Monday, 24 February 2020

Truly, There Is A Deity

Carole Boyd (Lynda Snell)

Isn’t it wonderful when someone you don’t particularly like gets exactly what’s coming to them? It makes you think ‘there is a God, after all’ and restores your faith in Natural Justice. I refer, of course, to the battle of the pub name, which escalated last week. Those against the change of name (who want to be known as ‘The ReBulls’ - how do they think of these names, he asked, sarcastically?) want to hit the pub where it hurts - in their profit margins. But how?

Fast forward to Wednesday, when Lynda and Lilian (plus dogs) run
into each other. Lilian says that Ed came into the pub yesterday - perhaps the ReBulls’ resistance is crumbling (Lilian didn’t mention that Ed didn’t buy anything)? Lynda says au contraire - she heard from a reliable source that some people had stomach troubles after eating there on Valentine’s Night. Lilian says yes, how is Tracy Horrobin (who was acting as a double agent)? She adds that, if Tracy and Roman had upset stomachs, that was due to the fact that they gorged themselves to excess. Lynda’s reply is along the lines of ‘more fool you for offering them free food and drink.’

Later that same day, we learn what Lynda’s latest strategy entails - she has chained herself to the pub’s signpost. Jolene comes out to see what the fuss is all about - Lynda assures her that it’s nothing personal, but she intends to stay there as long as it takes; and she’s got her copy of War & Peace to keep her occupied. Jolene says that they’ll see what happened when it gets dark and the frost comes down and she’ll give it two hours at most. Don’t be silly, Jolene - you can’t read War & Peace in two hours.

Lilian comes out to wish Lynda a goodnight and says that she’s going back in for a hot toddy and a warm bath. Lynda bids her goodnight and says she’s looking forward to seeing her bright and early in the morning.

Friday dawns and Lynda is still in situ. Jolene is impressed and offers Lynda a cooked breakfast. “Of course, you’ll have to come inside to eat it” she adds, a tad maliciously. Lynda tries to talk prospective customers out of entering the pub, but nobody takes any notice. Lilian mocks her, saying that she has added another attraction to the pub and they are thinking of setting up a coffee stall outside. A smug Lynda replies that, that reminds her; she has been in contact with a reporter from The Echo, who wants to interview her tomorrow afternoon, with a photographer - won’t that be wonderful publicity when it is splashed all over the local papers?

Late in the evening, Jolene and Lilian take  some tea and sausage rolls out to Lynda, who is hidden under piles of blankets. The pair get worried when there is no movement from Lynda, and they debate whether to call an ambulance. Jolene starts removing the blankets and it turns out that Lynda isn’t there - there is a dummy (the waxwork from Ghost stories in the Attic) and the two are not happy. Jolene says that Lynda must be home in bed, laughing at them. An angry Lilian snarls “She won’t be laughing by the time I’ve finished with her.”

Friday’s episode opens with Robert Snell driving Lynda to the pub first thing in the morning and skulking around so that they will not be noticed by anybody. Lynda resumes her position, and is surprised when Lilian comes out with refreshments for the chief ReBull. Lynda asks why is she doing this, and wonders if the drink has been doctored? Lilian laughs and says “this isn’t Shakespeare” but she does observe that Lynda’s padlock looks old and rusty and Lil has bought her a shiny new one, which she proceeds to fix to Lynda’s chain. Oh yes; Lilian pockets the key, just to be safe.

Lilian then tells Lynda about her and Jolene’s nocturnal excursion the previous night - oh, and by the way, she took some photographs last night and Lynda came out very well. Remind her, what time is the Echo reporter due? And if there is anything that Lynda would like to talk about, just let her know.

Robert tells his wife that he has seen the photographs and they are crystal clear - the dummy is obvious. Lynda asks to see Lilian and says, after reflection, she has decided not to do the interview with The Echo. Lilian tells her to cancel it now, which Robert does. Lynda wants Lilian to undo the padlock and Lil agrees, as long as Lynda says she will delete the photos from her phone. Robert confirms that this has been done, and comes back from his call to The Echo and tells Lilian that it’s sneaky of her to use blackmail. An outraged Lilian says “I’m not the one claiming I spent all night out here.”

Lilian has one more twist of the knife - she wants Lynda to call off the whole ReBull business. Lynda is indignant and says “You may have won the battle, but you have not won the war - the fight goes on and I will continue to lead it!” Lilian then plays her trump card, which is that Jolene also took a batch of photos last night and Lilian will “happily send them to the other ReBulls, so that they can see what a fraud their leader really is.” She adds that, if the ReBulls saw the photos, they would never trust Lynda again. “It’s monstrous!” Lynda wails, but agrees that, if Lilian deletes all photos from all devices, Lynda would stand down forthwith as leader of the ReBulls, will that suit Lilian? “Perfectly” replies a (deservedly) smug Lilian.
I’m sorry that half this week’s blog has dealt with Lynda’s discomfort, but I have never believed that schadenfreude is that bad (especially when it comes to Lynda). While we are kicking Lynda, let’s mention her suspicion that Freddie is back to his old drug-dealing habits. Tracy asks Lynda why did she bang on about drugs at the Grey Gables staff meeting? Who does she suspect? Lynda says that she couldn’t possibly say, but later on in the week she tells Tracy that she has her suspicions about Freddie, but she’s not to tell anyone. Sorry? Not tell anyone? This is Tracy we are talking about - if Freddie does anything suspicious (like whistling for no apparent reason, for example) she’ll whisk him off to the cops.

Freddie is concerned at Johnny’s attitude and bangs on his door and won’t go away. Johnny eventually lets him in and, after much prevarication (including after Freddie saying that Lynda - yes, her again) is on the verge of grassing him up for dealing. Johnny reveals that the tablets he has been taking were not, as Freddie believes, steroids, but were, in fact, to prevent hair loss. Please, someone give this lad a slap and drag him back to reality.

Let us return to the theme of people getting what they deserve. Ben Archer puts the bite on brother Josh, accusing him of making all the Archer family’s lives a misery - Ben is getting stick at college because of Josh’s involvement with the Police and David was the subject of mutterings at the latest NFU meeting. Josh says that this is not helping him, and what can he do to help? Quick as a flash, Ben suggests that Josh could lend him his car to ferry his mates around, to compensate for the aggro he has caused.

