Tuesday, 31 January 2017

A Quarter Of A Million Hits!

Udderly Fantastic

Back in February 2016, I wrote a Bonus Posting entitled 100,000 Thank Yous! in recognition of the fact that our blog hit counter had passed the 100,000 mark.

Well, when I checked on Tuesday 31st January 2017, this number had risen to a massive 251,251. Neil and I would like to thank each and every one of our readers for helping us get past the quarter million mark and we hope you enjoy reading the weekly blog as much as we enjoy writing it.

The figures were definitely swelled by the week of Helen Titchener’s trial, when we had daily postings, rather than just one for the week. The same week also attracted a lot of comments from readers and I must say that we love to hear from you. There is no doubt that most of the comments over the past year have been about the Rob/Helen situation (we even had one saying that Bruce and Ursula are nice people, to which my advice is seek help now) and it would appear that some of you are not convinced by Rob’s sudden disappearance. Me neither.

So, keep your comments coming and encourage your friends and family to read the blog. As I wrote back in February, the increase in hits has been achieved solely by word of mouth and recommendation, so to notch up over 250,000 hits is a real achievement and we thank you all for your loyalty as regular readers as well as your feedback.

We hope that you continue to enjoy reading our summaries, and here’s to the next 250,000 hits!

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Gone? (But Definitely Not Forgotten)

Timothy Watson (Rob Titchener)

It seems that we were wrong last week about Stefan not getting any hush money, as Justin Elliott rings Lilian and tells her that he and Stefan came to ‘an amicable arrangement’ and we won’t be seeing him any more. Rob, says Justin, has definitely gone and Justin will come up with an official story for public consumption. Later on, he tells Brian that Rob has left Damara – he got a better offer from an overseas company and has already cleared his desk. Justin feels a bit let down, “but you live and learn” he adds, philosophically. He also tells Brian that he can tell anyone he likes about Rob’s disappearance.

The news quickly spreads, but Helen is uneasy; she tells Pat that she cannot believe that Rob would walk away from Jack. Pat sends Tony to check on Rob’s flat and he reports that it is completely empty and there’s a ‘To Let’ sign outside. Helen still isn’t convinced and, as the week progresses, she becomes more anxious and isn’t going out much. When challenged by Pat about what’s bothering her, Helen replies “I know him mum – he just wouldn’t do that.”

Those are almost the exact words uttered by Ursula, as she confronts Alan in the church and is not convinced that his protestations of ignorance about Rob’s fate are genuine. “There must be something going on” Ursula adds. In the Bridge Farm shop, Pat tells Lilian about Helen’s misgivings and “she’s convinced herself he’s up to something – she can’t accept that he’s gone.”

Lilian decides to take things in hand and meets Helen on her own. Lilian tells her the truth about Rob blocking the culvert, about Stefan and the fact that Rob was sacked and Justin swears he’ll never work again in the agricultural industry. She’s disgusted at Rob’s total disregard for other people’s safety and tells Helen that Rob contributed towards Freda Fry’s death. “I want you to believe it – he’s gone” Lilian says. It seems that Helen is now convinced, as she says “That’s the best thing that’s happened in a long, long time”, which probably means that Rob will turn up next Thursday. Lilian warns Helen not to tell anyone the true story, for Justin’s and Damara’s sakes.

While this is going on, Ursula finds her way to the Bridge Farm shop, where Pat is behind the counter. Ursula demands to know where her son is, adding: “Your wretched family has hounded him out of the village.” The chief offender is Helen, says Ursula, “for everything she put him through – no wonder he couldn’t take it any more.” Pat snaps: “He’s the one who made her life unbearable and you’re the one who’s twisting the truth to match your twisted imagination.” Ursula is scandalised: “How dare you!” she nearly screams at Pat

Pat has obviously never heard the phrase ‘the customer is king’, as she lays into Ursula. “Let me tell you, Ursula; I’ve had more than enough of your scheming, your hypocrisy and your lies. Rob is entirely to blame for the trauma my daughter suffered and you were conniving every step of the way.” Ursula is having none of it, telling Pat: “No, it’s you and your family, lying to the Court and everyone else.” Pat asks what about the verdict? Ursula replies that Helen took everyone in “and I wonder where she learned her scheming habits?”

By this time, Pat has had enough and says, in a calm voice: “You know, Ursula, between you and Bruce, I almost feel sorry for Rob because of the way you must have brought him up in a nasty, vindictive way. Your son is a monster.” “You can’t say that” Ursula protests, but is steamrollered by Pat saying that Titcheners don’t like people answering back, do they? “That’s how Rob operates” she adds. Ursula is bereft “He could be anywhere” she says. If she was looking for sympathy, she is swiftly disappointed, as Pat goes on; “As far as I’m concerned, the further he’s run away, the better.” “I’ve lost my son” Ursula says, in a broken voice. Pat’s response is to give the metaphorical knife one final twist, as she says “Do you know what, Ursula? That’s your problem, not mine.” Pat adds that whatever Rob does, it’s always out of self-interest and, if Ursula isn’t buying anything, would she please leave. Ursula protests that Pat can’t do that, but Pat reminds her that it’s her shop and what she says, goes. “Please leave right now – and never, ever come back” Pat tells her.

