Monday, 20 November 2017

Haven’t You Got Enough To Do, Alan?

John Telfer (Alan Franks)

This week, the Rev. Alan Franks came within a whisker of being added to my Hit and Run list (the last one on the list was Matt, so be warned, vicar). He was bemoaning the lack of community spirit in Ambridge and the general mildly unpleasant atmosphere pervading the place, or so he thinks. A typical symptom is the fact that Lynda will not be doing the panto this year, he tells Usha and she reminds him how hard a taskmaster Lynda was in the past.

Alan has obviously been at the Communion wine, as he goes on about how much joy the pantomime brought people. Oh no it didn’t, says Usha – people were getting jaded with it all. I have to say that I am firmly in the Usha camp here; in fact, you could call me ‘ultra-Usha’, as I’m not so much jaded as totally pissed off. In fact, I have a Pavlovian reaction in that, whenever I hear the word ‘Pantomime’, I get the urge to bang my head against a brick wall.

Alan goes off to write his sermon and comes back later, somewhat happier, as he has found inspiration in the writings of Saint Augustine and realised that he should stop complaining and organise it himself. I looked up the Saint’s writings online and I couldn’t see any reference to pantomimes, but there you go. Usha is unconvinced and says “but what if people don’t want to do it?” “Of course they do,” her husband replies, “they just don’t want to do it with Lynda.” Usha then reminds him that it’s Christmas and this is a time of year when Alan tends to be a tad busy – after all, he is looking after 97 parishes or something like that.

I paused for reflection here – was I being uncharitable in the face of such an unselfish act? In fact, was my antipathy towards the pantomime per se, or was it towards a pantomime directed by Lynda, with all the attendant crises and pretentious outbursts? In short, should I give Alan a chance to change my mind, rather than the knee-jerk reaction of having him torn apart by rabid dogs? I’ll tell you one thing – if Alan has a go and makes a cock-up of the whole thing and it is subsequently rescued by Lynda, I will not be a happy bunny, as this is exactly what happened when she gave up organising the Fete and I think we listeners don’t deserve recycled plot lines.

But let’s turn to more dramatic matters. Lilian goes to see Matt, who is preparing to catch a plane for South America. She says that she can understand his desire to put thousands of miles between him and the people wanting their money back. Matt plays it dumb, so she tells him everything she has found out about Melling Equestrian Investments and Matt’s scam involving buying inferior horses and charging MEI premium prices. She calls him a crook, which he describes as ‘unfair’. I looked it up in the dictionary Matt – you are a crook. He says that Lilian still has feelings for him and, when she replies “Everything we ever had is finished – dead” Matt says “Prove it.” Lilian’s response to this is that she is going to call the police, which I would say is proof enough. Matt obviously thinks so too, as we are then treated to the unedifying spectacle of Matt on his knees, begging her not to, as another spell in prison would finish him off. His taxi is outside and he pleads with her. “I’ll give you one hour” she says and, when he says “I do love you Lilian” she stonily replies “The clock’s ticking.” Later on, when Lilian is trying to drink Grey Gables dry of gin, we hear her ring 101 and, when she gets through to the police, she says that she’d like to report a fraud.

The next day she makes a statement to the police, which involves answering some intrusive questions about her relationship with Matt. In her statement, Lilian says that she doesn’t know where he is, but she says that he used to live in Costa Rica and has talked about Ecuador. Now I know this is the following day, but surely, when she first rang 101 and said she wanted to report a fraud, the policeman didn’t just say “OK, pop in tomorrow and we’ll talk about it”? Surely he would have asked some questions, which might have provided details such as ‘Matt Crawford’ and ‘South America’ among others?

Armed with this information, it doesn’t take Hercule Poirot to realise that the chances are that Matt would be flying there and a few quick phone calls would have put the authorities on the alert – particularly nowadays, when you have to check in hours before your flight. Matt probably wouldn’t have made it to the business class lounge, never mind to South America.

Never mind, at least Justin will be pleased that Matt has gone, won’t he? Not as such – he returns to the Dower House (“My house” as he reminds Lilian) as he has business at Berrow Farm. He’ll tolerate her presence as long as she has the spare room and doesn’t talk to him. However, Lilian tells him what has happened and how the police told her that the chances are that the investors – one of whom is Justin’s friend Latif – won’t get their money back. Justin cannot believe the story; fancy Latif being taken in. Almost as an afterthought, he accuses Lilian of sleeping with Matt and, when she protests that nothing happened, Justin says “Nothing? You call all this nothing?” A bit later we hear Justin on the phone to the police, who have called him to arrange to come in for an interview. Justin agrees, but says he will want his solicitor present. Lilian comes in towards the end of the conversation and an annoyed Justin says that he had better call Latif, as the police will probably be ringing him next. He turns to Lilian and says, witheringly, “Next time you decide to take a lover, Lilian, you should consider the consequences of your actions!” Justin leaves and Lilian bursts into tears, no doubt hurt that he hasn’t asked her how the wedding preparations are going…

Justin isn’t the only one on the police radar, as Adam is asked back for an interview. D.I. Thorpe discovers that he has no alibi for the evening of the hit and run and, talking afterwards to PCB, she says that she has an open mind about whether or not he was the driver, but she is convinced that he knows nothing about the fraud.

We are reminded that Latif is not the only one to have lost money, as Lilian, Christine and Peggy are chatting as they await the delivery of the new ladies’ changing rooms, paid for by Christine. Christine says how much she is looking forward to her Rhine Cruise and she has been trying to contact MEI to arrange a date “But Hugo Melling is a very busy man.” She mentions that he’s quite a charmer too and an anxious Lilian, learning that Chris met him at one of his get togethers to attract investors, asks whether she invested any money in the racecourse? Christine says “Don’t let on to the people round here, but yes – quite a lot actually.” Just when Lilian thought her week couldn’t get any worse.

