Monday, 15 July 2019

You Should Have Asked For An Advance, Eddie


Trevor Harrison (Eddie Grundy)

When it comes to attempting to take advantage, you cannot fault Eddie Grundy for trying. True, all his schemes tend to go down the toilet, but hope obviously springs eternal in the ferret-fancier’s breast, and you have to admire his speed of thought sometimes. Take last week; on Sunday he had only just heard about Tom and Natasha’s idea for Ambridge to become an orchard village and he was off to the cricket in a flash with the express aim of introducing himself to Natasha.

His story was that he wanted Natasha to do a makeover for Clarrie, but, strangely, Clarrie wasn’t at home. Never mind, Natasha says that she can come back another time and get Clarrie to give her a ring. This makes Eddie panic somewhat, as his idea is to engage Natasha in conversation about the orchard village, while trying to wangle some financial advantage for himself. In desperation, he says that the makeover was never meant for Clarrie, but for him. That’s different, and Natasha immediately slaps a face mask on him. This makes it awkward for him, as he wants to discuss the finer points of apple growing, with particular reference to the special micro climate around Ambridge, and it’s hard to enunciate words like ‘micro climate’ when you’re not allowed to move your lips.

Eddie’s story for his behaviour is that he wanted “to surprise the missus.” If that were so, then he should have offered to wash up - Clarrie would probably have fainted with the shock. Natasha, however, falls for this load of tripe and tells Tom about the ‘interesting expert’ she had been talking to and how impressed she was by his local knowledge and what he knows about fruit trees. Tom is puzzled - who is this expert and did he want any payment? Not payment up front, says Natasha and she is disconcerted when she mentions Eddie’s name and Tom bursts into howls of laughter. “Let me tell you about Eddie Grundy” Tom says, still laughing. His one regret was that he never got to see Eddie in a face mask. Anyway, it is a good job that Natasha didn’t sign any kind of agreement and I think we can assume that Eddie’s days as self-appointed Ambridge Apple Expert are numbered.

Sometimes I wonder about Natasha - she is supposed to be this high-flying businesswoman with a successful company behind her and then she falls for a scam which was, at best, both obvious and simplistic. And aren’t you surprised that nobody has taken her to one side and told her to watch out for the Grundys (at least the older ones) and, when you shake their hand, make sure that you count your number of fingers afterwards?

Lilian celebrated her 72ndbirthday on Tuesday - or at least the first half of the evening was a celebration, as she had insisted that no family members should attend the thrash in The Bull (you can imagine how gutted Tony was to be told this). Lilian was just telling Toby what a great time she was having (it sounded like she was trying to drink a gin for every one of her years on this Earth) when Toby tried to draw her attention to something. That ’something’ was the arrival (unannounced and uninvited) of Peggy to the party, much to Lilian’s dismay.

Even worse, Peggy tells her daughter that she (Peggy) has been feeling bad because Lilian wasn’t included in the original family meeting about setting up the Trust for the £500k, but Peggy has sought to put this right by naming Lilian as the Trust Administrator and she’s sure that she’ll do a great job, now Peggy has to go and circulate among the guests and - by the way, doesn’t Lilian think that the music is a teeny bit too loud? Lilian realises that she has been done up like a kipper and handed what could turn out to be a poisoned chalice with a job she never wanted or, as she said tearfully to Toby “I’ve just been snookered.”

Contrary to the fears of some of our readers (and myself) Peppa Pig’s headless body was not found at Grange Farm, but the man who picked him up was late and an already-stressed Poppy was made even more anxious when the collector made a joke in front of the child about how the ram would make excellent lamb chops. Will (who else?) used this as an excuse to have a go at his brother, saying that this, as well as the illicit pesticide business, could lead to Poppy being taken away. Ed lies and says that he has finished doing business with Tim, but Will still chunters on. Honestly, how paranoid is Will? He seems to think that Bev (Poppy’s gran) is keeping an ever-watchful eye on Poppy and is just waiting for an excuse to whisk her away. Poppy should be so lucky.

Last week I intimated that the story about Jim and the abuse he suffered as a child was getting on my nerves, but I’d like to change my stance on this - it is now reallygetting on my nerves. He decides that he should go round the village, apologising for his previous rude behaviour but - and this is what I can’t understand - nobody seems to ask him why he behaved as he did. Actually, that’s not accurate, as his family (Fiona) and ex-family (Shula) have asked, only to be told that Alistair cannot tell them what was the problem. I believe that Jim even apologised to Susan and I find it inconceivable that she wouldn’t start digging into what lies behind the apology. Let’s face it, this whole scenario is tailor-made for someone for whom the epithet ‘nosey cow’ could have been coined.

