Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Bonus Posting - Help Brian Fill The Void

Ever since Debbie used the R-word to her stepfather, Brian has been wandering around, wringing his hands and wondering what to do next. “Without the farm, what am I for?” he asked Jennifer, adding that, at 71, he’s too young to retire. Fortunately, she didn’t reply “beats me”.

The trouble is, of course, that he has no great hobbies to fall back on and he is getting on a bit for his most popular extra-curricular activity, which was bonking everything that moved and quite a lot that didn’t. He’s been ousted as Chairman of Borsetshire Land and now Adam is in effective control of Home Farm. In short, there’s nothing for Brian to do. He even went down The Bull the other evening as his entire family were out doing other things and no doubt he could envisage many more evenings of yawning emptiness stretching before him.

The man needs something to occupy his time – he can’t keep going down the pub, as there’s only so many times a man can bear to hear Kenton banging on about how awful it all is before reaching for the sleeping tablets. What can he do? We need to find him a hobby.

He doesn’t play golf – indeed, we rarely hear him say anything much about any sport. He does shoot a little, but that’s hardly a full-time occupation.

If he wants to stay involved with the farm, perhaps Adam could encourage him to become more hands-on. Brian could take over from Adam, spending long nights in the lambing shed – after all, Adam plans to stop March lambing and have the sheep give birth later, so the nights would be a bit warmer for Brian. If lambing doesn’t appeal, Brian could become part of Adam’s team of fruit pickers – inside work (well, in the polytunnels anyway) and he could start learning Polish, or Romanian or whatever. There may even be some female pickers who might give him the chance to resume his favourite hobby, mentioned in paragraph two.

Should Brian wish to re-engage with the world of commerce, then why not become a volunteer in the village shop? After all, Sabrina Thwaite works there sometimes and you never know… Sadly, Susan works there too and thinks she is in overall charge, and I can’t see Brian taking orders off – or even listening to – Susan, can you?

How about yoga? I’m sure Kate would be only too eager to teach him the basics and help him get his Yin and Yang sorted, or whatever it is she does. She probably wouldn’t charge him that much either. The trouble is that Brian can’t stand more than about 10 seconds of his daughter’s company and you can’t do a lot of yoga in 10 seconds.

He could travel – go and see Debbie in Hungary for instance and try to mess up her life, as he feels she has his. Or he could go and see Matt in Costa Rica or to wherever it is the Producer has consigned him. Or he could throw himself into the activities of the Church – no, I can’t see Brian suddenly becoming a God-botherer, either. Not unless there was a lady vicar, of course.

How about amateur detective? Brian could don his deerstalker and try to find out what has happened to Darrell, who has vanished from the face of the Earth

I am running out of options. Can the man paint? Maybe he should write a book – his autobiography would probably make “50 Shades of Grey” seem like “Noddy Goes to Sea”. On second thoughts, maybe not – I think Jennifer is to be admired for taking on Ruairi (although she knows very well which side her bread is buttered) but even she might get a tad upset reading page after page of her husband’s sexual infidelities over the decades.

Any ideas anybody? I am leaning towards one activity and that is cooking. After all, Brian forked out thousands for the new kitchen, so he might as well get some use out of it. And consider; it’s inside, it’s warm and the corkscrew is nice and handy – what more could a man ask for in his twilight years?

Sunday, 26 July 2015

You Have To Feel Sorry For Brian

Charles Collingwood (Brian Aldridge)

Poor Brian Aldridge - things keep going from bad to worse for him. Consider; the poor sod has Lilian living in his house, which means keeping an eye on the wine cellar 24/7, and daughter Kate just across the way in her cottage, trying to get him to invest in her grand plan for a hippy retreat and generally making a nuisance of herself.

