Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Beginning Of The End?

Annabelle Dowler (Kirsty Miller)

Whisper it quietly, but there were significant developments in the Helen/Rob saga last week and we seem to be inching - albeit very slowly - towards a climax. Kirsty told Helen that she had rung the abuse helpline to discuss Helen’s situation. This upsets Helen, who tells Kirsty that none of what has been happening has been Rob’s fault and “all couples have their ups and downs.” Nevertheless, Kirsty gives her the helpline number, saying that, if there’s nothing wrong, it cannot hurt.

Rob tells Henry that he is nearly ready to go to “the school that Daddy went to - you want to be like Daddy, don’t you?” Henry agrees, which shows that he has no instinct where bad role models are concerned, and Rob urges him not to say anything to Helen “as it’s a surprise for Mummy.” I should say so! Henry promises.

On Thursday, Pat has arranged a tea party at Bridge Farm as a ‘thank you’ to Ursula, who is going home the next day. Helen is trying to get Henry to behave, but he says “I do what I want” and, when Helen tells him off, he says “I hate you - you want to send me away” and runs off, pursued by his mother. Left alone, Pat asks Ursula what did Henry mean and she replies that she has no idea. Suddenly, we hear - offstage, so to speak - Helen yelling “He’s gone too far this time!” Astonished, Pat asks what has Henry done now? “It’s not Henry, it’s Rob - it’s always Rob!” screams Helen. Ursula tries to comfort her, but Helen yells “Don’t touch me!” and says that Rob wants to send Henry away “and if he does, I swear I’ll kill him!” In which case, she’d have five million people giving her an alibi.

Helen takes Ursula’s car keys and storms out, driving back to the cottage, hotly followed by Pat and Ursula. Ursula tells Pat that she and Rob were discussing the hypothetical possibility of Henry going to a private school at some stage in the future and he must have overheard. She neglects to mention that they’ve all but chosen his desk and makes it sound like it was just a passing thought. This is the tack taken by Rob when he is confronted by Helen, who is still raving. In true Rob style, he turns it all round on Helen and, in true Helen style, she agrees that it was all her fault. Rob describes her behaviour as ‘grotesque’ and accuses his wife of ruining Ursula’s last day with them, telling her to “sit down and reflect on the damage you’ve caused. Your erratic behaviour is putting our baby at risk”

It shows how cruel the writers are - I for one thought that, now Henry has blown the gaff, the writing was on the wall for Rob, but then Helen did her invertebrate act and we were back in the same old situation.

On Friday, Rob rubs it in further, saying to Helen that the way she implied that Rob wanted to send Henry away was extremely hurtful and “a despicable thought.” He takes Henry round to Bridge Farm, where Pat has said she will have him for the day (Good Friday). Rob is quickly back and tells Helen that he has discussed things with Pat and Tony and he proceeds to rifle through Helen’s bag and confiscates her car keys to stop her driving off again. He then returns to Bridge Farm. What Rob doesn’t know is that, while he was away, Helen rang the midwife and said that she’s changed her mind - she now wants a hospital birth.  ‘Good for you, girl!’ I thought and was even more cheered up when, during Rob’s second absence, Helen rings the abuse helpline, telling Anita (the counsellor) that Rob has hit her once and forced her to have sex against her will on more than one occasion. Anita says that Helen is being brave by facing up to things, but then she reverts to the old Helen, saying that it sounds ridiculous when she puts it into words and she should really be grateful for all that she has and she’s sorry for bothering Anita. Rob is returning and Anita urges her to ring back soon as they can be of help.

Once again, I thought that Helen had blown it, as Rob comes in, calling for her. Helen tells him that she has been lying down all day, but she’s going upstairs for a rest. Rob asks if she’s done anything for supper and she says no, adding “Why don’t you make it?” as she goes upstairs. The week ends with Rob, obviously stunned by this spark of rebellion, calling after her “Helen? Helen?” Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of this story, or will Helen wimp out yet again?

Also on Good Friday, there was an unlikely member of the congregation at St Stephen’s, when Alf accompanied Clarrie to the morning service. He remarks on how good Alan’s sermon (on the theme of forgiveness) was and this proves all too much for Clarrie, who has noticed yet another £20 has gone missing from her purse. She confronts Alf and he admits to taking it, later telling her how he has betrayed her trust and “All I can do is apologise.” Well, actually, you could always offer to pay it back as well, Alf. He begs her not to tell Eddie, saying that he has been estranged from his family for years and now he’s gone and messed it up. Obviously influenced by Alan’s sermon, Clarrie suggests that they start again.

