Sunday, 27 December 2015

Calm Down Dear - It’s Only A Play

Carole Boyd (Lynda Snell)

Poor Lynda came dangerously close to losing it last week - things started badly on Sunday when Susan, who was admiring the newly-printed calendars, noticed that she was showing a bit more flesh than she had intended in her Miss October picture. There’s no way that she would let the calendars go on sale with her bits being flaunted all round the village - something needed to be done. Perhaps people wouldn’t notice if the offending page was ripped out and September 30th was followed by November 1st?

It got worse for Lynda when, at rehearsal for Calendar Girls, she learned that Jean Harvey (who had been brought in to replace Carol when the latter had to hotfoot it down to Bristol) had walked out in a mega-strop when Lilian, the epitome of tact and diplomacy, called Jean a prima donna. Jean won’t come back till Lilian apologises and Lil says that she has nothing to apologise for, as she was speaking the truth. Lynda agrees that Jean isn’t what you’d call a team player and then goes ever so slightly berserk when Elizabeth remarks that it’s as if the play has two directors.

Giving her actors a verbal lashing, Lynda accuses them of behaving like spoilt children and adds that she cannot take much more of this. “Do any of you know how hard it is?” she rants rhetorically, adding: “Do you wonder why I put myself through this ordeal year after year? It’s because I care. This rehearsal is over - you can leave whenever you want!” She’s got a nerve - never mind her being put through an ordeal - what about us? And if it’s so hard, then don’t do it - you may care but I’m sure I don’t.

Just as we thought that was it, Susan seeks Lynda out and says that she has come up with a solution to the problem with the calendar - self-adhesive silver stars to cover up the offending bits. Lynda is pathetically grateful and, sadly, we realise that the show is a goer once more.

Fast forward to Christmas Eve, where Lynda and Leonie are almost late for the Carol Service. Constanza the llama made a bid for freedom and it took time to round her up. When the service is over, Lynda and Leonie are putting the finishing touches to little Muppet’s stocking and Leonie tells her what a good grandmother and a good friend she is. Lynda muses on missed opportunities - if she had had children, perhaps she wouldn’t have been so active in village life. So, on the plus side there would have been no Christmas extravaganzas, but we would have had Lynda the doting mother and her genes added to the pool - a tough one to call, I think you’ll agree.

But we aren’t done with Lynda yet - her musings are interrupted by a noise from outside. Has the bloody llama got out again? No - it’s something smaller, maybe a fox or a badger? Leonie tries to scare it away, but Lynda stops her, making encouraging noises to the creature. Surely in can’t be…But it is - it’s Scruff. Lynda’s joy is unconfined at the return of her pet.

The next day, we learn that Lynda got Alistair out (on Christmas Day? That’s going to cost her) and his opinion is that Scruff has been living rough - he has no appetite and is infested with fleas. Lynda sends Robert out to Felpersham to buy some tripe from a lady who breeds terriers and the dog actually eats a bit; presumably to stop Lynda going on at him. Jill has turned up to check on the news about the returned dog (shouldn’t she be in the kitchen at Brookfield, baking or basting something?) and we learn from Lynda that she knew it was Scruff when she heard whining in the dark.

Mind you, from last week’s performance, that could just as easily have been Joe. God, the man’s a miserable old git, isn’t he? The Grundys have a lot of turkeys left unsold and likewise the Fairbrothers with geese, so Toby suggests that they have a joint stall at Felpersham market on Christmas Eve. He also manages to rope Clarrie in for plucking and dressing (the geese) and, on the day, he proves himself a good crowd worker, managing to get rid of all the spare birds.

At the end of the day, Toby hands over £1,200 in cash to Eddie - I hope officials from HMRC were taking note - and he was proud that he had managed to sell all the turkeys. Ingrate Joe, however, moans that that was because he “practically gave them away.” Excuse me? If he was ‘giving them away’, then I submit that, to rake in £1,200, there must have been an artic or two full of turkeys. Toby responded to Joe’s comments by saying “They’d be worth nothing to you on Boxing Day, Joe” and the old curmudgeon eventually concedes that Toby did well.

