Monday, 27 March 2017

Neither A Borrower Nor A Lender Be, Pip

Daisy Badger (Pip Archer)

It would appear that both Pip and Toby have either never read Hamlet, or they don’t think much of the advice of Polonius about financial affairs. Pip is desperate to get her hands on some money to buy cows for her mob grazing, having lent Toby last year’s profits to pursue his gin-making idea. No worries, Pip was confident that mum and dad would sub her. Sadly, David rejected the idea out of hand, leaving Pip back at square one.

Toby says that he would give her the money like a shot, if only he had it, which is easy to say, and when his gin business takes off (ha!) he will repay her with mega interest. In the meantime, he knows someone who would fall over themselves to lend her the money. Toby’s very good at getting other people to do things, or provide money - he’s the sort of person who, when they go on a lad’s night out, is first out of the taxi and last into the pub. The very fact that he knows someone who’d lend Pip money shows that he has been considering the problem and who she can put the bite on.

And that person is - Jill. Toby and Pip arrange for her to ‘accidentally’ bump into Jill and the conversation swiftly turns to herbal leys and beef cattle. Pip admits that she wants to run more beef cattle, but hasn’t got the funds to buy them and, when Jill asks what happened to last year’s profits, she is vague and evasive. Just before this awkward question, it seemed that Pip might be pushing at an open door, as Jill said that it sounded a good investment and how many cows was Pip thinking of buying? The answer was 25. Now, I’m no expert on cattle prices, but I’m willing to bet that they don’t come cheap, so we are looking at a sizeable investment here. Whether Jill was alarmed by Pip’s evasiveness or, as she told Carol later, she was concerned that Toby might get his hands on the money (as if!), Jill asks for time to think about it. “You don’t need a decision now, do you?” she asks. No, Pip really needed it last week, but, through gritted teeth, she tells her Gran to take all the time she needs.

Never mind, when Toby’s gin distillery goes global, he tells Pip that “all our money worries will be history.” To be fair, he does add the words “touch wood” which must really inspire Pip with confidence. Personally, I reckon you could take the word ‘worries’ out of Toby’s pronouncement and it would be more accurate. But how is the gin doing? He has another batch ready for tasting and he manages to persuade Kenton to hold a tasting group one evening after the pub is shut. The group consists of Kenton, Toby, Alice and Christopher. The latter two are already pretty well-refreshed, having celebrated the fact that Brian is buying one of her company’s mapping packages. Alice and Chris love the gin - “I’d buy it” is Alice’s comment, but Kenton is more circumspect. He does admit that it is an improvement on Toby’s first effort, but as that had silage notes and a lingering aftertaste of turpentine and pine cones, this is not great praise. In fact, Kenton produces a bottle of artisan gin that Jolene had bought that day and suggests that they compare the two products.

Exactly how Toby’s brew fared, we aren’t told, but as he returns to Rickyard, slightly the worse for wear and trying not to wake Pip up (he needn’t have bothered - she can’t sleep for worrying about the cows) he reveals to her that Kenton liked the gin “but not as much as I’d hoped.” From this we deduce that Toby was unsuccessful in getting Kenton to buy any. Pip tells him of her worries and that “Mum and dad are losing money that they will never get back.” Lucky they didn’t commit to lending you any then Pip, isn’t it?

Earlier in the week, Pip says that she’d love to get her hands on the idiot that introduced IBR into the farm and it seems incredible to me that she hasn’t considered the fact that her negligence let Brookfield’s cows escape and mingle with other farms’ cattle - surely it must have crossed her mind? It seems that Brookfield may not be the only farm to suffer, as the final action of the week sees Tom - newly returned from the conference in Brazil - ringing Alistair to ask him to come over. A cow has lost its calf very late on in the pregnancy and Tom cannot think of a reason, unless… “Oh Alistair, I really hope it isn’t what I think it is.” And so the week ended. It must be IBR, surely? After all, what are the chances of having two different fatal bovine diseases in the same area?

Alistair had a busy week. Apart from treating IBR-infected bovines, he has been holding the fort as Anisha is looking after her mother (broken pelvis) and father (senile dementia) up in Scotland. She has no idea when she will return and Alistair has to cancel the Surgery Open Day and ring round prospective visitors (more work).

It never rains but it pours and, on Monday, we learn that the roof of the Hunt’s kennels has collapsed and some hounds have been injured. Shula says what a start - and she’s not even officially a joint hunt master (JHM) yet. Phillip the builder has good news and bad news - the good news is that he thinks that Little Owls have been nesting in the roof and perhaps Shula would like to put up a nest box? The bad news is that to repair the roof properly will cost £8k. Alistair asks why can’t the money come out of Hunt funds? Answer: they haven’t got £8k. It also appears that the other JHMs are reluctant to cough up, although I can’t believe that Oliver would leave Shula in the lurch.

