Monday, 26 June 2017

Who Taught Whom A Lesson?

Remember the (not-so) good old days when Tom was babbling about Ready Meals and you could almost imagine him in Del Boy mode, saying this time next year, well be millionaires? Since he came back from Canada with a voice transplant, he would appear to have calmed down somewhat and scaled down his ambitions. Until, that is, Justin Elliott came knocking, offering £1 million. Having persuaded the rest of the family - ok, having persuaded Tony - to take the money and run, Tom listened to the serpent-tongued Matt Crawford, who suggested that perhaps Justin was trying to gain an advantage, and the land was worth one third more than his offer.

Tom decides that he can squeeze a few more hundred thou out of Justin and arranges to see him on Monday. So confident is he in his ability to turn the screw that he doesnt bother consulting Tony or Pat. The meeting begins amicably enough, with Justin saying that his lawyers are on standby and he suggests that they draw up an agreement to sell, subject to getting planning permission. In the unlikely event that this is not forthcoming, Justin would pay £30k. All is progressing nicely, then Tom plays his master stroke - how much is Justin prepared to move on the price, as Tom has been in touch with other developers and they reckon the land is worth more.

Justin is less than impressed - he accuses Tom of going behind his back and he (Tom) is lucky that he hasnt been shown the door. Also, Justin asked that the deal be kept secret and Bridge Farm (via mega-gob Susan) made it public. He is very disappointed in their behaviour. Tom seems a bit slow to latch on to the mood of the meeting and asks is Justin is prepared to move on the price? The polite answer is Noand Justin suggests that Tom talks to the other developers. Our business here is finished Justin tells Tom. 

Youve got to hand it to Tom - he is nothing. Sorry, I cant read my notes; that should be he is nothing if not optimistic and he tells Helen not to worry - he will have a concrete offer for £1.5 m within 24 hours. This is how business works he says, adding: We are in an incredibly strong position - we have something (land) that they all want. In a sentence that has all of us shaking our heads knowingly, he says: I do know what Im doing. Its going to be fine - youre just going to have to trust me on this. A quick poll of thousands of listeners returned the answers No, you dontNo it isnt and Youre having a laugh.

Two days later, Tom fesses up to Pat and Tony what he did behind their backs. But what about the other developers, I hear you scream? Glad you asked. One pulled out and the other offered a cool £45 million. How good is that? Not very, really, as he would want 10 acres and the development would be for many, many more houses. Pat and Tony (particularly Tony) are verging on the apoplectic - a day or so ago, they were looking at £500 k in their pension pot and now they are looking at 3.5 acres of organic farmland. Could they go back to Justin? Toms not sure because of how the negotiations ended. Just how bad did the conversation go? asks Tony. Tom admits that it didnt go that well (in the same way that Napoleons assault on Russia left something to be desired) and he offers to go and see Justin again.

Tom does so, but Justin now has the whip hand and, when Tom (poor, naïve boy) suggests that they go back to the £1 m offer, Justin says that he could find an alternative site and what is Tom prepared to offer to change Justins mind? The upshot is that Justin offers £850,000; take it or leave it and close the door behind you. Tom takes this news back to Bridge Farm and Tony is less than happy. How could you be so stupid? is the first question he asks his son, adding that he will go and talk to Justin and I should have done it in the first place. Lilian comes in during the exchange of pleasantries and she says that Justin was surprised that they rejected his offer, but she quickly realises that Tom acted unilaterally. She chases after Tom, who has fled (in shame, one would hope) and wheedles out of him the fact that he had advice from a third party. Was it someone she knows? Tom wont say, but Lilian detects the fine Italian hand of Matt. I think youve been used to teach someone else a lesson Lilian tells her nephew.

Meanwhile, Tony is negotiating with Justin. Tony points out that, if Justin goes elsewhere, the farmer will know what he offered Bridge Farm (Or he could easily find out - whats this, Tony; a veiled threat to go public on the offer price if Justin doesnt play ball?). Justin offers £900 k. How about £950 k? No: £900 k. £925 K? What part of £900 k does Tony not understand? In the end, he accepts Justins offer. Back at Bridge Farm, Tom tells Helen that he will learn from the experience and Im not going to be taken for a fool again. After his experiences with selling to supermarkets and going into business with uncle Brian - both of which cost him considerable sums of money - you have to admit that this boy is a quick learner.

But lets go back to Lilians remark that Tom has been used to teach someone else a lesson, presumably Justin by Matt. Well, that worked well, didnt it? Call me dense, but it seems the only lesson Justin has learned is how to get 10% off a £1 million land purchase and I submit that that is a lesson hed welcome three times a day. Canny one, Matt.

