Monday, 23 January 2012

Community Spirit

Michael Cochrane (Oliver Sterling)

Ambridge was a village united by adversity last week; metal thieves stole 200m of phone cable, plunging the village back into the dark ages, with no Internet or land lines. Jennifer was distraught, as she might not be able to Skype Nolly on her birthday. Disaster!

Jim and Christine were more community-minded and drew up a rota to check on elderly and vulnerable residents. Chris Carter suggested getting spare mobiles and buying Sim cards so that the same people were not left without a phone. No doubt Jim would give them instructions in Latin.

It was chaos at Grey Gables, with no e-mails coming in and no method of processing credit cards until Oliver saved the day by digging out some old manual card readers. A very-stressed Caroline was pathetically grateful.

Over at Lower Loxley, the phones/Internet were still working and Elizabeth demonstrated her community spirit by offering free coffee in the Orangery for anyone who wanted to bring their laptop along. Good on yer, Lizzie – first you poach Roy from Grey Gables, now you're after their customers. You will be relieved to know that Jennifer went to Lower Loxley to Skype Nolly, so disaster was averted.

There was community spirit of another sort, with people turning up at Home Farm with pitchforks and flaming torches to protest about the mega dairy. OK, I lied about the pitchforks and flaming torches, but the issue is generating a lot of opposition and feelings are running high. Brian and Annabelle visit their PR agency, who suggest an ad in the Echo, underlining the benefits of the scheme and a grass roots PR campaign, getting out and talking to people and with Borsetshire Land possibly sponsoring local events.

Actually, when you think about it, the Echo could be on to a nice little earner here – find out something that's about to happen, run a scare story and ignore the facts, then the company/organisation involved takes advertising to put the record straight. Neat.

So, if you were looking for someone to subtly and tactfully put across your point of view, who would you choose? The correct answer is "not Brian Aldridge" but he thinks this is a job made for him and ventures forth into the village to spread the word (and BL's money). Brian's tactics are as subtle as being beaten with a baseball bat – he'd be better off saying "just say the mega dairy is a good idea and I'll give you lots of money", but he believes he is being cunning. He starts to have doubts when both Jill and Jim give him the cold shoulder.

Brian can't rely on family either; Adam is cornered by a reporter in the street, asking people for their opinions about the mega dairy and he goes off on one about what a terrible idea it is. Tony also speaks to a reporter, telling him that not even members of Brian's own family support the project. Just twist that knife a little more, Tony.

Mind you, Tony has cause to be unhappy, as Tom, the human dynamo, is all over the place, pushing the Tom Archer brand and, when he remembers, mentioning Ambridge Organics occasionally. Laudable as all this effort is, it's keeping Tom away from the farm, which in turn means that poor old Tony is having to do his milking stints as well as his own. Things come to a head on Friday, when Tom turns up too late to do anything and Tony has a go at him because Tom will be in Shrewsbury most of the next week.

Actually, with Tony constantly going on about how cold and tired he is and how all this work is getting him down, I wonder if we are being prepared for another tragedy in the Archer clan? Still, it's an ill wind – Tom would no doubt regard the wake as an opportunity to push Tom Archer sausages and other pork products. It could be a way to try out the pork ready meals en masse.

From pork to lamb and Pip has been working hard, trying to think of ways of marketing Hassett Hills lamb. She is full of ideas, including wanting to market the meat through a 'celebrity lamb', with its own blog, Facebook page and Twitter account. It's the bloody footballing pigs all over again and you can't help hoping that the phone cable thieves strike regularly.

David and Rooooth listen carefully and say how good the ideas are. Having built up Pip's hopes, they then tell her that they are considering the New Zealand system of raising cows. No, I don't know what it is either, but apparently it would involve increasing the size of the herd and getting rid of the lambs as the cows would require extra grazing. Pip is nonplussed (not to mention a tad pissed off after all her hard work) and asks incredulously: "so you're talking about expanding a loss-making sector and getting rid of one that can make a profit?" That's farming for you, Pip – I'd think about going into the scrap metal business if I were you.

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