Louiza Patikas & Timothy Watson (Helen Archer & Rob Titchener)
We all know that Rob Titchener is a scheming, devious person with more than a touch of control freakery in his make-up, but last week he surpassed himself, running rings round Tom and Helen in a masterclass of Machiavellian manipulation over the look for the new shop.
Having shoehorned his way into the initial discussions about the décor and layout of the shop, Rob proceeded to undermine the traditional look that Helen and Tom had agreed on and engineered it so that the designer would produce two sets of sketches, all the time making Tom think that it was his own idea. When the designs are produced, Rob praises the traditional design at first, but then begins subtly criticising some aspects of the layout, sowing seeds of doubt. He is all for the more contemporary design and asks Helen what she thinks. Stupid question! She doesn’t think - she’d agree with Rob, even if he suggested decorating it in the same colours and design as Susan’s tabards.
“It looks like two to one for the contemporary design” Rob tells Tom, trying to keep the triumph from his voice. Let’s rewind here and ask ourselves what he’s doing there anyway - Pat and Tony handed over control of Bridge Farm and Ambridge Organics to Tom and Helen; it’s nothing to do with Rob. Tom doesn’t seem aware that Rob is slowly taking over; he even thanks Rob profusely when the latter offers to ring round builders for Tom, as he has more time. As Tom leaves, still thanking Rob, Helen remarks to Rob that it was kind of him to offer to help and she could assist him if he likes, now that she has more time as Henry is starting school. He replies that there’s no need to get involved as “I’ve got the time and I’ve got the experience - I’m happy to be project manager.” I’d watch out if I were you Tom - at this rate the shop name will be ‘Titchener Organics’ if you don’t rein Rob in pretty quickly. He certainly seems in no hurry to get a job.
Over at Home Farm, Adam reveals his plan for the future. Brian is aghast to learn that Adam wants to turn over 17% of the land to planting herbal leys and ideally, in ten years time, the farm would be 50/50 leys and arable. An apoplectic Brian points out that they won’t get much income from a farm that’s gone bust, to which Adam reminds him that he (Adam) is the one taking most of the risk under their new shared farm arrangement. Brian can only foresee disaster if Adam has his way and tells Jennifer so when they are talking the next day.
Jennifer is more optimistic, telling Brian that she’s sure Adam will soon have the place buzzing. “Yes, but only with bailiffs” is his sour retort. Mind you, Brian proves that Rob isn’t the only slippery customer in Ambridge when Kate approaches him to rent some land for her hippy retreat. Brian agrees in principle, but is upbraided by Jennifer because he told Kate it would have to come out of the land set aside for the herbal leys. Brian answers that Adam wants to make the big decisions and here’s one for him - “How do you run a farm and cope with Kate at the same time?” I’m tempted to say ‘run her through the combine harvester’ but the whole episode is a sobering reminder that, sadly, since Debbie invested some start-up money in her retreat idea, it looks as though Kate isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Hands up all those who thought that Kenton had touched rock bottom? Wrong, I’m afraid. The week began with him telling Jolene that he’s not going to the family lunch that Jill has arranged (again). He also points out that the lunch was supposed to be Pip’s leaving party, but she’s not going anywhere. Jolene says it’s now become a ‘farewell to Jill’ lunch. Thunderstruck, Kenton says “What? Where’s mum going?” You see Kenton, this is what happens if you turn your back on your family - you tend to fall out of the loop and don’t know what’s going on if you don’t talk to people.
Anyway, Kenton indulges in another rant and asks how dare David throw Jill out - her heart must be breaking? He definitely isn’t going to the meal now, as he might not be able to stop himself giving David a good kicking if he went. From Kenton’s attitude, you’d think that Jill is being turned out into the snow, homeless and sleeping rough, whereas in actual fact she has the pick of rooms in a stately home, with superb views and a separate sitting room. Probably a four-poster bed too, I wouldn‘t be surprised.
On Monday, Jolene goes to Brookfield to take the wine for the meal and tells them that Kenton won’t be coming and she feels that she should stay away too. “How much longer is he going to go on sulking?” an annoyed Jill asks, to which Jolene replies that it’s much worse than mere sulking and the whole story of the £26k shortfall comes out and that The Bull is in real danger of closing down. As Jolene leaves, the rest of the Archer clan are stunned - nobody had any idea how bad things were. David says “We can’t let that happen. Who says it’s too late, even now?”
The upshot is that Shula, Elizabeth, David and Jill pool their resources to raise the £26k and, on Wednesday, David informs Jolene that she and Kenton can have the money. Jolene is thrilled and grateful, saying “We’ll pay back every penny.” Well, it is a loan, not a gift, so I think David, Shula et al were expecting to get their money back sometime. Jolene tells David that she’ll have to choose her moment to tell Kenton, adding: “There’s so much riding on this - he can’t refuse, can he?”
It’s amazing how little some people know their spouses, as, on Friday, Jolene takes Kenton to one side and tells him of the offer. On hearing the name ‘David’, Kenton goes completely gorilla-poo and berates Jolene for telling everyone their troubles. Jolene points out that the offer is from the entire family and, when Kenton asks her can’t she see how humiliating it all is, she reveals that she obviously studied at the Joe Grundy school of grammar when she replies “We can’t afford to be proud no more, not if you want to save the pub - let alone our sanity.” Clutching firmly at non-existent straws, Kenton says “There has to be some other way.” OK Kenton, we’ll give you half an hour to come up with one. Jolene spells it out when she says “We’re in one hell of a spot and we’ve been offered the money to get out of it - are we gonna take it; yes or no?” And there the final episode of the week ended. I know Kenton is stubborn, stupid, unreasonable (add your own list of adjectives) but if he doesn’t seize this chance, I’d batter him senseless if I were Jolene.
At least Fallon won’t have to put up with him - at the opera at Lower Loxley, she told Chris that she and PC Burns are looking for a place to set up home. Chris asks have they considered renting Woodbine cottage from her? I bet she can’t wait, with Kenton the way he is.
The opera was a great success, except for the fact that Eddie’s phone (ringtone ‘I am a cider drinker’) went off during an aria. Clarrie was mortified and her discomfort is further increased on Thursday, when she reads Lynda’s review in The Echo. Lynda (under her nom de plume of Dylan Nells) gave the opera five stars and the audience two. She specifically mentioned the phone going off and Clarrie isn’t reassured when Susan tells her that people won’t know that it was Eddie. Clarrie is not convinced, saying that, when it happened, the whole audience looked at them. “I could have died with embarrassment” Clarrie wails. I would have thought that, given Eddie’s track record of scams, uncouthness and cock-ups, dying with embarrassment is the default position you take when you go out anywhere in public with him.