Monday, 14 August 2017

Phoebe and the Faulty Prophylactic

Lucy Morris (Phoebe Aldridge)

I think we can add Jill’s name to the list of characters not in favour of Justin’s proposed housing development, as she plans to present him with a book about preserving rural landscapes. Emma overhears this and Jazza also tells her that Pip and Susan – her own Mother – have been heard voicing objections too. Kirsty later makes a point of dropping in on Justin to talk to him about the development. She’s concerned that all the negative feelings will reduce the number of affordable homes available for fear of the development attracting ‘undesireables’ from outside the village. Justin thinks she or Ed should speak up at the parish council meeting, which might encourage people to accept the affordable houses once they realise it’s people like Ed and Emma that will be moving in. I think Emma will end up speaking, as she seems to be getting more militant, exclaiming later “Ed and me, we’re the outsiders – outsiders in our own village”.

It’s the day of the village fete and some genius has put Jazza in charge of organising the Bonny Baby competition (I’ve heard a drop of whisky in the milk does wonders). At least he’s not doing the ferret racing as well, so there won’t be a mix-up there. Brian’s in the Bull in search of the microphone and it’s left to Jazza to break the news that the PA’s broken. He presents him with the Town Crier’s outfit - complete with tricorn hat and hand bell. Any reservations on Brian’s part are overcome when Jazza and Harrison start talking about the Duxford sisters, and how anyone hosting the fete is sure to meet them personally. When he does eventually meet Lulu he wastes no time in asking if she’s married (apparently he wants to know if she’s a Ms. or a Mrs. for the introduction), but she seems a bit irritated and doesn’t take him seriously.

Jill happens across Lulu who is surprised to see her there, after their earlier altercation with the flapjacks. The Echo get a photograph of them shaking hands together and Lulu takes to the stage. Much to Jill’s delight, Lulu announces that her restaurant will be training the unemployed youth of Borsetshire. Quick-thinking Jill capitalises on this and announces to the crowd that any food waste from the Duxford’s new restaurant, Les Soeurs Heureuses, will be donated to the Happy Friends Café. The crowd applause but Lulu is not happy being ambushed like that. When Brian offers to get her a coffee she snaps at him, telling him to get on with his job!

Lulu catches up with Jill at the tombola and is forced to pay £1 for 3 goes for the privilege of remonstrating with her. Outraged by the suggestion that her restaurant will be wasteful, by someone who’s never even eaten in one of their restaurants, Lulu gives Jill a ticket for the gala opening. It’s not just any ticket though, it’s for a VIP table! Brian, still in pursuit of Lulu, who has clearly marked him down as some sort of creep and legged it again, arrives just in time and is most put out to hear this. Having finally completed his duties Brian’s running late for a Rotarian function at Grey Gables so Jazzer gives him a hand to undo the town crier outfit. But there’s a problem – the zip’s seized.

By all accounts the fete’s gone well until there’s a fight at the end between local lads and the fruit pickers. Ed heroically steps in to break it up before Harrison manages to get there. Jazzer then says what we’ve all been saying for a long time: “What the hell’s happening to this village”!

Pheobe’s picking strawberries with Lexi, and seems to be falling for Constantin, one of the other pickers. Lexi seems to be warning her off, and implies that he might have had something to do with the fight after winding up one of the locals. Phoebe seeks out Constantin (the gorgeous one with the eyelashes – apparently) at the BBQ, and asks Lily to cover for her by saying she’s staying over with her.

The next day Lily pops over to see how it went. Great apparently, apart from the fact that Constantin’s just told her there was a problem with the condom they used! Lily gets her in the car to take her to a very discrete pharmacy she knows (really?) for the morning-after pill. When Phoebe returns to strawberry picking Lexi remarks on how ill she looks. Phoebe blames it on Lily’s driving, but Lexi persuades her to let her drive her home. She confesses that it’s the morning-after pill that’s making her feel sick and she’s worried about what her Dad will say if he finds out. Lexi puts 2 and 2 together and works out that it was Constantin, and if she’s been throwing up the pill may not work and should get another. Lexi suggests taking her to a doctor too, as Constantin has ‘been a busy boy this summer’, and off they go to the sexual health clinic. They have a heart-to-heart in the waiting room and seem to be getting along very well, which makes me think Roy and Lexi getting together wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Changing the subject completely, Bert and Joe are on their way to see Oliver at Grey Gables. Bert casually wonders whether Joe will be able to keep growing his vegetables at Grange Farm once Oliver moves back in. This thought seems to take Joe unawares, and later Bert asks Oliver if he’s going to move back to Ambridge. Joe, fortified by 4 lumps of sugar in his tea, plays a masterstroke asking Oliver if he wants to move back in to Grange Farm - and live with him and the other Grundys. Oliver almost chokes and manages, very diplomatically under the circumstances, to decline the offer. Mission accomplished, Joe wants to leave, but Bert doesn’t and in any case, Oliver’s ordered cakes.

Matt is really getting under Alistair’s skin. He’s having to miss a lunch at Grey Gables with Oliver because of a backlog of work caused by Anisha taking time out checking Matt’s racehorses. Everyone’s getting worried about Alistair, including Jill, whom he let down over a promise to donate a raffle prize for the fete. Anisha tries to help when she says that Matt’s away all week so she can catch up with her practice work, then spoils it by saying he’s been paying Anisha on the day while Alistair’s behind with his own invoicing. Saved by the bell, almost, Alistair gets a call from David who’s been expecting him - the cows are all ready but Alistair’s late.

When Alistair gets to Brookfield he sets to work and everything seems fine for a while, but then he’s just about to give an injection of prostaglandin when David notices it’s the wrong cow, and to make matters worse it’s a pregnant one, which the prostaglandin could cause to miscarry. David’s concerned and rings Shula to ask if everything’s ok, and says, cryptically, that we all need to concentrate, just as the feed lorry arrives and David has to go.

