Sunday, 2 April 2017

Having Second Thoughts, Alistair?

Michael Lumsden (Alistair Lloyd)

Alistair could be forgiven for wondering if he’s done the right thing in taking on a partner. Consider, he has forked out hundreds of thousands of pounds on modernising the surgery and now his partner, Anisha, has had to return to Glasgow for an indefinite period to look after her ailing parents. This throws the burden of work 100% on to Alistair, plus he has to ring round and cancel the guests invited to the now-postponed open day at the practice.

Unfortunately for him, Stud owner Sal Blakedown wasn’t called and she turned up on the day. “Is she angry?” Alistair asked Shula “Spitting tacks” she replies. Alistair goes off to placate Ms Blakedown and he returns some time later. “That is one formidable woman” Alistair tells his wife, as she really put him through the wringer. It gets worse, as Mrs B demands that Alistair goes over to her place later and she examines his equine knowledge in great detail. According to Alistair, it was more nerve-wracking than his degree finals and he felt that he was auditioning to be Anisha’s assistant.

Alistair phones Shula and says that he is totally exhausted and won’t be going to nets, so how about dinner in The Bull tonight? While in the pub, they are witness to the rebellion of the women of Ambridge - urged on by Usha - to boycott nets in protest about Harrison Burns’ perceived ageism and sexism. Poor PCB - in vain did he protest that he didn’t say that Usha was too old, just that she was no good and with little prospect of improvement. Fallon is not happy with PCB and tells him that if he is going to fix this rift, he is going to have to do some serious grovelling. Overhearing this exchange, Shula says that somebody is going to have to mend some fences. Alistair’s comment is that the government might think Brexit negotiations are difficult “but it’s a walk in the park compared to running the Ambridge cricket team.”

Brexit got another passing mention last week - David is concerned because over half of Hasset Hills lamb goes to France, but Brian is bullish and believes that there are great opportunities if they play their cards right. I fear we will hear more of this in the coming months and the BBC appears to be trying to be scrupulously impartial. Personally, I hope we don’t keep hearing about it.

The outbreak of IBR at Brookfield was followed by an outbreak at Bridge Farm and Tony is devastated - he wanted to breed from his beautiful herd of Angus cattle, but IBR has put the mockers on that. Tom is all for stringing up David, or at least making him pay the Bridge Farm vet’s bills, but Tony counsels caution, telling his son that they cannot be certain that Brookfield is the source of the outbreak, especially as David and Rooooth assure him that their cows have never left the farm.

Pip, of course, knows better as she and Toby rounded up some stray cows the other week and she mentions her fears to Toby - she feels that she should confess. Toby says that the damage has been done now and no good will come of admitting it - besides, the infection could have come from anywhere. Her confidence shaken, Pip even turns down Jill’s offer to finance the purchase of 25 new cows, leaving her grandmother somewhat perplexed. Pip sinks ever lower, to the extent that, later in the week, David remarks that she seems to be taking things harder than the rest of them.

The probability that Brookfield is the source of the infection increases when Adam hears one of his cows coughing and Alistair does tests and confirms that, yes, IBR has reached Home Farm as well. The path to Brookfield is well trodden, as Brian decides to go and have it out with David. His opening gambit - that David should pay all Home Farm’s vet’s bills - doesn’t go down well and, when Brian says that the infection has to have come from Brookfield, David replies “You’re not going to pin the blame on me.” There is another knock at the door and it’s Tom, who has just been told about Home Farm’s IBR by Jennifer. He too accuses David and says that Tony is devastated and looks 10 years older - Tom will make Brookfield pay and their bio security is a joke. “Dad was right,” says Tom, “you’re not half the farmer your father was.”

As the week unfolds, Pip is even more miserable and wants to confess about the broken fence and escapee cows. Toby, however, says that all this will pass and things will get better. Besides, she cannot be sure that it is her fault and his advice is “keep shtum - don’t rock the boat.”

It’s not often that I agree with Toby, but I’m with him on this. Considering Toby had what we are led to believe was a high-flying job in the City, sometimes he comes across as being as thick as a yard of lard. On Thursday evening, Pip is awoken by Toby coming to bed around 1am - where has he been? The answer is ‘picking marshmallow leaves to go into the new batch of gin’ and the reason it’s so late is that Carol Tregorran told him that, for maximum effect, they should be picked at midnight, when the moon is waxing. Oh, and he should also sing an incantation to curry favour with the moon goddess. Toby buys all this guff - I don’t know whether Carol was aware of Toby skulking around her garden in the dead of night, but if she was, I bet she was weeing herself with laughter.

