Sunday, 28 May 2017

I Fear Disappointment Awaits, Johnny

Tom Gibbons (Johnny Phillips)

In the last blog, we had Lily telling Pip that she’s a good listener and handing out some advice. Last week she was at it again, but this time Johnny was the recipient of Lily’s wisdom. Johnny has been given two tickets to the Isle of Wight Festival (and a tent), but who should he take? He seems reluctant to ask his girlfriend Naomi, but she solves the problem by dumping him. It appears that she wanted more commitment and Johnny was unable to oblige.

It is the day of Freddie’s maths exam and he feels that he hasn’t done very well. He, Johnny and Lily discuss the Festival and Lily tries to get Freddie to tell her who he’d like to take. Eventually he says that he’d like to take Amber, but she’d never say ‘yes’. Lily points out that he’ll never know unless he tries and urges him to go and ask her now – she’s just dropped into the common room or whatever it is for a coffee. Johnny is reluctant, but Lily keeps on at him and he eventually gives in. Freddie isn’t too optimistic for his friend, telling Lily “It’s like watching the Titanic set off – he stands no chance.”

Freddie’s doom-mongering is short of the mark, however as, when Johnny returns, he says, in an awe-struck voice “she said yes”. If Johnny is flabbergasted, that is nothing compared to Freddie’s consternation and we keep hearing his interjections, such as ‘does she know you’ve got the other ticket?’ and ‘does she know you’re sharing a tent?’ Johnny says that “It will be the best weekend of my life” and a jealous Freddie, who still can’t believe it, says “You get all the luck Johnny; Amber, in a tent, at a Festival.”

Now, I sincerely hope that Johnny is correct and that the weekend goes as he wants it to, but I find Amber’s ready acceptance troubling. Consider; until he asked her, she didn’t seem to know that he existed and then – wham – it’s three days in a tent together with someone she doesn’t know. While Naomi wanted commitment, it seems that Amber didn’t even want to know how big the tent was. The words ‘cupboard’ and ‘love’ spring to mind. If it does all go pear-shaped, I hope that she doesn’t do anything insensitive, like turning up with a boyfriend in tow, thus dashing Johnny’s expectations. And what are Johnny’s expectations? One can assume that he didn’t invite Amber for her mind alone and that he has romantic – possibly even carnal – hopes for the weekend. Bearing that in mind, it was suggested by a friend of mine that, if Johnny was just hoping for some uncomplicated sex in a tent, then why didn’t he invite Elizabeth, who has form in this respect with a younger man?

Justin Elliott is waxing lyrical to Lilian about how much he likes Ambridge and how Lilian has helped him rediscover his self-belief and appetite for new projects. His finances aren’t all they should be and he needs to find a use for Berrow Farm, now that the mega-dairy has closed down and he tells Lilian that he has set himself a deadline of the end of the week to come up with a project. He and Lilian are out riding, when they meet Kirsty, who thanks Justin for getting BL to pay for forestry contractors to look after and manage the Millennium Wood. A modest Justin says that it was the Board’s idea and he just gave it a gentle nudge. When Kirsty has moved on, Lilian says to her fiancé “Aren’t you the golden boy?” Justin replies that he was just doing his bit for the community, to which Lilian observes that it’s a bonus if you get Brownie Points as well.

As we have said before, you gain Brownie Points singly and lose them by the dozen, especially if you are a man, and Justin is embarking on a course that will probably see him lose them by the shedload. On Friday he sounds Brian out about his new plan for Berrow – a plan that can be summed up in one word; pigs. Lots of pigs. In fact, 15,000 pigs and a breeding herd of 500 sows, all living indoors and being intensively farmed. The slurry will be wonderful for the anaerobic digester and, because the pigs are inside and, using the latest technology, there will be no smell to annoy the inhabitants of Ambridge. Planning shouldn’t be a problem, as the infrastructure is already in place, but Justin tells Brian that they need to discuss “how to overcome the inevitable opposition.” Jennifer put it more succinctly when she says “you’ll need your tin hats.”

I should say so – remember when Berrow was first mooted, there was an outcry and Justin was burned in effigy. This time, they might just cut out the middle man. Justin is hopeful that people will realise the benefit of the jobs that will be created, but I’m not so sure. There is a way to get at least one person on their side, however, and that is to offer Jazzer the job of looking after the breeding sows – with the choice of 500 ‘lassies’ to bond with, he will be in pigman’s heaven.

This is not the limit of Justin’s ambition, by any means – when he thanked Lilian for giving him back his appetite for new projects, he said that he wasn’t just talking about Berrow, but “the way I’m feeling, this is only the start for Ambridge.” Obviously not one for the quiet life, our Justin.

And neither is life quiet at Brookfield, where Josh is rapidly turning into a contender for the ‘least likeable character’ award (only narrowly behind Hilda Ogden, who clawed Justin and Shula this week and whom Justin described as ‘the reincarnation of Vlad the Impaler’ and ‘where is Brian in a car when you need him?’). Josh promised faithfully to help get the silage in but, on the morning, he is nowhere to be seen. Ed turns up, ready for work and an embarrassed David says that they can’t afford to hire him. No worries – Ed says that Josh has already paid him to do a day’s work. David’s explosion was probably heard in Darrington and, when he confronts his son later in the day, he calls him ‘arrogant’, amongst many other things. Josh cannot see the problem – he has a cultivator to renovate and, if he can get it on the website by Friday, the client will pay a 50% premium. Josh needed to work on it and he arranged (and paid for) cover, so what’s the big deal?