Anisha confronts Shula about Alistair’s whereabouts lately, especially when he should have been on call last night but couldn’t be contacted. She also confronts him about his visit to Brookfield and why he’d undercharged David, and he confesses to the mix-up with the injection. He them blames his disappearance last night on a problem with his phone, but Anisha calls him from her mobile, which put’s that explanation to bed. Later, Anisha calls Shula and she goes over the near miss at Brookfield again, and asks if there’s anything wrong. Shula, who’s on her way to meet Oliver for lunch, makes excuses but the tension in her voice is rising.

When Shula returns home, she finds Alistair soothing a scald from an accident with the kettle. She tells him about David and Anisha’s worries, and about whether Oliver should move back in with them while he’s still grieving. Alistair loses his temper saying “if I could bring bloody Caroline back I would”, a comment he instantly regrets making as we hear Shula leave. She’s straight on the phone to her brother; “Kenton, I’m scared he’s starting again. I think it’s all happening again”.

As soon as Kenton gets back from a birthday weekend in London with Jolene, he goes straight over to the stables. Shula thinks that if Alistair’s started gambling again it will mean the end of their marriage as she hasn’t got the strength to go through it all again. Shula seems to have made up her mind up that that’s the reason for his absence, but Kenton’s not so sure and advises her to confront Alistair head-on to find out the truth. We then hear her wandering in on Alistair just as he’s on the phone making arrangements to meet someone that evening. She asks him who it was, and he makes an excuse about it being an old friend. She turns inquisitor and discovers that it was his old Gamblers Anonymous sponsor he was on the phone to, and whom he saw the other night.

To Shula’s relief it turns out that instead of gambling again, he’s seeking help not to. Apparently the trigger was the return of Matt Crawford and his threat to ‘out’ him to Anisha as a gambler and horse doper, which Alistair thinks will finish him and his business. I sensed a renewed strength in Shula then, and I think together, and with the help from other anti-Matt villagers, the tables might have turned.



Monday, 7 August 2017

Homes and Garden Fetes

Joanna van Kampen (Fallon Rogers)

Houses and homes seem to be the theme this week and we start by joining Fallon who is putting her furniture restoration skills to good use by doing up a ‘whatnot’ to fill an empty alcove in the house they’re hoping to buy. She’s still daunted by the financial commitment but then Harrison hears from his parents who have said they’re prepared to re-mortgage the family home so that Harrison and Fallon can buy Woodbine Cottage instead. But can either of them bring themselves to accept this generous offer from the Bank of Mum and Dad?

Later Fallon is at the fete committee and she’s struggling to concentrate on the problems of a broken PA system and should they have a Town Crier instead, when she receives a call from Harrison. He’s at cricket and can’t concentrate either, and has just been called out for a duck. It turns out they’ve both been worrying about nothing, because they both want to stay at Woodbine and accept his parents offer. Someone else who is delighted is Christine when Harrison calls round to tell her that they can now afford to buy it after all.

Emma’s got her eye on one of the seven affordable houses in Justin’s Bridge Farm planning application, but Susan’s worried they’ll attract ‘hard-to-house” families – what, like the Grundys? Lynda’s not in favour either, criticising the design and environmental impact, and says she would get it thrown out if she were still on the parish council. Bearing in mind it’s Emma she’s saying this to in the cafe, she should count herself lucky she didn’t get her camomile tea thrown all over her. Rex later tells her that there will be people speaking against the development at the next parish council meeting, possibly including Harrison, who thinks it will spoil the views.

So it doesn’t sound like it will be an easy process for Justin’s planning application, and there’s more trouble for the Matt/Justin/Lilian triangle when Lilian, after narrowly avoiding Matt outside the village shop, finds him turning up on her doorstep - when Justin’s not there. He tells her that he’s probably going to go back to Costa Rica soon and seems to be testing the water when he asks her if that’s what she wants him to do. She says “yes”, but it’s not going to be that simple.

Justin receives his decree nisi so Lilian makes a special lunch to celebrate. Justin pours the Champagne and they toast each other, but then Lilian drops the bombshell that the house is owned by a Trust which was set up by Matt. Apparently Lillian is the sole beneficiary but it does come as something of a surprise to Justin, who now wants to get them to sell the property – to him! Matt gets wind of this and suggests that Justin and Lilian meet him at Grey Gables. This nearly sends Justin over the edge but they go and see him anyway. Matt agrees to ask the Trust to sell the house and Lilian manages to spin it as a success for Justin.

Not content with making more mischief with Lilian and Justin, Matt reminds Anisha of the conversation they had when they first met about using her services to check his syndicate’s racehorses. He’s arranged for her to see 4 horses – 2 local and 2 near Newmarket – this week! Anisha protests as she’s so busy, but after Matt namedrops Latif Hussain, she agrees to give him 2 days of her time at the end of the week.

Matt disappears just as Alistair returns from the yard, and you can imagine his reaction, as he will have to take on more work to cover, and they argue about doing business with Matt. With Latif’s connections Anisha thinks it will be a good networking opportunity to win more prestigious business. Alistair’s still worked up about it when he gets home, but Shula sees where Anisha’s coming from and tries to talk him round. They’re in the middle of arguing about it, and in particular Alistair’s previous dealings with Matt, when Oliver walks in. Oliver thinks he’s getting in the way and Shula catches him packing, and tries to persuade him to stay. She goes to see Alistair and the arguments continue, coming to a head when she blames him for the atmosphere that she thinks is driving Oliver away. “You need to take a good, hard look at yourself”, she tells him. Oliver has been at a bit of a loose end and we wait to see whether he does move out.

When Matt turns up at the practice again, Alistair is enraged, and provoked further when Matt realises that he’s not told Anisha about his gambling past and therefore she doesn’t realise he’s a “dodgy partner” who could gamble the business away, or worse, that he’s been involved in horse doping. I think the bigger story is that the horses Matt’s been talking about actually exist.

In other news, Lexi pops round to Kirsty for another English lesson (I wish she wouldn’t – the dialogue’s so tedious). Roy comes home, expecting Lexi to be gone, but manages to agree a truce with her over informing the police about the graffiti, but still spectacularly fails to ask her out.

