A Hero's Welcome

by John Stevenson

Episode Number: 21
Director: Oscar Whitbread



Edwin Ashton   Colin Douglas
Jean Ashton   Shelagh Fraser
David Ashton   Colin Campbell
Sheila Ashton   Coral Atkins
Freda Ashton   Barbara Flynn
Robert Ashton   David Dixon
Sefton Briggs   John McKelvey
Tony Briggs   Trevor Bowen
Peter Ashton   Alan Guy
A Waitress   Diana Harker



The Ashton Home   Ten-year-old Peter Ashton is in the entry hall with warden's helmet and toy rifle, awaiting the arrival of his father, David.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen preparing a pot of vegetables, Jean and Sheila are discussing the boy's idolisation of his dad.

On the other hand, Peter's younger sister, Janet, has refused to leave Wales and Mrs. Thomas for this Christmas visit in Liverpool.

The women compare their letters from David and discover that they are very much the same—infrequent and paltry in content.

Sheila says that David rarely writes to Peter, so she sometimes has to make something up, to assure him that his father thinks of him.

Sheila hopes that Peter and his dad get on because she fears that she cannot hold him on her own.

If they do not get on well, she doubts that they will ever be a family again.

Someone comes to the front door, and Peter is excited, only to see that it is not David at all but his grandmother's brother, Sefton Briggs.

Sefton chats with Peter for a moment (stretching the truth a bit in stating that he always believed David would be a credit to this family), and then Peter follows him into the kitchen.

When Sefton asks Peter if he will fly bombers when he grows up, Jean disapproves of such talk—doubly so when Sefton speculates that this war may still be on by the time the boy is old enough to fight.

Sheila asks her son to run an errand for her, going to the corner shop for a tin of condensed milk.

She gives him some change for the purchase, and Sefton adds some money of his own for Peter to have, "in case Father Christmas doesn't get through."

After Peter leaves, Sefton asks where the lad's sister is, and Sheila and Jean both try to explain that she did not accompany her brother to Liverpool.

Sefton declares that families should be together at Christmas, and Sheila leaves the room, ostensibly to set the table.

Jean rebukes her brother for being so insensitive, but he can see no reason for beating around the bush—David and Sheila were obliged to get married, and "you reap what you sow in this world."

Later, Edwin arrives with Robert, and they both greet young Peter in the hall.

When Peter and Robert go upstairs, Edwin says hello to Sheila and Jean in the kitchen.

Sheila expresses her fears that Peter will be disappointed in his father, but Edwin urges her to cheer up because it is Christmas.

Sefton Park   Edwin and Robert take Peter to the park, as it appears that David will not be home for awhile yet.

Peter teases Robert that the RAF is the best, followed by the army, and then the navy.

"Rubbish," replies Robert good-naturedly, to which Peter claims with a mischievous smile, "The merchant's rubbish, you mean."

Peter tells Robert that planes are faster than ships, but Robert explains that the navy has planes too.

"Not proper planes," says Peter. "Not bombers, like my dad flies."

Sheila joins them in the park, and she asks Edwin if Michael has gone down to Shropshire to see Margaret.

Yes, he answers, Michael is staying in a pub near the hospital, and Margaret is getting much better—walking nearly straight again.

When Edwin remarks that going away to Wales has done Peter good, Sheila says yes, but she worries about her son's mental picture of David.

"Hero worship," surmises Edwin, and Sheila replies: "Yes, I suppose it is."

The Ashton Home   Edwin and Sheila come home before the boys, so when the doorbell rings, Freda expects it to be Robert and Peter—but instead it is David.

David informs her that he must return to base on Christmas Eve, so unfortunately he will miss the family's dinner on Christmas Day.

There is a warm welcome for him in the living room, and then, in front of the others, David gives a subdued, self-conscious kiss to Sheila.

To celebrate "the warrior's return," as Edwin puts it, he opens a bottle of scotch that a printing client gave to him.