So, has Rob gone? I can’t believe he didn’t tell his mother anything and we wait to see if he has gone for good. I suspect not, as the writers would hardly leave a story unfinished – if he has gone abroad, surely we would have been told? Time will tell.

On Sunday, Jill and Peggy are having a heart to heart in church about making mistakes. Jill says that it’s not easy, listening to other people’s good advice “especially when they are right.” Peggy says it’s good to own up when you are in the wrong and, for her part, Jill confesses that, when she looks up at the Grace Archer memorial window in the church, she often has the urge to put a brick through it. “We could,” Peggy replies, adding “Nobody would ever believe we did it, would they?” The two women giggle at the thought.

It appears that Jill has been rethinking her attitude towards Toby, as she seeks him out on Thursday and invites him and Pip to a special dinner that she is cooking that night. Toby says he’s OK, but he cannot speak for Pip. Jill urges him to try and persuade her. The rest of the Brookfield Archer clan wonder what is the special occasion? Jill will only say that it’s to celebrate being on the mend and David tells Rooooth that, in that case, Jill should invite Toby – and the chances of that are zero. They laugh.

As it happens, Toby does manage to get Pip across to Brookfield by telling her that Rooooth wants to talk about mob grazing. Gosh! I’d cancel all my appointments too for a chance like that. The meal is a great success and Jill makes a speech, thanking Toby for looking after her after her fall. Pip and Jill are back on speaking terms and Jill has made Pip and Toby some flapjacks. Later on, Davis tells Rooooth “Long may the peace continue” but he admits that he’s not completely convinced about Toby being one of the family. Rooooth tells him to just let it go. Over at Rickyard, Pip and Toby are eating flapjacks in bed – God, they’ve just had a meal of roast beef and a pudding too, I’m willing to bet – and Pip is in reflective mood, saying that when she and Toby got together, she was convinced that it would be a quick fling. She goes on: “Here we are now, with our own cottage – it feels like we are a real couple, doesn’t it Toby?” Call me a cynic, but I reckon that’s a sure sign that applecarts are about to be upset and I would not be surprised if Brighton came into it somewhere.

We have a new character in Ambridge – Anisha, aka SuperVet. On Sunday, she is riding with the Hunt and a girl called Delia takes a tumble (see what happens when she gets out of the kitchen?). Nobody appears to give a toss about Delia, but there is great concern over the horse. Anisha says that nothing appears to be broken and offers to walk the ominously-named Lazarus back to the Stables. Shula won’t hear of it; spoiling Anisha’s first ride out and she walks the horse back. I think Delia was put out of her misery, but I can’t be sure.

The next day, concern over Lazarus grows, as he has gone lame. Anisha and Alistair find a thorn lodged in the joint. Treatment, under a general anaesthetic in hospital, would cost £2k - £3k. The horse isn’t insured and Anisha says that she could flush out the joint here at the Stables, which would be much cheaper. Anisha manages to get the thorn out and Shula is impressed, saying that Alistair could never have done that on his own. Anisha replies that that’s the beauty of a partnership – they both have different strengths.

Wednesday is Burns Night and Alistair offers to swap shifts with Anisha so that she can go to The Bull (she’s from Glasgow). Jazzer arrives and the two are soon engaged in banter and mild insults. This culminates in a drinking challenge, shot for shot, with Jazzer on whisky and Anisha on vodka. Anisha wins comfortably and she and Rex take a seriously-drunk Jazzer outside for some fresh air (also, outside is less messy if he throws up.) Rex accuses her of cheating – he knows that a lot of her shots were water, not vodka. How did she get away with that in a packed bar, I ask myself? Was nobody else watching?

Anisha says that she wanted to teach Jazzer a lesson and asks Rex “Why didn’t you stop me?” “I wanted to see how far you’d go,” Rex answers, adding “It seems you’ll stop at nothing to win.” “And what’s wrong with that?” Anisha asks. “Nothing, “Rex replies, “as long as nobody gets hurt.”
Ask Jazzer how his head feels in the morning.

It was a good week for Roy, although it started badly when he picked up Tracy at a bus stop in the pouring rain. Why he didn’t drive past her at speed and through a puddle, is a mystery, but he didn’t. Even worse, she is going to Felpersham. The conversation flows like treacle, with Tracy saying that she thought Roy would have had a better car. He protests that the MPG is very good and Tracy changes the subject to holidays, only for Roy to drone on about the currency exchange rates. Tracy wants some music on, but is unimpressed by Roy’s taste. They talk of TV programmes they like and it is soon evident that their tastes are poles apart.

Tracy has made up her mind. “This isn’t working Roy – we’ve got nothing in common,” she says, adding “Don’t take this the wrong way Roy, but to be honest, I find you a bit boring.” She tells him that he’s not the man for her and she gets out of the car, despite the fact that it’s still raining and they are not in Felpersham. And how does Roy take this romantic setback? “Thank God!” he breathes, as Tracy closes the car door.

Roy tells Kirsty that he’s got Tracy off his back, to which she replies that Tracy will now tell everyone how boring he is. Kirsty herself is happy – she and Tom went for the baby scan and everything appears to be fine. They don’t know the sex of the baby, but Kirsty reluctantly agrees that Tom can tell his family the news. This he does and they are delighted, with Pat asking when did they get back together? Tom then reveals that they haven’t and Kirsty is happy to have him around as a father, but not as a partner. Tony and Pat are nonplussed – how will it work? Tom gets shirty and “we’re going to have a baby and that’s it.” Talking later on, Tony and Pat say that it’s never easy, is it? Nevertheless, they are positive that they will love the grandchild very much.

