June Spencer OBE (Peggy Woolley)
Alice takes Peggy to the hairdresser’s and Peggy jokes that she’s 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, there’s 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 she’ll 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 couldn’t she have stopped Peggy? He adds that it’s 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 wouldn’t 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 won’t 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 it’s probably worth a few million. However, there is one thing they haven’t discussed - she wants Justin’s two Arab horses. Justin shrewdly says that she doesn’t really want them, she just doesn’t 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. “I’m 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 there’s no bubble-wrap) and criticising Lilian’s redecoration. Lilian is quite restrained and says that Justin seems happy with what she’s doing. “When you marry him, you’ll 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 wouldn’t argue with that statement, Toby my old son. He tells Bert that he thought Pip was The One and he’s never felt like this before. He has completely lost interest in the gin business and he doesn’t see how life could possibly get any worse. “Do you want me to read my poem to you?” Bert asks, thus answering Toby’s rhetorical question.
The other half of love’s 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.