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 décor 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.