Finally, we have Josh’s latest scheme to make money, which is to advertise used farm machinery on a website. He runs the idea past David and even gets him to put their baler up for sale and buy a new one. Josh is being helped by Rex, who is desperate for work. A kind-hearted Bert feigns a back injury and gives Rex the job he had from Usha; cutting the hedge at Blossom Hill Cottage. Meanwhile, David and Kenton strike a wager – who will get their pupil past the driving test first? David is teaching Freddie (slow and cautious) and Kenton, Lily (speedy and reckless). The winner will get the loser to perform a chore of the winner’s choosing. Expect some intensive tuition in the future, although the fact that Freddie and Lily have the one car between them could make things difficult.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Hard Luck Stefan (We Assume You Didn’t Get The Money)

No doubt about the main story of last week. Stefan turns up at the Damara offices - he knows Rob has got a good job and still wants his money. Rob refuses and tells Stefan to sit down and shut up while he answers a phone call. When he has finished, Rob says that Stefan wont get the money, as he has no proof of wrongdoing. Stefan replies that he will go to Justin Elliott and the media, which prompts Rob to offer the money as a goodwill gesture in a couple of days. Stefan, however is angry at being lied to and spoken to like a dog - the amount of money he wants has just doubled and he will be back at 4pm Friday to collect it. As Stefan leaves, Lilian comes in and Rob fears that she may have overheard the conversation. He pretends that Stefan was a feed rep and not a nice man - he hopes that she didnt hear any of his offensive language? Lilian replies that she has come for the invitation list for Justins next shoot.

Jennifer and Lilian are out shopping, when Jen spots Stefan and she is puzzled, as shes sure she knows him. It comes to her later and she tells Lilian the story of Rob allegedly blocking the culvert and how she and David had gone to see Charlie Thomas about it but Stefan had disappeared. So Rob got away with something else Lilian muses. Its all in the past - nothing will come of it Jen says.

Fast forward to Friday afternoon. Justin tells Rob to come to his office in an hour, so they can discuss costings for a future project. At the meeting, Rob is anxious for it to be over, but Justin wants to discuss other matters Unless youre bunking off early for the weekend, Rob? Rob says of course not, but then says he will have to go, after all, as he has remembered that his car is parked on a meter. Yes, you cant take chances with Traffic Wardens - especially if theyre called Stefan Justin agrees.

To say that Rob is surprised is a masterpiece of understatement. The story comes out and Rob defends himself, saying that blocking the culvert was akin to putting sandbags outside your door - it diverts the rain somewhere else. Justin cannot believe what hes hearing You sent a torrent of water into the village he gasps, adding: Have you any idea what would happen if this got out? Never mind the compensation; the publicity alone could destroy us. Robs response is that he thought he was being loyal to Damara - loyalty is one of his qualities; just look at his reference from Minnesota; they didnt want him to leave.

This cuts no ice with Justin, who tells Rob that he stuck his neck out for Rob and made himself very unpopular into the bargain. Rob begs for another chance and Justin reveals that he got the story from Lilian - she did overhear the meeting with Stefan and of course there was the story that Jennifer told her. This is where Rob loses it (perhaps he realises that his time is up) as he describes Lilian as Vicious and twisted, just like the rest of the family. She can twist you round her little finger he sneers. As a negotiating tactic, this is less than perfect, as Justin lays into Rob. From now on you no longer work for Damara says Justin, to which Rob replies that he wouldnt want to, but he wants severance pay.

Justin hasnt finished yet though, as he angrily tells Rob that he (Justin) has considerable influence in the agricultural industry and he will make sure that there is no job for Rob anywhere in the industry. Rob retorts that his former employer in Minnesota would have him back tomorrow and Justin suggests that he goes there, as its the nearest to Ambridge youll ever work again - youre finished here Rob - for good.” So, no reference then Rob, I’d guess.

If Justin is true to his word, that would appear to be that for Rob. Its going to be difficult to get back to Borsetshire from Minnesota in order for Rob to have his monthly contact meetings with son Jack. However, before we all break out the champagne and party poppers, spare a thought for poor Stefan - after all, if he hadnt come back to Ambridge, none of the above would have happened, and presumably the poor sod never did see his money in the end.

In last weeks blog, I predicted all sorts of mayhem at the party held at Lower Loxley by Freddie, Lily and Johnny, while Elizabeth was away overnight. Well, I was wrong, as it all went off like a Methodist prayer meeting. Johnny was looking for Freddie, as he wanted someone to distract Ambers friend while he chatted up Amber. I dont know why he bothers, as someone else always gets off with Amber. Johnny found Freddie playing computer games in his bedroom and he persuades him to come down and join the party. Predictably, Amber has been grabbed by someone else and Freddie decides to change the music. Lily isnt happy, but people start dancing. Freddie seems to have now got his party animal head on, as, when he hears that some people are planning to go skinny-dipping in the lake, he joins them and, ripping his clothes off, he dives into the freezing water. As we learn the following day, this gave him considerable street cred among Lilys friends (who he describes as a decent bunch). The enhanced street cred will be scant compensation for the frostbitten goolies, I reckon.

