Monday, 21 May 2018

“But She’s A Member Of The Hunt!”

Michael Lumsden (Alistair Lloyd)

Who is Lavinia Rafferty? And who is she? Funny you should ask that, as she is one of the Archers’ silent characters, but last week she had a big part to play.

Shula is going ever so slightly frantic, as Alistair has gone missing and isn’t answering his phone. He returns to the Stables eventually, but he is wearing his clothes from the previous day and Shula confronts him - has he been gambling again? Alistair denies this, but then says “You may as well hear it from me - it’ll be front page news before long.” It turned out that his last call was to attend to the abovementioned Lavinia’s mare and, when he had finished, Lavinia invited him in for a drink. He had nothing to go home for and one thing led to another (or, more accurately, ‘the other’) and Alistair stayed the night.

This wouldn’t have been so bad but, as Alistair was leaving the next morning, he was spotted by Chris Carter, who had arrived to shoe the mare. I hope this horse is insured - it must be costing Lavinia a fortune in vet’s and farrier’s bills. Shula is aghast, but Alistair says she ended their marriage, so she’s partly responsible. Never mind that, Shula declares herself humiliated because Lavinia had always fancied Alistair (in fact, he and Shula used to laugh at her attempts to flirt with him), but the worst thing is; “But she’s a member of the Hunt!” wails Shula. 

Note that Shula doesn’t seem too worried about the act of infidelity itself, just the person with whom it was committed. If you are going to bonk someone Alistair, can you please make it someone who doesn’t ride to hounds - after all, Shula is a Joint Master and standards have to be maintained. She describes it as “an affair” but Alistair protests that it was hardly that; “just one night that I regret.” “Better that than 19 years” is Shula’s stinging retort and Alistair leaves, as the rift grows ever-wider. Later on in the week Shula opens her heart to Alan and he points out that all her talk has been about how disappointed she was because it was Lavinia.

At Home Farm, the week began with Brian taking on board Justin’s advice about the way to a woman’s heart is through DIY and Jennifer finds him in the kitchen, trying to fix a tap that he says is dripping but which Jenny knows is perfectly OK. Sadly, Brian is to DIY what the iceberg was to the Titanic and it is not long before Jenny is soaked, the tap is doing an impression of the Trevi Fountain and Jen’s elderflower cordial, made after a lot of work picking and processing the flowers, is a complete write-off.

A day or so later, Adam is trying to convince his mother that “it might be time to let it go” (‘it’ being the long-running bad feeling between her and Brian. Jennifer cannot understand the new-found bonhomie (or, as she calls it ‘bromance’) between Adam and Brian and, when he explains about the DIY as an attempt to impress her and calls in “endearing” she explodes. “It will take more than dodgy DIY to get Brian back in my bed” she tells her son. Adam is concerned he hadn’t realised that things had got so bad, although Jen makes it plain that it was Brian’s decision to move out of the bedroom and not hers.

On Friday, Brian tells Jennifer that he wants to be friends again and he wants to be back in the marital bed. Jennifer reminds him that it was he “who moved out, like a child throwing its toys out of the pram” and she stalks off. Brian resorts to Plan ‘B’ and Justin, out riding Aziz (does the man never do any work?) finds Brian perched halfway up an elderflower bush, picking flowers. Brian tells Justin that it’s all his fault, as he came up with the DIY ploy, and the least he could do is help him pick flowers.

The trouble is that the best flowers are out of reach - of course they are; Jenny had all the ones that were easily accessible - and so Brian decides to climb further up the bush. We then have a few moments of farce as Brian can’t climb down and Justin convinces him to climb up higher so that he can get on to Aziz’s back and then dismount from the horse. If, like me, you were expecting some minor disaster, involving muddy clothes, trampled flowers and an undignified fall, you were disappointed, as Brian triumphantly returned to Home Farm, bearing masses of elderflowers that had not only been picked, but debugged into the bargain. Brian and Justin had celebrated with a pint or two at The Bull, which Jenny soon picked up on. Nevertheless, she seemed quite touched that he had gone to so much trouble and thanked him. Does this mean that all is forgiven? It would appear not, as Jenny hands Brian a pile of fresh linen for his bed. Cheer up Brian; it could be worse - at least she is still washing and ironing the sheets.

The situation surrounding Will and his children continues to deteriorate, with him not telling anyone the true story about how Martyn Gibson has given him a ‘come back to work full time or find somewhere else to live’ ultimatum. Eddie confides to Jolene that Clarrie is practically dead on her feet and cannot keep working so hard, trying to keep family, job and Will’s family together. Mind you, I don’t suppose for one minute that neither he nor Joe actually do much to help in the way of domestic chores. In fact, if you gave him a dishcloth, he’d probably wear it as a bandanna.

But, cometh the hour, cometh the woman, as Susan has an idea. She has drawn up a rota of people willing to help Will out by looking after the children when times get hard. Sounds like a good plan, but Ambridge’s number one ingrate (or possibly number two, after Joe) rejects the idea, saying that how would it look in court? It would give the impression that he cannot look after his children. Actually Will, you can’t mate, but he says “thanks but no thanks” and Su retires in embarrassment.

Eddie cannot understand Will’s attitude and tells his son a few home truths - can he not see that Clarrie is running herself into the ground? (No). When Will replies that he doesn’t need charity, Eddie says that it’s not charity, it’s friends offering to help and Will does need help, plus the rota would give Clarrie a much-needed break every now and then and Susan was only trying to help.

For once, Will takes his father’s advice to heart and he goes to see Susan to apologise for his reaction and he takes the rota “just in case.” Susan says that ‘rota’ was a misnomer (no, of course she didn’t use that noun - this is Susan, remember) and “it’s more a list of possible helpers.” Clarrie is delighted and calls Susan “a true friend.”

And now a couple of other stories; Pat continues to stalk Olwen, who has returned the laptop by leaving it on the front doorstep. Helen points out that, if Olwen wanted to talk, she would have rung the doorbell and, by the way, Helen has put her and Pat’s names down for the Will Grundy childcare rota. “That way you’ll be doing something for somebody who wants to be helped” Helen rather pointedly tells her mother. Pat, however, refuses to believe that Olwen doesn’t need help and goes out to track her down. Actually, PCB could use her on the force, as she finds Olwen’s car and knocks on the door (the windows are obscured).