Alf has been helping Eddie fine-tune the fittings in Lynda’s shepherd’s hut - or maybe not, as the woodburner proves to be a disaster, smoking the hut out and nearly asphyxiating the brothers. However, they are luckier than that other set of brothers, Toby and Rex (do you appreciate these seamless links?). The Fairbrothers have taken delivery of the Eggmobile and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of 100 hens the following day. There was a semi-philosophical conversation with David, during which he says “every day in farming brings its surprises.” And how right he is! Driving towards Hollowtree, the Fairbros spot smoke and their worst fears are realised when the Eggmobile is discovered as a burnt-out shell. Disaster! Rex says that they will have to postpone the arrival of the hens, but Toby is made of sterner stuff (or else he’s on something). He decides that they can adapt the caravan to house the hens - it won’t take Bert long to knock up 100 nesting boxes, or however many are needed. But where will the boys sleep? There’s always the tent - Toby doesn’t want to lose the momentum they have built up in establishing the business.

In a leading contender for ‘this week’s most unsubtle hint’, Toby reminds David that Pip is away at the moment and “how many bedrooms are there at Rickyard Cottage?” David isn’t that stupid and recommends the B&B at Ambridge Hall - they do a fantastic breakfast and maybe Toby could persuade Lynda to use their eggs. Or, to spell it out, sod off Toby - you’re on your own (with Rex).

It turned out that the torching of the Eggmobile was a case of arson, so let’s pause and think who could be guilty? Jamie has previous - remember the burnt-out bird hide? However, as we haven’t heard from him for weeks, he could have died for all we know. Is Clive “Matches” Horrobin still in chokey? Has ex-jailbird Susan succumbed to the Horrobin gene? I reckon the smart money is on Rob - God only knows what his motive might be, but he’s certainly nasty enough - he’ll probably claim Helen did it.

Bert Fry has moved back to the bungalow and it is with mixed feelings. While he is pleased to be independent, he is rattling around and is obviously lonely. He is reshaping his garden as a tribute to Freda and, with prompting from Carol, decides that he will open it to the public on the same day as Lynda’s Resurgam garden. May I digress here and point out that lots of discussion of which typeface would be the most suitable for the engraved stone does not make for good radio and, such is my lack of interest, that I neither care, nor can I remember, which font was Lynda’s preferred choice.

Lynda is a tad pissed off that Bert’s garden will be open on the same day as hers and pays him a visit, ostensibly to take him a vase as a ‘moving in’ present. Earlier in the week, Shula and Carol were sorting through costumes for the Pageant (and, dear God, we still have that to come) and they seem puzzled as to what they’re doing there. Shula wryly says “Lynda is a master at delegating.” Carol agrees: “Her productions do tend to bring out the despot in her.”

So, well done Bert for taking a stand: when Lynda comes round and suggests that Bert might like to not open his garden on the same day as hers, he tells her to get lost. Earlier in the week, Lynda was at her pompous best, dismissing Bert’s efforts, saying that Bert’s garden is neither on the same scale as hers, neither is he charged with the same responsibility (i.e. she thinks that her garden is charged with symbolism for the entire village). Bert doesn’t see it this way, saying that he doesn’t care about what the village thinks, or if they visit, as his garden is a tribute to Freda and he’s doing it for her and her alone. In short, he turns Lynda down flat - if only more villagers followed his example!

Lynda notices a half-empty packet of crisps and asks Bert if he is looking after himself properly. He says yes and tells Lynda that he has a couple of houseguests - the Fairbrother boys are staying with him “until they find somewhere permanent.” My fear is that this sounds a very open-ended arrangement and their sojourn could be quite a lengthy one. Bert also tells Lynda that the boys “have breathed life into every room” at the bungalow. As Rex described Toby as “a slob in the kitchen” earlier in the week, I suspect that the enchantment might soon wear off for Bert as he clears away dirty dishes and, going on Toby’s past record, assorted female underwear and the odd contraceptive packet.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Once A Black Sheep…?

David Hargreaves (Alf Grundy)

Last week saw the return of Alf, Eddie’s brother, who has been a non-speaking cast member for a number of years. Not only did he return to Ambridge - having been invited for Eddie’s 65th birthday celebrations - but he even got a speaking part. At first, I thought that it was Joe moonlighting, but when I heard them together, I could tell the difference.