Towards the end of the week, Fiona is getting pissed off with having her calls ignored by Jim, Alistair and (latterly) Jazzer and so she turns up in Ambridge, much to the consternation of the three inhabitants of Greenacres. To be honest, what else could they expect? There is obviously something amiss with Jim and he reinforces this idea by telling Alistair that it must remain their secret and he is sworn to secrecy. I was always told that ‘he who has a secret, must keep it secret that he has a secret to keep’ but this doesn’t appear to apply in Ambridge, as people are effectively saying ‘ok Jim, you had a meltdown and buggered off for ten days, then went awol from village life (and how likely is it that Susan would let that go?) but we don’t want to know the back story?’ 
Fiona turns up and, in effect, is told by Alistair that, yes, there is something wrong about Jim, but Alistair isn’t allowed to tell his sister what it is. Fiona tries hard, but is stonewalled - is Jim terminally ill? No, but I can’t say any more. Fortunately we are spared other speculation (are sheep involved, is Jazzer Jim’s bastard love child?) but this does nothing to settle Jim’s disturbed mind, nor does it help Alistair. 
It does not seem to have penetrated the cerebral mind of the professor that his daughter might be a tad uneasy about knowing that her dad has some deep - and obviously dark - secret, which he would be wise to impart to her. As things are, most likely giver-away of Jim’s secret will be Jazzer, who seems unable to keep a lid on the secret that he shares with the Lloyds (or some of them). He gets shirty with Shula after Fiona rings him (Jazzer doesn’t answer) telling her that he’s not involved in the Lloyd family and neither is she, so butt out.
Jazzer manages to upset a lot of people - he has a go at Alice, who describes her forthcoming presentation about the robot crop pickers as “the scariest thing I’ve ever done” as being total garbage. Scary, Jazzer tells her, is not having enough food or money to feed yourself, or suffering trauma when you are young. Alice is taken aback at Jazzer’s vehemence and Adam has to get him to apologise: not too bad for your second day at work, Jazzer.
There as a cute cameo when Susan and Emma are talking in the shop and Susan is outraged at what Jazzer said, expecting support from her daughter. Instead, Emma says something along the lines of ‘good; it’s about time someone put her in her place.’ Susan is scandalised; Alice is family, after all. “No she’s not; she’s Chris’s wife” an unrepentant Emma replies.
We can sum up other events in Ambridge in short order - Jim, as we have already said, - is going round apologising to everyone, while there is rivalry over a ‘best cooked dish’ for the village fete, for which Ian makes Adam eat cheese soufflĂ© for breakfast as a trial run,
There is also another of the (to me) continuing mystifying ‘bucket list’ challenges for Adam and Ian - this time they have to undergo an all-nighter at a Gay club in Birmingham. Why? What is this bucket list challenge all about? I know I had a week or so off in the last few months, but I have no idea why these challenges are happening, nor why Ian and Adam aren’t just telling people to ‘sod off and get on with your lives/work’.
Toby took Rex (and where has Rex been for the past few months?) for a surprise birthday treat. Rex hates surprises and was even more apprehensive when Toby blindfolded him. His fears, however were allayed when it turned out that the treat was a picnic on Lakey Hill. Not only that, but Rosie was there - even more spectacular; she has started to walk. Rex was overcome, which means brownie points for, and a cheap birthday present from, Toby.
We learn some novel suggestions for the Village Fete from Ben and Ruairi, who seemed to think that it could be a babe magnet - or it might be if the wrinklies on the committee didn’t keep vetoing their ideas. So far, the only acceptable ideas are inflatable sumo wrestling and a culinary competition, pitching local cooks against each other, head to head.
Finally, last week was the second anniversary of the death of Caroline Sterling and Shula and Kirsty met by accident under the tree that was planted to commemorate Caroline‘s demise. Kirsty revealed that she has this burning ambition to make a difference with her life, while Shula admitted that she really missed Caroline and, despite the fact that Caroline is not buried in Ambridge (or even in the UK, for that matter) Shula still talks to her under her tree. It seems that we have a couple of tree-huggers for very different motives. 

