Angels – Round The Clock (6th April 1976)

a.jpg

The opening episode of series two, Round The Clock reintroduces us to all the S1 regulars quickly and effectively.  Within the first few minutes we see Pat and Maureen preparing for another working day (with Maureen also looking forward to a party in the evening), the effervescent Jo freewheeling down the corridor, poor Shirley enjoying a solitary lunchtime drink and Sita dishing out a dollop of sympathy to Mrs Andrews (Norma Andrews).

As the episode progresses, various threads are developed although two – Sita/Mrs Andrews and Shirley – dominate.  From her first scene, there’s a tense brittleness to Mrs Andrews, which is understandable after we learn that her young son, Ian (Stefan Gates), has been rushed to hospital with suspected meningitis.  Red-eyed and frantic with worry, she demands to have all the facts as quickly as possible.  But Sita prefers to be quite non-committal with her comments.

The unfortunate upshot is that Ian initially seems to be making a recovery, but this is only a temporary respite as he then takes a turn for the worse.  One of the interesting aspects of Round The Clock is observing which Angels have changed from series one.  Sita certainly seems to be a little different from the passive character she was then – when confronted about her behaviour, she remains fairly unrepentant (although her colleagues, such as Pat, are quick to pass unfavourable judgement out of her earshot).

It’s an interesting talking point – was Sita protecting Mrs Andrews by not telling her everything or simply making her agony (when she finally learnt the truth about Ian’s condition) even more painful?  There’s no definite answer to this, and Adele Rose’s script – to its credit – doesn’t plump for either side. Indeed, later on Mrs Andrews decides that Sita wasn’t at fault anyway, so this dramatic flashpoint is resolved in a low-key manner.

Mrs Andrews’ scenes in the children’s ward are quite haunting. Although we see the odd jolly child (with nothing worse than a broken leg) there’s something quite melancholy about this area, despite the bright posters and collection of toys. This plotline has no closure – although we’re told that most children make a full recovery, there’s the possibility that Ian may not.

Elsewhere, Shirley is working on a busy female ward.  Some of the patients, such as Mrs McCartney (Peggy Aitchison) are simply there for a spot of colour (she likes to scoff chocolates and call everyone “ducks”).  Mrs Fitch (June Brown) is also quite peripheral, but the way she clashes with Shirley is used to highlight the fact that Staff Nurse Brent isn’t her normal, efficient self.

Brown plays to type as a complaining sort (complete with her trademark droning voice) whilst it’s amusing that Mr Fitch (Alec Linstead) also has a similar tone. Being attacked by them on both sides means it’s not surprising that Shirley eventually loses her patience. Mild though her outburst is, this moment of crisis allows Sister Young to step in and have a heart to heart with her.

If Sita has changed since series one, then at this point it doesn’t appear there’s been any progress with Shirley.  In the pub she was as isolated as ever, sitting by herself whilst the rest of the world seemed to having a much better time.  She confesses to Sister Young that she still has no social life and no friends (although she does at least share a table in the canteen with Jo and Sita without the other two recoiling, so there’s been some progress there).

Shirley’s despair seeps out of the screen yet again, but there is a positive outcome, professionally at least, as she’s encouraged to take a geriatrics course.  This would seem to be something that most nurses (such as Jo) would avoid, but Shirley is very keen.  We’ll see this theme developed later in the season.

Jo isn’t given a great deal of screentime in this opening episode. Mainly she’s present to serve as a cool counsel for the unusually hot-headed Sita.  As for Pat and Maureen, Maureen’s suddenly become something of a party animal (closing the episode jiving with a George Best lookalike in the pub) whilst the previously flighty Pat has gained a dollop of common sense.

I liked the scene with Pat and an unnamed student nurse in the canteen.  The young nurse confided that she was on the verge of quitting, so Pat – who nearly did the same thing last year – gave her a pep talk.  Amusingly, the young nurse wasn’t at all convinced by Pat’s impassioned speech! That’s a nice touch, which shows that the series wasn’t always content to take the obvious or neat route.

a8.jpg

Angels – Commitment (8th December 1975)

Commitment is split between the action on a female ward and the end of episode prize-giving, where two of our Angels – Ruth and Shirley – are receiving their SRN badges following three long years of study. And as the episode title implies, several of the regulars are considering their futures ….