Aren’t these places insured? Having said that, it seems that Perry (retiring JHM) has been very slipshod on maintenance and other expensive things and, if Shula wants the job to go ahead, she will have to put down the deposit to get the work started. Alistair grumbles about the cost and Shula has a go at him because he has spent ‘hundreds of thousands’ on modernising the vet’s surgery and premises “so please don’t have a go at me for spending a measly £8k.” Alistair could have pointed out that his expenditure is to improve the business and increase income, while Shula’s £8k is so people can ride around Borsetshire dressed in funny clothes and blowing quaint, brass instruments, but wisely he said nothing.

I have the answer - ask Justin Elliott for the cash. After all, he probably spends more than £8k a week, feeding Lilian’s G&T habit - or, rather, he did, as she ran away from him in The Bull the week before. Eddie apparently does a good impression of the moment that Justin was on his knees after his proposal as Lilian fled the pub. Be careful Eddie - you might need Estate work in the future.

Justin is tetchy in the extreme and Brian is concerned that the separation might have an adverse effect on a deal that he is trying to line up between BL and Damara. To make matters worse, half the BL Board are having cold feet about the project. Jennifer berates him for only considering the financial implications and doesn’t he realise that Lilian’s emotions are raw? Brian retorts that it was Lilian that ran out on Justin, so it’s her fault. Lilian asks him what he thinks, as she’d like a man’s perspective, as Justin hasn’t contacted her for two days. Brian asks why can’t she just ring him? The two sisters roll their eyes - she can’t possibly ring him, as it’s Justin that is in the wrong. Brian cannot get his head round this logic and retreats to change the sparkplugs on the quad, or something - as long as it gets him away from Lilian.

Brian is an unlikely Agony Aunt, but when he meets up with Justin, the latter asks his advice, as he cannot get Lilian out of his mind. Where did he go wrong? This is all Brian needs and he mutters something about Lilian having been hurt in the past (Matt Crawford) and she puts a brave face on everything. Justin has a eureka moment - perhaps he acted precipitately and was too quick; how can he put things right? Brian tells him to ring Lilian and Justin says he will, later in the week. However, he is worried, as he doesn’t want to get in touch and be made a fool of again. A trifle wearily, Brian suggests that he chooses a less public venue than the pub and adds ”If you want to know just where you stand, isn’t that a risk you’ve got to take?” Secretly, you know that Brian’s preferred solution would be to knock Justin’s and Lilian’s heads together.

Anyway, Justin and Lilian go out for a ride (on horses, I should make clear) and the conversation is very banal. Justin says that he wants to talk about the future and Lilian apologises for running out on him, but it was a shock to her. Justin adds that he misjudged the situation badly and Lilian replies that the way she reacted doesn’t mean that she doesn’t care for him. “But you don’t know if you want to marry me.” Justin says, forlornly. The couple ride on and Justin has made his mind up - she may think that she’s not the marrying kind, but he’s out to prove her wrong “And I never set goals that I can’t achieve.” You have been warned, Lilian.

The B&B feud between the Snells and the Grundys grinds on and Eddie learns that Lynda will be offering holistic massages or similar, using a friend of Kate’s from Spiritual Home. Eddie has a cunning plan and takes Clarrie to The Bull for a drink. She is wise to his machinations, if that isn’t too strong a word, and says flatly that she isn’t going to touch anybody’s body, so he can forget it. Eddie says that she’d only have to rub their shoulders or similar, but she isn’t having it and poor Eddie reflects on the waste of a port and lemon.

The cricket team is heading for a crisis - Usha is absolutely useless, but keen as mustard and, when PCB suggests that she could help Fallon with the teas, Usha’s eyes narrow and she says, in a menacing tone: “You might want to be very careful Harrison - if it’s because of what I think you’re implying, you might very well come to regret your decision.” Threatening a policeman? Is that a good thing for a lawyer to do?

Earlier, we mention the fact that Tom has returned from the Nuffield conference in Brazil. He seeks out Helen, to tell her that he’s giving up on organic baby foods, as the market is saturated and the coming thing is fermented foods - a subject on which he can be as boring as he used to be on Ready Meals. Tom says that, from now on, he’s going to devote 100% to Bridge Farm. He keeps angling for news of Kirsty and, eventually, an exasperated Helen says “For heaven’s sake go and see her, Tom.” He does so and gives her a souvenir from Brazil (a soapstone carving of an eagle). She’s feeling more resilient now and she feels she has so many people that she wants to apologise to. She’s not looking forward to Monday, when the specialist will hopefully tell her the reason for the miscarriage and whether she can have more children. Tom asks whether he can go with her and she says “Yes please, that would be really nice.” What was that about devoting 100% to the farm, Tom?

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Jill Goes Cold Turkey

Patricia Greene (Jill Archer)

Jill has given up tea and coffee to show Carol that she isn’t dependent on caffeine. Sadly, she seems to be just that and is very tetchy with everybody. On Tuesday, she throws Josh out of the kitchen, where he is on his laptop, operating his farm machinery business. Josh grumbles and retreats to the farm office, from which he is later evicted by David. Next he goes to the Ambridge Tearooms, where he is gently chided by Alice for taking up a table for four and for only buying one coffee in about two hours.