Olwen’s reaction is unexpected, as she springs out of the car, brandishing a bread knife and sporting a black eye, neither of which she explains to Pat. Pat has a basket, with some rolls and food in and Olwen sneeringly describes her as ’Red Riding Hood’ and says that she (Pat) doesn’t know when to give up and she is only pursuing Olwen to make herself feel good. Olwen also asks if this is what Pat did to her daughter, interfering while ignoring the real problem. “I like you less and less every time I see you, Pat Archer” spits Olwen.

Last week, we described Pat as ‘The woman who can’t take a hint’ but it seems there is a limit even to her patience, as she accuses Olwen of feeling sorry for herself and that she needs help. Olwen’s answer is to tell Pat to go and the whole situation is rather acrimonious. Pat returns to Bridge Farm, where Helen asks if she managed to find Olwen. Pat replies that she didn’t, but I would bet a considerable sum that this story has more legs than a millipede and we haven’t heard the last of Olwen yet.

The final story involves the twins Lily and Freddie (and Johnny). Johnny has been trying to get in touch with Freddie, with a marked lack of success. Eventually, he touches base and tells Fred that he had to have seven stitches. The upside is that girls he has never heard of before have come up to him and asked if he was the guy whose window was trashed and looking at his wound. Far be it for me to impugn the intelligence of the adolescents of Felpersham, but this seems a bit weird - if Freddie feels the need for female company, he could always beat himself over the head and score a few sutures.

Freddie is playing pool with Johnny and Fred’s phone rings - he is told that he has an appointment with the Deputy Principal of the college first thing in the morning. “What’s it about?” asks Johnny. “I’ve no idea” Freddie replies. Oh, by the way, Johnny says that he told PCB that Ellis was probably the brick thrower - “Who else could it be?” he asks, reasonably enough.

Anyway, the following morning, Johnny is driving Freddie and Lily to college and we learn that he has told Lily about the meeting with the DP, whose name is Russ James. Freddie is a tad miffed by this, but Johnny explains that he thought Lily knew. At the meeting, Fred wants to know what it’s all about and Russ tells him that he has heard that Freddie has been dealing drugs at college. Fred asks who told Russ, and the DP says that he cannot reveal his source. The meeting ends in a stalemate, with Freddie denying the drugs accusation and Russ not telling who grassed Freddie up.

Fred immediately gets Johnny to drive him home, where he confronts Lily - doesn’t she want to know what Russ wanted? He then calls his sister a bitch - she must be the one who told Russ. Lily denies it, but then (after Freddie realised that the dodgy leather jacket he found in Lily’s car was the one that Russ was wearing earlier) she admits that she and Russ are an item. “But he’s married!” explodes Freddie and says that Lily has made things worse, as Ellis will think that Freddie fingered him for dealing and Lower Loxley had better guard its windows. Lily is unrepentant and says that Russ has changed and her relationship with him could work in Freddie’s favour. The week ends with both twins agreeing that Lizzie must never know about the drugs, or Lily’s affair. I find it odd that Lily has gone from Miss Sensible to trollop, overnight.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Help Lynda Pick A Pooch (Bonus Posting)

Ned emulating Lady

When it comes to thoroughness, you have to hand it to Lynda Snell – in her determination to find a replacement for the late, lamented Scruff, she is apparently going to test drive every breed of dog from Affenpinscher to Yorkshire Terrier. Let’s hope not, as there were 197 breeds listed on the website that I consulted and this would mean that the story would be longer running than the Helen and Rob saga (though presumably with less violence). 

If you or I were choosing a new canine companion, we might read up on a few breeds that we like, or just pop down to the nearest rescue centre and choose one with the cutest face, or floppiest ears or, as Neil did with his recently-acquired Ned, one that eats £20 notes and chews credit cards (and now books too! – Neil). Still, as I reminded him, there’s no such thing as bad dogs, only bad owners.

This isn’t thorough enough for our Lynda, who has been seen round Ambridge with a procession of assorted canines, including a Poodle, a Bulldog and her latest exhibit, a Bichon Frise called Lady. Where is she getting them all from? Rentabreed? Her story is that they are being lent to her by friends and I must say that, so far, the dogs do not seem particularly anxious about being parted from their owners, although Lady may have been a mite unhappy, but more of her later.

My second point is, why has Lynda suddenly gone upmarket? I don’t think we were ever explicitly told, but I am willing to wager that, with a name like ‘Scruff’, Lynda’s previous doggy friend was no pedigree pooch. Now it appears that mongrels need not apply.

The Poodle was written off, for reasons I cannot remember, and Bertha the Bulldog looked like she could be a contender, but she didn’t make the cut. Presumably the reason was that Bertha was as ugly as – well, as a Bulldog – and Lynda couldn’t risk people quoting the old saying about how owners grow to look like their dogs.

Enter Lady, the Bichon Frise. Lynda has her for a whole week, as she joyfully tells Robert. Robert asks if she is a real dog, commenting on her pom pom tail and button eyes (“Now I understand what they mean about toy dogs”) but he is soon won over when Lady licks his face. Lynda bangs on about how well-behaved Lady is and describes her as “a perfect breed”.

Lynda takes Lady for a long walk, talking to her the whole time and praising her lack of reaction when they encounter Ruby, who is running around like a mad thing. Perhaps this is a good time to ponder whether Lynda has given up talking to Scruff and carting his ashes around with her – one assumes she has, hence the search for a living canine to take for walks. Lady is something of a conversation piece, with the conversation mostly along the lines of ‘what the hell is that?’ When David comes across Lady, he is momentarily at a loss for words, saying “what a [long pause] unusual dog.”

