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?