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 café, 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.