Sunday, 18 March 2018

What Happened To ‘Till Death Us Do Part?’

Judy Bennett (Shula Hebden Lloyd)

For a long time, we have suggested that all was not well between Shula and Alistair, but I must admit that I was anticipating some sort of intrigue with her ex-flame Richard Locke. What I wasn’t expecting was that Shula would just get bored with her husband of 20-odd years and walk out.

The week began with Oliver traipsing round the village, bestowing largesse (in the shape of Caroline‘s bequests) on Shula, Will and heaven knows who else. Shula tells Alistair that wouldn’t it be great to go abroad for a couple of months and use the money to provide equine therapy for underprivileged children? Alistair points out (reasonably, in my opinion) that he cannot really desert his business for eight weeks. Shula says that surely Anisha owes him something for covering for her when her mother died? I thought that the death of a close relative was somewhat different than swanning off for what would essentially be a holiday, and Alistair thinks the same.

However, Alistair says that, if Shula wants to go, it’s OK with him. The following day, he accepts that he got the wrong end of the stick and he realises that she wants to do something together, so can she finish work by six o’clock? Shula gets dressed up and, when six o’clock comes, Alistair reveals his big surprise - he has been to Felpersham and bought all the authentic ingredients so they can make the Goan curry that they both like so much.

Shula is underwhelmed, but bites her tongue and gets the pestle and mortar, ignoring Alistair’s comments about how he accepts that they both need extra spice in their lives. He’s right, but she means excitement and he means turmeric.

It all comes to a head on Wednesday morning, when Alistair remarks that Shula had a restless night. She then spoils his breakfast by saying “I don’t think I can go on much longer. Sorry, but I really think it’s all over.” Alistair says “what’s all over?” and Shula replies “our marriage.” Alistair is gobsmacked and says that she cannot just say something like that out of the blue - is there anybody else? “I just don’t love you any more” Shula replies. He reaches for her and she says “Please don’t touch me” and starts crying and runs out of the door. Anyway Alistair, have a good day at work and we’ll catch you later. Shula has a talk with her twin and he invites her to stay at The Bull for a few days and he’ll go to the Stables and get her stuff. “There’s no passion left” Shula tells Kenton. We all know that Shula is a bit of a God-botherer and I accept that she hasn’t mentioned divorce, but what happened to ‘Till Death Us Do Part?’

When Kenton goes to the Stables, Alistair is bereft and bewildered. Kenton says that Shula just needs some time to herself and he has a list of what to pick up and Alistair berates him for not folding her clothes properly. Alistair is particularly affected when he gives Kenton a book to pack that Shula has been reading, entitled ‘How to grow old together.’ Kenton says, yes, it is hard “But sometimes these things just run their course.”

Shula and Alistair run into each other later in the week at the Stables and there is seemingly no prospect of a reconciliation. Jim comes in mid-discussion and hopes he’s not intruding, but doesn’t Daniel have a TV in his bedroom that Jim could borrow (he and Jazzer are having a disagreement over TV watching and Jim’s keyboard practising)? Shula starts to raise objections but she realises that she doesn’t care and suggests that Jim sorts it out with Alistair, as “we’re not together any more.” Jim is perplexed, but Alistair assures him that it is a temporary blip “and you’re not to breathe a word to anybody.”

While we are celebrating our powers of prediction, we must turn to the ‘did she or didn’t she?’ question of whether Nic ran over Matt Crawford. Joe continues his investigation into what happened and is appalled to find out that, on the night in question, Nic was working at The Bull but she left early, as Poppy was unwell. Joe is shaken and, on his return to Grange Farm, Ed notices that something is amiss and Joe tells him of his suspicions - after all Nic wasn’t a liar and why should she tell lies on her deathbed?

Joe swears Ed to secrecy, but Ed cannot believe that Nic could do such a thing and drive off. Later in the week, he proposes a theory to Joe - maybe Nic hit a badger, or a fox, or similar and assumed that it was Matt. Joe is cheered by this and seems to accept it, but I have my doubts - if she had hit an animal, presumably its lifeless body would have been found in the ditch. Nobody mentioned such an occurrence, but the indisputable fact is that a slightly-mangled Matt Crawford was found in a ditch - I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

On to a less serious matter - Toby continued to push the pigs at Hollowtree idea to Rex. Rex talked to Jazzer about what it’s like looking after pigs. Jazzer said that it’s an awful ordeal in the winter and Rex was disillusioned, until Jazz said that pigs are wonderful animals; intelligent and amusing. Whether he cries when they are sent to slaughter, we weren’t told. Rex tells Toby later that he is leaning towards looking after the pigs, but the real reason is that his dad had lined up a job for him in the back office of a wine importer, or similar. Rex cannot bear the thought of his dad trying to organise his life, so is inclined to accept the pig job. I wonder whether he might have other thoughts about being in an office when he’s out in a snowy field, up to his welly tops in mud - and that’s if he’s lucky - breaking the ice on water troughs.

Things at Home Farm continue to go from bad to worse. The only person who doesn’t seem to be directly affected is Debbie, who is presumably in blissful ignorance in Hungary. As for her siblings, Kate is almost in despair because Spiritual Home bookings are zero. She has had to accept a booking from a youth group from Birmingham, at a hefty discount, and isn’t happy about it. Brian asks if it would help if he had the place ‘spiritually cleansed’ but Kate says it’s gone beyond that. She is even more unhappy when the leader of the youth group comes to do a recce and is freaked out when she sees the clean-up operation being carried out next door and cancels the booking. Kate tells Brian that some screening of the clear-up site is needed for her clients - not that she’s got any.

Adam is chuffed to have been invited to join the council of the soil association by Michael Parker. Parker rings Adam later in the week - can they meet up? Adam is all for it, but is dismayed when Michael tells him that his members have decided that the contamination at Home Farm could attract adverse publicity for the group and they’d rather that Adam had no high profile post. Adam is bitterly disappointed and tells Michael to stuff his soil group.

