Sunday, 31 December 2017

I’m Afraid You’re Spot On, Harrison

David Benedict (Tristram Hawkshaw)

Perhaps we should get the panto out of the way (‘oh no we shouldn’t.’ ‘Oh yes we should’). Someone else I’d like to get out of the way is Tristram Hawkshaw - late of the Felpersham Light Operatic Society and part-time drama critic of The Echo. He attended the first night of the panto and his review appeared next day. More of Tristram later.

Backstage, Eddie says it’s like being in the trenches in WW1 with everybody waiting to go over the top. Luckily, he has a solution - a hip flask of Croatian brandy, which, judging from the gasps of those who sampled it - and this appeared to be the entire cast except for Lynda - was strong enough to strip paint. Suffice it to say that the players were more relaxed (Neil was as relaxed as a newt) and the panto goes ahead. Lines are forgotten and cues missed, but nobody cares really - certainly not Lynda, who overacts outrageously. At the interval, Brian tells Jennifer that he thinks he’s watching two different plays; a knockabout comedy and a deep tragedy. At the end of the panto, applause is muted and Eddie, Neil and Kirsty describe the night as “a disaster”. “We’re gonna need a bigger bottle” Eddie says, despondently.

Even Lynda has self-doubts, as she confides to llamas Saglieri and Constanza and, a bit later, to Robert. She feels that she didn’t have the audience with her a lot of the time. Never mind the audience woman - you didn’t even have the cast with you. At this stage, Tristram’s review arrives on Lynda’s phone and it would appear the man has been bought, as he praises Lynda’s performance to the skies. If you thought Lynda was pretentious (which she is, obviously) then cop a load of the guff spouted by Tristram. According to him, her performance “had true dramatic depth” and “was a multi-layered interpretation” and these are just two of the less sick-making comments. It’s a bloody pantomime man and she’s an evil fairy - who gives a toss about her back-story or motivation?

Lynda turns up the next night and is smugness personified. Harrison is (rightfully) apprehensive, saying “She’ll be totally unbearable now.” He’s right, of course, but what does he mean ‘now’? Eddie agrees and tells PCB and Jazzer “We’ve got to bring her down a peg or 12. And this is how we’re gonna do it.” If only Tristram had decided to go to The Bull afterwards and, high on dramatic interpretation, decided to go for a walk. At the same time, Matt’s hit and run driver fancies adding to his tally - there is a squeal of brakes, a dull thud, a faint moan and it’s ’goodnight Tristram’. Alternatively the driver could have cut out the middleman and gone straight for Lynda. Ah well - I can dream, can’t I? 

But what of Eddie’s plan to bring Lynda down ’a peg or 12’ I hear you scream? This involves Jazzer and PCB interrupting one of Lynda’s scenes and making up dialogue. Initially, Lynda is taken aback but she soon turns the tables on the pair and, afterwards, she accuses them of challenging her because of her ability and, now she has proved she can outthink them, presumably there will be no such shenanigans the next evening. Reluctantly, they agree and slope off for a pint, tails firmly between their legs. Lynda is triumphant and, in a speech which chilled the soul, she turns to Robert, who praises her improvisation. This is surprising, as he only turned up for the last bit, having spent the evening in The Bull. An ecstatic Lynda tells him she has scaled new heights - the Muse has taken control. “I feel this is the start of a whole new chapter for Lynda Snell” she tells her husband. That quiet whimpering and sobbing you can hear is me, as I realise that things aren’t going to get any better in 2018.

While we are talking about pretension, we should mention Brian, who is visited by Christian, of The Echo, for an in-depth interview as part of the ‘Borsetshire Businessman of the Year’ series that the paper is planning. Brian shows himself to be very pro-Brexit and Christian puts the other point of view - we cannot have the BBC showing partiality, can we? Christian mentions the photo of Brian, dressed in Town Crier’s garb, that appeared the The Echo earlier in the year. Brian bitched and moaned about the photo at the time, but he tells Christian that he’s not just a successful businessman, but “a humble resident of Ambridge too.”

‘Brian’ and ‘humble’ are not two words that you often see in the same sentence - at least not without a qualifying negative - and now it is time to take photos in his office, which has been given a makeover and spring clean by Jennifer. Christian is keen to include photographs of the Aldridge family in the shot and Brian says that family is very important to him. Christian says that he looks forward to getting to know the family better during the year; something that gives Brian pause for thought, as he contemplates seeing an interview with Kate in print, or maybe explaining exactly who Ruairi is and how he comes to be part of the family. Then again, he can bring up the differences of opinion with Adam over Berrow Farm and the herbal leys. Perhaps you’d be better keeping the family in the background, Brian. Hide their photographs and deny knowing them.

It seems that Brian’s juices may be flowing anew, as he mentions to Roy that Lexi has done a fine job in Grey Gables’ restaurant. “She’s a fine looking woman” remarks Ambridge’s oldest lecher. I’d keep an eye on Lexi if I were you Roy, as old habits die hard - remember Siobhan!

While at Grey Gables, Brian notices a light on in Oliver’s suite. Strange, as Oliver is in New York, visiting his daughter. Roy goes to investigate and finds Oliver hiding away in his rooms - he didn’t go to New York. He explains that he has had a lot of offers to spend Christmas, and he’s touched that people care, but he wants to be near Caroline, plus he wants to be on his own. This is on Christmas Eve and, the following day, Oliver is disturbed by a knock on the door. He thinks it is the only member of staff (except Roy) who knows that he is at Grey Gables and who has been supplying him with meals, but it is Joe Grundy and Nic. They have come to take him to Grange Farm and Joe won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. He employs moral blackmail, reminding Oliver that he (Joe) is 96 and can’t have many Christmases left and, if Oliver doesn’t join them, then Joe will be so miserable that he probably won’t be able to eat his lunch (as if).

Oliver gives in and he has a terrific time, being fed and watered (Eddie plies him with Tumble Tussock cider, much to Joe’s alarm - will there be enough left for the Grundys? Don’t worry Joe; you’re 96 and can’t have that much time left, remember?). The family also plays Twister, which Oliver describes as ‘undignified’, but admits it is great fun and that Caroline would have enjoyed the day.

Over at Bridge Farm, Tony is acting mysteriously and is clearing out an old shed, helped by Helen. Pat, meanwhile, is casting around for something worthwhile to do; Tony has his cattle, Helen has the shop, Roy has his Kefir (and from all accounts, he’s welcome to it), while Pat has nothing to occupy herself with. The solution? She and Helen have put their names down to help out at The Elms refuge on Christmas Eve - have a look round and see if you can find Darrell, Pat - where homeless people are fed and given clothes. It really affects Helen, who has to rush out, as it reminds her of the people she met in prison and she feels guilty because of the privileges that she has enjoyed in life. Pat reminds her daughter that she has been through a lot and has no reason to feel guilty.

