Monday, 17 September 2018

Whither Bridge Farm?

William Troughton (Tom Archer)

A good question. Ever since Pat and Tony abdicated responsibility for running the farm, handing it over to Tom and Helen, it has drifted from one unsustainable scheme to another. First of all, Tom wanted to get rid of the dairy herd and, after much soul-searching, Pat and Tony gave in and the cows were history. Tom then wanted to introduce a range of organic baby food, but abandoned this idea, as there were already a number on the market.

Instead, he came up with the idea of fermented food, notably Kefir. This was generally regarded as pretty horrible and appears to have been kicked into the long grass. Luckily, the Archers benefited from Justin Elliott’s £900,000 purchase of Bridge Farm land for building and there was much discussion about what to do with the windfall. Actually, it should have been £1 million, but Tom tried to put the squeeze on Justin by saying that a consortium has offered more. This consortium turned out to be a figment of Matt’s imagination and Tom had to crawl back to Justin, who promptly knocked £100,000 off his original offer. Well done Tom!

The plans for the money involved creating an educational centre to keep the public informed about the benefits of organic farming. Also, Helen could run cheese-making courses. These ideas were shelved, because a new building would be expensive and because not that many people wanted to make their own cheese. Apparently, Borsetshire Blue cheese accounts for a large proportion of Bridge Farm’s profit, and so it was a bit of a blow when Ian announced that the quality has been suffering recently and he removed it from the Grey Gables menu.

Helen went through her records and the deterioration in the cheese coincided with selling the dairy herd and buying in milk. The cows that yielded the milk had been given a high level of concentrates and this had affected the quality. The farmer who owns the cows cannot see that something is wrong and Helen is looking for an alternative source of milk - with a distinct lack of success, so far.

Meanwhile Tom consulted a panel of Nuffield farmers and they came up with some novel ideas. One of these is to grow trees (apple is a good choice) in strips and sow other crops between them. Johnny describes this as “not proper farming” and Helen is very anti, telling her brother that it would bankrupt the farm. But fear not, for Helen has come up with a solution, which is (wait for it) to reintroduce dairy cattle and establish their own micro dairy; something that Tom describes as “a big step backwards.”

Tom is upset to find that he is in a minority of one on this one - Pat is leaning towards the idea and Tony is besotted by the idea of a dairy herd back at Bridge Farm. As he tells his son “you can’t blame me - it’s what I know best.” They all agree that the idea will have to be thoroughly costed and Tom offers to help Helen do this - what’s the betting that the scheme will turn out to be unrealistically expensive, according to Tom’s figures? He is also worried about who would do the milking - no problem, as Johnny can do it; the lad’s a natural with stock. Poor Tom is feeling quite isolated, but Pat takes pity and suggests that they could always run a trial of Tom’s agro-forestry.

I just wish that someone would take control and come up with a strategy that will see Bridge Farm prosper and that will create a sustainable future. Let’s be honest; the only thing that has made money for the family recently has been selling land to Justin - perhaps the Archers should sell off parcels of land every now and then and just forget farming?

There was mystery and intrigue over at Jim Lloyd’s gaff, with Jazzer refusing to divulge exactly what he is cooking up for Alistair’s upcoming birthday. ‘Cooking up’ seems an appropriate phrase, as Jim is horrified to see the mess that the Scotsman has made in his kitchen. Even worse - Alistair has had a cancellation and is coming home early, so Jim is tasked with keeping him away from the house. Jim takes his son down The Bull and tells him that Jazzer is thinking of moving out. Even worse, he is contemplating going back to Glasgow. Alistair and Joe Grundy, who is bumming drinks off Jim and Alistair, are sorry to hear this and, when Jazzer turns up at the pub, they tell him so. Jazzer tells them it’s a load of nonsense and he’s going nowhere.

The day of the birthday arrives and we learn that Jazzer’s idea is to have a party with kids’ games, such as pass the parcel. Jim tells Jazzer that Alistair will hate the whole thing, but he is wrong, as Alistair describes the experience as “amazing” and thanks Jazzer for organising such a great party. It probably helps that all the games are drink-related - the pass the parcel contains miniature bottles of whisky - and the ‘fruit punch’ is nearly neat vodka. Jim is in maudlin mood and regrets that he hasn’t been a better father. Alistair tells his dad that he has been a tower of strength recently and Alistair couldn’t have got through it all without Jim’s help.

And now we have an example of just how insensitive Tracy Horrobin is (as if we needed reminding). On Sunday, she turns up at the Stables, looking for Freddie. Lily is there too and she cannot believe it when Tracy says that a mate of hers is holding a party this weekend and does Freddie have any Ecstasy that she can buy? Lily says angrily that Freddie is not dealing any longer, whereupon Tracy asks if he knows of anyone else who could help her. Lily tells her to go and she and her twin talk about how, between them, they have messed up Elizabeth’s life this year. What? Only this year? Lily cannot understand how Freddie is so cool about his situation, but deep down, I reckon Freddie fears the worst - Johnny pays him a visit and suggests that they and a few friends have an evening on the lash. “OK,” Freddie agrees, adding: “I might as well enjoy my last few days of freedom.”

The time is approaching  when Lily will be off to Uni and she has packed lots of stuff from Elizabeth’s kitchen. “Just tell me what I’ve got to replace” Lizzie says, good naturedly. From conversations that Lily has with Elizabeth and Phoebe, we learn more of her and Russ’s plans for the future. The flat that they have chosen is some distance away from the campus, and it is also quite expensive. Lily tells her mother that she will be doing evening work to help pay for it and Elizabeth asks why can’t Russ get a job? Lily replies that Russ wants to concentrate on his art - I thought she was supposed to be intelligent?

Lily says that Russ has already given up so much; his job (Russ resigned), his wife and his family. Lily thinks that, because Russ resigned, then the situation about the complaint against him is now resolved and she is taken aback when Lizzie tells her that Usha reckons the police and Social Services will still want to talk to Lily.

Unwisely, Lizzie makes one final effort to persuade her daughter - why doesn’t Lily live in the Hall of Residence, while Russ lives in the flat? She adds that Russ shouldn’t be asking her to do so much. Nice try, but Lily replies that she is a grown woman and she knows what she wants. She continues that she knows Elizabeth doesn’t want them to be together and, when Elizabeth protests that she just wants Lily to be happy, her daughter says: “Russ makes me happy - he’s my future, not you and if you can’t accept that, it’s a good job that we’re leaving tomorrow.” OK, but put all the crockery and utensils back before you leave.

The Flower and Produce show is looming large and Joe takes great delight in telling Jim how Bert and Cecil have fallen out - it seems that someone told Bert that Cecil had been rubbishing Bert’s cabbages. When Jim asks Joe if he had anything to do with this (Jim and Joe had a bet and the falling out means that Jim owes Joe a pint) Joe’s voice is innocence personified as he strenuously denies any involvement. Jim is far from convinced, but gets the drinks anyway.

Brian is being extremely polite to Peggy and he suggests that they go for a stroll. Peggy wants to talk about ways to cheer Jenny up, but Brian takes her to The Bull and they chat to a number of people about the F&P show and what they will be showing. Peggy thinks it rude of Brian to keep looking at his phone, but he explains that he has been taking notes on his phone and the idea is to find out who is entering what categories. That way, they can steer Jenny towards those categories that she stands good chances of winning. “I suppose it’s not really cheating” Peggy says, somewhat doubtfully and Brian agrees, telling her that “it’s good, old-fashioned information gathering.”

