Sunday, 18 February 2018

Normal Service Has Been Resumed

Barry Farrimond & Philip Molloy (Ed & Will Grundy)

After a good few months, it was like going back in time to see the Grundy brothers at each others’ throats again, arguing and almost coming to blows. Just like old times, in fact. Normally, you can rely on Will to be the prime mover in situations such as this, but not this time, as it was Nic who slagged Emma off in The Bull in front of customers, causing Jolene to send her home.

I found this behaviour to be most un-Nic like; the girl deserves a medal for living with Will (either that or electro-convulsive therapy) and has always been the voice of reason, so why this sudden change? The repercussions are severe - in a phone call, Jolene tells Nic that her services are no longer required at the pub and, just to compound her agony, on Valentine’s Day evening, she spends the time practising ballroom dancing with Joe, round the Grange Farm kitchen table. It doesn’t really get any worse than that, does it?
Never mind; Will is his usual, supportive self and, if you believe that, you’ll believe anything - in practice, he moans because he had to cook the children’s teas as Nic was not at home. Tactful and new-mannish as ever, he says that he thought that, with Nic losing her job, she’d be spending more time at home. When I said earlier that it doesn’t get any worse, I was obviously wrong.

Emma feels sorry for Nic and holds out an olive branch, going round with husband Ed to see her and Will. Emma has already tried to persuade Jolene to take Nic back, but Jolene says that she cannot and she has already given Nic’s shifts to Toby, which is just what he needs, what with the Gin-making and the stints in the lambing shed. “What are you two doing here?” snarls Will, as he opens the door to Emma and his brother. Emma explains that Fallon will need help at the Vintage Fair and is willing to give Nic some work. “Tell her you’re not interested” says Will, ever the peacemaker. Emma says that she doesn’t want to bear a grudge and wants to put things right “No hard feelings, yeah?” Emma asks. Nic has obviously been with Will for too long, as she tells Emma that she cannot work with her again at the Tea Room. Emma says that they made a great team on election day, but Nic is adamant, saying “Sorry, Emma; things have changed.” Will chips in with a helpful “You’ve had your answer - it’s time you went.” Emma and Ed take their leave, with Emma telling Nic that she’s not going to give up. Shooting Will would be a good start, I reckon.

There were quite a few storylines involving employment, or the possible lack of it, last week. Susan moans that her leadership qualities and vast experience are not being appreciated (somebody buy her a new broom) and she is looking for alternative employment where her talents are appreciated (OK, get her a new duster too). In the face of all logic, the Kefir appears to be selling a lot better now and Helen asks Susan to explain the benefits to a potential customer. This she does, and Helen says that the customer was deeply impressed with Susan’s depth of knowledge - so much so that she bought some. Personally, I reckon the purchase was just so she could get away.

Susan experiences a dose of reality, when she realises that people aren’t falling over themselves to employ her and that Lord Sugar is not reserving a spot for her on the next series of The Apprentice. Indeed, Clarrie reminds her that the Dairy job isn’t that horrendous, and the Bridge Farm Archers aren’t too bad, as bosses go. Susan reluctantly agrees. A large part of her motivation for seeking pastures new is that husband Neil isn’t getting any younger and has been muttering about retirement, wondering if he’d survive another year with the pigs. As they are waiting to go out to the Mr & Mrs quiz (which they won, incidentally) on Valentine’s Night, he realises her motive and, after telling her that she looks perfect, says that she’s not to worry about him retiring - he’d work till he was 90, through hail and blizzard, if it means providing for her. The big softy.

Another employment-related story is the forthcoming vote at the end of the week by the BL Board to determine whether or not Brian should continue as Chairman. If I may digress here, there was a delicious moment after one of the week’s episodes when the BBC Continuity Announcer suggested the ideal solution - Susan is looking for a job and BL could soon be looking for a new Chairman - a marriage made in heaven, surely?

But back to Brian. On Sunday, Peggy lets it be known that she thinks the way he is being treated is disgraceful and she will be “very disappointed” if he resigns. “That’s me told” he mutters and Jennifer says that he’s done nothing wrong and he has five days to persuade the Board otherwise. Speaking to Jennifer later, Peggy says that, if Brian won’t go and see Justin, somebody else will have to.

Brian, meanwhile, is trying to get some of the Board members onside and goes about it with the subtlety of an elephant on a trampoline. He spends the best part of a day waiting outside Annabelle’s office and, when he eventually gets to see her, he clumsily reminds her of the problems they have overcome together in the past. Annabelle is not fooled and tells Brian that she will vote for what’s best for BL. She later phones Justin, saying that she had hoped that Brian would stand down without a fight.

Justin ends the call because he has a visitor. It’s Jennifer, who obviously took Peggy’s advice to heart, as she has come to plead Brian’s case to Justin. If the Board votes Brian off, she argues, it will be as good as saying that he’s guilty. Justin gives nothing away and tells Jennifer that he will take her views into consideration when he votes.

Whatever good Jennifer might have done is almost immediately undone when Brian runs into Justin in the village. Brian is rude from the outset and accuses Justin of wanting to be Chairman himself; something that Justin strongly denies. “Do you know what loyalty even means?” Brian asks him, prompting Justin to remark that the pressure must be getting to Brian - it’s making him paranoid. Justin also says that Brian will have to wait until the vote of Friday, but he (Justin) has made up his mind where he stands. Well done Brian - a truly spectacular own goal there; it’s not really good tactics to insult people who hold your future in their hands, is it?

Friday comes around and Brian phones Jennifer - he fears the worst. Jennifer is convinced that Justin will back him and tells her husband to have faith and man up - don’t make it easy for them. At the meeting, Brian bigs up his track record as Chairman and says how well prepared BL is to face the future. He touches on the contamination, saying that he is sure he will be absolved from blame and, in a breathtaking bit of understatement, describes the press stories as “unfortunate”. Having done all he can, Brian retires to leave his fellow Board members to discuss his future. “I’ll be just outside the door” he adds, somewhat pathetically. In the meeting, Justin gets the ball rolling by speaking first.

Whatever Justin said, it had an almost magical effect, as, when the votes are counted, only one member - the odious and oleaginous Martyn Gibson - voted to throw Brian off the Board. A bemused and bewildered Brian thanks Justin for his support and goes off to tell Jennifer the good news. As he does so, Annabelle approaches Justin and asks why he was so adamant that Brian should be spared. Justin’s reply - that Brian is a steady hand on the tiller - is dismissed as garbage by Annabelle, who asks for the real reason. Justin replies that he’s not a heartless monster, plus, it never hurts to have someone in your debt “and, after today, I’d say Brian owes me a great deal, wouldn’t you?” We should point out that, if the EA prosecutes Brian, he will be removed as Chairman. And what is Justin after? Let’s assume for the sake of argument that it was he that ran down Matt - perhaps he wants Brian to take the rap or provide him with a cast-iron alibi. Speaking of the Matt case, the police don’t seem to be very active, do they?

