Alison Dowling (Elizabeth Pargetter)
The situation between Lilian and Justin is really getting on my nerves - not only do I not know what’s going on, but it appears that neither do they. The wedding is scheduled for 22nd December and it’s fair to say that the swallows are gathering on the wires. Hats have been bought, suits have been cleaned specially and Tony, as witness, has learned to write his name. Not only that, but Elizabeth is stalking Lilian, desperate to arrange a meeting to finalise the last details, and Lilian keeps fobbing her off. At this rate, Elizabeth will be following Lilian up the aisle (or the Lower Loxley equivalent), saying things like ‘how many canapés per guest would you like?’
One such detail is ‘will there be a groom?’ Why Justin and Lilian cannot just get together and say ‘is this marriage going to go ahead or not?’ is beyond me. They do meet up quite a bit (usually accidentally) and there is much talk about it being “time to be sensible, face facts and move on” (Justin) but nobody has said ‘the wedding’s off’. Justin turned up at the BL party by himself and had to field awkward questions, inventing a bad cold to explain Lilian‘s absence.
Peggy was concerned to hear that Lilian has been unwell and quizzes her about it at the great Ambridge Christmas Lights switch on on Friday. As we have said in the past, this is a great bit of radio. Lilian has been keeping the estrangement with Justin a secret, but, at the switch on, she finally cracks and tells her mother that she feels so guilty about what happened to Chris and the others. Peggy replies that it wasn’t her fault - Matt was a rogue before Lilian met him and it’s a good job that she managed to steer clear of him this time. “All these self doubts will disappear when you marry Justin - he’s someone you can be happy with.” It’s all too much for Lilian and she tells Peg that Justin wants to move on - the wedding’s off.
Well, that will have ruined a lot of people’s Christmases; not least Elizabeth, who was probably looking forward to a lucrative wedding reception and who now has a day with no paying customers and enough champagne to float a battleship. But wait! Could the wedding yet be saved? When Lilian went to the Dower House on Friday, Justin tells her that Ruby, the puppy, has been sick. Alistair gave Ruby an anti-vomiting injection and urged Justin to keep an eye on her - she could have a blockage. Lilian is concerned, as is Justin - could Ruby be the catalyst that brings them back together at the eleventh hour? If so, I’m sure that the irony that it was Matt who bought Ruby for Lilian will not be lost on the happy couple. Whatever is the upshot concerning the wedding, just get on with it, as I don’t think I can take much more of this uncertainty.
Going back to the BL dinner, this saw the debut of Ian’s special Christmas menu and everyone agreed it was a triumph. Ian is in no mood to celebrate, as earlier in the week he and Adam had visited the fertility clinic, where Ian learned that he is unlikely to be able to father a child. The couple drive back from the clinic and a despondent Ian says that it feels like a door has been slammed in his face. Adam suggests that they could use his sperm instead, but Ian says let’s let it sink in before they make a decision.
After the BL dinner, Ian has a heart-to-heart with Lexi in the kitchen. She tells him he should be in the restaurant, soaking up the praise of the diners, but he doesn’t feel like it. He tells her about the disappointment of the fertility clinic and Adam’s offer to father the child - Ian says he wouldn’t feel that the child was his. All he really wanted was to pass on some of his mother’s characteristics (she died when Ian was young). Lexi tells him this is rubbish - Ian can share such things like his kindness and his smile with his and Adam’s child - his mother’s spirit will live on. Adam comes into the kitchen to apologise for Brian’s crass remark (Brian clumsily told Ian that he mustn’t feel like he’s a freak). “Are you all right?” Adam asks his husband. “No I’m not, not yet” Ian replies, adding: “But maybe life isn’t as dark as it was a few minutes ago.”
More talk of babies: Pip is definitely pregnant. Should she tell Toby (it’s definitely his, as she and Alfie haven’t got to that stage yet)? Break it to him gently Pip; that’s the way to do it. Alternatively, she could adopt the direct, brute force approach, which she does, interrupting him wittering on about geese with a curt “Toby, I’m pregnant.”
This comes as a shock to Toby, who says that he always assumed he would have children one day, but he doesn’t think the time is right “especially as we aren’t even an item. Unless…?” Pip cuts him short, saying no, they’d be starting all over again and for all the wrong reasons. Toby says whatever, it has to be Pip’s decision and, whatever she decides, he’ll back her 100%. At the lights switch on, Pip tells Elizabeth that she’s told Toby and she’s glad she did. The termination is set for Friday and Pip says “This will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” “I know, Pip, I know” says Lizzie.