Jennifer is depressed because the only offer they have had on the farmhouse was “an insult, not an offer.” Never mind, things could get worse and - right on cue - they do. Jennifer is in the middle of preparing Sunday lunch, when the doorbell rings. It is Tracy, who is taking the kids out for lunch and she thought that this would be a good time to have a viewing of the house. Jennifer is horrified - bad enough that this is a reminder that she is related to the Horrobins through the marriage of daughter Alice to Chris Carter (his mother Susan is Tracy’s sister) but the thought of them traipsing through what is still Jen’s home, almost brings on an attack of the vapours.

In a faint voice, Jennifer tells Tracy that all viewings have to be arranged via the Estate Agent and they vet applicants to see if they are suitable. Tracy thinks that this is a great idea - “You don’t want time wasters” she tells Jenny, as the latter firmly closes the door.

The situation between Fallon and Kenton continues to be fraught, with her adamant that the cricket club end of season party will not take place in The Bull unless and until Kenton apologises. PCB says that he appreciates her sticking up for him, but he would hate to see a family rift developing, as he has had too much experience of these in the past. There was a piece of good news for PCB when he finds support for his actions from an unlikely source - he is talking to Shula in the churchyard and he wonders if he should give up bell ringing in view of the situation. No way, she tells him, and adds that she fully supports Harrison’s action in arresting Freddie - he needed a wake up call and PCB did the right thing. Harrison thanks her and is genuinely touched when he tells her that it means a lot to him. At least that’s one of the Archer clan on your side, Harrison. 

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Thank You For Your Support – 300,000 Times! (Bonus Posting)

It has been something of a landmark week, as on Tuesday 11thSeptember 2018, our Hits counter for the blog stood at 300,380, which I think is a pretty good achievement.
The idea began – as do so many others – in the pub, where Neil, Karen, Louise and I sat around, discussing the latest episodes of The Archers. This was just after Norman Painting had died and we were wondering how the soap would cope with the loss of Phil Archer. “We could write our own stories” one of us suggested (probably in a bit of a slurred voice) and the idea for the blog was born.
At first, that’s exactly what we did, as can be seen by Alternative Archers back in December 2009. We soon realised that this was unsustainable (ie it was too hard to think up new storylines) and what we should be doing is providing a summary of the week’s episodes. These are by no means comprehensive, and indeed, some storylines are ignored altogether, but we do try to inject a bit of humour here and there. We also express our opinions about characters and stories – I don’t think any of our regular readers are in any doubt about what I think about Lynda’s Christmas plays/pantos – and there are lists of people who get on our nerves (Wayne, James, Leonie, Martyn Gibson – I could probably go on for pages, but I won’t.)
It’s always good to get feedback and the number of people who wrote in (especially during the Helen and Rob saga) saying that they no longer listen to the Archers on the radio, but rely instead on our summaries, made us realise the great responsibility on our shoulders! I believe I’m right in saying that we have never missed a week, despite illness, operations and, of course, holidays.
If I may be excused a few moments of self-indulgence, I’d like to name some of my favourite blogs. My all-time favourite is Guilt Trips  (January 2011) which dealt with, almost exclusively, the death of Nigel Pargetter. Another one I liked was Another Foot, Another Gob(January 2012). In writing this bonus posting, I have had a great time re-reading some of the postings, including some that I had forgotten about. It was interesting too to re-discover old characters, many of who have vanished without trace. Darrell and Olwen are to that spring to mind, if not to the ear any longer.
The Excitement Is In Tents (June 2014) and Mike’s Had Better Weeks (September 2014) were – to me at least, memorable, as was Don’t Expect A Father’s Day Card, Tony (June 2017). 
In January 2016, Neil managed to insert a couple of audio links into Do We Need A Rob Alert? And there wassound (albeit not a lot) to accompany the words – ah, the wonders of technology!
This last posting was one of our Bonus Postings, which we occasionally add during the week when an idea occurs to us. One such was The Pedalo Of Doom (March 2015) which invited readers to select four characters to be confined in a pedalo, which then went over the hitherto-unmentioned roaring cataract on the Am, never to be seen again.
When Helen was on trial for stabbing Rob, A reader suggested that it would be more immediate if we had a posting every day of the events in court. It seemed a good idea, so we had a week of Bonus Postings Helen In The Dock 1 – 7 in September and October 2016.
I could go on and on, but I would just like to say a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ from Neil and myself to all our readers for racking up over one third of a million hits. OK, it has taken the better part of a decade, but we have never advertised the blog and the growth in numbers is entirely down to personal recommendation among our loyal readership. And I do mean loyal, as some of the people who make comments do append their names and we think things like “oh good; Zoe’s still listening after all these years.”
So, please keep spreading the word among friends and family and thank you all for tuning in every week. Thank you too for the comments – keep them coming in, as we enjoy reading them and it’s nice to know that our efforts are (generally!) appreciated. If you have half as much fun reading the weekly summaries as we do writing them, then we have twice as much fun as you!

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

(Some Of The) Village vs PC Burns

James Cartwright (Harrison Burns)

Poor Harrison - he maintains he was only doing his duty when he collared Freddie, pointing out that there were numerous other coppers around on his Stag Night and Freddie was not exactly the soul of discretion. In fact, he was only just short of setting up a stall and yelling “Come and get ‘em - uppers, downers, ecstasy - roll up!” PCB would, as he said, have been in dereliction of duty had he not arrested Freddie.

Opinion amongst the Archers is divided; most of them couldn’t give a toss, although there are sharply polarised views among others. For example, Helen thinks Freddie warrants a slight smack on the wrist, while Peggy is preparing the gallows, just in case. Elsewhere, Lily is looking to buy her mother a present for being so understanding (more details later) and Jolene suggests the Tea Room, where Fallon has some nice knick-knacks. Lily goes there and Fallon asks her why didn’t she tell Harrison that she wouldn’t be turning up for cricket last Sunday?

Lily is stroppy from the outset and says that she doesn’t think that PCB had the right to arrest Freddie, as he was on his Stag Night, plus he was dressed in women’s clothes. Let’s hope that a) Lily isn’t going to study Law at Uni and, if she is, then b) that she never gets appointed to defend me. Fallon replies that her husband is a police officer and was only doing his job and he cannot be expected to protect Freddie from his own stupidity - he took a risk and he got caught. Lily retaliates by saying that Freddie is a good person and his whole future is at stake. No doubt Harold Shipman’s family thought he was an OK guy, but a jury thought otherwise.

An annoyed Fallon goes to The Bull and she is angry - why should PCB be getting the flak? Jolene says the consequences could be huge, and Kenton wades in with “Yes, he could go to prison.” Fallon points out that it was Freddie’s choice and an argument starts, with Kenton saying that PCB made the wrong decision - Kenton went to see Freddie and he was very low; the whole thing is ridiculous. Fallon has had enough and, after Jolene has got between them, as the argument is getting heated and customers are looking, Fallon demands that Kenton apologises. No way, Pedro! On hearing this, Fallon says that neither she nor PCB will set foot in the pub until he does apologise and, oh yes, the cricket team will be holding its end of season knees up in the Tea Room and not The Bull.