And Joe was overcome with emotion when he saw his son for the first time in years, and so was Eddie; embracing his brother and telling him that his past indiscretions were all water under the bridge. Ah yes, the indiscretions - Alf was a bit of a scally in his time and his misdemeanours included nicking money out of William’s money box (how come a Grundy had managed to save some money?) All this is in the past, Alf assures everyone, as indeed is his relationship with Steffie (of whom we have never heard, so don’t be too sad). Clarrie, for one, appeared to take Alf’s protestations of honesty with a large pinch of salt - when Alf remarked that the Grundy’s appeared to have done all right for themselves, she reminds him sternly that “we’re just house-sitting, so everything stays exactly as you find it.”

Alf’s reputation obviously preceded him, as, when Ed and George visit Grange Farm, George (who has never seen Alf before) says “Have you got a proper job, Uncle Alf? Dad says you used to be a burglar.” While Ed curls up with embarrassment, Alf says lightly that George shouldn’t believe everything he hears.

At the surprise barn dance on Friday - a surprise, incidentally, which skate-mouth Joe let slip to Eddie earlier in the week - everybody is having a nice time and Clarrie offers to buy a round. She goes to her purse and mutters in a puzzled voice “I could have sworn I had a couple of £20 notes in here.” Is Alf up to his old tricks, or is it a case of ‘give a dog a bad name’? We’ll have to wait and see if ornaments or paintings start vanishing from Grange Farm. If so, Alf’s return could be fleeting, to say the least.

The birthday bash was hugely enjoyed by everybody (except one - more of this later) and Eddie had obviously had enough to drink when, spotting Wayne with his guitar and being told that it is for some live C&W music, says “Brilliant! This party just gets better!” So, who is this killjoy who didn’t enjoy the party? Dear reader, I am afraid I must plead guilty, but there are mitigating circumstances, the first of which is that it was a barn dance. Even worse was Wayne’s C&W offering - a tribute to Eddie, penned by Wayne and entitled “The Prince of Grundys”. Eddie has been called many things in his time, but ‘Prince’ must be a first. As you may have gathered, barn dances and C&W are not my favourites - in fact, they are my idea of Hell, alongside an interval of Flamenco dancing and accordion and bagpipe solos. But hey - it wasn’t my birthday and it’s not every day that you are 65, so good luck Eddie. Memo to the producers - I don’t mind Wayne cooking, but please don’t ever let him sing again.

Now it’s time for the latest developments in the Helen/Rob story. On Monday, Rob finds Helen sleepwalking in Henry’s bedroom. In the morning, she remembers nothing, so he tells her (falsely) that she was “looming” over Henry’s bed, saying nasty, abusive things ‘like something out of a horror movie.’ As such, the Prince of Darkness decides to bring forward Helen’s appointment with the trick cyclist and a carefully-coached Helen is - unbelievably - allowed to see the psychiatrist on her own. The psych suggests anti-depressants and a course of cognitive behavioural therapy, although there is a long waiting list. When she emerges, true to type, Helen apologises to Rob, saying “This must be awful for you.” Never mind him, what about us? How much longer is this going on for?

There was a really creepy moment a couple of days later, when Rob joins Helen in bed. He says that she is cold, but “I know a way to warm you up” and he starts kissing her. In vain does Helen protest that she’s tired and begs him to stop, to no avail and the episode ends with Helen’s pathetic “No!” Before this, Rob tells her that he knows what the trouble is - “It’s because you feel guilty for hitting me, but I forgive you.” Let’s think, when was this? Oh yes, it was last week when Helen viciously brought her face into rapid contact with Rob’s hand - God, that woman’s got a nasty streak.

On Thursday, Rob and Ursula left Helen alone (probably bound and gagged) while they went to Rob’s old school to check out whether it would be suitable for Henry. Of course it would. Ursula praises the school and how polite and confident the boys are. With Henry out of the way, she says that Helen “can really focus on my little grandson.” Rob thanks his mother for offering to pay the school fees, but suggests that perhaps she should go home soon, as they could do with some space. Presumably Rob is supremely confident that he can keep Helen in order by himself now, and this is confirmed as, when Ursula says all they have to do is to convince Helen of what’s best for Henry, Rob replies: “Don’t you worry about that - leave it to me.”

Far be it for me to raise the hopes of the ever-increasing ranks of Rob-haters who read this blog - and it might just be wishful thinking - but there were a couple of straws in the wind that Rob might be getting closer to his just desserts. Firstly, when speaking to Bert, who describes Rob as a decent sort and a bit of a hero, Carol says of Rob “He’s not my sort of man”. Secondly, (and, given Rob’s adhesive attention to his wife, incredibly) Kirsty manages to get some time alone with Helen, who bursts into tears and tells Kirsty “I think I’m going mad” and “I keep upsetting everybody.” “Are you sure it’s you?” Kirsty asks and Helen says that she attacked Rob and he had to hit her in self defence. Kirsty is appalled, saying that there’s never any excuse for a man to hit her and she should tell somebody. “No, I brought it on myself” says Helen, alarmed, and makes Kirsty promise not to tell anyone about the incident.

