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.

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