“Well, that went well” says Jolene, but an unrepentant Kenton says that Freddie made a mistake and PCB should have used his common sense and now Freddie could end up paying for it for the rest of his life. Well, like the man who spilt creosote on his cornflakes, I was deeply moved, but let me say where I stand on this issue, as they say in Dragons’ Den. Dealing drugs is against The Law - whatever your attitude towards drugs, that is an incontrovertible fact. Secondly (and if for no other reason, Freddie deserves to go down for this) he dealt drugs at a party where there were an awful lot of policemen and he did so in an ostentatious manner, to the extent where Toby was beating him off with refusals to purchase uppers. Yes Freddie made a mistake - he is Nigel’s son, after all - but would Kenton be so forgiving if Freddie had stabbed someone in a moment of anger (‘Come on Judge - he could suffer for the rest of his life’) or run over a pedestrian (OK, I agree that, if it were Matt, that could count as extenuating circumstances)? 

Let’s go back to Lily – she gets a call from Russ and turns as white as a sheet, telling her mother that Russ has told his wife about her. It just gets better and better for Elizabeth, as Russ decides that his wife needs some space, so he turns up at Lower Loxley. Lily immediately invites him to stay, taking Lizzie’s consent for granted – Russ can have Freddie’s room. After all, Freddie won’t be needing it for a while; quite a long while if he gets a stroppy judge. Elizabeth must have looked stunned, as Lily says that if that’s not acceptable, she and Russ could always get a hotel. Lizzie agrees to the Lower Loxley option, no doubt partly because she knows who’d end up paying for the hotel.

On Wednesday, Elizabeth sets the day aside for some mother and daughter quality time, shopping for stuff for Lily’s flat in Manchester. As they are about to leave, Russ turns up and says he’d like to join them. “We’d love you to” beams Lily, pre-empting her mother again. It turns out that Russ has rather expensive tastes, saying that you can’t beat the feel of Egyptian cotton sheets. Elizabeth, who is paying for this spree, says that Lily can take some from Lower Loxley, but Russ (who obviously has no problems spending someone else’s money) says that new ones are so much better. Oh, and don’t forget the Ming vase for the lounge, Lizzie.

This is all adding pressure on Lizzie’s shoulders and she confides in Kenton about what her daughter is up to. The wisdom of doing this is demonstrated when Kenton says that Russ ought to be thrown out and he’ll gladly do it. Elizabeth gently points out that this is hardly the way to keep Lily onside and she is afraid that she could lose both her children in quick succession. Kenton wonders if Russ has acted illegally and anyway, he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it. “Somebody ought to do something about it” he tells his sister, darkly. What’s the betting that that someone is Kenton and he causes a major rift in the Pargetter family?

On Friday, Russ is eating some vile concoction that he has put together, containing oatmeal, boiled eggs and smoked fish (I may have missed out some ingredients, such as cat’s urine and old boots). Elizabeth comes into the room. “What’s that disgusting smell?” she asks and promptly opens a window. She goes to see Freddie, who is bored, bored, bored – regard it as preparation for a life inside, Freddie – and he is surprised by the fact that Russ has told his wife. Where is he living now? On being told that Russ is in Freddie’s room at home, he blows his top and sets Elizabeth off crying, upon which Freddie apologises for upsetting her.

But, could there be a serpent entering Russ and Lily’s Eden? The pair are together at Lower Loxley and Russ’s mobile keeps ringing. Lily asks him why doesn’t he answer it and he replies that it’s just the college Principal – apparently someone has made an allegation about him but there’s no point calling back until Monday. Lily worries and Russ says “Relax; everything’s going to be fine.”

However, Lily is not convinced – what happens if Russ were to lose his job? No problem, as he says he has always felt caged in and he doesn’t want a desk job; he’s an artist and wants to channel his energy into his art, his true self. Lily is obviously a lot more practical and asks “But how would we manage financially?” Russ reassures her that, if necessary, they could exist on eating beans from a tin and foraging for food in a forest. I don’t know how many forests there are near Manchester, and besides, becoming a full- time hunter/gatherer could seriously interfere with Lily’s studying. It is worth mentioning that Russ is cooking lamb shanks when this conversation takes place – presumably in the future they will have to rustle the sheep. “What we have together is far more important than any sum of money” he tells her, earnestly. Oh yeah? Try telling that to the landlord when the rent is due.

Is this the beginning of Lily’s awakening and first step on the road to seeing Russ for what he really is – a deluded fool who is prepared to sponge off Lily (or, more likely, Elizabeth?). Let’s hope so.

It’s a big day in the Grundy household, as it’s Poppy’s first day at school and Will is driving himself slowly demented, worrying that he has got everything right. There is a crisis over her shoes – he got dark blue ones instead of black; what if she is horsewhipped for flouting the dress code? Clarrie looks into it and says that the dress code is ‘dark shoes’, so stop worrying. Then there is her school bag, which, apart from the usual pens, pencils etc., contains a spare set of clothes (“What if she gets cold?”) and, for all I know, a scuba diving outfit (“What if there’s a flash flood?”).

As it turned out, Poppy went into school OK – “She didn’t even look back” says Will, a mite wistfully – and enjoyed herself hugely, even comforting some of the less confident children and winning a gold star for being helpful. I hate to tell you this Poppy, but it’s all downhill from here on – don’t expect a gold star every day.

It was Jack’s first day at Nursery as well, and Helen and Will meet at the school gates and discuss how difficult it is to let go of your children. Helen even gives Will a tissue to mop up a tear.

Helen has fallen out with Tom over the latter allowing Henry to play computer games half the night, as she rations him to 10 minutes every February 29th. The siblings make it up eventually and we are subjected to Tom’s latest ideas from the Nuffield farmers’ group. After Kefir and the other fermented product, whose name I forget, we now have agro-forestry, which entails growing trees such as apple with crops between them. This is met with a wave of apathy and antipathy, with Johnny saying that it doesn’t sound like proper farming to him and Helen saying that it will only get them into debt. “Sorry Tom, it’s a non-starter for me.” Ah well, back to the drawing board, Tom.

Alistair is really getting into his running and Jim is overcome with guilt, as he feels that he could have been a better father over the years. Alistair’s birthday is coming up and he’d like to do something to mark it. What does Jazzer think of throwing a party? Not much, is the answer, as few of the Archers would attend. OK then, could Jazzer find out what Alistair might like? Jim wants it to be a surprise, so he tells Jazzer “to use all your subtlety.” Jazzer, who probably couldn’t spell ‘subtlety’ if you gave him a dictionary, answers “Oh aye – I’m the king of subtlety.”

When questioning Alistair, Jazzer is horrified to hear that Alistair has never had a birthday party in his life – indeed, he’d rather let the day pass unremarked. The irate Scotsman berates Jim for never celebrating his son’s birthday and says not to bother, as he (Jazzer) will take charge of arranging Alistair’s surprise. I suspect alcohol will feature somewhere.

Finally, I fear for the mental health of Brian Aldridge, as Jennifer tells Lilian that he is spending a lot of time with Joe Grundy. Much of this is in The Bull, so no doubt Brian is spending a lot of money too. Joe tells him that the Flower and Produce Show is a cut-throat business and you need a cunning strategy to thwart your opponents. Quick – someone rescue Brian before he starts growing his own vegetables or making his own cakes.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Confession Is Good For The Soul, Susan

Heather Bell (Clarrie Grundy)

Susan was very touchy on Sunday - Shula was praising Alan’s sermon about forgiveness and she was particularly taken when he quoted ‘let he that is without sin cast the first stone.’ Susan, whose conscience is troubled by her llama-napping on Fallon’s Hen Night, takes this as a slight on her and she was quite short with Shula, who stammered an apology and said that she was speaking generally.