The following day, Kirsty phones the abuse helpline, telling them about her friend, who she believes is in an abusive relationship, and whose partner has hit her. The counsellor asks “Would you say his behaviour is controlling?” Ha! Do the Osmonds have teeth? Is the Pope a Catholic? The counsellor also tells Kirsty that, under a new law, coercive control is a criminal offence (and the whole Helen/Rob story is presumably aimed at publicising this) and can Kirsty persuade her friend to talk to someone, or even phone the helpline in strict anonymity? Little chance, but she’ll try to persuade her.

Let’s move on to lighter things. Lynda’s shepherd’s hut continues to be up-specced, with a folding bed the latest mod con. Joe isn’t convinced that it is robust enough - it is made out an old biscuit tin, but Eddie says that it is recycling, which is something that Lynda is keen on. Joe says that they need to find out what Lynda weighs, but diplomacy is of paramount importance. Actually, he wouldn’t know what half of the words in the preceding sentence mean, but I am paraphrasing. As he, Lynda and Eddie are talking over what work Lynda wants in her garden, Joe the diplomat seizes his chance. “We need to know how much you weighs” he tells Lynda. Way to go, Joe! As subtle as a brick through a window, as always. An affronted Lynda refuses to divulge her weight.

There was a moment of farce, when Lynda explained her indecision over the typeface she should use for the word ‘Resurgam’, which will be carved into the stone at the heart of her new garden. In fact, there was another ‘wow radio’ moment, when she and Jim discussed and rejected various fonts. When describing her dilemma to Eddie and Joe, Lynda referred to agonising over which font to choose, to which a perplexed Eddie says that he can’t get fonts, but he could supply a large birdbath and try to churchify it a little. Sadly, Lynda didn’t bang her head against the nearest brick wall.

However, Lynda’s grand scheme to have a magnificent opening for her garden, representing the village’s resilience in coming back from adversity, looks set to meet opposition. Talking to Carol, Bert learns of Lynda’s plans. “Typical!” he snorts, “What gives her the right? No-one lost more in that flood but me - no-one!” Watch out for mild-mannered Bert Fry creeping around the Ambridge Hall garden with weed killer and hammer. What might save Lynda’s garden is Carol’s suggestion that he devote part of his garden to the flood - and to Freda. “That’s not a bad idea” says Bert.

Brookfield’s gamble on getting a new herd in appears to be working, as five cows gave birth overnight, with no help and no complications. David is besotted by the new calves (even though he has seen about 600,000 being born). All they need now is to hope that the new system - besides being easier, now most of the cows have got the idea of going through the milking parlour - starts improving their margins and making money.

The rollercoaster that is the relationship between Pip and Matthew continues on its up and down course. On Sunday, Pip helps the Fairbrother boys move the finished Eggmobile on to fresh pasture. Why? Why should she bother? She’s got her own farm to help run. Toby is in the cab with her and he loses no time in sowing seeds of doubt about Pip’s relationship with Matthew. She tells him that she and Matthew “haven’t been connecting lately”. Again, why? It’s sod-all to do with Toby and Pip can hardly regard him as a friend, so why not tell him to shut up and bugger off? “These long-distance things never work out” Toby advises her.

The next job is to install and secure the electric fences - an ideal opportunity for Pip (“Here Toby, stand in this bucket of water - yes, take your shoes and socks off - and grab hold of this fence for a second while I flick this switch”). Pip leaves and the brothers go to The Bull for a drink. Toby tells Rex that things are looking up on the Pip front as “Love’s young dream is going down the plughole.” Rex replies that he feels sorry for Pip and Matthew. “Where’s your killer instinct?” asks Toby and, obnoxious and arrogant pig that he is, he underlines that he does have some good one-liners, when he tells his brother “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”

Back at Brookfield, Pip tells Jill of her doubts about her and Matthew. Jill has no doubts, saying that she’s sure they will get through this awkward patch. Towards the end of the week, Pip approaches Mum and Dad to see if she can have a few days off to go up to Cumbria and spend some time with Matthew? They agree and Pip’s reason is that she and Matthew need to make the effort to see more of each other. From what we’ve heard from previous episodes, I’d say there isn’t a square inch of either of them that hasn’t been thoroughly explored at length and in depth.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

A Long-Running Saga Ends

Angela Piper (Jennifer Aldridge)

I apologise to all those who saw the above headline and thought that it refers to Rob/Helen/Ursula, but it doesn’t. It refers to the fact that Jennifer has finally got shot of her old kitchen units - they are ensconced in the refurbished Village Hall and, the way Jennifer speaks to Susan about them, you’d think that she had personally paid for the entire refurbishment. But Susan got her own back - when the new curtains are being hung, everyone remarks on how nice it all looks, but Susan says that it’s a shame about the kitchen, when everything else is new and fresh.

