Monday, 31 July 2017

The Flapjack-Flinging Felon

Patricia Greene (Jill Archer)

The actress playing Jill Archer celebrated 60 years with the programme last week and how did she mark this milestone? By getting Jill arrested for common assault. As we said last week, Jill has embraced the subject of not wasting food with Messianic-like zeal and Tuesday saw her, Kirsty and a band of like-minded protesters demonstrating at a PR event to herald the opening of the Duxford sisters’ new restaurant.

The demonstrators are moved back by PC Burns but Jill is not happy, as the Duxford sisters cannot hear their protests. Jill encourages the others to surge forward and she starts elbowing PCB and throwing her home-made flapjacks around. One catches Lulu Duxford in the eye and it is all too much for PCB, who arrests Jill for common assault.

Kirsty contacts David, who arrives at the police station, where his mother has had her fingerprints and DNA taken and has been cautioned. “What are you doing here?” Jill asks. “What am I doing here?” David explodes and points out the irony of throwing flapjacks around at a demonstration against food wastage. He tells Jill that she’s 86 years old and has led a hitherto blameless life – and now she has a criminal record!

When Lynda learns of this debacle, she is worried because all the publicity about the Duxfords opening the fete has been put into gear and she cannot believe that they will want to open the fete after this. Things are not improved when Jill gives interviews to the press and Radio Borsetshire and she is not in the least conciliatory. Jill is unrepentant and reminds the other members of the Fete Committee that she never wanted the Duxfords in the first place. Lynda gets on her high horse, saying “It may not have been your intention, Jill, but you have dealt a potentially devastating blow to this year’s village fete.” Well done Jill, now let’s see you scupper the Christmas offering when we know what it is.

As it happens, it appears that the Duxford sisters still want to open the fete, spouting a load of guff about serving the community. Rumour has it that Jill is baking a mega batch of aerodynamic flapjacks in anticipation.

Over at Grange Farm, Clarrie is distraught at the way the Grundys betrayed Oliver’s trust and she writes him a grovelingly apologetic letter, which she takes round to the stables, where he is staying. Oliver isn’t there, and Clarrie asks Shula to give him the letter. How are things going with the memorial service? Shula says ‘ok’ but admits that Grey Gables is a bit corporate, to which Clarrie wonders whether Grange Farm might be more suitable? Shula says she will ask Oliver, which she does, and he jumps at the suggestion. That gives the Grundys two days to move the furniture back in and tidy up the garden, which is, quite frankly a mess. As Clarrie tells Edward: “This place is going to be perfect if we all work together; we owe it to Oliver - and Caroline”.

Edward is a bit perplexed, as he ran into Oliver in the village and Oliver began apologising for losing his temper last week. Clarrie said he had every right to lose his temper and she is even more determined that everything will be spot on for Thursday. Amazingly, it is and Oliver says that the events of last week are forgiven and forgotten and he thanks Clarrie for allowing the memorial service to be held at Grange Farm. Er, Oliver, it is your house, remember.

There is much reminiscing about Caroline’s life – we learn that Peggy didn’t really like her when she first came to the village and how Caroline lost her faith when she was involved in the accident in which Shula’s husband Mark died, and which nearly killed Caroline. I didn’t hear Brian say anything, which is just as well, as he might reminisce about the affair he had with Caroline. There was not even an embarrassing cameo from Joe. Indeed, we never heard anything from him; perhaps they had him locked away somewhere.

At the conclusion of the event, Ed approaches Oliver he has mended Caroline’s vase and Oliver is amazed – you can’t see where it was damaged. Ed says that Caroline and Oliver never gave up on him, even when he went off the rails, and he is grateful. Pointing to the jug, Ed says “That’s what you did for me – you mended me. Now you can hardly see where the damage was.”

The day after, Oliver seems lost – he sits in the café for an hour over a cup of coffee and Emma rings Ed – she thinks Oliver needs a friend and could he come over? He does so and invites Oliver for a walk. Oliver admits that he doesn’t know what to do, or even where he’ll live. He couldn’t bear to be in Grange Farm without Caroline and ditto Italy. He doesn’t even know what he is going to do with Caroline’s ashes, which he brought over from Italy. Edward says that he doesn’t have to decide these things right now and, if Oliver ever wants to talk, Ed will be there for him.

There were developments in the Justin/Lilian/Matt story too. Justin is walking Ruby and he meets Brian. They talk about Matt’s comments on the planning website and Justin admits that his patience is exhausted. When Brian asks him what is he going to do, Justin replies simply “Get him fired.” Later on, Justin tells Lilian how annoying Matt is and he wants him out of the country and out of their lives. Lilian’s response is that Matt is trying to rebuild his life and he cannot repay what he stole from her if he’s unemployed in Costa Rica. Justin says that Lilian doesn’t need money now she’s marrying him and anyway it would be worth losing money “to get that wretched man out of our lives once and for all.”

The next day, Lilian goes to see Matt and tells him that it was Justin who scuppered the Investors’ Day and “he will make damn sure that you lose your job.” Why does Matt keep kicking a hornets’ nest when he knows that he’ll be the one to get stung? Matt says “I do it for you” – seeing her and Justin together reminds him of what she and Matt once had and she is way too good for Justin Elliott. Lilian’s answer is that Matt should apologise to Justin “it’s your only hope” she tells him.

Matt does indeed go to see Justin and, to the latter’s astonishment, he apologises, saying that he’s behaved like an idiot and he should have kept out of Justin’s business. “And why should I believe you?” Justin asks, icily. “Because you’ve won,” Matt replies, adding: “I didn’t realise how influential you were.” He also says that, job-wise, he thinks he’s living on borrowed time and might go back to Costa Rica. Justin slams the door in his face.