Never mind that Lady looks like something that Walt Disney Studios might have created in one of their more syrupy moments; at least she’s well-behaved. Oh no she isn’t, as Lynda and Robert find out to their cost. Left alone in the sitting room for a few moments, Lady has gone berserk and overturned a vase of tulips, made a mess on the carpet and totally trashed Robert's copy of The Silmarillion(which he has had since his student days) and Lynda’s Canterbury Tales. Was Lady missing her real owner? Was being introduced to the llamas too much? Lynda does mention that the llamas were not that keen on Lady. Or was it just revenge on a hateful world that has produced what can only be described as a parody of a dog (apologies to Bichon Frise owners everywhere)? Perhaps the years of being laughed at, or greeted by raised eyebrows and puzzled faces finally tipped Lady over into senseless and random vandalism. Then again, it could be just a perfectly natural reaction to being constantly talked to by Lynda. 

On another note, am I the only person who reckons that the scriptwriters are having a competition to see how many references to The Silmarillion they can squeeze into The Archers? We had Lynda’s ordeal of trying (and failing) to read the book, culminating in her donating £20 to Alan’s ‘pay to complain’ fund so that she could tell Robert exactly what she thought of what he described as Tolkien’s masterpiece. We have heard more references to The Silmarillion over the past few weeks than I have heard in the past forty years and I reckon someone is having a laugh.

But we digress. It looks as though Lady isn’t going to be the new Scruff, so what do our readers think? Which breed do you reckon suits Lynda to a ‘T’? My contribution may sound a bit obvious, but I reckon that, with Lynda’s unsurpassed talent for the mega-disdainful sniff, her perfect canine soulmate just has to be the Bloodhound.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

The Woman Who Can’t Take A Hint

Patricia Gallimore (Pat Archer)

Yes, we are talking about Pat, who will be lucky if Olwen doesn’t report her for being a stalker. To say that Pat can’t take a hint is actually incorrect - she can’t seem to take on board blunt remarks like ‘sod off and leave me alone’, never mind hints.

We saw this tendency when she was quizzing Helen in her early relationship with Rob, continually questioning her daughter, asking if there’s anything she’d like to tell her and is she all right? Helen responded with “I’m OK” and “don’t ask” but would Pat let up? Hands up all those who said ‘no’. You might think that Pat would have learned her lesson, but you would be sadly mistaken, as she has made it her life’s ambition to improve the quality of Olwen’s life.

On Monday, Pat learns that Olwen turned up at the Elms for breakfast and immediately drops everything and rushes off to the hostel. Too late - Olwen has done a runner and it appears that she is sleeping in her car again. Pat is concerned about Olwen’s health and says that she won’t be happy until she’s sure she is OK. Various people tell Pat that, if Olwen doesn’t want to be found by Pat (and she doesn’t), then Pat will have great trouble finding her. Despite this, Pat does run into Olwen, and Olwen is not at all pleased.  Pat says that she wishes Olwen would come back and stay at Bridge Farm, but Olwen says that she is fine sleeping in her car, especially now the weather is getting better. It’s very kind of Pat, she says (not very truthfully) but she’s fine as she is.

Later the same day, Olwen is at the Elms for lunch and, as luck would have it, Pat is cooking. Pat says she’d like to talk to Olwen later and that she has a present for her. This turns out to be Tom’s old laptop and Pat says that it will enable Olwen to sort out her life, enabling her to have details of jobs, hostels and everything else that a homeless car dweller could wish for to hand. Olwen’s patience is being sorely tested and she says bluntly that she doesn’t need Pat to sort out her life for her and she doesn’t want the laptop, thank you very much. “You and I have taken different paths in life,” she tells Pat, adding: “I like the way I am - I don’t want better, OK?” That seems plain enough, but as Olwen gets ready to go, Pat demonstrates her obtuseness, saying “Shall I leave this here for you?” Olwen’s response (“Do whatever you like. Goodbye Pat”) seems unequivocal enough, but what’s the betting that Pat will be nagging her again at the Elms in the near future? I’m just surprised that we didn’t hear her say ’Is that a yes, then?’ as Olwen left. Perhaps Olwen should have beaten her senseless with the laptop as an attempt to give her a hint as to her feelings.

Freddie’s life becomes ever-more complicated. He invites Johnny to the quiz at The Bull, but Johnny is borassic. Never mind, Freddie will stand him a few drinks, as a ‘thank you’ for the help he gave him when Ellis came on a bit heavy. At the pub, the two lads are joined by Jazzer and Hannah. Jazzer is relentlessly pursuing Hannah and he tapped up Jim Lloyd for advance notice of the quiz questions, in order to impress her (Jim is questionmaster). Fortunately, Jim maintains his integrity and refuses, although he does insert and extra round (on history), which Jazzer might know something about. Unlikely unless it’s the history of pigs or lager.

Freddie has a great idea - Hannah is looking for a place to live and Johnny and Tom have a spare room; why not have a look? Jazzer thinks this is an awful idea, but Hannah agrees to go after the quiz. As Freddie and John are showing her round, there is a crash and a brick comes sailing through the window and catches Johnny on the head. He’s bleeding and we learn later that he needed a couple of stitches.

Not surprisingly, the trio are shocked and Freddie demonstrates once again that he is no loss to the detective force, when he says “It’s so crazy - I mean, who would do anything like that?” Let’s pause and think back a day or two - Ellis, who is a drug dealer, was getting shirty with Freddie for dealing on his patch and punched him on the nose. Johnny came to the rescue and saw an unhappy Ellis off. So, we have a man of known law-breaking tendencies, who is willing to resort to violence and who bears a grudge against Fred and Johnny. On the other hand, we have a brick through a window from an unknown assailant. It’s a tricky one Sherlock - at least a two-pipe problem, I’d say.

The following day, Lily is driving her twin to college and giving him the silent treatment. They drive past Johnny’s house and Lily spots the damage to the window, asking Freddie what happened? He talks down the incident, but Lily, who is obviously more quick-witted than her brother, says that does he think it is a coincidence that this happened the day after Freddie and Johnny stood up to Ellis?

When Freddie gets out of the car, he runs into Ellis, who says that he heard there was a bit of trouble last night and tells Freddie to take care. At last the penny drops and Freddie accuses Ellis of throwing the brick. Ellis refuses to confess, but says that, if it had been him, then maybe it was a way of sending Fred a message and “no-one deals round this college unless they work for me.” “Are you threatening me?” asks lightning-brain Freddie and Ellis replies “just telling it like it is.” Freddie has obviously been taking the brave pills, and a dose of stupidity tablets too, when he says “What if I disagree?” “That would be a big mistake” Ellis tells him, adding that he knows where Freddie lives, and that Lower Loxley has a lot of windows. It wouldn’t surprise me if Freddie didn’t think ‘you know, I reckon that Ellis had something to do with the brick throwing.’ I would suggest that this is no time to play hardball with a drug dealer and I reckon Freddie was thatclose to calling Ellis a cad and a rotter.