Finally we return to the village fete. Alice has an answer to the problem of the broken PA, and is at Home Farm looking for Brian. She tracks him down while he’s on speed-watch duty, and asks him to be MC for the fete. Alice persuades him by the prospect of meeting the Duxford sisters and getting his photo in Borsetshire Life. Saying she’ll get Kate to do next week’s speed-watch shifts for him seal the deal. What he’ll say when he finds out that not only is there no PA system but there will be limited opportunity to schmooze the Duxfords, awaits to be seen.


Monday, 31 July 2017

The Flapjack-Flinging Felon

Patricia Greene (Jill Archer)

The actress playing Jill Archer celebrated 60 years with the programme last week and how did she mark this milestone? By getting Jill arrested for common assault. As we said last week, Jill has embraced the subject of not wasting food with Messianic-like zeal and Tuesday saw her, Kirsty and a band of like-minded protesters demonstrating at a PR event to herald the opening of the Duxford sisters’ new restaurant.

The demonstrators are moved back by PC Burns but Jill is not happy, as the Duxford sisters cannot hear their protests. Jill encourages the others to surge forward and she starts elbowing PCB and throwing her home-made flapjacks around. One catches Lulu Duxford in the eye and it is all too much for PCB, who arrests Jill for common assault.

Kirsty contacts David, who arrives at the police station, where his mother has had her fingerprints and DNA taken and has been cautioned. “What are you doing here?” Jill asks. “What am I doing here?” David explodes and points out the irony of throwing flapjacks around at a demonstration against food wastage. He tells Jill that she’s 86 years old and has led a hitherto blameless life – and now she has a criminal record!

When Lynda learns of this debacle, she is worried because all the publicity about the Duxfords opening the fete has been put into gear and she cannot believe that they will want to open the fete after this. Things are not improved when Jill gives interviews to the press and Radio Borsetshire and she is not in the least conciliatory. Jill is unrepentant and reminds the other members of the Fete Committee that she never wanted the Duxfords in the first place. Lynda gets on her high horse, saying “It may not have been your intention, Jill, but you have dealt a potentially devastating blow to this year’s village fete.” Well done Jill, now let’s see you scupper the Christmas offering when we know what it is.

As it happens, it appears that the Duxford sisters still want to open the fete, spouting a load of guff about serving the community. Rumour has it that Jill is baking a mega batch of aerodynamic flapjacks in anticipation.

Over at Grange Farm, Clarrie is distraught at the way the Grundys betrayed Oliver’s trust and she writes him a grovelingly apologetic letter, which she takes round to the stables, where he is staying. Oliver isn’t there, and Clarrie asks Shula to give him the letter. How are things going with the memorial service? Shula says ‘ok’ but admits that Grey Gables is a bit corporate, to which Clarrie wonders whether Grange Farm might be more suitable? Shula says she will ask Oliver, which she does, and he jumps at the suggestion. That gives the Grundys two days to move the furniture back in and tidy up the garden, which is, quite frankly a mess. As Clarrie tells Edward: “This place is going to be perfect if we all work together; we owe it to Oliver - and Caroline”.

Edward is a bit perplexed, as he ran into Oliver in the village and Oliver began apologising for losing his temper last week. Clarrie said he had every right to lose his temper and she is even more determined that everything will be spot on for Thursday. Amazingly, it is and Oliver says that the events of last week are forgiven and forgotten and he thanks Clarrie for allowing the memorial service to be held at Grange Farm. Er, Oliver, it is your house, remember.

There is much reminiscing about Caroline’s life – we learn that Peggy didn’t really like her when she first came to the village and how Caroline lost her faith when she was involved in the accident in which Shula’s husband Mark died, and which nearly killed Caroline. I didn’t hear Brian say anything, which is just as well, as he might reminisce about the affair he had with Caroline. There was not even an embarrassing cameo from Joe. Indeed, we never heard anything from him; perhaps they had him locked away somewhere.

At the conclusion of the event, Ed approaches Oliver he has mended Caroline’s vase and Oliver is amazed – you can’t see where it was damaged. Ed says that Caroline and Oliver never gave up on him, even when he went off the rails, and he is grateful. Pointing to the jug, Ed says “That’s what you did for me – you mended me. Now you can hardly see where the damage was.”

The day after, Oliver seems lost – he sits in the café for an hour over a cup of coffee and Emma rings Ed – she thinks Oliver needs a friend and could he come over? He does so and invites Oliver for a walk. Oliver admits that he doesn’t know what to do, or even where he’ll live. He couldn’t bear to be in Grange Farm without Caroline and ditto Italy. He doesn’t even know what he is going to do with Caroline’s ashes, which he brought over from Italy. Edward says that he doesn’t have to decide these things right now and, if Oliver ever wants to talk, Ed will be there for him.

There were developments in the Justin/Lilian/Matt story too. Justin is walking Ruby and he meets Brian. They talk about Matt’s comments on the planning website and Justin admits that his patience is exhausted. When Brian asks him what is he going to do, Justin replies simply “Get him fired.” Later on, Justin tells Lilian how annoying Matt is and he wants him out of the country and out of their lives. Lilian’s response is that Matt is trying to rebuild his life and he cannot repay what he stole from her if he’s unemployed in Costa Rica. Justin says that Lilian doesn’t need money now she’s marrying him and anyway it would be worth losing money “to get that wretched man out of our lives once and for all.”

The next day, Lilian goes to see Matt and tells him that it was Justin who scuppered the Investors’ Day and “he will make damn sure that you lose your job.” Why does Matt keep kicking a hornets’ nest when he knows that he’ll be the one to get stung? Matt says “I do it for you” – seeing her and Justin together reminds him of what she and Matt once had and she is way too good for Justin Elliott. Lilian’s answer is that Matt should apologise to Justin “it’s your only hope” she tells him.

Matt does indeed go to see Justin and, to the latter’s astonishment, he apologises, saying that he’s behaved like an idiot and he should have kept out of Justin’s business. “And why should I believe you?” Justin asks, icily. “Because you’ve won,” Matt replies, adding: “I didn’t realise how influential you were.” He also says that, job-wise, he thinks he’s living on borrowed time and might go back to Costa Rica. Justin slams the door in his face.

Talking to Lilian about the encounter later, Justin says that he’ll still make sure Matt is fired. She describes this as ‘vindictive’ and says “You’re letting Matt get under your skin - forget him and move on.”