The other reason for putting Jen’s units first is to avoid having yet another photo of Rob/Helen/Ursula at the top of the page, because there is no doubt that this was the most important story of the week and I am afraid we are going to discuss it now. I will try to be brief, but if you want to go and make a cup of tea…

Sunday was Mother’s Day and Helen was overwhelmed by the flowers, chocolates and lovely card that she finds when she gets up. Sadly, these are for Ursula and, to make matters worse, Rob suggests that Helen make Ursula breakfast. Rob takes Ursula and Henry to lunch at The Bull (Helen decided to give it a miss). The lunch gives Rob and his mother a chance to bond, which basically means slagging off Helen. And Ursula says that Helen cannot manage with one child, let alone two when Lucifer is born.

The answer? Simple - pack Henry off to Rob’s old prep school, where he can be a boarder. Ursula says, without a trace of irony, that being a boarder made Rob the man he is today and Henry needs structure and discipline. Rob says uncertainly that he’d never be able to persuade Helen, but that doesn’t stop him clandestinely calling his old school to see if they could take Henry at his age (they could).

As the week goes on, Helen is feeling stifled, as Ursula continues to do everything and move her pile of maternity notes without telling her. Ursula is making Toad-in-the-Hole with, much to Helen’s horror, what appears to be a lorry-load of beef dripping. When Helen mentions this, Ursula takes umbrage and calls on Rob to support her, which he does, unsurprisingly enough. Ursula has to go out to get vegetables and Helen is left with instructions to put the dish in the oven for 30 minutes.

She does so and surprises Rob on the phone to his old school. He becomes evasive, but is saved when the smoke alarm goes off. The Toad is ruined and Helen is abject in her apologies, while maintaining that she had set the timer. Rob says she couldn’t have done and Helen asks if he touched it? “How could I? I’ve been upstairs”, fortunately not adding “trying to get rid of your son.” Helen is distraught, and overhears Ursula telling Rob that burning meals on purpose is something that anorexics often do to avoid eating. “No!” Helen exclaims and Rob tells her to calm down “and let Mum and me look after you.”

On Thursday, Helen decides that she has to get out and, despite Ursula saying that she’s sure Rob wouldn’t want her out on her own (what? Hasn’t he got her chained to the kitchen table yet?) Helen goes over the wall. At Bridge Farm, Pat is pleased to see her daughter, but then pulls her usual trick of sticking both feet in her gob at once by going on and on and on about having a home birth - what does Rob think? What do the midwives say? And (this is the killer) “Is a home birth worth risking the life of your child?”

Helen loses it - and I can’t say I blame her - and tells Pat that she has got it spot on; “It’s my child, I know what I’m doing.” Helen accuses her mum of making her feel worthless and not fit to be a mother, finally screaming “It’s my body; it’s my baby - I wish you’d all leave me alone!” Be honest Pat, as lunch goes, it could have gone better.

Now we move to the momentous events of Friday. Rob mentions that he might take Ursula to see Lynda’s pageant over Easter. “If she’s still here” Helen replies, adding that surely Ursula will be going home soon? They have an argument about whether Helen is ready to be on her own and Rob says “Don’t you like having her here?” “She’s been here long enough - it’s time you told her to go home” Helen says, obviously having had an injection of courage.

Rob asks Helen if she wants to hurt Ursula’s feelings? “I don’t care - what about my feelings?” Helen tries to explain how she feels stifled and that Henry isn’t her little boy any more. “Is it a coincidence that Henry’s bed-wetting started when Ursula arrived - all he‘s been used to has been turned upside down?” Rob’s devotion to his mother is akin to that of Norman Bates, and his voice gets nastier and louder when he says “It’s you that’s done that to him - are you really so blind. I always knew there was something wrong with you” and he accuses her of blaming everybody else for her shortcomings.

And then things start to get really nasty, when Rob snarls “I wanted a wife and mother for my child and look what I ended up with; you’re a wreck. It’s amazing that you were ever allowed to bring Henry into the world.” This is a step too far, and Helen says, in a voice laden with menace: “What did you say? You utter bastard!” and she advances on him. “Don’t you dare!” shouts Rob and he hits her before running from the room, sobbing “I didn’t mean to…If you hadn’t tried to hit me…” Yes, I can understand how a man who plays cricket and was captain of his school rugby team would be terrified of an eight-months pregnant woman. Rob locks himself in the bedroom and we wait with bated breath - has he got a razor or a carving knife in there? Is there a rope tied to the beam? Is Rob poised on the window sill outside?