Father and son continue to argue and Josh says that he’s fed up always being in the wrong. They always take Pip’s part – he wanted to take part in Open Farm Sunday, but because Pip didn’t, Brookfield is giving OFS a miss. David protests that it’s nothing to do with Pip – they just cannot afford the time and expense, but Josh goes back to his cultivator, muttering darkly to himself, having said that he’s knackered because he is sleeping in the dining room and he feels like a visitor in his own home. David has obviously decided that appealing to Josh’s better nature is a lost cause, so he tries the autocratic approach, phoning his son and ordering him to come over now and help out. Josh replies that he’s busy. “Stop being busy and come and help” David says and, when Josh replies “I can’t”, David says “It’s not negotiable – get here now.” Josh acquiesces with bad grace.

Rex was talking to Toby and he described the Brookfield Archers as ‘dysfunctional’ (he had witnessed the David/Josh altercation) and they certainly seem to be moving in that direction. Pip, however, has a solution – she says that she is the problem and enough is enough; she has been talking with Elizabeth and her aunt has invited her to stay at Lower Loxley for a while, rent free. Moving out will make life easier for everyone, says Pip, and she will still do the Brookfield work and look after Rickyard. Pip also says that Elizabeth told her that she didn’t want to see Pip and Josh turning out like Kenton and David. As Pip goes off to pack, Rooooth repeats the remark about Kenton and David. “How do you think that makes me feel?” a subdued David asks his wife, who answers “Have we really let things get that bad between them?” Yes, Rooooth, you have, but Pip has given you a partial solution – all you have to do now is get Josh to move out into his own home and Brookfield will be a happier place.

On the cricket field, there is serious competition between some of the ladies – well, two of them, anyway. Anisha, Lily and Jolene meet for extra cricket practice and Jolene isn’t, frankly, much good. She is surprised at how competitive the other two are and mentions that they will be able to sort out which is the better player at the single wicket competition. Both girls immediately deny that this is important to them; the important thing is that women in general are appreciated in the game. This is a complete load of garbage as, when Anisha (or ‘Neesh’ as Lily calls her) goes home at the end of the session, Lily, who has been cunningly hinting that her studies may keep her out of the contest, tells Jolene: “If Anisha thinks I’d drop out of the single wicket, she’s deluded.”

Perhaps the reason that Jolene wasn’t much cop at cricket, was that she had something on her mind, which was tearing Kenton off a strip for telling David he could have £1,500, when they would be pushed to find £300. They’re supposed to be a team, Jolene tells her husband, but she warns him that, if he does something like that again without consulting her, he’ll be on his own.

Last week’s ‘clutching at straws’ moment features Toby. Early in the week he went to Hollowtree to do some gin work, unshaven, dirty, in crumpled clothes – he looked a mess. Pip turned up and Toby is mortified that she has seen him like this. He tells Rex later that he couldn’t think of anything to say – it was all gibberish (and Rex’s remark, along the lines of ‘no change there, then’ was not well received). “After today I stand no chance of getting back with Pip” moans Toby.

Two days later, the pair run into each other again, when Pip is putting up a poster in The Bull, advertising Rickyard for rent. The conversation this time is better and Pip mentions that she’s glad to be away from the farm – and especially from Josh – for a while (this was before she decided to move out to Lower Loxley). Toby tells her that it’s good to see her and they should stay in touch as mates. It is later, when Toby returns to the bungalow, that we have the straw-clutching, as Toby tells Rex that, “She didn’t actually say it, but it was pretty obvious that she was having second thoughts about chucking me.” Absence has made her heart grow fonder, he thinks and she misses him and he’s going to win her back. Toby, just because she didn’t spit at you or blank you totally, doesn’t mean that she’s pining for you, mate. At least, I certainly hope she isn’t.

And finally, it has been said that I am unkind to Lynda and her activities. We learned that she and Robert are going away to Florence to celebrate her 70th birthday and I wish her well. Neil asks if she has any plans to slow down after reaching such a significant milestone and I am sure that you were as pleased as I was when she replied firmly “Not at all – I’d be lost without my commitments to village life.”

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Beware The Cat From Hell, Brian

June Spencer OBE (Peggy Woolley)

Alice takes Peggy to the hairdressers and Peggy jokes that shes thinking of having a Mohican. Later on, when Alice arrives to pick her up, she gasps and we are agog - what has Peggy done? Is it the Mohican? Has she dyed her hair pink or gone tartan? No - she has a cat carrier with her and, surprise, surprise, theres a cat inside. Meet Hilda Ogden Peggy tells Alice. It turns out that Fabrice, the hairdresser, has split with his partner and moved into a no-pets property. He asked Peggy to look after Hilda and she agreed.

Peggy invites Alice to say hello to Hilda and the feline responds by hissing evilly at her. Back at the Lodge, Brian turns up, delivering a book for Peggy. Alice comes in with Hilda, saying that Christine has asked if they can keep Hilda downstairs, while she looks for a plaster, from which we infer that Hilda has scratched her. This is a touch ironic, as one of the reasons that Peggy gave Alice for keeping Hilda was to cheer up Christine, who is missing Bill terribly.

Peggy is besotted and tells them all to consider how bewildered Hilda must be feeling and be nice to her. She tells Brian to say hello and make friends and, when he approaches the cat, she lashes out at him. Alice says shell go and see if Christine has found the plasters and Peggy admonishes Brian for startling Hilda. Brian and Alice leave and he asks his daughter couldnt she have stopped Peggy? He adds that its very unnerving seeing Peggy sitting there like Blofeld, stroking the Cat from Hell.