Things haven’t been going well for quite a lot of people in Ambridge recently. The usually-placid Ian has been upsetting staff in the Grey Gables kitchen, and not just staff, as Roy has had to smooth over the odd altercation with customers. Roy tries to apologise for his timing last week, when Carina, the potential surrogate, walked in on Roy and Adam having a row. Ian tells him tersely that they have lost Carina and Roy is racked with guilt.

Despite Roy’s efforts, he has to get Ian in for an informal talk. Roy tries to keep it low key, but Ian gets defensive and sarcastic. Lexi is also there and she wades into Ian, telling him that Roy has been covering for him, but he can’t do it for ever. She goes on: “Roy has been a good friend to you and that’s exactly what you need at the moment.” Later on, Lexi comes to apologise, saying that she couldn’t bear to see Ian treating Roy like that. “I went too far” she says, contritely. Roy calls her a good friend, to which she says “More than a friend – I love you.” She apologises again if she’s embarrassed him, but he answers “I love you too, Lexi – I’ve loved you for ages.” Aah – isn’t that nice! I do hope it works out for the two of them. Wouldn’t it be terrible if Lexi (or Roy) turned out to be the hit and run driver?

While on the subject of relationships, there have been developments in the Pip/Toby story. Toby reminds her that they are due to take part in the quiz at The Bull later on, although Pip isn’t that keen. Pip and Rooooth are getting ready to move the cows inside and they are being shadowed by Alfie, a young farmer who is taking over the running of his father’s farm and wants some tips on pasture grazing (let them into a field of grass and don’t forget to shut the gate after them is my tip). Rooooth is matchmaking with about as much subtlety as a rhino in a china shop and tells her daughter that she has invited Alfie to supper that night – will Pip join them? Pip says, sorry, but she can’t let her quiz team members down. Another cunning plan come to nothing, Rooooth.

Toby doesn’t make it to the quiz (there was a problem with the gin) and, he turns up only when it is finished. Pip is very short with him, accusing him of standing her up. “We’re not dating” he replies, slightly mystified and offers her a lift back to lower Loxley. Pip answers that she’d rather walk and the two part on not very amicable terms.

A couple of days later, Toby knocks on Elizabeth’s door – does she know how Pip is? Pip won’t take Toby’s calls and is not returning his messages. Elizabeth says that Pip isn’t happy and, when Toby says he doesn’t know what Pip wants, she asks Toby what does he want? He says that he doesn’t want to get hurt over again and he doesn’t want to hurt Pip. Just then, there’s a knock on the door and it’s Pip, who is supposed to be having lunch with Elizabeth.

Elizabeth suggests that they go for a walk, which they do, and they discuss how they feel. Their current arrangement doesn’t seem to be working and they are slipping back to how they were before. To cut a long story short, they decide to be just friends and they shake hands. Later on, Elizabeth calls on her niece – how did things go? Pip tells her what she and Toby decided and Elizabeth asks if she has any regrets? I’m sure I’m not the only one who gave a cheer when Pip replied “No – I feel ready to move on. For real this time.” Whether moving on means moving on to Alfie, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Never Mind The Leopard, Has Tiger Changed His Spots?

Kim Durham (Matt Crawford)

Matt is in hospital and friction is growing between Lilian and Justin. He is more than a little miffed because she keeps going to see him in hospital and he says “Lilian, I don’t want you to visit him any more. I’ve been very patient, but this ends now.” Wrong! She shoots off to the hospital, to find that Matt is discharging himself. Where will he go? He tells her to book him a room - not his usual suite - at Grey Gables. Lilian wants Matt to go back to hospital but he asks her to get him a cheap mobile phone (too many people know the number of his usual phone, he says, enigmatically).

Lilian returns to the Dower House and Justin asks if she has been to see Matt? She admits it and he tells her that he is going to London (he has a bag already packed). All he knows is that she cannot keep away from Matt. Lilian protests that there is nothing going on, but Justin’s mind is made up and he says that he will come back “but only when - and if - you give me reason to.” As he leaves, Justin has a bit of news - the sale of the Dower House has finally gone through; he would have told Lilian earlier, but of course she wasn’t there. Nice one Lil - not only have you upset your fiancé - your millionaire fiancé - and jeopardised your forthcoming nuptials, but, assuming the Dower House is in Justin’s name, if he gets arsey, you might have nowhere to live. Get Brian and Jennifer to prepare your old room at Home Farm, just in case.

Next day, Matt is checking times of flights to Ecuador. He tells Lilian that he’ll be fine, he’s a survivor and a taxi is coming to take him to a hotel near Heathrow. When he’s settled in Ecuador, he’ll send Lilian a ticket. She refuses to help him with his cases (we still don’t know what’s in them) and he collapses in the lobby. Everyone is staring at him and, the following day, he tells Lilian to find him another hotel, as too many people are now aware of his whereabouts. They continue to bicker and he eventually tells her to help him “or go back to Justin and leave me to it.” “To what?” she asks swiftly, but gets no answer.

Matt’s desire for anonymity is upset when PC Burns knocks on his hotel room door. Matt is peeved that he managed to track him down and he is not interested in the progress of PCB’s investigations. PCB calls it a hit-and-run, but Matt insists it was an accident and asks PCB to pull the plug on his investigation. PCB replies that it’s not up to him, but to the Crown Prosecution Service whether or not to proceed. On Friday, PCB calls on Matt again and tells him that this will be his final visit. Matt is pleased, but PCB wipes the smile off his face by telling him that the case is now being treated as attempted murder and future visits will be by his colleagues in the CID.