The putative romance between Rex and Anisha advances with glacial rapidity. Tuesday is the evening of their date but once again Rex calls it off, as he has a taxi booking for Birmingham airport - no one else can do it and he really needs the money. Anisha says theyll meet up at nets on Thursday, but shes not thrilled. Fear not! They go to a Chinese restaurant, where they are the only customers, and Anisha says That was one of the worst meals Ive ever eaten. However, they are both laughing and its Fortune Cookie time. Anishas says Your shoes will make you happy today and they immediately do a ten minute stand-up routine. Thats a lie. However, Rexs cookie says The man or woman you desire feels the same way about you. Rex is quick to say that he didnt plan this and the couple leave. Back at Anishas front door, there is much banter and, to cut a long story short, they kiss. Rex suggests coming in for coffee, but Anisha says that its all going a bit too fast for her. Fast? If this romance were in a race, it would have been overtaken by a three-toed sloth and an arthritic snail, wearing lead wellingtons and caught in molasses. Get on with it before one of you (or, God forbid, me) passes on.

Freddie continues to head the list of young characters that youd like to slap. On Tuesday he accidentally missed the bus to college and we have the usual you need an education to get a job and I dont want a job; I want to live argument. He says passionately that theres more to life than college and I want to see the world - Im a free spirit. Elizabeth says fine, he can be a really free spirit, as shes stopping his allowance. See how free you can be with no cash to back it up she tells her son, who is totally outraged. You cant blackmail me like that! Freddie calls after his mothers retreating back.

David drops into Lower Loxley and he and his sister have a heart to heart. Lizzie says that perhaps David could have a word with Freddie, as Freddie has no male figures of authority to look up to (Kenton is dismissed by both as about as much use as a carpet-layers stepladder). David says that his track record is not that good - look at Josh - and that Elizabeth is doing a wonderful job of bringing up her twins and running Lower Loxley.

While this is going on, Freddie has walked to Home Farm, where he runs into Adam. The talk turns to college and Freddie says (mendaciously) that he has a study day today and, when he learns that Adam is short of pickers, he volunteers his services for the day. Despite being woefully under-qualified, he does OK (although Adam does advise a bit less talking and a bit more picking) and enjoyed it; so much so that he begs Adam to take him on full time. Adam is ok with the idea, but he would need the agreement of Elizabeth. On Freddies return to Lower Loxley, we realise what David meant when he told Elizabeth You can see Nigel in him - ie a complete dreamer with only the most tenuous grip on reality - when Freddie tells his mother All you have to do is tell Adam youre happy for me to do it full time and thats it. Ha! In your dreams, Freddie - Elizabeth not only wants him to finish college, but he has spoken to Freddies Head of Year and they have an appointment with him on Thursday. Do I have any say in this? Freddie wails, to which the answer is No: were going - this is your last chance.

On Thursday, Freddie meets up with Adam and we learn that he has to stay at college until the end of term and re-sit maths. In return, he can work weekends and full time in the holidays, plus he has also got his allowance reinstated. To be honest, Adam had other things on his mind, as its his 50thbirthday and theres a party with the pickers and various members of the Archer clan. Phoebe has returned from Oxford and is brought along by Roy. During the evening, some local lads start playing up and making racist remarks and things look ugly. However, the situation is defused by Lexi, one of the team leaders. Actually, defused might be the wrong word, as we hear Adam saying And if you come back, youll be done for trespass. Whatever, Lexi is hailed as the heroine of the hour and Roy seems more than a little interested. Watch this space.

On Friday, David and Rooooth are at a loose end, with no kids or Jill and he suggests that they take advantage of Kentons offer of a free meal. The words take advantage are very appropriate, as they have aperitifs, three courses and two bottles of wine, all served at breakneck speed, as Kenton needs the table for paying guests. Rooth and David retire to seats outside the restaurant, with their second bottle of wine, in a mild alcoholic haze.

Also on Friday, Matt (in a car) comes across Lilian (on Amir). She accuses him of putting Tom up to the idea of turning Justin down, which he denies. They meet again later on and she asks if hes stalking her. Amir bolts and Lilian is thrown. Matt finds her and she asks him what sort of person is he now? Hopefully a better one he replies and Lilian says sharply What the hell are you doing?(We assume he was trying to kiss her). Youll always be my pusscat says Matt, adding: You have to admit puss, theres still something there. A furious Lilian says Youre wrong - theres nothing and there never will be. Leave me alone Matt, leave me alone and she gallops off. I pray that she is being sincere - go back to Costa Rica Matt; youre about as welcome in Ambridge as Rob Titchener. 

