HI everyone, I'm TalksTooMuch (TTM) and I will be recapping this ITV series Home Fires thanks to the recommendation of longtime reader friend P. I only know it's historical and that people were upset when it was cancelled, let's find out why!
Steph (Clare Calbraith) and Stan Farrow (Brian Fletcher) are herding their cows when an army vehicle comes along; Steph's trying to hurry it up until the driver proves himself to be an obnoxious wanker. Then we get this glorious sight.
We ride through town with the truck until we pick up Pat (Claire Rushbrook) at the market and she walks us to the surgery where Dr. Will Campbell (Ed Stoppard) is checking out David Brindsley (Will Attenborough - related to THE Attenborough, do you think? Great nephew!) and his asthma. Keep an eye onnit!
As soon as David leaves, Erica Campbell (Frances Grey) is at her husband about his wanting to enlist; he just wants to check out his options, that's all. She does not agree.
David goes home to the butcher shop, where his mum Miriam (Claire Price - 3 CLAIRES in less than 5 minutes? Jeebus wept) is being reminded about the big meeting at the Women's Institute tonight by Frances Barden (Samantha Bond). They need to oppose Joyce (Francesca Annis) Cameron's proposition in force. Alison (Fenella Woolgar) will be there too!
Joyce is our villain! We can tell that because she's mean to her servant Claire (Daisy Badger - that's three Claire's and a Clare if anyone but me is counting) for returning late after a shopping trip. Oh and you BETTER vote for her proposition, Claire #76! Right before you do all the chores in the house, there's a good housemaid, off you go.
Alison comes across Bob Simms (Mark Bazeley) smoking in the alley; he's looking for inspiration! Pat brings him a sandwich, but he'll take a coffee instead, peez.
Yay, Dr. Will Campbell didn't pass the physical and he won't be enlisting today! Erica is happy but he looks shifty. Did he not stay for his physical? Maybe he's just unhappy that he doesn't get to go, he blames it on a breathing thing.
The meeting is a master class in small town politics; Joyce Cameron's proposition is to close the Women's Institution until the war is over, you know: Christmas. The authorities said so! So we have our staunch member of the establishment, her providing the walls for Frances to break herself into pieces against. Frances brings up Joyce's unwillingness to embrace change, her tight management of the membership so as to ensure a satisfactory result and her obtuseness when it comes to the reality of life during wartime.
Meanwhile, Claire #678 was run off the road by that army vehicle, she's helped up by Spencer Wilson (Mark Noble) and run to town on the back of his bicycle. Oh. Oh this was sweet. He compares her to a bag of mail, but with
The vote is a tie! Which means that there is only one tiebreaker, the late Miss Claire #768 who works for Joyce and has already been informed of her decision on the proposition. She won't have that, though, she wants to vote and her choice is NOT with her employer and president of the Institute.
Joyce doesn't recognise Claire's late vote; she already cast the deciding vote as president and she WILL have her way. Not so fast, says my new favourite Frances: if Joyce insists, then she will immediately ask for a vote of no confidence in the president.
Joyce can't even BELIEVE she's being questioned about her questionable vote casting, she's resigning, effective immediately. Half the institute walks out with her. Awesome job, claps Frances' sister Sarah (Ruth Gemmell), you just gave Joyce what she wanted.
Steph was on the receiving end of an angry cow not quite finished being milked, she's got a wicket bruised shoulder. Her hubs Stanley (Chris Coghill) tends to her but she herself seems unconcerned.
David's made up his mind, he's enlisting. Miriam can't talk him out of it for anything, so instead she cries alone, which is what we do.
Kate Campbell (Rachel Hurd-Wood) and her sister Laura (Leila Mimmack) are home from being banned at the cinema; Will and Erica are so proud! Okay, indulgent, that's really what it means when you chuckle contentedly when your kiddos are kicked out of a theatre for suggesting the Germans ought to bomb it first. Something's up with Will Campbell, mark my words.
Planes fly over the Farrow farm; is it beginning?
Steph's inside getting a sling on by the good doctor; she's half a help now!
See, I didn't think I was going to like Bob Simms after he sent back the sandwich Pat made him for a cuppa, but now I KNOW I don't like him after his little display at the breakfast table. He sat there, reading his paper, glad that the Institute was closed so she could give him all her attention, while she cooked his breakfast. THEN, when she didn't also eat, because there wasn't enough bacon, he threw it all on the floor because why? It reminded him they had no money because he was too busy looking for inspiration in the smoking alley? WAS THAT IT, BOB??
I strongly disliked Bob BEFORE he made her eat his breakfast off the floor where he threw it.
Miriam's in to see Dr. Campbell in the morning, she wants Will to tell the Army about David's asthma but he won't as that wouldn't be true. Erica has to intervene when things get heated and Miriam leaves with one last entreaty
A meeting of what's left of the Women's Institute reveals that Joyce did indeed get what she wanted; with the catastrophic loss of membership, they're dead in the water without more people. They'll be shut down after all.
Frances wonders after if opening her big mouth was the right thing to do; her husband Peter (Anthony Calf) loves that big mouth! (Not thinking anything untoward there, not whatsoever). Oh look, they hired Claire #908 after Joyce sacked her! Frances and Peter are the White Hats, they'll be much better employers. They might even have a dental plan! *justsaying*
Beautiful music plays while Alison dances with the clothes of her long lost (gone? Dead? Missing? Getting cigarettes) young man while Pat thinks about her life while watching Bob write and smoke and smoke and write in between shouting for cups of coffee.
