This Year, Next Year

by Robert Furnival

Episode Number: 41
Director: Gerry Mill



Edwin Ashton   Colin Douglas
Freda Ashton   Barbara Flynn
Sheila Ashton   Coral Atkins
Sefton Briggs   John McKelvey
Margaret Porter   Lesley Nunnerley
John Porter   Ian Thompson
Harry Porter   Patrick Troughton
Ian Mackenzie   John Nettles
Mrs. Mackenzie   Joyce Heron
Doris Jackson   Diana Davies
Sister   Kathy Staff



The Hospital   Doris rushes into the kitchen to tell Freda that Ian is back, after being away for three weeks.

Freda, however, appears disinterested in the news, particularly so because Ian never wrote to her during the entire time he was gone.

Doris cannot see how her friend can be so apathetic, when there is an eligible consultant to be snared into matrimony.

The Ashton Home   In the living room, Harry tells Margaret he did not inform Celia that he was going to Liverpool—choosing instead to sneak out and leave a note.

Margaret assures her father-in-law that John is taking good care of her and that the baby is coming along properly.

She adds, however, that John continues to be very unhappy at work, and she reveals that Sefton has offered John a position with Briggs and Son, while promising to "do something about the regulations."

Harry opposes such a risky move, fearing that Sefton might terminate John's services whenever the servicemen return home at the end of the war.

In contrast, Margaret is in favour of a change of jobs for John if it will make him happy, and she tells Harry that there is, after all, such a thing as being too cautious.

When she mentions that she will have another test at the hospital tomorrow, Harry is surprised, as he naturally assumed that the diagnosis of her pregnancy was definite.

But Harry has problems of his own, and he tells Margaret, "I'm at my wits' end. I'm going down."

Margaret notices that his hand is trembling badly from distress, so she places her own hand upon his to offer him some comfort.

The Mackenzie Home   Freda arrives on her lunch hour, and Mrs. Mackenzie tells her that Ian will be sorry to have missed seeing her.

This confuses Freda, as Ian never troubled himself to write to her while he was gone.

Freda asks Ian’s mother whether Mary Ramsden has left for good, and Mrs. Mackenzie says she should think so—though she wishes Mary no personal harm, she is certain that they have seen the last of her.

But Freda is not quite so sure, and she wonders whether she is coming between Ian and his former wife, a notion Mrs. Mackenzie describes as "utter nonsense."

Freda confides that sometimes she feels very insecure, suspecting that Ian wishes she were someone else, as if his mind was not on her.

Whenever she asks herself whom Ian wants, the answer is always the same: "Mary."

To this, Mrs. Mackenzie responds, "Rubbish!" and she explains that it is in Ian's nature to want to help other people.

But where does Ian turn when he needs help?—to a woman, she says, "and in my opinion, you're just the person to give it to him."

"A man always needs help from a woman," she declares, "and a woman from a man. It's not a bad arrangement."

Freda claims to understand but admits to still being jealous of Mary, to which Mrs. Mackenzie responds, "Freda, you're jealous of a ghost. She's lost him."

The Ashton Home   Ian is seated in the living room, waiting for Freda to come downstairs.

Harry asks him about "free medicine," and Ian begins to explain why he sees national health as the biggest step forward in medicine that Britain has taken since the discovery of anesthetics.

But he is quick to add that it is not really free, not charity or a hand-out, because everybody pays for it, and everybody gets it.

When Harry asks what about those who cannot pay, Ian says the poor people will receive identical treatment, but he admits that the program is still in the embryonic stage, so that part of the issue remains unclear.

Ian declares that this is social medicine—not the medicine of privilege, where one must be well off in order to be well.

Standing outside the door, Freda hears his impassioned call for national health, and she smiles in admiration at his desire to help all people equally, even the indigent of society.

As Freda enters the room, Ian is describing a poor woman who came to the hospital with a septic womb, an advanced case because she had been frightened that she could not afford the medical care and that her husband would resent the cost.

Ian compliments Freda on how nice she looks, but Freda can only wonder what will become of the poor young woman, whereupon Ian replies, "Well, she'll probably die."

He feels very close to this particular case because it was Ian himself who performed the emergency hysterectomy.

After he and Freda have left, Edwin declares to Harry and John that he respects Ian for the way he places people before money in his profession.

John remarks that he would like to have a proper talk with Ian someday, to learn the secret of how to succeed.

Sefton Park   Freda and Ian are strolling along, chatting about how routine their lives are.

When they come upon a sign, which reads, "Holidays at Home," Freda cynically declares that her idea of a holiday would be to get as far away from home as possible and stay there for as long as she could.

Ian comments that she would be abandoning the hospital patients who rely upon her, to which Freda shakes her head and tells him to quit being so logical.

