Charles Collingwood (Brian Aldridge)
Jennifer and Brian are not adapting well to semi-detached living, especially with Kirsty as a neighbour. Brian comes across Kirsty outside and says “we can’t go on like this” - he apologises for anything he might have said in the past and says can’t they have a truce and a fresh start? Kirsty doesn’t make things easy for him and is a tad sarcastic, but eventually accepts his apology and says “Ok, if you’re willing to try, then so am I.”
This spirit of compromise and cooperation is taken up by Jennifer. Willow Cottage is so small that she can clean it all in about six nano-seconds and so she decides to tackle the garden. The clematis has got out of control and needs a good hacking, but Jenny is handicapped by having blunt shears. Shula, who has been riding past, says that she’ll drop hers in for Jennifer and indeed she does so later (this is Monday). In keeping with the new ‘good neighbour’ policy, Jennifer asks Roy if he’d mind if she tidied up the clematis on his side? He’s all for it, and, armed with Shula’s super-sharp shears, Jennifer sets to with enthusiasm.
Too much enthusiasm, as it turns out, as she cuts neatly through Roy and Kirsty’s telephone wire, thus depriving them (and her and Brian) of both telephone and Internet connections. Jen is distraught and tells Brian “Things were getting better - now look what I’ve done.” While Roy and Kirsty accept that it was an accident, they are far from happy; especially when they learn that an engineer cannot come out until Thursday.
Thursday comes, but the phone man doesn’t, and Brian, who has been waiting in for him, gives up and goes down the pub. In fact, when the week ends, the phone man still hasn’t put in an appearance as far as we know, so the new entente cordiale at Willow Cottage is being sorely tested.
While Brian is at The Bull, he talks to David, telling him that his trial date has been set and he is convinced that the whole village is talking about “my heinous crimes”. David tells him that he’s being paranoid then makes an excuse and nabs Kenton as he is passing, saying that they need to talk.
For David isn’t at the pub to enjoy himself, but is trying to pin his brother down on when Kenton can repay the money that David lent him, as things are getting very tight at Brookfield. Oh and by the way, there was no standing order paid last month. Kenton denies that he has stopped the SO - he has just put it on pause, which is a very fine distinction. Times have been difficult at The Bull too and they have been operating on knife-edge margins, Kenton tells David. Not so tight that Kenton cannot afford to buy expensive vinyl records and new decks, David says, sourly, and says that they need to sort this out, quickly. Kenton suggests that they meet up next week (no day or time is specified) and goes off to serve a customer, leaving David frustrated and still hard up.
If times are hard for the brothers, spare a thought for the youngest of the siblings; Elizabeth. She tells Shula that she hasn’t slept properly since Christmas and she cannot find anything in the kitchen since Lily went back to Manchester - at Elizabeth’s insistence, incidentally. Shula insists that Lizzie rings her GP and she manages to get an appointment with a Locum. Lizzie doesn’t want her sister to go in with her and, when she emerges from the appointment, Elizabeth seems reluctant to talk about it, except to say that the doctor prescribed a short course of sleeping pills. Shula invites Elizabeth to join her at life drawing classes, which she has taken up to replace karate. Elizabeth says ‘thank you, but no thank you’, as it’s not really her scene. I suspect this story (Lizzie’s health, not the life drawing) still has plenty of legs (although I suppose the same could be said about life drawing, thinking about it).
Do you realise that 2019 marks the 50thanniversary of the release of Led Zeppelin’s first album? ‘So what?’ I hear you say. Well (and I am the first to admit that this is a highly contrived and tenuous link) the opening track is entitled ‘Communication Breakdown’ and that is exactly what we had a Home Farm his week (ok, I didsay that it was contrived).
Alice is incredibly excited; her company, Pryce Bauman, is introducing a new, robotic fruit picker and she has arranged that it is trialled on the Home Farm strawberries. Not only that, but the icing on the cake is that Radio Borsetshire wants to interview her (must be an exceptionally slow news week). This could be her big break and she could be in for a bonus, or a promotion, or at least a pound of strawberries.
The interview is recorded and Alice joins Brian to listen to it. She says that there was one awkward moment, when the interviewer mentioned the contamination, but she managed to smooth this over. Brian agrees that she acquitted herself well and, immediately the broadcast is over, Alice receives a text from Adam, saying “we need to talk about the strawberries.”