He tells his mother about this and she tells Brian. Brian is trying to make up for his behaviour forty years ago by doing what he can for his children - he has already agreed to fund Kate’s wall, or screen, or whatever, and he seeks out Adam - in the Autumn, the herbal leys are due to be returned to wheat production; how would it be if they put a similar acreage to new herbal leys? Adam cannot believe it and tells Jennifer that it seems that Brian has really grasped what Adam has been banging on about over recent years. She taxes Brian about this later and he says “I want to do everything I can to protect our children.” “Do you?” she replies, “I don’t know how you can live with yourself.” Not convinced, then Jen?

No matter - Jennifer is busy and it will come as no surprise that this involves cooking. Adam notices a pie and asks if that’s what they’ve got for lunch? No chance - the pie is destined for Will, who she has heard isn’t handling things very well. She delivers the pie later in the day and Will isn’t really interested when she tells him that he can eat it or freeze it. Emma is at Will’s cottage - she has thrown herself into arranging the Order of Service for Nic’s funeral and is walking on eggshells, although Will couldn’t really care.

In fact, he goes out, saying that he has firewood to get in and Emma apologises to Jennifer, who, for once, takes the hint and goes home. Emma finds Will chopping logs and she tells him that they need to get the Order of Service finalised. What does he think about ’All things bright and beautiful’ for the intro hymn? ‘Whatever’ sums up his response. Emma would like to give a eulogy, if Will doesn’t mind. She explains what ’eulogy’ means and he says “if you like”. Emma isn’t getting a lot of co-operation from Will and she asks whether he’d like to say something at the service? The immediate “No!” is the most positive Will has been about the whole business.

However, things are not yet finished - Emma says that she has had an offer (I think it was Pat, but I’m not sure) to look after Poppy for the day of the funeral. Will says that won’t be necessary, as he’ll look after Poppy. Emma is surprised, but Will explains “She’s not going to the funeral and neither am I.” He goes on to say that he doesn’t want to sit there and be told that Nic has gone to a better place and that they will be reunited later. “She’s gone and nothing’s gonna bring her back. You can do what you like - I won’t stop you, but I won’t be there.”

The unsympathetic amongst us might say that this will ensure that the service is not as miserable as it could have been, but we are left with the question - if Will doesn’t go to the service, nor, presumably to the Wake afterwards, then can Kenton be sure of getting paid?

Monday, 12 March 2018

Saint - Or Sinner?

Emerald O'Hanrahan (Emma Grundy)

Will continues on the path to self-destruction, upsetting family members and others along the way. Emma pops round and starts clearing things up, despite Wills protestations that he will get round to it later. She suggests that he cleans himself up a bit and, when he returns, she is ironing shirts. “Still here then? is his less-than-gracious comment. Instead of feeling grateful, Will moans because Emma is putting crockery back in different places from where Nic put them.

Why are you here? he asks her. To see youre OK she replies and Will says hes fine; in fact he was up half the night working on figures for Brian and hes going to take them to him later I only wanted to help Emma says, with a tremor in her voice. If you really want to help, get out snarls Will and Emma leaves, in tears. True to his word, Will drives over to Home Farm to find Brian, who is very surprised that Will has been working on the figures and even more surprised when he sees that he has brought Poppy along with him. Brian tries to explain that the figures arent that important and Will should be concentrating on his family. Inevitably, Will takes this as a criticism and he ends up telling Brian to stuff his job. Not a bad mornings work Will; reducing your sister-in-law to tears and chucking in your job - what will you do after lunch?

Clarrie is on the verge of despair; not just because Will wont let her touch anything at home, but Joe (with whom Will had an almighty row last week) is not eating and spends seemingly all his waking hours out of the house or taking Gem out in the trap. You can tell that Joe isnt right, as he turns down an offer of a drink from Jazzer. Mind you, he doesnt turn down a similar offer from Jim Lloyd, who makes the mistake of trying to match Joe pint for pint.

Jim tries to encourage Joe to make things up with Will, saying that they should share their memories of Nic and that Will will like to know his wifes final words. Joe gets up and Jim thinks he is off to see his grandson, but he isnt, as we will see.

Back at Grange Farm, Clarrie and Eddie are wondering what they can do to mend the situation. Rooooth suggests that they try to get Will and Joe inside the same room. Eddie has doubts - he is afraid that this might make the situation worse, as both men are stubborn and both have quick tempers. However, he and Clarrie agree that its worth a try and they engineer a situation whereby Joe and Will are alone. Eddies worst fears come to nothing, as Joe apologises for not going to see Will all week and Will says how sorry he is for the way he spoke to his Granddad, but he was so angry. Joe replies that nobody should have to suffer what Will is going through and Will breaks down in tears. Oh Granddad, shes gone and she aint coming back, is she? Will asks. No son, she aint coming back agrees Joe, sorrowfully.

Will doesn’t know what to do, but Joe says that he’s got to keep going for the sake of the kids. Will has another worry - Poppy is only four; what if she forgets her mother? Joe says that they mustn’t let her “Her mother was a saint and I won’t let her nor nobody forget it” he tells Will.

Three paragraphs ago we said that Joe left Jim. He didn’t go and see Will, but instead turned up at Honeysuckle, where Harrison Burns was carrying out some DIY. Joe tells PCB to look after Fallon and PCB is intrigued - surely Joe didn’t drop in just to tell him that? Apropos of nothing, Joe asks how is the investigation into the Matt hit-and-run coming along? PCB says that it is on-going as H&R is a serious offence and the police are duty bound to continue to try and find the perpetrator. Joe says it was probably some townie “doing motorway speeds on country lanes” and PCB says he knows why Joe wants it to be an outsider, as “you wouldn’t want it to be someone you know.” “No, you wouldn’t” Joe agrees.

Now, this could be a deliberate red herring, or are we being prepared for a shocking revelation? Consider - as Nic lay dying, she intimated to Joe that she would not go to Heaven. Add to this the fact that we know that she said something else, but we were not privy to her last words and you have to wonder whether or not Nic was trying to confess to running Matt over. If so, I don’t see why that should deny Nic place in Paradise - after all it is Matt we are talking about here and a goodly number of people in Ambridge would put her forward for a medal. Only Joe knows the truth, but it does seem odd that he sought out PCB specifically to ask about the H&R. Should Nic be the errant driver, surely Joe will keep it to himself? After all I’m not aware that many saints run people over and leave them for dead. Having said all this, I’m not entirely sure whether or not Nic can actually drive - if not, this is where my theory falls down.