Again, Freda turns to the sign and observes the public events: "Brass Band Concert," "Amateur Talent Quest," "Dancing in the Park," "Circus," "Egg and Spoon Race," and "Grand Raffle" with a prize of one savings certificate.

"All the fascinating delights of exotic Liverpool," she complains. "Holidays at Home! Oh, God, I'm so sick of it."

Freda walks away, and Ian follows her to a bench, where she seats herself and comments that the concept of home depends upon where one lives.

She acknowledges being fond of Ian's lovely home, but she cannot see herself fitting into it.

When Ian asks why not, she answers that he is a consultant, and she is but a lowly nurse, so there is quite a gulf between them.

"There are such things as bridges," he suggests, to which Freda responds, "Do I look like an engineer?"

Freda remarks that nurses are expected to perform all the menial chores for doctors—including taking the blame when one of their patients dies—and she walks away.

After she apologises for her unthinking comment, Ian ventures to say that he would like to take her away for a real holiday, once the war has ended.

Oh, yes, she grumbles, a wonderful afternoon in Sefton Park, on whichever day the consultant can get away from his work.

"Look, Freda, I don't pretend to know why you are so bitter," he states, and Freda advises him to diagnose the reason—or guess.

"But you know…" he begins to say, whereupon Freda interrupts by charging, "How? Am I supposed to be a mind-reader, as well as a bloody bridge-builder?"

Again she walks away in anger, and again he follows behind her, hoping to discover why she is so upset.

Freda tells him that he does not need a holiday now, as he has just had one—"three weeks, gadding about."

He protests that it was not a holiday and that he was not gadding about.

The only excuse he can offer for not sending her a postcard in all that time is that he is no good at putting things down on paper.

When Freda suggests that he could have sent a few words in care of the hospital, he responds, "Oh, yes, and let everyone know about it."

To this, Freda alleges that he is ashamed of her, and she walks off in a huff.

Ian asks if she wants him to shout it from the housetops, and then he proceeds to call out loudly, "I love Freda Ashton!"

He asks her if that is what she wants, and Freda replies, "Yes, as a matter of fact, it is. I should like that very much—if for one moment I believed that you actually meant it."

Freda runs back, in the direction from which they had just come, and in response to Ian's shout of, "Are you coming to dinner tomorrow night?" she simply raises her arms in a shrugging gesture that implies, "Who knows? You'll just have to wait and see."

The Ashton Home   John and his father are sitting in the living room, and a very despondent Harry poses the cryptic question of wondering what he is going to do.

John does not understand, so Harry explains that he borrowed a hundred pounds from Edwin, but now he has had to screw up his courage to come to Liverpool and confess to him that he has no hope of ever paying him back.

Harry tells his son that, despite what he said to Margaret, he is not going down, he is going under.

When the doorbell rings, John goes to the front door and opens it for Sefton Briggs, who explains that he has come to see him, not Edwin.

The pair go into the living room, and Sefton tells Harry that he is not looking as well as the last time they met.

John informs his father that Mr. Briggs has come about a new job, for which he has offered John an opening.

Sefton explains that he wishes to expand the retail side of the business, so he is in need of someone with John's background to handle the accounts.

Contradicting Sefton's stated optimism, John expresses his doubts that a boom will come to the retail business at war's end.

Harry agrees, saying it does sound like a bit of a gamble, whereupon John comments, "Oh, I don't mind the gamble, Dad. I just want to be sure it’s the right one."

A Restaurant   Edwin and Sheila are discussing the difficulties of pushing ahead with the divorce proceedings.

Sheila explains that her solicitor, Mr. Dewes, contends that she cannot be granted a divorce unless David agrees to cooperate—to provide proof of adultery.

It is ironic, she says, because "David has got to pretend to sleep with a woman in order not to have any right to go on sleeping with me. Now, that is evidence."

Sheila tells her father-in-law that she does not know whether to laugh or cry.

The Hospital   In the ward kitchen, Doris discloses to Freda that her new boyfriend has turned out to have a wife and five kids.

All men are liars, she contends, and you cannot trust them an inch—but at least the stockings he gave her did not run.

Sister comes in and tells Freda that Ian Mackenzie wishes to speak with her.

Doris watches them talk briefly to each other, but Freda will not reveal what was said.

The Ashton Home   Margaret informs her father-in-law that the doctor's initial examination has been shown to be fallible because she is not pregnant after all.

Harry wonders whether John knows yet, and Margaret says no, but then she assures him that she will notify him soon.

The Briggs Home   Over drinks, Sefton asks John if he has made up his mind about the job offer.

When John answers that he has not yet thought the matter through completely, Sefton accuses him of being a slow thinker.

