Sunday, 31 July 2016

The Triumph Of Hope Over Experience

Rhys Bevan (Toby Fairbrother)

If were honest, Toby has had better weeks. On Wednesday, Eddie informs Rex that it appears that the hens werent shut away the previous night and are roaming free. Even worse, there is a gap in the netting fence and a fox has got in and wreaked bloody havoc among the hens. Rex is incensed, as it was Tobys turn to see to the hens last night and he didnt come home. Rex blames it all on his brother being so loved up with his new woman - perhaps its a blessing that Rex doesnt know that the new woman is Pip, or we could have a Cain and Abel re-enactment on the cards.

Eddie helps Rex round up the hens in the field and shows him the best way to put severely-injured birds out of their misery. The final count is 50 hens dead or missing. Josh responds to Rexs call and, if Rex was angry, then Josh is positively incandescent. When Toby does turn up, his apologies are waved aside and both Rex and Josh have a real go at him, with Josh pointing out that its not just the dead birds, but the surviving ones will have had their laying patterns disturbed from shock. The only thing to do is to contact customers and try to negotiate a reduction in their orders.

Toby has an idea - source more point of lay birds, perhaps from Joshs free range hens. Josh would want full market price and, asks Rex, where is the money coming from? Toby says that he will pay - hell source a personal loan, to which Rex replies that running Upper Class Eggs is a struggle anyway and maybe Josh and I would be better off going it alone.

We hear nothing more until Friday, when the three partners meet to assess the damage to UCE. Rex has been ringing round customers to suggest an immediate reduction of 20% in orders. Two customers have cancelled; something which Toby describes as “an overreaction”. He insists that, in three or four weeks, UCE will be back to normal and he has sourced the money to buy the new hens (he negotiated a personal loan from his father). He also says that the drone video is getting lots of hits and why can’t the customers who have cancelled give them a break?

This is too much for Josh, who snaps back “Why should they? We’ve only been dealing with them for five minutes; you can’t expect loyalty this soon.” Toby still proffers grovelling apologies, saying it’s totally his fault and he couldn’t feel worse about it. Actually, he could - and does - when Rex tells them that the worst-case scenario is losing 50% of the business. Josh isn’t best pleased by this news and says “This isn’t personal Toby; you’re a good laugh, but as a business partner, you’re an utter disaster.” Josh then goes on to say that he thinks he and Rex could pull UCE around by themselves. Toby says “It’s up to you guys to decide.” Rex says that, two days ago, he would have cut Toby out immediately, but now he thinks Toby could do a job for them - he’s better at the people side. Especially if the people are female, presumably.

Toby begs for one more chance, saying “this has been a massive wake-up call. Give me another chance and I swear I’ll put this right. 200% effort” (I assume he wasn’t a very good banker, figures-wise). Rex admits to having “massive misgivings” but what does Josh think? “One more chance” says Josh, hence the title of this week’s blog. Relieved and grateful, Toby tells them that they won’t regret it. All I can say is that this will be a conversion akin to that of St. Paul’s if Toby does change and I wouldn’t bet money on it happening, especially if he gets the scent of a woman. Incidentally, before the fox got to the hens, we learn that Josh hasn’t got a very high opinion of Toby. Josh was talking to Johnny about women, saying: “You like brunettes, I’m into long, blonde hair and Toby goes for anything with a pulse and no judgement.”

Josh and Johnny were waiting by the combine for Adam to do some grain hauling work. Adam is late and the boys are bored, so Josh turns on the combine’s engine, just as Johnny warns that Adam has arrived. Josh quickly turns it off, asking nervously “Do you think he noticed?” Let’s think - the combine is extremely powerful and has a large engine - of course he’ll bloody notice! Indeed he does and, as he tells Ian later, he gave the boys a right rollocking.

Adam is keen to persuade Tom to pursue the Nuffield scholarship so that he can research the market for organic baby food in other countries. Tom has a look at the application forms, but feels he is too busy on the farm. Nevertheless, he mentions the form to Pat and Tony. Pat says it sounds like a good idea, but… “Now isn’t the right time” Tom finishes for her. Pat agrees, but Tony isn’t so sure “Yes, we’re stretched, but why should Tom have to sacrifice his dreams?” he asks. Tom thinks that it could be positive for Helen - “It might be the perfect way for her to find herself again.” Not only that, but if it were to take off, it could provide a future for Johnny, Henry and even Jack: “Helen and I would be creating something for their futures - like you and Dad did for us.” Pat relents and gives her son her blessing to apply.

Meanwhile, Anna has been trying to find people who would be willing to speak as character witnesses on Helen’s behalf. First up is Ian and Anna tells him that Helen described him as “a very good friend.” Ian replied “We were, until Rob came into the equation” and he tells Anna about how he and Helen had a massive falling out, engineered by Rob. Ian seems genuinely touched that Helen said nice things about him and tells Anna “I’ll do it. Whatever. Whenever. Certain.” And he asks Anna to send Helen his love. She suggests that he does it himself, by sending her a letter. “Will she want to hear from me?” he asks “I’m sure she’d love to, Ian” Anna replies.

Anna next tackles Neil to be a character witness and he is initially reluctant, saying that they had never been that close. Anna counters that that is ideal - he will be a more objective witness, plus he is Chair of the Parish Council, which cannot hurt. Neil agrees and Anna thanks him and leaves, just as Susan returns. Susan asks what was Anna doing there and, when Neil tells her what he has agreed to, she is horrified, saying: “There’s a hero walking round the village with terrible injuries and she’s the woman responsible.” Neil protests that he just wants to be fair to Helen, but Susan is in full cry and tells him “You’ll turn Rob against us, not to mention the cricket team and half the village.” She also reminds him that, as village postmistress, she has to get on with everybody and that Neil is making a big mistake “And it won’t be long before you wished you’d listened to me.” I can’t believe that’s ever likely to be the case, personally.