When in the car, Freddie noticed a rather naff leather jacket on the back seat - whose is it? Lily is rather coy about it and comes up with some story about giving someone called Ollie a lift and he must have left it behind. Freddie is not convinced and asks his sister if she has a secret boyfriend, which she denies.

On to more cheerful matters - PC Burns has not prepared for his promotion appraisal or similar and is therefore pleasantly surprised when his senior officer suggests that he goes for his sergeant’s exams next year. He and Fallon decide to celebrate at The Bull (this is quiz night, so the place is packed) and PCB wants to announce their engagement. Fallon isn’t keen - she has always been so overtly anti-marriage that she is afraid that people will think she has lost her marbles; especially if it became common knowledge that she proposed to PCB, rather than the other way round. 

On the night, he gets round this neatly by grabbing Jim’s microphone and telling the assembled throng that, from the moment he first saw Fallon, he knew he wanted to spend his life with her, and he proposes to her. At first she says ‘no’ but then changes this to ‘all right then’, which is not the most enthusiastic acceptance that I have ever heard. Anyway Harrison, well done for coming up with a solution and rest assured, that whatever happens in your sergeant’s exam, you’ll always be PCB in my book.

Over at Home Farm, Brian is gradually telling people about the fact that the insurance company will not pay for the clean-up. In a phone call to Hungary, Debbie agrees that selling land is the only realistic option. Adam has already agreed, so Brian tells Jennifer, but she has already guessed the score and agrees. Brian also tells Rooooth (as Ruairi’s representative) and David (whom Rooooth would presumably tell anyway. David asks how much land will need to be sold, to which the answer is 300 acres. Brian says that the plan is to sell the land which he recently bought from BL.

That just leaves Kate and Alice to tell and they are both very supportive - they don’t want to make things any more difficult than they already are. He is touched and says that he is going to open ‘something a bit special’. Are you sure you can afford it, Brian?

Adam had a great idea to go on a phone-in on Radio Borsetshire, to publicise the trouble he is having in recruiting fruit pickers. However, the interviewer twists the discussion around to the clean-up operation and asks if Home Farm fruit is safe to eat? Adam gets frustrated and annoyed and hangs up on him. Alice and Kate seek Adam out to sympathise with him and give him a big hug, describing the interviewer as “a brainless idiot.” Adam is grateful and calls his sisters amazing. Kate offers to give Adam some positive karma, while Alice’s contribution is doubtless more welcome, as she says she will help Adam with the caravans.

Will is worried by Bev’s statement that Andrew has contacted a solicitor to see how he stands vis-à-vis custody of Jake and Mia, as their biological father. Clarrie and Eddie talk it over with Will and it is eventually decided that perhaps Will should also see a Brief to see how he stands. Will has already seen Brian to discuss Martyn Gibson’s ultimatum that, if Will doesn’t work full time, then he cannot live at the tied cottage. Brian explains that his hands are tied, as he is no longer BL Chair, but he asked Annabelle to have a word with slimeball Gibson. All to no avail, as he was unmoved and Will has until the end of next week to make up his mind.

It seems that the interview with the solicitor went well and Will is optimistic that Mia and Jake will want to stay with him, although the solicitor said that the wishes of the children are usually taken into account. Will admits to his mother that he will have some work to do to get Jake onside. More goodies and treats coming your way soon, I reckon Jake.

Will, who hasn’t told his family about Gibson’s ultimatum, says to Clarrie that he will be returning to work full time. She is alarmed - why now and what will happen to the children? Will glosses over this and says “Mum, I need to do this, OK? I’ll sort it out - I’ll manage somehow. I’ll be fine.” Brave words Will, but we’d love to know your plans. Personally, I reckon he should call on Lexi for childminding - failing that, perhaps Emma could take some stimulants and take advantage of the few hours a day that she currently wastes by sleeping.

Monday, 7 May 2018

The Sooner You Go Off On Your Gap Year, The Better, Freddie

Toby Laurence (Freddie Pargetter)

Last week, we thought that Freddie had been taken over by aliens, as he was apparently knuckling down and revising. On Tuesday, however, Freddie is confronted by Ellis, who accuses him of dealing pills on his patch - and he has witnesses. Freddie tells him to do one, but Ellis demands to see what Freddie has in his bag. Fred resists and there is a struggle, during which Freddie receives a black eye.

Johnny turns up and breaks up the fight but, as Ellis leaves, he says “No more pills Freddie.” Johnny, not unreasonably, wants to know what’s going on and Freddie says “I’m not a dealer” (Johnny hadn’t asked if he was) and “Would I be that stupid?” The answer to this second question surely has to be ‘too bloody right you would’ but Johnny doesn’t pursue the subject.

Freddie explains the black eye to others as an injury sustained playing Dodgeball with Johnny, and this is the story that Freddie’s twin, Lily, tells Jazzer. Jazz expresses surprise and tells her he heard a different story (from Johnny). Lily confronts her twin and interrogates him regarding drugs, the dispensing of. Fred denies that he is doing E or amphetamines and Lily reminds him that, if he was doing drugs, she told him that she would tell Elizabeth. Freddie finally admits that he has been taking smart pills to help him with his revision and he gave a few to a friend.

Lily angrily says that those drugs have side effects and how could he be so naïve? Freddie thought she’d be pleased. But Lily replies that she’s done with him and, if he wants to wreck his life with drugs, it’s up to him. “I really don’t care any more” she says, as she angrily leaves the room. If I were you, Freddie, I’d book that flight to South Africa and sod off on your gap year. Always assuming that Elizabeth has liberated your passport from the office safe, of course.

