Monday, 12 November 2018

Ben Archer Speaks!

Ben Norris (Ben Archer)

I must admit that I was beginning to think that Ben Archer was in line to be the new Derek Fletcher or one of the other silent characters, but last week he not only spoke but figured in one of the major storylines.

On Sunday, David tells Rooooth that Brian told him about Ruairi joy riding in the Land Rover on Home Farm land. David is convinced that Ben would have been involved, as the two lads “have been joined at the hip” during the school holidays and David wants to talk to his youngest child. Elizabeth, who is at Brookfield when this conversation takes place says that Ben is lucky to have a father, thus turning the conversation once more to the subject of Freddie.

David confronts Ben and asks him if he ever drove the Land Rover. Ben says “no” and David asks him again. He gets the same answer and David says that he’ll ask Ben one more time and, if he finds out that Ben isn’t telling him the truth, he (David) will be disappointed and angry and will probably circumcise Ben with a rusty spoon. Ben catches the mood at last and admits not only to driving the Land Rover once or twice, but also ‘borrowing’ the Brookfield pick-up. If this were not enough, Ben also says that he and Ruairi filled up the pick-up with diesel. If he is expecting praise for this, he is severely disappointed, as David goes ballistic - what was Ben thinking - driving on public roads (the boys went to a filling station, rather than use Brokkfield‘s fuel), under age and with no insurance?

Something has to be done, David tells Rooooth, but she has sympathy for their son, suggesting that he can clean out the barn (Lynda has phoned and said that their efforts in cleaning said barn weren’t very good and could they look at it again?). Rooooth goes further - why did Ben do what he did? “Because he’s an idiot” replies David (I blame the parents, myself). Rooooth suggests that it is because he has no defined role at Brookfield, so why don’t they find him one? They have been talking about getting a new sheepdog, so why not make Ben responsible for choosing and training one?

Ben has a day off next week, so on Tuesday, he and David set off to visit a breeder in the Pennines. David lets it be known that, as far as he is concerned, he wants to draw a line under the whole joyriding incident and Ben agrees readily. I wanted Ben to say ‘and if you get tired driving, Dad, I can always take over’ but he let me down. When Ben realises that he will be responsible for choosing and training the new dog (he chose Bess) he is grateful for being thought worthy of such a task - training will begin tomorrow.

Over at Ambridge View, Neil is off work with a bad back and is going slowly mad because he cannot find his mobile phone. Susan reveals to Emma that she has taken it and hidden it in the tea towel drawer because she knows he won’t look there, which speaks volumes for Neil’s contribution to household chores. As it is, Susan’s plan is backfiring, as, instead or resting as the doctor said, Neil is roaming the house, looking everywhere for his phone.

It is not just work that is worrying Neil. But Thursday is bell-ringing rehearsal for the Armistice Day service on Sunday and Neil is desperate to go to both. Over Susan’s dead body! (And why not?) But Emma takes pity on her father and suggests he look in the tea towel drawer. Success! The phone is there! “What did you put it in there for?” Susan asks her husband, unblushingly.

Neil’s understudy at Berrow Farm - Hannah - isn’t making a very good job of being in charge; she antagonises Duncan, fining him for being late and he eventually walks out. When he learns about this, Neil is less than happy.

Hannah drags Tom for a drink, moaning about Neil and Duncan. Tom is looking forward to delivering his Nuffield speech at a gala do in Glasgow and he invited Hannah to accompany him, Pat and Tony to the event. Hannah thinks that this could lead to awkward questions from Tom’s parents and she declines. However, in the shop later on, she learns from Tony that it is quite a glitzy affair, with good food and wine. Tony reveals that Pat has bought a new frock “and she tried to get me to wear a dinner jacket, but I wasn’t having that” he chuckles. That’s right Tony; you stick to the smock and the wisp of straw in the mouth, but do clean the Wellingtons.

This gives Hannah food for thought and she seeks out Tom to say that she has changed her mind and quite fancies wearing a posh dress and getting outside some good wines. Tom, however, is reluctant and says that Natasha will be there and, besides, he doesn’t want Pat and Tony to get the wrong idea about him and Hannah. However, Johnny is away for the night, so if Hannah is in the mood for some casual sex… She isn’t, and the whole episode underlines Tom’s insensitivity to their relationship. Natasha visited Bridge Farm to persuade Helen to put in a regular order for her fruit juice and, when having a coffee with Tom, she reveals that she has just broken up with her partner of 10 years and is feeling very down. Tom obviously feels that he is in with a chance now, but to his credit, he doesn’t drop his trousers and say “I can help you there” with his tongue hanging out. Whatever, Hannah doesn’t seem very happy and I reckon Tom has blown his chances there.

Lexi returns to the UK and is greeted enthusiastically by Roy at the airport. He is keen to rekindle their relationship, but Lexi is behaving in a distinctly lukewarm manner and, while he wants to go upstairs, she wants to walk round the village. Not only that, but Roy has really made an effort; cleaning the house and cooking Bulgarian speciality Banitsa. He’s even got a bottle of red to share, but Lexi says that she is too tired and goes to bed alone, leaving the Banitsa untasted and Roy bitterly disappointed and frustrated. Let’s hope we get some rekindling before too long.

Lynda got a taste of her own medicine last week, when she went to see Jim to sort out his role as script supervisor. Jim’s take on his duties is to try to improve the quality of the script and he scandalises Lynda by saying that her script has many good points and “you’ve made a decent stab at it.” He also says that Lynda could have dug a little deeper into the meaning behind Chaucer’s words. Lynda is getting extremely nettled - if there is any patronising to be done concerning her production, she will be the one to do it and she tells Jim in no uncertain terms that, as script supervisor, it is his job only to make sure that the actors keep to her script and that he should learn his lines. It appears that Jim is not to be fobbed off so easily, as we learn later in the week that he turned up for rehearsal with his copy of the script heavily annotated with different-coloured post-it notes and incurred Lynda’s extreme displeasure. Keep it up, Jim!

In paragraph two, I mentioned the fact that Elizabeth keeps bringing the conversation - any conversation - round to the subject of Freddie. Following the Halloween fiasco at Lower Loxley, a number of punters were not happy with the gruesome episode of the Mummy falling out of the treetops and some wanted their money back. In an attempt to smooth things over, Roy noted down some names and addresses, much to Lizzie’s disgust.

Things get worse, as the Echo runs a long article about the subject, dragging in the fact that Freddie Pargetter is inside for dealing drugs and that Lower Loxley has lost its licence to sell alcohol. Shula rings Elizabeth up to forewarn her about the article, but Lizzie doesn’t listen, steamrollering her sister with questions about how Shula got on when she visited Freddie. In vain, Shula mentions the Echo, but Elizabeth goes of at a tangent, suddenly remembering that Freddie suffers from chapped lips and she must get him some lip balm. I wouldn’t bother, Shula; she’ll find out about the article soon enough, so stop banging your head against the brick wall that is your sister’s refusal to listen to anything that doesn’t contain the word ‘Freddie’ at least once in every sentence.