And now we have this week’s ‘can we have that in writing, please?’ moment. The organisation of the Fete is running into problems - the ‘whack the mole’ man has moved to no-one knows where and there are problems with the parking. Even worse, the ‘dunk the vicar’ mechanism has a piece missing. Later on we learn that ‘whack a mole’ will be replaced by ‘splat a rat’, or ‘club a seal’, or similar, but Fallon is floundering. So she bites the bullet and goes to see Lynda, admitting that there are some problems. “Problems? Oh dear, what could possibly have gone wrong?” asks Lynda, positively exuding smugness from every pore.

To be fair, Lynda does help with addresses and Fallon asks her if she could help with the parking or the Jean Harvey problem, but Lynda says that she doesn’t have the time. Lynda says Fallon did her a big favour by pointing out her shortcomings and Lynda has decided to drop out of everything. “No more fetes, bazaars, maypole dances or Christmas shows for me” Lynda says, adding that it has been “a wonderful liberation for me.” And this is what I want to get in writing and signed, as I cannot believe that Lynda can, and will, give it all up. Lynda’s been doing this for 30 years and she tells Fallon that now it’s time for her and her friends to pick up the baton, adding smugly: “From what I’ve heard, the Fete is going to be an absolute triumph.” Only a couple of days earlier, Lynda had told Robert: “It’s no longer my role to care but, from an outsider’s point of view, you might be forgiven for thinking that rank inexperience is steering this year’s Fete towards disaster.“ Fallon is distraught at what she has done and wails “if you drop out of everything, life in Ambridge won’t be the same“, which is what we are all hoping, of course.

Over at the Stables, Caroline and Shula have been out riding and there is talk of Dan and Dorothy’s forthcoming holiday in Croatia - we learned on Sunday that Dorothy is a bit of an action girl, who enjoys rock climbing and she and Dan will be white water rafting when on holiday. There is talk too of Alistair’s on-going attempt to move his business back to the Stables. However, Caroline notices that Shula appears distracted and she asks her friend what’s wrong?

In the tack room, Shula reveals that she has been thinking of when Rob attacked the hunt saboteur and how she subsequently lied to the police about it. Rob was so self-righteous afterwards and Shula saw a side of Rob that nobody else had - could she have somehow stopped the train of events that has led to Helen facing trial? Caroline assures her that she could not possibly have foreseen what would happen and their conversation is interrupted when Fallon comes in, looking for another errant piece of Fete machinery.

And now to ElfWorld; the Grundy’s latest money-making scheme. Or, then again, perhaps not, as the contribution bucket yielded 98p and a broken hair slide when they last looked. Never mind; Joe has an idea which will turn Bartleby into ElfWorld’s premier attraction - fit him with a pair of wings and introduce him as the magical, flying and talking horse of the fairy kingdom (an idea Joe nicked from one of Keira’s DVDs). Great idea, except that Bartleby isn’t having any of it and throws the wings off three times, before trampling them underfoot. He also manages to kick the head off the plaster statue of a wizard, which Eddie describes as “one of our best attractions”, which gives you a clue as to why they only took 98p. I don’t think that the Harry Potter Experience or Disneyworld need to start panicking just yet.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

What Is It That Alice Has Got?

Hollie Chapman (Alice Aldridge)

When it comes to getting job offers, you have to hand it to Alice - past experience has taught us that, by the time she has got home from the interview, the job offer is on her doormat. It was a bit more difficult for the latest job, insofar as she had to endure a second interview before being offered the position.

But this wasn’t enough for young Alice, who demonstrated considerable nerve when she contacted the company to tell them that she would deign to take the job, but a) the salary is too low and b) the holiday entitlement was laughable, so would they mind going back and having a rethink? Jennifer is all of a twitter, wondering if Alice has done the right thing - would the company tell her to take a hike and offer the job to the runner-up candidate?

I know that, if I tried such a tactic, the ‘sod off’ e-mail would be in my Inbox within seconds, but we are talking about Alice here and she not only secured eight extra days of holiday, but a salary 20% higher than the original offer. I have said it before - this girl must be very, very good. I suspect that, when she goes for her next job (presumably President of the USA, or UN Secretary General), she will march into the interview room, put her feet on the desk, glance at her watch and say “OK gentlemen - I can give you 15 minutes; tell me why I should come and work for you.”

Compare and contrast this, as they used to say on exam papers, with the attitude to Kate towards her hippy, alternative therapy set-up, which seems to have suddenly morphed into a ‘glamping’ experience. Having driven her mum mad when shopping for furnishings last week, Kate decides that her purchases are not good enough for her guests, so she raids Home Farm for a better class of furnishings for the yurt. These include Jennifer’s best china tea service and silver cutlery, a full-length mirror from the dressing room and Jennifer’s priceless Persian rug - all things, as Brian sarcastically remarks, that Mongolian horsemen presumably regarded as indispensable in their yurts. He is also worried, as all this is for one yurt and Kate has two others to furnish. And it gets worse, as, when Brian suggests that he and Jennifer have lunch on the terrace, they find that the garden furniture has also been appropriated. We learn later that the glamping guests were deeply impressed, and so they damn well should have been, after all that faffing around.

Let’s leave the Aldridges and turn now to a lady who has zoomed to the top of my ‘favourite Ambridge person’ chart - ladies and gentlemen, I give you Fallon Rogers! Before we find out what she has done to earn this accolade, we must mention the advice that she and PCB give to Rex Fairbrother, concerning his love life. PCB tells Rex that, when he and Fallon first met, she wasn’t interested and it took ‘considerable persistence’ to get her to go out with him. Fallon backs him up, telling Rex that, when she first met PCB “I thought he was an arrogant prat. Now I realise that he’s a sweet, caring, adorable prat and people will do what he asks them to.” Praise indeed!