Then there’s Adam who, in Brian’s opinion, has gone mad and seems hell bent on making the farm uneconomic and unviable to run. Brian gets Debbie back from Hungary to knock some sense into him but she hands over her arable responsibility to Adam, effectively putting him in control of Home Farm. An unhappy Brian reminds Adam that he still owns the land and what he says, goes. A couple of weeks ago, Adam threatened to leave Home Farm, but Brian is gambling on the fact that he has nowhere to go to.

Last week, Debbie twisted the knife a little further by telling Adam that he doesn’t realise just how good he is and telling him and Brian that, if Adam were to leave Home Farm, her company in Hungary would snap him up at once. Brian is aghast when he realises she is serious. While Debbie has him on the ropes, she urges him to give Adam his head, saying ominously “Mum would never forgive you if you don’t - and neither would I.” Brian knows when he’s beaten and says, rather ungraciously, “He’s earned the right to fail, I suppose.” Pity Adam wasn’t there to hear this ringing endorsement.

For someone who was only in the UK for a while, Debbie managed to fit a lot in. Kate moans to her that no-one takes her seriously (true) and everyone thinks she’s a complete failure (right again), citing the fact that Brian won’t look at her plans for a Retreat. Debbie urges her to sharpen up her business plan and e-mail it to her - while she (Debbie) has no children to invest in, “I do have a very talented sister and I could perhaps invest in her.” I immediately assumed Debbie was talking about Alice, but when I realised she meant Kate, I was hoping that she would suggest siting the Retreat in Hungary. There’s still a chance, I suppose.

The above conversation came about when Kate told Debbie how lucky she is not to have children. Deb disagrees, saying that she always feels envious when she sees Kate with Phoebe (she must have good eyesight, as Phoebe can’t bear to spend more than ten seconds with her mother). Kate says that there’s still time for Debbie to have children, but Deb says “no - that ship has sailed” and reveals that her inability to be a mother caused a recent relationship to break down.

Having turned the rest of the family’s lives upside down, Debbie has words with Adam on the way to the airport and lets him know that she suspects that he has feelings for Charlie. Adam denies this but his sister is not convinced, although she does back off.

The beginning of the week saw the Ambridge fete, held at Lower Loxley. It is a roaring success and Elizabeth tells Shula that it was a pity that Kenton didn’t sell his hampers there, as he would have made a fortune. Well Lizzie, you gave him the chance, so it’s his own fault. At the fete, Kirsty runs into Tom and the conversation is a bit stilted. Kirsty invites Tom to join her and her boyfriend Gareth as “he’s heard so much about you.” I bet he has. Tom mentions that Helen and Rob are getting married, to which Kirsty observes “let’s hope she makes a better job of getting through the service than you did.” Forgive and forget, eh Kirsty?

The Fairbrother lads seem to be putting down roots at Hollowtree, despite David telling everyone that they are only there as a temporary fix. Josh reveals that they are planning to add quails to their geese business to provide a year-round income and he thinks that quails’ eggs would be a natural fit with his hens’ eggs business. David counsels caution (“they could be the other side of Borsetshire later on in the year”) but Josh says that they really like it where they are. Put the bailiffs on standby, David.

One of the attractions - for Toby Fairbrother, at least - would appear to be Pip. She helps him out and, as a reward for that and for persuading David to rent them the land, he says he’ll order a takeaway curry. There is much flirting and he says that it will be a shame when she goes off to Brazil - they kiss. Watch out Pip - carry on like that and, with Toby’s reputation, you might not be going to Brazil after all.

I think David would be secretly pleased if Pip didn’t go - he tells Josh that Pip will be hard to replace (although the Archers producers didn’t seem to have too much trouble) as he’s working his socks off. Stop her having curries with Toby then and get her back to work. As it is, David has become the new sighmeister of Ambridge, taking the title from Jamie. As an aside, what has happened to Jamie - or Kathy, come to that?

