Sunday, 18 June 2017

Many Unhappy Returns

Roger May (James Bellamy)

I sometimes think that there is a marked sadistic streak in some of the Archers writers. Take Tuesday - it was Lynda’s 70th birthday, so we were expecting much in the way of pretension and pontificating. We had even been warned that James, Leone and Muppet would be turning up, which indeed they did. What we hadn’t been prepared for was the fact that James and Leone were at daggers drawn and she had changed the locks, effectively throwing him out of the house. The only reason they had come together was because they didn’t want to spoil Lynda’s big day and were putting on a united front.

Ha! That lasted about 10 minutes before yet another blazing row erupted, with Leone saying that she cannot believe that she ever found James attractive, while he says that he only hooked up with her out of pity and he’s going to stay in the Dower House. Leone bursts into tears and Lynda appeals (unsuccessfully) to them both to talk it through - think of the effect on little Muppet. What effect could this be? For starters, the poor little sod has two of the worst parents possible and he probably wouldn’t understand what’s going on anyway as, if he inherited all the brain cells from both parents, that would still only give him two. I have said in the past that it was lucky that James and Leone got together, as that means they only messed up two lives, instead of four and I stand by that.

When James is ensconced in the Dower House, he is a complete pain, telling Lilian that he’d like a full English breakfast, as he’s under a lot of stress. He also adds that Leone is very spoiled. Hello pot; meet kettle. Lilian suggests a sausage sandwich for lunch and James is aghast: “We’re not road menders, Ma” says the slimy creep, adding that he rather fancies some devilled kidneys. Oh yes, he also needs a lift into Borchester to buy some more clothes if he is going to stay (his car is in for repair).

The rift between James and Leone makes things difficult for the grandmothers and, when Lilian and Lynda meet outside the shop, wounding words are exchanged. Lilian says James has always been sensitive and Lynda retorts that, from what Leone says, exactly the opposite is true. Lilian describes Leone as “that hysterical girl,”, “a self-centred clothes horse” and “an emotionally incontinent harpy.” For her part, Lynda calls James “an over-privileged wastrel” and suggests that his character is down to a poor parenting. Lilian says that that is a subject on which Lynda is completely unqualified to comment, and the barb hits home, as Lynda describes it as “a low blow”. Be that as it may, I submit that all the insults about James and Leone were accurate, but they didn’t go halfway to describing the vapid, childish, selfish, completely off the wall nature of their characters. God only knows what Muppet is going to turn out like. I mean, I could have gone on for pages about the faults and imperfections of James and Leone, but I try to keep these blogs down to about 2,000 words and anyway, I do need to sleep every now and then.

Leone goes back to London (hooray!), taking Muppet with her, but James is hanging round the Dower House. On Friday, he demands that Lilian takes him to Felpersham to pick up his car, but she has AmSide business in the opposite direction. James (whose main talent seems to be exploiting other people) seizes on the fact that Justin hasn’t got any appointments right away and he can take him. Justin is not happy - even less so when Lilian backs him into a corner about giving James a lift. “You owe me!” he calls after Lilian as she goes for her meeting.

In Felpersham, Justin and James run into Matt and James immediately goes on the offensive - especially when Matt reveals that he’s got a Bentley. “So that’s where Ma’s money has gone, is it?” James shrieks, and accuses Matt of laying waste his (James’s) inheritance. Matt responds by saying that the only person who has fleeced Lilian is James, as “you’ve sponged off her all your life.” The unseemly row is ended by Justin, who tells James to sit in the car and tells Matt that his behaviour is unacceptable. “Have a bit of class” Justin tells him. I put it to you that, if Matt had any class, it would be Remedial.

And now we come to the reason that Justin could be my new best friend: he tells James that, at his time of life, he has found that relationships are very important and urges James to return to London and woo back Leone. James protests that, while he’s asset-rich (liar), he’s cash-poor (true) and Justin says that perhaps there’s something he can do about that, but he doesn‘t want Lilian to have to undergo any more family dramas - “do you hear what I‘m saying?” We are not told the details. But, when Lilian returns home, James is packing. Lilian is stunned and asks him what’s happened? James tells her that he had “an inspirational talk with Justin - he’s a top man.” Lilian, who obviously knows her son well, asks Justin if he gave James any incentive to leave. “Just friendly advice” he replies.

We have spent a lot of time on James and Leone, but that is because I hope that we have seen the last of them - not for ever, as they will presumably return for significant events - Lynda’s 80th, Robert’s funeral, Muppet’s celebration at passing the 11 Plus at the age of 27 - things like that. Why can’t they take a leaf out of Flat Leaf Parsley’s book and just bugger off abroad to live?

Let’s turn our attention to those two rockers, Freddie and Johnny. It would appear that Freddie had a most enjoyable night with Bonnie and he marked the occasion by emulating her in having an eyebrow piercing. The pair are waiting for a bus, but neither of them has any money. No worries - ring Elizabeth for a lift. Sadly, both phones’ batteries are dead. But they are outside Damara’s HQ - surely they will let them phone home? No, they won’t. Fortunately, they encounter Justin and he lets them use his mobile to call Elizabeth, mentioning in passing that Freddie’s eyebrow looks in need of medical attention.

Lizzie goes ever so slightly berserk but, when they get back to Lower Loxley, Freddie takes to his bed for a day and a bit. Elizabeth doesn’t know how to handle the situation and, when she does get to talk to her son, she says that she wants to understand - was he just running away from his exams? Freddie tells her it was “an epiphany” and he’s had it with education. Elizabeth confided in Rooooth that she can see that Freddie is making the same mistakes that she did at his age - if I may digress, not just at his age, as both mother and son spent a night of passion in a tent and, in Elizabeth’s case, she was about 30 years older than Freddie.

Freddie tells his mum that there’s a whole new way to live and he wants to do something original - look at Nigel. What did Nigel do that was original, we ask ourselves? His party piece was removing girls’ bras one-handed at parties, plus he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the rooftops of Lower Loxley (including a quick way down) and he once drove an ice cream van. Lucky for him that he inherited a stately pile. Elizabeth reminds Freddie that he will have responsibilities before long (as eldest son, he will inherit Lower Loxley) “and I won’t let you throw away your education - and that’s final!” Not much common ground for a compromise, I would suggest. Here’s an idea - why not let Freddie go off an be a beach bum or whatever his ambition is and let Lily inherit the hall? Not only is she the older twin, but let’s be honest; Freddie couldn’t be trusted to run a whelk stall, could he? Arranging a drinking event in a place where beer is produced would be similarly beyond him.

While on the subject of children and their future plans, we now turn to Josh. Open Farm Sunday at Brookfield was a success, in that very few people asked about IBR (presumably the few that knew about it stayed away, in case). Afterwards, David congratulated Josh on his latest refurbishment project, adding that Josh will probably find running his business a strain when he goes to uni after his year off. However, Josh has a bit of news for his father - he’s not actually going to go to university; his business is taking off big time and he wants to pursue it. David says that is all very well, but university has to take priority, only to be told that that’s not possible, as Josh told the university that he didn’t want his place. “I haven’t actually got a university to go to.” Josh adds. Look on the bright side David - at least he hasn’t got an eyebrow piercing.

