Sunday, 15 March 2015

Après Le Deluge

Freda Fry

At least it’s stopped raining in Ambridge as the residents count the cost of the flood and begin the long task of clearing up the mess. Some messes are messier than others, as Adam shows Brian his hot tub, which has filled up with slurry and Bert and Freda’s bungalow resembling a cess pit with Freda’s recipe books suffering water damage.

Freda is in hospital with pneumonia and Josh dries out the recipe books as a surprise for her for when she comes out. Except she doesn’t, as on Friday we learn that Freda suffered a massive heart attack and passed away. Bert is, understandably, bereft; the more so as he never got the chance to say goodbye to his wife. What is he to do? He’s staying at Brookfield while the bungalow dries out, but when David and Rooooth leave, he’ll have nobody. Rooooth takes pity on him and tells him that the family is staying put, at which news he is overcome.

Bert is not the only one to be sleeping in a strange bed. Lynda, who is still desolate because there is no sign of Scruff, and Robert are marooned upstairs as their septic tank has backed up. They have no heating and the garden is ruined and Lynda wonders whether or not they should have taken up Caroline’s offer to stay at Grey Gables. No - stay in your sewage-infested, cold house, as you never know if Scruff might come back, although it doesn’t sound that attractive. Lilian to the rescue! She invites Lynda and Robert to stay in the Dower House and Lynda accepts gratefully.

Also on the move are Chris and Jim, who have been put up at the Stables by Shula and Alistair (separate rooms, I trust?), although there is still no mention of Darrell. Adam and Ian are staying at the staff flat at Grey Gables (is nobody a paying guest, I ask myself?) and Ed, Emma, George and Keira prepare to move back in with Neil and Susan at Ambridge View - what a kick in the teeth that must be, especially for Ed.

Ed helps Eddie and Clarrie to remove water-damaged furniture from Keepers Cottage and Clarrie really gives her moaning muscle a good workout when she realises that Eddie never got around to renewing the household contents insurance. Eddie’s remark that he and Ed will soon have the table looking like new is met with Clarrie’s acid comment that, if he hadn’t forgotten to pay the premiums, they could actually have had a new table. Clarrie’s mood is not improved when she later finds that all her photographs of the boys when young are ruined, although I submit that, with Will in them, they were already ruined.

Adversity brings out the Dunkirk spirit among the villagers, with Tom lending David a water bowser and Adam turning up at Brookfield with some much-needed bales of hay. Rooooth practically has an orgasm at this and calls Adam “our saviour”.

Over at The Bull, Fallon is determined that she (with Harrison’s help) will keep the pub open, even though there is a foot of water in the cellar, which could well make the crisps soggy. Sure enough, they open a bar upstairs, called ‘The Flood Bar’ (how do they think up these names?), which is selling mostly bottled beer and sandwiches. Bert is not convinced, but David suggests that the family should go and support the pub for a meal and a drink. It seems that he wasn’t the only one with this idea, as the place is packed and they are lucky to get a seat.

The outpouring of community spirit really gets to Rooooth and she tells David that “It’s all worth fighting for - we’ve got to keep Brookfield going” and “I don’t want to go anywhere else - we belong here at Brookfield; it’s our home.” Talk about changing your tune! Last week we had Pip having a similar Damascene conversion and now Rooooth does a spectacular U-turn. Soon we’ll have Justin Eliot saying that he never really wanted to buy Brookfield in the first place. With everyone not able to leave Brookfield, where does this leave Heather? Rooooth says her mother is not one to make a fuss but her closest friend, Marjorie, has just gone into sheltered accommodation and is enjoying it - maybe Heather might join her? This too is a major change of attitude and, taken with all the other changes, it makes you wonder what we have been worrying about for the past few months.

Beneath this coming together in times of hardship, there is a growing undercurrent of dissatisfaction, if not anger, among the villagers at just how the situation was allowed to happen in the first place. Adam surveys the ruins of some arable fields, where tons of topsoil has been washed away, along with crops. He says that it is down to Borsetshire Land - if they had maintained their ditches properly and made sure there was plenty of organic matter in the soil, it would never have been washed away. Later on, Charlie offers Adam the job of clearing the BL ditches, but Adam declines, saying that he’s got enough on his plate at Home Farm.

Others blame the authorities and criticise their reactions to the floods (precious little). Pat especially is incensed, calling the authorities’ response as “pathetic” and saying to Clarrie “If they had spent proper money, this would never have happened. It’s all so wrong; we’ve put up with it for too long - something must change”.

Adam compliments David on his appearance on local TV one night, when he spoke up for the local farmers and David seems to have been caught up in the mood of unrest, as he tells Rooooth that something needs to be done and suggests they call a meeting and formulate a plan of action. To do what, exactly? March on the local council offices with flaming torches and pitchforks? Dump tons of slurry and dead lambs on their steps? Block the roads with tractors? This isn’t France, you know David.

Once again, Susan demonstrates that she isn’t quite in touch with the prevailing mood, when she tells Pat and Helen how generous it is of Justin Eliot, who has started up an Ambridge Relief fund. As Pat has just blamed what she calls “BL’s scorched earth policy” for precipitating the crisis, Susan is lucky she isn’t dunked in Adam’s slurry-filled hot tub. Susan wonders if Justin might help to get the shop back on its feet - lots of food will have to be junked - while Pat suggests that they could open up temporarily somewhere else, although she doesn’t know where.

Someone else who hasn’t caught the mood - and I’m sure you aren’t going to be surprised by this - is Kate, who tells people that it has just rained a bit - it’s not like people are starving and they should look at the bigger picture. As some of these people have lost nearly everything, or have homes awash with effluent, it is a tribute to their restraint that they don’t investigate whether or not the hot tub could accommodate two bodies, preferably face down.

You have to hand it to Kate - her lack of self-awareness is truly breathtaking. On Thursday, she grabs Phoebe, who is sensibly going somewhere else, and asks her daughter what is she doing on Sunday, which is Mother’s Day. Phoebe casually (and devastatingly) replies that she won’t be around, as she is going to see Hayley and Abbie. Hurt, Kate says “Aren’t you being a bit selfish?” which is pretty rich, coming from her. I would just say that, if Phoebe is being selfish, then she’s a real chip off the old block and also, isn’t there an old saying about pots and kettles?

1 comment:

  1. Talk about signposting Freda's death all over the place. Poor Bert.