Let’s digress here for a moment. We heard Toby sell one goose, weighing 5kg, for £32. If we assume that the Fairbrothers also trousered £1,200 and that this goose was a typical weight, then that’s 37 people who bought a goose. I think that we can assume the turkeys weighed a bit more (Toby was selling them by £/kg), but if we assume that the average turkey was 11kg and sold for the same £/kg, then altogether that’s around 50 people who hadn’t ordered their Christmas bird before Christmas Eve - taking a chance, or what?

Going back to Toby - he did, indeed, do well. So well, in fact, that there was no turkey left for the Grundy’s and Carter’s Christmas lunch. No problem - Toby and Rex had kept back a goose as a ‘thank you’ for Clarrie and a Christmas present for the rest of the family. Joe is apoplectic at the thought - he’d rather chew his own gonads off than have goose on Christmas Day. So it was that, on Christmas Day, Grange Farm was full of the delicious smell of roasting goose, while Clarrie got ready to prepare Joe’s pork chop, as he chuntered in the background.

By an odd coincidence, Holly the dog managed to get hold of said chop (had it been dusted for fingerprints, Joe’s would have shown up) and Joe said that he supposed he’d better have the goose. After lunch, Eddie remarks that the goose was “The best thing I’ve tasted in years” (Which says a lot for the quality of Grundy’s turkeys) while Clarrie admitted that it made a pleasant change and even Joe said that it was the best goose he’d ever had and he took his hat off to the Fairbrother boys. Even better, he suggested to Eddie that they rear a few geese next year, which will please Rex and Toby no end.

The Grundy’s Christmas ends with Eddie showing Clarrie the replacement he got for her flood-damaged sideboard and she (admittedly helped by a glass or two of wine) telling Eddie and Joe how much she loves them - frankly, I don’t think there’s that much wine in the world - and how Caroline and Oliver are more than friends - they are Guardian Angels. I’d hold on to that thought - yes, Joe might feel that his life has turned full circle and he’s back where he belongs; yes, your sideboard might look just right in the kitchen, but never forget that this is only lendsies - Caroline and Oliver will want Grange Farm back one day - or if not, then they’ll want market value and either way, the Grundys will be out of there.

We turn now to the Evil incarnate that is Rob Titchener. At this Festive time, I don’t intend to spend too much time on him. Helen is ill and, as is his wont every time she so much as sneezes, Rob insists she goes to bed (“You know I’m right, don’t you, darling?”). He also manages to get her to agree not to go to the traditional tree-decorating at Bridge Farm on Christmas Eve, as they are now their own family and should be creating their own traditions. As such, Helen won’t want to spend Christmas Day at Bridge Farm either, will she? She’d be much happier at home and he’s already spoken to Pat and she’s agreed and what is Helen doing out of bed?

Rob seems determined to cut Helen off from all human contact other than himself, Henry and the unborn Prince of Darkness, who we will call Damien. Helen has been trying to contact Ian and, as Rob is driving her home from the shop, telling her she’s too ill to be there and get back to bed, she spots Ian outside Honeysuckle Cottage. Amazingly, Rob agrees to stop the car and Helen greets Ian. He is not a happy bunny and tells Helen in no uncertain terms that she let him down - she knew all about Adam and Charlie and she didn’t tell him. In vain Helen protests that Adam told her it was just a drunken, one-off kiss, but Ian says that Rob has known it has been going on for ages and “What kind of friend does that make you? I trusted you and you let me down. Happy Christmas.” Another avenue closed, another friend alienated and yet another victory for the evil Titchener.

So far, with the exception of Helen, the Christmas stories have been happy, more or less. What else has happened? Richard Locke held his housewarming party, helped considerably by Shula, although Richard bemoaned the fact that Elizabeth couldn’t make it (could we be looking forward to ’A Tale of two Sisters’ in the future?). At the same party, Charlie told Adam that he wished him well, but he hoped they could still talk as friends, to which Adam replies “I’m sorry, I just don’t think there’s anything left to say.” At this party, we had another example of Jennifer’s unerring instinct for doing the wrong thing, when she wanted to take Charlie over to talk to Adam (who had rejected his advances) and Justin (who had, effectively, exiled Charlie to Perthshire). Incidentally, Justin might have slipped up, as he told Lilian and Shula that he has an interest in a racehorse and would they like to be his guests at Felpersham Races? Lilian? With a free bar? Better get ready to sell a company or two to pay for it, Justin.