Robert and Peter arrive home from the park, and Peter notices his dad's cap perched on the stairway banister.

He races into the living room, and David hoists him up and embraces him, remarking that his son has grown so much that he thought it was a red cap (military policeman) coming to run him in.

When David asks, "Where's Janet?" Sheila looks away sadly.

David's and Sheila's Flat   Upstairs, Peter awakens his dad the next morning at half past eight, begging for a camel ride (bouncing up and down upon his dad who lies on his back in bed).

Initially, David says no, but he finally relents—for a few seconds until complaining that Peter is too old for camel rides.

David also declines to do so when Peter asks him to tell about flying in bombers.

Sheila is awake, so David has other plans in mind, prompting him to ask Peter to go to Garsides to buy him some more matches.

But Garsides is closed on Sunday, notes Sheila, who gets up to put on the kettle.

Sheila tells Peter to let his dad have a lie in because he is tired, but David looks at her knowingly and says, "Sheila, I'm not that tired, you know."

The Ashton Home   Edwin surprises Jean by bringing her a Sunday-morning cup of tea in bed, something he has not done in quite a long time.

He explains that she seemed dejected the night before, after David and Sheila left.

Jean muses, "We're an unlucky family sometimes," and she mentions David and Margaret by name.

When she quotes Sefton's comment, "You reap what you sow," Edwin retorts, "Rubbish!"

He acknowledges that Margaret may have been unlucky but implies that David's problems are predominantly of his own making.

Jean admits to spoiling David a little ("My own bright star," she used to call him).

Edwin recites for his wife the many things they have to be thankful for—particularly five normal, healthy children—and says about the war, "God willing, we'll come through."

"Come through what?" scoffs Jean, saying that David hardly even knows his kids and that, the way thing are, Peter will get more love from strangers than he will from his father.

David's and Sheila's Flat   Sheila comes downstairs, asking David what he wants to do today, but he is sulky, resenting the fact that she was not willing to do what he wanted earlier that morning.

She replies that there is still plenty of time for that, but David informs her that this is just a 72-hour leave, so he must be back at camp by tomorrow night, Christmas Eve.

When she says this will break Peter's heart, David asks if that is the only one who will be sad about his departure.

Of course not, she confesses, and then David explains to her that he hates the idea of riding a train back to base on Christmas Eve, it not being exactly a holiday camp.

David accuses her of thinking more about Peter's feelings than about his—or about Janet's, for that matter, because she should be with the family on Christmas.

Peter comes into the house, as it is raining outside, and he hears his parents' argument, with Sheila chiding her husband for not writing more often.

David suggests that they go to his mother's, but Sheila objects, pointing out that they will be there the next day anyway.

Over a game of cards, Peter asks his dad to go to the pictures, a bomber film, but he rejects the idea, saying he is trying to forget about bombers for a couple of days.

David explains that real warfare is not cowboys and Indians—there are no heroes, and everybody is scared.

When Peter says, "I bet you're not scared, though, are you?" David replies that he is just like everybody else.

Peter again begs his father to go see the picture with him, but this only makes David angrier.

He throws down his cards, and so does Peter, who begins to pout.

Finally, David suggests that they all go have a nice meal, but only if Peter cleans the dirt and mud off his shoes.

Peter says he would rather go to the picture, but David shouts, "Well, you're not going!" causing Peter to turn his head away and frown.

The Briggs Home   Sefton comes into the living room and greets Tony, who says that Jenny Graham wishes to pass along her best wishes.

Tony remarks that Sefton and Jenny got along very well, teasing that his father can be quite a charmer when he likes.

Sefton takes offence at the comment, but Tony hastens to add that he meant no disrespect.

Tony says he plans to go over to his Aunt Jean's, to see whether Freda would like to go out for a drink.

Sefton mentions that David should be there by now and that he spoke with David's son and wife yesterday.

Sheila was just as sour as ever, he states, and Tony says he believes she feels as if she were outside the family somehow, her father being a docker.

