Monday, 29 August 2016

What Colour Is The Sky On Planet Eddie?

Trevor Harrison (Eddie Grundy)

Eddie Grundy seems determined to make life as difficult as possible for himself; a couple of weeks ago Clarrie told him not to fill George’s head with ideas about poaching, so what does Eddie do this week? That’s right, he takes George to one side and tells him that it’s time he learned more about his countryside heritage. What does Eddie mean - ploughing a straight furrow? Hedge laying? Training a sheepdog? No, he means stealing pheasants and he shows George how this is done with whisky-laced corn to make the birds drunk and easy to catch.

George says that his dad says that poachers are criminals, to which Eddie replies that it’s not poaching, but foraging. “Like picking mushrooms or blackberries.” However, he warns George not to tell anybody about “our secret.” Early the next morning, Eddie goes out and nabs a couple of drunken pheasants, which he hangs in the barn at Grange Farm.

Eddie’s timing couldn’t have been worse, as this was the day that Justin Elliot had set aside for inspecting the shoot and birds to check that all is OK for the shooting season. This makes gamekeeper Will a tad nervous. As he and Brian check on the feeding stations, they come across drunken pheasants wandering about. Brian goes to head off Justin (who has just arrived) and Will picks up the remaining grain. Justin suspects nothing and, when he has gone, Brian asks Will if he has any idea who could have done it? Will reckons that it isn’t a poaching gang, but someone more local. “There’s plenty around who know how to do it” says Will, refraining to add “and most of them have surnames beginning with G.”

The following day, Will goes to Grange Farm - and he’s very angry. He confronts his father, asking where was he yesterday “and don’t lie - I’ve been in the barn and there’s a brace of pheasants hanging up.” These criminal masterminds - however clever they are, they always make one mistake. Will is really getting into his stride now and lambastes Eddie for putting his job in jeopardy. “Talk about messing on your own doorstep” he spits.

Eddie seems incapable of understanding that he has done anything wrong and says that it was only a couple of birds. He is more sorry for his bad timing - how was he to know that Justin chose that day to inspect the shoot? Eddie then makes Will’s blood pressure go even higher when he says that he’s entitled to take a couple of birds because he’s a local. Will says he cannot believe what he’s hearing and calls Eddie “despicable” and “a waste of space.” “Are you going to let him talk to me like that?” an indignant Eddie asks Clarrie. She, however, tells him to shut up and she tells Will “This will never happen again - ain’t that right Eddie?” He mumbles ‘yes’ and Clarrie tells Will to calm down and leave it to her.

Will leaves and Clarrie has a real go at her husband, calling him ‘irresponsible’. Far from being chastened, Eddie goes into a long justification of his actions, saying that it’s not stealing; it’s his birthright, plus the Estate raises thousands of birds a year, so who’s going to miss a brace here and there? Not only that, but the locals have to put up with the inconvenience associated with the shoot - traffic, noise and so on. It is this inability to accept that what he has done is against the law that inspired the title of this week’s blog. I suppose we should be grateful that he never offered Will a pheasant sandwich.

Let’s pause and look at Eddie’s arguments for a moment. Firstly, the inconvenience. Yes, this could be a pain, but for how many days a year? Also, Eddie seems to have forgotten that the shoot provides him with much-needed income as a beater, not to mention a hearty meal on shoot days. Secondly, who will miss a couple of birds from thousands of others? I put it to you that there are thousands of ten pound notes in the average bank, but, if you help yourself to a couple one night, someone will visit you and give you a stiff talking to. As for the ‘it’s part of our heritage - we’ve been doing it for years’ argument, it wasn’t so long ago that we used to duck witches or sentence poachers to Transportation - would Eddie want that tradition to be preserved? Clarrie tries to shame Eddie into seeing sense, saying that it’s a terrible example to set to George. She says: “It’s bad enough that George hero worships Alf - do you want him to know that his grandfather is a thief too?”

After last week’s A Level results, this week saw the GCSE results released. Lily Pargetter did much as expected, and so did her brother Freddie. In Lily’s case this means A’s and B’s and, sadly for Freddie, grades somewhat lower down the alphabet. Lily goes off with friends for a celebratory coffee, while Freddie goes off and gets hammered. Things are made worse because the Cathedral School does not offer resits and they won’t accept anyone for the sixth form without a grade C in maths, which Freddie didn‘t achieve. One might make the observation that Freddie’s additional maths lessons with Iftikar do not seem to have done him very much good.

When Freddie returns to Lower Loxley, he has difficulty walking and, to Elizabeth’s disgust, he smashes a Minton vase. She tells him to sleep it off and then she rings Richard Locke - could he come over and have a chat with Freddie about re-taking maths at Borchester College - perhaps Freddie will listen to someone who’s not family?

