A Separate Peace

by John Finch

Episode Number: 32
Director: Gerry Mill


NOTE: During the making of this episode, there was a trade union dispute,
which resulted in "A Separate Peace" being produced in black and white.



Edwin Ashton   Colin Douglas
Jean Ashton   Shelagh Fraser
David Ashton   Colin Campbell
Sheila Ashton   Coral Atkins
Margaret Porter   Lesley Nunnerley
John Porter   Ian Thompson
Philip Ashton   Keith Drinkel
Freda Ashton   Barbara Flynn
Sefton Briggs   John McKelvey
Tony Briggs   Trevor Bowen
Celia Porter   Margery Mason
Grace Gould   Adrienne Corri
Colin Woodcock   David Bradley
George Askew   John Savident
Mary Foster   Joan Heath
Ian Mackenzie   John Nettles
Doris Jackson   Diana Davies
The Undertaker   John Rae
Sister   Kathy Staff
Ethel   Kit Hoult



The Ashton Home   Sefton is on the telephone but having no success reaching his intended party because the line is engaged.

John goes into the kitchen, where he informs Margaret that he may go down to the pub.

She is agreeable, but she asks him to send her father and Philip back home, as they have been there long enough.

Finally, Sefton talks with somebody who says Doctor Willy is on the other telephone but will call back when available.

Irritably, he gives his name as Sefton Briggs and insists that the doctor call him at his brother-in-law's, Larklane 8241.

David's and Sheila's Flat   Colin tells Sheila about his father's sense of humour and how much she would like him.

Sheila mentions to Colin that somehow he seems different tonight, but she cannot say in exactly what way.

She tells him to take off his trousers in the scullery, so she can mend his seam.

If he is bashful, she adds, he can wrap himself in a towel.

The difference in Colin is that he seems happier, she decides, teasing him by suggesting that perhaps he won the Irish Sweeps.

Finally, Colin concedes that he is happier tonight for good reason—he has met a girl.

Somebody knocks at the door, and when Sheila answers it, there stands Jean Ashton, who does not even seem to notice that a man is the room, wearing at towel instead of trousers.

Sheila hurries Colin out the door so fast that he barely has time to retrieve his trousers before leaving.

The Ashton Home   Sefton cannot remember why he was asked to come over, and Margaret reminds him that it is Philip's birthday party—actually just a good excuse to cheer up Jean.

When Margaret urges her uncle to be on his best behaviour around his sister, Sefton looks at Margaret and says she always was the manager of the family, but he is quick to add that he is not being critical.

Speaking very frankly, Sefton tells Margaret how surprised he was that she got into the mess with "that young what's his name."

She counters by saying that what happened was her business, and she further tells him to stop being so rude to John.

Sefton claims that John needs to learn to become less sensitive to his remarks, less thin-skinned.

He apologises for being so irritable tonight, a mental state he blames on worry over his sister's failing health.

Sefton reveals to Margaret that her mother saw Doctor Willy because of the headaches she has been having, and then he shows Margaret the prescribed tablets.

Worst of all, he adds, no one knows where Jean is, as she had left by the time Mrs. Foster returned from the chemist.

Sefton worries because of something very puzzling his sister said to him—that she wanted to see Mother.

David's and Sheila's Flat   Sheila explains to her mother-in-law that the man she saw lives in Preston but comes around quite often when his firm sends him to Liverpool on a drafting job.

When Sheila states that Colin is one of the nicest men she ever has met, Jean is hurt, feeling this to be a slight toward David.

Sheila tries to be philosophical about it, saying it is only natural for David's mother to be on his side in the matter.

Suddenly, Jean becomes nostalgic, lighting a cigarette and remembering when she was an activist suffragette—politically advanced, as was Edwin.

She says her father would have disowned her for marrying Edwin Ashton, were it not for her mother.

"Can you see that girl when you look at me now?" she asks sadly.

Jean admits that she is sorry Sheila married David—but for Sheila's sake and the children's, adding that she is ashamed of David's behaviour.

Sheila admits that she still loves David and cannot seem to become interested in anybody else.

When she comments on how tired her mother-in-law appears, Jean looks up, surprised, as if her mind had been miles away while Sheila was talking.

Jean explains that she has been walking, adding that she tires very easily these days.

Sheila confesses that she knows little or nothing about the war and the Germans, claiming, "To me, the war is just me, the children, and David—that's all, on and on, day after day."

The cigarette falls from Jean's fingers, and she appears to have fallen asleep momentarily.

