Sunday, 16 July 2017

Caroline Sterling R.I.P.

Sara Coward (Caroline Sterling)

Tuesday was a memorable day, as Shula takes a call from Oliver Sterling. He tells her that Caroline died in her sleep (after a wonderful day out), probably from a stroke. He’s OK, he says, but could Shula tell the people in Ambridge the news? “Oh Shula, what am I going to do?” he asks, plaintively.

Shula begins on her mournful task and she’s finding it difficult. But it’s all so unnecessary - if you want people to know, all she had to do was approach Susan Carter, tell her the news and add “of course, you’ve got to keep this to yourself, Susan.” The entire population of Borsetshire will know before lunch and it will be on Radio Borsetshire’s teatime news bulletin. Instead, Shula goes to see the Grundys and other interested parties.

The Grundys are very sad, as they owe Oliver and Caroline so much, not least living at Grange Farm at a reduced rent. But there are practical considerations too - Oliver might want his home back, the inconsiderate swine. Then there are the B&B guests; Clarrie says they will have to cancel all future bookings and there is some discussion about how this will affect their income and savings. It all gets too much for Will, who is the Sterlings’ godson - how can they think about money at a time like this? He remembers how generous Caroline was, buying him a dirt bike and helping him with his driving and buying a car. Will didn’t mention that the Sterlings let him and Nic have their wedding reception at Grey Gables FOC on New Year’s Day, but little things like that can slip your mind, can’t they?

Will says that something like Caroline’s death puts everything into perspective; hassles at work, worries over the cricket team - “it’s not really important, is it?” No Will, it isn’t, as we told you last week and, to his credit (and that’s not a phrase I type very often about Will), he does phone PCB and tells him that, as far as the cricket/lying situations is concerned, he’s prepared to let bygones be bygones. If I were Harrison, I might be tempted to say ‘thanks a span, Will, but I’m still picking Anisha ahead of you’ but I suspect he’ll go for the easy option.

Shula takes further phone calls from Oliver - Caroline will be cremated and the ashes interred in Italy (saves all the worry about whether or not the ashes of a spouse need to be declared at Customs) and Oliver would like Shula to arrange a memorial service for Caroline at St. Stephen’s. She asks if he wouldn’t want some input, but he says it has to be Shula, as she and Caroline were like sisters. Shula eventually says that she’d be proud to do it.

By the way, Caroline’s death underlines how dangerous it is for Archers characters to go abroad for any length of time; as well as Caroline, we had Sid Perks dying in New Zealand in June 2010 (see ‘So Long Sid’). Stay in Ambridge is my advice (unless you’re Will, Kate and quite a few others, in which case take a round the world cruise).

Last week was momentous too for Lilian, as she celebrated her 70th. It started promisingly enough, with Justin giving her Buck’s Fizz in the bath and then a ruby pendant (it’s her birthstone). We learn later that he’s also got tickets for the Wimbledon’s men’s final on Sunday and tickets for the West End revival of ‘Hair’ in the autumn. For someone who has been complaining about the cost of his divorce, that doesn’t seem too shabby a list of presents to me. Not only that, but Justin is well aware of how old his fiancée is and tells her that it doesn’t matter as he and Lilian bring out the silly teenager in each other. What does he mean? Fumbles behind the bike shed? Drinking wine until they are sick? Posting graffiti around the village - isn’t this what teenagers get up to nowadays? Talking of teenagers, there have been a few references to youngsters congregating on the Green and being boisterous. PCB has said that he will keep an eye out for trouble.

But back to Lilian. She ran into Matt the day before her birthday and she was quite put out that he never sent a card or a present. On Monday, the doorbell at the Dower House rings and she finds a puppy on the doorstep, with a note saying ‘Did you really think I’d forget? Happy birthday, Pusscat’. The puppy is not what Lilian wants and she leaves messages, of increasing asperity, on Matt’s phone, telling him that, if he doesn’t take the dog back, it’s off to the Rescue Centre. Lynda notices that it hasn’t got a proper lead and offers Lilian Scruff’s old lead. This sparks an emotional moment, made more so by the sad news about Caroline, and Lilian gives Lynda a hug.