Digressing slightly, Richard and Elizabeth seemed to be moving closer last week - he borrowed a book from her (working title: ‘An idiot’s guide to opera’) so that his daughter Sasha could look up the story behind Madame Butterfly, thus ensuring that she would only be bored out of her skull, instead of bored and bewildered. I never realised that people went to opera for the plot - that’s like going to the ballet for the singing.

Richard agrees to talk to Freddie (who submits to the ordeal with bad grace) and he tells him that this isn’t the end; it’s just a blip on the road and there are many places where he can resit the exam. Freddie retorts that it’s all right for Richard - he’s a doctor and a successful professional. Richard tells Freddie that he knows more about it than he might think as he (Richard) cocked up his O-Levels when he first sat them. Whatever, Richard appeared to get through to Freddie and Elizabeth rings him to thank him and to tell him that Freddie will look at Borchester College.

Finally on this subject, Brian and Jennifer are at Lower Loxley for the opera and Brian (the man who put the ’f’ in Philistine) is grumbling because he could be watching Dad’s Army and what’s Madame Butterfly all about, anyway? When Jennifer tells him that it’s about a woman who brings up another man’s child, he quickly suggests that it’s time for a drink. They are joined by Elizabeth, who tells them about the twins’ exam results. “It looks like Lily got your brains and Freddie got Nigel’s” says Brian, which, while being 100% accurate, is not very tactful. Jennifer is shocked, but Elizabeth takes it in her stride.

While propping up the bar, Brian remarks that Lilian, who is acting as hostess for Damara’s corporate guests, makes a good team with Justin. “If I didn’t know Justin had more sense, you’d almost think that there was something going on between those two” Brian says. “Don’t be ridiculous!” snorts Jennifer and Brian laughs. “The very thought, eh?” he tells her.

Freddie was not the only one to suffer through the effects of alcohol last week. Adam is working all hours and he asks Alice to organise the fruit pickers’ farewell BBQ and party, which she does efficiently. At the party, she is looking for a bottle opener and Adam gives her his tractor key ring, which has just such an instrument attached, before he goes to get some rest. Alice and Pip enter into a drink-fuelled argument about who is the best farmer and Josh decides that this can only be settled by a head-to-head duel of tractor driving - after all, they’ve got the keys, haven’t they?

Alice is first up and sets off at a fair clip - the tractor has the new, expensive drill attached and Alice loses control, crashing into a stanchion. “Adam’s going to kill me!” she wails. In fact he doesn’t, but he is a very unhappy bunny.

I am full of trepidation about the Pip/Toby storyline. After their row, it looked encouragingly bleak between them, but Pip is missing her regular bonking sessions and goes to see Toby to see if they can get back to their ’non-exclusive, sex-only’ relationship. Toby, who has been mooning about like a love-struck calf, says he doesn’t think so and could they not have a proper relationship? “What? Boyfriend and girlfriend?” asks Pip. “What are we - 15 year olds? I mean as lovers” Toby says and they consummate the new-found relationship in Bert’s (thankfully secluded) garden. Pip - I’ve told you before, he’s after the farm and leopards don‘t change their spots. It won’t be long before he has you bringing him breakfast in bed - that’s after you’ve collected the eggs and turned the hens out, of course.

Henry, Pat and Tony return from holiday and Rob turns up 50 minutes early to collect Henry. Pat questions his timekeeping, but his response is that he was magnanimous in letting them have Henry for a week (although this was ordered by the Court), so can’t she be the same? He tells Henry that he has a new job, nearer home and the Archers are dumbstruck when he tells them he’ll be running Damara’s estate management. Rob also interviewed Charlotte (a prospective nanny) and we saw his charming side when she asked if he was the one whose wife stabbed him, but “we all need to move on.” Watch yourself, Charlotte.

Anna is still having trouble getting Helen to focus on her case - Helen is concerned because Blake, the ex of her friend Kaz, has taken their eldest child away from Kaz’s Mum, who is unwell. Blake, we learn, deliberately burned Kaz’s hand on a hot oven, although he did drive her to A&E, bless him. The week ended with Helen knocking on Kaz’s door, saying that she’s got an idea. There is no answer and Helen enters the cell. Oh my God! Kaz! What have you done? Help somebody, please help!” she screams, as the theme music plays.

