Sunday, 17 December 2017

The Grundys Show The Christmas Spirit

Trevor Harrison (Eddie Grundy)

This Christmas promises to be an unusual one for the Grundys; instead of the usual panic and last-minute rush to flog turkeys, by Wednesday the birds are slaughtered, dressed and packed in boxes, together with a bottle of Tumble Tussock cider, and ready to be despatched - probably a first in Ambridge.

Compare and contrast this, as they used to say in exam papers, with the situation over at Hollowtree, where Rex is struggling with his geese. It hasn’t helped that he has been up and down to Glasgow, to support Anisha. Toby has helped - especially with the slaughtering - but now he is up to his eyes in gin production. Eddie quizzes Rex, who admits that sales are not that great and he accepts that he cannot dress all the birds single-handed.

Eddie has a little dig at Rex and smugly tells him how successful the turkey sales have been. Eddie also has a slight gloat when he tells son Ed about Rex’s predicament. Far from agreeing with his dad, Ed says that he feels sorry for Rex and how about going over to Hollowtree and giving him a hand? Eddie is indignant - after all, the Fairbrothers tried to muscle in on what he regards as the Grundys’ market. Ed manages to persuade his dad and they turn up at Hollowtree, where Rex is thunderstruck by what he calls their “amazingly kind offer”.

The three quickly set up a production line and Eddie even gives Rex a bottle of Tumble Tussock. Rex is pathetically grateful and he tells them “I love this place [Ambridge, not Hollowtree] - the way everybody pulls together, especially at Christmas. It’s brilliant.” This makes Eddie a bit uncomfortable, as he has just announced that he no longer wants to be involved in the village pantomime, but more of this later.  Wasn’t the offer to help Rex a fine example of the true spirit of Christmas? I must admit that I was expecting something to go awry and spoil the Grundys’ well-organised Festive Season, but now I hope that all goes well for them.

The unpleasantness of the pantomime occurred on Monday. The day before, Alan, the director, confides that he is seriously thinking of jacking it all in and, on Monday, his patience is sorely tested as no-one has learned their lines, Susan is moaning about her costume and she and Eddie keep adding lines, slipping in product placement references to Kefir and Grundy turkeys and cider. To cap it all, Lynda is still agonising over her character, whom she thinks should be called Carabosse and not Nightshade, and she adds extra lines.

A man can only stand so much and Alan loses it big time, cancelling the rehearsal and berating the cast (the final straw was when Jazzer popped out for a smoke and missed his entrance cue), telling them that it is a shambles and to go home and learn their lines and come back on Wednesday, prepared to be more mature. Everybody goes, but only to The Bull, where there is an atmosphere of rebellion, with Eddie and Jazzer saying that they are withdrawing from the production.

Back at the Village Hall, Alan is alone with Usha, who was impressed by Alan’s assertiveness; she’s never seen him like that. For his part, Alan thinks he might have gone too far and did he do the right thing? He admits that his outburst made him feel better, but will anyone turn up on Wednesday? “I might have just killed off the Ambridge panto” Alan tells his wife.

No such luck! Eddie has second thoughts after Rex’s comments about pulling together (in this case, pulling intestines together) and Kirsty talks round a reluctant Jazzer. In the event, everyone turns up and Alan thanks them all fervently. The rehearsal passes off brilliantly, with everyone co-operating and, as he thanks his cast once more at the end, the vicar says “For the first time, I really believe that we’ve got a show.”

Tuesday is Lily and Freddie’s 18th birthday and the family tea. Elizabeth confesses that she told them a white lie the other week - instead of visiting the dentist, she went to the bank to take something from the vaults. Years ago, she and Nigel wanted to get something special for when the twins came of age and she handed over what they decided. Freddie gets an emerald and diamond ring (it was Nigel’s grandmother’s or similar) and Lily gets a Gwen John, both presents being worth a fortune. I had to look Gwen John up and she was the sister of artist Augustus and painted mostly portraits, and was born in 1876, dying in 1939.

The twins kidnap Elizabeth and take her outside, where they show her Lower Loxley all lit up and people enjoying themselves. She should be immensely proud of all that she has achieved, they tell her and Freddie pushes his luck when he says that “we haven’t turned out too badly, have we?” If she were telling the truth, Elizabeth should answer ’well, Lily’s OK, I suppose’ but she doesn’t and tells her children that she’s very proud of them. We have a few sentimental words about Nigel and then the three of them have a group hug. When they were given the presents, Lily said “We’ll never sell them, will we Freddie?” and there was a pause before he answered “no”. What’s the betting he’ll be down the pawnshop early in the New Year?

