Three separate plotlines run throughout Weekend. Pat and Maureen (but especially Pat) are tired of living in at the hospital and so decide to go flat hunting, Miss Windrup makes a new friend whom she invites around for tea and Jo takes decisive action in order to convince Mr Paton (Duncan Lamont) that he should visit his hospital-bound sister.
The Pat/Maureen relationship has always seemed a slightly uneasy one, given their totally different backgrounds and outlooks. Pat’s privileged and pampered life prior to becoming a nurse is touched upon during the scene where she’s ticked off about the untidy state of her room. Being told that the cleaners are giving it a wide berth until it’s more presentable clearly doesn’t please her – the notion of Pat tidying up her own mess a little bit is plainly anathema to the girl (surely that’s what the cleaners are employed for).
This is the sort of petty rule which makes her very keen to find her own space. The placid Maureen is perfectly content with her lot, but (as always) is happy to go along with her friend. At this point the Pat/Maureen dynamic is operating along previously defined lines (Pat dominant, Maureen submissive) although later on the roles are switched around somewhat.
Maureen, her puritanical Irish upbringing brought to the fore, is shocked to discover that one potential flat share would see them thrown together with three men. Pat’s quite unruffled (and indeed pleasantly curious) about this but Maureen dismisses the notion straight away. What would her mammy say? This scene might be played for laughs but it still helps to reiterate that they live in very different worlds.
The comic tone continues when they meet a representative (Carolyn Hudson) from the gloriously named ‘Fix A Pad’. Pat and Maureen are now finding it difficult to agree on anything – for example, Pat wants to live far away from the hospital whilst Maureen would prefer to be close. And when Pat mentions that she’d like two bedrooms, Maureen is surprised since she’d assumed they’d be sharing. Pat reacts to this with scorn (“what happens to my love life?”). Mind you, Maureen does bat this back quite effectively with “what love life?”
Following this awkward meeting, Pat decides that “the only thing we really had in common was that we were new together” and the pair then go their seperate ways. But although it looks for a while as if their friendship has indeed come to an end, it’s not too surprising to learn that by the end of the episode they’re pals once again. They may have many different interests but Pat comes to realise (thanks to a third party) that this is precisely why their friendship works. Maureen’s opinion on this goes unrecorded (which does tend to reinforce the notion that she’s very much the junior partner here).
It’s interesting how Miss Windrup manages to laser in on Nora Eden (Nancie Jackson). It’s true that she was sitting by herself in the canteen, but it does imply that Miss Windrup has a sixth sense which allows her to sniff out lonely souls like herself. Of a similar age to Miss Windrup, Nora has come back into medical teaching after her offspring moved abroad.
Their initial conversation is quite revealing, not least for the way in which it restates the hollowness of Miss Windrup’s existence away from the hospital. She may bravely agree that her job keeps her busy and fulfilled, but we’re still left with the sense that she really doesn’t have much of a life (later she admits this herself). Her air of sadness and melancholy is reinforced when we see her out shopping, picking up some choice delicacies for her visitor. These establishing scenes leave us with a question – will there be a sting in the tale when Miss Windrup and Nora take afternoon tea?
The answer to that is yes, but it’s a fairly mild one. Nora doesn’t appear at the appointed time, leaving a crestfallen Miss Windrup to clear away the uneaten food. But there’s recompense the next day when Nora shows up with profuse apologies for having missed the date. We then see a pathetically eager Miss Windrup invite her in for a cup of coffee and another heart-to-heart.
As for Jo’s plotline, Elsie Clegg (Maggie Flint) isn’t seriously ill but she becomes increasingly depressed about the fact that her brother never visits her. He’s not too far away, but claims – via a letter – that he simply can’t spare the time to pop in.
This excuse isn’t good enough for Jo and she decides to pay him a visit. Everybody else – Sita, Sandra – thinks this is a bad idea, but she’s adamant. After a bit of a lull, this plotline gives Julie Dawn Cole something to get her teeth into. She plays Jo’s apprehension (when she’s invited into Mr Paton’s house) very nicely. Of course, having Duncan Lamont in the role of Len Paton doesn’t hurt. Always the most solid of actors, the first scene between Jo and Len is quite absorbing. A mystery is also established here. Is Len really too busy to visit the hospital or is there another reason why he can’t bring himself to see his sister?
The knife is twisted just a little more after he finally makes an appearance at St Angela’s, only to promptly vanish before seeing Elsie (leaving behind a pot-plant flower as the only proof that he’d been there at all). Elsie’s already burst into tears several times and when she does so again (after her puppy-like joy at learning that Len has finally come to visit her is dashed) it feels rather affecting. Jo continues to dig away at this puzzle, despite the fact that it’s really nothing to do with her (it’s true that visiting Len late at night to demand answers does feel somewhat unwise).
The resolution to this mystery is an excellent showcase for Lamont and is the dramatic highpoint of an episode that overall still feels quite low-key. But possibly Weekend isn’t the worse for that, as even in a hospital it can’t always be a matter of life and death.