Ben Norris (Ben Archer)
I must admit that I was beginning to think that Ben Archer was in line to be the new Derek Fletcher or one of the other silent characters, but last week he not only spoke but figured in one of the major storylines.
On Sunday, David tells Rooooth that Brian told him about Ruairi joy riding in the Land Rover on Home Farm land. David is convinced that Ben would have been involved, as the two lads “have been joined at the hip” during the school holidays and David wants to talk to his youngest child. Elizabeth, who is at Brookfield when this conversation takes place says that Ben is lucky to have a father, thus turning the conversation once more to the subject of Freddie.
David confronts Ben and asks him if he ever drove the Land Rover. Ben says “no” and David asks him again. He gets the same answer and David says that he’ll ask Ben one more time and, if he finds out that Ben isn’t telling him the truth, he (David) will be disappointed and angry and will probably circumcise Ben with a rusty spoon. Ben catches the mood at last and admits not only to driving the Land Rover once or twice, but also ‘borrowing’ the Brookfield pick-up. If this were not enough, Ben also says that he and Ruairi filled up the pick-up with diesel. If he is expecting praise for this, he is severely disappointed, as David goes ballistic - what was Ben thinking - driving on public roads (the boys went to a filling station, rather than use Brokkfield‘s fuel), under age and with no insurance?
Something has to be done, David tells Rooooth, but she has sympathy for their son, suggesting that he can clean out the barn (Lynda has phoned and said that their efforts in cleaning said barn weren’t very good and could they look at it again?). Rooooth goes further - why did Ben do what he did? “Because he’s an idiot” replies David (I blame the parents, myself). Rooooth suggests that it is because he has no defined role at Brookfield, so why don’t they find him one? They have been talking about getting a new sheepdog, so why not make Ben responsible for choosing and training one?
Ben has a day off next week, so on Tuesday, he and David set off to visit a breeder in the Pennines. David lets it be known that, as far as he is concerned, he wants to draw a line under the whole joyriding incident and Ben agrees readily. I wanted Ben to say ‘and if you get tired driving, Dad, I can always take over’ but he let me down. When Ben realises that he will be responsible for choosing and training the new dog (he chose Bess) he is grateful for being thought worthy of such a task - training will begin tomorrow.
Over at Ambridge View, Neil is off work with a bad back and is going slowly mad because he cannot find his mobile phone. Susan reveals to Emma that she has taken it and hidden it in the tea towel drawer because she knows he won’t look there, which speaks volumes for Neil’s contribution to household chores. As it is, Susan’s plan is backfiring, as, instead or resting as the doctor said, Neil is roaming the house, looking everywhere for his phone.
It is not just work that is worrying Neil. But Thursday is bell-ringing rehearsal for the Armistice Day service on Sunday and Neil is desperate to go to both. Over Susan’s dead body! (And why not?) But Emma takes pity on her father and suggests he look in the tea towel drawer. Success! The phone is there! “What did you put it in there for?” Susan asks her husband, unblushingly.
Neil’s understudy at Berrow Farm - Hannah - isn’t making a very good job of being in charge; she antagonises Duncan, fining him for being late and he eventually walks out. When he learns about this, Neil is less than happy.
Hannah drags Tom for a drink, moaning about Neil and Duncan. Tom is looking forward to delivering his Nuffield speech at a gala do in Glasgow and he invited Hannah to accompany him, Pat and Tony to the event. Hannah thinks that this could lead to awkward questions from Tom’s parents and she declines. However, in the shop later on, she learns from Tony that it is quite a glitzy affair, with good food and wine. Tony reveals that Pat has bought a new frock “and she tried to get me to wear a dinner jacket, but I wasn’t having that” he chuckles. That’s right Tony; you stick to the smock and the wisp of straw in the mouth, but do clean the Wellingtons.
This gives Hannah food for thought and she seeks out Tom to say that she has changed her mind and quite fancies wearing a posh dress and getting outside some good wines. Tom, however, is reluctant and says that Natasha will be there and, besides, he doesn’t want Pat and Tony to get the wrong idea about him and Hannah. However, Johnny is away for the night, so if Hannah is in the mood for some casual sex… She isn’t, and the whole episode underlines Tom’s insensitivity to their relationship. Natasha visited Bridge Farm to persuade Helen to put in a regular order for her fruit juice and, when having a coffee with Tom, she reveals that she has just broken up with her partner of 10 years and is feeling very down. Tom obviously feels that he is in with a chance now, but to his credit, he doesn’t drop his trousers and say “I can help you there” with his tongue hanging out. Whatever, Hannah doesn’t seem very happy and I reckon Tom has blown his chances there.
