Sara Coward (Caroline Sterling)
Caroline and Oliver have returned to Ambridge and are impressed by the way that the village has bounced back from the flood. The extended holiday seems to have done them good and Caroline says that she’s pleased with the way Kathy and Roy are running Grey Gables - bookings are up on last year (surely it was full of flood refugees then?) - and she doesn’t miss being involved in the business one little bit. They haven’t visited Grange Farm yet, but Caroline says brightly “If the rest of the village is anything to go by, it should be looking lovely now.”
Sadly, these are the Grundys that we are talking about, so Caroline should know that the potential for disaster is vast. As they drive to the farm, she remembers that the garden was “just a muddy mess” when they left to go to Italy. As the pair approach the farmhouse, it appears that the Grundys have done their level best to keep it that way and Caroline’s optimism is totally misplaced. “There are pigs everywhere” she says, but Oliver seems quite relaxed about it, although he does concede that the pigs shouldn’t really be next to the house when Caroline says “This isn’t a farm, it’s our garden.”
Further surprises are in store as Caroline spots “a load of cattle” plus “what is all the furniture doing outside?” Following the Joe-instigated flood (he apparently filled the claw-feet bath full and got into it, without realising that there was no overflow and the resultant spillage has stained the ceiling downstairs and made the rugs and furniture soaking wet) the Grundys moved the furniture and rugs outside to dry off overnight. Unfortunately it rained, which didn’t help any.
Ed appears and greets Oliver and Caroline. “You’ve acquired quite a bit of livestock” Caroline remarks, with commendable restraint. Ed agrees that the pigs will have to be moved away from the house. “And the lawn?” Caroline says; her voice becoming a little icier. Ed says that the Grundys will make it good after the pigs have gone and invites Caroline and Oliver inside to meet Eddie and Clarrie (Joe has gone back to bed in a huff, saying that the Sterlings will have to miss his room off their tour) Er, it is actually their house and farm, Joe, so don’t push it.
Inside, things continue to go downhill, as Clarrie apologises for Joe having his ferrets inside the house, while Oliver is puzzled - if it were just bathwater that came through the ceiling, why is the stain brown in colour (don’t go there Oliver) and why has it spread so far? The Grundys have no explanation, but promise to make good the damage. And the broken banister? Oh yes, that too, and the drawings on the landing (thank you, Keira), plus the stains on the carpet underneath the strategically-placed sofa (thank you, dog Holly). Caroline and Oliver are left alone as the Grundys go to make tea and bring in cakes and Caroline says that the house was pristine when the Grundys moved in. “How can one family wreak so much havoc?” Oliver replies that “most of the damage is superficial” - I neglected to mention that he has clocked the crack in the kitchen wall, which he described as ‘worrying’ - even more so when Clarrie (rather unhelpfully) described as “getting wider”, hence, presumably, the use of the word ’most’ - “a week’s work for a decorator.” “And the garden?” asks his wife, witheringly. Oliver admits that this could be a longer-term project.
Ed is a tad worried, saying “I know you’re not happy with the house” (nothing escapes this lad - Caroline says, again with magnificent understatement “I can‘t say I‘m not disappointed“) but he’s worried whether this will affect his tenancy of the land. Oliver, who is obviously a very forgiving man, says no worries - they have an agreement and Ed’s tenancy is safe. By the way, do the Grundys have anywhere to go after they are thrown out of Grange Farm? Ed says that mum, dad and Joe (if they can get him out of bed) will be going to No.1 The Green, while he, Emma and kids will be “back with the in-laws.”
If this is an attempt to attract sympathy, then it doesn’t work, as Oliver says that he and Caroline are planning to buy a house in Italy. They won’t live there permanently, but, when back in Ambridge, they will stay at Grey Gables. As such, they will be putting Grange Farm on the market in a few weeks, so would the Grundys accept this as three months’ notice? In a leaden voice, Eddie says “Three months, then it’s ‘goodbye Grange Farm’?” No, Eddie, it’s three months, then it’s ‘goodbye Grundys’. He says that Joe has allowed himself to think that he could live out his days at Grange Farm, to which Oliver says “sorry”. Why? He let the Grundys live rent-free for a number of months (worried about thieves breaking in) during which time they have trashed the garden, almost brought a ceiling down, ruined expensive rugs, soaked the furniture, stained carpets, broken the banister - but you catch my drift. As I said last week, if Joe wants to end his days at Grange Farm, there are numerous ways that this could be achieved.
The only person who appears to have any grip on what’s happening is Clarrie, who says “Joe will just have to face reality, just like the rest of us - the party’s over.”
