Barry Farrimond (Ed Grundy)
There is a scene in an episode of Blackadder the Third where, after one of his ideas fails, a frustrated Edmund tells Baldrick “Fortune vomits on my eiderdown yet again.” We had a similar scene in last week’s Archers, where Edward (same first two letters, note) despondently asks Dad Eddie “Do you believe in Fate? I’m starting to - I reckon Fate’s got a dartboard with my face on it.”
And what is the cause of this despair? Well, how long have you got and how far back do you want to go? Ed has not had the most successful of careers - he himself mentions the dairy herd, which didn’t go well, and now he has had his beef herd rustled. Even worse, in true Grundy tradition, he hadn’t got them insured. The cattle have vanished without trace and the police haven’t got the crime at the top of their list of priorities. Ed, Eddie and Joe are talking about it in The Bull and it turns out that Kenton saw two men loading the beasts into a van, but he thought Ed had sold them. As such, he didn’t take much notice and cannot help much with descriptions or number plates.
There was a comic moment as Joe, who had broken the habit of a lifetime and bought a round of drinks on the expectation of being paid to conduct ghost walks round Lower Loxley, reckons that what Ed needs is a whisky chaser (“A nice, large one”). Ed admits that he wouldn’t mind, to which Joe swiftly says “Your round Eddie.” He might be 94, but there are no flies on Joe.
It was the week of Heather’s funeral in Prudhoe and, as well as family, Jill, Jim and Usha all made it to the funeral. Rooooth couldn’t face speaking at the service and Pip gave a moving reading of a piece, chosen by Heather, written by a major who died in WWII. Everyone agreed that it was a lovely service, as Usha tells Rooooth, but Rooooth, in full hair-shirt-and-nettle-thrashing-mode, rather illogically says to Usha “But she [Heather] wasn’t there to see it.” Well, no, she wouldn’t be, would she? Rooooth still blames herself for Heather’s demise and bursts into tears, telling Usha “When she needed me most, I let her down.” The ‘it was all my fault’ mentality persists when she and David arrive back at Brookfield and Rooooth sits alone in what would have been Heather’s bedroom. “I’m sorry, mum, I’m so sorry” she says, before breaking down in tears again.
Mind you, the journey back wasn’t much fun; especially when David rather thoughtlessly asks her if she wants to stop at the Service area. Nice one, Dave.
I think most people would agree that, when it comes to manipulating other people - especially his wife (or girlfriend as was) - Rob has no equal in Ambridge, or possibly Borsetshire. However, it seems that at least one person has been sitting at the feet of the Master and learning. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Phoebe’s boyfriend Alex, or maybe we should start calling him ’Titchener Lite’. Phoebe is at Alex’s house on Sunday and she says that she has to leave soon to finish off her personal statement for Oxford Uni. Alex moves into Rob mode, saying that, if she went home now, it would disappoint him. He then ratchets up the pressure, asking her whether or not she feels that she is being pushed into this whole Oxford thing? Laying it on with a trowel, he goes on to tell her that she’s lovely as she is and he doesn’t want her to change.
He then tries to make Phoebe feel guilty by saying how far away Oxford is and had she thought of choosing Felpersham Uni instead? Cunningly, he says how few places are available at Oxford and he’d hate her to be disappointed, adding that Oxbridge types are “stuck-up over-achievers.” Phoebe is wavering and agrees to stay for lunch.
Later on in the week, we learn just how much Phoebe has weakened, when Roy takes his daughter for a driving lesson and she reveals that she hasn’t sent in her Oxford application yet. When asked why not, she tells him that she doesn’t think she’s the right sort of person and that Rob - sorry, Alex - thinks it might change her. Roy points out that Alex probably hasn’t met many Oxbridge graduates and, if he cares for Phoebe, he’ll support her in whatever she decides. “You have to think of your entire future,” Roy tells her, adding that her teachers obviously have faith in her. It obviously worked, as, when Phoebe returns home, she phones Roy to tell him that she has sent off her application. He’s proud of her. “I hope Alex feels the same way” Phoebe says. Stuff him, Phoebe - it’s your life.
Kate is trying to persuade Phoebe to do some admin work at her Hippy Retreat during the holidays (the Planning Application has gone in for the barn conversion and yurts). Phoebe sidesteps the question, but we know what she thinks of her mother’s plans as, earlier in the week, she had told Alex that Kate can never stick at anything for any length of time, that she doubts Kate’s qualifications for running an holistic project (“Just because she does a bit of yoga”) and her final verdict on the whole enterprise is “It’s never going to work.”
Let’s move from apprentice to master, as Helen has a home visit from a Health Worker and, of course, Rob is there, all attentiveness. Ellie (the Health Worker) has a lot of questions for Helen, who goes into detail about her previous problem with anorexia and depression. When Rob leaves the room to take a phone call, Ellie asks Helen if she is experiencing any kind of abuse; physical or mental? A shocked Helen replies “No”. Perhaps she should have thought about it a little longer? Rob returns and is as charming as he can be, to the extent that, before she leaves, Ellie describes him as ‘the perfect man’. When Helen is in the bathroom, Rob returns a call to Peggy - she’s worried that Helen is looking peaky; is she working too hard? Rob tells her that Helen is expecting and Peggy is thrilled. She joins the Rob fan club when she tells him “Helen couldn’t be in better hands.”
Earlier in the week, Rob had rubbished Fallon’s plans for the café at the new shop, describing her ideas as twee and “a glorified junk shop”. He says that she cannot possibly have the kitchen as she has planned it and, in what almost amounts to defiance, Helen points out that Fallon will be paying rent, so surely she can have it as she wants? “We wouldn’t need her if we had the skills to run it ourselves” Rob sneers.
Pip tells the Fairbrother lads about Adam’s plans for share farming and Toby is all for going out and buying a couple of hundred head of cattle. Rex advises caution, saying “We’ve got to keep our ambitions realistic.” Toby says “You and I have a different understanding of the word ‘ambition.’ ” As we enter the run-up to Christmas (and still no news from Lynda about this year’s show - perhaps her short-term memory has gone) the poultry wars are hotting up, with an annoyed Eddie confronting Rex and accusing him of stealing the Grundy‘s customers and breaking their agreement. Rex denies the charge and says he knows nothing of any agreement. He also lectures Eddie about the history of the turkey and how it’s not its natural habitat to be kept in sheds. Eddie is on the verge of apoplexy, but fortunately for his blood pressure, at this moment Pip turned up and is off to Prudhoe for the funeral. Eddie and Rex stop arguing and give her their best wishes.
But what can the Grundy’s do to fight back against the Fairbrothers? Eddie looks at the latter’s website and he admits that he is impressed, but what can they do - he knows nothing about the Internet and Social Media, so perhaps they just can’t compete? Never mind - Emma can create a website for them and she arrives to take photographs. Clarrie stops Eddie from filling the website with lies (‘Award-winning turkeys’ - one came first once in a turkey race) and she is optimistic about the forthcoming marketing, saying triumphantly “It’s about time the Grundys joined the 21st Century!”
So, they’re skipping the 20th, then?