Over at Home Farm, Kate has returned from South Africa and she astonishes Adam when she says that Siphiwe (Lucas’s new partner) is a very nice person. However, all becomes clear when she reveals that Siphiwe is older than her. Kate is keen to get back to work at Spiritual Home, but all is not well; the controversy about the contamination in Low Mead has led to all her Easter bookings being cancelled. Not only that, but her therapists are slagging off SH on social media. ‘How can you detox in a toxic environment?’ says one.

Brian does a good job of avoiding Kate (and his other children) but Jennifer is becoming increasingly worried - shouldn’t they tell their offspring that Brian is culpable? Brian cannot see what the point of this would be, other than to salve Jenny’s conscience and the conversation becomes heated. Brian is also put under pressure by Rooooth in her capacity as Ruairi’s representative on the Home Farm family council. Brian blusters and points to his record of running the business over the past few decades before he storms out. He tells Jenny later that his instinct tells him that everything will turn out all right and she just needs to trust him, but she is not convinced and this story has plenty of life left in it.

Another story that has intriguing possibilities involves the Fairbrothers. Toby thinks that his best chance of being allowed to stay at Hollowtree is for Rex to take over the running of Neil’s pig herd, but, when Toby tries to tell Rex about his idea, his brother won’t even listen. Undeterred, Toby asks Josh to run the idea past David, stressing that it would be Rex in charge. Josh reports back that his father thinks it’s a good idea, provided that Toby isn’t involved.

All Toby has to do now is sell the idea to his brother. Let’s consider; Rex knows sod-all about pigs, plus he gave up the geese business because he didn’t want to work long hours with animals in all weathers for scant reward. Add to this the fact that, although Anisha is a vet, she presumably doesn’t want a boyfriend who smells of pigs and it looks like Tobes has got his work cut out talk his brother into this. If he tries, I will be bitterly disappointed should Rex cave in - if so, he will exhibit all the backbone of a banana. Take my advice, Rex - grow a pair and tell Toby to sod off; if he bleats that a refusal would see Scruff gin ousted from Hollowtree, then so be it - I’m sure Rex could list a catalogue of the times that Toby has let him down. If you wimp out of this Rex, you will henceforth be known as ‘the invertebrate’.

Elsewhere, after his mammoth drinking session with Joe, Jim begs a lift off Alistair, as he feels he is over the limit. Alistair isn’t best pleased, as he waits outside a house for 45 minutes. Jim emerges, announcing that he has just booked his first piano lesson. Alistair cannot understand why this should take so long (“we have telephones for this sort of thing”) and the pair bicker all the way back to the Stables. Jim tracks down a piano for the lounge and Jazzer is alarmed, as it threatens his view of the TV. He enlists Josh’s help to persuade Jim to have a keyboard instead and - would you believe it? - Josh knows where he can lay his hands on one at a very good price.

And now we have a revelation - did you know that a native of Ambridge is an apiphobic? The person in question is Philip, who tells Alistair that Kirsty has invited him to help her with Jill’s bees. He agreed, but the problem is that he is terrified of bees. What can he do? If he calls off, Kirsty will wonder why, but he cannot face the thought of being confronted by thousands of the insects, crawling all over each other.

Alistair advises him to come clean with Kirsty - she isn’t the sort of person who would hold this against Philip, although Alistair says that she’ll probably laugh. In the event, Philip does fess up and, yes, Kirsty does have a laugh, but she understands and suggests that Philip accompanies her, but keeps well back. A grateful Philip turns up at the Stables with a bottle to say ’thank you’ to Alistair and Shula invites him to stay for dinner. Jim, who has returned with Alistair from his piano tutor’s, has invited himself to dinner and Shula remarks that everyone has a glint in their eye. Everyone that is, except Alistair, who, when a toast of ‘new beginnings’ is proposed, says to Shula: “Some of us are content as we are, aren’t we darling?” and she is hesitant, and doesn‘t answer. I have said for some time that something seems to be not quite right between Shula and Alistair and things that have been said recently (mainly by Shula) have done nothing to dispel this feeling. Also, what has become of ex-flame Dr. Locke - he appears to have vanished? Watch this space.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Will Lashes Out - At Everybody

Edward Kelsey (Joe Grundy)

I suppose we should forgive Will for being miserable and angry in equal measures; after all, his wife has just passed away. Having said that, it is depressing to see him revert to the old, unlovable Will, with not a good word to say about anyone.

To be fair, he is equally hard on himself, continually going on about how he was not there when Nic died and blaming himself for leaving his wife with Joe instead. This mood of self-flagellation doesn’t last long, however, and he is looking around for people to blame, albeit subconsciously. First of all, he is fed up with people expressing their sympathies and, as he describes it, “fussing around after me.” This includes practically everyone in Ambridge and it is a brave person who approaches Will and offers condolences.

Eventually, Will picks on Joe as the chief offender and, on Thursday, accuses his grandfather of letting him down. Once again he talks about Joe “fussing around” him and says that it’s too late now and Joe cannot make amends “You had one thing to do for me and you never did it” Will rants. Joe is mystified - what is Will talking about? “Why didn’t you come and get me when you knew Nic was dying?” Will demands. A startled Joe protests that he didn’t know how ill Nic was, but Will is in no mood to listen, saying that Joe made Will leave his wife to look after Poppy. “She died and I weren’t there for her and I can‘t never put it right” Will says. “She weren’t alone, William” Joe reminds him and Will agrees, snarling “No, she had a thoughtless, selfish old man fussing round her instead of me and I can never forget.”

Brother Ed is at Will’s, fixing a broken down pipe for him and he comes in as Will is having a go at Joe and asks what’s going on? Will then has a go at Ed and again accuses him and the rest of the family of “fussing round him” and he storms out, shouting “I’ve got to go out and clear my head - before it explodes!” That could be a good solution, Will, thinking about it.