Pip drives Rooooth to see a new milking parlour in operation. This is an Open-sided parlour and different from the traditional herringbone type. Which is better? Neil and I are engaged in violent debate about the merits of the different systems and we’ll have to wait and see which they go for. Rooooth isn’t a fan of the O-SP, saying that it could be very breezy, but Pip says just look how quickly the herd was milked and “this is going to make our lives so much better.”

Rooooth tells her daughter that, for the foreseeable future, the majority of the farm work will devolve upon herself and David and the decision on the type of parlour is not just down to Pip. Pip says yes, things will be difficult for a couple of months after the birth, but then she’ll be back at work. Rooooth interrupts her and tells her some home truths, in that it will be a lot longer than two months and Pip will be dog tired. She can’t expect her and David to look after the baby, and neither can she rely on Jill (who is apparently knitting for Britain), who is 87, for God’s sake. Who will do the night feeds? Who will look after the baby during the day - Rooooth and David can’t? A shaken Pip protests that Toby said he’d help, which is surely an indication of how little support Pip can expect. To emphasise how bad things can get, Rooooth tells Pip that she nearly hit her once because she wouldn’t stop crying. I was amazed - after all the things that Pip has done in her 25 years, Rooooth wanted to hit her on only one occasion? Nobody’s that tolerant, surely?

I fear that Pip has been spending too much time watching animals give birth - she sees sheep having lambs and cows calves and noticing that, after a quick lick and a nuzzle, the young animals are able to stand, suckle and move around. Well Pip, I’m afraid that it doesn’t work that way with human babies and your two months is wildly optimistic.

Of course, all this could have been easily avoided. As we mentioned earlier, Toby is putting in shifts in the lambing shed and Eddie, who says that he hopes Toby won’t be at the baby’s birth, judging from his less-than-perfect performance with the lambs, is teaching him how to castrate new-born lambs. Imagine if you will that all this happened before Pip became pregnant and that it was David teaching the castration technique - I put it to you that the temptation to geld young Tobes might just have been too much for David to resist.

Monday, 12 February 2018

You Could Always Pull an Extra Shift at the Chicken Factory, Nic.

Becky Wright (Nic Grundy)

Kirsty’s still on the warpath and gives Jennifer a hard time when she runs in to her, accusing Brian of hiding away. If you want him Kirsty, he’s in his shed ‘seeking solitude’, and ‘clearing his mind’ in preparation for writing his acceptance speech at the Borsetshire Businessperson of the Year awards. Kirsty angered Jennifer so much apparently that she cleared out BOTH her fridges. It’s certainly a different approach to housework; I wonder how angry she would need to get in order to clean her cooker? Well, the cooker might be in for a treat, because Brian gets a call to say that his nomination for Businessperson of the Year has been withdrawn because the sponsor (the local paper, The Echo) doesn’t want to be associated with him any more.

Over at the Bull they’re getting ready for a quiz. Alistair and Shula’s team is short, so they draft in Philip Moss. Philip gets the first round in and spots Kirsty, whom he persuades to join them. No sooner has Philip and Kirsty sat down than Alistair gets another round. Now, Peter and I are no strangers to pub quizzes and will confess to liking a drink or 2 to sharpen the mind, but I think lining them up before it’s even started is a major tactical error, especially as Alistair seems so keen to win. In the end they lose, but there’s plenty of friendly banter between Alistair and Kirsty as they find out that they have lots in common, and Philip asks Kirsty out for lunch.

Toby’s reading up on how to be a father from a book given to him by Bert Fry and listening to advice from Nic Grundy – what could possible go wrong? He goes with Pip for her scan and while they’re waiting to see the midwife he persuades her to go to aqua-fit classes, using free passes that Kirtsy’s been handing out. Pip tells him that that her parents are upset that Elizabeth knew Pip was pregnant before they did. When she gets back Roooooth seems fine and they talk it through, although there are some crossed wires as Roooooth wants to talk about everyone’s future roles on the farm while Pip’s talking about everyone’s roles with the baby. Later on Roooooth catches Pip helping a cow with a breech birth and is furious, saying that Pip’s put her baby at risk.

Roooooth takes over and Pip goes off to her aqua-fit class, but who should also be there but Toby. Only he couldn’t find his trunks and had to borrow Rex’s, which turn out to be Speedos. Pip calls his ‘budgie smugglers’ indecent and Toby gets into the pool to a chorus of wolf-whistles from the assembled ladies. After the class Pip tells Toby about the earlier incident in the calving shed and he offers to do some night shifts – even though he hasn’t any experience. When Pip tells Roooooth she bursts out laughing but promises to talk to David about it anyway, who bursts out laughing too. So that’s a ‘no’ then is it David?

We haven’t been over to Berrow Farm for a while so it was nice to eavesdrop on Justin showing the parish councillors how the new pig unit’s coming along. Neil Carter, who must be feeling better now, seems to be impressed and offers some of his own advice. Brian calls in, more to catch Neil because he wants to know if he remembers who the contractors were who dumped the contaminated materials on his land. However Justin has a bone to pick with him – why didn’t he tell him about his award? Justin was at the dinner and was surprised when they announced a different winner, not to mention having to fend off questions from the rest of the board of Borsetshire Land. They’re embarrassed about the publicity and Justin thinks Brian’s in danger of being voted out.

We then hear that the Courier’s running with the story, calling Brian a ‘tainted businessman’. Susan takes it upon herself to warn Brian and heads off to Home Farm where she finds Jennifer and Adam. They’re already not in the best of moods because one of Adam’s soft fruit buyers has cancelled an entire order because of worries about being associated with them. So imagine their reaction when Susan hands over a copy of the Courier and shows them the story, before telling them that a copy gets delivered to every household in the Ambridge area.

Brian’s not there because he’s gone to Borchester to get his car serviced, and we catch up with him ordering a scotch in The Crown. He’s popped in because he heard that someone that used to work for him drinks in there and might know something about the chemicals that were dumped on his land. Philip happens to be at the bar and Brian tells him that it was a wasted visit, as the man in question is now in a nursing home suffering from dementia. Brian’s car won’t be ready until tomorrow and Philip offers to give him a lift back to Ambridge. He talks to Brian about Kirsty and talks about the age difference between them – 10 or 12 years. Brian’s strangely silent on the subject. Remind me Brian, how much younger than you was Siobhan Hathaway when you got her pregnant with Ruairi?

Following last week’s incident with the alcohol-free mojito, there’s more trouble for Nic. Jolene and Kenton have been organizing a Mr & Mrs event for Valentines Day, but Nic told Emma what they were planning, and now the tea room have come up with the same idea. Nic’s distraught, and Will comes home to find her in tears. He’s angry that Emma copied the idea and ruined the Bull’s event and wants to give her ‘both barrels’! He get’s the chance, metaphorically at least, in the Bull later on when Nic’s behind the bar and Emma walks in. The three of them have a right old slanging match that ends with Nic telling Emma that she’s jealous because her and Ed “can’t climb out of the gutter”. The whole pub has heard this and Jolene rushes over to break it up, sending Nic home early. I can’t help thinking that when Kenton and Jolene compare notes about their part-time barmaid, she’ll be out on her ear, and looking for an extra shift at the chicken factory.

