Lend Your Loving Arms

by Geoffrey Lancashire

Episode Number: 23
Director: Les Chatfield



Edwin Ashton   Colin Douglas
Jean Ashton   Shelagh Fraser
Freda Ashton   Barbara Flynn
David Ashton   Colin Campbell
Sheila Ashton   Coral Atkins
Michael Armstrong   Mark Jones
Doris Jackson   Diana Davies
Charlie Collins   Kenneth Cranham
Penty Bartholomew   David Wood
Colin Woodcock   David Bradley
Reg Needham   Neil Boorman



The Ashton Home   Freda is repairing one of Margaret's slippers, while Jean packs a suitcase for a visit to the hospital where Margaret is recuperating.

Jean says that Margaret requested Gone With the Wind, which Freda has not yet finished reading.

When Jean asks Freda what she was reading last night, Freda tells her it was a book of poetry that Michael loaned her.

Jean contends that poetry is a private thing, so she hopes Michael will not want to discuss that topic on their journey together to Shropshire.

He is fantastic on music, says Freda, and Jean remarks that Freda is talking with Michael quite a bit lately.

In her own defence, Freda asks her mother what else she can do, now that he is spending so much time in the Ashton household.

Jean implores Freda to continue trying to make Michael feel welcome, and Freda tacitly agrees.

When the doorbell rings, Freda lets Michael in, and they go to the living room.

Michael notices that Freda is reading his book of poetry, and he suspects that she finds it to be quite boring.

He is very surprised to learn that she actually likes the book, as the metaphysical poets would not seem to be her type of literature.

Then Freda delights Michael by quoting—from memory—a verse from the book, demonstrating that she really has been reading it carefully.

David's and Sheila's Flat   Sheila and Freda are wringing out some washed clothes, and Freda mentions that David will be coming home, either today (Saturday) or Monday.

"So he might be splitting his leave, then," declares Sheila, "between me and whoever he happens to fancy at the moment."

When Freda expresses doubt, Sheila accuses her of not knowing much about men, a point Freda readily concedes.

Then Sheila tells her sister-in-law that she still gets unsigned letters, and that is one affair about which she is certain.

Sheila threatens to play his adulterous game "tit for tat," so Freda quickly changes the subject.

David got his commission, Freda reveals, but Sheila says he already told her that on the telephone.

Doris comes downstairs to borrow Sheila's "liquid stocking" bottle, so her legs will look presentable on her trip to Southport.

Sheila instructs Doris to leave some for her because she is going too.

When Freda reminds her that David might be arriving today, Sheila says, "Maybe coming back to an empty house will give him something to think about."

Aboard a Train   Though it is winter—and the weather is quite cold—Sheila, Doris, and Freda are travelling to Southport, which lies about twenty miles to the north of Liverpool.

Three friendly soldiers sit down next to them and begin sharing their cigarettes and chatting.

In civilian life, Charlie Collins was a salesman in "this and that," Reg Needham was an electrician, and Pentecost ("Penty") Bartholomew was a consultant on fisheries for the wealthy.

Penty asks the girls why they are going to Southport, and Freda answers, "Just a day out," to which Doris adds, in a playfully suggestive manner, "See what turns up."

Moustachioed Reg, the quietest of the three, busies himself by trying to roll his own cigarette.

Two nuns come in and sit across the aisle, causing Charlie to feel self-conscious.

Penty tells Freda that they are surrounded by the silent order, referring to the nuns and also to Sheila, who has not uttered a word.

They all light up cigarettes again until one of the nuns expresses her distaste for the coach-filling smoke by coughing very loudly into a handkerchief.

In Ainsdale, just south of Formby, the soldiers get off the train and bid the girls a cheerful farewell.

Southport   The girls are having coffee, which Freda describes as "lukewarm shoe polish," and Sheila tells Doris, "You could do your legs with this stuff."

It tastes fine to Doris, who lectures the other two that they expect too much out of life.

The restaurant has run out of food ("There's a war on, you know"), but at least the room is warm.

