Sunday, 10 April 2016

Steady Ursula, Remember We’re British

Michael Byrne (Bruce Titchener)

Our second posting this week begins with Ursula and husband Bruce at the hospital and Rob going into intensive care. Ursula is in a bit of a state, but Bruce exhibits an upper lip so stiff that it must have been starched. Ursula begins weeping, and Bruce tells her sharply to stop. “Tears aren’t going to help Rob now, are they?” he barks. Later on, Bruce and Ursula turn up at Bridge Farm, where Tony asks how is Rob? Bruce is sarcastic: “Oh, they want to know how Rob is, as if that daughter of theirs hasn’t done enough damage. Are you proud about the daughter you’ve raised?”

Pat still has some spirit, replying that they could say the same about Rob and they are learning a lot about his cruelty. “Helen was just defending herself” she adds. Bruce lists Rob’s injuries (and they sounded pretty extensive) and sneers “Are you saying my son’s responsible for that?” He then orders Ursula to tell them what she has told the police and she says that she always knew Helen was dangerous. Bruce interrupts her, saying “Your daughter threatened to kill him” and Ursula adds that that is precisely what she told the police and Pat cannot deny that Helen said it. With that, Bruce and Ursula depart.

Pat is still upbraiding herself on falling for Rob’s act. On Wednesday, she says “I should have trusted my gut instincts - I always knew I didn’t like him.” Excuse me? She may not have liked him at the start, but towards the end, she was all over Rob like a cheap suit. She was at it again the following day, telling Kirsty that she should have trusted her gut feeling, as Rob was obviously a chauvinist, but later on he was like a knight in shining armour. Kirsty says that Rob fooled everyone. “That’s how men like him do it” she adds.

Detective Sergeant Madeley visits Pat, Tony and Tom to ask questions about Helen. They mention her bruised wrist and Tom says that Rob is a bully, who doesn’t like it when he doesn’t get his own way. Pat, no doubt meaning well, describes her daughter as ‘fragile’ and mentions her problems in the past with depression and anorexia and, when she began behaving neurotically again…”You assumed it was a relapse?” suggested DSM. “Precisely” Pat answers, not seeing that this is hardly doing Helen any favours. Tom realises this however, suggesting (after DSM has left) that any future questions about Helen’s mental state should be referred to Dominic, Helen’s solicitor. Before she goes, DSM says that she would like to speak to Henry and could they bring him to the police station tomorrow?

Journalists are besieging Bridge Farm and the shop has been shut (well, they are a member of staff light, after all) although Fallon is doing a roaring trade at the tea shop, selling the journalists beverages and then telling them she knows nothing about what’s happening. Never mind, there’s always someone who’ll say something and nine times out of ten, that someone is Susan Carter; she of the flapping gob.

PC Burns goes to the shop, where Susan breathlessly asks what’s going on? PCB evades the question, telling her that he is collecting statements and did Susan see anything? She didn’t, but that doesn’t stop her telling him all about Helen’s chequered past and how she reckons Greg’s suicide unbalanced her. Five hours later, PCB goes to A&E with repetitive strain injury on his wrist and a squad car draws up at the shop to collect the 14 notebooks he has filled up.

The next day, DSM and Detective Constable Sharples discuss the case, saying that the tales of abuse are only coming from Helen’s family, while everyone else says what a loving husband Rob is. Susan told a journalist of Rob’s heroism during the flood and the headline in the Courier reads “Flood hero stabbed” (Thank you Susan!).

Pat and Kirsty have brought Henry along and DCS asks them to leave the room while she talks to Henry. She establishes that he knows the difference between truth and lies and, after the interview, DCS says that Henry has told her lots of things and Pat, Henry and Kirsty can go now. DSM congratulates DCS on how she handled Henry and says “Poor little chap saw everything. Time to talk to his mother again.”

This is Helen’s fourth interrogation, as Dominic points out, and Helen is still answering “no comment” to all questions, although her voice is unsteady and she is on the verge of tears. DSM tells her about Ursula saying that Helen threatened to kill Rob and Helen lets slip that this was so, then she wails “I just want to see my son!” No chance, I’m afraid - as Dominic later tells Pat, Henry is an important witness and the police don’t want Helen trying to influence him. Also, as far as Children’s Services are concerned, witnessing a violent incident counts as abuse.