As Shula goes, Clarrie asks Susan what’s the matter with her - Shula is having a hard time with her divorce and Susan should make allowances. Susan confesses about her part in what we shall call llamagate and she feels stupid and ashamed. Clarrie says that Lynda will never let the matter rest and that Susan will have to tell Lynda; and the sooner the better.

Nevertheless, two days later, Susan still hasn’t ‘fessed up and Clarrie calls her a coward. Stung (or so we believe) Susan seeks out Lynda and finds her in the shepherd’s hut, reading ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ as the latest in her epic reading list. Susan makes small talk, asking if the book was based on the film, starring Gregory Peck. Sighing mightily, Lynda asks her what does she want - she didn’t pop round to discuss literature, surely? Susan says that she knows something about the kidnapping of Constanza and that the person in question is feeling ashamed and contrite - such behaviour was not how the person normally behaves. Lynda says she is pleased that Susan is confessing, only for Susan to reply “oh no - it wasn’t me; it was Clarrie.”

I’m sure that many listeners, including me, thought ‘you sneaky cow - how could you treat Clarrie like that?’ However, we judged her prematurely as, the next day, the two women were in the dairy and Clarrie asks how did Susan get on with Lynda? Susan’s answer was “it worked like a charm - she swallowed it hook, line and blooming sinker!” and the two of them fall about guffawing and shrieking with laughter.

It transpires that the whole deception was Clarrie’s idea and Susan is grateful that Clarrie put her reputation on the line to save Susan’s “You’re a true friend” Susan tells her. Clarrie’s response is that she was pleased to do it - Susan has behaved wonderfully towards her family (especially thinking up the rota of help for William after Nic died). Also, Clarrie adds that she hasn’t had a laugh like that in a long, long time and that starts the pair off on another round of hysterical laughter.

Someone who isn’t laughing is Helen, who is having trouble with Henry. “Whatever happened to my sweet seven-year-old?” she asks, after putting him on the naughty step for the umpteenth time. Henry threw his toys on the floor and refused to pick them up, telling his mother that he hates her. Later on he pinches Jack and kicks him. Back on the step Henry!

Pat tells Helen that this is how children treat their parents, no doubt thinking of the grief that Helen has caused her in the past. Clarrie then turns up to tell Helen that Henry is kicking his ball about near the polytunnels and it would seem that, when Clarrie remonstrated with him, he gave her some backchat. Helen goes to drag Henry away to the step yet again. A good slap never did anyone any harm Helen - just a thought.

As well as trouble with Henry, Helen is trawling through her cheese-making records to try and track down a reason for the deterioration in the taste of Borsetshire Blue. After hours of detective work, she realises that the decline began soon after they stopped using their own milk (they sold the herd, if you remember) and used outside suppliers’ milk. One such supplier had to supplement his grazing with silage and this affected the quality of the milk. She will investigate and Tom advises her to be tactful when she tackles the man.

Tom realises that his sister is under the cosh somewhat and rashly offers to have Henry for a sleepover one night. Helen accepts with almost indecent haste and Henry is farmed out to his uncle. We learn after the event that it was rather a fraught night for Tom; on his arrival, Henry stated that he was going to stay up all night, which meant that Tom had to do likewise. The next day, a weary-looking and bleary-eyed Tom tells Jazzer that Henry eventually fell asleep around 4am. Hannah says that Henry has put her off kids. I think that young Henry has probably just had his last sleepover at uncle Tom’s cabin, even though Helen tells her brother that he is Henry‘s new favourite and Henry cannot stop talking about him. 

Jazzer is under a cloud also. Jim suggested that perhaps Alistair is carrying a bit of extra weight and makes references to the Felpersham half marathon in January. Shula tells Elizabeth that she saw Alistair in T-shirt, jogging pants and trainers - he’s obviously in training for something. However, it appears that Jazzer mocked Alistair’s weight and running style, as Alistair turns up at the shop, saying that he is in sore need of chocolate and cake. Tom says “but I thought Jazzer said - “ and is interrupted by Alistair saying that he doesn’t care what Jazzer said.

Jim has words with Jazzer, who says that what he said was “only banter”. In Jim’s opinion, it was more like bullying and Jazzer “was being unkind” and Alistair has given up running. I reckon Jazzer must be wishing he had somewhere else to live (he’d already given up his more spacious bedroom for Alistair’s boxroom, complete with piano) and he rings Alistair to apologise and to offer him a proposition.

This turns out to be Jazzer going running with Alistair and both of them competing in the Felpersham half marathon. We find this out when the two of them turn up at The Bull after a run, where Tom screams “Those shorts are obscene!” ‘Those shorts’ are worn by Jazzer as part of his running kit and we can imagine what they are like when Jazzer says that they were what George Best used to wear, meaning that they are the sporting male equivalent of the sixties’ micro skirts - it’s at times like this that I curse my vivid imagination.

Tom is obsessed with Natasha’s analysis of Bridge Farm’s performance and he asks Helen if he can run it past Adam, who thinks she might have some points - is Bridge Farm a farm, a retailer, a food manufacturer, or what? Tom has already told his sister that Natasha thinks they have over-diversified in too many directions (memo to Pat and Tony - this is what happens when you hand over control to the kids - lucky you trousered Justin Elliott’s £900k) - and see what I wrote earlier about giving children a slap. 

And now to the trials (no pun intended) of the Pargetter family, or, to be precise, of Elizabeth. We didn’t hear much about Freddie, apart from the fact that he seems to be bearing up, and that Shula is eating well, as she has to cook Freddie’s meals. Elizabeth has more than her fair share of grief, as the Licensing Authority is meeting to review the suspension of her alcohol licence. Shula drives her to the hearing and they get caught in roadworks, just making it in time. Oliver has turned up to speak in Elizabeth’s favour, but the Authority upholds the licence embargo. Lizzie is philosophical, but she does have worries how the ban will affect Lower Loxley wine production and sales.

At the beginning of the week, Lizzie and Lily are talking and Lily is full of admiration and praise for the way that her mother has handled the whole Lily/Russ situation. Indeed, it has to be said that Elizabeth’s reaction to the whole scenario is laid back to the extent that she is practically horizontal. We learn that she has an ulterior motive, as she tells Shula that Lily will be off to Manchester Uni in a couple of weeks “and Russ will be just a holiday romance.”

Elizabeth has put on a brave face, but she confides in Shula that she really misses Nigel and she cannot be both father and mother to her twins. Still, Lily will soon be away at Uni.

The first warning signs came as early as Sunday - the same day that Lily was praising her mother’s attitude to the romance - she thought her mother would go ballistic. Elizabeth says that she remembers what it’s like to be in love and would Lily mind if she told Usha, as Russ’s and Lily’s relationship might make his character reference for Freddie invalid? (Don’t worry, it doesn’t).

Lily responds by saying that she knows Elizabeth will love Russ when she meets him socially and she has invited him to a kitchen table supper on Friday - just the three of them. “That sounds absolutely delightful” says Elizabeth, in a somewhat stunned ‘oh no it doesn’t’ tone of voice.

Lily is still keen for Russ to tell his wife that he will be leaving her, and he says “as soon as she walks through the door”. Not so, as he tells Lily that his wife has been away on some sort of training weekend and she is often fragile afterwards - he needs to pick his moment. However, he is adamant that he willtell her soon, or some time soon and that he and Lily belong together and are a perfect couple. She just has to have faith.