Someone who definitely isn’t happy is David. Rooooth is still in New Zealand and says she might try and get back sometime soon, maybe. The milk figures are depressing and there is a real possibility that the herd might have to be sold, in which case, they couldn’t justify keeping Pip on. She realises this and says that, if she can’t pay her way, she’ll have to leave. While talking of Pip, she gave Matthew a present and, in return, he gave her a good snog, which she seemed to like. Watch this space.

But back to the dairy herd - we have been here before. Back in 2011, David suggested getting out of milk (see Are The Cows Doomed? August 2011) and Rooooth wouldn’t hear of it, saying there’d always be a dairy herd at Brookfield. A possible solution - Rooooth stays in New Zealand and Pip and Matthew revitalise the fortunes of the herd. Alternatively, Pip and Matthew leave to start up a new dairy business and Rooooth stays in New Zealand, or even, Rooooth stays in New Zealand and… but I’m sure you perceive my drift. A Happy New Year to everyone (except Rob, of course).

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Last Christmas I gave you my heart …

Andrew Wincott & Stephen Kennedy (Adam Macy & Ian Craig)

Everything’s going well between Ian and Adam as they get ready for their stag night, which can only mean one thing – something, or someone’s about to try and ruin it. That someone turns out to be Rob and you can sense the change in atmosphere as he materialises in the Bull - about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit. He doesn’t waste any time in planting fully germinated seedlings of doubt in Ian’s mind when he catches him at the bar. With Wham’s Last Christmas playing in the background (all together now: “Last Christmas I gave you my heart, But the very next day you gave it away”) he betrays Jennifer’s confidence by telling Ian how much he admires their “open relationship” and gives Adam’s fling with Pawel and his closeness to Charlie (which began last Christmas) as examples. Ian heads straight off to find Adam, who happens to be outside with Charlie, and suggests it’s time to leave, and we’re left fearing the worst.

Back at Stalag Titchener Rob tells Helen the frumpy dress she’s putting on for the wedding is fine, and that there’s no point in spending money on new clothes even if Helen thinks it’s a bit tight. Rob seems to be well turned out though, and Helen’s surprised that he’s actually going, given his views. However what she doesn’t know is that Rob’s been sabotaging the wedding behind the scenes and probably wants to be in the front row when it all kicks off.

We are not reassured when we hear Ian struggling to contain his emotions during the exchanging of vows, perhaps feeling conflicted by his love of Adam and last night’s conversation with Rob. Later at the reception Ian falters into an awkward silence when delivering his speech. But instead of Rob’s plan coming to fruition there’s a delicious twist when Jennifer calls on Rob to save any embarrassment by quickly proposing a toast to the happy couple. I hope he chokes on the champagne.

Helen seems to be relaxed and is enjoying her buffet lunch (we learn that Jolene makes a mean Caponata) until Rob makes a barbed comment about how much she’s eating. The sound of Helen’s knife and fork dropping onto her plate signals what I fear may be the start of another episode of anorexia. Later after persuading Elizabeth to stay for lunch in the farm shop cafĂ©, I don’t believe her when she says that she had hers earlier.

Carol Tregorran’s had to pull out of Calendar Girls and in desperation Lynda has been phoning round anyone in the village not in possession of a Y chromosome. We learn (to my relief anyway) that Peggy, Christine and Jill have all turned down the part. David is relieved too, as it’s bad enough that his sister will appear “in the buff”, let alone his mother. As it happens, she’s roped in Jean Harvey, who everyone seems to know but has thus far remained silent. I can only remember her as the person who threatened to put a halt to donations from the church over some matter or another, but apparently she’s also an award-winning actress. Before we leave the subject of Calendar Girls, I felt a little bit of sick rise at the back of my throat when we overhear Lynda and Robert talking about her Bijouteries. I think the less said about Lynda’s nik-naks at this stage the better.