Indeed, Elizabeth does see the article and she cannot understand why they want to link in details of Freddie and the cancelled licence. And it is now that Elizabeth reveals that she has lost the plot completely, when she calls Geraldine in to discuss the situation and it becomes plain that she is blaming Geraldine for everything - why didn’t she investigate the family-friendliness of the actors’ routine? Geraldine says that it was all done in a hurry, because Elizabeth forgot to book the original act. Lizzie ignores this and refers back to the article in the Echo - why didn’t Geraldine know that there were reporters at the Halloween event?

Never mind - Elizabeth has got a solution and tells Geraldine that she has arranged for her to appear on Radio Borsetshire and put Lower Loxley’s case. Geraldine thinks (quite rightly) that this is a spectacularly bad idea and the best thing to do is to draw a line under it all, to which Elizabeth says “You created this mess - it’s up to you to put it right.” Furthermore, Liz has told the producer that Geraldine will be there at four o’clock. Geraldine thinks otherwise and Elizabeth’s reaction is a curt “it was not a request.”

This is all too much for Geraldine, who has kept Lower Loxley functioning almost single-handedly ever since Freddie got sent down. Geraldine brings this fact to Elizabeth’s attention, saying that she has worked late every day and each weekend, trying to keep the place going. Furthermore, Geraldine is owed five weeks’ leave and, although she is required to give one month’s notice to quit, she’d like to leave straight away. “You can’t walk out on me! Come back!” Lizzie cries, as Geraldine walks out of the office.

Well done Elizabeth - you played a blinder there. Geraldine has moved heaven and earth to keep Lower Loxley functioning (plus she is one of the very few people who doesn’t want to slap Elizabeth when she bangs on about Freddie) and you have just alienated her. A bit later on, Elizabeth knocks on Geraldine’s door - she’s come to apologise; she was wrong and she begs Geraldine to reconsider. Geraldine says there is something she’d like. “Anything” says Lizzie, grasping frantically at this straw. “Can I depend on you for a reference?” Geraldine asks, sticking the boot in. Elizabeth pleads with her to stay, saying tearfully “Geraldine, how can I manage without you?” Too little, too late Elizabeth - you should have thought of that before you started bad-mouthing the person who was keeping it all together for you. Good luck going forward.


Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Frightful Family Fun

Bharti Patel (Geraldine)

We haven’t heard much from Ben or Ruairi lately, but they come crashing in this week (literally) when Will catches them doing handbrake turns at Home Farm. He lectures them and threatens to tell their parents but lets them off when they admit they’ve been stupid and won’t do it again. However they’re not deterred and find somewhere else to practice, but to get there they need to drive on the road. They egg each other on and take risks with the speed until they hit something. It turns out to be a badger, so at least David will be pleased when he finds out. Brian’s not pleased though as it all comes out at the shoot where Ruairi is a beater. Ruairi takes the blame and Brian takes his fee to teach him a lesson, asking Will to donate it to a good cause, although the big softy gives it back later when he’s calmed down.

Elizabeth’s sounding very deflated this week. David’s called round to deliver some beef and is complimenting her on how well the preparations for ‘Spookalicious Gardens’ are coming on. She’s feeling low because the new barrister has joined the long list of legal professionals to turn Elizabeth down, not because he doesn’t think there’s a case to be made, but because the deadline has run out. Elizabeth’s going to be using David’s tele-thingy to raise the actors into the tree tops in her Spookalicious production and needs him to check the height. In the end he doesn’t get time but he and Josh reckon it will be tall enough, but there’s no time to rehearse it so the first time it will be used is in front of the crowds. Could Elizabeth be about to add a second inquest to Lower Loxley’s Tally? After all we’re only a couple of months away from the 8thanniversary of Nigel’s death.

We’ve heard precious little from Geraldine since she was hired as Deputy Manager of Lower Loxley four years ago, but she seems to have come in to her own and kept the place going while Elizabeth’s been so preoccupied. Elizabeth really doesn’t have to do anything with the business at the moment so perhaps she should use this as an opportunity to take some time out and concentrate on her mental well being, because at this rate she’s heading for a breakdown. A stern word from David probably won’t cut it. On the other hand should we question why we’re suddenly hearing a lot from Geraldine? Her slogan for Spookalicious is ‘frightful family fun’ which isn’t bad and at least she didn’t say ‘something for everyone’ which would really have got my hackles up, but for the moment I’ll reserve judgement.

By the way, one of the silent characters I thought we’d ‘heard’ the last of has popped up this week. Edgar Titcombe, who was one of Nigel’s old retainers and stayed on to look after the grounds, is a living statue at Spookalicious. I suppose it’s too much to ask for him to suddenly break character and shout ‘BOO’ at a small child?

When it comes to it, it’s not quite inquest-worthy, but in the star attraction ‘Attack of the Mummy’ panic is spread throughout the crowd as the mummy falls 150 feet from the telehandler (probably more like 15 but you know what it’s like at Lower Loxley) and everyone is taken in by the illusion that it’s a real person. There’s not only panic but anger that Elizabeth didn’t know what the actors were going to do and it all kicks off in the car park. Elizabeth seems to think that it won’t be a problem until Kirsty tells her that she should be ashamed of herself, found the whole thing disgusting and promises to take it further.

Hannah and Tom are still at it by the way, and Hannah introduced me to a new saying this week – ‘keep your neb out’. I had to look it up and you’ll be relieved to know that neb is Yorkshire for nose. Tom tries to patch it up with Jazzer and joins him on his run. Jazzer tries to outrun him but Tom keeps up the pace until they both end the run completely exhausted. They talk the rivalry over Hannah through and agree they won’t fall out over her.

Josh has bought a bulk load of bakery waste to supplement the feed at Brookfield at a low cost and Pip’s furious at the thought of feeding a ‘rat’s banquet’ to the dairy herd as it goes against their ethos and could cause acidosis in the cattle. David grudgingly says it makes sense as a way to ease their cash flow but would have liked to have been consulted first. Roooooth works out a solution, which is to feed it to the Hereford’s mixed with straw and some silage, which will leave more of the high-protein silage to feed to the dairy herd. Josh heralds this as a ‘win-win’ while Pip’s take on it is ‘makes the best of a bad job’. I’m with Pip on this, in my book, anyone who uses the phrase ‘win-win’ retrospectively has forced the other party to compromise, has the upper hand and gets their behaviour reinforced. Which as it turns out, is exactly what Josh thinks.

Linda’s holding the first read-through of The Canterbury Tales on location in David’s barn, and the actors are seeing for the first time who else has been cast. Nathan Booth will be playing the blacksmith in The Miller’s Tale and one wonders whether we’ll finally hear him speak, but surprise everyone – the blacksmith is a silent part! Lynda’s not happy, of course, as the barn’s cold, damp and has cobwebs everywhere. What did you expect in a working barn, on a farm in November Lynda? She ropes David in as location manager, whose responsibility seems to be to transform his barn into an approximation of Pinewood Studios.