The following day, Clarrie mentions that Joe was very upset yesterday and does Will have any idea why? A sneering Will immediately asks if Ed has been talking out of turn and Clarrie says she hasn’t spoken to Ed and what is Will talking about? He tells her about the row with Joe, but he is not contrite; even when Clarrie tells him sorrowfully that Joe is really suffering.

Brian turns up to offer his condolences and he hopes that Will isn’t worrying about work. Don’t worry, Brian, he isn’t and, when Brian says that he wishes he had never invited Will to meet potential new guns on the day that Nic died, Will interrupts him, saying: “But you didn’t invite me, did you? You made me go, even though I’d asked for the day off.” He adds that, had he had the day off, he could have noticed how ill Nic was earlier and could have taken her to hospital earlier and she might have been saved. Brian says he’s sorry but Will is in no mood for what he regards as platitudes and tells his boss: “It’s too late now. If that’s all you’ve got to say, you’d better go. I had one chance to save Nic’s life and you took it away from me.”

There you go, Brian - take the mantle of guilt off Joe and put it on. It seems an unreasonable accusation - how was Brian supposed to know that Nic had a life-threatening disease? Will also declared that the day had been a waste of time and he and the guns had spent the time watching Brian get drunk. All in all, not the way that a boss expects to be spoken to by an employee - Brian might remember Will‘s words, come his next appraisal.

So far, all Will’s accusations seem unreasonable and, deep down, you know that he is beating himself up for not being with Nic at the end. However, there is one instance where his anger is justified and that is against the packing case and the rusty nail on which Nic scratched herself and which gave her the sepsis. Will attacks the case maniacally and tells his family that he wants to destroy every atom of it and, using saw and petrol, he does just that.

It hasn’t been an especially good week for Brian - apart from the tongue-lashing from Will, Annabelle intimated to him that, with all the fuss over the contamination at Low Mead, the BL contract with Home Farm might be up for review. Brian is alarmed - the farm is spending money hand over fist on the contamination clear up, plus one of Adam’s major customers has cancelled his soft fruit-buying order and the loss of the BL contract would be catastrophic. Brian asks Justin if he knows anything? He doesn’t, but promises to make inquiries.

As it turns out, the contract is safe from review for the foreseeable future and Brian is relieved. Daughter Alice has more bad news for him - Pryce Baumann (the firm for whom she works) has decided not to proceed with the trial of technology on Home Farm’s machinery, due to the bad publicity over the contamination. “I could kill whoever dumped poison on our land” says a seething Alice.

Brian confessed to Jenny that he knew about the contamination, as he turned a blind eye to it 40 years ago. He would have done better to keep his mouth shut, as Jenny has an attack of conscience, claiming that she feels complicit and perhaps they should tell the children the truth? Brian isn’t keen - not surprising really, as, following Alice’s remark, he would be a prime candidate for a spot of patricide - but Jenny has another idea; don’t tell Kate and Alice, but doesn’t he think that Adam and Debbie ought to know, given their involvement in the working of the farm? Brian points out that, if he takes this course then, when Kate and Alice do find out, they will realise that they had been kept in the dark and would think that Brian and Jenny didn’t trust them. “It has to be all, or nothing” he tells his wife. In the end, they decide to keep quiet.

Mind you, I’m surprised that Jennifer has time to worry about moral problems, as she is hell-bent on force feeding Lexi, who moans to Roy about being inundated with cakes, stews and all things culinary. If this wasn’t enough, Roy and Lexi are invited to dinner at Home Farm, where the small talk is a bit forced, to say the least. Roy’s mood is not improved by the fact that Lexi has told him that sex is off the menu until she is carrying Adam and Ian’s child.

Brian remarks that it’s unusual to have fish for a starter and a main course and Jennifer replies that fish is very good for you, leaving the words ‘when you are expecting’ hanging in the air. She also bangs on about the importance of exercise in pregnancy. However, her piece de resistance comes when she talks about Adam’s good news. He is horribly embarrassed and tries to get her to shut up, but to no avail, as she tells the room in general that the fertility clinic had contacted Adam and said that his sperm sample has been passed as A-OK. I suppose we are lucky that she didn’t produce the sample to show everyone. At the end of the meal, Roy and Lexi can’t wait to escape and a perplexed Jennifer says “they didn’t linger, did they?” “A touch too much procreation in the conversation” Brian remarks, dryly. It’s all water off a duck’s back for Jenny, as, when she and Brian discuss whether or not to tell the children about the contamination (which happened the day after the Home Farm dinner) she reveals that she is in the process of making pies and flans for Lexi, who has probably put on four or five stone since agreeing to be a surrogate.

Over at Brookfield, Pip is still having mixed feelings about her pregnancy - she is worried that, because she cannot do much round the farm at the moment, and won’t be able to do much after having the baby, she might forget all about farming. Rooooth pooh-poohs this, telling Pip that farming is in her genes. Pip has been thinking about the new milking parlour - she favours the open-sided format, while Rooooth prefers the herringbone. Rooooth has put Pip in charge of managing the project, but Pip has had second thoughts, as she realises that, for the near future at least, it is Rooooth who will be doing the majority of the milking, so it makes sense that she has the major input into the choice of parlour. In the end, the two women agree to project manage the new milking parlour together.

Neil, as we know, is on the verge of taking over as pig unit manager at Berrow Farm, but he is worried - what if he decides that the job isn’t for him? Due to bio-security, it would be impossible for him to maintain his pig herd and work at Berrow, but what if he sells the herd and then gives up Berrow? The ideal solution, he tells Tom, would be for Tom to take on the pigs, as Neil supplies Bridge Farm with weaners. Then, if things don’t work out for Neil, he could take them back. A good idea, but Tom rejects it, as he’s got enough on his plate already. A disappointed Neil tells Tom that he’ll just have to keep trying to find someone.

