Sunday, 30 August 2015

How Not To Talk To Your Boss

Charlotte Martin (Susan Carter)

Is there a cork big enough to adequately fill Susan Carter’s gob, I ask myself? Alternatively, how about a machine that gives her a warning electric shock whenever she opens her mouth? On Sunday, Susan is still moaning about Hazel’s plans to turn the shop into apartments and, for some inexplicable reason, Pat thinks that this is an ideal time to tell her about the Archer family’s plans to open a shop at Bridge Farm.

How does Susan take it? How do you think? The gob slips immediately into overdrive as she berates Pat for “taking advantage of the shop, the flood and our friendship. You and Hazel should be ashamed of yourselves - it’s nothing but treachery!” If I were Pat, I too would be angry - angry that Susan thinks their relationship is based on friendship, rather than that of employer/employee. Speaking of which, perhaps Susan should be careful how she speaks to her boss - dairy workers can be replaced, you know.

Not content with upsetting Pat, Susan does her bit for shopkeeper/customer relations when she turns on Peggy. Peg is in the shop and tells Susan that she has spoken to Hazel, but she won’t change her mind and the situation is out of her hands. Cue rant from Susan, who accuses Peggy of pulling the strings and “stabbing the village in the back, just so your family can benefit.” Peggy is distraught, saying “you can’t believe that” and Lynda, who is also working in the shop, is appalled and apologises to Peggy. “Don’t apologise to her - she should apologise to all the volunteers” is Susan’s reasoned response. Later on, Lynda goes to the Lodge to apologise again, but Peggy says that it’s not Lynda that should be apologising and is that really how little Susan thinks of her after all these years? Well done Susan - another lifelong customer lost.

Pip went with Toby to pitch the Fairbrothers’ geese to Reedles. The manager was frosty, but the chef was enthusiastic. “We make a great team,” Toby tells Pip and invites her for a drink that night. She actually goes - I thought she had more sense and taste - and Charlie is there. A discussion ensues - Charlie says that her new job is a great opportunity and will broaden her experience and knowledge. On the other hand, Toby says that intensive farming is not the way forward and Pip would be better off staying at Brookfield and working with him and Toby in building up their business. He also suggests that, with Pip away, Josh might make a bid to take over at Brookfield. Finally, the arrogant sod says that he can’t understand how she can leave when she’s only just getting to know him. And I thought that Tom (in his incarnation as sausage king and Ready Meals tycoon) was as big-headed as you can get.

Tuesday comes and Pip prepares to depart. The tearfulness and trembly voices is fantastic - such depth of emotion has not been seen since Captain Scott left for the South Pole - and Pip drives off into the sunset. She does point out to Mum and Dad that she’s only going to High Wycombe and she’ll be back on Friday anyway, plus there is the family meal on Monday. Sure enough, Pip returns early on Friday and tells David that the job isn’t what she thought it was (she had meetings and presentations) and that the foreign travel wouldn‘t be till next year. What was she expecting? A seat on the board? A company yacht? An apartment in Monte Carlo?

“I want my future to be at Brookfield” she says and an apprehensive David asks if this has anything to do with Toby? “No way” Pip says - I hope to God she means it. “Do I still have a job here?” Pip asks and, when David says “of course”, she says “Good, because I’ve resigned.” Well, you certainly gave that a fair crack of the whip, Pip - by my reckoning you were there for around 60 hours. Actually, what would she have done if David had said “afraid there’s no job for you Pip - we’ve got the relief milker in now” or “of course you have a job - early morning milking and here’s a toothbrush so you can clean out the slurry tank.”

Rob is keeping himself busy. On Sunday, Ambridge are playing Darrington at cricket and Rob is getting involved in some serious sledging with his opponents. Charlie counsels caution and to stay disciplined. Rob retorts that he knows what he’s doing and the only reason that Charlie is in the team is because Adam asked him “and why would that be?” he adds, nastily. Anyway, Rob gets caught, Ambridge lose the match and Rob is in a foul mood, refusing to go to the pub afterwards and telling Helen: “I out-batted everyone - I’m sick of it being down to me all the time.” Poor diddums!

On Tuesday Rob takes Helen’s place at the meeting with the interior designer for the new shop and it seems that he persuades Tom to consider a more contemporary design than the one that he and Helen originally favoured. Amazingly, Tom tells Pat that having Rob at the meeting was very helpful. In fact, Pat is rapidly turning into Rob’s greatest fan and, at the end of the week, she tells Helen that she’s sorry if she’s been hard on him in the past and “he makes a fantastic addition to the family.” Call me a suspicious old cynic if you like, but I regard this as a sure sign that something is going to go spectacularly tits up in the near future.