While all this is going on, Peggy is getting increasingly frustrated and not a little arsey, to be truthful, at not being told by anyone what is going on. She moans about the press coverage and Christine, who is getting a bit fed up, tells her that Tony promised to ring when he had any news. Furthermore, she takes the copy of The Courier and puts it in Bill the cat’s litter tray. Peggy says that it’s ridiculous to sit there doing nothing and does Chris think she ought to send flowers to the hospital? Or maybe she should send a card to Ursula? “Think of how his family must be feeling” Peggy says. Chris says that she should just let the dust settle and be patient. Ha! Peggy is soon on the phone again and is angry, as, when she rang earlier, nobody answered and now it’s engaged. “I’m sure we’ll hear something very soon.” Chris says, trying to soothe her.

The reason the phone is engaged is because Dominic is calling Pat to tell her that Helen will be appearing at the Magistrate’s Court in the morning and she will be kept in custody. Pat wants to know if she can see Helen? Afraid not. As Dominic rings off, Pat seems stunned. “This can’t be happening - it’s not real” she mutters and, when Kirsty asks what’s happening, Pat replies “They’ve charged Helen - they think she did it deliberately; they must have listened to Ursula.” Kirsty asks what is the charge? Wounding? GBH? In a shocked voice, Pat says “No - it’s attempted murder.”

The following day, Susan is in the shop, when Ursula walks in and buys industrial quantities of disinfectant. Susan tries to engage her in conversation, saying that “There’s plenty of folk round here fond of Rob. We’re all wishing him well.” She also asks exactly what’s wrong with Rob, only to get the answer “Can I have my change, please?” Ursula leaves, just as Peggy comes into the shop and Peggy’s “Hello Ursula” goes unanswered.

Susan explains that Ursula is ’preoccupied’ and is moving into Blossom Hill Cottage, now that the police have finished with it. The talk turns to Helen and the fact that no-one can see her. Susan says that they can’t stop you writing and remembers that, in her time inside, getting letters always brightened her day. “Still, you’d think that they would allow visitors - even for attempted murder” she adds, brightly. Peggy is poleaxed - she has been avoiding reading the press and had no idea of what the charge was. “I didn’t mean to be the bearer of bad news.” Susan says.

Meanwhile, at the Magistrate’s Court, it’s time for Helen’s case. Pat is upset (Helen is wearing handcuffs) and says that Helen looks pale. Tony urges her to be strong for Helen’s sake. The Prosecution outlines the case against her and asks that she is remanded in custody until she appears at the Crown Court. Dominic says that they are not applying for bail (he knew that there wasn’t a gnat’s chance of getting it) and the Magistrate tells Helen that her Crown Court date will be on May 5th, where she will be required to enter a plea and that’s it. “Take her down” he instructs the ushers.

Pat is far from happy, calling the whole proceedings ’inhuman’. “They could see the state she was in” she tells Tony and, when he suggests that they have to treat everybody the same, Pat says “But she’s a pregnant, abused woman. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?” Dominic comes over and says that Helen will have to be represented by a Barrister at Crown Court.

While this is going on, Peggy has gone to Blossom Hill Cottage, where she finds Ursula on the floor, trying to get rid of the bloodstains. Peggy tells her how sorry she is. Ursula says that the police made a token effort to clear things up, but there’s still food and broken crockery all over the place. Ursula bursts into tears (come on woman, remember Bruce’s stiff upper lip) and says that she is fed up with hotels and she can’t go home as she needs to be near Rob “just in case”. Her mobile rings and Peggy goes to her handbag to get it.

Back at Bridge Farm, Tom and Kirsty are talking, and he wonders what might have happened, had he not wimped out of their wedding - if Helen had still had Kirsty as a friend, perhaps she might not have married Rob? Kirsty says firmly “What’s done is done” and Tom mustn’t transfer his guilt about that to this situation. “The only person to blame is Rob. We need to concentrate on Helen; she’s going to need us more than ever, now.”

Pat and Tony are having what might be termed ‘a full and frank discussion’ and Tony suggests that Helen could have suffered a moment of insanity “Diminished responsibility - isn’t that a defence?” Pat is not impressed and says “So instead of locking her up in jail, they stick her in a mental institution?” She says that Rob must have pushed her to the point where she had no choice. “Yes, but how are we ever going to prove it?” Tony asks, glumly.

Tom then comes in with Peggy, who tells them that she has been to see Ursula, who’s beside herself, as Rob has developed an infection. Pat and Tony couldn’t care less and, when Peggy says that Rob is critically ill, Tony retorts “The Hell with Rob - it’s Helen you should be thinking of.” “That’s exactly what I am doing,” his mother says, “Rob might not make it, Tony. The hospital called Ursula so she could be by his bedside. And what will happen to Helen then? Don’t you see; if Rob dies, Helen will be facing a charge of murder?” You don’t say, Sherlock? I find it hard to believe that nobody had thought about that before - the clue is in the second word of the term ‘attempted murder’ surely?