Someone else who’s not happy is Jim. He’s outraged that the play is written in modern English as he was hoping for some ‘intellectual fibre’. Really? In a Lynda Snell Christmas production? Just wait until he finds out that Roooooth playing Chaucer him/herself.

Finally, Henry’s gone to Lee’s karate class again and seems to be warming to him so much that he shoves another child out of the way in order to help Lee tidy things away. Lee has a gentle word with him about this but Henry gets upset, thinking Lee doesn’t like him just like his Daddy didn’t. If, as I suspect, Helen and Lee become an item, I wonder what Henry will make of that.

Monday, 29 October 2018

The Villagers’ Tale

Tom Gibbons (Johnny Phillips)

Poor Johnny is still under the impression that his housemates are both miserable and arguing all the time. His latest attempts to get them out, this time to Apple Day, are rebuffed – Tom says he’s too busy and Hannah, sensing Johnny’s about to leave the house, starts an argument with Tom over the washing machine to encourage him out sooner. Johnny leaves to go to the apple day celebrations and Tom and Hannah are at it faster than you can say ‘boil wash’. Before Hannah can be impressed by Tom’s large load, Johnny comes back unexpectedly looking for his phone and interrupts them mid cycle. Suddenly all the ‘arguments’ and nocturnal noises make sense. 

Meanwhile at the apple day, Jazzer’s getting advice from Kirsty about how he can hook up with, yes you guessed it, Hannah. Try and have fun together without the pressure of going out, she says. Little does she or Jazzer know that friends-with-benefits is exactly what floats Hannah’s boat. To make matters worse he goes on to tell Tom there’s someone he’s got his eye on, but he won’t tell him who. Johnny does though and Jazzer has it out with Tom accusing him of ‘doing the dirty’ on him and taking advantage of Hannah. 

We may have been a bit off the mark last week when we speculated that A Midsummer Night’s Dream might be the subject of Linda’s Christmas production. One of our loyal readers speculated via Twitter that it might be Hardy (I’m assuming Thomas), but we were both wrong – it’s Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (‘only’ 8 of the Tales, thank god). Lynda wants her play to reflect the villagers lives back to them and says she won’t be holding auditions because she already knows who she wants to cast for which roles. This sounds like it will all go horribly wrong when it dawns of everyone that they’ll be acting out their real lives on stage.

I think Lynda’s on to something because this Jazzer/Hannah/Tom love triangle could be seen as a contemporary interpretation of many of the themes of rivalry in Chaucer’s great work, although whether the events in Ambridge end with the same degree of death and misery wait to be seen (fingers crossed). 

If they do I’m sure Johnny, Helen and Shula would be able to help out as they’re learning Karate. We join their class as the instructor’s helping Helen get into the right position but she’s not comfortable being touched by the instructor, even though he asked if it would be ok. Johnny thinks she should talk to the instructor, Lee, about it and Helen explains that it’s because the last man to touch her was Rob. Next time she see’s Lee it’s for Henry’s training for his red belt and she tells him that Henry’s nervous and thinks he’s going to make a fool of himself. Henry turns out to be fine and Helen’s pleased but she doesn’t say anything about her own issues. However, Lee says he noticed that she wasn’t comfortable but Helen misses the opportunity and passes it off. 

Josh should have been at Karate too, but he’s feeling guilty about facilitating the slaughter of Gran’s hens, so he’s taken her to see a hen-breeder friend for a look around his flock. They have to go through bio security in case they spread Newcastle Disease (I know Roooooth’s a Geordie but that’s a bit over the top) but they’re soon amongst the birds. Jill initially doesn’t know if she actually wants to buy more chickens, but soon seems taken by the Pekins, which apparently make good pets. Josh imagines having Pekins in the orchard while Rosie’s growing up, and Jill agrees to talk to Len, the breeder, about them. However, Josh is so keen to make amends that he goes ahead and buys some Pekins, and some Silkies and has them delivered to the orchard where Bert’s magnificent (by all accounts) chicken coup is now waiting for a predictably tearful Jill.

An arrangement that could definitely get out of hand is the one between Pip and Toby. Pip’s not getting much sleep and is struggling at work, so Toby offers to stay over and sleep on the sofa to help out with Rosie overnight. Pip thinks the sofa will be too uncomfortable and suggests they share the bed – just as mates! This raises eyebrows, especially Rex’s, but Pip assures him the arrangement is just platonic, or chivalric if we’re alluding to Chaucer again.

I don’t think ‘Freddie’s Tale’ was one of Chaucer’s, but you get the idea. The latest is that Jill’s trying to throw him a lifeline by getting Anna Tregorran involved in his case – she thinks she can replicate the success of getting Helen acquitted - and it would appear, after all Elizabeth’s efforts, that Anna is Freddie’s last hope. Elizabeth shouldn’t get her hopes up though, as Anna’s only going to offer an opinion at this stage after she’s read the paperwork. When they do meet up, Anna’s advice isn’t what Elizabeth wants to hear – continuing to pursue Freddie’s appeal will be a waste of her time and money – which doesn’t seem to concern her as she soon finds another barrister in Felpersham who might be willing to take the case. Personally I think the last thing she needs is getting another barrister involved, she’d be better off with a barista – she needs to wake up and smell the coffee!

Johnny’s been to see Freddie and Elizabeth interrogates him about his mood (he’s in Prison Lizzie – he’s not exactly going to be in high spirits is he). Johnny promised that he wouldn’t tell Lizzie the truth, and just keeps replying that he’s fine. After a pep-talk from Pat about how she worried about Helen when she was on remand, Johnny goes back to Elizabeth and tells her that actually, Freddie hates it inside and it’s really getting him down. She tells him the new Barrister is going to look at the case with a view to lodging an appeal and that she thinks there’s hope, but Johnny’s not so sure and is worried about her as he can see that standards at Lower Loxley are slipping and suggests to Pat that Lily should know what’s going on.

Finally back to Lynda’s production. She wants to use David’s barn and yard because the village hall doesn’t have the right atmosphere. She thinks the addition of flaming torches would add to the ambiance, but with the fuel store and hay barn nearby David’s worried that it will end up with a bit too much ambiance. Go on David, she’s already stated that it will be her final production. Why not let it go out with a bang to make sure!

Monday, 22 October 2018

Not Your Finest Hour, Josh

Angus Imrie (Josh Archer)

Ah, the best laid plans and all that… Josh hatches a cunning scheme where he gets Johnny to do the milking at Brookfield so that Josh can go off buying machinery. The story is that, if he is going to take over responsibility for the new dairy herd at Bridge Farm, then Johnny could use all the experience he can get, so Josh lets him take over his milking stints.

So it is that David is somewhat surprised when he comes across Johnny and not Josh milking the cows. Johnny explains that Josh is off chasing machinery and says that it was very good of Josh to give him the extra milking experience. “Oh yes – he’s all heart” David says, sarcastically. When Josh returns, David suggests that he is exploiting Johnny, but Josh argues that he is helping Johnny to become a better stockman. David cuts him short, saying that he isn’t as na├»ve as Johnny “and this never happens again, OK? Never.” David also asks Josh to shut up Jill’s hens for her (she’s staying overnight at Carol’s).