But why has Fallon gone up in my estimation? She, Kenton and Susan managed to outvote Lynda over the Village Fete and incorporate some Rio- and Olympics-related elements into more traditional offerings such as ‘whack the mole’, Morris dancing, White Elephant and ’dunk the vicar.’ At the Fete Committee (FC) meeting, it becomes evident that the Rio theme has gone much further than Lynda anticipated and that Kenton has booked a Samba band. Lynda protests that this has not been discussed by the FC and Fallon, who has privately described Lynda’s ideas as boring, says that it will make a nice change from Morris dancing.

Scandalised, Lynda says that surely they are not suggesting cancelling the Morris Men? Too right, Fallon answers and, when Lynda embarks on her ’upholding traditional country practices’ speech, Fallon asks “why not do something different for a change?” With a sniff that must have measured around five on the Richter Scale, Lynda says that she has never denied people choice. However, Fallon is going for the jugular now and interrupts with “as long as they choose what you want.” Stunned, Lynda makes a speech about how she has served this committee, and others, for over 30 years: “Fete after fete, Christmas show after Christmas show [too bloody right!], which I have undertaken in a spirit of selfless dedication. If the younger generation has decided that my time is past and this is the moment to stage a coup, far be it for me to stand in their way.”

Come on Lynda, lighten up - we’re talking about the Village Fete here, not Turkey. But La Snell isn’t finished yet and, rising from her chair, she rants “I’m not going to sit around and watch while traditions are trampled into the ground in the name of brash innovation.” Turning to Jill, Lynda says “Be warned Jill - this week the Village Fete, next week the Flower and Produce Show!” and on this dramatic note, she flounces out of the room. “Oh dear!” says Jill, while Kenton mutters “Oh Fallon, what have you done?”

My answer to Kenton’s question would be “an immense favour to Ambridge residents and five million listeners”, but I have no doubt that Lynda will regain her megalomaniacal tendencies (or ‘selfless dedication’ as she terms it) in time for Christmas. I hope not, but like death and taxes, I fear it is inevitable. I suppose that, if Fallon wanted to make things up with Lynda, she could always claim that she misheard her, saying “I’m sorry Lynda, but I thought you were behind the Rio idea - when you talked about ‘whack a mole’ I thought you said ‘guacamole’.” OK, I know guacamole is Mexican, but it’s close enough.

Away from the FC drama, what else has been happening? Lilian and Peggy went to see Helen, prompting many in the village to ask them on their return “How’s Helen?” “Still banged up in chokey” is the answer to that and, at the end of the week, we had Anna trying to get Helen to agree to tell the Helpline that she rang to confirm that she called them. Helen says that she has already told Anna that she rang, but Anna points out that the Helpline can only confirm it if Helen gives her express permission for it and, for reasons that I didn’t fully understand, she’s reluctant to do so. Helen, love, you have already said how boring the institution is - if you don’t get some sort of defence sorted, you’ll be put away for years, with no Jack or Henry to comfort you, so get it together. To be fair, she is remembering the odd incident, but it’s slow going for Anna.

Back in Ambridge, Pat has hopes that, now Ursula is gone, maybe Rob will let them have the odd extra day with Henry. Fat chance! Never mind, she and Tony can take Henry on a week’s holiday and she has found a nice place in Tenerife. “You’re not taking my son to Tenerife - do you think I was born yesterday?” and he flatly refuses to allow them to take Henry out of the country, talking about recent cases of child abduction. I don’t know about born yesterday, Rob but it could be a case of ‘dead tomorrow’ if you keep crossing Pat. As a furious Pat tells Jennifer later: “That man is playing games with us - and he’s clearly enjoying it!”

It was the naughty step for David, midweek - he had taken an extra cut of silage and, when Pip checked out the grazing paddocks with the plate meter, the instrument shows that the grazing is insufficient and the cows will have to be fed supplements, thus incurring extra costs. Pip discusses this with Rooooth, who tells her that that explains why milk yields are down and she’ll have a word with David.

When confronted with the facts, David admits that, when he cut the silage, he didn’t use the plate meter and judged it by eye. Oh dear! Rooooth says he will have to confess to Pip and will probably be subjected to physical violence. Not quite, but there is lots of biting sarcasm and the phrase ‘my idiot father’ was bandied around. As Pip goes off “to feed these poor, starving cows”, David says quietly to Rex “Well, that’s put me in my place.” Rex’s reaction? “She can be a bit fierce when she puts her mind to it, can’t she?”

Pip’s fling with Toby is continuing and she makes it plain that it’s just sex and throws Toby out of her bed when he is settled down for a post-coital nap. This is about 2am and Toby notices a light on in Brookfield. We learn later on that it was Jill, who couldn’t sleep and, as she tells Peggy, she saw Toby slinking away. Jill has no time for the Fairbrothers (“He’s just like his father”) but Peggy tells her not to go interfering - “just be there when it all goes wrong.” Actually, I wonder whether Toby, who tells Rex that he is indeed seeing a woman, but “Sex for me is a necessity and that’s all it is with this woman - it will burn itself out”, isn’t becoming a tad smitten. As Rex says that everyone’s telling him not to give up on pursuing the girl he fancies, Toby suggests that perhaps it is time he called it a day, which surprises Rex, as it was Toby who has been egging him on.

Emma confessed to Clarrie that, while she has no problems in moving back in with her mum and dad, Ed isn’t so keen. She describes her husband as ‘a bit of a slob’ and her mother as ‘a bit houseproud’ adding: “She never forgave Ed for being sick all over her sofa.” Yup, that’s what I call really houseproud.