Mind you, Rooooth could give her husband a run for his money in the sighing stakes. She is back up in Prudhoe and, as she tells Usha (who is up north on business for the day), she is feeling guilty because she has had her mother’s house valued behind her back. Even worse, after Heather’s latest fall, all the medical experts have told Rooooth that her mother is incapable of living on her own and even a warden-controlled environment would not be suitable. Nobody has mentioned this to Heather, who is under the impression that, when the current period of interim care is over, she will be heading home. Sorry Heather, not ’home’ but to ’a home’, as Rooooth has already checked out four care homes - something else that adds to her feelings of guilt and anguish. I don’t wish Heather any harm, but I hope that something happens soon to bring this particular story to a conclusion as it’s getting on my nerves.

It looks as though Phoebe and Alex are getting on ok, or so Phoebe tells Jennifer when they are making a cake together. Phoebe says that it doesn’t help when other people (yes Kate, she does mean you) are telling them what to do all the time, so she and Alex have decided to do what they think is right and sod everybody else, although she phrased it more elegantly.

It seems that Ambridge is slowly overcoming the effects of the flood - Kenton has had an architect draw up plans for a refurbished and remodelled Bull, at which he is excited. How can he afford an architect? He and Jolene are having a difference of opinion about getting a new cook - Kenton wants to put an advert in The Echo, while Jolene wants to go through an agency and do it properly. If not, she told Kenton, they might as well just hire Wayne. Don’t even think it Jolene - not even in jest.

Susan is another with plans, as she wants to totally refit the shop and has obviously been reading “Marketing for idiots” as she spouts a load of pretentious guff about colour schemes and customer flow and suchlike. Susan tells Pat and Tom of her plans to have a special section for local produce and they nod wisely and conveniently forget to tell her that they have plans to open their own shop at Bridge Farm, selling their own products.

Jim, who is also having to listen to all Susan‘s grandiose plans, questions her idea to have the milk at the back of the shop as it means a long walk if that’s all you want. Susan argues that this will make them walk pass all the brands on offer and they might be tempted by the variety on offer. Reaching into her book of retailing clich├ęs, she urges Jim to remember that “the eye line is the buy line” For God’s sake, woman, get a grip; it’s a village shop, not Harvey Nichols.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Debbie In The Middle

Tamsin Greig (Debbie Aldridge)

Let’s give Debbie star billing this week, as it looks as if she might not be with us much longer, the way things panned out last week. Jennifer was all a-twitter, rushing round telling the family how great it is that Debbie is coming home. Brian too is looking forward to her visit, but for different reasons - as he tells Jennifer “I need Debbie to knock some sense into Adam.” He has till the end of the week, then Charlie will start looking for a new maize supplier.

Debbie turns up on Tuesday and probably wishes she hadn’t bothered, as Brian and Adam start arguing about the way forward for the farm. Brian takes her to one side and tells her that she should be more furious than he (Debbie is - nominally at least - responsible for the arable side of the farm) and “between us we need to nip this in the bud now.” Later on, as Debbie works with Adam, he lays his eco-friendly philosophy on her. As Brian and Adam squabble, Debbie tells them both to shut up and, before she makes up her mind, she wants to re-acquaint herself with the farm. Only then will she tell them her opinion.

Her decision is revealed on Thursday, and she comes down on Adam’s side. Brian takes it like a man, in that he goes apoplectic, bitches, moans and accuses Debbie of insanity. Hang on Brian - it gets worse, as Debbie reveals that she has been offered a new position in Hungary (which she has decided to accept) and, as such, she has decided to hand over responsibility for the arable to Adam. I think it fair to say that Brian has had better days, as he realises he has been outvoted on his own farm.

To help ease the blow, Debbie takes Brian to one side at the BBQ on Friday and, after he has told her that Adam will wreck the farm, she cites Tony’s position at Bridge Farm, as he’s stepping back to allow the next generation to push forward with their ideas. Brian retorts that he has spent the past 40 years building up the business and he fears for the future of Home Farm. The week ends with Debbie gently pointing out to Brian that he’s 71 and, while he’s achieved so much, maybe now is the time to relax and could it be time he retired?