Is this a cunning ploy by Peggy to get revenge on Brian, the cat-killer? Or perhaps Hilda is somehow aware that Brian has feline blood on his hands - maybe the spirit of the late Bill is being channelled through her and he is exacting retribution. Whatever, you get the impression that, should there be another feline hit-and-run fatality, Brian wouldnt care overmuch.

As it is, Brian thinks that the Speedwatch initiative is a waste of his time and tells Justin as much. The duo are at Berrow Farm and Justin is contemplating the future. Berrow, he says, is grossly under-utilised and, since the demise of the mega-dairy, is crying out for something more substantial. But what? Justin is in philosophical mood and is sure that something will turn up. Sometimes life surprises you he says, enigmatically.

Justin seems to have mellowed since Lilian told him to be more conciliatory towards Miranda over the divorce. In fact he invites his wife to a tête-à-tête to discuss the settlement. He offers her the holiday home in Aldeburgh and their skiing chalet for starters. Miranda, however, has her eye on Damara, but Justin is adamant - she had no part in building up his company and he wont let her have a stake. Miranda is on the point of leaving when Justin says that he is prepared to hand over sole ownership of a subsidiary company in Scotland and she can do what she likes with it. She describes his package of offers as not so unrealistic as I expected, which is big of her, as its probably worth a few million. However, there is one thing they havent discussed - she wants Justins two Arab horses. Justin shrewdly says that she doesnt really want them, she just doesnt want Lilian to have them and, in their place, he offers her his share in Damara Dream, the racehorse. Miranda replies that he must be infatuated and he says no - he really loves Lilian. Im curious, Miranda says, how long will it be before the spell wears off?

The following day, Miranda goes to the Dower House, where she meets Lilian and says that she has just come round to pick up a few things; notably two vases that she thinks are Chinese porcelain. Miranda is very overbearing, getting Lilian to wrap the vases up in newspaper (she is amazed that theres no bubble-wrap) and criticising Lilians redecoration. Lilian is quite restrained and says that Justin seems happy with what shes doing. When you marry him, youll just be creating a vacancy for his next mistress Miranda tells her and still Lilian refrains from breaking the vases over her head and, instead, sees her out politely.

Meanwhile, at the bungalow, Toby is falling apart, staying in bed till the afternoon and calling himself a complete waste of space. There are one or two people at Brookfield who wouldnt argue with that statement, Toby my old son. He tells Bert that he thought Pip was The One and hes never felt like this before. He has completely lost interest in the gin business and he doesnt see how life could possibly get any worse. Do you want me to read my poem to you? Bert asks, thus answering Tobys rhetorical question.

The other half of loves young dream, Pip, is delivering beef to the Bridge Farm shop, where she meets Tom. He is sarcastic about the cattle getting loose and Pip tells him it was her fault. After she has apologised about a dozen times, he thaws a little and says he admires her for owning up and we all make mistakes. Pip also tells him that she has dumped Toby and Tom takes the mood down a notch or two, remembering when he and Brenda split up. He muses that some people seem to walk into perfect relationships “but some of us are never going to meet the right one, are we? Why not give up and accept that we are always going to stay single?”

There is no answer from Pip, who is presumably looking for a branch to hang herself from. This mood of pessimism appears to be infectious, as the next day Pip is in conversation with cousin Liliy, who has detected that something is amiss and urges Pip to talk to her, as she’s a good listener. Pip says that dumping Toby was the right thing to do, but then wonders out loud whether she is the problem and “what if I never find the right guy?” She also says that she always falls for the wrong sort - first Jude, now Toby. Lily says that she’s proud to have Pip as a cousin and she’s sure that Pip’s life will be just fine - there’s no need to enter a convent just yet. Be strong Pip! And hang on to that thought that you were right to dump Toby and don‘t weaken.

Toby continues to veg around and doesn’t go into work at The Bull. Kenton gets hold of Rex and tells him that Toby is due to bring round the next batch of gin. Rex goes to see his brother, who is laying in bed, listening to music and wallowing in self-pity. Rex has a go at Toby, telling him that, for once, he has a promising business and Kenton cannot wait to sell Scruff gin. Toby reveals that the latest batch is undrinkable because he cocked up the recipe and Rex drags him off to Hollowtree. The gin is vile and Rex says they will start a new batch now. Toby just stands there while Rex does all the work and the latter is getting annoyed, asking why does he always have to clear up Toby’s disasters? “Because you’re a bloody good brother and I don’t deserve you” Toby answers, in a sepulchral tone. Spot on Toby; he is and you don’t - and don’t forget that moment of self-awareness earlier, when you described yourself (all too accurately) as a complete waste of space.

Over at Brookfield, David rings Kenton - he wants to see him. Kenton lets the calls go to voicemail, asking “hasn’t he got anything better to do than chase me?“ David eventually finds Kenton and asks for a talk, telling his brother how bad the financial situation at Brookfield is. “We’re stretched to breaking point” David admits. Kenton tells him that he’s come to the right man, and any time he or Rooooth need a meal, they can have one on the house. David says that he was hoping for something rather more substantial, like Kenton paying back the bulk of the money that David lent him .

Kenton’s reply is that he could possibly manage £1,000 - £1,500 and David says that they owe ten times that. The timing isn’t good, Kenton says, as they have invested a considerable sum in a new business; but it’s one that will benefit Brookfield considerably, as they are paying to get Scruff gin up and running. This is too much for David, who explodes “what is it with Toby? Everybody throws cash at him!” Kenton points out that Pip will benefit in the long run and, when David informs him (through gritted teeth) that she and Toby have split up and nobody at Brookfield cares about Scruff gin, Kenton says “Ah. That probably hasn’t gone down as well as I hoped, has it?”