Following my comments last week about the kefir storyline, we now have someone who is claiming they’re actually feeling a benefit from it. Apparently Ian is drinking the stuff, even though you would think that someone with his refined palate would run a mile from it. But wait, the whole project could still go udders-up, as Susan’s gone kefir crazy and is trying to boss everyone around to make sure she gets her daily goat’s milk on time. Helen tells her to lay-off the pressure, especially on Pat who does the milking, and Susan goes off in a huff, later telling Chris that she’s going to tell Helen to “stuff her stupid job” – let’s hope that’s the end of it. Good luck finding another one Susan, after all you’ve already said you’re worried about the prospect of Neil retiring and I’m sure you don’t want to put any further strain on the Carter family finances.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Don’t Let it Get Your Goat, Susan

Charlotte Martin (Susan Carter)

We start this week where we left off, with Neil confined to his bed. Emma’s worried about the prospect of him retiring and what that would mean for the family’s income. She seems to be pinning her hopes on Susan’s Kefir, but as we know Tom has already ruled out developing it any further. Even so, she’s still banging on about it to Helen and wants her to put up big displays about healthy guts in the shop, with diagrams and everything. Lynda pops in to the dairy to milk Lynda and Scarlett and Susan follows her because she wants to have a go. Lynda suggests she washes her hands first, but Susan tells her she did before she left the dairy (a little tip Susan; when working in food production, never pass up an opportunity to wash your hands. Remember what happened to Clarrie). Susan sets about the goats with the subtlety of a bell-ringer and naturally upsets them, but Lynda does give her food for thought - make kefir from goats milk, which is more likely to appeal to those with an interest in health.

This sounds even more disgusting than using cows milk to me, but Susan passes it off as her own idea, and Helen agrees to talk to Tom about it. He agrees to give it a go, which means the scriptwriters are determined to keep this storyline going, so perhaps Neil will be able to retire after all when his wife becomes a kefir magnate.

Meanwhile at Home Farm, Will’s dog, Kai, demonstrates excellent taste by barking at Brian who is lurking in the undergrowth. Brian’s out walking, trying to clear his head in preparation for tomorrow’s visit from the Environment Agency inspectors. It’s worse than that Brian; Environment Agency inspectors are one thing but Ambridge’s newest parish councillor is on the case too, having received several complaints about the contaminated land. Emma wastes no time tracking him down and is soon pressing him for guarantees about the outcome. Will sees this from across the yard and drags his happy self over in order to give his ex-wife some grief, failing to understand that Emma’s constituents need answers. In the end he all but throws her off the farm by threatening trespass in the belief that he’s sticking up for his employer. To give Emma credit she does realise that Brian is also Ed’s employer and Emma realises that she has to tread carefully lest he lose his job. This doesn’t stop Ed going round and hammering on his brothers’ front door though. They have it out on Will’s doorstep, and Ed delivers a stark warning; “wind your neck in, or you’ll have me to answer to”.

Brian feels that he’s being blamed for the contamination and seeks counsel from David. David uses his own experience of the IBR crisis as an example (during which I don’t recall Brian being that reluctant to throw accusations of blame David’s way) and afterwards seems emboldened to the struggles that lie ahead. This includes the struggle within his own family, as Adam insists that it’s a matter for the family partnership and can’t be left to Brian alone. Brian assures Adam that he’s working ‘tirelessly’ to sort it out, but when Neil asks him to attend a public meeting to answer questions, he gets cold feet at the prospect of a room full of Emma Grundys. There is some good news for Brian though; at a family meeting called by Adam, they finally agree to stand united and face what may come together.

Incidentally, the contaminated land was the subject of a report on Radio 4’s Inside Science programme this week. This strikes me as an easy way for Radio 4 to generate content and fill their schedule. Let me help them out; More or Less could discuss Jim’s estimates against the Grundy’s actual production of Tumble Tussock cider, Woman’s Hour could do a phone-in on surrogate mothers, The Food Programme could look at the rise of the super-food and apparent cure-all kefir, The Kitchen Cabinet could pass round the Scruff gin, Dr Mark Porter could examine the symptoms of trichloroethylene (TCE) poisoning, Law in Action could weigh up liability between Brian and the builders he allowed to dump on his land, Money Box can look at whether Brian’s insurance will cover him, and All in the Mind could discuss Noluthando’s experience of taking drugs. If I’ve forgotten any then I’m sure our loyal readers will suggest more.

Neil’s still too poorly to chair the actual meeting and has asked David to stand in for him, much to Emma’s disappointment as she had prepared herself to be chair. Brian makes some opening remarks to outline the current situation, but gets heckled, principally by Emma, who wants to know if he knew about the dumped chemicals. Philip Moss, a local builder, stands up for Brian but is accused by Kirsty of being in league with big landowners in the destruction of the countryside.

After the meeting Alice is knocking back Pinot Grigio in the Bull and Nic, who is behind the bar and had earlier prevented her from drink-driving, is concerned. She persuades her to have a mojito instead of another glass of wine, but doesn’t put any rum in it. Kenton notices, and also sees that she charges full price for the mocktail. Kenton understands her motivation, but points out that she’s actually committed a fraud, and in any case, shouldn’t interfere. I agree, but fear there’s more to come concerning Alice’s apparent fondness for the bottle.

Kirsty runs into Philips Moss again while she’s taking a break from delivering information sheets about the dangers of TCE contamination. She’s gone birding and Philip’s making repairs to a bird hide – free of charge. They start talking about the birds they’ve seen - he seems to be quite the environmentalist - and I wonder whether they’ll eventually bond over a shared hobby.

Over at Brookfield, it’s not just Brian’s contaminated land that’s on their minds. Roooooth and Pip are having a riveting conversation about parlour designs (I’m sure, like me, you suspected fast exit systems seem to be the way forward). Roooooth’s not sure, what with Pip being pregnant, that now’s the right time to invest £300k in a new milking parlour. Josh isn’t happy either, as he’s going to have to cover for his sister during lambing while trying to run his own business (of which we’ve heard very little lately).

From one pregnancy to another, albeit a potential, one. Ian and Adam break the news to Jennifer that they’ve found an egg donor and that Lexi will be the surrogate. Jennifer’s initially less than pleased and is worried that they don’t know Lexi well enough - what if she won’t hand the baby over? She does however agree that Lexi can use the holiday cottage while she’s pregnant and soon starts trying to feed her up, sending her gift hampers and cooking special meals to take round to her, even though she’s not even pregnant yet.

Finally, lets consider Alan’s idea for giving something up for Lent this year. It’s ‘complaining’. Stop complaining or pay a fine. With Lynda and Susan the first to sign up, this could be a record-breaking year!

Monday, 29 January 2018

Jennifer Eventually Gets The Message

Angela Piper (Jennifer Aldridge)

We have often said in the past that Jennifer appears to be living on another planet and sails through life, serenely unaware of the things that are happening around her, dispensing a cake here, a casserole there and trying to keep the increasingly-dysfunctional Aldridge family together, or at least not at each other’s throats. She was at it again this week, visiting Kirsty with a Victoria sponge as an apology for polluting the Am with possible carcinogens and instant fish killer. Kirsty is well aware what’s going on and, as Roy tells Lexi, it will take more than a cake to make up for the fact that Kirsty could have had liver damage, or grown another head or similar – nasty stuff this TCE.