Neil mentions his dilemma to Toby, remarking that it could be a good profit-sharing opportunity for the right person. A light bulb goes off in Toby’s head and he sets off to find brother Rex, who is collecting eggs. Toby tells Rex that he’s got fantastic news - Toby doesn’t want to have to move the still from Hollowtree, but, since Rex is giving up the geese business, David has realised that the land at Hollowtree is not realising its full potential and is threatening not to renew the Fairbrothers’ lease when it expires in August.

What they need, Toby tells Rex, is another farming business to demonstrate that they can utilise the land properly. When Toby says “we” he really means “you” and Rex points out that he already has three jobs. Toby derides these jobs as ‘egg collector’, ‘Josh’s gofer’ and ‘part-time driver’ and he has a great opportunity for his brother. “The answer is ‘no’” Rex says, before Toby can even tell him what he has in mind. Rex adds that, if it’s one of Toby’s ideas, it will be impractical, wrongly costed, under-funded and a complete waste of time and money. Toby is not happy and stalks off in a mood. Well, they say that the truth often hurts, don’t they?

Monday, 26 February 2018

The Good Die Young…

Becky Wright (Nic Grundy)

That’s what they say, and last week seemed to bear this out, as Nic was taken ill on Thursday evening. Will had had to give up his day off because Brian was schmoozing some friends of Latif, hoping to poach them into joining the Home Farm shoot and wanted Will there to answer technical questions.

Will arrived home and Nic looked (and sounded) awful. Will was going to call an ambulance, but realised that it could be months before one was despatched to Ambridge, so he drove her to A&E himself. She was in a bad way; dizzy and panting and the doctor confirms this, telling Will that Nic is “very unwell”. In fact, it’s worse than that, as she has Sepsis and it’s attacking her immune system. Her blood pressure is ‘dangerously low’ and her organs aren’t getting enough blood. We are talking life-threatening here. “She is gonna be OK though?” Will asks.

The doctor slams Will against the wall and slaps him round the face (ok, she doesn’t, but she must have felt like it) and says that Nic is distressed because she hasn’t seen her children that day (they are spending the night at Grange Farm) and she would like to see them. Will says he will get Clarrie to bring them to the hospital tomorrow morning. No, says the doctor, best not to take the chance and better to bring them there tonight. Will finally seems to understand the urgency and rings dad Eddie (who is spending a night in the lambing shed with Toby) and fills him in on what’s happening. Eddie tells Toby he’ll explain everything tomorrow, but he’s off and Toby should get David or Rooooth to help with the lambing.

It is a tense night at the hospital and the nurse suggests that Nic’s children could give her a kiss before she goes to Intensive Care (they do so and there is a touching farewell scene). Later on, Joe comes into the room and tells Will that Mia is crying for her dad and setting Poppy off. Will reluctantly agrees to go and Joe says he will stay with Nic. Now, I can’t say that I followed the next few minutes that closely, but it seemed to me (and I stand to be corrected by Neil or our readers) that he told her that she was ‘moving on to a better place’, which I interpreted as ‘you’re gonna die’. Whatever, Nic suffered a Cardiac Arrest and, after an agonising wait, the doctor came into the waiting room and told the Grundys that Nic hadn’t made it and she was so sorry…

And so to this week’s title - we have always said that Nic was very good; much too good for Will, in fact. I just hope that the fact that Nic and Emma had fallen out without being reconciled will not mean that Will and Ed are at loggerheads again - Will will need help in future, so be generous. I also hope that grief doesn’t mean that Will reverts to the whining, misanthropic, all-round-not-very-nice-guy that we all used to hate before Nic’s influence mellowed him somewhat. I must admit that, with her gone, I fear the worst. So long Nic – you were one of the nicest people in Ambridge and will be sorely missed. She was only 37.

The story about the contaminated land at Home Farm continues to run and it doesn’t get any better for the Aldridges. Pat has been given some vouchers for a pamper day at Grey Gables and she thinks that this is exactly what Jennifer needs to cheer her up. The two women have a relaxing afternoon and Pat suggests having a drink before they leave, as the company that gave her the vouchers is holding a product launch. What could possibly go wrong?

I’m glad you asked that, as the following day Adam rings his mother, suggesting that she looks at the Echo’s website. It features a picture of Jennifer knocking back a glass of champagne as if she hasn’t got a care in the world and the picture is accompanied by some copy about the contamination. The article is carefully worded and doesn’t actually say that the Aldridges don’t give a toss, but the inference is clear and Jennifer wonders what Brian will say.

She doesn’t have long to wait, as the following day Brian returns home after a meeting with Justin and Martyn Gibson, who has suggested stopping work on the Berrow Farm pig unit project until the controversy about the contamination dies down. Gibson is just out to make trouble, as the pig unit is nothing to do with Home Farm and it is agreed that work will continue. Unfortunately, it becomes obvious that the two men have seen the article and photograph and Brian tells Jennifer later that he felt humiliated.

That’s not all Brian says and accuses his wife of not trying hard enough to get the photo taken off the website. She protests that she did try, but the Echo said it was in the public interest and, by the way, it would appear in tomorrow’s printed edition of the paper. In vain does Jen protest that she wasn’t aware that she was being photographed and suggests that Brian tries to get it taken off the website. It is here that Brian goes a step too far and accuses Jennifer of not thinking “or did you deliberately set out to stab me in the back?” Jennifer is hurt and angry and says “How dare you accuse me of doing anything other than supporting you?” and she tells him how she went to see Justin to get him to support Brian’s bid to remain as BL Chairman. Belatedly, Brian realises that he has overstepped the mark and tries to apologise, but Jennifer’s dander is up. “Don’t you touch me” she spits, adding “Just leave me alone.”
Well Brian, all in all, that certainly could have gone better.

Jennifer is not the only one to give Brian earache, as the following day he is at Peggy’s, trying to sort out her finances on her computer. He is making a complete hash of it and Peggy realises that he is, if not actually drunk, then he has at least had a good sniff of the barmaid’s apron. He denies it, but Peggy reminds him that she used to run the pub, plus her first husband, Jack, was a complete lush, so she can recognise the signs. She tells him to go home and make it up with Jennifer.