On Thursday, Rob asked Pat if she could have Henry for the night, as he wants to cook Helen a special meal to thank her for standing by him. Helen comes home, laden down with parcels, most of which is stuff for when Henry starts school. However, she has bought herself a dress for the opera and, by all accounts, it is stunning. Rob tells her to put it on and do her hair and proceeds to ply her with wine throughout the evening. He becomes increasingly passionate (why did she bother to put the dress on?) and drags her to the sofa. She wants to go upstairs, but Rob can’t wait, telling her that he loves her and “all we need now is a baby of our own.” “Absolutely,” Helen replies, adding; “One day”.

We are spared further details, thank heaven, but the next day, Helen is distinctly unhappy and we don’t know why. Even at the opera, and wearing her new dress, she is miserable. We can only speculate on the cause (I can’t believe her explanation, which is that she’s hungover) and I reckon it’s because she and Rob had unprotected sex and she’s worried because she’s not ready for another baby just yet. We’ll have to wait and see.

Elsewhere, it helped if you could speak Italian last week, with Jim and Lynda dropping into the language at the slightest opportunity. In fact, Charlie goes to the shop and Lynda insists on explaining the plot of Cosi Fan Tutte to him. “Can I just have my newspaper?” he asks, exasperatedly.

Jill is at Lower Loxley, choosing a room, with Carol helping. It has a fantastic view and its own sitting room, but Jill is not happy “What use am I going to be?” she asks, adding that she’s not cut out to be lady of the manor.” Don’t worry Jill - I’m sure Elizabeth can find you a place in the kitchens, or a similar job. At least Jill has lost a lot of the optimism that Kenton will attend the family feast on Bank Holiday Monday and that everything will be hunky dory afterwards.

Talking of Kenton, his descent into alcohol-fuelled depression gathers apace. Jim and Lynda are in the pub, discussing how they can rally round the shop and Kenton loses it, saying “some of us have much deeper problems, but is anyone rallying round us?” and he goes off to open a bottle of whisky, telling Jolene that Jim and Lynda want sandwiches and she can get them.

And to show that it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good, Fallon receives notice to quit her flat and confides in PC Burns that, the way things are, she couldn’t bear to move back to The Bull. Quick as a flash, PCB suggests that they get a place together and she agrees. Jolene is delighted but Kenton’s response is a monotone “good for you”. He talks to PCB about the family rift and PCB reveals that he hasn’t seen his brother for years after a row and he really regrets it. Adds PCB: “Take my advice - it’s easy to lose your family, but very hard to get them back.” Think on, Kenton.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Not Going For The Popular Vote Then, Hazel?

Annette Badland (Hazel Woolley)

I believe I’m right in saying that Witch Hazel Woolley is not married and, quite frankly, I’m not in the least surprised, as the woman has a nasty streak in her about a yard wide and doesn’t give a toss about what people think of her.

At the start of the week, we had Susan acting like a cross between Joan of Arc and Winston Churchill, telling Jim and Lynda that she has tried to contact Hazel on numerous occasions, with no success, as Hazel has neglected to call her back. Never mind! Susan enlists the help of Peggy, who was shocked to learn of Witch Hazel’s plans to turn the shop into apartments - Peggy tries to get in touch with her step-daughter-in law, but guess what? You got it - Hazel remains incommunicado.

Until Thursday, that is, as Hazel turns up at The Lodge, unannounced. Chris scuttles off in her dressing gown and Peggy upbraids Hazel for not returning her calls. Hazel’s response is that she’s here now and what does Peggy want, as Hazel’s time is precious? Peggy makes an impassioned plea about how the shop is at the heart of village life and is a lifeline for many of the villagers and Hazel counters by saying that a) everything happens online nowadays and supermarkets will deliver to even God-forsaken wildernesses such as Ambridge and b) it’s none of Peggy’s business anyway.

Peggy changes tack, appealing to Hazel’s better nature (ha!) and the memory of her father, saying that Jack intended the shop to be a permanent asset to the village at a peppercorn rent. Hazel’s memory is different, as she says that Jack instilled in her the desire to maximise her assets and converting the shop into apartments will benefit Ambridge in the long run. “But the young people won’t be able to afford them” Peggy wails. Tough luck - the apartments will be aimed at high earners from outside the village who are looking for a weekend retreat, not straw-sucking peasants who are looking for somewhere to park their tractors.

Things take an unpleasant turn when Peggy accuses Hazel of acting in a fit of pique, just because she never got her own way over the words on Jack’s headstone. Hazel feigns innocence, claiming that her decision is based purely on economic grounds, but gives the game away when she adds: “But if it pays you back for your heartless intransigence, that’s an added bonus.” With that, Hazel bids Peggy farewell, gets on her broomstick and leaves.

Amid all the “we shall not be moved” protests about the shop, Jim is a voice of reason, as he suggests that Hazel probably has every right to do what she wishes with what is, after all, her property. He is nearly tarred and feathered for this heresy, but he has a point. I think the protesters’ best hope lies in Hazel not getting change of use permission, or her broomstick conking out while she is flying it.