PCB’s investigation seems to consist of asking people where they were on the evening of the accident and finding out that a fair number were absent for some time during the evening. He visits the Stables and his questioning annoys Shula, who gets quite sharp with him and repeatedly insists that, as Hunt Ball organiser, she was all over the place, fighting fires and making sure that things ran smoothly. When PCB leaves, Alistair and Shula talk and he says that he couldn’t find her for about an hour on the night of the Ball. She admits that, when she heard about Matt’s accident, she was pleased at first. Planting his foot firmly in his gob, Alistair says “perhaps you mowed him down.” Shula is far from amused. “That’s a terrible thing to say” she tells her husband. Alistair insists that he was only joking and is immediately reduced to grovelling apologies, when Shula sourly remarks “Remember Mark?”

Adam is another possible suspect and Roy eventually resolves his ethical dilemma by deciding that he ought to show the police the CCTV footage of Adam punching Matt in the Grey Gables car park. Roy goes to tell Adam and Ian of his decision and Ian is exceedingly angry that Adam lied to him, or at least didn’t tell him that he punched Matt. Roy tells the two that he feels he has to go to the police with his evidence and a heated discussion/slanging match ensues. In the middle of this, Carina (their choice for a surrogate mother) walks in - well done for leaving the front door open, Roy - and introduces herself. Roy goes and Adam, Ian and Carina sit down. Ian has made far too much food and the boys are conscious that she must have heard their argument. The conversation flows like treacle and Adam excuses himself, saying that there’s something he must do at once.

Carina goes and Adam returns. Ian asks him what the hell’s going on and Adam says that he has been to the police before Roy does and he told them that he did indeed punch Matt, but he had nothing to do with the hit-and-run. Ian is both angry with, and proud of, Adam and the couple go out for a walk to clear their heads. While they are out, the phone rings and Carina leaves a message, saying that she’s sorry and that they are great guys, but she doesn’t think the surrogacy would work, as she lives too far from Ambridge, should there be any problems. There’ll be tears and hard words.

But back to Lilian. She gets a call from her friend Mena, who says that she is trying to get in touch with Matt, as she is puzzled over their recent dealings. Mena breeds horses and Matt approached her, saying that he is looking to buy top quality horses for the consortium in Costa Rica. He videoed Anisha giving Balthazar Treasure the once over and then he decided to purchase Chinese Lantern. While Balthazar Treasure is worth around £75k, Mena says that Chinese Lantern is past his best and is worth around £10k - she cannot understand why Matt went for second best. Lilian is troubled, buy who can she get to help her investigate? The answer? Her son James, who comes to Ambridge. Lilian asks him if he told anyone he was coming, to which he replies (wrongly, in my opinion) “I’m not a complete idiot, Ma.”

The two of them peruse the impressive brochure produced by Melling Equestrian Investments - it shows their high tech HQ and attractive photos of the area housing the new racecourse. There is also an address of an office in Regent Street. Lilian voices her misgivings to James who, delving deeply into his store of clichés, says “A leopard never changes his spots - once a wrong ‘un, always a wrong ‘un Ma.” The only way to check is to visit MEI’s London offices. James does so and phones Lilian - the building is merely an accommodation address for a number of PO boxes. “Whatever Matt Crawford has got himself into, it stinks to high heaven” James tells his mother.

You might think that this would be enough to convince any rational person, but Lilian opens her heart to Jolene - could there be a simple explanation? Jolene is sceptical and the pair start to wonder if the racecourse even exists. It appears that Lilian is beginning to accept that Matt is up to something, as she tells Jolene “The old Matt’s back - slippery, duplicitous and skating on very thin ice.” Jolene suggests that they ring up other racecourses in Costa Rica and ask about the new enterprise. It turns out that there is no such scheme and the attractive photographs of the site are, in fact, of a national park and no construction would ever be allowed there. “The whole enterprise is a complete scam” says Lilian.

One assumes that Matt is well aware that the scheme is a figment of the imagination, but what is his part in it? Is he skimming off the money, asking his principals for £70k and actually handing over £10k for an inferior nag? And if there is no racecourse, why are horses being bought in the first place? The plot, as they say, thickens.

Let’s leave Matt and look elsewhere in Ambridge. Pip and Toby are enjoying a no strings relationship, which seems to involve lots of going to bed. Pip is in no hurry to return to Rickyard at Brookfield and Lily has given Toby his own key. Toby is leaving Lower Loxley one morning, when he runs into Elizabeth. He asks her if she minds him having a key and she replies no, but it would have been better if Lily had asked her first, before she handed it over. However, Liz says that Pip is an adult and can do what she wants.

An hour or so later, David and Elizabeth meet in the shop and he asks her if she knows when Pip might be returning to Brookfield and wonders whether she is trying to keep some new boyfriend below the parental radar - has Elizabeth noticed any new man around the place? Elizabeth prevaricates and then says that Pip isn’t a teenager any more and that she’s sure that Pip can be trusted to behave sensibly. Later on, Elizabeth and Pip talk and Liz tells of her conversation with David and she warns her niece that, should David ask her a direct question, she will not lie to him.

That could be interesting, as, speaking to his daughter earlier, David says that Pip looks a lot more happy recently. He also congratulates her on “getting out of a relationship that took everything and gave nothing back.” “Toby, do you mean?” Pip asks and David replies in the affirmative, adding that, whatever Pip is doing, to carry on - she’s got her spark back. Oh dear Pip, I think you’ll have to make a clean breast of it (and I use the phrase advisedly) or Mum and Dad will go berserk. You can’t keep Toby a secret for ever and the longer you wait, the worse will be the fall-out.