I doubt whether Toby’s gin-making efforts will ever amount to anything, moon goddess or not - Kenton takes him to visit an artisan gin distillery and we learn that The Bull will be stocking artisan gin, but not the Fairbrother vintage, if indeed that is the word we’re looking for. Toby isn’t happy about that, but he has to admit that the operation they are visiting is out of his league. They have been going for two years and they have a massive still, and a massive site. On the trip back, a despondent Toby has to concede that their gin knocked his into a cocked hat. Even Toby’s Olympian confidence and self-belief is well and truly shaken by the visit. I hope Pip isn’t expecting her money back any time soon.

We had another bout of whinging from Emma, although to be fair, Mother’s Day at Grange Farm wasn’t a whole heap of fun, with the B&B guests being difficult. Clarrie is in a tizzy and burns a saucepan and has to be calmed down by Emma. I don’t know how much money this scheme is bringing in, but the female side of the Grundy family seem to be having doubts about whether it’s worth it.

Emma opens her heart to Fallon about how bad things are at home. Ed is depressed because his Texel sheep have finished lambing and he has not had anything that looks like it might be a contender for an award-winning champion. The Texels were supposed to make their fortune, but this year’s crop has been, frankly, disappointing. Emma wonders if Ed has the patience to pursue the project. A despondent Emma tells Fallon that she thinks Clarrie is right - this is the way life is and you just have to put up with it.

I felt sorry for Emma (and that’s not something you’ll read very often in this blog) when she said that she must stop whingeing about how rubbish her life is, but she then spoilt it by saying that it’s George and Keira’s birthdays next week and it will be like Christmas all over again, when Will bought George a quad bike and the second-hand bicycle that Emma and Ed gave him was ignored. How do you define whingeing, Emma?

As if poor PCB hasn’t got enough to put up with the female cricket revolution, he is getting earache from Lynda about the fact that Ambridge is not getting the opportunity to train in the community speeding initiative, as Darrington are apparently utilising the equipment every day. Lynda gets a letter from Borsetshire Constabulary - she was clocked at 38mph going through Darrington and she should take this as a warning. Husband Robert says that that was careless of her. Au contraire - she has often gone through Darrington and warning notices and hi-vis jackets have been conspicuous by their absence. On the day in question, she deliberately speeded up and she was caught. Rather than being careful, this is exactly what she wanted. “I’m not going to let this go” she tells Robert. “Of course you’re not” he mutters to himself.

The lack of visibility is, as she tells PCB later on, a total breach of protocol and the Darrington crowd should be taken out and horsewhipped. At the very least, he should ensure that Ambridge get their hands on the speeding equipment. Harrison, a word of advice - if you want any peace at all, give Lynda the gear and the hi-vis vests, or your life will be a waking nightmare.

We move on to the romance, or lack thereof, of between Lilian and Justin. I am in sympathy with Brian, who is getting grief from both sides, who are behaving like a couple of kids. Lilian spends all week agonising because Justin hasn’t rung her and then, when he does so midweek, she lets the call go to voicemail. Justin tells an exasperated Brian that ‘things are going according to plan’. Lilian opens her heart to Adam and he says “Why not ring him?” If only it were that simple, Adam.

On Friday, Lilian is worried that her hair doesn’t look perfect and she quizzes Brian about what he thinks Justin wants. Brian says Justin likes to keep his cards close to his chest and he’s a businessman. Lilian Protests that she’s not a business arrangement and Brian makes her sound like a tart. Some people might agree, Just then, Jennifer comes in and tells them that a taxi has drawn up and it’s Justin. With a shriek, Lilian rushes out and Brian thanks Jennifer for coming in when she did, because he was ready to throttle Lilian. “How can a woman of her age and experience be so ludicrously insecure?” he muses. “It must be love” his wife replies.

And indeed it is. After lots of ‘why didn’t you call? And why didn’t you answer?’ to-ing and fro-ing, Justin tells her that he loves her and wants to share his life with her and does she feel the same way? “Of course I do, you silly man - I love you more than you deserve.” Lilian answers. However, they agree to take things slowly and Lilian says that she’ll go back to Home Farm tonight. She then realises that the atmosphere there isn’t much fun, so she says she’ll go back to the Dower House tonight with Justin. You have to wonder whether her opinion was changed by the gift that Justin gave her - a pair of earrings. “The colour matches your eyes” Justin tells her. That’ll be the rare, bloodshot diamonds then.

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