Talking to Lilian about the encounter later, Justin says that he’ll still make sure Matt is fired. She describes this as ‘vindictive’ and says “You’re letting Matt get under your skin - forget him and move on.”

Once again Lilian goes to see Matt. He is more optimistic about his job, as he has heard that, despite the poor showing on Investors’ Day, the take-up was good, so perhaps the danger has passed. Lilian says that, if Matt provokes Justin once more, he’ll finish him. The thing that Matt (and I) cannot understand is why did Lilian warn him about Justin in the first place and why is she there now? “Admit it – you still have feelings for me, don’t you?” Matt says. Lilian could have said that she does indeed – feelings of disgust, loathing and contempt – but instead she says that she can’t just stand by and watch Matt be mercilessly crushed. “I wish I could, but I can’t” she says. The obvious answer is to go away on holiday and come back only after Justin has set the Triads on Matt, or fitted him with concrete boots, or whatever he has planned. Please Lilian, you’ve got a good thing going – you’ve got a man who loves you and who buys you expensive presents, as opposed to one who stole all your savings and did a runner. I submit it’s no contest.

PCB and Fallon are still yearning after Woodbine Cottage and PCB goes to see his parents to see if they might help – after all, he’s never asked them for anything in the past. The trip is a disappointment – Harrison’s waster brother Marcus has moved back in, along with his pregnant girlfriend, and they are being supported by mum and dad. Resigned to losing Woodbine, PCB and Fallon put an offer in on a house in Borchester. Emma says she’s jealous – especially as they don’t know what’s happening about Grange Farm.

In recent weeks we have speculated about a possible romance between Roy and fruit picking team leader Lexi. Phoebe, who is working to get travelling money, tells her dad that she saw Lexi washing racist graffiti off one of the caravans. Phoebe suggested that Lexi tell Adam, but she doesn’t want any trouble. Roy decides that this isn’t good enough – these things can escalate and get out of hand, so he tells Adam. Lexi is less than impressed and goes to see Roy. She tells him that police came to Home Farm and she was interviewed by them.

Roy is adamant that he did the right thing and they argue, with Lexi saying it was just a silly incident with kids. Roy says it was more than that and that he was only trying to do what’s right. “You’ve made it worse for me,” she tells him, adding before she walks off “Leave me alone from now on.” Well Roy, that could have gone better, couldn’t it?

And now we come to something that, to me anyway, is becoming something of a growing irritation. Am I the only one to have noticed – and been annoyed by – the increasing incidence of background music being played when a scene is being acted out? The week before last we had Scott McKenzie’s ‘San Francisco’ as a background to one conversation and, last week, we had ‘Secret Love’ and ‘I Believe’ playing when Fallon and Emma were talking in the café.

Even Caroline’s memorial didn’t escape – when Oliver was saying how much he and Caroline loved opera, there was the overture to ‘The Magic Flute’ in the background. I also tuned into this Sunday’s episode and Lynda, Fallon and Susan were talking while ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ was playing. Stop it, stop it, stop it! I find background music irritating enough in real life and we don’t need it in the Archers – you can see how distracting it is by how I know what the songs are. I want to listen to the dialogue, not someone’s collection of old classics, so someone please make sure that the CD player in the café never works again, before I do something I’ll regret.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Scales Fall From Oliver’s Eyes

Michael Cochrane (Oliver Sterling)

Oliver Sterling came back to the UK a day earlier than planned, as Caroline’s cremation was moved forward a day. At Grange Farm, Clarrie is in a state because the B&B guests have chipped a jug that was a favourite of Caroline’s. No worries, says Eddie – he will glue it and no-one will notice. The B&B guests will be on their way in a couple of hours and Oliver isn’t due to arrive back until tomorrow, so what can possibly go wrong?

As this is the Grundys we are talking about, the answer to that is ‘how long have you got?’ Let’s face it, their track record of schemes and scams has not exactly been a catalogue of successes, has it? More like a litany of total failure if we are honest. Oliver decides he’ll take a walk to Grange Farm, as it’s such a lovely day and Eddie and Clarrie are appalled to see him standing by the gate, holding Caroline’s jug. Oliver is incensed and demands to know what’s been going on in his house? Joe let him in – well, it is Oliver’s house, after all – and there were two strangers sitting in the drawing room. Are the Grundys running a B&B operation at Grange Farm?

Eddie tries to bluff it out, telling Oliver that he did discuss it with him and, anyway, the current guests are the last, but Oliver is beyond angry; he found the broken jug and says it is obvious that strangers have been sleeping in his and Caroline’s bedroom. He and Caroline trusted the Grundys with their home and they have been repaid with thoughtless, insensitive and presumptuous behaviour (you forgot ‘devious’ and ‘underhand’, Oliver). “Caroline had reservations and I think she was right” Oliver says. With his unerring instinct for saying the wrong thing, Eddie says that he will mend the jug. Oliver’s voice rises maniacally as he screams “The jug? You think this is about the jug?” and he smashes the vessel on the ground. “See if you can mend that!” he yells at Eddie.

Later on, Eddie is looking on the bright side, when he tells Clarrie that at least Oliver didn’t say anything about taking the house back. Of course he didn’t – he was too bloody angry for that. Clarrie is mortified and says “we’re going to leave anyway – how can we look him in the eye?” “Where will we go?” Eddie asks, but Clarrie is distraught at their betrayal of Oliver’s trust, saying “Oliver was so angry – when did you ever see Oliver angry?” Eddie says he’ll talk to Oliver, plus he has got all the pieces of the jug. Clarrie is exasperated and says to her husband “Don’t you understand, Eddie? There are some things so broke that they can’t ever be fixed.” Another stunning triumph for the Grundy family!

