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?