Today’s ward activity is very bustling, with numerous patients all jostling for position. Chief amongst these is Mrs Ennis (Susan Field), a remarkably cantankerous type. Her highly objectionable personality clashes with Pat’s no-nonsense attitude and it isn’t long before the sparks start to fly in an entertaining fashion.

The chief flashpoint occurs when Mrs Ennis accuses Maureen of stealing her sponge bag. Maureen later finds it, but Mrs Ennis is far from convinced (declaring that Maureen simply had a crisis of confidence and returned it). This is the final straw for Pat who then gives Mrs Ennis both barrels.

Never the diplomat, Pat tells Mrs Ennis that she’s “really the most ungreateful, diabolical old bitch it’s ever been my misfortunate to meet”. Mrs Ennis, understandably, reacts in horror to this – but mainly because she’s been called old!

This one incident is enough to convince Pat that nursing isn’t for her, but the affable and tolerant chief tutor, Mr Farrar (Jeremy Wilkin), is able to talk her back from making any hasty moves. As touched upon before with other guest actors, it’s a pity he didn’t feature on a regular basis. Farrar’s lengthy one-on-one meeting with Pat (albeit broken up with a brief cutaway between Sister Young and Miss Windrup) places Pat in the centre of the action for once.

To begin with, I wondered why Miss Windrup wasn’t the one discussing Pat’s future with her. But the cutaway makes it plain that she continues to have a very low opinion of Pat (although she’s very much in the minority). The clash between tradition and modernity is another episode theme – as you might expect, Miss Windrup favours order and method (a loose cannon like Pat is anathema to her) whilst Mr Farrar is more understanding and therefore able to see that once the rough edges have been rubbed off there might be a more than decent nurse underneath.

If Mrs Ennis exists in the narrative mainly to generate a reason for Pat to question her future, then another patient provides a similar service for Maureen (although in not such a dramatic way). This other encounter makes Maureen consider the possibilities of becoming a home visitor, although as Miss Windrup tells her, she’s got years ahead of her to consider all the possibilities.

The contrast between Maureen (deeply committed to nursing) and Pat (deeply ambivalent) couldn’t be more striking. With Pat still looking unhappy as the episode closes, at this point you might have laid money on the fact that – out of the six – she’d be the one least likely to return for the second series.

With the two youngest Angels both considering their future, what of the older ones? There’s no movement from either Jo and Sita (although Jo is wistfully regretful that she’s yet to receive her SRN badge). Shirley is fully committed – her desire to work a split shift on Christmas Day speaks volumes for the fact that outside of nursing her life remains very undeveloped.

Although Ruth declares that she could earn much more as a secretary, her desire to remain a nurse seems strong. But since Lesley Dunlop decided against returning for the second series, Ruth’s story has come to an end. Was this known at the time the episode was scripted? Possibly not, as things seem very open-ended for her, with no suggestion that she wouldn’t be remaining at St Angela’s.

Sister Hammond (Pamela Duncan) is another who favours tradition (bunting in the prize-giving hall very much appeals to her). However, once she and Miss Windrup have partaken of a few sherries, both are able to turn back the clock and reminisce about their younger, more care-free days. Especially Miss Windrup (with a gobsmacked Jo looking on!).

Tradition continues to be upheld at the prize-giving, with the national anthem played prior to proceedings whilst the arrival of Ruth and Shirley’s parents serves as another character-defining moment. Only Shirley’s mother is present (the absence of her father clearly causes her some hurt) and whilst the pair converse politely, they don’t seem to have an especially warm relationship (although to be fair, Mrs Brent does seem pleased after Shirley receives her badge and certificate). Conversely, Ruth’s parents are both present and correct and are obviously incredibly proud of their daughter’s achievement.

