John Telfer (Alan Franks)
This week, the Rev. Alan Franks came within a whisker of being added to my Hit and Run list (the last one on the list was Matt, so be warned, vicar). He was bemoaning the lack of community spirit in Ambridge and the general mildly unpleasant atmosphere pervading the place, or so he thinks. A typical symptom is the fact that Lynda will not be doing the panto this year, he tells Usha and she reminds him how hard a taskmaster Lynda was in the past.
Alan has obviously been at the Communion wine, as he goes on about how much joy the pantomime brought people. Oh no it didn’t, says Usha – people were getting jaded with it all. I have to say that I am firmly in the Usha camp here; in fact, you could call me ‘ultra-Usha’, as I’m not so much jaded as totally pissed off. In fact, I have a Pavlovian reaction in that, whenever I hear the word ‘Pantomime’, I get the urge to bang my head against a brick wall.
Alan goes off to write his sermon and comes back later, somewhat happier, as he has found inspiration in the writings of Saint Augustine and realised that he should stop complaining and organise it himself. I looked up the Saint’s writings online and I couldn’t see any reference to pantomimes, but there you go. Usha is unconvinced and says “but what if people don’t want to do it?” “Of course they do,” her husband replies, “they just don’t want to do it with Lynda.” Usha then reminds him that it’s Christmas and this is a time of year when Alan tends to be a tad busy – after all, he is looking after 97 parishes or something like that.
I paused for reflection here – was I being uncharitable in the face of such an unselfish act? In fact, was my antipathy towards the pantomime per se, or was it towards a pantomime directed by Lynda, with all the attendant crises and pretentious outbursts? In short, should I give Alan a chance to change my mind, rather than the knee-jerk reaction of having him torn apart by rabid dogs? I’ll tell you one thing – if Alan has a go and makes a cock-up of the whole thing and it is subsequently rescued by Lynda, I will not be a happy bunny, as this is exactly what happened when she gave up organising the Fete and I think we listeners don’t deserve recycled plot lines.
But let’s turn to more dramatic matters. Lilian goes to see Matt, who is preparing to catch a plane for South America. She says that she can understand his desire to put thousands of miles between him and the people wanting their money back. Matt plays it dumb, so she tells him everything she has found out about Melling Equestrian Investments and Matt’s scam involving buying inferior horses and charging MEI premium prices. She calls him a crook, which he describes as ‘unfair’. I looked it up in the dictionary Matt – you are a crook. He says that Lilian still has feelings for him and, when she replies “Everything we ever had is finished – dead” Matt says “Prove it.” Lilian’s response to this is that she is going to call the police, which I would say is proof enough. Matt obviously thinks so too, as we are then treated to the unedifying spectacle of Matt on his knees, begging her not to, as another spell in prison would finish him off. His taxi is outside and he pleads with her. “I’ll give you one hour” she says and, when he says “I do love you Lilian” she stonily replies “The clock’s ticking.” Later on, when Lilian is trying to drink Grey Gables dry of gin, we hear her ring 101 and, when she gets through to the police, she says that she’d like to report a fraud.
The next day she makes a statement to the police, which involves answering some intrusive questions about her relationship with Matt. In her statement, Lilian says that she doesn’t know where he is, but she says that he used to live in Costa Rica and has talked about Ecuador. Now I know this is the following day, but surely, when she first rang 101 and said she wanted to report a fraud, the policeman didn’t just say “OK, pop in tomorrow and we’ll talk about it”? Surely he would have asked some questions, which might have provided details such as ‘Matt Crawford’ and ‘South America’ among others?
Armed with this information, it doesn’t take Hercule Poirot to realise that the chances are that Matt would be flying there and a few quick phone calls would have put the authorities on the alert – particularly nowadays, when you have to check in hours before your flight. Matt probably wouldn’t have made it to the business class lounge, never mind to South America.