On their return to Bridge Farm, the two women are full of the experience and tell a horrified Tony that they have volunteered to serve Christmas lunch at The Elms tomorrow. “What about our Christmas dinner?” Tony asks, aghast. Pat’s response is that he can cook it and she is sure that, between them, he, Tom and Johnny can manage to cook a turkey and she will leave him detailed instructions, presumably starting with ‘turn on the oven - that’s that big white thing in the corner with opening doors and rings that glow red when you turn the knob’.

On Christmas Day, Peggy joins the family, having been mildly alarmed when Pat tells her that the men will cook lunch. Peg offers to help, but Pat says no. “Men can cook too” she says, which shows touching faith in her spouse. Actually, I’m getting worried about Pat, as she seems violently anti-gender-stereotyping. Earlier in the week she told Peggy off for saying “boys will be boys” when told of something Henry did. I wouldn’t be surprised if Henry didn’t get a doll, or a pink dress, in his stocking.

Cooking lurches ahead and, despite expectations, a meal is produced. Tony is jubilant, until he turns over Pat’s instructions and realises that he has forgotten the stuffing. Disaster! It’s too late to make some now - who do they know who might have some left over? Tony is adamant that he won’t go begging to Brian, so Johnny is despatched to Grange Farm. When Pat and Helen return, Pat is impressed that Tony has managed to make his own stuffing recipe, which illustrates how gullible she can be, and she can’t wait to try it. Let’s be honest - she should know that Tony wouldn’t know which end of the Paxo box (other stuffings are available) to open.

Boxing Day dawns and Will is perturbed - a couple of dogs got loose in Spitfire (the jewel in the Boxing Day Shoot’s crown) and scared off the birds. Will has to substitute a less attractive drive and is subjected to much moaning and bitching from Brian. Even worse, the dogs belong to two friends of Justin who Will has been told to look after, so he cannot tell Brian the real reason for not shooting Spitfire. Noluthando is one of the guns; something that will give Kate the vapours and she is apparently a pretty good shot and popular with the others. Will moans to Nic afterwards that he only got £90 in tips, compared with over £400 last year. Brian never even thanked him and Will reflects morosely that it’s always the gamekeeper that gets the blame. Luckily, Nic has a word with Jennifer, who tells Brian about the dogs and he pledges to make things right with Will.

Also on Boxing Day, Pat announces that she is going to volunteer more often at The Elms. Then Tony reveals his surprise - he’s bought Pat a couple of goats “and they’re good milkers”. No they aren’t - both goats kick the bucket over and are generally bad tempered. It is obvious that they need milking and, in desperation, Tony rings Lynda, who once kept her own goats. Lynda is successful and a grateful Pat says she’ll name the goats after her, so one of the goats is dubbed ‘Lynda’. But what to call the other? Does Lynda have a middle name? Shyly, Lynda reveals that she has, and it is Scarlett. Offhand, I can’t think of a less likely scarlet woman.

We at Haharchers Towers wish all our readers a peaceful and happy 2018

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

I Bet The Registrar Was Pleased…

James Cartwright (Harrison Burns)

So, Justin and Lilian didn’t tie the knot after all. They decided to get married, giving Elizabeth nearly a week to reorganise everything and get her suppliers in order, which must have had her doing cartwheels of delight. Lilian also decided to have a hen party and said that Justin should have a stag party on the same night. Lil’s bash was in The Bull, while Justin’s do was a night in with some single malt and a game of poker.

Both guest lists contained a bizarre and unexplained anomaly - In Justin’s case, he invited Harrison and Lilian invited Lynda. I mean, come on; if you were looking for somebody who epitomised the party spirit and joie de vivre, would you choose Lynda? Me neither. As for PCB, he still has Justin as red-hot favourite for the hit and run driver, which came through at the Stag. PCB had three tens, but Justin held four jacks. PCB made some comment and Justin replied that if you wanted to succeed in business, you needed a good poker face. PCB responded to this by saying that that was just another way of saying that you are a good liar, prompting the somewhat frosty remark from Justin “Is there something you want to get off your chest, police constable Burns?” “It’s just banter, Justin” PCB replied.

Look PCB, I appreciate that this is difficult for a copper to understand, but let it drop - practically all of Ambridge and his so-called business associates who he was scamming had a reason to wish Matt ill and the prevailing mood is that he got what he deserved, so feeling Justin’s collar will please nobody, except Matt, assuming they get the Borsetshire Echo in Ecuador, or wherever he is. I mean, suppose Rob Titchener had been found nailed to the wall of The Bull, would anyone want the culprit found? Some things are best left alone.

The poker game is interrupted by Lilian, who has been suffering angst - she and Justin had lunch with James, Leonie and young Muppet (I’m surprised that, after that, Justin didn’t take off for Ecuador himself) and James was indulging in what Lilian called banter - telling his mother that she’s fallen on her feet and he knows where to come if he needs a sub. The thing is, Lilian tells Jennifer, that Justin became very tight-lipped at this stage and she is wondering if people will think like James (unlikely - people have more brain cells than do nematodes) and say that she is a Gold-digger, only after Justin for his money? Her solution? She gatecrashes the Stag with a pre-nup agreement, saying that this is the only way that she will feel comfortable and will Justin sign it before the wedding, please?

Come the wedding day, Lilian has been staying at Lower Loxley and has just opened her first bottle of champers. She is in her dress and Fabrice (who must be secretly delighted at having palmed off Hilda Ogden [the cat from Hell] on Peggy) has done her hair. There is a knock at the door and it is Justin, wanting to see his fiancée. Peggy protests that this is incredibly bad luck, but she is dragged downstairs and the couple are left alone. Justin tells Lilian that he cannot go through with the wedding. Lilian thinks this is some twisted plan of revenge and bursts into tears.

Eventually, Justin gets her to shut up and explains that the pre-nup made him think; all his life is controlled by contracts and documents and the marriage (and the pre-nup) would be just two more examples. He loves Lilian too much and the way things are is just perfect for him. “We don’t need a certificate - what would that change?” he asks his bride (not) to be. Lilian agrees and the two exchange their vows alone.

This is all very well, but the guests downstairs are becoming agitated. Elizabeth is on the verge of going to see what is happening, when Justin and Lilian come down and announce the change of plan. Justin assures everyone that he and Lilian are committed to each other and invites them all to participate in the Reception, to help them celebrate. Brian is particularly pleased, as he tells a scandalised Jennifer that he bet Noluthando £20 that the wedding would not go ahead.

Someone whom I suspect is not so pleased would be the Registrar, who, having been booked, unbooked and then booked again, presumably turns up on the day, only to be told that his (or her) services are no longer required. Just think - that’s a day wasted that could have been spent Christmas shopping.