The ‘will they, won’t they?’ saga about the sale of three and a half acres of Bridge Farm land drags on. Tom and Helen put their heads together and come up with a plan - half the money can go into Tony and Pat’s retirement fund and the other half a million can go towards a new, purpose-built showcase for Bridge Farm, offering courses, cheese-making experiences and, for all I know, goat-fondling. It would be built with the greenest of technologies, so how about it? Tony and Pat are impressed (I reckon the £500 k in the pension pot helped) and they agree that Tom should contact Justin and say OK. But Justin isn’t in a hurry to meet Tom - he tells him to contact Anthea, as he doesn’t keep track of his diary. On Friday, Tom gets a call from Matt, who wants to meet him. Matt has heard about the deal and he says that he has some property developer contacts who would offer £1.5 million for the land and he can give Tom names and phone numbers and Tom can do what he likes. I really hope that this doesn’t all go tits up. As Tom said to Matt “why should I believe you?” Hold that thought Tom.

The reason Matt had heard about the deal was the rumour spread by Susan and Pat took her to one side to tell her off. Instead of being contrite, Susan says that it’s in the interest of the village to know the truth and, if Pat had told her it was a secret, she wouldn’t have said anything. As Pat didn’t know Susan was listening, this appears to be academic. Furthermore, in a breathtaking bit of self-deception, Susan says “I don’t spread rumours, Pat”, adding “it’s true, isn’t it?” Sack her Pat - stick her in the strawberry yoghurt mix. At the very least tear her tongue out to teach her a lesson.

We return to Rex and Anisha. Last week I told him to forget Pip. This week, the pair meet up on a run and there is banter. Rex tells her that there is nothing between him and Pip - ”we’re mates, just like you and me.” Anisha invites him to a Hunt puppy show, but he is going to the British Grand Prix that day. What? I thought he was skint - do you know how much that costs? However, Rex says “this is daft - there’s obviously something going on here and we need to find out what.” They agree on a ‘proper’ date on Tuesday - Anisha will book a restaurant. Please, please, Rex, seize this chance and, if Pip wants to pour out her heart to you (again) on Tuesday, tell her to take a hike and look after number one for a change.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Don’t Expect A Father’s Day Card, Tony

David Troughton (Tony Archer)

Tom has returned from Hungary, bringing presents of fermented vegetable products and full of ideas for his new business. Pat invites him and Helen for supper, over which she and Tony tell their children about Justin’s £1 million offer for three and a half acres of Bridge Farm. Both Tom and Helen are flabbergasted and immediately begin planning what they could do with such a sum. It’s like Kenton spending the money that Justin offered for Brookfield before he actually paid it, all over again.

Amid all this euphoria, there is one dissenting voice - that of Tony saying that they cannot treat the land like a short-term commodity and it’s a point of principle. Tom’s attitude could be summed up as ‘stuff principle, it’s a million quid!’ Tony asks ‘what about the neighbours?’ Stuff them too. Tom tells his dad that he is just being sentimental and he goes further, saying: “Every time we try and do something with the farm and push the boundaries, you always hold us back.” He goes on: “You always say that it’s our future - shouldn’t Helen and I decide?” Fortunately Tom stops short of saying “as for the land, you’ll be under it soon” but he is not best pleased.

Tony appeals to Pat and she says that, although she has some reservations, she thinks they ought to sell. Tom is triumphant “That’s three to one!” he crows and suggests that they call Justin right away. Tony wants time to think it over and Pat says that they all need to agree. Tony digs in his heels and says “I’m sorry - I know you want it settled, but I’m not going to be rushed into anything.”

A couple of days later, Tom learns (through Susan) that Pat had a call from Justin, who wanted to know what was happening. Pat told him that they were still thinking it over and an exasperated Tom says that Justin will go elsewhere if they don’t agree soon. “Great,” Tom says, “We’re about to lose a once-in-a-lifetime deal - a million pounds - just because we don’t want to hurt dad’s feelings!” Pat protests that it’s more complicated than that, but Tom tells her that they need that money - they need those houses to be built. As luck would have it, Susan is lurking round the scullery and has overheard the exchange - no doubt because she was listening - and, when Pat and Tom have left, Susan emerges  and says “well” in a satisfied tone of voice. But more of Susan later. If I were Tony, I’d be careful what I ate and drank from now on and turn all electrical appliances on while wearing rubber gloves. At the very least, I wouldn’t expect to receive a Father’s Day card next Sunday.

If Tom isn’t a happy camper, someone who is, is Freddie Pargetter (did you see what I did there?). He walked out of his maths resit and latched on to Johnny, who is on his way to the Isle of Wight Festival. Johnny was originally going to go with Amber, but she cried off, as her Gran has had a serious stroke. Freddie tells Johnny that he got the dates of his exam mixed up - it’s next week, he says - so he can go with Johnny. When the two lads get to the IOW, Freddie is beside himself with excitement and reprimands Johnny, saying: “You’re not still missing Amber, are you? You’ve got me instead.”

Considering his plans have gone from spending four nights in a two-person tent with a girl that he fancied like crazy, to spending the same time, and tent, with Freddie, Johnny takes it very well, in that he doesn’t break down and weep, nor attempts suicide. Neither does he shake his fist at the heavens, yelling “why me, God, why me?” Even at the best of times, Freddie can be irritating - what am I talking about; there’s no ‘can be’ about it; he is bloody irritating - but he appears now to have gone completely off his head. Mind you, he may have had help, as he says to Johnny “Look what I’ve got - it’s the good stuff; the best. So, one each now and we’ll head over to the dance tent.” We are not told what sort of ‘stuff’ he’s talking about, but it seems a fair guess that it’s not Smarties.

It promises to be a weekend to remember for Freddie, as he tells Johnny that his home life is a waste and there’s a whole world out there and he‘s never going home. He is also on a promise from a girl called Bonnie, who he met that day and begs Johnny to find somewhere else to sleep tonight so that he and Bonnie can have the tent to themselves. Considering that Johnny had no doubt been looking forward to something similar with Amber and is now being asked to vacate his own tent, I think it was very generous of him to agree and tell an ecstatic Freddie “The tent’s all yours, man.”

Enjoy it while you may Freddie, as four days will soon pass and then there will be a Reckoning. Elizabeth is very angry and she cannot understand how Lily can be so laid back about what her twin has done. Lily is checking up on social media and shows her mother a picture of Freddie and Johnny together, enjoying themselves. Elizabeth still reckons that she should have driven down to the IOW and dragged her son back by force. Lily said this would have been a terrible idea, and describes her brother as ‘dumb’, ‘irresponsible’ and admits that he sometimes behaves like a ten-year old, but at least he’s safe. Lizzie is annoyed because Freddie stole some money from her desk. (“But he did leave an IOU” Lily reminds her). Lily tells her to relax, as Freddie is fine. “Yes, he’s fine now, but just wait till he gets home” Elizabeth replies, darkly.

