Simon Williams (Justin Elliott)
We have had a few weeks of ‘can we keep the dairy herd going?’ at Brookfield, but on Wednesday, Justin Elliott dropped his bombshell over lunch with Brian. “I can rely on your total discretion?” Justin asks Brian, before telling him that Berrow Farm is going to have to be closed down, as it has lost £1.5 million over the past 12 months. Brian then demonstrates that he obviously doesn’t understand the meaning of the words ‘total discretion’ by telling Jennifer, adding that he was told “in absolute confidence” and she is not to tell anyone. The inability to understand words of more than two syllables is obviously endemic in the Aldridge family, as Jennifer asks “Not even Adam?” “Especially not Adam” Brian replies.
This happens on the day that Phoebe passed her driving test and Brian is less than congratulatory. “I suppose you’ll be wanting a car” the miserable sod says. When Phoebe leaves to tell her Dad the good news (at least she can count on him to say ‘well done’) Jennifer tells Brian off for his offhand attitude and asks if they have any champagne? Despite the fact that Lilian has been living with them for a few weeks, there is an unopened bottle and Jennifer suggests that they have a celebratory drink a bit later on.
So, that’s a couple of thousand (give or take those that were lost to botulism) bovines which will soon be on the market and, at the end of the week, we learn that it looks like they won’t be the only ones. Rooooth returns from New Zealand and is picked up from the airport on New Year’s Eve by Pip - David had his plaster cast removed the same day, but won’t be driving anytime soon. Pip tells her mother that David has put some champagne on ice, but she replies that all she wants is a cuppa and her own bed, the killjoy.
It was a bit of a Hogmanay wash-out for young Pip, as she was in great demand as a partner to go to the Young Farmers’ Ball; Toby had asked her and even Rex plucked up courage to invite her. Pip let him down lightly by saying that she had to pick up her mother, but this is spoiled later when, in conversation about how the Fairbrothers’ geese went down with diners at Lower Loxley (very nice, apparently), Elizabeth let slip that Pip had actually asked Matthew to go with her. As it turned out, Pip didn’t make the party, so everyone was disappointed.
There had been much discussion between Elizabeth and Shula about how down David appears to be and Liz suggests that it’s not just the farm, but he is wondering whether his wife wants out of Brookfield and their marriage. Elsewhere, Eddie and Joe speculate about the future, or otherwise, of the dairy herd at Brookfield and our tenters have never been so hooked as we wait for Rooooth to tell her family her thoughts. She takes her time about it and eventually Pip and David have to practically beat it out of her. It starts badly as, when David says he is hoping that things can get back to how they were before, Rooooth says ominously: “That can’t happen David.” She has had lots of things that she has had to work through and now she has a new perspective on things. For God’s sake get on with it, woman! Here’s David, wondering whether to advertise for a new wife, or to tell Pip to get another job, and Rooooth is keeping mum.
Eventually, Rooooth does spill the beans and outlines her vision for the future of Brookfield. “Do you think we should get out of milk?” David asks and we all hold our collective breath for the answer. There’s only so long that you can spin the tension out for and we have reached that point, I’m afraid, so, shorn of all the sighs, exclamations and sharp intakes of breath, Rooooth’s vision is, in essence, stay in milk, reduce costs (feed etc), sell off the cows and get some more (not so many) in - a breed that is better suited to grass feeding. Oh yes, and make them calve in spring, when the grass is more abundant. The yield would be less, but it will be profitable.
This causes consternation, as Rooooth and David have spent years improving the herd at Brookfield, plus the autumn calving (which they practice now) was Rooooth’s idea in the first place. Her answer to this was that she was mistaken and the current herd will fetch a good price and allow them to invest in new cows. Well, that was a waste of the last 20 years or however long, wasn’t it? David isn’t sure, but Pip thinks it will be a great step backwards, although she does say that she’ll sound out the idea with Matthew, who has had experience on a spring calving farm. I’d be quick, Pip, as if the herd is going to be reduced in size and Rooooth is back for good, then Matthew’s services won’t be required for much longer.
But is Rooooth back for good? David confides to her that he was worried about their future while she was away and worried how she was feeling about their life together. Rooooth tells him that he and she are part of the Brookfield tradition and that she wouldn’t swap him for anyone else. Looks like it’s time for us to slip the ‘Sorry You’re Leaving’ card back into the drawer, although I suppose we could always send it to the cows.
Elsewhere, Helen had the latest in a seemingly endless stream of scans and Rob is over the moon at how much his son has grown. Driving Helen home, he starts talking about possible names. Helen protests that they cannot possibly decide until the boy is born - she says she didn’t think of Henry’s name till she saw him - but Rob ignores her (surely not?) and says that he’s always liked the name Dominic, or how about Julian? Last week, we suggested Damien, but other names that spring to mind include Lucifer, Beelzebub or possibly Hellspawn. I suppose we could meet Rob halfway and go for Demonic? The talk turns to Godparents and Rob has a dig at Ian, saying that, as he hasn’t answered Helen’s repeated messages, it appears that it isn’t very high on his list of priorities. In, what for her, is an act of open rebellion, Helen tells him firmly: “Leave him to me Rob - I’ll talk to him, OK?”
Looking at some of the comments we have had, it appears that Rob is a shoo-in for the title of ‘Ambridge’s Most Hated’. And his actions last week aren’t going to win him any friends, either; firstly, he gets Helen to tell Pat and Tom that they would like Helen’s job at the shop to be a 50/50 job share. This is because Helen tends to overdue things and is very tired and they talked this over over Christmas. Of course they did. The next day, when Helen isn’t there, Rob tells Tom that it would make sense if his and Helen’s salaries were to be paid into their joint bank account.
There is a plethora of fruit at the shop and it appears that the New Year order was accidentally twice what it should heave been. Tom says Helen will be mortified (she placed the order) but Rob tells Tom not to mention it to Helen, as “she tends to beat herself up when she’s made a mistake.” Later on, Rob ‘accidentally’ lets it slip to Helen and she is at first adamant that she didn’t order that much, but Rob says that he checked with the wholesaler and that was what was ordered. Helen immediately goes into ‘how could I have made such a stupid mistake?’ mode, while Mr Nasty tells her “Don’t beat yourself up, darling.” I really hope that he gets his come-uppance pretty soon, as he’s making me angry - even more so when we learned that Rob didn‘t wake Helen up to see Henry opening his Christmas present.
Calendar Girls finished its run and the cast managed to get their own back on Jean (Prima Donna) Harvey by abstracting the knitting that she uses to preserve her modesty on stage, and shortening it somewhat, which caused her a few problems.
Finally, this time of year is a time to look forward and is a time of optimism. However, this should be tempered by keeping a hold on reality. At Grange Farm, Eddie is wondering whether to start rearing pigs (Oliver might have something to say about that) and Joe is in Grundy heaven; back at the farm where he belongs. The pair are drinking cider, but even his doesn’t excuse Joe’s wildly optimistic statement that “2016 is gonna be the year of the Grundys.” How likely is that? Talk about the triumph of hope over experience!