The other big story last week was Pip’s decision to not go ahead with the abortion and Toby’s reaction when she tells him. Being Toby, he gets it completely wrong and says never mind, she can always rearrange it for a later date. Pip spells out, in words of one syllable and speaking slowly, that that’s not what she meant - she is having the baby. She has a supportive family (“so you’ve told them, have you?” he asks. Pip admits that she hasn’t, but she’s sure they will support her. “What about me?” Toby asks, and goes on to say that he feels trapped. He continues to react in typical Toby fashion, saying “I can’t deal with this” and going out, leaving Pip alone. Later on we learn from Jolene that he has been in the pub every night, steadily getting drunk and not talking to anyone.

Well done Toby - a good impression of an ostrich there. On Friday he and Pip talk again. He feels he has no say in the matter and, indeed, Pip makes it plain that the choice is hers alone - she neither wants, nor expects anything from Toby (that was lucky, then) and, if he wants nothing to do with the child, then she will handle it herself. “So I’m redundant, am I?” he asks and Pip tells him to decide how involved he wants to be, while making it clear that they have no future as an item. There is silence, then Toby says “I don’t think I do.” “What?” Pip asks. “Want to be involved” Toby tells her. Well, that’s going to make an interesting conversation with mum and dad ‘by the way, I’ve been knocked up by Toby and I want to keep the baby but Toby wants nothing to do with it. You will support me, won’t you?’ I would wait until David has put down the electric carving knife before you tell him, Pip.

Jennifer confesses to Lilian that she is not looking forward to Christmas, as Debbie is staying in Hungary, Alice is going to Neil and Susan’s and Phoebe is going to see Hayley and Abbie (obviously these girls are no fools, although you have to question Alice’s wisdom in going to Susan’s). “Never mind; you’ll still have Kate and Noluthando” Lilian says. Apparently, Jennifer’s heart-rending cry of despair was heard in Borchester.

Sunday saw the twins’ party at The Bull upstairs. Freddie was the DJ and did a spectacular job of it, aided by a pill given to him by Ellis, the uber-cool guy at college whom Freddie admires. Freddie sleeps in the next morning and Lily phones Noluthando to come over. Lily tells Nolly that she has flushed the rest of Freddie’s pills down the toilet and, when fragile Freddie does emerge from his sack, Lily gives him a lecture on how irresponsible he is and how Nigel would have been disappointed in him.

Freddie responds by saying that he’s not his dad, neither does he want to be. Furthermore, he is now 18 and can pack in education if he wants and nobody can stop him. He’s not going back to college and he’s going to make a career out of DJ-ing. Lily, who is 18 going on 45, tells him not to be so silly and grow up. Noluthando is on Freddie’s side and tells Lily that it’s really none of her business. “Well, it’s certainly none of yours” Lily retorts. Now girls! Elizabeth comes in and, when Freddie and Nolly have gone to shoot some zombies, she tells Lily that she really thinks Freddie has turned the corner and is growing up. Freddie told Lily that he would inform Elizabeth of his decision when he is ready - I feel we are in for another child/parent dialogue, with some full and frank views being exchanged, or, as it was put in Yes Minister, ‘full and frank, bordering on the direct’.

A quick recap on other events in Ambridge; Adam and Ian went to the Fertility Clinic and, according to Jennifer, the results of tests on Adam’s sperm were OK - surely there are some things that you’d want to keep secret from your mother? Adam also offered the tractor driving job to Ed, who dithered about taking it, as, on the one hand, it meant a steady wage, paid holidays and sick pay, while, on the other hand, it would mean that his independence would be gone. As he told Emma, his dad and granddad always worked for themselves, but, as she tellingly reminds him “It didn’t do them much good, did it? They ended up losing the farm.” This is where your theory falls down Ed, although we learn later that he did take the job, having got an increase in wages and Adam’s OK to do freelance work in his spare time. Brian told Adam that he must be getting soft.

The Panto lurches from crisis to crisis, with Lynda becoming ever-more pretentious, annoying and megalomaniacal. She has rewritten her part of the evil fairy and introduces wholesale changes to scene after scene. The rest of the cast (notably Eddie and Susan) urge Alan to have a word with her, as she’s ruining everything. He tells them he will do so and to “have a little faith - everything will be fine.” He then attempts to do so, but it is like water off a duck’s back, as she points to her in-depth knowledge of pantomime and tells him, in so many words, that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. She leaves him totally defeated, saying that she doesn’t like his constant carping. Usha asks her husband how did he get on and a stunned Alan replies “I have no influence over her whatsoever - she’s either going to do it her way, or not at all.” I know which option I’m in favour of.

Anyway, dear readers, this is being written on Christmas Eve evening (only one more sleep to go!). I don’t know when Neil will post it, but please accept our good wishes for the New Year - I’m sure you’ll agree that there are some intriguing storylines upcoming in 2018 and, thank God, the Lilian/Justin saga appears to have come to a conclusion at last.

Thank you for following the blog and may it continue
throughout next year!

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Happy Festive Season

Neil and Peter would like to take this opportunity of wishing all our readers a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2018.

Thank you for your loyalty and for the comments that you send us – keep them coming, as it’s nice to know what our readers think.

At this time of year, we should remember that we should be offering peace and goodwill to all men and women – with the obvious exception
 of Kate, that is.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

The Grundys Show The Christmas Spirit

Trevor Harrison (Eddie Grundy)

This Christmas promises to be an unusual one for the Grundys; instead of the usual panic and last-minute rush to flog turkeys, by Wednesday the birds are slaughtered, dressed and packed in boxes, together with a bottle of Tumble Tussock cider, and ready to be despatched - probably a first in Ambridge.

Compare and contrast this, as they used to say in exam papers, with the situation over at Hollowtree, where Rex is struggling with his geese. It hasn’t helped that he has been up and down to Glasgow, to support Anisha. Toby has helped - especially with the slaughtering - but now he is up to his eyes in gin production. Eddie quizzes Rex, who admits that sales are not that great and he accepts that he cannot dress all the birds single-handed.

Eddie has a little dig at Rex and smugly tells him how successful the turkey sales have been. Eddie also has a slight gloat when he tells son Ed about Rex’s predicament. Far from agreeing with his dad, Ed says that he feels sorry for Rex and how about going over to Hollowtree and giving him a hand? Eddie is indignant - after all, the Fairbrothers tried to muscle in on what he regards as the Grundys’ market. Ed manages to persuade his dad and they turn up at Hollowtree, where Rex is thunderstruck by what he calls their “amazingly kind offer”.

The three quickly set up a production line and Eddie even gives Rex a bottle of Tumble Tussock. Rex is pathetically grateful and he tells them “I love this place [Ambridge, not Hollowtree] - the way everybody pulls together, especially at Christmas. It’s brilliant.” This makes Eddie a bit uncomfortable, as he has just announced that he no longer wants to be involved in the village pantomime, but more of this later.  Wasn’t the offer to help Rex a fine example of the true spirit of Christmas? I must admit that I was expecting something to go awry and spoil the Grundys’ well-organised Festive Season, but now I hope that all goes well for them.