So that’s Brian written off as yesterday’s man, but going back to the day of the BBQ, much else was happening. It was a grand event for the entire Archer clan (although David, Kenton and Elizabeth didn’t appear to have been invited) and Jennifer’s stress levels were stratospheric. There was a nice interlude when Debbie came face-to-face with Charlie (who was there getting the bad news about the maize contract) for the first time ever. She made pointed references to the fact that he fired her by e-mail, which she told him was “a bit shabby”. Charlie is squirming slightly with embarrassment and he says that he has to leave, at which point, Kate (who has been getting stuck into the wine and champagne and flirting blatantly with Charlie) accuses Debbie of scaring him away.

I for one am glad that the maize saga appears to have reached a conclusion, as it was getting on my nerves. Adam was cheesed off at the beginning of the week when, at the cricket match, all Brian wanted to do was get him on one side and talk about maize. Charlie was there too and the atmosphere was cool. It was made worse when Charlie, batting with Rob, called for a quick run. Rob didn’t move and Charlie was run out. A seething Charlie was not a happy bunny and afterwards (Ambridge won narrowly, thanks largely to Rob’s 108 runs) he appealed to Adam that Rob was wrong not to run. Rob says that it was his call and Adam backs him against Charlie. You might have been in the right, Rob, but getting your boss run out (even if it was his fault) isn’t a smart career move.

Let’s talk about Kate. She moans that everybody thinks she’s useless (spot on) and is desperately trying to get into Phoebe’s good books. If I might digress here, I have had a great idea for a future business for Kate - forget the alternative retreat; why not write a book entitled ‘How not to be a parent - my 1,000 worst gaffes’? Actually, keeping it down to 1,000 might be difficult. This week she has been going on at Phoebe about Alex, asking loads of embarrassing questions and wanting to talk about ‘this precious time’ and giving advice about sexual health and protection. Trying not to vomit, Phoebe says “I’m going away from you” and leaves. Jennifer suggests that Kate is making matters worse and tells her daughter that she has already suggested that Phoebe contacts her GP, or Family Planning.

Kate is incensed and her mood is not improved when Jennifer tells her to see Phoebe as the young woman she is “and not making it about you all the time.” Why is Kate angry? Because she reckons the GP will tell Phoebe to go on The Pill and this will encourage her to sleep around. On Wednesday, Kate, Roy and Phoebe are attending a parent’s evening and it appears that the teachers think that Phoebe is Oxbridge material. Kate immediately tells her that this will mean a lot of commitment and there won’t be much time for boyfriends. Phoebe calls her mother a hypocrite and tells her to go. Kate protests that she doesn’t want Phoebe to make the same mistakes as she did. Phoebe’s reply - “If I do, I won’t run away from them like you did” - is cutting and Kate storms off, saying “OK, go and find Alex - it’s my fault you haven’t slept with him already.” Roy, who has been elsewhere, returns in time to hear this and drives Phoebe home. He tells his daughter that Alex seems like a nice lad and that she shouldn’t be too hard on Kate, as she really cares for her. “It’s hard for her to see her little girl grow up” he adds. It certainly is - especially if you spent most of her childhood on another continent.

At the BBQ, a well-refreshed Kate proves once more that she really isn’t motherhood material, by telling everyone that Jennifer told Phoebe to go on The Pill and doesn’t mind the fact that her granddaughter is having sex under her roof (except she isn’t - Kate put the kibosh on that). Peggy is shocked and asks Jen if that were true? Jennifer, who is getting more and more flustered, snaps back that it isn’t and, anyway, it’s not fair on Phoebe, as it’s a private matter. Jennifer adds that Peggy never gave her a scrap of advice about sex “and that never stopped me.” Peggy says that’s unfair, but it sounds logical to me. “Making sure Phoebe is informed won’t do her any harm” Jennifer says, adding: “Let’s get through the evening without any more quarrels.” Better lock Kate in one of the outhouses in that case.