Now for a brief overview of other stories: Matt goes to see Lilian - he has bought back the Dresden shepherd and shepherdess that he stole from her and says that they cost him three times what he originally sold them for, as if this somehow makes everything all right. Lilian says that she has moved on and she doesn’t want them, but Matt persuades her to take them, saying that she can throw them away if she likes. As Lilian shuts the door, Matt says quietly to himself “see you, pusscat.” Ironically, Justin comes across the figures and says he finds them ‘captivating’. Lilian says she was going to sell them, but Justin says they must keep them; like himself and Lilian, they are a perfectly-matched pair.

The Grundys got - if not their just desserts, then at least found out - when Kirsty asked to see the SSSI. They showed her a different patch of ground, but Kirsty realised that it was not the right site. Joe and Eddie tried to convince her that she was mistaken, but caved in when she suggested getting someone from Natural England to confirm the position of the site. The real SSSI is a flowerless sea of mud. Joe and Eddie admit that the pigs trashed it. Does Oliver know? muses Kirsty - after all, as the landowner, he is the one that the authorities would hold responsible if they found out. Is Kirsty going to grass them up (no pun intended)? She agrees not to tell anyone, but will be checking the area regularly “so now you’d better start taking care of it” she threatens.

PCB oversees the Speedwatch training day and it is a fiasco. Brian is in a foul mood, as he hadn’t realised that it means an ongoing commitment; Kate keeps nipping off to make phone calls, Jim and Robert get distracted by birds and everybody wants to make up their own version of the NATO phonetic alphabet. A near-to-despairing PCB tells them that they all have to use the same version and, when the session is over, he despondently tells Jim that “it was a complete washout - like teaching goldfish to juggle.” Jim says that it was well-organised and went better than many other community events in Ambridge. “Really?” asks an astounded Harrison. “Oh yes.” Jim replies, adding: “Have you ever been involved in a Snell production?” And that’s a depressing reminder that we have all that to come over the next few months.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Go Carefully, Latif

Alex Caan (Latif Hussain)

Horse breeder Latif Hussein is having lunch with Matt Crawford and Matt tells him that he is looking at studs close to home, as he and his consortium are looking to establish a first class breeding programme. “Money is no object” Matt tells him airily. When Matt Crawford says things like that, sensible people usually make a run for it, checking that they still have their wallets. Matt tells Latif that Brian Aldridge (“We go back a long way”) gave him Latif’s name as an expert in horse breeding and I’m willing to bet that Brian wouldn’t be pleased for anyone to think that he had any association with Matt.

Latif’s response is that he has heard many things about Matt, including his spell in prison. Matt holds his hands up, but says that he’s a changed man. “Anyone can say that” Latif says, mildly and Matt agrees, adding that, in his case, it’s the truth. Latif says that he has seen the brochure put out by the Costa Rica consortium and it’s impressive. Matt describes the project as “a fantastic investment opportunity”. However, sadly the consortium is not looking to take on any more investors - of course, there might be a possible window later. Be careful, Latif; Matt’s obviously up to something - the question is what?

Following lunch, Matt seeks out Anisha and tells her that he might be doing business with Latif and he (Matt) will try and sound him out about possibly switching vets to Anisha’s and Alistair’s practice. Of course, there would be a quid pro quo, with Anisha carrying out some pre-purchase examinations of stud horses for Matt. Later, Alistair asks what did Matt want? Anisha tells him, saying “this could be our ticket to the big time.” Alistair, however, has serious doubts and asks Shula whether he should have told Anisha about his gambling and how he was deeply in debt to Matt a few years ago. Shula says that he has power to veto any arrangement, but Alistair is still worried and echoes the thoughts of many listeners when he muses “What the heck is Matt doing hanging around Ambridge? It’s got a very bad smell about it.”

Elsewhere, Lynda has been prophesying for ages that there will be a serious accident with all the cars speeding through the village and last week she was proved correct when there was a hit and run incident. The victim was Peggy’s cat Bill, who suffered a fractured pelvis, a dislocated hip and a ruptured bladder. Peggy asks Anisha what are his chances and, when she learns that the answer is ‘very slim’, Peggy agrees that Bill should be put out of his misery. A bit later on, Jennifer and Lilian agree that, whoever left Bill to die cannot possibly have a conscience and Peggy will be so upset. However, Peggy is a tough old bird and, when Jennifer asks her how is she feeling, Peggy replies “all right - a little bit sad.” She goes on to say that Bill was a good age and there’s no point in getting too upset. She is scornful of Christine’s ‘excessive’ reaction, as Chris has retired to her room and is crying continuously, being comforted by Jill. “He wasn’t even her cat” Peggy comments, a tad waspishly.

While everyone else is treating Peggy with kid gloves, she is dragging Lilian round the garden, looking for a suitable spot to bury Bill. Lynda remarks that this shows exactly why they need the Speedwatch initiative and the response to her forthcoming training day has been disappointing, with Robert, Jim and Neil signed up.