The totally unfrenzied atmosphere of the party was neatly illustrated by a cameo between Adam and Ian. Ian is worried that he may have made a mistake in encouraging Lily - what if hordes of people turn up, having seen the gig on Social Media (Ian obviously reads this blog)? So concerned is he that he and Adam drive over to Lower Loxley and they are reassured that everything seems to be calm. Lily spots them and invites them in, saying how sweet it was of them to worry. The two men end up serving drinks and Ian is popping corn and making snacks. When they return home, Ian says What are we like - gatecrashing a teenage party? Whatever, it appears to have done their still-rocky relationship no harm at all, as Adam tells Ian that he will wait for however long it takes for Ian to be ready to resume sharing a bedroom once more. Ians response is “I am ready Adam and there is the sound of a kiss as the two of them go upstairs.

When Elizabeth returns, she asks her twins what they got up to while she was away. She is suspicious because everywhere is spotless (and thats not normal), every towel is clean and the CCTV footage of the night in question shows absolutely nothing - no foxes, no rabbits, nothing. The twins do a pretty good job of blanking her; even coming up with a plausible excuse for the empty beer can she found outside the French Doors. Elizabeth is suspicious but she has no proof of misbehaviour. She won’t be so happy when she finds out that Freddie lied to her about his D-grade maths resit.

While on the subject of romance, we must speak about that mistress (and I use the word advisedly) of self-delusion; to wit, Tracy. At the beginning of the week, she turns up at Roys, bearing a bottle of Merlot, which she suggests they open. Roy makes sure they stay in the kitchen, as the living room is a bit of a mess. Tracy is fishing for compliments, telling Roy how her previous boyfriends (the 14-volume index will be published shortly) admired her eyes, her figure and - fortunately she stopped there. She also says that she senses a deep hunger in Roy. A deep hunger to have a closed door between them, I reckon.

Kirsty comes in and Roy invites her to join them; in fact, he practically nails her to the kitchen table. Tracy realises that Kirsty isnt going to go (and how can she, handcuffed to the chair leg?) so she leaves, saying Well have to catch up some other time, Roy. Roy is grateful, telling Kirsty You saved my life. He admits that he is not interested in Tracy, but he wants to let her down gently. What else can he do: put barbed wire round the house? Roy, this is Tracy we are talking about and I submit that the equivalent of letting her down gently is to say Tracy, please bugger off instead of Tracy - bugger off.

On Friday, Kirsty runs into Tracy, who asks her to tell Roy that her phone is out of action, so if he wants to get in touch, hell have to visit in person. Why would Roy want to get in touch? To set up our next date the arch self-delusionist replies. Kirsty decides to try and do Roy a favour and spells out that Roy isn’t really interested and “he has trouble giving out clear signals.” Kirsty says her motive is to stop Tracy wasting her time by chasing after the wrong man. Tracy demands to know if Roy asked her to say that and, when Kirsty admits no, Tracy accuses her of “Trying to break me and Roy up - we’re taking it nice and slow.” Slow? Glacial would be too quick for Roy. “We’re definitely an item” Tracy adds. She also says that Kirsty wants her off the scene as she has designs on Roy herself and then gets personal and offensive by telling Kirsty that she should look after her figure as it looks as if she has overindulged over Christmas. As Tracy goes, Kirsty is thunderstruck and mutters “You can dump your own girlfriends from now on, Roy”.

It was a busy week for Kirsty - Helen followed her on a country walk, as she wanted to clear the air over letting slip that she knew that Kirsty was expecting. The two women talk and Helen tells her that she’ll be a wonderful mum - if she ever needs to talk, Helen will be there for her. Kirsty admits that she is worried because Tom will always be the child’s father - she told her parents that the baby was the result of a one-night stand. On the question of the baby’s parentage, Helen remarks wryly “At least Tom’s no Rob.”

Kirsty obviously takes this to heart and she seeks out Tom, who is pleased to see her. Kirsty spells it out - if Tom promises never, ever again to talk about marriage and accepts that he and Kirsty are just friends, then he can go with her to her next scan. Tom agrees with alacrity.

We could speculate about whether we have seen the last (or nearly seen the last) of Rob, but let’s end talking about Toby. He has been told that the Environmental Health people have brought their inspection date forward and he is struggling to get everything repaired and vermin (including Rob) proof in time. Can Pip help? No way. Josh? You’re joking. Bert? He’s busy, plus he has a poetry competition to prepare for. Pip suggests Rex, but Toby isn’t keen, moaning that he will want paying. “That’s how the world works, Toby,” says Pip, adding pointedly: “When you’re not getting an allowance.”

Monday, 16 January 2017

I Think Miranda Has Been Here Before

Lucy Fleming (Miranda Elliott)

Before we begin, I must apologise for the late appearance of this week’s blog, which was due ostensibly to a gremlin in the PC, although personally, I reckon Toby Fairbrother was responsible…

Miranda Elliott got a big speaking part last week. Poor Lilian has been moping around the place, depressing everybody with her sombre mood. And why is she so down? Because she has heard nothing from lover Justin Elliott since the panto ended and she fears that the romance is over.