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Many Unhappy Returns

Roger May (James Bellamy)

I sometimes think that there is a marked sadistic streak in some of the Archers writers. Take Tuesday - it was Lynda’s 70th birthday, so we were expecting much in the way of pretension and pontificating. We had even been warned that James, Leone and Muppet would be turning up, which indeed they did. What we hadn’t been prepared for was the fact that James and Leone were at daggers drawn and she had changed the locks, effectively throwing him out of the house. The only reason they had come together was because they didn’t want to spoil Lynda’s big day and were putting on a united front.

Ha! That lasted about 10 minutes before yet another blazing row erupted, with Leone saying that she cannot believe that she ever found James attractive, while he says that he only hooked up with her out of pity and he’s going to stay in the Dower House. Leone bursts into tears and Lynda appeals (unsuccessfully) to them both to talk it through - think of the effect on little Muppet. What effect could this be? For starters, the poor little sod has two of the worst parents possible and he probably wouldn’t understand what’s going on anyway as, if he inherited all the brain cells from both parents, that would still only give him two. I have said in the past that it was lucky that James and Leone got together, as that means they only messed up two lives, instead of four and I stand by that.

When James is ensconced in the Dower House, he is a complete pain, telling Lilian that he’d like a full English breakfast, as he’s under a lot of stress. He also adds that Leone is very spoiled. Hello pot; meet kettle. Lilian suggests a sausage sandwich for lunch and James is aghast: “We’re not road menders, Ma” says the slimy creep, adding that he rather fancies some devilled kidneys. Oh yes, he also needs a lift into Borchester to buy some more clothes if he is going to stay (his car is in for repair).

The rift between James and Leone makes things difficult for the grandmothers and, when Lilian and Lynda meet outside the shop, wounding words are exchanged. Lilian says James has always been sensitive and Lynda retorts that, from what Leone says, exactly the opposite is true. Lilian describes Leone as “that hysterical girl,”, “a self-centred clothes horse” and “an emotionally incontinent harpy.” For her part, Lynda calls James “an over-privileged wastrel” and suggests that his character is down to a poor parenting. Lilian says that that is a subject on which Lynda is completely unqualified to comment, and the barb hits home, as Lynda describes it as “a low blow”. Be that as it may, I submit that all the insults about James and Leone were accurate, but they didn’t go halfway to describing the vapid, childish, selfish, completely off the wall nature of their characters. God only knows what Muppet is going to turn out like. I mean, I could have gone on for pages about the faults and imperfections of James and Leone, but I try to keep these blogs down to about 2,000 words and anyway, I do need to sleep every now and then.

Leone goes back to London (hooray!), taking Muppet with her, but James is hanging round the Dower House. On Friday, he demands that Lilian takes him to Felpersham to pick up his car, but she has AmSide business in the opposite direction. James (whose main talent seems to be exploiting other people) seizes on the fact that Justin hasn’t got any appointments right away and he can take him. Justin is not happy - even less so when Lilian backs him into a corner about giving James a lift. “You owe me!” he calls after Lilian as she goes for her meeting.

In Felpersham, Justin and James run into Matt and James immediately goes on the offensive - especially when Matt reveals that he’s got a Bentley. “So that’s where Ma’s money has gone, is it?” James shrieks, and accuses Matt of laying waste his (James’s) inheritance. Matt responds by saying that the only person who has fleeced Lilian is James, as “you’ve sponged off her all your life.” The unseemly row is ended by Justin, who tells James to sit in the car and tells Matt that his behaviour is unacceptable. “Have a bit of class” Justin tells him. I put it to you that, if Matt had any class, it would be Remedial.

And now we come to the reason that Justin could be my new best friend: he tells James that, at his time of life, he has found that relationships are very important and urges James to return to London and woo back Leone. James protests that, while he’s asset-rich (liar), he’s cash-poor (true) and Justin says that perhaps there’s something he can do about that, but he doesn‘t want Lilian to have to undergo any more family dramas - “do you hear what I‘m saying?” We are not told the details. But, when Lilian returns home, James is packing. Lilian is stunned and asks him what’s happened? James tells her that he had “an inspirational talk with Justin - he’s a top man.” Lilian, who obviously knows her son well, asks Justin if he gave James any incentive to leave. “Just friendly advice” he replies.

We have spent a lot of time on James and Leone, but that is because I hope that we have seen the last of them - not for ever, as they will presumably return for significant events - Lynda’s 80th, Robert’s funeral, Muppet’s celebration at passing the 11 Plus at the age of 27 - things like that. Why can’t they take a leaf out of Flat Leaf Parsley’s book and just bugger off abroad to live?