Finally, we have a ‘scenes we’d like to see’ moment. Oliver goes to Grange Farm, where Joe tells him (again) that it is his dearest wish to die in his old home. Furthermore, if he didn’t, he believes his soul would roam the Earth, seeking Grange Farm. That’s all he wants. “Fair enough” says Oliver, and blows his head off with a shotgun. “How’s that?” he asks, kindly. Well, it could happen.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

A Bit Forward Of You, Shula

Judy Bennett (Shula Hebden Lloyd)

There appears to be the possibility of a love triangle happening, involving Dr Richard Locke and sisters Shula and Elizabeth. Richard tells Elizabeth that his daughter Sasha is staying with him over the Bank Holiday and would Elizabeth like to join them for lunch on Bank Holiday Monday? Sasha, he tells her, thinks that Elizabeth is ‘cool’. Lizzie is flattered, but points out that she will be busy with the arrangements for the opera. However, she would love lunch some other time.

It was shortly after this conversation that Shula joined her sister (they are taking Jill frock-hunting) and she is keen to talk to Richard. He makes an excuse that he is late for surgery and leaves. Shula obviously isn’t happy with this, as Elizabeth asks if she is all right? Testily, Shula replies “Why shouldn’t I be?” and “I’m fine”, before quickly marching off and leaving her sister to follow.

Later the same day, Shula rings Dr Locke to thank him for being so understanding about her dilemma over Rob and adds that she would like to cook him supper next Tuesday. It would just be the two of them, as Alistair and Daniel would be out, she adds. Richard is sorry, but he is on late surgery all next week, so he cannot make it. Undaunted, Shula asks if he would like to join her at the opera on Monday, as she has a spare ticket. He tells her that he will be there anyway, as he has bought tickets for himself and Sasha - anyway, doesn’t Alistair want to go? Shula replies that opera isn’t Alistair’s thing and he suggested that she takes her mother. “An excellent idea - I look forward to seeing you both there” says Richard and he rings off. “Marvellous” says Shula, frustrated.

That was the wrong answer, Richard; here you have a woman who is obviously keen on you and you are brushing her off. True, she’s married, but it seems a bit forward of the God-bothering Shula to ring up and try to arrange a date and let’s not forget that Shula and Richard have form when it comes to romantic entanglements.

Also on the romance front, Toby begs Pip for a lunch date and he is very unhappy when he arrives at Rickyard to find that Pip has in fact served up lunch. Hunger was not the craving that Toby was hoping to satisfy and he makes his displeasure known. This is increased when Pip’s phone rings and she takes the call. It is from Matthew and Toby slags him off, saying to Pip “Well, if you want to waste your time on a loser…” He goes on to ridicule Matthew, calling him a country bumpkin. Angrily, Pip tells him to get out. “With pleasure!” he snarls, slamming the door on his way out.

“Good, that’s got rid of him.” I thought, but I could be counting my chickens, as a couple of days later, Pip is talking to Alice and the latter complains because Pip isn’t paying attention and keeps looking over Alice’s shoulder. Who is she expecting? In vain, Pip denies that she is looking for anyone but, under pressure, the whole story of her relationship with Toby comes out. Alice finds this hilarious and tells Pip that it sounds to her like Toby is jealous and cares for Pip. “You’ve done the impossible - you’ve tamed the bad boy of Borsetshire!” Alice tells Pip. I sincerely hope not and the sooner Toby leaves Ambridge in a sulk, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

Over at Grange Farm, Joe continues to be a miserable old sod and keeps banging on about how the land was stolen from him and the occasional bit of poaching is just the working man getting a little of his own back, plus it’s his God-given right to live and die on the land that he has farmed. Clarrie, who is alarmed that they are talking about poaching in front of George as if it’s an OK thing, points out that poaching is, in fact, theft and Joe’s talk of God-given rights would not cut much ice with a Magistrate.

It was a busy week for Rob; on Sunday, he takes Henry to Bridge Farm for his week’s holiday in Tenby. Waving Henry off, Kirsty remarks on how pleased Henry looked as he drove off with Pat and Tony. “Children often hide their sadness with smiles” Rob says and, later, he demonstrates yet again his capacity for self-delusion when he tells Ursula that Henry was “devastated” to be going. Ursula suggests that she could come to Ambridge for a week and, eventually, Rob agrees. God only knows why, as he doesn’t seem to like her much. She tells him that she and Bruce think that Rob and the boys (when he gets custody) should go down and live with them in Hampshire, as he’s a Hampshire boy at heart.

“I stopped being a Hampshire boy the day you shipped me off to boarding school” he tells her sourly, adding that Ambridge is their home and this is where the three of them will live. The thought appears to galvanise Rob and Ursula finds him updating his CV, as he needs a job so that he can provide his two boys with a proper nanny. He blames Helen for ruining his career and “forcing him to work in their stupid little shop.” See the earlier comment about self-delusion, but Ursula, of course, backs him up.