Oliver surprises Shula by saying that he’d like Alan to lead the celebration of Caroline’s life – not as a vicar, but as a friend, and preferably without the dog collar. Oliver seems to be coping with the loss of his wife very well – almost too well, Shula thinks – but he did make a rather strange remark about the memorial celebrations, saying that it was a pity that Caroline won’t be there, as she loved a party.

We had developments on the romantic front last week, with Lexi turning up at Roy’s for her English conversation lesson with Kirsty. But Kirsty has double booked and has to go help with the packing up of the Happy Friends Café. Never mind – she tells Roy that he can talk to Lexi. The conversation is very stilted and Lexi says that perhaps she should leave, but, as she turns to go, she notices a Stephen King novel in the bookcase and it turns out that both she and Roy are massive fans. With the ice broken, the pair talk and Lexi is still there when Kirsty comes home. As Lexi goes, Kirsty teases Roy – perhaps he should add Lexi to his dating spreadsheet!

The other romantic development was between Rex and Anisha. Anisha tells Alice that Rex has cancelled two running days this week, saying that he’s got to work, but Anisha isn’t so sure, as Rex met a girl on his birthday. Alice teases her, saying “you like him, you like him!” Later on, Rex and Anisha do go for a run and the talk turns to the girl, with Anisha saying “you can sleep with who you like.” Rex replies that he didn’t sleep with the girl – he got her a taxi home and he didn’t even go in for coffee. He prepares to go home, but Anisha invites him in for a shower and a coffee. I don’t know how quick Rex or Anisha are at running, but they are no slouches when it comes to sex, as the next thing we know, they are in bed together. Neither of them wants to rush into a relationship and Rex suggests that they just see where it leads. Anisha obviously has a good idea where it’s going and invites him to stay in bed. I thought he was up to his ears in work? I’m pleased for them both and hope it works out.

Another relationship that’s apparently going along nicely is that of PCB and Fallon, although the house-hunting is depressing as, in comparison with Woodbine Cottage, everything else seems either unsatisfactory or so ordinary. Chris learns that they are looking for a house and says that, when they’ve gone, she doesn’t think she could face having new tenants in and will probably sell the place. Oh yes – and there’s an Estate Agent coming round today at 1pm. It turns out that Woodbine is worth twice what she was expecting, which would seem to suggest that either Christine hasn’t got her finger on the pulse of property values or that house prices in Ambridge are booming way over the national average. Christine says that Fallon and PCB can have first refusal, but, as Fallon tells Jill later on, the only way that they could afford it is in their dreams. I suspect that something is going to happen and that PCB and Fallon will become the new owners of Woodbine – perhaps Harrison has an offshore bank account.

Things are getting nasty between Matt and Justin. Monday was the day of Matt’s important Investors’ Meeting at Grey Gables and there was a large number of no-shows. Neither Matt nor his boss Hugo are very happy and Matt is reduced to inviting Christine and Peggy to sit in and listen. Christine is flattered because Matt says Hugo asked her because of her extensive knowledge of horses. Peggy says she’s not going, but Christine says at least it means a free lunch. “There’s no such thing” Peggy observes wisely.

The ladies are joined for coffee by Justin and they remark that he looks so very happy. Is there a reason? “It’s just a perfect day.” He tells them. Justin is still smiling the following day and, when Lilian asks why, he says that it is because Matt’s day was such a damp squib. Lilian describes it as ‘karmic justice’ and the pair drink to that. Later on, Justin and Matt have a chance encounter at the Bridge Farm shop and Matt says that he spent some time last night running through the list of no-shows. Ignoring Justin’s digs about how sad and empty Matt’s life must be, Matt says that he discovered that all the no-shows had had business dealings with Justin. Not so much Karmic justice, as Justin’s justice, it would seem.

From here on, the conversation gets more personal and slightly nastier. Justin says that he knows Matt tried to sabotage the Bridge Farm land sale and thanks Matt for saving him £100k “although I doubt that was your intention.” Justin goes on: “A word in your shell-like; it’s not a good idea to irritate me. If you want to play with the big boys, you have to learn the rules.” “Are you threatening me?” asks Matt, to which Justin replies “Just offering advice. Stay away from my business affairs and my private affairs, then, if you are very lucky, I’ll stay away from yours.”

Matt ignores this advice and posts what Lilian describes as ‘a drunken rant’ on the planning website, vehemently protesting about the proposed development on the Bridge Farm land. (Rumours that Tom wanted the development to be known as ‘Kimchi Corner’ cannot be substantiated). Lilian asks Justin if he sabotaged Matt’s meeting – something to which he readily admits, saying “Of course I did, but that’s nothing compared to what I’ll do next.”

Justin is very angry about what Matt is saying, describing it as “the final provocation – I should have acted sooner. Lilian describes Matt’s comments as ‘vexing’, but is Justin overreacting? Is it jealousy that’s motivating him? “This isn’t jealousy, it’s payback” is Justin’s answer and he adds: “I’ve been too patient for too long – I intend to teach Matt Crawford a lesson he sorely needs; I’m going to crush him.” So, no birthday card then, Justin?

Let’s leave this feud simmering nicely and turn to the Messianic-like fervour with which Jill is embracing the cause of not wasting food. Not only does she make repeated (unsuccessful) attempts to get Brian to cancel his table at the grand opening of the Duxford sisters’ new restaurant (even asking Rooooth to bring up the subject at a meeting at Home Farm), but she lectures the Fete Committee on the sisters’ unsuitability to open the Fete. The rest of the committee disagree and believe that it will be a great coup for the event but, probably to shut Jill up, they agree that the fete takings should go to the Happy Friends Café.

Kirsty has an idea to protest at a Duxford’s PR event next month and Jill wants to join in. Kirsty suggests that she might be a bit too old but Jill is adamant that she’ll be there. To show you how far things have gone, a peckish Rooooth reaches for the cake tin in Brookfield’s kitchen and, shock, horror! It’s empty! “I’ve got more important things on my mind at the moment” says Jill, somewhat testily.

