…Yielding Place to New

by John Finch

Episode Number: 52
Director: Richard Doubleday



Edwin Ashton   Colin Douglas
Jean Ashton   Shelagh Fraser
(voice only, not on camera)
David Ashton   Colin Campbell
Sheila Ashton   Coral Atkins
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
Harry Porter   Patrick Troughton
Doris Jackson   Diana Davies
Peter Ashton   Michael Condon
Janet Ashton   Jane Hutcheson
John George Porter   Paul Brett



The Ashton Home   Edwin is sitting in the attic, looking at family mementoes and reminiscing.

He notices the repaired ceiling and ponders the destruction that might have occurred if Robert and Tony had not managed to extinguish the incendiary bomb that struck the house during a German air raid.

A toy gun catches his eyes, and he thinks about Philip and the Spanish Civil War.

Meanwhile, at the foot of the stairs, Margaret asks John when his parents might be expected for Christmas, and John estimates that their train will arrive around nine o'clock.

Margaret goes up to the attic to hurry her father along, as it is time to get ready for their guests.

Still holding the toy rifle, Edwin ruminates on whether this cork gun may have induced Philip to desire a weapon with real bullets.

"Don't you ever wonder why we are what we are?" inquires Edwin, and his daughter answers, "No. I'm too busy being what I am."

When she asks whether he found what he was looking for in the attic, he thinks for a moment and confesses that he does not even remember what it was.

The Briggs Home   Dressed in his pajamas and bathrobe, Sefton comes downstairs to talk with Tony in the living room.

Sefton is saddened by his sister's imminent departure for Australia because, he says, "She does a first-class breakfast," and Tony quips, "I can't think of a nicer obituary."

When Sefton casually remarks that he sold the shop, Tony is astonished, attributing it to what he calls his father's "post-war reinvestment scheme."

Tony decides that this might be a good time to break some news to his father, so he informs him that he found a flat, and Sefton appears to be none too pleased.

Though Sefton declares that Tony would be welcome to stay at home indefinitely, Tony argues that he thinks it is time for him to live elsewhere.

Sefton is visibly upset, claiming that the war brought some people closer together.

"We're different people, you and I," says Tony, and Sefton responds, "Yes, we're that all right."

Sarcastically, Sefton thanks his son for not moving away before Christmas, and Tony tells him that is why he did not accept the invitation to go to Eric Fraser's.

David's and Sheila's Home   David surprises his daughter with a warm hug, and Sheila tells him that she spent the night with Janet because she did not want to awaken him.

When David asks Sheila whether she is making ends meet, she replies that his father has seen to it that they are paid up six months in advance.

She invites him to go back upstairs, and she will bring him breakfast in bed.

He asks her why she spoils him so, and Sheila blushes before answering, "You know why."

The Ashton Home   John is eating his breakfast when Margaret shows him a letter she found on the mat—someone has offered fifty pounds more for the house they wished to buy, so they will not be moving there after all.

Margaret complains that John only talked about submitting a deposit, while never actually following through and doing it.

She asks her husband whether he tendered his resignation yesterday, and John says he will do it today—which just happens to be the last possible day to do so before training college begins, notes Margaret with spite.

"Please stop throwing bricks at me," begs John, to which Margaret responds, "I am not throwing bricks at you. I'm just making sure you don't drop a whole ton of bricks on me."

When John asks rhetorically, "Whatever happened to trust?" Margaret says, "Yes, what happened to it, John?"

She then proceeds to tell her husband that Marjorie left a note, asking her to come around and have a talk with her, a revelation that causes John to look away in guilt and avoid eye contact.

Margaret says she suspects that Marjorie is scheming to ask her to leave John, but he denies it, falsely claiming that he has not seen her for several months.

"Seeing if you can manage to live without each other?" asks Margaret. "Seeing if life with me is bearable?"

She tells John that her father is in the attic, searching for something he cannot even remember, her own husband is wandering around the house, looking lost, and yet she is supposed to find fulfillment in serving his bodily needs.

She declares, "When did anyone ever stop to think that there might—there just might—be a great big empty hole in my life too?"

Just then, Tony comes into the kitchen, and John angrily storms past him and out of the room on his way to work.

Tony and Margaret share a light-hearted discussion on the misfortunes of matrimony, with Margaret counting Tony lucky to have been turned down all three times he has proposed to women.

Edwin comes in, and Tony says he will give him a lift—that is, if he does not mind riding in a car with the hood stuck in the down position on a chilly December morning.