Rob also gets in touch with one or two former contacts and his phone rings. “That was quick,” he mutters and, picking up the phone, says “Hello Justin.”

Justin says that he’d like to talk to Rob and an appointment is made for Friday. This causes friction between Justin and Lilian, as she isn’t keen on Rob and makes her feelings plain. For his part, Justin says sharply that he is the best judge of what’s right for his business and Lilian realises that she may have overstepped the mark. Later on, as they prepare for supper, she apologises to him but he says ‘sorry’ to her and has brought champagne to make up for their tiff. He agrees that there was something odd about the way Rob left Berrow Farm and says that he will grill him on Friday.

Friday comes and Rob is unsettled by Ursula, who keeps prattling on about nothing in particular, even after Rob tells her he’s not interested. Eventually he snaps, telling her “I’m going to Grey Gables for a coffee - and some peace and quiet.” and he leaves. After the interview, Ursula asks him how did it go? At first, Rob thinks that he did OK, but he then starts to have doubts. Ursula says that she is taking him out to lunch “to celebrate”. While they are out, Rob’s phone rings - it’s Justin. Rob listens, then says “Excellent. I’ll call you next week.”

Ursula is agog and wants to know what is happening. Rob replies that Justin congratulated him on his character judgement (Rob had slagged off Charlie Thomas at the interview) and Justin has offered him the job of running Damara Estates. Rob tells Ursula that he asked for the weekend to think about it. “You mustn’t seem too keen” he tells his mother.

Things certainly seem to be in the ascendancy for Rob and he thinks so too. “This is just the start,” he tells Ursula, “Henry will be back from Wales on Sunday and Gideon will be with us very soon - things are really starting to fall into place.” Let’s hope that his confidence is misplaced; what is it they say about pride coming before a fall? Fingers crossed.

It was an eventful week too for Anna. On Monday, she took a phone call from Max, her estranged husband, and they arrange to meet up on Thursday for dinner. Over the next few days, she is like a cat that has got the cream and, on Thursday, she gets all glammed up. We don’t hear how the date goes, but on Friday, Carol returns home to find her Anna the worse for drink and feeling sorry for herself.

The meeting with Max didn’t go well and, far from seeking a reconciliation, he went on continually about how happy he is with his new girlfriend and the only reason he arranged the dinner date was to ask Anna face to face for a divorce. Anna begged Max for another chance, saying that she could change and not devote so much time to work. All this was in vain and Anna had got glammed up for nothing. To make matters worse, she spent the day talking to Helen and is frustrated because Helen wouldn’t talk about the case, only about her friendship with Kaz and how much Jack has grown. “So, if you’ll excuse us,” she says, with drunken dignity, “my bottle of scotch and me are going upstairs to bed.” In the circumstances, we can forgive her the grammatical slip. Anna adds “I’m a rubbish lover and a rubbish lawyer - certainly no good for Helen Titchener; I can’t see the point of carrying on with her case. The clock’s ticking, time’s running out. I don’t see how I can win this case. If Helen doesn’t give me something more, they’re going to find her guilty.”

Let’s hope that, not only will pride come before a fall for Rob, but in Anna’s case it’s a question of being ‘darkest just before the dawn’ and she gets some sort of breakthrough to save Helen. Maybe Helen will come to her senses before it’s too late.

Thursday was a big day for Josh and Phoebe, as it was A level results day. Phoebe achieved 3 Grade As and one A*, which is more than enough to get into Oxford. Phoebe’s happiness is as nothing compared with Jennifer’s, who is telling everybody who’ll listen, and also those who won’t. When it was time to find out the results, Jen asks if Phoebe wanted her mother there? “Kate won’t be out of bed yet” her granddaughter replied, witheringly. “I must tell Dad - and Hayley” says an excited Phoebe (no mention of Kate, notice). When she told Roy, he burst into tears and even Kate said it was “kinda cool.” Praise indeed. Earlier in the week, Phoebe had discussed with Josh the possibility of putting Oxford off for a year and taking an internship with Debbie in Hungary, but the knowledge that she had passed for Oxford put paid to that.

Josh also got his results, which at 2xB and 1xC, were better than expected. This led to a furious row with his father, who cannot understand Josh’s attitude, which is ‘sod college - I want to be a farmer.’ Josh storms out and David says to Jill  “How did I manage to raise such a spoiled brat?” and says that Josh doesn’t appreciate just how lucky he is - look at the Grundys; with all their troubles, Ed is still cheerful and polite.