Sefton tells John that he spoke with his current boss at the club, and Mr. Temple contended that John's heart was not in his present position at the City Treasury.

John says he is concerned about whether it would be legal to change jobs—in view of the Control of Employment regulations—but Sefton insists that there are ways to get around those bureaucratic constraints.

When John worries aloud that the future he sees and the future Sefton sees may not be the same, Sefton calls such a thought "rubbish," contending that there is only one future and that this move would be beneficial to the business of the family—of which John is now a part.

Still uncertain, John confesses that he is not sure whether he is the best person for the job, prompting Sefton to admit that ideally he would want an older, more experienced man.

That being the case, John tells him, "Well, I think I might be able to help you there, Mr. Briggs."

The Ashton Home   Margaret is in the kitchen, folding laundry, and Freda asks her to describe what marriage is really like, wondering whether her older sister was as scared of it as she is.

Every marriage is unique, Margaret says, but each is a process of discovery, as the couples learn more surprises about one another with every passing day—some pleasant, some not.

Freda sees that it is time to return to work, but before leaving she informs her sister that she and Ian had a "flaming row" last night.

"Just like a real married couple, in fact," quips Margaret, and Freda smiles nervously at the thought.

As she is running out the door, John comes past her into the house.

He asks if Hitler was chasing Freda with a bayonet, and Margaret replies, "Well, she's either running very hard towards someone or even harder away from herself."

Harry is in the living room, staring out the back window, as Edwin mows the lawn.

He seems quiet and introspective, even depressed, so John tries to cheer him up with some positive news.

John says he told Sefton Briggs that he would be happy to work for him—but only under his father, Harry Porter.

Harry's initial reaction, rather than joy or gratitude, is one of humiliation, to think that his son has begged Sefton to hire his own father.

"Oh, I know you meant it for the best," he says, "but I couldn't possibly accept that sort of charity."

Much to Harry's embarrassment, John says he assured Sefton that his father was the better man, and Sefton agreed to sleep on the proposal.

The Mackenzie Home   Freda wonders why it is taking Ian so long to come home, and she makes Mrs. Mackenzie very nervous by incessantly asking her what time it is.

Mrs. Mackenzie contends that her son is acting "quite scandalously," being so inconsiderate, so she suggests that she and Freda partake in some sherry while they await his arrival.

Taking a sip of the sherry, Freda worries that perhaps she should not have come, a fear which Mrs. Mackenzie calls silly, something very common for all girls in her condition.

This statement puzzles Freda until Mrs. Mackenzie explains that she can see, beyond a doubt, that Freda is suffering from "acute indecision—advanced—otherwise known as cold feet," and she adds that Ian has a case of it too.

Still, she says, his "disgraceful behaviour" has given them a cast-iron excuse to drown their sorrows.

A Local Pub   As there are no unoccupied tables, John and Margaret are having to stand, he drinking a pint of beer and she a glass of gin.

He is concerned that gin may not be healthy for an expectant mother to be drinking, but Margaret shrugs off his anxiety.

John informs her that he took the morning off, to see what positions might be available to him at the Labour Exchange, but he was frustrated to find nothing.

Finally there is an open table, and Margaret takes a seat while John offers to get more drinks, if she thinks it would not be unhealthy for the baby.

"There isn't going to be one," she declares. "I'm not pregnant."

John asks her to elaborate, and Margaret tells him that a second examination was negative, and the doctor said that she might never be able to have another baby because of an internal problem caused by her "accident."

Both are disappointed, but John expresses his belief that her health is the most important thing.

Margaret suggests that her husband find a more rewarding job, now that they know their family will not be a large one.

But the doctor could be wrong, says John, and he teases Margaret that the only way to find out for sure is to try again.

The Mackenzie Home   Freda and Mrs. Mackenzie have imbibed several glasses of sherry, so their tongues are loose as they discuss Ian with one another.

His mother confides that Ian never remembers her birthday, and Freda remarks that somehow this makes him sound more human and nicer.

Then Mrs. Mackenzie adds a more serious character flaw than forgetfulness—that Ian cannot keep his mind off other women, hundreds of them at any given moment, and Freda will just have to get used to this.

The Ashton Home   Harry asks Edwin if he sees himself as a failure, and he replies that—like most men—sometimes he does, and sometimes he does not.

That is when Harry discloses that he has no prospects of ever being able to pay back the hundred pounds that Edwin loaned him.

He explains that he is earning less now but spending the same, and, worse yet, Celia is not very frugal, always expecting to serve "the best butter."

Harry assures Edwin that he would not have accepted the loan, had he not thought that he could repay it, and Edwin says he never doubted his sincerity for a moment.

He was just "hoping against hope," confesses Harry, to which Edwin responds that such an attitude is the only thing that makes life bearable.