There are a number of stories that I think have a particularly depressing potential to run and run, and, probably, run. The first of these is Will and the saga of his children and stepchildren. I’m surprised that Will doesn’t shackle Jake to a radiator. Instead, he takes his stepson out on treats; one of which is clay pigeon shooting. Jake misses the first two clays, but then bags a brace on the next pull. Will is ecstatic and says that Jake is a natural and could be a gold medalist at the next Olympics. Hold the hyperbole, Will - I think it would require a tad more practice. Will says he’s famished and let’s grab a burger. Jake says he will be late going home, but Will overrules him and they set off.

When they arrive at Andrew’s gaff, they are met by Bev (Nic’s mother) who says that Andrew is tending to his sick mother and, by the way, Will is 45 minutes late bringing Jake home. Will explains about the burger, but Bev says that Jake had supper in the oven. She sends Jake off to do homework and tells Will that Andrew has seen a solicitor to see where he stands and, she hopes it never happens, but Andrew has a good case for having Jake and Mia living with him, if it came to court. Just back off Will - they’re not your children after all.

The second ‘Oh God, when will it end?’ story is the saga of the Hebden-Lloyds. I am going to race through this, so pay attention. Alistair has moved back to the Stables, but he feels like a lodger - it’s a house but not his home and he spends a lot of time eating and drinking at Grey Gables, which must be eating into his savings. Shula is miserable and seeks help from her twin, Kenton. She knows that she should be looking forward to a new life, but how - what should she do? 

Kenton has the perfect answer - has Shula spent Caroline’s legacy yet? No - it will probably go on legal fees. Kenton is very anti and, the next thing we know, Shula is test-driving a Gti Cabriolet and having the time of her life. “Eat my exhaust, loser!” she crows, as she overtakes some poor pensioner. This is not like Shula and, just as Kenton is urging her to buy the car on the spot, she sees Alistair in a car - he must have seen them. This takes the shine off the whole experience for her and she says what was she thinking of - her and this car in Ambridge?

Towards the end of the week, Alistair confronts Kenton in The Bull - does he think that Shula is going about her new life in the right way? She will need support and respect from people like Dan and Jill, and is driving around in a flash car the way to go about it? Jill is still doing her ostrich impression - she turns up at the Stables and sees Alistair doing something to a horse’s teeth. She gets Shula on her own and asks how are things? Shula says “much the same” and Jill is surprised - it looked so normal with the two of them concerned about the horse. She says surely it’s not too late for Shula to try and patch things up? Shula nails her mother to the wall and says, through gritted teeth “There’s-no-way-back.” 

Will Jill ever appreciate that not every domestic problem can be overcome by a cup of tea and a scone, or a casserole and a glass of wine? I certainly hope so, because Jill is getting on my nerves. If Alistair has accepted that it’s all over, why can’t Jill? Can’t Shula apply for a quickie divorce in Reno or somewhere - I can’t stand months of this? 
Another long-running story is the clean-up operation at Home Farm. Adam tells Ian that Brian is up to something (“He’s like a wounded tiger”) and, on Friday, we learn the truth. Adam confronts Brian, as he noticed that Brian was walking the farm with their Land Agent - what’s going on? Brian admits that he is looking at selling some land and Adam is appalled - the land is their biggest asset. Brian shares that the EA are almost certain to prosecute and, even if he avoids a custodial sentence, they are looking at a substantial fine, which could be in the region of £2 million plus when you also factor in the clean-up costs, which the insurance company are refusing to cough up for.

Adam is still anti-selling land and Brian asks what else does he suggest? How about selling the stake in the Hungarian operation? Brian says that he has already done that and it raised around £750 k instead of the £1 million he anticipated. “The pot is empty” Brian says. This is the longest conversation that the two men have had since Brian was put out to grass and Adam is onside, saying that they all need to work together to save the farm. “Trust me Brian,” Adam says, “I won’t let this beat us - we’ll find a way.” My suggestion is to sell off Jennifer’s new kitchen; that seemed to have cost the thick end of £2 million.

As if Adam didn’t have enough problems; Lexi’s first embryo transfer didn’t work and the trio have only two more attempts to have a child. Lexi confides to Ian that she worries that Adam isn’t committed to the process, although he tells Ian that he is - he just has a few other things on his mind. He has a few more now - not least of which is where to find £2 million. As if he didn’t have enough problems, Adam is confronted by Alice, who accuses him of stabbing Brian in the back and saying that the farm can only work as a partnership and Adam broke that, so it’s up to him to fix it. This was before Adam learned that Brian had sold the Hungarian stake without consulting the partners, which might have changed Alice’s opinion.

Moving on to happier, or at least less lengthy, stories we have Lynda test driving various breeds of dog as a replacement for Scruff. This week she promenaded with a poodle and, a day or so later, Bertha, a Bulldog. Jill said that She looked very elegant with the poodle, but Lynda is not convinced. On the other hand, Lynda says that Bertha has the sweetest nature. Jill is not keen, as apparently Bertha is as ugly as sin. Lynda takes her (Bertha, not Jill) into the pub and Kenton has misgivings. Lynda admits that Bertha can’t run very fast and Kenton expresses surprise that she can run at all, upon which, Lynda gives one of her mega sniffs and takes Bertha off to sit with Robert.

Last week, we had the return of Hannah and speculation as to whether there would be a romance between her and Jazzer. On Wednesday, Susan is preparing a dinner to welcome Hannah back to Ambridge and she, Neil and Hannah are enjoying themselves. Hannah worked on a unit in North Carolina which had 100,000 pigs (presumably Jazzer would have been orgasmic). Halfway through the evening, Jazzer (who had learned that Hannah was invited to dinner) turned up uninvited. He asks if he and Hannah can be friends, but she says that there could be bio security problems with Jazzer’s pigs. Susan seizes on this as an excuse to tell Jazzer to sling his hook and, reluctantly, he goes.

Hannah says that Jazz is a bit deluded; they were never more than mates (Hannah’s first experience of pigs and Ambridge was with Tom) and “Jazzer still doesn’t know when he’s wasting his time.” It doesn’t bode well for Jazzer, from the look of things.