Brian does return home – how he got there we aren’t told, but Peggy nagged him for driving over to hers while under the influence – and he grovels unashamedly to Jennifer, describing the way he behaved as “abominable”. Jen agrees that the remarks were hurtful but tells him not to be too hard on himself, as he is a good man in bad circumstances and, when the EA gets to the truth and he is vindicated… Brian interrupts his wife and says “but what if I’m not?” He then goes further, saying that he has been keeping a secret from her, as he knew all along that there was “something nasty” buried at Low Mead and he knows because, 40 years ago, he agreed to it being buried there. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do.

It wasn’t all unremitting bad news for everybody last week. Indeed, for the Carters, it must have seemed like Christmas had come early. First of all, Helen and Tom offered Susan the job of managing the Kefir, with a slight increase in salary. This goes straight to her head and, as Clarrie tells Will, Susan insisted on holding a brainstorming session with Tom. I bet he’s regretting the decision to promote Susan already. However, it could be worse, as Clarrie informs her son “we don’t actually have to curtsey to Susan yet.”

Another bit of good news for the Carters came when Justin invited Neil over to talk through how things should be carried out when the Berrow Farm pig unit is up and running. Neil offers practical advice and agrees with Justin that the roles of administering the unit and the marketing of the pork should be kept separate. Justin confides that he has somebody earmarked for the latter role, but what should he look for in a potential unit manager? Neil’s answer is “pig sense” and “understanding pig psychology and being able to spot problems before they start.” It should be a hands-on role, leading by example and not being tied to a desk, but out there, getting his hands dirty.

Justin agrees and says that he has an idea of who he wants and adds that he thinks he is looking at the ideal person right now. Neil eventually realises that Justin is talking about him and, in a flabbergasted voice, asks “are you offering me the post of pig unit manager?” Good job Neil didn’t say that the manager needed to be quick on the uptake. Justin says that he is offering exactly that and it was then my turn to be flabbergasted when he adds that the salary is £55,000 a year.

Neil asks for time to consider – bloody hell man, if you don’t want the job, I’ll have it and, when it comes to understanding pig psychology, I’ll even supply my own couch for the pig under analysis. As he tells Susan, he is undecided, but we all know how she will react - £55 k p.a. and a manager to boot; she won’t be able to get her head through the door. One by one, she demolishes his arguments; he says he’ll miss being his own boss, but she reminds him how Tom currently has him running around, rounding up escaped pigs. Plus, he’ll be working inside with no need to break the ice on the feeding troughs.

Neil wonders if he could cope with the responsibility of managing a team but Susan reminds him that he runs the Parish Council and he mustn’t keep putting himself down – this job would mean that he got the respect that he’s always deserved. And oh yes, if he gave up his pig business, they could get rid of the pig arks and maybe get Keira a pony.

This argument was only ever going to end one way and Neil accepts Justin’s offer. The Carters go to tell Tom and Helen that they won’t be able to supply them with weaners any longer and Helen thinks that this is because Neil wants to retire. “Oh no,” Susan says “we’re moving onward and upwards”, adding “but we won’t forget your kindness to us when we were lower down the employment ladder.” Can you imagine just how unbearable Susan will be now? I’d watch out, Clarrie – before long I reckon you’ll not only have to curtsey, but prostrate yourself every time your paths accidentally cross.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Normal Service Has Been Resumed

Barry Farrimond & Philip Molloy (Ed & Will Grundy)

After a good few months, it was like going back in time to see the Grundy brothers at each others’ throats again, arguing and almost coming to blows. Just like old times, in fact. Normally, you can rely on Will to be the prime mover in situations such as this, but not this time, as it was Nic who slagged Emma off in The Bull in front of customers, causing Jolene to send her home.

I found this behaviour to be most un-Nic like; the girl deserves a medal for living with Will (either that or electro-convulsive therapy) and has always been the voice of reason, so why this sudden change? The repercussions are severe - in a phone call, Jolene tells Nic that her services are no longer required at the pub and, just to compound her agony, on Valentine’s Day evening, she spends the time practising ballroom dancing with Joe, round the Grange Farm kitchen table. It doesn’t really get any worse than that, does it?
Never mind; Will is his usual, supportive self and, if you believe that, you’ll believe anything - in practice, he moans because he had to cook the children’s teas as Nic was not at home. Tactful and new-mannish as ever, he says that he thought that, with Nic losing her job, she’d be spending more time at home. When I said earlier that it doesn’t get any worse, I was obviously wrong.

Emma feels sorry for Nic and holds out an olive branch, going round with husband Ed to see her and Will. Emma has already tried to persuade Jolene to take Nic back, but Jolene says that she cannot and she has already given Nic’s shifts to Toby, which is just what he needs, what with the Gin-making and the stints in the lambing shed. “What are you two doing here?” snarls Will, as he opens the door to Emma and his brother. Emma explains that Fallon will need help at the Vintage Fair and is willing to give Nic some work. “Tell her you’re not interested” says Will, ever the peacemaker. Emma says that she doesn’t want to bear a grudge and wants to put things right “No hard feelings, yeah?” Emma asks. Nic has obviously been with Will for too long, as she tells Emma that she cannot work with her again at the Tea Room. Emma says that they made a great team on election day, but Nic is adamant, saying “Sorry, Emma; things have changed.” Will chips in with a helpful “You’ve had your answer - it’s time you went.” Emma and Ed take their leave, with Emma telling Nic that she’s not going to give up. Shooting Will would be a good start, I reckon.

There were quite a few storylines involving employment, or the possible lack of it, last week. Susan moans that her leadership qualities and vast experience are not being appreciated (somebody buy her a new broom) and she is looking for alternative employment where her talents are appreciated (OK, get her a new duster too). In the face of all logic, the Kefir appears to be selling a lot better now and Helen asks Susan to explain the benefits to a potential customer. This she does, and Helen says that the customer was deeply impressed with Susan’s depth of knowledge - so much so that she bought some. Personally, I reckon the purchase was just so she could get away.