To be honest, Jill’s obsession with waste is getting on my nerves and God alone knows what it must be like at meal times at Brookfield – imagine if Ben left a sprout on his plate! Another example of Jill’s obsessive zeal came at Matt’s Investors’ Day, when Peggy remarked about all the no-shows and Jill immediately said something about the shameful waste of food that this meant. Lighten up Jill – if Brian wants to spend hundreds on a meal, that’s his business – and you can’t feed the world, or even Borsetshire, come to that.

Finally, a word of warning for Christine. Matt seems worryingly attentive to her and was all over her like a cheap suit at the Investors’ Day – and this was before he even knew that she was contemplating selling Woodbine. If she goes ahead and he gets a sniff that she has capital to spare, will he put pressure on her to invest in his racecourse, as she loves horses so much? I fear for her financial well-being, but let’s look on the bright side – perhaps Justin will crush Matt before this happens.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Caroline Sterling R.I.P.

Sara Coward (Caroline Sterling)

Tuesday was a memorable day, as Shula takes a call from Oliver Sterling. He tells her that Caroline died in her sleep (after a wonderful day out), probably from a stroke. He’s OK, he says, but could Shula tell the people in Ambridge the news? “Oh Shula, what am I going to do?” he asks, plaintively.

Shula begins on her mournful task and she’s finding it difficult. But it’s all so unnecessary - if you want people to know, all she had to do was approach Susan Carter, tell her the news and add “of course, you’ve got to keep this to yourself, Susan.” The entire population of Borsetshire will know before lunch and it will be on Radio Borsetshire’s teatime news bulletin. Instead, Shula goes to see the Grundys and other interested parties.

The Grundys are very sad, as they owe Oliver and Caroline so much, not least living at Grange Farm at a reduced rent. But there are practical considerations too - Oliver might want his home back, the inconsiderate swine. Then there are the B&B guests; Clarrie says they will have to cancel all future bookings and there is some discussion about how this will affect their income and savings. It all gets too much for Will, who is the Sterlings’ godson - how can they think about money at a time like this? He remembers how generous Caroline was, buying him a dirt bike and helping him with his driving and buying a car. Will didn’t mention that the Sterlings let him and Nic have their wedding reception at Grey Gables FOC on New Year’s Day, but little things like that can slip your mind, can’t they?

Will says that something like Caroline’s death puts everything into perspective; hassles at work, worries over the cricket team - “it’s not really important, is it?” No Will, it isn’t, as we told you last week and, to his credit (and that’s not a phrase I type very often about Will), he does phone PCB and tells him that, as far as the cricket/lying situations is concerned, he’s prepared to let bygones be bygones. If I were Harrison, I might be tempted to say ‘thanks a span, Will, but I’m still picking Anisha ahead of you’ but I suspect he’ll go for the easy option.

Shula takes further phone calls from Oliver - Caroline will be cremated and the ashes interred in Italy (saves all the worry about whether or not the ashes of a spouse need to be declared at Customs) and Oliver would like Shula to arrange a memorial service for Caroline at St. Stephen’s. She asks if he wouldn’t want some input, but he says it has to be Shula, as she and Caroline were like sisters. Shula eventually says that she’d be proud to do it.

By the way, Caroline’s death underlines how dangerous it is for Archers characters to go abroad for any length of time; as well as Caroline, we had Sid Perks dying in New Zealand in June 2010 (see ‘So Long Sid’). Stay in Ambridge is my advice (unless you’re Will, Kate and quite a few others, in which case take a round the world cruise).

Last week was momentous too for Lilian, as she celebrated her 70th. It started promisingly enough, with Justin giving her Buck’s Fizz in the bath and then a ruby pendant (it’s her birthstone). We learn later that he’s also got tickets for the Wimbledon’s men’s final on Sunday and tickets for the West End revival of ‘Hair’ in the autumn. For someone who has been complaining about the cost of his divorce, that doesn’t seem too shabby a list of presents to me. Not only that, but Justin is well aware of how old his fiancée is and tells her that it doesn’t matter as he and Lilian bring out the silly teenager in each other. What does he mean? Fumbles behind the bike shed? Drinking wine until they are sick? Posting graffiti around the village - isn’t this what teenagers get up to nowadays? Talking of teenagers, there have been a few references to youngsters congregating on the Green and being boisterous. PCB has said that he will keep an eye out for trouble.

But back to Lilian. She ran into Matt the day before her birthday and she was quite put out that he never sent a card or a present. On Monday, the doorbell at the Dower House rings and she finds a puppy on the doorstep, with a note saying ‘Did you really think I’d forget? Happy birthday, Pusscat’. The puppy is not what Lilian wants and she leaves messages, of increasing asperity, on Matt’s phone, telling him that, if he doesn’t take the dog back, it’s off to the Rescue Centre. Lynda notices that it hasn’t got a proper lead and offers Lilian Scruff’s old lead. This sparks an emotional moment, made more so by the sad news about Caroline, and Lilian gives Lynda a hug.

I must admit that I thought the story would develop with Lilian giving Lynda the puppy, but I was wrong, as Lilian finds the dog is growing on her. Justin rings up from London (he’s on his way home) and he says “is that a dog I can hear?” Lilian says that she’s looking after it for a friend and, when Justin gets home, Lilian says she cannot move to welcome him, as the dog has fallen asleep on her. Justin and Lilian agree that the dog is a poppet (their word, not mine) but Lilian says that she knows that she can’t keep it, because it was a present from Matt and, if they keep her, then Matt has won. Justin, however, disagrees; it’s not the puppy’s fault that Matt gave her to Lilian and he wouldn’t make Lilian give her up. “This house needs a dog” he says, which makes you wonder whether Tracy is busy at the moment. No, that was unkind; true, but unkind. But what to call the puppy? ‘Tracy’, ‘Die Matt, Die’ and ‘Up yours, Crawford’ are possibilities, but they pick ‘Ruby’. after Lilian’s birthstone.