Kenton continues to alienate his family - Elizabeth rings, offering him the chance to sell his hampers at the forthcoming fete. His response? “Thank you for thinking of us, but we don’t need the crumbs from your table.” Short-sighted ingrate.

Rooooth has been back from Prudhoe for three days and spent much of it wandering round the farm, wringing her hands and saying how she should be here really and how it’s tearing her apart. Midweek, she goes back to Prudhoe and, on Thursday, David gets a weepy phone call from his wife - Heather has fallen again and Rooooth is feeling guilty at getting the house valued behind her mother’s back. David says perhaps it’s time to face facts and to start thinking about a care home? Rooooth replies that it would be like telling Heather to give up and imagine how she (Rooooth) would feel, seeing Jill at Brookfield with her family, while her mother is in a home up north, surrounded by strangers.

David points out that they need to find an option that’s best for everyone. Let’s help them out here and explore the possibilities. Heather could come and live at Brookfield, except she has already rejected that, or Rooooth could go and live permanently in Prudhoe (my preferred option, as long as they take the phone away from her). But there is another option - if seeing Jill at home with her family bothers Rooooth, then the solution is simple - put Heather in a care home in Prudhoe and force Jill to move into The Laurels, thereby evening it up by making both mothers miserable.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Whose Land Is It Anyway?

Andrew Wincott (Adam Macy)

Adam is becoming somewhat Messianic in his campaign to save the Home Farm land from being swept away in the next great flood, or, failing the inundation, being slowly eroded year after year. We have had the herbal ley (with the possibility of more on the horizon) and now Adam has turned his attention to the maize crop. Home Farm grows a lot of maize, mainly for Berrow Farm, and Adam tells Charlie that he is thinking of stopping growing maize - maize is a hungry crop and this is the only way to safeguard the future of the farm; should there be another floodetcetc.

Charlie is aghast, as this would mean Adam reneging on the contract, but eco-hero Adam says The whole system is broken and I want to mend it. Charlie suggests that Adam is in danger of putting his ideals ahead of common sense. This was on Tuesday and, by the end of the week, Adam hasnt mentioned his grand vision to Brian. He tries to set up a meeting on Friday, but Brian has to rush off as he has Charlie wanting to talk to him about something or other - must dash; talk to you later.

As it happens, it is sooner rather than later, as Charlie fills Brian in on Adams dream. Whereas Charlie said that Adam is in danger of putting his ideals ahead of common sense, Brian is apoplectic because he is putting his ideals before profit - maize is a nice little earner. Brian returns to Home Farm and hes looking for Adam. The reasoned, calm debate begins with What the hell do you think youre playing at? Charlies very upset and so am I. Adam points out that the long-term future of the farm is more important than short-term gains. As far as Brian is concerned, he might as well be speaking Mandarin and, as to the future of the farm, Brian will be 72 in November, so as long as the farm lasts another 20-odd years, he should worry.

The rational discussion continues with Brian saying Ive had quite enough of this eco-babble. Adam responds by asking why cant Brian see whats happening to the land - the disaster they are facing? Brian plays his trump card: Whose farm is this? Im the one who owns the land and Im not letting you ruin the business - well keep on growing maize until I say we stop. Its always nice to see a well-reasoned, logical argument to back up a point of view. Brian adds that Adam should give it some careful thought. He obviously does, as, later on Friday, Adam seeks out Brian and Jennifer. He agrees that Brian does own the land and fortunately we dont have to suffer a lecture about how much less land there will be, come the next floodetcetc. However, Adams vision means everything to him - more than his job, even, and, if Brian insists on keeping the maize contract, Ill leave Home Farm and find a job somewhere else. Give the man a pram and some toys to throw out of it - just go along with it for a few years, Adam and increase Brians stress levels, or push him down the stairs, and when the farm is yours and Debbies, you can do all the eco-pioneering you like; as long as she agrees with you, of course.