Next day, David confronts Josh, who is proudly working on a newly-acquired tractor, and shows him the corpses of a couple of hens – Josh forgot to lock them up and a fox got in. Three hens were killed and the other three are missing. Not only did Josh forget to lock the hens up, but he never went and checked on them in the morning, or else he would have found the corpses. David is very angry with Josh for letting everyone down.

Jill returns to Brookfield and Josh tells her about the hens and fesses up to his part in the massacre. He apologises abjectly, but Jill takes it quite calmly, saying that maybe he has done her a favour; perhaps it is time for her to call it a day with the hens – after all, she still has her bees. Later on, David knocks on Josh’s door and asks how did things go with Jill – is Josh buying her some replacement hens? Josh tells his dad what Jill said about giving up hens, but David is not convinced – she may be in shock. Whatever, Josh needs to have a good, hard think; how can he help his grandmother get over this?

Josh tracks down Bert, who is mending a fence and Josh says that David asked him to look at it earlier, but he forgot. Bert isn’t fussed (just don’t tell David) and Josh asks that, if he (Josh) got Bert the materials, could he knock up a new hen house for Jill? Josh wants to surprise her. Bert agrees and Josh says he will pay Bert. Wouldn’t it be a hoot if Josh presented Jill with the new hen house and she said ‘I thought I told you I was giving up bloody hens’? Not that you’d ever hear Jill swear, of course.

Bert was in demand last week, as Jill is the next to seek him out. She knows that Bert went to see Elizabeth earlier in the week and how is she coping? The reason that Bert sought out Elizabeth is that he has noticed one or two minor slip-ups in administration and that she looks very tired. Much of the administrative burden has fallen on Geraldine and Bert thinks she is struggling. Lizzie says that Geraldine can cope and Bert persuades her to join him on the treetop walk, as the trees are showing their autumn colours. While out, he tactfully points out one or two places where some tidying up is needed and Lizzie says she will e-mail Geraldine. Once again, Bert suggests that Geraldine has enough on her plate and perhaps she could do with some support? We never know if she gets it.

Anyway, Bert’s answer to Jill’s question about how Lizzie is coping is “not very well; as I told David.” Jill realises that she is being kept in the dark and, later that day, she gatecrashes a family conference, where David, Shula and Kenton have gathered to discuss what they can do for their sister. Jill demands that they stop treating her like a child and tell her exactly what’s been going on. Reluctantly, they tell her of their (so far abortive) attempts to get a solicitor who will handle Freddie’s appeal (only one week left to file it!). David says that they must have rung every lawyer in Borsetshire and nobody will touch it with a bargepole.

Shula took Lizzie to see ‘Desperately seeking Susan’ but it was all too much for Elizabeth, who asked to be taken home. She reveals that Freddie has turned down visits from her and from Lily and she (Elizabeth) is desperately worried about her son “locked up in that place with heaven knows what sort of people.” What? Like drug dealers, do you mean? Tearfully, she says “I’ve got to get him home, Shula – I’ve just got to; whatever it takes.”

Back at the family conference, Shula says that they have to convince Elizabeth to give up on the appeal, but Jill disagrees, saying that they should look at the situation from Lizzie’s point of view, and look with their hearts, not their heads. She explains that what Elizabeth needs now is their unconditional support and the idea of the appeal is the only hope that she has got. “Fighting for Freddie is giving her focus and a tiny bit of hope – let’s not take that away from her.” “But what if she’s wrong?” David asks. “You won’t convince her by logic – what she needs right now is love.” Jill replies. I suggest what she needs right now is an extremely good lawyer with unbounded optimism and who refuses to recognise a nailed-on lost cause when he sees one.

We learned something new about Harrison Burns last week – he is a lover of board games and he and his brother used to play their favourite (Escape from Atlantis)all the time. We learn this when Fallon arrives at The Bull to pick up said game, which they have bought on-line and had delivered there. And there’s more – she and PCB invite Kenton and Jolene over on Thursday evening to play the game. Kenton, who has unhappy memories of playing games with his siblings, is far from keen, but Jolene says that this is another step forward in mending the relationship between the four of them.

As it turns out, it nearly causes the relationship to break up again, as we learn that Jolene is a terrible loser and kept trying to bend the rules. This enraged Harrison, who told her that he wishes she would show the same killer instinct on the cricket pitch. A full-scale row is averted, however, and the two sides are still talking to each other, although I suspect it will be a while before another games night is suggested.

The story of Lynda’s mystery Christmas production trundles on and she tells Robert that the next stage in snaring people into joining the cast involves the two of them going along to the meeting of the Cider Club on Thursday evening. Robert isn’t convinced, but his opposition is swept aside.  At the Cider Club, Jazzer is moaning to Eddie about giving up smoking when there is a knock at the door. It’s the Snells and Jazzer isn’t keen on having Lynda in attendance, whereas Eddie will accept anyone who pays guest rates.

Lynda sympathises with Jazzer, saying that she too was once in thrall to the weed, and Jazzer (no doubt thinking ‘what’s she on about?’) nods and keeps on drinking. Eddie asks about the play (or whatever) and Lynda resorts to the well-used trick of telling them how good they both were in previous productions. As it happens, she is looking for some true rustics this year and, under the influence of lashings of cider and outrageous flattery, they have volunteered. You couldn’t really pay me enough to care, but could ‘rustics’ be a clue? Will we be subjected – sorry, I meant treated – to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or have we had that recently? Just the thing for a Christmas production.

Now here’s a question – how far should we trust Justin Elliott? Lynda and Pat are speaking and Lynda smugly says that she has roped Justin in for her play. Pat says she’s not surprised – his whole life is an act and his urbane charm is just a front; look how he reneged on the Beechwood project and the affordable homes. If it is an act, it certainly worked on the Bridge Farm Archers, as they salted away the £900 k he was offering for a parcel of their land with no qualms whatsoever.

Mind you, you probably don’t get to Justin’s position by being nice. Lilian comes home, determined to have it out with Justin about BL’s proposal for the redevelopment of Home Farm farmhouse. The idea, says Lilian, is stressing out Jennifer and “this is my sister’s home we’re talking about.” Justin reveals that, having examined the proposals, he is of the opinion that they are not financially viable and he has recommended to the Board that they reject them. He stresses that his decision was based on sound business principles, to which Lilian tells him to get round to Home Farm now – never mind about supper – and tell them the news.

Obediently, Justin does just that and tells Brian and Jennifer that BL will not be putting in an offer for the farmhouse, with the caveat that the Board has to agree. The Aldridges are grateful, as Jenny would prefer it to remain a family home. “Family will always come first with me.” Justin tells them, which is not what he told Lilian. Perhaps Pat has a point after all.

Time to talk of Tom’s love life. He returns home to find Hannah and Jazzer in front of the TV, drinking and playing computer games. Hannah saw Jazzer sitting outside the pub (he likes the smell of the smoke) and felt sorry for him. Jazzer wants to play another game, but Hannah says that she has an early start in the morning and we already know that Tom has some weaners coming early in the morning. Somewhat reluctantly, Jazzer goes, saying what a good evening it has been.

