Hollie Chapman (Alice Aldridge)
The work of casting for Mother Goose seems to have devolved entirely on to Alice, which isn’t surprising when you think that Kate is supposed to be doing it - we all know her ability to knuckle down and apply herself to any task in hand. Alice is crowing about how easy it all is, but then Eddie pulls the entire Grundy family out of the production, in protest about the panto being nothing more than one huge advert for the Fairbrothers’ goose business.
And the Grundys are not the only ones - Toby says he’s too busy, ditto Kenton and Rex isn’t keen either. Friday night is audition night and Alice and Kirsty are the only ones there, until Rex walks in. He’s still not sure, but has come along just to have a look. The two girls fall upon him and the flattery is laid on with a trowel. Suddenly the door opens and a voice says “Sorry I’m late” as, to the two girls’ horror, Rob walks in.
Kirsty tells Alice that she cannot possibly cast Rob and Alice says that she will let him audition and then tell him that he hasn’t got a part. Kirsty then says that she can’t audition either. “You know why” she tells Alice. We have said before that Rob’s skin resembles that of a pachyderm in thickness, but this is breathtaking - worse even than Halloween, when he turned up at The Bull, wearing a Joker mask, prompting Kenton to remark to Jolene “Rob as the Joker; can you believe it? That man - how sick can you get?”
Of course, it’s an ill wind - if Rob is associated with the panto, presumably nobody else will want anything to do with it and it won’t happen. I can dream, can’t I? Rob started his new job as Justin’s Estates Manager on Monday and Justin immediately invited him to come along on the shoot later in the week. I did wonder if we might perhaps have an accident, with Rob’s body found riddled with shot, but no such luck - in fact, Rob was one of the best shots and Justin complimented him on his prowess.
Had Rob’s lifeless body been found on the shoot, the police would be spoilt for choice of suspects, as Rob has managed to rub numerous people up the wrong way. On Monday, he goes to see Adam about the arable crops - he is concerned about their patchy growth. Adam explains that the no-till system - a system approved by the BL Board, incidentally - is a long-term project. Rob makes some pointed remarks about Adam’s domestic life and “If these crops don’t pick up very soon, you can expect another visit from me.”
Adam moans to Brian about Rob’s attitude, but Brian thinks that Rob has a point - the crops do look a bit sparse, plus they have to make sure that Justin is happy. “It’s a simple matter of economics - we can’t afford to lose the Estate contract” Brian tells Adam. On the day of the shoot, it is Brian’s turn to be needled by Rob, who says that he is not prepared to have Estate land used as “a test bed for Adam’s half-baked theories” and he wonders if Adam is capable of doing his job properly, after all what he has heard about his personal life. Brian protests that Rob is being unfair, but Rob wonders about the soundness of Adam’s professional judgement. Brian tells Rob that he will contact Justin to reassure him, to which cuddly Rob replies “Well, you can try if you like Brian, but don’t say you haven’t been warned.”
Also on the day of the shoot, Shula turns up on horseback and Rob asks if it’s a good idea to ride on Estate land on the day of a shoot. Shula retorts that she is on her way home and anyway, the bridle path is a public right of way. Rob, who is obviously suffering because he hasn’t upset anybody for at least five minutes, tells her that, as Estates Manager, it’s his decision as to who can ride over Estate land and he might even apply to have the bridle path diverted. Later on Shula relates this story to Alistair and she is hopping mad. Another candidate for murder suspect!
Alistair could be excused for having other things on his mind - on Sunday, the lady who might be interested in buying into his vet’s business - Anisha - comes to the Stables for lunch and a look round. She is impressed and, later in the week, Alistair tells Shula that Anisha rang him and she is still interested and they will meet next week to discuss it further.
A story that is getting on my nerves is the saga of the Carter family’s group photograph. Susan is getting serious delusions of adequacy as she decides that no local photographer could possibly do the job properly and she is looking at London-based snappers. This must alarm Neil, as he envisages the ever-mounting costs of the project. What, with this and the privations of the enforced diet that Susan has put him on, Neil must be regretting that he ever had the idea of a family photograph.
Roy stuck a tentative toe into the online dating water when he met up with Lucy at a patisserie for coffee and cakes. Lucy is a very attractive girl and the two are getting on like a house on fire - she is jealous that he has a signed Pet Shop Boys album (a relic from Loxfest) - and it all looks good. However, Lucy is spelling out some of her ground rules for relationships and, when she mentions a friend of hers who had an affair with her boss, causing Lucy to cut the girl out of her life, the wheel falls off for Roy. Towards the end of the date, Lucy asks: “Is it me, or did it get a bit awkward, later on?” Roy replies in the negative, but it seems that he believes that there’s no future for the two of them, or so he told Kirsty later.