Let’s end on a happy note. Harrison Burns has been beating Fallon over the head about getting their finances into shape and making mutually beneficial Wills. On Thursday, Fallon tells PCB that she has been looking at a savings plan of her own and she’ll fill him in on the details later. It turns out that she has opened a monthly savings account, whereby you deposit so much a month. PCB is impressed, and even more so when Fallon says that it is a special fund - it’s for their wedding. PCB is surprised, as indeed were we, and signs up before she can change her mind. Of course, we have to ask ourselves just how viable such a fund will be with a monthly input of 25p. 

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Someone New To Hate

First of all an apology for the lateness of this week's episode. This was because both Neil and I arranged to go on holidays at the same time, so what follows is a joint effort. The person referred to in the title is Martyn Gibson who, as will be revealed toward the end, is an even bigger scumbag than we realised…


A new week dawns and the inside of Grange Farm is a scene of 21st Century domestic bliss. Ed's up early so that he can take Emma a cup of tea in bed and Will's putting the washing on. Appearances can be deceptive though, as the brothers are still going over the laptop incident. The argument is hopefully brought to a close by an agreement that the families stick together.


Later on, Will's in Felpersham looking for a new pair of trainers for Jake, when he sees Andrew - but Jake's not with him. Apparently he wants to spend more time at his father's house and, as we surmised last week, less time visiting the burial ground. So Andrew proposes that Jake lives with him and Ellie, and has regular visits to Will instead, but Will doesn't want to give up that easily as he thinks it will be letting Nic down. This seems to give him the kick up the backside that he needed


Later on Will and Eddie return to Greenwood Cottage for the first time since Nic's death and it seems to be a cathartic moment for him. Memories start coming back and he talks about donating Nic's things to a charity shop and tidying the place up so that he can move back with the kids, including Jake. When he returns to Grange Farm he sounds positively cheerful, for Will, as he explains to Clarrie that he'll be moving out. He even has a heart-to-heart with Emma and apologises for shouting at her and goes on to thank her for all her help. I could get to like this new humble Will.


There was a strange moment this week when Tony dragged Brian off to Bridge Farm to show him his restored Fordson tractor – which Brian is already familiar with! Apparently Josh has found a buyer for it, even though it's not for sale, and Tony wanted to seek Brian's opinion on whether to sell it or not. Hang on to it is the answer, and give Josh a slap (I made that last bit up) but did he really need Brian to tell him that? 


This takes place just before a family meeting at Bridge Farm where they're discussing how to invest the money from the land sale. Helen thinks they need a new high-spec kitchen for her cheese making classes and new product development, but the classes have not been as popular as she'd hoped. She floats an idea of Ian's to include bed and breakfast at Ambridge Hall for the students but Pat's doubtful and wonders whether they should use the money to help those less fortunate than themselves. Helen smells a rat as it seems that Pat would like Olwen's opinion – if only she knew where she was.


She's not the only one to wonder where Olwen's gone. Clarrie didn't realise she's homeless, living in her car, and thinks that if she doesn't want to be found then Pat's got no chance. Undaunted by the challenge, Pat seeks an off-duty Harrison's advice. He's in the farm shop buying something for dinner (rib-eye steak, fat chips, salad and a bottle of Rioja if you must ask) and suggests she goes down to the station to report Olwen missing.


Apparently Harrison can afford the steak dinner because he's good with finances, but appreciates his banging on about it can be a bit boring for Fallon. At the age of 32 Fallon doesn't see the point in worrying about a pension.


Jennifer's on the receiving end of some sad news from Adam – Lexi's embryo transfer didn't work. She sees Peggy and passes on the news; the family needs some good news and a pregnant Lexi would have lifted everyone's spirits. Peggy's sympathetic to how hard it's been for everyone, especially Brian. Jennifer decides Peggy needs to know the truth about the contaminated land and how Brian knew about it all along. Peggy's lost for words, momentarily, then as soon as she sees him has a right old go. 


Earlier, Brian was on his way to a meeting when he was held up by Jazzer and Rex moving Neil's pigs to Hollowtree. It's surprising then that later at The Bull, where Brian has set up office, Brian puts money behind the bar for him. Rex doesn't get a chance to have a drink though, as he's interrupted by an urgent call from Jazzer. Trouble with the pigs?


Alistair's been sleeping on Jim's sofa in an effort to distance himself from Jazzer's snoring. Shula's heard that Alistair's not sleeping very well and takes his special orthopaedic pillow round for him. She wants to drop it off and go but Jim calls Alistair to the door. He's very grateful; apparently it would be his desert island luxury. Really? Mine would be a distillery, but each to their own. His hopes are raised when Shula says she wants him back at The Stables; "are you saying you want us to try again"? Err, no. When Shula says they can make it work, her definition of 'it' is separation and divorce, not the marriage. This is the first time Shula's mentioned the big D.I.V.O.R.C.E, and Alistair's angry "and hurt, and baffled, and just broken to be honest. Until you can acknowledge what you're doing to me, what you've done to us, I'll stay here – and thank you for the pillow"!


For someone who was wondering a few weeks ago whether or not he was cut out to be a farmer, Rex is really getting into being a pigman, showing a devotion only marginally short of that displayed by Jazzer. Pigs in Ambridge ought to be all named 'Houdini', so regularly do they escape (it bodes ill for Berrow Farm, where there will be thousands of the potential porcine escapologists) and Rex's pigs make a break for it. However, they are stopped by the outer perimeter fence and herded back to their quarters. Undaunted, the pigs order a wooden athletics horse and start digging three tunnels.


Jazzer helps Rex secure the camp, sorry, farm and says that a couple of pints should cover the cost of his labour. They are joined by Daniel, who is out on a run, partly to escape the atmosphere at home and Jazzer offers his usual brand of advice – Alistair should get back in the saddle as soon as possible and start dating. Dan dryly remarks that this isn't really his dad's style and adds that he (Dan) is leaving tonight.


Over at the Stables, Alistair has arrived to check out Sintra, a sick horse. Shula thanks him for coming, although presumably, due to their changed circumstances, he will charge her the going rate. Alistair says that Sintra should be sedated "as I don't need another kick in the teeth" then he immediately apologises for the remark. It turns out that Sintra has spasmodic colic, which is less serious than it sounds, and should recover.