Josh agrees, and quickly regrets it when he finds his car dirty and with half-eaten burgers stuffed down the seat. Ben laughs it off and says that his mates were hungry. On Friday, Ben approaches his brother and says that he needs the car tonight, as he’s taking a couple of mates out. Josh says that he’s sorry, but Ben is too late as he (Josh) has sold the car. He realises that he has had a negative effect on the other family members, and he needs to start putting things right. 

Josh will begin this process by using the money he got from the car sale to pay Rex back for the money Josh owes for the stolen trailer that he sold to him. This does not appear to be the sort of reparation that brother Ben was talking about, and an annoyed Ben storms out, bad-mouthing his brother for letting him down by not being able to let him give his friends a lift. As the door angrily slams, an amused Josh gleefully exhorts his brother to have a good day.

This week we have enjoyed Lynda’s discomfiture and (hopefully) Lilian and Jolene’s triumph. Speaking personally. I couldn’t give a flying fig if the pub was named ‘TheB@Ambridge‘, or ‘The Bull’ (admittedly, the latter would be easier to type) or even ‘The B’ (even easier). 

However, it can’t always be good news. Ed makes a visit to The Bull (choose your preferred name from the above list) in order to check on whether the action of the ReBulls will affect Emma’s job there, only to find her talking to Gavin and apparently having a good time, on what Ed presumes is a date, with much laughter. Meeting Jazzer later (Jazz has a hidey-hole amongst the fish tanks at Home Farm - does this boy know how to live, or what?) Ed confides that he felt bad when he saw Emma and Gavin together and, while he wants to wish Emma well in her future life, he really can’t. There is much introspection and ‘I am a complete failure’ from Ed, while Jazzer’s advice is to have another beer.

And now we have something which is very hard for me to write - Kate comes back early from her course (no. that’s not the difficult bit) and visits Jakob at the surgery. The two exchange hellos and Jakob soon lets it be known that he knows that Kate is pregnant. “How clever of you to guess” she trills, to which Jakob confesses that it was Chris who told him. Kate is angry - she wanted to tell Jakob face to face.

Later on, Jakob asks how advanced is the pregnancy? Kate replies that she hasn’t taken a pregnancy test, but that she’s had three children and that she knows how her body feels when she’s pregnant. Jakob is slightly appalled and says that “We need empirical evidence” and goes out to buy some pregnancy test kits. Kate is dismissive - whose body is it, anyway? - but agrees to take a test. Next thing we hear is Kate weeping in the bathroom and Jakob asking “Is everything all right?” Go on, have a guess. 

Kate says the test is negative and rushes out in tears. Jakob tries to console her, saying that they are still the same couple, with or without the baby and he tries to persuade her to stay, but she insists on going back to The Lodge. This causes Lilian to tell Shula (next day) that it seems that Jakob had thrown Kate out of his flat, as she turned up at The Lodge last night, very distressed. Now, dear reader, if you tell anyone about this, I will have to kill you, but at this stage I came this close - this close ­- to feeling a pang of sympathy towards Kate, but also I did feel that Jakob had had a lucky escape and he should make sure to be more careful in the future.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Chris Spoils Jakob’s Day (Or Possibly The Rest Of His Life)

Wilf Scolding (Christopher Carter)

Chris Carter is, so we gather, a pretty good farrier. Sadly, he has difficulty understanding fairly basic orders; orders such as ‘don’t tell anyone about Kate’s pregnancy.’ Being a straightforward (I was going to say ‘simple’ but thought better of it) soul, he probably cannot comprehend how the father of this baby could be unaware of its existence. I blame Alice - she should have said ‘don’t tell anybody - anybody - and that includes Jakob; do you understand?’ But she didn’t.

As such, the stage is set for confusion and misunderstanding. Jakob mentions that Kate keeps sending him messages, saying that she has some important news to tell him when she returns (she is away on some sort of course). “She’s probably just bought a new dream catcher” Jakob says. On Wednesday, Jakob is at Lower Loxley, attending to Cranford Crystal, who has laminitis. Jakob thinks Cranford Crystal is obese and recommends a strict diet, a smaller stable and a companion, such as a donkey or a pony for company.

Elizabeth leaves and Jakob and Chris talk about Kate. Jakob says that, with her being away, he takes delight in coming home and finding everything still in its proper place. Chris, digging himself firmly into a hole, says that Jakob is making the most of that while he still can? Jakob says that he has till Monday before Kate returns and Chris (picking up a bigger shovel) says that he was talking long term. A mystified Jakob says “In what sense?”

Chris (by this time barely able to lift the shovel) replies “Congratulations!” and, in response to Jacob’s still mystified “For what?” replies that he couldn’t say anything while Elizabeth was there, but the congrats were on becoming a dad.” Jakob is, to say the least, stunned, and his reaction makes Chris think that the vet is winding him up. Eventually, Chris realises that Jakob is serious and his skate-mouthed gob has, if you will pardon the mixed metaphors, not only given the game away, but he has let the cat out of the bag and blown the gaff. “I’m going to become a father” Jakob says, wonderingly.

Now, Jakob, before you get carried away, don’t forget that, while you may indeed be going to be a father (and the mother has yet to confirm this fact) the mother is Kate. Out of all the people in Ambridge to be the mother of my child, I cannot think of anyone of child-bearing age who I would want less. As it is, it seems that Kate has presented Jakob with a fait accompli  and I, for one, can’t help feeling desperately sorry for the poor sod; he doesn’t deserve this.

Someone for whom I feel no sympathy whatsoever is Lynda Snell. In last week’s blog, I said that, in her campaign against the name change of The Bull, she is being downright nasty. I believe that, last week, she excelled herself for spitefulness - she enrolled Tracy Horrobin as an undercover agent to report back on the Valentine’s night dinner at the B@Ambridge. Tracy’s reward for this was a sumptuous afternoon tea at Grey Gables, which, as she later told Emma, made her undo two buttons. 

Tracy also told Emma that she was looking forward to the Valentine’s Night dinner at the B@Ambridge, for which she has negotiated a free dinner (with complimentary house wine) for her and Roman. “Whose side are you on?” Emma asks. “Mine” is Tracy‘s pragmatic reply.