Brian appears to have taken a leaf out of his wife’s book, as he tells Adam and anyone else that he is on top of the situation and in constant contact with the specialist firm he has brought in to clear the site at Low Mead. It obviously worked with Jennifer, as she tells Brian “we’ll soon be able to put all this behind us and get back to normal – it will all seem like a bad dream.”

The words ‘bad dream’ soon prove prophetic, as the situation worsens. Brian and Jennifer go to a drinks party at the Dower House and Justin buttonholes Brian about the pollution – he has heard about the TCE from people in the village. Brian explains that the EA is just being cautious and he expected better from Justin than listening to ‘idle village gossip’. There’s nothing worse than idle village gossip; unless it’s true idle village gossip, of course. “Please trust me” Brian says and repeats that there is nothing to worry unduly about. Justin tells him that he’s up to his neck in it and “you may have convinced Jennifer that it will all blow over, but you’re not convincing me.” Brian is losing patience and tells Justin two things: “Number one, you’re wrong and number two, in what way exactly is it any of your damn business?”

Brian continues to do his ostrich impression and Justin turns to Adam, who he knows has the welfare of the land close to his heart. Phrases like “this contamination could be huge; possibly catastrophic” get through to Adam and he agrees to visit the site and talk to the contractors (who are charging Home Farm a shedload of money), rather than listen to Brian’s platitudes.

This he does and it’s fair to say that his eyes are opened, as he speeds down to Home Farm, looking for Brian, who has taken Noluthando (and Kate – yippee!) to the airport. Adam comes across Jennifer, who is half asleep and he demands to know where Brian is. Jennifer can sense that Adam is more than somewhat distressed and tries to placate him with vacuous, reassuring phrases. Adam tells his mum that the contractors have stopped work on the site and she tuts – Brian will be angry. Sod Brian, says Adam, they’ve stopped work because they have uncovered unlabelled drums of chemicals and are wary of moving them – they might explode for all they know. Jen makes more soothing noises and Adam gets more and more uptight. Trying to make her realise the gravity of the situation, he tells her they have discovered Dieldrin and other organochlorines. While Jennifer doesn’t actually say ‘that’s nice for them’ she does say “you don’t need to worry darling”, causing Adam to grab hold of her and bang her head on the table (not really, but he sounded like he wanted to). Instead he has one last go at spelling out the situation, saying that they are facing a potential ecological disaster. “This is about as serious as it gets” he says, as Thursday’s episode ends.

Next day, Brian is incensed because Adam took it upon himself to ring up the insurers. Adam says they need to get as much information as possible. “When I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it” Brian tells Adam. At the mention of insurers, Jennifer is alarmed – did Adam get the impression that they might not pay up for the work, which is costing thousands a week? Adam says that that was the impression he got and Jennifer is even more alarmed. This is interesting – the fact that a large part of Borsetshire might be on the verge of being turned into an ecological desert with poisonous chemicals getting into the water supply doesn’t seem to worry Jennifer, but the thought that Home Farm might not be able to claim on the insurance is a major catastrophe.

On the plus side, it would appear that Jennifer has, at last, got the message. In bed that night, neither she nor Brian can sleep. She says that they need to find the paperwork to show that they were deceived – a few decades ago, Brian took a backhander from a builder who was looking for somewhere ‘to dump some harmless rubbish’. Brian didn’t ask too many questions as to the exact nature of this rubbish and now look what’s happened. Just to add to Jennifer’s woes and anxiety, Brian shares that he has spoken to his lawyers and they warned him that, as landowner at the time, he could be facing a custodial sentence. “You mean prison?” Jen asks, in a faltering voice. No dear, he means they are going to cover him in custard – of course he means prison, you dimwit.

Leaving Brian to study how to stitch mailbags, what else has happened? Noluthando has gone back to South Africa and has had a touching farewell with Freddie, who kept on apologising for the pill episode at her party. She says that it was her fault, not his, but wants him to stop dealing. Freddie protests that it’s hardly dealing – sorry Freddie, but selling drugs for money is dealing, even if you only sell to friends – and he eventually promises that he will stop. Personally, I have my doubts. She also tells him that he must visit her in South Africa. “Try and stop me!” he says enthusiastically, obviously forgetting that Elizabeth has his passport locked in her safe – that’ll do it every time.

Noluthando has an even more touching goodbye with Peggy. Peggy gets the whole truth about the party, the drug and the hospital out of Nolly and begs her not to do it again. Nolly says (and, it has to be said, with a lot more conviction than Freddie) that she promises never to do anything so stupid again. Peggy gives her a gold necklace that she bought for herself some years ago and she hopes it will bring Nolly much luck. At first, Nolly is reluctant to take it but Peggy persuades her and the two hug.

There was much hugging at Honeysuckle cottage, when Roy and Lexi finally agreed that she could be Adam and Ian’s surrogate. After a lot of ‘It’s on – it’s off’ last week (which I couldn’t bring myself to write about), Roy and Lexi talk. She understands why Roy is against the idea and she wants him to be happy. For his part, Roy wants Lexi to be happy and he knows that doing this for Adam and Ian would bring her great joy, so he agrees that she can go ahead, as it will make her happy. I’m glad they have agreed one way or the other – it was doing my head in.

Lexi, Adam and Ian have a meeting – rather a formal meeting – to discuss possible scenarios about the pregnancy and birth. Adam even used the word ‘agenda’ and has a hard jog restraining Ian, who is as excited as a kid in a sweetshop and cannot keep to the point. What, for instance would they do if the foetus had a genetic disability? Would they abort? What about changing their wills (Lexi doesn’t have one)? What if the maternity hospital is struck by a meteorite? (I made that up, but I bet it was discussed). Ian is even happier the next day, as the Fertility Clinic rang him to say that they have found an egg donor. Lexi says that she is sure that they will make great fathers.

Someone worried about impending fatherhood is Toby Fairbrother. Pip lets him come along with her and Rooooth for the baby’s scan. Only one other person is allowed in the room and Rooooth says that it should be Toby. He is touched (why not let Toby and Rooooth be the two – they could all go down the pub earlier) and, when he hears the baby’s heartbeat, he is overcome. He leaves the hospital early and is immediately beset by doubts – as he tells Bert later, he realises that the baby is a proper person who needs a proper Dad and he can’t do it – he’s still a kid himself.

Bert gives him some advice and tells him that he felt the same way when Freda was pregnant and his father told him that that was a natural feeling and he’d felt the same when his wife was carrying Bert. Bert says that he has known Toby for a while and, if he puts his mind and his back into it, he will be a good father. “This baby could be the making of you” he tells Toby. I suppose we should be grateful that Bert never made up a poem about it. Rooooth keeps asking Pip if there’s no chance of getting back with Toby and Pip replies ‘none whatsoever’ a little too quickly for my liking.