David suggests that Josh uses his bedroom, as he used to when he did his homework, but Josh says no way - he’s not a schoolboy any longer; he’s a businessman. The word ‘parasite’ springs to mind and, on Friday, we learn that Lynda threw him out of Grey Gables for taking over the lobby and using their sockets to charge his equipment. Perhaps someone should tell him that real businessmen usually have a base to work from and pay for their own electricity.

But back to Jill and her cold turkey. The lack of caffeine means that, on Tuesday, she falls asleep in the chair, where she is found by David. Unfortunately, while she napped, her baking burnt and was ruined, which did nothing to improve her temper. She complains of a bad headache and a nasty taste in her mouth and David gives her one of Carol’s herbal teas, which Jill tells him tastes vile. David suggests that Jill goes to the Aquafit exercise class, which Carol mentioned - what could be better than some gentle exercise in the company of a friend? As the friend in question is Carol, in her present mood, Jill might well hold her under water for half an hour or so.

A burnt cake is by no means the worst disaster to affect Brookfield last week, as Rooooth draws David’s attention to some cows which are poorly, coughing and with discharge from nose and mouth. A cursory examination reveals that quite a few are affected and David calls Alistair to come over and have a look. “I think it might be IBR” David tells his wife. ’Oh no - not IBR!’ the listeners chorused, knowing that Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis is a highly contagious disease that can lead to fertility problems, reduced milk yields and lots of other things that farmers don’t really want (thank you Dr Google).

IBR is Alistair’s guess too and he recommends a vaccination programme. Even with that, he says there will be some cows that don’t make it. As if on cue, a calf that wasn’t looking too good is found to be dead. David and Rooooth cannot understand it - yes IBR is infectious, but their cows were all certified IBR-free when they were purchased and they haven’t been in contact with any other cows, have they? The whole thing’s a mystery. Well, it’s a mystery to David and Rooooth, but perhaps daughter Pip could throw some light on it, if she were to be asked. Cast your mind back to a week or so ago, when Pip woke Toby up early to help her round up some cows that had escaped. They were eventually found mingling with beasts from Home Farm, or Bridge Farm (one cow is very much like another, in my limited experience) and Pip and Toby managed to get them back home, with David and Rooooth not even aware that the cows had gone temporarily awol.

It will be interesting when David tells Pip about the IBR - will she break down and confess, or will she scratch her head and agree that it certainly is a mystery? If she adopts the latter course, then she might have to kill Ed, who is the only other human (apart from Toby) who knows about the absconding bovines and who might accidentally blow the gaff. Things could get interesting at Brookfield in the near future. Even more so if David finds out that the reason Pip cannot invest her profits from last year’s cows into buying more beasts is that she lent it all to Toby to fund his gin business.

Elsewhere, Kirsty has come to her senses and is having time off work and she goes to see Peggy. Kirsty tells Peggy that she hasn’t been too good, but is better now and ready to return to Grey Gables next week. The real reason for her visit is to return Peggy’s cheque, because there’s no need for it now, following the miscarriage. Peggy gently reminds Kirsty that it was a gift to her and, in what had been a difficult year for the Archer family, Kirsty’s support and help had proved invaluable. Peggy adds: “I don’t know what we’d have done without you - please indulge an old lady.” Wasn’t that nice? Touched, Kirsty agrees to accept the gift.

In last week’s blog, Peggy gave daughter Lilian a dressing down over her affair with Justin. At the end of that week, the affair was back on again and Lilian and Justin have been making up (and making out) at the Dower House. Peggy is coming over for a family lunch and Lilian begs Jennifer not to say anything to Peggy about the rekindled affair. “I may be demoted from strumpet to marriage wrecker” Lilian tells her sister.

At the lunch, Brian asks Lilian if she knows what Justin’s movements are in the next few days? Lil replies that she’s not aware of what he is doing. Brian then proceeds to wedge his size nine into his gob when he says “But I thought you and he -”. Jennifer tries to change the subject, but cat-like, Peggy leaps on the phrase and asks Lilian “That you and he what? You told me it was all over - don’t tell me you’re a liar as well as a cheat.” No Mother’s Day card for you, Peg!

At the beginning of the week, all was well between Justin and Lilian as they spent time at the Dower House. He is pleased that he doesn’t have to go back to London and that “there is no longer any need for all this sneaking around.” Lilian remarks that that was half the fun and tells Justin that she should go back to Home Farm for a while. At Home Farm, she tells Jennifer about her news and Jen is delighted for her. Lilian, however, isn’t sure how she feels and she is in a bit of a whirl as she doesn’t want to lose what they had.

A couple of days later, she is back at the Dower House and Justin suggests that they go for a walk round Arkwright Lake and we first learn that the pair have different takes on their new-found relationship. Lilian seems to think that the future will be one long round of social engagements and functions and she says that she hopes life doesn’t get too domestic. Justin reassures her that they will have a lot of fun and there is a whole season to plan. Glyndebourne is a must, as is Ascot, he says and Lilian says why don’t they go to Alderney, as she’s never been? Good idea says Justin. “Perhaps we should honeymoon there” he adds. Lilian is dumbstruck and says it will take a lot of thinking about. Later on, she phones him, muttering “Please go to Voicemail”, but he answers. Lilian says that she won’t be at the Dower House later, as she has to do some AmSide work, which she has been neglecting, but she promises she will see him soon. After the lunch with Peggy, Lilian tells Jennifer that she has arranged to meet Justin the next day. “I have to tell him how I feel” Lilian tells her sister.