When the doorbell rings, Edwin goes to answer it, and Harry wipes the nervous perspiration from his brow with a handkerchief.

Hearing Sefton Briggs’s unmistakable voice from the entryway, Harry looks for a way out of the room, but there is no escape from the unpleasant encounter to come.

Sefton greets Harry coldly, and Edwin insists that he have a seat to wait for John to arrive.

The Mackenzie Home   Freda is at the door when Ian finally arrives, and he is in no mood to be reprimanded by her for being so late.

"Freda, I am a doctor, not a tram," he tells her. "I do not and cannot run to a timetable. I do what I can, when I am called, where I am needed. Is that quite clear?"

She apologises, sensing that something awful has happened, and he confirms that he lost a patient—the woman with the septic womb has died.

As if that were not bad enough, he adds, the matron complained to him about "the whole giggling, idle lot" of nurses.

By now, he has pulled Freda to his side, and their relationship seems to have taken a significant step toward understanding and commitment.

The Ashton Home   Sefton, Edwin, and Harry are in the living room, listening to the latest war bulletins on the radio, when the front door is heard to open.

A moment later, John enters the room, claiming to have cleared his mind with the aid of a few pints of beer at the pub.

Wishing to let the two businessmen have some privacy, Edwin goes to visit with Margaret in the kitchen, and Harry excuses himself to ring his wife on the telephone.

With no social amenities whatsoever, Sefton jumps right to the point by saying, "Well, lad, we better get one thing quite clear—there's only one job, and it's a job for a young man."

John responds that this makes things a lot easier for him because both he and his wife agree that he should stay where he is, at the Treasury Department.

Miffed by the rejection of his offer, Sefton stands up and storms from the room, warning John, "Well, you'll regret it. That's all I can say."

The Mackenzie Home  

Freda and Ian are relaxing together on the sofa, with her head lying upon his lap.

When his mother comes into the room, he drolly announces, "Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you. Mary's coming next week."

Freda sits up, aghast, and Mrs. Mackenzie nearly drops her silver serving tray in shock.

"You know the trouble with you two, don't you?" he asserts. "You can't take a joke."

The tension broken, Freda playfully strikes him with her fist, and, with Mrs. Mackenzie tactfully slipping away, the couple return to their romantic solitude.

When Ian appears to have nodded off in boredom, he explains to Freda that he was merely thinking about their future.

He begins to tell her his convoluted philosophies on hope, the future, and the futility of planning happiness.

Finally, even Ian himself becomes confused by his rhetoric, and he confesses that everything he had planned to say is coming out all wrong.

"I’m not much good with words, I'm afraid," he says. "I'm much better with my hands," and Freda comments that his hands are shaking.

Ian tells her that he has failed in marriage once, so perhaps he does not have the right to consider the prospect of matrimony again.

Freda, though, explains to him what the RAF does in cases like this—"When a pilot crashes, they send him straight back up in the air again."

And she continues, "Don't you think it should be like that with marriage? Or would you prefer a second opinion?"

After a moment's reflection, Ian manages to utter, "Freda would you…" and she interrupts him by sitting up and saying, "Yes, Ian. Yes."

As they kiss, Mrs. Mackenzie comes into the room, remarking, "Oh, good, I'm glad that's settled at last."

She kisses her future daughter-in-law and tells her, "I thought he'd never get around to it. He's very indecisive for a surgeon."

The Ashton Home   When Margaret comes into the living room, announcing, "Cocoa for the Ashton family," Edwin takes a cup and then delivers what amounts to a heartfelt soliloquy, as his audience—Margaret and John—sit bemused on the sofa:

“The Ashton family. Look at us. Half of us trying to come together, the other half trying to split up. Family, what is that? A lot of strangers, in a head-on collision, in a little box of a house—intimate strangers. We don't have privacy. We have grubby little secrets. Secret lives, like worms in the ground."

The front door slams, and Margaret suspects that it is Freda.

Knowing that her younger sister wishes desperately to get married but is terrified to take the plunge, Margaret predicts that if Freda goes upstairs, it is all off, but if she comes into the living room…

In comes Freda, so Margaret congratulates her, which causes Freda to express her thanks and to say, "You quite took the wind out of my sails."

"Yes?" asks John hopefully, and Freda beams a smile and replies, "Yes!"

She kneels down, her arms resting upon Edwin's comfortable armchair, and informs her father, "Yes, I'm getting married soon, Daddy."

He quips, "Oh, yes? Anyone we know?"

"Ian," she says with love in her eyes. "Ian Mackenzie. Nice man…funny man."

The emotions of the evening finally take hold of her, so she sighs, "Oh, I'm so tired," and then lays her head upon her arms.

Edwin Ashton puts his arm around Freda, warmly embracing her as if she were still his little girl.

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