If Toby is going to provide for his child, he needs a sound financial base. Lucky then that he negotiated a six-month extension on the lease at Hollowtree. Not so lucky then that, when he tells Rex about this, his brother reveals that he is packing the geese business in and won’t be paying rent for Hollowtree, as he doesn’t need it any longer. Toby says that he cannot afford the rent on his own, to which Rex’s attitude could best be summed up as ‘tough’.

Chris and Alice Carter must have been wicked sods, as they went round Susan and Neil’s on Sunday. In her usual, tactful way, Susan says that people are saying that the contamination is Brian’s fault, but all he is interested in is profits. Susan doesn’t realise that Alice is in the room and she is taken aback when Alice tells her off sharply for spreading gossip. Susan says “I don’t spread gossip” and the only wonder is that she isn’t immediately struck down by a thunderbolt. In the car later, Alice tells Chris that Susan should learn to keep her mouth shut. Some chance! Alice is fed up with her job and Chris suggests that this could be the time to start a family, but Alice isn’t interested – reflecting, no doubt that any child would carry a number of Susan’s genes.

Susan continues to praise the health-giving benefits of Kefir and advises Helen on packaging and marketing. Neil meanwhile is coming down with a bad dose of flu and wonders if he should give up work, as he doesn’t think he could stand another year with the pigs. Think on Neil – if you retire, you’ll be spending more time at home with Susan. I bet he’s feeling better already. Susan nags him (surely not?) and tells him to go to bed with a paracetamol, which begs the question, if this Kefir is so damned healthy, why didn’t she give him a dollop of that instead?

Monday, 22 January 2018

Come On Brian; It’s Not All Bad News

Charles Collingwood (Brian Aldridge)

It has been a busy week for the Aldridges and the Madikanes. The week began quietly, with Kirsty, for reasons known only to herself, deciding to reprise the New Year’s Day swim in the Am. She is disappointed when, one after another, those who joined her on NYD cried off, having presumably regained their senses or sobered up. Kirsty tries to persuade Roy to join her, but he is preoccupied with the ongoing saga of the surrogacy and says ‘no’. Undaunted, Kirsty goes ahead, saying that, if she wimps out, the others will laugh at her. She might also consider that, if she jumps into a freezing river in January, they might well have her sectioned.

Anyway, she does go ahead and there is much squealing and splashing, then Roy urgently shouts at her to get out - now! It turns out that the river is full of dead fish. It seems strange that Roy and Kirsty never noticed these before - after all, they could hardly be hiding in the weeds, could they? - but she rings the Environment Agency incident line and, before long, the banks of the Am are swarming with EA investigators taking water samples.

On Tuesday, Brian has a nasty shock when he is interviewed under caution by the EA, who have established that the contamination is coming from Home Farm land and who have found a blocked culvert. The words ‘blocked culvert’ took me back - who do we know who has form in this area? Quick; get on to Immigration and check to see whether a certain Rob Titchener has slipped back into the country.

Next day, Jennifer has obviously been thinking about the situation and she wonders if there is skulduggery afoot - Justin sold Brian the land adjoining Home Farm at a rock-bottom price; was it because he had an ulterior motive? Did he know the land was contaminated? Jennifer thinks Brian should confront Justin and ask him and seems unable to grasp that there’s no way that Brian could broach the subject without making it look as if he’s accusing Justin outright. As far as Brian is concerned, Justin’s low asking price was down to ‘mate’s rates’. Jennifer is not convinced and says that she has a good mind to go and ask Justin herself. Brian’s response to this is that she should leave the situation well alone.

But this is Jennifer we are talking about, so what do you think she does? Quite right - hardly has Brian finished talking, when Jen is round at the Dower House. Tactful as ever, Jennifer accuses Justin of stabbing a friend in the back and refuses to believe his protestations that there was nothing wrong with the land and he gave Brian a good price as they are friends. Jen continues to bang on about ‘poisoned land’ and, in the end, Justin (who is jet-lagged after returning from honeymoon) snaps and says how dare Brian send his wife round to accuse him. Justin has a message for Jennifer to give to Brian - “Caveat emptor - buyer beware.” Well done Jen, this episode should make future BL board meetings interesting, albeit a little frosty. One can also assume that Jennifer’s relationship with her sister Lilian will be a bit cool henceforth.

Clearly, Jennifer feels strongly about the subject, but her blundering approach is compounded by the fact that she is barking up the wrong tree; on Friday, a frazzled Brian tells her that the source of the contamination has been pinpointed and it has nothing to do with the land that Justin sold them. Instead, it is coming from an old pond that was drained and then used by builders to dump stuff in. This stuff included TCE, which is an industrial degreaser and which, under anaerobic conditions, in time degrades to vinyl chloride, which is highly toxic. No doubt, like me, you suspected this was what had happened - obvious really.

Brian, who as far as we know is not yet aware that his wife has accused his fellow BL director of sharp practice, is a worried man; as the landowner, it is down to him to sort out the problem and get specialists with diggers and earthmovers to investigate and establish the scope of the problem. Oh yes, there’s also a chance that Home Farm might be prosecuted and, if so, they will be left with the bill. Jen asks how much. £20 k? £100 k? In a faltering voice, Brian says that it’s hard to say, but the final reckoning “could run up to millions.” Have a good weekend, Brian. Why not invite Justin round?

Interwoven with this story is the conflict between Noluthando and Kate. Jennifer complains to Peggy that, when Kate walks into a room, Noluthando promptly walks out. Peggy says that Nolly is still a child and she needs her mother. “I’m sure they’ll find a way of coming together” Peggy adds. “I wish I could believe that” Jennifer replies, forlornly.

Poor Peggy is getting it from all sides, as Kate pours out her heart to her grandmother, telling her that Noluthando doesn’t like her and what can she do? Peggy wants to watch a film that Nolly has downloaded for her and is getting annoyed when Kate keeps interrupting her with her moans. Peggy says that it’s very simple: “Nolly is a child and you’re her mother. She doesn’t want you to be her friend, but her mother.” Kate, who has clearly inherited the Aldridge talent for being patronising, tells Peggy that she doesn’t understand - it’s harder to be a mother nowadays than it was in Peggy’s day and relationships are more fluid.

Peggy has had enough. “I understand that you are talking a load of nonsense. Noluthando wants a mother she can rely on and turn to if she has a problem. She wants a mother she can respect.” Kate expresses amazement that her daughter doesn’t respect her and Peggy gives her a final piece of advice: “If you want Noluthando to respect you as a mother, then you’re going to have to behave like a mother.”

This would appear to be sound advice, as Noluthando (who’s 17th birthday is on Friday) confides in Freddie that she is dreading the planned party at Home Farm and can’t bear the thought of “my so-called mother getting down with the kids.” Freddie has a flash of inspiration - amazingly, he has passed his maths resit and says that Elizabeth owes him a party, so why doesn’t Noluthando combine her party with his? Elizabeth is obviously as stunned as the rest of us at Freddie’s academic achievement and the party is scheduled for Thursday.