Hannah wonders out loud if Jazzer still fancies her, while Tom says that he has heard nothing from Natasha and he wonders if he misread the signals. He also feels that he ended the relationship with Hannah a bit prematurely. She obviously feels the same way (ie horny) and says that she doesn’t really have to be up early. “Me neither” says Tom. “What about the weaners?” Hannah asks. “Jazzer can do them” replies the enlightened employer and they go upstairs. Usually, at this stage, Johnny comes back and wees on the matches, but this time he doesn’t put in an appearance. Where is he? I wondered – after all he does live there as well, but then I realised the truth – Josh has probably got him doing the midnight milking at Brookfield when David isn’t looking.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Get Real, Elizabeth

Alison Dowling (Elizabeth Pargetter)

Someone should take Elizabeth to one side and gently explain to her that her son has been convicted of a fairly serious crime and has been sent away to be punished, and it is not like being given a detention at school for misbehaving. She is fixated on getting an appeal against the sentence, despite being told by a string of lawyers (if that is the correct collective noun - you can supply your own - I suggest a ‘fleece’ or a ‘smarm’) that the sentence was fair and proportionate and Freddie was lucky he didn’t get longer. If a succession of lawyers are turning down the chance to make some money, doesn’t that tell you something about how robust your case is?

On Wednesday Elizabeth travels up to see her son and she does most of the talking, while he says little. That is, until she mentions the appeal and is very upbeat about it. Freddie is less than convinced and thinks the best thing is to keep his head down and do his time. Then Lizzie suggests that he asks to be transferred to the Vulnerable Prisoners Unit and Freddie is horrified - the other inmates assume that all these prisoners are paedophiles and it would not be a good move.

He really has a go at his mother, accusing her of coming up with stupid suggestions and saying that she cannot do anything to help him. Furthermore, if she keeps touting these hare-brained schemes, then she’s better off not visiting him any more; he won’t accept her visits any more, so don’t bother applying. It is a long and lonely homeward journey for Elizabeth and she arrives back in Ambridge in a distressed state seeking out Shula (who has just finished her first karate lesson). “I’ve just made everything a million times worse” Elizabeth tells her sister, tearfully. 

Never mind Elizabeth, things could be worse, and indeed, they swiftly become so, when Brian tells Jenny that he has just been talking to Ruairi on the phone and he told Brian about Noluthando’s ecstasy overdose and that Freddie gave her the drug. How did Ruairi know? He got it from Ben (whom we haven’t heard speak for months, incidentally) and Ben was told by Josh.

Brian and Jenny set off for Lower Loxley and, before long, a full-on slanging match begins, with Brian accusing Freddie of being irresponsible - Noluthando could have died. Elizabeth’s defence - that Nolly was partly to blame because she was told to only take a quarter of a tablet and not the whole thing - cuts little ice. “Freddie’s in a terrible state” she tells Brian and Jenny. “Good. He deserves to be” is Brian’s less-than-sympathetic comment. He then goes further, saying “Thank God this place has lost its licence if things like that were going on.” Elizabeth has had enough, calls them hypocrites and tells them both to get out, “and take your bigoted attitudes with you!” It’s a pity Elizabeth didn’t know about Brian allowing dangerous chemicals to be buried on Home Farm, or she could have accused him of poisoning the river and killing the fish.

Instead, Lizzie shoots off to Brookfield, where she has a real go at Josh for spreading gossip. Josh protests that the news about Freddie’s shady past is all over social media and everybody knows about it. Lizzie says that she’s fed up with her family - nobody is giving her any support. She then breaks down in tears, apologises to Josh for the things she said and tells David that Brian said some terrible things. “I’m so worries about Freddie she says.“ David comforts his sister and asks if there is anything he can do to help?

Funny you should say that, David, as Elizabeth tells him about the negativity she is getting from the lawyers and she has decided to go down the ‘no win, no fee’ route and David could approach some of these firms. Oh, and by the way, she only has two weeks to lodge Freddie’s appeal. Lizzie has obviously forgotten her son’s pronouncement about hare-brained schemes and it seems that David was wishing he had kept his mouth shut, as he replies in an unconvinced voice “I’ll see what I can do.”

Brian is obviously in need of something to do - he is hopping mad with Adam, because the latter sprayed the wheat too early (or something) and the upshot is that it is infested with black grass and will need to be sprayed again and re-drilled, costing a couple of grand. Brian, whose man-management skills were obviously honed at the Genghis Khan school of business, confronts Adam in a field, where Adam is talking to Eddie and accuses him of poor management and incurring unnecessary extra costs and why the hell didn’t he get it right first time? An obviously-embarrassed Eddie makes an excuse and leaves.

Later on, an incensed Adam has a major row with Brian - how dare he criticise Adam in front of paid staff? Furthermore, how hypocritical is it to accuse Adam of incurring costs when Brian’s mistake nearly wrecked the entire business? “You’ve cost Home Farm millions - millions” Adam tells him, adding “And mum is being forced to leave the home that she has poured her heart and soul into for years.” In case Brian hasn’t got the message, Adam tells him “I’m running things now, so maybe you should get a hobby or something - just keep out of my way.”

Elsewhere, Tom tells Hannah that he thinks Natasha quite likes him, but he didn’t push the relationship any further, as he feels uncomfortable about sleeping with Hannah and perhaps they should call a halt to their sexual shenanigans? Hannah, who it would appear would bonk a frog if it stopped hopping long enough, cannot get her head round the morality of this, but she agrees and the two hug. One positive result of this is that Johnny tells Josh a few days later, that Tom and Hannah don’t seem to be arguing any longer (regular readers will remember that Johnny came home unexpectedly and, in order to avoid being caught in flagrante, Tom and Hannah staged a blazing argument.)

Johnny is having moments of self-doubt; the family have given him the responsibility of choosing, and managing, the new dairy herd and he is wondering if he’s up to the job. He confides in Josh, who says that, if Johnny wants to practice milking, he can always help out at Brookfield. Johnny accepts gratefully.

At Grange Farm, Joe and Eddie are concerned about the toilet arrangements for the Cider Club. Basically, there aren’t any, so people are having to make their way to the farmhouse, although many don’t bother and use the yard. What they need is a benefactor, so they go to see Justin and spin him a yarn about how the Cider Club is a valuable local amenity and would he like to give them £1,000 to build a toilet? Justin asks why should he want to provide a toilet for a bunch of boozers, but finally agrees that they can have a portable toilet from a BL site on which work has just finished. The only provisos are that they must collect it and that no-one must ever know who provided it. Lilian spots Joe and Eddie loading the toilet on to a flat bed trailer and demands to know what they are doing with BL property? Eddie assumes (wrongly) that Justin would have confided in Lilian and he exhorts her to keep quiet.