Let’s leave Freddie and - to a lesser extent, Johnny - enjoying themselves. That remark about never going home might be a smart move, Freddie. Back in Ambridge, it looked like Rex might be making headway with Anisha, as they meet up while running. There is a certain wariness as they talk, but eventually arrange to meet up at The Bull one evening. Rex rings her to confirm and she says that she’s been working late, but will have a shower and see him there in 45 minutes. Rex is then accosted by Pip, who wants to talk and invites him to walk up Lakey Hill. ’Don’t do it!’ I screamed at the radio, but the idiot goes with her and listens to her banging on about Toby. Pip beats herself up for being useless at relationships and says that even when she had the choice, she picked the wrong brother. She is immediately overcome with embarrassment and Rex says he has to go as he’s meeting someone.

As he enters The Bull, Anisha is leaving and is not best pleased as she has been waiting for half an hour. She surmises that Rex has been with Pip and walks off and leaves him. Well done, Rex! Another cock-up on the romance front. Pip rings him and apologises for what she said, saying that she hopes she didn’t mess things up for him. No Pip, he did that all by himself. Pip then asks if they are still friends? Rex says ’yes’ but if he seriously wants to be an item with Anisha, then I reckon he should ration the time he spends with Pip. And why do it anyway? All she does is talk about Toby and how she is rubbish when it comes to picking men. Live your own life, Rex and leave her to get on with hers.

Lilian got her own way over Justin’s new secretary - rather than risk him employing a younger woman and potential rival, she arranges for him to interview Anthea Jennings. This is the formidable ex-employee of AmSide and poor Justin is doomed from the moment she walks in the door. He said that he felt like she was interviewing him and, when it became obvious that she didn’t disapprove of him or the job, he felt compelled to take her on.

Justin also ran into Matt on Monday and told him that Latif Hussain had informed Justin that he had invested in the racecourse consortium that Matt represents. Justin rather pointedly (and rudely) says that he wouldn’t want Latif to get his fingers burnt and should he be worried? Matt says it was nothing to do with him and Latif negotiated directly with one of the leaders of the consortium. Indeed, Matt had told Latif that all the investment opportunities were spoken for, but Latif went ahead and did it his way. In fact, Latif had just bought Matt a drink as a ‘thank you’. Justin tells Lilian later that it all appears above board, but he will try and dig a little deeper in order to find out a bit more.

Staying with Justin, he is keeping his cards very close to his chest about the Bridge Farm land purchase - he hasn’t even told Lilian and has given Brian only the broadest hint that he has another project in mind. He and Brian meet to discuss the possible objections to the Berrow Farm pig project; Lynda has returned and has lost no time in phoning both Brian and Justin, but neither answered. Lynda has had words with Neil about how she could oppose the plan. Neil tells her that, as PC Chair, he has to remain neutral, then he tells her that her best bet is on environmental challenges. Obviously some new definition of ‘neutrality’ there.

After their meeting, Brian asks Justin for a lift home (his car’s in for servicing) and - disaster! Justin is clocked by Speedwatch at 35 mph. Even worse, it is Lynda wielding the speed camera. Justin tries to talk himself out of it, but Lynda takes full advantage, saying that she should report Justin but she could let him off with a verbal warning if, for example, they could meet to discuss the pig farm and how about in 30 minutes at the Dower House and she’ll get Kirsty to come along? Corruption among those in power is a terrible thing, isn’t it? Justin and Brian cave in and Lynda says that she’ll present them with a list of demands, concerning landscaping etc. The two women leave and Brian says that they have got off lightly and “we should try to tick all their boxes for the sake of a quiet life.”

But Justin’s life is destined to become very unquiet, due entirely to Motor Mouth Carter and her manta-ray-sized gob. Not for nothing has she been described as ‘radio Borsetshire’. Susan serves Jennifer in the shop and tells her that “there’s a very worrying rumour going around about Bridge Farm and has she heard anything?” The reason there’s a rumour going around is because Susan has started it - not only started it, but added two and two and made five, it would appear, as Jennifer goes to see Lilian and tells her that Susan told her that Justin is planning to build “a huge housing estate - at least 50 houses - on Bridge Farm land.” Lilian suggests that Susan is deluded, as Justin has said nothing to her about it. Jennifer is reassured, saying that, if there were any truth in it, Justin would be sure to have told Lilian, wouldn’t he? You - and Lilian - would like to think so, and I foresee some pointed questions being asked at the Dower House when Lilian discovers that her fiancé has been keeping her in the dark regarding his negotiations with her brother and his family.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

“Get Thee Behind Me, Justin”

Simon Williams (Justin Elliott)

Pat and Tony were faced with temptation last week and we did wonder if they were going to be found wanting. Justin paid a visit to Bridge Farm to discuss, in confidence, a project he has in mind. There is, he says, a shortage of affordable houses in Ambridge and the only way you can get these is as part of a larger development. Tony is immediately suspicious, but Justin says that he has no intention of despoiling Ambridge - he is only thinking of 18 houses.

So what has this got to do with us? Pat asks and the answer is that the ideal site is a field at one extremity of Bridge Farm. Tony quickly says ‘no’ but Pat suggests they hear Justin out, to which Tony says that the field in question was the very one that made them decide to go organic and he’s not prepared to see it buried under tons of concrete. Justin counters this by saying that he wouldn’t want the whole field; only 3.5 acres. The answer is still ‘no’ Tony says, but Pat asks how much would he be prepared to pay? The answer is around £1 million, which Justin points out would give all those on the farm a secure future. “Most farmers would jump at it” he suggests.

Pat and Tony are gobsmacked and we see one or two hairline cracks forming in their steadfast resolve - or Pat‘s at least. Justin leaves them to think it over and Pat suggests that they take a walk down to the field in question. Tony waxes lyrical about the wildflowers, but Pat seems to be thinking that you can get a lot of wildflowers for one million smackers. She tells Tony that, while the field means a lot to them, their time is past and the future lies with Tom and Helen and what could they do with such a sum of money? It’s not just about Tom and Helen though, as Pat says that she and Tony could buy a camper van and travel, as they had planned. This has lost its appeal for Tony and he says that all he really wants out of life is to be on the farm “with my cattle and grandchildren” (note the order of priority there) and “helping out when I’m needed”, which, let’s be honest, is precious little these days. Take the money Pat, buy a camper van or a villa abroad and leave the miserable sod behind.

