Last week we had Joe Grundy being listless and miserable - yes, I too was gobsmacked - but it’s an ill wind and all that, as Joe’s lack of appetite meant that Eddie could have his breakfast bacon and sausage. Eddie tells his dad that they might have a surprise for him later on. “That’ll be nice” says Joe, in a rather abstracted tone.
And what is the surprise? Well, Eddie and Ed plan to move Susan’s old mangle back to Grange Farm. This is no mean feat, as the machine in question is very heavy and very rusty, but with much puffing and panting, they get it positioned where it always used to stand back in Susan Grundy’s day. An excited Eddie calls for Joe to come and see and is severely disappointed by his reaction (or, rather, lack of it), telling his father that that’s the last time he tries to do something nice for him.
Ed, however, realises that all is not as it should be and asks Joe if something is up? Joe replies that he’s all right, but Bartleby hasn’t been right for weeks and all Joe’s home-made remedies have not helped any. Joe says that it’s time to call in the vet. “What’s that gonna cost?” asks an alarmed Eddie. Joe replies that he doesn’t care (of course he doesn’t - he won’t be paying it) and that he cannot bear to see the horse suffering any longer. Eddie, who has only just finished telling Ed that he thinks they are OK to pay the rent for this month, but that it will be very difficult in the winter months, is presumably thinking that Alistair should bring his shotgun and, if Joe moans, well, there are two barrels, after all.
Alistair turns up and diagnoses arthritis. There’s good news and bad news and more bad news. Bad news one: it cannot be cured. Good news: it can be treated. Bad news two: treatment is on-going and the costs will mount up over the years. Joe decides to think it over and, in the meantime, try Bartleby on cod liver oil. He implores Alistair to “be Christian” when it comes to making out the bill and Alistair’s response is that he is cheaper than a conventional, multi-vet practice. “I know I can count on you Alistair Lloyd” says Joe.
But for how long? Alistair is in fact on his way to have lunch with a partner in a North Borsetshire firm of vets, who have expressed an interest in buying Alistair’s practice. Not only will this give Alistair the chance to do new things - like taking a day off - but should free up some capital to allow Shula to become Joint Master of the Hunt. By the time lunch is over, Alistair has agreed to sell, assuming the price is right. When he tells Shula, she is really grateful and, when she in her turn tells Oliver that she is willing to put her name forward to become JM, she adds that she could not have a more supportive husband, which probably means that something bad or horrible is about to happen.
Speaking of bad and horrible, Rob is still “hanging around the village like a bad smell” to quote Ed Grundy. On Sunday, Ed runs into Rob at the shop and Rob tries to engage him in conversation, but Ed isn’t having any of it. Later on, Ed pops into The Bull for a drink and Rob is there too, trying to get served, with a singular lack of success, as first Jolene and then Kenton ignore him. Rob offers to buy Ed a drink (“if we can ever get served!”) and says “Twice in one day - anyone would think you are following me.” “Well, I ain’t Rob - you can be sure of that” Ed replies, adding that he’ll get his own drink, thanks all the same.
At this moment, the row between Rex and Toby, which has been simmering ever since Rex walked into the pub, where Toby has taken Bert for a lunchtime drink, gets louder and louder. In fact, the bad feeling between the Fairbrothers has been escalating all day, with Rex being awkward over breakfast and sniping at Toby all the time. At the pub, Rob tries to intervene, telling the brothers that, if they have a disagreement, why not take it outside? “Shut up Rob!” the brothers shout in unison, but Bert tells them that this isn’t really the place for a row. Rex agrees, saying that he’ll go and find somewhere else to drink. “And don’t hurry back” Toby tells him.
Later on, Rob goes to Bridge Farm for his three-hour contact with Jack (we aren’t told whether or not he ever got his meal at The Bull) and he mentions to Pat that he has been sorting out Helen and Henry’s things and they are up at the cottage. “If you don’t want me to put them out for the dustmen, someone had better collect them - pronto” says the charmer.
When she learns of this, Helen is uninterested, saying that she doesn’t want anything that reminds her of Rob. However, Pat keeps on at her, saying that there might be some of Henry’s toys and suchlike, until her daughter gives in and says OK, she can go and collect them. Pat brings back a load of bin bags, but Helen cannot bring herself to go through them, until Lilian tells her that she had to do pretty much the same after Matt upped and left and, while she was dreading it, she actually found it cathartic. The two go through the bags together and Helen finds it easier and less traumatic than she expected. Indeed, there were some occasions (such as finding Henry’s Squiggle the squirrel toy) that brought back happy memories.
