone, when Edwin rushes in from outside.

She tells him the news—that Margaret is fine, but the baby was stillborn.

Jean recalls an earlier day when the two of them were sitting there, and she said the loss of this baby would be a release.

Edwin and Jean agree that they both say terrible things to one another on occasion.

In a funny sort of way, says Jean, she is afraid the death of their baby might actually bring Margaret and Michael closer together.

Meanwhile, Margaret is lying in the recovery ward, still a bit groggy from the ordeal, and Michael is there at her bedside.

She speaks of John George's cough and asks that Michael place his hand on her own.

He does so and then quietly says to her, "Sleep."

Script Excerpt 1

Script Excerpt 2
Tony/Harry/Mrs. Foster/Sefton