On the night, Tracy says that the food was ok, but the complimentary wine seemed to run out early - oh, and by the way, the house red was like paint stripper. Kenton and Jolene are pleased when they get a couple of five-star reviews on social media, but then not so pleased that they receive a one-star review, which describes the wine as ‘paint stripper’. The review is signed by ‘Dylan Nells’, which is the pseudonym used by Lynda when she wrote for the Echo. Kenton says that Tracy must have been a double agent (surely not, Sherlock?)  “How low can you stoop?“ he asks, and Jolene says “If that’s how they want it, that’s how it’s gonna be - this is war.”

Lynda’s attitude to the pub’s name is not the only reason that she is off my Christmas Card list - she is such a know-all. On Friday, Freddie was at the Grey Gables gym, trying to persuade Johnny to finish his workout and join Freddie and pals at a nightclub. Johnny makes it plain that he is not interested and tells Freddie to go before he misses his lift. 

While Johnny is distracted, Freddie rummages through Johnny’s bag and discovers some pills. He confronts an angry Johnny - are these steroids? Johnny is very annoyed and the two argue, with Freddie saying that he has witnessed the damage that these pills can do, and he goes off to the toilet to flush them away. Johnny is far from happy and the incident was witnessed by Lynda, who confronts Freddie and accuses him of trying to sell drugs to Johnny and flushing them away when he saw Lynda looking. Freddie says that she is totally wrong, but won’t tell her what really happened. She says that she will mention it at tomorrow’s staff meeting, but will mention no names and give him one last chance “which, based on your previous activities, you probably don’t deserve.”

Did you realise that there is apparently an outbreak of obesity among the equines of Ambridge? Earlier we mentioned Cranford Crystal, who is overweight, but Jakob thinks that it is worthwhile introducing an ‘equine weight-watchers’ regime for horses in Ambridge. Shula says that, thankfully, this doesn’t apply to her charges, such as Amir and Aziz, to which Jakob sourly replies that he and Shula might have differing opinions on that subject.

In conversation with Alistair, Shula remarks that Jakob was quite prickly and rude - if he adopts that attitude with every customer, she says, it will do the vet business no good at all. Alistair agrees and vows to find out what’s making Jakob act so strangely. 

He gets his opportunity on Friday, when he goes to the Practice and finds Jakob there. Jakob fills him in on the fatherhood news and the pair end up drinking Swedish Schnapps (out of specimen jars, because Jakob didn’t bring any shot glasses). Alistair asks how does Jakob feel? He replies that his greatest concern is avoiding chaos “and children are inherently chaotic.” He’s not certain that he could adjust - indeed, he’s not sure that he could even love a child. 

Alistair suggests ringing Kate, but Jakob is fiercely opposed to the idea - waiting until Monday will allow him time “to formulate my response”. You mad, romantic, impulsive fool, Jakob! Alistair shares that, when he and Shula got together, his main worry was could he be a good step-dad to Daniel? In the end, despite the fact that his marriage went kaput, being a dad to Dan was probably the best thing he did in his life. Jakob says that he will search the Internet for advice for fathers-to-be. Alistair urges him to do something - “whatever you have to, before she comes back.” Alternatively, Jakob could pack quickly, and quietly go back to Sweden.

We were treated to an insight into the philosophy - if that isn’t too strong a word - of Tracy Horrobin regarding men. Emma revealed that she had spent some time in the Tea Room with Gavin and they had arranged to go for a drink - strictly friends only - one night next week. Tracy keeps referring to the meeting as ‘a date’ and Emma is debating whether or not to call it off, as it has been so long since she has been out for a drink with anyone. When it comes to men, says Tracy, Emma should remember the ‘3Fs’. I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one who felt a shiver of trepidation as Tracy explained. The 3 Fs are ’Fit, Fun and Financially sorted.’ “Like Roman?“ Emma asks. “Well, two out of three ain’t bad” Tracy replies. All I can say is thank God the philosophy only extended to 3 Fs - I had visions of the Archers airing beyond the 9pm Watershed.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

News To Strike Fear Into Your Heart

Perdita Avery (Kate Madikane)

Sometimes I think that the Archers scriptwriters are a bunch of sadists, who play with readers’ emotions as a kitten plays with a ball of wool. Take last week as an example – Kate is obsessing about Xander’s naming ceremony and coming up with increasingly crackpot suggestions. For example, she thinks that each guest should write down a wish for Xander and, on each future birthday, one wish is selected and read out to him. A nice idea, but, as Peggy points out, if there are thirty or so guests, then half of them will be dead before their wishes are known – much better, surely to paste them all into a book and Xander can read them when he likes? 

At the end of the week, Kate ropes sister Alice into helping with the naming ceremony, but Alice is reluctant in case this makes Chris broody again and Alice wants to establish her career before having children. Kate thinks Alice should be thinking about a family anyway and points out that, when she was Alice’s age, she’d already had three children. In her usual, tactful way, Kate says that Alice and Debbie aren’t doing much to pass on the Aldridge genes. And then, in a throwaway remark, Kate says “I might as well tell you that, by the end of the year, it will be four.”

Alice is astounded and asks her sister “You mean you and Jakob are trying for a baby?” Kate’s reply – “We’re not trying silly, I’m already pregnant” – is the news referred to in this week’s blog title. Kate goes on to say that Jakob will be a wonderful father; “He’s got a firm streak, which is good, as it will complement my giving approach to parenthood.” Alice still seems to be having trouble getting her head round this development and asks “So he’s pleased about it then? What did he say?” Kate gives a merry laugh and says brightly “Oh, I haven’t told him yet, but don’t worry about it – Jakob’s going to be delighted.”

Kate has insinuated herself into Jakob’s life (and his flat) by moving in and refusing to leave. The excuse is a broken boiler at The Lodge and, when Jakob points out that it is repaired now and Kate can go back and live there, she cocks a deaf ‘un and just talks over him. In vain does Jakob tell her how much he values his space and his privacy (“me too” she mutters, ignoring the point completely). Her habits get on his nerves and he forces her to clean the microwave (her porridge exploded in it) before she eats a meal. Add to this that her hair keeps blocking the plughole and she does sod-all around the flat and you cannot help but think that the delight of which Kate speaks will be of a different order to how the word is usually used. Jakob is at the end of his tether and Kate has only been moved in for two or three days. I sincerely believe that he could cheerfully throttle her and the news that she has unilaterally gone ahead and got pregnant is, I suspect, going to fill him with an emotion quite a way removed from ‘delight’.
Readers of this blog will know that I am not a massive fan of Lynda Snell, but last week she went down in my estimation (yes, I too didn’t believe it was possible, but it happened. I can forgive (just) the snobbishness and pretentiousness that she exhibits, but last week she was just plain nasty. The self-appointed leader of those against the name change of The Bull, she set out to deliberately sabotage a cocktail event being held there. The plan was to infiltrate a gathering of yuppies and get Bert and Jazzer to bore everyone to death. Bert will speak about ‘growing marrows in a slightly alkaline soil’ while Jazzer will expound on aquaponic fish varieties. These combined, Lynda believes, will empty the pub in no time.

