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, we’ll 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 doesn’t 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 hasn’t 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 “No”and Justin suggests that Tom talks to the other developers. “Our business here is finished” Justin tells Tom.
You’ve got to hand it to Tom - he is nothing. Sorry, I can’t 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 I’m doing. It’s going to be fine - you’re just going to have to trust me on this.” A quick poll of thousands of listeners returned the answers ‘No, you don’t’, ‘No it isn’t’ and ‘You’re 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? Tom’s not sure because of how the negotiations ended. “Just how bad did the conversation go?” asks Tony. Tom admits that it didn’t go that well (in the same way that Napoleon’s 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 Justin’s 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 won’t say, but Lilian detects the fine Italian hand of Matt. “I think you’ve 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” - what’s this, Tony; a veiled threat to go public on the offer price if Justin doesn’t 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 Justin’s offer. Back at Bridge Farm, Tom tells Helen that he will learn from the experience and “I’m 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 let’s go back to Lilian’s remark that Tom has been used ‘to teach someone else a lesson’, presumably Justin by Matt. Well, that worked well, didn’t 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 he’d 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 they’ll meet up at nets on Thursday, but she’s 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 I’ve ever eaten.” However, they are both laughing and it’s Fortune Cookie time. Anisha’s says ‘Your shoes will make you happy today’ and they immediately do a ten minute stand-up routine. That’s a lie. However, Rex’s cookie says ‘The man or woman you desire feels the same way about you.’ Rex is quick to say that he didn’t plan this and the couple leave. Back at Anisha’s 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 it’s 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 you’d 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 don’t want a job; I want to live’ argument. He says passionately that there’s more to life than college and “I want to see the world - I’m a free spirit.” Elizabeth says fine, he can be a really free spirit, as she’s 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 can’t blackmail me like that!” Freddie calls after his mother’s 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-layer’s 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 Freddie’s 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 you’re happy for me to do it full time and that’s it.” Ha! In your dreams, Freddie - Elizabeth not only wants him to finish college, but he has spoken to Freddie’s 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: we’re 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 it’s his 50thbirthday and there’s 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, you’ll 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 Kenton’s 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 he’s 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). “You’ll always be my pusscat“ says Matt, adding: “You have to admit puss, there’s still something there.” A furious Lilian says “You’re wrong - there’s 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; you’re about as welcome in Ambridge as Rob Titchener.