Sadly no, and, still sobbing, he lets Helen in and we see Rob at his devious best (?), as he turns it all round on Helen, telling her that he saw Pat and she was upset because Helen flew off the handle, then there’s Helen’s ingratitude to Ursula. Helen buys all this guff and says that all she wants “is for us to be happy.” “Then how come we’ve ended up here?” Rob asks, “I don’t think it’s me.” Unbelievably, Helen ends up apologising for the incident (presumably while her black eye is swelling up) and says that it was all her fault as “I did try to hit you.” That’s as maybe, but Rob tried even harder - and succeeded. “I’m just so scared for our baby,” the scumbag says, adding: “How can we really bring a child into this mess?” Helen: “You think there’s really something that wrong with me?” Rob: “I’m sorry darling, but I think it’s time we found you some help - some psychiatric help.”

Sorry to have spent so long on this, but it looks like the story might be moving towards a climax (please God). Let’s move on. Josh really screwed Toby down when the latter suggested that Josh might want to upsell their pasture eggs (for which they are charging £3.50 for 6!) to his existing free range customers. Josh points out that (a) these are already his customers (b) Josh will be the one doing the work and so he wants 50% of the takings. Toby suggests 40%, but Josh is adamant. Pip, who has been listening to this, is scandalised and says to Josh that he’s being totally unfair. This isn’t actually anything to do with Pip and Toby surprisingly comes to Josh’s defence, telling Pip that Josh is only protecting his interests and he’s a pretty sharp operator. For his part, Josh tells his sister that her bad mood is down Matthew being away and “it’s just because you aren’t getting any.”

Lynda’s delusions of grandeur continue to grow, much to Eddie’s annoyance, as her original plans for a rustic hut on wheels have morphed into a shepherd’s limousine, with shutters a chimney and a wood-burning stove. He protests that he didn’t quote for any of that, but he is waved to one side, as Lynda is in full artistic flow. This is transferred to her plans for the Resurgam garden, which again have gone from the original sketches to something of which Capability Brown would be proud to claim as his. This means more grief for Eddie, who agreed to take on the landscaping job. Lynda’s plans inspire Robert, who suggests that they should open the newly-restored garden to the public on the Queen’s birthday. Wonderful idea! However, at the hanging of the new curtains at the Village Hall, Susan suggests a big picnic on the Green to celebrate the monarch’s birthday. Lynda reveals her plan and, sniffily, suggests that she wouldn’t want to overshadow their event. No worries, as Clarrie, Neil and Susan, say that there’s plenty of room for both and anyway, Lynda couldn’t get all the village in her garden. I thoroughly approve of anything that puts Lynda’s nose out of joint.

While on the subject of decorating, work has begun on the Dower House, but Lilian has a problem - Justin has to nominate someone for the Borsetshire Businesswoman of the Year (BBY) and Lil is at a loss who to recommend. She and Jenny meet Elizabeth outside the shop, and Liz tells her how busy she is and how many projects she is handling at the moment. Lilian is still at a loss, but Jennifer has an idea and keeps dropping hints - why not look closer to home, like a relative? Eventually, this unsubtle approach works and Lilian suddenly thinks “Elizabeth!” and is convinced it was her own idea.

At The Bull, Jolene overhears Lil and Justin discussing BBY and she tells Kenton that maybe Fallon is in for a nomination. Kenton tells her to keep her beak out, but he’s not a happy bunny, as everybody is raving about Wayne’s range of gourmet sandwiches and it’s getting on Kenton’s nerves; especially when Jolene points out how full the pub is for a weekday lunchtime. What is the matter with Kenton? OK, Wayne is Jolene’s ex, but if the pub is packed and the tills are ringing, Kenton should worry. Perhaps he should keep Wayne busy continually re-inventing the menu. How come, if Wayne’s such a brilliant cook, he hasn’t got a Michelin star?

Now, do we have a storyline developing? On the day that Jen and Lil saw Liz in the shop, there is a young girl browsing, who Elizabeth is sure she recognises from somewhere. Susan gives the poor kid the third degree and Lizzie realises that the girl is Sasha, Dr Locke’s daughter. It turns out that Sasha has had a row with her mother and bunked off school to come and see her Dad. Sadly, he is at the surgery in Felpersham and the buses only run every couple of hours. Lizzie offers to drive her there and Sasha is met by her father, irate because Sasha went off without telling anyone. Later, Richard turns up at Lower Loxley with a bouquet from Sasha to say ‘sorry and thank you’. Lizzie invites him in for a drink, but he declines, albeit reluctantly. Do we have the stirrings of a romance here, or is Dr Locke, who had an affair with Shula years ago, maybe just trying to collect the Archer girls’ set?