Let’s turn our attention to those two rockers, Freddie and Johnny. It would appear that Freddie had a most enjoyable night with Bonnie and he marked the occasion by emulating her in having an eyebrow piercing. The pair are waiting for a bus, but neither of them has any money. No worries - ring Elizabeth for a lift. Sadly, both phones’ batteries are dead. But they are outside Damara’s HQ - surely they will let them phone home? No, they won’t. Fortunately, they encounter Justin and he lets them use his mobile to call Elizabeth, mentioning in passing that Freddie’s eyebrow looks in need of medical attention.

Lizzie goes ever so slightly berserk but, when they get back to Lower Loxley, Freddie takes to his bed for a day and a bit. Elizabeth doesn’t know how to handle the situation and, when she does get to talk to her son, she says that she wants to understand - was he just running away from his exams? Freddie tells her it was “an epiphany” and he’s had it with education. Elizabeth confided in Rooooth that she can see that Freddie is making the same mistakes that she did at his age - if I may digress, not just at his age, as both mother and son spent a night of passion in a tent and, in Elizabeth’s case, she was about 30 years older than Freddie.

Freddie tells his mum that there’s a whole new way to live and he wants to do something original - look at Nigel. What did Nigel do that was original, we ask ourselves? His party piece was removing girls’ bras one-handed at parties, plus he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the rooftops of Lower Loxley (including a quick way down) and he once drove an ice cream van. Lucky for him that he inherited a stately pile. Elizabeth reminds Freddie that he will have responsibilities before long (as eldest son, he will inherit Lower Loxley) “and I won’t let you throw away your education - and that’s final!” Not much common ground for a compromise, I would suggest. Here’s an idea - why not let Freddie go off an be a beach bum or whatever his ambition is and let Lily inherit the hall? Not only is she the older twin, but let’s be honest; Freddie couldn’t be trusted to run a whelk stall, could he? Arranging a drinking event in a place where beer is produced would be similarly beyond him.

While on the subject of children and their future plans, we now turn to Josh. Open Farm Sunday at Brookfield was a success, in that very few people asked about IBR (presumably the few that knew about it stayed away, in case). Afterwards, David congratulated Josh on his latest refurbishment project, adding that Josh will probably find running his business a strain when he goes to uni after his year off. However, Josh has a bit of news for his father - he’s not actually going to go to university; his business is taking off big time and he wants to pursue it. David says that is all very well, but university has to take priority, only to be told that that’s not possible, as Josh told the university that he didn’t want his place. “I haven’t actually got a university to go to.” Josh adds. Look on the bright side David - at least he hasn’t got an eyebrow piercing.

The ‘will they, won’t they?’ saga about the sale of three and a half acres of Bridge Farm land drags on. Tom and Helen put their heads together and come up with a plan - half the money can go into Tony and Pat’s retirement fund and the other half a million can go towards a new, purpose-built showcase for Bridge Farm, offering courses, cheese-making experiences and, for all I know, goat-fondling. It would be built with the greenest of technologies, so how about it? Tony and Pat are impressed (I reckon the £500 k in the pension pot helped) and they agree that Tom should contact Justin and say OK. But Justin isn’t in a hurry to meet Tom - he tells him to contact Anthea, as he doesn’t keep track of his diary. On Friday, Tom gets a call from Matt, who wants to meet him. Matt has heard about the deal and he says that he has some property developer contacts who would offer £1.5 million for the land and he can give Tom names and phone numbers and Tom can do what he likes. I really hope that this doesn’t all go tits up. As Tom said to Matt “why should I believe you?” Hold that thought Tom.

The reason Matt had heard about the deal was the rumour spread by Susan and Pat took her to one side to tell her off. Instead of being contrite, Susan says that it’s in the interest of the village to know the truth and, if Pat had told her it was a secret, she wouldn’t have said anything. As Pat didn’t know Susan was listening, this appears to be academic. Furthermore, in a breathtaking bit of self-deception, Susan says “I don’t spread rumours, Pat”, adding “it’s true, isn’t it?” Sack her Pat - stick her in the strawberry yoghurt mix. At the very least tear her tongue out to teach her a lesson.

We return to Rex and Anisha. Last week I told him to forget Pip. This week, the pair meet up on a run and there is banter. Rex tells her that there is nothing between him and Pip - ”we’re mates, just like you and me.” Anisha invites him to a Hunt puppy show, but he is going to the British Grand Prix that day. What? I thought he was skint - do you know how much that costs? However, Rex says “this is daft - there’s obviously something going on here and we need to find out what.” They agree on a ‘proper’ date on Tuesday - Anisha will book a restaurant. Please, please, Rex, seize this chance and, if Pip wants to pour out her heart to you (again) on Tuesday, tell her to take a hike and look after number one for a change.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Don’t Expect A Father’s Day Card, Tony

David Troughton (Tony Archer)

Tom has returned from Hungary, bringing presents of fermented vegetable products and full of ideas for his new business. Pat invites him and Helen for supper, over which she and Tony tell their children about Justin’s £1 million offer for three and a half acres of Bridge Farm. Both Tom and Helen are flabbergasted and immediately begin planning what they could do with such a sum. It’s like Kenton spending the money that Justin offered for Brookfield before he actually paid it, all over again.