Caroline is out riding with Shula and she tells her that she and Oliver have had an offer for Grange Farm, close to the asking price. Will she be sad to leave? Not a bit of it: “When I came back from Italy and saw the mess the place was in, I thought ‘I don’t want to live here any more - it isn’t my home’ “ Caroline reveals that, if it were up to her, she’d accept the offer like a shot, but Oliver is dragging his feet. The reason is that the prospective purchaser is a developer, who wants to divide it into holiday flats and “Oliver hates the idea - he knows it would break Joe Grundy’s heart.” Get a grip, Oliver - do you want to sell the damn place or don’t you? Repeat after me: ‘It doesn’t matter a toss what (or, indeed, if) Joe Grundy thinks’ and keep repeating it until it sinks in, or Joe kicks the bucket.

Finally, a change of sporting fortunes; Sunday was PCB’s first match as cricket captain and he could only raise a team of 10 men, who were all out for 91 against Loxley Barrett. Despondency ruled OK, but Ambridge redeemed themselves by dismissing their opponents for 88, thanks in no small part to two brilliant catches by PCB. Actually, I can’t understand why he is having trouble raising a team - the man is a policeman, after all and it only takes a few phone calls along the lines of “would you like to be in the cricket team this Sunday - or would you rather have a speeding ticket?” People will be falling over themselves to play.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Not Charm Personified

Michael Byrne (Bruce Titchener)

Last week we were re-introduced to Bruce, Ursula’s husband and it was definitely a case of ‘not nice to see you - to see you not nice!’ Bruce rang on Sunday, telling Ursula that he would be at Blossom Hill Cottage the following day. This throws Ursula into a bit of a flat spin and, the following day, she is making a second treacle tart, as the lattice on the first one wasn’t quite to her satisfaction and she wants it perfect for Bruce.

We infer from this that Bruce might be a bit of a difficult customer and we are quite right. Ursula is agonising about what to cook - she wants toad in the hole, but Rob says that’s for the autumn and she should serve up salad and yesterday’s leftover cold meat, which she does. Bruce arrives and immediately begins moaning because he was held up behind some giant drill. After lunch, he and Ursula go for a walk and he has indigestion, which he blames on her “rabbit food”. Ursula says that she has got food in the freezer which he can take back with him, but Bruce has other ideas - he has had months of living on microwaved meals and he’s sick to death of it all. The house is a tip (can’t he operate a vacuum?) and, when Ursula asks about Miles and Belinda, he tells her sharply that it’s not their job to look after him, it’s Ursula’s. As such, he’s taking her back with him.

Ursula is distraught and says that Rob still needs her and he’d never be able to look after Henry on his own, so why doesn’t she go home and come back for the holidays? “Ridiculous!” snorts Bruce. He eventually relents to letting Ursula stay till the end of the week and, back at Blossom Hill Cottage, he announces that he is returning home. But doesn’t he want to see Henry? Bruce replies that he doesn’t want to go and see “some snotty-nosed kid.” “But you’ve never even met Henry” Rob protests and Bruce demonstrates the depth of his grandfatherly feelings when he says “I can live with that.” In case you thought that Bruce was just disguising his affection behind a bluff, gruff fa├žade, he spells out his feelings, calling Henry “a freak of nature conceived in a test tube with a stranger’s sperm.”

He doesn’t want to get involved with Henry and says that he will return “to get my grandson - your true son - back where he should be; with you. And that crazy harpy who put him there and put you in hospital will be kept behind bars for years to come.” However, there is a touching farewell - oh, do come on; you didn’t really believe that, did you? What Bruce actually says is “I won’t say it’s been no trouble, because it has been.” What a charmer! Let’s just hope that he doesn’t crash into a tractor or any other very solid piece of agricultural machinery on the way home to Hampshire.

Fast forward to the end of the week and Ursula sobs as she packs to leave - she had brought baby clothes and Rob’s own baby blanket for young Gideon (as they think of Jack) and Rob wonders if Jack will have outgrown the former by the time he gets to hold his son. Demonstrating a breathtaking level of self-delusion, he says “It’s all wrong. I only wanted to help. All I ever did was to try to give Helen some stability in her chaotic life - she wanted it; she needed it.” Ursula is far from convinced that Rob is up to looking after a boisterous five-year old and, if he has the slightest trouble, he’s to call her and she’ll come straight back “no matter what your father says.” Yeah, right. She also tells Rob not to let Henry run rings round him and “like all young boys, he needs a firm hand.”

Rob obviously takes the advice to heart as, when Ursula’s taxi drives off, he and Henry are standing, waving. It starts to thunder and the rain comes down. The conversation goes thus:
Rob - Just you and me now Henry, eh?
Hen - Daddy, I’m getting wet
Rob - Are you waving?
Hen - Can I go inside?
Rob - Don’t you dare. How rude after all that Grandma Ursula has done for you. We are standing here and waving until her taxi is right out of sight. Understood?
Hen (sadly) - Yes Daddy

Are there any clues to a possible solution here? Maybe Rob and/or Henry catch a fatal chill, or perhaps Rob’s interpretation of ‘a firm hand’ could leave to abuse or violence and Henry is snatched from him by the authorities, revealing the darker side of Rob’s character. Or maybe Rob will expire, not being able to keep up with Henry.

Meanwhile, Helen’s barrister Anna is talking to her mother about the case (in so far as she is allowed) and Carol is pleased that Anna is continuing with the case. Anna remarks that it is certainly a challenge and she needs more input from Helen.