The unpleasantness of the pantomime occurred on Monday. The day before, Alan, the director, confides that he is seriously thinking of jacking it all in and, on Monday, his patience is sorely tested as no-one has learned their lines, Susan is moaning about her costume and she and Eddie keep adding lines, slipping in product placement references to Kefir and Grundy turkeys and cider. To cap it all, Lynda is still agonising over her character, whom she thinks should be called Carabosse and not Nightshade, and she adds extra lines.

A man can only stand so much and Alan loses it big time, cancelling the rehearsal and berating the cast (the final straw was when Jazzer popped out for a smoke and missed his entrance cue), telling them that it is a shambles and to go home and learn their lines and come back on Wednesday, prepared to be more mature. Everybody goes, but only to The Bull, where there is an atmosphere of rebellion, with Eddie and Jazzer saying that they are withdrawing from the production.

Back at the Village Hall, Alan is alone with Usha, who was impressed by Alan’s assertiveness; she’s never seen him like that. For his part, Alan thinks he might have gone too far and did he do the right thing? He admits that his outburst made him feel better, but will anyone turn up on Wednesday? “I might have just killed off the Ambridge panto” Alan tells his wife.

No such luck! Eddie has second thoughts after Rex’s comments about pulling together (in this case, pulling intestines together) and Kirsty talks round a reluctant Jazzer. In the event, everyone turns up and Alan thanks them all fervently. The rehearsal passes off brilliantly, with everyone co-operating and, as he thanks his cast once more at the end, the vicar says “For the first time, I really believe that we’ve got a show.”

Tuesday is Lily and Freddie’s 18th birthday and the family tea. Elizabeth confesses that she told them a white lie the other week - instead of visiting the dentist, she went to the bank to take something from the vaults. Years ago, she and Nigel wanted to get something special for when the twins came of age and she handed over what they decided. Freddie gets an emerald and diamond ring (it was Nigel’s grandmother’s or similar) and Lily gets a Gwen John, both presents being worth a fortune. I had to look Gwen John up and she was the sister of artist Augustus and painted mostly portraits, and was born in 1876, dying in 1939.

The twins kidnap Elizabeth and take her outside, where they show her Lower Loxley all lit up and people enjoying themselves. She should be immensely proud of all that she has achieved, they tell her and Freddie pushes his luck when he says that “we haven’t turned out too badly, have we?” If she were telling the truth, Elizabeth should answer ’well, Lily’s OK, I suppose’ but she doesn’t and tells her children that she’s very proud of them. We have a few sentimental words about Nigel and then the three of them have a group hug. When they were given the presents, Lily said “We’ll never sell them, will we Freddie?” and there was a pause before he answered “no”. What’s the betting he’ll be down the pawnshop early in the New Year?

Elizabeth is the only person (apart from Toby) who knows that Pip is pregnant. Pip invents a string of lies to cover up the fact that she isn’t feeling at all well - she tells Rooooth that she has a bug, but Pip confides in Elizabeth that the strain of telling lies is taking its toll on her. She also thinks that Jill suspects something and is fussing round her. Elizabeth remembers when she had her abortion - Jill was very upset, as she doesn’t approve of abortions. But never mind, it will all be over on Friday, when Pip goes to the clinic. Elizabeth offers to go with Pip, but she declines the offer.

Friday arrives and Pip is at the clinic early, having taken a taxi. Pip is called in and goes through the formalities. The clinician asks if she is absolutely certain (yes she is) and Pip says that she won’t change her mind, so let’s get on with it. Later on, Elizabeth rings her niece to see how she is and says she knows that it can be painful, but it will soon all be over. “No it won’t” Pip replies, adding that, when it came to it, she couldn’t do it - she couldn’t take that pill.

I put it to you that if Pip was under strain because of telling lies before, then that’s nothing compared to what she faces now. David and Rooooth aren’t going to believe that her expanding waistline is down to eating Jill’s cakes and, when they learn who the father is, they (and Jill) will go totally ape. I can see them marching her down to the clinic and forcing the pill down her throat. Maybe Pip should seduce Alfie and tell him that he’s the father, although she’d better be quick. It will be interesting when she does actually tell her family the news, not to mention telling Toby, who has already said this isn’t the right time for him to start a family. Will he make an honest woman of Pip? Indeed, will her parents and grandmother let him? This could be the only shotgun wedding where the gun is used to keep the prospective groom away.

Johnny tells Adam that he has decided that he isn’t ready to accept the full-time job at Home Farm. He says it doesn’t feel right at the moment, but in reality, he’d like Ed to get the work, so when Adam says that he supposes he’ll have to advertise the post, Johnny says “You might not need to bother” but that’s as far as it goes and we aren’t told if Adam considers Ed. I hope he does, for Ed‘s sake.

Over at The Stables, Alistair is concerned that Shula seems distinctly underwhelmed at the prospect of their imminent holiday to track down the Northern Lights. He has booked a night in an ice hotel and Elizabeth has lent Shula an expensive and very warm coat that Nigel bought her. Things are looking up at The Stables, with customers returning, so what has Shula got to be miserable about?

Lilian is not looking forward to Christmas at Home Farm and tells Shula that Brian gives her a look every time she has a G&T, which means that Brian probably spends at least half a day with his eyes fixed on Lilian, Speaking to sister Jennifer later, Lilian wonders whether it might be better if she went away over Christmas? Jennifer’s response is that she will always be welcome at Home Farm.

As the pair speak, Lilian’s phone keeps beeping intermittently and she discovers that these are alerts for her’s and Justin’s shared diary. Anthea should have cancelled it and Lilian notices that Anthea is setting up meetings and Justin keeps cancelling them. Jennifer observes that Anthea doesn’t make mistakes and perhaps this is her way of letting Lilian know that Justin is sitting at home, miserable. Either that, or he could be ill, but either way, isn’t it worth dropping by the Dower House to see how he feels?

Lilian does exactly this the next day and is rapturously greeted - not by Justin, but by Ruby, who didn’t have an intestinal blockage after all. Justin says that he hears that Lilian has cancelled the wedding. He seems surprised, but Lilian says that surely that is what they decided last week? She asks Justin to listen - he needs to know the truth and asks for ten minutes. His response (“I know the truth”) is not encouraging, but he agrees.