Josh seeks out Phoebe and says that he feels he might have to leave Brookfield. Phoebe tells him to act more maturely and Josh goes home. David apologises to his son and says that he and Rooooth love him and will support whatever he decides. Josh then says that he has contacted the college and asked for a year’s deferment, which he would spend at Brookfield, working for no pay.

David says “Your mum and me [bad grammar again] are proud of you” and he asks his son for - and gets - a big hug. Aaah! How sweet; how different from Kate and Phoebe!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Away With The Fairies?

Edward Kelsey (Joe Grundy)

It would appear that some residents of Ambridge are in danger of losing their grip on reality. Take Joe (please); the elves have suffered badly in the torrential rainstorm, but he tells Eddie that they cant let a summer shower get them down. This is a markedly different attitude from the were doomed! stance of a fortnight ago. In fact, Joe has an idea that will have the punters queuing down the road to get in. And what is this boffo wheeze? Why, turn the cider shed into a cottage hospital for elves and call it the National Elf Service - oh, how we laughed!

A couple of days later, Eddie tells Joe that Neil wants to see him in his capacity as Chair of the Parish Council, as he has received complaints about ElfWorld. These include garish, dayglo signs and posters, plus the fact that someone has changed the village signs to read Ambridge, twinned with ElfWorld. After meeting Neil, Eddie tells his Dad that he thinks its time the elves moved on - to the skip and that ElfWorld is finished. This is where Joe demonstrates the aforementioned lack of grip on reality, when he says to Eddie that the elves dont have to go anywhere and Were closed to the public, but we can leave the elves be - they seem perfectly happy where they are. Er, Joe, I dont know how to break this to you, but the elves arent real, living beings.

Mind you, Joe has always been a bit weird - Caroline visits Grange Farm, where she is less than thrilled to find Ed drenching his new herd of Texel sheep and she tartly reminds him that hell soon have to find somewhere else to do things like that. Joe shows Caroline where the damp patch on the wall is getting bigger and he reckons that the recently-felled sycamore is having its revenge, telling Caroline that she has stirred up dark forces. Get a grip, Joe - its just a tree, or rather, it was just a tree.

Joe is not alone in Cloud Cuckoo Land, as we have Lynda taking Scruff for a walk round the churchyard and talking to him. Nothing strange in that, except that Scruff died last week and was cremated. This doesnt stop Lynda, as she has the dogs ashes in her handbag, as she tells Shula (who is slightly alarmed). Richard Locke, who turns up at the churchyard is mystified when Lynda says Come on Scruff, lets go and leave these people to their business. I thought Scruff died? says Richard. Dont ask. Shula replies.

Lynda tells Shula about Scruffs cremation, remarking that she thought that Shula and Alistair, as Scruffs original owners, would have been at the service. Having said that, they probably wouldnt have found room, as Scruff was seen off to strains of Elgars Enigma Variation number 11 and Robert reading a piece by Galsworthy about a dog that has passed on. The London Symphony Orchestra provided the music. Thats a lie, but I bet it was only because Lynda couldnt afford it that they werent there. Ditto the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Lets move away from the weird and look at the sinister, aka Rob Titchener. On Sunday, he gives PCB some advice on how to get to the Darrington cricket team - basically, sledge their batsmen. PCB takes this advice and Ambridge narrowly beat their deadly rivals, causing PCB to hail Rob as our 12th man. Rob seems to want to ingratiate himself with team members, inviting everybody down to The Bull for a beer. PCB declines, as he does not want to be seen to be fraternising with a witness in Helens trial. Fallon warns him no to get too pally with Rob, but PCB says that he feels sorry for him.

Rob then tries to tempt Adam to the pub, saying that he has been wrong about some things in the past and he would like to put it all behind them - why not bring Ian along? Adam replies that he feels this would be inappropriate, as Ian will be a character witness for Helen. This is news to Rob and he quickly drops the Mr. Nice Guy stance when he tells Adam I should have known that there isnt an act low enough that your so-called husband wont overlook.

Learning that Ian will be a character witness for Helen obviously got Robs mind thinking and he takes Henry on an outing, ostensibly to see Grandma Ursula. Before getting to her house, he parks the car in a street and tells Henry that we are going to see an old friend. Henry gets bored and starts kicking the seat and Rob is getting more and more annoyed when, suddenly, the old friend appears and it is Jess. Rob makes the meeting appear accidental and says that Jess looks very happy. He has heard that she is keen to wipe the slate clean and Lets hope it stays that way. Rob has also used the time in the car with Henry by telling him how he has to tell the social service interviewers (Rob was incensed when he found out that he wouldnt be allowed to be present at Henrys interview) what wonderful times he and Henry spend together.

