Graham Blockey (Robert Snell)
Robert Snell is someone who I have always thought was an OK guy - he’s invariably pleasant and polite, plus, of course, he gets a huge dollop of sympathy for being married for 30 years, or whatever it is, to Lynda; you don’t get that for murder, do you? However, my feelings changed radically last week and, whereas Robert used to be someone for whom I would cheerfully buy a pint, now I’m afraid that he has become a pariah and he’s off my Christmas card list big time.
And the reason for this change of heart? It happened on Wednesday. Salieri the llama has a toothache and, when Alistair tries to examine him, Salieri spits at him. Following this cameo, Lynda and Robert are relaxing in the shepherd’s hut (I was surprised that it accommodated two people without collapsing) and Robert notices that Lynda seems a little distracted and cannot take her eyes off her tablet - what is she doing? With a sigh, Lynda admits that she is looking at drama sites - at this time of year, she would normally be embarking on choosing her latest Christmas extravaganza, but she has abdicated responsibility this year, leaving such things to Fallon and others. Still, old habits die hard, although she tells her husband “My time has come and gone.”
This is Robert’s cue to nod wisely and make her a cup of tea, but instead the clown tells her that she is being selfish, by depriving the village of her talents. Before we can club him to the ground, he goes on to say that this year’s fete was a fiasco until Lynda took over - no-one else has her flair. “Why not do what you do best? Inspire the village - put on a new show.” I’m sure I was not alone in shouting ‘no!’ in a strangled voice, but Lynda is worried about reneging on her promise to take a step backwards. Robert continues to lay it on with a trowel and Lynda succumbs, telling him “You’ve made an unanswerable case, Robert.”
OK, deep down we all knew that Lynda was never really going to give up her theatrical activities, but for a while there, we had a slim hope of a Snell-less Christmas for one year, with none of the angst, screaming and numerous crises that occur with each production, before the finished show turns out to be another roaring success. One year off - was that really too much to ask? I know where you live Robert and I’ll get you for this.
From Robert to Rob. Last week we suggested that he had the skin of a rhinoceros, but this week we learned that rhinoceros hide is as tissue paper compared with the Titchener epidermis. After having his stoma reversed, Rob and Ursula make a point of being very visible on a bench on the village green. Actually, Ursula isn’t that comfortable, but Rob says that he’s not going to hide away “Despite the appalling behaviour of the cricket team. I’ve done nothing to be ashamed of” the master of self-delusion adds. He’s just had his first three-hour session with the psychologist - something that he says was a waste of time. The psychologist is a woman, which immediately reduces her status in Rob’s eyes, plus he says that she would be better off interviewing Helen, not him. The subject of access is a constant moan from Rob and he reveals that he has instructed his solicitor to submit the relevant papers to pursue a name change for Jack. His solicitor says that there is little chance of success and Ursula wonders if it’s worth it. “What’s the alternative? Giving up?” Rob snaps, adding: “Helen needs to understand she can’t break my spirit.” Perhaps if Helen lays a formal complaint against Rob for rape and assorted other abuse charges against her and Henry, and it is successful, maybe he might finally admit that he has done something wrong, as he’s sent down for a year or three. Or will he maintain that Helen had been sleeping with the jury and he is the victim of yet another miscarriage of justice? What do you reckon? Yup, me too.
In a few previous episodes, we have speculated that all might not be well between Alistair and Shula. Indeed, they haven’t had any meaningful dialogue for months, or even years. Last week, Oliver turned up at The Stables to tell Shula that Perry (who he?) is retiring as Joint Master (JM) of the South Borsetshire Hunt (SBH) and Oliver wonders if Shula would be interested in filling the vacancy. This has always been one of Shula’s ambitions and she says that she will have to check with Alistair. As he leaves, Oliver casually mentions that the JMs frequently have to cover Hunt expenses - you know, little things like paying for a new member of staff, which can cost the odd couple of thousands each and he’ll leave it with her, shall he?
Having mortgaged themselves up to the hilt to pay off Alistair’s gambling debts a few years ago, Shula thinks that there is no chance that she can accept the JM post (and, to be honest, it does sound a bit like a poisoned chalice) but she raises the subject with Alistair. Shula also says that it’s academic, anyway as, when she tells Oliver about how she lied about the Rob/hunt sab incident, he won’t offer her the position. Alistair says wait and see and tells his wife that he knows that being a JM has always been an ambition of hers “So let’s explore every avenue first - see if we can’t make your dreams come true.”