Susan experiences a dose of reality, when she realises that people aren’t falling over themselves to employ her and that Lord Sugar is not reserving a spot for her on the next series of The Apprentice. Indeed, Clarrie reminds her that the Dairy job isn’t that horrendous, and the Bridge Farm Archers aren’t too bad, as bosses go. Susan reluctantly agrees. A large part of her motivation for seeking pastures new is that husband Neil isn’t getting any younger and has been muttering about retirement, wondering if he’d survive another year with the pigs. As they are waiting to go out to the Mr & Mrs quiz (which they won, incidentally) on Valentine’s Night, he realises her motive and, after telling her that she looks perfect, says that she’s not to worry about him retiring - he’d work till he was 90, through hail and blizzard, if it means providing for her. The big softy.

Another employment-related story is the forthcoming vote at the end of the week by the BL Board to determine whether or not Brian should continue as Chairman. If I may digress here, there was a delicious moment after one of the week’s episodes when the BBC Continuity Announcer suggested the ideal solution - Susan is looking for a job and BL could soon be looking for a new Chairman - a marriage made in heaven, surely?

But back to Brian. On Sunday, Peggy lets it be known that she thinks the way he is being treated is disgraceful and she will be “very disappointed” if he resigns. “That’s me told” he mutters and Jennifer says that he’s done nothing wrong and he has five days to persuade the Board otherwise. Speaking to Jennifer later, Peggy says that, if Brian won’t go and see Justin, somebody else will have to.

Brian, meanwhile, is trying to get some of the Board members onside and goes about it with the subtlety of an elephant on a trampoline. He spends the best part of a day waiting outside Annabelle’s office and, when he eventually gets to see her, he clumsily reminds her of the problems they have overcome together in the past. Annabelle is not fooled and tells Brian that she will vote for what’s best for BL. She later phones Justin, saying that she had hoped that Brian would stand down without a fight.

Justin ends the call because he has a visitor. It’s Jennifer, who obviously took Peggy’s advice to heart, as she has come to plead Brian’s case to Justin. If the Board votes Brian off, she argues, it will be as good as saying that he’s guilty. Justin gives nothing away and tells Jennifer that he will take her views into consideration when he votes.

Whatever good Jennifer might have done is almost immediately undone when Brian runs into Justin in the village. Brian is rude from the outset and accuses Justin of wanting to be Chairman himself; something that Justin strongly denies. “Do you know what loyalty even means?” Brian asks him, prompting Justin to remark that the pressure must be getting to Brian - it’s making him paranoid. Justin also says that Brian will have to wait until the vote of Friday, but he (Justin) has made up his mind where he stands. Well done Brian - a truly spectacular own goal there; it’s not really good tactics to insult people who hold your future in their hands, is it?

Friday comes around and Brian phones Jennifer - he fears the worst. Jennifer is convinced that Justin will back him and tells her husband to have faith and man up - don’t make it easy for them. At the meeting, Brian bigs up his track record as Chairman and says how well prepared BL is to face the future. He touches on the contamination, saying that he is sure he will be absolved from blame and, in a breathtaking bit of understatement, describes the press stories as “unfortunate”. Having done all he can, Brian retires to leave his fellow Board members to discuss his future. “I’ll be just outside the door” he adds, somewhat pathetically. In the meeting, Justin gets the ball rolling by speaking first.

Whatever Justin said, it had an almost magical effect, as, when the votes are counted, only one member - the odious and oleaginous Martyn Gibson - voted to throw Brian off the Board. A bemused and bewildered Brian thanks Justin for his support and goes off to tell Jennifer the good news. As he does so, Annabelle approaches Justin and asks why he was so adamant that Brian should be spared. Justin’s reply - that Brian is a steady hand on the tiller - is dismissed as garbage by Annabelle, who asks for the real reason. Justin replies that he’s not a heartless monster, plus, it never hurts to have someone in your debt “and, after today, I’d say Brian owes me a great deal, wouldn’t you?” We should point out that, if the EA prosecutes Brian, he will be removed as Chairman. And what is Justin after? Let’s assume for the sake of argument that it was he that ran down Matt - perhaps he wants Brian to take the rap or provide him with a cast-iron alibi. Speaking of the Matt case, the police don’t seem to be very active, do they?

Pip drives Rooooth to see a new milking parlour in operation. This is an Open-sided parlour and different from the traditional herringbone type. Which is better? Neil and I are engaged in violent debate about the merits of the different systems and we’ll have to wait and see which they go for. Rooooth isn’t a fan of the O-SP, saying that it could be very breezy, but Pip says just look how quickly the herd was milked and “this is going to make our lives so much better.”

Rooooth tells her daughter that, for the foreseeable future, the majority of the farm work will devolve upon herself and David and the decision on the type of parlour is not just down to Pip. Pip says yes, things will be difficult for a couple of months after the birth, but then she’ll be back at work. Rooooth interrupts her and tells her some home truths, in that it will be a lot longer than two months and Pip will be dog tired. She can’t expect her and David to look after the baby, and neither can she rely on Jill (who is apparently knitting for Britain), who is 87, for God’s sake. Who will do the night feeds? Who will look after the baby during the day - Rooooth and David can’t? A shaken Pip protests that Toby said he’d help, which is surely an indication of how little support Pip can expect. To emphasise how bad things can get, Rooooth tells Pip that she nearly hit her once because she wouldn’t stop crying. I was amazed - after all the things that Pip has done in her 25 years, Rooooth wanted to hit her on only one occasion? Nobody’s that tolerant, surely?

I fear that Pip has been spending too much time watching animals give birth - she sees sheep having lambs and cows calves and noticing that, after a quick lick and a nuzzle, the young animals are able to stand, suckle and move around. Well Pip, I’m afraid that it doesn’t work that way with human babies and your two months is wildly optimistic.

Of course, all this could have been easily avoided. As we mentioned earlier, Toby is putting in shifts in the lambing shed and Eddie, who says that he hopes Toby won’t be at the baby’s birth, judging from his less-than-perfect performance with the lambs, is teaching him how to castrate new-born lambs. Imagine if you will that all this happened before Pip became pregnant and that it was David teaching the castration technique - I put it to you that the temptation to geld young Tobes might just have been too much for David to resist.