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Rob Isn’t Going To Like It, Johnny

Tom Gibbons (Johnny Phillips)

Having passed his Level 2 module, what subjects should Johnny choose for his Level 3? Jazzer and Tom suggest that he opts for shearing as one, but Johnny isn’t sure, as Rob has suggested that he goes for Budget Management instead, as he needs office skills and a good admin base if he is to make a career in farming. Tom asks him if he wants to be like Rob and tells him that what he does at college isn’t up to anyone but Johnny. Tom also adds that Johnny is a natural stockman, like his father and he should back his own judgement.

Tom’s words hit home, as later on we learn that Johnny is going to opt for shearing, as he doesn’t want to be a manager, stuck in an office. Rob isn’t used to having his ‘advice’ ignored and he won’t be happy when he finds out - presumably his plan was to get Johnny qualified as an office bod, so that he can get a job on any farm except Bridge Farm. The man certainly plays the long game.

Before all this happened, we were told that Rob has got Johnny to oversee the petting zoo that will be outside the shop and to talk about the animals to the public. Jazzer is scandalised when Johnny tells him that he isn’t going to be paid for this task, and Tom drily observes that “Rob is good at getting other people to do things that he wants.” Ha! You don’t know the half of it, Tom.

Life at chez Titchener continues on its convoluted way - Henry wet the bed and, even worse, he was in with Rob and Helen at the time and the man that all Archers fans love to hate was not a happy bunny, saying that it shows how wrong they were to let him in their bed. Helen protests (albeit feebly) that Henry didn’t do it on purpose and Ursula steps in to stop the squabbling. Ostensibly, she agrees with Helen, but the upshot is that Henry is going to have to stick to his own bed in future, which is what Rob wanted all along.

Henry is in trouble at school, pushing a girl classmate. Helen tells him off and Rob says that she was getting angry with her son. An increasingly-bewildered Helen says that she wasn’t angry; just firm. Rob assures her that her voice was raised and why couldn’t she be calm, just like Ursula? He also suggests that perhaps Henry prefers the stability provided by Ursula to the (he says) volatility and unpredictability exhibited by Helen. Helen is confused, and no wonder, with Rob and Ursula presenting her with faits accomplis, such as Ursula attending the birth as well as Rob and the fact that Ursula will stay with them for as long as is deemed necessary (but not by Helen).

We had a couple of examples of how devious Rob is, as, when Pat queries the wisdom of a home birth, he replies “You know your daughter, Pat - once she’s made her mind up, there’s not much anyone can do about it.” This masterpiece of duplicity, leads Pat to tell Tom that she believes that Rob isn’t any more keen on a home birth, than is she. “Did he say that?” asks Tom, who, along with Kirsty, seem to be the only people who mistrust Rob. “Not in so many words” Pat admits.

Things come to a head on Friday, when Ursula turns up at Bridge Farm, carrying Henry. According to her, Helen was running Henry’s bath and forgot to put enough cold water in. He wouldn’t get in and she forced his foot into the water, stopping only when he started shrieking. They thought that it would be better if Henry spent the night with Pat and Tony (let him wet their bed for a change). Ursula also let’s slip about Henry’s behaviour at school - something that Pat and Tony didn’t know about. As Ursula leaves, Pat says that she is going to sit down with Helen and demand to know what’s going on. Tony, however, fears that this could turn their daughter against them and it’s better to say nothing, and just be there if Helen wants to talk to them. In a statement which could qualify as ‘the most erroneous ever uttered on the Archers’, Tony says: “If she needs anyone to talk to, she’s got Kirsty and Ian, and there’s Ursula too - thank heaven they get on so well.”

Bert is back in the bungalow and he admits to Carol that he spent the first day talking to Freda about the renovations and is that normal?. Carol doesn’t seem surprised, but fortunately Bert doesn’t say that Freda came back with her opinions on the colour scheme.

We’ve said before that, if Toby is a good example of a high-flying City executive, then it’s no surprise that we got into the mess we did. On Sunday, he ‘accidentally’ meets Lilian, out on a hack and tells her that he really likes horses. Sadly, he gets the gender of the horse wrong and Lilian, who can see straight through him, suggests that he accompanies them back to the Stables, where she can show him how to groom the horse. Every time Toby tries to bring the conversation round to the benefits of pasture eggs and the opportunities provided for sponsorship of the boxes, she interrupts and tells him to carry on cleaning the horse.

