Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode Four

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Episode four opens where the previous one left off, with Abby floundering in the sea.  Luckily Leo is at hand and fishes her out.  When he mutters to the coughing and spluttering girl that her misadventure “was a bit stupid, wasn’t it?” you have to admire his powers of understatement.

Although Abby is grateful to Leo, she still won’t tell him what’s troubling her – which is reasonable enough as it’s the sort of plotline that should (and will) run across multiple episodes.  But we do learn a little more about her wretched homelife and how she feels totally unloved by both her parents (as well as the fact that given Polly’s generosity in spreading her favours, Abby isn’t even sure whether her father is actually her father).

Abby tells Leo that when she was young she kept a diary and logged all the time she spent with her father.  When she added it up it came to seventeen hours over the course of two years.  She’s spent much more time in her mother’s company, but that’s probably more of a curse than a blessing.  Abby is convinced that her mother doesn’t love her (something which Polly is happy to admit to others later).  Abby tells her mother that “you don’t even like me. You can’t show me off, you can’t wear me, so I’m useless to you.”

Tensions continue to simmer away in the Howard household.  Tom demonstrates quite clearly that he’s an unreconstructed male after he’s more than a little put out to find out that Jan’s been too busy working to get the evening meal ready.  Luckily Kate comes to the rescue, but no-one ever stops to ask if possibly Tom could have lent a hand.  Given this stifling pressure, it’s a wonder Jan hasn’t reacted against being a housewife and mother before.

Whilst I love Maurice Colbourne, he sometimes feels a little out of place in the series.  Possibly it’s got something to do with the fact that his voice had considerable power and gravitas, so when he’s arguing about relatively trivial matters (such as who should cook dinner) it feels a little jarring.  As Tom and Jan launch into yet another argument, Leo pops his head round the kitchen door.  Leo’s supposed to register dismay and disgust, but Edward Highmore doesn’t quite manage this (although he does pull a strange face and exits).  Perhaps another take would have been advisable.

Lynn’s looking for another boat to crew on, now that the Flying Fish has been sold.  The ultra smooth Phil Norton (Anthony Head) could be the answer to all her problems, but by the way he’s eyeing her up and down it’s plain that it’s not her sailing ability he’s interested in.  Elsewhere, you have to admire Tracey Childs’ hardy nature – wearing a bikini in a scene that was doubtless scripted as the height of summer, but instead looks rather chilly.

It’s always fun when Jack’s on the warpath.  He and Bill continue to grouse about Tom poking his nose into every aspect of the yard’s business but that’s merely a prelude – Tom, backed by Avril, explains that he wants to design a fast cruising, ultra light displacement boat.  Jack’s baffled – how can you build a boat like that out of timber?  Tom agrees and tells him that it’ll be a high-tech cord-structured hull.

The blue touchpaper is ignited and you can stand back and watch the fireworks.  Build a boat that’s not made out of wood in the Mermaid yard?  Over Jack’s dead body. “I’ll see this yard in hell and me with it before I have anything at all to do with them”.  Colbourne and Owen are on fine form here and whilst it seems inevitable that Jack will have to bow to common sense eventually, there’s the promise of more fun and games to come.

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