The Hospital   Freda is sitting beside Doris's bed, the baby lying in a bassinet near-by, and the two women chat with what appears to be a re-kindled friendship.

Doris says she will be going to her sister's house on Monday, adding that she regrets having resigned from her nursing job.

When Ian comes into the ward, Freda leaves to collect her coat, so Ian has no choice but to visit with Doris until his wife returns.

Doris informs Ian that Freda told her they are unable to have any children.

Ian confides, "My fault, it seems," and Doris responds, "Oh, not fault. It's just bad luck."

She looks at her own baby and says, "Not like him—not having a father—my fault, that."

Ian tells Doris that he and Freda are reconciled with the idea of a childless marriage, now that they have talked it over at some length.

"Kids hold a marriage together," contends Doris, but Ian says, "Well, I hope other things do too."

Doris asks him what he thinks of her baby son, and Ian tells her he is a fine, strong boy.

Suddenly despondent, Doris wonders what her son will say when he finds out that all the other children have fathers.

Ian advises her not to think of it that way, but she insists that she must face the truth, brooding, "Who am I going to blame it on? Hitler?"

A Liverpool Street   Tony has stopped the automobile because Edwin was experiencing some mild vertigo, the result of a childhood illness that affected his inner ear.

Edwin recalls that he proposed to Tony's Aunt Jean not far from where the car now is parked.

He tells Tony that the Briggs family and the Ashton family were worlds apart, and Sefton and his father did not approve of this miner's son.

When Edwin confesses that he is not a very strong-minded man, Tony calls this "rubbish," pointing out that he stood up to Sefton more than once.

"I've never gone the whole ten rounds, though," says Edwin, adding, "The odd thing is that we know each other better than either of us knows anyone else, families apart. We're very close, in a way, I suppose…or should be."

Edwin tells his nephew that there was an article in last evening's newspaper, reporting that Trevor Howells was arrested for fraud.

This shocks Tony, who knew nothing about it, and he reveals to Edwin that his father invested all of his money in Howells's various enterprises, even going so far as to sell the shop.

The Works   It is Christmas Eve, and Edwin is working at his desk when Sheila enters the office.

She explains that David came home from London last night, "out of the blue."

Sheila admits to being happy to see her husband again, which causes Edwin to grumble, "You're either a saint or a fool. A bit of both maybe."

But Sheila claims that she has only one life to live, and she is stuck with a man…for better or worse.

She contends that David appears to have grown up now, though perhaps it is too late.

Then Sheila gets to the point of her visit, explaining that David seems down and out, and she wonders if his father could help him get back on his feet.

When Edwin promises to try to help David in some way, Sheila thanks him and kisses him on the cheek as she leaves to return home.

Alone with his thoughts, Edwin recalls his confrontation with David in this very room, when he shouted at his son, "Well, it is time you started to bloody well care!"

The mere memory of that agonising moment causes Edwin to tear in half the worksheet that lies in front of him.

Tony has witnessed from the doorway this outburst of emotion, and he wonders aloud if his uncle feels better now.

In a profound and heart-rending declaration, Edwin takes an honest look at himself and is repulsed by what he sees.

"I'm nearly sixty—do you know that?" he says. "I started with seventeen years of poverty, then five years of war. And then twenty years of peace, crawling on my knees to keep a job to bring up five kids. And losing their respect and your Aunt Jean's in the process. And then another war—six years of it—and my wife and two of my boys lost…lost! My God, you'd think I'd have had enough of it, wouldn't you? Wouldn't you? You'd think I'd had enough of it? You'd think I'd be ready to let go."

The Hospital   Freda has brought the new mother some candies, and she teases Doris by persisting in calling her baby boy "Oscar."

"Do you want him?" asks Doris, and Freda is stunned until her friend adds, "To hold."

Freda says no, explaining that she does not think the baby likes her, whereupon Doris claims that he does not like anybody right now because he knows "what a grand start in life he's getting."

When Freda suggests, "He's got you," Doris scoffs at that notion, contending that marriage is the only way out of poverty for someone like her.

Doris asks Freda if she is going to stay with Ian, and she answers with a nervous laugh, "Yes, of course. What makes you think I wouldn't?"

Then, as if to put Freda in her place, Doris alleges that she is scared to hold the baby.

"You're mad that you can't have any," Doris snaps, and Freda says, "That’s cruel, Doris."

But Doris is trying to make a point—impressing upon Freda the need to "face facts and bugger the dreams."

Doris confesses that she watched too many American films, fancying Robert Taylor, doing her hair like Vivien Leigh…and sitting in a sluice room, pretending she was in a fog on Waterloo Bridge.