I must admit that I thought the story would develop with Lilian giving Lynda the puppy, but I was wrong, as Lilian finds the dog is growing on her. Justin rings up from London (he’s on his way home) and he says “is that a dog I can hear?” Lilian says that she’s looking after it for a friend and, when Justin gets home, Lilian says she cannot move to welcome him, as the dog has fallen asleep on her. Justin and Lilian agree that the dog is a poppet (their word, not mine) but Lilian says that she knows that she can’t keep it, because it was a present from Matt and, if they keep her, then Matt has won. Justin, however, disagrees; it’s not the puppy’s fault that Matt gave her to Lilian and he wouldn’t make Lilian give her up. “This house needs a dog” he says, which makes you wonder whether Tracy is busy at the moment. No, that was unkind; true, but unkind. But what to call the puppy? ‘Tracy’, ‘Die Matt, Die’ and ‘Up yours, Crawford’ are possibilities, but they pick ‘Ruby’. after Lilian’s birthstone.

Lilian says that, if Matt wanted to sabotage her relationship with Justin (surely not?) then he got it wrong, as they agree that Ruby is adorable. The next day, Justin and Lilian run into Matt. Lilian tells Matt “Get it into your head Matt - it’s over between us.” Justin enters the room and makes a point of telling Matt what a very thoughtful present Ruby was. Matt retires in some confusion and Lilian congratulates her fiancé, saying “Well played; game, set and match to us.” Justin’s reply is “I only serve aces - and I’ve got more balls.“ Let’s leave it there, shall we? 

The meeting described above took place on the day of the Borsetshire Food and Drink Awards. Helen’s Borsetshire Blue cheese was nominated in the ‘Best Artisan Product’ category. She actually won it last year, but couldn’t pick up the award as the Police wouldn’t let her out of prison, the spoilsports. She is doubly keen to win it this year and to be recognised as a cheese maker, rather than the woman who nearly killed her husband, Tom is helping her set up her table, on which she has kindly agreed that he can have a limited space to promote his fermented foods idea. Ha! This is Tom we’re talking about here and he has not only got reams of leaflets, but also 50 dishes so people can sample his initial product ideas, plus he is running a competition, so that he can get people’s details into his database. Helen protests that he was only offered a small area and, anyway, his idea is just that - an idea. “You’ll hardly know I’m here” Tom says, ripping up the ‘Bridge Farm’ banner and replacing it with his own ‘Never mind this organic rubbish, come and taste the Kimchi.’

Helen gets a phone call from home - Jack is running a temperature and she will have to leave the dinner. It is time for the awards to be announced and Justin is pleased to say that Borsetshire Blue has triumphed for the second year in a row. Tom steps up to the plate, saying Helen can’t be here (thankfully he doesn’t say ‘don‘t worry - she’s not in prison this year, ha ha’) and then proceeds to ignore the winning cheese and starts banging on about how fermented foods will be the future, Fortunately, Helen returns and clubs Tom into insensibility, stuffing his mouth with Kimchi and Kefir (is that how it’s spelt?) and saying how much she owes to her family (although presumably not the brother writhing at her feet who is trying to spit out various rotting vegetables). The audience reaction (led by Lilian) is enthusiastic, although, as this award was sponsored by Damara, the cynic might say did Justin fix it?

Changing the subject entirely, if I were Harrison Burns, I would be tempted to bop Fallon over the head with my truncheon. He says that he has been to the Building Society and it looks like they can afford a house in the region of £250k - isn’t that great? Apparently not, as Fallon wants to contribute her share. She taps up Jolene for money (exactly how does this become Fallon’s share?) but Jolene says there’s no way, what with what they owe David and the investment in Scruff Gin.

Fallon is pessimistic, to say the least; her experience of Jolene and Wayne has soured her outlook and she believes that all relationships are doomed. Actually, with Wayne as a father, I’m surprised that she’s not 100% anti-men. As such, if Harrison contributes the majority of the money towards the house (and it looks like we are talking a 95% share here) how could she walk away with 50% when it all goes tits up and the house has to be sold off amid the ashes of their failed relationship? PCB is getting pissed off with all this and asks why are they talking about how to split a house that they haven’t even bought yet? He asks her to let him do it - if that’s what she really wants? Fallon replies of course it is and they kiss. Perhaps he did bop her with the truncheon after all.