No doubt Justin will be back with yet further temptation. Mind you, there are some people that even he cannot charm - the rumours about the intensive pig farming are sweeping the village. In The Bull after the Single Wicket competition, Brian is buying a round of drinks when Harrison Burns asks him outright if there’s any truth in the rumours. A flustered Brian says that the idea hasn’t even been put before the BL Board - yet, and he rushes off, without paying for the drinks. “You definitely touched a nerve there” Kenton tells PCB and Susan demonstrates once again that she’s not the brightest firefly in the garden when she says “What? You mean it might actually be true?” Justin’s charm is also wasted on Kirsty, who is livid with herself for thanking Justin for paying for the maintenance of the Millennium Wood - she describes it as just “greenwash” to draw attention away from the mega-piggery. She resolves to speak at the forthcoming Parish Council meeting and Helen is on her side.

Justin, however, is recruiting other allies and lines David up to speak for the project at the PC meeting. In fact, the overriding feeling in the village can best be summed up as ‘so what?’ When you consider the outrage when the mega dairy was first mooted, the lack of reaction seems odd. The mega dairy was 1,500 cattle and the mega piggery is on a much larger scale, plus pigs are generally regarded as being much more intelligent than cows, but Kirsty is the only one who is exercised by BL’s plans. Kirsty bemoans the fact that Lynda is away in Italy, but even diehard anti-Berrow protestors Pat and Rooooth seem to think that the idea is ok - Berrow is already built, so why not use it?

At the PC meeting, Kirsty makes an appeal, saying that, to keep intelligent creatures such as pigs in such “barbarous” conditions is tantamount to animal cruelty. David makes the point that any project would be subject to stringent regulations and rigorous examination. Speaking to Lilian after the meeting, Justin says that he’s pleased that the village appears to be seeing sense over the pig unit. “It just goes to show that if you know how to handle people, you can usually get what you want” Justin tells his fiancée. I wouldn’t get too complacent Justin; Lynda will be returning ere long.

Earlier we mentioned the Single Wicket. There was embarrassment for PCB as he was knocked out by Lily in the first round. In fact the two girls - Lily and Anisha - did very well, getting through to the semi-finals. The final was contested by Chris and Ruairi (who was a dark horse, as nobody knew that he played for his school - shows how much attention Brian pays to his schooling) and Chris proved victorious.

Lily is getting rather bossy. At Lower Loxley, Elizabeth is having some trouble with the mother of the bride at a forthcoming wedding - she wants to completely change the flowers. Lily says that she will sort it and indeed she does, talking the mother out of making any changes. Elizabeth is grateful and Lily offers to help her out for the rest of the week. What about her revision? “I know it all” says the smug little madam.

Pip is living at Lower Loxley and, as she tells everyone, it’s great, with her own ensuite and a large room. She is still working all the hours she can and even suggests that she could take on some relief milking for the extra cash. What doesn’t help is Toby flagging her down in the tractor because he wants to chat. He obviously doesn’t understand the meaning of ‘working flat out’. He’s a bit peed off that she didn’t tell him she was at Lower Loxley, but why should she? Eventually, she agrees to meet him later for a drink. Back at Lower Loxley, Pip is on the verge of going out, when Lily stops her - she can’t go out looking like she does, with rubbish hair and no make up; Toby will think she is pining for him. “I’ll give you a quick makeover” says the bossy one, which she does.

Pip arrives at The Bull late, but looking a million dollars. Brian, who is in the bar, says “who’s the lucky man?” Take your eyes off her, you old lech! Toby says he is flattered that she went to all that trouble for him, but she quickly disabuses him of that idea, tells him that she can’t drink the wine he ordered as she’s driving and would he excuse her for a moment, as she wants to talk to Johnny about relief milking? Toby is despondent and his mood is not made better when Brian confesses that he’s put his foot in it as he assumed that Pip and Toby were back together and he says: “When I saw Pip all dolled up like that, I assumed…” Wearily, Toby replies “Yes, Brian; so did I.”

To be honest, the Toby/Pip story is getting on my nerves, with him mooning around like a lovesick calf. This is probably the first time he’s ever been dumped and he cannot hack it. On Thursday evening Pip is in The Bull, as are Rex and Johnny, and Pip is chatting and laughing, with a crowd of Young Farmers, especially a lad called Todd, from whom she is expecting relief milking work. Pip goes to the bar to order drinks and Toby is there - he’s been working and he’s annoyed that she hasn’t said ’hello’ to him. Anyway, he’s on his break now, so he can join her and her friends. Pip is quite sharp with him and tells him ’no’. When Rex asks what’s happening, Pip tells him that Toby is being a pain.

To digress a bit here, I had great hopes for Rex and Anisha, but when Johnny asks him how are things between them, Rex answers sadly “She doesn’t even go running with me any more.” And it was Toby who put the mockers on that budding relationship - the man is a walking disaster area; and a self-centred one at that.

Rex finds his brother outside and Toby says that he is trying to be mates with Pip, but she doesn’t understand what friendship means. Rex asks if there’s any chance of them getting back together. “I’m kidding myself, aren’t I?” Toby asks in a rare moment of self-awareness. Rex says that it can take years to become mates with someone who has dumped you. Toby is really down and it hurts to see Pip laughing and joking with other guys - he’s never felt like this before. “What am I going to do?” Toby asks his brother, who is no doubt reflecting that, once again, he has to mop up after his prodigal sibling.

Well, Toby, the first thing you could do is grow up and snap out of it, you great woos. One wonders if his anguish is for the loss of the love of his life or for the farm that, as he once remarked to Rex, “comes attached with Pip.” Perhaps Rex could tell him gently that, being friends with someone does not mean that you are not attached at the hip and that they are allowed to have other friends, who they may prefer to you. Whatever, Toby has come to a decision and he goes over to Lower Loxley late at night in order to acquaint Pip with it. If I may pause here, this is yet another annoying habit of Toby’s in that he’s always knocking on doors late at night to tell Pip something - he did it when she was at Brookfield and now it’s Lower Loxley’s turn to be awakened. Pip really doesn’t want this, as she needs all the sleep she can get, working all hours.

So what is this decision that is so important that it cannot wait a few hours? He can’t be friends with Pip - it’s too much to ask and it hurts him too much (bless!). He’s blocking her mobile number and they can no longer be friends on Facebook and Twitter. Pip says that she still wants to be his friend, the fool, but he says it hurts too much and she’s got to get out of his life and leave him alone. What an opportunity to say “OK Tobes, see you around sometime I expect” and quietly close the door, but she blew it.

God, I hope that Pip and Toby don’t have a lasting reconciliation, but why has Pip got to get out of his life? Why can’t he just sod off somewhere else? If you recall, when the Fairbrothers first appeared in Ambridge and were looking for land to rent for their geese business, things were not looking good and, if Pip hadn’t persuaded David to let them rent Hollowtree, they were going to jack it all in and work at a surf shack in Cornwall. So, here’s an idea, why doesn’t Toby get out of Pip’s life, pack up his stuff and go down to Cornwall to see if they still need a beach bum? You could argue that he would be walking away from his gin business, but when it comes to Toby and business ideas, isn’t that par for the course? Plus of course, he presumably would conveniently forget to  pay Pip back her £5k loan.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

I Fear Disappointment Awaits, Johnny

Tom Gibbons (Johnny Phillips)

In the last blog, we had Lily telling Pip that she’s a good listener and handing out some advice. Last week she was at it again, but this time Johnny was the recipient of Lily’s wisdom. Johnny has been given two tickets to the Isle of Wight Festival (and a tent), but who should he take? He seems reluctant to ask his girlfriend Naomi, but she solves the problem by dumping him. It appears that she wanted more commitment and Johnny was unable to oblige.