Anna Tregorran goes to see Jess on Friday, having persuaded her to talk about her marriage to Rob. However, when Anna gets there, Jess tells her to go away, as she doesnt want to talk to her. Anna is - understandably - a tad miffed, as she has driven a considerable distance and why couldnt Jess have let her know earlier? However, Anna persists and gets Jess to speak of how Rob tried to grind her down and how she urged Helen to leave Rob. Jess is not happy and says that Rob always gets what he wants and, when Anna says that her evidence could be crucial if she were to testify in court, Jess replies that she doesnt want to see Rob or be near him. Pleading, Anna says that she has helped other women face their abusers and begs: Please Jess, this is Helens whole life were talking about. Dont let him take it away from her. Jess is adamant and tells Anna that shed like her to leave.

Well, that could have gone better. But wait! Theres still Shula and her crisis of conscience over whether or not she should tell the police that she lied about Robs assault on the Hunt sab. Shula and Alistair have a full and frank discussion, which ends with Alistair saying that he doesnt seem to be a factor in her life any more and Why do you have to be such a martyr all the time? Shulas response is that martyrs are blameless, whereas she is guilty of helping to cover up a violent assault.

Fortunately, Shula has had a heart to heart with Richard Locke, who advised her to take legal advice before going to the Police. Shula comes across Anna in the churchyard and steers her away from Lynda, who is telling a bemused Anna that she has decided that Scruff would be much happier on their mantelpiece. Soon, Shula has told Anna the whole story - would she be better telling the Police what happened and, if so, what would be the likely consequences? Anna replies that, on the second question, the answer would be prison but, as far as Helen is concerned, Shulas evidence would be inadmissible - because she had lied to the Police in the first place, the Prosecution would brand her as a liar and an unreliable witness. Youve got to hand it to the Archer women when it comes to screwing things up - first, Pat mistakenly becomes a witness for the Prosecution and now Shula has messed things up. Still, it should stop Alistair going on about how her conscience is messing up their future.

Tell you what - I dont know what Anna is getting paid (nor who is actually paying for it) but shes certainly earning her corn. Wouldnt it be ironic if Bridge Farm had to be sold to pay the legal bills? What would Rob do for a job then, not to mention Pat, Tony, Tom, Helen and Johnny, as well as support workers Clarrie, Susan, Jazzer and Maurice? Half of Ambridge would be out of work at a stroke.

Life continues to be difficult for the Fairbrothers, as they get a phone call from their father, who has had a heart attack. He’s not in hospital, but Rex thinks that they should go and look after him. Toby, showing no filial feelings whatsoever, decides that the two lads’ future is what’s important and he isn’t going to act as nursemaid to his father and he tells Rex that he is staying at Hollow tree “until we are back on our feet.” Rex says that he will go back home and leaves Toby to it. I don’t think this is exactly what Toby had in mind, as it means that he will have to cancel the dirty weekend in London with Pip in a friend’s penthouse. He breaks the news to Pip, who shrugs and says it doesn’t matter.

Meanwhile, Rex goes to Brookfield and tells Jill that he won’t be around for a while, explaining why. He also tells her that Toby refuses to look after Dad and, in a scathing attack, describes his brother as “feckless, arrogant, totally narcissistic and self-serving and God help any woman who wants a relationship with him.” Jill is surprised at the venom, and says so, to which Rex says “Toby is an idle, conceited, unscrupulous leech and I can’t see the point of pretending otherwise.” Not a fan then, Rex?

Jill is troubled, as she saw Toby sneaking away from Rickyard in the early hours of the morning a few days ago. All week she has been dropping hints to Pip, asking her if she has a man on her horizon? For her part, Pip does her best to give it away, referring to “us” when she is supposed to be going away on her own. When Pip learns that the dirty weekend is off, she tells Jill that her friend has had to cancel and so she won’t be going away. Jill, who by this time has learned that Toby also isn‘t now going away for the weekend, decides to stop pussyfooting around and tells Pip that she saw Toby leaving her cottage and, by the way, she has straw in her hair (Pip and Toby have been practising ‘a lay in a manger’). Jill says that Pip seemed genuinely heartbroken when she broke up with Matthew “and now you’re messing around with this Fairbrother boy.” She doesn’t actually spit when she mentions the name, but it was close.

Pip says, a tad testily, “Gran, can we not talk about this?” and adds that she knows nothing is going to come of it - it’s just a summer fling. “It’s not like I want to be with him - Toby’s a laugh, but it will soon all fizzle out.” That’s your opinion, Pip, but what about Toby? After all, when he was urging Rex to pursue Pip, he reminded his brother that “Pip comes with a farm attached.” What better way for a feckless, etc., etc., ne’er-do-well to break into farming by marrying into an established business? He probably wouldn’t have to work too hard, which would suit him down to the ground, and he could continue to have his wicked way with Pip whenever he wanted. Mind how you go, Pip.