An interesting nugget of trivia (thank you, the 1977 Angels annual) is that Shirley’s mother was played by Clare Clifford’s real mother, Nancy Gower.

With Michael E. Briant throwing in some unusual camera shots, Commitment closes the first series strongly. Coming to this run of episodes fresh, what’s remarkable is just how consistent they’ve been, with only a few minor dips along the way. This bodes well for series two.

Angels – Confrontation (1st December 1975)

An argument between Sister Young (Nadia Catouse) and head porter Harry Jamieson (Bill Owen) quickly escalates into a full-blown crisis after he instructs all the porters to down tools. Ruth, present during the original incident, then finds herself with severely divided loyalties ….

Having briefly appeared in On The Mat, Harry is much more central to this story. The episode opens in his office, which is a treasure trove of trinkets. A model cenotaph on his desk suggests that he had wartime experience (confirmed later on after he mentions Tobruk) whilst a record player is cued up with foreign language lessons. At first it appears that he’s doing a little extra cramming for his holidays, but it’s then explained that due to the variety of nationalities working at the hospital (many of whom can’t speak English) he has to keep abreast of a variety of languages.

He’s clearly popular with the younger nurses – Pat and Maureen pop in to have a brief chat and a sweet – but his relationship with the more senior staff, such as Sister Young, is trickier. Anne Valery’s script develops how the various departments – especially the nurses and porters – can find themselves locked into bitter disputes.

Sister Young is quick to blame the porters when anything goes wrong, whilst Harry can justifiably claim that if the correct procedures aren’t followed then the whole system collapses. His military background (as an NCO?) is put to good use as he efficiently marshals the bewildering number of forms required to keep the hospital running. Possibly old military habits (a disdain for some of his superiors) can be seen in the way he crosses swords with Sister Young. He’s certainly unafraid to speak his mind and stand his ground.

Ruth and Claire were at each other’s throats in P.J Hammond’s Initiation, but we’re back to a more normal relationship today – cordial, but with occasional irritated barbs (Ruth once again referring to her colleague as surly Shirley). The fact they’re both keen to nab the Staff Nurse job on Sister Young’s ward is obviously going to bring them into conflict – although initially this is done in a comic way (both attempting to butter the Sister up by offering her cups of tea or watering her flowers ….)

It’s only when Ruth finds herself having to choose between Sister Young and Harry that the situation turns rather more dramatic. If Ruth doesn’t side with her nursing superior then the path would presuambly be left open for Shirley.

But there seems to be no doubt who was in the right (Harry) with Sister Young admitting in private that her temper often gets the better of her (her blazing confrontation with Harry is an episode highlight). Given this, the fact she still expected Ruth to back her up seems a little unfair. To deepen the complexities, it’s suggested that Sister Young’s recent promotion request was blocked because she stood up for one of her colleagues (this example of her good nature is then used as a lever in order to persuade Ruth to stand with her superior).

Ruth’s strong union links have been stressed before, so despite Sister Young holding the key to her possible promotion, it was always likely she would plump for Harry’s side. But even though she does so in the end, Ruth then bitterly declares that she’s been manipulated for other people’s ends. Harry, like Sister Young, seems to be blameless in this – both are simply hot-headed individuals who weren’t prepared to back down – so maybe the union rep, Tom Goddard (Harry Landis), could be the villain.

But that’s not really the case. Goddard is keen to press for Sister Young to receive an official reprimand (even though this will impact her already shaky promotion prospects) but he sees this as safeguarding their position in future disputes. Goddard certainly isn’t the raging union militant we sometimes see in seventies dramas.

Pat and Maureen are now an integral part of the ward, having quickly settled down from their initial, hesitant steps. Pat’s still a little shaky in some areas, although she gets little sympathy from Sister Young (still smarting from her bruising reprimand).

For the first time, a patient – Mrs White (Rita Webb) – returns for a second episode. There’s a slight mystery here, since something seems to have happened to her husband. We’re never told what precisely, simply that he won’t be home to meet her when she’s discharged. Is he away on work, has he left her or has he died? A strange moment. It’s equally strange that Mrs White is put to work after the porters go on strike. Watching one of the patients scrub the floors (even though it clearly cheers her up) is an oddity.