Elizabeth is the only person (apart from Toby) who knows that Pip is pregnant. Pip invents a string of lies to cover up the fact that she isn’t feeling at all well - she tells Rooooth that she has a bug, but Pip confides in Elizabeth that the strain of telling lies is taking its toll on her. She also thinks that Jill suspects something and is fussing round her. Elizabeth remembers when she had her abortion - Jill was very upset, as she doesn’t approve of abortions. But never mind, it will all be over on Friday, when Pip goes to the clinic. Elizabeth offers to go with Pip, but she declines the offer.

Friday arrives and Pip is at the clinic early, having taken a taxi. Pip is called in and goes through the formalities. The clinician asks if she is absolutely certain (yes she is) and Pip says that she won’t change her mind, so let’s get on with it. Later on, Elizabeth rings her niece to see how she is and says she knows that it can be painful, but it will soon all be over. “No it won’t” Pip replies, adding that, when it came to it, she couldn’t do it - she couldn’t take that pill.

I put it to you that if Pip was under strain because of telling lies before, then that’s nothing compared to what she faces now. David and Rooooth aren’t going to believe that her expanding waistline is down to eating Jill’s cakes and, when they learn who the father is, they (and Jill) will go totally ape. I can see them marching her down to the clinic and forcing the pill down her throat. Maybe Pip should seduce Alfie and tell him that he’s the father, although she’d better be quick. It will be interesting when she does actually tell her family the news, not to mention telling Toby, who has already said this isn’t the right time for him to start a family. Will he make an honest woman of Pip? Indeed, will her parents and grandmother let him? This could be the only shotgun wedding where the gun is used to keep the prospective groom away.

Johnny tells Adam that he has decided that he isn’t ready to accept the full-time job at Home Farm. He says it doesn’t feel right at the moment, but in reality, he’d like Ed to get the work, so when Adam says that he supposes he’ll have to advertise the post, Johnny says “You might not need to bother” but that’s as far as it goes and we aren’t told if Adam considers Ed. I hope he does, for Ed‘s sake.

Over at The Stables, Alistair is concerned that Shula seems distinctly underwhelmed at the prospect of their imminent holiday to track down the Northern Lights. He has booked a night in an ice hotel and Elizabeth has lent Shula an expensive and very warm coat that Nigel bought her. Things are looking up at The Stables, with customers returning, so what has Shula got to be miserable about?

Lilian is not looking forward to Christmas at Home Farm and tells Shula that Brian gives her a look every time she has a G&T, which means that Brian probably spends at least half a day with his eyes fixed on Lilian, Speaking to sister Jennifer later, Lilian wonders whether it might be better if she went away over Christmas? Jennifer’s response is that she will always be welcome at Home Farm.

As the pair speak, Lilian’s phone keeps beeping intermittently and she discovers that these are alerts for her’s and Justin’s shared diary. Anthea should have cancelled it and Lilian notices that Anthea is setting up meetings and Justin keeps cancelling them. Jennifer observes that Anthea doesn’t make mistakes and perhaps this is her way of letting Lilian know that Justin is sitting at home, miserable. Either that, or he could be ill, but either way, isn’t it worth dropping by the Dower House to see how he feels?

Lilian does exactly this the next day and is rapturously greeted - not by Justin, but by Ruby, who didn’t have an intestinal blockage after all. Justin says that he hears that Lilian has cancelled the wedding. He seems surprised, but Lilian says that surely that is what they decided last week? She asks Justin to listen - he needs to know the truth and asks for ten minutes. His response (“I know the truth”) is not encouraging, but he agrees.

Lilian goes over the whole story of Matt yet again and insists that there was nothing physical between them, despite the fact that she was drawn to him briefly. Justin tells her how he answered her phone on the night of the Hunt Ball and heard Matt’s questions about whether or not she is joining him at the airport? Lilian finishes and Justin asks how can he ever trust her again? The trouble is that she showed him what true happiness is and then she snatched it away. “You are my Achilles’ heel” he tells her, adding “Unfortunately Matt Crawford is yours”. Lilian makes one final attempt, saying “Not any more. I was an idiot. I made a catastrophic mistake and ruined the best thing I ever had. I love you Justin and it would break my heart if you left, so won’t you let me try and make things right? Please? Just one more chance?” And there the week ended, so once again we are left in suspense and I still don’t know what I should do with this wedding present.

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