Another big story of the week was Rob walking out of Berrow Farm after another difficult session of questioning by Charlie and the news that BL are getting a consultant in to go through the figures. This begs the question - if margins are as slim and tight as Charlie claims, how can they afford a consultant? It’s all too much for Rob and he tells Charlie “I’m out of here - for good”. Back home, Rob spins Helen a yarn about how Charlie has been undermining him from day one and Rob has tried to hide from Helen the effect that this has been having on him. As to the mistakes that Charlie has uncovered, Rob says that Raf made the mistakes and Rob was trying to cover up for him. Helen swallows it and, when Charlie leaves a message that he would like to talk things over with Rob, she says “You’ve won - you can go back from a position of strength.”

Rob says that nothing will induce him to go back, but there is the question of a reference - will Charlie rubbish Rob when he needs one? Rob tells Helen that Charlie thinks that he (Rob) would use the fact that Charlie and Adam kissed on New Year’s Eve against him. As if Rob would be so vindictive! What about getting a new job? Rob wants to make sure that his next job is the right one and he asks Helen “We can manage for a few weeks, can’t we?” Of course they can - there’s Peggy’s £10,000 in the bank, for a start.

A few days later, Rob arranges to go back to Berrow Farm to pick up some personal items. Charlie is doing his job temporarily and the conversation between them is strained, but polite. Rob keeps making veiled references, saying things like “you and I are two different sorts of men” and, when discussing a reference, “I don’t want to say anything bad about you or anyone close to you - I’m aware how damaging it might be.” Charlie says that Rob will get a good reference and the two shake hands as Rob leaves.

It looks like Rob could become a pain in the rear, as he tags along when Helen meets Tom to discuss plans for the new shop at Bridge Farm. Tom and Helen have decided on the d├ęcor for the shop (‘Classic Rural’, with farm implements for decorations) and Rob rubbishes this, and casts doubt on the advisability of consulting Fallon over design. Tom is obviously aware of what’s going on, as he thanks Rob, saying “all your input’s been (long pause) useful” and pointedly adds that they will take it into account when he and Helen speak to the interior designer. The words ’and you won’t be required’ are left unsaid.

After yet another week of ’what can we do about Heather?’ David finally gives in and says she can come and live at Brookfield. This is after constant nagging and hand-wringing from Rooooth and Pip saying that, when they were all ready to quit Brookfield, David made a unilateral decision to stay and Rooooth agreed - perhaps it’s now Rooooth’s turn to make a major decision? I think David’s agreement was as much to stop the constant earache as for Heather’s welfare. After all this, I hope to God that Heather agrees - I couldn’t bear yet more of Rooooth telling everyone how she feels guilty and is being torn apart (if only!). The only question is how to tell Jill that she’s got to move out? Jill is very understanding and says that Heather’s need is greater than hers, while making a mental note to change her Will.

Kenton sinks even lower, if such a thing were possible. Jolene tells him that she’s knackered, as she’s been running the pub single-handedly for the past week. A tearful Kenton tells her that he’d never believed in himself much and he’d always hoped to find someone who believed in him. And now he has, he’s dragged her down to his level and “I can never forgive myself for trashing the life of someone I love so much.” Kenton is in a bad way, and somehow I don’t think that Jill’s plan (again) to have a big family party - ostensibly to wish Pip all the best in her new job - is going to help a lot.

Elsewhere, the wall of the Village Hall collapsed, which is good news for those of us who are trying to make sure that it doesn’t open in time to stage Lynda’s Christmas do - well done to my team of secret sappers; keep it up, lads! Joe Grundy was there when it happened and he was thinking bad things about the late Bob Pullen - so terrified is he, that he stands up every time Bob’s name is mentioned. In fact, Bob Pullen (who never spoke) has never had so many mentions (apart from at his funeral, that is).

Muppet’s first birthday is coming up and Grandmothers Lynda and Lilian discuss the running order on the day. A children’s entertainer has been hired and, when Lilian protests that Muppet is only one year old, Lynda says how vital it is that he socialises with the other children and what a pity it was that he never completed his sensory classes (according to Lilian, Muppet was thrown out because he wailed from start to finish) but hopefully, his dancing classes will be more successful. Give the poor kid a break! Isn’t it bad enough that he has James and Leone for parents, without making him suffer all this pretentious garbage? Lynda will have him doing Feng Shui next.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Bonus Posting - The Pied Piper Of Ambridge (And Other Comments)

It seemed a good time to take a look at some of the comments that readers have been kind enough to send in recently. First up is one from Zoe, who says:

Has the Pied Piper of Ambridge struck again?  It seems ages since we've heard (rather than 'heard of') Johnny, Josh and Ben, Freddie and Lily, Jamie, Ruairi, the awful George, Jake and Mia. –Zoe

Quite frankly, looking at Zoe’s list, I reckon the Pied Piper has done a terrific job – whatever he charged, it was worth it. But it’s not just the children that have gone awol – we have commented on more than one occasion that Darrell just seems to have been written out and disappeared without trace. At least when Matt left (or was pushed) there was a covering story that he had legged it to Costa Rica, but as far as Darrell is concerned, it is as if he never existed.