Let’s turn to the Pip/Toby/shagging story. At the beginning of the week, Pip is trying to get in touch with Toby after their tryst (euphemism for ‘bonk’) last week. She eventually confronts him and he is very defensive, saying that he’s let lots of girls down before, but they weren’t mates who you see every day, and Pip is a great girl and he likes her, but… “Oh no, you’re not telling me I’m dumped?” squeals Pip. Later on we found out that she was only joshing and she finds it hilarious that Toby thought that he was breaking her heart. Her heart was shattered by Matthew, but her fling with Toby was fun and fun is what she’s looking for - two consenting adults with no strings. Toby isn’t one to ignore a hint, as he says “I’ll show you fun lady” and there is the sound of kissing.

‘Don’t these people have jobs to do?’ I hear you scream. Yes they do, but in Toby’s case, it doesn’t seem to matter as he sleeps in when he should be collecting eggs and looking after the goslings/hens. Josh and Rex are picking up the pieces and Josh, for one, is not happy. Rex says that Toby rolled in at 2 am and he tells Josh that talking to Toby is water off a duck’s back. Josh is becoming ever more incensed - since buying out Neil and Hayley, he is working all hours at Willow farm and is in debt to his parents. Upper Class Eggs have to turn a profit, but they won’t if the business isn’t efficient and they are carrying Toby. Rex repeats that Toby doesn’t listen, to which Josh replies “Did you use up your lifetime’s aggression playing rugby? Just let me at him!”

On cue, Toby turns up, full of false remorse and promising that things will be different in the future. “That sound you hear is that of a new leaf turning” he says, glibly. But Josh is having none of it, saying that “No it’s not; it’s the sound of someone trying to dig himself out of a hole.“ Josh goes on to say that he bought into UCE because he thought it had potential “And it does, but there’s three of us in this partnership and it needs you to pull your weight, so let’s see you doing it.” Josh reveals that he was going to invite the brothers to invest in Willow Farm (what with - they are living hand to mouth as it is?) “But that’s not going to happen, is it? Not when you’re such a plonker Toby.” As Josh goes off to work at Willow Farm, Toby demonstrates that it is indeed water off a plonker’s back when he says to Rex “Well, that was a right little hissy fit, wasn’t it?” “Oh, I give up” says a disgusted Rex.

Actually, if Rex knew what was going on behind his back, he’d be even more pissed off. He’s depressed enough because it’s his 29th birthday and he’s “part owner of a business that’s barely breaking even, with no prospect of buying a home.” Bert says that he hopes that Rex can regard the bungalow as his home and he has cooked Rex breakfast as a treat. As another treat (?) Bert has composed a poem for Rex’s 29th, but fortunately we were only subjected to a couple of stanzas.

Later on in The Bull, we learn that Bert has added some more verses and he reads it to Rex, Toby and Pip (again, fortunately, we don’t hear all of it.) While Pip is at the bar, Toby asks Rex if he has any change “for the machine in the Gents.” “Which girl is it now?” asks an exasperated Rex. “No-one you know” Toby replies. Rex forks over some money and Toby says “That should keep us going for a bit. Thanks bro - you’re the best.” I can’t help thinking that Rex would be mightily pissed off if he found out that, not only is his brother bonking the girl for whom Rex has the hots, but Rex is subsidising the steamy sex sessions. Pip isn’t helping Toby’s newly-professed new leaf image when she tells him on Friday that all her family will be away at Daniel’s homecoming bash, but she has said that she will stay and grease the grain trailers. Toby has a meeting lined up with a journalist but he blows that out of the water and the two indulge in a shagfest, curtailed only when Pip says that she really should grease the trailers, or the family will wonder what she’s been up to. She wants to be careful, as if she keeps leading Toby astray, his partners might get really fed up and the business could go tits up, with ‘goodbye Fairbrothers’ the result. Incidentally, I don’t want people to think that I am against Pip’s new-found sexual adventurism because she’s a woman - I am against it, but purely because she’s doing it with Toby, who I find insufferable, although he is obviously good between the sheets, which I suppose is what she’s looking for.

What else has happened? Kenton insisted that Wayne went to Beverley’s funeral, accompanied by Jolene. Go on Kenton; ask to see the order of service leaflet. Eddie and Joe are dreaming of the money that they will make through ElfWorld and are taken aback when Emma suggests that their costumes are a bit creepy (Joe looked like the Childcatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang  and Eddie looked like a Hobgoblin). Furthermore, Joe’s stories are “terrifying” and “will have the children rushing for the exits”. Sounds like another Grundy marketing masterclass.

Finally, the Fete Committee met (Lynda, Kenton, Fallon and Susan) and Lynda’s suggestion of a traditional fete with the theme of - well, who’d have thought it? - Resurgam was rejected in favour of a traditional fete with a twist, as they want to create a party atmosphere with a Rio carnival theme as a homage to the Olympics. Lynda sniffs mightily, but she is outvoted. But it’s not all good news for Fallon, as she joins with Alistair to persuade Harrison (or PCB as we know him) to take over the cricket team captaincy. PCB is not interested but, when Fallon persists, he agrees, on one condition. When Alistair was captain, he says, he and Shula were a team, as she did the teas. He (PCB) will take over as captain as long as Fallon does the teas - another partnership. Fallon says no, but she has painted herself into a corner, by talking about how the village needs the cricket team. She agrees, as long as it doesn’t clash with paid work and saying: “Don’t think you’re getting a Goody Two-Shoes like Shula.” “I should hope not”, says PCB as the pair kiss, after saying how much they love each other.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Oh What A Tangled Web…

So, its goodbye to Beverley Drains - taken from us suddenly over the weekend. Poor Jolene should heed the title of this weeks blog, as she finds herself getting deeper and deeper into a mess of lies and fabrication. Beverley, of course, is the mythical girlfriend of Wayne and Kenton is anxious to meet her - so much so that he says he is going to see Wayne and arrange a date for her to come round for dinner. Jolene, panicking more than somewhat, says that he cant do that. Why not? Because shes dead Jolene replies and, under further questioning from Kenton and Lilian, makes up a story about Beverley having a fatal brain haemorrhage over the weekend.