Then on Tuesday, she gets a call from Justin, who says he wants to go through his diary and could Lilian come over later? You bet she can, and she turns up at the Dower House, full of expectations. These are cruelly dashed when she sees Miranda by her husband’s side and salt is rubbed into the wound when Miranda says that at her husband’s side is where she needs to be, plus she will sit in on the meeting and has one or two suggestions as to some of the diary entries. Miranda also suggests that perhaps Lilian has been taking on a bit too much. Her suggestions concerning the diary are to cancel virtually all of the social appointments, as Justin won’t have time for socialising, busy business magnate that he is. Lilian puts up a token resistance, but Miranda steamrollers this aside and, when Lilian says that she will get on to it right away, Miranda smiles sweetly and says “Thank you.”

During this exchange, Justin hardly says a word, except a feeble protest that there are one or two events he’d still like to attend, but Miranda ignores this. It is painfully obvious that this is not the first time she has faced this problem and, by cutting Lilian off at the knees, she believes that she has nipped it in the bud. But has she? Lilian’s mood is not improved; Brian described her as being “Like a wet weekend” and he is worried that she will put the damper on the Friday night drinks party, being held to celebrate the purchase of the land from BL. That shows how little he knows his sister-in-law, as, on the day, Lilian proclaims that “If I’m going down, then it will be with all guns blazing” and, when she makes an appearance, she looks like a million dollars.

Jennifer contrives to take Miranda and Brian away to look at some paintings (Miranda fancies herself as a bit of an expert), leaving Justin and Lilian alone. He immediately apologises for his behaviour earlier in the week and for not contacting her, but “Miranda has been watching me like a hawk.” He wants things to go back as they were before and the two of them risk a kiss. I reckon they ought to take it carefully, as Miranda’s no idiot and, if Justin’s diary starts filling up again with social engagements, she’ll know where to look.

Going back to the land purchase, Brian managed to get Justin to knock £200k off the price, and he makes a point of seeking out Adam to tell him that the herbal ley experiment can continue for another couple of years (oh good) and so can the mob grazing, which makes Pip happy. Adam is grateful too and we had a rare bit of radio when Brian told Adam “I made a mistake.”

Pip seeks out Rex and finds him making an industrial-size dish of Dahl. He tells her that it’s for economic reasons and explains that his dad will be stopping his and Toby’s allowance. He also lets slip that it was dad who supplied the capital for the business start-up – something which Toby never mentioned to Pip. Personally, I reckon that there are a lot of things that fall into this category and we can expect further revelations.

Pip takes Toby to task, but he dismisses it, saying that he and Rex will be OK. Pip pointedly says that Toby will be OK, as he’s living rent free (he’s also got your £5k Pip) and Toby says Rex will survive. However, Pip isn’t so sure and meets with Rex to suggest that she ask David if he could let Rex have a three-month rent holiday. Rex says that he wouldn’t want to exploit David’s good nature and, when Pip says that she wishes she had some money to lend him, he says that, even if she had, he wouldn’t accept it. “No, I don’t suppose you would” Pip replies, no doubt musing on how different the two brothers are.

Toby’s stock rose somewhat among certain members of the Archer family when Pip rang him and asked him to go over to Brookfield and retrieve some figures from a tablet that she had left behind (she and Rooooth were visiting a dairy farmer). Toby finds Jill trying to remove Christmas cards from the top of a bookcase and she falls off the stool that she had been standing on. Toby helps her to sit down and urges her to put her leg up (“Lucky we’ve got this stool handy” he remarks, drily). He diagnoses a bad sprain and says he’ll drive her to the Minor Injuries Unit.

A sprain is indeed diagnosed and Rooooth, Pip and, later, David are horrified to see her in a wheelchair, although Toby explains that this is because the x-ray unit is down a long corridor and Jill can’t walk. Jill is in curmudgeonly mood and moans at everyone for making a fuss. Everyone is grateful to Toby for his prompt action and thanks him. Did I say ‘everyone’? There is a pointed silence from one person and then, presumably with everyone looking at her expectantly, Jill finally says “Thank you” to Toby, albeit through gritted teeth.

Her ingratitude continues the next day, when she tells Rooooth that, far from being grateful to Toby, the fall was his fault, as his sudden appearance startled her, making her fall. She also moans again that everyone is making too much of a fuss and it is all too much for Rooooth, who snaps at her and tells her to shut up about Toby. Over at Rickyard, Toby is mystified by the Archers’ reaction – Shula cooked him cakes, Kenton brought him a pint, Liz bought him a potted plant and David came round to thank him in person. “Did they expect me to leave her on the floor and step over her to get the tablet?” he asks Pip. They probably expected you to go through her purse first, Toby.

It was a week of mixed fortunes for Rob. On Sunday, he had his first contact meeting with Jack and afterwards, he waited for Helen and Tom to come back (which he wasn’t supposed to do). He tells Helen that he wants the divorce to go through quickly and cleanly. He also asks if she would accept the toy that he and Jack had been playing with and also a present for Henry. She agrees, much to Tom’s disquiet.

On Friday afternoon, he opens his flat door to see Justin standing there. Justin isn’t in the mood for small talk and asks Rob if he has the report he asked for about contractors on the Estate. Rob admits that he hasn’t started it yet, to which Justin replies that he’s sure that some of the contractors are contactable (this is late Friday afternoon, don’t forget) and he’d like to see something in an hour or so.