It is the day of Freddie’s maths exam and he feels that he hasn’t done very well. He, Johnny and Lily discuss the Festival and Lily tries to get Freddie to tell her who he’d like to take. Eventually he says that he’d like to take Amber, but she’d never say ‘yes’. Lily points out that he’ll never know unless he tries and urges him to go and ask her now – she’s just dropped into the common room or whatever it is for a coffee. Johnny is reluctant, but Lily keeps on at him and he eventually gives in. Freddie isn’t too optimistic for his friend, telling Lily “It’s like watching the Titanic set off – he stands no chance.”

Freddie’s doom-mongering is short of the mark, however as, when Johnny returns, he says, in an awe-struck voice “she said yes”. If Johnny is flabbergasted, that is nothing compared to Freddie’s consternation and we keep hearing his interjections, such as ‘does she know you’ve got the other ticket?’ and ‘does she know you’re sharing a tent?’ Johnny says that “It will be the best weekend of my life” and a jealous Freddie, who still can’t believe it, says “You get all the luck Johnny; Amber, in a tent, at a Festival.”

Now, I sincerely hope that Johnny is correct and that the weekend goes as he wants it to, but I find Amber’s ready acceptance troubling. Consider; until he asked her, she didn’t seem to know that he existed and then – wham – it’s three days in a tent together with someone she doesn’t know. While Naomi wanted commitment, it seems that Amber didn’t even want to know how big the tent was. The words ‘cupboard’ and ‘love’ spring to mind. If it does all go pear-shaped, I hope that she doesn’t do anything insensitive, like turning up with a boyfriend in tow, thus dashing Johnny’s expectations. And what are Johnny’s expectations? One can assume that he didn’t invite Amber for her mind alone and that he has romantic – possibly even carnal – hopes for the weekend. Bearing that in mind, it was suggested by a friend of mine that, if Johnny was just hoping for some uncomplicated sex in a tent, then why didn’t he invite Elizabeth, who has form in this respect with a younger man?

Justin Elliott is waxing lyrical to Lilian about how much he likes Ambridge and how Lilian has helped him rediscover his self-belief and appetite for new projects. His finances aren’t all they should be and he needs to find a use for Berrow Farm, now that the mega-dairy has closed down and he tells Lilian that he has set himself a deadline of the end of the week to come up with a project. He and Lilian are out riding, when they meet Kirsty, who thanks Justin for getting BL to pay for forestry contractors to look after and manage the Millennium Wood. A modest Justin says that it was the Board’s idea and he just gave it a gentle nudge. When Kirsty has moved on, Lilian says to her fiancé “Aren’t you the golden boy?” Justin replies that he was just doing his bit for the community, to which Lilian observes that it’s a bonus if you get Brownie Points as well.

As we have said before, you gain Brownie Points singly and lose them by the dozen, especially if you are a man, and Justin is embarking on a course that will probably see him lose them by the shedload. On Friday he sounds Brian out about his new plan for Berrow – a plan that can be summed up in one word; pigs. Lots of pigs. In fact, 15,000 pigs and a breeding herd of 500 sows, all living indoors and being intensively farmed. The slurry will be wonderful for the anaerobic digester and, because the pigs are inside and, using the latest technology, there will be no smell to annoy the inhabitants of Ambridge. Planning shouldn’t be a problem, as the infrastructure is already in place, but Justin tells Brian that they need to discuss “how to overcome the inevitable opposition.” Jennifer put it more succinctly when she says “you’ll need your tin hats.”

I should say so – remember when Berrow was first mooted, there was an outcry and Justin was burned in effigy. This time, they might just cut out the middle man. Justin is hopeful that people will realise the benefit of the jobs that will be created, but I’m not so sure. There is a way to get at least one person on their side, however, and that is to offer Jazzer the job of looking after the breeding sows – with the choice of 500 ‘lassies’ to bond with, he will be in pigman’s heaven.

This is not the limit of Justin’s ambition, by any means – when he thanked Lilian for giving him back his appetite for new projects, he said that he wasn’t just talking about Berrow, but “the way I’m feeling, this is only the start for Ambridge.” Obviously not one for the quiet life, our Justin.

And neither is life quiet at Brookfield, where Josh is rapidly turning into a contender for the ‘least likeable character’ award (only narrowly behind Hilda Ogden, who clawed Justin and Shula this week and whom Justin described as ‘the reincarnation of Vlad the Impaler’ and ‘where is Brian in a car when you need him?’). Josh promised faithfully to help get the silage in but, on the morning, he is nowhere to be seen. Ed turns up, ready for work and an embarrassed David says that they can’t afford to hire him. No worries – Ed says that Josh has already paid him to do a day’s work. David’s explosion was probably heard in Darrington and, when he confronts his son later in the day, he calls him ‘arrogant’, amongst many other things. Josh cannot see the problem – he has a cultivator to renovate and, if he can get it on the website by Friday, the client will pay a 50% premium. Josh needed to work on it and he arranged (and paid for) cover, so what’s the big deal?

Father and son continue to argue and Josh says that he’s fed up always being in the wrong. They always take Pip’s part – he wanted to take part in Open Farm Sunday, but because Pip didn’t, Brookfield is giving OFS a miss. David protests that it’s nothing to do with Pip – they just cannot afford the time and expense, but Josh goes back to his cultivator, muttering darkly to himself, having said that he’s knackered because he is sleeping in the dining room and he feels like a visitor in his own home. David has obviously decided that appealing to Josh’s better nature is a lost cause, so he tries the autocratic approach, phoning his son and ordering him to come over now and help out. Josh replies that he’s busy. “Stop being busy and come and help” David says and, when Josh replies “I can’t”, David says “It’s not negotiable – get here now.” Josh acquiesces with bad grace.

Rex was talking to Toby and he described the Brookfield Archers as ‘dysfunctional’ (he had witnessed the David/Josh altercation) and they certainly seem to be moving in that direction. Pip, however, has a solution – she says that she is the problem and enough is enough; she has been talking with Elizabeth and her aunt has invited her to stay at Lower Loxley for a while, rent free. Moving out will make life easier for everyone, says Pip, and she will still do the Brookfield work and look after Rickyard. Pip also says that Elizabeth told her that she didn’t want to see Pip and Josh turning out like Kenton and David. As Pip goes off to pack, Rooooth repeats the remark about Kenton and David. “How do you think that makes me feel?” a subdued David asks his wife, who answers “Have we really let things get that bad between them?” Yes, Rooooth, you have, but Pip has given you a partial solution – all you have to do now is get Josh to move out into his own home and Brookfield will be a happier place.

