Sunday, 27 November 2016

Still, What Did You Expect?

Tim Bentinck (David Archer)

Let’s begin at the end of the week. It looks like Toby has got his act together over use of the botanicals to flavour his gin and the latest batch is very drinkable. Toby takes a bottle to Lynda and Robert to say ‘thank you’ for letting him use herbs from their garden, although Lynda sniffily points out that Toby actually filched them when she and Robert were away. Never mind! The gin gets the Snell seal of approval and Robert suggests calling it ‘Scruff’ instead of ‘Toby’s Gin’, which is the blockbuster of a name that Toby came up with. How these marketing geniuses do it is beyond me.

By Thursday, there’s another batch ready for tasting and Pip asks if it matters that it tastes different from the previous batch. Toby confidently replies that it just proves that it is an artisan drink and it doesn’t matter. On Friday, David tells Pip that he thinks Toby is just a freeloader who does vanity projects and, Pip defends her lover, conveniently forgetting that, earlier in the week, Toby had asked her for money, as he’s broke. David is not convinced when Pip says that Toby will come good one day and he says “If he showed half the commitment of his brother Rex, I might believe in him.” Pip goes off in a huff and David says (to himself) “Oh Pip, why can’t you see what everyone else can?”

Later on that day, Alistair is at Brookfield, ministering to a cow with mastitis and he casually enquires “Have you heard Toby’s latest idea?” “Go on, surprise me” says David, gloomily. I think we can safely surmise that he was, indeed, surprised, as we next hear him banging on the door of Rickyard Cottage, yelling “Pip!” at the top of his voice. Pip lets him in and he is furious, demanding to know where is the still? Toby tells Pip that he can deal with this and he informs David that they haven’t sold a drop and all that they have made has been for personal consumption and that of friends. This does nothing to calm David down and he points out that Toby was down The Bull, dishing out gin and tapping up Kenton as to possible future sales. Witheringly, David also says that he has done some research on the Internet – which Toby patently hasn’t – and it is an offence to operate a still and not charging for it is irrelevant.

Still incandescent, David offers an ultimatum – get rid of the still immediately or he will give them notice to quit. “You can’t do that!” Pip protests, but David is implacable, saying: “I’ve no choice Pip – either the still goes or you both do; it’s as simple as that.” So, another Toby Fairbrother idea goes nads up – he’s a bit like a younger, upper class Joe Grundy when it comes to things commercial. God only knows what sort of banker he was. As an aside here, for Clarrie and Eddies 35th wedding anniversary, they were served a meal (turkey, what else?) in the Cider Club shed and Joe offered Clarrie apple juice, cider or apple brandy – wouldn’t making apple brandy require the use of a still?

Elsewhere, Rob continues to cast a long shadow. He returns a scarf to Lilian that he found when collecting papers from the Dower House and he has put two and two together about her and Justin. “It always pays to be discreet” he tells her, but she pretends that she has no idea what he’s talking about. On Wednesday, when Rob has his midweek hour with Jack, he tells Tony about Lilian and Justin and Tony says that he already knew, but deep down, he is shocked. When he and Lilian eventually meet up, he asks her how could she do such a thing – how could she have an affair with the man who hired Rob; “the man who raped and abused Helen?” Lilian answers that she pleaded with Justin not to hire Rob, but he insisted it was just a business decision. The conversation is intense and Lilian is sobbing, when Tony suddenly realises that this is exactly what Rob wants; to drive the family apart, but Tony won’t let it happen. “Maybe we can use this to our advantage” he says, enigmatically.

The psychologist has completed her report on Rob and it is a damning document, as we find out when Pat and Helen read it. It describes Rob as ‘narcissistic’, ‘exploitative’, ‘self-important’ and ‘with no concern about other people’s feelings or the consequences of his actions.’ Furthermore, ‘he remains harmful to others’ and the psychologist recommends that Rob’s future contact with Jack should continue to be supervised and should be cut to once a month, or maybe even less, ‘due to the level of psychological and emotional harm that Mr Titchener poses’.