However, the best-laid plans etc – the assembled yuppies hang on Bert’s every word and Jazzer has a crowd around him, with everyone having a wonderful time. Lilian cannot resist crowing and tells Lynda that she (Lilian) will tell everyone that Lynda is the resident llama expert. Lynda is furious at the scuppering of her plan and flounces out of the pub with the jeers of Lilian and Kenton ringing in her ears. "That made my week” Kenton tells Lilian. “It made my year” she replies, joyously. If The Bull is brought to its knees, what will Lynda do then? She has already had Hannah grumbling because she lives opposite a pub that she cannot go to. But why not? Lynda’s word is not law, whatever she may think, so why do so many people tag along with her ideas? It’s the Christmas show scenario all over again – tell Lynda to take a hike, ban her from the pub and get back in there and get some Shires down your neck is what I say.

Jill is worried about the fate of the pub and mobilises the Archer clan for a meal at the pub (her treat). David and Josh are lukewarm about the idea – Josh cannot bear the thought that everyone will be looking at him and David is looking forward to a quiet night in. Afraid not, lads – Jill tells Josh that there won’t be any customers there (which is why she’s organised the meal) so stop wallowing. As to David’s objection, Jill makes it clear that this is a three-line whip and their presence is expected, not just requested. Jill leaves and Josh asks his dad if he is going. David replies “You heard her – and if I’m going Josh, then so are you.”

Actually, Josh’s fears were realised, as Rex is talking to Pip. Josh says that he is sorry for the mess he’s caused, but it will soon blow over and then Rex will have plenty of work again. “Pardon?” Rex asks in a dangerously-calm voice, “Are you serious? I’m never working for you again – no way.” He goes further, telling Josh that he has one month to pay Rex for the dodgy trailer and his outstanding wages, plus Rex wants out of the egg business and Josh has one month to cough up the money that constitutes Rex’s share. Having said this, Rex storms out of the pub, leaving Josh and Pip somewhat shocked. “That was brutal, Josh – I don’t know what to say.” His sister tells Josh, no doubt Josh is just reflecting on what a good idea it was to have a family evening at the pub and how he is glad that he was persuaded to come along.

Helen meets Lee’s daughters for the first time and they are guarded and withdrawn, not saying much. She brought them a chocolate flower each and was a bit upset to find them later discarded in a bin, uneaten, but she didn’t tell Lee. Helen suggests that she and Lee go for a meal on Valentine’s night, but he admits that, with maintenance, rent and so on, he cannot really afford it. Helen is a bit embarrassed at her faux pas, but quickly says that they can have an equally good time in his flat. Better, I would venture to suggest, and certainly cheaper.

What else has been happening? Freddie gets himself trapped by a set of weights in the grey Gables gym and makes a complete prat of himself. Johnny is attending the gym every night, and Freddie is convinced he’s got a girlfriend, because he takes so long arranging his hair. Johnny’s not saying.

Over at Berrow Farm, Neil is agonising whether or not to take the job (and the paycut) overseeing the outdoor development of the pigs. Susan says she just wants him to be happy, but Neil spurns the chance to say ‘OK then, get upstairs and pack your suitcase’, and returns to his wonderings. He has a heart-to-heart with Jill – would he be able to find another job if he turned Justin’s offer down? She says that he wouldn’t know who his workmates would be and tells him it’s sometimes better the devil you know. This makes up his mind and he accepts the job offer. He then runs into Hannah, who says that she too has accepted Justin’s offer. As she moves off, Neil says quietly “Hannah Riley – the devil you know.”

Gavin is still staying with dad Phil and Kirsty and driving them mad. He spends all day on his X-box, monopolising the TV and making a lot of noise. Tempers are becoming frayed and Phil tells him to get a shower, turning off the TV in mid-game. As Gavin storms off, Phil tells Kirsty that Gavin is behaving like a stroppy teenager “and I didn’t enjoy it first time round.”

Phil’s patience snaps on Friday – he got up early to take delivery of some screed, but Gavin forgot to order it. Phil is incandescent with rage and stalks off, calling his son all sorts of names. Kirsty suggests that Gavin can help her – she is scouting out sites for leafy dams in case they have another outbreak of flooding.

As they sit having coffee, they talk and Gavin reveals a more vulnerable side – his schoolmates used to call him ‘Oxfam’ – Phil’s business was going through a lean time and money was scarce and Gavin wonders if that is why he wanted a big wedding, to prove he had made it. Kirsty reassures him that there will be someone for him out there – the trick is to find them. For his part, Gavin sees that Kirsty is passionate about her conservation work and he concedes that her work does matter. She says she will phone Phil while Gavin walks down to the car and she asks Phil if the red mist has gone yet? Phil is deeply sorry for the way he spoke to Gavin and says that he will apologise when he sees him. Kirsty says that she and Gavin had a sensible chat and she thinks that Gavin has turned a corner.

And now we end with what might be called ‘damning with faint praise’. On the day of Jill’s family party, Kenton takes an influenza-stricken Jolene a cup of tea in bed. Kenton is assailed by doubt, asking his wife “we will get through this, won’t we?” He is also concerned that Jolene has not forgiven him for running Eccles the peacock over and begs her to believe that it was an unfortunate accident. She reassures him that she has forgiven him and tells him “You’re a prize prat sometimes, but you’re no murderer.” What? Only sometimes?

Monday, 3 February 2020

Just Lay Down Here Josh, While Rooooth Gives You A Good Kicking

Angus Imrie (Josh Archer)

It was not a good week for Josh - on Sunday he is dragged into clearing out the yard (it looks like a building site, as Phil’s lads have been installing new toilets as part of the refurbishment of the barn as a wedding venue). “Shouldn’t Phil’s lot be doing this?” Josh moans, but David points out that it is Sunday. They need to get the place looking at least half respectable because Vince Casey is coming to talk about his daughter Stephanie’s forthcoming wedding.

