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?