Meanwhile, Brian returns in a very bad mood - Justin dropped him in it by getting Brian to present the proposal about the broiler house to the BL board in Justin’s stead. This was at two hours’ notice and Brian makes a hash of it, so he is not happy. Jennifer tells him about Bill and Brian thinks that it could have been he that ran the cat over - he remembers feeling a bump as he drove past The Lodge. “I’ll have to tell Peggy” he says and does so. Peggy calls his driving ’reckless’ and, when Brian asks if there’s anything he can do, Jennifer says yes, there is. As a result, he goes to see Lynda and tells her to put him, Jennifer, Lilian and Kate down for Speedwatch training. Lynda is grateful and remarks in passing that she’d hate to be the person who drove off and left the cat; “their conscience must be weighing heavily” she tells Brian. “Absolutely,” he replies, “it doesn’t bear thinking about.”

The reason that Brian had to do the presentation is because Justin is staying in London, fighting Miranda every step of the way in the divorce negotiations. “She wanted the whole of the London wine cellar!” an outraged Justin tells Lilian. Lilian says he should be less combative and not fight for everything. He tells her it’s not her business and Lilian says “I thought that’s what partners did” she told him. Eventually, Justin apologises and tells her she’s right and he loves her. He will be more conciliatory with Miranda from now on.

Brian has outlined his plan for Home Farm to become a family partnership to the children and they have had little niggles; for example, Kate thinks that operating Spiritual Home should entitle her to an extra share and what about her and Alice’s cottages? She also says that Debbie doesn’t do much on the farm nowadays and Alice asks what would happen if she wanted to be more hands on? An exasperated Brian asks them to approve the plan in principle and he tells Jennifer later that the plan should be OK “as long as the children embrace the spirit of compromise.” Good luck with that, Brian.

Congratulations to Helen, whose decree Absolute was granted - it only seems like yesterday that she was sticking knives in her husband - doesn’t time fly? She wonders whether Rob will try to get in touch for Jack’s birthday? Kirsty replies that he wouldn’t dare and tells Helen “it’s a beautiful spring day and you are a free woman.”

The dawn chorus walk was a great success, with more than 20 people turning up at the crack of sparrows. Kirsty is troubled, though, as the SSSI on Grange Farm is not looking particularly healthy and she describes the photo of it on the Grange Farm website as ’disappointing’, with no wildflowers in evidence. This is hardly surprising, as Eddie turned his pigs out on to the site and they trashed it, as pigs do. There may be a reckoning to come for the Grundys, as Jill also questions Eddie about the lack of flowers. Eddie says it’s too early, but Jill replies that the wildflower meadow at Lower Loxley is a riot of flowers and they took the seed from the Grange Farm SSSI. Floundering badly, Eddie reels off some guff about different soils and micro-climates and tells Jill that it will be better in three or four weeks.

Jill’s mind is taken off the subject, when Eddie reveals that he will be getting no more work from Brookfield, due to the financial situation and Jill realises that things are much more serious than she thought. She confronts David, who says that they didn’t want to worry her unduly. Jill offers him her savings but he refuses, saying they’ll get by.

Rooooth asks Pip where she will stay, now that she has given up Rickyard? Pip has arranged to kip on a friend’s sofa but Rooooth says that they would like her to move back to Brookfield and that Ben and Josh can share a room. Pip says that’s not fair, but later on Rooooth says that the boys agreed to the arrangements. I wonder what threats she used on them to get their agreement? Whatever, Pip is back at Brookfield and Toby is ensconced in the bungalow.

This arrangement is definitely not to Toby’s liking and he arranges for Pip to come round the bungalow on Wednesday evening. Bert is away, playing cribbage and Rex is teasing Toby, saying that he thinks he might spend a quiet night in. Toby has put a lot of thought into the evening, amazing Rex by getting out the vacuum cleaner and by ordering a takeaway. Rex asks how he knows what Pip wants to eat and Toby replies that she always orders the same thing. Pip is late turning up and, when Rex has gone, she tells Toby that she’s not really hungry. They go to bed and Toby fails to perform. He wants to move back into Rickyard, but a distinctly downbeat Pip says that isn’t going to happen. He has been looking at flats in Felpersham, but Pip slaps him down, saying that they will be way too expensive. She decides to return home, with Toby reminding her that they have just arranged to meet at The Bull on Friday and not to forget. As Pip leaves, we hear Toby give vent to a sigh that Rooooth would be proud to claim as her own.

Friday comes round and Toby, Pip, Rex and Anisha are in The Bull. There is some talk of Brexit (yawn) and Rex and Anisha leave to go on a run to the top of Lakey Hill. Pip is definitely irritable and tells Toby to keep his voice down when he says how gorgeous she is and pushes him away when he tries to kiss her. “Not in front of everybody” she says, peevishly. Pip feels she has let her parents down badly and she hates herself. She and Toby have an argument about deceit and the subject of Brighton is brought up. Toby has a plan - a mini break away. Pip cannot believe he is serious - they have no money - and, when it transpires that it was Kenton’s idea, she says that he isn’t a good role model, as he owes David big time.

Pip has obviously been thinking deeply and she says that she and Toby aren’t like other couples - they don’t fit together and bring out the worst in each other. Toby says that this is the first time he’s ever wanted only one person and he can change. Pip, however, is implacable and walks off, telling Toby “I just don’t think that we have a future together.” “You don’t mean that - it can’t be over” he shouts, but Pip has gone.

Toby returns to the bungalow, where Rex and Anisha are contemplating an evening in with a movie. Toby has said that he will be home late, but he turns up, snarling to Rex “you’ll be pleased to know that I’ve just been dumped” and making comments about how the field is now clear for the sensible one. He grabs a bottle and retires to his room to get drunk. Anisha asks what Toby meant and Rex says that he used to fancy Pip, but nothing came of it. However, when Anisha criticises Pip’s bio-security and farming knowledge, Rex gets annoyed and Anisha says that she’ll have to go home. “See you around, Rex” she says. That’s everybody’s evening ruined.