Lilian goes over the whole story of Matt yet again and insists that there was nothing physical between them, despite the fact that she was drawn to him briefly. Justin tells her how he answered her phone on the night of the Hunt Ball and heard Matt’s questions about whether or not she is joining him at the airport? Lilian finishes and Justin asks how can he ever trust her again? The trouble is that she showed him what true happiness is and then she snatched it away. “You are my Achilles’ heel” he tells her, adding “Unfortunately Matt Crawford is yours”. Lilian makes one final attempt, saying “Not any more. I was an idiot. I made a catastrophic mistake and ruined the best thing I ever had. I love you Justin and it would break my heart if you left, so won’t you let me try and make things right? Please? Just one more chance?” And there the week ended, so once again we are left in suspense and I still don’t know what I should do with this wedding present.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Please Just Get On With It

Alison Dowling (Elizabeth Pargetter)

The situation between Lilian and Justin is really getting on my nerves - not only do I not know what’s going on, but it appears that neither do they. The wedding is scheduled for 22nd December and it’s fair to say that the swallows are gathering on the wires. Hats have been bought, suits have been cleaned specially and Tony, as witness, has learned to write his name. Not only that, but Elizabeth is stalking Lilian, desperate to arrange a meeting to finalise the last details, and Lilian keeps fobbing her off. At this rate, Elizabeth will be following Lilian up the aisle (or the Lower Loxley equivalent), saying things like ‘how many canapés per guest would you like?’

One such detail is ‘will there be a groom?’ Why Justin and Lilian cannot just get together and say ‘is this marriage going to go ahead or not?’ is beyond me. They do meet up quite a bit (usually accidentally) and there is much talk about it being “time to be sensible, face facts and move on” (Justin) but nobody has said ‘the wedding’s off’. Justin turned up at the BL party by himself and had to field awkward questions, inventing a bad cold to explain Lilian‘s absence.

Peggy was concerned to hear that Lilian has been unwell and quizzes her about it at the great Ambridge Christmas Lights switch on on Friday. As we have said in the past, this is a great bit of radio. Lilian has been keeping the estrangement with Justin a secret, but, at the switch on, she finally cracks and tells her mother that she feels so guilty about what happened to Chris and the others. Peggy replies that it wasn’t her fault - Matt was a rogue before Lilian met him and it’s a good job that she managed to steer clear of him this time. “All these self doubts will disappear when you marry Justin - he’s someone you can be happy with.” It’s all too much for Lilian and she tells Peg that Justin wants to move on - the wedding’s off.

Well, that will have ruined a lot of people’s Christmases; not least Elizabeth, who was probably looking forward to a lucrative wedding reception and who now has a day with no paying customers and enough champagne to float a battleship. But wait! Could the wedding yet be saved? When Lilian went to the Dower House on Friday, Justin tells her that Ruby, the puppy, has been sick. Alistair gave Ruby an anti-vomiting injection and urged Justin to keep an eye on her - she could have a blockage. Lilian is concerned, as is Justin - could Ruby be the catalyst that brings them back together at the eleventh hour? If so, I’m sure that the irony that it was Matt who bought Ruby for Lilian will not be lost on the happy couple. Whatever is the upshot concerning the wedding, just get on with it, as I don’t think I can take much more of this uncertainty.

Going back to the BL dinner, this saw the debut of Ian’s special Christmas menu and everyone agreed it was a triumph. Ian is in no mood to celebrate, as earlier in the week he and Adam had visited the fertility clinic, where Ian learned that he is unlikely to be able to father a child. The couple drive back from the clinic and a despondent Ian says that it feels like a door has been slammed in his face. Adam suggests that they could use his sperm instead, but Ian says let’s let it sink in before they make a decision.

After the BL dinner, Ian has a heart-to-heart with Lexi in the kitchen. She tells him he should be in the restaurant, soaking up the praise of the diners, but he doesn’t feel like it. He tells her about the disappointment of the fertility clinic and Adam’s offer to father the child - Ian says he wouldn’t feel that the child was his. All he really wanted was to pass on some of his mother’s characteristics (she died when Ian was young). Lexi tells him this is rubbish - Ian can share such things like his kindness and his smile with his and Adam’s child - his mother’s spirit will live on. Adam comes into the kitchen to apologise for Brian’s crass remark (Brian clumsily told Ian that he mustn’t feel like he’s a freak). “Are you all right?” Adam asks his husband. “No I’m not, not yet” Ian replies, adding: “But maybe life isn’t as dark as it was a few minutes ago.”

More talk of babies: Pip is definitely pregnant. Should she tell Toby (it’s definitely his, as she and Alfie haven’t got to that stage yet)? Break it to him gently Pip; that’s the way to do it. Alternatively, she could adopt the direct, brute force approach, which she does, interrupting him wittering on about geese with a curt “Toby, I’m pregnant.”

This comes as a shock to Toby, who says that he always assumed he would have children one day, but he doesn’t think the time is right “especially as we aren’t even an item. Unless…?” Pip cuts him short, saying no, they’d be starting all over again and for all the wrong reasons. Toby says whatever, it has to be Pip’s decision and, whatever she decides, he’ll back her 100%. At the lights switch on, Pip tells Elizabeth that she’s told Toby and she’s glad she did. The termination is set for Friday and Pip says “This will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” “I know, Pip, I know” says Lizzie.

And indeed, she does know whereof she speaks as, before her marriage, a pregnant Elizabeth was dumped at a motorway service centre by the odious Cameron Fraser. She subsequently had an abortion, which caused no little friction with sister Shula, who was desperate to have a baby of her own and could not understand how anyone could have a termination, but Elizabeth went ahead.

The Reverend Alan Franks is beginning to wonder why he ever volunteered to organise the panto this year. At rehearsal, he is buttonholed by Lynda, who has drawn up notes about her character (Nightshade, the Evil Fairy) and she wants to understand her motivation. Mystified, Alan says that she’s an Evil Fairy - isn’t that enough? Not for Lynda - what turned her evil? She wants to portray the suffering and angst that she feels Nightshade must have undergone and her performance is punctuated by meaningful pauses and gazing into the middle distance. She has also made alterations to her part to better suit the nuances of her character.

This is all too much for Susan, who is angry because Lynda’s changes are affecting the rest of the cast and disrupting the flow of the performance. She gets quite insulting and, after a particularly pretentious speech by Nightshade, Susan accuses Lynda of showing off. Lynda is scandalised by this (to me perfectly reasonable) accusation and a full time row is brewing, but Usha steps in to defuse the situation.

She does this with the aid of a little white lie - Susan complains that her costumes are all too small for her and Usha must have written down Susan’s sizes wrongly. Usha is adamant that she gave the costumiers the sizes that Susan told her, but later on she interrupts the Lynda/Susan argument by saying that she was wrong - she did make a mistake over Susan’s measurements. A mollified Susan immediately forgets about her row with Lynda.

Alan is grateful to his wife and tells her he is glad that she is on his side. He says that he feels like the captain of a ship going over a waterfall. “I’m not cut out for this job” he tells his wife. I’m sorry, Alan, but I have no sympathy for you - you were warned before you stuck your oar in and you have only yourself to blame. As they say, you have made your bed.