Justin leaves and there is another knock on Rob’s door. This visitor is even less welcome, as it is Stefan, the Berrow Farm worker who saw Rob blocking a culvert on the night of the flood and who Rob then paid to go back to Eastern Europe. Stefan tells Rob he wants to talk and suggests the pub might be more congenial. ‘Congenial’ Rob isn’t, and, in the pub, tells Stefan that he never expected to see him again – that was the deal with the money. Stefan suggests that there are a number of people who he is sure Rob would not want to know about the money – Justin Elliott, the police and suchlike. Stefan says that he has a business opportunity back home, but he needs some start-up money. Not right away, of course: “I can wait a few days, but I want that money, Rob.”

What else happened last week? The Kirsty/Tom/Baby situation took another twist when Tom tells Helen about the baby. Helen thinks that she might be able to discover what Kirsty is thinking – it’s time they had a catch up anyway. Tom begs her not to tell Kirsty that she knows she is pregnant and Helen says “Of course I won’t”. The two girls lunch at Grey gables (Helen’s treat – I thought she was supposed to be borassic?) and the conversation wanders from subject to subject, including a toast to “seeing the back of Rob Titchener”, before Helen blows it by telling Kirsty that she knows she’s pregnant. Kirsty realises that Tom must have told his sister and she storms out. Well done Helen, you played a blinder there. Kirsty goes back to work, where she asks Roy to give her a minute. She’s still angry that her secret is gradually getting out but, as Roy points out, you cannot keep a pregnancy secret forever.

Roy has his own troubles. On Sunday, Tracy is at Susan’s (yes, they are looking at photos) and she says she’s just popping down to The Bull to see if there’s anybody interesting there. Susan says she can bring Roy back for lunch if she likes. Roy is there, along with Johnny, who disappears when Tracy breezes in and makes for Roy. She is keen to rekindle the passion of NYE, but he tells her he’s not looking for anything serious. Tracy agrees; “We need to get to know each other better” she says and, when invited to lunch, an alarmed Roy mutters something about Phoebe cooking for him and makes a rapid escape.

Back at Ambridge View, Susan notices Roy’s absence and suggests that maybe he isn’t interested? Tracy says, no, he’s just shy and she’ll have to do all the chasing. “It’ll be a bit of a stretch for me [Ha!] but I’m sure it will be worth it.” I’m sure I wasn’t the only man who felt a deep pang of sympathy for Roy when Tracy tells her sister “I’ll crack him – in the end.”

And now we come to the ‘storyline with the biggest potential for disaster’. Freddie has failed his maths resit and is being commiserated by Johnny. Freddie’s twin Lily finds him and asks him when is he going to tell Elizabeth? He’s lucky, she says, as Liz is up to her eyes in work at the moment and will even be away for a couple of days shortly. She and Johnny think ‘why not throw a party at lower Loxley?’ To his credit, Freddie isn’t too sure, but that’s probably because he hasn’t got any friends. Johnny is all for it and tells Lily that he will help her organise it.

Let’s pause here and take stock. Will they tell Elizabeth about the party? No, I don’t think so either. Freddie may have few friends, but Lily’s got hundreds. Add to this the fact that Johnny’s got a gob on him that Susan Carter might envy and the fact that they are bound to advertise the party on Facebook, or whatever is today’s preferred social media and do you see what I mean by ‘potential for disaster’? I envisage Lily driving the shared car into the lake and loads of students sloping off with family heirlooms. Of course, they could invite the younger Horrobins, which would mean the lead being nicked from the roof as well.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

So, Why Did Toby Go To Brighton? (Bonus Posting)

Rhys Bevan (Toby Fairbrother)

Toby Fairbrother committed the (to Lynda) ultimate sin of going to Brighton in the middle of the run of Mother Goose. Even worse, Toby (aka Priscilla the Goose) got stuck there and Pip had to take his part at short notice. This did nothing to improve Pip’s mood, as she was already pretty hacked off because Toby sprung the Brighton trip on her at the last possible moment.

His (somewhat implausible) excuse was that the Brighton thing is an annual boy’s get-together that had slipped his mind and he set off immediately after his panto appearance. We said in the weekly blog that this is extremely unlikely and I for one was disappointed that Pip swallowed such a load of guff so easily.

On his return, Toby is still in the doghouse and he tells Pip that there was more to the trip than the booze-up, as one of his mates (Stu) had gone through a messy romantic break-up and needed Toby to be there for him. I ask you - how likely is that? I submit that Toby is more likely to be the cause of a break-up and, if I were looking for someone to comfort me in my hour of need, then self-centred Toby would be one of the last people I’d consider.

However, Miss Gullible accepts this story; no doubt helped by the fact that Toby bought her flowers and a ‘I’m sorry’ card as well as arranging for a gin tasting experience and a night in a posh hotel. All signs of a guilty conscience if you ask me.

Actually, things don’t look too good for the Fairbrothers - while Rex is counting out Toby’s share of the geese money, he tells his brother that their father has decided to stop their allowance after February. Rex is amazed that Toby takes the news so calmly and, when Toby says that he has an investor in his gin business, Rex is bitter, saying that he’s wasted two years running around, working on Toby’s mad schemes and he’s got nothing to show for it. It’s a good job that Toby didn’t mention who his investor was (Miss Gullible again) or Rex would have gone gorilla-pooh.