Actually, there is already tension between Lilian and Justin, as she spies a folder, which has various suggestions on how to develop the Home Farm farmhouse, should BL decide to purchase it. Some of the plans - offices, luxury flats - make Lilian hopping mad and she tells Justin that, if he doesn’t vote against these plans, then she will never forgive him, as it would break Jenny’s heart. I find this concept interesting that, if you sell a property, you still want control over what is done with it - surely that’s for listed buildings only? Otherwise, it’s like selling your home and then going round to the new owners and complaining that they have dug up your roses or painted the walls a different colour - if you sell it, then you sell it. And, let’s face it, Home Farm needs the money at the moment.

Someone else who needs money is Christine, who is languishing in hospital after breaking her hip. She has a steady stream of visitors and seems to be getting on very well; in fact, apart from the hip, she’s in the best of health and could be discharged very soon, if only she had somewhere to go. Peggy is adamant that she can return to The Lodge, after certain modifications are made, one of which is installing a ground floor toilet and bathroom.

Peggy’s children, Lilian and Tony, are equally adamant that Peggy will not be able to cope with the added pressure of looking after Christine and are of the opinion that Chris should go into a nursing home for a while - after all, she can afford it. Actually, she can’t, as she lost her savings, and the profit from selling Woodbine Cottage, in the scam operated by Matt Crawford, among others. Only Peggy knows about this - everyone else thinks Chris is sitting on a nice little nest egg.

The Occupational Therapist takes a look at what modifications would be needed at The Lodge and they are extensive. Chris really needs at least 30 days respite care in a nursing home and then see what happens after that. Lilian and Tony have discovered that there is a room available in The Laurels, which is handily local and of a high standard. They talk to Peggy, who reluctantly agrees that this is the best solution, in the short term at least. However, she is determined to pres on with the modifications as, as she tells her children, she might well be grateful for them herself one day.

Unfortunately, The Laurels isn’t cheap and Chris says that she will have to find a cheaper alternative, but Peggy isn’t having any of it - she will pay for Chris. Peggy brushes aside Chris’s protests, saying that, when Chris was scammed, Peggy promised to help Chris if necessary. “I won’t take no for an answer,” Peggy says, adding: “Now it’s time to keep that promise.”

Let’s end with a mystery. Alistair and Jim are coming the closest to bonding that they have ever been and Alistair says that he has re-appraised his finances and would like to stay a bit longer, if that’s OK with Jim? Stay as long as you like Jim replies and then says that Alistair can help him with the crossword. The clue is ‘fellowship got around sleep inducer near monster’s realm’. 12 letters. As far as I know, we were never given the answer - has anyone got any ideas?

Monday, 8 October 2018

“No Need To Panic, But I‘ve Called For An Ambulance”

Lesley Saweard (Christine Barford)

This week’s title is the less-than-reassuring message that Fallon tells Brian when he takes her phone call and she goes on to explain “it’s Christine; she’s had a bad fall.” Actually, it wasn’t so much of a fall as a trip by Hilda Ogden (probably with malice aforethought); Chris was making tea in the kitchen for her and Fallon (they were looking at wedding photos) and Hilda was making a nuisance of herself, wanting to be fed. Chris went base over apex, the ambulance was called and it’s a fair bet that Hilda went hungry.

Fallon spends most of the night at A&E and the next day, when Peggy is visiting, she sings Fallon’s praises to Kenton, saying “that girl’s got a heart of gold; but I don’t have to tell you - she’s your stepdaughter.” Kenton is left feeling uncomfortable - he has condemned PCB for not turning a blind eye to what Kenton describes as a one-off mistake and arresting Freddie, thereby alienating Fallon. Kenton subsequently learned that, far from being a drug dealing virgin, Freddie has been at it for months and was responsible for Noluthando’s ecstasy overdose, as well as supplying the pickers at Home Farm and students at college.

Fallon decides it’s time to leave when she learns that Kenton is at the hospital, but he catches up with her in the car park. He grovels and says he was wrong about Freddie, adding that being caught now has probably saved him from jail - or worse. What does Kenton think a young offenders’ institution is - a holiday camp? He begs Fallon to forgive him and she does. They hug and Kenton says that Peggy was right; “you’ve got a heart of gold.”

Meanwhile, the news of the extent of Freddie’s dealing is leaking out. Josh tells Rooooth that Ellis has been arrested and the story is all over the Internet. Josh tells his mum that Freddie was dealing everywhere and Rooooth can’t take it in. “Would Freddie really be so stupid?” She asks. “Are you serious?” Josh replies, adding: “I’m just surprised he was smart enough to get away with it for so long.”

David is driving Elizabeth to see Freddie (four and a half hours, the sat nav says) and, on the way, she nearly lets slip the fact about Lily and Russ setting up home, just managing to distract David at the last moment as they arrive at the YOI. Honestly, is everybody in the Pargetter family harbouring some dark secret? At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if Nigel turned up suddenly, saying that he’s been living abroad for the past seven and a half years and wasn’t actually dead. David, incidentally, isn’t allowed into the building and, after driving all the way, is told by Lizzie to stay in the car. We weren’t told if she gave him a Tizer and a packet of crisps.

The meeting between mother and son was not a happy one; Elizabeth noticed that Freddie had a black eye, but when she kept going on about it, he told her not to fuss. Elizabeth is badly affected by the visit and, in the car afterwards, she breaks down, sobbing and tells David that Freddie was terrified and how he had been assaulted. She’s going to write to the Governor - Freddie isn’t cut out for this sort of life; he’s sensitive, like his father. No doubt the Governor will offer Freddie the spare room in his house - Elizabeth seems unable to get on top of the fact that Freddie has been sent to the YOI as a punishment and she regards it as checking into a not-very-good hotel and, if you don’t like the room, then complain.

On Friday, she goes to see Usha, leaving David and Kenton in the pub. Kenton fills David in on Freddie’s dealing history and Elizabeth returns, very upset with Usha. Lizzie had gone to see her to discuss appealing Freddie’s sentence, as the judge was biased, but Usha says that, not only was the sentence fair, but Freddie was lucky to get what he did and there are no grounds for appeal. David and Kenton tell their sister that, if there are no grounds for appeal, then the best thing Freddie can do is serve his time “but it doesn’t mean that we’ve turned our backs on him.” Elizabeth is in argumentative mood and she snaps back “that’s exactly what it means - you might have given up on Freddie, but I’m not going to.” Presumably we can expect to see a file-shaped cake being smuggled in, or Elizabeth digging an escape tunnel into the facility.

Moving away from Freddie, I must say that young Hannah is a bit of a goer. On Monday she rings up Tom and tells him that it’s her lunch break “and I’m feeling a bit peckish.” Would Tom like to join her at home for a nibble (and I use the word advisedly)? For someone who is supposedly booked up for months ahead, Tom is able to quickly drop everything, including his clothes. The pair are in bed, when the front door opens and it’s Johnny Gooseberry again, wanting to tell Tom about some cows he is thinking of buying. He wanders around the house, calling Tom’s name, as Tom and Hannah frantically try to find their clothes. They hit on the idea of staging a blazing row, loudly insulting each other’s untidiness. Johnny doesn’t seem to think it odd that a) they are in Hannah’s bedroom and b) that they tell him not to come in. Tom tells Hannah she’d be more at home with her pigs and Johnny says miserably “Come on guys, don’t ruin it - everything was going so well.” Well, it was until you walked in Johnny.

