The Old Order Changeth…

by John Finch

Episode Number: 51
Director: Richard Doubleday



Edwin Ashton   Colin Douglas
Margaret Porter   Lesley Nunnerley
John Porter   Ian Thompson
Freda Mackenzie   Barbara Flynn
Ian Mackenzie   John Nettles
Sefton Briggs   John McKelvey
Tony Briggs   Trevor Bowen
Helen Hughes   Georgine Anderson
Marjorie   Anne Kristen
George Askew   John Savident
Doris Jackson   Diana Davies
John George Porter   Paul Brett
The Pathologist   George Woolley



The Works   It is quitting time, and the workers are leaving for the day, with only a very tired-looking Edwin Ashton staying behind.

Tony comes in and offers him a nip from his flask, which Edwin gladly accepts.

Edwin says that Freda and Ian are living with him for a week, while their new home is being readied for them.

"Funny, isn't it?" muses Edwin. "You get used to a place being quiet, to the point where you long for something to happen. Along comes a bit of noise, and you wish you were back where you started."

The Ashton Home   Freda has arrived, and she asks how their dad is, to which Margaret replies that he is quieter than she ever has known him.

The tragic reason is quite clear to Freda, who mentions that Philip was his favourite.

Margaret reveals that Sheila might be bringing the kids around tomorrow, and she adds that it will be just like old times—a comment Freda claims sounded just like Mum.

Freda grumbles at her older sister for wanting to look backward instead of to the future, but then she apologises, attributing her petulance to all the packing up and clearing out.

When Margaret suggests that it is about time Freda had some kids to worry about, Freda becomes defensive and wonders why Margaret said such a thing.

"What in God's name is so special about having kids?" she snaps, storming out of the room.

Hearing the door slam, Ian asks Margaret if everything is all right, to which Margaret replies, "Oh, fine…fine. Just like old times."

The Works   Over a meagre drink—as dictated by the remnants of wartime rationing—Tony tells Edwin that he is looking downcast lately, and he recommends a holiday for him.

Tony assures him that he can manage the works for awhile, and Edwin contends that his nephew could handle it permanently, saying, "I'm expendable, and you know it."

This Tony disputes, telling Edwin how much he appreciates the wealth of knowledge about the printing trade that he has learnt from him.

Edwin remarks that he senses Tony has big plans for developing Briggs & Son, lamenting that he himself never had the opportunity to do so, with Sefton constantly standing in his way.

"I'm a poor socialist, Tony," he concedes. "I just cast my vote, and apart from that I'm just an old chap that remembers hard times and the voice of his father."

Tony is about to leave, but first he inquires whether Edwin is aware of any flats that are available, explaining that things are a bit edgy at home.

He says that his father does not get on with Trevor Howells, someone Tony tried to warn Sefton about long ago.

The Briggs Home   Solicitor George Askew is reviewing Sefton's financial books, and he mentions that there may be a legal case against Howells.

Sefton declares that Howells claims to be bankrupt, but George cautions that this may be a ruse to distract Sefton from collecting his due.

George is stunned to learn that Sefton invested nearly everything in the Howells ventures, and he scolds Sefton for selling the shop.

Sefton is quick to blame the Labour government, but George says he should not ascribe his losses to Clement Attlee—not after five years of war.

When George asks how much his house is worth, Sefton is shocked to think that he may very well have to sell it to retain his solvency.

Marjorie's Flat   Marjorie has sat down to eat when John knocks at her door and is invited inside.

John informs her that his wife suspects that they are having an affair.

Though John declares that he does not regret the time they have spent together, Marjorie feels otherwise.

"You're married," she says. "Margaret's my friend. I don't want to get involved with something like that. I don't have the time to waste on affairs."

The Ashton Home   In the kitchen, Freda tells Margaret that she cannot sleep in the boys' old room, but Margaret contends that there is no other choice.

Freda suggests moving back into her old bedroom, but Margaret points out that would mean sleeping separately from Ian.

