Monday, 26 September 2016

Now Look What You’ve Done, Oliver

Michael Cochrane (Oliver Sterling)

It’s the day of Joe’s 95th birthday party and Clarrie and Susan are preparing nibbles. They’ve run out of mayonnaise - no problem, use salad cream. Joe has been inviting half the village and the phone’s battery has run down. It all bodes ill for the party.

At the party, Oliver and Caroline arrive late and a well-refreshed Eddie drags a more-than-reluctant Caroline to take part in the line dance/barn dance. Caroline is not very happy with the whole Grundy/Grange Farm situation and she and Oliver prepare to leave early, presumably before she lays Eddie out. “But I haven’t done me speech yet” Eddie protests and proceeds to do just that. He begins honestly enough, by saying that Joe could be a misery guts sometimes. Sometimes? However, due to the kindness of the Sterlings, they now have something to be cheerful about.

The partygoers, who have obviously been doing their best to get as legless as possible as soon as possible, call for Joe to give a speech. Joe is emotional - as emotional as the newt, if I’m honest - but tells Oliver that he and Caroline have given him back the will to live. “Now I know that I’ll be spending the rest of my days at Grange Farm, I could go on forever!” Please God, no! See what you’ve done, Oliver?

Caroline tells Oliver that he must draw up a proper tenancy agreement - she suggests one year (presumably she thinks that one month might be regarded as unreasonable) - and Oliver goes to see Eddie with said agreement. Oh, and by the way, the first monthly payment is due on Monday. Oliver goes and we hear Eddie say “Flippin’ heck! Monday! What are we gonna do?”

Later that evening, Oliver is being plied with cider at a pre-opening session of the Cider Club and Joe hugs him and says again that he feels that he could go on forever. In an ideal world, Oliver would be sick and tear up the agreement, but Ambridge is far from ideal. And you know that, if the Grundys don’t come up with the money, Oliver will probably go all soft and let them off. Get a backbone, man!

Other people are also having problems with their places of residence - Usha is torn between whether she should forgive Rob, or whether she should give him notice to quit Blossom Hill Cottage. As a Hindu, forgiveness is of paramount importance but, as Usha, she thinks Rob is “a plausible monster” and does she want to keep taking his tainted money? Alan talks about forgiveness, but his wife reminds him that he has had more than one villager turning up to see the vicar, in a state of shock and distress.

Alan admits that he has a hard job to heal the village, but he points to Rob‘s upbringing, with Bruce and Ursula, as a mitigating circumstance. Usha says that lots of people have had worse upbringings than Rob “And they don’t come out of them as psychopaths.” In a neat bit of theological gymnastics, Alan muses that ‘love they neighbour’ could be interpreted as meaning that it would be best for the people of Ambridge if Rob was encouraged to move elsewhere. Usha sees it more personally - “I’ve got to be able to sleep at night” she tells Alan.

In the week’s final episode, Rob gets a hand-delivered letter at Blossom Hill Cottage. He is annoyed that his first supervised session with Jack will be supervised by Tony and will be held at the Ambridge Tea Room. Ursula has been bemoaning the fact that she has no visiting rights at all. Rob opens the letter and it is from Usha, giving him two months’ notice to quit the cottage. Yeah! Way to go, Usha!

Is Rob downhearted? Not a bit of it - in fact, he says Usha has done him a favour. “With the money Justin is paying me, there’s no need to stay in this poky place with all its associations.” He’s sure he can find somewhere else to live in two months and he might even buy somewhere. As to the visiting rights, he’s confident that he will be bringing Gideon back before long - and even Henry. He knows that he has no officially-allowed contact with Henry, but he can’t help it if he occasionally bumps into him, can he? Ursula agrees and asks if she should try and clean the blood off the carpet? “No,” says a defiant Rob, “If Usha thinks she can get me for dilapidation, she’s got another thing coming. And if Ambridge thinks they can hound me out this easily, they’ve got another thing coming too - I’m not going anywhere.”

So why is Rob so buoyant, apart from his refusal to acknowledge the fact that he has been exposed as a wife-abusing, manipulative rapist, that is? The reason is that, earlier in the week, he met with Justin to talk about the Estates Manager’s job. Rob is convinced that Justin wants to rescind the job (which is what any normal human being would do, surely?) but Justin points out that Rob has not been convicted of anything and the offer is still open. Justin did wonder if Rob might be leaving the area, but Mr Thickskin says that he’s staying, as his son is here and when can he start?