A drunken Toby turns up later at Brookfield, beating on Pip’s door. He won’t accept that it’s over and he can’t live without her. Pip says they should stop it now before it gets worse. Toby begs her, but she closes the door, leaving Toby on the doorstep; a broken “Nooo!” on his lips. It gets worse Toby - don’t forget you still owe Pip £5 k.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Is It Any Wonder That Bartleby’s Depressed?

Joes horse Bartleby is out of sorts and its worrying Joe; so much so that he calls in Alistair to give him the once over. Alistair is puzzled, as Bartleby appears to be in pretty good condition, given his age and there appears to be no medical reason for his lethargy - both Alistair and Anisha are stumped and Joe is disgruntled at the lack of a concrete diagnosis. Its almost as if hes depressed Alistair muses - thats Bartleby he‘s talking about, not Joe.

Surely a moments thought would reveal that the vet has hit on the truth? Consider - Bartleby is owned by one of the most miserable sods in Ambridge; someone who spent most of last year telling everybody that his greatest wish was to end his days at Grange Farm and then signally failing to do anything to try and achieve this ambition. If that were not enough, Joe spends long periods of time talking to Bartleby, which must be torture and cruelty to an animal, then sometimes Joe takes Bartleby out in public, which must be mortifying for the poor equine - imagine the shame of being associated with Joe! One can only assume that it is the lack of an opposable thumb that has prevented Bartleby from topping himself. Add to this various ad hoc humiliations such as being dressed up as a winged horse for ElfWorld and it becomes blindingly obvious that Bartleby is depressed; and with good reason.

What can be done? Shula has an idea, but shed like to try it out while Joe is not around, in case it doesnt work, thus making him even more miserable, if that were possible. The plan is to give Bartleby some company and who better than Gem, the horse that Shula and Alistair brought back from Ambridge Hall, where she had been dumped, along with five others? Gem doesnt like being indoors, as she demonstrated when she bolted from her stable, treading on Shulas foot along the way, just to emphasise the point.

Eddie gets Joe out of the way, after a struggle, by taking him to go and see Neville Booth for a game of cribbage. Joe grumbles about it (no surprise there, then) but goes off, muttering to himself. Shula, Alistair and Eddie introduce Gem to Bartleby, but the horses do not hit it off and Alistair says that they should get her out of the field before she hurts herself or Bartleby. Meanwhile, PC Burns is out in his squad car and sees Joe walking along a lane, muttering to himself yet again. PCB asks him where hes going and Joes response is less than gracious, asking if its against the law now to go walking in the village? It turns out that Neville cheated at crib - reneging and fiddling the pegs, the bounder - and a highly disgruntled Joe walked out and is going home.

Instead of arresting him for vagrancy, or being miserable in a public place or something similar, PCB gives him a lift back to Grange Farm. Personally, Id have dragged him behind the car and gone the long way round, but PCB is obviously a decent copper. Joe asks what have they done to Bartleby? and Shula, Eddie and Alistair notice that Gem has somehow found her way back into Bartlebys field and the two horses are now getting on like a house on fire. Not only that, but Bartleby has bucked up tremendously. Give it a couple of weeks and I reckon well have two depressed horses - especially if Joe keeps talking to them.

Joe is over the moon and says this calls for a celebration. He takes them all down to the pub and breaks into his savings to buy drinks for them all, leaving Kenton with the tricky problem of wondering how many groats are there to the Pound. Numerous people collapsed at the unexpected sight of Joe putting his hand in his pocket and the Borsetshire Echo held the front page.

But not everyone was happy - Eddie revealed his misgivings to Alistair, wondering if the Grundys can afford another pony. Alistair immediately says that he will cover any additional costs that may arise, as it did him good to see Bartleby and Gem together. Ive said it before, but the Grundys always seem to get people on their side - reduced rent at Grange Farm, for example and now having their pony paid for. And what do they do in return? Let the pigs run loose and churn up the Site of Special Scientific Interest - lets grass them up to Natural England, or get PCB to run them in; thatll teach them.

Weve spent a lot of time over Bartleby, but lets face it, he doesnt get written about very often, does he? Hes not the only depressed one in Ambridge, as Pip is beating herself up over not telling the truth about the IBR episode. Youd think that things couldnt get any worse, but youd be wrong, as, in an attempt to make a clean breast of everything, Pip tells David that she gave her £5k profit from the mob grazing to Toby. And how does David react? Does he a) say oh well, no good crying over spilt milk or b) go ballistic? Well done if you said (b) - he also says he cannot believe his ears, which does nothing to cheer Pip up. She had earlier asked Toby if he could repay the money, or some of it at least, to which he replied “you are joking, aren’t you?” and “sorry; there’s no chance.” He also says that she has just got to trust him. Yeah right - trust him to not pay off his debt, I reckon. When Pip says she does trust him, he says “Yeah, it really sounds like it.” Honestly, can you blame her though?

Pip wanders the village, in the depths of despair and runs across Alan, who notices that she is unhappy (the floods of tears gave him the clue). Pip is convinced that David and Rooooth will never forgive her and she doesn’t know what to do. Alan suggests that she shows her parents that she is dedicated to the future of Brookfield and that she takes some positive action to prove it. Exactly what, he cannot say, but Pip ponders over his words.