Amid all this euphoria, there is one dissenting voice - that of Tony saying that they cannot treat the land like a short-term commodity and it’s a point of principle. Tom’s attitude could be summed up as ‘stuff principle, it’s a million quid!’ Tony asks ‘what about the neighbours?’ Stuff them too. Tom tells his dad that he is just being sentimental and he goes further, saying: “Every time we try and do something with the farm and push the boundaries, you always hold us back.” He goes on: “You always say that it’s our future - shouldn’t Helen and I decide?” Fortunately Tom stops short of saying “as for the land, you’ll be under it soon” but he is not best pleased.

Tony appeals to Pat and she says that, although she has some reservations, she thinks they ought to sell. Tom is triumphant “That’s three to one!” he crows and suggests that they call Justin right away. Tony wants time to think it over and Pat says that they all need to agree. Tony digs in his heels and says “I’m sorry - I know you want it settled, but I’m not going to be rushed into anything.”

A couple of days later, Tom learns (through Susan) that Pat had a call from Justin, who wanted to know what was happening. Pat told him that they were still thinking it over and an exasperated Tom says that Justin will go elsewhere if they don’t agree soon. “Great,” Tom says, “We’re about to lose a once-in-a-lifetime deal - a million pounds - just because we don’t want to hurt dad’s feelings!” Pat protests that it’s more complicated than that, but Tom tells her that they need that money - they need those houses to be built. As luck would have it, Susan is lurking round the scullery and has overheard the exchange - no doubt because she was listening - and, when Pat and Tom have left, Susan emerges  and says “well” in a satisfied tone of voice. But more of Susan later. If I were Tony, I’d be careful what I ate and drank from now on and turn all electrical appliances on while wearing rubber gloves. At the very least, I wouldn’t expect to receive a Father’s Day card next Sunday.

If Tom isn’t a happy camper, someone who is, is Freddie Pargetter (did you see what I did there?). He walked out of his maths resit and latched on to Johnny, who is on his way to the Isle of Wight Festival. Johnny was originally going to go with Amber, but she cried off, as her Gran has had a serious stroke. Freddie tells Johnny that he got the dates of his exam mixed up - it’s next week, he says - so he can go with Johnny. When the two lads get to the IOW, Freddie is beside himself with excitement and reprimands Johnny, saying: “You’re not still missing Amber, are you? You’ve got me instead.”

Considering his plans have gone from spending four nights in a two-person tent with a girl that he fancied like crazy, to spending the same time, and tent, with Freddie, Johnny takes it very well, in that he doesn’t break down and weep, nor attempts suicide. Neither does he shake his fist at the heavens, yelling “why me, God, why me?” Even at the best of times, Freddie can be irritating - what am I talking about; there’s no ‘can be’ about it; he is bloody irritating - but he appears now to have gone completely off his head. Mind you, he may have had help, as he says to Johnny “Look what I’ve got - it’s the good stuff; the best. So, one each now and we’ll head over to the dance tent.” We are not told what sort of ‘stuff’ he’s talking about, but it seems a fair guess that it’s not Smarties.

It promises to be a weekend to remember for Freddie, as he tells Johnny that his home life is a waste and there’s a whole world out there and he‘s never going home. He is also on a promise from a girl called Bonnie, who he met that day and begs Johnny to find somewhere else to sleep tonight so that he and Bonnie can have the tent to themselves. Considering that Johnny had no doubt been looking forward to something similar with Amber and is now being asked to vacate his own tent, I think it was very generous of him to agree and tell an ecstatic Freddie “The tent’s all yours, man.”

Enjoy it while you may Freddie, as four days will soon pass and then there will be a Reckoning. Elizabeth is very angry and she cannot understand how Lily can be so laid back about what her twin has done. Lily is checking up on social media and shows her mother a picture of Freddie and Johnny together, enjoying themselves. Elizabeth still reckons that she should have driven down to the IOW and dragged her son back by force. Lily said this would have been a terrible idea, and describes her brother as ‘dumb’, ‘irresponsible’ and admits that he sometimes behaves like a ten-year old, but at least he’s safe. Lizzie is annoyed because Freddie stole some money from her desk. (“But he did leave an IOU” Lily reminds her). Lily tells her to relax, as Freddie is fine. “Yes, he’s fine now, but just wait till he gets home” Elizabeth replies, darkly.