Upon awakening, Jean complains that it has gotten quite cold inside, so Sheila goes to get some coal for the fire.

When she returns, Jean has fallen asleep again, so Sheila begs her to stay and rest, but Jean leaves, insisting that she is going to her mother's.

The Hospital   Freda and Ian arrive five minutes late, incurring a wrathful look from the sister.

Ian offers to give Freda a lift home whenever she gets off work.

In the ward kitchen, Freda chats with Doris, who is substituting because six of the night staff came down with the flu.

A Pub   Philip has bought beers for his father and himself, noting that this is the first time he has been able to do so with money he has earned.

When Philip suggests that it is time to return home, Edwin says, "I'm not sure if I haven't had enough of home. I'm not sure if I can face much more of home."

Edwin discloses to his son that Jean told him never to touch her again.

Even when she declared that he was a good man, Edwin continues, the way she said it made it sound like patronage—with less affection than you would give to a dog.

Philip objects to that kind of talk, stating that it forces him to take sides.

He always wanted home to be a happy place, but… "I'm destroying that for you," interjects his father, and Philip responds candidly, "Yes, Dad."

John arrives and joins them at the table, whereupon Edwin buys another round of drinks, despite Philip's filial advice that he has had enough.

Jean's Childhood Home   Jean is walking along the bombed-out street, thinking aloud about her inability to forgive easily—David, Margaret, Edwin.

"Children are dying all over the world—without papers, without mourning—and the mourners are dying too," she declares to herself.

"And Mother," she continues, "like a vegetable in that home, living forever."

She wanders closer to the old Briggs home, now in ruins, and reminisces about the garden and her father.

Jean remembers how Edwin would submit to her father's wishes—"Edwin starting to be not Edwin anymore, letting Father destroy him."

" 'If it's what you want'," Edwin would say to her, submissively, "but it wasn't!"

The Bryant Home, London   The German bombs are falling, but David Ashton and Grace Gould are lying in bed, unconcerned.

Grace tells him that the Dorchester has a shelter that is open all night with full restaurant service so fine that the regular customers stay there even after the raids have ended.

She says surely the raids on Liverpool could not have been as terrible as those on London, and David recalls seeing Cologne burning from the air.

Jean's Childhood Home   George Askew, Sefton's solicitor, drives up to the destroyed structure and calls out to Jean, introducing himself when she does not seem to recognise him.

He suggests that she come talk with him soon about the will's effects on the printing works, but her eyes are glassy, and she appears not to be listening.

George reaches down for a piece of wood and is surprised to see a perfectly formed letter "T" on it, supposing it to be the remains of a gatepost.

He asks what the house was called, and Jean answers with a smile, " 'My Star'. It was the title of one of Browning's poems that Mother liked."

She asks if she can keep the block of wood, and George says yes, adding with a tone of outrage, "He's got a lot to answer for—Mr. Hitler!"

George offers to give her a lift home, but all Jean can say is a tearful, "Mother. Mother."

The Ashton Home   Edwin, Philip, and John arrive back home from the pub, and Philip admits to Margaret that their father is a bit inebriated.

Margaret informs Philip that their mother has not returned home, after visiting Sefton's home to see Doctor Willy about her headaches.

Meanwhile, in the living room, Sefton and a loose-tongued Edwin Ashton are having a noisy argument about printing matters.

When Edwin declares that it is the working class, "the poor, bloody rank and file," who get the job done, Sefton tells Edwin that he does not have to swear at him, even if he has been drinking.

Edwin snaps that he only had four pints of watered-down, working-class beer, as "the scotch goes to the people with the shares these days, doesn't it? Like shares in a pig, for instance."

Sefton says he has always tried to be tolerant of Edwin's political views, but Edwin argues that it is he who has had to be tolerant these past thirty years—obsequious, swallowing his pride until there was not any pride left to swallow.

Edwin contends that it was only his marriage to Sefton's sister that kept him employed all these years, not any talent that he might have had.

" 'He married well'," says Edwin. "That's the grand total of my obituary, isn't it, Sefton?"

Edwin confesses that he paid lip service to everything and that he is a disgrace to the people that bore him.

As Edwin begins to leave the room, Sefton relates to his brother-in-law the disturbing news that they do not know where Jean is.

The Briggs Home   The telephone rings, and it is George Askew, informing Mrs. Foster that Jean is in hospital.

The Hospital   Sister enters the ward kitchen, where she finds Doris lounging without her shoes.

Sternly, she asks where her shoes are, and Doris sheepishly answers that they are in the oven, drying after being soaked in the puddles as she walked up the drive to work.