Come to think of it, Rex could really do damage to Toby’s relationship with Pip, as we know that he knows the real reason that Toby slopes off to the South Coast every now and then. In fact, he lent his brother £200 the last time and Toby assured him that that would be the last time he needed to go to Brighton, which was patently untrue, as recent events proved. All Rex needs to do is have a quiet word in Pip’s ear and Toby would have some fast explaining to do.

So, what was it that Toby was doing in Brighton and why does he need to go there periodically? Having discussed this with friends, we concluded that, this being Toby, it’s a nailed-on certainty that a woman (or possibly more than one) is involved. A favourite theory is that he has a girl and a family in Brighton, but, if so, then surely Rex would have mentioned it - especially when Toby moved in with Pip?

Does he owe some gangster big time? Is he being blackmailed? Whatever it is, it has been going on for some time and, whenever whoever it is calls, then Toby responds instantly, with no argument.

What do you, our readers, think is going on? We would welcome your ideas and speculations - between us we might even hit on the truth.

Going back to the afore-mentioned discussions with friends, there was one idea that was put forward, which was that Toby is running a charitable hostel for homeless people and needs to go to Brighton every now and then to ensure that it is running smoothly. The person who suggested this is currently under sedation, as it was generally agreed that this is as likely as Lilian becoming a non-smoking teetotaller or Rob Titchener being put forward for the title of ‘Ambridge’s man of the year’ by the Archers at Bridge Farm.

We await developments with interest.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Don’t Push It Adam

Andrew Wincott (Adam Macy)

Rob tells Adam that he’s not happy about the state of the wheat and Adam defends his methods, saying that it will take at least two years before the soil shows improvement. Rob says that the Estate cannot be expected to put profit on the back burner. Adam cannot resist having a go at Rob and changes the subject, asking Rob how was his Christmas? “Very good” Rob replies and Adam has another dig when he says “A happy family Christmas time - how nice for you.”

A bit later on, Rob says that he wants a report from Adam about how he plans to get the yields up to scratch, but Adam is determined to keep needling him. “A family Christmas is great, but having small kids around makes it even better. Helen and the boys had a great time.” “I’m sure they did” Rob answers, through gritted teeth. But Adam hasn’t finished and gives the metaphorical knife another twist when he says “Of course, it was Henry’s birthday yesterday. Ian and I got him a new scooter.” Rob’s response to this is to tell Adam that he is going to recommend that the Estate contract is put out to tender and, if Adam has any hope of retaining it, he will have to sharpen up his act - considerably.

There you go Adam; you may have enjoyed winding Rob up, but was it wise? Rob is just vindictive enough to take the contract away out of spite, and can you imagine what Brian would say if Adam’s farming methods were said to be the reason for losing the contract. Bite your tongue next time Adam - alternatively you could run Rob down with the combine.

Things get worse for Rob - as he leaves Adam, he sees the Button girls running away from his car, where they have daubed something insulting on his windscreen in lipstick. We aren’t told what they wrote, but Kirsty, who is passing by, describes it as “accurate”. Rob snarls that it is a libel and people should bring charges against him, so that he can clear his name. “Good luck with that,” Kirsty replies, adding: “and good luck with getting that off your screen - some labels are really hard to get rid of.”

Rob borrows white spirit and rags from Kenton and returns them to The Bull the following day. Elizabeth is there to see Kenton and, when Rob speaks to her, she says “Excuse me” and leaves. “How rude; I would have expected better” Rob says to Kenton, but he is very cool towards Rob.

Going back briefly to Henry’s birthday, Helen is talking to Tom and she reveals that Caitlin, her solicitor, has told her that Rob intends to contest the divorce and he could even make a claim on the farm, although this is unlikely to be successful. However, it will be messy, lengthy and expensive. Looking through the birthday card envelopes, Helen notices one in Rob’s handwriting and tells Pat to put it in the bin, unopened.

We have often mentioned the thickness of Rob’s skin and it can’t be easy to live in a place where everybody loathes you. Mind you, Rob doesn’t do much to help himself, sometimes, does he? On Wednesday evening, he is hammering on the door of the (closed) village shop, demanding to be let in to buy some essentials. Jim tells him to go away, as it’s two minutes past closing time and he’s cashed up. Rob’s anger increases and he says he won’t go away until Jim serves him. He then starts insulting Jim and the other volunteers, calling them “A bunch of petty-minded do-gooders, playing shop so you can gossip with the women and fill in the dreary days until you die - you’re nothing but a little Hitler.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but if I were trying to be served, then I would try a little humility, mixed with numerous ‘please’ and ‘thank yous’ and lashings of gratitude if I were eventually served. In the end, Susan appears from the back of the shop and tells Jim that he is being too nice and abuse of staff will not be tolerated. She tells Rob that no-one will serve him and he is banned from the shop sine die (no, of course she didn’t use that phrase - Jim is the Latin expert). Rob tries to force his way past Jim and Susan says “Call the police.” At this, Rob leaves, saying that the shop only sells tat and Susan tells him “You’re not wanted here - or anywhere in Ambridge!” God knows I hold no brief for Susan, but I applaud her on this occasion.