There are a number of other absentees too – it has been months since we heard from Wayne, and long may it continue, plus Kathy has been quiet recently. As for Will, the strain of being nice to Ed at the latter’s marriage and of letting him and Emma have the house on the Green at a reasonable rent must have been too much for him and he has had to lie down in a darkened room for a few months. Whatever the reason, we haven’t heard from him for a while.

Christine is doing her usual trick of being referred to, without actually appearing, although one assumes that, if she and Jim go to the Italian-speaking dinner party at Caroline and Oliver’s, she’ll have to say something.

Much the same is happening to Jazzer, with Toby referring a couple of times to things that Jazzer had said in the pub, without us actually hearing from the man himself. PC Burns is another who has been conspicuous by his absence – perhaps he’s under cover somewhere? Neil too hasn’t had much of a speaking part recently, although, being married to Susan, he’s probably used to not being able to get a word in edgeways.

No doubt you have your own favourites who appear to have gone walkabout, or those that you’d like to send on a long trip somewhere. Presumably it won’t be long before Pip vanishes for a few months, unless Toby Fairbrother’s lascivious ambitions are realised.

Comment number two comes from Phil, and it concerns Rob Titchener. Phil asks:

Are there betting odds on which of the different possible ways that Rob will crash and burn will hit first? So far we have:

- Jess's baby (he hasn't told the truth about the paternity test);
- The blocked drain;
- The cooked books;

Have I missed anything? And who gets to deliver the coup-de-grace, or does he ever more improbably escape detection? Given that the man is now doing everything apart from skulking around Ambridge in a black cloak and hissing "a-ha!" like a pantomime villain, even the preternaturally dense inhabitants of Borsetshire must have noticed something's not quite right with the man. – Phil

Yes, there’s something of the Jekyll and Hyde about Rob – he can be very charming and then exhibit a nasty turn of temper. When under pressure from Charlie, he was snappy with Henry and Helen when he returned home. OK, I agree with him that it wasn’t very professional of Helen to take Henry and biscuits to see him while at work, but it wasn’t that big a deal – even Charlie laughed it off.

Surely he will get his come-uppance one day (we have said before that nobody usually gets away with a bad deed in Ambridge)? The question is, will that be before he has talked Helen into having his baby? If he is forced to leave Ambridge, will Helen go with him? Even more important, who will replace him in the cricket team? I suspect that, if Charlie keeps turning the screw and Rob feels the net closing in on him, Rob’s flashes of anger and bad temper will become more frequent. Will the scales fall from Helen’s love-besotted eyes? I reckon Rob would have to beat her up for that to happen, and even then, she’d say it was her own fault. We await developments with interest.

Our third comment, from Mr/Ms Anonymous is in more serious vein and concerns Kenton:

Not a light comment - but Kenton is showing classical signs of depression, and hopefully someone picks up on the not-very-subtle mention of suicide. It's just not true that those who talk about it never attempt it, sadly.

I know that Kenton has done his level best to alienate seemingly every member of his family in recent weeks, but surely Jolene could appeal to somebody in the extensive Archer clan for help, couldn’t she?

Thanks for your comments – it’s always good to get feedback and to know that the blog is being read and, hopefully, enjoyed!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

When The Going Gets Tough…

Richard Attlee (Kenton Archer)

…Kenton goes to pieces. The week starts badly for him when he wakes up on Sunday, heavily hungover after a late night necking the whisky, much to Jolene’s displeasure. The reason for this excessive drinking is the quote for repairing the foundations, which is £52k. Jolene points out that Lilian will pay half of it, but a despondent Kenton says that still leaves £26k - a sum that they just don’t have. The solution? Kenton goes back to bed and tells Jolene that he is not going to the family lunch at The Stables.

If I might digress here, I wouldn’t pin my hopes on Lilian, as Matt cleaned out their bank accounts, leaving her skint. Mind you, as Kenton says, all she has to do is sell one of her rental properties.

Kenton is not the only absentee at the lunch (Jolene rang Shula and said that Kenton had a tummy bug), as Pip is too busy and Josh is trying to recapture escaped hens. David and Rooooth are up in Prudhoe and Freddie and Lily didn’t make it either. Neither Shula nor Elizabeth believe that Kenton is really ill and Shula is more than a little fed up, as she has cooked mountains of food and loads Elizabeth up with doggie bags. Shula assumes that Kenton’s absence is because of the disagreement with his brother and says “Kenton and David need to grow up and sort this out.” I’m with you there, Shula.

As Sunday wears on, Kenton is still wallowing in self pity and Jolene calls him ‘the most miserable landlord in the county’ and she says that she always tries to expect the best of any situation and can’t he do the same? “I just don’t think I can,” Kenton answers, no doubt reaching for another whisky as he does so.