The day arrives and Noluthando comes across Freddie in the garden, dealing drugs. She has a go at him and says she is disappointed. Freddie protests that it’s a good way of making some cash, conveniently overlooking the fact that it is breaking the law. Noluthando dryly asks if it is really a good idea to deal drugs in your own back yard, but she is interrupted by Kate approaching her. “Please tell me that’s not my mother” says Noluthando and demands that Freddie gives her a pill - now. He tells her to take just one quarter of it, but she swallows the whole thing.

Noluthando is harsh with her mother, telling her that she wasn’t invited and to shut up, before running off. Kate is distraught and asks Freddie “What do I have to do to make her love me?” I was hoping Freddie would reply “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” but instead he answers “Big question. Really big question.”

Later on, Freddie is terrified to see spaced-out Noluthando hanging out of a second floor window and he begs her to come back inside. Kate turns up “Oh, my darling mother” says Noluthando and Kate realises that this is not normal. “What’s she taken?” she snaps at Freddie and, in masterful mode, tells him to wait outside while she talks her daughter down and back into the room. This she does successfully, but Nolly collapses and Kate yells at Freddie to call an ambulance and tell them the patient has taken a drug of some sort. This is a new, forceful Kate and, when Freddie (who I believe, on recent behaviour could be a shoo-in for the new Ambridge village idiot) hesitates, she tells him to get out and get on the phone, quickly.

Next day, Jennifer is worried, because Kate and Noluthando didn’t come home. Brian doesn’t care - he’s trying to contact a solicitor, as this is the day of the second EA interview under caution. In the hospital, Nolly comes round. Kate has been there all night and Nolly tells her that she really wanted to jump last night, then she wanted to listen to Kate. Kate breaks down in tears and tells Nolly that she realises that she has been a terrible mother, but she is going to change. Nolly says that Kate saved her life. “Did you call me Nolly last night?” she asks. Kate says yes she did, and she’s sorry. “Actually, I liked it - mum” her daughter tells her.

The two return to Home Farm, where they are greeted by Jennifer, who hasn’t a clue what has been going on, and who wishes her granddaughter a happy birthday. Noluthando seems very happy and replies politely to Jennifer’s questions and comments, to the extent that, when Noluthando goes to get changed, Jennifer remarks she is like a different girl. That’s what a near-death experience and finding that your mother isn’t the complete flake you thought she was can do for you, I suppose.

Kate seems to have morphed into a responsible, caring mother and tells Jennifer that she and Noluthando had a really good talk (Kate didn’t grass her daughter up about the drugs or hospital visit, incidentally). Furthermore, Kate went to see a travel agent and has booked Noluthando’s flight home to South Africa next week. And there’s more - Kate will be going back with her. Jennifer is stunned - how long for? What about Spiritual Home? Kate says that she doesn’t know how long she’ll be away and she can arrange that something is done about Spiritual Home. Her priorities now, she tells her mother, are Noluthando and Sipho and that’s what she is going to concentrate on. Jennifer is still taken aback - it seems that it is not only Noluthando who appears to be a different girl.

As Kate goes to get changed, Brian comes in and breaks the news to Jen about the potential costs of the clean up. And so, belatedly, we eventually come to the title of this week’s blog - ok, it could be expensive, Brian, but look on the bright side; Kate won’t be around to annoy you for much longer and, thanks to Jennifer’s ham-fisted approach to Justin, he and Lilian will probably never come to Home Farm again, so think of what you will save on gin and champagne. As we said, it’s not all bad news.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

David Tries To Be Reasonable - And Fails Miserably

Tim Bentinck (David Archer)

The week began with David remarking to Rooooth that Pip seems to be avoiding them, to which she replies that this is because of David’s attitude towards Toby. It has to be said that, if David had one shotgun cartridge in his gun and he came across Toby and a badger, he would be torn, trying to decide which to shoot.

Rooooth keeps on at her husband, saying that Toby is probably cowering in fear at Hollowtree and David needs to sort things out with Toby. David’s mood is not improved when he goes to The Bull and Kenton congratulates him on the news. Kenton then rubs salt into the wound by telling his brother that, yes, Toby can be a bit flaky, but Kenton has got to know him and “he’s not the total waste of space that you think he is.” Praise indeed, Kenton!

On Friday, David gives in to Rooth’s nagging and goes to Hollowtree to clear the air with Toby. Rooooth’s plan is that David should tell Toby that, while the news of Pip’s pregnancy came as a shock, she has decided that she is going to keep the baby, is happy about going it alone and she has the support of the family. David is charged with conveying this message calmly, reasonably and with dignity, in a civilised manner, and showing Toby that he (David) is OK with the situation.

Things start off reasonably enough when David rocks up at Hollowtree and he and Toby exchange pleasantries and small talk about how they spent Christmas. When the subject of the pregnancy comes up, Toby is pleased that Pip is happy and he offers to keep well out of the way and let Pip and the Archers raise the child - after all, all Toby ever wanted was a quiet life. Wrong answer, Tobes! David’s (admittedly limited, where Toby is concerned) stock of reasonableness has been used up and he has a go at Toby, telling him that all he ever does is just drift along through life and, if he had been more responsible in the first place…

Toby protests that the situation is nobody’s fault, but is interrupted by David, who says that the baby will be brought up by the family, so Toby is free to go away and start a whole new life. David then goes further, saying that the tenancy for Hollowtree runs out at the end of the month “so now might be a very good idea to consider your options.” Toby is taken aback, but David is in full flow now, as he says that Toby can run his gin business from anywhere “so maybe it’s best if you go sooner, rather than later.” David storms out angrily. Was that the sort of chat that you had in mind, Rooooth?

Pip, meanwhile, is having troubles - exactly how can she break the news to granny Jill? As it turns out, Jill is suspicious that something is going on, as Ben told her that he thinks something is up. I’m glad Ben talks to his gran - he hasn’t said a word to anyone else for months. Pip eventually tells Jill that her first great-grandchild is on the way and, in horror, Jill works out who the father must be and rushes off for a hairdressing appointment. After this, Jill goes to see Peggy and slags off Toby, accusing him of not accepting responsibility. Peggy mentions that, as far as she understands, the decision was Pip’s and Toby isn’t to blame.

Peggy goes further and reminisces about when Jennifer was pregnant with Adam - and Peggy didn’t know who was the father. “That turned out all right” Peggy reminds Jill and says that they should forget about Toby and concentrate on doing all they can for Pip. The message obviously hits home, as Jill returns to Brookfield and seeks out her granddaughter. Pip apologises for the shock - and Jill admits that it was a shock, but if this is Pip’s choice, then she will support her all the way.

Later on in the week, Pip speaks to Helen - what will she do if, when the baby arrives, Pip decides that she’s not ready to be a mum? Well Pip, I’m no gynaecologist, but as far as I know, no-one has ever managed to send a baby back. Helen reassures her, saying that having Henry was the best thing that ever happened to her and she is sure that Pip will be a fine mother. Talking later with David, Pip admits that she never thought it would be like this and she envisaged a traditional wedding (probably to a farmer) at St. Stephen’s but now she’s messed it all up. David, in a comment that came straight out of the Brian Aldridge book of quotations, jokes that this way he won’t have to pay for the wedding.