Monday, 8 July 2019

Now That’s Not Something You Hear Tony Say Very Often

David Troughton (Tony Archer)

The atmosphere at Bridge Farm continues to be a bit frosty between Tom and - well, between Tom and everybody else really. The trouble is the damn post-nup agreement, which Tom is adamant that he won’t ever sign. Pat and Tony are for it, as are Helen and Johnny, and even Natasha thinks it’s an eminently sensible idea, based on good business practice, but Tom is having none of it.

Natasha tries to get a reason from Tom, but he says that he is afraid that, if the family keeps pressurising her, she will get fed up and walk out. Tom, what part of ‘I think it’s a good idea and I don’t feel in the slightest bit insulted’ are you unable to get on top of? Carry on like this and I wouldn’t blame Natasha for walking out, but it would be your fault, not the rest of the family.

On Thursday, Tom is at Bridge Farm, as monosyllabic as ever and Tony says they are one short for the quiz night at The Bull later that evening and how about it, Tom? Tom replies that he and Natasha have other plans and he leaves. He didn’t seem to notice that Natasha wasn’t included in the team in the first place. When his son has left, Tony says “I told you so” to Pat, but she says that the matter is too important and they cannot let it go.

Natasha calls Tom and tells her husband that she has a surprise for him. Over a glass of wine, Tom continues to worry about the post-nup, saying that he has been trying to rationalise why he feels the way he does. Natasha presents him with her surprise - her grandfather’s signet ring. It’s not valuable, but it has great sentimental value and she wants him to have it as a token of how she feels. “I’m in this for keeps” she says (the cynic might say ’no doubt weeping bitterly inside as the words leave her lips’ but I wouldn’t say that). Anyway, it does the trick and Tom is overwhelmed and grateful.

The result is that the pair turn up at The Bull later and join their family. Tom says that he has changed his mind and is willing to accept the post-nup agreement. “That’s great,“ Tony says and then adds the phrase referred to in the title of this week’s blog when he adds “The drinks are on me then!” Left alone, Tom says “That went well, didn’t it?” Natasha agrees, and asks Tom if he’s going to let the family know that he and Natasha are going to enter a pitch for Peggy’s £500,000 conservation prize? Tom reveals that he’s not a complete muppet when he says “There’s no big rush, is there? One step at a time.” Make the most of Tony’s rare and unexpected generosity Tom, as I suspect there will be tears and strong words when you do eventually get round to telling your dad.

While on the subject of the quiz at The Bull, this became a bone of contention between Justin and Lilian; he maintains that he hardly ever sees her nowadays as she is always there, while she is suffering from the delusion that, with Jolene away on tour and Oliver missing shifts every now and then, she is now an indispensable member of the team. This is despite the fact that she cannot work the till or give the correct change and spends ages chatting to customers. Far from being indispensable, Kenton would cheerfully pay her to stay away from the pub.

But back to the quiz. Justin turns up unexpectedly and joins the Bridge Farm team, which should have won a prize for the most appropriate name - ‘The Village Idiots’. Quizmaster Lilian won’t let him join, but Justin whips up the crowd to demand that she backs down. Thereafter, Justin heckles Lilian constantly, querying the accuracy of the questions and answers until she snaps and deducts five points from the Idiots, with threats of further sanctions if he doesn’t shut up. When Justin and Lilian meet up after the quiz, they both agree that it had been a very enjoyable night and they will try to see more of each other in the future. Justin has been trying to get Lilian to go away for her birthday but she says she is too busy. However, she suggests a party in the Flood Bar upstairs at The Bull, with no family (which will go down well). Still, even if it’s only Lilian and Justin, you’d better stock up on gin, Kenton.

I think I am very soon going to get fed up with the story about Jim and his past sufferings. Susan bangs on his door - has he forgotten that he is down to put in a shift at the Community shop? ‘Yes’ is the short answer, but Susan drags him down to said shop and sticks him behind the counter. Alan tries to buy a magazine, but Jim makes a complete cods of scanning it and becomes angry and agitated. Kindly, Alan suggests that Jim goes home and has a cup of tea and he (Alan) will cover the rest of the shift. Jim agrees.