Turning to her son, Doris tells Freda, "Go on, pick him up. Feel him. He's real."

The Ashton Home   Helen is entertaining little John George by playing checkers with him.

John comes into the living room and wonders where Margaret is.

Helen tells him that Margaret did not say where she was going—only that she would be home before dark, and so she is already overdue.

David's and Sheila's Home   David is eating his breakfast when Sheila and Freda come in, talking about Doris's baby.

Freda blunders by telling David that Doris's son does not have a father, that the man had his way with her and then departed.

Realising that she may have offended her brother with her unthinking comment, she apologises, but David takes the faux pas with no ill feelings.

She wonders if David and his family will be coming to their dad's house, contending that it probably will be the last Christmas celebration there—with Margaret and John looking for a place of their own and Edwin no doubt feeling that the old house is much too large for one person.

Sheila answers the front door, and Edwin comes inside, surprising David with his visit.

Freda follows Sheila upstairs to examine her household distempering project, so Edwin and David are left alone to talk.

David tells his father that the job in London was no good, but he stuck it out for a week or two before returning home with, as he puts it, his tail between his legs.

Edwin's look of disapproval causes David to confess that he feels worthless but cannot seem to break the bad news to Sheila—he cannot bear to play that old record again.

He admits, too, that he nearly did not come back home for Christmas.

When David tries to determine whether it is just bad luck or if the problem lies within himself, Edwin becomes quite frank with his prodigal son.

"Maybe it was because you always felt you could put that record on, the one that says you tried when you didn't, and sorry when you don't really mean it. Maybe it's because there's always been somebody who'd listen, like I'm listening now."

With growing intensity, he continues, "And if this was an empty chair—and it will be one day—what would you do then? I'll tell you one thing you could do. You could try sitting in it…try listening to Sheila, for a start. Try looking at the world through somebody else's eyes instead of just your own."

When David says, "You think I haven't," his father shouts, "Then try a bit damned harder!"

David tries to interrupt, but Edwin snaps, "Shut up! Let me finish. I've earned the right to speak my mind to you."

He presents his final offer to his son, describing it as the best chance David ever had, but stipulating, "After that, there's nothing."

"After that," he repeats, "you're going to be on your own, my son."

The Briggs Home   Helen informs Sefton that Mrs. Foster's brother came around this morning, wishing to deal in the black market.

When Sefton says Harry Foster is a crook, exploiting war scarcities for profit, Helen responds, "The pot calling the kettle black, if you ask me."

Sefton contends that there is a world of difference between them, inasmuch as he does not believe in war, always having been a Chamberlain man.

Helen asks if he would have been satisfied with Hitler, and Sefton says the British could have accommodated him in a common struggle against the Russians.

But what about Belsen, Auschwitz, and the other death camps, she wonders, and Sefton replies that the Jerries would have thrown Hitler out eventually.

The German masters, he adds, only wanted things to go on as they were, as did he himself.

Helen cynically agrees that many people "with a bank balance and a fair share of the good things of life" wanted that too, but now Sefton has lost everything.

Sefton wonders who told her that, and Helen explains that she read about Howells in the newspaper, but Sefton insists that he is not exactly penniless.

She asks if the house will have to be sold, and her brother concedes that it will.

With a stiff upper lip, Sefton contends that he cannot complain about simply running into a bit of bad luck.

Life is a gamble, he explains, "Being alive, living, that's gambling all the time."

Tony comes in and hands his father a present for Christmas—a bottle of scotch.

Sefton accepts it gladly but now realises that Tony must have learned about his financial reverses.

Tony wishes his father had told him sooner, as he may have been able to help, to which Sefton responds, "To be perfectly frank, it didn't occur to me that you might want to help."

The Ashton Home   Margaret arrives home, and John informs her that Edwin is at Sheila's to see David and that his father is in the kitchen, though his mother—to Margaret's certain relief—has gone to spend Christmas with his Aunt Hilda.

John George can be heard upstairs, wide awake, waiting for Santa Claus.

John assures his wife that he submitted his resignation today, and Mr. Temple told him the job still would be there after Christmas, should he change his mind.

"Anyway, I'm glad it wasn't too final," grumbles Margaret. "Gives you the option, doesn't it?"

In the kitchen, Margaret greets her father-in-law, who explains to her that this is the first Christmas that he and Celia have not been together since they were married.