Once again Lilian goes to see Matt. He is more optimistic about his job, as he has heard that, despite the poor showing on Investors’ Day, the take-up was good, so perhaps the danger has passed. Lilian says that, if Matt provokes Justin once more, he’ll finish him. The thing that Matt (and I) cannot understand is why did Lilian warn him about Justin in the first place and why is she there now? “Admit it – you still have feelings for me, don’t you?” Matt says. Lilian could have said that she does indeed – feelings of disgust, loathing and contempt – but instead she says that she can’t just stand by and watch Matt be mercilessly crushed. “I wish I could, but I can’t” she says. The obvious answer is to go away on holiday and come back only after Justin has set the Triads on Matt, or fitted him with concrete boots, or whatever he has planned. Please Lilian, you’ve got a good thing going – you’ve got a man who loves you and who buys you expensive presents, as opposed to one who stole all your savings and did a runner. I submit it’s no contest.

PCB and Fallon are still yearning after Woodbine Cottage and PCB goes to see his parents to see if they might help – after all, he’s never asked them for anything in the past. The trip is a disappointment – Harrison’s waster brother Marcus has moved back in, along with his pregnant girlfriend, and they are being supported by mum and dad. Resigned to losing Woodbine, PCB and Fallon put an offer in on a house in Borchester. Emma says she’s jealous – especially as they don’t know what’s happening about Grange Farm.

In recent weeks we have speculated about a possible romance between Roy and fruit picking team leader Lexi. Phoebe, who is working to get travelling money, tells her dad that she saw Lexi washing racist graffiti off one of the caravans. Phoebe suggested that Lexi tell Adam, but she doesn’t want any trouble. Roy decides that this isn’t good enough – these things can escalate and get out of hand, so he tells Adam. Lexi is less than impressed and goes to see Roy. She tells him that police came to Home Farm and she was interviewed by them.

Roy is adamant that he did the right thing and they argue, with Lexi saying it was just a silly incident with kids. Roy says it was more than that and that he was only trying to do what’s right. “You’ve made it worse for me,” she tells him, adding before she walks off “Leave me alone from now on.” Well Roy, that could have gone better, couldn’t it?

And now we come to something that, to me anyway, is becoming something of a growing irritation. Am I the only one to have noticed – and been annoyed by – the increasing incidence of background music being played when a scene is being acted out? The week before last we had Scott McKenzie’s ‘San Francisco’ as a background to one conversation and, last week, we had ‘Secret Love’ and ‘I Believe’ playing when Fallon and Emma were talking in the café.

Even Caroline’s memorial didn’t escape – when Oliver was saying how much he and Caroline loved opera, there was the overture to ‘The Magic Flute’ in the background. I also tuned into this Sunday’s episode and Lynda, Fallon and Susan were talking while ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ was playing. Stop it, stop it, stop it! I find background music irritating enough in real life and we don’t need it in the Archers – you can see how distracting it is by how I know what the songs are. I want to listen to the dialogue, not someone’s collection of old classics, so someone please make sure that the CD player in the café never works again, before I do something I’ll regret.


Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Scales Fall From Oliver’s Eyes

Michael Cochrane (Oliver Sterling)

Oliver Sterling came back to the UK a day earlier than planned, as Caroline’s cremation was moved forward a day. At Grange Farm, Clarrie is in a state because the B&B guests have chipped a jug that was a favourite of Caroline’s. No worries, says Eddie – he will glue it and no-one will notice. The B&B guests will be on their way in a couple of hours and Oliver isn’t due to arrive back until tomorrow, so what can possibly go wrong?

As this is the Grundys we are talking about, the answer to that is ‘how long have you got?’ Let’s face it, their track record of schemes and scams has not exactly been a catalogue of successes, has it? More like a litany of total failure if we are honest. Oliver decides he’ll take a walk to Grange Farm, as it’s such a lovely day and Eddie and Clarrie are appalled to see him standing by the gate, holding Caroline’s jug. Oliver is incensed and demands to know what’s been going on in his house? Joe let him in – well, it is Oliver’s house, after all – and there were two strangers sitting in the drawing room. Are the Grundys running a B&B operation at Grange Farm?

Eddie tries to bluff it out, telling Oliver that he did discuss it with him and, anyway, the current guests are the last, but Oliver is beyond angry; he found the broken jug and says it is obvious that strangers have been sleeping in his and Caroline’s bedroom. He and Caroline trusted the Grundys with their home and they have been repaid with thoughtless, insensitive and presumptuous behaviour (you forgot ‘devious’ and ‘underhand’, Oliver). “Caroline had reservations and I think she was right” Oliver says. With his unerring instinct for saying the wrong thing, Eddie says that he will mend the jug. Oliver’s voice rises maniacally as he screams “The jug? You think this is about the jug?” and he smashes the vessel on the ground. “See if you can mend that!” he yells at Eddie.

Later on, Eddie is looking on the bright side, when he tells Clarrie that at least Oliver didn’t say anything about taking the house back. Of course he didn’t – he was too bloody angry for that. Clarrie is mortified and says “we’re going to leave anyway – how can we look him in the eye?” “Where will we go?” Eddie asks, but Clarrie is distraught at their betrayal of Oliver’s trust, saying “Oliver was so angry – when did you ever see Oliver angry?” Eddie says he’ll talk to Oliver, plus he has got all the pieces of the jug. Clarrie is exasperated and says to her husband “Don’t you understand, Eddie? There are some things so broke that they can’t ever be fixed.” Another stunning triumph for the Grundy family!

Oliver surprises Shula by saying that he’d like Alan to lead the celebration of Caroline’s life – not as a vicar, but as a friend, and preferably without the dog collar. Oliver seems to be coping with the loss of his wife very well – almost too well, Shula thinks – but he did make a rather strange remark about the memorial celebrations, saying that it was a pity that Caroline won’t be there, as she loved a party.