Justin suggests that they leave it for a few weeks “to let any residual fuss die down.” I submit that, with an (admittedly unconvicted) rapist and child mind-warper walking the streets of Ambridge, any ‘residual fuss’ could be around for quite a while. Justin proposes a start date of early October, but there’s a problem, as Rob is booked in for surgery on October 5th and his convalescence will take around a month. Rob says that he wants to hit the ground running (drop him from 500 feet, I say) and Justin agrees, albeit reluctantly, and they shake on the deal. I agree with Peggy, who, when told of the job offer by Jennifer, remarked: “I would have thought that Justin would have had more sense and more sensitivity.” Maybe Rob will not make it through surgery, or will contract something horrible, or is Justin being devious?

Over at Brookfield, Josh is annoying David, who asks his son what are his plans for his gap year? Josh counters by asking David if he had a five-year plan when he was 19? David says that he’s only interested in the next 12 months and what is Josh going to do? The answer is ‘farming’. “Not here” says David and presses Josh for more details. “Mushrooms” Josh replies, and walks out, leaving his father speechless.

David then researches mushrooms on the Internet, and is appalled by the amount of capital required and the long, long list of things that can go wrong. When David confronts his son again, pointing out that the market is dominated by a few, massive players, Josh says that he’s thinking about exotic mushrooms like shitake, rather than the bog-standard closed cup whites. Josh exits once again (he’s always off to somewhere, seemingly) and David explodes, saying to Jill “What is it with my children? I’ve got Pip with Toby, Josh with his head full of wild ideas…” Jill laughs, saying: “This takes me back - you sound just like your father.” David is not amused.

Moving on, has anybody else picked up on the fact that, judging from the amount of time that Jennifer is spending doing shopping for Phoebe in preparation for going to Oxford, Phoebe appears to be taking enough stuff to fill a pantechnicon or two? Poor Jenny is being run ragged and God only knows where all the stuff is being stored and how they will get it to Oxford. Brian will probably have a seizure when he sees the credit card bill.

Going back to our earlier theme of people having trouble with their places of residence or personal lives, we have to turn to Adam and Ian. The consequences and ramifications of the revelations that came to light in Helen’s trial are manifold and far-reaching. One couple who has been badly affected is Adam and Ian - Ian especially is devastated by Adam’s lack of fidelity and is spending every hour that he can at Grey Gables, avoiding his husband.

For his part, Adam is desperate to salvage the relationship and, as he tells Jennifer, he cannot stand being in the house all on his own, waiting for Ian to come home from work. He tells Jennifer that Ian cannot bear to be in the same room as Adam and his mother suggests that they talk to a counsellor. Adam is not convinced, but agrees that he has nothing to lose by asking Ian, which he does the following day. The suggestion is not met warmly, as Ian brushes it aside, saying: “You deceived me with another man; face it Adam, you’re not the faithful type.” In vain, Adam protests that he is, but Ian leaves, telling Adam that he (Adam) just can’t help himself.

It’s another long day at work for Ian and, when he returns, he tells Adam that he needn’t have waited up. Ian then notices that Adam has his bags packed - is he giving him an ultimatum? “What other choice do I have other than to move out?” Adam asks, adding; “Do you want me to stay? Ian, please, just say ‘yes’”. There is a considerable pause, then Ian replies “No, I don’t. We can’t both stay here. It’s no good Adam; it’s the only way.” And Ian opens the door for his husband, saying “Off you go.” Adam pleads “I love you Ian. I know you don’t believe it, but I do.” “Just go” the chef tells him.

We know this was late at night, so where could Adam go? We learned the next day that he decided not to go to Home Farm (they have enough non-paying lodgers already, he thinks), so he ends up at The Bull, in one of their less-than-luxurious guest rooms (or garrets). Kenton tries to engage Adam in conversation about Government farm subsidies (like Kenton knows anything about the subject) but Adam is not in the mood.

The pub is filling up (it’s quiz night) and Joe and Bert are among those taking part. Joe fills Bert in on the Adam/Ian split and Bert opines that it is a real shame. He calls Adam over and invites him to be part of their quiz team - his specialised knowledge could be crucial (presumably there is a round on ‘infidelity’) - but Adam is not keen and is looking forward to an early night. However, Joe and Bert insist and force him to sit down, telling him that they have already chosen a name for their team - ‘The Old Contemptibles.’ A resigned Adam sits down, muttering wryly; “How very appropriate.” Come on Adam - you’re not that old.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Everyone Is Happy – Well, Nearly Everyone

Timothy Watson (Rob Titchener)

The week began with Helen gazing out of the window and telling Kirsty that Bridge Farm has never looked so beautifuland she is delighted to be home. Meanwhile, Rob isn’t so happy as he reads stories online about the trial “Helen’s made the whole world believe her lies” he tells Ursula, thus underlining once more his infinite capacity for self-delusion. He’s worried that Helen will take Henry from him, but Ursula says that they don’t know that yet. Rob continues to wallow in self-pity, saying how much suffering Helen put him through and now his good (?) name and reputation is being dragged through the mud.