On Thursday, Hannah and Tom are at it again. Jazzer accosts Hannah walking home for another spot of lunch and he feels that she’s a bit off with him, over things he said earlier in the week. “I’ve heard about you and Tom” the Scotsman says. “Heard what?” Hannah asks warily. Jazzer replies that he’s heard about their row and, if she needs any advice on how to deal with Tom, he’s her man. “I’m just going to have it out with him now” she says.

And indeed, she does. Hannah seems strangely keen to get Tom and Natasha together and she asks him how he got on with her after his recent visit. Tom bangs on about her farm and how good it is, but Hannah’s not interested in that. Tom says Natasha is way out of his league and, anyway, he is a romantic disaster area, who left his last girlfriend at the altar. Hannah says why doesn’t he call Natasha and invite her over – what has he got to lose? Tom agrees and reaches for his phone. “Not now,” Hannah tells him indignantly, “When we’ve finished.”

Unfortunately, they have  finished, as the doorbell rings. Hannah peeks out of the bedroom window – it’s Jazzer, standing on the doorstep and carrying a large bunch of flowers. What are they for, she asks and he says that they are an apology for the things he said the other day. He also remarks on the fact that she is clad in a dressing gown. Is she upset with him? Hannah answers “no” but I suspect that she will be if he doesn’t scarper pronto so she can get back to having it out with Tom. Poor Jazzer – he obviously thinks that, if Hannah and Tom are rowing with each other, he is in with a chance with her. As for Hannah and Tom, every time they try to be intimate, someone knocks on the door, or returns home unexpectedly – they’d be better off trying to consummate their relationship on Felpersham station.

There are changes afoot at Borsetshire Land, where two new members have been appointed to the Board. Justin is throwing a party to welcome them aboard and Lynda is keen to get an invite. She asks Brian to ask Jen to ask Lilian to work on Justin. Lilian has a go at Brian for suggesting that Lynda might be invited, as it’s for BL Board members only and selected local dignitaries. We then have the ridiculous situation where all those mentioned above don’t want Lynda to come, but nobody has the guts to tell her to butt out, so she turns up at the party.

She immediately begins flattering Justin and Lilian, saying that their performances in Mother Goose a few years back were the highlight of the show and might they be tempted to step into the limelight once again for her latest production? She won’t tell them what it is, but that she wrote the parts especially for them, adding that this will be her directorial swansong. Lilian seizes eagerly on this and says “Of course we’ll do it, won’t we Justin?” I suppose that, if they were scared to say no to her being at the party, they certainly won’t have the guts to tell her to take a hike and begin her directorial retirement a few months early. Will Lynda retire? Past experience leads me to think that this is highly unlikely. Also at the party, Brian has news for Jenny – one of the new BL directors (Glenda) is a property developer and she is keen for BL to buy the Home Farm farmhouse and turn it into luxury flats. Brian is concerned that Jen will be upset, but she says that it doesn’t matter who buys it or what they have planned – the important thing is to get the best price. “It’s only business” she tells her husband.

I couldn’t let this week’s blog pass without mentioning the Flower & Produce Show (actually I could – only too easily – but I have another 250 words to write). Brian and Peggy’s clandestine information-gathering paid off, as Jenny won the Freda Fry Memorial Cup. Clarrie approached Fallon (one of the judges) and mentioned that Poppy is ever so keen for Nic’s recipe Harvest Pie to win something, even though Clarrie knows this is highly unlikely, as it was just Nic’s way of getting the children to eat up leftover vegetables. Clarrie doesn’t actually bung her a few quid, but it was touch and go.

Afterwards, Clarrie tells Fallon that Poppy was heartbroken that the pie won nothing. Fallon, who has just had an encounter with Kenton, who said nastily “I hope Harrison can sleep at night, because I doubt Freddie can”, snaps at Clarrie. “I can’t make everybody happy” and walks off. However, she soon returns and has made a ‘Special Commendation’ award for the Harvest Pie on an official F&P form for Poppy, who is now over the moon instead of being in floods of tears.

Finally, is there a hint of sexual chemistry between Jim and Lynda? OK, I know it’s unlikely, but bear with me on this. At the F&P show Lynda is admiring Clarrie’s flower arrangement and Clarrie wonders if Lynda is in with a chance with her entries. Lynda modestly plays down her prospects, saying “Having seen Jim’s impressive specimen, I fear I may be up against stiff competition.” Surely a double entendre if ever I’ve heard one!

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Got A Taste For Porridge, Freddie?

Toby Laurence (Freddie Pargetter)

Freddie spends the beginning of the week closeted in his bedroom, seeing nobody and going nowhere. On Sunday, Shula tries to tempt him out for a ride, but he’s not interested, saying that he’s going back upstairs. He also implores Shula not to tell Elizabeth (who is coming over to see her son later) how down and despondent he was on Friday - it was a one-off he tells his aunt, Shula thinks that it would be better to come clean, but eventually reluctantly agrees to keep quiet.

When Elizabeth does turn up, Shula suggests to her that it might do Freddie good to get away from Ambridge for the day - how about Felpersham? “Or even Birmingham” says Lizzie, thoughtfully. When Freddie comes to greet her, she tells him that they are going to Birmingham and they go to the Sea Life Centre. Freddie had forgotten how amazing the place was and there are happy memories of going there as a child, with Lizzie, Nigel and Lily. Where can they go next? Lizzie suggests tenpin bowling and Freddie agrees enthusiastically.

He beats his mother easily and says that he’s starving. Lizzie says that she’s missing Lily, but Freddie is sure that his sister will see sense eventually. “The key thing is to learn from your mistakes - like I’m trying to do” Freddie tells his mother, and she replies that she is so pleased to hear him say that. But enough about Lily, says Freddie; he’s still starving and could murder a burger and a shake - his treat. “After all, there’s no point saving, is there? Live for today and all that!” “Absolutely!” Elizabeth agrees.

We should have mentioned that Freddie finally gave in to Elizabeth’s drip, drip, drip nagging and agreed to go and see Usha and change his statement, admitting that he has dealt drugs before and grassing up Ellis as his supplier. It was, as he tells his mother on the phone, a traumatic experience and he’s still shaking. Ellis, it would seem, has already been dragged in by the police, but we hear no more of what has happened to him. Elizabeth tells Freddie how proud she is of him and they agree to watch some movies together.

On Thursday, he and Elizabeth are in the village shop, choosing films to look at for the evening. Susan, behind the counter, says that she will pay for them, as she’s been in Freddie’s position and knows what he’s going through. “Good luck for tomorrow” she tells Freddie, who seems genuinely touched. “That was kind of her, wasn’t it?” Freddie asks his mother and she agrees. I must admit that the note of surprise in his voice was echoed in my thoughts.