Vince duly turns up the next day and is not wildly impressed by the ongoing works. He says that all he can see is “a draughty old shed, with no facilities, but if that’s what Stephanie wants…” Josh joins Vince, David and Rooooth and shows Vince the building plans, explaining what is going to happen. Vince notices a car arriving on the farm and he remarks that the occupants do not look like farmers. Indeed, they aren’t, (be honest Vince - it was the big lettering on the car, spelling ‘Police’ that gave it away, wasn’t it?) and they immediately arrest Josh on suspicion of dealing in stolen farm machinery and cart him off to the Police station.

David and Rooooth are, understandably, a tad upset by all this, and it gets worse when one of the police says that they will want to see  paperwork relating to every item of equipment on the farm. David protests that this will take ages, to which he receives the answer ‘better get started then.’ He is also advised to get his son a lawyer and, by the way, don’t expect Josh home tonight.

In fact, Josh returns home early the next day. His parents didn’t know he was coming and immediately start questioning him as to what has been happening. He is tired and unhappy - he spent the night in the cells and didn’t sleep and now just wants to shower and rest. No chance Josh! His mother asks him straight out if he knew that the trailer was stolen and surely he has got receipts and records? 

Josh is very close to breaking point and admits that sometimes he gets behind with the paperwork, which seems to consist of leaving sheets of paper around the place. Rooooth really goes off on one, saying that police have been swarming all over the farm and everyone in the village will know of this “all because of your stupid carelessness!” She goes further, telling her son that he has jeopardised their wedding business, as Vince is considering cancelling. Josh admits that he has messed up big time and he’ll have to wait and see if he will be charged. By this time, Josh is nearly in tears, but this doesn’t stop Rooooth still berating him for being a fool.

David suggests that, whatever happens, they’ll support him, but Rooooth is like a dog with a bone and tells Josh “this should be a lesson to you. We’ll help you, but you’ve got to try and help yourself.” A tearful Josh says he will try “but I’m scared - what if it’s too late?” I suppose Josh should think himself lucky that Rooooth didn’t just reply ‘well, that would be your own stupid fault, wouldn’t it?’ 

Mind you, in mitigation, Rooooth is pissed off because, when she went to the shop, Susan quizzed her about what the police were doing at the farm. Instead of  saying ‘just give me the milk and mind your own business, you nosey cow’ Rooooth goes home and gives Josh a hard time.

The fallout continues, as Vince arrives at Brookfield to talk about the - assuming it still goes ahead - marriage of Stephanie. Josh approaches and wants to speak to Vince. He tells him that whatever happened with the police was down to him and the police are investigating him and not Brookfield, so please don’t cancel the Reception. 

Vince is impressed by Josh’s honesty and says it took a lot of bottle to speak out as he did. Vince hands him his business card, plus another from “A hot-shot lawyer” who has got Vince out of a few scrapes in the past. Vince says that, should Josh need any advice, then give him a call. If so, I’d make sure you have a long spoon, Josh.

There was a surprise for Jim when daughter Fiona turned up, saying that she’d like to spend some time with her dad and can she stay for a few days? Over lunch with brother Alistair, Fiona admits that her recent holiday companion, Angie, could be ‘The One’ and she is very happy. Alistair, too, is happy for his sister and they talk about when, or indeed, if, she should come out to Jim.

As it turns out, Jim asks his daughter, on a trip out, whether Angie is just a friend or something more? Fiona tells her dad that Angie is her partner, but how did he know? Jim says that he does notice these things but “I nearly drove Alistair away and I didn’t want to do the same to you.” Fiona asks if Jim is ok with her being a lesbian and he asks “why shouldn’t I be?“ Jim reveals that he was aware that Fiona was a lesbian but he’s always been useless at things like this and the important thing is that she is happy. “I am, dad - very happy” his daughter tells Jim. Well, there’s certainly been a major change in attitudes in the Lloyd household in recent days.

The Bull v The B@Ambridge debate continues - apparently the Bull’s Burns’ Night Supper was a disaster, with few customers. Lilian is despondent, but Justin advises her to keep the faith - the Grundys cannot run an event every weekend and customers will soon realise that they need the pub.

Justin had to leave for a BL Board meeting, for which Neil was summoned. Pessimistically, he tells Susan that he expects to be sacked (if I may digress here, I would venture to suggest that ‘pessimistically’ would be default mode when living with Susan). It’s not as bad as that, as the Board quizzes Neil about recent events at Berrow. He is reluctant to criticise Hannah for recent happenings, but suggests that she lacks experience. 

Later on, Justin asks Neil for a chat. Justin says that they are looking at “a major restructuring” at Berrow - they are planning to split the pig production with breeding pigs outdoors, then moving them indoors. Neil would be in charge of the outdoor operation, while Hannah oversees the indoor part. This would entail a slight salary reduction for Neil and a small increase for Hannah. What does Neil think? “It sounds a bit like a demotion” says Neil (well spotted, Neil) and he’d like to think it over. Justin says “We’d like to keep you Neil - it’s entirely your choice - the salary is still a good one. If I were you I’d give it some very careful consideration.” Or, to put it another way, you have been warned, Neil.

And now we have evidence that Gavin’s fiancée, Kelly, apparently isn’t the gold-digging money-grabber that we (ok - I) thought. Gavin (Phil’s son) tells his dad that they have decided to tone down their wedding plans and get married in Crete, rather than Bali. This, says Gavin, will save money, especially as Phil and Kirsty are planning a wedding as well.

Phil is grateful, but Kirsty feels a bit guilty (why for God’s sake - Gavin was touching his dad for £20k?) but she keeps quiet. At the end of the week, a distressed Gavin turns up, looking for his dad. Phil does arrive and Gavin tells him and Kirsty that Kelly has thrown him out - he shows Phil the ring that he says Kelly threw on the floor in front of him. “It’s over” he wails, “There’s no way back from this.” 

In a shaky voice, he asks Philip if he can crash at his house for a few days - he has nowhere else to go. Philip tells him to go into the living room while he talks to Kirsty. “I know it’s a big ask…” Phil says, but Kirsty replies “If he’s got nowhere else to go - he’s in a state - his whole world has fallen apart. Tell him to get his bags - of course he can stay with us.”

