Kim Durham (Matt Crawford)
The brand new family partnership at Home Farm heralded a new era of co-operation and democratic decision making among the Aldridges. Well, that was the idea, anyway, but with Brian involved you never can tell. Take last Wednesday, for example; Alice is talking with Adam and she mentions in passing that Brian has agreed to trial a new piece of Pryce Baumann kit on Home Farm and to help with its development.
Adam, rather naively and optimistically, says that there will probably be a partnership meeting to discuss it, but Alice says that Brian has already agreed to go ahead. “So much for the partnership” Adam says, bitterly. Later on, Adam confronts Brian, describing his actions as ‘unforgivable’ and he should have brought the subject to the partnership. For his part, Brian cannot see what all the fuss is about and says that he didn’t want to bother Adam with details and that he (Adam) is over-reacting. He doesn’t want to go running to Adam “with every little thing.“ Adam doesn’t buy this and says “I’ve seen the future Brian, and I don’t like what I see.” Brian unburdens himself to Justin on the golf course, seeking approval for his course of action and Justin (accurately) sums up Brian’s attitude as “a sort of benevolent dictatorship” although I’m not too sure about the ‘benevolent’ bit.
We had another touch of ‘same old, same old’ towards the end of the week, when Lilian and Matt meet up at an open meeting to view a potential property sale. Matt takes over and plays bad cop to Lilian’s good cop and intimidates the girl who is showing prospective buyers around. She was drafted in at the last moment and is ill-informed about the property. Matt tells her that her asking price is a joke surely? And the upshot is that Lilian gets a provisional reservation at a very advantageous price.
Matt suggests a drink for old times’ sake, dropping hints that he will be on his way back to Costa Rica in a week or two. ‘Drinks’ means a bottle of champagne in his suite at Grey Gables and Lilian is getting stuck into the bubbly. She then says she has to go and Matt asks for one last hug and a goodbye kiss “Goodbye pusscat” he says, closing the door. Lilian mutters ‘goodbye’ to herself and runs off, in floods of tears.
The situation is more complicated than it seems as, earlier in the day, Lilian had a conversation with Adam who, still despondent after Brian’s attitude, describes himself as “official dogsbody at Home Farm.” Lilian is at a loose end, as Justin is in London and she suggests dinner at Grey Gables later. Adam duly turns up at the hotel and asks for Mrs Bellamy, only to be told by the receptionist that she has arrived and the champagne has already been sent up to Mr Crawford’s suite. This is happening while Matt and Lilian are saying their goodbyes and Adam gets a text from his aunt, saying “sorry darling, can’t make tonight - so sorry.” The week ends with Adam saying to himself “oh Lilian, what are you doing?” Bloody good question, Adam and I implore Lilian not to cock it all up now - she has Justin, who loves her and, it should not be forgotten, is buying the Dower House at an inflated price, so Lilian could possibly have nowhere to live if Justin were to get arsey. Not only that, but Matt is the lowest of low-lifes and the sooner he goes back to Costa Rica, the better.
But let’s consider Grey Gables. Oliver has a heart-to-heart with Shula - he and Caroline invested rather a lot of money in their Tuscan Villa, expecting to spend the rest of their lives there. While it could be argued that, in Caroline’s case, this was certainly true, Oliver cannot bear the thought of living there now and there’s no way he could recoup the money. While he’s not actually borassic, he could do with a spot of cash and needs to realise an asset or two. How about Grange Farm? No, he has told the Grundys that they are safe there and he couldn’t bear to make them homeless.
That would appear to leave Grey Gables and Shula remarks, rather unhelpfully, that it meant so much to Caroline. Be that as it may, Oliver cannot see an alternative and asks Shula if he could bring prospective buyers to the Stables, as meeting at Grey Gables would be awkward. Shula agrees. Oliver obviously isn’t one to let the grass grow under his feet and he tells Shula that Marion - a representative of a hotel chain - would like to meet the day after tomorrow. At the meeting, Marion expresses a desire to look round Grey Gables. Fortunately, it’s Lynda’s day off, so Oliver is confident that he can get away with the cover story that Marion is looking for tips on how to run a country house hotel.
Ah, the best-laid plans! Oliver is showing Marion round when Lynda suddenly appears; it seems that Kathy isn’t well (probably laryngitis, as we haven’t heard from her for weeks) and Lynda has given up her day off to cover. She immediately takes over the tour and answers all Marion’s questions. After Marion has gone, Lynda tells Oliver of the plan hatched by her, Roy and Ian, to donate a bench in Caroline’s memory, situated at one of her favourite viewpoints in the grey Gables grounds, all of which makes Oliver feel even more of a hypocrite, as he tells Shula later.