The meeting takes place on Friday at Chris and Alice’s house and, as well as the two of them, Brian and Adam are in attendance. Alice is full of enthusiasm and cannot stop talking, not noticing that Adam seems to have something to say. Eventually she shuts up and Adam drops his bombshell - the trial of the robotic fruit picker cannot take place at Home Farm, as he has decided that he is not going to grow strawberries any longer. Alice interrupts by saying that the machine will solve any labour problems, but Adam says that his reasons are based purely on economics - competition has brought the prices down and the irrigation system in the polytunnels would need considerable investment, if not replacing.
Alice’s response is “You can’t do this!” and “You must be out of your mind!” and she appeals to Brian. His view is that she should have spoken to Adam, as it is his decision what happens on the farm. Adam says that the first he knew about the machine was when he heard about the radio broadcast. The discussion gets heated, with Adam telling Chris that it has nothing to do with him and Chris telling Adam to be careful how he talks to his wife in his (Chris’s) house. The meeting breaks up and Alice is inconsolable, saying that she has made a complete fool of herself in front of her boss and she is a total and utter failure. Chris consoles her and assures her that she is brilliant, talented and other compliments.
For those of you who were wondering where Toby had got to, he’s back - not only that, but we appear to have the old, inconsiderate Toby on our hands. Pip is annoyed, as she asked him to look after Rosie while she chaired a meeting of her farming innovation club. He got the date wrong and cannot do it, as he has some bottling to do. Pip is less than impressed and goes off to see Rex at Hollowtree. She tells him about his brother’s fecklessness and Rex is sympathetic. He tells her to go to her meeting and he will look after Rosie. Pip is delighted and scoots off.
At Rickyard, he comes across Toby and berates his brother for letting Pip down and for scrounging off her - yes, Toby does put in the occasional night shift, but he eats Pip’s food and does nothing to help clear up. Toby moans about the amount of looking after that Rosie needs and Rex scathingly tells him that it’s time he faced up to his responsibilities. Toby reminds Rex that he (Toby) doesn’t have to be there, as, if Rex remembers, Pip originally wanted to do the baby thing on her own. Pip comes in at this point and Toby says that Rex has been having a go at him. Rex tells Pip that Rosie has a clean nappy and he leaves, with her thanking him profusely.
Toby has definitely reverted to type - he complains about Ben blowing his shepherd’s whistle at all hours and the whistle mysteriously vanishes. Pip spots that Toby has it and asks if he is ever going to grow up - talk about a rhetorical question!
Elsewhere, Kirsty is worried about Philip - he seems to be doing so much, with work and the half marathon - and he looks tired all the time. The two meet and talk and it turns out that he was worried because he is so much older that her. For her part, Kirsty is also insecure; thinking that he might think of her as a loner, obsessed with ideals. The pair reassure each other and declare their love for one another, which is nice.
Brian startles Jen by telling her that he has a plan to stop people talking about him (Jen is upset because she overheard Emma and Lynda gleefully talking about how Brian was going to get his come-uppance at the forthcoming trial). Brian has a plan that will stop such gossip - he’s going to plead not guilty and opt for a trial. The Environment Agency will have to produce their evidence in front of a jury and, who knows, Brian may even be acquitted. Personally, I reckon the EA have got him bang to rights and the Judge is dusting off his black cap, but we‘ll see.
Susan serves Lexi in the shop and cannot help noticing - mostly because she’s a nosey cow - that Lexi has bought decaff coffee, rather than her usual, super-duper, rich, dark roast brand. Later, when she is in The Bull, celebrating with Neil, Ed and Emma the fact that the children have got approval for their mortgage for the affordable house, Susan cannot resist mentioning this to the family, saying: “plus she had that look about her”. In case nobody had grasped what she was talking about, she added “Maybe Roy’s going to be a dad again.”
Miss Marple has nothing to fear from Susan, as the interfering shopkeeper has, yet again, got the wrong end of the stick. At the end of the week, Lexi is at home with Adam and Ian and she reveals that, indeed, she is pregnant - she’s taken two tests and both were positive. This news was welcomed by the two men, who went ever so slightly delirious with much shouting and dancing around and hugs all round. Congratulations to all three of them and we will keep our fingers crossed. However, you cannot help wondering what sort of embarrassing situation Susan will create when she learns of the pregnancy, given that she is congenitally incapable of keeping such news to herself. If she puts one of her big feet in it by congratulating Roy on being the father, I think he should drown her in a vat of kefir, thus doing us - and the whole village, come to that - a tremendous favour.