On the cricket field, there is serious competition between some of the ladies – well, two of them, anyway. Anisha, Lily and Jolene meet for extra cricket practice and Jolene isn’t, frankly, much good. She is surprised at how competitive the other two are and mentions that they will be able to sort out which is the better player at the single wicket competition. Both girls immediately deny that this is important to them; the important thing is that women in general are appreciated in the game. This is a complete load of garbage as, when Anisha (or ‘Neesh’ as Lily calls her) goes home at the end of the session, Lily, who has been cunningly hinting that her studies may keep her out of the contest, tells Jolene: “If Anisha thinks I’d drop out of the single wicket, she’s deluded.”

Perhaps the reason that Jolene wasn’t much cop at cricket, was that she had something on her mind, which was tearing Kenton off a strip for telling David he could have £1,500, when they would be pushed to find £300. They’re supposed to be a team, Jolene tells her husband, but she warns him that, if he does something like that again without consulting her, he’ll be on his own.

Last week’s ‘clutching at straws’ moment features Toby. Early in the week he went to Hollowtree to do some gin work, unshaven, dirty, in crumpled clothes – he looked a mess. Pip turned up and Toby is mortified that she has seen him like this. He tells Rex later that he couldn’t think of anything to say – it was all gibberish (and Rex’s remark, along the lines of ‘no change there, then’ was not well received). “After today I stand no chance of getting back with Pip” moans Toby.

Two days later, the pair run into each other again, when Pip is putting up a poster in The Bull, advertising Rickyard for rent. The conversation this time is better and Pip mentions that she’s glad to be away from the farm – and especially from Josh – for a while (this was before she decided to move out to Lower Loxley). Toby tells her that it’s good to see her and they should stay in touch as mates. It is later, when Toby returns to the bungalow, that we have the straw-clutching, as Toby tells Rex that, “She didn’t actually say it, but it was pretty obvious that she was having second thoughts about chucking me.” Absence has made her heart grow fonder, he thinks and she misses him and he’s going to win her back. Toby, just because she didn’t spit at you or blank you totally, doesn’t mean that she’s pining for you, mate. At least, I certainly hope she isn’t.

And finally, it has been said that I am unkind to Lynda and her activities. We learned that she and Robert are going away to Florence to celebrate her 70th birthday and I wish her well. Neil asks if she has any plans to slow down after reaching such a significant milestone and I am sure that you were as pleased as I was when she replied firmly “Not at all – I’d be lost without my commitments to village life.”

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Beware The Cat From Hell, Brian

June Spencer OBE (Peggy Woolley)

Alice takes Peggy to the hairdressers and Peggy jokes that shes thinking of having a Mohican. Later on, when Alice arrives to pick her up, she gasps and we are agog - what has Peggy done? Is it the Mohican? Has she dyed her hair pink or gone tartan? No - she has a cat carrier with her and, surprise, surprise, theres a cat inside. Meet Hilda Ogden Peggy tells Alice. It turns out that Fabrice, the hairdresser, has split with his partner and moved into a no-pets property. He asked Peggy to look after Hilda and she agreed.

Peggy invites Alice to say hello to Hilda and the feline responds by hissing evilly at her. Back at the Lodge, Brian turns up, delivering a book for Peggy. Alice comes in with Hilda, saying that Christine has asked if they can keep Hilda downstairs, while she looks for a plaster, from which we infer that Hilda has scratched her. This is a touch ironic, as one of the reasons that Peggy gave Alice for keeping Hilda was to cheer up Christine, who is missing Bill terribly.

Peggy is besotted and tells them all to consider how bewildered Hilda must be feeling and be nice to her. She tells Brian to say hello and make friends and, when he approaches the cat, she lashes out at him. Alice says shell go and see if Christine has found the plasters and Peggy admonishes Brian for startling Hilda. Brian and Alice leave and he asks his daughter couldnt she have stopped Peggy? He adds that its very unnerving seeing Peggy sitting there like Blofeld, stroking the Cat from Hell.

Is this a cunning ploy by Peggy to get revenge on Brian, the cat-killer? Or perhaps Hilda is somehow aware that Brian has feline blood on his hands - maybe the spirit of the late Bill is being channelled through her and he is exacting retribution. Whatever, you get the impression that, should there be another feline hit-and-run fatality, Brian wouldnt care overmuch.

As it is, Brian thinks that the Speedwatch initiative is a waste of his time and tells Justin as much. The duo are at Berrow Farm and Justin is contemplating the future. Berrow, he says, is grossly under-utilised and, since the demise of the mega-dairy, is crying out for something more substantial. But what? Justin is in philosophical mood and is sure that something will turn up. Sometimes life surprises you he says, enigmatically.

Justin seems to have mellowed since Lilian told him to be more conciliatory towards Miranda over the divorce. In fact he invites his wife to a tête-à-tête to discuss the settlement. He offers her the holiday home in Aldeburgh and their skiing chalet for starters. Miranda, however, has her eye on Damara, but Justin is adamant - she had no part in building up his company and he wont let her have a stake. Miranda is on the point of leaving when Justin says that he is prepared to hand over sole ownership of a subsidiary company in Scotland and she can do what she likes with it. She describes his package of offers as not so unrealistic as I expected, which is big of her, as its probably worth a few million. However, there is one thing they havent discussed - she wants Justins two Arab horses. Justin shrewdly says that she doesnt really want them, she just doesnt want Lilian to have them and, in their place, he offers her his share in Damara Dream, the racehorse. Miranda replies that he must be infatuated and he says no - he really loves Lilian. Im curious, Miranda says, how long will it be before the spell wears off?

The following day, Miranda goes to the Dower House, where she meets Lilian and says that she has just come round to pick up a few things; notably two vases that she thinks are Chinese porcelain. Miranda is very overbearing, getting Lilian to wrap the vases up in newspaper (she is amazed that theres no bubble-wrap) and criticising Lilians redecoration. Lilian is quite restrained and says that Justin seems happy with what shes doing. When you marry him, youll just be creating a vacancy for his next mistress Miranda tells her and still Lilian refrains from breaking the vases over her head and, instead, sees her out politely.

Meanwhile, at the bungalow, Toby is falling apart, staying in bed till the afternoon and calling himself a complete waste of space. There are one or two people at Brookfield who wouldnt argue with that statement, Toby my old son. He tells Bert that he thought Pip was The One and hes never felt like this before. He has completely lost interest in the gin business and he doesnt see how life could possibly get any worse. Do you want me to read my poem to you? Bert asks, thus answering Tobys rhetorical question.

The other half of loves young dream, Pip, is delivering beef to the Bridge Farm shop, where she meets Tom. He is sarcastic about the cattle getting loose and Pip tells him it was her fault. After she has apologised about a dozen times, he thaws a little and says he admires her for owning up and we all make mistakes. Pip also tells him that she has dumped Toby and Tom takes the mood down a notch or two, remembering when he and Brenda split up. He muses that some people seem to walk into perfect relationships “but some of us are never going to meet the right one, are we? Why not give up and accept that we are always going to stay single?”

