William Troughton (Tom Archer)
A good question. Ever since Pat and Tony abdicated responsibility for running the farm, handing it over to Tom and Helen, it has drifted from one unsustainable scheme to another. First of all, Tom wanted to get rid of the dairy herd and, after much soul-searching, Pat and Tony gave in and the cows were history. Tom then wanted to introduce a range of organic baby food, but abandoned this idea, as there were already a number on the market.
Instead, he came up with the idea of fermented food, notably Kefir. This was generally regarded as pretty horrible and appears to have been kicked into the long grass. Luckily, the Archers benefited from Justin Elliott’s £900,000 purchase of Bridge Farm land for building and there was much discussion about what to do with the windfall. Actually, it should have been £1 million, but Tom tried to put the squeeze on Justin by saying that a consortium has offered more. This consortium turned out to be a figment of Matt’s imagination and Tom had to crawl back to Justin, who promptly knocked £100,000 off his original offer. Well done Tom!
The plans for the money involved creating an educational centre to keep the public informed about the benefits of organic farming. Also, Helen could run cheese-making courses. These ideas were shelved, because a new building would be expensive and because not that many people wanted to make their own cheese. Apparently, Borsetshire Blue cheese accounts for a large proportion of Bridge Farm’s profit, and so it was a bit of a blow when Ian announced that the quality has been suffering recently and he removed it from the Grey Gables menu.
Helen went through her records and the deterioration in the cheese coincided with selling the dairy herd and buying in milk. The cows that yielded the milk had been given a high level of concentrates and this had affected the quality. The farmer who owns the cows cannot see that something is wrong and Helen is looking for an alternative source of milk - with a distinct lack of success, so far.
Meanwhile Tom consulted a panel of Nuffield farmers and they came up with some novel ideas. One of these is to grow trees (apple is a good choice) in strips and sow other crops between them. Johnny describes this as “not proper farming” and Helen is very anti, telling her brother that it would bankrupt the farm. But fear not, for Helen has come up with a solution, which is (wait for it) to reintroduce dairy cattle and establish their own micro dairy; something that Tom describes as “a big step backwards.”
Tom is upset to find that he is in a minority of one on this one - Pat is leaning towards the idea and Tony is besotted by the idea of a dairy herd back at Bridge Farm. As he tells his son “you can’t blame me - it’s what I know best.” They all agree that the idea will have to be thoroughly costed and Tom offers to help Helen do this - what’s the betting that the scheme will turn out to be unrealistically expensive, according to Tom’s figures? He is also worried about who would do the milking - no problem, as Johnny can do it; the lad’s a natural with stock. Poor Tom is feeling quite isolated, but Pat takes pity and suggests that they could always run a trial of Tom’s agro-forestry.
I just wish that someone would take control and come up with a strategy that will see Bridge Farm prosper and that will create a sustainable future. Let’s be honest; the only thing that has made money for the family recently has been selling land to Justin - perhaps the Archers should sell off parcels of land every now and then and just forget farming?
There was mystery and intrigue over at Jim Lloyd’s gaff, with Jazzer refusing to divulge exactly what he is cooking up for Alistair’s upcoming birthday. ‘Cooking up’ seems an appropriate phrase, as Jim is horrified to see the mess that the Scotsman has made in his kitchen. Even worse - Alistair has had a cancellation and is coming home early, so Jim is tasked with keeping him away from the house. Jim takes his son down The Bull and tells him that Jazzer is thinking of moving out. Even worse, he is contemplating going back to Glasgow. Alistair and Joe Grundy, who is bumming drinks off Jim and Alistair, are sorry to hear this and, when Jazzer turns up at the pub, they tell him so. Jazzer tells them it’s a load of nonsense and he’s going nowhere.
The day of the birthday arrives and we learn that Jazzer’s idea is to have a party with kids’ games, such as pass the parcel. Jim tells Jazzer that Alistair will hate the whole thing, but he is wrong, as Alistair describes the experience as “amazing” and thanks Jazzer for organising such a great party. It probably helps that all the games are drink-related - the pass the parcel contains miniature bottles of whisky - and the ‘fruit punch’ is nearly neat vodka. Jim is in maudlin mood and regrets that he hasn’t been a better father. Alistair tells his dad that he has been a tower of strength recently and Alistair couldn’t have got through it all without Jim’s help.