This being a Sunday, it’s Henry’s day at Bridge Farm, so Rob takes him. “Remember Daddy loves you” Rob says as he knocks on the door. “And I love you Daddy” Henry replies. Pat answers the door and Rob asks if he could see Gideon. He is expecting the answer ‘no’ and he’s spot on, as Pat coolly replies “I’m afraid that’s out of the question.” Rob practically begs, at which Pat says “Bye” and shuts the door. Back home with Ursula, he tells her about Pat’s refusal, saying “Whatever they think of me, I’m the child’s father” and “Whatever the Archers think, Gideon will always be a Titchener.” Ursula is right behind him, calling Pat ‘heartless‘ and ‘rotten to the core’ and telling Rob that he deserves to have both boys by his side.

At Bridge Farm, Henry refers to Jack as ‘Gideon’ and Helen tells him that that is a nickname Rob uses and the baby’s name is Jack. There were tears (of joy) when Helen hugged Henry for the first time in ages. Henry wants to know when Daddy is coming to get him, saying “I can’t wait to tell daddy about Jack.” Better duck when you do, Henry. Helen tells her mother that she used to love it when Henry called Rob Daddy, but now it makes her feel sick. “I won’t feel truly free until Henry’s back with me for good.” Helen adds.

Someone else who isn’t happy is Ian, following the revelations in court of Adam’s infidelity. Adam is frantically trying to make it up to his husband, suggesting a holiday, but Ian leaves to go to work. Things aren’t much better there, as Lilian and Justin are having a meal. Lilian says that Ian must be reeling about the revelations about Adam’s roving eye. Unfortunately, Ian is within hearing distance and Lilian apologises. “Don’t worry,” says Ian, “You’re not the first to talk behind my back.” Later on, back at home, the atmosphere between Adam and Ian is distinctly cool. Ian says luckily, he’s got a thick skin “But other people’s pity is my limit.” Adam tells him that nothing happened between him and Charlie, but Ian is more concerned that Helen is fighting for her children this week and, if she loses, he doesn’t know how she’ll cope.

Lilian asks Justin if he still believes that Rob is the right man for the Estate Manager’s job? Justin says he’ll mull it over and call Rob later in the week. Personally, I wouldn’t have thought that it would have taken much mulling, but there you go.

Wednesday is the start of the Family Court Hearing and the Judge is the same one that presided over Helen’s trial. Incidentally, a legal expert said on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hourthat this scenario would be highly unlikely to happen in real life, but I suppose it saves another actor’s salary. Rob’s solicitor claims that Helen presents a danger to the children and is volatile, unpredictable and unreliable. Furthermore, although Rob is not genetically related to Henry, he is the only father that Henry has ever known. He also brings up her mental health problems (she had anorexia after brother John’s death) but Helen puts up a spirited defence and manages to bring the subject round to Rob’s controlling influence. Later on, Helen tells Pat that she can never forgive herself for what Henry has been put through. “None of this is your fault” Pat reminds her daughter, adding that she should remember that Kaz told her that this is where she has to be strong. In a determined voice, Helen says “The hold that Rob has got on Henry can’t last. Henry’s heart is mine – I know it is.”

And so to Friday and the judge gives his verdict – and pretty damning it is too. He says that the Social Worker believes that Rob has caused significant harm to Henry and the judge’s opinion is that both children should live with their mother, aided by Pat and Tony. “No!” exclaims an anguished Rob, but the judge continues, saying that he believes that Rob represents a danger of posing a risk of harm for the future. Because of this, as he has no biological connection with Henry, he has no visiting rights. However, Rob is Jack’s father (the words ‘the poor little sod’ remain unuttered) and as such, has a right to see him. Because of the risk of harm, these visits will have to be supervised. “No, you’re all wrong!” shouts Rob.

We learn from Anna talking to Helen that the supervision will probably be Pat and Helen, as Jack knows them. Even worse for Rob, it will be limited to three hours on Sunday and one hour during the week. Helen thanks Anna for all her efforts and gives her a present. Anna says it was important for her to win the case and now she’s going on holiday with Carol, to Austria. She and Helen hug and part.

Rob’s cup runneth over – he tells Ursula that Anna had the judge in her pocket and she kept making eyes at him. Rob then gets a text from Justin, saying that he’d like to see him next week and Rob, who is conscious that no contract has been offered or signed, doesn’t think that this is to discuss the size of his salary. Never mind Rob, perhaps you can get a job in the Bridge Farm shop. “What did I ever do to deserve this?” he wails. Well, Rob, if you just cast your eyes back over the past couple of years of this blog, you might get a clue. Ursula shows that she isn’t a reader of this blog when she tells her son – unbelievably – “You’ve done nothing wrong!” Rob asks “How will Gideon ever know me? I can’t bear it” and he rushes off to the car, moaning.