Later on in the week, Alistair has an awkward moment with Shula, who wants to know how Jim is faring. Alistair is in a difficult position, as he cannot tell his ex-wife the secret that Jim revealed and he tells her that he knows what’s best for his father and how to handle him. Somewhat hurt, Shula sharply replies that she won’t bother Alistair or Jim again, and leaves. Poor Alistair - he has had his sister Fiona on the phone asking questions about Jim, but Alistair promised Jim that he’d tell nobody what Jim told him and Jazzer, so all he can do is utter generalisations and mouth platitudes while people think that he’s a great woos. In fact, Alistair has been researching organisations that might be able to offer Jim help and counselling, and on Friday, Alistair and Jazzer try to get Jim to at least listen to what they (or, more accurately, Alistair) have to say. Jim is very anti the whole idea of counselling - how can it help when what’s done is done and cannot be undone? Jazzer suggests a more direct approach - why doesn’t Jim go to the police and grass HJ up; the revenge might make him feel better? 

Jim is appalled at both suggestions and gets angry, forbidding Alistair or Jazzer ever to mention the subject again and he’s going to his room and doesn’t want to be disturbed. “Thanks Jazzer, that was a great help” Alistair says as his dad leaves. Jazzer apologises, saying that he should have kept his mouth shut and that he has made things worse, but they can’t give up on Jim now. Alistair agrees “But the question is where do we go from here?” To be honest, I neither know nor care much, but I hope something happens soon before I lose the will to live.

Phoebe is back, having finished her final year at Oxford, and hasn’t the slightest idea what she is going to do. She goes to tea at The Lodge, where Peggy tells her not to worry, as she will recognise the right opportunity when it arises and, when it does present itself, Phoebe should grasp it with both hands. Tell you what, Phoebe, have you got a good idea for an innovation in sustainable farming? There’s £500k up for grabs, which will give you a good leg up in life.

Phoebe has had a talk with Adam, who tells her his idea for a Soil Academy at Home Farm, where farmers and academics from all over the world will come to stare at a patch of soil/grass/herbal ley. Phoebe’s reaction is that it doesn’t sound very sexy and it needs rebranding. Adam agrees to re-think the name.

When Phoebe was at The Lodge, she remarked on how sparkling and clean everywhere looks and expressed surprise, because she knows that Kate has been given responsibility for housekeeping “and she was never very good at it.” Peggy says “Kate has her own way of doing things“ (or not, as the case might be), and she has no problems with Kate’s work. This last comment is a bit of a porky (actually, it’s more like a complete side of bacon) as Peggy got Emma in in order to give the whole house a complete deep clean. Emma, who was narked when Peggy dispensed with her services when Kate allegedly took over cleaning duties, charged Peggy twice her normal rate. Emma also had a go at Peggy because her Ambridge Conservation Trust competition is only open to members of Peggy’s family - what about everybody else who might have a brilliant idea? Why can’t they be considered for the prize? Get on with your cleaning, woman and don‘t start getting ideas above your station.

Tuesday was the day of Ben’s driving test and, with him spouting phrases like “I’ve been driving on the farm for years” and “I don’t know why they don’t just give me a licence now” you just knew that the cocky little sod was going to stuff it up. And, much to our collective delight, that’s exactly what he did, although he told Natasha that the test was postponed because the instructor was taken ill.

Ruairi, however, was not fooled for a moment and got Ben to admit that he failed - apparently the reversing round a corner wasn’t good and the hill start (“it was like a ski slope”) was a disaster. Never mind Ben; you can always drive the tractor on the farm, you smug git. If that sounds like schadenfreude, you are spot on

Ed is moving ever closer to the brink of something unpleasant, I fear. Early in the week, he was making a delivery and the ‘clients’ never turned up. Ed waited all night and now he has had to stash the stuff in his barn. He complained to Tim, who suggested that Ed got the location or the date wrong, but Ed is adamant. Tim helps him hide the stuff and says there will be more work later.

On Friday, Emma is driving - in fact she is stationary at a junction - when a pick-up runs into the back of the car. She didn’t recognise the person, nor did she get his number, but he became abusive and drove off without giving any details. When Ed learns of the incident from Emma, he is angry and goes to see Tim, accusing him of setting up the whole thing to get at Ed through his family. Tim denies everything and, when Ed says he wants out, Tim says that these people own them both but, if Ed can stick it out for a couple of weeks, ‘these people’ will move on to another area and the two of them will be free once again. Tim also says that he’s found out the abortive delivery was down to the clients and not Ed. Reluctantly, Ed agrees to two more weeks, but he’s not happy.