Shula goes to see Oliver and returns, admitting to Alistair that he was right - Oliver was indeed calm about the Hunt sab incident. What? Only calm? Surely he should have horsewhipped Rob? Actually, that raises an interesting point - what will happen if (I feel that should be ‘when’) Rob wants to rejoin the Hunt? And if you think he wouldn’t have the nerve, I submit that you haven’t been paying attention to this blog and you haven‘t understood the Titchener mentality.
Anyway, we learn that Alistair’s plan is that he sells his one-man veterinary business and becomes an employee of the new owners. Shula says that surely he couldn’t bear not to be his own boss once more? Alistair counters by saying that being a one-man band has its disadvantages too - he can’t be ill, he can’t take days off unless he arranges cover and he has to be an expert in animals from mice to farm beasts. Presumably he could have added that being gobbed on by llamas takes the shine off the job as well. Shula is overcome and kisses him, thanking him for being so thoughtful. Alistair warns her that, if the offer isn’t any good, he won’t accept, but it seems that stability has returned to The Stables, at least as far as personal relationships are concerned.
Let’s gloss over the ‘Will Tony buy and restore the Fordson Major tractor?’ story. Of course he will. He has to ask Pat, but is she likely to refuse if it means that Tony will be moping around, sulking and being miserable? Definitely not, plus it has the advantage of getting him out of the way for hours at a time.
Equally briefly, Carol went to see Jill and asks whether Jill and Pip have made it up yet? Jill retorts that, if Carol means has Pip apologised, the answer is ‘no’. Carol says gently that that is not what she meant, but Jill is adamant that Pip is in the wrong, as she knew that the party was family only. Carol points out that she’s not family, but she was there. She goes further, suggesting that, when Jill talks of Toby, she’s really thinking of his father Robin, and how he treated Elizabeth badly. Not only that, but Carol says that Jill was jealous of Grace Fairbrother (Phil’s first wife) and Carol is afraid that all this might poison Jill’s relationship with her granddaughter. Jill’s response is that it’s rubbish to say that she’s jealous of Grace and “We will have to agree to disagree,” adding: “I’m sure Pip will see through Toby in time.”
Susan is still worrying about her body, despite husband Neil’s reassurances that she’s as beautiful as the day they married. If you think about it, he could be implying that she was wrinkled and saggy when they got wed, but I’m sure that’s not what he meant. Whatever, I really cannot get interested in the story. Neil’s solution is to have a professionally-taken family portrait taken, which they can hang in a prominent place (just remove the dartboard). His enthusiasm is somewhat tempered when Susan says that she will need a new dress and an expensive hairdo.
Jazzer asks Tom how he got on with his Nuffield interview. Tom thinks he did OK, but he ran off at the mouth when answering the final question about current affairs. We’ll have to wait for the final result, but personally, I won’t be losing sleep. Roy turns up and Jazzer ridicules his get-up and hairdo (a makeover, courtesy of Kirsty) but, if he loses a few kilos of hair gel, he might look normal. The three lads decide to get back on the dating game and to go out clubbing one night. I think they might be a touch on the old side.
Adam is desperate to talk to Ian, especially when Kate tells him that Ian has been offered a super job in Edinburgh and is going for an interview. Adam is distraught and leaves a tearful message on Ian’s phone, begging him to get in touch. Adam hangs up and Ian, who has been listening, says to himself “Sorry, Adam” as he leaves the house. On the last broadcasting evening, Adam and Ian do meet up, when Adam goes to Honeysuckle. The two talk about the Edinburgh job, which Ian describes as “A wonderful opportunity.” Adam is begging for another chance: “I love you, I can’t live without you” and he beats himself up, calling himself all sorts of a fool for “My stupidity - and my betrayal.” Ian says that he has turned the job down as “I can’t leave Ambridge, not yet. It’s just that I love you too much, you old git.” Who said romance was dead? Eventually, Ian says that Adam should move back in they’ll give it a go, and there is much snuffling as the two men hug. I for one am glad that they got back together, as Ian is possibly the nicest man in Ambridge - certainly now Robert Snell has plummeted down the ‘nice’ league. Just don’t cock it up (and I use the phrase advisedly) again, Adam.
Kate is wandering around like a lost sheep - nobody needs her; she Skyped her children in South Africa and they hardly said anything, plus bookings for Spiritual Home have dropped off (would you want to spend cold nights in a yurt?) and Phoebe hasn’t called her from Oxford - two texts in two weeks is the sum total of their contacts. “I feel useless - nobody needs me” she says to Lynda, who has invited her to join her during her break. Lynda had an ulterior motive, and suggests that Kate becomes her Assistant Director for the Christmas show. Kate is dubious, but Lynda flatters her by reminding her of her triumph as Sleeping Beauty when she was a teenager. Just think, Lynda and Kate - it just gets better and better (he said, weeping bitterly).