We had developments on the romantic front last week, with Lexi turning up at Roy’s for her English conversation lesson with Kirsty. But Kirsty has double booked and has to go help with the packing up of the Happy Friends Café. Never mind – she tells Roy that he can talk to Lexi. The conversation is very stilted and Lexi says that perhaps she should leave, but, as she turns to go, she notices a Stephen King novel in the bookcase and it turns out that both she and Roy are massive fans. With the ice broken, the pair talk and Lexi is still there when Kirsty comes home. As Lexi goes, Kirsty teases Roy – perhaps he should add Lexi to his dating spreadsheet!

The other romantic development was between Rex and Anisha. Anisha tells Alice that Rex has cancelled two running days this week, saying that he’s got to work, but Anisha isn’t so sure, as Rex met a girl on his birthday. Alice teases her, saying “you like him, you like him!” Later on, Rex and Anisha do go for a run and the talk turns to the girl, with Anisha saying “you can sleep with who you like.” Rex replies that he didn’t sleep with the girl – he got her a taxi home and he didn’t even go in for coffee. He prepares to go home, but Anisha invites him in for a shower and a coffee. I don’t know how quick Rex or Anisha are at running, but they are no slouches when it comes to sex, as the next thing we know, they are in bed together. Neither of them wants to rush into a relationship and Rex suggests that they just see where it leads. Anisha obviously has a good idea where it’s going and invites him to stay in bed. I thought he was up to his ears in work? I’m pleased for them both and hope it works out.

Another relationship that’s apparently going along nicely is that of PCB and Fallon, although the house-hunting is depressing as, in comparison with Woodbine Cottage, everything else seems either unsatisfactory or so ordinary. Chris learns that they are looking for a house and says that, when they’ve gone, she doesn’t think she could face having new tenants in and will probably sell the place. Oh yes – and there’s an Estate Agent coming round today at 1pm. It turns out that Woodbine is worth twice what she was expecting, which would seem to suggest that either Christine hasn’t got her finger on the pulse of property values or that house prices in Ambridge are booming way over the national average. Christine says that Fallon and PCB can have first refusal, but, as Fallon tells Jill later on, the only way that they could afford it is in their dreams. I suspect that something is going to happen and that PCB and Fallon will become the new owners of Woodbine – perhaps Harrison has an offshore bank account.

Things are getting nasty between Matt and Justin. Monday was the day of Matt’s important Investors’ Meeting at Grey Gables and there was a large number of no-shows. Neither Matt nor his boss Hugo are very happy and Matt is reduced to inviting Christine and Peggy to sit in and listen. Christine is flattered because Matt says Hugo asked her because of her extensive knowledge of horses. Peggy says she’s not going, but Christine says at least it means a free lunch. “There’s no such thing” Peggy observes wisely.

The ladies are joined for coffee by Justin and they remark that he looks so very happy. Is there a reason? “It’s just a perfect day.” He tells them. Justin is still smiling the following day and, when Lilian asks why, he says that it is because Matt’s day was such a damp squib. Lilian describes it as ‘karmic justice’ and the pair drink to that. Later on, Justin and Matt have a chance encounter at the Bridge Farm shop and Matt says that he spent some time last night running through the list of no-shows. Ignoring Justin’s digs about how sad and empty Matt’s life must be, Matt says that he discovered that all the no-shows had had business dealings with Justin. Not so much Karmic justice, as Justin’s justice, it would seem.

From here on, the conversation gets more personal and slightly nastier. Justin says that he knows Matt tried to sabotage the Bridge Farm land sale and thanks Matt for saving him £100k “although I doubt that was your intention.” Justin goes on: “A word in your shell-like; it’s not a good idea to irritate me. If you want to play with the big boys, you have to learn the rules.” “Are you threatening me?” asks Matt, to which Justin replies “Just offering advice. Stay away from my business affairs and my private affairs, then, if you are very lucky, I’ll stay away from yours.”

Matt ignores this advice and posts what Lilian describes as ‘a drunken rant’ on the planning website, vehemently protesting about the proposed development on the Bridge Farm land. (Rumours that Tom wanted the development to be known as ‘Kimchi Corner’ cannot be substantiated). Lilian asks Justin if he sabotaged Matt’s meeting – something to which he readily admits, saying “Of course I did, but that’s nothing compared to what I’ll do next.”

Justin is very angry about what Matt is saying, describing it as “the final provocation – I should have acted sooner. Lilian describes Matt’s comments as ‘vexing’, but is Justin overreacting? Is it jealousy that’s motivating him? “This isn’t jealousy, it’s payback” is Justin’s answer and he adds: “I’ve been too patient for too long – I intend to teach Matt Crawford a lesson he sorely needs; I’m going to crush him.” So, no birthday card then, Justin?

Let’s leave this feud simmering nicely and turn to the Messianic-like fervour with which Jill is embracing the cause of not wasting food. Not only does she make repeated (unsuccessful) attempts to get Brian to cancel his table at the grand opening of the Duxford sisters’ new restaurant (even asking Rooooth to bring up the subject at a meeting at Home Farm), but she lectures the Fete Committee on the sisters’ unsuitability to open the Fete. The rest of the committee disagree and believe that it will be a great coup for the event but, probably to shut Jill up, they agree that the fete takings should go to the Happy Friends Café.

Kirsty has an idea to protest at a Duxford’s PR event next month and Jill wants to join in. Kirsty suggests that she might be a bit too old but Jill is adamant that she’ll be there. To show you how far things have gone, a peckish Rooooth reaches for the cake tin in Brookfield’s kitchen and, shock, horror! It’s empty! “I’ve got more important things on my mind at the moment” says Jill, somewhat testily.

To be honest, Jill’s obsession with waste is getting on my nerves and God alone knows what it must be like at meal times at Brookfield – imagine if Ben left a sprout on his plate! Another example of Jill’s obsessive zeal came at Matt’s Investors’ Day, when Peggy remarked about all the no-shows and Jill immediately said something about the shameful waste of food that this meant. Lighten up Jill – if Brian wants to spend hundreds on a meal, that’s his business – and you can’t feed the world, or even Borsetshire, come to that.

Finally, a word of warning for Christine. Matt seems worryingly attentive to her and was all over her like a cheap suit at the Investors’ Day – and this was before he even knew that she was contemplating selling Woodbine. If she goes ahead and he gets a sniff that she has capital to spare, will he put pressure on her to invest in his racecourse, as she loves horses so much? I fear for her financial well-being, but let’s look on the bright side – perhaps Justin will crush Matt before this happens.