Monday, 12 February 2018

You Could Always Pull an Extra Shift at the Chicken Factory, Nic.

Becky Wright (Nic Grundy)

Kirsty’s still on the warpath and gives Jennifer a hard time when she runs in to her, accusing Brian of hiding away. If you want him Kirsty, he’s in his shed ‘seeking solitude’, and ‘clearing his mind’ in preparation for writing his acceptance speech at the Borsetshire Businessperson of the Year awards. Kirsty angered Jennifer so much apparently that she cleared out BOTH her fridges. It’s certainly a different approach to housework; I wonder how angry she would need to get in order to clean her cooker? Well, the cooker might be in for a treat, because Brian gets a call to say that his nomination for Businessperson of the Year has been withdrawn because the sponsor (the local paper, The Echo) doesn’t want to be associated with him any more.

Over at the Bull they’re getting ready for a quiz. Alistair and Shula’s team is short, so they draft in Philip Moss. Philip gets the first round in and spots Kirsty, whom he persuades to join them. No sooner has Philip and Kirsty sat down than Alistair gets another round. Now, Peter and I are no strangers to pub quizzes and will confess to liking a drink or 2 to sharpen the mind, but I think lining them up before it’s even started is a major tactical error, especially as Alistair seems so keen to win. In the end they lose, but there’s plenty of friendly banter between Alistair and Kirsty as they find out that they have lots in common, and Philip asks Kirsty out for lunch.

Toby’s reading up on how to be a father from a book given to him by Bert Fry and listening to advice from Nic Grundy – what could possible go wrong? He goes with Pip for her scan and while they’re waiting to see the midwife he persuades her to go to aqua-fit classes, using free passes that Kirtsy’s been handing out. Pip tells him that that her parents are upset that Elizabeth knew Pip was pregnant before they did. When she gets back Roooooth seems fine and they talk it through, although there are some crossed wires as Roooooth wants to talk about everyone’s future roles on the farm while Pip’s talking about everyone’s roles with the baby. Later on Roooooth catches Pip helping a cow with a breech birth and is furious, saying that Pip’s put her baby at risk.

Roooooth takes over and Pip goes off to her aqua-fit class, but who should also be there but Toby. Only he couldn’t find his trunks and had to borrow Rex’s, which turn out to be Speedos. Pip calls his ‘budgie smugglers’ indecent and Toby gets into the pool to a chorus of wolf-whistles from the assembled ladies. After the class Pip tells Toby about the earlier incident in the calving shed and he offers to do some night shifts – even though he hasn’t any experience. When Pip tells Roooooth she bursts out laughing but promises to talk to David about it anyway, who bursts out laughing too. So that’s a ‘no’ then is it David?

We haven’t been over to Berrow Farm for a while so it was nice to eavesdrop on Justin showing the parish councillors how the new pig unit’s coming along. Neil Carter, who must be feeling better now, seems to be impressed and offers some of his own advice. Brian calls in, more to catch Neil because he wants to know if he remembers who the contractors were who dumped the contaminated materials on his land. However Justin has a bone to pick with him – why didn’t he tell him about his award? Justin was at the dinner and was surprised when they announced a different winner, not to mention having to fend off questions from the rest of the board of Borsetshire Land. They’re embarrassed about the publicity and Justin thinks Brian’s in danger of being voted out.

We then hear that the Courier’s running with the story, calling Brian a ‘tainted businessman’. Susan takes it upon herself to warn Brian and heads off to Home Farm where she finds Jennifer and Adam. They’re already not in the best of moods because one of Adam’s soft fruit buyers has cancelled an entire order because of worries about being associated with them. So imagine their reaction when Susan hands over a copy of the Courier and shows them the story, before telling them that a copy gets delivered to every household in the Ambridge area.

Brian’s not there because he’s gone to Borchester to get his car serviced, and we catch up with him ordering a scotch in The Crown. He’s popped in because he heard that someone that used to work for him drinks in there and might know something about the chemicals that were dumped on his land. Philip happens to be at the bar and Brian tells him that it was a wasted visit, as the man in question is now in a nursing home suffering from dementia. Brian’s car won’t be ready until tomorrow and Philip offers to give him a lift back to Ambridge. He talks to Brian about Kirsty and talks about the age difference between them – 10 or 12 years. Brian’s strangely silent on the subject. Remind me Brian, how much younger than you was Siobhan Hathaway when you got her pregnant with Ruairi?

Following last week’s incident with the alcohol-free mojito, there’s more trouble for Nic. Jolene and Kenton have been organizing a Mr & Mrs event for Valentines Day, but Nic told Emma what they were planning, and now the tea room have come up with the same idea. Nic’s distraught, and Will comes home to find her in tears. He’s angry that Emma copied the idea and ruined the Bull’s event and wants to give her ‘both barrels’! He get’s the chance, metaphorically at least, in the Bull later on when Nic’s behind the bar and Emma walks in. The three of them have a right old slanging match that ends with Nic telling Emma that she’s jealous because her and Ed “can’t climb out of the gutter”. The whole pub has heard this and Jolene rushes over to break it up, sending Nic home early. I can’t help thinking that when Kenton and Jolene compare notes about their part-time barmaid, she’ll be out on her ear, and looking for an extra shift at the chicken factory.

Following my comments last week about the kefir storyline, we now have someone who is claiming they’re actually feeling a benefit from it. Apparently Ian is drinking the stuff, even though you would think that someone with his refined palate would run a mile from it. But wait, the whole project could still go udders-up, as Susan’s gone kefir crazy and is trying to boss everyone around to make sure she gets her daily goat’s milk on time. Helen tells her to lay-off the pressure, especially on Pat who does the milking, and Susan goes off in a huff, later telling Chris that she’s going to tell Helen to “stuff her stupid job” – let’s hope that’s the end of it. Good luck finding another one Susan, after all you’ve already said you’re worried about the prospect of Neil retiring and I’m sure you don’t want to put any further strain on the Carter family finances.