Shula says that she isn't sleeping well (unlike Alistair, whose orthopaedic pillow is wonderful) and she apologises twice to him, saying that she knows how much she's hurt him. For his part, Alistair accepts that her feelings won't change and he refuses the offer of a coffee, while Shula remembers their first date, when Alistair was called out in the middle of a meal to attend to a pregnant cow. Shula says that it isn't right; her having all this space and Alistair inhabiting Jim's spare room. Perhaps they should try again – living together without living together, as it were. Later on, Alistair returns, just in time to see Daniel leave, and he has his pillow with him. As Daniel drives off, his mum and dad hope that they can make the new arrangement work.


Will has pressganged Eddie into helping him make Greenwood Cottage into something approaching paradise for Jake on his return, which Will hopes will be soon. Will has also been ordering loads of stuff online and Eddie tells Clarrie privately that Will is doing so much for Jake but he must remember that teenage boys have minds of their own and he won't want to be pushed. Clarrie suggests that Will opens his post, which is sitting on the sideboard. There is the usual assortment of junk mail, bills and a letter from Martyn Gibson, in his capacity as BL Chair, which says words to the effect that 'sorry your wife died but when are you coming back to work full time? If you aren't coming back, you will have to relinquish all your benefits, including living in Greenwood Cottage. Have a nice day.'


To say that Will is upset at the timing, tone and content of this missive is a magnificent understatement and he goes to see Martyn, who apparently told him the same message to his face. Will then goes to see Brian – surely Martyn cannot do this? Afraid he can Will. Can Brian reason with Martyn on Will's behalf? Brian says that that wouldn't be a good idea, but he will try to get Justin and Annabelle to lobby for Will. Why not just cut his dangly bits off – that would teach him a lesson?


Will returns to Grange Farm, where he tells his mum and dad that he has sorted it out with Martyn and that he and the kids can stay at Greenwood as long as they like. He leaves, presumably to add another wing to the cottage, or to build Jake a bowling alley or a race track or similar, and Eddie tells Clarrie that he's proud of his son – he must have been very persuasive.


Brian is telling Jennifer that he will do all he can to help Will, when his phone rings – it's a man called Doug, whom Brian has been trying to contact for days. We only hear Brian's side of the conversation, which goes like this: "Is that your final offer?'s less than I'd hoped for, but I'm over a barrel…for the good of Home Farm, we'd better proceed." A deep mystery on which to end the week.


There is mystery too, as a strange girl calls at the Stables, looking for a petrol station (they can be so easily confused). Later, in The Bull, Rex tells Jazzer that a drop dead gorgeous blonde is looking at him (Jazzer). She comes over and introduces herself as Hannah and it turns out that she and Jazzer used to work together a decade ago and she said she'd come back to Ambridge someday. Hannah also mentions that she's just been hired as Deputy Unit Manager at Berrow Farm, which suggests that she has done considerably better than Jazzer. Before Hannah introduced herself, Jazzer had been teasing Rex about how he and Anisha are like an old couple and not a free spirit, like Jazzer. Rex's reaction is "Young, free and single sounds good; middle aged, free and single doesn't." Is our Scottish milk/pigman about to be brought to his knees by love, we ask ourselves? And will Hannah have to dress up in a pig suit to do it?



(Written jointly by Neil [Sun – Wed] and Peter [Thur and Fri] and posted 3rd May. Neil and I were both on [separate] holidays.)


Sunday, 22 April 2018

Daniel Learns The Truth About ‘Dad’

Will Howard (Dan Hebden Lloyd)

Dan, or to give him his full title, Captain Daniel Hebden-Lloyd of the Tank Regiment, (yes, he has been promoted) is a very confused young man - he cannot understand why his mother is acting the way she is, which puts him on a par with Alistair. Shula tries to explain, but Dan says that she doesn’t care who she hurts, but Shula denies this and says “I found you a good father, didn’t I?”

Dan is not impressed by this answer and wonders if his whole childhood was a lie and tells his mother ”I’m going to spend some time with the father that you very kindly found for me.” He sets off for the cricket pavilion, which is where Alistair is redecorating, chiefly to get away from Jim and Jazzer. The two talk and Alistair reassures him that he was both wanted and loved and he (Alistair) will always be Daniel’s dad. Dan says he never doubted it and the two hug.

Alistair invites Dan back to Greenacres for lunch, but he refuses. Alistair says that he can listen to Jim playing the piano, plus they are giving Jazzer a mock interview in the afternoon, by which we can only assume that he was trying to put his son off coming. For his part, Dan says that he needs to ring Dorothy and he’s going for a walk up Lakey Hill - “a good place to think.”

It seems that Daniel is seeking enlightenment from the whole Archer clan, as he has a discussion with uncle Kenton, telling him that, had the roles been reversed, Alistair would never have treated Shula the way she is treating him. Kenton realises that Dan is heaping all the blame on his mother and says that there was a time when Shula could have walked out on Alistair and nobody would have blamed her. Instead, she stayed and supported him. Dan has no idea what he is talking about and so Kenton tells him the saga of Alistair’s gambling problem and the lengths that he and Shula went to in order to clear the debt.

This gives Dan something to think about and he goes to see Elizabeth for more advice. They talk about Mark (Dan’s natural father) and Lizzie assures him that Shula never compared her two husbands and she genuinely loved Alistair once. Lizzie urges Dan to think before he does anything and he decides that he needs to go and see Dorothy - he needs to be sure that they still love each other.

At the end of the week, Dan returns to the Stables and has a heart-to-heart with his mother. He understands that she doesn’t love Alistair any more but he cannot get his head round how she is treating Alistair. She’s sorry, but she doesn’t know what else to do. Dan is taken aback. “Seriously? Aren’t you supposed to be a Christian? Doesn’t that give you a clue? You’re being cruel Mum, cruel and unfeeling - you may not still love Dad, but I do.” Shula still protests that she doesn’t know what to do and Dan tells her “If you want to put things right between us, then start treating Dad the way he deserves.”

So much for Daniel. Earlier we spoke about Jazzer preparing for an interview. This is for a job at the new pig unit at Berrow Farm and the interviewing panel consists of Justin, Neil and Adam. Justin is surprised to see Jazzer’s name on the list of candidates, but Neil points out that they are trying to keep locals onside and, if Jazzer were not included, there could be lots of grief from locals; not least from Jazzer himself.