In the meantime, he has a problem - he’s never eaten in a stately home, so what should he wear? And what dessert should he buy? It’s a kitchen supper, for Heaven’s sake man - there probably won’t even be a butler. The crawler (clad in jeans and T-shirt) brings Lizzie, wine, chocolates and flowers and is mortified because he brought red wine and they’re having chicken. The conversation doesn’t flow very freely and eventually, Russ goes.

Elizabeth and Lily carry on talking and Lily lets slip that she won’t be staying in a Hall of Residence in Manchester. “We’re going to get a flat” Lily says brightly. “We?” asks a startled Lizzie. Her daughter replies that it’s amazing - she can hardly believe it herself, whereupon Elizabeth says that she’s just remembered - she promised to call Shula and rushes off to do just that. The week ends with Elizabeth in floods of tears, telling her sister that she has just learned that Lily is on the verge of ruining her life.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Double Trouble

Andonis James Anthony (Russ Jones)

When her twins were born (12/12/99 - a little early and by C-section) Elizabeth must have felt doubly blessed; not least because she was suffering from a congenital heart condition and there were concerns for her life. What a difference 18+ years make! Good job Lizzie got that heart condition sorted out, as the events of the past few weeks would probably have speeded her towards an early grave and both her children would have been responsible.

Freddie started it all by getting busted for dealing drugs and his hopes of a slap on the wrist were dashed when his case was referred to the Crown Court in September and the threat of a prison sentence now hangs over him like the sword of Damocles. Lizzie then alienated her daughter, Lily, by forgetting to enquire about her A-level results and concentrating solely on Freddie’s future. Lily promptly went awol and refused to answer her mother’s calls.

Lizzie asked Usha what was the likely result when Freddie goes to court, but she couldn’t say, although she did say that his chances aren’t being helped by his refusal to tell the police about Ellis and his part in the drug dealing. Is there anything else that might help him? A miracle would be handy but, failing that, a character reference may convince the judge that Freddie is contrite and has learned his lesson. After all, the reference that Neil wrote for Helen helped get her off attempted murder, says Usha.
A whizzo wheeze, Elizabeth thinks and, after being told that David, or any family member come to that, wouldn’t be eligible, she resolves to approach Neil. This she does and he says that, while he understands what it’s like to have someone you love under the cloud of a prison sentence (he means Susan the llama-napper, who did time a few years ago - well, she is a Horrobin and the police presumably thought she must therefore obviously be guilty of something) he doesn’t feel that he could, in all conscience, write a reference. The reasons are twofold; firstly he hardly knows Freddie and, secondly, he holds strong feelings on the subject of drug dealing and the scum that carry it out.

With Plan A having gone tits up, Elizabeth needs to find someone else. She meets with Oliver, who says that he admires the way that she is coping with the disaster that is befalling Lower Loxley and he will be only too pleased to take over bookings at Grey Gables while Elizabeth is having troubles with her drinks licence. As it is, Lizzie is having to jump through hoops for the Licensing Committee, such as installing CCTV to cover the gloomier corners of Lower Loxley’s, presumably extensive, corridors.

Oliver is keen to impress on Elizabeth how much he wants to help, saying that he will speak up for Lizzie at the upcoming Licensing meeting and: “if there’s anything that Grey Gables can do - anything at all - we’re ready and willing.” Funny you should say that, Ollie, me old mate, as Elizabeth asks him if he would write Freddie’s character reference. We swiftly learn that ‘anything at all’ means ‘anything except writing references’ as he thinks that he’s not really the right person, as he hardly ever met Freddie and doesn’t really know him. Thinking about it, that could be a distinct advantage, as if someone who knew Freddie well penned a truthful reference, then phrases like ‘wet as a Welsh weekend’, ‘away with the fairies’ and ‘tenuous grip on reality’ wouldn’t help much.

Oliver suggests that perhaps one of Freddie’s tutors at college might be more suitable. Unfortunately, it’s the summer vacation, but Elizabeth thinks that surelysomebody will be on the premises. Indeed, somebody is and Elizabeth’s request to talk to the Principal isn’t possible, as he’s away on holiday. Nevertheless, Lizzie tells the tutor about the character reference and he says that perhaps he could help “as Freddie’s and my paths have crossed on occasions.” The tutor introduces himself as Russ Jones, the Deputy Principal, but you had already guessed that, hadn’t you, gentle reader? Fortunately Russ doesn’t add that he knows Freddie because he’s bonking his twin sister, and Elizabeth eagerly accepts his offer.

Freddie, says Elizabeth, isn’t particularly academic but Russ says that he has a good imagination, is perceptive and that he will learn from this experience and become a law-abiding adult. Lizzie mentions Lily, whom Russ describes as “exceptionally gifted” (“and dynamite between the sheets” - sorry, I made that up). He would be honoured to write the reference, if Lizzie trusts him to do it. I should say so! “That’s what I like about this college - we’re like one big, happy family” says Russ, which surely makes his relationship with Lily incestuous.

Elizabeth returns to Lower Loxley in a happier frame of mind and, when Lily returns later, fresh from lunch with Phoebe, who tried to make her see sense and to go to uni on her own, leaving Russ at home, Elizabeth tells her about Russ and the reference (which he has already e-mailed and it’s a glowing endorsement). “He’s such a lovely man” Lizzie tells her daughter. “And dynamite between the sheets” replies Lily. No she doesn’t - I’m sorry. However, Lily does say that “I’m really glad you liked him mum - he’s such an amazing man. I love him and he loves me. We’re together - we’re an item. We’re in love and we’re in a relationship.” Fortunately for Elizabeth’s heart, Lily doesn’t mention that Russ is married, but you can tell from Lizzie’s tone that she’s somewhat surprised by Lily’s news.

There were mixed experiences for Tom and Helen at Bridge Farm. Firstly Helen, who is having trouble with seven-year old Henry. He’s bored with everything she suggests they do and is behaving more like a stroppy teenager. Oh yes - he wants a phone too; everyone in his class has got one. So, when Ian phones and invites Helen for lunch, she agrees, saying that an hour of grown-up conversation is exactly what she needs.

Then again, maybe not, as, after lunch, Ian announces that Borsetshire Blue has become bland recently and he is taking it off the Grey Gables menu. If Helen can get it back to its former taste and quality, he’ll reinstate it, but he has the reputation of Grey Gables to think of. Helen is devastated and she and Pat sample recent batches of the cheese - they agree that Ian was correct and Helen begins an exhaustive and forensic examination of her records to see if she can account for the deterioration in quality.

Meanwhile, Tom has received a text from Natasha, a girl who he met on his Nuffield course and who has gone on to make a great success of her Summer Orchard brand of fruit drinks. Tom invited her to Bridge Farm and the text was to say that she’ll come on Thursday. We learn that, as well as being a business whizz, Natasha is quite a looker and, when Tom introduces her to Johnny and Helen and then leads her off for a tour of the farm, Johnny tells Helen “he totally fancies her, doesn’t he?” “Totally” Helen agrees. Natasha is impressed by the shop and some aspects of Bridge Farm’s operations and she didn’t throw up when given natural flavour Kefir to taste. She promises to e-mail Tom with her thoughts in a day or two. I suspect we haven’t seen the last of Natasha and perhaps Johnny should be looking to find somewhere else to live.