Ian is miffed, says Freda, because she is scheduled to work and cannot accompany him to go see Gone With the Wind for the fourth time.

With a knowing look, Margaret asks her how long she plans to continue working, and Freda complains, "Back to babies again, are we, Margaret?"

Freda confides that she and Ian do not seem likely to become parents, but she is reluctant to discuss this inability with her husband because he is so clinical about such personal matters.

All this serious talk has made Freda crave a cigarette, so she tells Margaret that she is going to buy some.

"Go on," responds Margaret. "Go and get your coffin nails, and stop pretending to be so bloody hard."

Marjorie's Flat   Marjorie says she stopped visiting the Labour Club about the same time that John began going there.

She finds it interesting that John wants to get out of the house because she envies him for going back to a house with people in it.

When John tells Marjorie how highly he thinks of her, she calls him cruel—"offering some hope where there isn't any."

She knows that this "dalliance" will lead nowhere, and yet her relationships with other men are nothing more than a laugh or a bit of gossip or a passing interest.

Marjorie asks him about the teacher training course, but John refuses to enroll because Margaret would have to take care of him for a year.

Speaking very bluntly, Marjorie accuses John of never really coming home from the war—disillusioned, finding everything a disappointment because his expectations are so unrealistically high.

She claims that they are "just the backwash of the war," and there will be thousands of people like them.

John declares that he is himself, and let the thousands of others look after themselves.

"And you call yourself a socialist," she snaps, and each can sense that they are headed for an ideological argument—something they both enjoy.

Domesticity bores him stiff, he claims, placing his hand on her shoulder.

"I wonder how long it will be before I bore you stiff," she says.

When an amorous look comes to his eyes, and he utters her name, Marjorie flatly refuses his advance.

"No, not again," she declares. "Not until…you've thought about the consequences. Because you haven't yet, really, have you?"

A Liverpool Street   John and Marjorie are walking along, sharing an umbrella, when they witness the bittersweet scene of a soldier returning home from the war, as his large family gather around him with tears of joy.

The Briggs Home   Tony arrives home, and Helen tells him that Sefton is in some sort of trouble, so he has gone to talk with his accountant, Mr. Jackson.

When Tony asks his aunt if she heard Sefton fall down the stairs, drunk, the other night, Helen says it was she who fell, and she confesses that sometimes she drinks too much.

Helen reveals that she has decided to return to Australia after Christmas, and Tony tells her that he is moving out as well.

In answer to Helen's query, Tony says he has no serious relationship at present, contending, "All the ones I like seem to prefer other blokes."

When Helen suggests Freda, Tony smiles and says, "Perhaps it's just as well you are going."

Sefton appears, seemingly quite cheerful, and he wonders whether Tony has any plans for Christmas, which is only three weeks away.

Tony replies that Eric Fraser invited him to come down to his place, but Tony did not give him a definite answer yet.

When alone in the living room, Sefton rings George Askew, who merely confirms the accountant's assessment of Sefton's precarious financial situation—so Sefton pours himself a stiff drink.

The Pathology Department   A pathologist has examined the medical report for one of Ian's "friends," and the findings are just as Ian had feared.

The Ashton Home   In the kitchen, Margaret orders her son to stop playing with the rolling pin, but he persists.

John comes in and angrily chides John George for being disobedient and Margaret for spoiling the boy.

Margaret sends John George upstairs because she can see that John is in a foul mood.

They argue loudly about taking John George to the park until Margaret asks John to keep his voice down because Ian is in the back room.

John is bitter that Ian and Freda already have found a house, and he complains that society keeps giving to those who have.

Margaret counters that they themselves could afford a house, but they just have not looked for one very seriously.

Edwin comes in the front door and greets his little grandson, who sits on the stairs, gloomily listening to his parents' heated argument.

Margaret shouts at her husband that she resents "the way you behave, the way you put up with us, the way you made capital out of Michael Armstrong turning up."

After John storms from the kitchen, Edwin comes in and asks his daughter if John has abandoned the teaching course altogether.

Margaret says sometimes she gives up even caring, and she contends that John is no longer the man she married.