We must mention the forthcoming Parish Council election, with Emma Grundy and Robert Snell going toe to toe. I think this is the only election where nobody seems to know for whom they are going to vote. PCB asked Alistair, whose response was that there was much to be said for both candidates. We’re not even sure if Emma and Robert know where they will put their respective crosses, as the week before last, they wished each other luck.

About the only person who seems sure which way to vote is Lynda (and Emma tells people that “a vote for Robert means you’ll get Lynda and that woman has ruled this village for long enough.”) Lynda is looking around for someone - anyone - to take on production of this year’s panto (thankfully with little success thus far). She would do it herself, but she’s so involved with managing Robert’s campaign that she hasn’t got the time. Let’s hope that the result of the election is a tie, so that another one is necessary and that that one too ends in a tie, so that a third is needed and that one too - but I think you can perceive my drift.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

So, Who Did It? (Bonus Posting)

So, who’s your money on, and what has Matt got locked up in his suitcases? Whatever the latter is, it obviously means a lot to Matt, so we can safely assume that it’s not just a couple of bathrobes from Grey Gables. We welcome your speculations.

But back to the hit-and-run. Let’s look at motives and opportunity. Justin would probably be the bookies’ front runner, but he’s not the only possibility. Adam punched Matt in the car park and could potentially be barred from becoming a parent – something that would piss Ian off pretty dramatically; not least because Adam hadn’t told him the whole truth (again).

Then there’s Shula, who was absent for a while at the Hunt Ball. Let’s face it, being the organiser is a pretty good alibi and probably nobody except Alistair noticed that she wasn’t there all the time. Of course, there is Alistair too, whose business has been affected by rumour and bad mouthing, for which Matt is the chief suspect.

If I were PC Burns, I’d check Matt’s torso for marks corresponding to the badge of a Mercedes, or a Roller, or a Bentley or whatever marque Justin is driving at the moment. Alternatively, he could run the rule over Adam’s tractor and see if there is a Matt-shaped dent in the front (well, it worked in Tom and Jerry cartoons).

Or could it just be some shady business acquaintance of Matt’s (and I am sure there are probably hundreds to pick from)? Remember Chalkie, Matt’s former business associate and who Matt grassed up to the police and they both did time for fraud? He must be out of prison by now and certainly ought to hold a grudge. Alternatively, it could just be some public-spirited villager who feels that the world would be a little bit better without Matt in it.

Then again, someone who has been nabbed by Speedwatch and wants to take his frustration out on somebody. I accept that it’s not readily apparent why they should choose Matt as their target, but you know how unpredictable these psychopaths can be.

You pays your money, as they say – but who is your choice? More importantly, do we really want the perpetrator to be found and punished, or just given a medal?

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

In Cocktails Veritas?

Simon Williams (Justin Elliott)

I was annoyed this week, as I had already thought of the title of the blog on Tuesday and Justin spoilt it for me. It was Halloween night in The Bull and Alice was working her way slowly – well, not that slowly – through the list of gruesomely-named cocktails. Her favourite appeared to be ‘Dark & Stormy Killer Punch’, but she gave them all a go.

The main topic of conversation is that of Matt being found in a ditch, badly injured, but hanging on and there is an awkward silence when Justin walks in the pub. He had been in the previous night, looking for Matt and not in the best of tempers and went out when he learned that Matt had stepped outside (Matt had been hitting the malt with a vengeance and had told Lilian on the phone that he wanted her to come away with him and should he send a taxi to the Hunt Ball to pick her up?). Sadly, Lilian wasn’t near her phone and Justin answered it silently and heard Matt’s inebriated plea.

Fast forward to The Bull the next night and Alice drunkenly said that it was a pity that the do wasn’t fancy dress, as Justin could have come as the Grim Reaper. “Even if it wasn’t you Justin,” she slurs drunkenly, “someone taking Matt out like that saved you from having to do the job.” In the sudden, shocked silence that followed this pronouncement, Alice can be heard saying “What? What did I say?” in a puzzled voice.

It was the next day, when Jennifer was apologising to Justin for her daughter’s gaffe, that he said “in vino veritas” – he’d allowed Matt to get under his skin. I was annoyed, as my title had been hijacked, but hey ho.

Let’s discuss Alice in more detail – the girl certainly knows how to put the drink away and she is obviously talented, as everybody who looks at her offers her a job on the spot, but she doesn’t seem to know when, or how, to stop. And she has previous; apart from Halloween, she got drunk and climbed up (and jumped from) a tree at the party to celebrate Chris’s purchase of the farrier business (see ‘Same Old, Same Old’ in August this year). Before that, at another do, Alice and Pip were arguing about who was the better farmer. Once again, strong drink had been quaffed and Alice had the keys to Adam’s brand new tractor, or drill, or some other bit of agricultural kit and decided to take it for a drive to settle matters. She only got a few yards before she crunched it. As I said, she seems a nice enough girl, but once she gets a sniff of the barmaid’s apron she loses it completely and does, or says, something unwise. If I were husband Chris I would give her some drug that reacts violently after the fourth cocktail has been downed – such things must exist, surely?

But what of Matt while all this is going on? Having been found by a taxi driver and taken to hospital, he is in an induced coma. As if that weren’t enough, he has Lilian prattling beside him, calling him ‘my love’ and that she is his pusscat. Justin drove Lilian to the hospital, which was pretty good of him, I reckon and he is talking to Jennifer while Lilian is practising her bedside manner. Matt has head injuries and Lilian emerges from the ward to tell everyone that the doctor has advised her ‘to prepare for the worst’. ‘Bugger, that means he’s going to make a full recovery’ I thought.