Margaret becomes pensive, stating, "All those things you feel—or you have felt—were there, and one day you'd enjoy them to the full. And suddenly the time comes that you realise that you won't."

Harry responds that such disappointments do not get any easier to bear with the passing of years, except you do learn to live with regret.

Margaret laments that she had only four months with John before he went off to war, and Harry says it was much the same for his generation.

"Make the best of it, is that all we can do?" she asks, and Harry replies, "Oh, go on learning," whereupon Margaret responds, "Ah, but it's not enough, is it? One life we get, that's all…just one."

The next morning, at daybreak, the piercing sound of John George's Christmas gift, a toy trumpet, can be heard throughout the household.

John still is in bed, and Margaret sits down beside him for a talk.

When she mentions Marjorie's recent comment about him, John correctly surmises that his wife went to see her yesterday.

The talk comes to nothing, however, being interrupted by John George's loud playing of his toy trumpet, which causes Margaret to hurry from the bedroom to silence him before he awakens the entire neighbourhood.

Meanwhile, up in the attic, Edwin is thinking back upon some difficult times, when he argued with David about trying harder in life, and when he opened up his tortured soul to Jean after Robert's loss at sea.

Having successfully confiscated the offending musical instrument, Margaret goes into the living room, where she exchanges Christmas greetings with her father-in-law.

Harry confesses that he did not sleep very well, nor does he ever, and he remembers walking to his first job at dawn.

"I seem to have been caught all my life in that moment," he muses, "walking towards something that never happened."

He adds that John Louis Stevenson once wrote that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.

"There's always something to hope for," he assures Margaret, but she coldly responds, "Is there?"

"Well, if I can say there is at my great age," he quips, "surely you can too."

The Briggs Home   Sefton and Tony are waiting for Helen to get ready, prior to leaving for the Christmas celebration at Edwin's house.

Though Sefton feels embarrassed by his financial setbacks, Tony tells his father that Edwin has suffered too much humiliation of his own to make capital of someone else's misfortune.

Tony also tells Sefton that Edwin is behaving strangely, seemingly wanting to put his house in order.

Edwin has given David half of his shares, Tony reveals, and he has asked Tony to find a position for David on the payroll.

Tony has agreed to take David on, strictly on a training basis and at the lowest salary.

When Sefton confesses that he has lost Tony's inheritance, Tony merely laughs it off, claiming, "I'll provide for myself, thank you…I'll take my chance with the others."

Regarding his son's ingratitude as a personal affront, Sefton wonders sarcastically if providing for one's family is a sin.

At this, Tony paraphrases a line of poetry that he learnt in college, something about "the right deed for the wrong reason."

The Ashton Home   Edwin and Margaret are upstairs, readying themselves for the Christmas party, and David and Sheila already are waiting in the living room.

As John comes into the bedroom, Edwin leaves but not before telling Margaret that he left a Christmas present for her.

"Good heavens," says Margaret to her husband when she opens the envelope. "It's the deeds to this house."

Freda is in the kitchen, slicing vegetables, and she informs Sheila that Doris offered to give her the baby yesterday.

When Sheila asks if she accepted, Freda answers no, that Ian will be putting Doris in touch with the adoption society instead.

Sheila suspects that snobbery was involved in their decision—not wanting the baby because it is Doris's progeny, and this Freda cannot refute very convincingly.

In the living room, David wants assurance that he will not be chained to the office all the time, and Tony confirms that there will be quite a few clients to visit.

Sefton tells Harry that he does not like milestones like Christmas, preferring to just keep on walking.

"Travelling hopefully," suggests Harry in deference to Stevenson, and Sefton responds, "Hopefully?" and, with a look to Tony, adds, "Yes, I suppose that's it, really."

Upstairs, Margaret thanks her father for the thoughtful gift but wonders where he will be moving, something he wishes to discuss at a later time.

John comes into the living room, wishing merry Christmas to everyone, and his father beckons him over to say that he has decided to push off after dinner instead of staying the night.

When John asks why, Harry tells him that Celia and Aunt Hilda may not get on, adding, "and…well, you know," to which John nods a lifetime of understanding.

Meanwhile, Freda is deep in thought until Margaret awakens her from the daydream to say that there is much work yet to be done.

The Hospital   Doris is cradling the baby lovingly in her arms.

The Ashton Home   All are seated at the table, following the turkey dinner, when Sefton enters and offers the men his few remaining cigars.

Wistfully, he states, "There aren't any more where these came from," and Edwin gazes at his brother-in-law, as if from an entirely new perspective.

In the kitchen, Margaret tells her husband that she will be very rude if her Uncle Sefton decides to make a speech.