  1. CAN Ursula stay in the cottage? What would Usha say?

  2. You know what? I hate to say this, but I am losing sympathy with Helen. I entirely understood why she endured Rob's put downs, snide comments and controlling behaviour for as long as she did - she couldn't really admit it to herself, but he DID intimidate her, and she was also desperate to make the relationship work. But the denouement (so far) of her stabbing him is for me an (Am) bridge too far. Having finally seen Rob for what he is, how could anyone PLAN a final meal together during which Helen would announce that she was leaving him? What is the matter with Helen? Well, it's not just neediness, it's not just inability to select suitable partners, it's not just fear - I think she needs psychiatric help Why on earth could she not leave when Rob was at work? It would have been so simple…and if he had harrassed her after that, she could have phoned the police and let them handle it. It wasn't because she had nowhere to go - she could have gone home to her parents, or as she asked, stayed with Kirsty. I thought it was very telling that she opted to go to Kirsty's, because she didn't want to face the explanations she would have to give if she went to her parents…so she still feels so embarrassed (surely it has gone way beyond embarrassment being a consideration?) to admit that Rob turns out to be something very different from what she had believed, she STILL wants to keep quiet about it, which is how she has got deeper and deeper into the mire herself, over two years more or less isolated from friends and family.

    Don't get me wrong - I am delighted that Rob was so severely injured - no more than he deserves for being the vile creature he is. But it was a stupid thing for Helen to do - if Rob survives, he'll play the victim for all he's worth, and she'll STILL be charged with attempted murder. If he dies, she'll cop Murder One, as the Americans have it. Helen MAKES herself a victim any way you look at it…and yes, I do know what it's like to live under continual criticism, but in the end, you GET OUT any way you can, without discussion with your abuser as to why, when how…Did you pick up on Tony's comment about "temporary insanity"? Did you hear how angry Pat was when he said it? Words like "unstable" and "fragile" have been bandied about, and they will be extremely useful to the prosecution case. I wonder if this turn of events is intended to be the outworking of the shock of John Archer's death years ago? I remember at the time some reviewer saying that we were going to see repercussions from this event for years to come...

    1. Granted that Rob has plainly been guilty of such crimes and misdemeanours as persuading Helen to return her low-cut tops to the vendor and to replace them with more modest and economical items from the charity shop, does it seem proportionate that he has had his guts ripped out with a carving knife? Is this really "no more than he deserves"?

    2. Ben - I understand why you say this - that is the entire problem in a nutshell - nothing he has said or done in terms of his relationship with Helen, retold out of context merits the violence she turned on him…taken out of context the things you mention are gnat bites. The two rapes are far worse, but again, where's the proof? Her word against Rob's. Hence the prosecution case is very strong indeed, and the defence hasn't got one. I do think Rob is a vile creature, but this was really NOT the way to deal with him. Hence, I think that "…while the balance of her mind was disturbed" ie a temporary insanity plea is probably the best bet for the defence. And I do think she WAS insane at the time she stabbed him - the disturbance of her mind is evidenced also in her planning a meal for the two of them at which to TELL him her intention of leaving….DUH! Talk about asking for MORE trouble! Her response was out of all proportion to his crimes - did she REALLY think Rob was going to hurt Henry? I don't know, but if she thought him capable of that, she should have left a long time ago, because she's been effectively risking her own son's safety by staying so long …not a lot of clear rational thought there, is there?

      I said the stabbing was "no more than he deserves" because I despise and loathe people (women do it too, btw) who treat others the way Rob treated not only Helen, but most of the Ambridge locals - playing (as Kirsty remarked) "mind games" all the time. It is purely a gut reaction! But I agree with you - it is not the answer to behaviour like Rob's. He needs somebody even better at mind games than he is, to give him a taste of his own medicine. And Helen is certainly not up to the job.

  3. I'm confused about the legal situation -- how can Henry not be allowed to see Helen, because he [Henry] is a witness to events (I am presuming in case Helen would try to influence Henry). Then, how come Rob can have access to him? Rob could also influence Henry. All help in understanding this situation very much appreciated! Apologies for the "anonymous" posting -- I still have not worked out how to make me visible! Help with that, also very welcome. Thank you!