Let’s leave Freddie and - to a lesser extent, Johnny - enjoying themselves. That remark about never going home might be a smart move, Freddie. Back in Ambridge, it looked like Rex might be making headway with Anisha, as they meet up while running. There is a certain wariness as they talk, but eventually arrange to meet up at The Bull one evening. Rex rings her to confirm and she says that she’s been working late, but will have a shower and see him there in 45 minutes. Rex is then accosted by Pip, who wants to talk and invites him to walk up Lakey Hill. ’Don’t do it!’ I screamed at the radio, but the idiot goes with her and listens to her banging on about Toby. Pip beats herself up for being useless at relationships and says that even when she had the choice, she picked the wrong brother. She is immediately overcome with embarrassment and Rex says he has to go as he’s meeting someone.

As he enters The Bull, Anisha is leaving and is not best pleased as she has been waiting for half an hour. She surmises that Rex has been with Pip and walks off and leaves him. Well done, Rex! Another cock-up on the romance front. Pip rings him and apologises for what she said, saying that she hopes she didn’t mess things up for him. No Pip, he did that all by himself. Pip then asks if they are still friends? Rex says ’yes’ but if he seriously wants to be an item with Anisha, then I reckon he should ration the time he spends with Pip. And why do it anyway? All she does is talk about Toby and how she is rubbish when it comes to picking men. Live your own life, Rex and leave her to get on with hers.

Lilian got her own way over Justin’s new secretary - rather than risk him employing a younger woman and potential rival, she arranges for him to interview Anthea Jennings. This is the formidable ex-employee of AmSide and poor Justin is doomed from the moment she walks in the door. He said that he felt like she was interviewing him and, when it became obvious that she didn’t disapprove of him or the job, he felt compelled to take her on.

Justin also ran into Matt on Monday and told him that Latif Hussain had informed Justin that he had invested in the racecourse consortium that Matt represents. Justin rather pointedly (and rudely) says that he wouldn’t want Latif to get his fingers burnt and should he be worried? Matt says it was nothing to do with him and Latif negotiated directly with one of the leaders of the consortium. Indeed, Matt had told Latif that all the investment opportunities were spoken for, but Latif went ahead and did it his way. In fact, Latif had just bought Matt a drink as a ‘thank you’. Justin tells Lilian later that it all appears above board, but he will try and dig a little deeper in order to find out a bit more.

Staying with Justin, he is keeping his cards very close to his chest about the Bridge Farm land purchase - he hasn’t even told Lilian and has given Brian only the broadest hint that he has another project in mind. He and Brian meet to discuss the possible objections to the Berrow Farm pig project; Lynda has returned and has lost no time in phoning both Brian and Justin, but neither answered. Lynda has had words with Neil about how she could oppose the plan. Neil tells her that, as PC Chair, he has to remain neutral, then he tells her that her best bet is on environmental challenges. Obviously some new definition of ‘neutrality’ there.

After their meeting, Brian asks Justin for a lift home (his car’s in for servicing) and - disaster! Justin is clocked by Speedwatch at 35 mph. Even worse, it is Lynda wielding the speed camera. Justin tries to talk himself out of it, but Lynda takes full advantage, saying that she should report Justin but she could let him off with a verbal warning if, for example, they could meet to discuss the pig farm and how about in 30 minutes at the Dower House and she’ll get Kirsty to come along? Corruption among those in power is a terrible thing, isn’t it? Justin and Brian cave in and Lynda says that she’ll present them with a list of demands, concerning landscaping etc. The two women leave and Brian says that they have got off lightly and “we should try to tick all their boxes for the sake of a quiet life.”

But Justin’s life is destined to become very unquiet, due entirely to Motor Mouth Carter and her manta-ray-sized gob. Not for nothing has she been described as ‘radio Borsetshire’. Susan serves Jennifer in the shop and tells her that “there’s a very worrying rumour going around about Bridge Farm and has she heard anything?” The reason there’s a rumour going around is because Susan has started it - not only started it, but added two and two and made five, it would appear, as Jennifer goes to see Lilian and tells her that Susan told her that Justin is planning to build “a huge housing estate - at least 50 houses - on Bridge Farm land.” Lilian suggests that Susan is deluded, as Justin has said nothing to her about it. Jennifer is reassured, saying that, if there were any truth in it, Justin would be sure to have told Lilian, wouldn’t he? You - and Lilian - would like to think so, and I foresee some pointed questions being asked at the Dower House when Lilian discovers that her fiancé has been keeping her in the dark regarding his negotiations with her brother and his family.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

“Get Thee Behind Me, Justin”

Simon Williams (Justin Elliott)

Pat and Tony were faced with temptation last week and we did wonder if they were going to be found wanting. Justin paid a visit to Bridge Farm to discuss, in confidence, a project he has in mind. There is, he says, a shortage of affordable houses in Ambridge and the only way you can get these is as part of a larger development. Tony is immediately suspicious, but Justin says that he has no intention of despoiling Ambridge - he is only thinking of 18 houses.