Around the table, the men are savouring Sefton's expensive cigars when Margaret comes back in with clean glasses, and drinks are poured.

Sefton asks Edwin, as host, if he has any objection to his offering a Christmas toast, and Edwin invites him to proceed.

Rising to his feet, Sefton proclaims, "To those we have known in Christmases past, no longer with us…" whereupon Margaret stands up and hurries from the room.

John follows her to offer some comfort, and Sefton turns to Edwin with the contrite words, "I said the wrong thing, didn't I?"

But Edwin supports him, avowing, "No, Sefton, not the wrong thing."

Upstairs, Margaret tells John that what Sefton said was sincere and hurt her in the right way.

It reminded her of their departed loved ones—Philip, Robert, Mum—like missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

She says, "One day, I'll be dead and join all the other pieces, and…well, maybe it'll fit together and make some sort of sense, somehow."

Margaret explains to her husband that she has been turned in upon herself, upon her own pain.

She confesses that she simply refused to accept the fact that they were not the same two people who got married all those years ago.

That is what the war did for them, she contends: separation, uncertainties, fears, worries, and life-wasting emptiness, all packed into these few years, until you just scream for it to end—waste upon waste upon waste.

Recalling the Christmas before John went to France, she tells him, "You never came back to me, John," to which he responds, "Some of me did…only when I came, you weren't here."

Margaret confides that she cannot be certain that she was in love with Michael, and John asserts much the same for his relationship with Marjorie.

That is when Margaret informs her husband that Marjorie will not take him unless she lets go.

"Do you want to let go?" he asks, and she replies, "No," adding, "I told her that."

Margaret affirms that, although she certainly would not want him to go through the rest of his life thinking he missed something important, her love for him is even stronger.

John contends that she is important to him, just as his mother is important to his father, a statement that amuses Margaret as being "a lovely comparison."

He now realises, says John, that caring is all there is, not being the only jigsaw piece on the board.

"You care for me?" asks Margaret. "And you'd stay on those terms?"

He acknowledges that he does and he would, adding that he only cares for Marjorie insofar as he sympathises with her loneliness.

Margaret smiles, remembering what someone once said to her, that the moment you start to care about anything—a dog even—there is pain somewhere at the end of it.

(For obvious reasons, she chooses not to disclose that the source of this statement was Michael Armstrong.)

Downstairs, the Christmas gathering has ended, and the guests are preparing to depart.

Ian must go to work, so he is giving David and Sheila a lift to their house.

Tony will drop Helen off and then take Freda and Harry out, possibly for a drink.

This exodus leaves patriarchs Edwin and Sefton to themselves in the living room.

It is the first Christmas of peace in six years, they note, an historic occasion.

Edwin declares that they did not think of peace as an historic occasion six years ago—merely taking it for granted after the War to End All Wars.

He remembers being out in the garden with Philip just before Chamberlain "said his bit," and Edwin claims that Philip never got over Spain.

Sefton acknowledges that things turned out very badly in his business dealings with Howells.

That is one thing they have in common, he contends: "The best we've had, you and I, it's in the past now, isn't it?"

They have shared some of the same memories, he says, experienced the same bad times, and both of them made a bit of a mark on life, one way or the other.

But Edwin is not so sure, lamenting that he went wrong somewhere—Jean seemed to know where—so he has been trying to tie up the loose ends.

He will need to find a small place for himself now, he says, and Sefton, being in a similar situation, wonders whether they might share a flat.

Both men see the folly in that suggestion, knowing that they are too different to stay in each other's company for very long.

Edwin tells his brother-in-law that he burned his old letters to Jean, stating that his words seemed to have been written by a stranger.

He also travelled back to his boyhood home, where he was brought up, but he saw nothing of himself there either.

Then he reveals that he found in the attic an old letter of resignation that he wrote to Sefton twenty-five years ago but never delivered.

It would have been a resignation on principle, standing up for an employee named Edwards, whom Sefton fired because he answered back.

Sefton declares, "I'm the man I was brought up to be," but Edwin responds, "I wish I could say that, Sefton. By God, I do."

When Sefton wonders if Edwin blames him for that, Edwin tells him, "Partly…myself mostly."

"But that's all over and done with," he continues. "It's the future that counts. This is ours—we set it up years ago, and here it is. Better make the most of it, hadn't we?"

Puffing on their cigars, they listen to the King's Christmas message, which casts a hopeful look toward the future, as the world is transfigured after six long years of strife and fear.

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