Sunday, 16 July 2017

Caroline Sterling R.I.P.

Sara Coward (Caroline Sterling)

Tuesday was a memorable day, as Shula takes a call from Oliver Sterling. He tells her that Caroline died in her sleep (after a wonderful day out), probably from a stroke. He’s OK, he says, but could Shula tell the people in Ambridge the news? “Oh Shula, what am I going to do?” he asks, plaintively.

Shula begins on her mournful task and she’s finding it difficult. But it’s all so unnecessary - if you want people to know, all she had to do was approach Susan Carter, tell her the news and add “of course, you’ve got to keep this to yourself, Susan.” The entire population of Borsetshire will know before lunch and it will be on Radio Borsetshire’s teatime news bulletin. Instead, Shula goes to see the Grundys and other interested parties.

The Grundys are very sad, as they owe Oliver and Caroline so much, not least living at Grange Farm at a reduced rent. But there are practical considerations too - Oliver might want his home back, the inconsiderate swine. Then there are the B&B guests; Clarrie says they will have to cancel all future bookings and there is some discussion about how this will affect their income and savings. It all gets too much for Will, who is the Sterlings’ godson - how can they think about money at a time like this? He remembers how generous Caroline was, buying him a dirt bike and helping him with his driving and buying a car. Will didn’t mention that the Sterlings let him and Nic have their wedding reception at Grey Gables FOC on New Year’s Day, but little things like that can slip your mind, can’t they?

Will says that something like Caroline’s death puts everything into perspective; hassles at work, worries over the cricket team - “it’s not really important, is it?” No Will, it isn’t, as we told you last week and, to his credit (and that’s not a phrase I type very often about Will), he does phone PCB and tells him that, as far as the cricket/lying situations is concerned, he’s prepared to let bygones be bygones. If I were Harrison, I might be tempted to say ‘thanks a span, Will, but I’m still picking Anisha ahead of you’ but I suspect he’ll go for the easy option.

Shula takes further phone calls from Oliver - Caroline will be cremated and the ashes interred in Italy (saves all the worry about whether or not the ashes of a spouse need to be declared at Customs) and Oliver would like Shula to arrange a memorial service for Caroline at St. Stephen’s. She asks if he wouldn’t want some input, but he says it has to be Shula, as she and Caroline were like sisters. Shula eventually says that she’d be proud to do it.

By the way, Caroline’s death underlines how dangerous it is for Archers characters to go abroad for any length of time; as well as Caroline, we had Sid Perks dying in New Zealand in June 2010 (see ‘So Long Sid’). Stay in Ambridge is my advice (unless you’re Will, Kate and quite a few others, in which case take a round the world cruise).

Last week was momentous too for Lilian, as she celebrated her 70th. It started promisingly enough, with Justin giving her Buck’s Fizz in the bath and then a ruby pendant (it’s her birthstone). We learn later that he’s also got tickets for the Wimbledon’s men’s final on Sunday and tickets for the West End revival of ‘Hair’ in the autumn. For someone who has been complaining about the cost of his divorce, that doesn’t seem too shabby a list of presents to me. Not only that, but Justin is well aware of how old his fiancée is and tells her that it doesn’t matter as he and Lilian bring out the silly teenager in each other. What does he mean? Fumbles behind the bike shed? Drinking wine until they are sick? Posting graffiti around the village - isn’t this what teenagers get up to nowadays? Talking of teenagers, there have been a few references to youngsters congregating on the Green and being boisterous. PCB has said that he will keep an eye out for trouble.

But back to Lilian. She ran into Matt the day before her birthday and she was quite put out that he never sent a card or a present. On Monday, the doorbell at the Dower House rings and she finds a puppy on the doorstep, with a note saying ‘Did you really think I’d forget? Happy birthday, Pusscat’. The puppy is not what Lilian wants and she leaves messages, of increasing asperity, on Matt’s phone, telling him that, if he doesn’t take the dog back, it’s off to the Rescue Centre. Lynda notices that it hasn’t got a proper lead and offers Lilian Scruff’s old lead. This sparks an emotional moment, made more so by the sad news about Caroline, and Lilian gives Lynda a hug.

I must admit that I thought the story would develop with Lilian giving Lynda the puppy, but I was wrong, as Lilian finds the dog is growing on her. Justin rings up from London (he’s on his way home) and he says “is that a dog I can hear?” Lilian says that she’s looking after it for a friend and, when Justin gets home, Lilian says she cannot move to welcome him, as the dog has fallen asleep on her. Justin and Lilian agree that the dog is a poppet (their word, not mine) but Lilian says that she knows that she can’t keep it, because it was a present from Matt and, if they keep her, then Matt has won. Justin, however, disagrees; it’s not the puppy’s fault that Matt gave her to Lilian and he wouldn’t make Lilian give her up. “This house needs a dog” he says, which makes you wonder whether Tracy is busy at the moment. No, that was unkind; true, but unkind. But what to call the puppy? ‘Tracy’, ‘Die Matt, Die’ and ‘Up yours, Crawford’ are possibilities, but they pick ‘Ruby’. after Lilian’s birthstone.

Lilian says that, if Matt wanted to sabotage her relationship with Justin (surely not?) then he got it wrong, as they agree that Ruby is adorable. The next day, Justin and Lilian run into Matt. Lilian tells Matt “Get it into your head Matt - it’s over between us.” Justin enters the room and makes a point of telling Matt what a very thoughtful present Ruby was. Matt retires in some confusion and Lilian congratulates her fiancé, saying “Well played; game, set and match to us.” Justin’s reply is “I only serve aces - and I’ve got more balls.“ Let’s leave it there, shall we? 