Pregnancy loomed large last week, as Roy becomes increasingly concerned because Lexi is undertaking considerable research about what is involved in being a surrogate. He says that, from what Lexi says, it sounds like she’s halfway to agreeing to do it. She says no, but she’d like to talk about it. Roy is mystified - if she’s not going to do it, what’s the point of talking about it? He says that he knows that Lexi is only considering acting as a surrogate because she is such a kind, caring, considerate person.

That’s as maybe, but later on we learn that there is an ulterior motive. At Grey Gables, Lexi asks Ian if she can go to Honeysuckle cottage and talk to him and Adam - she has a few questions to ask them. Let’s suppose that Lexi agreed to be the surrogate - if she felt unable to work full time, would Adam and Ian compensate her for loss of earnings? Of course they would.

Secondly, she would not want to use one of her own eggs, but would want a donated egg. Is that OK? Yes. Finally, her contract at Grey Gables will soon be over and, if she were pregnant, she would like to spend as much time as possible with her daughters in Bulgaria - would the boys cover her expenses? Adam says that, while this isn’t what they envisaged, they wouldn’t want it to be a deal-breaker. So what’s Lexi’s answer - yes or no? “It’s a maybe” she tells them.

All this has been going on without Roy’s knowledge and he confronts Lexi - does this mean that she is going to do it? Lexi says that, if she does, then she’ll be doing it for selfish reasons, to spend more time with her family. I bet that made Roy feel good, but he says that something like this would change the dynamics of their relationship. Lexi cannot see this and, when Roy reminds her that she’d be carrying someone else’s child, she tells him that it doesn’t matter. “It matters to me,” Roy wails, adding: “I love you so much, I don’t want to end up losing you.” I fear there is still much to be sorted out between the couple, but my sympathies are with Roy.

At Home Farm, a power struggle is brewing. Brian has been looking at the financial situation and he feels that they ought to change the agronomist that they have been using for years and engage a new, flashy company, Hardys. He mentions this to Jennifer, telling her that there’s nothing for her to worry her head about and leave it up to him. Because of the way the farm business has been set up, Brian, Jen, Adam, Debbie, Kate, Alice and Ruairi (whose proxy is Rooooth) all have a vote. Brian tells Adam that, as he has Jennifer and Debbie on his side, he has a majority.

Adam is despondent - he doesn’t want to see a return to the days of high input, chemical dependant agriculture and gently chides his mother for siding with Brian. Jennifer replies that she said no such thing and she is still making up her mind. The family meet at a supper arranged by Jennifer and the lines are drawn. Jennifer stuns he husband by saying that she agrees with Adam, but little do they know that Brian has been buttering up Kate (who was particularly obnoxious this week, as she is being ignored by Noluthando.) Brian lays it on with a shovel, telling Kate that he loves both her and Nolly and he thinks that Noluthando’s problems are all down to the way Lucas is treating her in South Africa. Kate falls for this and rapidly agrees, at which Brian says, “by the way, there’s a little something else to think about.” At the supper, surprise, surprise, Kate sides with her father, as he has explained the situation to her and she believes that his viewpoint is the correct one.

Brian is smug, until Jennifer says that she had spoken to Rooooth, who has a vote as Ruairi’s proxy, and she is on Adam’s side. Brian protests that Rooooth has nothing to do with Home Farm, but Adam triumphantly reminds him that the rules were set down by Brian. We look set for an impasse, but then Alice comes in with Chris, on their way to dinner with Susan and Neil (I bet they are both looking forward to that) and Alice tells everybody that, by the way, she agrees with Brian as well. Adam is gob smacked and Brian crows as only he can, calling Adam a bad loser and saying that this is a triumph for democracy.

While on the subject of Susan, she is still persevering with recipes for Kefir, but she’s wasting her time, as Helen has taken stocks off the shelves of Ambridge Organics, as no-one is buying it. She volunteers to talk to Tom and persuade him that Kefir is not a project worth pursuing. Reluctantly, he agrees and tells Susan and Clarrie that there will be no more Kefir. Clarrie is disappointed, as they were getting extra money for working on Kefir, but Susan is devastated.

As usual, Susan has harboured delusions of adequacy and envisaged a glittering new career as the queen of Kefir, overseeing and masterminding a new branch of the Bridge Farm empire. She accuses Tom of giving up too easily and is convinced that they were on the verge of a breakthrough, conveniently ignoring the fact that nobody likes the stuff, let alone is willing to buy it. We get an indication of Susan’s rather eccentric perception when Clarrie commiserates with her over her disappointment.” It’s not just a disappointment,” Susan wails, “it’s a disaster!” No it isn’t woman; get a sense of proportion, for heaven’s sake.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes - Well, 17 Year-Olds

Mogali Masuku (Noluthando Madikane)

Last week kicked off with New Year’s Eve and Kate was trying on Noluthando’s eyeshadow, while Nolly frantically tried to put her mother off going down The Bull to celebrate. “There’ll be lots of people from college there,” says Nolly, but this is unlikely to discourage Kate, who is 40, going on 17. When Nolly realises that she is wasting her time, she says, resignedly “OK, but please don’t embarrass me.” Kate is amazed “How could I possibly embarrass you?” she asks. One assumes that the only reason Noluthando didn’t reply to this is that she wants to get to the pub before Easter.

At the pub, mother and daughter have a difference of opinion, as Noluthando’s 17th birthday is approaching and she wants a sophisticated party at Home Farm. Kate pooh-poohs this and tells Noluthando that she can do better than that and Kate can arrange a night do at Spiritual Home, complete with fire pit - something that Noluthando will remember for the rest of her life; especially when she wakes up screaming at 3am, no doubt. Kate then says she cannot resist the music beat and gets up to do some ‘embarrassing mum’ dancing, while Noluthando looks for a corner in which to curl up and hide, or, possibly, die.

The discussion about the party continues after Noluthando has escaped to the Ladies’ and Kate still bangs on about yurts and why would Noluthando want a boring party? Noluthando starts to get stroppy and says that’s what she wants, just like she wanted an ordinary mother. Kate can’t get her head round this and says that “in years to come, you’ll be glad that I’m not ordinary.” Noluthando’s response to this suggests otherwise: “You’re deluded, self-obsessed and haven’t the faintest interest in who I am” she tells her mother, before walking out.

It was an evening for walking out, as Alice notices that Pip isn’t drinking alcohol and offers to get her a non-alcoholic cocktail. It turns out that this contains vodka and probably other alcoholic drinks and Pip throws a real wobbly and storms out of the pub, followed by Alice. Alice cannot understand Pip’s reaction and says “What’s the big deal? It’s not as if you’re pregnant or anything - oh! You are pregnant!” There is a noise in the undergrowth and Pip tells Alice to mind her own business.

