Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Was This Christening Such A Good Idea, Alice?


Hollie Chapman and Wilf Scolding (Alice and Chris Carter)

In last week’s blog, Alice had the bright idea of getting Martha christened. No problem, you’d think - line up some Godparents, get the catering organised and away you go. And if you think that’s all there is to it, you haven’t reckoned with the Aldridges and the Carters. 

A dog-tired Alice talks (or, more accurately, listens) to Susan’s ideas about the occasion; what can Susan do towards the catering? She’d like to know so she can start planning. The short answer is ‘nothing’, as Alice mentions that they will be getting Fallon to do the catering. OK then, has Alice been in touch with Emma about being the second Godmother? I’d like to digress here, as I have no idea who is the first Godmother - no doubt we (or I) will be enlightened soon. Alice says that they have chosen Fallon and Harrison Burns and Susan remarks that Emma is probably expecting a call and I’ll bet that Alice is now regretting the whole christening idea.

And so to the Aldridges. Kate is having a row on the phone with dad Brian, who is still more than somewhat teed off about her plans to move the Spiritual Home yurts into the Rewilding land. Kate complains to Jennifer and, in a sentence which screams ‘selfish, uncomprehending, spoilt little git’, asks her mother “How long will it take for him to get over losing the house - you got over it?”  Yes, I can see how this could be something to be brushed aside as a minor inconvenience. Jennifer replied (no doubt through gritted teeth) “I just got over it.”

Jennifer is looking through recipes and Kate is annoyed that she is not paying attention - surely Fallon is doing the catering? Jennifer says ‘yes’, but adds that Fallon might be a bit busy on the day. Why so? Jennifer reveals that Fallon and Harrison have been chosen as Godparents. Kate is mildly incensed - nobody tells her anything. Mother and daughter then have a stand-up row, with each accusing the other of not listening, and Jennifer suggesting that Kate thinks before opening her mouth - an idea that has been something of a mantra running through this blog for years.

There is a meeting with Jen, Kate and Fallon to finalise menus for the day. Kate is at her most obnoxious, objecting to all suggestions. Jennifer says ‘what about quiche?’ Kate promptly says that Alice hates quiche and suggests that they ring her to find out. There’s no answer (we find out later that Kate is wrong - no surprise there) and, so toxic is the atmosphere, that Fallon walks out, saying that perhaps they can meet tomorrow and settle things. “Are you happy now?” Jennifer asks Kate, acidly, as Fallon leaves.

Later on, Kate is on the phone to Alice and gives her sister a very hard time. Alice defends her decision – no aunts or uncles have been asked to be Godparents; it’s not just Kate – but Kate hangs up in mid-sentence, little charmer that she is.

Meanwhile, Alice makes the mistake of telling Susan that she has to go and see somebody, so Chris will be on his own with Martha later on. Before Alice knows what has happened, Susan has arranged that Chris and Martha can not only come to tea (adding tactlessly that it will do Chris good to have some home cooking) and Martha can stay the night, as Susan doesn’t mind doing night feeds. Be careful Alice; Susan might have some adoption papers handy. Overwhelmed by the torrent of words pouring incessantly from her mother-in-law’s gob, Alice hands Martha over.

Sgt Burns runs into Alice and thanks her for inviting him and Fallon to be Godparents. During their conversation, Alice lets slip that she was drunk the other day and Harrison replies that he’s met lots of people who have fallen off the wagon, and if she ever wants to talk, he’s there for her. Alice says that she wishes that she could talk to Chris the way she can to Harrison.

It turns out that Alice’s appointment is with her alcohol self-help group, and it is an illustration of how effective the group is that Alice rings Sgt Burns from her car, drunk as a lord. Fortunately she has had the sense to pull off the road and he says he will drive out and pick her up, as she’s in no fit state to drive – or even stand up, for that matter. 

Alice doesn’t want to go home – Chris won’t be there. She has, by now, reached the maudlin and self-pitying stage and tells Harrison tearfully that she’s never going to be able to stop drinking. Harrison tries to encourage her to keep trying, but she screams that she doesn’t want to be sober – drinking is the only thing that makes her feel normal. She’s a failure; she was going to join the RAF and design planes, but now she’s lost all that. 

Harrison tells her that she’s still got her family and Martha, but Alice reckons that Martha will be taken away from her and that Chris and Martha would be better off without her, but Harrison counters this by saying that she’s got so many people that care about her – he cares about her. “You just have to keep trying, OK?” he says, and moves to help her put on her seatbelt. Misunderstanding his motives, Alice tries to give him a big kiss, but he brushes her off in horror, telling her to stop. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he asks, angrily.

At the start of the week, we see Jazzer taking Tracy out for a spin in Jim’s Riley, visiting a stately home. “Is this the sort of place you took Jade to?” she asks. What do you reckon Tracy? Jazzer leads her to a seat on a hill, overlooking a grassy lawn. “This should give us a good view” he mutters, cryptically. “Of what?” Tracy asks, baffled. In answer, Jazzer hands her a flyer that he removed from a notice board earlier – it advertises a Civil war re-enactment, but, as Tracy points out, sadly the date is 2019, which accounts for the fact that there’s nobody else around. A crestfallen Jazzer confesses that he was just trying to impress her and he apologises. If you want to impress her, Jazzer, then learning to read might be a good start.

While they are hanging around, Tracy’s phone rings – it’s Susan, with a query about their father’s medicine. Tracy lets slip that she’s out. “Who with?” her sister asks, at the speed of light. “A girlfriend” Tracy answers, leaving Jazzer feeling a bit put out.

A couple of days later, Tracy calls on Jazzer to say ‘sorry’ but she wanted to tell her kids first, before the news that they were an item leaked out. How did the kids react? Tracy says that Chelsea still loves him to death because he gave her Jade’s spurned present from Jim and Brad was hopeful of getting some home brew – an idea that Tracy immediately nipped in the bud.

However, she did say that she would go and tell Susan the news. Susan is still a tad upset that Emma hasn’t been chosen as a Godparent. Who will Chris and Alice choose? “What about Jazzer?” Tracy asks, adding that it was he who delivered the baby. Susan cannot believe she is serious. “He’s bone idle” she says scornfully, digging herself into a hole. “He’s got two jobs” Tracy protests, but Susan gets in even deeper when she says “He’s hardly Godparent material, is he?” What, unlike Emma, who slept with her fiancĂ©’s brother on the eve of their wedding and later ran off with him, you mean?

Tracy then casually mentions that she and Jazzer are going out and Susan is gobsmacked. Tracy describes him as “a really nice bloke, if you give him half a chance.” She adds, meaningfully; “People round here are so quick to judge.” She then compares Jazzer with Neil, but Susan protests; there’s no comparison. “They both like pigs” Tracy says, simply.

It wasn’t a good day for Susan as, while in the shop with Jim, she waxes lyrical about how sad it is that Neil is quitting the Parish Council – there will be no Carter legacy to mark his years of service.  But then again, perhaps she could work a suitable tribute into her manifesto when she stands for election.

Jim is puzzled and tells her that, as Parish Clerk, he hasn’t received her application and the final deadline was a week ago. Surely he could slip it in, she suggests. No way! Jim tells her that everything has to be done above board and by the rule book. Well, there’s one thing that Jim doesn’t know – and Susan tells him about Tracy and Jazzer. Jim laughs – not only has he suspected it for some time (Tracy’s scent lingered when she stayed the night and also in the Riley) but it enabled him to win £10 in a bet with Alistair. A note of caution here – as a reformed gambling addict, should Alistair really be betting? After all, it could be a slippery slope - just look at Alice and her ‘just one drink’ scenario.