Edwin, however, points out that she has changed as well—in many ways, some more apparent than others.

Margaret goes to help John find some comics for John George, and Ian comes into the kitchen.

He and Edwin are in agreement that social change is far too slow in coming.

When Ian claims that the present generation is too complacent, content to put up with things as they are, Edwin says he hopes that Ian will teach his children that there is more to life than putting up with things.

This innocent comment hits Ian hard, particularly in light of the pathologist's report.

The Hospital   Freda is pleasantly surprised to see that Doris has checked herself in, as she awaits the birth of her baby.

Doris tells Freda that her parents moved to Manchester, so she is living with her sister.

A bit enviously, Doris notices that Freda has been promoted to the status of staff nurse.

The Briggs Home   Helen is knitting a cardigan sweater for her brother, and Sefton declares that it does his heart good to see her sitting there.

She asks him if everything is all right, and he replies, "Well, of course it's all right—never been better."

One of the reasons she stayed, explains Helen, was because he seemed so fraught with worry.

George Askew arrives, and Helen goes to prepare him some coffee.

Although George contends that Sefton still has "one or two very nice bits of property," Sefton laments, "It's the end of life as I've known it, George."

Sefton instructs George not to tell anyone else in the family how bad things are—at least not until Sefton has begun putting his house in order.

Marjorie's Flat   Marjorie and John are having a drink, and she reiterates that no physical relationship ever will exist between them, something he now accepts.

She recounts that day when Councillor Dewsbury stopped by, ostensibly to give her a lift.

"That's how it is for unmarried ladies of my age," she continues. "We're landing fields for unhappily married men with engine trouble."

John wonders if that is how she classifies him, and he complains that she makes him "sound like a way out of something."

Marjorie responds that each of them serves that purpose for the other.

She tells John that there probably is nothing wrong with his marriage that a good holiday would not cure.

As for herself, she has not had a holiday for six years—when she and a bloke from school, George Carter, went to Scarborough together.

They were mad about each other, explains Marjorie, but then he went to the Middle East while in the Army and died of dysentery.

Bitterly, she tells John that the war has taught everyone to dream of a better world someday, but such thoughts only lead to cold disappointment.

She advises John to give reality a try instead, and, if that does not work out, he can find her at the Labour Club, being ogled by Councillor Dewsbury.

The Ashton Home   Freda comes into the kitchen, where her father is incinerating some papers in the stove fire.

When he mentions that John most likely is at the Labour Club, Freda snaps that is probably as good an excuse as any, noting that he and Margaret are going through a bad patch.

Edwin dismisses their troubles as natural: "We had to readjust to the war. Now we're having to readjust to the peace."

That, he says, is in addition to other problems of life—marriage, children, old age.

Freda asks him what he is burning, and Edwin tells her they are old letters, correspondence between him and Jean.

Edwin assures Freda that he and her mother did not begin to get on each other's nerves until about the time Freda was growing up, and all five children were wanted, conceived in love.

When he presumes to advise Freda only to have children because she and Ian want them, Freda becomes noticeably upset and begins to leave the room.

She pauses long enough to ask her father why he is burning the letters, and he replies that they are his past—they are who he is.

There is a time to write letters, to read them, and to burn them, he muses.

The next morning, Ian and Freda discuss Doris's predicament, and Freda informs him that Doris receives nothing from her parents, and she will accept no charity from the Mackenzies.

The couple's conversation seems about to turn to children, a sore subject about which they find it difficult to be candid, when Margaret comes in and offers to put the kettle on.

Freda becomes cynical, contending that a nation of working women—emancipated by the war—is a master plan to exterminate the race.

In any case, they should not talk about such things in front of Margaret, she says, because "she'll be asking us when it's our turn to perpetuate the species…to replace all the Roberts and the Philips."

When Margaret leaves the kitchen, she meets John on the stairway, and they argue variously about John George, finding a house, and John's recent preference for finding fulfillment away from home…and his wife.