Never mind, at least Justin will be pleased that Matt has gone, won’t he? Not as such – he returns to the Dower House (“My house” as he reminds Lilian) as he has business at Berrow Farm. He’ll tolerate her presence as long as she has the spare room and doesn’t talk to him. However, Lilian tells him what has happened and how the police told her that the chances are that the investors – one of whom is Justin’s friend Latif – won’t get their money back. Justin cannot believe the story; fancy Latif being taken in. Almost as an afterthought, he accuses Lilian of sleeping with Matt and, when she protests that nothing happened, Justin says “Nothing? You call all this nothing?” A bit later we hear Justin on the phone to the police, who have called him to arrange to come in for an interview. Justin agrees, but says he will want his solicitor present. Lilian comes in towards the end of the conversation and an annoyed Justin says that he had better call Latif, as the police will probably be ringing him next. He turns to Lilian and says, witheringly, “Next time you decide to take a lover, Lilian, you should consider the consequences of your actions!” Justin leaves and Lilian bursts into tears, no doubt hurt that he hasn’t asked her how the wedding preparations are going…
Justin isn’t the only one on the police radar, as Adam is asked back for an interview. D.I. Thorpe discovers that he has no alibi for the evening of the hit and run and, talking afterwards to PCB, she says that she has an open mind about whether or not he was the driver, but she is convinced that he knows nothing about the fraud.
We are reminded that Latif is not the only one to have lost money, as Lilian, Christine and Peggy are chatting as they await the delivery of the new ladies’ changing rooms, paid for by Christine. Christine says how much she is looking forward to her Rhine Cruise and she has been trying to contact MEI to arrange a date “But Hugo Melling is a very busy man.” She mentions that he’s quite a charmer too and an anxious Lilian, learning that Chris met him at one of his get togethers to attract investors, asks whether she invested any money in the racecourse? Christine says “Don’t let on to the people round here, but yes – quite a lot actually.” Just when Lilian thought her week couldn’t get any worse.
Things haven’t been going well for quite a lot of people in Ambridge recently. The usually-placid Ian has been upsetting staff in the Grey Gables kitchen, and not just staff, as Roy has had to smooth over the odd altercation with customers. Roy tries to apologise for his timing last week, when Carina, the potential surrogate, walked in on Roy and Adam having a row. Ian tells him tersely that they have lost Carina and Roy is racked with guilt.
Despite Roy’s efforts, he has to get Ian in for an informal talk. Roy tries to keep it low key, but Ian gets defensive and sarcastic. Lexi is also there and she wades into Ian, telling him that Roy has been covering for him, but he can’t do it for ever. She goes on: “Roy has been a good friend to you and that’s exactly what you need at the moment.” Later on, Lexi comes to apologise, saying that she couldn’t bear to see Ian treating Roy like that. “I went too far” she says, contritely. Roy calls her a good friend, to which she says “More than a friend – I love you.” She apologises again if she’s embarrassed him, but he answers “I love you too, Lexi – I’ve loved you for ages.” Aah – isn’t that nice! I do hope it works out for the two of them. Wouldn’t it be terrible if Lexi (or Roy) turned out to be the hit and run driver?
While on the subject of relationships, there have been developments in the Pip/Toby story. Toby reminds her that they are due to take part in the quiz at The Bull later on, although Pip isn’t that keen. Pip and Rooooth are getting ready to move the cows inside and they are being shadowed by Alfie, a young farmer who is taking over the running of his father’s farm and wants some tips on pasture grazing (let them into a field of grass and don’t forget to shut the gate after them is my tip). Rooooth is matchmaking with about as much subtlety as a rhino in a china shop and tells her daughter that she has invited Alfie to supper that night – will Pip join them? Pip says, sorry, but she can’t let her quiz team members down. Another cunning plan come to nothing, Rooooth.
Toby doesn’t make it to the quiz (there was a problem with the gin) and, he turns up only when it is finished. Pip is very short with him, accusing him of standing her up. “We’re not dating” he replies, slightly mystified and offers her a lift back to lower Loxley. Pip answers that she’d rather walk and the two part on not very amicable terms.
A couple of days later, Toby knocks on Elizabeth’s door – does she know how Pip is? Pip won’t take Toby’s calls and is not returning his messages. Elizabeth says that Pip isn’t happy and, when Toby says he doesn’t know what Pip wants, she asks Toby what does he want? He says that he doesn’t want to get hurt over again and he doesn’t want to hurt Pip. Just then, there’s a knock on the door and it’s Pip, who is supposed to be having lunch with Elizabeth.
Elizabeth suggests that they go for a walk, which they do, and they discuss how they feel. Their current arrangement doesn’t seem to be working and they are slipping back to how they were before. To cut a long story short, they decide to be just friends and they shake hands. Later on, Elizabeth calls on her niece – how did things go? Pip tells her what she and Toby decided and Elizabeth asks if she has any regrets? I’m sure I’m not the only one who gave a cheer when Pip replied “No – I feel ready to move on. For real this time.” Whether moving on means moving on to Alfie, we’ll just have to wait and see.