Pat approaches Ursula, who turns on her, saying “Are you happy now? You’ve destroyed him – he’s lost everything because of your daughter.” Instead of saying ‘yes I am happy and he’s not lost everything – he’s gained a reputation as a control freak and a rapist’, Pat is icily angry. “How dare you?” she challenges Ursula, and goes on: “You should be ashamed of yourself and of him. Your son is a disgusting human being and you colluded with him; sitting back while he goes round terrorising and abusing women like Helen and Jess for no reason except his sad, sorry ego.” “Don’t you speak to me like that!” Ursula protests, to which Pat calmly replies “I’ve finished, actually” and, in a final, (sadly, only metaphorical) knife-twisting moment, adds “Would you please have all Henry’s things ready – I shall be round to collect him at six o’clock sharp” before walking away.

As the family celebrate back at Bridge Farm, emotions run high and Tony makes a speech, praising his daughter after all she’s suffered. They toast Helen, who, in a voice faltering with emotion, thanks them all, especially Kirsty, telling her friend “You literally saved my life.” 

Although the Family Court hearing was the biggest story of the week, it was by no means the only one. Josh sold his laptop online, which annoyed Rooooth, as it had been a present from her and David. Josh sold it to get money for his ‘business ventures’. He needs his phone charger and he remembers that he lent it to Pip, so he goes over to Rickyard Cottage and goes into the kitchen, where he is surprised to see a naked Toby making breakfast (I hope he wasn’t frying sausages). Toby is quite surprised too and, when Josh asks “Are you two an item?” he replies that it’s his and Pip’s business.

Let’s consider Josh’s question. His sister has a man with no clothes on making breakfast in her kitchen and he asks if they are an item. I suppose Toby could have said “I’m practising for an audition for ‘The Naked Chef’ “, or his clothes might have caught fire when he flambĂ©ed the pancakes, but the most likely explanation is that he is bonking Pip and you don’t have to be that bright to work it out, do you? 

When Rooooth starts giving Josh a hard time about selling the laptop, he diverts his mother by telling her that Pip and Toby are “quite close”. Quite close? I’d say they were touching in about half a dozen places. Anyway, this has the desired effect as Rooooth leaves Josh alone and, next time she sees her daughter, she asks her about the relationship. Has Toby told anybody? Pip suggests that Rooooth asks him herself and gets all moody, saying that it doesn’t matter and it’s her business. David enters the farmhouse and Pip is on the way out. “What’s with the moody teenager act?” he asks his wife and she tells him about Toby. “Toby who?” David asks, obviously forgetting that there’s only one character for each name in Ambridge. When Rooooth explains, he is thunderstruck, saying that he cannot believe Pip would go out with that idiot. He knew he shouldn’t have rented them Hollowtree and gets on the quad bike to go over there – if Rex and Toby haven’t been keeping the fences in good repair, he could evict them. Sadly for David, the fences are in excellent nick and Pip is there, looking after the goslings. She knows full well what David is up to and asks why has everyone got it in for Toby? David remarks that Toby has a knack of getting what he wants and the atmosphere between father and daughter is not good. Later on, Pip talks to Rooooth, saying that “My relationships are my business. My personal life is not up for discussion.Don’t expect an invite for Sunday lunch any time soon, Toby.

I cannot believe how soft Oliver Sterling is. He spends all week wondering if there is any way that he and Caroline can buy a villa in Tuscany without selling Grange Farm. He’s so worried about Joe, whose only wish is to die in what he describes as “my home” but which is, in fact, Oliver’s home. You all know my preferred solution to this problem, but Oliver finds a way of raising funds and one that allows him to rent out Grange Farm to the Grundys at a rent well below market value, naturally. If I were Caroline, I’d bang his head sharply against a wall or two – however did he succeed in business?

At least now Eddie won’t have to rely on the charity of William, who went berserk when he learned that Eddie took George ‘foraging’ for pheasants. Will’s temper is not improved when Eddie explains that he was just ‘teaching him the old ways’ and how pheasants weren’t just for the Toffs, but the peasants were entitled to one or two birds.

Let’s go back to the joyous celebrations at Bridge Farm. Tom drives Kirsty home and he thanks her for being such a good friend to them all. He then says that he doesn’t want her to go and kisses her. Tom apologises, but she grabs him and kisses him back. “Do you want me to come in?” he asks. “Yes. Yes, I do” she replies and there are more sounds of kisses. Be careful Kirsty – last time this happened, Tom ran off to Canada and came back with a different voice.