Jolene keeps on at her husband; especially when his miserable attitude starts getting to the punters. “We can get through anything as a team,” she says, adding: “but not with you in this pit of negativity.” Kenton digs his pit a little deeper when he answers “The only thing that we are going to do as a team is sink.” That’s my boy - always looking on the bright side!

On Thursday, Toby Fairbrother is in the bar, trying to persuade Tony, Ed and Kenton to have a whisky chaser with their pints. Only one accepts - guess who? Toby announces that he is going to Borchester for a night out on the lash and who else is up for it? Again, only one accepts as Kenton says “I’ll get my wallet.” The evening wasn’t what Toby was hoping for - earlier in the day he had tried to persuade Pip to go for a drink, but she was too busy. I suspect that Kenton makes a poor substitute.

But never mind, as Toby and Kenton throw themselves wholeheartedly into getting totally rat-arsed and, so successful are they, that Kenton says he can’t go home and perhaps he ought to run away to sea again. The two of them drink to that (me too).

The week ends as it began, with a drunken, hungover Kenton nursing a headache as his phone rings constantly. He has a beer for breakfast and decides that he had better walk home and face Jolene’s wrath. Toby walks with him and, with each step, Kenton’s despondency increases. “I’m beyond repair,” he tells Toby, adding: “I’m tired of the real world and tired of making mistakes and calling them adventures - I’m ashamed.” His final observation is “I’m sick of life and I’m sick of me.” I must admit, I’m getting a bit cheesed off with him myself - maybe Jolene will put him out of his misery.

Let’s move on to more cheerful things - Susan is excited as the tabards and name badges for the shop assistants have arrived and she summons Lynda for a fashion show. Opinion is divided over the tabards - either they ‘have real class’ (Susan) or are ‘hideous’ and ’an abomination’ (Lynda). All we know is that they are a pink and orange paisley pattern and made from nylon, which gives Lynda an electric shock and makes her hair stand on end. “I looked like a char,“ she tells Robert later. I didn’t know whether to be sorry or pleased that this was radio and not TV. The final straw for Lynda is when her name badge has her name misspelt as ‘Linda’ - Susan was hoping that she wouldn’t notice and says that it doesn’t really matter, does it?

And perhaps Susan is correct, as on Wednesday, Lynda and Robert spy a notice on the door of the shop. They go to investigate and are horrified to discover that it is a Planning Application. As we suggested last week, Witch Hazel wants to turn the shop into apartments and it is all too much for Lynda, who bursts into tears. She had been feeling a bit more upbeat but this latest blow knocks her back. “This damned flood just keeps grabbing at everything we hold dear,” she tells her husband, tearfully. Someone else who isn’t happy at the news is Fallon, who tells Kenton that she loves her flat over the shop, not that Kenton really cares about other people‘s problems.

Over at Berrow Farm, Charlie is really getting on Rob’s nerves, asking to see not only the computer data concerning the farm management programme, but the original forms and job sheets from which the data are collected. “Is all this really necessary?” Rob asks, peevishly. “I don’t know yet” is Charlie’s reply.

Charlie and Rob are interrupted by the arrival of Helen and Henry - they have been baking biscuits and Henry insisted on taking some to Daddy. Rob is not impressed and, back home later, he gets a bit tetchy when Helen asks why is Charlie scrutinising the paperwork? He says he neither knows nor cares, adding: “It’s an interruption; rather like your impromptu and rather pointless visit today.” Rob goes further, saying that having a four-year old deliver biscuits during  a working day is hardly professional and, if Helen wants to visit again, she should ring first.

The following day, Rob comes home for lunch and tells Helen to stop fussing over him as she cooks him an omelette. Helen has had brunch with Ian at Grey Gables and dropped Henry off at a friend’s. Rob immediately uses this to pursue his ‘isn’t it time we had a child?’ agenda by saying how he worries about Henry, who seems desperate to have a friend. “What’s it like to hold your own child in your arms for the first time?” and “That’s all that’s missing for me and the picture will be complete” Rob says. Helen says that’s what she wants too, to which Rob replies “What are we waiting for?” Finish your omelette first, man! Helen says that the time has to be right - Henry needs to be settled at school (where he presumably will make lots of friends) and the shop has to be up and running before she can take time out for a baby. Reluctantly, Rob agrees, but you can tell that he doesn’t really believe it.

The saga of what to do with Heather drags on, with Rooooth coming back from Prudhoe, only to get a phone call from her mother, who is now unhappy at the interim care home where she is staying. Rooooth goes off on another guilt trip and wishes she could split herself in two (well, she can always try - Jamie has a chain saw). She has finally come up with a solution; Heather will have to come to live at Brookfield. This is despite the fact that just such an offer was made months ago and Heather turned it down. David points out that Rooooth doesn’t have the expertise to look after her mum and besides, where will she find the time? But Rooooth is having none of it, saying: “We’ve let my Mum down once David - we’re not going to do it again.”