Lilian says that, if Matt wanted to sabotage her relationship with Justin (surely not?) then he got it wrong, as they agree that Ruby is adorable. The next day, Justin and Lilian run into Matt. Lilian tells Matt “Get it into your head Matt - it’s over between us.” Justin enters the room and makes a point of telling Matt what a very thoughtful present Ruby was. Matt retires in some confusion and Lilian congratulates her fiancé, saying “Well played; game, set and match to us.” Justin’s reply is “I only serve aces - and I’ve got more balls.“ Let’s leave it there, shall we? 

The meeting described above took place on the day of the Borsetshire Food and Drink Awards. Helen’s Borsetshire Blue cheese was nominated in the ‘Best Artisan Product’ category. She actually won it last year, but couldn’t pick up the award as the Police wouldn’t let her out of prison, the spoilsports. She is doubly keen to win it this year and to be recognised as a cheese maker, rather than the woman who nearly killed her husband, Tom is helping her set up her table, on which she has kindly agreed that he can have a limited space to promote his fermented foods idea. Ha! This is Tom we’re talking about here and he has not only got reams of leaflets, but also 50 dishes so people can sample his initial product ideas, plus he is running a competition, so that he can get people’s details into his database. Helen protests that he was only offered a small area and, anyway, his idea is just that - an idea. “You’ll hardly know I’m here” Tom says, ripping up the ‘Bridge Farm’ banner and replacing it with his own ‘Never mind this organic rubbish, come and taste the Kimchi.’

Helen gets a phone call from home - Jack is running a temperature and she will have to leave the dinner. It is time for the awards to be announced and Justin is pleased to say that Borsetshire Blue has triumphed for the second year in a row. Tom steps up to the plate, saying Helen can’t be here (thankfully he doesn’t say ‘don‘t worry - she’s not in prison this year, ha ha’) and then proceeds to ignore the winning cheese and starts banging on about how fermented foods will be the future, Fortunately, Helen returns and clubs Tom into insensibility, stuffing his mouth with Kimchi and Kefir (is that how it’s spelt?) and saying how much she owes to her family (although presumably not the brother writhing at her feet who is trying to spit out various rotting vegetables). The audience reaction (led by Lilian) is enthusiastic, although, as this award was sponsored by Damara, the cynic might say did Justin fix it?

Changing the subject entirely, if I were Harrison Burns, I would be tempted to bop Fallon over the head with my truncheon. He says that he has been to the Building Society and it looks like they can afford a house in the region of £250k - isn’t that great? Apparently not, as Fallon wants to contribute her share. She taps up Jolene for money (exactly how does this become Fallon’s share?) but Jolene says there’s no way, what with what they owe David and the investment in Scruff Gin.

Fallon is pessimistic, to say the least; her experience of Jolene and Wayne has soured her outlook and she believes that all relationships are doomed. Actually, with Wayne as a father, I’m surprised that she’s not 100% anti-men. As such, if Harrison contributes the majority of the money towards the house (and it looks like we are talking a 95% share here) how could she walk away with 50% when it all goes tits up and the house has to be sold off amid the ashes of their failed relationship? PCB is getting pissed off with all this and asks why are they talking about how to split a house that they haven’t even bought yet? He asks her to let him do it - if that’s what she really wants? Fallon replies of course it is and they kiss. Perhaps he did bop her with the truncheon after all.

And so to Brian and the search for an attorney for Ruairi in the Home Farm Family Partnership. Having been turned down by half of Ambridge, Brian has an idea - what about Rooooth? On learning the news, David wonders why he wasn’t considered and then it dawns on him that perhaps he was, as Brian and he met in the pub, but David was so knackered that Brian probably though he was past it (spot on, David - he did). “Are you saying I’m second best?” Rooooth asks, angrily. No love, you’re actually third best, as Brian also asked Tom before you. Roooth says that she wouldn’t be Brian’s poodle and tells David that she’ll probably accept, “but let’s see how Brian reacts when I lay out my terms and conditions.” Brian listens to her spiel about how she’ll be independent and says “that’s music to my ears.” Rooooth accepts, although I‘d be careful.

Do we have a possible romance for Roy on the horizon? He returns home to find Kirsty giving fruit picker team leader Lexi a conversational English lesson. Roy has had a bad day at work and is quite rude. He later seeks out Lexi and apologises. He then makes some crass remark about immigrant workers and talks about what it must be like in Romania. Unfortunately, Lexi is Bulgarian. Surely, after such an inauspicious start, this relationship has to be a goer, doesn’t it?

Monday, 10 July 2017

Just Not Cricket?

Philip Molloy (Will Grundy)

In recent posts, I have suggested that Will is reverting to his erstwhile moaning, whining persona. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I was absolutely right, as was illustrated on Sunday. Will doesn’t turn up for the cricket match and Harrison (or PCB to our readers) manages to get Lily to fill in for him. However, Will does turn up at tea and gathers the team round, as he has something important to tell everyone.

It turns out that he has been talking to the Darrington captain and Will brought up the subject of the proposed takeover of Ambridge by Darrington. PCB read out an e-mail on the subject at the EGM in March, and it was this that convinced people to vote for females joining the team. Will says that the Darrington captain assured him that no such e-mail had been written or sent and the entire story was false. This means that PCB lied to them all, rants Will and hes not fit to be captain of Ambridge - especially as hes a policeman. PCB should resign says Will, foaming ever so slightly at the mouth and he shouts down PCBs protest that he did it to save the team, yelling: Now you all know the truth - Harrison Burns is a liar!