Lets stay at Home Farm. Jen has noticed that something is amiss with Phoebe, which doesnt take much in the way of deduction. On Sunday, Kate camps outside Phoebes bedroom, wanting to talk to her. Phoebe eventually lets her in and Kate promptly puts her foot in it by saying that she wasnt being narrow-minded or judgemental when she threw Alex out of Phoebes bedroom, but was only doing what any good friend would have done. I must say that if a friend had burst in on me during my first time, he or she would have been off the Christmas card list pretty damn quickly.

Kate tells Phoebe that she is so young, so inexperienced and that she should have talked it over with Kate first. Thats what Im here for sweetheart; to give advice Kate adds. The conversation develops thus:
Phoe (incredulous): Me? Take advice from you about my sex life?
Kate: Who else would you go to?
Phoe: Not you - not someone whos happy to shag anything in trousers.

Phoebe reminds Kate about the Toby Fairbrother episode and Kate suggests that Phoebe is not being fair, but Id say shes spot on, myself. Phoebe adds that, if Kate should ever interfere again in one of her relationships, or breathe a word to anybody about what happened last Friday, she will never speak to Kate again. Mind you, Kate has got a point - when it comes to non-marital sex, there aren’t many people around who are better qualified or experienced.

And this brings us back to Jennifer noticing Phoebes unhappiness and her coolness towards her mother. Jennifer keeps on at Kate to tell her what the problem is and her daughter eventually spills the beans. Jen has a heart-to-heart with Phoebe and tells her about how she fell pregnant with Adam after her first time (now we know where Kate gets it from). Phoebe feels better for talking and buy the end of the week, she and Alex are, in Adam’s words “all loved up.” No doubt Kate will again put her size nines in it before long.

David and Pip go to see the Fairbrother boys’ gosling enterprise at Hollowtree and David’s misgivings are increased when he spots a tent in the yard. Rex explains that it’s there in case they have a late finish and an early start the following day and he sends Pip over to stir Toby up. Pip obviously fancies Toby and she invites them both to the NEC livestock show later that week. Rex is keen, but Toby says he has a prior commitment - circuit training for rugby. When David and Pip go, Rex talks to his brother about Pip, telling Toby not to mess her around and that she is not his usual type. Rex also says “be straight and honest with her - no cover ups.” What is Toby’s dark secret? No doubt all will be revealed. For his part, Toby seems to have an ulterior motive, as he tells Rex that he enjoys hanging out with Pip but let’s face it, Brookfield is about 500 acres and “we need land - I could do a lot worse. I do like her and, if it works out, we could all end up winners.” Perhaps David is right to have doubts.

Shula is despatched by Jill to try and talk some sense into Kenton. Fat chance! The chip on his shoulder has grown even larger, if that were possible, and he tells his twin that he and Jolene are very close to bankruptcy, while the rest of the Archers “are sitting smug and pretty.” Shula says that he cannot blame it all on David. Wrong! David, says Kenton, was always Dad’s favourite (possibly because he was the only one who showed any interest in farming) and now he’s Mum’s little boy too. Shula tells him that he’s talking rubbish and Kenton is amazed - why is he the only one who can see David for what he is - “a spoiled, selfish, devious, greedy little brother?” Why is he the only one? Perhaps because he is a paranoid, twisted obsessive, maybe? Anyway, Shula asks how can he say that? “Because it’s the truth,” he replies, “so why don’t you go back and tell that to Mum?” Way to go, Kenton! Another member of the family antagonised - not many left now.

Over at Bridge Farm, Pat is impressed by Tom and Helen’s plans for the new shop. Rob turns up unexpectedly and starts chuntering on about how much work it would mean for Helen and managing such a project is a big job. Pat says that Helen enjoys multi-tasking and Helen herself points out that Henry will be starting school soon, which will give her more time. Not if Rob’s plans to start a family of their own get off the ground, it won’t. I think that Rob embraces the old-fashioned ‘keep ‘em barefoot and pregnant’ school of thinking.