The Briggs Home   George Askew arrives, and Tony shows him into the living room, mentioning that his father seems to be having his usual luck, something George knows to be only an act, a brave face.

When Sefton comes home, Tony leaves the two men to discuss their financial matters—and prospects for the future seem very bleak indeed.

Sefton confesses to George that the deeds which Howells produced for him to see may well have been falsifications, and the land may not even exist.

George is shocked that Sefton could be so easily duped, but Sefton tells him not to dwell on the past or there will be no future for the Briggs family.

Sefton goes to search for some signatory papers that might strengthen his case against Trevor Howells, and Helen comes into the room.

Helen tells George that the relationship between Sefton and Tony is no closer than ever, and George claims that Sefton has changed, "lost a lot of the old bite."

When Helen lets it slip that she is planning to return to Australia, George seems to be concerned about how this will affect her brother.

The Works   Though it is a Sunday, Edwin is there, discarding some old papers from the files, when Tony comes into the office.

They discuss the British workingman's unthinking tolerance of all management, whether it is good or bad.

But things have changed now, contends Edwin, claiming, "We're on the edge of something different."

He tells Tony that Sefton never liked to feel in debt to him, even for some of Edwin's innovative ideas that were adopted by the firm.

Tony seems worried when he suspects that his uncle is tying up some loose ends for the business, including lists he has compiled of what products and clients might be worth salvaging.

Edwin delivers a heartfelt speech on how much he resents Sefton and how he regrets all the years he lost to the printing works in not being true to himself.

Sefton, he claims, could have made him a better man instead of the self-pitying creature he so often has felt.

The Ashton Home   Ian is drinking some bicarbonate of soda to settle his stomach, and Margaret takes this opportunity to tell him that Freda wants to have children.

He complains that Freda will talk to his sister about it but not to her own husband.

In her sister's defence, Margaret explains that it is difficult for men and women to discuss such intimate things—she and John have the same failing—but it is much easier between two women.

The Briggs Home   Sefton is drinking his last bottle of whisky, and he laments to Helen the loss of his permanent supply of liquor…which once flowed like a tap.

He confesses that he was not deprived during the war, but in the same breath he absolves himself of any guilt by claiming that "they were all at it, you know."

In a pensive moment, Sefton tells his sister that he has many acquaintances but very few friends.

When he wonders why Helen is working so hard on the cardigan, she tells him that she wants to finish it before she goes—to Australia.

Sadly, he expresses to Helen how much he will miss having her in this big house because she makes it seem like more of a home.

Helen is touched by that sentiment but also amused, contending that Sefton always has to say what he thinks people want to hear.

The Ashton Home   John and Ian are having a private talk, which comes to a sudden halt when Margaret arrives back from her walk.

After Ian tactfully leaves the room, Margaret informs her husband that she has reached some decisions.

They will look at the house, she stipulates, and if she likes it, they will move in at once.

Furthermore, she states that John must make up his mind about the teachers' course by Christmas because that is when she will resign from her job if he decides not to pursue that vocational path.

John accuses her of issuing an ultimatum, something she is quick to affirm.

Margaret tells him that she has come to the conclusion that men are "basically selfish creatures. They put themselves first and their families afterwards. And if they feel like packing up, they just pack up and go, leaving their responsibilities in the form of children for someone else to look after."

John protests that he is not David, and Margaret acknowledges that, but she also adds that she will not just wait at home for him like Sheila did for David.

She tells him that she can be selfish too, so he must make up his mind pretty soon.

The Briggs Home   Edwin comes in with Helen, and he announces to Sefton that he wants to pay off the mortgage, cryptically stating that he has his reasons.

Sefton reluctantly agrees, and he offers Edwin some scotch from his last bottle, to seal the deal.

Edwin refuses the drink, saying he only came to buy the house, and he leaves without a further word.

Shaken by the rebuff and his financial reverses, Sefton looks mournfully at the diminishing supply of whisky and decides to pour himself another glass.

After Helen leaves the room, Sefton sits by himself in silence, dejected and very much alone with his thoughts.

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