No doubt Will is telling the truth, but the question remains, so what? We are talking about a village cricket team here, but Will is determined to turn it into a major incident. Rex tries to reason with him, but Will is long past that stage. Rex asks if this isnt more about Wills antipathy to women players, rather than some high moral stance, but Will denies this, even when Rex points out that, if they had no women players, there wouldnt be a team. Hes got to resign! yells a demented Will. He then proceeds to roam the village, drumming up support for PCB to be tarred and feathered and dragged through the village.

One person who he tries to persuade is Neil, who is in two minds on the subject. He wrestles with this weighty moral problem for a couple of days before coming down on Wills side. Come on lads, at the end of the day, does it really matter? Suppose PCB does resign and another EGM votes to ban women players, what then? Who will take over as captain - who would want to captain a team of eight or nine players? Does Will really want to be known as the man who destroyed cricket in Ambridge? Get a sense of perspective everybody - we never had this much fuss over the untruths that preceded the Iraq war and its only a bloody cricket team and it’s not as if anybody has died, or been defrauded of thousands of Pounds, is it?

There may be another reason for Will to tread carefully - as he quite rightly pointed put, PCB is a policeman and, should he develop a vindictive streak, Will might find himself being done for speeding four or five times a week, or fined for dropping litter on a regular basis. And who knows what might happen when it comes to the renewal of Wills shotgun licence?

Lets move on from Will. Phoebe is home from college and is somewhat strapped for cash. Shed like to go out with her friends and can Roy lend her £20 please? All he has is a fiver, which doesnt make his daughter very happy. She would like to go away with her friends later in the holiday, but has no money. Roy suggests getting a part-time job and says that he might be able to get her a job at Grey Gables. Phoebe is horrified at the thought of waiting on tables or cleaning rooms, but there may be another solution.

That solution goes by the name of Jennifer, to whom Phoebe tells her woes. Phoebe has a long reading list for the holidays and she has no new clothes. Plus she could do with a new hard drive for her laptop and would like to go away with her friends, if only she had the money. Jennifer takes her granddaughter on a shopping trip and Phoebe ends up with a couple of designer T-shirts and a new hard drive, among other things. Roy asks Phoebe where they came from and Phoebe says that she tried to stop Jennifer, but she got carried away.

Roy drives Phoebe over to Home Farm, where she has been invited for supper and he has a quiet word with Jen. He thanks her for buying the tops etc and tells her about Phoebes ambition to go off with her friends. He thinks that Phoebe should get a holiday job to pay for the trip and not rely on the Bank of Grannie. In conversation later, Phoebe apologises to Jennifer, who says that she understands Roys point of view and the two agree that there will be no more shopping trips. But I could slip you a cheque every now and then Jennifer says. To her credit, Phoebe says no - Roy is right; she cannot keep relying on handouts and she will ask Adam for a fruit-picking job. Good for you Phoebe!

Lilian has also been invited for supper and Jennifer asks for her help in moving a load of books, which Lynda has donated to be sold at the Fete. There are a lot of books written by Dorothy L Sayers and Jennifer suddenly realises where she has heard the name Harriet Vane before - she is a character in a Sayers novel. Lynda must have read the books, so it follows that she is the Harriet Vane who is plaguing Eddie Grundy with e-mails, asking question after question about the Grange Farm B&B offering. This news delights Lilian, who says, in a pleased voice Well, well, well - whod have guessed it?

And why is Lilian so pleased? She is scheduled to do a Speedwatch stint with Lynda the next day and she knows that Lynda has been trying to find out her age. Lilian is worried that Lynda will tell Justin that she will be 70 in a couple of days (presumably Lilian hasnt been very honest with him). The Speedwatch isnt going very well, with the two women making barbed remarks to each other. Eventually, Lilian tells Lynda (or should I call you Harriet?) that she knows her secret and that she is an Internet troll. Lilian soon apologises for this and for the hurtful things she said about Lynda not having children when the two began rowing about James and Leone. Eventually peace breaks out and the two agree to keep each others secrets.

It was quite a week for Lynda. Fallon airs her concerns to PCB about the lack of progress with the Fete - nothing seems to be happening and Lynda wont step down from organising it. PCB is more worried about the cricket - should he resign? Fallon says no - he has to man up and fight his corner. PCB thinks thats a bit rich, coming from someone who is scared to confront Lynda. Fallon is stung into going to see Lynda, who admits that things are behind schedule and its all her fault. No, no, says Fallon - Lynda has got a lot on and perhaps this year she should take a step back and let Fallon get more involved? Lynda is pathetically grateful and agrees like a shot, much to Fallons (and my) surprise.

Fallon returns home and tells PCB. She has also told him to get his backside into gear about their search for a house and she gets touchy when he says that he has decided to tough out the cricket situation. Fallon asks, angrily, if thats all he thinks about and what about the house situation? In response, PCB shows her his various bank books, deposit accounts, ISAs and suchlike - he has enough money for a substantial deposit and Fallon is overjoyed. That seems like a fair division of responsibilities to me; Fallon chooses the house and PCB pays for it.

Justin was involved - sometimes only peripherally - in a number of stories last week. As we said, Lilian was desperate that he didn’t learn her real age and, to cheer herself up, she had a full makeover; haircut, hair colour, although she stopped short of further botox. Justin thinks she looks fabulous and so does Matt, who Lilian runs into at The Bull. She’s flattered; even more so when Matt remembers it’s her birthday coming up. “We had some good times” Matt says, before presenting her with a cheque for £20 k; not a birthday present, but the latest instalment of what he owes.