And so, the Helen/Rob saga appears to be over and more than two years of shouting at the radio and wishing harm to Rob has come to an end. Helen is happy and the family is there to protect her. What will happen to Rob? Anyone else would be well away from Ambridge by now, but he’s so arrogant and deluded, that he thinks he’s in the right, plus he’s got Jack – sorry, Gideon – for four hours a week. And, should he go, who would we hate then, as people commenting on the blog have been asking?

Monday, 12 September 2016

Helen In The Dock 7 – The Verdicts Come In

We began the hour-long Sunday evening special with the jurors milling around in the jury room, with one man saying that he’s got plans for the evening and trying to hit on a female juror. Another woman says that she feels confused – when JB was talking, she was convinced Helen was guilty, but when Anna spoke, she changed her mind. A man puts himself forward as Foreman, on the grounds that he’s CEO of a local housing association and used to chairing meetings. His offer is accepted.

Outside the room, Pat and Tony are, understandably, on edge and Tony can’t sit down. Surely after what the jury heard, they must believe that Helen acted in self-defence? Cut to the courtroom, where a ‘once round the table’ discussion reveals a 5-I split so far, in favour of guilty. One comment, which would not have pleased Tony, was: “Let’s get this over and done with. It would be crazy if she’s not locked up for something.”

The jurors are a diverse bunch – Jackie is a well-spoken, middle-aged lady who is level-headed and practical, while Lisa seems willing to convict Helen on the grounds that she’s “posh”. Dennis has a short fuse and Tristan is quiet. Dennis managed an abattoir for years and he knows how much force it takes to penetrate muscle, so he cannot believe that Helen acted with reasonable force. The discussion carries on, with jurors talking over each other and their prejudices being aired.

Meanwhile, Anna goes to see Helen and Jack in Helen’s cell. Helen says that she’s OK and just wants to make the most of whatever time she has left with Jack. Anna says that she did her best for Helen, who says that she knows that but “I won’t give Rob the satisfaction of not being prepared for the worst.”

Back with the jury, the squabbles are getting angrier and it is suggested that they take a coffee and toilet break. Tristan tells a girl about a friend of his who was abused by her fiancĂ© for two years before he threw her down the stairs. The Foreman tells them that they shouldn’t be discussing things in twos or threes, which is a bit rich, as he was trying to influence another juror a bit earlier. When all the jurors are back together, it seems obvious that agreement is no nearer and the Foreman suggests asking the Judge for advice as to where do they go from here?

Judge Loomis consults with JB and Anna and says that he’s minded to accept a majority verdict, but the majority must be 10 to 1 (one juror was dismissed for tweeting). On receiving this news, one juror asks what would happen if they didn’t agree? The answer is a retrial, with a different jury. This leads to many comments about fat cat lawyers and the waste of tax-payers’ money, not to mention moans about how much time the jurors have had to give up to be at the trial.

Tristan is encouraged to tell more about his abused lady friend and he says that so much of what Helen said about the way Rob operated, chimed with his friend’s experience. Here, the Foreman says that “Domestic abuse can be a grey area,” causing quizzical remarks from Jackie. The Foreman goes on: “It’s always the man’s fault, isn’t it? Women can behave how they like – they can demean, humiliate and use their children as blackmail, but if a man should see red with them for just a few seconds, well God help him!” In an emotional voice, Tristan says Rob got exactly what he deserved. Dennis’s solution to Tristan’s friend’s problem would have been to go and sort the man out.

Jackie continues to be logical and reasonable and the Foreman becomes agitated, as she seems to be persuading people of Helen’s innocence. Speaking of Rob, the Foreman says: “Does he look like the type of man who’d do something like this?”
Jackie (astonished): What does a man like that look like?
Foreman: Well, not like him.
Jackie: What? Not well-spoken and middle class – not someone like you?
Foreman: Women are always the victims – there are no excuses for us when we reach the end of our tether.

The squabbling gets louder and louder and one female juror makes an appeal for quiet, saying “We’ll never get anywhere if we don’t listen to each other.” Jackie continues to stress that she believed Helen was in great fear and that’s why she acted as she did. The Foreman is not happy and says “No-one else is being fooled by this, are they? All Rob wanted to do was to try and take care of his family. The woman is sick – you just want to blame him because he’s a man.”

Jackie says “And why do you want to blame her?” The Foreman’s answer is telling; he says: “Because I know how he feels. I haven’t seen my two boys for six months – I’m not allowed within 500 metres of my own home because of the lies my tramp of an ex-wife told about me in court. These women are all the same – Helen Titchener brought this on herself – she needs to be punished.” There is a stunned silence.