Lexi returns to the UK and is greeted enthusiastically by Roy at the airport. He is keen to rekindle their relationship, but Lexi is behaving in a distinctly lukewarm manner and, while he wants to go upstairs, she wants to walk round the village. Not only that, but Roy has really made an effort; cleaning the house and cooking Bulgarian speciality Banitsa. He’s even got a bottle of red to share, but Lexi says that she is too tired and goes to bed alone, leaving the Banitsa untasted and Roy bitterly disappointed and frustrated. Let’s hope we get some rekindling before too long.
Lynda got a taste of her own medicine last week, when she went to see Jim to sort out his role as script supervisor. Jim’s take on his duties is to try to improve the quality of the script and he scandalises Lynda by saying that her script has many good points and “you’ve made a decent stab at it.” He also says that Lynda could have dug a little deeper into the meaning behind Chaucer’s words. Lynda is getting extremely nettled - if there is any patronising to be done concerning her production, she will be the one to do it and she tells Jim in no uncertain terms that, as script supervisor, it is his job only to make sure that the actors keep to her script and that he should learn his lines. It appears that Jim is not to be fobbed off so easily, as we learn later in the week that he turned up for rehearsal with his copy of the script heavily annotated with different-coloured post-it notes and incurred Lynda’s extreme displeasure. Keep it up, Jim!
In paragraph two, I mentioned the fact that Elizabeth keeps bringing the conversation - any conversation - round to the subject of Freddie. Following the Halloween fiasco at Lower Loxley, a number of punters were not happy with the gruesome episode of the Mummy falling out of the treetops and some wanted their money back. In an attempt to smooth things over, Roy noted down some names and addresses, much to Lizzie’s disgust.
Things get worse, as the Echo runs a long article about the subject, dragging in the fact that Freddie Pargetter is inside for dealing drugs and that Lower Loxley has lost its licence to sell alcohol. Shula rings Elizabeth up to forewarn her about the article, but Lizzie doesn’t listen, steamrollering her sister with questions about how Shula got on when she visited Freddie. In vain, Shula mentions the Echo, but Elizabeth goes of at a tangent, suddenly remembering that Freddie suffers from chapped lips and she must get him some lip balm. I wouldn’t bother, Shula; she’ll find out about the article soon enough, so stop banging your head against the brick wall that is your sister’s refusal to listen to anything that doesn’t contain the word ‘Freddie’ at least once in every sentence.
Indeed, Elizabeth does see the article and she cannot understand why they want to link in details of Freddie and the cancelled licence. And it is now that Elizabeth reveals that she has lost the plot completely, when she calls Geraldine in to discuss the situation and it becomes plain that she is blaming Geraldine for everything - why didn’t she investigate the family-friendliness of the actors’ routine? Geraldine says that it was all done in a hurry, because Elizabeth forgot to book the original act. Lizzie ignores this and refers back to the article in the Echo - why didn’t Geraldine know that there were reporters at the Halloween event?
Never mind - Elizabeth has got a solution and tells Geraldine that she has arranged for her to appear on Radio Borsetshire and put Lower Loxley’s case. Geraldine thinks (quite rightly) that this is a spectacularly bad idea and the best thing to do is to draw a line under it all, to which Elizabeth says “You created this mess - it’s up to you to put it right.” Furthermore, Liz has told the producer that Geraldine will be there at four o’clock. Geraldine thinks otherwise and Elizabeth’s reaction is a curt “it was not a request.”
This is all too much for Geraldine, who has kept Lower Loxley functioning almost single-handedly ever since Freddie got sent down. Geraldine brings this fact to Elizabeth’s attention, saying that she has worked late every day and each weekend, trying to keep the place going. Furthermore, Geraldine is owed five weeks’ leave and, although she is required to give one month’s notice to quit, she’d like to leave straight away. “You can’t walk out on me! Come back!” Lizzie cries, as Geraldine walks out of the office.
Well done Elizabeth - you played a blinder there. Geraldine has moved heaven and earth to keep Lower Loxley functioning (plus she is one of the very few people who doesn’t want to slap Elizabeth when she bangs on about Freddie) and you have just alienated her. A bit later on, Elizabeth knocks on Geraldine’s door - she’s come to apologise; she was wrong and she begs Geraldine to reconsider. Geraldine says there is something she’d like. “Anything” says Lizzie, grasping frantically at this straw. “Can I depend on you for a reference?” Geraldine asks, sticking the boot in. Elizabeth pleads with her to stay, saying tearfully “Geraldine, how can I manage without you?” Too little, too late Elizabeth - you should have thought of that before you started bad-mouthing the person who was keeping it all together for you. Good luck going forward.