There is no answer from Pip, who is presumably looking for a branch to hang herself from. This mood of pessimism appears to be infectious, as the next day Pip is in conversation with cousin Liliy, who has detected that something is amiss and urges Pip to talk to her, as she’s a good listener. Pip says that dumping Toby was the right thing to do, but then wonders out loud whether she is the problem and “what if I never find the right guy?” She also says that she always falls for the wrong sort - first Jude, now Toby. Lily says that she’s proud to have Pip as a cousin and she’s sure that Pip’s life will be just fine - there’s no need to enter a convent just yet. Be strong Pip! And hang on to that thought that you were right to dump Toby and don‘t weaken.

Toby continues to veg around and doesn’t go into work at The Bull. Kenton gets hold of Rex and tells him that Toby is due to bring round the next batch of gin. Rex goes to see his brother, who is laying in bed, listening to music and wallowing in self-pity. Rex has a go at Toby, telling him that, for once, he has a promising business and Kenton cannot wait to sell Scruff gin. Toby reveals that the latest batch is undrinkable because he cocked up the recipe and Rex drags him off to Hollowtree. The gin is vile and Rex says they will start a new batch now. Toby just stands there while Rex does all the work and the latter is getting annoyed, asking why does he always have to clear up Toby’s disasters? “Because you’re a bloody good brother and I don’t deserve you” Toby answers, in a sepulchral tone. Spot on Toby; he is and you don’t - and don’t forget that moment of self-awareness earlier, when you described yourself (all too accurately) as a complete waste of space.

Over at Brookfield, David rings Kenton - he wants to see him. Kenton lets the calls go to voicemail, asking “hasn’t he got anything better to do than chase me?“ David eventually finds Kenton and asks for a talk, telling his brother how bad the financial situation at Brookfield is. “We’re stretched to breaking point” David admits. Kenton tells him that he’s come to the right man, and any time he or Rooooth need a meal, they can have one on the house. David says that he was hoping for something rather more substantial, like Kenton paying back the bulk of the money that David lent him .

Kenton’s reply is that he could possibly manage £1,000 - £1,500 and David says that they owe ten times that. The timing isn’t good, Kenton says, as they have invested a considerable sum in a new business; but it’s one that will benefit Brookfield considerably, as they are paying to get Scruff gin up and running. This is too much for David, who explodes “what is it with Toby? Everybody throws cash at him!” Kenton points out that Pip will benefit in the long run and, when David informs him (through gritted teeth) that she and Toby have split up and nobody at Brookfield cares about Scruff gin, Kenton says “Ah. That probably hasn’t gone down as well as I hoped, has it?”

Now for a brief overview of other stories: Matt goes to see Lilian - he has bought back the Dresden shepherd and shepherdess that he stole from her and says that they cost him three times what he originally sold them for, as if this somehow makes everything all right. Lilian says that she has moved on and she doesn’t want them, but Matt persuades her to take them, saying that she can throw them away if she likes. As Lilian shuts the door, Matt says quietly to himself “see you, pusscat.” Ironically, Justin comes across the figures and says he finds them ‘captivating’. Lilian says she was going to sell them, but Justin says they must keep them; like himself and Lilian, they are a perfectly-matched pair.

The Grundys got - if not their just desserts, then at least found out - when Kirsty asked to see the SSSI. They showed her a different patch of ground, but Kirsty realised that it was not the right site. Joe and Eddie tried to convince her that she was mistaken, but caved in when she suggested getting someone from Natural England to confirm the position of the site. The real SSSI is a flowerless sea of mud. Joe and Eddie admit that the pigs trashed it. Does Oliver know? muses Kirsty - after all, as the landowner, he is the one that the authorities would hold responsible if they found out. Is Kirsty going to grass them up (no pun intended)? She agrees not to tell anyone, but will be checking the area regularly “so now you’d better start taking care of it” she threatens.

PCB oversees the Speedwatch training day and it is a fiasco. Brian is in a foul mood, as he hadn’t realised that it means an ongoing commitment; Kate keeps nipping off to make phone calls, Jim and Robert get distracted by birds and everybody wants to make up their own version of the NATO phonetic alphabet. A near-to-despairing PCB tells them that they all have to use the same version and, when the session is over, he despondently tells Jim that “it was a complete washout - like teaching goldfish to juggle.” Jim says that it was well-organised and went better than many other community events in Ambridge. “Really?” asks an astounded Harrison. “Oh yes.” Jim replies, adding: “Have you ever been involved in a Snell production?” And that’s a depressing reminder that we have all that to come over the next few months.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Go Carefully, Latif

Alex Caan (Latif Hussain)

Horse breeder Latif Hussein is having lunch with Matt Crawford and Matt tells him that he is looking at studs close to home, as he and his consortium are looking to establish a first class breeding programme. “Money is no object” Matt tells him airily. When Matt Crawford says things like that, sensible people usually make a run for it, checking that they still have their wallets. Matt tells Latif that Brian Aldridge (“We go back a long way”) gave him Latif’s name as an expert in horse breeding and I’m willing to bet that Brian wouldn’t be pleased for anyone to think that he had any association with Matt.

Latif’s response is that he has heard many things about Matt, including his spell in prison. Matt holds his hands up, but says that he’s a changed man. “Anyone can say that” Latif says, mildly and Matt agrees, adding that, in his case, it’s the truth. Latif says that he has seen the brochure put out by the Costa Rica consortium and it’s impressive. Matt describes the project as “a fantastic investment opportunity”. However, sadly the consortium is not looking to take on any more investors - of course, there might be a possible window later. Be careful, Latif; Matt’s obviously up to something - the question is what?

Following lunch, Matt seeks out Anisha and tells her that he might be doing business with Latif and he (Matt) will try and sound him out about possibly switching vets to Anisha’s and Alistair’s practice. Of course, there would be a quid pro quo, with Anisha carrying out some pre-purchase examinations of stud horses for Matt. Later, Alistair asks what did Matt want? Anisha tells him, saying “this could be our ticket to the big time.” Alistair, however, has serious doubts and asks Shula whether he should have told Anisha about his gambling and how he was deeply in debt to Matt a few years ago. Shula says that he has power to veto any arrangement, but Alistair is still worried and echoes the thoughts of many listeners when he muses “What the heck is Matt doing hanging around Ambridge? It’s got a very bad smell about it.”

Elsewhere, Lynda has been prophesying for ages that there will be a serious accident with all the cars speeding through the village and last week she was proved correct when there was a hit and run incident. The victim was Peggy’s cat Bill, who suffered a fractured pelvis, a dislocated hip and a ruptured bladder. Peggy asks Anisha what are his chances and, when she learns that the answer is ‘very slim’, Peggy agrees that Bill should be put out of his misery. A bit later on, Jennifer and Lilian agree that, whoever left Bill to die cannot possibly have a conscience and Peggy will be so upset. However, Peggy is a tough old bird and, when Jennifer asks her how is she feeling, Peggy replies “all right - a little bit sad.” She goes on to say that Bill was a good age and there’s no point in getting too upset. She is scornful of Christine’s ‘excessive’ reaction, as Chris has retired to her room and is crying continuously, being comforted by Jill. “He wasn’t even her cat” Peggy comments, a tad waspishly.