And that’s the last we hear of deliberations in the jury room. I was reminded strongly of the scene near the end of “12 Angry Men” (in fact, much of Sunday’s episode contained elements similar to the film). The scene is where Lee J Cobb, who is the only juror remaining who wants a guilty verdict, tears up the photo of his son in front of the others and then breaks down in tears, saying ‘Not guilty; not guilty’.

Back in the courtroom, we await the verdicts. Attempted murder? ‘Not Guilty’ Wounding with Intent? (This was a big worry for Tony – would they acquit Helen of the more serious charge and convict her of the lesser one?) No need to worry – ‘Not Guilty’ was the answer. Cue delight in the public gallery (well, the non-Titchener part of it) as Helen is discharged.

While they wait for the paperwork to be completed, Pat and Tony take and make calls, spreading the good news. Peggy tells them that celebrations are already taking place at Home Farm and Brian has opened a bottle of champagne – I’m willing to wager that he had some encouragement from Lilian on this.

Helen asks Pat to look after Jack, while she tries to find Kirsty. Rob suddenly appears and, says “Did you think you could tell those lies about me and I’d just disappear?” Helen has been taking the brave pills and says in a strong voice “They weren’t lies.” “As long as we have a child together, you’ll never be rid of me.” Rob says, adding that he’s got to get back to Henry. Helen hasn’t finished and says “Rob, I’m sorry – sorry that it took me so long to realise what you are. The whole world knows what you are now – I’m free.” Rob gives a little laugh and says (and I have always thought that his voice is a little creepy, but never more so than now) “Darling, I still can’t take my eyes off you.”

Helen returns to Pat and Tony. She is, understandably, subdued but tells them she’s OK and just wants to get out of there. “Let’s get you home – to Bridge Farm!” Tony says triumphantly. “There’s nothing to be scared of” says Pat. Helen says quietly, but confidently “No, there isn’t. It’s over. Take me home.”

And that was it – years of plot building and intrigue over. Or is it? Rob’s final words were disturbing, but there are lots of loose ends to tidy up, not least of which is how this episode will slot into the weekend omnibus programme. What will happen to Henry? Surely Helen can have him back now? Will Rob get visiting rights to see Jack? Surely Rob realises he’s a pariah and cannot stay around Ambridge now – is the cricket team preparing a drumming-out ceremony for him? Will Helen realise that Rob has spent the £10k that Peggy gave them. And what about Rob’s new job with Damara? I cannot believe that Justin would want a lying, manipulative, wife-abusing rapist in charge of his estates, however good he is at his job. So, is this the end of the road for Rob? Somehow, I don’t think so – his capacity for self-delusion is matched only by Susan Carter’s (and I look forward to hearing her explain away her former hero-worship of Rob) so I reckon that he’ll be around for a while yet, although surely even he will get fed up of people ignoring him, spitting whenever his name is mentioned and leaving whenever he turns up anywhere?

We hope you have enjoyed this week’s Bonus Postings and we look forward to resuming normal service from next week on.

Helen In The Dock 6 - We’re Getting Near The End (I hope)

Patricia Gallimore (Pat Archer)

The episode begins with Pat and Tony talking and - you’re not going to believe this, I’m sure - Pat is bordering (from the other side) on the hysterical. Will they have to replace the jury? “We can’t go through this again” Five million listeners chorus ‘too bloody right!’ and Pat says, belatedly, “What would it do to Helen?” Oh yes, forgot about her.

Tom comes in and says Dominic (Helen’s solicitor) showed him the offending Tweet from the juror. What did it say? He can’t remember exactly, but it was along the lines of ‘Sick of man-hating lezzies like Helen Titchener and gonna make sure she goes down.’ These bleeding-heart, left-wing liberals, eh? Pat and Tony are astounded, but Tom says that there are a lot of these trolls about and “the scary thing is that they’re still allowed on a jury.”

Helen talks with Anna, and Helen says that she can’t go through this a second time (we’re all with you there, Helen!). Anna says that they have a strong case for continuing the trial and she’s confident that the judge will not want to abandon the trial, but “we’ll just have to wait and see.”

About half a second later, we learn the results of the Judge’s deliberations and he tells the jury that the offending juror will be discharged and might be prosecuted for Contempt, or torn apart by wild horses, so make sure that you don’t make the same mistake and “don’t let personal prejudice influence you.”

Rob is being (gently) examined by JB - what about Helen’s claim of forced sex? “Completely untrue.” And Jess’s similar claim? In a slightly edgy voice (please note that, jury) he says “A disgusting lie - she’s just out for revenge.” Rob admits he has made mistakes - he took up with Helen while still married to Jess (well, it’s so easy to forget these details, isn’t it?). JB asks if Jess ever tried to jeopardise his relationship with Helen and he speaks about how she claimed the he was the father of her child. Was it true? No, because he took precautions. He adds that “Jess isn’t a well woman and I don’t want to start slinging mud.” Excuse me, but if he had set up home with Helen (admittedly they weren’t married) should he have been bonking Jess anyway?