Justin also tells Jennifer that he had been looking for Matt “to do him some significant damage” and “when I first learned of the accident, I’d be lying if I said I was sorry.” At this moment, Lilian enters the room and tells them that the doctors are going to wake Matt from his coma and, in what must be one of the worst-ever examples of completely misjudging your audience, Lilian says “We’re going to get him back – isn’t it wonderful?”

For someone who is less than two months away from getting married, Lilian is pushing her luck with Justin. For some reason, Matt has kept her on as his next of kin and she seems to think that that makes it incumbent upon her to be with him. No Lilian, it doesn’t – it means that, should he croak, you’ll be sitting pretty – you don’t have to be there when it happens. Lilian also says that, if she doesn’t go to the hospital and sit with Matt, who else will – he’s got nobody? Perhaps she should ask herself why Matt hasn’t got anybody else.

Matt appears to be making a swift recovery – ok, he looks awful and can’t yet get out of bed, but he’s talking well enough. He asks Lilian to go to The Bull and retrieve the suitcases that he left in the bottle store. He makes her promise to do this at once and report back when she has done so. Kenton helps Lilian put the cases in her boot “Gosh, these are heavy” says the landlord. Lilian gets back to the hospital and Matt is still obsessing about the cases – were they still padlocked? Are they out of sight? We await the revelation of the case of the cases with interest.

PC Burns visited Matt in hospital for a talk, which was a complete waste of petrol as Matt says he cannot remember anything after he left The Bull and he does not want to press any charges and would PCB close the door quietly on his way out, please?

PCB has been speaking to Kenton, remarking that Matt has made a lot of enemies.  Kenton tells the policeman about an irate Justin coming into The Bull on the night of the Hunt Ball, looking for Matt. By the way, if you’re wondering where Matt was, he didn’t turn up for the Ball at all.

On Friday, Justin is eating in the Café and an off-duty Harrison asks if he can join him? Justin is affability itself and PCB begins asking him questions – why was he in the pub that night? Justin says that he was looking for Matt, as they had some unfinished business. All affability vanished, Justin asks if this is an official interrogation, as he’s beginning to wonder if he ought to call his solicitor? PCB quickly back pedals, saying that he didn’t mean any offence. Justin leaves.

So far it looks as if Justin is firmly in the frame as suspect number one, but he wasn’t the only one to go missing at the Hunt Ball (which was a triumph, you’ll be pleased to know, with Christine winning the star raffle prize of a Rhine Cruise. Perhaps she can take Peggy and smuggle Hilda Ogden aboard – she’d love a little dip in the river). But I digress. Shula herself went awol for a time and Adam cried off and went home early. One wonders if this is going to be like a mechanised version of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, with lots of different people taking it in turns to run Matt over.

There is other evidence against Adam – Roy is looking through the CCTV footage at Grey Gables (they have been having troubles with kids vandalising things) and he is troubled. He shows Lexi some footage that he has downloaded to his phone, probably breaking every privacy and confidentiality law in existence. It shows Adam and Matt’s confrontation in the car park and then Adam grabs Matt and punches him. Roy is in a dilemma – what should he do? Destroy it? (Yes) Pretend he hasn’t seen it? (Yes) Or take it to the Police? (No). Just let it go, Roy, after all, it is Matt Crawford we are talking about here.

Adam is worried – he knows that, if Matt grasses him up about the punch, his and Ian’s chances of having a surrogate baby will go out the window and he hasn’t yet told his husband about the fracas. Even more worrying, Carina (potential surrogate) is coming to Ambridge next week to check the boys out. Could be the time to take decisive action Adam – get that tractor out and lurk round outside the hospital gates, just in case Matt recovers enough to leave.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Being David Archer

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Sunday, 29 October 2017

Freddie’s Fungi Forage

Toby Laurence (Freddie Pargetter)

Last week we had Freddie and Noluthando sharing a spliff in the woods, with her moaning (surely not?) that the weed is better in South Africa and that the rain keeps extinguishing the joint. What hard lives these teenagers have! Never mind, Freddie has the answer - the woods are full of mushrooms and some of them must be of the magic variety, surely? The pair try a few and they are indeed getting high, until Noluthando is feeling sick.

I don’t want to be critical, but how far would you trust Freddie’s judgement when it comes to picking a fungus that is both hallucinogenic and edible? Me neither. I’m surprised he didn’t say something like “this red one with white spots looks cool - I wonder what it tastes like?” Let’s be frank here; going fungi foraging with Freddie is probably the worst idea that anyone has had at Lower Loxley since Nigel agreed to help David get the ‘Happy New Year’ banner off the roof.

I have done a bit of research here and here are three types that he can find in the UK; Amanita virosa, Amanita phalloides and Galerina marginata. I cannot attest to whether or not they are tasty, but their more common names of Destroying Angel, Death Cap and Funeral Bell are evidence of their potency. Freddie and Noluthando squirrel away their stash of fungi to dry in Lower Loxley’s attic. We can expect a few stoned rats to make an appearance soon, I reckon. Freddie keeps telling Noluthando that “the first rule of breaking the rules is ‘don’t get caught’ “ Ha! This is Ambridge, where naughty people usually get what they deserve, so we wait to see what happens to our mushroom-munching duo.

A naughty person who hasn’t yet got what he deserves is Matt Crawford who, if he upsets many more people, will have to change his name to Rob Titchener. On Sunday, Lilian tells Adam that Matt asked her to run away with him and she considered it briefly, as she loves both Justin and Matt. Adam cannot believe it and tells her to stay away from Matt. “Get him out of your head and don’t let him pollute your relationship with Justin” Adam tells his aunt. “I need to keep away from him.” Lilian agrees.

