Toby Laurence (Freddie Pargetter)
More than one character voiced the above question last week. The first one was Freddie, who was dragged round Borchester College by his mother. Borchester College resembles the Cathedral School (Freddie’s last scholastic establishment) in the same way that an elephant resembles a flea, but looking on the plus side, Freddie should have no problems if he wants to score some drugs, or pick up the odd knife. Freddie describes the College as “a dump” and himself as “a sad loser”. Such self-awareness in one so young! He also seems to be practising for the finals of the ‘Ambridge Mega-Sighing Competition’ - watch out Jamie and Rooooth; this boy is good.
The place cannot be that bad, surely - Elizabeth went there, as did sundry other Archers, so we have to consider that Freddie might be just a teeny bit snobbish. Lizzie is bigging up the College, but Freddie is in a pit of despair and asks “What would Dad say?” I suppose we should be pleased that he didn’t call Nigel ‘Daddy’, and Elizabeth says that he would be proud of his son, because Freddie won’t give up until he’s got his ‘C’ grade maths. Later on, Lizzie is talking to Richard Locke and she says that one thing that put Freddie off the College is that he won’t get the same individual attention as at the Cathedral School. I put it to you that, with the individual attention, not to mention the extra-curricular tutoring from Iftikar, Freddie managed a grade ’E’ in maths. Lizzie mentions in passing that that was more than Nigel ever achieved, so perhaps Nigel might say “Freddie’s a real chip off the (admittedly dense) block and I‘d write and tell him how proud I am, if only I could spell ‘proud‘”
However, the Admissions Officer has obviously been taking advantage of the easy supply of wacky substances on offer at the College, as he is confident that Freddie can achieve a Maths C grade “at least”. I suspect that Freddie will have an extremely long beard - or, more likely, a clean skeleton, before this happens.
Before we leave the Pargetters, we must mention the (possible) slow-burning romance between Elizabeth and Dr. Locke. Over at Lower Loxley, Madam Butterfly is proving to be a smash, sell-out hit. Richard turns up without daughter Sasha, who has had a less boring offer and Shula says he can sit with her. However, Carol pees on this particular bonfire by saying that she has saved Shula a place with her and Jill and drags her off. Even more humiliating, Carol has a blanket that she, Jill and Shula can share. Carol also rubs salt into a newly-created wound by telling Shula that she’s lucky: “You have a home, a husband you love - you should make the most of it while it lasts.” “Yes, I suppose I should” says Shula.
While Shula is evidently carrying a torch for the doctor, he seems more interested in her sister. While Shula is being led away by Carol, Elizabeth asks Richard if she can take Sasha’s place as, despite providing the venue for Madam Butterfly, she has not had the chance to see it all the way through yet. Not only that, but she will see if she can persuade Fallon to provide one of her luxury hampers for the interval. Richard agrees (and who wouldn’t?) and, as they talk afterwards, Elizabeth tells him that she had ‘a fling with a married man’. Richard moves in for a kiss but, with incredibly bad timing, his phone rings and his taxi has arrived, so he thanks her for a wonderful evening and departs.
It is the following day that Elizabeth rings Richard to tell him about Freddie and the College and to confess that she is worried that her son might not be able to cope with the very different environment. Richard suggests that they meet up for a coffee, but she says “I can do better than that - why don’t you come round for supper?” Richard says OK, but when? Elizabeth replies “I’m pretty free any time” (Something to which Roy can no doubt attest) and how about tomorrow? He’s on late duty at the surgery. The day after? “Yes, I’ll see you then” says the doctor.
Elizabeth has packed a picnic (can’t this woman cook?) and suggests they go to the Folly to eat it. Will this be the only folly, we wondered eagerly? Elizabeth tells Richard that Lily has decided to ditch the Cathedral School and take her A levels at the college. Lizzie thinks that this is because she wants to be with Freddie and she hopes that her daughter isn’t making a big mistake. Personally, I reckon Lily just wants to gloat, but I could be being unfair. Richard puts his jacket round them both and says that lily will be successful wherever she goes - she takes after her Mum (the crawler). Elizabeth also reveals that, when she has a decision to make, she always asks herself what would Nigel have said?
Drawing closer, Richard asks “And what do you think he’d have said about us?” Personally, I reckon he would have said ‘move away from my wife, you snake’ but Elizabeth says “Is there an ‘us’?” “I don’t know - that’s up to you” Richard replies, to which Elizabeth says that she really messed up last time and, brushing aside Richard’s apologies, she explains that the next time, it really has to be right and could take some time. “There’s no rush” says Richard - I think this is one for the long haul, guys.