Justin and Lilian meet in The Bull and they decide to eat there and Lilian pays. The atmosphere is awkward and Justin asks what has he done wrong - he knows that she hasn’t been doing AmSide work. Her reply is that his talk of marriage really threw her. Justin is puzzled - surely the fact that he is divorcing Miranda shows how much he wants to be with Lilian? She is flattered, but asks whether Justin really wants to jump straight into another marriage? He certainly does - he wants to make a permanent commitment and he thought she felt the same.

Lilian points out that Justin has never actually told her that he loves her, to which he says “That’s an horrendous oversight which must be rectified immediately” and he goes down on one knee. “I love you from the bottom of my heart and want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?” There is a long pause and he adds “Lilian?” Lilian is embarrassed and confused and runs away in tears, saying “I just don’t know. I’m sorry - I’m just so sorry.” Robert Snell and Jim Lloyd are in the pub and Robert remarks “I don’t think that went quite according to plan.”

It seems to me that there is a serious gulf in commitment here - Justin is looking for a soulmate, while Lilian is apparently just seeking a playmate, and preferably one that pays for everything. Having made a spectacle of himself in the public bar, Justin might be feeling a little embarrassed and this relationship could well take some sorting out if it is to end happily.

At Grange Farm, Eddie is reading glowing reviews of the B&B offering at Ambridge Hall and torturing himself. He notices that they are offering bird watching outings with Robert Snell and says that “we need to get our own birdman”, leaving immediately to track down Jim Lloyd. A despondent (what else?) Emma is washing laundry for Grange Farm’s own B&B guests and sighing. Ed asks her if everything is OK? “Just peachy” she answers, flatly, adding that she hates all this B&B business. “We need the money” Ed tells her. All his recently-born lambs have been below par and he hopes that things will pick up. Emma exhibits a profound understanding of the Grundys’ place in the world when she observes sadly: “It’s always a ‘maybe’ for us with farming and with Eddie’s money-making schemes.”

Finally, at Home Farm, if anyone had any doubts about whether Alice Carter really is a true daughter of Brian Aldridge, all they had to do was listen to her reaction when Brian took her for a walk to see the new acreage that he has recently purchased. He is waxing lyrical about how Adam has plans to rehabilitate the land. Alice is surprised at Brian’s attitude, as surely the land has to turn a profit? Brian then tells her about the plans he has to create an area of woodland and he has taken advice from Patrick of the Borsetshire Wildlife Trust (or similar) on which species to plant. Beech, oak and hornbeam are favourites - Brian tells her that he is planting for the future. Her attitude can be summed up by ‘sod the future, what about now?’ and she gives her father the hard sell about how her company’s high-tech monitoring system could really benefit the farm, so how about it? Unwisely, Brian says he’ll think about it and he is then stalked by Alice for the rest of the day, with her demanding to know if he’s made his mind up yet? Definitely a chip off the old block indeed.

Monday, 13 March 2017

B&B Intrigue – Bonus Posting

Carole Boyd (Lynda Snell)

Ever since Eddie Grundy had the bright idea of entering the B&B business, declaring it a licence to print money, we have been awaiting the inevitable car crash that accompanies a Grundy scheme to make money. But so far, things have been going comparatively OK, apart from Lynda Snell getting somewhat outraged when she learned that Eddie has been poaching her customers.

Things weren’t quite so rosy last week, when the De Freitas family proved a bit awkward, demanding the sheets be changed and apparently getting through a remarkable number of toilet rolls (don’t go there). Eddie wasn’t sad to see the back of them, but even on departure day, they ignored the checkout time and didn’t depart till the afternoon.

As if the De Freitas’s weren’t bad enough, Eddie was receiving a stream of texts from another potential customer, one Harriet Vane. He is getting cheesed off with her enquiries about whether they can cater for gluten-free and whether there are any interesting things to see round Ambridge, or any gardens to visit, but the piece de resistance is when Harriet asks what Ambridge Hall is like as a B&B. “Flippin’ cheek!” Eddie tells Joe and later on we learn that Eddie told Harriet that, if she wants to pay too much for not a lot, she’s welcome to stay at Ambridge Hall.

Now, we have to ask ourselves if that was wise, although this being Eddie we are talking about, I think we can guess the answer to that. Consider – would a prospective guest ask a B&B what another B&B was like? I mean, really? Let’s go back a day or two – when Lynda was bending PCB’s ear about speeding traffic in the village, she then changed the subject; was it against the law to represent yourself as somebody else on the Internet, social media and suchlike? PCB’s considered opinion was that provided you are not doing it for fraudulent or potentially harmful reasons, he thinks it would be okay.