Let us end on a somewhat boring story – touching, possibly, but certainly boring – when Helen takes Lee to Bridge Farm and Lee starts questioning Tony about his model railway. Tony complains that you just cannot get OO scale Aberdeen Angus models (see, I told you it was boring), but with just a dab of black paint, he can disguise his Friesians as Anguses. Triumph!

Tony was inspired to create the train layout when he found (and repaired) a model of the Flying Scotsman that belonged to his late son John. Somehow it makes him feel closer to John.

Lee is genuinely impressed by the work that Tony has put into his layout and asks if he can have a go. It would have been interesting if he had taken a leaf out of Gomez Addam’s book and deliberately run two trains into each other. What do you mean, you don’t remember the Addam’s Family?

However, Lee is not going to be outbored by a wrinkly with toy trains and he counters with excruciating details about his collection of super-hero figures and tedious facts about the Marvel universe. For instance, did you know that, originally, The Hulk was grey in colour and only ended up green because of a mix-up at the printer’s? Be still, my beating heart – I wonder if Helen realises what she has let herself in for?

Monday, 12 April 2021

You Can Choose Your Friends, But…

The second half of the saying that makes up this week’s title is ‘you can’t choose your relatives’, which is why we should commiserate with George Grundy. It’s George’s 16th birthday and Will, Emma and Chris (and baby Martha) are gathered together to help him celebrate. George, however, isn’t there and he sends Will and Emma a text saying that he’s trying to sort out a summer holiday with his mates.

As the three adults await his return, they reminisce about when they were George’s age. Apparently Emma was the worst-behaved of the trio, but they were all scallywags to varying extents. In a moment of honest self-awareness, Will says “I were a cocky little git.” Ignoring the bad grammar, why the past tense we ask ourselves? The reason we should commiserate with George is that Will remarks that George reminds him very much of granddad Joe. Poor little sod! Does that mean that he is doomed forever to keep coming up with scams that never work properly, leaving him with egg on his face?

One plan that does seem doomed to failure is the aforementioned summer holiday with mates. George has asked for money instead of birthday presents – and now his mum and dad know why. Sadly for George, the memories of how they used to behave at his age mean that there’s no way that they will let him go away on his own. Nice try George, close, but no cigar – still, being a male Grundy means that he ought to quickly get used to failure.

One person who was supposed to be at George’s party (apart from George) was Alice, but she stayed at home to do some urgent vacuuming. Chris is getting concerned that she hasn’t turned up, so he goes home to fetch her, where he finds that the reason she hadn’t made the party is easily explained by the empty bottle of Rioja by the side of her sleeping body. Earlier in the day, Brian had turned up to take his new granddaughter out to see the farm (he didn’t actually say ‘and one day part of all this will be yours my girl’ but it was a close-run thing) and he returned to Alice’s bearing gifts of plain chocolate and a bottle of wine.

Alice explains to Chris that she thought one drink wouldn’t hurt, but before she knew it, she had chugged down the entire bottle. Chris is not impressed and refuses to let Alice breastfeed their daughter, preferring to go on a trek to buy some formula milk. The fact that there are so many different kinds was no problem – Chris purchased one of every sort. Alice complains that if she cannot feed Martha, it’s very painful. Chris’s caring response is to snarl “Get away from us.”

The next morning, Martha is crying and Alice says that she’s crying for her mother. In fact, she was crying half the night – Alice says it was because Chris wouldn’t let her feed her daughter. “What? Can you blame me?” Chris retorts. Alice swears that she loves Chris and Martha – she’d die for them. “But you won’t stop drinking for us” Chris tells her. Alice does promise that she will never drink again – she knows that one drink will never be enough. However, she’s had an idea – why don’t they get Martha christened? Chris points out that they are not religious, but Alice says that doesn’t matter; Martha is worth celebrating and Alice will make everything all right from now on – he’s got to believe her. I’d be careful Chris; I reckon it’s just a ploy to get at some Communion wine.

Alice wasn’t the only one of Brian’s daughters causing trouble last week, as Kate managed to stick her oar in as well. Kate buttonholed daughter Phoebe and bent her ear about Kate’s plans for the rewilding land. These plans included tree houses (to which Phoebe had already said no) and erecting some yurts on the land to generate income. Not just any old yurts, but Kate’s plan is to relocate the yurts from Spiritual Home.

When Phoebe mentions this to granddad Brian, he goes ballistic “What the hell is she up to?” he yells, then goes off on one, saying that the reason that the Aldridges lost their home was because of Kate’s intransigence and her refusal to move Spiritual Home. Not only did they lose their home, but her attitude threatened the whole Farm Partnership – he cannot believe it. Phoebe says not to worry, it won’t come to anything, she promises. Lucky for Kate that she isn’t present, as Brian is still shaking with anger. “Well, it better not,” he rants, and tells Phoebe to tell Kate to keep her nose out of Rewilding. “It’s your project and nothing to do with her!” Brian fumes.

Monday was Jade’s birthday, and Jazzer presented her with a biker’s jacket as her present. She was over the moon, but considerably less delighted with Jim’s present, which was a hamper of quite expensive toiletries. She immediately starts moaning about Jim, saying that he seems to be suggesting that she smells. She’s fed up hearing his name and adds that she finds it a bit creepy that Jazzer is renting a room from someone who is seemingly trying to control him.

To his credit, Jazzer defends Jim and he and Jade start arguing and shouting. Eventually, Jazzer says that he’s had enough – he’s dumping Jade. “What? On my birthday?” she says, amazed. Yes “And by the way, that trick of yours with the pasta was disgusting” the Scotsman adds, as a parting shot. Cheer up Jade; at least you’ve got a biker’s jacket out of it.

Jazzer finds himself at a bit of a loss and he tells Jim that he has dumped Jade and he thinks he should be looking for someone nearer his own age. He eventually confesses that he has someone in mind and he cannot stop thinking about her, in a romantic sense. Jim suggests that Jazzer should tell the lady in question and Jazzer says “But what if she turns me down?” “It might be a clichĂ©,” Jim replies, “but ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’, or if you prefer, ‘who dares, wins’.”

So it is that Jazzer goes round to see Tracy and he gives her the hamper of smellies, saying that Jade wasn’t impressed, so Tracy and Chelsea can share them. He goes further, saying that he likes Tracy and, oh yes, he’s dumped Jade. Tracy is offended, saying that she won’t be wooed on the rebound and shuts the door on him.

Undaunted, Jazzer tries to summon up the right words to say and eventually knocks on Tracy’s door once more. “What do you want?” she asks, belligerently, but this time Jazzer is ready. “Tracy Horrobin,” he begins, “you are the most awkward, loud-mouthed, infuriating [Tracy gasps] hard working, most generous, kindest, warmest, sweetest, funniest woman I know. You’re not bad in the sack, either” he adds as an afterthought, saying that he has a lot of feelings for her. Tracy replies that he’s not too bad in that department either, but adds that she has responsibilities and needs ‘a proper man’. She also asks if he is proposing to her – if so, he’ll have to ask her father for her hand, and she calls out “Dad!” Jazzer is alarmed, but Tracy collapses in mirth – her Dad has gone out. “Is it worth a try?” Jazzer asks. “I’ve had worse” Tracy answers, and asks him inside. And they said that romance was dead! I wish them both well.