And now we have an example of just how insensitive Tracy Horrobin is (as if we needed reminding). On Sunday, she turns up at the Stables, looking for Freddie. Lily is there too and she cannot believe it when Tracy says that a mate of hers is holding a party this weekend and does Freddie have any Ecstasy that she can buy? Lily says angrily that Freddie is not dealing any longer, whereupon Tracy asks if he knows of anyone else who could help her. Lily tells her to go and she and her twin talk about how, between them, they have messed up Elizabeth’s life this year. What? Only this year? Lily cannot understand how Freddie is so cool about his situation, but deep down, I reckon Freddie fears the worst - Johnny pays him a visit and suggests that they and a few friends have an evening on the lash. “OK,” Freddie agrees, adding: “I might as well enjoy my last few days of freedom.”
The time is approaching when Lily will be off to Uni and she has packed lots of stuff from Elizabeth’s kitchen. “Just tell me what I’ve got to replace” Lizzie says, good naturedly. From conversations that Lily has with Elizabeth and Phoebe, we learn more of her and Russ’s plans for the future. The flat that they have chosen is some distance away from the campus, and it is also quite expensive. Lily tells her mother that she will be doing evening work to help pay for it and Elizabeth asks why can’t Russ get a job? Lily replies that Russ wants to concentrate on his art - I thought she was supposed to be intelligent?
Lily says that Russ has already given up so much; his job (Russ resigned), his wife and his family. Lily thinks that, because Russ resigned, then the situation about the complaint against him is now resolved and she is taken aback when Lizzie tells her that Usha reckons the police and Social Services will still want to talk to Lily.
Unwisely, Lizzie makes one final effort to persuade her daughter - why doesn’t Lily live in the Hall of Residence, while Russ lives in the flat? She adds that Russ shouldn’t be asking her to do so much. Nice try, but Lily replies that she is a grown woman and she knows what she wants. She continues that she knows Elizabeth doesn’t want them to be together and, when Elizabeth protests that she just wants Lily to be happy, her daughter says: “Russ makes me happy - he’s my future, not you and if you can’t accept that, it’s a good job that we’re leaving tomorrow.” OK, but put all the crockery and utensils back before you leave.
The Flower and Produce show is looming large and Joe takes great delight in telling Jim how Bert and Cecil have fallen out - it seems that someone told Bert that Cecil had been rubbishing Bert’s cabbages. When Jim asks Joe if he had anything to do with this (Jim and Joe had a bet and the falling out means that Jim owes Joe a pint) Joe’s voice is innocence personified as he strenuously denies any involvement. Jim is far from convinced, but gets the drinks anyway.
Brian is being extremely polite to Peggy and he suggests that they go for a stroll. Peggy wants to talk about ways to cheer Jenny up, but Brian takes her to The Bull and they chat to a number of people about the F&P show and what they will be showing. Peggy thinks it rude of Brian to keep looking at his phone, but he explains that he has been taking notes on his phone and the idea is to find out who is entering what categories. That way, they can steer Jenny towards those categories that she stands good chances of winning. “I suppose it’s not really cheating” Peggy says, somewhat doubtfully and Brian agrees, telling her that “it’s good, old-fashioned information gathering.”
Jennifer is depressed because the only offer they have had on the farmhouse was “an insult, not an offer.” Never mind, things could get worse and - right on cue - they do. Jennifer is in the middle of preparing Sunday lunch, when the doorbell rings. It is Tracy, who is taking the kids out for lunch and she thought that this would be a good time to have a viewing of the house. Jennifer is horrified - bad enough that this is a reminder that she is related to the Horrobins through the marriage of daughter Alice to Chris Carter (his mother Susan is Tracy’s sister) but the thought of them traipsing through what is still Jen’s home, almost brings on an attack of the vapours.
In a faint voice, Jennifer tells Tracy that all viewings have to be arranged via the Estate Agent and they vet applicants to see if they are suitable. Tracy thinks that this is a great idea - “You don’t want time wasters” she tells Jenny, as the latter firmly closes the door.
The situation between Fallon and Kenton continues to be fraught, with her adamant that the cricket club end of season party will not take place in The Bull unless and until Kenton apologises. PCB says that he appreciates her sticking up for him, but he would hate to see a family rift developing, as he has had too much experience of these in the past. There was a piece of good news for PCB when he finds support for his actions from an unlikely source - he is talking to Shula in the churchyard and he wonders if he should give up bell ringing in view of the situation. No way, she tells him, and adds that she fully supports Harrison’s action in arresting Freddie - he needed a wake up call and PCB did the right thing. Harrison thanks her and is genuinely touched when he tells her that it means a lot to him. At least that’s one of the Archer clan on your side, Harrison.