Perhaps Roy should borrow some self-confidence from Toby Fairbrother - God only knows that he’s got enough to spare. Having been ousted from the goose business, he is looking for the next great money-making idea. Getting ill on the Grundy’s cider and sloe gin, he decides that his future lies in coming up with an artisan drink. Pip finds him ‘foraging’ in the hedgerows and he proudly displays the flora that he has collected. What does Pip think? She points out that the berries he has picked are poisonous but he is not discouraged, telling her that he will look elsewhere.
‘Elsewhere’ turns out to be Lynda Snell’s herb garden and her shed, where herbs are hanging up to dry. I can’t help think that Lynda would not be amused, but, fortunately for Toby, she is away, ministering to Flat Leaf Parsley, who broke her arm in New York and had to come back early with young Muppet. Toby mixes all the ingredients together and lets them steep for a few days. He and Pip then taste the resulting concoction, which is just this side of horrible, with much coughing. Pip readily agrees with Toby when he says that it needs more work.
Pip is annoyed with Toby, as Rex sought her out to ask her to remind Toby that they are having a business meeting in the afternoon and Toby needs to be there. Of course, Toby doesn’t go, saying to Pip: “All this stuff about squeezing me out of the goose business isn’t going to happen.” Why not? “Because I know my brother - he can stew in his own juice until he realises that he needs me more than I need him.” Toby also mentions in passing that he is going down to Brighton for the weekend, or maybe a few days more, which is news to Pip, and she isn’t happy, telling him that he can’t go anywhere until he has talked to Rex.
Toby eventually rings Rex, causing him to leave the panto auditions early, and the two brothers meet. In a bored voice, Toby asks what happened at the meeting? Rex tells him that he and Josh decided that there is no more egg business. “Upper Class Eggs isn’t working, so we’re winding it up.” Rex tells his brother. “No! You can’t” Toby replies, but Rex says that there’s nothing for Toby to stay for - the partnership is over. “You can’t do this to me,” Toby says, adding (a tad optimistically) “We’re a team - we’re family.” Rex is having none of it, saying: “It was never going to work, Toby. You always wanted to go your own way, so now’s your chance.” Back to the artisan drinks, Toby. Perhaps Pip will get fed up with Toby and we might learn at last what it is he gets up to in Brighton.
A couple whose fortunes seem to be on the up and up are Kenton and Jolene. A year ago, Kenton was in despair and The Bull was in serious danger of going nads up, being rescued only when the rest of the Archer family rallied round with a loan. What a difference a year makes! We learn that Halloween was extremely successful for the couple, plus other events during the summer were nice little earners. It’s a measure of how successful they have been that Kenton arranges a surprise for Jolene - having ensured that Fallon can provide cover, he has arranged a night away at a luxury hotel and spa to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
Kenton tells Jolene this in the bar, where a dejected Eddie is nursing a half, because he cannot afford a pint. Kenton’s news does nothing to lighten Eddie’s mood - he remarks gloomily that it’s his and Clarrie’s wedding anniversary next week as well and “Clarrie will be lucky to get a box of chocolates.”
Casting an eye back over last week’s stories, I hope that we have seen the scales beginning to drop from Pip’s eyes when it comes to Toby - she wasn’t impressed when he announced that he was off to Brighton without her. If we’re lucky, perhaps he’ll stay there.
I want to give Justin Eliot a good shaking - I know Rob hasn’t been convicted of anything, but the fact that the jury believed Helen’s tale of coercive behaviour and being raped surely suggests that he isn’t a nice person, to put it mildly? Is this the sort of man you want running your business, Justin? Hasn’t Justin noticed that Rob is being ostracised by almost the entire village? He’ll give BL a bad name, Justin - get rid of him.
Actually, Justin isn’t the only one to give Rob some credit, as on Sunday, Alan is talking to Shula as Rob drives past. The vicar says that he had a chat with Rob and “He doesn’t seem to have many friends right now.” “Are you surprised?” she answers and Alan is worried that Rob seems to be so isolated and it is his (Alan’s) job to try and heal things. Shula disagrees, saying: “It sounds uncharitable, but I think he is getting exactly the treatment that he deserves.” Uncharitable? Maybe, but as this conversation took place four days before the confrontation with Rob at the shoot, I venture to suggest that Shula isn’t likely to be changing her opinion any time soon.