Personally, I am all in agreement with last week’s comment from our reader Caroline about the probability of Peppa Pig’s severed head being discovered under the duvet and I find I am unable to stop humming the theme tune from The Godfather. For the sake of the Grundys (and Peppa Pig too, of course) I hope we are both wrong.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Jim Reveals All At Last

John Rowe (Jim Lloyd)

Just when you thought Jim Lloyd couldnt get any more curmudgeonly or more rude, he does exactly that. On Sunday, he returns from his trip away, looking at Roman roads, having been missing for ten days. Alistair and Jazzer wonder whether or not he will be prepared to talk about why he behaved so badly at his party and Jazzer, slipping quickly into Baldrick mode, tells Alistair to leave it to him - he has a plan to get to the truth.

This plan involves coffee and walnut cake and a bottle of sherry, both of which are favourites of Jims, and Jazzer plies him with both before moving the subject round to the party. This is executed with all the finesse and subtlety of a hula-dancing elephant and a furious Jim sees straight through Jazzers plan and angrily asks if this is an interrogation? He makes it plain that he doesnt want to talk about it and rounds on Alistair, telling him that, if he is going to move out, then to get on with it.

Jazzer tries to stick up for Alistair and Jim then picks on him, telling the Scotsman to keep his nose out of what doesnt concern him. An increasingly-agitated and angry Jim then goes further, saying why doesnt Jazzer go too, and take the wretched spider with him? Find somewhere else to live - Ive had enough of you both. Get out of here and leave me alone!Jim rants.

It doesnt take long for the news to get round Ambridge (we learn incidentally that Jazz is dossing down on Fallon and PCBs sofa, which must be a bundle of fun for them). At a meeting of the Fete committee, Lynda fills Jill and Shula in on what has happened. Jill makes some uncomplimentary remarks about Jim, but Shula is worried - the party was to some extent her idea after all, and she feels responsible. Jill advises her daughter to keep out of it, but Shula says she cannot just sit back and do nothing. A word of advice, Shula - cake and sherry doesnt appear to work.

She knocks on Jims door and he tells her to sling her hook and shuts the door in her face. She tries again and he is surprised (and none too pleased) to see her standing in the garden. This time, she does get over the doorstep and tells her ex-father-in-law that they need to talk - has he any idea of the number of people that he has hurt and upset? How does he think Alistair feels? If he wants to blame somebody, he should blame Shula, as the party was largely her idea and she sent out most of the invitations. Jim has a dig at Shula about her Christian faith and what he regards as her hypocrisy. He also says how evil the world is today and how can she possibly worship a God who allows such wickedness to continue?

Obviously some of what Shula says is registering with Jim, as he latches on to the bit about the invitations, asking her if she invited a man called Harold Jayson; an elderly man in a wheelchair who was at the party. Shula remembers him, but she thinks that he invited himself. He spoke very highly of Jim and is a talented pianist, as he demonstrated on Jims keyboard after Jim had fled the scene. At this news, Jim goes ballistic, saying that the keyboard is spoiled and tainted. He then proceeds to do a Keith Emerson impression (dont worry; youre probably too young to remember The Nice) and smashes the keyboard repeatedly into the ground, ranting and sobbing. Slightly alarmed, Shula asks whats the matter? But Jim has calmed down now and tells her that he is all right now and would she just go and leave him alone? He also tells her to forget about the incident and, please, tell no-one what happened.

Oddly enough, Shula finds it difficult to get the image of a ranting, berserk, weeping pensioner wilfully destroying an expensive musical instrument out of her mind and she goes to see Alistair to try and convince him that Jim needs help and Alistair should continue to try and talk to him. Alistair is rather busy at the moment, plus he spent a night in Jakobs spare room and the evening was purgatory; so much so that they ended up talking about the best places to park in Felpersham and Alistair took refuge in a second bottle of Rioja. On the plus side, he has found a nice riverside flat in Borchester and is looking forward to moving out.

However, he does go to see his father, but there is no meaningful conversation, as Jim is keen to get the remains of the keyboard (hidden in a sack) to the tip. So, once again, Shula goes to see Jim - why doesnt she just move in; after all, there will be two rooms going spare before long - and she tells him that she cannot forget what happened and begs him to talk to Alistair, as the atmosphere between them is poisonous. Jim doubts that Alistair will want to listen, but Shula warns that, if Alistair moves out, hes not likely to want to come back. Both Jim and Alistair are stubborn and proud, Shula tells Jim - please talk to your son. You dont know what you are asking of meJim says sadly, but once again Shula begs him to talk to Alistair.