Was the divorce amicable? No. “Perhaps there’s something about me that makes me attractive to needy, unstable women” (or maybe you’re just good at picking them out, Rob) “but between them, they’ve made my life Hell.” JB tries to tell him that that’s enough, but Rob, in an emotional voice, says that his wounds will heal, but suspicions will follow him for ever. “I didn’t cause any of this and I just want to put this behind me and concentrate on my children: Henry and Gideon have been through enough - they need a safe, loving home. That’s what I’m asking you - begging you - please clear my name.”

Later, during another of the seemingly interminable adjournments, Tony says that the jury lapped up Rob’s ‘doting father’ act. Pat is approaching, but so is Johnny. Who’s looking after the farm and shop? Apparently Jazzer and Neil have it all in hand and Pip will pitch in, assuming she can uncouple from Toby long enough. Tony is very emotional, saying that he didn’t want to put Johnny through this, but Johnny says “I think I should be with you guys.” He adds that this is the first time that the whole family has been in the same room as Helen for God knows how long. “We’re still a family” he says.

Back in the courtroom, it’s time for closing remarks. Prosecution first and JB stresses that Helen answered ‘no comment’ for 36 hours, when questioned. “Is this the action of an abused, traumatised woman?” he asks. He goes on to say that the Defence has failed to present evidence that Rob had ever tried to harm his son - on the contrary, he tried his best to protect his family from the increasingly erratic behaviour of his sick, pregnant wife. Finally, there was Henry’s evidence that his daddy didn’t threaten him. Self defence? No - Helen attacked Rob repeatedly with such force that she was trying to kill him.

The rest of his summary is drowned out by Tony, sobbing and saying “Surely I can’t lose my little girl as well?” Johnny says that this won’t happen; “Helen’s coming home. This is all going to be over - you’ll see.” “Bless you Johnny” says a tearful Tony.

It’s Anna’s turn to sum up and she asks for acquittal on both charges on grounds of self-defence. Without going through all her arguments, she points to the “startling similarity” between Helen and Jess’s accounts of life with Rob (not being allowed to drive, violence - Rob admitted he hit his wife - bullying, mind games, forced sex etc.) Anna describes Helen as “A decent woman of good character. I ask you not to convict her for what any of us might have done in the same situation - protecting her child.”

Judge Loomis tells the jury that it’s up to them how they run their discussions and “You may now retire to deliberate.” I believe that Sunday evening’s episode will last one hour. I hope this trial is over soon, as Neil and my fingers (I’m Peter, by the way) will be worn to the bone if it goes to appeal, retrial, or whatever. Please not!

Friday, 9 September 2016

Helen In The Dock 5 - Bruce Shows Contempt

Michael Byrne (Bruce Titchener)

Rob and Bruce talk before court proceedings begin. Bruce is angry because the Echo, which a few months earlier had described Rob as a hero, is now branding him a rapist. Justin Bywater says he protested most vociferously against this evidence being submitted, but Bruce is scathing, telling Rob that Justin hasnt got a clue. JB refrains from giving him a kicking and reminds Bruce that I represent the Criminal Prosecution Service, not your son.

JB then spoils Robs day even more by telling him that theres a chance that ex-wife Jess might give evidence. Rob says I was certain that she wouldnt come forward. Why?asks an interested JB, Didnt you think that it might be a possibility? Rob obviously believes that attack is the best form of defence, as he says Everything that woman says is a lie - shes insane and shes never forgiven me for divorcing her. Isnt it interesting that all the women in Robs life are compulsive liars (except Ursula)? And yet Ursula is the only genuine compulsive liar.

Rob asks JB if he is going to use the statement that he (Rob) gave him about Ian Craig? JB is not convinced, saying that it might look like a smear. Cue another rant from Bruce: Look at how the other side are behaving - theyre not pulling their punches and neither should you he snarls, leaving the words you spineless milksop unspoken.

Cut to the courtroom, where Ian has just finished his character reference for Helen and is being cross-examined by JB. JB has obviously taken Bruce and Robs advice to heart, as he says that it was odd that, if Ian and Helen are best friends (as Ian testified) they didnt speak for months. JB then strikes below the belt, suggesting that Ian is angry with Rob because he informed you that your partner had been unfaithful with a Polish seasonal worker and a manager of a large estate. Ian is floundering and says that he doesnt see what that has to do with anything. You dont like Mr. Titchener. Do you? JB asks. No, I dont, but - Ian replies, only to be cut off by JB saying That will be all Mr. Craig.