The meeting described above took place on the day of the Borsetshire Food and Drink Awards. Helen’s Borsetshire Blue cheese was nominated in the ‘Best Artisan Product’ category. She actually won it last year, but couldn’t pick up the award as the Police wouldn’t let her out of prison, the spoilsports. She is doubly keen to win it this year and to be recognised as a cheese maker, rather than the woman who nearly killed her husband, Tom is helping her set up her table, on which she has kindly agreed that he can have a limited space to promote his fermented foods idea. Ha! This is Tom we’re talking about here and he has not only got reams of leaflets, but also 50 dishes so people can sample his initial product ideas, plus he is running a competition, so that he can get people’s details into his database. Helen protests that he was only offered a small area and, anyway, his idea is just that - an idea. “You’ll hardly know I’m here” Tom says, ripping up the ‘Bridge Farm’ banner and replacing it with his own ‘Never mind this organic rubbish, come and taste the Kimchi.’

Helen gets a phone call from home - Jack is running a temperature and she will have to leave the dinner. It is time for the awards to be announced and Justin is pleased to say that Borsetshire Blue has triumphed for the second year in a row. Tom steps up to the plate, saying Helen can’t be here (thankfully he doesn’t say ‘don‘t worry - she’s not in prison this year, ha ha’) and then proceeds to ignore the winning cheese and starts banging on about how fermented foods will be the future, Fortunately, Helen returns and clubs Tom into insensibility, stuffing his mouth with Kimchi and Kefir (is that how it’s spelt?) and saying how much she owes to her family (although presumably not the brother writhing at her feet who is trying to spit out various rotting vegetables). The audience reaction (led by Lilian) is enthusiastic, although, as this award was sponsored by Damara, the cynic might say did Justin fix it?

Changing the subject entirely, if I were Harrison Burns, I would be tempted to bop Fallon over the head with my truncheon. He says that he has been to the Building Society and it looks like they can afford a house in the region of £250k - isn’t that great? Apparently not, as Fallon wants to contribute her share. She taps up Jolene for money (exactly how does this become Fallon’s share?) but Jolene says there’s no way, what with what they owe David and the investment in Scruff Gin.

Fallon is pessimistic, to say the least; her experience of Jolene and Wayne has soured her outlook and she believes that all relationships are doomed. Actually, with Wayne as a father, I’m surprised that she’s not 100% anti-men. As such, if Harrison contributes the majority of the money towards the house (and it looks like we are talking a 95% share here) how could she walk away with 50% when it all goes tits up and the house has to be sold off amid the ashes of their failed relationship? PCB is getting pissed off with all this and asks why are they talking about how to split a house that they haven’t even bought yet? He asks her to let him do it - if that’s what she really wants? Fallon replies of course it is and they kiss. Perhaps he did bop her with the truncheon after all.

And so to Brian and the search for an attorney for Ruairi in the Home Farm Family Partnership. Having been turned down by half of Ambridge, Brian has an idea - what about Rooooth? On learning the news, David wonders why he wasn’t considered and then it dawns on him that perhaps he was, as Brian and he met in the pub, but David was so knackered that Brian probably though he was past it (spot on, David - he did). “Are you saying I’m second best?” Rooooth asks, angrily. No love, you’re actually third best, as Brian also asked Tom before you. Roooth says that she wouldn’t be Brian’s poodle and tells David that she’ll probably accept, “but let’s see how Brian reacts when I lay out my terms and conditions.” Brian listens to her spiel about how she’ll be independent and says “that’s music to my ears.” Rooooth accepts, although I‘d be careful.

Do we have a possible romance for Roy on the horizon? He returns home to find Kirsty giving fruit picker team leader Lexi a conversational English lesson. Roy has had a bad day at work and is quite rude. He later seeks out Lexi and apologises. He then makes some crass remark about immigrant workers and talks about what it must be like in Romania. Unfortunately, Lexi is Bulgarian. Surely, after such an inauspicious start, this relationship has to be a goer, doesn’t it?



Monday, 10 July 2017

Just Not Cricket?

Philip Molloy (Will Grundy)

In recent posts, I have suggested that Will is reverting to his erstwhile moaning, whining persona. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I was absolutely right, as was illustrated on Sunday. Will doesn’t turn up for the cricket match and Harrison (or PCB to our readers) manages to get Lily to fill in for him. However, Will does turn up at tea and gathers the team round, as he has something important to tell everyone.

It turns out that he has been talking to the Darrington captain and Will brought up the subject of the proposed takeover of Ambridge by Darrington. PCB read out an e-mail on the subject at the EGM in March, and it was this that convinced people to vote for females joining the team. Will says that the Darrington captain assured him that no such e-mail had been written or sent and the entire story was false. This means that PCB lied to them all, rants Will and hes not fit to be captain of Ambridge - especially as hes a policeman. PCB should resign says Will, foaming ever so slightly at the mouth and he shouts down PCBs protest that he did it to save the team, yelling: Now you all know the truth - Harrison Burns is a liar!

No doubt Will is telling the truth, but the question remains, so what? We are talking about a village cricket team here, but Will is determined to turn it into a major incident. Rex tries to reason with him, but Will is long past that stage. Rex asks if this isnt more about Wills antipathy to women players, rather than some high moral stance, but Will denies this, even when Rex points out that, if they had no women players, there wouldnt be a team. Hes got to resign! yells a demented Will. He then proceeds to roam the village, drumming up support for PCB to be tarred and feathered and dragged through the village.

One person who he tries to persuade is Neil, who is in two minds on the subject. He wrestles with this weighty moral problem for a couple of days before coming down on Wills side. Come on lads, at the end of the day, does it really matter? Suppose PCB does resign and another EGM votes to ban women players, what then? Who will take over as captain - who would want to captain a team of eight or nine players? Does Will really want to be known as the man who destroyed cricket in Ambridge? Get a sense of perspective everybody - we never had this much fuss over the untruths that preceded the Iraq war and its only a bloody cricket team and it’s not as if anybody has died, or been defrauded of thousands of Pounds, is it?

There may be another reason for Will to tread carefully - as he quite rightly pointed put, PCB is a policeman and, should he develop a vindictive streak, Will might find himself being done for speeding four or five times a week, or fined for dropping litter on a regular basis. And who knows what might happen when it comes to the renewal of Wills shotgun licence?

Lets move on from Will. Phoebe is home from college and is somewhat strapped for cash. Shed like to go out with her friends and can Roy lend her £20 please? All he has is a fiver, which doesnt make his daughter very happy. She would like to go away with her friends later in the holiday, but has no money. Roy suggests getting a part-time job and says that he might be able to get her a job at Grey Gables. Phoebe is horrified at the thought of waiting on tables or cleaning rooms, but there may be another solution.