On Friday, Alistair and Jazzer are hanging round Greenacres, packing up stuff, and Jim appears and asks them if they could spare him a moment, as he owes them both an apology and an explanation for his behaviour at the party. Alistair (who is on the verge of signing up for the Borchester flat) and Jazzer accede to Jims request to sit down, as they can sense that he is in sombre mood and that this is an important moment.

Jim begins by saying “What I am going to tell you now I’ve never told anyone in my whole life - it’s about me as a child when I was eight years old.” Jim’s parents had nice neighbours, with a son (Harold Jayson) who was a good laugh and who used to take Jim to the cinema. One night, when HJ was babysitting Jim, he took him to his bedroom and assaulted him for the first time. “I begged him to stop, but I was only eight years old” Jim continues, tearfully. HJ also told Jim that, if he said anything about what has happened, then God would punish him, which could go a long way to explaining Jim’s rabid atheism.

At this point, Jim breaks down and goes to his room, leaving a stunned Jazzer and Alistair behind. Jazzer has a solution: “I’m going to find HJ and kill the bastard!” Alistair asks Jazz if he could give him and Jim a moment, so Jazzer goes to The Bull. Alistair enters his dad’s room, to find Jim sobbing, and he tells his father that he’s glad that Jim told them what happened. “You won’t have to face this alone any longer - I’m here for you dad - I promise.” 

I’m glad that we finally learned the truth about Jim, and it was a fine piece of acting from all those involved. Presumably Alistair will now stay at Greenacres (?) but I cannot help wondering how he will explain it all to Shula.

Another story hanging over from last week was how could Pat and Tony tactfully suggest that daughter-in-law Natasha signs a post-nup agreement, relinquishing any future claim she might have on the farm, should she go off and leave Tom (again). Pat suggested that she should handle the negotiations, as they require delicacy and tact. Ha! Tony still thinks it’s a bad idea and that Natasha will go orang-utan pooh. 

Pat invites Tom and Natasha for lunch and, as far as we can judge from the mood round the table, her idea of a diplomatic approach was along the lines of ‘sign this pre-nup, bitch, or I’ll break your fingers’ - certainly as far as Tom is concerned, as he calls it “a slap in the face” and accuses his parents of not trusting Natasha and undermining the fabric of their marriage. Natasha, however, says that she understands and doesn’t have a problem with signing an agreement - she understands that Helen and Johnny might be concerned about their stake in the farm and she believes that trust isn’t enough and that any arrangement should be based on a sound business footing. Tom, who says that he’s amazed that Natasha hasn’t walked out, does exactly that. Natasha says she can talk him round and leaves. “Well, Pat, that went well, didn’t it?” Tony asks.

Elsewhere, Ed is pleased because the man who offered £4k for Peppa Pig, the Texel ram, has now offered £5k. Should they sell, or wait till autumn, when he might be worth more? Clarrie is all for grabbing the money (which will go towards the house deposit), but then points out that Poppy looks on Peppa as one of her teddies and how can they break it to her if Peppa goes? My solution is simplicity itself: ‘Poppy, do you want a bedroom of your own and a new garden to play in?’ Assuming she says ‘yes’ then the response is ‘OK, the ram is toast - say goodbye.’ I’m just worried that, the way Ed’s luck runs, Peppa will either develop the ovine equivalent of leprosy, or similar, or will be rustled by thieves.

We are coming up to Fete time and the committee are disinterring themselves and trying to come up with novel ideas - or at least, old ideas. Fallon thinks that they should try and attract younger people (by which she means teenagers, not just those in their 50s) on to the committee. It turns out that this particular meeting is being held at Brookfield and Ben comes in to deliver a phone message. Jill asks him if he’d like to be on the committee. When he has ascertained that she is serious, his reaction (without being as specific) is that he would rather circumcise himself with a rusty spoon - his mates would never let him live it down. Lynda suggests that he could become their “Youth Adviser”, to which Ben’s reaction is to reach for the rusty spoon again.

However, Ben has the hots for a girl (Tiggy by name) at college, who is in a female - and, according to Ben’s brother Josh pretty awful - band. Ben turns up at the next Fete committee meeting, announcing that he is prepared to be their Youth Adviser and he has had an idea to attract the younger demographic. First of all, the Hollerton Silver Band will have to be axed - kids don’t want ‘oompah, oompah’ music. Bert is scandalised - what about tradition? He and Lynda will fight tooth and nail to keep the Silver Band. Never mind Ben’s idea for alternative music (guess who?) “If we lose the Silver Band, it will be over my dead body!” says an outraged Bert. Strange how a solution can suddenly present itself, isn’t it?