Towards the end of the week, she believes she has a solution. Toby, helpful as ever, has bought her a charm bracelet (what with - I thought he had no money?) thus demonstrating a total lack of understanding of his girlfriend’s mental state, and Pip says she wants to talk to him. Her solution is that they move out of Rickyard Cottage so that David and Rooooth can let it out at market value. Toby asks where will they live? Simple - Pip can stay at Chris and Alice’s and Toby can go back to living with Rex and Bert at the bungalow. Toby goes looking for Bert and talks to him about all the fun times they had together. Bert is at a loss to remember any such fun times and, when Toby asks if he can move back in, Bert says that he’s happy with only having Rex for a lodger. However, when Toby explains that this idea is all so that Brookfield can generate some income, Bert says he’ll think about it and is taken aback when Toby tells him “Awesome - I’ll move in on Monday then.” Tough luck, Bert - you’ve been done up like a kipper, me old mate.

Pip tells her mother of her idea, adding that she (Pip) will do all the extra laundry and cleaning for the guests. Rooooth says that it is quite a gesture and praises Pip’s maturity. Mother and daughter hug and, when Pip says, for the 2,000th time, how sorry she is, Rooooth replies “It’s fine - it’s all going to be fine.”

The fallout over Emma’s night time job continues, with Will telling her that George has told him that it is upsetting him that she’s not there and why don’t Will and Nic have him to stay over for an extra night a week? Emma is annoyed that he thinks that she isn’t looking after their son and she is short with Nic. This, it turns out, is unfair, as Nic explains that she didn’t know anything about the extra night and she doesn’t think that George is suffering. A family lunch is arranged at Greenwood Cottage for Will, Nic, Emma and Ed and the two couples talk it through. Will is concerned that George is being damaged, but when Nic asks him how exactly, he has no answer. Nic then goes for the jugular by reminding her husband how, when he was young, Clarrie worked all the hours she could and he hasn’t been ‘damaged’, has he? Actually, this is a debatable point but we’ll let it pass for now. Will soon realises that he hasn’t got much of a case, especially when Nic suggests that perhaps George has been laying it on a bit thick and Will backs down about the extra night and any suggestion of neglect of George. Later on in the kitchen, Emma thanks Nic for being on her side. The interesting thing was Ed’s attitude during this discussion - he hardly said a word and didn’t defend his wife, due no doubt to the fact that he doesn’t want to see Emma working nights either.

Over at Lower Loxley, Freddie has something to crow about, as he passed his driving test theory paper and Lily failed hers. It’s a change for him to come out on top, so enjoy it while you can Freddie.

What else has been happening? Brian’s plan for Home Farm to become a family partnership meets with almost universal approval. However, readers will not be surprised to hear that Adam has reservations. Honestly, Brian can do nothing right in Adam’s eyes - if Brian were to hand over a large box of £50 notes and say “spend it - enjoy yourself” Adam would be worrying whether they were forgeries. Ian tries to talk some sense into Adam, and the latter reveals what’s worrying him - he’s nearly 50 and retirement is looming. He wants to get the farm on a sustainable footing for Alice, Kate and Ruairi (presumably Debbie is counted in the ‘yesterday’s people’ category). “I need to maximise my influence before I’m put out to pasture.” Adam tells his husband. Personally, I don’t reckon he need worry, as I cannot see Alice, Ruairi or Kate (especially Kate) as wanting to have a ‘hands on’ role on the farm. And what’s this about retirement looming? Nowadays we are being told that retirement has been put back to 185 or whatever it is now, so our sub-50 Adam has a good few years ahead of him yet, before it’s pipe and slippers time.

Let’s end with Lilian - she, like Bartleby, is out of sorts and she convinces Jolene that the answer is a day at the races, blowing Matt’s money. Matt is there on the day and his (successful) tips are ignored by Lilian, as is his invitation for them to join him. He points out that it’s Lilian’s own money she’s throwing away, but she doesn’t care. Jolene urges Lilian not to let Matt get to her, and she replies that she won’t - Matt is all in the past now. Interestingly, when Lilian first proposed the day at the races, we learned something about who wears the trousers down at The Bull - “What about Kenton; will he mind?” Lilian asks. “Kenton will do what he’s told.” Jolene replies, firmly. Cast your mind back to Kenton and Jolene’s wedding - did he promise to obey, can you remember?

Monday, 1 May 2017

An Everyday Story of Family Disharmony

Tim Bentinck (David Archer)

There was speculation from our readers last week about Lilian’s banking arrangements and how could Matt have deposited money into her account unless it was the same account he raided when he fled to Costa Rica.

I agree that Lilian’s much too savvy to have kept operating the same account and would have left it dormant whilst Amside traded out of a new business account. I also agree that there’s a whiff of money laundering going on. Will his racecourse interests turn out to be a front for a drugs cartel? Is he trying to recruit Anisha to prepare horses heads to slide under his rivals duvets? Or has the Tiger really changed his stripes (thanks for that one Zoe)?

Back to this week’s everyday story of family disharmony and drug kingpins.

Toby’s lamenting the fact that he doesn’t have a gin business any more and is looking for sympathy from Pip, ignoring her problems which he signally fails to grasp. Rex offers him some brotherly advice to accept Kenton’s offer of funding, but he has ‘principles’ to stick to. Toby? Principles? He does indicate that he’s about to change his mind but needs a few days to think about it. He even manages to thank Rex, and more surprisingly it actually sounds sincere, as he does when he goes on to apologise to Pip.