This she does by taking to her bed, pleading sickness and refusing to go out. Adam goes to see her at the Dower House and urges her to stand up to Matt - what she feels for him is not love; he’s messed with her head because he’s jealous of Justin. “Live your life and leave Matt Crawford to me” Adam says, ominously. If Lilian is determined to avoid Matt, why not take off to a hotel, or go and live with James and Leonie for a few days, leaving her phone behind?

There may well be a queue forming to sort Matt out, as Shula has been thinking about the troubles that have beset the Stables recently and wondering if she detects Matt’s fine Italian hand behind it all - the depth of knowledge of events seems too detailed to be laid at the door of the sacked stable girl Roberta. Shula shares her suspicions with Kenton - she has just seen Matt with Latif at Grey Gables and Matt made a point of waving to Shula, in triumph, she believes. Kenton isn’t convinced that Matt would do such a thing and, besides, he’s leaving at the end of the week, isn’t he? Shula says that Matt probably “couldn’t resist one last thrust of the dagger”. Kenton gives her a double brandy on the house and asks whether she will share her suspicions with Alistair. “He doesn’t need to know,” Shula tells her twin, adding: “if it is all down to Matt, I’ll handle him myself.” Take a number and stand in line, Shula.

Kenton’s naivety is touching when it comes to Matt’s behaviour. Has he forgotten that Matt ran out on Lilian, emptying her and AmSide’s bank accounts in the process? Shula will have to take her turn, as Adam confronts Matt in a car park and tells him to leave Lilian alone, as she is marrying Justin. Matt sneers that, if Lilian loves Justin, why has she been meeting him (Matt) for days out? He then gets more personal and insulting, talking about Adam and Ian’s plans to have a baby, calling it “unnatural.” He keeps goading Adam, who finally loses it and hits him. Wrong move Adam! A gloating Matt says that no-one will let Adam have a child after he has hit a man in a car park. “All it takes is one phone call” crows Matt.

Well, Adam, that could have gone better, couldn’t it? Adam returns home and tells Ian how Matt provoked him, but stops short of the fisticuffs incident. Ian says that Lilian’s life is nothing to do with them and, if she wants a knight in shining armour, she’s always got Justin. However, Ian is proud of the fact that Adam stopped short of violence, saying that he remembers how satisfying it was when he hit Rob. “If you’d have socked him, that would mean an assault charge and an end to anything to do with Carina”, Carina being the likely surrogate mother they have been talking with. Adam is now in thrall to Matt - will Matt put the squeeze on Adam and keep him on tenterhooks? What do you reckon? Kenton might think Matt isn’t an all-round bad guy, but I would suggest that he is in a minority of one. With Adam out of the way, it seems that handling Matt is all down to Shula, so how will she get on? The answer, as we will see, is ‘not very well, actually’ and it all begins on Thursday, when she comes across Matt, who has ostensibly run out of petrol and asks her if she can give him a lift to Brookfield, where David will have petrol.

Here’s Shula’s chance to handcuff Matt to the rear bumper and drag him across a few rough and stony fields, or alternatively to douse him in petrol (well he does want some) and offering him a cigar, but instead she gives him a lift, albeit with bad grace, and the atmosphere is very frosty, with Shula telling him that he doesn’t need to talk. Matt refers to the fact that Anisha “keeps popping off to Glasgow” and the temperature drops a few degrees when Shula says that Anisha’s mother has just died. When they get to Brookfield, Shula cannot wait to dump Matt on David and she goes into the kitchen to seethe.

Matt tells Shula that he might see her before he goes and “I might surprise you.” “Please don’t” is her curt reply, but an unfazed Matt says “You never know, it might be something good.” We don’t have long to wait before we find out what Matt is up to, as Shula takes a call - someone has donated a fantastic prize for the Hunt Ball raffle - a Rhine cruise for two. Shula goes after Matt and says that the Hunt cannot accept such a prize. “I can’t accept it” she tells him. Matt asks why and Shula pours out her suspicions that it is Matt who is trashing the name and reputation of the Stables and Alistair’s business. Incidentally, there is some good news on this front, as the Vet college did not uphold the complaint about the dead horse.

Matt describes her as having a vivid imagination and says that the cruise isn’t from him, but from his employer, Hugo Melling. Shula asks Matt to thank Hugo, upon which he asks where is his ticket to the Ball? Hugo can’t make it, so it is incumbent upon Matt to present the star prize on the night. Shula is taken aback but says that she’ll see what she can do. Matt thanks her, adding: “From what I’ve heard, it should be one hell of a night.” You have to - if not admire, then at least acknowledge - the manipulation shown by Matt. Rob Titchener would be proud. Things get worse on Friday, when Shula, who is having trouble finding somewhere to put Matt (“There’s no-one I hate enough to put next to him“), gets a text message - now Matt wants a ticket for a ‘plus one’ for the Ball. “He’s poisonous; toxic and the sooner the village is rid of him, the better.”

In order to escape Matt, Lilian goes shopping with Jennifer for dresses. Jen is trying on shoes and Lilian is in the changing room with her dress when Matt turns up. Lilian is staggered - how did he get in and what does he want? Matt replies that he told the attendant that his wife was inside, choosing clothes for their second honeymoon and he hands her an air ticket, saying he’ll wait for her to turn up. “Be there or be Mrs Elliott” he tells her before he leaves. Jennifer returns and a despondent Lilian says she wants to go home.