I wouldn’t be surprised if PC Burns decided to kill Lynda Snell and, to be honest, no jury in the world would convict him. The woman is round Woodbine cottage every other day, asking him how things are progressing in the llama-napping investigation. The answer is “not very well” and he is hoping that she will just go away and forget about it. No chance - I reckon she has the Chief Constable on speed dial - and she keeps making threats about going over PCB’s head. Lynda even questioned Fallon and later told PCB that she felt that Fallon’s demeanour was “shifty”. Both Fallon and PCB know that Susan was the abductor, but he said that he wouldn’t grass her up.

Meanwhile, Fallon is upset, as there is already an undercurrent of bad feeling against her new husband because he arrested Freddie Pargetter and, if Freddie goes down, this will get a million times worse. Plus, PCB is taking his Sergeant’s exam next year and he could do without Lynda sticking her oar in. Fallon tells Hannah that she thinks that the person responsible should confess to Lynda - after all, no crime was committed, despite what Lynda might think. Fallon goes to see Susan and tells her that she knows that Susan kidnapped the llama and Lynda is giving PCB grief. Susan begs her not to tell anyone else and that she only did it because she was drunk. Fallon says that her husband is being harassed by Lynda and it’s time for Susan to confess to Lynda.

Susan refuses point blank - if people knew it was her, she’d never be able to live it down. She couldn’t bear the humiliation and, besides, she and Neil have ‘a certain standing in the community.’ No you don’t Susan - you work in a shop and a dairy and Neil is a man in charge of a large number of pigs. Fallon obviously feels pretty much the same and she tells Susan that, if she won’t tell Lynda, then she (Fallon) will. I look forward to that.

Jim is having a go at Alistair because he thinks that Shula is taking advantage of him - after all, it was she who ended the marriage, yet Alistair who moved out of the marital home and who seems to be taking all the blame. Alistair goes to see his soon-to-be-ex-wife and returns to Jim’s house, having got nowhere. Jim has had a talk with Jazzer and says that he’s worried about his son. Then he has an idea - what Alistair needs is a hobby, so Jim arranges for Kiki, his piano teacher, to come and give Alistair a lesson. She does so and, afterwards, Jim asks Alistair how it went. “Absolute purgatory” Alistair replies, adding that it reminded him of lessons he had in his youth, when Jim would withhold his pocket money if he didn’t practice. Jazzer suggests a drink and Alistair agrees - several big ones, he says.

Emma is still moaning about the Beechwood development and lack of affordable houses. Never mind - she’ll be able to have her say at the Parish Council meeting. No she won’t, says Neil, as an interested party, she’ll have to leave the room. Even worse, when the District Council debates the matter, Neil will have to withdraw as he too is classed as an interested party. Emma is not impressed, but maybe there is hope on the horizon, as we are reminded that Peppa Pig, the Texel ram, was awarded third prize at a show and Ed was offered £4,000 for him and he’s not fully grown yet (that’s Peppa, not Ed). If he can get a couple more like Peppa, then he and Emma will be able to afford a deposit on a Beechwood house and then perhaps Emma will stop going on about how unfair it all is. She may even be able to give up one of her myriad jobs and achieve ‘a certain standing in the community’, like her deluded mother.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

The Curious Incident Of The Llama In The Night

Charlotte Martin (Susan Carter)

On Sunday, Jolene is badly hungover after Fallon’s Hen Night and she tells Shula that she really can’t remember much that happened after 9pm. Suddenly, Jolene’s phone rings - it’s Fallon and she’s in a bit of a state, telling her mother to get over there quickly as “I don’t know what to do.”

The panic is because Constanza, Lynda’s llama, is ensconced in Fallon’s garden and is eating the grass and refusing to move. Harrison turns up and wants to get to cricket, but Jolene and Fallon beg him to help them. Has he any ideas? PCB is reluctant to get involved in what is obviously a drunken prank, but suggests that, if they can get a halter round the beast’s neck, it might persuade it to move. Indeed it does and the girls lead it down to Ambridge Hall. Luckily for them, the Snells are away.

A couple of days later, Jolene is talking to Alice about the llama and Alice denies having anything to do with it. Alice runs into Lynda later and asks if Constanza has recovered from her adventure. A mystified Lynda says that they were away Saturday night and what is Alice talking about? Alice tells her and adds that she has no idea who abducted the llama. Lynda is incensed and says that she will find out - it is a serious offence, she adds, sternly.

True to her word, Lynda seeks out PCB and tells him what happened. Harrison tries to make light of the whole thing, but Lynda sniffs and says that it’s no laughing matter - it was deliberate theft. PCB corrects her, saying that it wasn‘t, as there was no intention to permanently deprive the owner of the object in question. Lynda is not happy and, when PCB describes it as “a daft prank”, she demands that he investigates and, if he doesn’t, she will report the matter to his superiors. PCB is sitting his sergeant’s exam soon, so he doesn’t need the aggro. “Give me a break - I’m getting married on Friday. Tell me you’re joking” he says. Lynda’s response to this is a sniff of stratospheric proportions and PCB realises that he is going to have to get out the deerstalker and magnifying glass and start asking questions.

All is revealed on Harrison and Fallon’s wedding day, when PCB takes Susan to one side and tells her that he knows that it was she who abducted Constanza. At first, Susan denies it, but then asks him how he found out. It was simple, says Harrison, as the entire village was talking about the llama incident; everybody that is except Susan, who kept quiet about it, “even though you have a bit of a reputation as a village gossip.” Indignantly, Susan exclaims “I do not!” and her nose grows another six inches. “Don’t lie to a police officer” PCB says sternly. Susan begs him not to tell Lynda, or she will never hear the end of it. After all, as Susan reminds him, she did come to the rescue over what Jazzer was wearing as Fallon’s bridesman earlier (more details to follow). PCB relents and tells Susan that her secret is safe with him, but heaven only knows what he will tell Lynda.

So, how did Susan save the day? On the morning of the wedding, Jazzer rings up Kirsty, who, along with Jolene, is helping Fallon with her makeup and floral decorations. Can he come up? Kirsty says Fallon isn’t ready yet, but she, Kirsty, will come down and see Jazzer. When she does, she is horrified - Jazzer is wearing his brother’s check suit, which doesn’t quite fit. “It’s the McCreery tartan” Jazzer tells her, proudly, but Kirsty’s response is that he looks like a badly-dressed bookie and he cannot possibly wear that get up, as everyone will be looking at him and not at Fallon, on her special day. “But I haven’t got anything else” says Jazzer and asks if Kirsty is really sure that Fallon wouldn’t like it?

Kirsty is really sure and phones Chris. Susan answers and Kirsty asks if Chris has any clothes that he can lend Jazzer, dragging the walking fashion disaster to her car. Chris has got some clothes, but they don’t quite fit. No problem, says Susan, as she undoes the seam on the back of a waistcoat. “That’s my favourite waistcoat!” cries an anguished Chris, but Susan reassures him that she can stitch it back together later.

This makes the Groom and bridesman a tad late for the wedding and Fallon and Jolene are waiting outside. Harrison tells his bride-to-be that she looks amazing and he’s sorry he’s late. “So, shall we get married then?” he asks. “Yes. Let’s” Fallon replies. Cut to the reception, where Chris’s speech (in which he refers to Harrison dressing up as Ginger Spice) goes down well. Chris then says that the DJ cannot get to them for an hour or so and he hands over to Jazzer, who has been tasked with providing entertainment to fill in the time. There is some trepidation in the bridal party - what has the mad Scotsman got in mind? It turns out that he has got Fallon’s former band back together and she joins them on stage.