Charlie and Penty come inside, spot the girls, and join them at their table, explaining that they just had brief drills today.

Penty says that their mate, Reg, is on guard duty—"two hours on, four hours off till six o'clock tomorrow morning"—which leaves lonely Sheila without a companion.

The Ashton Home   David arrives, telling Edwin that he went to his own home first, but Sheila was not there.

Relaxing with a bottled beer, David explains that Sheila's allowance has stopped, now that he has his commission, but he, "as an officer and a gentleman," will see to it that she and the kids have enough money.

"Yeh, an account at the bank, eh?" broods David, feeling sorry for himself. "The first time I've had a chequebook, and it took a war to do it."

As father and son discuss British bombing missions, David says Hanover is a dicey run, with three hundred miles of flak before you even get there.

He adds that Düsseldorf was still burning three days later, and Edwin supposes that much the same could be said about London, Coventry, and Liverpool.

When David asks if the raids on England were effective, his father can only reply that they certainly brought the war home and made the people "get buckled down to things."

David resents that line of thinking, which amounts to implying, by extension, that his job likewise may be doing the Germans a favour.

He has lost a lot of mates in two years, he says, and he would not want anyone to think they died in helping the German war effort.

Edwin apologises, branding himself and other civilians as "armchair generals."

Southport   The three girls and two soldiers are walking outside in the chilly air, and they stop to huddle together for warmth on a public bench—all but Sheila, that is.

Doris suggests going to a nice, warm dance, and the others agree.

The men step away to confer about something, which leads Doris and Freda to suspect that probably they are short of cash.

Doris and Freda each decide to contribute a pound to the cause, and when Doris walks over to give the men this much-needed money, Sheila informs Freda that she does not want to go to a dance, so she plans to return to Liverpool.

Freda convinces her to stay, explaining that there will be a lot of unattached lads, and besides, "It's only a dance."

The Ashton Home   Jean and Michael arrive home from Shropshire, and she is delighted to see David.

On the other hand, David and Michael exchange stilted greetings.

Both Michael and Jean say that Margaret is very much improved—as is evidenced by her complaining that the hospital staff wake her up every morning at five-thirty.

Jean asks Michael to stay to supper, and, when he hesitates to accept, Edwin insists.

When Jean asks where Freda is, Edwin must tell her that she ran off with Sheila and Doris for the day.

This surprises Jean because she knows that Sheila is aware of David's leave.

Southport   Doris and Charlie have been dancing, and Doris tells Freda that he is not much of a dancer—"flat footed, with two left feet."

"Still, his hands make up for his feet," she quips. "He's got four of them."

The Ashton Home   Michael comes into the living room, where David sits reading the newspaper.

David looks at him with spite and asks whether he is living there now.

Michael answers no, that he has temporary digs until he and Margaret move into the flat.

David comments to Michael that evidently he has decided not to join up, and Michael replies that he did not feel it would be fair to Margaret.

"Oh, otherwise you would have, though," snickers David, and Michael says, "Probably."

When David asks if he is a "conchy" these days, Michael explains that he is still a registered conscientious objector.

"But only because you haven't told them you've changed your mind," suggests David, to which Michael responds, "Yeh, I suppose so."

David calls that "dicey," and Michael agrees that it is difficult, causing David to assert that it must make him feel like a bit of a hypocrite.

Michael says he would rather not talk about it, but David persists, saying he wishes that Michael's affair with Margaret never happened.

At that, Michael asserts that he does not regret his relationship with Margaret, though he of course wishes the circumstances were different—and, after all, it is people who make the circumstances.

David sneers, "People like me, you mean," and Michael declares, "You're not alone, believe me."

Southport   It is half past ten, and Sheila is walking along the promenade in the dark.

As she approaches the shelter, she is startled by a man who already is sitting on the bench.

He asks her if she happens to have a cigarette lighter or matches, and she answers yes.

Sheila gives him a box of matches from her purse, and he lights his cigarette.

Just to make conversation, he wonders whether she is a "Southportean."