Sister instructs Doris to tell Miss Ashton that a new patient is coming up from casualty.

Freda is busy readying the room for a new patient, and Doris comes in to help.

When the patient is wheeled in, Freda is shocked to see that it is her own mother.

The Ashton Home   Edwin, Philip, Sefton, and Margaret are leaving for the hospital, but John will stay behind and try to ring David.

The Hospital   Sister tells Ian that Freda is in the rest room, after being given a sedative, and Sister requests that he take her home.

The Ashton Home   The baby is crying, but as John begins to go upstairs to tend to him, both the doorbell and telephone ring, almost simultaneously.

It is Mrs. Foster at the front door, and she goes upstairs as John answers the telephone, speaking to Margaret.

His wife tells him that Jean's illness is very grave, and John informs her that he called David's pub, but somebody there gave him a telephone number in London.

John explains that David seems to be on leave, adding that the telephone number was engaged when he tried to ring him earlier.

The Hospital   Philip is in the waiting room, and he chats briefly with Doris, until she is called away for duty.

Margaret comes in, tearfully, after her telephone conversation with John, and Philip tells her that Sefton is in Jean's room, as is Edwin.

Philip offers to take his sister home, but Margaret decides to stay a bit longer.

In Jean's room, Sefton and Edwin wait in silent vigil, Edwin seated by her bed and Sefton standing.

Suddenly, Jean opens her eyes, smiles, and asks quite clearly, "Can I have a peach, Father?"

The Bryant Home, London   David and Grace are talking in the bedroom, and David laments that his kids in Wales probably do not even remember him well enough to include him in their prayers.

With the war nearing its final phase, says David, he will be more scared when he returns to ops because he now wants a good life and would hate to see it end.

Grace wraps her fur around his neck and remarks, "But isn't it like that for all of us? Isn't life a sort of op?"

The telephone rings, and it is John, who tells Grace that he needs to speak with David Ashton.

When David gets on the line, John informs him that his mother is in hospital, having suffered a stroke, and David says to tell her that he is on his way.

Without so much as a single word to Grace, he tosses off the fur, puts on his coat, and rushes from the house.

The Hospital   Sister offers to bring Sefton some tea, which he accepts, and he explains to her that the other two (Philip and Margaret) have gone home for the time being.

The door opens, and Edwin comes out of Jean's room, ashen faced.

He says not a word to Sefton—just looks at him sorrowfully and walks out to get some air.

Sister hurries into the room, while Sefton stares as if in a stupor.

The Ashton Home   The undertaker and his assistant wait in the hallway, discussing when to close the coffin, while members of the family sit silently in the living room.

Sefton mentions to Tony that he has arranged for a grave in the new section of the cemetery because the old section is becoming so crowded that there would be no room for Edwin's remains to be placed next to his wife's.

Celia Porter states that her cousin is in the new section, dead because he burned the candle at both ends, despite her warnings.

She consoles herself by saying that he has a lovely headstone though—quite unusual, a white angel.

Such talk upsets Margaret, who leaves the room, followed by John.

Sheila finally arrives, having missed one bus and then caught another that seemed to crawl.

In the kitchen, an old family friend and housekeeper, Ethel, reminisces to Philip about when he was just a young lad.

When she mentions the lovely flowers people gave in memory of his mother, the reality of it all seems to strike Philip for the first time, and he becomes quiet and aloof.

John comes in for some water, so Philip goes to the garden, in search of solitude.

In the living room, Sheila explains to David that she came straight from home but missed the early bus.

Celia comes into the kitchen, asking for some tea, but John tells his mother that there is only water, the tea having gone cold.

She wishes Harry could have taken the day off and accompanied her to Liverpool—and then she concedes that Jean was a good woman, though she certainly had her blind spots.

John can take no more of this, so he goes to see if Margaret needs him.

Spitefully, his mother tells him, "Yes, you go see if Margaret's all right," and after he leaves, she continues to herself, "And the things I could tell you, my lad!"

In the hallway, the undertaker asks John to announce to the others that the coffin is about to be closed.

John enters the living room and tries his best to make the announcement, but emotions prevent him from being very articulate—"Uh, they're about to close… If anybody wants to s…"

Only Sheila leaves to view the deceased, most of the others already having done so.

Sefton asks Tony if he will be staying the night, but just as he replies, Celia inconsiderately seats herself between them, so he must repeat his answer.

Sheila is alone with the coffin, and, in sorrowful silence, she observes her mother-in-law for the last time.