Although Ruth’s choice is the key part of the episode, Bill Owen’s performance makes it memorable. Like a number of other performers during the first series, it’s a shame his time on Angels was so limited.

Angels – Linda (24th November 1975)

It’s a momentous day for Pat and Maureen as they’re let loose on the wards for the first time. Meanwhile, Staff Nurse Linda Hollis finds that juggling her career and her marriage is becoming increasingly impossible ….

The second script by Deborah Mortimer, it’s also the second (and apparently last) to feature Janina Faye as Linda (possibly she was Mortimer’s creation). Long-term viewers who had already witnessed the first part of her story from episode four will be rewarded here, since the already established theme – her husband’s intolerance towards her career – is considerably developed.

Our first sight of Brian Hollis (Christopher Strauli) isn’t an encouraging one. He’s been forced to entertain their friends at the pub (Linda is working late) and whilst he clearly possesses a light charm, it’s also fairly brittle. These early scenes set the tone – Brian, having resigned from his job in order to study architecture, is reliant on the money Linda brings in but resents both this and the fact that she isn’t always available on tap.

The real flashpoint occurs when Linda agrees to work a split shift, with the result that she won’t be able to accompany Brian to a party. Intriguingly, the possibility is floated that she could have declined (Linda was asked if she’d already made plans) but the implication is that she elected to prioritise the hospital over her husband. If so, was it the right choice? Had Linda declined to work late then possibly somebody else could have done it, but we’ll never know for sure.

It’s hard to sympathise with Brian though, mainly because he’s so whiny and petulant. When, after one particularly blazing row, Linda suggests he leaves their basement flat, it’s notable how his face crumples like a child.

Nursing and marriage. It seems to be that you can do one but not both. Linda’s mother (played by Jessie Evans) makes this point very forcibly, but it’s also commented upon by Maureen and Pat. Pat, after observing that not many nurses are married, wonders if the point is significant (Maureen thinks not, but then it has been established that she’s maybe not the deepest thinker).

There’s an intriguing callback to Off Duty when Pat muses that the pair of them might end up as a couple of old spinsters stuck in a flat (like Sister Easby, agrees Maureen). Sister Easby’s relationship with Beryl in Off Duty could easily be taken as a lesbian coupling – but the tone of the exchange here suggests that neither Maureen or Pat have considered this. An example of their naivety maybe? Although the general theme of this episode does suggest that the spectre of middle-aged nurses married to their careers isn’t uncommon.

The histrionics between Linda and Brian might be today’s major plotline, but Pat and Maureen’s first faltering steps as nurses are also of considerable interest. Luckily they’ve got the capable Jo to keep an eye on them – instructing a slightly nonplussed Pat about the best way to deal with a bedpan, for example.

Patient interaction is fairly minimal today, although the formidable Rita Webb as Mrs White certainly makes an impression. From the opening few seconds it’s plain that Mrs White is a character (she loudly decides that tomorrow she’d rather enjoy toad in the hole for dinner). A quaking Maureen has to later give her a bed bath. After learning that it’s her first day Mrs White has a little cackle, but also reveals herself to be a friendly sort, putting the nervous Maureen at her ease.

George Tovey, as Mr White, has even less screentime but still manages to vividly bring his character to life (I love the way that Mr White chomps his way through a bunch of grapes, which he presuambly brought for his wife!) But Tovey’s major contribution occurs when Mr White asks Linda how long it’ll be before his wife is able to come home. He tells her that’s where she should be (he’s finding it increasingly difficult to cope by himself). It’s fairly obvious that this exchange exists in order to add a little more fuel to the Linda/Brian fire.

That’s resolved by Brian moving out – for the moment – and Linda electing to take a midwifery course, thereby embedding herself even further into her career. So the question about whether a happy balance between nursing and marriage can be struck remains unresolved – Linda chooses to pursue her job at the expense of her personal relationship.