Tony recalls that David's and Sheila's nuptials were more like a wake than a wedding, with everyone pretending that they would have gotten married anyway.

Sefton repeats what he told Jean yesterday—"You reap what you sow"—but Tony amends that truism by noting, "It takes a lot of shaking off, what you've been brought up to."

A Café   David, Sheila, and Peter seat themselves at a table, and Peter immediately begins fiddling with the salt and pepper shaker rack, annoying his father, who warns him to behave.

According to the waitress, there is no menu on Sunday, but she says they have fish and chips, sausages, and rabbit pie.

Peter is making noise, for which David apologises to the waitress.

David and Sheila each order the fish, but Peter opts for rabbit pie, though his father doubts whether he will like it.

Sheila recalls the last time they ate in a café—strawberries and cream in Southport before they were married.

David remembers it too, especially because Sheila was sick coming home on the train.

When Peter laughs, David cautions him again to mind his manners.

Then Peter says, "Dad, I've got the lav," David scolds him for not taking care of that before they left home.

Peter asks his father to take him, but David insists that he go by himself, as he is not a baby.

The boy, however, is shy and decides that he will hold it until later.

The waitress returns to their table, placing fish and chips in front of David and Sheila and rabbit pie before Peter.

There are no ice cream sodas, she tells the boy, so it will have to be lemonade.

David complains about every move Peter makes—how he fails to pass the salt to his mother, how he gulps down his beverage, how he holds his knife.

"What do they teach them at that school he goes to?" he shouts. "His table manners are shocking."

Sheila tells David to stop picking on him, a charge he loudly denies.

Predictably, Peter does not like the rabbit pie, so his mother offers to exchange her meal for his, embarrassing David.

In making the swap, some silverware falls noisily to the floor, nearly striking a passing soldier on the foot, and David accuses his wife of showing him up.

David's and Sheila's Flat   The moment they return home, David orders his son to bed.

"Well, that was a lovely outing, that was—lovely," grumbles David to his wife, and they argue over whose fault it was.

When David alleges that Peter needs more discipline, Sheila snaps back that he gets enough of that at school—that what he needs is a bit more love.

Poor Peter, undressing for bed, cannot help hearing his parents' nasty quarrel.

The Ashton Home   Jean calls Edwin at work, asking him to bring home some nuts from Fletcher's, adding that David needs to catch the four o'clock train.

Freda is in the kitchen, peeling potatoes, and Jean remarks that the small roaster chicken looks more like an old boiler to her.

David's and Sheila's Flat   Feeling a bit guilty, David attempts to reconcile with his son, but Peter is still sulking.

It seems that the friendlier David tries to be, the more his son ignores him.

David explains to the boy that when he shouts, it is only because he thinks a lot of him.

He asks Peter whether he would rather have his Christmas gift now or tomorrow, and the boy shrugs his shoulders and says, "Tomorrow."

A few moments later, David asks if he is sure that he does not want the gift now, but Peter says no.

While they are still waiting for Sheila to get ready, David points out to his son that he has enough time to clean his shoes, and he implores him to quit the sulking.

The Ashton Home   Freda and Jean are making dinner preparations in the kitchen when Robert comes in to look at the Christmas chicken.

"You call that a chicken?" he comments. "It looks more like an overweight sparrow."

Robert answers the front door to see Tony (carrying three wrapped gifts) and Sefton (carrying an oddly-shaped object in butcher paper).

After Christmas greetings in the kitchen, Sefton reveals the contents of his mysterious gift: a large black-market turkey, adding with a frown, "Five pounds, that cost. It's daylight robbery."

Jean says that there is not enough time to cook it today, so Sefton suggests having it for the Christmas Day meal instead.

David, Sheila, and Peter arrive, bearing gifts, and David goes directly to the living room to join the other men for drinks.

Sefton says he is pleased to see that David is proud of his uniform—unlike Tony, who changes into his civvies the first chance he gets.