If Jazzer is feeling at a loss, that’s nothing to how low Kirsty is feeling. She phones Helen from Grey Gables, where she has returned to work, and admits that she’s feeling unhappy – there are very few guests. “It’s like a hotel for ghosts” Kirsty tells her best friend. Kirsty asks if she can drop round later to see Helen. “Yes – we can open a bottle” Helen replies. Just don’t invite Alice is my advice!

So it is that Kirsty turns up after work at the dairy, ostensibly to return Pat and Tony’s wedding present - a rather upmarket slow cooker, apparently – and Kirsty explains that she doesn’t want to keep anything that reminds her of Philip. Jennifer Aniston got rid of all her wedding presents when she and Brad Pitt split up, Kirsty explains, adding the comment that Phil is no Brad Pitt. It could be argued that she is no Jennifer Aniston either, but that would be unkind, as she is obviously suffering and in a bit of a wretched state.

Kirsty is definitely down and looks back on her time in Ambridge. When she arrived 20 years ago, she was a student, then she fell in love with Tom and thought that, in two decades’ time, she would have children and she and Tom would own a farm. As it is, nothing has worked out for her as she anticipated – she’s single, to all intents and purposes, and in a dead-end job. You forgot to mention that your other half has just been sent down for eight years, Kirsty, but I don’t want to depress you further.

Helen wants to support her friend and reminds her that she (Helen) has had great experience in coming back from the brink of disaster. The key, Helen adds, was the success of her own business, which made her happy and also restored her self-confidence. Why doesn’t Kirsty go freelance as a Conservation Consultant? After all, she is passionate about all things green.

Kirsty replies that she is a bit too old to retrain (she’ll be 40 next month), but Helen isn’t having any of this sort of defeatist talk and says Kirsty is talking nonsense: “Your best years are yet to come – and you’d better start believing it!” I have an idea – why doesn’t Kirsty hook up with Phoebe and Rex and get involved in the Rewilding project? At the very least, she could sit on Kate and keep her quiet (please).

Finally, we learn from Kirsty that, according to Lynda, the Darrington Mystery Play performance was a total disaster. “Lynda was thrilled” Kirsty tells Helen. Perhaps somebody should take Mrs Snell OBE to one side and tell her quietly that gloating and schadenfreude are not particularly admirable character traits, while humility and modesty have much to recommend them.

Monday, 5 April 2021

Never Mind Ambridge – Five Million Listeners Are Having A Party!

Sylvestra Le Touzel (Evangeline Lowminster)

Some of our readers might have thought that I have been a bit hard on the scriptwriters, moaning about the amount of air time devoted to Lynda and her damn Mystery Plays. Well, I take it all back and apologise sincerely to the writing team. I would also like it to be known that I have a new favourite Borsetshire character, so step forward and take a bow Evangeline Lowminster.

For those who may not be aware, Evangeline is the producer of the rival Easter show being staged by the village of Darrington and, by all accounts, she makes Attila the Hun look like Mother Teresa. Eddie Grundy, who has defected to Darrington, complains that, if cast members are late, or not word perfect, Evangeline punishes them with forfeits such as washing up all the coffee mugs (and this is only when the cat o’ nine tails is in the wash, apparently). So bad is she, confesses Eddie to Kirsty, that he would rather be directed by Lynda Snell – she’s a pussycat compared to the monster that is Evangeline.

Kirsty is concerned; the Ambridge production is still two characters light – Eddie was cast as a shepherd before he went over to the Dark Side, plus they don’t yet have a God, so she makes it her mission to broker a peace between Eddie and Lynda. Easier said than done, but she does manage to get the pair sat down face to face and tries to seek out some common ground as a starting point for negotiations. What would Eddie like? Well, give Clarrie her part back for a start. “Impossible – Susan has worked hard and has made the part her own” she sniffs.

Good start! Kirsty asks if there are no parts available (and why not a female God – this is supposed to be a gender-neutral production, after all?) is there a backstage role available? Eventually Lynda comes up with the post of Head of Wardrobe and Kirsty asks Eddie if this is acceptable? He says ‘yes’, as long as Lynda apologises to Clarrie face to face. She counters with saying that, if so, Eddie has to spill the beans about the Darrington production (he hinted that there is something important that the Ambridge players don’t know about the Darrington show). Eddie acquiesces (never let it be said that this blog has no class – I could have said ‘concurs’ or even ‘agrees’ or ‘says yes’) and the pair (metaphorically) shake hands. It is now that Eddie drops his bombshell; Darrington are also doing Mystery Plays (we all knew that) but it turns out that they are using the same version of the script as Ambridge. Lynda is incensed; “I cannot allow it; the Darrington production must not go ahead. I’m going to stop it – they will rue the day that they took on Lynda Snell!” she crows, triumphantly.

The very next day Lynda confronts Evangeline, saying that she has learned that both of them are using the same script for their productions. Lynda is at her condescending best and says that, as Evangeline is less experienced in this sort of enterprise, she probably doesn’t realise that the director needs to obtain the author’s permission to use the script before a public performance. Evangeline concedes that Lynda may have a point, and asks her if she (Lynda) has paid a fee to the author’s agent? 

Evangeline then suggests that no such fee has been paid, and Lynda rises up in righteous indignation, only to be cut short by Evangeline saying “Colin Whitstable” (the play’s author) “is my nom de plume, and, Lynda, they’ll be playing netball on Neptune before you secure the rights to my script.” What a wonderful moment! Game, set and match to Darrington, methinks. Realising that she hasn’t a leg to stand on, Lynda decides to cancel the Ambridge production, citing the fact that the two productions are so close together. Privately, she tells Kirsty that Whitstable’s script is not that good and that Lynda could write a better one. This mystifies Kirsty, as Lynda has been banging on about how good the script is and praising the author to the heavens. We learn that the general reaction round Ambridge to this news is one of relief – and not just in Ambridge, as conveyed by the title of this week’s blog. Well done writers!

We’ve spent a fair amount of time on this one subject, but I hope that you, like me, think it was worth it. So what else has happened? Ben shows Jill the redecorated caravan/love nest and she says that a few cushions would enhance its appearance, so she gives him some. Ben is agog with anticipation, as he and Evie intend to ‘christen’ the caravan love nest that evening. There is a brief cameo when Ruairi tells him that it is his turn to have the love nest tonight, but he is just winding Ben up.

So, how did it go, Ruairi asks next day? Not as planned is the answer – Ben and Evie approached the caravan, occasionally tripping over Ben’s tongue (“Evie looked so hot” he tells his friend), only to find the lights on and Jill and Leonard snuggled up together on the cushions, with some of Jazzer’s home brew. Apparently, they offered to leave, but Evie was so embarrassed that she went home. Tough luck Ben.

The search for a new Chair for the Parish Council rumbles on. Emma thinks Jill would be a great choice and Ben says that he will try to persuade her and she’ll do anything for her grandson (this was before the caravan incident). In fact, he is driving her to tonight’s PC meeting, so the timing couldn’t be more favourable. As it turns out, Jill is dead set against the idea, so Ben’s efforts are in vain.