Rob seeks out Alan for a talk and he immediately rubbishes the report as a pack of lies and that the psychologist was obviously manipulated by Helen “And all those damned Archers together.” Demonstrating his acute aptitude for picking up on nuances, Alan replies “So, you’re not happy with it?” Don’t know why you think that, vicar. Alan tries to get Rob to consider forgiveness and suggests that he and Helen should channel their love for Jack into being good parents. “There is no way I will ever forgive Helen” is Rob’s answer. Better look for a plan B, Alan.

There was one nice moment when, during Rob’s hour in the tearoom with Jack, the baby won’t stop crying and Rob demonstrates that, when it comes to being a parent, he’s about as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike. He refuses to give jack a dummy (“it’s just an excuse for a lazy parent”) and won’t listen to Tony when he says that Jack is teething. Rob angrily describes the tearoom as a totally unsuitable place for his contact visits and, having by this time had more than enough, Tony’s killer reply is “Well, when your contact goes back to once a month, it won’t be such a problem, will it?”

Earlier, we mentioned Clarrie and Eddie’s 35th wedding anniversary and we learned the importance of doing thorough research. He bought her a conch, because it was the nearest he could get to coral, while she bought him jade cufflinks, thinking that a 35th anniversary was jade (it isn’t – for once Eddie was right and it is coral). While on the subject of Eddie’s cufflinks, I suppose he’ll have to save up till he’s got a shirt to wear them with. As part of her present, Eddie drove Clarrie to Barmouth, of which she had fond childhood memories, playing on the beach. Emma had packed them a hamper, which was apparently very nice and, while strolling on the beach, Eddie suggested ice creams. Clarrie’s response was that it’s a bit cold, but she’d welcome a bag of chips. The hamper couldn’t have been that substantial then. Personally, I can’t see the attraction in walking along the sea front in late November, but each to his own, I suppose. Clarrie was disappointed that there were no donkeys, as she remembered from her youth, but presumably the donkeys breathed a sigh of relief that they wouldn’t have to transport a middle-aged matron up and down the beach in the depths of autumn.

Alistair and Anisha are moving closer to a partnership, as she has had the business valued and Alistair admits that her figure “is in the ball park” and he has instructed his accountant to open formal talks. She joins him for a drink in the pub, where she learns that he is related to half the village. Alistair replies that “It’s a very small world round here and secrets can be hard to keep. Now, I might be reading too much into this, but are we being prepared for a future romantic involvement, do you think?

Another big story of the week concerned Adam’s herbal leys and Pip’s mob grazing cattle. Sunday was Brian’s birthday and Adam and Ian got him a bottle of Japanese whisky, which was received with a certain amount of suspicion. Brian also told Adam that he wanted to have a talk about the whole mob grazing/herbal leys/no-till agriculture situation.

‘Talk’ is a bit misleading, as Brian makes it plain that he thinks the whole system should be wound up – it is experimental, it is not producing results and it is unprofitable. Adam is distraught and brings out all the arguments about how it is a long-term solution to improve the soil and going back to high-input agriculture is not the answer. Brian cocks a deaf ‘un and, when Adam asks if he has made his mind up, says “Let’s just say that mob grazing and the herbal leys are on borrowed time.”

Adam is not the only person devastated by Brian’s attitude, as, when Adam tells Pip (whose cattle do the mob grazing) she says “He can’t do that!” Afraid he can, Pip. She asks Adam if she should talk to Brian, but he says, despondently, that it won’t do any good, as Brian isn’t known for changing his mind. Still, there is a faint ray of hope, as Brian has agreed to let the leys be until after the winter so, should there be a miraculous increase in productivity and soil quality, they might be saved after all. Of course, Brian is getting on a bit and, if the coming winter is as severe as some are predicting, or if he has a reaction to the Japanese whisky, then he might not make it to spring and the leys might be saved.

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