David confesses that he must wear the uniform because he does not own a decent suit.

Robert asks to be included in the drinking ritual, and the others reluctantly agree.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Jean notices that Sheila seems depressed, so she commiserates by saying what a shame it is that David has to go back so soon.

But Sheila snaps, "I don't believe he does have to go back. I just don't think he likes it at home with me and Peter."

David has changed in his relationship with them, she laments, explaining that just now he chatted for five or ten minutes with an officer he knew and never even bothered to introduce them to him.

Edwin finally arrives, and he is happy to tip a few drinks with the other men, though Sefton is displeased when Edwin admits that not much work was gotten out of his employees on Christmas Eve.

Peter comes into the living room, loudly playing the mouth organ (harmonica) that his Aunt Freda gave him for Christmas.

After the meal, Peter resumes playing the mouth organ, much to his dad's annoyance.

Sheila asks her son to go with her to the front room to play a game of cards, and she invites David to join them, which he feels obliged to do.

As David follows them, his mother intercepts him and asks what the trouble is between him and his wife and son.

Jean claims that he has changed and that he is too hard on the boy, who thinks the world of him.

In his own defence, David says he only wants his son to grow up all right, but it is difficult when the boy's mother—and grandmother—are constantly spoiling him.

David returns to the living room rather than to Sheila and Peter.

Freda and Tony are washing dishes in the kitchen, and Freda remarks how people change.

Her mother, for instance, now accepts black-market poultry, and David has become more cynical.

The war changes everyone, observes Tony, and you grow up a lot, which can be a bit frightening.

Back in the living room, Sheila and Peter enter, with Sheila complaining to a rather well lubricated David that Peter wanted to be with his daddy—though the lad's scowl indicates that she may be stretching the truth a bit.

War talk ensues, as Edwin and Sefton talk about the respective fates of Hong Kong and Singapore.

When Sefton asks Robert if he has been to Singapore, Robert seems very tipsy, much to David's amusement.

Edwin believes that with the Yanks in the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Allies must win in the end.

He asks David for his opinion, but he replies that they do not pay him to think, though he does mention that the Americans are building some very fine bombers.

Just then, the alcohol begins to nauseate the inexperienced Robert, and he rushes from the room.

David says it is time for him to leave, if he is to catch the four o'clock train.

When he says, "I'll probably be dropping bombs on little Jerries' Santa Claus," Freda says that is a terrible thought.

Sheila insists on accompanying David to the station, along with Peter of course.

The Train Station   David tells his wife that there is no need to see him onto the train, which is about to depart.

But Sheila is adamant and hurries to buy two platform tickets, while Peter continues to ignore his father and blows into the mouth organ.

Noticing Peter, a soldier says, "Get the flying boys. Got their own bands now to see them off."

David tries to engage in a conversation with the boy, but Peter remains cool and aloof.

When Sheila returns with the tickets, all three Ashtons make their way to the train, on which David tosses his kit bag.

"Well, it hasn't been much of a Christmas, has it?" says David, and Sheila answers, "Not much."

David suddenly remembers the Christmas gift, which he retrieves from his bag and hands to Peter.

When the boy is unresponsive, David asks him, "Well, aren't you going to say anything?"

"Thanks," mumbles Peter, and his mother tells him to open the box.

The train is about to leave, so Sheila kisses David, who then pats young Peter on the head.

David climbs aboard and looks out an open window, hearing Sheila tell him, "Come home soon."

The train is pulling out, so Sheila instructs Peter to wave to his daddy, but the boy stubbornly shakes his head.

As David is waving goodbye, Sheila tells her son to open up his present.

He does so, without the slightest enthusiasm, and finds that there is a bomber model inside the box.

Peter looks at it for a moment but then tosses it away, onto the tracks below.

"I hate my dad," says Peter, and Sheila angrily asks, "What did you do that for?"

She slaps him on the face but instantly regrets her impulsive action.

Sheila sobs as she embraces Peter in her arms.

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