At the meeting, tempers are heated and, as we learn later when Jim speaks to Emma, Richard Thwaite storms out in a huff and Audrey is voted in as interim Chair. Jim regards this as a disaster and tells Emma that Audrey will be an awful Chair and he suspects that the whole exercise is just a ploy and it is part of Hilary Noakes’s master plan to take over as Chair when Audrey’s interim tenure expires. Apart from the fact that this sounds a bit too Machiavellian for the cockatoo-loving, but silent Hilary, I have a question, which is ‘Who the hell is Audrey?’ Have I missed something, or have the writers slipped in a previously-unknown character? Anyway, one person who found the meeting, and the discussions therein, vastly entertaining was Ben (he sat through it so that he could take Jill back home) who regretted that he never filmed it, as “it would probably have gone viral”.

Chris and Alice are still getting to grips with baby Martha. Alice never seems to get a moment on her own, as Chris is always hanging around like a bad smell. One day, he has to work late, so he rings up Sgt Burns to see if Fallon can go and sit with Alice. Harrison says that Fallon is tied up all day, but he is willing to go and see Alice – it will give him a chance to have a look at the new baby.

Fallon is perplexed when he turns up – in answer to her question he says he was just passing, but she points out that they live at the end of the lane and there’s nowhere else to go to. She starts to get annoyed, saying that it’s obvious that Chris doesn’t trust her and now she’s got the police keeping an eye on her. Harrison protests that he is just there as a friend and that Chris is concerned about Alice and he adores her. He adds that he has told nobody about Alice’s alcoholism – not even Fallon – and reminds her that he is there for her and Chris. Alice calms down and thanks him for being their friend.

Things get a bit better on Friday, when Emma persuades Alice to join her on a shopping trip. At first, Alice is uneasy and suggests that they return home, but Emma points out that they have only been out for half an hour and Chris is at home with Martha. Chris obviously knows his wife well, as he leaves a message on Alice’s phone; Martha is sleeping and he sends her a photo. Alice relaxes a little and thanks Emma for getting her out of the cottage.

Emma suggests that the girls celebrate by booking themselves a manicure – there’s a salon just over the way and they go in and arrange an appointment for when lockdown is over. It is indicative of how things have changed in Ambridge since Philip Moss was exposed as a slave-master that, upon leaving the salon, Emma becomes uneasy – the girls working in the nail bar looked nervous and the prices seemed worryingly low; could this be another incidence of slave labour? Emma tells Alice that she will ring the slavery hotline and pass on her suspicions; something that would never even have occurred to her before the Moss era.

Friday was a momentous day in the life of Kirsty Moss (nee Miller) as it was the day that Philip and Gavin Moss face sentencing for the crime of employing slave labour, to which they have both pleaded guilty. Sergeant Burns is in court and he has promised to ring Kirsty and let her know what’s happening. The trouble is that Kirsty’s friends are ringing her to offer messages of comfort (Helen, Harrison and Jill) and, every time the phone rings, she jumps.

She’s at Roy’s and each call is shredding her nerves. Roy offers to drive her to the court, but she says that she doesn’t want to see her husband. She is in a terrible state – what happens if the Judge falls for Philip’s lies, like she did; he’s such a plausible liar? What if he gets off with Community Service and returns to Ambridge? Roy points out, reasonably enough, that both Philip and Gavin have pleaded guilty, and so the Judge can hardly let them go, can she?

To distract Kirsty, Roy reveals that he has met someone online, and is hopeful that it might lead to something. She’s a Science Teacher from South London (how convenient is that – not) with two teenage sons. Kirsty wishes him all the best. Just then her phone rings and it is Sergeant Burns – Philip got eight years in jail and Gavin five. Kirsty feels sorry for Gavin, but Harrison says he knew exactly what he was doing. Apparently Philip was unrepentant and gave the Judge a mouthful. As Kirsty puts the phone down, Roy tells her that she is “amazing.” She’s certainly relieved.

Finally, the clocks have gone forward and the weather is getting warmer, so the cricket season cannot be far away. As team captain, Tracy is apprehensive – she fears that time spent in lockdown has meant that her players have been unable to train and have become unfit and flabby. In order to remedy this, she proposes to reinstate her training Vlogs and it appears that she has taken a leaf out of the Evangeline Lowminster man-management book, as we hear her filming herself talking to her team. “We’ll start off with 100 Jumping Jacks” she growls. I cannot help thinking that there are going to be several Ambridge cricketers secretly hoping that the country has to go through another period of lockdown – if Tracy continues like this, people will start having heart attacks.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

No Pain (Au Chocolat), No Gain

Charlotte Martin (Susan Carter)

Susan is facing a dilemma; she badly wants to play the part of one of the kings in the Mystery Play, but she is terrified of horses and Lynda insists that she will have to make her entrance on horseback. Instead of telling Lynda to shove it, Susan goes to see Shula on the quiet for some riding lessons. Shula criticises Susan’s posture and suggests that Susan could do with working on her core muscles if she is to ride the horse properly.

Later in the week, Lee is in the shop with Susan, who asks him about exercising core muscles – not for her, you understand, but she is concerned that Neil could do with improving his fitness. So it is that she later mentions to Neil that Lee is coming round in ten minutes to demonstrate some core strengthening exercises, as he seems to have got the idea that Neil needs them and that Susan is just tagging along to keep her husband company. “Now, I wonder where he got that idea from?” Neil laughs, adding “what if I say no?” 

Susan replies that he can’t refuse, but Neil is still against the idea – he gains an instant Brownie Point when he says that he likes Susan just the way she is, then loses a shed-load of BPs when he adds that he finds her muffin top quite attractive. That’s the way it is with Brownie Points if you are a man; you gain them singly and lose them by the dozen.

Lee gives the couple a gentle workout, but Neil cries off halfway through, pleading an urgent need to update some feed records, or something equally flimsy. At work next day, Susan appears to be in extreme pain, doubling up with stomach cramps and wincing a lot. So bad is it that Helen and Clarrie are on the verge of calling an ambulance, but Susan stops them and reveals that she is wearing an Abs stimulator, which she borrowed from Lee (telling him that it was for Neil, of course) hoping it would prove a short cut to losing weight and toning her core. Helen tells her that you are only supposed to wear it for a short time and a mortified Susan makes her and Clarrie promise not to tell anybody.

I ask you; are these damn Mystery Plays of Lynda’s really worth all this trouble? As well as Susan rolling around in agony, there’s going to be mega disruption at Brookfield, with the audience traipsing all over the farm and then being squashed into the kitchen for the Annunciation scene. Clarrie is afraid that the Grundys will be ostracised by everyone in Ambridge because of Eddie’s decision to take part in Darrington’s production. And when will they be performed? Next weekend is Easter Sunday and it’s cutting it a bit fine, to say the least.

I have to confess that I am rapidly getting cheesed off with the storyline about Chris and Alice Carter and new baby Martha. The doctor at the hospital says that Martha is doing fine and gaining weight and the Carters can take her home. Chris is delighted, but Alice has reservations – is the doctor absolutely sure that Martha is ready to leave the hospital? Yes Alice – he’s a doctor; the stethoscope and white coat are a bit of a giveaway. He tries to boost Alice’s confidence by telling her that she has done well and she has a lovely baby, and she should enjoy it. Fortunately he stops short of suggesting that she has a drink.