By the way, for those of you who are stressing, Alistair confesses to Shula that he did not have time to buy a new dinner jacket but he has done the next best thing and hired one. Shula doesn’t actually explode, but it is a close-run thing. Her temper is not improved when Alistair tries the DJ on, remarking that it’s a bit tight. He bends to move something and the jacket splits up the back. The couple dissolve into hysterical laughter, but the smiles are wiped from their faces when Matt’s text about his plus one comes through.

Let’s leave Matt and his machinations and talk about the forthcoming election for the Parish Council. It’s fair to say that election fever has not actually gripped Ambridge, but Lynda accosts everyone who comes into the shop, asking who they are going to vote for? Practically nobody has made up their mind and Lynda canvasses on behalf of her husband. Jim Lloyd turns up at the shop and Lynda turns on him, saying that, as Parish Clerk, he should be neutral. Jim protests that, if he has been making positive comments in favour of Emma, he is only repeating what villagers have been telling him. Lynda accuses him of being, if not pro-Emma, than at least anti-Snell. “I’ll be watching you on election day” she warns Jim.

Let’s have some good news for a change. Kathy is off sick (no, that’s not the good news) and so Roy has been co-opted on to the panel interviewing applicants for the interim (three months) job of front of house manager at Grey Gables. Roy is slightly stunned when one of the applicants turns out to be Lexi - he didn’t even know that she had applied. Lexi acquits herself with credit, answering all Roy and Ian’s questions. I believe there was someone else on the panel, but whoever they were, they didn’t have much to say for themselves.

Speaking to Roy afterwards, Lexi explains that she didn’t tell Roy as she didn’t want an unfair advantage. A delighted Roy tells her that the panel has decided that she can have the job if she wants it and they are both overjoyed. I’m glad that things seem to be going well for Roy on the romantic front - all we want now is for Lexi’s three-month contract to be made permanent.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Repeat After Me, Tony: “I’ve Got A Mind Of My Own”

David Troughton (Tony Archer)

Tony is surprised when Justin asks him to be the witness at his and Lilian’s wedding. He stammers, prevaricates and asks for time to think it over. The same day, Tony takes Peggy shopping and she remarks that he’s very quiet. Tony tells her about Justin and she replies that it was very sweet of him, although Tony wonders whether or not Lilian put him up to it. Peggy says he’s not that sort of man – he has a mind of his own. “You did say ‘yes’?” she asks her son, sharply and, when Tony admits that he wanted to think about it, she is slightly dismayed.

Tony tries to justify himself, saying “we’re different kinds of people – we don’t see the world the same way” but Peggy cuts him short, saying that it’s his sister’s wedding and his job is to make her as happy as he can. She adds: “no more of this nonsense – you must go straight to Justin and tell him you’ll be delighted.” Later on Tony seeks Justin out in The Bull, where he is dining with Lilian. Is Tony about to make a stand and demonstrate that he too has a mind of his own? Will he rebel? Will he fishcakes – he tells Justin and Lilian that he would love to be a witness. As for making his sister happy, it is evident from her bemused comments that this is the first she has heard of the whole thing. Meanwhile, Tony takes his leave, presumably to ask Pat whether or not he’s hungry and if she thinks it’s time that he ate something.

Lilian is feeling a tad guilty, as, when she met Adam on Sunday, he asked her whether or not she had enjoyed the meal that Justin lovingly prepared for her last Thursday? Again, this is something that she didn’t know about (she was having dinner with Matt) and she hastily tells Adam that, yes, it was a wonderful surprise. Back at the Dower House, Lilian is all over Justin, saying that, had she known, she would have made an excuse to Marcia (with whom she had told Justin she was dining) and come home. Justin dismisses it as water under the bridge, but Lilian still feels bad.

There is a difference of opinion brewing at Home Farm, where Brian and Jennifer lay down the law to Kate about Noluthando’s education – if she is going to stay in the UK until Christmas, then she has to be in full-time education. Kate says that Nolly has come over to spend time with her – Kate, love, people wouldn’t cross the room to spend time with you – and she won’t make her do anything she doesn’t want to. Noluthando overhears some of this conversation and immediately says that she’s not going to college, before flouncing off to Lower Loxley to bend Freddie’s ear about how unfair it all is. Yes, Noluthando, it is unfair but, as the saying goes, that’s life, so get used to it.

Having said that, life’s not too shabby for Freddie, with a stately pile to roll around in. He tells Noluthando that nothing happens in Ambridge, whereas college life – or at least the social aspect of it – is ‘awesome’. “Much more fun than hanging round a yurt with your mum” he tells her. This obviously strikes home and, when Noluthando goes back to Home Farm, she says, OK; she’ll go to college, under protest, but she doesn’t want to and, by the way, she’ll need some new outfits.

A new outfit is also the topic of conversation at the Stables, viz: Alistair’s new dinner jacket, which he still hasn’t ordered or been measured for and the Hunt Ball is coming ever closer. Anisha is away in Glasgow, where her mother is recovering from a heart attack and Alistair has a few things on his mind, such as the complaint about the practice when a horse died on the operating table and a tide of rumours sweeping the equine establishment. Latif drops in unexpectedly and mentions the rumours in passing. Alistair assures him that they are false rumours and that the complaint won’t be upheld and he seems reassured by Latif’s somewhat lukewarm acceptance.

Shula still bangs on about the DJ and is horrified when Alistair tells her that the Hunt Ball clashes with Graham’s (covering for Anisha) sister’s 60th birthday and Graham has a long-standing invitation to a celebration. Manically, Shula tells Alistair to tell Graham to cancel it – like Cinderella, Alistair will go to the Ball and there’s no way he can be on call that night. And has he done anything about that DJ yet? Now, I appreciate that, among the horsey fraternity, a Hunt Ball is an important event, but so too is a close relative’s 60th birthday, and that only happens once in a lifetime, whereas a Hunt Ball happens every year, so I personally think that Shula is being a mite unfair on Graham.

