A two-year-old letter from Roy’s father has produced amazing scenes. It began with Sylvia going to the hated Home to pick it up, then to her telling Hayley not to pressure Roy into reading it, then Roy dithering about what to do once he knew about it and more dithering when he learned his father was no longer at the address given in the letter.
Thursday he unwillingly went to a newer address he had found for his father, where he met his father’s widow. Three months earlier Mr. Cropper Sr. had died, believing that Roy wanted nothing to do with him. That was indeed the case, although Roy had not known that his father was trying to reach him. Four remarkable scenes followed Roy and Hayley’s entry into his father’s house.
Roy in the sitting room, surrounded by photos of his father’s other family. The three children, one in New Zealand, one in Cornwall and one near the parental home. No photos of the child Roy, his father’s firstborn. Hayley, herself flummoxed, trying to talk normally and drink tea, trying to find out as much as possible about Roy’s father and his life and hoping against hope that Roy can somehow find the answers he needs in light of his father’s death. Mrs. Cropper explaining that Roy’s father truly regretted leaving his eldest son and never contacting him, trying to explain that his family – all members – were truly important to him. Roy listening but keeping very still as if he were just trying to hold himself together.
As they prepare to leave, Mrs. Cropper gives him a suitcase saying his father had wanted Roy to have it. That St. John had spent hours playing with it and that none of his other children were interested but he knew Roy would want it. A train set like the one Roy had when a child. Roy refused it saying maybe a grandchild would take it. Mrs. Cropper pressed it on him, saying it was his. Roy took it reverentially.
Back home, Sylvia wants to know everything. What happened, had he lost his hair because balding ran in his family, that Roy took after her side in that and he needn’t worry because he was nothing like that man, Roy would never run out on those who relied on him. When she ran out of steam, Roy said “He’s dead”.
Last scene, Roy closing himself off again in order to cope. Sylvia quiet, trying to keep herself together and, I think, giving Roy room to be quiet too. Hayley seeing the anguish in them both, but wanting to talk about it, to not keep it bottled up, sorry if what she’d done in showing him the letter caused him grief. “If I’m in any way to blame,” she said. Roy couldn’t take any more. “You are, Hayley, you are to blame,” he said, after giving her a summing up of the unnecessary need felt by modern society to explore feelings, come to terms with things, find closure. He left the room, presumably to find silence. Sylvia, looking a bit shocked by Roy’s explosion, said to Hayley “I did try to warn you.” And she had.
These three actors, and characters, are wonderful. These scenes were among the best ever from them. This is what Coronation Street does so well. In the storylines, there’s often something that may especially resonant for individuals. This one is a story about abandonment of a child and a spouse. That is a fear, and maybe reality, for many or all of us.