Now, I hold no brief for Gavin, who could charitably be described as a sponging, inconsiderate parasite (on one of his better days, that is) but are we underestimating his depth of deviousness? Call me a cynic, but I’m wondering whether we are witnessing a cunning plan where Kelly and Gavin are tugging at Phil’s heartstrings (and taking advantage of Kirsty’s guilty feelings) in an attempt to get their Bali wedding back on track (and paid for). Is that too far-fetched? Am I being unfair? Am I over-estimating Gavin’s intelligence? I’d put a limit on how long Gavin can stay, if I were you, Kirsty.

Let’s now talk about Adam, Ian and Xander. The boys - inexplicably - let Kate take Xander to a trial baby yoga session. What are we talking here? Downward facing tot? Would you let Kate alone with your young son? Adam and Ian go to Grey Gables for a swim and lunch and, afterwards, they meet up with Kate. The session, she says, went very well, and the teacher was very good - in fact Kate has booked her for Spiritual Home.

Kate adds that she has also arranged for Xander’s naming ceremony, as she was sure that Adam and Ian wouldn’t get round to it. Adam worries that they could end up chanting mantras and beating drums under a full moon.

Kate hands over a plan which is full of pretentious garbage and, on seeing the look of horror on their faces, she admits that she was pulling their legs and she has a Plan B - a Humanist Celebrant, with a choice of music and the parental vows and promises. Adam and Ian are relieved, but Ian has one stipulation - they will need good food for the post-naming celebration and, much as it hurts Ian to admit it, the best food in the area comes from Hugh at Grey Gables. “So, let’s see what he’s really made of” Ian says.

By the way, we happen to know our own Humanist Naming Celebrant who offers these personalised celebrations.  If you’d like to find out more about them check out your nearest Naming Celebrant here:

Monday, 27 January 2020

Well, I Suppose The Car Needed A Good Run…

John Rowe (Jim Lloyd)

On Tuesday, the three amigos (Jim, Alistair and Jazzer) set off for the frozen north for Harold Jayston’s funeral. Alistair is driving and Jazzer starts quizzing Alistair about his date of birth, likes and dislikes and preferences regarding types of women. Alistair wants to know why he wants to know and Jazzer replies that he is signing Alistair up to a dating App - it’s time he got back in the saddle.

Alistair protests, but we learn later that he was just playing along and trying to pass the time on the long trek north. When they arrive at the inn that Jim has chosen, Jazzer confesses that he was just winding Alistair up and Jim thanks his son for going along with the pretence, as he knew Alistair was trying to protect him from the forthcoming ordeal.

They have a meal and a drink and prepare themselves for the next day’s funeral. On arrival at the church, they are appalled to see vast crowds having turned out for HJ’s interment and a show of flowers akin to the tributes to Princess Diana (OK, I could be accused of exaggeration here). Whatever, it proves too much for Jim and he says that he cannot do this, and could they leave. Jazzer suggests a drink (surely not?) and Jim wants to get well away from the town where HJ dwelt. 

Jim apologises for leading them on a wild goose chase and wants to pay for the drinks - what about the overnight stay, meals, drinks and petrol? - but Alistair won’t hear of it. In the end, the three decide that, rather than waste the whole trip, they will stay another night and go to visit a Roman fort on the morrow. Morning comes and Jazzer and Alistair are complimenting the breakfast when they realise that Jim is missing. They get his room checked out and he is not there - his bed is made and his bag packed, but no Jim.

Cut to the cemetery, where we find Jim surveying HJ’s grave (and, oddly enough, not dancing on it). He is disturbed by a visitor (whom we later learn is called Michael). Michael asks if this is HJ’s grave and, on learning that it is, he says that he has come to spit on it. The pair converse and it turns out that Michael too was abused by HJ in his youth. Furthermore, he has never told anyone (and he has a wife and five children) of his ordeal. Jim urges him to trust his family and says how much his family’s support has meant to him. Jim also gives Michael his contact details and says he can be contacted any time - day or night. To make the weekend complete, when Jim gets in touch with Alistair and Jazzer, he says that he will forgo the Roman fort and can they go straight home, please? As we said at the opening, the car could probably have used a long run. 

Let’s turn to someone who has not featured much recently - step forward Ian Craig, erstwhile chef at Grey Gables, who is on nine months’ paternity leave. Ian is visited by Freddie, who is keeping Ian abreast of happenings at G-G while Ian is looking after son Xander. Freddie tells Ian about the team-building exercise, led by Kate, but Ian is more interested about what stand-in chef Hugh is doing in Ian’s kitchen.

Freddie hands Ian a copy of Hugh’s latest menu and Ian is appalled - Beef Wellington? What is this - 1972? When Adam comes back from work, Ian suggests a night out. Where? How about Grey Gables? The couple turn up and Ian is critical about everything on the menu. “Steak Pie?” he exclaims. “I quite fancy steak pie” Adam says. The evening continues, with Ian continually criticising the food and presentation. “That sauce was so - obvious” he says. When it comes to bill time, Ian says that he should pay, as he asked Adam out, and the Irishman is horrified to see that Hugh has put the meal on the house. “Damn his generosity!” says a frustrated Ian.

Helen is keen for Ian to meet Lee, as she would like her best friend to meet her lover. Ian turns up with Xander and, when Lee arrives, it quickly becomes apparent that the two men have very little in common, apart from affection for Helen. The conversation is awkward and, when Lee has left, Helen asks Ian what went wrong? Ian says that they had little in common, but Lee seems a nice guy and is obviously crazy about Helen.

On the subject of love and romance, we have the ongoing saga of Kirsty and Philip. He proposed, she accepted, but then she began to get stressed over the preparations, especially when her mother started talking about the numbers of relatives that would need to be invited. Phil noticed that Kirsty’s enthusiasm was waning and asked her what was the matter? She told him and he replied that they didn’t have to get married. “But we’ve told everyone now” Kirsty says. 

“So what? What I want is for both of us to be happy.” Philip answers, and he gets down on one knee and un-proposes, asking her if she’d do him the honour of not being his wife? She accepts and feels better and less stressed already. But how will they tell everybody?  Not a problem, Philip says, adding “This is Ambridge, after all.”

A happy ending - you reckon? Kirsty meets up with Helen and tells her that the wedding is off. Helen is horrified - after all Kirsty said about Helen to stop faffing around about Lee, she’s pulling out?