The pair are treading on eggshells with their new baby – Chris has to go and shoe a horse for Jakob, but he is reluctant to leave Alice alone and suggests that they ask Jennifer or Susan to pop over. “Or there’s Kate” Chris says, but Alice shows that she hasn’t lost it completely when she answers “God. No!” to this last suggestion. She tells Chris to go and see to the horse – she’ll be fine.

Except that she isn’t. Chris receives a call from his wife, panicking because Martha won’t stop crying and Alice doesn’t know why – she’s tried feeding her, changing her, but all to no avail. She’s all for phoning the hospital, but Chris stops her and says that he will come straight home. Alice is on the verge of hysteria when he turns up and they start rowing, with Alice saying that Chris just won’t accept that Martha might not be normal. Chris retorts that, if Martha isn’t, then whose fault is that? 

All in all, this wasn’t the cleverest thing he could have said and he immediately says that he didn’t mean it. Too late, Chris! That crashing sound you hear is of hundreds of your Brownie Points falling off a cliff. Chris eventually gets Martha to go to sleep and Alice says that they need to talk – whenever Martha falls ill in the future, Chris will blame Alice. He denies this and says that it just gave him an awful shock when he first saw Martha in the incubator. He says that he’s proud of Alice and he loves her, and the pair of them should be happy for Martha’s sake. “She’s the only one who matters now.”

I’m with Alice on this one – Chris seems only too ready to play the blame game at each and every opportunity and you cannot help wondering how long this will go on for. Imagine the scene a couple of decades hence, where a disconsolate Alice comes off the phone. ‘That was Martha,’ Alice tells Chris, ‘She rang to say that she’s just failed her driving test.’ ‘Well,’ replies her husband, ‘What did you expect? After all, you did drink alcohol when you were pregnant with her, don’t forget.’ I just hope that Martha enjoys a childhood of rude health, or else Alice certainly will not be allowed to forget – ever.

Elsewhere, things are not exactly going swimmingly for the two remaining Rewilding partners. Rex is on tenterhooks about his application for a Council Tenancy and his anxiety increases when a friend rings to say that he (the friend) has been turned down. Is this good news for Rex? At least one potential competitor is now out of the running. Sadly, he gets another call – he too has been turned down for the Tenancy and he tells Phoebe that he may have to leave Borsetshire to try and find some land. She tries to jolly him along and he snaps at her, so she says that she will keep her mouth shut if that’s how he feels.

It’s not a good day for Phoebe – she has a meeting with Brian over Rewilding and Kate tags along because she wants to talk about tree houses and what a great idea they would be for Rewilding. Phoebe never wanted Kate at the meeting, but Kate says she won’t open her mouth – in fact, she keeps on saying it, much to her daughter’s annoyance. 

Brian on the other hand, wants to talk cattle. Originally the three Rewilders decided on Longhorns, as one of the oldest breeds they could find and which fits in best with the Rewilding ethos. Brian, however, thinks that Aberdeen Anguses would give a better return. He also thinks that Kate’s idea about having tree houses has some merit, as they could charge guests a premium for them.

It is all too much for Phoebe, who explodes. It is obvious, she says, that neither Brian nor Kate have the first idea about what Rewilding means. Brian’s contribution is just to ensure that the money isn’t misused in any way – he has no say in the running of the project and Phoebe and Rex will make all the commercial decisions, the first of which is Longhorn cows, not Anguses. Rewilding is not designed to make vast profits and Kate’s tree house idea would frighten away the natural wildlife and is a non-starter, so would Brian and Kate just shut up and not interfere, please?

In these days of the Covid pandemic, meetings such as the Parish Council are held using Zoom, or similar. Neil and Jim have a pre-meeting chat, at which Jim tries to dissuade Neil from resigning from the PC – if he goes, who will take over as Chair? Neil says his mind is made up and this will be his last-ever PC meeting. He suggests that Jim would make a good chair, but Jim replies that he would not have the patience, and besides, the Parish Clerk is not allowed to run for Chair. After the meeting, Emma and Jim talk. Apparently Richard Thwaite indulged in some serious nit-picking over the cost of a stapler. “I’ll resign if he ever becomes Chair” Emma promises.

So who will be the next Chair? We don’t know, as nobody volunteered. “It was a wave of apathy” Jim tells Emma. He suggests that Emma puts herself forward for the job – he knows that he could work well with her. Unfortunately, she says that she doesn’t have the time and, anyway, she doesn’t want all the backbiting.

As they are talking, Jim’s phone rings. It’s Hilary Noakes, telling Jim that she intends to stand in the PC elections in May. Not only that, but she understands that there is a vacancy for Chair and she might be willing to apply for it. Both Jim and Emma agree that she would be hopeless as Chair, with Emma remarking that all Hilary can talk about is Star Signs and her blasted cockatoo – she’d be a disaster. “We’ve got to find somebody else" Says Jim, adding; “As quickly as possible.” 

Actually, the appointment of Hilary could add another dimension to PC meetings. Consider; we already have Richard Thwaite on the Council and he never says anything. Hilary Noakes is another non-speaking character. So if she were to be elected and could persuade a few other NSCs (Sabrina Thwaite, Cecil Jackson, Snatch and Baggy, Fat Paul et al) to stand for office, then we could have an entirely silent Parish Council – just think how much fun their Zoom meetings would be.

Monday, 22 March 2021

For Once Eddie, I’m Right Behind You

 Trevor Harrison (Eddie Grundy)

When it comes to choosing an Ambridge man of principle and integrity, the name of Eddie Grundy may not be the first to spring to mind. Nevertheless, this week we learn that he has phoned Lynda and resigned from her Mystery Play production as a protest against the way Lynda tossed Clarrie aside after learning that Clarrie had told Sabrina what Lynda had planned for the Easter production. Furthermore, Eddie says that he is not going to resign from appearing in the rival Darrington Easter offering, where he is operating as Lynda’s spy on the inside.

Clarrie is alarmed, as Darrington is Ambridge’s arch-enemy and she fears that the Grundys could be drummed out of the village at best, or lined up against a wall and shot at worst. She pleads with Eddie that she does not need him to fight her battles and please don’t defect to Darrington, but he is adamant – Lynda has crossed a line and has to be taught a lesson that she cannot treat people like this. His mind is made up.

Eddie is not the only one to be muttering about the play – Jazzer, in conversation with Leonard, complains that last night’s rehearsal was a fiasco; with Eddie and Clarrie both gone, Jazzer had nobody to rehearse his scenes with and it was a complete waste of his evening. He told Lynda to get some replacements pronto, and I bet that went down well with Lynda. Jazzer also remarks that Leonard was given a really hard time by Lynda and must be feeling aggrieved.

Leonard, however, appears to have morphed into a doormat, as he not only owns up to being not much good as an actor, but adds that he considers himself fortunate to be working with a director of the calibre of Lynda Snell. Presumably he allows her to flagellate him when rehearsals are over – you can bet that, when he was a lad at school, Leonard was the pupil who had to go round after football practice and collect up all the balls and take down the nets.

The irony of all this is that everybody knows that Leonard isn’t much cop, but Jill has fixed it with Lynda that, if Lynda gives Leonard a speaking part, then she (Jill) will persuade David and Rooooth to let Lynda use the Brookfield kitchen to stage the Annunciation scene. This is news to both David and Rooooth, and they wonder how they will accommodate the actors and the audience. David also observes that he never knew that his mother could be so devious (he and Rooooth are sworn to secrecy). One could make the observation that, for Lynda to agree to such an arrangement, does not show her principles and artistic integrity in a particularly favourable light.