Possibly this is only temporary or it might be that she has doomed herself to a life of spinsterhood. Thirteen episodes in, it does seem significant that she’s the only married nurse we’ve encountered so far (and whilst her marriage isn’t quite dead, it’s certainly on the critical list).

Angels – Casualty (10th November 1975)

cas 1

The new intake are approaching the end of their initial twelve week training period – which means they’ll soon be free to roam the wards and face real patients. This, suggests Miss Windrup, will come as a shock to some and their lack of life experience will turn out to be a problem. It’s certainly true that when we first drop in on them today, many are larking about like schoolkids.

But although the training room is the scene of high jinks, there are a few quiet corners. In one, Pat and Maureen are debating the future. Pat is chomping at the bit to get onto the wards whilst Maureen is more cautious. Both have expressed these viewpoints previously, so the training regime doesn’t appear to have changed their initial positions at all. Pat regards most of their training as pointless and simply wants to get stuck in whilst Maureen is keen to check and recheck every step of the way. Incidentally, Miss Windrup has a new nickname (Windy). Fairly obvious really, but it makes a change from Windbag.

Casualty gives us an insight into areas of the hospital we haven’t seen before. The Casualty department for one – although the familar face of Sita makes it a welcoming environment (I’m not sure why, but there’s something mildly amusing about the way she cheerfully speaks to a chap on crutches).

Another first is the fact that we ride out with an ambulance. A film sequence on the high street (featuring an RTA) gives us the opportunity to see the ambulance men at work. It’s notable that when they’re dealing with the patient they don’t speak at all. Also, one of them isn’t at all interested in conversing with the well spoken lady who witnessed the accident and phoned for the ambulance. The clear inference is that how the accident happened isn’t of interest to them (that’s a police matter) wheras dealing with the result of the crash is.

A few familar faces pop up in the Casualty department, such as Angela Crow as Miss Pritchett. She provides a breathing space between the more serious cases (she’s got a dicky ankle) whilst Christopher Coll’s brusque, questioning doctor is a perfect example of the way a doctor in that environment works (where an immediate diagnosis is the order of the day).

Another spot of light relief is provided by Mr Dooley (Allan McClelland). A drunken Irishman who fell into the fire and burnt his backside, he arrives at St Angela’s smeared with an ointment for burns which his landlady had kept since the Blitz ….

The episode intercuts between the realities of the Casualty department with the training room, where the stakes are obviously much lower. The sight of Pat enthusiastically bandaging up Maureen has a comic feel, add this to Miss Windrup’s school-marmish attitude (she reacts in horror at Pat’s stylish shoes) and it’s easy to see why some of the intake find it hard to take things too seriously.

The RTA victim, Mr Morton (Michael Burrell), eventually comes around. Physically he doesn’t appear to be too bad, but the fact he takes angina tablets is a concern. The doctors want to keep an eye on him for a while but he’s far from keen (he has a business to look after). Up to this point Casualty has flitted between several patients who provide a little dash of colour but little else, before the episode settles on Mr Morton. His case feels much more substantial, especially since there’s a mystery at the heart of it (just why did he crash his car?)

The ever-cheerful Sita (the only one of the ward students to feature in this episode) attempts to convince him that a stay in hospital is something of a treat. “You’ll have your meals served for you, hot drinks, televison, everything”. Sounds enticing!

Mr Morton’s decision to ignore the advice of the doctors and go home is the late dramatic highlight of the episode, especially since he collapses with a cardiac arrest as soon as he leaves.

Several later scenes with him in the resus room are played in complete silence. These are striking and help to effectively close an episode that, whilst not the strongest from the first run, still contains a fair few points of interest.

cas 2

Angels – Saturday Night (3rd November 1975)

night 01

Following directly on from the previous episode, Saturday Night centres around a party attended by Jo and Shirley. As you might expect it’s something of an exercise in awkwardness for Shirley – although the uncomfortable feeling starts long before she reaches the party.