I put it to you that we could have discovered the secret identity of Harriet Vane, with Lynda checking up on the Grundys and creating a bit of mischief along the way. If we are right, then Eddie’s put down of Ambridge Hall was even more unwise. Is Lynda capable of such actions? Too damn right she is – you cross her at your peril.

I was looking for further pointers when I remembered that, when Lynda had her feud with the editor of The Echo, she submitted pieces under the anagrammatic pseudonym of Dylan Nells. Could Harriet Vane also be an anagram of something significant? Always assuming that I’ve spelt the name correctly, I’m quite taken with RATHER NAÏVE, which sums up Eddie to a T.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Trust Him; He’s A Policeman

I fear that the probity and integrity of Harrison Burns is open to question after last week’s episodes. PCB, as we know him, is a man on a mission - and that mission is to secure the future of the Ambridge cricket team and his preferred strategy is to draft women into the team. He has been secretly coaching Molly Button (enthusiastic - perhaps overly so), Lily Pargetter (a raw talent and hampered by being afraid of the ball) and Anisha Jayakode (a potentially useful off-spinner). He also managed to talk Pip into putting her name down, but at the moment, she’s too busy with calving and lambing.

But PCB has a problem - how to sell the idea to the men in the team, especially as the idea was thrown out at the recent AGM? He calls an EGM and, at the meeting, it is quickly apparent that the prevailing mood is still against letting females in. The most vocal opponent is Will Grundy, whose attitude was reminiscent of the old, whiny Will and who reminds PCB that this is going over old ground.

Then PCB pulls his master stroke, as he reveals that he has had an e-mail from the captain of arch-enemies Darrington, which says that his club would be open to a merger of the two clubs and he’s sure that positions could be found for some of the Ambridge players, albeit low down the order. PCB also suggests that the name of the new team would be Darrington. There is uproar at the meeting and PCB spells out the options. 1. Let women play. 2. ‘Merge’ with Darrington. 3. Give up cricket in the village altogether. The Darrington option is anathema to the meeting and the majority vote to admit women.

Rex is impressed with the way PCB handled the meeting and remarks that Harrison kept quiet about the Darrington e-mail - could he have a look at it? “Deary me, is that the time?” PCB asks, adding that he was due home ages ago and he must fly. So this is why we questioned PCB’s probity earlier - could our local bobby be renamed PC Porky pie? Was the e-mail a figment of his imagination - albeit a brilliant strategic master stroke? Surely we can put our trust in a member of our police force? Whatever, well done Harrison for saving Ambridge cricket.

At the meeting, Alistair learned for the first time of Anisha’s interest in cricket and he muses to Shula that he is already spending a lot of time with his new partner. “Maybe she’ll keep you young” his wife replies. Anisha is also having reservations - she won’t pursue the cricket idea if Alistair thinks they are already too much in each others’ pockets. Alistair assures her he couldn’t be happier about it.

It was a busy week for Anisha, as Shula gets her to have a look at Damson, one of the Stables’ old favourite horses, who is obviously in distress. Anisha diagnoses a thorn in the eye and suggests that Damson should go to equine hospital. No good, says Shula, as Damson doesn’t travel. The alternative is to remove the eye, which Anisha says she can do there and then. Shula agrees and Anisha operates successfully, deeply impressing Alistair, who admits to her that he couldn’t have done what she did.

When talking to Anisha, Shula remarks that the Stables probably won’t be housing the two Arab horses belonging to the Elliotts for much longer, as the Elliotts’ focus has moved away from Ambridge. This is a polite way of saying that Lilian has cocked things up (and I use the phrase advisedly) royally. On Tuesday, Miranda turns up at the Stables and wants to join Lilian on a hack. Before long, she spells things out to Lilian, telling her that she (Lil) is the latest in a long line of Justin’s ‘diversions’. She adds that, usually, his ‘diversions’ are younger than Lilian and “I can’t imagine what he saw in someone as well-worn as you. It stops now - you will not disrupt my marriage any longer.” With that, Miranda rides off, leaving an open-mouthed Lilian behind.

Lilian is very unhappy and later on she takes herself down to The Bull, where she proceeds to get totally wrecked and drunkenly bangs on to PCB about the fragility of the human heart. We learn later that PCB had to pour her into a taxi to get her home and, the following day, Brian tells Adam that Lilian couldn’t get her key to fit in the door and Jennifer had to help her up the stairs. The extent of Brian’s concern for his sister-in-law is demonstrated when he says to Adam that he hopes the whole unsavoury incident won’t affect relations with Justin.

Poor Lilian has her own troubles, as Peggy has demanded that her daughter comes to see her. Lilian has to obey the summons and Peggy doesn’t beat about the bush - she has been hearing rumours and is Lilian having an affair with Justin? Lilian admits that she was, but it’s over now. Peggy is scandalised and says “You’ve been committing adultery!” Lilian points out that, technically, she hasn’t, but Justin has. “I’m not in the mood for word games, Lilian” says Peggy, icily, adding that marriage is sacred and Lilian should know better at her age and how does this reflect on the family? Suitably admonished, Lilian goes home via The Bull, where Eddie remarks that she looks a bit shocked. Lil’s response? “I’ve just had a very difficult conversation - it turns out you’re never too old to be told off by your mother.”