I am evidently not the only one getting fed up with the Rooooth/Heather situation, as a reader has sent in a comment. Mr (or Ms) Anonymous has a radical solution, saying:

“I wish that someone would shoot Rooooth (and her mother) and therefore put us out of our misery. I’m now switching off for two minutes whenever Rooooth starts. Just tooooo much!!!!!

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Emma Reverts To Type

Emerald O'Hanrahan (Emma Grundy)

I’d like to say ‘welcome back’ to Emma. “But she hasn’t been anywhere” I hear you cry - true, but I’m talking about the old, morose, moaning Emma who we all loved to hate and not the recent incarnation over previous months, who was bordering on the human and never had a bad word to say about anybody.

The catalyst for the return of old Emma is Helen and Rob’s wedding; Emma cannot believe that they just went off and got married as she and Fallon were going to be Maids of Honour. Really? Personally, I don’t associate Emma with either of the words ’maid’ or ’honour’. She is even more put out as Helen never told her personally, saying “what they did was a bit rubbish.”

Ed suggests that perhaps they did it to save money and adds that, whatever their reasons, it was their own business. Someone who takes the same view is Tony - Pat says that Helen is looking so very happy “and a lot of that is down to Rob.” Blimey! Praise indeed from the woman who used to be number one Rob-hater! Nevertheless, she still wishes that they hadn’t got married the way they did. Tony is on his daughter’s side, saying “It’s up to them” and adding that it was better for them to do it the way they wanted “rather than have a big ceremony just to keep everyone else happy.” Are you listening, Emma?

Peggy is pleased for Helen and Rob, but expresses a slight regret that she will never see Helen walk down the aisle. She then gives them a cheque for £10,000 - how much would it have been if the wedding had been in church, I wonder? The cheque is made out to ‘Mr & Mrs Titchener’ and Helen says “We haven’t even got a joint bank account yet.” Rob’s response (“we can soon sort that out, can’t we darling?”) makes me think that the joint account will bear the names of ‘Mr Titchener’ and ‘Rob Titchener’.

We can see where Emma gets her miserable side from, as Susan, on learning about the wedding, goes around saying things like “when you get married that quickly, there’s usually a reason” and “there’s no smoke without fire.” She seems to have forgotten that her son Chris and Alice Aldridge tied the knot in Las Vegas five years ago without telling anyone, while supposed to be on holiday.

Not only is Susan snide - some might say poisonous - but she is again suffering from delusions of adequacy when it comes to the shop, calling a meeting of volunteers, which is attended by Jim, Lynda and Jill. At the meeting, Susan reveals that she has tried to contact Witch Hazel about the reopening of the shop, but Hazel has totally ignored her messages. Yup, sounds like Hazel. Never mind! Susan tells the others that, although footfall is good, they can do better. “We need to become more professional” she tells them and reveals her master plan - the volunteers should wear tabards and sport name badges with a message like ‘my name is Susan and I’m happy to help.’ Lynda and Jim are appalled and Jill is pretty non-committal. Jim proposes they have a vote, but is cut off by Susan, voice rising manically and probably frothing at the mouth, saying that the shop needs to be dragged into the 21st century. In a breathtaking display of arrogance and self-delusion, she slaps down the suggestion of a vote, saying “As the professional here, I have to take the lead. If we want the shop to survive, we have to move with the times.”

I could be wrong, but I fear for the shop’s future anyway - from what we know of Hazel, she definitely looks after number one, so, if she allows the shop to continue, you can put money on the fact that the peppercorn rent charged by her father Jack will rise rather dramatically. Secondly, Susan doesn’t know about the plans of Helen, Tom, Pat and Tony to open a shop of their own, selling their own produce, at Bridge Farm. And lastly, Susan should remember that her co-workers are all volunteers and if she has any more stupid ideas about uniforms etc, she could well find herself manning the shop on her own.

But on to happier things - Pip got her results, so congratulations on your 2:1, Pip. David and Rooooth are going to take her out for a posh dinner, but it all goes nads up when Rooooth takes a call from the interim care home where Heather is installed - Heather has gone awol. Rooooth blames herself for not being there - honestly, the woman is always saying that everything is her fault; I’m surprised that she doesn’t wear a hair shirt and regularly thrash herself with nettles. Rooooth is all for driving there on her own, but David points out that, in her present mood, a long drive is not a good idea and he’ll go with her. But that means leaving Pip alone to run the farm and interview the prospective contract milkers the following day. She tells them to go - Granny Heather needs them.

There is more self-flagellation next day when Rooooth rings Pip and tells her that Heather had returned home and had fallen in the kitchen. “She’s terrified of going into care and it’s me that’s doing it to her,” wails Rooooth, no doubt embarking on a fresh programme of self-harming, or banging her head against a convenient wall. Pip tells her that she is doing the right thing, and is probably thinking “stop whining and get off the line woman - I’ve got a farm to run.”