Eventually, she puts him out of his misery and says that, if Toby and Rex give her the figures, she’ll have words with Justin. She also teases him about how long it took him to come to the point. Later on, we learn that Justin will, indeed, sponsor the egg boxes (£2,500) - indeed, he seems willing to sponsor anything that moves and most things that don’t - so presumably Lilian didn’t have to be that persuasive. We assume that she didn’t need to buy a new dress for this onerous task, but presumably Justin wouldn’t care if she did.

Justin also sought out Brian, who was servicing a quad bike. “Don’t you have people to do that?” Justin asks, quizzically, to which Brian says that he is pleased to get out of the house, where Jennifer and Lilian are comparing fabric swatches and colour charts and Kate keeps ‘borrowing’ office supplies from him. Justin has a proposition - Annabelle will be standing down as Chairman of BL shortly - she is being promoted to the Damara Board and won’t have time to devote to the BL job. Brian says that he had no idea that Annabelle was standing down, to which Justin replies “neither did she until recently.” Brian is worried that Martyn, or maybe someone else, might have objections. Justin tells him not to worry about Martyn or anyone else - the Chair is yours if you don’t mind the rush; what do you say?” Aren’t Democracy and transparent voting wonderful things?

While we are talking about Justin, he was doomed to being bombarded with colour ideas from Lilian (I thought the idea was that he paid her to come up with the d├ęcor?). So what can a man do? This being Lilian, the answer is to take her to Grey Gables and, in Lilian’s words to Jennifer afterwards, “Justin didn’t stint on anything.” Attaboy, Justin; get her pissed so she becomes incoherent, then, as they say, make an excuse and leave.

A well-refreshed Lilian goes back to Home Farm, presumably singing to herself, where she tells Jennifer (who isn’t impressed, as she is trying to update the Village website) all about the lunch. Lilian confesses that, in the past, she had always had a nose for the property market, but, since Matt buggered off with all AmSide’s money, she has totally lost her confidence. However, Justin’s advice (no doubt fortified by industrial quantities of gin over lunch) means that “I could feel the old appetites coming back.” Watch yourself, Justin.

There was a nice cameo between PC Burns and Fallon, when he picked her up to go shopping for bed linen or similar. Fallon, who seems to be solid with PCB - something of which I heartily approve - tells him that her dad, Wayne, said some nice things about PCB. “Oh yes,” Harrison replies, sarcastically “complimented me on the way I arrested him, did he?” Fallon replies that that’s water under the bridge and that Wayne said that PCB was ‘a decent bloke’. Let’s hope that he didn’t also add ‘for a bloody copper’.

While tying up loose ends, Jim and Lynda talk about her garden and we are all delighted to learn that she has decided where to put the shepherd’s hut, although when she sees it, it might be at the bottom of the Am. Her garden, she says, should represent a renaissance, to which Jim brightly remarks ‘Resurgam’, which is carved into St Paul’s and means “I shall rise again.”  Hearing Lynda bang on about her garden and the sodding Pageant (which looks like it will go ahead, damn it), ‘Resurgam’ was within an ace of describing the near future of my breakfast.

And now, finally, leading candidate for ‘most self-deluded comment’ came from Emma. Ed, who is obviously a chip off the old block, is trimming the ferrets’ claws in his and Emma’s bedroom, in defiance of Clarrie’s blanket ban on ferrets indoors. The conversation turns to whether or not Ed should go for a qualification in crop spraying. This was suggested by Adam, who needs extra help now they have the Estate contract back, and involves going back to college to gain the certificate. Ed says he cannot afford it - no problem, the Estate will pay and Ed can work it off - not only will it help out Adam, but should give Ed another string to his contracting bow.

But there’s another problem - Ed goes to pieces in a classroom and this qualification will involve studying for two, maybe three, days. Intensive education indeed! Having been beaten up by Emma (Ed had smuggled a second ferret into the bedroom and didn’t tell her) Ed agrees to do it and it is here that we have Emma’s comment: she compares their lives to those of Posh and Becks, in that both of them (Ed and Emma) are enjoying success in their careers. I don’t know about you, but I’m not entirely convinced that Victoria Beckham spends an awful lot of time making sandwiches and flogging cinnamon hot cross buns (a major success for Fallon’s Ambridge Tea Shop) and I’m willing to wager a substantial sum that David Beckham’s experience of clipping ferrets’ claws is even less.