And so to Brian and the search for an attorney for Ruairi in the Home Farm Family Partnership. Having been turned down by half of Ambridge, Brian has an idea - what about Rooooth? On learning the news, David wonders why he wasn’t considered and then it dawns on him that perhaps he was, as Brian and he met in the pub, but David was so knackered that Brian probably though he was past it (spot on, David - he did). “Are you saying I’m second best?” Rooooth asks, angrily. No love, you’re actually third best, as Brian also asked Tom before you. Roooth says that she wouldn’t be Brian’s poodle and tells David that she’ll probably accept, “but let’s see how Brian reacts when I lay out my terms and conditions.” Brian listens to her spiel about how she’ll be independent and says “that’s music to my ears.” Rooooth accepts, although I‘d be careful.

Do we have a possible romance for Roy on the horizon? He returns home to find Kirsty giving fruit picker team leader Lexi a conversational English lesson. Roy has had a bad day at work and is quite rude. He later seeks out Lexi and apologises. He then makes some crass remark about immigrant workers and talks about what it must be like in Romania. Unfortunately, Lexi is Bulgarian. Surely, after such an inauspicious start, this relationship has to be a goer, doesn’t it?

Monday, 10 July 2017

Just Not Cricket?

Philip Molloy (Will Grundy)

In recent posts, I have suggested that Will is reverting to his erstwhile moaning, whining persona. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I was absolutely right, as was illustrated on Sunday. Will doesn’t turn up for the cricket match and Harrison (or PCB to our readers) manages to get Lily to fill in for him. However, Will does turn up at tea and gathers the team round, as he has something important to tell everyone.

It turns out that he has been talking to the Darrington captain and Will brought up the subject of the proposed takeover of Ambridge by Darrington. PCB read out an e-mail on the subject at the EGM in March, and it was this that convinced people to vote for females joining the team. Will says that the Darrington captain assured him that no such e-mail had been written or sent and the entire story was false. This means that PCB lied to them all, rants Will and hes not fit to be captain of Ambridge - especially as hes a policeman. PCB should resign says Will, foaming ever so slightly at the mouth and he shouts down PCBs protest that he did it to save the team, yelling: Now you all know the truth - Harrison Burns is a liar!

No doubt Will is telling the truth, but the question remains, so what? We are talking about a village cricket team here, but Will is determined to turn it into a major incident. Rex tries to reason with him, but Will is long past that stage. Rex asks if this isnt more about Wills antipathy to women players, rather than some high moral stance, but Will denies this, even when Rex points out that, if they had no women players, there wouldnt be a team. Hes got to resign! yells a demented Will. He then proceeds to roam the village, drumming up support for PCB to be tarred and feathered and dragged through the village.

One person who he tries to persuade is Neil, who is in two minds on the subject. He wrestles with this weighty moral problem for a couple of days before coming down on Wills side. Come on lads, at the end of the day, does it really matter? Suppose PCB does resign and another EGM votes to ban women players, what then? Who will take over as captain - who would want to captain a team of eight or nine players? Does Will really want to be known as the man who destroyed cricket in Ambridge? Get a sense of perspective everybody - we never had this much fuss over the untruths that preceded the Iraq war and its only a bloody cricket team and it’s not as if anybody has died, or been defrauded of thousands of Pounds, is it?

There may be another reason for Will to tread carefully - as he quite rightly pointed put, PCB is a policeman and, should he develop a vindictive streak, Will might find himself being done for speeding four or five times a week, or fined for dropping litter on a regular basis. And who knows what might happen when it comes to the renewal of Wills shotgun licence?

Lets move on from Will. Phoebe is home from college and is somewhat strapped for cash. Shed like to go out with her friends and can Roy lend her £20 please? All he has is a fiver, which doesnt make his daughter very happy. She would like to go away with her friends later in the holiday, but has no money. Roy suggests getting a part-time job and says that he might be able to get her a job at Grey Gables. Phoebe is horrified at the thought of waiting on tables or cleaning rooms, but there may be another solution.

That solution goes by the name of Jennifer, to whom Phoebe tells her woes. Phoebe has a long reading list for the holidays and she has no new clothes. Plus she could do with a new hard drive for her laptop and would like to go away with her friends, if only she had the money. Jennifer takes her granddaughter on a shopping trip and Phoebe ends up with a couple of designer T-shirts and a new hard drive, among other things. Roy asks Phoebe where they came from and Phoebe says that she tried to stop Jennifer, but she got carried away.

