Arnold Swift was a fussy pensioner friend of Percy Sugden. Comparatively similar, the two differed in their attitudes to women. Arnold regarded Percy was someone who messed about, relating a story to Jack Duckworth about a time where he had a couple of ladies on a bowling club final but Percy wouldn't make a move. Arnold bragged that, unlike Percy, he wouldn't hesitate if he saw a woman he fancied, save for time to think, weigh it all up, find out her background, get the picture, and sleep on it.
In August 1988, when Percy needed someone to occupy Phyllis Pearce's attentions during the Street outing to Blackpool, he knew just the person to call and met with his old friend Arnold at the Rovers, Arnold accepting the invitation at short notice due to Percy offering to buy the drinks. Having busted his dentures on a stick of rock that last time he was in Blackpool, Arnold wasn't keen to return and didn't put his name down for the trip until he had assurances from Percy that the mystery widow woman he was being fixed up with was, as Percy put it, ripe as a Victoria plum, and would have something to say for herself.
On boarding the coach, Arnold found Phyllis keeping the seat next to her empty for Percy. However, on learning that Percy had been quite specific about Arnold's seat number, Phyllis realised Percy was avoiding her and decided to enjoy herself with Arnold. The pair ended up having such a good time relaxing in a hotel bar that they were late for the coach home and it ended up leaving without them. Arnold impressed Phyllis by arranging with a friend to get them seats on another coach, and when they returned home they started seeing each other as friends. Percy's reaction to the development was one of astonishment, particularly when Arnold thanked him for putting him onto the trip. Nevertheless, Percy was happy to be free of Phyllis for the time being.
A few months later, when Phyllis missed a lunch date with Arnold at the Rovers due to work, Arnold received a potted history of Percy and Phyllis's relationship from Jack Duckworth, who branded Percy as Rhett Butler to Phyllis's Scarlett O'Hara. Having previously been told by Phyllis that she hated Percy, Arnold was angry and ignored Phyllis when she tried to say hello to him in the street. Confronting her later in Jim's Cafe, Arnold told her he wasn't going to be used to inflame Percy's flagging passion for her. Fortunately, Phyllis managed to talk Arnold round and they arranged a proper date.