Matt also featured large last week - he confronted Roy at Grey Gables as he (Matt) was organising the Racecourse Investors’ day at G-G and he impresses on Roy the need for total secrecy and privacy. Matt appreciates that Roy can’t keep the fire doors nailed shut, but maybe he could have a trusted member of staff, presumably armed with a Kalashnikov, strategically situated to take out any guest who might accidentally stray into the wrong corridor? Roy promises to check into the security arrangements for the G20 conference in Hamburg to see if he can learn something.

Meanwhile, Justin and Latif Hussain are on the golf course. Justin asks if things are OK on the racecourse deal. Latif is extremely satisfied and intimates that he might even buy into the second phase of the investment. Perhaps Justin would like to come along to the Investors’ Day? Justin says ‘no thanks’, remarking that Matt has been looking very smug recently and is his part in the whole deal as minor as he makes out?

While this is going on, Tom encounters Matt at The Bull and Tom accuses him of making trouble over the land deal. Matt’s response is that he doesn’t need to help Tom screw up his business, as Tom can do that by himself. Tom asks if Matt gets a kick out of doing this and Matt counters by saying that Tom botched the land deal because he was greedy, “so don’t go preaching to me - go home and forget how you lost your family £100 k.” By the way, Tom has (probably wisely and at Pat’s suggestion) turned down Brian’s offer of being Ruairi’s Attorney - he can (probably quite rightly) foresee only strife. Brian isn’t happy, but  what can he do?

Tom leaves and Justin enters the bar. Matt approaches him and says that he’d like the two of them to make a fresh start. As Matt leaves, Tom returns and buttonholes Justin and tells him that it was Matt who scuppered their land deal. “He’s a crook with no morals,” Tom says, adding: “if you have dealings with him, be careful.” On Friday, Justin tells Lilian (who has just returned from being complimented by Matt in The Bull) that he knows about Matt’s involvement in the Bridge Farm land deal. What is he going to do? Lil asks. He’s not sure, but says that Matt is a fool to try and play tricks on him. As Lilian goes to the bathroom - yes, it did get finished - Justin rings Anthea, his PA. “I want you to get hold of some names for me” he tells her, adding: “it may take a bit of detective work.”

Monday, 3 July 2017

Reluctant (Almost) Millionaires

Patricia Gallimore (Pat Archer)

Is it just me (and Lilian, of course) who thinks that Justin Elliott is being given an unjustifiably hard time over the Bridge Farm land purchase? For a family thats potentially picking up £900 k for selling 3.5 acres, they seem particularly ungracious. Take Helen for example - on Wednesday she tells Justin Just because youre marrying my aunt doesnt mean youre part of the family and she accuses Justin of stitching the family up.

Pat is even worse. On Monday, she, Tony and Justin are meeting to sign the option agreement. This means that they agree to sell the land to Justin, subject to planning permission being granted. As a sign of good faith, Justin will pay them £30k, which they get to keep, even if planning is denied. Pat is very prickly and, while Tony is in the toilet (something that seems to be happening more and more often), she and Justin have a very stilted conversation. Justin says that he appreciates that the deal hasnt gone the way she would have liked, but it wasnt his fault. So youre blaming Tom? Pat snaps back and Justin replies that, once you enter into negotiations, there are bound to be consequences.

Pat then tells Justin that he has no idea what its like, to let go of land that youve worked for 40 years and he points out that they have decided to sell and, when she continues to harp on about how hard it is, he says Lets hope the £30k eases the pain a little, or were you thinking of turning that down as well? Not nice, I grant you, but Im not surprised that he has had enough - after all. Its not as if hes forcing them to sell at gunpoint, is it? He does apologise later, but Pat is still anti.

Justin is concerned at all the bad feeling and says to Lilian “I should never have played hardball with Tom” and he reproaches himself for treating Tom as a businessman, rather than a nephew. Sod that, Justin - Tom was the one who said “this is how business operates” and he was trying to screw an extra half million from Justin. When it all went tits up, Justin showed him exactly how real businessmen operate and cut a better deal for himself. On Friday, Lilian visits Bridge Farm and tells them to lay off Justin and stop demonising him as a ruthless, blood-sucking parasite. Helen suggests that Justin has it in for Tom, but Lilian says that it was just a business deal. Tom agrees and says that he has learnt his lesson, to which Helen protests that Tom is family, for heaven’s sake. True enough, Helen, but as you reminded Justin so forcefully in our opening paragraph, Justin isn’t family.

Let’s just reflect on the whole deal, shall we? The Bridge Farm Archers are getting £900k, for which they are giving up - voluntarily - a parcel of land described by Brian Aldridge as ‘one small field.’ Judging from the reactions to the initial £30k payment, they don’t seem averse to taking the money, as Helen and Tom both put forward cases for having the money, until Tony suggests that they think of others on the farm, like him, Pat and Johnny. Contrite, Helen and Tom tell their father that he can do what he likes with the money, but they’d like Johnny to have some.

So if the money isn’t a problem per se, what is? It’s the fact that Tom’s stupidity and arrogance means that they are £100k down on the deal and all this bleating on about how hard it is is just cobblers. I am reminded of the remark (attributed to, among others, George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, Churchill, W.C. Fields and Bertrand Russell) where the man asks a lady if she would sleep with him for £1 million. ‘Yes’ she replies. How about £5? Indignantly the lady says ‘What kind of person do you think I am?, to which the man answers ‘Madam, we have already established that - we are now merely haggling over the price.’ And that, I submit, is the Bridge Farm land deal in a nutshell.