Kenton is amazed - Wayne hasnt said a word about his loss and has come into work each day. Life goes on says Jolene, uncertainly. Kenton says that hes amazed how Wayne is keeping it all together and Jolene agrees. Indeed, Kenton tells Jolene that they have to support Wayne at a time like this and he has offered Wayne a permanent contract. After what hes been through, its the least we could do Kenton adds. When he leaves the room, Jolene rings Wayne, saying You jammy beggar Wayne; you always fall on your feet, dont you? Thats as maybe, Jolene, but I dont think Kenton would be very impressed if he found out about the deception - and its not over yet; what if Kenton thinks they should go to the funeral, or wonders why theres no death notice in the local press? Oh what a tangled web, Jolene - youd better pray that its all over.

At Bridge Farm, Pat and Tony are annoyed because Rob is late bringing Henry round and they want to take Henry to the zoo. When Rob does turn up, he tells them how much Henry is looking forward to seeing the Elf Migration and Ursula has made him an elf costume. Im sure you wouldnt want to disappoint him says the master manipulator then, when Pat and Tony agree to take Henry to see the elves, Rob reveals that he and Ursula will be there too. When Rob leaves, Pat has a rant about how he is taking over their one day with their grandson.

Her anger increases on Wednesday when Rob asks if he can come round for a talk. Henry came home from school in tears: a classmate of his told him that his mother is a murderer and the police have locked her up. Rob told Henry that she isnt a murderer, but she has done a very bad thing and we will have to wait until a jury decides on her guilt. Pat is amazed that he should talk like that to a five-year old, but Rob says that it was factual and in the circumstances, I think I was rather restrained. But if you want to feed him a more sugar-coated version, thats up to you. Lucky for Rob that there were no knives lying around, or Pat might have finished the job that Helen left uncompleted.

But back to Sunday; the Elf Migration has pulled in the crowds, which seems to indicate the paucity of things to do in Ambridge on a Sunday, and Anna Tregorran is taken aback when Henry, dressed as an elf, rushes over to her and Carol, followed by Pat, who is trying to stop him running off. Anna makes an excuse and leaves, as Pat is a prosecution witness and, as such, Anna should have no contact with her.

The following day, Carol takes Anna for a slap-up lunch and we learn the reason for her moment of self-doubt last week, as she opens up to her mother. Some time ago, Anna was prosecuting a case of abuse and she got deeply and emotionally involved in it, to the extent that she and her partner Max split up afterwards. Despite devoting all her time and energies to the case, Anna lost and the abuser was allowed back into the family home, and the abuse started again. Only this time he killed her Anna says, simply. Since then, Anna hasnt handled a similar case, until taking on Helens and she wonders whether she is up to it - perhaps Helen would be better off with someone else?

Later in the week, Helen phones Anna, who suggests that Helen might want another barrister? Alarmed, Helen quickly says no and adds Anna - dont give up on me. Anna replies that she never will, but she needs to build up a defence case and she needs Helen to help. In fact, Helen seems to be getting a bit better, and her talks to fellow inmate Kaz prompt memories of Robs behaviour - if she continues to improve, Anna might yet have a working defence strategy, but Helen needs to pull her finger out.

Over at Grange Farm, Joe is taking the forthcoming eviction of the Grundys very badly - Clarrie tells Pat that he was distraught when the sycamore was felled and now he has discovered a big puddle of water behind the settee in the sitting room. Tony asks if Clarrie thinks that Joe put it there deliberately? I really hope not Tony, but he really dont want us to move out. Clarrie says. Lets think; is Joe a big enough ingrate to do such a thing? Is that the sort of thing he would do? So, thats a yes and a yes. Let him stay at Grange Farm, Oliver - bury him where the sycamore stood. Now.

Let us turn to the crisis in the cricket team. Alistair has called an EGM for Thursday and Adam has booked the Flood Bar at the Bull to cope with the expected crowd. Sadly, it dawns on the pair that no-one else is coming, so they descend to the pub downstairs to try to find cricketers propping up the bar. Well make this meeting quorate if it kills us says Alistair, grimly. It happens that Dr. Richard Locke is talking to Elizabeth and Rex has turned up, expecting to meet Toby and Pip for a drink. Alistair and Adam shanghai them, not listening to their excuses, although Rex seems quite excited. No-ones ever tried to kidnap me before he says, as they drag him and the doctor upstairs.

When the meeting gets under way, Alistair says that he will have to give up the captaincy - he has taken his eye off the ball due to the fact that he had to relocate his business after the flood and, while he would still want to play in the team, he doesnt think that he could be an effective captain. So who to take his place - Adam? Adam protests that he is as busy as Alistair. OK then - Richard? Dr Locke says that he is only a new boy and couldnt be a good captain. Rex? He says that he is running two businesses and, besides, hes a rugby player, really. However, Rex makes a suggestion and we learn later that Harrison Burns name has been put forward, even though he is not actually there in person. The word railroaded springs, unbidden, to mind.

Friday was the much-anticipated (by some) Borsetshire Food & Drink Awards at Grey Gables. Lilian is being given a hard time by some of Miranda’s friends, which is fair enough, as a few days earlier, she had been given a different sort of hard time by Justin at a London hotel, following watching men’s quarter final day at Wimbledon, complete with strawberries and champagne. But there’s something wrong - Lilian drags Miranda off to Miranda’s room and tells her that she has to change her frock. Miranda is not amused and Lilian explains that the Lady Mayoress has only one posh frock, which comes out on all these occasions and it’s the same as Miranda’s. As the Mayor and his lady are the guests of honour, it behoves Miranda to change her outfit. There is an uncomfortable pause, then Miranda says “You’re very good at this, aren’t you?” That’s not all she’s good at, Miranda - just ask Justin.

