Thursday, 16 December 2010

Character Study: Ashley Sibilius Peacock

On this, the day of Ashley Peacock's funeral, may i present to you the life of a butcher.

Ashley Peacock is an all around nice guy. He's unassuming and quiet, not really very volatile but loyal to those he loves (mostly) and always tends to try to do the right thing. He first appeared on our screens in 1996 as an assistant to Fred Elliott, the local butcher. Fred, Ashley's uncle, was a tall, large and brash man, the complete opposite of Ashley. Back then, Ashley was more naive and he didn't have a lot of gumption to stand up for himself. He often seemed to find himself in conflicting situations but over the years, he grew to believe more in himself and with that confidence, a man who knows who he is and what he wants out of life and who is mostly true to what he believes in. He's slipped off the pedestal now and then but after all, he's only human.

Ashley has always generally been a voice of reason, sometimes baffled at the insanity and confusion he seems to find himself caught up in. Not the bravest of men, normally,  Ashley is terrified of flying, of needles and doctors but those are just little phobias.

In spite of his generally shy demeanor, he never seemed to have a problem finding girlfriends though tends towards women that are on the bossy side. His first girlfriend on the Street was Kelly Thompson. Kelly was the nanny that Ken hired to mind Daniel after Denise left him holding the baby. Ashley moved in with Don Brennan as a lodger but soon found himself being questioned by the police when Mike Baldwin's factory burned down. Don was the culprit but Ashley was blamed initially. It was soon sorted out and Don went to jail, leaving Ashley homeless.

Not long before that, he found out that his Uncle Fred was actually his biological father. His mother is Fred's sister and when a one night stand resulted in Ashley, and the biological mother was planning on having the baby adopted so Fred gave the baby to his childless sister, Beryl and her husband Sam, now deceased. Ashley had a hard time accepting Fred as his father at first but eventually warmed to him. After Don was sent to prison, Ashley moved in with Fred who'd bought Number 4 for a new bride who ran away with another man shortly after the wedding.

Ashley and Fred worked together in Fred's butcher shops, moving from an unseen shop to a butcher department in Freshcos and later, to a shop on Victoria Street, which Ashley inherited when Fred died.

Ashley's next girfriend was the vivacious Maxine Heavy, a local hairdresser. Maxine thought she could do better than a butcher so it was an on-again-off-again relationship for a while. Ashley adored Maxine, a fact which she did enjoy. Trouble arrived in the form of waif-like runaway teenager Zoe Tattersall. Ashley felt she was wrongly done by and took her in when she had no place to go. She'd "sold" her baby to the Malletts but when she wanted the baby back, Ashley stood up to them and allowed mother and baby to stay. Maxine wasn't too happy about this but Ashley was developing feelings for the girl, probably based more on his protective instinct than anything. Zoe's baby died of meningitis and in her grief, she turned to a cult-type organization for comfort. She left Ashley and there wasn't much he could do to stop her going.

Eventually, he and Maxine reconciled and he was thrilled when she agreed to marry him. She was a force to be reckoned with, but Ash just went with the flow as she set about organizing the wedding of the year. Maxine generally approached her "quests" in such a manner, and Ashley always went along with whatever made her happy. She turned vegetarian which was a bit awkward with a butcher for a husband. Ashley even went along with that, much to Fred's chagrin but eventually Maxine realized Ashley wasn't really cut out for it full time and they found a happy compromise.

Maxine's next project was baby-making but they had some problems with that. Ashley needed a minor corrective operation and on the night he was hospitalized, Maxine got drunk and had it off with the neighbour, Dr. Matt Ramsden. As luck would have it, she got pregnant by him and not Ashley, but Ashley didn't find out about the fling until Maxine was about to give birth. He resolutely refused to find out at first if the baby, Joshua, was his or not and forgave Maxine. But alas, Maxine was tragically murdered by Richard Hillman. That was probably the worst nightmare of Ashley's life. It was after that that he had the tests done and knew that the baby was Matt's and he vowed never to tell or treat the child as anything but his own son.

In order to cope, he hired a nanny, Claire Casey, who was a sweet woman, a girl-next-door type of person, almost everything that overtly sexy Maxine wasn't. One thing they do have in common is a stubborn streak. Claire also has a red-headed temper when she has a mind to and will stand up to anyone. Ashley and Claire fell in love and eventually married on a snowy Christmas Day, 2004. They have a son, Freddie, born shortly before Fred died. Claire experienced severe post partum depression and rejected the baby for a while, but after a brief sojourn in hospital, she regained her old self. Through this all, Ashley stayed supportive even when he was grieving for his beloved father.