Despite fattening up hundreds of geese for Christmas, it turns out the Fairbrothers have never dressed a single goose before, and have only read books and watched videos about it (I can confirm that YouTube and Amazon are treasure-troves on the subject – other video-streaming services and book retailers are available). The plan is to get Clarrie to help them, and use the offer of a stall at a farmers’ market and hard cash to persuade her. I’m with Joe on this one when he tells them they can stuff their event up their parson’s nose. Clarrie however thinks it’s a good idea and accepts their offer.

My ears pricked up when I heard Matthew the contract milker demonstrating the Dutch 5-step method to Pip. However this turned out to be about hoof trimming, with Matthew proving himself the equal of any Kwik Fit Fitter with his prowess in retreading and balancing the four corners of a cow.

Rob’s still spending a lot of time in the farm shop as the ‘background boy’ enabling Helen to be chained to the till. He’s worn her down so much that she can’t even decide whether she should buy of bit of mistletoe for the shop from Eddie, and tells him to speak to Rob as “he’ll know what to do”. Come on woman, it’s hardly rocket science to put up a bit of ‘seasonal greenery’ in a farm shop at Christmas. Later on he tries to persuade her to have Christmas day at home with just him and Henry instead of going over to Bridge Farm for the traditional family Christmas that Helen says she enjoys.

At the AGM of the National Farmers Union at the Feathers, Brian and David chew the cud about the state of dairy farming. I had always wondered how David and Roooooth never seemed to be affected by the problems within the dairy industry, but it seems that they’re starting to lose money. After they hear a presentation that informs them that investment in the rural economy is down by £200m, David gets on his soapbox stirred by Elgar’s Nimrod playing in the background, to complain about what the rest of the country’s known about for years – that austerity’s driving the country into the ground. So austerity’s hitting the Ambridge bubble at last – even Brian’s complaining about it.

Finally, Shula delivers a housewarming present to Richard Locke at Keepers Cottage. The most interesting thing so far about Dr Locke’s return to Ambridge is that he thinks he’s met Rob before, but can’t quite place him. Rob denies ever meeting him but desperately tries to think of an excuse not to attend his housewarming drinks party. I can’t help thinking that there is much more to be revealed on this particular storyline.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Santa Sterling

Michael Cochrane (Oliver Sterling)

After last week’s episodes, the Grundys must truly believe in Santa Claus, except that his name is Oliver Sterling. At the beginning of the week, Clarrie and Eddie were practically suicidal - the doss house where Joe has an emergency bed is - well, it’s a doss house. A shared bathroom and toilet, no meals provided and some of the other inmates on the dodgy side; it’s not beginning to look a lot like Christmas for poor old Joe. It’s all too much for Clarrie, who rings Susan as she needs someone to talk to, or rather, she needs a shoulder to cry on. Her big fear is that she and Eddie will spend the rest of their lives in a poky flat, miles from Ambridge.

On Tuesday, Oliver rings Ed from Tuscany to thank him for sorting out the clear up after the break-in at Grange Farm and he notices that Ed seems a bit distracted. Ed tells him about the hostel and the dire flat that Eddie and Clarrie have signed up for. Emma joins him at Grange Farm and Ed becomes nostalgic when he remembers his childhood there. Emma gets him to dance with her on the new oak floor.

On Thursday, the Grundy’s spirits have sunk even lower, if such a thing were possible. Mind you, it is the day of slaughtering, plucking and drawing the turkeys, which can’t be a lot of fun. To digress, it appears that Thursday ought to be renamed ‘Death Day’ as the Fairbrothers (aided by Pip) are slaughtering their geese on the same day. Eddie is really despondent, saying that this will probably be the last year that they raise turkeys, as it’s not worth it and they cannot compete with the Fairbrothers and everything’s awful. An annoyed Clarrie (no doubt prudently removing knives from his reach) tells him off for saying such things in front of Joe and to get on with the poultrycide.