That solution goes by the name of Jennifer, to whom Phoebe tells her woes. Phoebe has a long reading list for the holidays and she has no new clothes. Plus she could do with a new hard drive for her laptop and would like to go away with her friends, if only she had the money. Jennifer takes her granddaughter on a shopping trip and Phoebe ends up with a couple of designer T-shirts and a new hard drive, among other things. Roy asks Phoebe where they came from and Phoebe says that she tried to stop Jennifer, but she got carried away.

Roy drives Phoebe over to Home Farm, where she has been invited for supper and he has a quiet word with Jen. He thanks her for buying the tops etc and tells her about Phoebes ambition to go off with her friends. He thinks that Phoebe should get a holiday job to pay for the trip and not rely on the Bank of Grannie. In conversation later, Phoebe apologises to Jennifer, who says that she understands Roys point of view and the two agree that there will be no more shopping trips. But I could slip you a cheque every now and then Jennifer says. To her credit, Phoebe says no - Roy is right; she cannot keep relying on handouts and she will ask Adam for a fruit-picking job. Good for you Phoebe!

Lilian has also been invited for supper and Jennifer asks for her help in moving a load of books, which Lynda has donated to be sold at the Fete. There are a lot of books written by Dorothy L Sayers and Jennifer suddenly realises where she has heard the name Harriet Vane before - she is a character in a Sayers novel. Lynda must have read the books, so it follows that she is the Harriet Vane who is plaguing Eddie Grundy with e-mails, asking question after question about the Grange Farm B&B offering. This news delights Lilian, who says, in a pleased voice Well, well, well - whod have guessed it?

And why is Lilian so pleased? She is scheduled to do a Speedwatch stint with Lynda the next day and she knows that Lynda has been trying to find out her age. Lilian is worried that Lynda will tell Justin that she will be 70 in a couple of days (presumably Lilian hasnt been very honest with him). The Speedwatch isnt going very well, with the two women making barbed remarks to each other. Eventually, Lilian tells Lynda (or should I call you Harriet?) that she knows her secret and that she is an Internet troll. Lilian soon apologises for this and for the hurtful things she said about Lynda not having children when the two began rowing about James and Leone. Eventually peace breaks out and the two agree to keep each others secrets.

It was quite a week for Lynda. Fallon airs her concerns to PCB about the lack of progress with the Fete - nothing seems to be happening and Lynda wont step down from organising it. PCB is more worried about the cricket - should he resign? Fallon says no - he has to man up and fight his corner. PCB thinks thats a bit rich, coming from someone who is scared to confront Lynda. Fallon is stung into going to see Lynda, who admits that things are behind schedule and its all her fault. No, no, says Fallon - Lynda has got a lot on and perhaps this year she should take a step back and let Fallon get more involved? Lynda is pathetically grateful and agrees like a shot, much to Fallons (and my) surprise.

Fallon returns home and tells PCB. She has also told him to get his backside into gear about their search for a house and she gets touchy when he says that he has decided to tough out the cricket situation. Fallon asks, angrily, if thats all he thinks about and what about the house situation? In response, PCB shows her his various bank books, deposit accounts, ISAs and suchlike - he has enough money for a substantial deposit and Fallon is overjoyed. That seems like a fair division of responsibilities to me; Fallon chooses the house and PCB pays for it.

Justin was involved - sometimes only peripherally - in a number of stories last week. As we said, Lilian was desperate that he didn’t learn her real age and, to cheer herself up, she had a full makeover; haircut, hair colour, although she stopped short of further botox. Justin thinks she looks fabulous and so does Matt, who Lilian runs into at The Bull. She’s flattered; even more so when Matt remembers it’s her birthday coming up. “We had some good times” Matt says, before presenting her with a cheque for £20 k; not a birthday present, but the latest instalment of what he owes.

Matt also featured large last week - he confronted Roy at Grey Gables as he (Matt) was organising the Racecourse Investors’ day at G-G and he impresses on Roy the need for total secrecy and privacy. Matt appreciates that Roy can’t keep the fire doors nailed shut, but maybe he could have a trusted member of staff, presumably armed with a Kalashnikov, strategically situated to take out any guest who might accidentally stray into the wrong corridor? Roy promises to check into the security arrangements for the G20 conference in Hamburg to see if he can learn something.

Meanwhile, Justin and Latif Hussain are on the golf course. Justin asks if things are OK on the racecourse deal. Latif is extremely satisfied and intimates that he might even buy into the second phase of the investment. Perhaps Justin would like to come along to the Investors’ Day? Justin says ‘no thanks’, remarking that Matt has been looking very smug recently and is his part in the whole deal as minor as he makes out?

While this is going on, Tom encounters Matt at The Bull and Tom accuses him of making trouble over the land deal. Matt’s response is that he doesn’t need to help Tom screw up his business, as Tom can do that by himself. Tom asks if Matt gets a kick out of doing this and Matt counters by saying that Tom botched the land deal because he was greedy, “so don’t go preaching to me - go home and forget how you lost your family £100 k.” By the way, Tom has (probably wisely and at Pat’s suggestion) turned down Brian’s offer of being Ruairi’s Attorney - he can (probably quite rightly) foresee only strife. Brian isn’t happy, but  what can he do?

Tom leaves and Justin enters the bar. Matt approaches him and says that he’d like the two of them to make a fresh start. As Matt leaves, Tom returns and buttonholes Justin and tells him that it was Matt who scuppered their land deal. “He’s a crook with no morals,” Tom says, adding: “if you have dealings with him, be careful.” On Friday, Justin tells Lilian (who has just returned from being complimented by Matt in The Bull) that he knows about Matt’s involvement in the Bridge Farm land deal. What is he going to do? Lil asks. He’s not sure, but says that Matt is a fool to try and play tricks on him. As Lilian goes to the bathroom - yes, it did get finished - Justin rings Anthea, his PA. “I want you to get hold of some names for me” he tells her, adding: “it may take a bit of detective work.”