Friday, 18 October 2013
Friday 18 October 1963
Kate Starling's feeling unsatisfied. She's been for lunch with an old schoolfriend who now owns a beautiful house decked out in the latest style, and it's brought home to her just how little she has herself: as she notes to neighbour Norah, the hem of her skirt's "been raised and lowered more times than the Union Jack). "I couldn't help thinking all we own is the bed," Kate sighs. Norah tries to comfort her: "Well, that's nice to fall back on, dear!"
Norah's got her own worries: husband Peter's due to find out whether or not he's got a payrise: if he has, it's an extra £200 a year - nearly £2 a week! Finally he arrives home - it's good news for he and Norah, but just makes Kate feel all the more glum. Cheer up dear, at least you've got a new hat.
Kate's been resigned to the fact that George'll never get promoted - he's just not the type who pushes. But on his return home he announces fantastic financial news. Kate's strangely unenthused by the revelation that he got three lemons on the fruit machine - that's winnings of 54/6!
Kate doesn't get round to telling George Peter's news before Peter and Norah pop round and announce that what's more Peter's firm are moving them to a luxurious estate outside Edinburgh. All of a sudden poor George feels like a complete failure. He and Kate both decide their flat's a dump, and Kate suggests they buy a few new items to brighten it up. The notion of even an amiable husband like George having to give Kate permission to spend his money on things she wants, and her pathetic gratitude, now seem absolutely bizarre.
When Kate complains about the dreary wallpaper in the flat, George finds himself trapped in a promise to visit the letting agent and complain. Terrified, he rehearses being forceful in advance.
The trouble is that he's too forceful, and seedy agent Cartwright (a martyr to his deaf-aid, and played by Maitland Moss, who was a different but similarly forbidding character in the first episode of the series) responds by giving him two weeks' notice to quit the flat. There follows a film montage of George going in and out of various estate agents without any luck, which will no doubt appeal to those keen on 1960s shopfronts.
A penitent George returns home to break the devastating news to Kate - who's already busy kitting the place out with the latest decorative nick-nacks.
Before he gets the chance, Peter and Norah appear again, this time to congratulate George on the promotion a deliriously envious Kate told them George had received. The deception's made especially difficult when an estate agent (John Nettleton, who receives another of those "appears by permission of the Royal Shakespeare Company credits") turns up to show an enthusiastic young couple around the flat.
Kate's aghast at seeing these youngsters fall in love with her home, like a ghostly replay of she and George's viewing of the flat. Once they've gone (deciding they'll take it), George reveals exactly what's happened. Norah suggests she and Peter sub-let their flat to the Starlings, but this idea loses its sheen when Peter indiscreetly points out how much nicer the Starlings' flat is than their own. Poor George feels more a failure than ever, and it's deeply touching when Kate assures him he's the only person she'd ever want to be with (she's even stopped dreaming about Dr Kildare).
It looks like there's just one course of action available: George picks up the phone and prepares himself for some extreme grovelling.
The Starlings manage to get their flat back - with a rent increase of a guinea a week. The shiny new items are packed away, ready to go back to the shop. As George and Kate convince themselves how much they love their home anyway, the episode ends rather gloomily with a lampshade collapsing and causing a vase to smash on the floor.
The last episode of the current series, The Old Place is a surprisingly melancholic way of bowing out, but as it's one of the best-written episodes yet, it bodes well for the future. A second series follows in 1964, but sadly that one no longer exists, so it'll be quite a while before the Starlings return to these parts.