So what has this got to do with us? Pat asks and the answer is that the ideal site is a field at one extremity of Bridge Farm. Tony quickly says ‘no’ but Pat suggests they hear Justin out, to which Tony says that the field in question was the very one that made them decide to go organic and he’s not prepared to see it buried under tons of concrete. Justin counters this by saying that he wouldn’t want the whole field; only 3.5 acres. The answer is still ‘no’ Tony says, but Pat asks how much would he be prepared to pay? The answer is around £1 million, which Justin points out would give all those on the farm a secure future. “Most farmers would jump at it” he suggests.

Pat and Tony are gobsmacked and we see one or two hairline cracks forming in their steadfast resolve - or Pat‘s at least. Justin leaves them to think it over and Pat suggests that they take a walk down to the field in question. Tony waxes lyrical about the wildflowers, but Pat seems to be thinking that you can get a lot of wildflowers for one million smackers. She tells Tony that, while the field means a lot to them, their time is past and the future lies with Tom and Helen and what could they do with such a sum of money? It’s not just about Tom and Helen though, as Pat says that she and Tony could buy a camper van and travel, as they had planned. This has lost its appeal for Tony and he says that all he really wants out of life is to be on the farm “with my cattle and grandchildren” (note the order of priority there) and “helping out when I’m needed”, which, let’s be honest, is precious little these days. Take the money Pat, buy a camper van or a villa abroad and leave the miserable sod behind.

No doubt Justin will be back with yet further temptation. Mind you, there are some people that even he cannot charm - the rumours about the intensive pig farming are sweeping the village. In The Bull after the Single Wicket competition, Brian is buying a round of drinks when Harrison Burns asks him outright if there’s any truth in the rumours. A flustered Brian says that the idea hasn’t even been put before the BL Board - yet, and he rushes off, without paying for the drinks. “You definitely touched a nerve there” Kenton tells PCB and Susan demonstrates once again that she’s not the brightest firefly in the garden when she says “What? You mean it might actually be true?” Justin’s charm is also wasted on Kirsty, who is livid with herself for thanking Justin for paying for the maintenance of the Millennium Wood - she describes it as just “greenwash” to draw attention away from the mega-piggery. She resolves to speak at the forthcoming Parish Council meeting and Helen is on her side.

Justin, however, is recruiting other allies and lines David up to speak for the project at the PC meeting. In fact, the overriding feeling in the village can best be summed up as ‘so what?’ When you consider the outrage when the mega dairy was first mooted, the lack of reaction seems odd. The mega dairy was 1,500 cattle and the mega piggery is on a much larger scale, plus pigs are generally regarded as being much more intelligent than cows, but Kirsty is the only one who is exercised by BL’s plans. Kirsty bemoans the fact that Lynda is away in Italy, but even diehard anti-Berrow protestors Pat and Rooooth seem to think that the idea is ok - Berrow is already built, so why not use it?

At the PC meeting, Kirsty makes an appeal, saying that, to keep intelligent creatures such as pigs in such “barbarous” conditions is tantamount to animal cruelty. David makes the point that any project would be subject to stringent regulations and rigorous examination. Speaking to Lilian after the meeting, Justin says that he’s pleased that the village appears to be seeing sense over the pig unit. “It just goes to show that if you know how to handle people, you can usually get what you want” Justin tells his fiancée. I wouldn’t get too complacent Justin; Lynda will be returning ere long.

Earlier we mentioned the Single Wicket. There was embarrassment for PCB as he was knocked out by Lily in the first round. In fact the two girls - Lily and Anisha - did very well, getting through to the semi-finals. The final was contested by Chris and Ruairi (who was a dark horse, as nobody knew that he played for his school - shows how much attention Brian pays to his schooling) and Chris proved victorious.

Lily is getting rather bossy. At Lower Loxley, Elizabeth is having some trouble with the mother of the bride at a forthcoming wedding - she wants to completely change the flowers. Lily says that she will sort it and indeed she does, talking the mother out of making any changes. Elizabeth is grateful and Lily offers to help her out for the rest of the week. What about her revision? “I know it all” says the smug little madam.