This was also the week when Kirsty went into meltdown as her ‘I’m over the miscarriage’ façade finally crumbled. She started off the week by offending Miranda (only too easy to do), who demanded the name of her manager to complain. Kathy wasn’t working, but Miranda complained to Lynda, who mentioned it to Kirsty and got an earful for her pains. Kirsty went home, where Roy asks her if she’s ok? He knows about the complaint and Kirsty turns on him, telling him he’s got a lousy track record. “You lost your job, bust up your marriage and now you can’t even get a woman” she tells him, spitefully. Roy’s response (which in the circumstances was pretty restrained) was that he’s going to make chilli and there’s plenty for two, should she want some.

On Tuesday, Jazzer is startled to come across Kirsty out walking around dawn. He is working, but what is she doing there? She couldn’t sleep, so got up to enjoy the dawn. Later on, she rocks up at the Tearoom (Jazzer is there) and she learns from Fallon about the plan to include women in the cricket team. Why did no-one ask her? Is she supposed to spend the rest of her life in a darkened room? Kirsty says some very hurtful things to Fallon and storms off.

Kirsty runs into Helen and she breaks down - she thinks she’s going mad, as she’s snapping at guests, rowing with Lynda and being cruel to Roy and Fallon. She cannot stop thinking about the baby and feels guilty because she didn’t want the baby enough and the miscarriage was her fault. Helen says that that’s rubbish and Kirsty did not cause the miscarriage. Kirsty is in floods of tears (and it was a fine piece of acting) and tells Helen that she’s going to Grey Gables to ask for some time off. But first she must apologise to Fallon.

Kathy obviously is sympathetic, as the next time we see Kirsty, she is in pyjamas, answering the door to Jazzer, who has decided that she needs an afternoon watching a film and he has brought along ‘Tango and Cash’ and close to £10-worth of popcorn, nachos and other cinema-style snacks. Kirsty isn’t keen, but he insists and she enjoys herself, telling him that the film was so bad, it was good. Roy returns home and the three of them are on the sofa, finishing off the snacks. As Kirsty excuses herself to make herself comfortable, Roy remarks to Jazzer that Kirsty is looking the best she has done for some time and well done Jazzer for cheering her up.

Although PCB spent a lot of time on cricket last week, he had his ear bent by Lynda, who is still obsessed with cars speeding through the village - it is definitely getting worse. PCB wonders if the situation is exacerbated by other villages, who are conducting anti-speeding campaigns. Could speeders be avoiding these by taking a diversion through Ambridge? Lynda is amazed - she has heard nothing about these campaigns, but she finds out what’s happening. Apparently, said villages are operating speed cameras and passing on details of speeding cars. Lynda is determined that Ambridge will not become a refuge for speed merchants and intends to lobby the Parish Council. Watch out lads and lasses - Lynda’s on a crusade.

Let’s return to the Lilian/Justin/Miranda situation. Having been told off by Peggy and getting blind drunk, Lilian is not a happy person. On Friday, she misses a call from Justin and her return call goes to voicemail. Eventually, the pair do make contact and he asks her to meet him at the Dower House. She does so and the conversation is awkward, to say the least. Justin says that he is sorry that things happened the way they did, but Miranda can be unstoppable when she wants to be. Lilian replies that she completely understands Justin’s situation and he says that, please, let him say what he came there to say.

The last few days, he tells her, have been somewhat trying. He goes on to say that Miranda isn’t whiter than white, as she has had dalliances with personal trainers and ski instructors in the past. They have always been transitory and very discreet. He has always wanted more than just physical attraction and this is why Miranda warned Lilian off - she felt threatened because of the special connection between Justin and Lilian.

Lilian says that she is finding all this very painful and Justin says that he will come to the point. Things came to a head last night - there were ugly scenes and Miranda issued a cliché ultimatum. “Choose me or choose Lilian” Lilian says, gloomily. Justin says ‘yes’ and adds “I chose you.” Lilian is stunned, but Justin explains: “Suddenly, it became crystal clear - I asked myself who mattered most to me and it was you. My marriage is over - I’m going to divorce her. I want to be with you.”

Assuming they get together, presumably Peggy will be pleased. What are the other benefits to them and people of Ambridge? Well, if they move into the Dower House together, Brian can get rid of the dogs guarding his wine cellar and he’ll have his house to himself once again. Lilian and Justin won’t have to skulk around any longer (not that they were much good at this) and Jennifer won’t have attacks of the vapours, trying to stop people finding out. However, it’s not all good news, as Lilian will be losing a reliable tenant and a regular source of income at the Dower House.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Lent Ain’t What It Used To Be – Bonus Posting

John Telfer (Alan Franks)

According to my diary, Wednesday 1st March marked the beginning of the festival of Lent and, for what I believe is the second year in a row, there appears to be no demented scheme introduced by the Reverend Alan Franks to test the patience of his congregation and other inhabitants of Ambridge (not to mention us).