Outside the courtroom, a shell-shocked Ian is approached by Shula, who has had troubles getting parked. She asks Ian questions about which court is the trial in, but his mind is elsewhere as he tells her that he has just finished giving evidence. How did it go?Shula asks brightly. In a tone reminiscent of a man who has just been told that he has a terminal disease, Ian says I dont really want to talk about it - I just want to head off home. Why? How awful was it? Shula persists. Now, there were only two two-syllable word in Ians answer, so it couldnt have been that hard to understand, could it? I bet our readers understood I dont really want to talk about it right away. Im sure youll find out soon enough, Ian says, taking his leave and adding: Words bound to get round the village. If Susan was in the courtroom, youd put your mortgage on that.

As Ian goes, Rob approaches Shula, who remarks that Ian looked as if he has just gone 20 rounds. Rob says hes surprised to see Shula there But its appreciated - words which make Shula gasp. Rob then introduces her as being a fellow member of the Hunt to Bruce, who says Its a relief to know theres at least one decent person whos on Roberts side.

Back in court, JB is arguing that Jess should not be allowed to give evidence, claiming that its a dastardly trick sprung on the Court by the Defence. In a spirited reply, in which she frequently ignores hits from Judge Loomis that hes heard enough, Anna says that, on the contrary, Jess approached them, not the other way around and she appeals that, in the interests of Justice, Jesss testimony should be heard. The Judge says that he must make his decision on the basis of the law, which begs an interesting question about what a court is for - to uphold the law, or to see that justice is done? He retires to consider his decision.

In the end, he makes the right choice and Jess is being examined by Anna. Shula is sitting next to Bruce and she asks where is Ursula? Bruce replies that she is looking after the boy and adds that she gets quite emotional which, in view of what happens later, is ironic. When he sees Jess, Bruce snorts I prayed Id seen the last of that woman.

Anna asks Jess about her romance and marriage to Rob. They met shortly after she had finished her GCSEs and Rob went to university (Jess didnt make the grades). She described him as paranoid and that he wrote letters, accusing her of sleeping around and saying that he had mates keeping an eye on her, so she stopped socialising. So why not break it off? I was besotted she replies, adding that Robs character changed when he came back for holidays and he often talked about the two of them running away together. Bruce is muttering to Shula: I warned him - I told him she was soiled goods, but he wouldnt listen. Shula is shocked and even more so when Bruce calls Jess A hussy and  A gold-digging tart. By now Shula is alarmed and, in the true spirit of News of the World journalist investigating a sex scandal, she makes an excuse and leaves. A pity really, as she misses all the later fun. What really annoyed Bruce is that, having warned Rob about Jess, he paid for the wedding.

Married life for Jess wasnt easy - she only had money when Rob gave it to her and he wouldnt buy her a car when they were in the USA and Canada, so she was isolated. Anna then asks her if Rob ever forced her to have sex. Her answer is yes and she says that sometimes he grabbed her by the throat or held her down by her wrists.

This is too much for Bruce, who shouts out Shes a liar - this whole trial is a sham!Judge Loomis calls for order, but Bruce continues to rant about how much his family did for Jess. The judge says that, if Bruce cant control himself, he will adjourn, but Bruce is in full flow, saying that Jess even tried to palm Rob off with a brat that wasnt even his! Anna complains about this unacceptable behaviour and  the Judge orders the jury to be removed and he himself will rise until things calm down. 

Why did the Judge not have Bruce forcibly removed and charged with Contempt? That way the jury, who are in and out of the courtroom so often that they might wish for a revolving door, could have stayed.

Outside, Rob says For Gods sake, Dad, what were you playing at? Robert - dont you raise your voice to me! Bruce answers. He goes on Someone has to tell the truth about these women of yours. Rob suggests that that is his job. What? More blubbing, more tears? sneers Bruce. Better than trying to bully the court into convicting Helen. Rob says, before apologising to his dad for talking to him like this.  It used to be that what happened between a man and his wife was their business - I despair of this country says Bruce, leaving us to wonder whether there is a room at chez Titchener (senior) with whips and manacles on the wall.

As we approach the end, JB drops his bombshell - during the adjournment, a juror was caught tweeting about the trial and the Judge has decided to halt the trial. What does it mean? When will it start again? asks Rob. JBs answer made my - and I bet countless millions of others blood run cold - To be perfectly frank, I cant guarantee that it will he tells them.

I tell you now - after the graft that Neil and I have put in this week, it bloody well better do (unless they decide to save time and take Rob out and shoot him, of course) as we cannot sit through another week of evidence and legal arguments and do another week of daily blogs. Lets find out where the writers live and all go and give them a not-too-friendly word of advice.