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.