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Pat And Tony’s Glasses Are Always Half Empty

Let's start with the Master of Misery, the Premier Purveyor of Pessimism, aka Tony Archer. On Sunday morning he is trying to persuade sisters Lilian and Jennifer to back him up in his efforts to get Peggy to give up her crazy scheme, or failing that, to give their mother a good kicking until she sees sense. "She's not thinking straight"Tony tells his siblings, but if he expects the girls to break out the pitchforks and flaming torches and march behind him, he is in for a disappointment. Jennifer's mind is firmly on her Father's Day lunch (lamb shanks, in case you were wondering) and she is lamenting the loss of her super-duper, high-tech, multi-oven kitchen at Home Farm.

Jennifer points out that Peggy can do what she likes with her own money and, when Adam turns up singing his Gran's praises (he calls her "a true visionary"), Tony's despondency plumbs new depths and he decides it's time to go. Lilian, who hasn't been invited to lunch, asks him if he fancies a pint in The Bull and he agrees. Personally, I can't think of a worse drinking companion, but I suppose Lilian could drink herself into insensibility, although that would certainly take some doing.

Tony continues to bang on, bringing up the story about Peggy's Will again (the one that never was) and he tells Lilian that he isn't going to let this go: "I'm going to do whatever it takes to change Mum's mind." If it comes to a battle of wills between Peggy and Tony, I know who my money's on and, at the end of the day, Jennifer's point about it being Peggy's money and Peggy's choice is a valid one.

On Monday, Tony is still at it; this time it is Tom's ear that is being bent. Tom and Natasha have had a great idea for a pitch for the money – plant fruit trees on every bit of spare land in Ambridge and turn it into an orchard village. Tony thinks this is a wonderful idea and pledges his support for the project – and if you believe that, then you haven't been giving this blog your attention. What actually happens is that Tony dismisses it as pie-in-the-sky and accuses his son of being starry-eyed like his Gran. One might observe that, if she's got £500,000 to put up as a prize, then Peggy hasn't done too badly for herself. Tony, however, accuses Tom of disloyalty and being selfish, while Tom suggests that Tony lacks ambition and the conversation becomes heated. When Tom reports back to Natasha, she says that they really need to get Tony onside, as a family rift won't impress Peggy (but I'm sure she will know who to blame) so Tom needs to talk to Tony again. Good luck with that, Tom. She points out that they both know that the idea has legs "and we can't just let that go, can we?"

Lilian calls round at Bridge Farm – she has been invited to The Lodge for tea and assumes that so has Tony. Except that he hasn't, which shows that Peggy still has all her senses intact. Tony reveals that he has left numerous messages for his mother, but she hasn't replied to any of them (see above about senses). Lilian wonders why she has been invited – surely Peggy doesn't expect her to put in a bid? Of course, she'd love to save the planet – "I always take a spare bag to Underwoods when I remember", she says, but she doesn't really think that this merits a £500,000 handout.

Tony says that he's sure Peggy will be in touch when she's ready "but she probably won't like what I've got to say." No matter, Tony; Peggy probably won't listen anyway. On her way out, Lilian runs into Tom and tells him that his dad is very unhappy (default mode, I reckon) and Tom should look after him and not let him get too frazzled.

This obviously has affected Tom and he asks Tony for a chat, saying that if he (Tom) doesn't enter a bid, then the money could go to Home Farm, or Brookfield. Once again Tony calls the scheme 'divisive' and says that the family doesn't need any more strife. Moreover, it could entail a lot of work that eventually comes to nothing and ends in disappointment. Tom says that he is convinced the Orchard Village is a good scheme, but he won't enter a bid for the money and he and Natasha will have to raise the capital some other way. I can just imagine how thrilled Natasha is going to be when he tells her they are turning their backs on a possible £500k.

Lilian meanwhile is having tea and cakes with Peggy, who tells her that she realises that she (Peggy) should have invited Lilian to the initial meeting (Peggy didn't think she'd be interested – I think if my mother revealed plans to give away half a million quid, I'd rather hear it from her than later from one of my siblings). Lilian admits she was hurt, but the two patch things up and Lilian begs her mother to talk to Tony as well. "I will dear," Peggy replies. "When he's ready to listen." That won't be any time soon, then.