Ed should be helping, but he’s on his phone and we hear him say “You aren’t serious, Oliver?” “Oh no, what now?” Clarrie wails. But this time it’s good news - in fact it’s fantastically good news, as Ed reveals that Oliver and Caroline are having such a good time in Tuscany, that they aren’t coming back for some time; if indeed they come back at all. As such, why don’t the Grundys (Eddie, Clarrie, Joe, Ed, Emma and the kids) move into Grange Farm for six months? Rent free, of course - all they have to do is pay the bills - would they like that? Would they? Do the Osmonds have teeth? It is all too much for Joe, who goes out to tell Bartleby and who bursts into tears of joy. Oliver’s reason is that, if the house had been occupied, then there would probably not have been a break in. Suffice it to say that the family is delighted and Clarrie turns up the heating as they return to killing fowls with new-found enthusiasm.

The Fairbrothers sold a few more geese at their touch rugby event. The insufferable Toby tells Rex that this could be his day - when Pip sees his athletic prowess, she won’t be able to keep her hands off him. Rex taunts him and, when the brothers meet on opposite sides during a game, Rex scores a try. Always the sportsman, Toby later flattens him with a vicious tackle (this was supposed to be touch rugby, don’t forget) and Pip drives Rex to A&E. While there, Rex shyly tries to tell Pip that he likes her, but she isn’t listening.

At the end of the week, we learn that this is obviously a genetic defect, handed down in the female Archer line, when Rooooth rings David. David has been counting down the hours till his wife returns and is devastated when Rooooth tells him how much she’s enjoying her time in NZ and she’s learned so much. She’s actually excited by farming once again - so much so that she has decided to stay on and has swapped her return ticket for an open ticket. David manages to say “Things aren’t ideal here” but Rooooth doesn’t pick up on this and witters on about what an opportunity it is. David reminds her that it’s their 27th anniversary on Tuesday (he’s spent a lot of time sourcing her present - a bronze ornament of a calf and its mother) but she says that it’s not an important number is it? In a doom-laden voice, David says he’s pleased she’s enjoying herself, adding: “Don’t stay away too long.”

‘Things aren’t ideal.’ Too right they aren’t - firstly, David has broken his right arm and, the day before Rooooth rang, Matthew heard a calf coughing. It turns out to be pneumonia and Alistair is called in to dish out some antibiotics. David is annoyed that Pip didn’t spot the sick calf (Jill tells him off for berating Pip on the phone) and says that Rooooth, with her greater experience, would have noticed it. He is really angry with himself and Rooooth’s news that she is staying on does nothing to improve his mood.

Adam gets a text from Charlie, saying that he is going to accept the job up in Perthshire, and he drops everything and rushes round for a fuller explanation, and tries to change Charlie’s mind. Charlie asks Adam if he’s asking him to stay “Because if you are, that could make a difference.” All Adam can say is that he hopes it works out as Charlie wants it to. On Friday, Charlie, Adam and Ian are among the invitees at the Lower Loxley wine festival. Charlie gets Adam on his own outside and asks him to come with him to Scotland. Adam points out that he’s getting married in three days, plus his home and work are in Ambridge. He admits that he has strong feelings for Charlie, but he couldn’t hurt Ian like that. “So you’re going to sacrifice what you really want for him?” Charlie asks. “Isn’t that what love is, real love?” Adam replies. Right on cue, Ian (who has been looking for Adam) turns up - it’s time to take David home. A disturbed Adam says ‘goodbye’ to Charlie.

Another attendee at the wine festival is Dr Richard Locke, who tells Elizabeth that he is moving back to Ambridge - he has taken a lease on Keeper’s Cottage. “It will be great to have him back in the village again” Elizabeth tells David, after she and the doctor have had a long conversation. She tells him that she is appearing in ‘Calendar Girls’ and he says that he’ll be sure to come and see it.

Speaking of Calendar Girls, there is no doubt that Lynda has a world-class sniff of disdain, as we hear when she talks about the tabards that Susan makes the shop assistants wear. Honestly, if she ever got a cocaine habit, I reckon she could hoover up about a grand’s worth at a time.