At home, picking out the clothes she’s going to wear, there’s a strong sense of just how out of practice she is with this social interaction lark. Her eventual choice – pretty formal – confirms this (especially after we observe how casually Jo is attired).

When we first see the party flat – all groovy posters and copyright-free library music – it’s totally bereft of party-goers, which is something that concerns the three friends who’ve organised the shindig (they include Elizabeth Adare, best known for The Tomorrow People). They needn’t have worried though, as soon the joint is jumping ….

Across the course of the episode we meet three men – Brad (Brian Anthony), Gordon (Colin Higgins) and Mark (Graham Faulkner) – all of whom might be potential partners for three of our Angels. Are any of them suitable? Hmm, let’s see.

Brad rates highest on the irritant scale. Lasering in on Jo like a heat-seeking missile, he’s monumentally rude to everyone else – especially Gordon (who like most of the party-goers is training to be a nurse). One of the few non-medical staff at the party, Brad expresses incredulity that a man could want to be a nurse (jokes about having to wear stockings and homosexuality then follow).

Although Jo is quick to spring to Gordon’s defence, she does later admit that male nurses can be a bit off-putting. Her example – their hands seem so large when handling babies – is a little odd though.

Gordon couldn’t be more different from Brad. Quiet and reserved, he seems like the ideal companion for Shirley. It would at least save her from hovering around the fringes of other people’s conversations, looking lonely and left out. Shirley attempts to make conversation with Gordon, but it’s hard going at first. But then he’s in a pretty depressed state, having just returned from a funeral, so the jolly atmosphere of a party isn’t probably the ideal place for him. The two misfits do eventually bond though, united in their outsider status.

Meanwhile back at the hospital, Sita finds herself being chatted up by Dr Mark. Eschewing the party, Sita plans to spend a quiet night writing a letter home to her parents and relaxing by herself in the common room. But Mark has other ideas ….

If the sight of Shirley at the party generates a feeling of awkardness then so does the initial meeting between Sita and Mark. As previously seen, Sita is a nice, courteous and placid girl who therefore is totally unable to tell Mark to buzz off. He’s not downhearted by her initial lack of response though and ploughs on regardless. My favourite line of his has to be “has anyone ever told you what fabulous hair you’ve got?”

During Mark’s cross-examination we learn something of Sita’s background (she arrived with her family four years ago from Uganda). The revelation that Sita has never been to a party astounds Mark (by this point I was beginning to warm to him. Pushy he might be, but he also seemed genuinely interested in Sita as a person). This era of drama often featured young ethnic characters prevented from sampling the delights of Western civilisation by their parents, but it’s much more unusual for the youngster to be self-regulating, as Sita is.

Pat and Maureen attempt to get to the party, but it’s a cursed journey for them. They arrive at the train station, leave to get a bottle for the party, come back to the train station, leave again to go back to the off licence where Pat left her purse, come back to the train station, realise they’ve lost the address, wander about for ages, etc, etc.

Both Jo and Shirley receive knock-backs. Jo’s clearly well shot of the loathsome Brad but Gordon’s decision to pretend that his evening’s heart to heart with Shirley never happened feels much more significant. For Shirley, who rarely finds herself with male company, it’s an obvious blow. Her initial tears and later stony face (as she observes the newly arrived Sita and Mark) hammers this point home.

With no hospital action (we do see some beds, but no patients) Saturday Night continues to develop the characters of the regulars. Shirley and Sita benefit the most – since both are reserved and private people there’s obviously more to work with. Jo enjoys a decent slice of the narrative even if we don’t learn anything new about her, whilst poor Maureen and Pat, relegated to the comedy subplot, mainly reinforce their already established personas.

night 02

Angels – On The Mat (20th October 1975)

a1

On The Mat opens at Jo and Ruth’s flat. As before, it’s a delightfully dishevelled environment (the attentive viewer can amuse themselves by observing the various knick knacks and posters scattered about). Their conversation ranges from the cruelty of keeping houseplants, Ruth’s infatuation with Dr Crozier (we may not actually see him again, but it’s a nice callback to the previous episode) to her old friendship with Clare Truman (Cheryl Hall). Clare is a former nurse who – post pregnancy – is now a patient at St Angela’s.