Cast your mind back to previous years – remember the frugal Sunday lunch scheme, where people had a simple meal and donated the saving to the church? We spent a few weeks trying to guess how Joe and Eddie would manage to cock it up this week, which they inevitably did. All except for one week, when Jim laid on a lavish lunch for the pair of them. They were congratulating themselves after dessert, when Jim presented them with a bill for the meal. Oh, how we laughed!

Then there was the year when Alan suggested that people gave up gossiping for Lent and we wondered whether Susan, Clarrie and Vicky would have to emigrate or have their gobs closed with superglue. Another time, he put forward the idea of random acts of kindness and challenged Jim Lloyd to say one nice thing to a person – any person – each day. As I remarked at the time, the trouble with this was that Jim was well known as a miserable old curmudgeon and the sudden transition to a hander out of compliments made people suspicious. He complimented Christine on her perfume and she thought he had romantic designs on her, then he called Vicky ‘trim’ which made her believe that he thought her fat before and husband Mike thought that Jim fancied her. How he made it through the 40 days without being beaten up or spat at is a mystery.

So, in the past, it hasn’t been enough to give up alcohol, or chocolate, as the fertile – if somewhat deranged – mind of the local vicar has come up with schemes that appear to have unforeseen consequences. But not this year, nor last, if memory serves – what has happened to the Rev Franks’ imagination?

Indeed, what has happened to the Rev Franks? We last heard of him when Rob sought counselling from him – has the fact that Rob appears to be beyond redemption tested the faith of the vicar, even though he felt compelled to be there for Rob to talk to?

Why has no native of Ambridge approached Alan and ask what he has in mind this year? Perhaps he could invent bespoke Lenten chores – for example, Joe Grundy isn’t allowed to address people by both Christian names and surnames (as in ‘good morning, David Archer”). Lynda Snell is to be fined every time she sniffs and likewise Rooooth when she sighs or says ‘Oh Daaaaaaaaaavid’. Adam is not permitted to mention the words ‘herbal’ and ‘leys’ on pain of having his tongue torn out and Kate is only allowed to breathe on alternate days.

The possibilities are endless – Lilian could be compelled to wear a chastity belt, although she might not need to if Miranda rips Justin’s goolies off. I would suggest that Lilian gives up gin, but that could seriously depress the distilling market. Incidentally, has anyone considered that, if Toby ever gets his artisan gin business off the ground and Lilian likes the product, then Toby will probably be a millionaire before Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas, do you think it is stretching things a bit to suggest that Lynda isn’t allowed to put on a play/panto/pageant/any form of entertainment? Perhaps we can convince her that, due to the Brexit vote or some other contrived excuse, Lent now lasts 40 weeks, instead of 40 days. Hang on, that only takes us up to 3rd December, so she could still sneak one in – better make it 40 years.

Come on Alan – don’t let us down. I know that Lent has already begun, but better late than never and you could always introduce some retrospective penances. As I write this, there are still 34 days of Lent left (39 years and 34 days to you, Lynda), so get your thinking cap on Alan and give us all a laugh – Lent just isn’t the same without you.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Not Going, Not Going – Gone

William Troughton (Tom Archer)

Tom has come to a decision - he cannot bear the thought of going to Brazil and talking about organic baby food after Kirsty’s miscarriage. On Monday he tells Tony, who advises him not to make any rash decisions, but on Tuesday Tom tells Kirsty that, not only is he not going to Brazil, but he has dropped out of the Nuffield scheme altogether. “What’s the point of having plans?” he asks Kirsty mournfully. Kirsty is appalled - it’s such a brilliant opportunity for him and for Bridge Farm. “If I hadn’t miscarried you’d be going to Brazil” she tells him, adding that he shouldn’t brood and to talk to Nuffield. “I’ve made my decision and that door is definitely closed.” Tom says.

Well, that sounds definite enough and, on Thursday, Tom is talking to Rooooth, who mentions his forthcoming trip to South America. “That’s not going to happen any more” Tom informs her. Rooooth tells him of her miscarriage a few years ago and says “It will get easier Tom - eventually.” Tom admits that Kirsty thinks he should go and Rooooth says “If you don’t want to make Kirsty feel guilty, is it really too late to change your mind?”

Having nailed his colours to the mast all week, on Friday we hear Helen driving her brother to the airport. He is about to go airside when he has another moment of doubt - he feels like he’s running out on Kirsty again. Helen points out that Kirsty wants him to go and she will keep an eye on Kirsty and would he please just bugger off and get on the plane?

Personally, I reckon Kirsty is glad to get rid of him, as he’s moping around after her like a lovesick puppy, telling her how hard it all is for him. For her part, it’s very much business as usual for Kirsty as she returns to her job at the Grey Gables Health Club, filled with enthusiasm and energy. Kirsty is a bit annoyed that everybody is treating her as if she were made of glass and Lynda is the worst offender. Lynda seems determined to force Kirsty into moping, saying that she understands that work can be a distraction. “I don’t need distraction; I’m enjoying being back, I’ve got lots of ideas” Kirsty tells her. Lynda persists, telling Kirsty that she should give herself permission to grieve. This is when Kirsty makes her ‘made of glass’ speech and spells it out to Lynda, saying: “There’s no need; I’ve dealt with it. I just want to do my job and get on with the rest of my life - if that’s all right with everybody else.” So that’s you told, then Lynda - just leave the poor girl alone, for heaven’s sake and let her enjoy a few Tom-free days, or weeks, or however long he will be in Brazil for.