While everyone else is treating Peggy with kid gloves, she is dragging Lilian round the garden, looking for a suitable spot to bury Bill. Lynda remarks that this shows exactly why they need the Speedwatch initiative and the response to her forthcoming training day has been disappointing, with Robert, Jim and Neil signed up.

Meanwhile, Brian returns in a very bad mood - Justin dropped him in it by getting Brian to present the proposal about the broiler house to the BL board in Justin’s stead. This was at two hours’ notice and Brian makes a hash of it, so he is not happy. Jennifer tells him about Bill and Brian thinks that it could have been he that ran the cat over - he remembers feeling a bump as he drove past The Lodge. “I’ll have to tell Peggy” he says and does so. Peggy calls his driving ’reckless’ and, when Brian asks if there’s anything he can do, Jennifer says yes, there is. As a result, he goes to see Lynda and tells her to put him, Jennifer, Lilian and Kate down for Speedwatch training. Lynda is grateful and remarks in passing that she’d hate to be the person who drove off and left the cat; “their conscience must be weighing heavily” she tells Brian. “Absolutely,” he replies, “it doesn’t bear thinking about.”

The reason that Brian had to do the presentation is because Justin is staying in London, fighting Miranda every step of the way in the divorce negotiations. “She wanted the whole of the London wine cellar!” an outraged Justin tells Lilian. Lilian says he should be less combative and not fight for everything. He tells her it’s not her business and Lilian says “I thought that’s what partners did” she told him. Eventually, Justin apologises and tells her she’s right and he loves her. He will be more conciliatory with Miranda from now on.

Brian has outlined his plan for Home Farm to become a family partnership to the children and they have had little niggles; for example, Kate thinks that operating Spiritual Home should entitle her to an extra share and what about her and Alice’s cottages? She also says that Debbie doesn’t do much on the farm nowadays and Alice asks what would happen if she wanted to be more hands on? An exasperated Brian asks them to approve the plan in principle and he tells Jennifer later that the plan should be OK “as long as the children embrace the spirit of compromise.” Good luck with that, Brian.

Congratulations to Helen, whose decree Absolute was granted - it only seems like yesterday that she was sticking knives in her husband - doesn’t time fly? She wonders whether Rob will try to get in touch for Jack’s birthday? Kirsty replies that he wouldn’t dare and tells Helen “it’s a beautiful spring day and you are a free woman.”

The dawn chorus walk was a great success, with more than 20 people turning up at the crack of sparrows. Kirsty is troubled, though, as the SSSI on Grange Farm is not looking particularly healthy and she describes the photo of it on the Grange Farm website as ’disappointing’, with no wildflowers in evidence. This is hardly surprising, as Eddie turned his pigs out on to the site and they trashed it, as pigs do. There may be a reckoning to come for the Grundys, as Jill also questions Eddie about the lack of flowers. Eddie says it’s too early, but Jill replies that the wildflower meadow at Lower Loxley is a riot of flowers and they took the seed from the Grange Farm SSSI. Floundering badly, Eddie reels off some guff about different soils and micro-climates and tells Jill that it will be better in three or four weeks.

Jill’s mind is taken off the subject, when Eddie reveals that he will be getting no more work from Brookfield, due to the financial situation and Jill realises that things are much more serious than she thought. She confronts David, who says that they didn’t want to worry her unduly. Jill offers him her savings but he refuses, saying they’ll get by.

Rooooth asks Pip where she will stay, now that she has given up Rickyard? Pip has arranged to kip on a friend’s sofa but Rooooth says that they would like her to move back to Brookfield and that Ben and Josh can share a room. Pip says that’s not fair, but later on Rooooth says that the boys agreed to the arrangements. I wonder what threats she used on them to get their agreement? Whatever, Pip is back at Brookfield and Toby is ensconced in the bungalow.

This arrangement is definitely not to Toby’s liking and he arranges for Pip to come round the bungalow on Wednesday evening. Bert is away, playing cribbage and Rex is teasing Toby, saying that he thinks he might spend a quiet night in. Toby has put a lot of thought into the evening, amazing Rex by getting out the vacuum cleaner and by ordering a takeaway. Rex asks how he knows what Pip wants to eat and Toby replies that she always orders the same thing. Pip is late turning up and, when Rex has gone, she tells Toby that she’s not really hungry. They go to bed and Toby fails to perform. He wants to move back into Rickyard, but a distinctly downbeat Pip says that isn’t going to happen. He has been looking at flats in Felpersham, but Pip slaps him down, saying that they will be way too expensive. She decides to return home, with Toby reminding her that they have just arranged to meet at The Bull on Friday and not to forget. As Pip leaves, we hear Toby give vent to a sigh that Rooooth would be proud to claim as her own.

Friday comes round and Toby, Pip, Rex and Anisha are in The Bull. There is some talk of Brexit (yawn) and Rex and Anisha leave to go on a run to the top of Lakey Hill. Pip is definitely irritable and tells Toby to keep his voice down when he says how gorgeous she is and pushes him away when he tries to kiss her. “Not in front of everybody” she says, peevishly. Pip feels she has let her parents down badly and she hates herself. She and Toby have an argument about deceit and the subject of Brighton is brought up. Toby has a plan - a mini break away. Pip cannot believe he is serious - they have no money - and, when it transpires that it was Kenton’s idea, she says that he isn’t a good role model, as he owes David big time.

Pip has obviously been thinking deeply and she says that she and Toby aren’t like other couples - they don’t fit together and bring out the worst in each other. Toby says that this is the first time he’s ever wanted only one person and he can change. Pip, however, is implacable and walks off, telling Toby “I just don’t think that we have a future together.” “You don’t mean that - it can’t be over” he shouts, but Pip has gone.

Toby returns to the bungalow, where Rex and Anisha are contemplating an evening in with a movie. Toby has said that he will be home late, but he turns up, snarling to Rex “you’ll be pleased to know that I’ve just been dumped” and making comments about how the field is now clear for the sensible one. He grabs a bottle and retires to his room to get drunk. Anisha asks what Toby meant and Rex says that he used to fancy Pip, but nothing came of it. However, when Anisha criticises Pip’s bio-security and farming knowledge, Rex gets annoyed and Anisha says that she’ll have to go home. “See you around, Rex” she says. That’s everybody’s evening ruined.

A drunken Toby turns up later at Brookfield, beating on Pip’s door. He won’t accept that it’s over and he can’t live without her. Pip says they should stop it now before it gets worse. Toby begs her, but she closes the door, leaving Toby on the doorstep; a broken “Nooo!” on his lips. It gets worse Toby - don’t forget you still owe Pip £5 k.