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'Emmerdale' Shirley Stelfox reveals Edna burglary shock - interview

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Shirley Stelfox plays Edna Birch

© ITV

Emmerdale's Edna Birch won't have much to smile about this Christmas as she is burgled over the festive period, making her current financial crisis even worse.

Edna is walking home from church with Ashley (John Middleton) on Christmas Day when she discovers that the cottage has been broken into, which is the last thing she needs as she is already struggling to pay for her beloved dog Tootsie's medical treatment.

As Edna is reluctant to ask for help from anybody in the village, viewers will see her suffering in silence over the next few weeks as she must pay for costly repairs at home. Can she ever overcome her pride and get the support she so desperately needs?

Here, Shirley Stelfox - who plays Edna - chats about the heartbreaking storyline.

Is Edna getting a hard time from Paddy and Rhona about her payments for Tootsie's treatment?
"No, she isn't getting a hard time, but she is aware the bills need paying and it's not cheap. She also hasn't confessed that the small print on her insurance policy has meant she is not insured."

Has Edna ever considered telling Paddy and Rhona the truth?
"Goodness no! Edna would not confide in them. She is too proud. It's a sad time with Tootsie being so ill, but Edna is not someone who would share her grief or worries."

How is Tootsie doing at this point?
"Since Edna found the lump, Tootsie is having chemotherapy. Hopefully this will shrink the tumour, but it's a very worrying time and Edna is doing her best to give Tootsie the best care she can."

6418: Enda worries about the cost of insurance when Paddy reveals Tootsie has cancer, knowing she has no insurance

© ITV



How does Edna feel about Christmas approaching?
"Edna is quite apprehensive at the moment, as things are expensive. Little things become a worry, such as when Betty casually says Edna is responsible for the pudding when she is going over to hers. Edna is aware buying the ingredients to make a shared pudding is costly. Edna really needs to admit her problems and ask for help, but it is the last thing she will do at the moment."

What can you tell us about Edna's home being broken into this Christmas?
"Edna is distraught and feels very vulnerable after discovering she has been robbed. I can't give away too much about how it happens, but the viewers will see that Edna laid herself open to it. She unwittingly sowed the seed that caused the robbery."

Is Jude the only one who comes to Edna's aid?
"Actually it's Ashley who is the most concerned, so although Jude comes to help after the robbery, it is Ashley who spots something is not right. She's holding something back and he knows it is her pride holding her from saying what it is. I think Ashley possibly recognises this, as he too has suffered from letting his pride get in the way."

Does Edna confide in Ashley?
"She doesn't - again, Edna would never ask for help, it's just not something she would do. Ashley tries to get her to open up to him and for a moment there is a glimmer, a chink, but then the emotional shutter comes down and she is cold and closed up again.

"She feels very down afterwards. She is hungry, lonely and cold. She is shutting everyone out."

Do you think Edna will be able to cope for much longer?
"I'm not sure she can. She is resilient but as she is hungry and cold, I know it can only get worse for her."

What advice would you give Edna if she was a friend of yours?
"To me this is a story about pride, not about debt. Edna has a pride that is ridiculous! It's a real issue for her. But I think it is an issue worth exploring, as I don't think Edna is the only one suffering from such pride.

"I think there are people who do have pride like this. It makes it difficult to ask for help. They may have been the people who have worked hard all their lives, put food on the table, who have supported their family and always given help. I think it's hard for them to then admit they now need help.

"Edna needs help - these would not be handouts as she has worked hard all her life and there is support out there, but she just isn't asking for it."

6417: Edna cancels charity payments and reluctantly accepts help from Rodney to cover her outstanding debt for Tootsie's treatment

© ITV



Who would be the best person to help Edna?
"Edna should confide in someone - perhaps someone like Ashley. I think he would be good, as he too has had his difficulties. But Edna also needs to know there is proper help out there for people in difficulty. There are charities and support locally - she just needs to ask for it."

What kind of 2013 is Edna looking at?
"I think 2013 is going to start fairly grimly for Edna. To start with, she is really cold and hungry, then presumably the credit card will need its repayments making. Plus Edna has ongoing enormous vet's bills, plus her general bills.

"Then there is the buying of food for both herself and Tootsie. Being ill, Tootsie needs to be kept healthy and fed well. Hopefully things will start to improve for her as the year goes on, although I have a feeling things may get worse first.

"Hopefully this story about Edna's incredible pride will make people see that all she needs to do is ask for help. It is so simple. People around her and in the village do care, or rather would care if they just knew her plight. Edna needs to open up and be less stubborn. She needs to realise that asking for help is not an admission of failure - it is just circumstance."

What kind of response have you had from viewers over this storyline so far?
"Very positive in the respect that people are really sympathising with Edna - they don't like how Charity has been treating her either. They do want her to ask for help, but she can't."

Finally, we've all seen how close Edna is to Tootsie. Do you enjoy working with the dog who plays her in real life?
"The dog we use is called Dusty and is so lovely and sweet to work with. Dusty recognises my footfall - she knows it is me just by hearing me walk onto set. She is very sweet.

"Off set, Dusty is a normal little yappy dog. But she has been taught to be quiet when she is on set, so she doesn't make a sound when we are recording. If we ask her to bark in a scene, she just claps her teeth together silently! Yet away from the set she barks lots!"

> Read the latest 'Emmerdale' spoilers and news

Emmerdale airs weeknights at 7pm on ITV1, with an extra episode at 8pm on Thursdays. Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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