Speaking of the long haul, we turn to the Titchener saga (don’t you love these seamless links?). On Sunday, Rob turns up at the cricket and undermines Adam’s confidence before Adam goes into bat. He is rubbish and Ambridge lose. They are not the only losers, as the players go berserk for Fallon’s piri piri chicken sandwiches and pass on Shula’s egg and cress and meat paste offerings. At the end of the match Rob approaches Adam and Johnny, telling them to wait, as he wants a word. They ignore him and go off to the pub. Ian has stayed behind, saying that he’ll catch them up later. The conversation goes thus:
Ian: I think that’s what’s called voting with your feet - I can’t say I blame
Rob: Let me give you some advice. Do you think that being a character witness for Helen is a good idea? A Criminal Court is no place for the weak or faint-hearted; are you sure you’re man enough to do it?
Ian: Say that again
Rob: You heard. I’d hate to see you break down in tears and make a complete fool of yourself
Ian: You just listen - I don’t know what you did to Helen, but I can guess. I know what kind of man you are - you’re vicious, scheming, lying…
Rob (angrily): I suggest you don’t say anything you’ll regret
Ian: Why? Are you going to hit me? Go on; do it - show them what a real man you are, or don’t you have what it takes?
Rob (really angry): Just you be careful!
Ian: OK, I’ll see you in court - and don’t worry; I won’t let Helen down.
I have set this conversation down in detail, as I wonder whether or not this could be a clue to how Rob gets his comeuppance - he has a short fuse and maybe Anna can provoke him into saying something indiscreet and self-incriminating in court. On the other hand, he is a consummate actor. Anyway, the trial begins next week.
The Defendant was pleased to learn that Kaz survived her bout of self-harming and, even better, she is allowed to return to the Mother & Baby Unit. Kaz tells Helen that she wasn’t attempting suicide, but she was punishing herself for the situation with her children. Helen doesn’t understand, as Kaz has nothing to reproach herself for. For her part, Kaz says that her and Helen’s situations are very similar and you can hear a slight ‘chink’ of a penny dropping in Helen’s head.
Helen is moved to another MBU closer to Ambridge, in readiness for the trial and Anna goes to see her in a last-ditch attempt to get some more ammunition for the defence, which, quite frankly, is looking thinner than a piece of clingfilm at the moment. But wait! There is a glimmer of hope - Helen remembers that, on the night of the stabbing, Rob put the knife in her hand and told her that the only way she can leave him is by killing herself. (Hanging By A Thread). Anna is delighted, but, as she tells Tony later on the phone, she thinks there is still something important that Helen is keeping back and she won‘t give up. Pat isn’t convinced, wailing: “Will it be too late? The trial starts on Monday - we’re running out of time.” You should worry Pat - you’re a witness for the Prosecution.
Life with the Grundys continues to annoy. Eddie is worried because Will is incommunicado about whether or not they can move into No. 1 The Green and he tells Joe that his son said some horrible things when he found out that Eddie had been poaching. Sorry, foraging. Joe (who still hasn’t achieved his desire to die at Grange Farm) says “Surely William wouldn’t see us out on the street?” Apart from being family, give us one more good reason, Joe.
You will be delighted to know that Adam decided that Alice had paid enough penance over damaging the drill/tractor and he will stop making her grovel. Brian, on the other hand, isn’t so sure and he drops a bombshell into the household when he reveals that Justin has appointed Rob as Damara’s Estate Manager. Adam is appalled, saying “I can’t work with that disgusting, abusive, homophobic bully” from which we gather that Adam isn’t a fan. Jennifer thinks that Justin must be out of his mind and she wonders whether or not she should have a talk with him (‘Hello Justin. Did you know you are out of your mind?’ - could be an interesting start to the dialogue).
Brian alarms his wife even more by saying that the fact that Justin has offered Rob the job indicates that he must be of the opinion that Helen will be found guilty. Jennifer implores him not to say anything like that to anyone at Bridge Farm. Now I know that, if you were looking for a paragon of tact and diplomacy, Brian Aldridge would not only not be your first choice, but wouldn’t even be in the top 100, but surely even he wouldn’t be so crass?
As to Justin’s decision, there is a theory doing the rounds that he is, in fact, going to shaft Rob at the trial, which would be great. But how? Will Stefan be flown in to tell what he saw when Rob blocked the culvert on the night of the flood? Will Charlie be brought back from Scotland to reveal the fiddled figures about Berrow Farm? Or - even more damning - will the Darrington cricket team testify under oath that Rob clearly nicked a catch to the wicket keeper and then refused to walk? The utter swine.