Later on, Harrison suggests they go outside for a breather. Fallon tells him that it has been a perfect day and she loved the fact that Jazzer got the band together. Harrison reveals that he has booked a honeymoon (glamping in Cornwall and not at Spiritual Home, he assures her) as he wants to be alone with her. They both profess their love for each other and the week ends with the sound of a passionate kiss.

The fact that the DJ was late was due to the fact that he was a replacement for first choice Freddie Pargetter - it was deemed not a good idea to have Freddie after PCB had arrested him for dealing drugs. Freddie seeks out Johnny - the police have confiscated Freddie’s phone and Elizabeth got him another. He had been messaging Johnny; had he got the messages? Johnny says yes, he got them, but he didn’t reply.

Freddie tells Johnny that he realises that Johnny is angry about what’s happened, but, if Freddie is just given a fine when he appears at the Magistrates’ Court, the boys’ South Africa trip could still be a goer. Johnny is incredulous - it isn’t the trip that’s worrying him. How clueless can Freddie get? Freddie reminds Johnny that he was happy enough to take Ecstasy at the Isle of Wight festival, but Johnny says that was different - buying a few pills for personal use is very different from dealing. Also, Freddie lied to Johnny about Ellis being involved and Johnny was injured when Ellis threw a brick through their window. “Come on mate -” Freddie begins, but Johnny interrupts him with “I’m not your mate - not any more.” Freddie says he had hoped that Johnny would come along to Court on Thursday, but Johnny curtly replies that Freddie is on his own.

Thursday arrives and Elizabeth drives Freddie to Court. Freddie is pleased because he passed two A-levels, with a D and an E. He never expected two passes and is convinced that it is a good omen for the court appearance. He looks for Johnny in vain, but is pleased when Lily turns up. Elizabeth is pleased and relieved, as Lily hasn’t answered her calls and messages. Lily makes it plain that she is not there because she has forgiven her twin, but just because he is her brother and her tone is far from cordial.

Freddie’s prediction of a favourable outcome proved wide of the mark when his case is referred to the Crown Court in September. He is feeling very sorry for himself and bemoans the fact that this means “six more weeks at auntie Shula’s”. “And then very probably a jail sentence” Lily adds. “Don’t say that” an anguished Freddie begs. “Well, that’s what happens when you behave like a prat” says Lily, unsympathetically. Lizzie sends Freddie off to thank Usha for her efforts and he goes, moaning that she could have tried harder. Lizzie talks to Lily, saying that Freddie would never be able to cope with prison and what will he do for the future? Lily points out that he will inherit Lower Loxley and, when Lizzie says that they will have to support him, Lily explodes. “Unbelievable!” she exclaims and starts walking home. Liz says they have got to talk about Freddie’s future. “What about myfuture?” Lily asks. “2 grade ‘A’s and 1 A* in my A-level results - thanks for asking” she says, bitterly, as she continues to walk away from her mother.

Elizabeth has had better weeks - business continues to be hit by the ban on selling alcohol and customers are either cancelling, or demanding compensation. Kenton has an idea - why doesn’t he put his name to the Lower Loxley licence. Could this be the answer to Elizabeth’s prayers? Nope, as the licence is still suspended and now Kenton feels bad, because he gave his sister false hope.

At Brookfield, David has to call in Alistair to treat a cow with a torn udder. Jill makes a point of seeking out Alistair and she gives him a piece of her mind - she has heard about his gambling problem and is angry with him and with herself for blaming Shula for the breakdown of the marriage. But now she realises that it was he who was responsible and she hopes he feels ashamed of himself. Alistair has had enough and says “What I feel or don’t feel is really none of your business any more, Jill.”

But it’s not all bad news for the Vet - he is a bit fed up because he is sharing the box room at Jim’s with his father’s piano and things are cramped, to say the least. Jazzer pays Alistair a visit and says that Jim has told him to apologise to Alistair for leading him back into gambling. Jazzer didn’t realise the severity of Alistair’s addiction and he is genuinely contrite - so much so that, when Alistair gets back from Brookfield, he finds that Jazzer has swapped rooms with him, saying that Alistair’s need for space is greater than his. Alistair is touched and becomes quite tearful - he’s not used to people being kind to him and he invites Jazzer to The Bull later to buy him a pint.

Pip and Toby take Rosie to have her birth registered and Toby is troubled, recalling what his father said about his new granddaughter’s name. Toby raises the point with Pip but she is adamant that Rosie is going to be an Archer, not a Fairbrother. Toby accepts this, saying that that was not what he meant, but Rosie comes from Rose, which is Pip’s middle name and Ruth is Pip’s mother’s name. There is no name from Toby’s side of the family. “What about Grace?” Toby asks, saying that it is a traditional Fairbrother name, going back to the 17thcentury. Pip says “no way - Gran would have a fit” and fills him in on what Jill thought of Grace, Phil’s first wife and how she (Jill) felt threatened by Grace’s memory even after her death. However, as the couple go into the Registrar’s office, Pip has had a change of heart and tells Toby “OK; Rosie Ruth Grace Archer it is - just don’t tell Gran.” I can’t help feeling that, if Rosie is christened (or otherwise named), unless Alan mumbles, the cat is going to be well and truly out of the bag and Jill will be one very unhappy Great Grandmother indeed.

Monday, 13 August 2018

The Penny Drops For Kate

Ian Pepperell (Roy Tucker)

Jennifer is in a bit of a tizzy - the photographer from the Estate Agent is coming to take pictures of Home Farm farmhouse and she has been frantically dusting and polishing to make the place look its best. She even makes Adam move the tractor out of the way. 

While in the shop, Jennifer is buttonholed by Susan, who says that she ‘happened to overhear’ Pat and Helen talking and saying something about Home Farmhouse being on the market. Susan expects that she has got the wrong end of the stick. On the contrary, says Jennifer, the Agent has taken photographs and they will be posted on the site later today. Furthermore, Susan is welcome to tell whoever she meets that Jennifer and Brian are downsizing and the farmhouse is up for sale. 

Later on, Susan drops some brochures in to Jennifer, giving details of Beechwood, the new development at Bridge Farm. Kate comes across her mother looking at Home Farm pictures on the Estate Agent’s website and she notices the Beechwood brochure. What’s going on? Jennifer shows her the pictures and says that the Beechwood houses have three bedrooms - one master, one for Ruairi and one for Brian’s office. 

Kate is horrified - “Where am I going to sleep?” she asks. Jennifer’s reply is that Kate is a grown woman (only physically, I would submit). “You can’t stay in the nest forever” she tells her daughter, adding that she could always live in a yurt. Kate loses no time in seeking out Roy at home (he has just seen Lexi off on her flight to Bulgaria - more later) and tells him about the sale of the farmhouse and the lack of bedrooms. “I’m going to be homeless” she moans. 

Kate also says that she’s nowhere to go “unless some very kind person comes to my rescue; someone who wouldn’t want to see me homeless.” Roy becomes pensive. “I can’t think of anyone offhand” he eventually tells her, but Kate persists, saying “It would be even better if it was someone I knew.” Roy, you suspect, is enjoying this. “Wasn’t it your idea to sell the house in the first place?” he asks. Kate says that she never believed that they would do it. For his part, Roy cannot believe that it has only just dawned on Kate and he tells her that at least she saved Spiritual Home and this could be just the push she needs to get her own place, as “it can’t be much fun living with parents at your age - this could be the making of you.” He adds that the yurts are relaxing and cosy, but, like Queen Victoria, Kate is not amused and tells Roy that he isn’t funny. I hope that Roy doesn’t weaken, as he’d probably kill Kate after a week or two living in the same house. 