To finish, let’s go back to Kate and Jennifer and a few moments of deep irony. Demonstrating a truly enormous capacity for self-delusion, Kate moans that “no-one thanks you for trying to be a responsible parent” and “I’ll have to keep trying the best I can for her, even if I don’t get any thanks - who’d be a Mum, eh?”  The episode ends, but I bet Jennifer was thinking “who indeed?”

Monday, 6 July 2015

By The Pricking Of My Thumbs…

Eleanor Bron (Carol Tregorran)

Does anyone else reckon that Carol Tregorran is a witch? We have had vague hints and references over the past few months about her potions and herbal remedies and, last week, we saw what could be her witchery in action.

Jill, amongst others, is worried that Bert seems to have lost his motivation to do any gardening and is generally moping around, feeling sorry for himself. She mentions this to Carol, who wonders if there’s anything that can be done. On Thursday Carol is chatting to Bert in her garden and offers him some seed cake with his cuppa. Bert confesses that he hasn’t noticed the time passing and, when she encourages him to think about getting his own garden in order, he tells her that he is in two minds. However, when talking to David later on, Bert says that, although most of his garden has been destroyed in the flood, the roses are OK and, if they are making an effort, why not him?

Bert also asks David if Jill has a recipe for seed cake as “it’s a marvellous thing for making you think.” Perhaps he’d be better off asking Carol for her recipe - I reckon that there was a lot more than seeds in that cake and let’s hope that Bert doesn’t experience seed cake flashbacks.

The week began with Phoebe’s 17th birthday party at Roy’s place and she is appreciative at the work he has put in to try and make the place clean and respectable. Phoebe’s boyfriend Alex is there and she introduces him to Hayley, who she describes as “my mum”. Kate butts in and is as embarrassing as only she knows how, telling Alex he must call her Kate and generally drinking a lot and trying to act like a teenager. A mortified Phoebe begs Hayley to rescue Alex and she calls him over for some food. When Kate wanders off, Phoebe says “thank heaven she’s gone” and apologises to Alex for her mother’s behaviour. He says that he liked all Phoebe’s family but admits that Kate was a bit OTT - typical British understatement there. But never mind - he and Phoebe have their own party planned for Friday and she says she can’t wait. But more of this later.

Kate picks Adam’s brain about how she should approach Brian to pitch her idea for her Holistic Therapy Centre and he advises her to be well prepared, have all the facts and figures to hand and, whatever his reaction, not to become defensive. Brian starts the week in a pretty foul mood, and it gets progressively worse when Lynda praises him for planting the Herbal Ley and tells him that it will attract wildlife, tourists and bird watchers. He is horrified when she praises him even more for his passionate description of the Herbal Ley as somewhere to graze the sheep and coyly says that, had he shown some of that attitude when she first moved into Ambridge, “our relationship could have been quite different.” We were within an ace of finding out whether a Herbal Ley is improved by a liberal sprinkling of vomit, as Brian is appalled at the idea.

Later on he is on the phone to Debbie, begging her to try and talk some sense into Adam about his plans for later lambing and his mood is not improved when she seems quite relaxed about it, pointing out that Adam is the one responsible for livestock. A distraught Brian is practically on his knees, imploring her to talk to Adam, saying “please do this one thing for me.”

It is against this inauspicious background that Kate tackles her parents about her grand scheme, saying that she wants to talk to them. Brian’s response (“dare I ask why?”) does not bode well, but Kate presses on with presenting her business plan, adding in passing that “Lilian helped me with it”, which does nothing to reassure Brian. To Kate it is all very obvious - all she needs is some land, a barn and some start up cash to buy a few yurts, so how about it? Even Jennifer, who usually tries to see the best in Kate, says it seems “a little unfocussed”. Brian is more forthright, calling it “another of your fantasies - where’s the proper research?” and adding that the margin projections are “wildly optimistic.”