At first sight, Adam is a strange choice for the panel, as he was vehemently opposed to the mega dairy plan at Berrow and presumably he is not a fan of intensive, indoor farming for pigs. Plus, his experience lies in arable and cattle, so what is he doing on the panel? Justin explains to Neil that Adam has great experience of employing teams of workers and he farms Estate land and grows maize that goes to feed the pigs.

And so to the interview. Jazzer is keen and arrives on a Bridge Farm quad bike, dressed in his overalls. His interview technique is, if we are being charitable, very individual and his answers to questions highly original. Examples: ‘Are you a team player?’ ‘Depends whether it’s Celtic or Rangers’ and ‘What do you consider your main weakness?’ ‘Either whisky or women.’ Justin thanks him for coming and Jazzer’s application is in the bin almost before he is through the door.

But there is method in Jazzer’s madness; the following day, Tom goes down to see Jazzer (on one of his frequent trips to tell his pigman that he is too tied up with managerial and decision-making problems to help him with the pigs - see you tomorrow with the same message) and asks how did the interview go? Jazzer tells him that Berrow Farm as good as offered him the job and he is considering it. Tom realises that, if Jazzer leaves, then the pig work will devolve upon him and begins negotiations to keep Jazzer at Bridge Farm. Jazzer manages to screw another £2 an hour out of Tom, who insists that Jazzer will have to take on more responsibility. Jazzer says ‘no thanks’ and Tom reluctantly agrees, whereupon the Scotsman says he’ll think about Tom’s offer. Tom obviously realises that he might end up with no-one to delegate to.

Next day, Jazz seeks out Neil, who is trying to think of a diplomatic way of telling him that he didn’t get the job, however, they will keep his application on file for later. Jazzer is unconcerned. “Bin it” he tells Neil, adding that he’s surprised he even got an interview and that he prefers working in the open air. “Then why did you apply?” Neil asks, mystified. “That would be telling” answers Jazzer and offers to buy Neil a pint. You Machiavellian little devil, Jazzer!

The situation at Grange Farm is getting on my nerves and last week Will had another go at Emma, suggesting that the way she told Jake off over the broken laptop (which she didn’t tell Will about) has caused Jake to want to spend more time with Dad Andrew and less with Will. To be honest, I can sympathise with Jake over this, as Will’s idea of fun seems to be visiting Nic at the burial ground practically every day and taking umbrage at everything that anybody says to him.

To be honest, I think the best thing for everybody would be if Will pitched a tent at the burial ground and lived there permanently with Mia and Poppy (presumably Jake would pass on the chance). One person who understands how Jake is feeling is Emma who, after Will had a go at her, tells Clarrie that she wishes that she had somewhere else to go other than Grange Farm.

Over at Home Farm, Kate tells Adam how thrilled she is that he is in control of the farm, as she has some radical ideas for improvements. For ‘radical’ read ‘deranged’ as she wants to get rid of the livestock - all of it. Her rationale is that lots of people are turning Vegan. Adam is both amazed and frustrated. “We’re a farm, Kate” he explains to her, adding that, as far as he’s concerned, grazing animals are a vital part of the farm “and I couldn’t possibly recommend such a drastic change.” Kate flounces off, but not before saying “What’s the point of you taking over if you’re going to do the same things as Dad?” Get back to cleansing your yurts Kate and leave farming to those who understand the commercial realities of the business.

Speaking of Brian, he is still being mysterious, hunched over his laptop in the pub. As Ruairi has returned to school, Jennifer is frantically trying to find things to keep him occupied. One of these is playing golf and he has a round with Justin, the day of the Berrow interviews. Brian is despondent, as Martyn Gibson has achieved his ambition to become Chair of BL, although Brian reckons he’ll be out of the job by Christmas. Actually, Brian says that he has been working on something that he would like to discuss with somebody, but he cannot trust the family. Justin offers his services as a listening ear.

We are not privy to the conversation, but Justin says that he’s sorry to hear that things have got so bad, but he thinks that Brian is taking exactly the right course of action. Brian’s response is that it won’t be popular with the family and Justin says that it’s very courageous. Brian makes him swear that he won’t tell anybody - not even Lilian. Such suspense!

Suspense is also rife over at Bridge Farm, where a nervous Helen is awaiting the arrival of Sheila Dillon, of Food Programme fame, who is coming to inspect the cheese-making operation, as it has been nominated in the national finals of the Food and Farming Awards. Surely, with Radio 4 nepotism, Helen will be a shoo-in? However, Helen is on edge (Susan tells Clarrie that she is cleaning the dairy with a toothbrush) and with good reason - she is petrified that Olwen’s big mouth will somehow queer her pitch. Helen doesn’t actually ask Pat to nail up Olwen’s door, but she does ask her to keep their (in Helen’s opinion) unwelcome guest out of the way while Sheila is around.

This works very well at first, but later, Pat and Olwen are in the shop, choosing organic ingredients for lunch, when Helen and Sheila walk in. Olwen is astonished at the high prices and, when introduced to Sheila, tells her that the Food Programme should concern itself with big issues and concentrate on the inequitable prices of organic foods, rather than the taste of cheese.

Pat drags Olwen away and the latter can obviously feel the daggers that Helen is mentally throwing her way, as she asks Pat “Did I go too far?” (Yes) and “Should I go back and apologise?” (No). Pat offers to go back and check that everything is OK - it is; Sheila has told Helen that she has heard worse - and Olwen says that “I need to go for a very long walk.”

No doubt, if she were there, Helen would add ‘Yes - off a very short pier’. When Sheila has gone, an agitated Helen tells her mum “If that woman has cost me the award…” She also adds that Olwen is impossible to live with. Pat then finds a note from Olwen - she has left, feeling that the family will feel more comfortable with her gone. Before Helen can say ‘thank Christ for that’ Pat says that she is going to find her again and “Society may have failed Olwen every step of the way, but I’m damned if we’re going to!” I was waiting for Helen to say ‘What do you mean we?’ but the episode ended.