One might also make the point that Leonard seems to have an almost pathetic desire to excel in the Arts – as well as this incident, we cast our minds back to Jill’s birthday, when he painted a picture for Jill; a picture that, going by the comments of most of those who saw it, could only charitably be described as ‘mediocre’.

Although Lynda is sitting at the centre of her web like a spider, she seems to have employed Kirsty as someone to do her dirty work for her – it was Kirsty who told Clarrie that she was sacked and, last week Kirsty sought out Susan for a talk – in private, if she doesn’t mind. Kirsty says that Lynda wants Susan to take over the part of King from Clarrie, and Lynda wants to know Susan’s answer today. 

Susan is horrified – Clarrie is her friend; how can she ask her to do something like that? As it turns out, it’s academic, as Clarrie overheard Kirsty’s and Susan’s conversation and she urges Su to go for it; Clarrie cannot imagine anyone better to take over the part. Besides, Clarrie adds, Susan will be better than Clarrie at riding the horse. Susan is stunned – at doing what? It turns out that Lynda wants Susan’s king to make a grand entrance on horseback and, when Susan suggests that she should swap with Lily Pargetter (another king) Lynda won’t hear of it.

Susan admits to Clarrie that she has overheard comments in the shop about Eddie and Darrington, and the two girls say that something needs to be done. The result is that Clarrie, Mia and Poppy resolve to hold a silent protest – they will not speak to Eddie until he breaks all ties with Darrington. In case you are wondering how we learn this, Clarrie informs her husband, as she cannot bear him to look miserable. Au contraire! Eddie replies that he finds the silence and lack of bickering by the girls restful "I could get used to this” he tells Clarrie, and, when she begs him to reconsider, he refuses, saying “Someone has to teach Lynda Snell a lesson.” Yea! Go Eddie!

New mother Alice is still having trouble getting new daughter Martha to breast feed and she wonders whether her daughter doesn’t like her because of her drinking during the pregnancy. Whatever, Martha gets the hang of this feeding lark on Tuesday and an emotional Alice cuddles her and tells her how much she loves her.

This is only part of Alice’s troubles, as she is desperately craving a drink all the time, but is determined not to give in to temptation. Chris doesn’t seem to grasp the strength of the addiction and keeps going on about how well Alice is doing and how she is getting better every day. Not so, says Alice – he doesn’t seem to realise that she will never ‘get better’ – this is not something that you can take a couple of aspirins for and, although she has not had – and is determined not to have – a drink, it is extremely hard for her and she is struggling. 

Increasingly desperate, Alice contacts Lisa, her buddy from the detox clinic, to tell her of her anxieties. Lisa assures Alice that her behaviour is perfectly understandable and the only solution is to take things one day at a time. Lisa says she is not just Alice’s buddy for detox, but a buddy for life, and Alice can call her anytime; day or night. Alice is buoyed up by this conversation and, when, on his return from work, Chris apologises for his earlier attitude (he told Alice that it wasn’t easy for him either, having to reassure his wife all the time, while wondering if the drinking had damaged their baby in some way) and he asks if he can get her some help? Alice replies that there is no need – she feels so much better after talking to Lisa; much more in control. 

Jazzer and Jim are the heroes of the hour for their parts in delivering Martha in Jim’s car and for getting Alice to hospital, and were even interviewed by a reporter for an article in the Echo. I suppose you could argue that a milkman should be good at making deliveries, but Jazzer is quite proud of his actions and Alice is very grateful, says Tracy.

Someone else who is grateful is Tracy, who goes to see Jazzer in order to thank him. It is easy to forget that Martha is Tracy’s great niece, and Tracy is grateful that the Scotsman was there for Alice. When Tracy gave birth to Chelsea, her first-born, she had to get herself to hospital, as her partner was absent. She was too far gone for an epidural and an emergency meant that she was alone in the ward, with nobody answering her buzzer. The pain, she tells Jazzer was “indescribable” and that men have no idea what women go through. That said, she cannot thank Jazzer enough for just being there and making sure that Alice did not have to suffer her ordeal on her own.  

Finally, a brief cameo about family loyalty; David and Rooooth talk about Brian’s suggestion that Brookfield should graze their sheep on Home Farm land. They agree it makes sense, but David has reservations. “Let’s not forget that this is Brian Aldridge we are talking about here – what’s in it for him?” he asks Rooooth. Eventually, he and Rooooth agree to go ahead with the idea, but they must make sure that they have a cast-iron grazing licence in place. I wouldn’t say that they don’t trust Uncle Brian as far as they could throw him, but, when last seen, David was rumoured to be looking for a long – a very long – spoon.

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Report To The Rack, Clarrie

Will Sanderson-Thwaite and Hollie Chapman (Chris and Alice Carter)

Poor Clarrie – she doesn’t ask for much, does she? Just as well, really, as that’s exactly what she gets most of the time. Take the Mystery Plays, for example; Clarrie is pathetically keen to shine as one of the Three Wise Men, not least because Susan has made it plain that she doesn’t rate Clarrie’s acting ability very highly. So keen is Clarrie, that she has asked Sabrina Thwaite for elocution lessons, and it is this that leads to her latest disappointment.

Kirsty approaches Clarrie, bearing a message from Lynda – the director is displeased, because it has come to her notice that Clarrie has let slip the fact that Ambridge is planning to put on the Mystery Plays. This is despite the fact that Lynda has put a blanket ban on everybody, swearing them to silence and forbidding them to say anything about Ambridge’s plans, on pain of having their tongue ripped out and buried at a crossroads at midnight. And that’s if she is feeling merciful.

Under intense questioning, Clarrie admits that she has spoken to Sabrina, but begs Kirsty to let her off with a warning. As punishment, Clarrie will thrash herself with nettles and brand herself with hot irons. She begs Kirsty to forgive her and not tell Lynda, describing it as “a one-off slip”. Kirsty is on the verge of allowing Clarrie to carry on, but she asks if Clarrie has told anybody else? No, no – well there was Susan, when Clarrie was first offered the part, and, of course, Helen might have overheard them talking, then there’s Oliver and, of course, Emma and Edward know, but they are family.

Oh dear Clarrie; you have blown it big time and Kirsty has her orders – this is a hanging offence and, in a passable Lord Sugar impression, Kirsty tells her “You’re fired.” Before she goes off to be tarred and feathered, Clarrie asks how did Lynda ever expect to keep the production a secret? A good question – the grandchildren might have noticed Clarrie wandering round the house, wearing a crown and carrying gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Power would appear to have gone to Lynda’s head, as half the villagers are appearing in the play(s) and the other half have been tapped up to provide suitable venues for staging various scenes – Brookfield, for example, has already been earmarked for its barn and also to supply a few sheep in an outside pen when it comes to the shepherds’ scene. This mania for secrecy also begs the question how does Lynda expect to attract an audience if nobody knows what the production is?

Let’s leave Clarrie sobbing her heart out, bless her. Over at the shop, Jim is behind the counter, serving Jazzer, who is still miffed at the way Jim upset Jade. Alice enters, craving chocolate as a treatment for backache. Chris is out on a shopping trip with sister Emma, buying things for the expected baby. Emma is just telling Chris that she might apply for the position of Parish Council Chair if Neil resigns, when Chris’s phone rings. Emma answers it (Chris is driving) and it is Jazzer, who tells her that Alice has gone into labour in the shop and he and Jim have rung for an ambulance – see them at the hospital.