Monday, 8 August 2016

I Knew It Was Too Good To Be True

Scruff 2003-2016

The week before last we had the delicious carrot dangled before us of Lynda abdicating responsibility for all village events. Oh, fabulous day! Of course, it was never going to happen, was it? For one thing, the writers would have to think of alternative stories for Fete/May Day/Christmas time. Ah well, it was good while the dream lasted. So what happened? The star (?) Brazilian footballer Benny Carvalho wasn’t coming to open the Fete, as PCB informed Fallon that he had been arrested after a fracas in a nightclub the previous evening.

Fallon is in a quandary, but there is one person who can save the day, so she bites the bullet and goes to see Lynda, who is relaxing in her garden, talking to Lilian and with Scruff asleep on the Resurgam stone. It was pitiful to hear Fallon grovel to Lynda - would she do them the honour of opening the Fete? After all, she is the nearest thing Ambridge has to a celebrity and has been a leading light in Ambridge for 30 years and…I’m sorry; I missed the rest as I was throwing up in the toilet. Amazingly (not), Lynda allows herself to be persuaded and we are reliably informed that she looks stunning, wearing a hat she once wore for Ascot.

Anyway, the Fete proved to be a great success and it ended on a note of unity, with Fallon not able to thank Lynda enough and Lynda responding by saying that it was a very successful blending of cultures and traditions. Fallon presented Lynda with flowers. “I don’t know what to say” responds Lynda, which makes us wonder if we could get Interflora to open up an outlet in Ambridge and establish an on-going fund for people to contribute to daily bouquets for Lynda?

However, Lynda’s day of triumph is tinged with tragedy as, on the return from the Fete, poor Scruff has passed away in the garden, on the Resurgam stone. Lynda says that the last few months have been wonderful (Scruff was pronounced ‘missing, presumed dead’ after the corpse of a dog was found to be the cause of the fatal infection at Berrow Farm but Scruff miraculously reappeared some months later) but she is afraid that Robert will be devastated. Her voice is none too steady as she accepts Fallon’s condolences.

Moving on, may I respectfully suggest that it’s time to write Joe Grundy out of the series? I don’t wish him any harm - well, I suppose I do, as the easiest way to get rid of him is for his dearest wish to be granted; i.e. to end his days at Grange Farm and, judging on last week’s performance, the sooner the better - talk about being a miserable git - he makes Victor Meldrew look like Dr Pangloss in ‘Candide’.

Things came to a head on Friday, when Ambridge is subjected to a torrential downpour “of Old Testament proportions” in Lynda’s words. Surely not another load of flood stories, I thought (‘a spate of spate tales’, as I christened it) but I cheered up, as we could perhaps see Rob try to recreate his heroic feats from the last flood and instead get swept away. But it didn’t come to that, despite the thunder and pouring rain.

Eddie and Joe are marooned at ElfWorld and Joe has an attack of the vapours, imploring Eddie to get Bartleby under cover - if Eddie won’t do it, he will. For God’s sake - Bartleby’s a horse; they live outside. Instead of letting his Dad go out and rescue Bartleby (thus saving the writers a lot of trouble in coming up with an exit strategy for Joe) Eddie goes out to get Bartleby. However, has Eddie got his own strategy, as, while he and Joe are sheltering under a tent at ElfWorld, Eddie brushes the accumulated water on the tarpaulin roof all over Joe? However, Joe’s not one to complain - complain, no; whinge, bitch, whine, wheedle, gripe, moan, bleat, whimper and bellyache; too bloody right.

Eddie takes Joe to The Bull to cheer him up, but Joe wants to go home and go to bed. Eddie takes him back to Grange Farm, but Joe says it’s too cold and can he have another blanket, to go with the two he has already? Can’t they have a fire? Emma points out that it’s August, but Ed says he’ll put the heating on. Joe points out that the damp patch on the wall is getting larger and he has taken misery to depths not seen since the staging of a Chekov play. There is a power cut and Joe (who said that the last thunderclap was the Four Horsemen on the ride) tells his family “It’s a judgement on us all - mark my words; it’s the end of days and there ain’t nothing we can do about it.”  Even Emma who, let’s face it, is hardly a ‘glass half full’ person, tells Joe not to be so negative.

Interestingly, Clarrie is absent from this cheerful conversation - she’s upstairs and Eddie calls her, but we get no answer. Has she gone deaf, or, and this is my personal opinion, has she overheard Joe and reached for the wrist-slitter or the aspirins? Whatever, please, dear writers, put Joe (and us) out of our miseries.