This was the week of Jennifer’s party and, come Tuesday, Fallon and Emma still haven’t had any inspiration on how to develop Jen’s theme of ‘land’. Emma appeals to Jim - can he help them fulfil what she describes as “the worst brief we’ve ever had”? Jim says he’ll have a think and, later on, he puts forward the idea of Zeus and the cornucopia, or Horn of Plenty. Emma is impressed - they could have individual cornucopiae for all the courses and the main course will be pies - shepherd’s, rabbit and a veggie option. An excited Emma thanks Jim and rushes off to tell Fallon.

The two girls talk the theme through with Jennifer, who is delighted with their ideas. So delighted is she that, on the night of the party, she is talking to Jim and implies that it was she that gave the idea to Fallon and Emma. To his credit, Jim doesn’t correct her and continues with his given job of looking after the Mayor of Felpersham. This is no easy task, as she is necking the Sancerre at an alarming rate. Jim suggests to Brian that he goes easy on topping up the Mayor’s glass. Too late and the Mayor ends the evening in the bathroom, talking to God on the large, white telephone. Her story is that she must have had some broccoli, to which she is allergic, but as Jennifer observes, there was no broccoli in any of the dishes.

Jennifer is on tenterhooks all evening, hoping that nothing goes wrong and trying to make sure that Lilian keeps a safe distance from Justin. She doesn’t actually tether her to the kitchen table, but only because she has no rope. Justin is keeping close to Miranda, who remarks that they haven’t seen much of Lilian and shouldn’t they go and talk to her? Justin is non-committal and distracts his wife with a glass of wine. Miranda is unimpressed with the food, remarking that it appears to be pie or nothing and the shepherd’s pie looks the least revolting.

The evening wears on and Justin is getting his and Miranda’s coats. Miranda has disappeared and Justin runs into Lilian. He notices that one of her earrings has fallen out and is caught on her blouse. He removes it and hands it to her and we hear Miranda saying to herself “Very thoughtful of you Justin.” He and Miranda say their goodbyes and she has a face like thunder. As Brian remarks to Jennifer “Did you see the expression on her face? It would have stopped a tank.” Lilian joins Jen and Brian, telling her sister, who is regretting inviting the Mayor, “At least I haven’t let you down tonight - you were worrying about the wrong person all night long.”

I think you might be speaking a bit soon there, Lilian and that Miranda will soon be whispering things into Justin’s shell-like. I’d use that Damara credit card while you still can, if I were you.

At Brookfield, David is getting somewhat teed off with Josh - David wants him to help with the lambing, but Josh has to rush off and see Rex about a piece of kit for the Ambridge Farm Machinery website. He is jubilant because they have actually sold a machine and tells Rex that his share will be £150, although he cannot have it yet. That’s a pity, as Rex is strapped for cash. Josh seems to be recruiting half of Ambridge to publicise his business, as he asks Eddie if he will take some leaflets when he goes to market. Eddie wants to know what’s in it for him and Josh says that he can have bottles of expensive drink - vintage wine, whisky; whatever takes Eddie’s fancy. I’d put some upper limit on it Josh, or you could be out of pocket.

We said that Rex is short of money and Anisha is surprised when she calls a taxi and Rex turns up as the driver. She has been seeing a local Stud manager, as she feels that she should try and rope in some new clients, having persuaded Alistair to spend shedloads of cash on modernising the practice, She tells Rex that she needs to get herself better known in the area and he says that one way to do that would be to join the cricket team. “Are you serious?” she asks, adding that having women in the team was rejected at the AGM. Rex says that, if she, Molly Button and Lily are interested, then Harrison Burns could call an Extraordinary General Meeting and take another vote.

Rex and Anisha get in some practice in the nets and it turns out that, while her batting needs improvement, she is a more-then-useful off spinner. She agrees that Rex can tell PCB that she’s interested and the two of them agree to keep their cricket practice sessions a secret for the moment.

Lily might be interested in cricket, but the way she is going, she’ll either soon be dead or in prison, the way she drives. She gets David to take her out for a lesson and she loses control and nearly runs into Lynda Snell. Lynda is incensed and berates David and Lily, calling her behaviour just the latest example of an increasing spate of bad and too fast driving and that something needs to be done about it. David asks her to give Lily a few moments, as she is in a state of shock. Her and Lynda I reckon. The following day, Lynda is mollified somewhat when Lily gives her a pot of narcissi by way of apology, although, if Lily doesn’t curb her appetite for speed, I reckon she will have to make a bid to buy Interflora in order to placate the shaken inhabitants of Ambridge.