Marion rings Oliver later and tells him that she loved Grey Gables, but there’s a potential snag - Oliver made it plain that he wanted certain guarantees; notably reassurance that the staff would have security of employment. While Marion fell in love with the hotel’s Olde Worlde charm, she isn’t senior enough to guarantee the Oliver’s wishes would be carried out - indeed, her chain would want to make ‘substantial changes’ and there’s no way that Oliver’s wishes could be put into the contract. Oliver thanks her for her honesty, but says that they cannot have a deal on that basis. Marion replies that he hasn’t heard their offer yet, and it’s a very good one and she begs him not to make a hasty decision - she will e-mail the offer. “Thank you, “ says Oliver, adding: “You’ve given me a lot to think about.” I don’t know if Oliver has any other assets that could be disposed of - one assumes not, as earlier he only mentioned Grange Farm and Grey Gables so, if he needs the money it looks like a choice between sacrificing the Grundys or the hotel staff. I know which I would choose, but it’s not up to me. Oliver’s daughter has asked him to come and live with them in New York and he admits that it would give him the chance to see his grandchildren grow up. It would also put considerable distance between him and anyone upset by any decision he might make.
Susan has become passionately evangelical about the benefits of Kefir, to the extent that she is making her own recipes for drinks and formulations for face packs in her home. Susan has obviously been listening to Tom’s vision of the future and she has spotted a possible career move - if Kefir takes off, then someone will be needed to oversee the production process and she sees herself as the Bridge Farm Kefir supremo. Mind you, her marketing could do with some help - Emma suggests that ‘oily skin’ be replaced by ‘oleaginous’ for one of the face masks - plus not everyone shares her vision, as Pat tells her off for going home to check on her latest home-fermenting batch and reminds her that yoghurt is their bread and butter, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor.
I think that an awareness campaign might not come amiss, as not many people know exactly what Kefir is. Take Tracy, for example; at the party being thrown to celebrate the fact that Chris has managed to buy the farrier business, she talks to Susan about Kefir - what proof is it? Can you add mixers? Susan explains that it isn’t alcoholic and is more like yoghurt, much to her sister’s disgust. Mind you, it takes a lot to knock Tracy back and she avails herself of the free drinks at the party. She’s not the only one, as Alice also imbibes liberally and, as the party begins to wind up, she decides that she really needs to climb a tree. Tracy thinks this is a boffo wheeze and she too picks a tree. A recipe for disaster, you might think, but both women manage to jump out of their arboreal perches with no ill effects, although Alice is too hungover to meet a new client the next morning. Fortunately, Chris comes to the rescue and phones Alice in sick and re-arranges the appointment for Monday. I suggest he keeps her away from tall vegetation over the weekend - oh yes, keep her away from alcohol as well.
There was concern as to whether Emma and Ed would attend the party, as, when Chris turned up to invite them, Emma went off on one (again) and accused her brother (although not in so many words) of freeloading off the backs of the Aldridges and living in a house that was given to them (like Emma would turn down any house that was bought for her). As it turned out, Ed and Emma did go to the party and were enjoying themselves. Chris tells her that he appreciates that he has been lucky, but he worked hard to buy his business and besides, Emma has something that he envies: to wit, her two kids. He tells her that he cannot wait to become a dad. And does Alice feel the same? Of course, he says. At this moment, Alice flings herself out of the tree and nearly lands on Chris. Emma says that her stupidity could have meant that Chris could have been crippled and she and Ed are going home. At least Emma’s happy, having something new to moan about.
Let’s return to the Stables, where Alistair is on tenterhooks about his future, and that of the vets’ practice. He has told Anisha about his gambling, Matt’s involvement and the horse doping incident and is now waiting for her reaction - will she walk away, feeling unable to trust him ever again? He is close to getting an answer when Shula interrupts them by telling Anisha that Matt is waiting for her to carry out a couple more pre-purchase examinations of horses. Alistair is uncomfortable that Matt is hanging around, but Shula says that Anisha is keeping in with him, as he has promised (but not yet fulfilled his promise) to introduce her to Latif Hussain and, hopefully, pick up some of his equine business for the practice.
The same day, Shula learns from Justin that Latif has been asking after the thoroughbreds Aziz and Amir and Shula suggests that Justin invites Latif to the Stables to see for himself and Anisha can show him round. This is what happens and Anisha soon has Latif eating out of her hand, showing him the new equipment and telling him how well she and Alistair complement each other. So impressed is Latif that he offers Anisha and the practice some locum work at one of his yards. Alistair is still worried, as Anisha hasn’t shown her hand yet and Shula says that, whatever Anisha decides, she hopes that they can remain friends. Anisha decides to stay and, on Wednesday, Matt pays her a visit. He knows that she has met Latif and he thought that she and he were friends. Anisha tells Matt that he’s not the kind of person that she wants to do business with after she learned how he treated Alistair. “The feeling’s mutual” says a clearly-annoyed Matt. “Then we’re quits” Anisha retorts. “Yeah - aren’t we” Matt says, as he leaves. Go on man - do what you said you’d do in paragraph four and do everyone a favour by sodding off back to Costa Rica.