We have said in the past that Alice shouldn’t really be allowed to drink and that she tends to wedge her foot in her gob and, sure enough, the following day, she does it again. She is sitting on the bank of the Am, where people are getting ready for a New Year’s dip in the river (why, for God’s sake?) and she moans to Ed about Pip’s reaction the previous night. “Obviously I’d never had done it if I had known she was pr -” she tells him. Ed fastens on to this and says “She’s not pregnant, is she?” Well done, Sherlock. There is speculation about the identity of the father and, in the pub later, Ed, who hasn’t realised that the news isn’t common knowledge, lets slip to Nic about the pregnancy. Well done Alice - yesterday only Pip, Toby and Elizabeth knew about the pregnancy, and now, thanks to you, that number has doubled (if you include the figure in the undergrowth). And this is after Alice told Ed that her NY resolution is “to stop putting my foot in it.” Well, that didn‘t take too long to go tits up, did it?

Meanwhile, back at Home Farm, Kate is sulking in her bedroom and Jennifer comes to see what’s wrong - Noluthando has told her what happened on NYE. When Kate repeats the ‘deluded, self-obsessed etc’ accusation, Jennifer chuckles and says that Kate and Noluthando are similar - both independent spirits. Kate is in full self-pitying mode and says that Nolly doesn’t care how much she hurts her mother, to which Jen says that, as the adult (ha!) it’s up to Kate to fix things. Kate ponders this and, later, she tells Jennifer that she is right; she has to reach out to Noluthando. “We’re both our own people - she has to see me for who I am” Kate tells Jen. You have to ask, is that really a good idea?

Kate asks Noluthando to help her at Spiritual Home and tells her that she wants to get to know her as a person. In a sentence that is patently true and a breathtaking example of understatement, Kate says “Look, I know I’m not perfect…” Noluthando (and five million listeners) did not contradict her. Kate has to leave, and she leaves Noluthando in charge of Spiritual Home. Lynda turns up, having booked an appointment (which Kate has forgotten about) for a treatment. Lynda is worried, as she feels that the character of Carabosse has taken her over and she wants to be cleansed.

Noluthando offers to carry out a Xhosa spiritual cleansing, using herbs and incantations taught to her by her tribe. Lynda agrees and it seems to be effective, as she says that she feels free of Carabosse’s influence - so much so, that as we learn next day, she has recommended it to her friends. Kate is impressed that her daughter “has embraced Spiritual Home” but she is nonplussed, as she cannot find any details on the Internet and will Noluthando teach her the finer details of Xhosa Steam Therapy, as that would give Spiritual Home the edge over competitors? This conversation takes place over coffee and cake and we hear Noluthando choking as her mother speaks. Eventually, Noluthando reveals that she made it all up; she just threw aromatherapy oils in a basin and did a bit of chanting and Lynda swallowed it (metaphorically).
Instead of laughing about it and saying ‘that’s a great idea - and a good profit earner’ Kate takes umbrage and says that Noluthando “could have endangered Lynda’s spiritual well-being.” Noluthando’s response to this is that, as Lynda believed it, it just goes to show what a load of baloney the Spiritual Home concept is. The conversation gets heated and ends up with Noluthando telling her mother a few home truths - has she any idea how rejected she (Noluthando) felt when Kate left South Africa four years (has she only been back four years - it seems longer?) ago. Kate protests that she loves her children, but Noluthando is in full flow, telling Kate that no, she was actually in love with the idea of having a right-on, mixed race family. Well done, Kate: a great example of reaching out, as Noluthando storms out to go home.
Noluthando must have been on overtime last week, as she was also involved in another major story concerning Freddie. She sees him at college and is surprised, as he’s supposed to be dropping out. Where better to do it? he asks, as all his friends are there. It turns out that he is selling Ecstasy pills and Noluthando has a real go at him. Freddie, who has been moaning that Elizabeth gets the photos of Nigel out every NYE, cannot see the difference between dealing E and selling magic mushrooms. He also says that he was selling the pills as a one-off favour for Ellis. Noluthando makes him promise that this will be the last time and he eventually agrees. However, as Noluthando goes off with Kate for coffee and cakes, Freddie rings Ellis and says “You know that supply deal? I want in.” When it comes to common sense, Freddie is truly his father’s son.
Elsewhere, Ian is brooding over something Lexi said when she, he and Adam were getting out of their heads on whisky the Friday before Christmas. Apparently, she said that, ‘in a parallel universe’ she would be the boys’ surrogate and Ian has taken this to heart, Adam says that they were all drunk and please don’t mention it to Lexi. So Ian mentions it to Lexi, who is embarrassed, as she cannot recall what was said. Ian is, in his turn, embarrassed, as he shouldn’t have mentioned it. Too right Ian! Especially as he had been talking to Roy earlier, who had said that he has never felt like anybody the way he feels about Lexi since he first met Hayley and he and her are trying to synchronise days off, flights to Bulgaria etc. You might have thought that, having been told by Roy that Lexi is his soul mate, Ian might have a bit of trouble explaining that Lexi is willing to have a child for him and Adam. Lexi told Roy (shortly before they agreed that it was a crazy idea) that she knows what it would mean for Ian and Adam. I can’t help thinking that Roy might not be quite so generous
And now, with heavy heart, we return to Pip’s pregnancy. We have learned that the news is seeping out and even Jennifer asks Rooooth if Pip has a boyfriend? Rooooth says no and, when asked why did Jen ask, she replies that she has heard some rumours, but it’s obviously rubbish.
Jolene is talking to Fallon in the pub and Fallon mentions Pip’s pregnancy. Jolene tells her sharply not to spread rumours and then she seeks out Pip for a chat. Jolene reveals that she was the person in the undergrowth (in paragraph four - keep up, but we don‘t know what she was doing) and that Fallon, Nic and Emma know about the baby and doesn’t Pip think that she should tell her parents, before they find out from someone else? “You need to tell them before it’s too late” Jolene tells her, adding that she (Jolene) was a single mother, but Fallon is the best thing that ever happened to her. The parallels don’t end there, as Fallon’s father was Wayne, and Pip has been impregnated by Toby - it’s difficult to know who to feel sorriest for.
Pip takes Jolene’s advice to heart, and invites David and Rooooth to Rickyard for a chilli dinner. Rooooth is suspicious and, on the night, she and David take a bottle of wine, which Pip refuses to drink. Rooooth remarks to David that Pip didn’t drink over Christmas either. David presumably thinks ‘all the more for me’ and the meal goes ahead. Pip brings the conversation around to when Rooooth was 25 and managed to combine work with a child and David burbles on about how Pip just needs to find the right man. Rooooth, however, has cottoned on and tells David “will you just listen?” David carries on reminiscing about what it was like when Pip was born and Rooooth finally yells “David, for God’s sake just shut up and hear what she’s trying to tell us!”
The penny eventually drops and talk turns to who is the father? Alfie is suggested and denied, so who could it be? Come on, have a guess! As Pip talks, David finally sees the light, as he moans “no, no, no, no!” and angrily shouts “Anyone but him! Not Toby Fairbrother!” And a Happy New Year to everyone at Brookfield - it promises to be an interesting one.