I also predicted that Lynda would not be able to stop herself interfering - ok, I admit that it wasn’t the most difficult thing to predict; the words ‘nailed-on certainty’ spring to mind - but it’s still nice to be proved right. If only you had stepped back, Alan, and let the panto sink without trace, you could have saved yourself all this grief. Do you still think the panto is a fun thing that brings the villagers together in a spirit of unity and enjoyment? No, me neither, but serves you right. If he’s not careful, Alan will have Lynda rewriting his sermons and examining the motivation of various biblical figures - after all, Satan was an angel once, so he presumably wasn’t originally all bad…

We had a rare, and admittedly minor, victory on the part of Joe and Eddie Grundy last week. People who buy turkeys are being given a bottle of Tumble Tussock cider, but nobody knows what it tastes like. Eddie decides to invite Jim Lloyd along for a tasting - he has a good reputation in the village and his word counts for something. All that is needed is for the cider to deliver the goods, taste-wise.

Except it doesn’t. Eddie cracks the first barrel and the cider tastes foul. In vain does Joe bang on about it being an acquired taste - Jim has no intention of acquiring it. A despondent Eddie opens the second barrel, which contains a second pressing of Tumble Tussocks - and it’s wonderful. Jim is ecstatic and Joe says it tastes just as he remembers. Jim says to put a couple of bottles aside for him and, quick as a flash, Eddie says that only if he buys a Grundy turkey. Begrudgingly, Jim says “OK - a small one.”

But what of the third barrel? Eddie tastes it and makes a face - it was as bad as the first barrel and he wouldn’t insult Jim and Joe by making them taste it. Jim leaves and Joe says “I suppose one barrel is better than none.” Eddie plays his master stroke and tells his dad that au contraire (not in those exact words, of course) - the third barrel was the best of the lot, but they don’t want people to think that there is a plentiful supply of the stuff, or they won’t be so keen to buy a turkey. Undoubtedly something will happen to upset the Tumble Tussock cart - it usually does with the Grundys.

Finally, the prize for this week’s crassest remark is a toss up between Brian’s well-meant, but insensitive, ‘freak’ comment to Ian and a misguided attempt at humour by Johnny. He was in the village shop when Emma came in with Keira. Keira was not happy when Emma chose a cheap can of beans, which Keira doesn’t like. Johnny agreed with her, saying the dearer beans are much tastier. Emma tells him off, saying that they are saving to buy a house (as they need another £11k, that’s an awful lot of beans, Emma) and they have to economise on everything. On top of this, Emma is holding down three jobs and Ed is working as much as he can “and it doesn’t help, losing contract work to cheap, unskilled labour” Ouch! That told you, Johnny. Johnny apologises and mumbles that he didn’t mean anything - he was only mucking about. Good job he didn’t tell Emma that Adam has offered him a full-time job at Home Farm, or he might well have had to have a can of beans surgically removed from his body.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Welcome Home Pip - For The Moment, Anyway

Daisy Badger (Pip Archer)

Sometimes David doesn’t know when to stop, does he? Both he and Rooooth want Pip to Leave Lower Loxley and come back to Rickyard and she says that she will, but not immediately. David can’t leave it alone and keeps on at her, until she snaps at him and tells him “It’s doing my head in - just leave it, yeah?”

That was on Wednesday and, on Friday, Pip decides to make the move. However, her car won’t start (a sign, surely?) and Elizabeth offers to take her and her stuff back to Brookfield. The pair are in the kitchen at Rickyard and there is a knock on the door. Pip asks who it can be and Lizzie says it’s probably someone wanting to welcome Pip home. Indeed it is, it’s Jill and she has brought some beef stew to warm them up.

Halfway through eating, Pip gets up and rushes out. An anxious Elizabeth follows her and asks what’s wrong? Pip has been sick - is it a bug? Pip says not and tells her aunt “It’s why I’ve been tired and irritable - I think I’m pregnant.”

Well, if that is the case, it couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time, really, as Pip is supposed to be overseeing the expansion of the dairy herd and redesigning the milking parlour and, to be honest, having a child isn’t going to help either of those. Then there is the question of who is the father. Pip has been seeing a bit of Alfie recently, but how far gone is she? There is a possibility that Toby could be the father, as it’s not that long since he and Pip split up. If this should be the case, a lot of people are going to be unhappy (including me, because I thought we were finally shot of him).

If he should be the father and is persuaded to do the decent thing by Pip, Rooooth and David will be ever so slightly incandescent and as for Jill - well, I think we can safely say that Pip will have had her last beef stew brought round. Imagine - suppose it should lead to marriage, then David’s father of the bride speech will probably be along the lines of ‘I’m not gaining a son-in-law, but losing a daughter’. The welcome home mood will be out the window too.

Of course, there is the possibility that Alfie could be the father (Pip told Elizabeth that he’s very nice, but we don’t know how far the relationship has progressed). In the past, it hasn’t taken her long to be making the beast with two backs (Matthew and Toby to name but two) so Alfie could be in the frame. If it should be him, then he might even get a speaking part.

Freddie continues to be an annoying little sod and argues violently with Elizabeth about his (and Lily’s) birthday. Elizabeth tells him that there’s no way he can go abroad during term time, so forget it. He shouts at her and goes into a massive sulk and this row took place in front of Noluthando. Elizabeth tells her that she’s sorry she had to witness such an unpleasant scene and tells Freddie that they can continue their conversation when he has calmed down.

Elizabeth leaves and Freddie appeals to Noluthando - surely she agrees with him that Elizabeth is a mega-loser? Actually, she doesn’t and tears into an astonished Freddie, saying that Elizabeth cares for him and would he rather have a mother like Kate, who doesn’t really care and makes a few Skype calls when she remembers? Nolly says that Kate knows nothing about what she (Nolly) wants and the reason that her brother Sipho didn’t come to the UK with her is that he cannot stand his mother. “When are you going to stop being such a moaning, whingeing brat?” Nolly asks Freddie, adding: “You’re nothing but a spoilt rich kid who doesn’t even know he’s born!” before leaving the room angrily. I must admit that Nolly went up in my estimation after that speech.

Later on in the week, Lily talks to Freddie and suggests that he stops being so confrontational with Elizabeth and she has a plan that should make everybody happy. This, it turns out, is for there to be a family tea on their birthday, as Elizabeth wants, but the twins want a party at The Bull Upstairs on the Sunday. They will have broken up for the holidays and they don’t want any family members there, apart from Kenton and Jolene, of course. Lily promises that they won’t do anything stupid and Freddie agrees.

Elizabeth isn’t sure, but realises that this is probably the best she is going to get and she finally gives in. We learn later from Lily that Jolene has agreed and who is Freddie going to invite? He names some of the cool guys and Lily asks “what about Noluthando?” Freddie isn’t sure that she will want to come, but Lily is confident she will say ‘yes’ and urges her twin to ask her.