"No, Liverpudlian," she says with a chuckle. Then, with reference to what one would call a Southport inhabitant, she adds, "And it's Sandgrinder."

When she asks if he is stationed around here, he answers that he is in the Royal Civilians because his production job makes him more valuable to the war effort out of uniform.

"I’m Colin, with a cushy number," he sheepishly confesses—happier to be on the home front than shot at by the enemy.

"You don't have to apologise to me for not wanting to get killed," she responds. "It's nice to meet somebody who's honest about it."

Colin relates to her that a fellow worker of his does not want to be suspected of being a C.O., so he affects a limp when he walks, hoping that people will assume he is a war hero.

Sheila inquires what Colin's exempt job is, and he tells her that he is in machine tool design, a cog in the wheel that leads to the manufacture of aircraft.

Colin wonders aloud whether she would like to go have a drink with him, though he hopes she does not think he is trying to pick her up.

"And aren't you—trying to pick me up?" she asks, to which he delivers the honest reply, "Well, yes, I suppose I am."

He repeats the invitation for a drink, and, after a moment's reflection, Sheila responds, "Yes. Yes, I would. I'd love one. Thank you very much."

But then he realises it is half past ten, and all the pubs are closed.

Sheila suggests going back to the dance—and, of course, its bar—where he could use her entry pass, in the hopes that the lady at the door would remember her and allow her to re-enter as well.

Colin asks if she is sure she wants to go, and she answers, "Liverpool can wait for a bit, can't it? Why not?"

Meanwhile, Freda and Penty are chatting in the train station's waiting room, and he gives her a little gift that he made—a fly lure for fishing, consisting of a colourful feather that conceals a hook.

The pretty part attracts the fish, he explains, and when they bite on it, they are caught.

"It's a bit like a woman," he philosophises, and Freda asks him what he knows about women.

Not very much, he admits, and Freda says she does not know very much about men.

Penty and Freda both realise they probably will not be seeing each other again, and Penty says, "It's a funny old world, isn't it?"

The Ashton Home   The siren wails, announcing the first air raid in three weeks.

In the kitchen, Jean asks Edwin to stay home, but he feels that he should report to the ARP (Air Raid Post), in case they need him there.

Edwin wonders what Michael should do, and Jean suggests that they let him stay the night.

They are pleased that Margaret is situated out of harm's way in Shropshire, but they worry that Freda has not yet returned home.

David comes in to say that he is going, despite the raid, and Edwin offers to walk down with him on his way to the post.

It is quite late, and the girls should have returned to Liverpool by now.

Southport   Sheila and Colin are enjoying themselves in the dance hall, but Sheila observes that it is nearly midnight.

"You mean, like Cinderella?" says Colin, and Sheila answers, "Something like that."

He offers to walk her to the train station, so she thinks it best to inform him that she is married.

This, however, he already has surmised, as Sheila did not bother to take off her wedding ring.

David's and Sheila's Flat   David is waiting impatiently for his wife, growing more incensed by the minute, until finally he resorts to his bottle of liquor for solace.

The Ashton Home   Michael is seated on the couch when Freda returns in the wee hours of the morning.

She had to walk all the way home from the train station, she complains, adding—as if it were not apparent—that she is "just a teeny bit tiddly" because there was a sailor on the train with a bottle.

When Michael asks if Sheila was with her, Freda mistakenly assumes that she caught an earlier train.

They went to Southport, she says, and it was mostly very dull and very windy.

When she asks, quite loudly, whether he saw Margaret at the hospital, he says yes.

Then she becomes so loud that Michael hurries to shut the door to the hallway, in an effort to keep her voice from awakening Jean upstairs.

With jealous sarcasm in her manner of speech, she shouts, "Was Michael pleased to see Margaret? And was Margaret pleased to see Michael?"

He sits near her, holding the poetry book, and she again quotes the verse she has memorised for his benefit.

She explains to him that she is a bit tiddly and a bit sad because everything is so boring and dull.

Suddenly she remembers the fishing fly that Penty gave her, and she shows it to Michael, wondering whether he knows what it is.

