Thursday, 30 January 2014

Tuesday 24 December 1963

Christmas has come to Scott-Furlong, as you can tell from these spectacular festive displays.

The bottom picture shows Arthur Sugden's redoubtable secretary Margie Thomas (it's pronounced with a hard g, by the way) collapsing in pain due to the synovitis that's inflamed her hand and made her every waking moment an unbearable agony.  Still, she's not one to make a fuss, and it takes some persuading to get her to visit the doctor (note the "People You Know Are Blood Donors" poster featuring TV's Jack Warner in the waiting room).

It's nice that Margie gets a bit more of the spotlight than usual this week: we learn that she's unmarried and all alone in the world apart from a retired fellow spinster she spends Christmas with every year at a guest house in the country.  Sadly, this year she's in too much pain to make the trip, but after she's been operated on Big-Hearted Arthur invites her to spend Christmas with the Sugden family.

Not all Arthur's staff are as easy to please as Margie: men such as serial grumbler Nobby (Royston Tickner) have had enough of Scott-Furlong's draughty workshops and stale steak and kidney pie.  It's all a long way from the fancy nosh MD John Wilder enjoys at chairman Sir Gordon Revidge's club ("How would you react to potted shrimps?")

But sub-British Restaurant steak and kidney pie is the least of the workforce's worries.  In order to free up labour for his plan to build 12 Sovereign jets, Wilder's announced that the company's work on Red Major missiles is to be discontinued.  This is going to mean a few redundancies, which Arthur discusses with district union boss George Chadwick (Bruce Beeby).  Chadwick joshes Arthur over his rise from working man to executive - he even smokes a fancy new pipe tobacco these days (oh, if only office work still looked like this).

Could the new tobacco be the first step in a journey that will culminate in the gargantuan cigars smoked by Sir Gordon and his friend Lord Teddington? When they meet for drinks and a game of snooker, Revidge reveals that the merchant bank he chairs will be refusing to lend the money for Wilder's Sovereign project: Revidge reveals that his main aim in his chairmanship of Scott-Furlong is to get rid of Wilder, whom he despises.  So he's a tad nonplussed by Wilder's unfazed reaction to the refusal of the loan.

The cancellation of the projected 12 Sovereigns means that all 400 staff previously working on the missiles now face redundancy.  And just before Christmas, too.  Arthur's exasperated by how unconcerned Wilder seems to be by both the loss of livelihoods and the prospect of the large scale industrial action this is likely to provoke.  Deciding a strike would be the best thing for everyone, Arthur uses reverse psychology to persuade the cautious Chadwick to call the workforce out.  Here are some of said workforce, chomping at the bit to stick it to their employers.

When Chadwick gets the whole company to agree to a walkout in sympathy with their colleagues who face redundancy, the impending catastrophe forces Revidge to change his mind and approve the loan for the 12 Sovereigns after all.  And it becomes clear to a bewildered Arthur that the whole labour crisis was expertly engineered by Wilder to get what he wanted - and that, while he's been pulling Chadwick's strings, Wilder's been pulling his own.  He takes it all in pipe-puffing good humour, but Leslie Sands' superbly twisty script points up the brutal irony that Arthur's attempt to rebel against management and align himself with the workers he still wants to believe himself one of has simply led him to do Wilder's bidding more efficiently than ever before.

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