Chris is all for going to the shop, but Emma eventually persuades him of the folly of this idea, as the ambulance will be taking Alice to the hospital and they don’t want to miss each other. Chris is rapidly going to pieces and rants that Alice needs him. Actually Chris, I think she’s got other things on her mind at the moment. The upshot is that Alice gives birth to a baby girl in Jim’s car, helped by a lady on the phone, and by Jazzer, who wraps the newborn infant in Jim’s coat, thus ensuring that Jim will get a bill for dry cleaning, to go with the one for valeting the car.

The baby is small but, as the doctor tells Chris and Alice, not worryingly so and she is in an incubator just as a precaution, as she was six weeks premature. This is the elephant in the room for the Carters – is the child disabled in any way or will it have learning difficulties due to Alice’s drinking? Give the poor little sod a chance – a few hours old is a bit young to start worrying about learning difficulties, surely? Alice is worried because premature birth can be caused by alcohol but the doctor assures the couple that there are any number of causes for early birth and they have a lovely little daughter.

Of course, the pandemic means that no visitors are allowed, so Jennifer is beside herself with frustration. Brian has a more practical attitude and takes a bottle of 25 year-old malt to Jim and Jazzer as a ‘thank you’. Jim and Jazzer have, by this time, reconciled their differences over Jade and Jim offers to cook everyone a breakfast fry-up, as Jazzer has just returned from his milk round. Brian accepts with alacrity (no doubt thinking that it will make a nice change from listening to Jenny banging on about how she’s not allowed to see her new granddaughter) and, before long, the bottle of malt has been opened and the lads are enjoying themselves. By my reckoning, it cannot be later than 9.30 am at the most and the sun is nowhere near the yardarm, but I suppose we can forgive the trio this once. Brian asks Jazzer if he’d ever wanted children and, getting a negative answer we all wonder, if not, then why is he practising so enthusiastically?

At the hospital, Chris runs into Alan (the vicar is there visiting a terminally-ill parishioner) and it is obvious that Chris is troubled. He asks Alan if he would be prepared to give their baby a blessing, which is odd, as he is not religious, despite being a bellringer. “It would be my honour” Alan replies, hiding his surprise very well at this sudden upsurge in God-bothering.

If Alan’s surprised, that’s nothing compared to Alice’s reaction when Chris tells her of his request – even more so when Chris reveals that he has got the vicar waiting outside the door. Having got Alice’s approval, Chris calls Alan into the room to perform the blessing.

Going back to Ambridge, fortunately for Brian’s eardrums, Jennifer managed to talk to Chris and/or Alice at the hospital and he has some good news for Jim and Jazzer – the new parents have decided that the child’s middle name will begin with a ‘J’ in recognition of the part played in the birth by the two men. We wait with bated breath – will it be ‘Jimjazz’? Or ‘Jazzjim’?

But let us return to the hospital; Alan asks the couple if they have chosen a name yet? Chris says ‘no’ which conjures up the somewhat surreal image of Alan saying something along the lines of ‘Dear Lord, please protect and bless your new servant ‘Whatshername’.’ However, Alice quickly says “Martha” and, in response to the quizzical looks of the two men, replies “It’s the name that Chris likes.” And so it is that Alan asks God to bless the new arrival; ‘Martha Jasmine Carter’.

Next day (I think) Chris is talking to Alan – how is the new father doing? The answer is ‘not very well’, as Chris gets very angry and shouts “Why didn’t Alice have her hospital bag ready? Why does she leave everything to the last minute? I’m sick of it!” Alan tells him that it’s OK to be emotional after the birth of your first child but Chris says that it’s more than that. Alan says, kindly, ”OK, what is it that I don’t understand?” 

Bit by bit, the whole story about Alice’s drinking comes out and Chris says he’s worried that Martha might be adversely affected in some way – what would they do then? Alan replies that that is unlikely but, if it were to happen, “Then you cross that bridge when you come to it.”  Chris is not convinced and says that he is afraid that, if Martha does have a disability caused by alcohol, then he might not be able to cope with it “And if not, then I’m scared that I will blame Alice for the disability and I might end up hating her”, Chris tells the vicar.

While Chris was unburdening his soul to Alan, Alice had a visit from mother-in-law Susan (and Neil, but he was soon despatched by his wife to find them a cup of tea, or coffee, or whatever, but just sod off and leave them alone).

Susan is unusually sensitive, and reassures Alice that her feelings are perfectly natural (we should remember that neither Susan nor Neil are aware of Alice’s alcohol problem) and Susan shares some of her birthing experiences. She reveals that, like Martha, Emma was a premature birth, plus they had to use forceps, so it wasn’t much fun.

Chris’s birth was much quicker and more simple, but he had a cleft lip and Susan felt it might somehow be her fault. Despite Chris’s beautiful blue eyes and shock of black hair (the latter of which Martha has inherited – we aren’t sure about the eye colour, as Alice hasn’t noticed) Susan felt revulsion for her son and couldn’t bear to be seen out with him until he had surgery to repair the lip.

Susan says that Alice “Will be a good mother.” She adds; “You’ve got a wonderful, healthy daughter, with parents who love her and who love each other – don’t worry; it’s all going to be fine.”

Let’s hope so, and that Martha is a healthy baby, so that Chris and Alice can stop having doubts and fears about their daughter; and, indeed, each other. Assuming Martha is OK, do you reckon that Alice will ever drink alcohol again? Indeed, will she want to? I reckon that the big test will be at Martha’s christening – the least they can do after Alan’s input is to hold it at St. Stephen’s - and if Lilian is invited to the party afterwards, then I reckon that Alice’s could be the most spectacular slide off the wagon ever experienced in Ambridge.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Another Nail In The Rewilding Coffin?

Nick Barber (Rex Fairbrother)

The Rewilding project does not appear to be going according to plan. First of all, Pip jumped ship, thereby removing all the trio’s (Pip, Phoebe and Rex) cattle expertise at one stroke. Then there was the bad feeling between Pip and Rex, following Brookfield giving the Fairbrothers notice to quit Hollowtree. BL appointed Justin as their man on the spot to oversee the project, but Justin was forced to take a step back after the BL Board thought that he might be too closely associated with the Philip Moss slave gang – in the minds of the public, even if not in reality.

Justin’s replacement was Brian Aldridge who, at his age (78 in November) could be forgiven for reaching for the pipe and slippers, but not a bit of it. True, he did say to his son Ruairi that he might not be able to take on as many shifts in the lambing shed this year, but he is still deeply involved in the day-to-day running of Home Farm.

But what has this got to do with Rewilding, I hear you scream? The answer is that Brian is well aware of the lack of bovine knowledge among the other two principals of the Rewilding project and, at the meeting held on Tuesday (for which Rex was late) he tells Phoebe that Peggy is concerned because Pip has left the project. Perhaps, he ventures to suggest, if Phoebe and Rex wanted the benefit of someone who has decades of experience in handling cattle…?