Kate asks why is he always so negative, but Jennifer backs him up, saying that something like she is proposing needs a lot of serious work and “you haven’t got he best track record for sticking at things.” Brian goes even further, saying: “You haven’t got a clue about business and you have zero staying power.” Now in full flow, he tells Kate that for years he has thrown good money after bad and she’s never seen anything through. “This time it’s no, no, no!” he rants. Kate storms out and Brian apologises to Jennifer, but she says that she cannot disagree with what he said. I think that’s a ’no’ then Kate.

Elsewhere, the Fairbrother boys lose no time in turning the land at Hollowtree into their goose farm, helped by Pip, who is always hanging around. Jill is concerned that the goose project will mean that Pip and David are spending less time on their own farm work, but David is not worried about it, as it’s nothing to do with Brookfield. Jill asks sharply whether he has spoken to Rooooth about it but he points out that she has enough to worry about with Heather still being in hospital and Rooooth being stuck up in Prudhoe.

When it comes to the Fairbrothers, Toby appears to have read the same books on business as Kate. On Monday he is away talking to suppliers and trying to find a gas heater. When he turns up, it is in a pick-up (complete with Dukes of Hazzard horn), for which he has traded in his car. On Wednesday, he drives off to Norfolk to buy 100 goslings and returns with 250, much to brother Rex’s exasperation. Look on the bright side Rex - at least he came back with goslings; it might have been camels.

Kenton is feeling even less well-disposed towards his brother and younger sister as The Echo carries a quote from David about the Flood Report on page 1 (and he was interviewed on Radio Borsetshire) and the fact that Elizabeth is allowing the Ambridge fete to be held at Lower Loxley is also prominently featured. In contrast, a story about the hampers that The Bull is offering to customers who want to watch the tennis on the big screen appears halfway down page 13. Surely even Kenton, with his paranoia and twisted sense of injustice, can see that a story about the Council producing an erroneous and slapdash report on a subject that has far-reaching consequences for the entire village and its surroundings deserves greater prominence than a story where a local pub sticks a packet of crisps and a pork pie in a box?

A few weeks ago, we suggested that the reputation of Grey Gables was being undermined by the behaviour of certain of its guests - the Grundys to be exact. Jim takes Chris there to dinner and Roy admits that they have had a few bad reviews recently, including one that talked about ‘permanent guests in the dining room in their pyjamas’. Jim offers to post a positive review - it would be more productive Roy, if you were to make sure Joe Grundy disappears permanently one night - preferably taking Eddie with him.

Charlie isn’t happy to learn that Stefan (the grass about Rob and the blocked culvert) won’t be coming back to Berrow Farm and takes Rob to task for not trying to persuade him to return - as if! Rob asks where this leaves the culvert investigation and Charlie concedes that it looks as if it’s dead in the water. However, this is Ambridge, where a bad deed hardly ever goes unpunished, so we’ll wait and see.

Pat and Tony are back from their holiday and they have made a momentous decision - they will retire and leave the future direction of Bridge Farm to Tom and Helen. As Tom said to Helen: “If this is what happens when they go on holiday, why didn’t we send them years ago?”

Finally, it’s back to Phoebe’s second party on Friday night. Brian, Jennifer and (miraculously) even Kate, give Phoebe, Alex and their friends the run of the house. After the friends have gone, Kate is feeling a bit down and she rings Phoebe, asking her to ring back. She doesn’t, so Kate wanders over to Home Farm, surprised that Phoebe appears to have gone to bed so early. She knocks on Phoebe’s bedroom door and finds her daughter in bed with a naked Alex (playing nude Twister, possibly). “Kate -” begins a startled Alex. To which she replies “Don’t you ‘Kate’ me - get your clothes on and get out - now!” That’s probably the only time that, confronted by a naked man, those words have ever passed Kate’s lips.