The Rob and Helen story rumbles on. She rings him at work to ask if she could have some money to buy a new dress for Adam and Ian’s wedding. The short answer is ‘no’, as he reminds her that he gave her some money recently to buy some maternity clothes and she should have got something then. Besides, he’s much too busy to leave the shop and take her shopping. Helen’s doorbell rings. “Are you expecting somebody?” Rob, asks, sharply. Helen isn’t and rings off before answering the door.

The visitor is a surprise - it is Rob’s mother, Ursula. To Helen’s surprise, she knows about the baby boy and has brought a few things for her soon-to-be grandson. She demonstrates that she is Rob’s mother when she asks Helen “Are you getting enough rest?” Suddenly Rob (who obviously couldn’t have been that busy) turns up and is surprised to see his mother. Not only surprised, but obviously not very happy, as he immediately starts on at her about driving in the dark etc and can he open the door for her? Before she is carried over the threshold, Ursula mentions Godparents, saying that presumably Rob’s brother will be one. Helen mentions Adam and Ian. Mistake! When Ursula has finally been given the bum’s rush, Rob chides Helen, saying that Adam and Ian are hardly shining moral examples and, in a breathtaking bit of cheek, he accuses Helen of making his mind up for him, adding: “How would you feel if I did that to you?” As if!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

A Match Made In Heaven?

Michael Winder (Matthew Holman)

Last week, we said ‘hello’ to Matthew, the relief contract milker who was brought in to help out at Brookfield after David broke his arm, having caught it in the cattle crush when checking on a lame animal. David chides himself for not taking adequate safety precautions, but we are all wise after the event. Incidentally, David tells Pip not to mention the accident to Rooooth, which will no doubt give her something else to gripe about when she returns.

David might not appreciate this thought, but it’s an ill wind and all that, as Matthew seems a more-than-adequate stand in (he was the one they had lined up earlier when it looked like Pip was leaving the farm) and Pip seems quite taken with him, singing his praises to David after only a couple of days. She also invited him to join them for the great Christmas lights switch-on and the re-opening of The Bull on Friday.

This truly looks like a match made in heaven, as the two of them spend the evening talking about milk yields and how calm and relaxed the cows are; something which Matthew puts down to the quality of Pip’s handling of them. As they indulge in a session of self-congratulation, Toby comes into the pub and offers Pip a drink. Pip says she’s OK and introduces Matthew. Toby’s nose is put out of joint by the obvious rapport between Pip and Matthew and he says coldly “We’ve met.” Toby then heaps praise on Pip, describing her as “the third member of our team.” He has leaflets promoting his touch rugby tournament and says “It’s probably not your game, is it Matt?” “Matthew,” the milker replies, adding that he likes both rugby and football, but he’s got plans for Sunday. Toby’s discomfiture is completed when Pip asks him if he’d mind doing one, as she and Matthew are discussing matters bovine. A clearly-narked Toby says “OK, catch you later” and Matthew rubs it in when he replies “See you - Tobes.”

I like Matthew already - anyone who gets up Toby’s nose has got my vote and Pip is obviously impressed. What will happen when Rooooth comes back after a fortnight? Perhaps Pip will send her away again, or maybe Matthew might stay on, as we learn that David’s arm will be in plaster until Christmas.

Toby and Rex are trying to get some Brownie points by delivering Jennifer’s old kitchen units to the Village Hall as a favour. Not that it does them much good with Rob, who is there when they load up and, when the brothers ask if there is any chance of the Bridge Farm shop stocking their geese, Rob says ‘no’, as they are not organic. He adds “We’re very strict about that - organic only.” Where did you get the ‘we’ from Rob?

It wasn’t a good week for Tobes, as he was gently taking the mick out of Adam, when the latter explained that he and Brian were off to a farm near Witney where the farmer has been operating a soil fertility policy, similar to Adam’s. Toby feigns great interest, but Adam is not fooled and, on his return, he tells Toby that he has loads of literature and is looking forward to discussing the subject with him in great depth. Toby quickly changes the subject.