And indeed, she does know whereof she speaks as, before her marriage, a pregnant Elizabeth was dumped at a motorway service centre by the odious Cameron Fraser. She subsequently had an abortion, which caused no little friction with sister Shula, who was desperate to have a baby of her own and could not understand how anyone could have a termination, but Elizabeth went ahead.
The Reverend Alan Franks is beginning to wonder why he ever volunteered to organise the panto this year. At rehearsal, he is buttonholed by Lynda, who has drawn up notes about her character (Nightshade, the Evil Fairy) and she wants to understand her motivation. Mystified, Alan says that she’s an Evil Fairy - isn’t that enough? Not for Lynda - what turned her evil? She wants to portray the suffering and angst that she feels Nightshade must have undergone and her performance is punctuated by meaningful pauses and gazing into the middle distance. She has also made alterations to her part to better suit the nuances of her character.
This is all too much for Susan, who is angry because Lynda’s changes are affecting the rest of the cast and disrupting the flow of the performance. She gets quite insulting and, after a particularly pretentious speech by Nightshade, Susan accuses Lynda of showing off. Lynda is scandalised by this (to me perfectly reasonable) accusation and a full time row is brewing, but Usha steps in to defuse the situation.
She does this with the aid of a little white lie - Susan complains that her costumes are all too small for her and Usha must have written down Susan’s sizes wrongly. Usha is adamant that she gave the costumiers the sizes that Susan told her, but later on she interrupts the Lynda/Susan argument by saying that she was wrong - she did make a mistake over Susan’s measurements. A mollified Susan immediately forgets about her row with Lynda.
Alan is grateful to his wife and tells her he is glad that she is on his side. He says that he feels like the captain of a ship going over a waterfall. “I’m not cut out for this job” he tells his wife. I’m sorry, Alan, but I have no sympathy for you - you were warned before you stuck your oar in and you have only yourself to blame. As they say, you have made your bed.
I also predicted that Lynda would not be able to stop herself interfering - ok, I admit that it wasn’t the most difficult thing to predict; the words ‘nailed-on certainty’ spring to mind - but it’s still nice to be proved right. If only you had stepped back, Alan, and let the panto sink without trace, you could have saved yourself all this grief. Do you still think the panto is a fun thing that brings the villagers together in a spirit of unity and enjoyment? No, me neither, but serves you right. If he’s not careful, Alan will have Lynda rewriting his sermons and examining the motivation of various biblical figures - after all, Satan was an angel once, so he presumably wasn’t originally all bad…
We had a rare, and admittedly minor, victory on the part of Joe and Eddie Grundy last week. People who buy turkeys are being given a bottle of Tumble Tussock cider, but nobody knows what it tastes like. Eddie decides to invite Jim Lloyd along for a tasting - he has a good reputation in the village and his word counts for something. All that is needed is for the cider to deliver the goods, taste-wise.
Except it doesn’t. Eddie cracks the first barrel and the cider tastes foul. In vain does Joe bang on about it being an acquired taste - Jim has no intention of acquiring it. A despondent Eddie opens the second barrel, which contains a second pressing of Tumble Tussocks - and it’s wonderful. Jim is ecstatic and Joe says it tastes just as he remembers. Jim says to put a couple of bottles aside for him and, quick as a flash, Eddie says that only if he buys a Grundy turkey. Begrudgingly, Jim says “OK - a small one.”
But what of the third barrel? Eddie tastes it and makes a face - it was as bad as the first barrel and he wouldn’t insult Jim and Joe by making them taste it. Jim leaves and Joe says “I suppose one barrel is better than none.” Eddie plays his master stroke and tells his dad that au contraire (not in those exact words, of course) - the third barrel was the best of the lot, but they don’t want people to think that there is a plentiful supply of the stuff, or they won’t be so keen to buy a turkey. Undoubtedly something will happen to upset the Tumble Tussock cart - it usually does with the Grundys.
Finally, the prize for this week’s crassest remark is a toss up between Brian’s well-meant, but insensitive, ‘freak’ comment to Ian and a misguided attempt at humour by Johnny. He was in the village shop when Emma came in with Keira. Keira was not happy when Emma chose a cheap can of beans, which Keira doesn’t like. Johnny agreed with her, saying the dearer beans are much tastier. Emma tells him off, saying that they are saving to buy a house (as they need another £11k, that’s an awful lot of beans, Emma) and they have to economise on everything. On top of this, Emma is holding down three jobs and Ed is working as much as he can “and it doesn’t help, losing contract work to cheap, unskilled labour” Ouch! That told you, Johnny. Johnny apologises and mumbles that he didn’t mean anything - he was only mucking about. Good job he didn’t tell Emma that Adam has offered him a full-time job at Home Farm, or he might well have had to have a can of beans surgically removed from his body.