Phoebe is quick to try and scotch this attempt by Brian to get his foot further in the door, by telling him that they can handle it, thank you very much Granddad Brian. Imagine then how pleased she was when Rex did eventually turn up and, when the topic of cattle was raised, he was all for roping in Brian for his vast experience. Phoebe didn’t actually try and kill Rex, but you can be confident that she will be having a few words later with her Rewilding partner. There were other indications that Brian’s presence might not dovetail with the duo’s plans as, when Phoebe outlines their idea to get some basic facilities set up so that they could attract campers, Brian expresses doubt about the wisdom of this, saying that it could be in competition with Kate’s Spiritual Home.

For what it’s worth, my view on this is ‘tough’. From my point of view, I don’t see how having a site in a field with some very basic amenities can conflict with furnished yurts with hot and cold running joss sticks, and also, surely we are talking two different markets here? I submit that campers are just looking for somewhere to pitch a tent and get some potable water and couldn’t really give a toss whether their shakra is aligned (whatever that means) or if the site has been fully feng-shuied.

Perhaps Brian is trying to relive his days when he was lord of all he surveyed, by proxy – passing on the baton to the only one of his children (or his natural children, at least) who is interested in farming; yes, we speak of Ruairi. Brian takes his son walking Home Farm, and it is during this perambulation that we learn of Brian’s intention to cut down on nights in the lambing shed. What he’d really like, he confides, is to get out of sheep altogether.

Ruairi mentions that, by an odd coincidence, Brookfield are thinking of abandoning sheep as well (more accurately, Rooooth and Pip want out – David still favours a mixed farm). Ruairi has what can best be described as an Epiphany, or at least a lightbulb moment, and excitedly tells his dad what he thinks – why not get rid of the sheep and rent the fields out to Brookfield for their sheep?

Brian thinks this is a bonzer idea and, when Adam joins them in the lambing shed, Brian floats Ruairi’s idea. Adam is horrified at the thought – sheep mean much more than fleeces and meat; for example, their dung fertilises the land (for which farmers receive payment) and their grazing keeps the Black Grass under control. Ruairi counters this by saying that the sheep will still fertilise the land and keep weeds under control, be they Brookfield or Home Farm animals, plus Home Farm can charge Brookfield rent. Adam is momentarily at a loss, but Brian sticks his oar in by saying that he will bring the subject up at the next Partners’ Meeting (Ruairi’s first) and that he is fully behind the idea.

Adam gets Brian on his own later and says that the Meeting is the wrong forum to introduce such ideas; Ruairi should have gone through Adam first. “Is this going to happen with every hare-brained scheme that Ruairi dreams up?” Adam asks his stepfather, adding that this is not the sort of thing with which they should be wasting the partners’ time. Brian replies that he thinks it’s a sound idea – and oh yes, he understands from Jennifer that the rewiring of Honeysuckle cottage is going to cost a lot more than Adam and Ian thought – would they like him to help with the cost? In an icy tone, Adam answers that they can manage, thank you.

Now it’s time for a lesson in manners and etiquette, and for this we could have no better teacher than Jazzer’s girlfriend Jade. I hope that you realise that we are employing irony her, as Jade is to politeness what King Herod was to child welfare. Jim has invited Jade to join him, Jazzer and Alistair for dinner at Greenacres – an early dinner, as he knows Jade and Jazzer are going on somewhere later. The first course (prepared by Jim) is a salad. Jade describes this as ‘garden food’ and it is returned uneaten.

Jim removes the salad and Jazzer suggests to Jade that she might have upset Jim, but she can’t see this. She does compliment Alistair on the main course, but says that it would go better with a beer. Jazzer is out of the room looking for one and Jade makes some disparaging remarks about the Scotsman, to the extent that Jim asks her what does she see in Jazzer, if she’s always slagging him off? No-one could accuse Jade of beating around the bush, as she replies “Jazzer is a laugh a minute, when he’s not stuck in here with you two relics.”

Jazzer returns with the beer and Jade really goes for the throat, describing Jim as “a retired nobody, who enjoys lording it over anyone who’ll take it.” Not surprisingly, Jim is outraged at this and says that he invited her for dinner because he knows how much she means to Jazzer, but all she has done is take cheap shots at them all. Jade contradicts him, saying that he invited her just to make her squirm, but she doesn’t give a monkey’s. “Screw this” she adds and walks out, with Jazzer calling after her.

When Jazzer returns, he is less than happy and asks what did Jim and Alistair say to Jade? Jim explains what she was saying about Jazzer, and, indeed, about them, but Jazzer says can’t they take a joke? He adds that Jim and Alistair made up their minds about Jade the minute they met her, and with that, he too storms out. Perhaps Jim should install a revolving door? As it is, Alistair sums up the evening when he says “Well, that went well.” 

The next day, Jim is in introspective mood – perhaps Jazzer is right; maybe Jim is a snob. He goes further, wondering whether Alistair’s and Shula’s marriage would have survived if he had been more supportive? Alistair dismisses this train of thought and, regarding their current situation, he is sure that Jazzer will come to his senses eventually and, when he does, Jim and Alistair will be there for him.

Lynda’s production of the Mystery plays is gaining momentum, as we both feared and predicted. Susan is miffed because she hasn’t been offered a part, while Clarrie is determined to show Susan that she can act. Susan, meanwhile, is clinging to the hope that the new policy of gender fluidity, where the sex of the actor does not necessarily mean that men play male parts, or women female ones, could yet lead to her bagging not only a part, but a leading one at that. “I think I’d make an excellent Jesus” she tells Clarrie, somewhat immodestly. Sadly for her, that part has been offered to Harrison and, after initially saying that he thinks he ought to rein in on non-police activities, he agrees to accept the part.

Lynda has heard that Darrington will be producing their own Mystery plays, and she is determined to come out on top. No details of what she is planning have been released and the cast are sworn to secrecy. A good plan, but it could well be scuppered by Clarrie. Cast as one of the three kings, she fears that her voice isn’t regal enough and she enlists the well-spoken (not that we have ever heard her speak) Sabrina Thwaite for elocution lessons. The cat could soon be out of the bag.

Even worse, Lynda has enlisted Eddie as her spy in the Darrington camp, to keep an eye on their progress. If you want a double agent with guile, discretion and keeping your wits about you in tight situations, then I venture to suggest that Eddie is not the man; just think back to the metal detectorist debacle. What, between Clarrie’s breach of trust and Eddie’s bungling, I’ll give it a week before the Darrington players start to smell a rat. 

Towards the end of the week, Alice is surprised – nay, startled even - when Kate and Adam turn up at her front door, dressed in onesies. They have decided to throw her an impromptu baby shower and she is horrified when they tell her that they have brought drink for her. Much of this is non-alcoholic, but they have champagne and try to persuade her that a small glass won’t hurt. In a panic, she rings Chris – he’s got to help her out, as there appears to be no escape. Chris tells her he will think of something.

As Alice’s siblings increasingly press drinks on her, Kate’s phone rings. “Oh no!” Kate exclaims and she tells Adam that they have to go – now! The call was a message from Peggy; she’s had a fall. Kate and Adam rush off and a grateful Alice pours the champagne down the sink.

Later on, Chris is on the phone to Peggy and it turns out that the message was a white lie, as Peggy has not had a fall. She does wonder though whether it might be time to tell Jennifer and the rest of the family the truth – that way there would be more support to help Alice get through her problem. Chris is adamant, however; this is between Alice, him and Peggy and nobody else must know. He gets Peggy to give him her word that she will keep quiet and, reluctantly, she agrees, although she does warn him that the baby and its health must come first. Besides, as she reminds Chris “There are only so many falls that a grandmother can have.”