Finally, Freda and her father come downstairs, but Freda cannot bring herself to proceed any further, shakily stating, "I don't want to see her. I just don't want to."

The Cemetery   After the graveside obsequies, people begin walking along the pathway toward the exit.

Celia stops long enough to thank the vicar for the beautiful service, and then she points out to Ethel where her cousin is buried.

Ethel explains to Celia that she lived with the Ashtons as a cleaning lady for many years, almost as one of the family.

Freda is devastated by her mother's death, so Margaret takes her by the arm and tries to console her as they walk toward the cars.

Tony asks Philip why his father wants to go straight home rather than back to the Ashtons', and Philip explains that the men had a terrible argument just prior to Jean's death—as Edwin was sloshed and more outspoken than was his norm.

Margaret, Freda, and John enter one of the funeral cars for the ride home, and when Celia suggests that she join them, John tells her, "There's no room, Mum. Get in the next one," and slams the door shut.

Sefton comes walking up to Tony, still refusing to return to the Ashton home.

He can see Edwin in the distance, sitting alone on a bench, and he complains to Tony, "He hurt me the other night, did Edwin. He hurt me."

Even Tony's explanation that Edwin was sloshed does no good, as Sefton repeats loudly, "He hurt me!"

David and Sheila are walking along, and she tells him that she promised to see her father, so she will not be going back to the Ashtons'.

"Yeh, well…uh…remember me to him, will you?" he responds without much conviction.

That is when Ethel approaches David, wondering whether he remembers her—and he does.

"The times I've smacked his bottom," she tells Sheila. Then, looking at David, she adds, "She thought the world of you," and she kisses his cheek before walking away, saying, "God bless you."

Sheila too leaves him, stating only an impersonal, "Goodbye then, David."

Philip, Tony, and Sefton are about to climb in the next car when Philip asks, "Where's Dad?"

Sefton, swallowing his pride, declares, "I'll fetch him."

But as he nears the bench, Edwin arises and walks past Sefton, ignoring him as he makes his way toward the waiting car.

The Ashton Home   Celia closes the living room curtains because it is well past blackout time.

She tells her son, "It'll be my turn next," and John snaps, "Oh, for God's sake, Mum. Please!"

Celia threatens to put into writing the things she should have told him all along, things that people have a right to know.

John suggests that it is about time for her go to the Grants for tea, and she is miffed that he will not be taking her—"Two minutes out of a lifetime," she complains.

Coming down the stairs, David is about to leave, and he assures Margaret that he did talk to Sheila.

"What's the good of talking, Mag?" he laments. "It's what you do that counts."

When David goes to the kitchen to bid Freda goodbye, Margaret notices that Celia is off to the Grants.

"Out into the blackout," complains Celia, felling sorry for herself, and Margaret flippantly declares, "Well, there's a good moon tonight anyway."

Giving Margaret a knowing glance, Celia responds, "Looking down on us, eh? What a sight we must seem."

Margaret recalls what Celia told her that time in hospital—that they should be closer—adding that it is still true, but Celia dismisses the conciliatory gesture, saying only, "I'll see you tomorrow."

The Briggs Home   Sefton arrives with Tony, and he tells his son how strange the mind can be.

The last thing poor Jean ever said was not addressed to him or to Edwin—rather, it was "Can I have a peach, Father?"

The Ashton Home   In the kitchen, Margaret discloses to her husband that Freda wants to live at the hospital, so they must remain at home for now.

John understands, stating that if the raids start again, a new home might be reduced to a pile of bricks anyway.

Margaret becomes pensive, contending, "All those nights in the freezing shelter. It was the war that killed her, the war and us, and Robert being lost."

She recalls how happy the family seemed before the war, before all the lies and deceptions.

"The truth doesn't really hurt, Margaret," contends John, whereupon Margaret says, "Doesn't it?" and then, looking directly at her husband, repeats, "Doesn't it?"

A Pub   Sefton finds Edwin right where Philip said he would be, drinking in the pub.

"I'm drunk, Sefton," he mumbles, and Sefton responds, "Nobody's going to blame you for that."

Sefton takes Edwin by the arm and leads him toward home.

A Liverpool Street   Four intoxicated sailors are walking arm-in-arm, singing a bawdy song very loudly.

They make way for Edward and Sefton to pass between them as the brothers-in-law near the Ashton home.

Edwin fumbles ineffectually for his keys, so Sefton helps him unlock the door, and the two men enter the home for the first time without Jean.

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