Towards the end of the week, Pat comes across Helen in the Dairy, making cheese and she says that her daughter looks different somehow - more contented. Helen admits that it’s good to be back in the Dairy and she’s been considering whether or not to make a formal complaint against Rob for coercive behaviour. In the end, Helen decides that she couldn’t face another long, legal fight and, although she knows that she might be letting some people down, she has decided not to pursue any complaint. “I’ve got to get my life back” Helen says, adding “I just need to focus on me and the boys - if that’s all right?” Pat says “Of course it is, darling” and the two women hug.
A few weeks ago, we brought up the question of who is paying for the services of Anna Tregorran, and last week, we learned that the final bill for legal costs etc. is in excess of £30,000, which is slightly more than they have in their small change jar. Should they ask Peggy to help out? Tony says ’no’, and tells Pat “We’ve been through tough times before and survived them - we’ll get through this together.” He also reminds Pat that they would have paid three times as much money to get their daughter back. They do decide not to tell Helen and Tom just yet, although they will have to be told eventually, as they are partners in the farm.
The reason for not telling Tom just yet is that he has just found out that his Nuffield scholarship has been approved. Not only that, but he has been given a sponsor - not Justin Elliot, as they all thought, but the firm for which Alice works, Pryce Baumann. As if that were not enough, the two farms in Germany that Helen earmarked as likely places for Tom to visit have both said that a visit would be fine. Tom is on a real high (as is Helen) and Pat and Tony think that it would be cruel to give them the bad news now - wait till the bailiffs are knocking at the door.
There have been developments in the Pip/Toby saga. Pip is cooking pasta for them both and the portions are meagre, to say the least - something which Toby makes abundantly plain, saying that he needs to keep his strength up. Never mind, Pip says that there are always lots of cakes at Brookfield and she will go and get some. While she is helping herself to flapjacks, Jill walks into the room and demands to know what she is doing. Jill says in no uncertain terms that it is not OK for Pip to take flapjacks or cakes and she is a grown woman who should be living independently and not raiding food from other people’s cupboards.
Pip is somewhat shocked and tells her gran “This isn’t about my independence at all, is it? It’s about Toby.” “Nonsense” Jill replies, but Pip asks why is she punishing her and “You just hate him because he’s a Fairbrother - it’s completely stupid.” Jill retorts that the whole family has never been anything but trouble, even as far back as - ” Pip realises that Jill was going to mention Grace’s name and accuses her grandmother of being jealous of Phil’s first wife, who died in the 1950s. Jill says that Pip has made a bad choice and let them all down and a tearful Pip can’t believe that Jill is being so nasty. She walks out, telling Jill “Don’t worry, I’ll never eat one of your cakes ever again.”
If Jill was trying to put Pip off Toby, she has miscalculated badly, as Pip goes straight over to Rickyard and suggests to a rather surprised Toby that he moves in with her. He asks her if she is sure and, when she says ‘yes’, he says he’d love to. “That’s much better than cake.” I cannot help feeling that this isn’t going to help the relationship between Toby and Rex - the two have already said that they both think going into business together was a mistake. Still, at least Toby won’t have to put up with Rex’s moodiness and sniping at breakfast now.
Jill drops in at Lower Loxley, where Elizabeth is having a bit of trouble with a conference they are hosting. Freddie comes home from school and Lizzie asks Jill if she would keep an eye on him, as he should be revising for his maths GCSE resit, which is coming up next month. Freddie tells Jill that he had hoped never to study maths again, but he has been helped by Iftikar, who he has contacted by e-mail on a couple of occasions.
Jill later tells Elizabeth, who didn’t know about the contact with Ifti. Elizabeth also tells Jill that she and Ifti liked each other, but it didn’t come to anything, as it was too soon after Nigel’s death. She adds that it will probably never feel right - look at the mess she got into with Roy. Jill says that he was the wrong man, plus he was married, and she shouldn’t give up on men altogether - she just needs to meet the right one. “Between the children and Lower Loxley, I haven’t got room in my life for a man.” Elizabeth answers, so it’s probably odds on that she will be starring in a romantic storyline before long. Actually, if things go according to plan, it won’t be that long before Rob is divorced by Helen and is a free agent once more - now that would make for an interesting storyline!