The awards follow an excellent dinner. The winner of the haute cuisine award goes to Ian, the Grey Gables chef. Through incidental conversation, we learn that Elizabeth didn’t win anything, but she did take Richard along after her Plus One called off. Upper class eggs didn’t win anything (Pat says she’s not surprised, as sales at the farm shop were rubbish and they cancelled their order), neither did Emma and Fallon. Pat is surprised that Toby isn’t at the Awards, but Lilian suggests he has probably got something better to do. Back to the Awards: The Bull won the Family Dining category and then we come to the final award of the night - Best Artisan Product. And the winner is: Helen Titchener’s Borsetshire Blue cheese! Cue manic applause as Pat is urged to go and collect it (at least nobody asked why Helen wasn’t there to pick it up). She says that it will mean so much to Helen and Jennifer says to Lilian that Pat and Tony will have something good to tell Helen “and that hasn’t happened for a very long time.”

Let me take you back to Thursday. Toby has persuaded Pip to look at his totally revamped video promoting Upper Class eggs (and now also the geese) and she has agreed to do the rewritten voice-over. When she views the finished article, she suggests that it is good visually, but the soundtrack would be improved if they added the song of a Blackcap. If they went to Lakey Hill, they might be able to record one, so Toby grabs his equipment (recording equipment) and they go. I suspect that Toby thinks a Blackcap is some kind of contraceptive device but he later admits that the song will make the video better.

Pip suggests that they should go to The Bull and meet Rex, but Toby suggests that they stay there and watch the sunset. What about the beer? Toby says he is always prepared (thank God he was talking about alcohol) and gives Pip one (alcohol again). He then accuses Pip of luring him there and plying him with alcohol “So you could have your wicked way with me.” Pip calls him “arrogant, vain, self-satisfied…” but he stops her by saying “and you’re irresistible” and the episode closes with the sound of kissing.

I’m afraid Pip has gone down severely in my estimation. We don’t know whether she and Toby were together on Friday instead of being at the Awards, but I hope not. For Pip to fall for his nauseating chat-up line makes me feel sick - for heaven’s sake, Pip, this is the man who shagged your father’s cousin and is, as you so rightly pointed out, arrogant, vain and self-satisfied, so what are you doing? I sincerely hope that it is a one-off and Pip hates herself. I suppose there is one thing to be said in Pip’s favour, and that is that she’s pretty resilient. I mean, let’s face it - it certainly hasn’t taken her long to get over Matthew, has it?

Monday, 4 July 2016

Mystery Surrounds…

Isobel Middleton (Anna Tregorran)

I was taught that, if you ever see a headline that says mystery surrounds…’ then you have evidence of a journalist who hasnt done his job properly. However, that isnt true in this case, as the mystery only featured once last week and then only briefly. Wednesday wasnt a good day for Anna - it was the day of Helens hearing regarding custody of Henry and Jack and Pat and Tony meet Anna briefly beforehand. They think that shes looking nervous and, indeed, she seems to be at a bit of a loss as proceedings begin, to the extent that the judge becomes a bit tetchy.

The judges decision was that things should stay as they are, at least until after Helens trial. Pat and Tony are disappointed because Henry will be staying with Rob, but at least Helen keeps custody of Jack. Rob did his best, appearing with a walking stick that no-one remembers seeing him with before, and his brief describes Helen as clearly a dangerous woman. The issue of sending Henry to boarding school was apparently only a misunderstanding. Anna counters this by reminding the judge that she will be presenting a defence of self-defence at Helens trial and that her client is innocent until proven guilty.

Anna tells Pat and Tony that it was always odds on that the judge would opt to maintain the status quo and not to give up hope. On returning to Ambridge, Anna is confronted by a scene of culinary carnage - Carol had made a lasagne and it slipped when she removed it from the oven (she has a broken wrist remember) and it ended up on the floor. While Anna clears lasagne and broken glass off the floor, she berates her mother, who says that Anna seems bothered about something. In a trembling voice, Anna replies I think it could be happening again, and this time - oh God mum - this time Ive got to stop it.

Mystery indeed. This was on Wednesday and was the only reference to whatever it may be. Any ideas? Ive racked what Im pleased to call my brains and I havent come up with anything that sounds like a likely explanation. An illness? Unlikely, as Annas final words seem to imply that whatever it is, she seems able to control it. We will have to wait and see what develops. Maybe you have an idea?

This was also the week of the launch of Kates Spiritual Home and, to nobodys surprise, she is stressing and on the verge of descending into panic. First of all there is a tear in Persephone (which I assume is some sort of tent) and where are the caterers? Jennifer fixes the tear and Roy, on the phone, assures Kate that the caterers are reliable and not to worry. Ha! Fat chance! Peggy tells her granddaughter that everything is going to be all right. Kate is getting really stressed and says No it wont - and nobody else seems to care! Well Kate, you got that last bit right at least.

As it turns out, the evening - or, rather, the night, as it went on until dawn - went off OK and we were told that Lynda was really going for it on the bongos, which frankly, boggles the mind. Roy was bullied into coming along, but Phoebe didnt turn up. It was Phoebes 18th birthday on 26th June and Jennifer told Peggy, disapprovingly, that Kate just gave her money, while Roy and Hayley bought Phoebe a lovely bracelet. As the evening ended, Roy and Kate were the last two standing and they reflected on where had all the years gone?