Elizabeth has a surprise for Freddie, as she drives him back to Lower Loxley in defiance of his bail conditions, as she wants him to have one night in his own bed (lucky that Russ has gone to Manchester with Lily). Freddie ends up on the back seat, hidden under a blanket as he is smuggled into the stately pile, calling Elizabeth “amazing” and adding “you’re the best mum in the world!” Wouldn’t it have been a jolly jape if they found PC Burns there, who had just turned up to wish Elizabeth all the best for the sentencing tomorrow? Unfortunately he wasn’t there and Lizzie (and Freddie) got away with it.

There was one moment that I found amusing - when Elizabeth was on the phone to Freddie, she asks him if he has had breakfast. He replies that he has had some porridge and I thought ‘Good, get used to it.’ And, indeed, that turns out to be the case, as, at the Sentencing hearing, the Judge takes a dim view of Freddie’s crime and sentences him to a year in a young offenders’ institution. She also had some harsh things to say, including that the only reason that Freddie dealt drugs was for “self gratification” (presumably if he’d been doing it for pure financial gain, that wouldn’t have been so bad). Furthermore, he was “reckless and uncaring of the consequences for his victims.” “I’m sorry mum, I’m sorry!” shouts Freddie, as he is led away. “I love you Freddie!” Elizabeth shouts back.

Driving back to Lower Loxley with Shula, Elizabeth is blaming herself, telling her sister that she has lost both her children. Shula says that Lily will come round soon (especially when money gets tight, I would suggest) and that Elizabeth will be able to visit Freddie. “I don’t even know where they are taking him!” Lizzie wails, but Shula reassures her that someone will tell her soon - and it’s true that criminals are hardly ever spirited away to serve time in unnamed prisons, nowadays. Not in the UK, anyway.

Shula also points out that Usha reckons that Freddie will be out in six months. “That’s an eternity!” gasps Elizabeth. No it isn’t - listening to one of Bert Fry’s poems, or hearing Tom banging on about, in chronological order, Ready Meals, then fermented foods and, now, the benefits of agro-forestry - that’s an eternity. Lizzie says that Freddie is too soft and he’ll never cope. Don’t worry Liz - give Freddie a month or so and he could well be the leading drugs baron of the institution, coining it in hand over fist.

Elizabeth is in full self-blame mode and tells Shula that she should never have made Freddie tell the police about Ellis. ”I’ve made things worse, haven’t I? Now he’s in prison and it’s all my fault.”

Emma is trying to drum up enthusiasm for an adult karate class and asks Lynda if she might be interested? Lynda declines, as she’s much too busy “which is why I won’t be doing the panto this year.” Oh yes - we’ve heard it all before; our hopes have been raised and then, at the eleventh hour, Lynda reappears like the Demon King and takes charge - you don’t fool us, scriptwriters; not again. 

But perhaps I do the writers an injustice, as Lynda and Robert are in conversation. She has bought a load of books, including a copy of The Silmarillion, to replace the copy destroyed by Lady, the dog. Lynda has a master plan - she tells Robert that Alan is too busy to take charge of the panto, but “Ambridge is crying out for one, last grand production in place of the panto - a production for the ages - one last, artistic statement as producer, director and actor.” What does she have in mind, asks Robert, all agog, only to be told that it’s too early to say, but the first step is to get an invite to Justin’s soiree next week.

That’s all we know, but I can confidently say that, whatever it is, it sounds like the usual load of pretentious twaddle to me and I hate it already. Having said that, I can maybe take comfort from the fact that, in her speech to Robert, Lynda did use the word ‘last’ twice. I live in hope.

Brian and Peggy’s espionage attempts to get secrets from those entering the Flower & Produce show have been scuppered, when Emma realises what they are up to and warns other villagers to watch what they say. Brian tells Peggy that he actually enjoyed the subterfuge and she agrees. He also says that the whole retirement thing is doing his head in and he’s rattling around the house like a spare part. Peggy has previously suggested that she could liquidate an asset or two and pay off Home Farm’s debt, but Brian won’t hear of it - the house sale should bring all their problems to an end.

The ongoing row between Fallon and Kenton over PCB’s arrest of Freddie is still simmering. Harrison goes to The Bull (Kenton is away) and gives Jolene copies of the wedding photos she had ordered. He and Jolene agree that it is down to them to sort out the problem, with Jolene remarking that she’d like to bang their heads together. Harrison suggests that they come over for a meal on Tuesday and they can go through the other wedding photos. He phones Fallon to tell her and she is not best pleased that he didn’t ask her first. “But Kenton’s dead keen to see the photos” he tells his wife, lying through his teeth. Fallon has to end the call to serve a customer and Jolene says that all she has to do now is to convince Kenton. Good luck with that.

The evening arrives and, predictably, it ends in disaster, with Fallon saying (quite innocently) how lucky it was they got a DJ to replace Freddie. She says that she meant that Freddie’s choice of music wasn’t to her taste, but Kenton thinks she is referring to Freddie’s arrest and he goes off on one, storming out of the house and ordering Jolene to follow him, which she does. I wonder how Kenton will react when (and if) he learns that, far from Freddie just making one mistake, he is, in fact, a seasoned drug dealer? Will he seek out Fallon and PCB and apologise abjectly? Will there be a complimentary bottle of champagne to make up for all the harsh words? No, I don’t think so, either.

A couple of weeks ago, we asked ‘Whither Bridge Farm?’ and it seemed a straight choice between a micro dairy herd to ensure top-quality milk for Helen’s cheese, or Tom’s agro-forestry, which will ensure - well, a lot of trees, if we’re honest. So which did they choose? The dairy herd - let’s hear it for Helen! Oh yes, they chose the trees too, which made Tom happy.

He tells Hannah the good news and she says that Johnny is out until the evening, so if Tom fancies a shagfest, she’s up for it. So too is Tom and he suggests getting “a bottle of fizz” to celebrate. I just hope that he doesn’t mean lemonade. The pair are in bed and Hannah asks how he managed to swing the agro-forestry decision and he replies, in his best Machiavellian manner, that, if Helen had voted against it, he’d have vetoed the dairy scheme. Can you believe that two young people of different genders would be in bed together and are talking about bloody trees? Fortunately, this scintillating pillow talk is ended when they hear noises - Johnny has returned early, but they are not discovered. I’m glad Johnny came back, as the conversation might have moved on to Kefir and I don’t think I could have stood the excitement and sexual tension.

Actually, Hannah is definitely her own woman - she and Tom meet in the garden of The Bull and he is keen to have another horizontal conversation about trees. She, however, says that she has a date with Chad - the guy who dropped her last week. Tom is surprised to say the least - what does Chad know about agro-forestry? - but Hannah makes it plain that she likes different people and she can see Chad and she and Tom can still have the occasional casual bonk on a low-key basis (presumably having given Johnny a few quid to go to the movies). Hannah also suggests that Tom pursues Natasha, whom he fancies. Now, that isa good idea - after all, she should be extremely knowledgeable about agro forestry.