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.”