In a moment of honesty, Kate admits that she hasnt been the best of parents and the fact that Phoebe has turned out as well as she has is largely down to Roy as I wasnt even here. They drink a toast to their daughter and Roy says At least were both here for her now. Kate agrees and, in a moment that made me break down and weep in despair, added and staying for as long as she needs us. I sincerely hope that Phoebe will emigrate after university.

The fallout from Joshs theft of Neil and Hayleys hens continues, as Neil tells Susan that he and Hayley have decided that the passion for the business has gone and they have decided to call it a day and give up on the hens. Josh is still feeling contrite and seeks Neil out to give him a bottle of whisky. This means that Josh is in for another ear-bashing, as Neil tells him how disappointed he is in him. I never had you down for a thief Neil tells him and, when Josh admits that he was trying to impress Toby, Neil adds that Josh could find much better role models.

Susan is helping out at the Bridge Farm shop, although the word helping might not be the correct one here, as she bangs on to Joe about how expensive everything is in the shop and hed find them much cheaper at the village shop. Its no wonder that so many things are past their sell-by date she adds, not considering that her negative comments might have something to do with lack of sales. Susan also goes on about how Tom doesnt listen to her ideas about improving things in the shop - ideas which seem to consist only of wearing tabards and name badges.

Most of Susans ire is directed at Toby and Rexs eggs - how could people prefer these to Neils free rangers? Dont worry about it Susan - Neils eggs wont be around for much longer. If Tobys ears are burning, it doesnt show. When talking to Pip, Rex wonders whether he should have gone into business with his brother (whom he describes as a flake) and admits that he doesnt even know where Toby is today, but its probably something to do with his film.

When Toby does turn up, Pip has a proposition - she is going to take three heifers to a farm in Hampshire and shed appreciate some company on the journey. Toby quickly says that Rex would love to do it and so the two set off a few days later. They seem to be getting on pretty well, but the journey home is spoiled for Rex as Pip keeps going on about Matthew. It seems that Matthew once worked at the farm they have just visited and had single-handedly saved it from going under when the farmer was ill and Pip tells Rex how good it was to hear from someone else what an amazing guy Matthew is. Yes, he really is amazing Rex replies, in doom-laden tones.

Say what you like about Toby, but when it comes to matters of the heart (or lower organs) he knows what he’s talking about. On Tuesday, Justin rings Lilian up and suggests dinner “and then we can take it from there.” “You lucky girl” Lilian says to herself, as she puts the phone down. After dinner, she and Justin are walking home and he says that the first part of the evening has been a great success and “shall we move on to part two?” They meet Rex and Toby in the street and, after an exchange of pleasantries, Toby tells Rex that he should take a leaf out of their book. Rex is nonplussed, but Toby says “they’re having an affair” and, when Rex expresses doubts, Toby says “I can tell a mile off. What’s the matter with you Rex?” The big clue was Lilian walking along with both hands down Justin’s trousers, Rex. Rex says forlornly that Pip isn’t interested in him in that way and “I wish she was.” Toby tells him that the trip to Hampshire could be his big chance and “the best opportunity you’ll get. I’m right behind you - just go for it, bro.”

Joe is still trying to find reasons that would put people off buying Grange Farm and he and the rest of the Grundys are awaiting the surveyor’s report. The crack in the kitchen wall indicates subsidence, but that can be cured with some underpinning, so Joe is desperate to find something major wrong. I wouldn’t be surprised if he set alight to the damn place - his attitude is certainly a poor response to Oliver’s generosity in letting them stay rent-free for months. Eddie has more bad news - the large sycamore near the house will have to go, as it is making it hard to sell the farm. Joe is scandalised, saying that the tree has been there for hundreds of years, which, as it is a sycamore - an introduced species - is highly unlikely.

The Grundys express an interest in the next Parish Council meeting on Friday and Eddie turns up. Brian is there, with the Borsetshire Wildlife Trust report on the effect of increased, elf-related tourism on the ecosystem of Millennium Wood. It turns out that the effect is significantly harmful and Brian calls for the elves to be made history. Neil isn’t so sure - the extra trade has been good for local shops and businesses. And now Eddie plays his master stroke - there could be a third way and he tells them of his plans for ElfWorld, thus moving the elves out of the wood, but keeping them in Ambridge.

Later on, Brian congratulates Eddie on his business acumen and Eddie says “At least you know the elves are going to a good home.” “Yes, I was so worried about that” Brian replies, drily. In the pub, Eddie tells Neil that he plans ‘the great elf migration’ for Sunday and he has had some leaflets printed, publicising the event. Neil demonstrates that he isn’t the brightest firefly in the garden when he asks Eddie how come he managed to organise that, when the PC only gave the go-ahead two hours ago? Eddie reckons it will be a nice little earner - they won’t charge for entrance but parking will be £5 and they will ask for donations and sell souvenirs. “We’re gonna have a smashing day on Sunday, so I don’t see why we Grundys shouldn’t make the most of it” Eddie tells Neil, while five million listeners speculate on exactly how this latest money-making scheme is going to come a cropper.

There was a welcome return to a speaking part for Alistair on Sunday when he, Richard Locke and Adam discuss cricket. At least this week Ambridge is able to field a team of eleven, unlike last week’s humiliation. Sadly, despite Richard and PCB playing well, Ambridge lost. Even worse, the tea was rubbish - Shula appears to have gone awol and Ambridge has gone from being the best team with the best teas last season to a bunch of losers serving up sub-standard grub. Alistair decides that the best thing to do would be to call an EGM for next week. “There’s no way I’m going to let this team die on my watch” says a defiant Alistair. I’d wait to see how many turn up for the EGM before you say that, Alistair. Perhaps they should appoint Lynda to roam the village and cajole people into playing - after all, it works for her Christmas shows year after year.