“Men like Philip don’t come along that often” Helen says, and goes on to tell Kirsty that she should live her life for herself and not for what others think. There is reference to the aborted wedding when Tom left Kirsty at the altar and Helen urges her to go ahead; “Don’t let the past spoil your future” she tells her friend. If we fast forward to the end of the week, we find Kirsty and Phil embracing - she has decided that they should, in fact, get married; it wasn’t that she doesn’t love Philip and didn’t want to marry him, but that she couldn’t put up with all the fuss and palaver of the build-up to the ceremony. Why don’t they just slip off on holiday, find a couple of witnesses and return home married? I hope you are listening and learning, Gavin, you parasite.

Elsewhere, you start to wonder about Josh - is he shady or just bloody stupid? Rex meets Toby at Brookfield; Rex is preparing to take his pigs to the abattoir and has given them every luxury that a doomed porker could expect. Toby is worried that the experience might be too much for his brother and, when Rex returns in a foul mood, Toby asks if it went OK with the pigs? Rex’s answer is along the lines of ‘sod the pigs - a farmer said that I had stolen his trailer, which went missing last summer - he recognised it from a dent in the front.’

Toby said that should be easy to confirm - just check the chassis number. Rex thinks he should have thought of that and looks. Where the number should be is a space where an angle grinder has been used to obliterate the number. “I’ll kill him!” shouts Rex, adding: “Josh has got some big explaining to do.” He returns, with Josh having explained that the farmer must have made a mistake. I am worried here, as Rex has already been spoken to by the police with reference to the digger used in the ATM raid , and now he is being accused of theft (the farmer said that he was going to contact the police). Take care, Rex.

A brief digression here - Natasha is worn out travelling to her admin hub (office) in Basingstoke and back to Ambridge every day. She and Tom are having a cocktail mixing experience one evening and she falls asleep. Tom wakes her up and she goes off on one, shouting and ranting that it‘s easy for Tom - his work is on his doorstep. 

Later, she apologises and says that, while she cannot physically move her orchards, she can move the admin to Ambridge and spend more time with Tom. Personally, I fail to recognise any advantage in this, although I suppose it does spare her a twice-daily commute.

Now we come to the main story of the week and, yes, I’m sorry, it’s the saga of The Bull vs. The B@Ambridge. It may not have escaped your notice that this weekend included Burns’ Night and The B@Ambridge has organised a number of events (Burns’ Night Bop’, Burns’ Night supper with addressing the haggis and a quiz) to tempt punters in.

Many of Ambridge residents are very anti the name change and, at the Cider Club on Sunday, Eddie has a light bulb moment when Jazzer wonders whether or not he should pull out of his agreement to play the bagpipes in The Bull. “Oh yes,” says Eddie; “That’ll really show them how people feel.”

Eddie’s idea is to run a rival selection of Burns’ weekend’s events to The B@Ambridge. He manages to poach Jazzer as the piper and The Bull brainstorms ideas to fight back, one of which is to offer a free drink to anybody wearing tartan. Lilian suggests a Scottish-themed male stripper, but Jolene and Fallon put their feet down when Lilian says perhaps Harrison would do it (he used to strip to make money when a student).

The result is an overwhelming victory for Grange Farm over the weekend. The Bull did try to drum up trade by having Roman as a comic Scottish waiter, but this was offset by Tracy negotiating free meals and drinks for her and Roman throughout the evening. When they come to cash up. Jolene, Emma and Fallon are appalled at the size of Tracy’s bar tab and it has been a financial disaster. On the other hand, Eddie remarks to Clarrie that the enterprise has made them a fair wedge. She is worried that Eddie will want to do this every year and warns him that if they take this too far, they could put the pub out of business.

I have a suggestion - put The Bull on the market (I’m sure AmSide could develop it for housing and it would be a nice little nest egg for Kenton, Jolene and Lilian) and, if the anti-name change brigade backs down, then continue to run it as a pub, on the express condition that Eddie Grundy is barred as a customer sine die.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

I Think You’ve Put Your Finger On It, Lilian

Sunny Ormonde (Lilian Bellamy)

The renaming of The Bull (henceforth to be referred to as ‘The B@Ambridge’) appears to be polarising opinions - some of the villagers think it is the thin end of the wedge, barbarians at the gates, what things are coming to… and so on, while many cannot see what all the fuss is about and, frankly, couldn’t give a toss. Lynda Snell is definitely in the former camp, as she tells Lilian when the latter comes into the shop, carrying a poster advertising their Burns’ Night weekend. Among the attractions are haggis and neeps, a Scottish breakfast and (and I predict a less-popular event) Jazzer playing the bagpipes.

With a sniff, Lynda observes that Lilian has put ‘The B@Ambridge’ at the top of the poster - something that Lynda describes as ‘presumptuous’, as she, and, she claims, most other people in the village, are dead set against the idea. For her part, Lilian says she is fed up with all the moaning, but Lynda describes the decision to rename the hostelry as “undemocratic” and tells Lilian that she has started a petition. 

Lilian says that Lynda hardly ever goes to the pub and, if she feels so strongly about the matter, why doesn’t she support the pub with her custom? That should keep the customers away in droves, if you ask me - imagine rocking up at the bar and finding Lynda there. “You haven’t heard the last of this” Lynda tells Lilian, as the latter leaves.

And Lynda is absolutely right, as she later seeks out Lilian to bend her ear. The pub, says Lynda, is the lifeblood of the village, to which Lilian retorts that they are only changing the name, for heaven’s sake, but Lynda is in full flow by now and witters on about how important it is to value history and tradition. Lilian is getting pretty teed off and challenges Lynda to produce the petition. This she doesn’t do, but warns Lilian that she would be surprised at some of the names on it and she might be in danger of losing some of the loyal customers that she says she values so much. She “would be foolish to ignore the petition.”

Lilian has had enough by now and says “You just can’t resist meddling in other people’s affairs, can you?” She goes on to call Lynda “sad and bitter, just because the Christmas show got along perfectly well without you” and that Jim got all the applause. “People like you have been holding back the village for years with your petty regulations and nimby attitudes - we are changing the name whether you like it or not.” Well said Lilian - you are spot on in my opinion, as this week’s blog title suggests.

Talking of the name change, Lilian is a bit apprehensive about informing Peggy of their intention and, when the couple meet, Lilian gabbles on until Peggy says “Lilian, please let me speak.” Peggy goes on to say that she understands that things sometimes have to move on and she’s sure that Lilian, Jolene and Kenton have made what they think is the correct decision. Lilian is somewhat taken aback and tells Peggy that she realises that she should never underestimate her mother. 

