Michael Lumsden (Alistair Lloyd)
I wonder if we are being prepared for some significant friction at The Stables between Alistair and Shula? Over recent months, Alistair seems to have been away a lot, at conferences and suchlike. Could he be back on the gambling (we haven’t heard much about his weekly Gamblers Anonymous meetings) or might he be having an affair? A case of ‘poker or poke her’ perhaps? We’ll wait and see what (if anything) happens.
It’s been a turbulent week for Shula, as we had the performance of The Messiah at St. Stephen’s. Afterwards, Shula is congratulated by a member of the audience and it turns out to be Richard Locke, sometime doctor in Ambridge and with whom Shula had a torrid affair back in 1998. Even worse; at the time Shula was being pursued by Alistair and Richard was the partner of Usha. How un-Shula-like is that?
Following the performance, Shula tries to tell her husband that she met Richard, but he is always on the way to somewhere, or prattling on about his new surgery, or musing about the bird-watching competition between his father Jim and Robert Snell. Strangely, when he does actually settle down and asks Shula what was it she wanted to talk to him about, she tells him it doesn’t matter.
Alistair is riddled with self-doubt - should he continue to go it alone and carry on with his search for premises for a new vets surgery, or should he give it up and join a larger practice and take on more locum work?
Both Alistair and Shula stay overnight near Sandhurst in order to attend Daniel’s passing-out ceremony and it affects her deeply. “What’s happened to my little boy?” she asks, wistfully. “He’s a man now” Alistair replies helpfully. He certainly is: 2nd Lieutenant Daniel Hebden-Lloyd of the Tank Regiment, to be precise. Dan introduces Shula and Alistair to his Platoon Commander (touchingly calling Alistair ’my father’) and the Commander says they should be very proud of him.
Alistair excuses himself and leaves - we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he’s off to the loo, rather than a card game in the Officers’ Mess - and Dan notices that his mother seems upset, so what’s up? Shula tells him that she has met an old friend (without revealing exactly just how friendly they were) and wonders what might have been. Dan suggests that she can still follow her dream (“Perhaps when I was younger” she replies), to which Dan says she’s not that old and “Come on mum, it’s not all over yet, is it?” This is what we are wondering and perhaps we should note that, having been away from the area for some time, Richard is now a doctor in a practice in Felpersham - just down the road, really.
Elsewhere, it was a busy Easter for Kate, as she offered to do the cooking over the holiday. Jennifer later moans at Brian, saying that he could have at least pretended to enjoy it, as Kate was upset because Phoebe was spending time with Hayley (Phoebe’s no fool, obviously). Jen and Brian are watching the Brownies’ Easter Bonnet parade and she is concerned that he doesn’t want one of Fallon’s Hot Cross buns. Kenton, who is organising the catering at the Pop-Up Bull, asks if he wanted any lamb tagine instead “as you couldn’t get enough of it yesterday.” Oops! Jennifer cannot believe that he snuck off to The Bull after Kate’s meal, although from how Brian describes it, the only surprise is that he didn’t stick his fingers down his throat first.
On Tuesday, Kate is helping to plant strawberries in the polytunnels. Has she turned over a new, helpful leaf? Not exactly, as Adam is paying her for it. I bet he wishes that it was piece-work, as the others are planting twice as many as Kate. This is due to the fact that she talks to each plant as she places it lovingly in the earth and stops just short of singing each one a lullaby and tucking it in. If she had lavished half as much attention on Phoebe, Phoebe might not be closer to Hayley than she is to her natural mum.
Adam tells her to pull her finger out and, when Charlie turns up to talk to him, Kate comes out to chat, until Adam tells her to get back in the polytunnel and please try and plant more than two plants an hour. Charlie takes Adam to lunch at Grey Gables, where Adam gets a phone call from an indignant Kate, angry that he didn’t tell her he was going to Grey Gables. Adam’s response is along the lines of “I don’t have to - I’m the boss, now get back on the strawberries” as he ends the call. Dock her wages, Adam.
At Bridge Farm, the local produce section of the temporary village shop is turning over good business and Helen is quite enjoying herself. Not so Rob, who phones her, asking what’s for dinner and when is she coming home? In a rare show of defiance, she tells Rob to look in the fridge and make something from that and give Henry some fish fingers. As it turns out, Rob’s mushroom stroganoff is inedible. He tries to force feed Henry then Helen says she can’t eat hers either. Rob says he’s sorry that it’s so disgusting “but if you’re never going to be here Helen, what do you expect?” Call me cynical, but what’s the betting that Rob deliberately messed up the meal in order to lay a guilt trip on Helen?
Tony has a hospital check-up and the fracture (what, only one? Call that a trampling?) is healing nicely. Tom keeps leaving brochures about bulls all over the place and trying to get his dad to take the decision to buy one, but Tony is, understandably, reluctant to take the plunge. Tom tells Helen that Tony “has to get back on the bike sometime”, but it’s a bit different: when you fall off a bike, it doesn’t jump up and down on you, crush you against a wall and try to gore you to death.
The Grundys featured prominently this week, with Eddie accompanying Ed to look at tractors for the latter’s embryonic contracting business, but more of this later. Eddie gets a frantic call from a panic-stricken Joe, saying that Caroline has called in the pest control people and “they are gonna murder Daphne”. Daphne is the runaway ferret that escaped after Joe brought her to Grey Gables as she was looking peaky. This latest crisis was precipitated when Susan saw “something furry” scuttling along the skirting board and everyone assumed it was a rat.
The situation became farcical, when Joe is convinced that a chambermaid inadvertently scooped Daphne up with some used sheets and dumped them in her trolley. Eddie and Joe are going through the sheets when Roy comes across them and asks what do they think they are playing at? Eddie comes up with some cock and bull story about looking for a pillow (why not ring Reception, Eddie?) and Roy cuts him short by producing Daphne from his pocket. Joe is over the moon, until Roy says that he can’t keep her at the hotel. Joe protests that Daphne would be safe in his room, but Roy points out that this is obviously not true, as she escaped earlier. In the end Roy suggests that he take Daphne home with him and look after her. The man must be mad.
Back to the tractor-hunting. Ed is looking at a well-used machine, but Eddie only has eyes for a newer, bright green monster which is more expensive. In the end, Eddie persuades him, by saying that Ed will need a powerful tractor when his workload builds up and, it might be more expensive, but he should regard it as an investment. Ed is still unconvinced, reminding himself that he and Emma had agreed never to get into debt again. Eddie says that it’s a tractor - the tool of Ed’s trade - and not a pair of curtains and Emma will understand. That’s as maybe, but I think what is worrying Ed is that he is going to have to explain to his wife-to-be that he has sought - and, even worse, followed - financial and business advice from Eddie, whose track record in these fields is - to put it charitably - less than spectacularly successful.