Actually, it happened on Thursday when the pair meet at The Lodge. Tony begins by saying what an awful idea it is and that Bridge Farm won't be entering a bid. Why ever not? Because they all agree that it will only cause trouble in the family – she's pitting people against each other. He also tells his mother that she hasn't considered all the consequences. "I beg to differ" Peggy replies, sharply. He asks her to reconsider, but Peggy accuses him of being negative – nobody else has objected. He's being short-sighted, maybe selfish and, when Tony says that the £500,000 is family money anyway, Peggy says that, if he's that bothered, one way to make sure that it stays in the family is to put his thinking cap on and come up with the best bid. Meanwhile all Tony can do is bleat about how he and Pat have been pioneering sustainable farming for 30 years. Certainly Brookfield and Home Farm are entering into the spirit of Peggy's competition, as we learn when Pip and Alice are getting rat-arsed at Tom and Natasha's Cuban-themed housewarming party on Friday, but neither girl is giving away any secrets. 

 

Actually, the party was one of the only times that Tony's glass was more than half empty - he didn't want to go (yes, you could have knocked me down with a feather too) plus he had toothpaste on his shirt (how did he manage to miss his gob?) but, as the evening progressed, he was heard lauding the daiquiris made by the bartender Pepe. I suppose the fact that the drinks were free helped.

 

I know that readers paying attention will be screaming 'but the title of the blog mentions Pat's half-empty glass and we've heard nothing from her.' Patience dear readers, we will get there eventually, but first let's look at other stories.

 

Jazzer was interviewed by Adam for the job of looking after the aquaponics operation and it was obvious that Adam was desperate to employ somebody - anybody - as Jazzer's interview technique is (to put it charitably) extremely basic. There is a back story here - the latest episode in the increasingly-baffling and tedious story about the bucket list challenge is for Ian and Adam to overcome a fear. It turns out that Ian is an arachnopobe and, during the interview, Jazzer learns this and says that he can bring Webster, his tarantula, for Ian to look at. Jazz misunderstands Adam's response and turns up with said spider later.

 

Ian is in the shower and is petrified when Jazzer shows him Webster, in her travel case. Ian's arachnophobia is so intense that he cannot even bear to look at a photograph of a money spider and he knocks the case to the ground, whereupon Webster disappears, throwing Ian into a major panic, screaming to Jazzer to get Adam home - now! Eventually Webster is tracked down by Jazzer, and the arachnid is no doubt traumatised by the sight of an Irish chef standing on a chair and screaming. There is an upside to this, as Ian thinks he can now bear to risk looking at a photo of a money spider. It is at this moment that Adam informs a despondent Jazzer (who thinks he has blown his aquaponics chances) that he has actually got the job - see earlier comments about Adam being desperate. At least this will give Adam the opportunity to prepare a bid for Peggy's legacy - the aversion to risk-taking was the phobia that Adam has to master, although Jennifer says he is morbidly afraid of clowns.

 

At the party, Alice and Pip are snooping through Natasha's make-up cabinet and they appear to come across derma fillers - perhaps Natasha's stunning appearance is not just due to natural products and make-up. Nosey little minxes!

 

Bad news for Shula, as she gets a phone call from son Dan - his girlfriend Dorothy has dumped him and he's in bits. Shula tells Alistair and asks him to give Dan a call. He does so, and even calls Dorothy, who tells him that the spark has gone from the relationship as far as she is concerned. Alistair remarks to Shula that this took him back to when Shula told him that she didn't love him any longer. Jazzer's advice for Dan? "Get back in the saddle as quickly as possible." Don't you wish you had a daughter so that you could forbid her to marry Jazzer?

 

And so to Pat's half-empty glass. This happens after Tom and Natasha's party, when Tony says that he's pleased that Tom has found someone who makes him happy, but then notices that Pat looks concerned (the daiquiris must have addled his brain). What's up? Pat replies that Peggy's announcement has got her thinking - what happens if things don't work out between Tom and Natasha, after all, she left him once soon after the marriage? Tom has a stake in the business (as do they all) and it's up to them to protect that. Pat thinks Tom and Natasha should draw up a post-nuptial agreement so that the farm cannot be split up and sold in the event of a divorce. 

 

Tony says (and it's not often that I agree with him) that they will be stirring up a hornets' nest, but Pat replies "I'm convinced a post-nup agreement is the best way forward for all of us."I wonder what Natasha - and indeed Tom - might have to say about the subject? And Tony doesn't want strife in the family - I predict trouble ahead, plus strife in the more immediate family. How do you tell your daughter-in-law that, while you love her to bits, would she please mind signing this get-out agreement and promise not to sue?