Let’s leave this sordid story behind and pop in to Home Farm. Brian thinks that, if the family partnership is to work, somebody needs to be appointed as attorney for Ruairi and how about David? After all, he understands farming. Adam, just before shooting off to Venice with Ian as a belated birthday celebration, says that Alice thinks David is too old and has Brian considered Ian, or perhaps Alistair? Brian admits that these are possibles, even though they are not farmers, but he knows who is the ideal choice - and that person is, surprise, surprise, David. Brian has promised Adam that he will have sorted the whole thing out by the end of the week and he invites David to The Bull in order to sound him out. Except that he doesn’t - David is tired and has tweaked his back and he can’t stop yawning, remarking ruefully that he feels older than his 58 years. Brian tells Jennifer later that he thinks Alice might have a point and that David isn’t the one for the job. It would seem that, as far as Brian and David are concerned, 58 is the new 85.

It’s a busy time for Lynda, what with worrying about Leone (don’t bother - there’s one problem solved) and having to keep an eagle eye on the housing development and the new pig unit. She is also obsessed with Lilian’s age and keeps asking people about it. Don’t worry Lynda - she’s 70 on July 8th. Then there’s her reading list and the preparation for the Fete. On the latter subject, Lynda has deliberately left Fallon and Emma alone to see how they have progressed things. The short answer is that they haven’t, unless you count having signed up Kathy to run the White Elephant stall as progress. With a martyred sigh, Lynda tells husband Robert “It seems that once more I will have to step into the breach.” Don’t bother on my account Lynda.

Something else that is keeping Lynda busy is trying to get one over on Eddie regarding the B&Bs. Eddie spoke to a reporter from the Echo about staycations locally and, in his words, he “bigged Grange Farm up a bit.” This is Eddie-speak for ‘going off into the realm of fantasy’ and he makes Grange Farm sound like a cross between a luxury hotel and Utopia. Lynda vows revenge and, later on, she is talking to Emma. Emma has already told her that she wants Eddie to scale down B&B operations while the kids are on holiday, plus Clarrie is concerned that Oliver and Caroline will read the article online and wonder what has happened to their home. Lynda suggests that this doesn’t sound like Eddie is planning to ease off and Emma agrees. She does mention to Lynda that Eddie is getting a string of e-mails from a certain Harriet Vane, demanding answers to questions thrown up by the article; one of which is ‘what do you mean by Eggs Benedict three ways?’ Emma confides that Ms Vane is driving Eddie mad, plus this is not the first time she has done this, although she has never actually stayed at Grange Farm. Lynda gives a little smirk and hides her keyboard.

Over at The Lodge, Hilda Ogden continues to attack whoever she can get her claws into, except for Peggy, of course. The latest victim is PCBurns, who has turned up with a list for Christine of things that need repairing or doing at Woodbine Cottage. Hilda chooses her moment and we hear a startled yelp from PCB. Chris apologises and PCB says that it’s ok  - “I think I’ll still be able to bat this afternoon.” Later on in the week, we hear a shriek from Lilian “That cat attacked me on the stairs!” Christine confides, softly, so that Peggy cannot hear, “between you and me, I think it’s a monster.” The only good thing to come from all this is that PCB tells Fallon that he’s fed up with all the things going wrong and waiting for them to be fixed and why don’t they buy a place together? Fallon is over the moon and grabs hold of him. I must say I was quite pleased too, as I like Harrison and Fallon as a couple.

All is not well with Ambridge cricket. Will is annoyed at being left out of the team and, at Nets, he goes off on one when Anisha is taking catching practice. “You’ve got a real issue with me, haven’t you?” she asks him. Will replies that his real problem is with PCB filling the team with his mates and, when Anisha says that, if he feels like that, why doesn’t he go off and play for some other team, he says petulantly “Why should I? I was here first!” Rex overhears this exchange and asks Anisha if Will is bothering her? She says ‘no’ and moves off, and Will makes some sarcastic remark about Rex sticking up for his girlfriend. Rex observes that Will must really feel threatened by Anisha, which Will denies, adding that he just doesn’t think that women should play for Ambridge.

Rex says that it seems Will’s problem is with all women, not just Anisha and, when Will denies this too, Rex asks how come Will told the vice captain of Paxley that he would play for them, provided they didn’t pick any women? Will is astounded - how did Rex know about that? Simple - the vice captain told Rex when he was a passenger in his taxi. A very annoyed Will stumps off, saying “at least I’d be appreciated at Paxley.” I fear that Will is reverting to his nasty, whiny former self and if so, Paxley are welcome to him - at least we would then be spared his whining at practice sessions.

Anisha teases Rex for sticking up for her and, as they talk, she says that she’s not ready for a serious relationship at the moment. Rex, who has just heard that his goslings will be ready to pick up in a couple of weeks, replies that neither is he - with the geese, the taxi job and working for Josh, he hasn’t time, anyway. The two of them agree to keep their friendship on a fun level and Rex invites her to the pub in a few days to celebrate his 30th birthday. Anisha teases him about showing a girl a good time, but says she might make it. Like Fallon and PCB, I like Anisha and Rex as a couple, although I fear this one is going to be a very slow burner. Let’s just hope that Toby doesn’t stick his oar, or anything else, in by making a move on her, as he did with Pip. Speaking of Toby, haven’t the last couple of weeks been made blissful by his absence from all episodes? Long may it continue.

Finally, I have discovered a rare genetic quirk among the offspring of Peggy, in that they seem incapable of getting any major domestic alterations carried out without a lot of grief. Consider; first we had the saga of Jennifer’s new kitchen; the story of which stretched out even longer than the time allocated to the annual Christmas pantomime story. Now we have the seemingly-endless doings of Lilian’s new bathroom at the Dower House. Builder/plumber Philip and his worker Connor are being subjected to unremitting surveillance by Lilian and it is surprising that she isn’t wielding a whip. This story has gone on long enough - please end it and we pray to God that the third sibling (Tony) doesn’t suddenly decide to spend Justin’s money on a new conservatory - I don’t think I could stand the suspense.