I can’t help feeling that the magic mushrooms will make an appearance at this party and it will all go nads up somehow, with Freddie doing something stupid. Of course, I may be wrong and the fact that he is now - in age at least - technically an adult may bring on a new attitude of grown-up responsibility, but I wouldn’t wager an awful lot of money on it - we are talking Nigel’s son here, remember, plus past experiences do not give us any great grounds for optimism.

We come now to the on-going, will they, won’t they saga of the relationship between Justin Elliott and Lilian. Lilian appears to be in denial and tells everybody that the wedding is still going ahead; why shouldn’t it? Neither Brian nor Jennifer can get hold of Justin or Lilian and Brian is concerned, because the press are starting to link BL with the scam perpetrated by Melling Equestrian Investments. There will be an emergency board meeting of BL on Friday and Brian blames it all on Lilian, saying that reporters might dig up all sorts of things.

Jennifer is more concerned about her sister - where can she be? Eventually Jen tracks her down to The Bull, where she is involved in a flaming row with Joe and Eddie, having overheard them saying that it looks like Justin is the number one suspect for Matt’s hit-and-run. Jennifer tells Lilian that she is coming back to Home Farm (Brian will be pleased) and, later, when discussing the situation, Brian tells his wife about Lilian’s affair with Matt’s half brother, Paul. We have said in the past that Jennifer isn’t the quickest when it comes to sussing out things sexual or romantic going on under her nose and she proves it again when she says that she cannot believe it of Lilian.

On Thursday, Lilian confesses that she is missing Ruby and that she needs to get a change of clothes, so she visits the Dower House. As she leaves, Brian says “The sooner you two sit down and sort this out, the better - for all of us.” At the Dower House, Lilian runs into Justin and the meeting turns acrimonious. In vain does Lilian insist that she never slept with Matt and Justin says “Having affairs is clearly second nature with you”, adding that that is how she and Justin got together in the first place. This is a bit rich, as Justin asked her to be his mistress and, as Lilian points out, it was Justin that was breaking marriage vows, not her.

Lilian returns to Home Farm, where Brian, not very diplomatically, tells her that she looks terrible. Lilian breaks down in tears and tells him that she fears that she has lost Justin. Brian says that we all make mistakes and look at him and Jennifer - he treated her badly; Siobhan, Ruiari (fortunately he doesn’t list all his indiscretions or the episode would have to be an hour long) and he and Jennifer are still together.

To be frank, if I had to compile a list of people to give me advice on relationships, Brian would not be very near the top. However, it seems that he could be the village’s new Agony Aunt, as on Friday, after the emergency BL board meeting, Justin thanks him for looking after his back recently, and admits that he has taken his eye off the ball. The pair lunch at The Feathers and Justin says that Latif (who was stung by the scam) is not happy with Lilian. While Latif accepts that Lilian had nothing to do with the scam, he feels that she has been tarnished by her relationship with Matt. Justin tells Brian that his Decree Absolute arrived in today’s post, as did numerous wedding RSVPs. He is now free to marry the woman of his dreams “But I think I might have made a bad choice there.”

Brian tells him how upset Lilian was after her row with Justin and how she was adamant that she never slept with Matt “and I’m inclined to believe her.” Justin says that he feels utterly humiliated, but the stupid thing is that he doesn’t think that he can live without her - she makes him feel truly alive. He doesn’t know what to do. For a successful businessman, Justin seems unable to make a decision and Brian reminds him that, whatever he decides, he’d better make it soon, as the wedding is in three weeks. “You’re absolutely right,” Justin replies, “I really have got to make a decision, haven’t I?” Alleluia and give that man a coconut! Now get on with it as we are all getting bored with this.

Alan is having trouble casting the panto and, for something that is designed to pull the village together, it seems to be doing the opposite, Alan cons PCB into taking the part of a prince and Fallon is co-opted as princess and she is not happy about it. The first rehearsal is marred by the pair bickering - so much for the season of goodwill. Even the panto horse people cannot decide who should be the front half. Alan cannot find anyone to play the bad fairy. He’s asked everybody; but wait - there is someone; Lynda. She protests that she is too busy and the Rev Franks launches a campaign of flattery and blackmail, telling Lynda that “You are the glue in our community. Without you, this year’s Ambridge pantomime is not going to happen - it’s as simple as that.”

Lynda notes that Alan is using her own tactics against her, but is powerless to resist and she agrees to be the bad fairy. However, she has one or two requests. The first of these is the script - she would prefer the version that she wrote - and the second thing is the casting, for which she has some suggestions. She tells him that she also has strategies for rehearsals “But don’t worry - I won’t tread on your toes. Come on, let’s put the cast through their paces, shall we?” Alan can only respond weakly “We?”

You will be delighted to know that the Council approved the planning permission for the Bridge Farm development and Emma is delighted - she is convinced that she and Ed will be able to have a house of their own. They now only need to save another £13k in 21 months. Impossible, says Ed, but Emma is determined. “We can do it” she says, but she’s a bit light on details of exactly how. We’ll see.

Monday, 27 November 2017

No Fool Like An Old Fool

Lesley Saweard (Christine Barford)

The title of this week’s blog is Christine’s description of herself as the news that she invested £50k in the dodgy Melling Equestrian Investments scheme goes round the extended Archer family clan. Christine is optimistic that she’ll get her money back, but Peggy tries to give her a reality check, saying that the money will be long gone by now.

Lilian blames herself - was her previous involvement with Matt a factor in persuading her aunt to invest? Christine dismisses this, pointing out that she didn’t invest with Matt, but with Hugo Melling and the fault was entirely hers. Despite this, Lilian tries to get Christine to accept a cheque for £50k, but she won’t hear of it. And it’s not just Lilian, as, at the end of the week, Christine reveals that she lied about the amount that she lost; it wasn’t £50k, but more like £300,000k, or the entire profit from selling Woodbine Cottage.

Christine is apprehensive, wondering how she would cope if she had to go into a home. This is prompted by the fact that Anisha’s dad is suffering from dementia and needs to go into a home. The question is, should this be in his home city of Glasgow, or in Ambridge, where Anisha could see him every day? Christine is terrified that she will end up in a home miles from Ambridge. Peggy says that she would never let this happen and, if the worst happened, she would pay for Christine. Christine says that she wouldn’t take her money and swears Peggy to secrecy about the amount she lost. Peggy agrees.

Of course, if Christine were to go into a home due to dementia, she probably wouldn’t know what day it was, never mind who’s paying for her room. As regards to not telling anyone, I can’t help thinking that Peter (Christine’s son) will be in for a surprise and severe disappointment when Christine’s Will is read and there’s no bundle of cash from the sale of Woodbine. You have to applaud the generosity of Lilian and Peggy - it must be nice to have the odd £50k knocking around that you wouldn’t miss.