Perhaps she shouldn’t underestimate Lynda either - speaking before her run-in with Lynda, and after her conversation with Peggy, Lilian tells Justin what Peggy said. He praised Peggy’s attitude and advised Lilian to stick to her guns; “This issue will disappear” he tells her. Hmm - we can only wait and see.
Over at Greenacres, the builders have returned to work (presumably Jim has been bound hand and foot and locked away). Actually, he wanders the village and, when Shula comes into the shop, he asks if she’d like a coffee at the Tea Room. The pair talk and Jim is unusually sympathetic, asking about Shula’s Ordination process. She admits that she is worried about having to give a presentation to a panel of clerics, but Jim says he is sure that she will cope and Shula replies that it has really helped to talk to him. Jim is reflective, saying: “Confronting one’s fears is sometimes the only way to move on, so if that’s what it takes, so be it.”

Later in the week, Alistair and Jim are talking and Jim warns his son that he is not going to change his mind about going to Harold’s funeral, plus he is looking at B&Bs in the area, as it’s too far for a return day trip. Alistair says that he has no intention of trying to change Jim’s mind, but he suggests that Jim starts looking for accommodation for three people, as he and Jazzer want to accompany Jim on his visit - Jim has had more than enough of facing this situation “So from now on, you’ll have me and Jazzer on your side.” I was expecting arch-pedant Jim to correct him by saying ‘you mean Jazzer and I’ but he is deeply touched, telling his son “You don’t know how much that means to me. I really wasn’t expecting it…I’d really appreciate the company.”

Kirsty was centre stage in a number of last week’s episodes - she wanted her mother to be the first to know about her engagement, but no chance in Ambridge (I wouldn’t be surprised if Philip had spelt it out in Christmas lights) and Kirsty and mother Megan had a cosy lunch at the Orangery. Megan spent most of the meal bad-mouthing Tom, which some might say shows good character judgement.

Before we talk further about Kirsty, we should mention Tom - he heard about Kirsty’s engagement and went round to see her, bearing a congratulatory bottle of champagne. The house is full of cards and flowers and Tom apologises for all he put Kirsty through. “We’re different people now” she tells him and the patronising git says “Don’t ever stop looking after one another”, which is pretty rich, coming from a prospective groom who abandoned his fiancée at the altar.

But back to Kirsty. The builders are in at Greenacres and Alistair asks Kirsty if he can use her and Phil’s bath (no water at Greenacres). He emerges from the en-suite, to find Phil’s son Gavin, hunting through a wardrobe. Gavin’s story is that he had been asked by Philip to look at something on his dad’s laptop and he makes various snide remarks to Kirsty about “your lover boy.” “Naughty, naughty Kirsty” the nasty git continues. Enraged, Kirsty tells him to sling his hook - why didn’t she ask him to give back the key that he used to get into the house? I don’t wish him any harm, but I hope his plans for a wedding in Bali go nads up before money changes hands. Re-reading that, I suppose it could be argued that I do, in fact wish him harm. So be it; the slimy nematode deserves it.

It is time to talk about Kate (he said, with heavy heart). In our last blog, we related how she persuaded (‘bullied’ and ‘conned’ are such pejorative words, aren’t they?) Oliver into booking the entire staff of Grey Gables into Spiritual Home for a team-bonding exercise. The reason is the increasing bad feeling among the staff, caused by the blackjack gambling frenzy in the G-G staff room, which has resulted in sums of money being won and lost and much bad feeling, leading to members of staff refusing to share shifts with certain colleagues.

Ignoring the question ’How do they give all the staff the same day off?’ we arrive at the fateful day. Freddie arrives early and is given a flea in his ear by Kate, who doesn’t want him there because he gave drugs to her daughter Noluthando. Freddie replies that his boss, Oliver, told him he had to be there - Kate says she will take the matter up with Oliver when he arrives, but it turns out that Freddie is required to take part, so he stays.

The others arrive, and the first ones are Lynda and Tracy, arguing about the Bull name change. Others turn up later and there is much bickering. Kate bangs on about how she has identified a lot of negativity at Grey Gables and letting go of this is an integral part of today’s activities. By the way, I feel constrained to warn readers that those who don’t like pretension, jargon and garbage should stop reading now.

Still here? Good for you. The team-building day starts as a disaster and soon gets worse. Everybody is bickering and Freddie remarks to Kate “I reckon you’ve got your work cut out today.” Kate tells the participants about the purpose of today’s team-building; at the end of the day “your energies will have been re-calibrated into an harmonious whole” (I did warn you about pretension).

Everyone is cold, bored, angry and totally pissed-off. It’s time for lunch, which is a wholesome lentil bake with steamed vegetables or salad - just what you need when it’s freezing. Everyone agrees that they have had a totally miserable day and, when Kate reads out the comments that the participants had made about each other (supposedly anonymously) there is a general revolt among the attendees. Some of them mutter about the injuries they have received and Kate is concerned when there are mutterings about suing for these.

In the end, Kate is extremely lucky, when, at the end of the day, Lynda comes to her rescue by saying that Kate has, in fact, been very clever because she has unified the staff by turning them against Kate; yeah, right. The others buy all this guff, but Kate redeems herself by keeping Freddie back after everybody has gone (quickly) home and telling him that she realises that, referring to the incident of Noluthando and the drugs, Nollie was as much to blame as Freddie. Freddie was touched because she’s forgiven him.

Finally, David and Rooooth are on their way to a wedding Fayre, to promote Brookfield as a reception venue. They are delayed when their sheep break out of the field. Having rounded them up and got very muddy, they arrive 40 minutes late and realise that they have left their smart clothes at home. Very few people are visiting their stand, so Rooooth strikes out and accosts a number of people, handing out leaflets.

This leads to a positive result, when, a few days later, Stephanie comes to Brookfield to case the joint for her forthcoming wedding. She falls in love with the barn and says it’s ideal, plus she’s sure that David and Rooooth will give her father a good deal, as he knows them. His name is Vince Casey, of Casey Meats. David is incensed, having been shafted by Vince a while ago. Sorry Stephanie, but yours could be the first wedding reception where the yard has just been liberally sprayed with slurry and where people are seated on piles of cow dung. Bring your wellies, Stephanie.