Graham Blockey (Robert Snell)
Let’s kick off with Robert Snell - not because he’s done anything of significance, but we rarely feature his picture on this blog. As the bird watching contest approaches, tension is mounting between Robert and Jim and, on Wednesday, Carol comes across Jim hiding in a hedge and with his binoculars trained on the Dower House garden.
Robert and Lynda are in the garden and Robert is waxing lyrical about the new telephoto lens that he has just bought for the birdwatch event. Lynda, however, is unimpressed, tartly pointing out that they have about a million more things on which the money could have been better spent. Robert persuades her to look through it and she is impressed with the detail it shows. Suddenly she spots Jim lurking and challenges him. He comes out with some guff about having forgotten that they were still living there, but Carol mischievously suggests that Jim was spying on Robert.
There are sharp words on both sides and, as Jim and Carol leave, he thanks her sarcastically for her tact and, later on in The Bull he says that her intervention “had not been particularly helpful.” For her part, Carol says that she never knew that bird watching was so competitive. Jim protests that he hasn’t got a competitive bone in his body, but spoils this later by saying that the Bull Birders (his team) “have our own secret weapon, should the need arise.”
Back at the Dower House, Lynda is still moaning about the cost of the lens, but Robert comes over all evangelical and animated, saying that Jim has pushed him too far and it’s payback time. Lynda is quite taken with the new, excited, aggressive Robert and says that she is 100% behind him, as she starts breathing heavily - you can almost see the nostrils flaring - and was that the sound of a bodice being ripped?
Moving tactfully away from the Snells, it was a busy week again for Ed. On Sunday he was on his new tractor, putting in fence posts with Rob Titchener. Rob marks Ed’s card, saying that working for the Estate involves a high degree of trust and “if you see something you don’t quite understand, don’t go talking to strangers about it.” Ed replies brightly that Charlie told him much the same thing. “Perhaps the message didn’t sink in?” Rob suggests, leaving Ed perplexed. It appears that Rob is right, as Ed later tells his Granddad about what Rob said (perhaps Rob should have said ‘anybody’ instead of ‘strangers’) and Joe replies that Rob was quite right and Ed has enough to worry about with his forthcoming wedding.
Ed is still procrastinating over asking Will to be his Best Man and he proves again that he is the master of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time when, while discussing the fence posts with Charlie, Ed brings up the subject of the Fairbrother brothers, who wanted to rent Ed’s 50 acres, but who were quoted a prohibitively high price by the Estate. Ed muses out loud on why the Estate put such a high price on the land, to the extent that Charlie is getting a tad annoyed. Belatedly, Ed realises that it isn’t really his business and backs off, apologising for sounding off.
It was Rex who told Ed about the Estate’s offer and Ed asks “what’s it like, working with your brother?” Rex replies that they are different and had their arguments when young “but you grow out of it.” One imagines that this comes as a surprise to Ed and he is presumably even more puzzled when Rex adds that, when he had to give up professional rugby, Toby was there for him at a difficult time. “That’s the point of brothers, isn’t it?” Rex asks Ed. As far as Ed is concerned, the point of having a brother is so you can sleep with his wife, but something obviously sinks in as, on Friday, he bites the bullet, tracks Will down and asks him outright if he’ll be his Best Man.
Unsurprisingly, Will is suspicious (“You’re not serious - this isn’t a wind-up?”) and the two men are edging closer to agreement until Ed lets slip that it would make Clarrie happy. Cue meltdown, as Will says “so you don’t really want me to do it”, to which Ed replies “forget it” before stalking off back to Joe and Eddie. Ed tells his Dad and Granddad that he asked Will. “What did he say?” Eddie asks, all agog. “What do you think?” Ed replies and Joe, for once, comes out with an insightful comment when he says “You boys don’t know when to keep your mouths shut.” But is it all over? The week ends with Eddie asking “do you want him to be your Best Man?” and a confused Ed answering: “No - I don’t know. But he’s my brother, isn’t he?” The Fairbrother effect might just be kicking in.
It appears that the Fairbrother boys are very much the exception when it comes to sibling unity as, in addition to Ed and Will, we have the ill-feeling (on Kenton’s part at least) between Kenton and David. The Bull is slowly dying by degrees, with precious little business and Barry getting on Kenton and Jolene’s nerves by bursting crisp packets - don’t knock it; at least he’s buying crisps - until they tell him to pack it in. Kenton is undergoing a depressing period of introspection and self-flagellation after they have had to let Callum go due to the lack of trade. Kenton also Skyped Meriel and he feels a failure, as he had such plans to set up a fund for her education. “She deserves a proper Dad and not a waste of space like me,” he says, morosely (but possibly rightly).
It gets worse, as he has to grovel to his suppliers for an extra month’s credit extension. Cue a tsunami of self-pity and hand wringing - “I’m 56 years old and still juggling debts like a student. I’m a useless businessman and a useless Dad,” he says in a rare flash of self-awareness, prompting Jolene to say, “What’s happened to your positive attitude?” Ok, maybe he’s positive that he’s a useless businessman and Dad.
Of course, it’s all David’s fault in Kenton’s eyes and, when David goes to see his brother with an offer of help, Kenton throws it back in his face, saying “I know what you’re trying to do David, but there’s no need - I can cope by myself.” As David leaves, Kenton tells him “we can manage, so you’re going to have to find some other way of keeping your lousy conscience quiet.” I’d give up, David - no point keeping on banging your head against a brick wall.
Over at Brookfield, having just got Pip back (new voice and all) she might be off on her travels. The interview for the job of Technical Manager went well (two jobs, 18 applicants) and she is upbeat. She was aided in her preparation by Rob, who gave her his advice on stock management, which can be précised as “it’s not the stock, it’s the people - you’ve got to keep your eye on the bastards.” The company has operations in 15 different countries and she will hear in a few days if she has been selected for a second interview.
What else has been happening? Lilian is feeling the pressure of trying to run AmSide single-handedly, so she does the sensible thing and gets her hair restyled. Everybody agrees that both style and colour are wrong, but nobody tells Lilian.
Tony and Johnny are discussing the new bull - Tony is worried that Johnny might be nervous with him, but Johnny says he’s ok. He suggests that they call the bull ‘Cooper’ after the model of Tony’s model car that Peggy bought him as a 50-odd years too late birthday present. “It’s like a new start, isn’t it Granddad?” Johnny asks, refraining to add “and don’t let this one trample all over you.”
Finally, Jazzer is living at Brookfield and he’s grateful but he can’t hack the veggie food. On Thursday, Helen is making a three lentil bake and Jazzer feigns a heavy date and slips off to The Bull. What hot food is on offer? Steak & kidney pie or cheese pasty. “I’ll have both,” says a ravenous Jazzer, adding that his taste buds have forgotten what they are for. Perhaps Kenton could demonstrate his business acumen by getting Helen to cook for the entire village - The Bull will be beating off hungry customers with sticks.