Judy Bennett (Shula Hebden Lloyd)
Last week, we speculated whether Alistair might be having an affair (Instability At The Stables) as he’s acting peculiarly, to say the least. This week, it’s Shula’s behaviour that’s under scrutiny, but more of this later.
Last week we also commented on the fact that Ed had spent a lot of money on his new tractor without consulting Emma and she might not be best pleased. Well, she wasn’t, and bends Ed’s ear about how they are supposed to be partners and he could have given her a quick call. A chastened Ed says that, if she isn’t happy, he’ll take the tractor back, but she relents and says “If you’ve done the sums, I’m happy”. What? This is the man who had to sell some of his cows in order to pay his rent arrears - he probably can’t even spell ‘sums’, let alone do them.
Elsewhere, there are signs that Helen is gradually developing a mind of her own, which won’t please Rob. Not only did she work late the other night, but on Monday she tells Rob that she will come with him when he goes to the doctor’s to take the paternity test. He tells her that he doesn’t want her there and he’s very busy and is thinking of postponing the test. Helen counsels against it, saying that there will never be a good time to take the test and she’s coming with him and “no arguments”. Steady on there Helen - you’ll be taking charge of the remote control at this rate.
On the journey to the surgery, Rob is tetchy and morose and, when he talks to the doctor, he makes it clear that he’s only there under protest. The doctor explains that the DNA swab will be sent away and Rob will get a letter within 7-10 days. Who else will get the results? The mother and the Child Maintenance Service, which I reckon will give Rob lots of chances to pull the wool over Helen’s eyes (assuming he is the father, of course). I’d use your embryonic independence to demand that you see the actual letter, Helen - either that or examine his wage slips to see if the CMS are deducting money.
Now let’s discuss a moment of revelatory self-awareness. Susan is working in the temporary shop when Shula and Usha turn up. Rent-a-gob Susan bangs on about how nice it was to see Richard Locke earlier in the week and she suddenly realises that Shula was having an affair with him, while he was supposed to be Usha’s partner. “I should learn to keep my mouth shut” says an embarrassed Susan, but Usha tells her that she spoke to Richard at The Messiah and whatever happened in the past is ancient history.
Apart from the fact that Usha missed out on the chance to really make Susan squirm, let’s talk about Susan’s statement. First of all, she obviously missed out the word ‘big’ and secondly, in the years this blog has been running, I have on more than one occasion suggested that she has the words she uttered tattooed back to front on her forehead and that she walks around carrying a hand mirror. Sometimes it seems that she only opens her mouth to change feet.
Over at Home Farm, Lilian has been absent, having gone down to London to spend time with Leone, James and little Muppet. Lilian was a tad depressed before she made the visit - God alone knows what she must be feeling like after a few days with that trio.
Never mind what she’s feeling like - she certainly looks different when she returns and she tells Jennifer that she has had Botox; James took her to a little place he knows. Be honest, would you trust James’s recommendation on anything at all? He tells his mum that it has taken 20 years off her, but Brian reckons (when Lilian is out of earshot) that it makes her look permanently surprised.
Jennifer begs Brian not to say anything, then Lilian returns, saying that she has been looking in the mirror and she is wondering if she has made a terrible mistake. She wants a man’s opinion - what does Brian think? Jennifer holds her breath, but Brian steps up to the plate and tells Lilian that she looks absolutely stunning, adding “If I wasn’t married to your sister, I’d be right after you”. Lilian is pleased but, when she thinks about it, being pursued by Brian isn’t that much of a compliment, as all you have to be is more or less female and not actually dead.
Clarrie and Eddie are watching Keeper’s Cottage being ripped apart and Eddie is upbeat because the foreman told him that Hazel (who is the owner) told him only to use the highest spec materials in the refurbishment. If Witch Hazel said that, I reckon the Grundys won’t be the tenants for much longer.
As it is, Clarrie is morose, reminding Eddie that they still won’t have any furniture to put in the house. Eddie shows her her sideboard, which has been salvaged and is awaiting restoration. Her mood is not lightened when she sees it, as it is chipped, stained and going rotten. If it were a dog, it would have been put down, but Eddie shows his boundless reserves of optimism, by saying he can fix it. While Eddie is doing his Bob the Builder impression, Clarrie remains far from convinced and I can’t say I blame her.
At the barn dance, everyone seems to be there, including Charlie, Adam and Ian, with the latter unkindly remarking that Charlie won’t be dancing, as he’s on crutches. Almost in passing, we are told that an elegant woman has turned up with her partner and neither Adam nor Ian know who she is and we aren’t told - a story for the future, perhaps? Pip is suffering from dissertation fatigue and gets stuck into the booze at the bar. Things aren’t helped when her ex, Spencer, turns up with a new girlfriend. This seems a mite hard on him as it was Pip who dumped Spencer - what is he supposed to do? Top himself? Emigrate? Become a monk, perhaps?
Let’s talk now about Shula and Alistair. On Monday, Shula visits the temporary village shop at Bridge Farm for some fresh Dill. She’s cooking a special meal for her and Alistair and needs it for her smoked salmon soufflé. The day before, Shula had practically bullied Alistair into having this meal, calling it a new beginning for them, now that Daniel has received his Commission. A clearly-underwhelmed Alistair says that he’ll do his best to be there.
Shula is cooking her soufflé when she hears the front door and calls out, thinking it’s her husband. But no, it’s Jim, looking for his wallet and, in passing, he mentions that he saw Alistair’s car, heading towards Penny Hassett. Shula isn’t very happy and her phone rings. Again, it isn’t Alistair, but ex-lover Richard Locke, who has reappeared on the scene. He says how nice it was to talk to her at the performance of The Messiah the other evening and how about meeting up for a coffee? Shula says she’s cooking and why doesn’t she take his number and ring him back later? She then gets a text and this time it is from Alistair - he’s had an emergency call-out. The soufflé is forgotten, until Jim says “Is that something burning?” Another black mark, Alistair.
Never mind, Alistair has the chance to atone at Friday evening’s Village Meal and barn dance. Shula asks him to dance, but he says he’s absolutely famished and maybe he’ll dance later. Later duly arrives and Shula hunts out Alistair. He tells her that Christine is very tired, so he’s going to drive her home and he is tired as well, so he’ll go home too. An angry Shula says that she’ll find someone else to dance with. And possibly more than dance, as she then rings Richard, apologising for the lateness of the hour and arranging to meet him for coffee on Wednesday afternoon. Meeting up with an old flame could be dangerous - the soufflé might not be the only thing to get burnt.