Brian is impressed with the Witney operation and points out that the farmer has not gone to the same radical lengths as Adam. For his part, Adam says “Trust me - in five years’ time these guys will be visiting Home Farm to see how it’s done.” Just as long as they aren’t visiting to say ‘I remember when this used to be a viable farm.’ No - I’ve got faith in Adam; carry on lad.

Adam seems to have faith in his half-sister, Kate. Brian tells him that she has been granted planning permission for her yurts and he had been hoping that ‘this mad scheme of hers’ would have failed at this hurdle. Adam says “She might surprise us all yet” but Brian regards this as the triumph of hope over experience, citing her track record of failures and disasters. Speaking personally, I hope that she does surprise us - preferably by packing up and moving to the Far East somewhere.

Rob continues to exert his baleful influence over Helen, by undermining her confidence and tightening his control over her. On Sunday, Eddie delivers a load of logs, just as Rob is off to do Helen’s stint at the Bridge Farm shop (he has told her to spend the day in bed - why doesn’t he just nail up all the doors and windows when he leaves the house?). Later on, Eddie turns up at the shop, slightly embarrassed, as Helen had no money to pay him and she couldn’t find the cheque book. Rob gives him £50 on account (how many logs did he deliver, for heaven’s sake?). When he returns home, Rob shows Helen the cheque book (“where it always is, darling”). Mystified, she says that she had looked there and he eventually apologises for over-reacting, citing her ‘all over the place hormones’, which does nothing for her self-confidence.

Rob then lets Helen know about Adam’s indiscretion with Pawel but, master that he is, he makes her drag the information out of him and feigns reluctance to tell her. Of course, he eventually does, and says that the knowledge is weighing heavily on him. Why so? Because Adam is deceiving Helen and everyone else and, who knows, Rob adds, might this just be one in a string of affairs? He urges Helen to have nothing to do with the wedding, thus isolating her from one of her best friends in Ian, who will be upset if she doesn’t turn up. Just another turn of the screw by Rob, the master manipulator.

Thursday is the day of Helen’s private scan and Rob is on top form again, saying that the midwife was pleased that Helen has given up driving. In - what for her - passes as open rebellion, Helen disagrees, saying that the midwife seemed surprised, if anything, as most women carry on. “Most women don’t have two accidents in quick succession” is Rob’s reply and Helen (who has obviously been taking the Brave Pills) protests that the first one was a speeding ticket, not an accident. Rob’s answer? “It’s symptomatic of how your head’s still in a bit of a muddle.” You have to admire the skill of the man, while desperately wanting to tar and feather him.

The Brave Pills kick in further, when Helen questions the need for the scan and describes it as an unnecessary expense. “You’re worth it darling” Rob replies. What is she supposed to say to that? ‘No, I’m not’? Besides that, he says that they will be able to tell them if it’s a boy. Helen still puts up token resistance, saying “But only if we want them to - I’d be happy knowing it’s healthy; we don’t need to know the sex at this stage, do we?” Well, dear readers, whose will do you reckon prevailed? Spot on! As they drive away (Rob at the wheel, naturally), he says ecstatically: “Isn’t that the most perfect news? A boy - it’s a boy - my son. Isn’t that wonderful?” Helen, who is presumably realising that she is just the conduit through which Rob junior will walk the Earth, says (unenthusiastically) “Yes, of course it is.”

And so to Calendar Girls. We are getting into photo shoots for the Calendar and rehearsals. Elizabeth upbraids Lynda for pilfering props from the ‘Deck the Halls’ exhibitions and tells her to put them back. At rehearsal, PC Burns, who is playing Lawrence, the photographer, gets told off for his off-script comments. For example, when supposed to be photographing Lynda, whose modesty (if indeed she has such a virtue) is preserved by a pile of pastries, he yells out “Nice buns Lynda!” and I’m willing to bet that it’s been an awfully long time before anyone (including husband Robert) has told her that.

Susan is miffed when she says that ‘the body stockings will help cover us up’ and an indignant Lynda says that there will be no body stockings, just sheer nudity (not nakedness, which seems a fine distinction). Susan is appalled - what if the stagehands cop an eyeful of her au naturel? Don’t worry Susan - we can make sure that backstage staff have a ready and copious supply of vomit bags.