Continuing the subject of parties, Phoebe is getting a mite miffed - Brian and Jennifer have departed on their 40th Anniversary trip on the Orient Express to Venice, but before she went, Jen begged Lilian to keep an eye on Phoebe and to stop Kate harassing her while she’s trying to revise. Jen also tells Kate (yes, I too wept when Kate returned for a speaking part) that Phoebe needs peace and quiet, to which Kate replies that she is much too busy arranging the launch of ‘Spiritual Home’; the somewhat pretentious name for her hippy commune/therapy/treatment centre.
Hardly have Brian and Jen driven off from Home Farm, when Kate comes in to find Lilian. They discuss Kate’s project and Lilian suggests that they open a bottle of wine. Should they go to the pub? Kate wonders, but Lilian says why, when they’ve got access to Brian’s wine cellar and a corkscrew? Suffice it to say that the two get more-than-slightly rat-arsed and Lilian says that Phoebe told her off for making too much noise. Kate says that her aunt has been “very boisterous” lately and “You’ve been up to something, haven’t you?” “I couldn’t possibly comment!” Lilian says, and the snorting and laughter grows louder, as Phoebe bangs angrily on the floor, while Lilian says they should open another bottle.
The following day, Alice (welcome back) finds Phoebe clearing up the detritus of the previous evening. Alice tells her to leave it, get her books and laptop and she’s coming back with her to The Nest for some peace. Later on, Phoebe is grateful and the talk turns to Kate’s project launch. Phoebe says that Kate “isn’t a businesswoman” - and it’s interesting that she refers to Kate as ’Mum’, which is an epithet that she has previously only used for Hayley - and Kate is planning the launch for the evening, to go through the night, so that she can have a communal bonfire. In addition, Phoebe says that Kate has posted her earlier solstice celebration on Facebook and she fears the worst. I don’t know how much Brian paid for the trip on the Orient Express, but, between Kate’s open invitation to the solstice and Lilian’s cavalier attitude to Brian’s wine cellar, I’m willing to bet that he comes back wishing that he had taken the cellar key away with him - it could well have worked out cheaper than the Orient Express journey.
Time to talk about the Dark Side: Rob, who has more nerve than a one-legged, blind tightrope walker in a force 8 gale, goes to see Pat and Tony with a proposition - Sunday is Father’s Day, so how about he has Henry that day (Sunday is usually Pat & Tony’s day for their grandson) and they can have Henry for an overnight during the week? Rob leaves before Pat and Tony have decided; Rob says that Henry has said that he would like to spend the day with Rob and Pat says (no doubt accurately) that Rob is “using Henry to make us comply” and “we should refuse” and someone should stand up to him. Tony, however, points out that being seen to be flexible might go down well with the Court hearing, besides, Helen has been allowed to nominate two people to take baby Jack outside the prison, so, while Pat cannot see her daughter, she could see grandson Jack. Pat eventually agrees. By the way, more good news for Helen: by the end of the week, Jack finally gets the hang of breastfeeding.
Rex accompanies Pip to an on-farm yawn fest about cows. Pip says it will bore him to tears, but he’s keen to go. Afterwards, he suggests a meal on the way home, but, as they are having a drink at the event, Pip spots Alice - what is she doing there, as she hates farming? Alice replies that Chris is working nearby and there are some synergies between farming and aeronautical engineering (I didn’t understand it either). Pip invites her to travel back with them and, when Rex mentions the proposed meal, Pip says she’d rather get home. The next day, Alice tells Pip that Rex obviously fancies the pants off her, to which Pip says that they are just good mates.
Let’s wrap up other loose ends; Josh and Toby ‘borrow’ 24 hens to supplement their pasture flock. Toby seems (uncharacteristically) to be concerned that Josh hasn’t mentioned this to Neil or Hayley - there’ll be a reckoning, mark my words. Speaking of Toby - he tries to persuade Pip to do the voice-over for his video, tempting her by promising to cook supper. She watches the video (the food is excellent) but complains that the role of Brookfield is sidelined and why didn’t Toby consult David and Rooooth? She leaves, saying “Thanks for a lovely supper - shame about the rest of the evening.”
Back to Sunday: it was open garden day for Bert and Lynda for the Queen’s birthday and picnic on the Green. Lynda was annoyed when a visitor asked if the ‘Resurgam’ stone was a headstone for a departed pet? Things got worse when Carol Tregorran fell over in Lynda’s garden and broke her wrist. As Dr. Locke ferried Jill and Carol to A&E, Lynda asked anxiously “What’s happened?” Carol replied, somewhat testily “I tripped over that wretched stone!” Talking to Jill the following day, Pip says: “Poor Lynda - it must have ruined her day.“ One might make the observation that it didn’t do much for Carol’s day either.