It wasn’t a good week for Roy, as Lexi is suddenly homesick and wants to see her daughters in Bulgaria and she tells Adam that she is talking about staying there till the next school term starts. Not only will this leave Adam another picker short, but the third (and final) pregnancy transfer attempt will have to be put on hold. Ian wonders if Lexi will come back - she hasn’t booked her return ticket date - and he wonders if he and Adam should investigate having a plan ‘B’. Adam thinks Ian should have more faith in Lexi and he is confident that she will return. 

Roy too is worried at the lack of a definite timescale and he and Lexi have an emotional goodbye at the airport, with him telling her that he loves her and, when she returns, he will be there waiting for her. Lexi says that she loves him too, but then she suddenly breaks away and rushes off to her gate. I hope that Adam is right, and that Lexi does return, as both she and Roy deserve a bit of happiness. 

Someone who deserves not so much happiness as a good clout round the ear is Freddie Pargetter, who has spent the weekend being questioned by Detective Constable Zindalis. Elizabeth tells Lily that Usha said that Freddie’s best hope is to tell the whole truth and hope for leniency. Pity Usha didn’t tell Freddie, as he is feeding DCZ a story that has more holes in it than a colander. First of all, Freddie says that the drugs were for his own, personal use. DCZ remarks that there were rather a lot, but where did Freddie get them? It was from a man in the street - or at a club - Freddie replies. Well, which was it? DCZ asks. Freddie decides it was a man in the street and DCZ says can Freddie describe him? Older than Freddie and average looking is the best Freddie can do and DCZ reminds him once again that he is in deep trouble and telling the truth is his best option. 

Freddie does tell the truth, including giving Ecstasy to Noluthando, but only to Elizabeth. Lizzie says he must tell the police, but Freddie is adamant that he cannot - they would send him to prison. A piece of news, Freddie; they might well do that anyway. Elizabeth is loyal to, and protective of, her son and is alarmed when Kate turns up, threatening to report Freddie to the police, as Nollie nearly died. Lizzie begs her not to and points out that Nollie isn’t squeaky clean, as she was selling magic mushrooms round college. Kate doesn’t believe a word of this, but she is persuaded not to grass Freddie up to the police. However, she makes it clear that Freddie is never to contact Noluthando again and the trip to South Africa will not happen. Well, if Freddie is banged up in chokey, he won’t be flying anywhere in any case. Lizzie talks to Lily and she can’t believe that Freddie was dealing under their noses and they didn’t notice. Lily quickly changes the subject. 

Soon, however, Elizabeth’s worries take a turn (or two) for the worse. Firstly, Freddie’s hearing at the Magistrates’ Court is set for Thursday and he is out on bail. However, he cannot return to Lower Loxley, as it is the scene of the (alleged) crime, so Lizzie and Lily try to find a relative willing to put Freddie up. Kenton is a no-no, as Jolene doesn’t think that having a suspected drug dealer in the pub will draw in the crowds - well, not the right sort of crowds, anyway. David says sorry, but not with Pip’s baby (does he think that Freddie will try to eat Rosie?), so it is Shula that draws the short straw. Freddie is not impressed and whines at the choice of his new, temporary home. You could always stay in your cell, Freddie. 

Elizabeth’s second blow falls when she learns that the Local Licensing Authority has been told about Freddie and they are suspending Lower Loxley’s licence to sell alcohol. As Lizzie tells Lily, this is why she (Liz) is clearing wine from the Orangery and, if they cannot get the licence back. It will be a disaster for the business. 

Even more alarming, there is a big wedding coming up at Lower Loxley at the weekend and, if they are told that they will have to supply their own alcohol, they will not be happy revellers. Elizabeth decides to appeal to the LLA, and it goes badly, as the Authority has heard about the Noluthando incident and refused to rescind the suspension. 

We have further proof that Freddie is never going to be a criminal mastermind, when he is talking to Elizabeth and says he wishes he had listened to Lily - he stops talking, but it’s too late, as Lizzie has picked up on the inference. She goes back to Lower Loxley and confronts Lily - Liz cannot believe that Lily never told her she knew about Freddie and that hiding it was almost as bad as what Freddie did. Can’t Lily see that her mother feels let down and betrayed? Lily is unhappy and says she’s off to see Meredith - to see someone who cares about her and who will treat her with respect. Lily storms out. 

Well, that was a good week, with Elizabeth losing her son to the long arm of the Law and her daughter to an imaginary lesbian partner. In fact, we know that Lily consulted her phone before she flounced out and, given that Meredith isn’t a real person, one presumes that she is off to inflict herself on Russ. As Russ hasn’t, as far as we know, told his wife that he is bonking a student at the college and that he is going to forsake his marriage for her, we have to wonder how thrilled he (and his wife) are going to be if Lily turns up on his doorstep, saying that she’s all his and let’s run off together. 

OK, have you got your rubber gloves and Wellingtons on, as we are venturing into the sea of sleaze that is Robin Fairbrother? Robin accuses son Rex of staying in Ambridge because he is “infatuated” with Pip Archer and he should accept that Pip and Toby are an item. Rex protests that they aren‘t even a couple, but we think that slimy Robin has touched a nerve. 

Robin has a hidden agenda - Toby was surprised when he had an afternoon with Rosie and he was joined by David on a walk and David was almost friendly. Robin says that David has developed respect for Toby, after Robin talked with David (personally I reckon David was checking that Toby didn’t leave Rosie in the pub) and that it’s time that Toby repaid that respect. He shows Toby the ‘Fairbrother engagement ring’ that Toby’s grandmother wore (as did his mother) and he should propose to Pip. I’d like to think that, should he do so, she would a) slap him in the face and b) knee him in the goolies. To be fair to Toby, he did point out that he and Pip are a long way away from bring a couple. Just sod off home, Robin. 

We had an example of Robin’s smarminess when Shula was in The Bull to celebrate her (and twin Kenton’s) 60thbirthday. Robin deserts Rex and moves in on Shula, telling her how attractive she is and he understands what she’s going through, as he had the same with his wife Simone. However, when the final break came, he felt liberated. Shula says that, so far, she just feels lost and Mr Smarm says that, if she feels she needs a guide, he is available, and should they go somewhere else?

Fortunately (for Shula, at least) there is an altercation in the bar, where Jazzer has played Alistair at pool (Alistair refused to play for money) and Jazz invites him to a poker night at Jazzer’s brother’s. Alistair says ‘no’ and Jazzer, who has all the diplomacy of a rampant bull, says why not, as Alistair is on a lucky streak, after his recent win on the horses. Kenton hears this and takes Alistair away, but not before Shula has heard - and not just Shula, as the whole pub has learned of Alistair’s gambling problem. 

Next day, Alistair and Shula have a row and they decide to put their divorce in the hands of their solicitors. They decide too that they cannot go on living as they are and Alistair will move back in with Jim and Jazzer (tough luck, Alistair). However, it’s an ill wind, as they say, and Shula should be mightily relieved that the furore in the pub rescued her from the slimy clutches of Robin Fairbrother.