Because David and Rooooth are away, they will miss the big family meal, unsubtly organised by Jill in order to bring David and Kenton back together. Kenton wasn’t going to go, but eventually gave in after Jill, Shula, Elizabeth and Jolene nagged him constantly. That was really the least he could do, as the party is ostensibly to celebrate the birthday of him and his twin Shula. Having made the decision, Kenton is overcome by a mood of - if not optimism - then a feeling that things might not be too bad after all. Wrong! Kenton eagerly opens a letter from the insurers and learns that, ‘due to pre-existing uninsured damage’ the insurers are unable to begin flood-related reinstatement works until the foundations are repaired. Kenton goes on the Net and tells Jolene that it will cost between £30k and £50k - money they don’t have. David’s name is mentioned, but Kenton says that he would rather cut his own throat (and presumably cut off his own nose) than ask his brother. “This could be the end of the road” Kenton tells Jolene, which makes his refusal to seek help from David even more stupid and illogical.

Kate has been working hard on her revised business plan and she is suffering from self doubt and a lack of confidence - something which makes her, if not a more attractive personality, then a little less detestable. She shows it to Lilian, who is impressed. I wouldn’t read too much into this, as Lilian was the one who helped her write the original version, which was rubbished by Brian. Adam enters the room and interrupts the two women meditating. He and Lilian work at boosting Kate’s confidence, with Lil telling her to believe in herself more, as the next person who will have to examine the business plan will be Brian (Debbie is yet to pass her opinion). What does Adam think Asks Kate? “Carpe diem” he says and, before Lilian can ask why he is talking about the fish dish of the day, he adds: “Believe in yourself Kate and others will believe in you too.” Not this other, Adam.

Let’s return to Brookfield, or rather to Hollowtree. A few weeks ago, David was annoyed and alarmed when he saw that the Fairbrother boys had erected a tent. They assured him that it was only temporary and how right they were - while talking to Adam about the harvest, David points to Hollowtree and says “Is that what I think it is?” and we learn that ‘it’ is a caravan. Later, David tells Pip that “It’s a bit naughty of them” and she assures him that it’s only a temporary move. This conversation takes place just before Rooooth rushes in with the news of Heather’s escape from the care home and Pip urges her parents to go and sort Heather out. With David and Rooooth both away, what’s the betting that, when David and Rooooth return, the caravan is moved and the Fairbrothers have built a four-bedroom house at Hollowtree?

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Game Fair? Fair Game, Toby Reckons

Rhys Bevan (Toby Fairbrother)

There was a slight disagreement last week between the Fairbrother brothers concerning Pip. Toby invites her to help walk the goslings out to their pasture the next day and, in passing, invites her to a Game Fair in Yorkshire at the weekend. “What, with you?” Pip asks. “Of course” says TF. To which Pip replies, rather witheringly, “Not particularly.” Pip adds that she is not interested in game and Toby says that’s OK - the hospitality is legendary.

Things escalate when Pip tells TF that “there’s no way I’m getting involved with you.” “Who said anything about getting involved?” is Toby’s response and Pip says “So you think I’m just going to fall into bed with you, do you?” Toby protests that his name has been blackened but Pip remarks that he’s doing a good job of doing that himself - what about Kate? “That was just a drunken fling” Toby replies, which was not the cleverest thing to say under the circumstances, and Pip tells him “I don’t do drunken flings.” Toby maintains that he is just offering Pip “a fun weekend away from all this drudgery” and begs her to consider it.

You have to admire Toby’s persistence. After walking the goslings (with brother Rex) he asks Pip what time he should pick her up? “I haven’t decided yet” is her answer. Toby tells Rex that he has invited her and Rex is alarmed - he has visions of Toby casting Pip aside like a spent match once he has had his evil way, with serious repercussions for their set-up at Brookfield when David finds out. Toby tells him not to worry as “all I want to do is show her a really good time.” Rex: “I’m sure you do - that’s what’s worrying me.”

‘Please Pip, don’t do it’ I shouted at the radio, and it looks like my prayers might have been answered, as on Friday, Rooooth returns early from Prudhoe and announces that Heather is doing so well in the interim care home, that she doesn’t have to go back till Sunday. Pip promptly says that, in which case, she’d rather stay and spend time with her mother than go to the Game Fair. Suck that, Toby!

The reason Pip wants time with Rooooth is that her mother says that she may be up north till October and, of course, Pip is starting her new job in August. This leaves David in a bit of a quandary as to what to do about the work on the farm; his daughter will be in Brazil, his wife up in Prudhoe and Eddie unavailable as he is doing his Capability Brown impersonation on a couple of gardens. Even Ed will be tied up. Actually, Eddie is fast turning into Mr Unreliable, as on Tuesday, he cries off milking at Brookfield because he ripped a nail off on a gate. Come on man - you’ve got another nine, you lightweight.

