When life turns sour for some people, the road to the bottom can be slow and painful. For others it can be swift and spectacular, as appears to be happening to the vicar in a certain UK soap.
(Note: This article contains spoilers for those who haven't yet seen these soaps).
The Reverend Ashley Thomas is the vicar in the non-existent Yorkshire hamlet of Emmerdale. Although he did once thump local rogue Cain - before Cain's own father nearly did a more permanent job on him - Ashley is more a tea and sympathy clergyman than the fire and brimstone type. The recent suspicion of his one-time housekeeper that he had been physically abusing his elderly father was based on a misunderstanding. Thomas Senior being a cantankerous old coot, they were having a bit of an altercation when he slipped over and hurt himself. Old people often bruise easily, but Ashley's attempt to cover up the incident by schooling his young daughter backfired.
There was what might be termed abuse, but it was purely verbal, and would you believe it, the one time he does actually slap the old man, his wife walks in. A few months ago William Hill would have given you short odds indeed on the lovely Laurel whacking him instead of Ashley, because he had been sticking his oar in whispering in Ashley's ear that she had been having it off with the local chef. She hadn't, but of course, convincing Ashley of that was a different proposition.
Thursday night, obviously convinced he must suffer for his sins, Ashley walked into the local boozer and announced to the world that he really had hit his Dad. On returning home, he tries to explain things to his daughter, but is amazed to realise she is afraid of him. You're making it worse, says Dad. How could it possibly get any worse, he asks?
Well, your wife can eject you from the marital bed, then tell you your marriage is over. The following night, Friday, you will be arrested and cautioned for assault, and next week you will resign. And that is only what the scriptwriters have let us know so far.
What does a 50 year old former vicar do after losing his family, his post and his home, and picking up a conviction for elderly abuse into the bargain? One option is turning to the demon drink, but let's not be so optimistic. There have been murders in both Coronation Street and EastEnders recently, the murder of launderette lady Heather in the latter is still unsolved - though only by the local plod, not by the viewers.
This leaves Emmerdale with some ground to make up, a vicar turning into a wino or even committing suicide wouldn't fit that bill. What are the other possibilities? Ashley seemed determined to suffer for his sins considering it was such a little slap, certainly compared with that dished out by the not so fragrant Sergeant Smellie, or by this thug in uniform. One resulted in an acquittal, the other in a sacking and gaol sentence overturned on appeal plus a reinstatement, but although a vicar may have a hotline to God, there are some privileges even the Man Upstairs doesn't dispense.
It may be that when he realises he has lost everything and why, that love turns to hatred. It was truly amazing how quickly his wife ditched him, one slap and bye, bye. Even Antoni Imiela's wife stood by him, and one daffy woman married a serial killer while he was on trial for murder, Ted Bundy. It could be that Ashley decides to avenge himself on his faithless wife, Edna - the woman who reported the matter to the plod, the chef he believes lay at the heart of his marital problems, maybe he'll even torch the village...
This would be a sad but shocking tale, though it would give the saga of the tragic John Stape a run for its money.
If there is a moral to this story - which has been tragic for Ashley so far - it is that we shouldn't make mountains out of molehills. The loony feminists are adamant that any violence against wimmin must always be dealt with by the full force of the law, but sometimes the consequences of doing so can be far reaching and detrimental for all concerned. Perhaps it is better sometimes to let it go, or to whack him over the head with a frying pan when his back is turned.
Philosophising aside, over in Coronation Street, grease monkey Tyrone is on the receiving end of some equally quaint domestic abuse, from the psychopathic policewoman who shares his bed, and in another plot, there is a bit of arson brewing. Nothing like that down south in EastEnders, but the chickens have finally come home to roost for queen of sluts Bianca as she loses her job, robs a market trader - inexpertly - and heads back to clink with a loan shark in hot pursuit. Suddenly, the woman with a mouth as wide as the Mersey Tunnel is weeping silently.
Soon, Ben Mitchell, the sexually confused teenager who likes dancing, baking cupcakes for the visiting CID and whacking launderette ladies with picture frames, well, he appears to be cracking up under the strain. Will he confess, commit another murder, suicide, or all three? Whatever he chooses, he is a far more deserving candidate for self-immolation than poor Ashley Thomas, the man who had everything but threw it all away quicker than you can say John Galliano.