In the aftermath, Claire decided to help other young mothers by volunteering for a help-line. Through this she met a woman, nicknamed KC, who'd miscarried. KC became obsessed with Claire's life and managed to drive a wedge between Claire and Ashley, promoting doubts in Ashley's mind about Claire's sanity after their house caught fire. KC started the fire but made it seem like Claire's depression had returned and she'd done it herself. Claire was devastated that Ashley doubted her and she left him for a while. During this time, KC managed to worm her way into Ashley's bed and planned to take over his life. Ashley quickly realized he'd made a mistake but when he tried to break it off with her, while attempting to reconcile with Claire, KC kidnapped Freddie who was soon rescued, but this broke the secret of Ashley's affair. Claire returned to her mother's house for a while but eventually she returned and she and Ashley worked on building up the trust again.

Ashley has sometimes got caught up in other people's schemes, primarily Fred's, because he could never say no. He'd dress up as a Christmas elf, he went along with Fred's attempts at selling reindeer meat at Christmas, and even took up boxing when Fred got into a row with a rival butcher. Ashley and the other butcher's son held a grudge match in the boxing ring and Ashley had to train hard, not being a natural athelete. The match began but Claire and the opponent's girlfriend got into a fight themselves and when all the onlookers descended into fisticuffs and hair pulling, Ashley and his opponent just stopped their match and watched with astonishment.

Ashley truly regrets his affair and has devoted his attentions to his family and the shop, which has recently fallen on tough times. In a cost saving measure, he agreed to Claire and Sally Webster's plan to swop houses and it seems to have done the trick. He also laid off Kirk whom he was training.

Things were quite for awhile. As things picked up financially, Ashley took on a new apprentice, young Graeme Proctor. Graeme was a true eccentric and his antics and sense of humour often had Ashley bewildered and befuddled but the two rubbed along well. Graeme looked on Ashley as his mentor as well as his friend and became close to Claire and the boys as well.

Ashley and Claire's marraige suffered another glitch. Claire got pregnant but due to a miscarraige and aneurism that nearly killed her, decided she didn't want more children. She insisted that her husband have "the snip" and Ashley was just as insistent that he wouldn't. He did finally agree to it but bottled out of the op, scared at the prospect of the needles. He let Claire believe he'd had it for weeks and when the truth came out, he was frozen out of the bedroom until he finally went through with it. 

After an incident at the Peacocks where Aadi Alahan was injured by another child, Claire, who was initially accused but later cleared, was so upset that her neighbours thought she was guilty that she decided to move away. Her mother was moving to France and wanted Claire and Ashley to go with her and her new fella. Ashley did not want to move and things between the couple broke down. It looked as if Claire would leave Ashley and go on her own but they eventually made up and started making plans to sell up and move.

Fate had other plans. During a stag do for Peter Barlow, an explosion ripped through the Joinery bar under the viaduct causing a tram to crash through the viaduct and into the Kabin and corner shop. Ashley, Nick and Peter were trapped under the rubble, Peter seriously injured. Nick and Ashley worked to move Peter and try to get him out. A beam fell but Ashley managed to hold it up so Nick could get Peter to the opening that the rescue workers were creating. Ashley knew he was seriously injured by this point as he had started to cough up blood. He insisted that Nick get out even though the whole viaduct was about to collapse, which it did, fatally crushing Ashley who died a hero.

Ashley's portrayer, Steven Arnold has always been consistent in his characterization. When Ashley was first introduced, he had a high squeaky voice. Over the years, Steven has toned that down and the voice you hear now is very close to Steven's real life voice and accent. Steven's character was given a fittingly heroic exit, which suited such a nice and upstanding character. One can only hope that Ashley and Fred were reunited in the hereafter while Claire and the boys make a new life for themselves.


Defrost Indoors said...

Fred would have been so proud of his boy. :) One thing I never understood though -- surely the house Ashley and Claire inherited from Fred would have been paid off? Why would they have needed to move?

Tvor said...

It's hard to say. The house might have had a mortgage on it to prop up the business while it was going through a hard time.

Tvor said...

I had another thought on this. The inheritance taxes and duties are often quite heavy. When Fred died and Ashley inherited the shop and any other money Fred would have had, i suppose the "death" tax might have been .. taxing.

Tammy said...

Wasn't the house originally given to Ashley & Maxine as a wedding gift or a Christmas gift from Fred?

Tvor said...

Yes but Fred had bought it originally for his new wife, Maureen Holdsworth. She ran off a week later with Bill Webster. He let Ashley live in it and later gave it to Ash and Maxine for the wedding, yes

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