On Thursday, Alan is in the pub and Jolene tells him the story about the fracas at the shop. A disturbed Alan phones Rob and, later on, goes to see him. Rob called in sick at work and Alan asks him how is he and mentions the altercation in the shop. “How are things?” the vicar asks. “Pretty ghastly sums it up,” Rob answers, honestly, adding: “Christmas was a disaster without my sons” and he tells Alan that the village is treating him like a pariah, which should come as a surprise to nobody. Alan’s answer is that he cannot go around abusing people and he spells put his advice thus: “If Jack means the world to you, as you say, then you should concentrate on him, rather than having shouting matches.” The vicar adds: “If you cannot move on, then you’re putting yourself beyond help.”

We do not hear Rob’s reply, but the next day we learn from Helen that Caitlin has told her that Rob is not going to contest the divorce after all, which makes Helen’s day. What are we to read into this - has Rob taken Alan’s words to heart and had a Damascene conversion, or is this just a coincidence? If Rob suddenly starts behaving like a decent human being and is tolerant towards everybody, I reckon people will just think that he’s up to something and still not trust him.

If Rob is St. Paul, then Brian was doing a good imitation of Moses last week when he took Jennifer out to have a look at the land that he is thinking of buying. It’s mostly arable, but he points out a little copse of trees, which he says could be their special place. In the future, Adam could walk there (presumably thinking “I wish Brian had never bought this bloody land”) and Alice could bring her children there - this is the legacy that he wants to leave. He doesn’t actually use the phrase ‘flowing with milk and honey’, but it was a close run thing. Whatever, Jennifer falls for it and later she tells her husband that she will support his vision.

Not everybody at Home Farm is happy, as Lilian has not heard from Justin since the night that Miranda left the panto early and Lilian is afraid that Justin’s wife might have sussed that her husband has been playing away. “I think my little adventure might have come to an end,” she tells Jolene, sadly. Your adventure and maybe your corporate credit card and clothing allowance, Lilian - I’d get out there and buy some new frocks while you still can if I were you.

Of course, one of the biggest recent stories is that of Kirsty’s pregnancy and Tom’s reaction to being the father. He’s all over Kirsty like a cheap suit and she is not best pleased when he turns up after midnight on New Year’s Eve. He suggests that she could move into his house - she could have Johnny’s room - so that they could bring up the child together. Whether Johnny knows about this, or would come home one day to find the locks changed and his stuff on the pavement is not revealed. Mind you, I think Tom is getting a tad pissed off with Johnny, as he comes home one evening to find that Johnny forgot to take the oven chips out and they were cremated. The issue of whether Johnny knows or not is academic, as Kirsty turns the idea down, describing the idea as ‘weird’.

Undaunted, Tom has another idea and goes to see Kirsty to tell her. And what is this idea? Simple - he thinks they should get married; after all, they are friends and they did really well together at the panto. That ‘clunk’ you hear is Kirsty’s jaw hitting the floor - she cannot believe it and reminds him how he left her at the church on their wedding day. Getting in even deeper, Tom says that he wants to put things right and it’s all too much for Kirsty, who says “It will never be put right - how on earth do you think I could ever trust you again?”

Tom replies that he could change and Kirsty says that, for a while she didn’t know whether to keep the baby, knowing that Tom would be in the picture when it was born. “How dare you come here and stir up all these horrible memories?” she screams. Tom says that he’s trying to support her, but Kirsty is in full flight now and says “No. You’re trying to make yourself feel better for the vile thing you did to me - it was unforgivable!” She also tells him to back right off and he can forget about coming with her to the scan. “I don’t need you there - I don’t need you at all” she tells him, angrily. I wouldn’t publish the banns yet awhile, Tom.

Let’s discuss matters romantic to end with. Elizabeth talks to Kenton, who is shell-shocked after taking Lily and Freddie out for a driving lesson and he vows never to take them both again. Lizzie says that she thinks it won’t happen with Dr Locke, but it has made her realise that she’s ready to fall in love again.

Perhaps she should rekindle her affair with Roy, but she’ll have to be quick. On New Year’s Eve, Roy goes out of the pub when Tracy arrives (she keeps texting him) and Johnny describes Tracy as “really hot.” Roy tells him that she’s “flighty”, which is a nice way of saying that her middle name is ‘Bakewell’ and he reveals that, about 15 years ago at a wedding, Tracy and the groom were discovered at it in the going away car. As midnight approaches, Tracy homes in on Roy and covers him in passionate kisses.

Later in the week, Susan is in full matchmaking mode, telling Kirsty that Tracy and Roy “were inseparable” on NYE and that Tracy is a very good match. Susan muses on Roy’s infidelity with Elizabeth, but decides that he has been punished enough. Kirsty wryly observes that Tracy is hardly purity personified. Helen comes into the shop and Susan tells her about the pair being inseparable at The Bull. ”Yes,” Helen replies, “Tom told me you’d have needed a crowbar to get her off him.”

Get a grip, Roy - the way things are going, you’re in danger of ending up being married to Tracy and looking after her two kids. And if that prospect isn’t enough to have you reaching for the rat poison, then think on this - you’d also have Susan and the idiot Gary and assorted Horrobins as in-laws.