Perhaps David’s reluctance to hire in a contract milker stems from bitter experience - the last time they had hired help (Eddie doesn’t count) it was herdsman Sam Batton and Rooooth came within a gnat’s foreskin of having an affair, before he left, frustrated and unhappy. The answer? Get a female milker in, David and let Rooooth do the worrying. Actually, what the Archer family does decide is that Rooooth should do the interviewing and Pip will help her write the job description. That way, David will probably not notice requirements like ‘must have a nine-inch long tongue and the ability to breathe through his ears’.

Again, we wonder if there is something amiss at The Stables (see earlier post 'Instability at the Stables'?) as Alistair cries off a formal regimental dinner with Dan. No worry - Shula can go. Or rather, she can’t, as females aren’t allowed. She moans that the Army is pandering to hidebound prejudices and hackneyed stereotypes - too right Shula; next they’ll be encouraging the men to play with guns and drive tanks. Where will it all end?

Over at Home Farm, Adam sends his mother into a tizzy when he tells her that, if Brian gives him a hard time over the new arrangement, Debbie has told him that the offer of a job in Hungary is still good. A distraught Jen wails “I couldn’t bear to lose another child to Hungary!” Apart from making Hungary sound like a fatal disease (‘I’m sorry, Mrs Aldridge, but you’ve lost another child to TB, or, as we call it, ‘Hungary’ ‘) I’d like to point out that Adam is 48 and probably a bit old for short trousers, white socks and sandals.

As an aside, the best-laid plans of scriptwriters came unravelled when Charlie invited Adam to a hospitality box at the third Test Match at Edgbaston and also invited Ian, knowing that he hates cricket. So he might, but Ian is all for free hospitality - not only to see how other people do it, but to stuff his face and wind the odd drink down his neck. Charlie is a bit put out by his acceptance, and a promising cameo was wrecked when England thrashed Australia in three days, presumably meaning that the corporate jolly is off, unless they sit in the box, necking the booze and gazing at an empty cricket pitch.

You might have thought that the issue of who runs Home Farm was settled, but if so, you underestimate Brian Aldridge. Alarmed by what he (seemingly genuinely) perceives to be a foolhardy strategy by Adam, Brian seeks advice from Mr. Kimberly; the lawyer who helped arrange Peggy’s finances. Brian says that he needs to find a way of protecting the farm for his children - notably Ruairi, on whom he is pinning his hopes of taking over, although Ruairi has shown no interest in agriculture thus far - without alienating Adam.

Mr. Kimberly says “So you want to keep a firm hand on the tiller, while maintaining family harmony?” “Precisely” answers Brian, although he probably meant ‘beating Adam into submission while giving me total control.’ Mr Kimberly comes up with a solution and, as yet, we were not made privy to it, although Brian says “So, I’ll be asking Adam to put his money where his mouth is? I like it” Mr. K recommends doing it for a fixed term - if Adam’s scheme is then shown to be losing money, the agreement can be terminated. Mr K also says that he can offer no guarantees on the family harmony front.

And how right he was not to - Brian speaks to Adam and tells him he’s proposing a shared farm agreement - Adam gets no salary, but instead gets 40% of any profits (guess who gets the other 60%?). Brian says that he has to spread the risk and “if you want to take a gamble, do it with your money as well as mine”. Fair enough - Brian owns 100% of the land and Adam does 100% of the work. Adam is not over the moon at this, but it’s a ‘take it or leave it’ ultimatum. The next day, Jennifer tells Tony about the suggestion and her mood is not helped by Tony saying how happy he has been since handing the Bridge Farm business over to Tom and Helen and “there’s nothing like a near-death experience for making you realise what’s important in life.” Sounds a bit drastic to me. Jennifer isn’t happy, saying “If Brian drives Adam away, I will never forgive him.”

Earlier in the week, Charlie asks for a private word with Brian - he says that he’s been looking at the figures for Berrow Farm and there appears to be an anomaly that he can’t find. “If the board gets hold of this, it’s my head on the block” Charlie tells Brian, while swearing him to secrecy. We also learn, as the two talk, that Brian ‘avoids opera like the plague’ - another activity to cross off (see earlier posting 'Help Brian to fill the void'). Suffice it to say that, later on in the week, Charlie has trawled through the computer data and he tells Brian that it looks like someone has been fiddling the fertility figures. Who’s responsible for the computer system? Brian asks. The answer is Rob Titchener and Charlie is at a loss to know what to do.

Meanwhile, Rob and Helen have been holidaying on the Isle of Wight, leaving Henry with Pat and Tony. They return on Friday and Jennifer (who is still at Bridge Farm after talking to Tony) says “My goodness - doesn’t Helen look radiant?” Helen and Rob cannot stay and take Henry home, where they tell him they have special news for him - while they were away they got married. “So I’m officially your Daddy” Rob tells him. Now, am I the only one to wonder that, if Rob has really been faking the Berrow Farm fertility data, could he not also have fiddled the paternity test on Jess’s child?