Roger & Val Have Just Got In: Poem for Uncle Jack (2.5)

Roger & Val Have Just Got In: Shock (2.1)
Roger & Val Have Just Got In: The Woman in the Attic (2.2)
Roger & Val Have Just Got In: Surprise! (2.3)
Roger & Val Have Just Got In: Pam’s Collage (2.4)
BBC Series 2

Poem for Uncle Jack

Tonight I find I can quite clearly recall your face,
The small eyes, your bald head,
The surprisingly pleasant smile, given your fangs.
You were a Tory,
Seen in the Liberal Club with your arms around two women.
So who were you?
My confusion grows,
And this is probably the last time I ever think of you.

– Val Stevenson

Poem for Uncle Jack is Val’s (Dawn French) slightly drunken attempt to write about an obscure uncle who has just died. William McGonagall couldn’t have done better. She barely knew Uncle Jack, and she knows even less about Liam, Roger’s (Alfred Molina) 31 year old son by Jean Duggan. The episode sets up a false dramatic equivalence between these two unseen characters that brings out their feelings about Liam.

Roger and Val come in from the pub, on a night of torrential rain, after Liam fails to show up for an arranged meeting. Roger is having a panic attack and blaming himself for Liam’s non-appearance. Val takes a call on her mobile from Barbara, Jack’s wife, and there’s a knock at the door. Roger opens it but there’s no-one. He’s convinced it was Liam. “I wish he was our son,” he tells Val. “How can I have a son with another woman but not with you?” She replies, “I can think it was 12 years before I met you, but you were still mine, even though I didn’t know you. Oh, I didn’t know you but I did.”

Then we find out that Pam Bagnall has already got the Deputy Headship. I thought she might. Pam mistakenly activates her phone in Sainsbury’s so that Roger and Val overhear something that suggests she is addicted to Nurophen Plus. Can it be used against her, given that Pam might have sabotaged Val’s interview by switching salt for sugar in the tea and coffee, when it was the responsibility of Val’s department? Deep waters, but Val is too good to take advantage. Nevertheless, “I am a disappointed woman.”

Another knock at the door. Nobody there, but Val spots him sitting in a car outside, and they wave at him from the living room window until he drives off again, fixed smiles on their faces. Val’s idea, to draw Liam in without spooking him. “I’m very keen to come across as the stepmother you’d want.” This is a brilliant bit that combines an impression of the Queen and Prince Philip waving from a balcony with references to The Sound of Music and Val wanting to be like Julie Andrews.

When they get talking about Pam Bagnall’s dirty tricks, Val gets very upset, drinks too much, and writes her splendid poem. Roger is ever supportive. “That is fantastic, Val.” But she needs to have her moment of grief, which she honours by playing Those Were the Days, by Mary Hopkins. Truly gruesome, and Roger hates it, although it gets Val out of her emotional rut so she stops getting drunk.

Then the car returns and Liam leaves a box of Roses Chocolate on the doorstep. And there’s a baby seat in the car. Have you got a baby, Val gestures from the window. Yes, Liam gestures back, before he drives off.

Roger is over the moon. And coincidentally, “It’s stopped raining.” Val, even though she’s happy for Roger, finds it troubling news. A 31 year old son is something she can take in her stride. But a baby is a discomforting reminder of their own dead son.

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