The way the camera lingers over a picture of Ruth and Clare (although we didn’t know who she was at that point) suggests she may turn out to be important. That’s the case and Len Rush’s script then proceeds to spell it out. Ruth has fond memories of her former flatmate (telling Jo she was the life and soul of every party, as well as a radical supporter of nurse’s rights). Ruth goes on to say that Clare’s still a cheerful type, but we then cross to the hospital to observe a very unhappy-looking Clare.

So within the first few minutes the disconnect between Ruth’s impression of her old friend and the reality is made plain. Another observation about this first scene, minor though it is, is that both Jo and Ruth look quite different with their hair down. Anyway, pressing on …

The pair elect to walk to work. Their journey takes them past the Thames with Julia Smith’s direction at this point being rather noteworthy. A film insert like this (which doesn’t advance the story) might be seen as an indulgence, but so is the fact that Smith elected to use some type of crane for a swooping tracking shot. Double indulgence maybe, but it helps to give the scene a little extra gloss.

Clare’s the ideal that Ruth aspires to – marriage, a baby, loving husband, nice house – except the audience knows that the cracks are already showing. She’s clearly a woman of means, demonstrated by the fact she has a private room. Different times, but the way Clare casually lights up a cigarette – with her baby only a few feet away – was slightly jarring.

The contrast between Clare’s room (with its air of angst) and the main ward is marked. There, everyone’s smiling: the patients, the nurses and maybe also – when they stop crying – the babies.

It seems odd that Ruth doesn’t seem to have picked up on the fact that Clare’s so unhappy, especially since her colleagues – Sita for example – have. It doesn’t really say much for her skills as a nurse (this is addressed towards the end of the episode). As for Sita herself, she has a very uncomfortable encounter with Clare (who wonders if she’s a man-hater). This is the first time that the normally placid Sita has been flustered and provides her with a welcome spot of character development.

Given the restrictions placed on the use of children and babies during studio sessions, the production could have taken the easy way out and used dummies, but luckily they didn’t. Indeed, Clare’s baby was clearly a talented little actor as they lustily cried throughout several scenes. My first thought was that these screams might have beem dubbed on, but I do think they were genuine.

After being absent for the last few episodes, Pat and Maureen reappear midway through. Maureen’s distracted and rather snippy towards Pat, but this isn’t connected to their falling out at the pub. It’s to do with Maureen’s money problems. Sensible Pat tells her they should go to the office and sort it out – possibly too much is being deducted from her pay packet.

These scenes are very incidental to the main plotline, but since both nurses haven’t featured recently they help to remind the viewers that they are still around. Given that their training is ongoing, I daresay there was only so much dramatic capital which could be mined from their current experiences. Hence the reason why the series has recently been concentrating on the likes of Ruth and Jo.

Bill Owen makes the first of two appearances as Harry Jameson, the head porter. His appearance here is quite brief though, it’s the second – Confrontation – where he really features.

Clare’s husband, Bob (Robert Gary) arrives to visit his wife. I’m afraid I was mesmermised by his moustache, which looks patently false. But musings about his apparently fake face fungus have to be put to one side after Clare disappears ….

It turns out that Clare’s not too far away, so her sudden absence only generates a few minutes of panic. It’s the following scene – when she tells Ruth exactly how unhappy she is – which is more interesting. Ruth’s comment (“if the doctor prescribes pills, then for god’s sake use your loaf and take the bloody things”) is an eye-opener.

The second Ruth-centric episode (Jo only tops and tails this one) is another strong vehicle for Lesley Dunlop. Concentrating mainly on Clare, On The Mat does appear to be inferring – either by design or accident – that her sort of post natal blues is fairly uncommon. The other mothers (only seen in passing) all appear to be quite jolly and well adjusted whilst Clare’s treatment – a handful of pills and an entreaty to pull herself together – implies that a non-physical illness isn’t really an illness at all.

a15