Pip is living at Lower Loxley and, as she tells everyone, it’s great, with her own ensuite and a large room. She is still working all the hours she can and even suggests that she could take on some relief milking for the extra cash. What doesn’t help is Toby flagging her down in the tractor because he wants to chat. He obviously doesn’t understand the meaning of ‘working flat out’. He’s a bit peed off that she didn’t tell him she was at Lower Loxley, but why should she? Eventually, she agrees to meet him later for a drink. Back at Lower Loxley, Pip is on the verge of going out, when Lily stops her - she can’t go out looking like she does, with rubbish hair and no make up; Toby will think she is pining for him. “I’ll give you a quick makeover” says the bossy one, which she does.

Pip arrives at The Bull late, but looking a million dollars. Brian, who is in the bar, says “who’s the lucky man?” Take your eyes off her, you old lech! Toby says he is flattered that she went to all that trouble for him, but she quickly disabuses him of that idea, tells him that she can’t drink the wine he ordered as she’s driving and would he excuse her for a moment, as she wants to talk to Johnny about relief milking? Toby is despondent and his mood is not made better when Brian confesses that he’s put his foot in it as he assumed that Pip and Toby were back together and he says: “When I saw Pip all dolled up like that, I assumed…” Wearily, Toby replies “Yes, Brian; so did I.”

To be honest, the Toby/Pip story is getting on my nerves, with him mooning around like a lovesick calf. This is probably the first time he’s ever been dumped and he cannot hack it. On Thursday evening Pip is in The Bull, as are Rex and Johnny, and Pip is chatting and laughing, with a crowd of Young Farmers, especially a lad called Todd, from whom she is expecting relief milking work. Pip goes to the bar to order drinks and Toby is there - he’s been working and he’s annoyed that she hasn’t said ’hello’ to him. Anyway, he’s on his break now, so he can join her and her friends. Pip is quite sharp with him and tells him ’no’. When Rex asks what’s happening, Pip tells him that Toby is being a pain.

To digress a bit here, I had great hopes for Rex and Anisha, but when Johnny asks him how are things between them, Rex answers sadly “She doesn’t even go running with me any more.” And it was Toby who put the mockers on that budding relationship - the man is a walking disaster area; and a self-centred one at that.

Rex finds his brother outside and Toby says that he is trying to be mates with Pip, but she doesn’t understand what friendship means. Rex asks if there’s any chance of them getting back together. “I’m kidding myself, aren’t I?” Toby asks in a rare moment of self-awareness. Rex says that it can take years to become mates with someone who has dumped you. Toby is really down and it hurts to see Pip laughing and joking with other guys - he’s never felt like this before. “What am I going to do?” Toby asks his brother, who is no doubt reflecting that, once again, he has to mop up after his prodigal sibling.

Well, Toby, the first thing you could do is grow up and snap out of it, you great woos. One wonders if his anguish is for the loss of the love of his life or for the farm that, as he once remarked to Rex, “comes attached with Pip.” Perhaps Rex could tell him gently that, being friends with someone does not mean that you are not attached at the hip and that they are allowed to have other friends, who they may prefer to you. Whatever, Toby has come to a decision and he goes over to Lower Loxley late at night in order to acquaint Pip with it. If I may pause here, this is yet another annoying habit of Toby’s in that he’s always knocking on doors late at night to tell Pip something - he did it when she was at Brookfield and now it’s Lower Loxley’s turn to be awakened. Pip really doesn’t want this, as she needs all the sleep she can get, working all hours.

So what is this decision that is so important that it cannot wait a few hours? He can’t be friends with Pip - it’s too much to ask and it hurts him too much (bless!). He’s blocking her mobile number and they can no longer be friends on Facebook and Twitter. Pip says that she still wants to be his friend, the fool, but he says it hurts too much and she’s got to get out of his life and leave him alone. What an opportunity to say “OK Tobes, see you around sometime I expect” and quietly close the door, but she blew it.

God, I hope that Pip and Toby don’t have a lasting reconciliation, but why has Pip got to get out of his life? Why can’t he just sod off somewhere else? If you recall, when the Fairbrothers first appeared in Ambridge and were looking for land to rent for their geese business, things were not looking good and, if Pip hadn’t persuaded David to let them rent Hollowtree, they were going to jack it all in and work at a surf shack in Cornwall. So, here’s an idea, why doesn’t Toby get out of Pip’s life, pack up his stuff and go down to Cornwall to see if they still need a beach bum? You could argue that he would be walking away from his gin business, but when it comes to Toby and business ideas, isn’t that par for the course? Plus of course, he presumably would conveniently forget to  pay Pip back her £5k loan.