For catching fish, he reckons, and she says it is beautiful—like the ships in the river before the war.

"Now they are all grey and dirty," she laments, and she hands the fly to Michael, adding, "That's how I feel—grey and dirty."

He says, "That's not how you look," and she feigns surprise at the solicited compliment.

Michael tries to assure her that she will still be young when the war is over, but she is not so sure.

Feeling sorry for herself and sensing that there can be no future with Michael, Freda spitefully confesses that the poetry book is not really her cup of tea, and then she asks for her "fishy thing" back from him.

Before she goes up to bed, Freda shows the fly to Michael again, pointing out to him how sad it is—beautiful and cruel, with a nasty, sharp hook inside that hurts.

David's and Sheila's Flat   David screams at Doris, demanding to know where his wife is, but Doris says she has no idea.

She tells him that she and Freda met some blokes, but not Sheila.

David shouts that he did not come home for a cup of tea—and that he has been waiting for eight hours, wasting a good portion of his weekend.

Doris has to smile at this revealing statement, and she accuses David of being more worried about his own precious weekend than about his wife.

David fires back that four nights ago he was in a shaky crate over Hamburg, and eighty-four poor souls did not return.

Next week he will be on other bombing runs, and other men will be killed—and that is why he is worried about his leave.

"I want my wife," he declares.

Southport   Colin and Sheila are in the train station's waiting room.

After consulting the schedules, he tells Sheila that the last train for the night already has left, and the next departures are not for another six hours.

It is very cold, so he suggests that they spend the night in a hotel.

She seems wary of this arrangement, so he hastily asserts that he meant two single rooms.

Sheila tells Colin that she cannot afford it, though sometimes she wishes she could.

When he asks about her marriage, she says it is no longer a happy one—something she conveniently blames on the war.

Colin speculates that perhaps she would have gone to the dance with anyone, and she admits as much, but then she adds that she would not talk about this to just anybody.

David's and Sheila's Flat   David assures Doris that what he said about flying is true, and Doris says she knows how it is because of all the newsreels she has watched, a naïve statement that makes David laugh.

He continues to drink while recounting his hair-raising experiences on raids where seemingly everything went wrong—bad reconnaissance, no clouds for cover, heavy flak.

David convinces Doris to have a drink with him, and then he becomes a bit fresh, putting his arm around her and even trying to give her a kiss.

Doris refuses his advances, claiming that she is Sheila's friend, and she takes her coat and leaves David to himself.

The Ashton Home   The following morning, Freda tells Michael that she sees him as a mixed-up jigsaw puzzle that people want to put back together again—an enigmatic statement that mystifies Michael until Freda declares that perhaps she still is a bit tiddly from the night before.

David's and Sheila's Flat   David is sitting in a chair, asleep, when Sheila finally arrives back home.

He asks where she has been, and she curtly answers, "Out."

David begins shouting at her, demanding to know where she slept—and, by implication, with whom—to which she responds by saying why should she answer that when all she ever gets from him are unsigned letters from strangers.

He persists, so she fabricates that she met a man, spent the night with him, and does not even know what his name is.

At this, he slaps her face, and she manages to say to him, "That's the first sign I've had in years that it would matter to you."

Perhaps surprised at his own violence, David changes his tack at once, apologising and even going so far as to affirm that he respects and loves her.

But this she has no reason to believe, so Sheila tells him to stop the sweet talk and warns him never to touch her again.

David takes his coat and begins to leave, but Sheila, on a whim, asks him whether everything would be fine with him if only she had told him she spent the night in a waiting room.

"But you didn't," he replies, and Sheila says quietly, "Goodbye, David."

The Ashton Home   Freda answers the front door, and a delivery boy hands her a telegram.

She opens it and reads the contents, just as her father approaches her from behind to see who was at the door.

Freda is in tears as Edwin takes the telegram from her and reads its tragic message.

The voice of Jean can be heard from afar, asking her daughter to shut the door.

"Oh, Robert!" sobs Freda, as her father looks down, shattered by the grief of losing his youngest son.

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