At cricket one of PCB’s ‘girls’. Lily, is having a great innings and putting the men to shame, all to the soundtrack of Will droning on about women not being up to it. A bash on the elbow from a bouncer only drives her on, and she hits the next one out of the field. Although the team didn’t win, she wipes the smile off Will’s face by scoring more runs than him. Cricket is not Lily’s other talent. No I’m not talking about driving proficiency, but design, as we later hear that Toby’s commissioned her to come up with a label for his gin.

Over at Home Farm Brian is relieved to have seen the back of Lilian, who has finally moved back to the Dower House, not least because he can once again rely on the security of his wine cellar. She catches up with Jennifer and says how she couldn’t be happier – “in my beautiful house with the man I love … he’s not going to let me down”. If that’s not setting us up for disaster I don’t know what is, and sure enough we later hear that Justin’s been having very stressful conversations with his lawers and it doesn’t sound good. Justin’s hopping mad as Miranda has hired the top divorce lawyer in London before he could; “she’s going for the skin off my back and she won’t stop until she gets it”.

Even better news for Brian is when David tells him that they’re accepting full responsibility for the IBR outbreak. Without going into detail, David asks Brian to let him know how much it all cost Home Farm and he’ll match it pound for pound. Brian’s a little surprised, and concerned, as he heard about the problems with the tractor’s gearbox, and says he’d be happy to help out with any farm machinery issues in the future.

David moves on to Tony, and calls him while he’s in the middle of weighing up the options for the future of his herd. He arranges to call in later and offers Tony the same deal as he offered Brian – full and unconditional compensation. Tom however has got other ideas and wants to sue: “we’ve got Brookfield up against the ropes, if we play it right we can name our price”. It turns out that Usha’s thinking the same way, and tells Rooooth that it may not have been a good idea for David to accept liability. Rooooth’s also thinks it’s letting Pip off the hook but David is looking to the long-term future of the farm, and that means Pip, so she agrees that no one individual will take the blame, and it’s the family that will take collective responsibility.

We hear from Lynda this week and it appears that her llamas are now sharing their paddock with 6 mystery ponies that have appeared from nowhere. Alistair gives them a thorough inspection and they’re in terrible condition. One of the ponies has such a bad wound on its leg that Alistair and Shula take it back to the stables for immediate treatment. She’s very thin and is running a temperature and Lynda’s so concerned that I wonder if she’ll keep the other ponies rather than turning them over to a welfare charity.

Brian’s winning streak comes to an end when he runs into Matt at Grey Gables and Matt’s keen to tell him all about his time in Costa Rica, and why he’s come back. He says he’s not trying to get Brian to invest (of course he is) but has got a glossy brochure and everything. Brian’s got his own contact in horse racing, Latif Hussain (who incidentally is a business associate of Justin’s). Matt tries to play Brian further by saying this investment’s not for him; “strictly for the big boys”, but then says they’re offering a 12% return. Brian’s not tempted and says he won’t get involved in any scheme Matt’s a part of – after what he did to Lilian.

Matt proceeds to tell Brian about her affair with his half-brother Paul (before he died, obviously) and cited that as a reason for disappearing to Costa Rica with her money (confirms our speculation that this was the case – see Is The Worm About To Turn from 26th January 2015). This is obviously news to Brian, but he stands up for his sister-in-law and warns Matt off hurting her again, but Matt insists “I’m not here to make trouble for anyone – and that’s the honest truth”.

Thing’s aren’t getting any better for Pip. She’s out on her quad bike in the pouring rain when she gets a flat tyre. This seems to be the final straw and she pours her heart out to Alice, who just happens to be passing by. Alice says she’s Pip’s good fairy tonight as she produces a can of tyre repair foam and a pump, and invites her round that evening for a stew that Chris is cooking (without Toby). Chris (who has gone through one of those mysterious Archers character regenerations and now sounds more Borsetshire) cooked the dinner and prepares Alice’s packed lunch for tomorrow while she’s on a business call. Pip gets a text from Toby to say he’s home, but Pip isn’t keen to go and accepts Chris’s offer to stay the night. This doesn’t go down well with Toby the next morning when she gets home and they argue because it doesn’t look like Toby likes it when the boot’s on the other foot. Toby has a plan to save his business and wanted to run the idea past Pip last night. The plan turns out to be going back to Kenton, apologising, and calling the Gin not Fairbrother’s, not Archer’s, but Scruff. Scruff Gin – after Lynda’s dog and a name originally suggested by Robert. Kenton likes this and also approves of the label design Lily came up with, and they shake on a deal.

Back to Brookfield and David tells Rooooth that Pat’s on her way over to talk about the compensation. Rooooth’s worried that she’ll have a lawyer with her and they’re going to sue. Pat does indeed want to talk about compensation, but she wants more. Tony can’t sell his breeding stock as IBR free any more and will need to restock. David tries to argue that they’re not a key part of Pat and Tony’s business, but Pat fairly argues her case and reassures Rooooth that they won’t sue. You’d think Rooooth would be relived at that, but no. David again agreed to pay whatever it costs and Rooooth starts worrying that they’ve written them a blank cheque and they’ll end up owing more than they can afford. In the middle of all this Pip tries to have it out with her mother again. Rooooth’s still angry and accuses Pip of taking the farm to the brink, and it all ends in tears for Pip.

Finally, I don’t know whether anyone else noticed, but by my reckoning Emma could have set a new world record for making a cappuccino – under 40 seconds. I don’t know what sort of coffee machine is in the farm café, but if she is such an accomplished Barista, what on earth is she doing pulling overnight shifts in the chicken factory? She should get tattoos, Ed should grow a chin curtain and the pair of them should set up Ambridge’s first hipster coffee bar.