Frances and Peter take in the night air. She's working on a plan to re-open the Institute; she's concerned about the isolating effects of war. The women will need a community space while the men are all gone.
Isn't that what church is for in small towns?
She's still pondering, but Peter's moved on: lookit the blackberries! That sparked her imagination (and she's a better person that me because I was shouting PAY ATTENTION, PETER! GET OUT OF THE BERRIES IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT!!); what a brilliant man he is!
She holds a meeting the next day, she wants the Women's institute to start making jam from the blackberries. It's a well-known fact that the hardest part of wartime is provisioning, if they can do something from their own town, that's one less merchant seaman that has to die trying to get it to them. It's also action and not inaction, however "downmarket" Joyce Cameron and her cronies might think jam-making is. Get at it, ladies!
One of the flyers is dropped off at the Farrow farm, where Stanley reads it while Steph washes the floor by hand with one arm.
I can see I'll have to stop shouting about inequities right about now; these were different times and I am just grateful for the advancements made re: women as equals. We're not there yet, but most of us aren't scrubbing the floor with our one good arm while our husbands wonders why we didn't put on the coffee first.
Steph doesn't think it's for her, she doesn't go in for baking cakes or re-arranging flowers (WHAT'S WRONG WITH BAKING CAKES??). He thinks she needs to get out more (he may have something there, perhaps he could finish the floors while she's out?) but she has all she needs with Little Stan and Manly Stanley, fank you very much.
It's like PTA! There is typically an established clique, usually members of the wealthier families in town who have stay at home moms just RARING to spend their time overseeing their children's education and time in school, and it tends to intimidate / annoy any newcomers who just want to hand out juice boxes at lunch, you know?
I may be the Frances of my local PTA
Mr. Wilson has come to the berry picking line (I sang along with The Saints Go Marching In and you did too!) to bring back Claire #298's bicycle, it's repaired beyond all recognition! The cost of the repairs is....her calling him Spencer. And then she gives him the right to use HER first name and everyone's all giddy and it's like a Victorian orgy up in here, any minute she'll throw a hanky and he'll pass out from the forwardness. It's really sweet.
Frances asks Pat how Bob's work is going; it seems Bob was a successful first novelist and we all know how hard that second genius book can be. She does her part by helping with the day to day, she made him his favourite meal tonight; a knowing look from Erica seals that Bob's behaviour isn't new. If there is an abusive domestic situation, of course the doctor's wife would know about it. Is it wrong that I hope she laced his fave with arsenic?
Erica and Miriam make up in the blackberry patch when an ambulance going by distracts Erica and sends her running. They don't see her, so she hops on Steph's tractor to catch a lift to town.
Oh it IS Bob! Jeebus, I'd better be careful with this power, use it only for good.
Pat has the best.sleep.EVER. The sun is shining, she's got evidence to bury, it's gonna be a great day. Erica comes over to let her know that Bob will be out the following afternoon at the earliest, DAMNIT. All of Pat's ease vanishes, she thinks she knows what happened to Bob: the pilchers were off. She looks terrified, which Erica doesn't understand but we do.
Jam making montage! Ahhhhhh now I see why P recommended this show, it's sooooo food porny in the best way.
Steph wants to pay for the jam, you ladies saying it came from her hedges doesn't dissuade her in the least. She also doesn't want to join the club, back off!
Spencer will try some, fanks Claire! He thinks it's delicious, which part did Claire help with? The delicious part, of course! Just then Jenny Marshall (Jodie Hamblet) rushes up, is Spencer ready for that drink now? She's parched! She's the anti-Claire and an arsehole too, you can tell that straight off: are Spencer and this Jenny going steady or whatever the Victorians called 'anything but'? How does our Spencer have so much game? He looks like a half-boiled pudding.
Bob's home from the hospital, yaaaaayy. He accuses her of poisoning him and will not allow her to attend the first meeting of the Women's Institute that evening. Her only job is to take care of him.
The meeting isn't going very well either, it's just the STP (Same Ten People or rather 6 in this case) as usual and without new members, they won't be able to re-open the WI. Just then a Miss Fenchurch (Leanne Best) comes is, is she late? Noooooo!
Joyce pops in just then to gloat, she's bumped into by Steph Farrow, who's all cleaned up and ready to make friends! Or you know, get out of the house anyway. She'll just get the girls off the trailer...
And in comes 20 people from 'round Steph's area, yay!
Joyce mutters about how this will fail, Sarah Collingborne answers that call. The only thing that will fail in this Women's Institute is her "determined attempt to keep this institute at the preserve of your favourite snobs and syncophants" because change is a coming, Joyce.
Joyce throws a couple more jabs (almost at a Fleabag level of display of passive aggressive female fighting) before calling Sarah a monkey and taking her leave.
Steph's got all KINDS of ideas, Frances canea wait to hear them and I think I saw Steph's insides melt at the same time Frances's heart hit the ceiling.
Erica gets home after the meeting to find Will gravely drinking by the fire. His little "breathing thing" that kept him out of the Army is lung cancer. Ohh. He wants to talk prognosis, she's in denial. He doesn't want to tell their children (can you call them children if they appear to be in their twenties?), just keep everything as normal as possible for as long as possible. We end with Erica's "be careful what you wish for" and I could not agree more.
Thanks for the suggestion, P, I really liked this show! Imma sucker for a good period drama with moxie, throw in good acting and glorious cinematography and scoring and I am all in. Until next time!