But never mind; Graham returns early from visiting Latif and Alistair informs Shula that Graham has agreed to forgo the party. Oh, by the way, there’s bad news too – Latif, who is the jewel in the Stables’ list of clients, has decided to go back to his previous vet because of Anisha’s continuing absence, which is why Graham is back early. It never rains but it pours; Justin told Shula about a message board where someone is trashing the Stables’ reputation and rubbishing the vet practice. It turns out that the author is a stable girl that Shula had to sack last week and Roberta, for that is her name, is vindictively getting her own back. It’s all very well for Alistair to tell his wife to stop looking at the messages, turn the other cheek and get on with doing her job, but I think it’s fair to say that the Stables has had better weeks.

And now the ‘I bloody told you this would happen’ moment. I speak about the relationship between Pip and Toby. Hardly had we downed our Scruff’s and tonic in celebration of the pair splitting up, when Pip was all over Toby like a cheap suit, much to his discomfort and her embarrassment, leaving a strained atmosphere whenever they ran into each other. After a stilted conversation at Hollowtree, Pip seeks him out and says “I can’t do this any longer” and confesses that she still has feelings for him. She becomes flustered and confused and Toby kisses her to see if that can help settle her mind. It obviously did, as we then have a few seconds of what sounds like two sink plungers mating.

Rooooth has to take some of the blame, as she interrogated her daughter about her future plans – does she intend to stay at Brookfield or look for a job elsewhere? At the moment, dairy prices are high and Rooooth says that they are considering expanding the herd. However, she and David aren’t getting any younger and Josh and Ben aren’t interested in the farm, so any expansion will depend on whether Pip is still at Brookfield. A neat example of moral blackmail, if ever I’ve seen one. And it worked, as Pip tells Rooooth that she will stay at Brookfield and bring on the extra cows. However, there is one caveat – Pip insists that her mum and dad have a proper holiday, away somewhere, and Pip will pay for the tickets.

To balance the bad news, the writers occasionally throw in the odd morsel to make us happy and last week’s was the announcement by Lynda that she will not be directing this year’s Christmas Show. ‘Oh yes, we’ve heard that before’ I mused, but it seems that Lynda wants to take charge of Robert’s campaign to stand for the Parish Council, against Emma. Robert isn’t really cut out for a life in politics – he doorstepped Sabrina Thwaite and was bemused when she quoted Aristotle at him, talking about moral values. Robert also solicited Brian’s vote but Brian asked him awkward questions and told him “to get some fire in his belly”.

Later, Brian said that his vote is going to Emma; largely because of some very positive things that Jim Lloyd said about her. Robert is incensed by this – as Parish Clerk, Jim is supposed to be neutral and Robert suspects that he wants Emma on the PC as his own puppet. Robert had been thinking of pulling out of the contest, but this casts a different light on the whole thing. “I’m not going to let him win,” Robert tells Lynda angrily, adding: “this means war!”

For her part, Emma wrestles with the problem – should she accept the help proffered by Jim – it seems a little underhand. Peggy says that, if Jim wants to jeopardise his position as Clerk, then that’s up to him. Furthermore, Peggy admires Emma’s moral principles and she can count on her vote. Emma decides that moral principles aren’t going to help her win and she decides to take advantage of Jim’s offer, thereby ruling herself out as the only honest politician on the planet. Just a suggestion – is the number of Parish Councillors set in stone and, if not, why can’t Robert and Emma both join the PC?

There is little doubt about the main story last week and that was the eternal triangle-ish relationship developing between Justin, Lilian and Matt. Lilian and Matt keep meeting up and, while nothing serious has happened, she is racked with guilt and fear that Justin will find out, although, as Matt points out, there’s nothing for him to find out about.

Lilian learns of the near-altercation between the two men when Ruby ran away and was found by Matt. Philip the plumber told her that he had to step in to prevent them coming to blows. Over one of their many lunches or dinners (Lilian must have put on a couple of stone, I reckon) Matt asks her if she will help him buy a horse from her friend Philomena. All he wants Lilian to do is to schmooze Philomena, as he is in a hurry and will be returning to Costa Rica next week. “Can’t you do this one little favour for me?” He asks, adding: “You owe me that much, don’t you?” The nerve of the man! Lil, you owe him nothing, unless you are going halves on the meals, of course. Matt says that he’ll never ask her to do anything ever again and, besides, he’ll soon be out of her life forever. She agrees.

Lilian duly talks Philomena round and admits afterwards at lunch (where else?) that she quite enjoyed the intrigue. There is a (for her) heart-stopping moment when Roy Tucker walks into the gastropub, but he leaves without seeing them. And now Matt makes his move – he says that he never stopped loving Lilian and he knows that she still has feelings for him. “I can’t go away and let you marry Justin Elliott” he says “If you do, you’ll never be truly happy.” Does she want to be like Jennifer, wasting her days away? He can offer her spark, passion, excitement – oh yes, he’s wealthy to boot. Lilian says that she is going to marry Justin; the man (slight pause) that I love.” Matt appeals to her: “Lilian, don’t throw yourself away. Grab this last chance while you’ve got it. Come away with me and we can spend the rest of our lives together.” The week ends with Lilian saying “You’re mad – of course I can’t – I’m not going anywhere with you!” We don’t know if she left, or stayed to finish the Chablis

Oh dear, will she or won’t she? Imagine the repercussions if she goes. Apart from the terrible upheaval among the Archer clan, there are other consequences, not least of which will be the collapse of Toby’s gin business, unless he can open up an overseas branch in Costa Rica pretty damn quickly…