Pat had another opportunity to go off on one when Susan let slip the fact that Rob has been paying Emma to babysit Henry. Pat asks how dare he - aren’t Henry’s Grandparents good enough to look after him? This demonstrates a distinct lack of understanding of the Titchener mentality and Pat adds “if Rob cannot look after Henry, he shouldn’t have been awarded custody.”

Pat gets quite shirty with Susan about Emma taking Rob’s 30 pieces of silver, but Susan fights back, saying that surely it’s better that Henry spends some time away from Rob and with friends such as George and Keira? Incidentally, the reason that Rob approached Emma is that he shouted at Henry, who wouldn’t stop banging the drum he won at the Fete. Henry said ‘sorry’ but Rob apologised for raising his voice, then he called Emma.

Pat has had a visit from Maggie, her solicitor, who is preparing the statements of the Archer family as to why they should have custody of Henry and Jack, rather than Rob. As Rob and Helen get to read their statements before they make their own, I know who my money is on.

Meanwhile, Helen seems hell-bent on booking her place in prison, as she refuses to co-operate in forming anything like a credible defence. Anna says that she noticed on the log of the mobile that Kirsty gave Helen that she rang Jess; Rob’s ex-wife. Helen says so what? All they did was set up a meeting. Anna is flabbergasted - she didn’t know that the two had actually met just a few days before Helen decided to leave Rob. Helen thinks this is no big deal and is reluctant to let Anna talk to Jess, although she accepts that there is nothing she can do to stop her. “There’s something you’re not telling me, isn’t there?” Anna asks, shrewdly. No Anna, there’s heaps that she’s not telling you.

Anna rings Jess, who, if anything, is even less enthusiastic than Helen, saying that she’s sure that Helen has filled her in fully about Rob. Anna persists and begs Jess to at least meet her for an hour to talk about things. Jess says she’ll think about it and we can only assume she will do it, or else we have wasted a lot of airtime.

Things are getting serious with the cricket team - even Lilian, who rarely rises before the game starts on Sunday afternoon, asks Harrison what’s gone wrong? PCB has his own ideas and has asked the team members to read The Art of War by Sun Tzu, which, let’s face it, is not the first name that springs to mind when you think of cricket, unless the game has changed a lot recently.

Shula, who will be 58 on Monday 8th (as also will be her twin Kenton, spookily enough) is undergoing a crisis of conscience regarding what she knows about Rob assaulting the hunt saboteur. She agonises to Caroline, who warns that, if Shula admits that she lied to the police, they could give her an extremely stiff talking to, along the lines of ‘please step into this cell for the next X months and remove your belt and shoelaces.’

Shula hasn’t mentioned any of this to husband Alistair - will he encourage her to do the right thing and admit that she lied? Will he buggery! Once he gets over his amazement that Shula could tell such a fib, he points out that, to come clean now could have been better timed. In fact, what he says is that he has just re-established his practice at the Stables and, if Shula goes ahead “Your reputation - our reputation - both of our businesses gone at a stroke.” Shula, who seems a bit slow on the uptake, asks him if she should carry on covering it up? Alistair realises that he has to go back to basics, says “In a word, yes - you won’t be helping Helen; you’ll be making everything worse for us. You’ll be charged with perverting the course of justice.” Just in case she hasn’t quite got it yet, he adds: “Telling the truth might salve your precious conscience, but if you’re convicted, you’ll go to prison.” I think that’s a ‘no’ Helen.

Over at Brookfield, things are looking up as the butter fat yields are up. Pip takes the opportunity to have a few more digs at her father, but she hasn’t been feeling that well and Rooooth wonders if things are getting on top of her. If by ‘things’ Rooooth means ‘Toby Fairbrother’, she’s spot on. Pip and Toby go for a walk on Lakey Hill after he has been moaning (could he be Joe’s bastard love child?) that he is doing all the work round the hens and the goslings and no-one seems to appreciate his efforts. Bless! He also moans that Josh seems to be keeping tabs on him at every possible moment, which indicates that Josh at least has his head screwed on.

Toby, who told Pip that he is a changed man and who, as he told us last week, is giving 200% rings Pip and suggests that they go away together for a couple of days. How about this weekend? No, Pip is way too busy. OK, how about next weekend? That sounds much better, as Pip says “A proper dirty weekend - I can’t wait.” “Neither can I” Toby replies. Now, I may be missing something here, but Pip has said that she is fantastically busy and Toby’s definition of ‘200%’ would appear to fall far short of what most of us would consider to be required, so how can they get the time off for a 48 hour shagfest? Sooner or later their secret is going to be unearthed and I predict there will profound repercussions.