In the first paragraph, I mentioned Christine’s optimism regarding her money and it seems that this might be infectious, as the week ends with Peggy saying “Don’t worry - we’ll sort something out.” Oh yeah? I’d be interested in your suggestions about exactly what you are going to do, Peggy. Shula shocks Peggy when she describes Matt as “that obnoxious, unfeeling scumbag”, which I submit is extremely mild, compared with how he could have been described. Whatever, Shula apologises for her outburst and I think we can safely say that she’s probably not a fan when it comes to Matt.

Let’s leave Christine blaming herself and quietly moping and turn to the other big story of the week - the Parish Council election. To say that Ambridge was gripped by election fever would be hyperbole - more accurate is that it was slightly nudged by mild interest. Of course, the two candidates, Robert Snell and Emma Grundy, were deeply interested - even more so when it transpired that a recount would be necessary. Could we stand the suspense? Emma was particularly nervous, as, for the first time, she realised that she had been in with a chance and couldn’t bear to lose now.

As it happens, Emma won by three votes and is congratulated by Robert. Lynda, on the other hand, took defeat badly and moans that Emma probably won’t have the time to devote to being a Councillor and that she has taken Robert’s place. Robert is completely laid back and, when Alan gives him his commiserations, he says that, on the contrary, it is what he wanted and he’s taking Lynda to Grey Gables to celebrate. Lynda carries on moaning, but Robert cuts her short, pointing out that Emma managed to enthuse the youngsters, as indicated by the fact that turnout doubled.

Emma, says Robert, will be a credit to the Council and she is what it needs “instead of dusty old men like me spouting the same dusty old ideas.” And then he drops his bombshell as he tells his wife “That’s why I voted for her.” I must admit that this was one of the few times that I wished the Archers was on TV, as we didn’t hear Lynda’s response, but I bet her face was a picture.

Lynda’s week didn’t go as planned on a number of fronts - she asks Alan if he has had the chance to read her Sleeping Beauty script yet and he says that he is looking at alternative scripts, including one by a friend of his, which, as he rather tactlessly points out, has fewer couplets than Lynda’s efforts. She is scandalised, saying that she never thought she’d see the day when the Ambridge Panto was dumbed down. Alan takes his life in his hands when he says that this year’s offering will be more relaxed. “It’s a bit of fun, really” he observes and Lynda is apoplectic at what she sees as heresy on a grand scale.

For someone who is supposed to be stepping back, Lynda seems to be getting more involved. She questions Alan as to whether he has arranged rehearsal dates and the like and he replies that he is holding a casting session this week and he is sure that he will be beating people off with sticks. ‘Fraid not, vicar - the only person to turn up is Susan, who bags the part of the Good Fairy and then goes home, leaving Alan to spend two hours alone in the Village Hall.

Lynda gives him the benefit of her experience, telling him that he has to be totally ruthless - cajole people, flatter them and exploit any weakness that you can find. Keep on at them and wear them down until they agree. In short, batter them into submission. You can see why she was scandalised when Alan called it ‘a bit of fun’ - how wrong can you be? I wouldn’t be surprised if Lynda didn’t go to rehearsals equipped with a Taser to keep her terrified cast in line and to punish those who weren’t word perfect.

Because of the Panto, Alan has totally forgotten about the St Stephen’s Nativity Play, but the children haven’t . Nic reminds him and he begs her to oversee the organisation of it. She is reluctant, but pulls it together beautifully and the Man of God is very grateful. He was also given advice by Nic about how to attract people and, while Lynda’s approach could be described as ‘the iron hand in the iron glove’, Nic is more subtle. She tells Alan that he should ask people face to face (he texted Eddie and was turned down) and she agrees to ask her father-in-law, suggesting that he might be tempted if he had a song to sing in the show. Eddie agrees like a shot and Lynda nastily says “that’s two people you’ve got in your cast now.”

Justin Elliott is not a happy bunny - not only does he have to go to the police, along with his solicitor, to talk about the night of Matt’s ‘accident’, but the police are appealing to the public for information about the scam. Lilian says that she’ll drive him, but he turns her down, muttering about it being “too little, too late.” He returns to the Dower House in a foul mood, saying that the police kept trying to catch him out and that they regard his relationship with Lilian as a credible motive for him trying to kill Matt. Seething, he sits outside the Dower House and Lilian joins him. She wants to talk to him and says again that nothing happened between her and Matt. Why would she risk her marriage for that lowlife?

Justin replies that he doesn’t know if he can believe a word she says and a saddened Lilian says that perhaps she ought to move away for a while. “I believe that might be for the best” her fiancé replies. Am I the only one to be puzzled about the whopping great elephant in the room when these two talk - to wit, the whole subject of their marriage? I cannot believe that Lilian believes that it is still going to take place, the way things are between her and Justin. Equally, why doesn’t he put her out of her misery by saying ‘marriage? What marriage you untruthful harlot?’ I put it to you that telling your fiancée that it is a good idea that she moves out demonstrates a certain lack of affection. We know Lilian has been under strain, as she ordered Prosecco rather than champagne for the Reception.

Over at Brookfield, Rooooth praises Pip for her hard work during the year and says that she and David have decided that the milking parlour needs a total refit. Pip squeals with delight, as she hates the present layout and becomes positively orgasmic when Rooooth says that she can have the leading role in the new design. Mind you, it doesn’t take much to make Pip happy, as she tells her mother that, when she and Alfie (blue/green eyes and described by Lily as ‘hot’) were looking at livestock at the Primestock show, it was ‘strangely romantic.’ There was an encouraging development when Rooooth tried to persuade Pip to come back and live at Rickyard and she agrees. Looks like Toby is history, and a good job too, I say.

At Lower Loxley, Elizabeth tells Freddie that she is arranging a family party for his and Lily’s 18th birthday (12th December - the birthday list is probably in Underwoods, although Freddie would probably prefer money). Freddie says thanks a span Mum, but he won’t be there, as he’s planning to go abroad with his mates and get wrecked. Elizabeth says she thinks not and reminds Freddie that, since the Isle of Wight episode, Freddie’s passport is locked in her safe and only she knows the code, so shut up and get to college.

Freddie gives Noluthando a lift and is impressed that some of the coolest guys at college make a point of talking to her. She has been selling them magic mushrooms and suggests that she and Freddie go foraging for more after college. The pair are in the kitchen alone (Elizabeth has gone out for a meal) and Noluthando suggests adding some mushrooms to the risotto that they are heating up. Elizabeth returns unexpectedly and says how nice the risotto looks. She tastes some and Freddie panics - she has a heart condition after all. They get her out of the kitchen and, when she returns, the risotto is in the bin, with Noluthando saying that she added too much salt and it was ruined. Never mind, Freddie comes to the rescue, saying that he will prepare one of Nigel’s favourite meals. It has a fancy French name, but turns out to be fish fingers with tomato sauce. How we laughed!

If I were Elizabeth, I wouldn’t be worried about Freddie’s birthday - if he keeps on with the mushrooms, he’ll probably end up doing time for supplying, or for manslaughter, if he picks the wrong sort of fungi.