Roy drives Phoebe over to Home Farm, where she has been invited for supper and he has a quiet word with Jen. He thanks her for buying the tops etc and tells her about Phoebes ambition to go off with her friends. He thinks that Phoebe should get a holiday job to pay for the trip and not rely on the Bank of Grannie. In conversation later, Phoebe apologises to Jennifer, who says that she understands Roys point of view and the two agree that there will be no more shopping trips. But I could slip you a cheque every now and then Jennifer says. To her credit, Phoebe says no - Roy is right; she cannot keep relying on handouts and she will ask Adam for a fruit-picking job. Good for you Phoebe!

Lilian has also been invited for supper and Jennifer asks for her help in moving a load of books, which Lynda has donated to be sold at the Fete. There are a lot of books written by Dorothy L Sayers and Jennifer suddenly realises where she has heard the name Harriet Vane before - she is a character in a Sayers novel. Lynda must have read the books, so it follows that she is the Harriet Vane who is plaguing Eddie Grundy with e-mails, asking question after question about the Grange Farm B&B offering. This news delights Lilian, who says, in a pleased voice Well, well, well - whod have guessed it?

And why is Lilian so pleased? She is scheduled to do a Speedwatch stint with Lynda the next day and she knows that Lynda has been trying to find out her age. Lilian is worried that Lynda will tell Justin that she will be 70 in a couple of days (presumably Lilian hasnt been very honest with him). The Speedwatch isnt going very well, with the two women making barbed remarks to each other. Eventually, Lilian tells Lynda (or should I call you Harriet?) that she knows her secret and that she is an Internet troll. Lilian soon apologises for this and for the hurtful things she said about Lynda not having children when the two began rowing about James and Leone. Eventually peace breaks out and the two agree to keep each others secrets.

It was quite a week for Lynda. Fallon airs her concerns to PCB about the lack of progress with the Fete - nothing seems to be happening and Lynda wont step down from organising it. PCB is more worried about the cricket - should he resign? Fallon says no - he has to man up and fight his corner. PCB thinks thats a bit rich, coming from someone who is scared to confront Lynda. Fallon is stung into going to see Lynda, who admits that things are behind schedule and its all her fault. No, no, says Fallon - Lynda has got a lot on and perhaps this year she should take a step back and let Fallon get more involved? Lynda is pathetically grateful and agrees like a shot, much to Fallons (and my) surprise.

Fallon returns home and tells PCB. She has also told him to get his backside into gear about their search for a house and she gets touchy when he says that he has decided to tough out the cricket situation. Fallon asks, angrily, if thats all he thinks about and what about the house situation? In response, PCB shows her his various bank books, deposit accounts, ISAs and suchlike - he has enough money for a substantial deposit and Fallon is overjoyed. That seems like a fair division of responsibilities to me; Fallon chooses the house and PCB pays for it.

Justin was involved - sometimes only peripherally - in a number of stories last week. As we said, Lilian was desperate that he didn’t learn her real age and, to cheer herself up, she had a full makeover; haircut, hair colour, although she stopped short of further botox. Justin thinks she looks fabulous and so does Matt, who Lilian runs into at The Bull. She’s flattered; even more so when Matt remembers it’s her birthday coming up. “We had some good times” Matt says, before presenting her with a cheque for £20 k; not a birthday present, but the latest instalment of what he owes.

Matt also featured large last week - he confronted Roy at Grey Gables as he (Matt) was organising the Racecourse Investors’ day at G-G and he impresses on Roy the need for total secrecy and privacy. Matt appreciates that Roy can’t keep the fire doors nailed shut, but maybe he could have a trusted member of staff, presumably armed with a Kalashnikov, strategically situated to take out any guest who might accidentally stray into the wrong corridor? Roy promises to check into the security arrangements for the G20 conference in Hamburg to see if he can learn something.

Meanwhile, Justin and Latif Hussain are on the golf course. Justin asks if things are OK on the racecourse deal. Latif is extremely satisfied and intimates that he might even buy into the second phase of the investment. Perhaps Justin would like to come along to the Investors’ Day? Justin says ‘no thanks’, remarking that Matt has been looking very smug recently and is his part in the whole deal as minor as he makes out?

While this is going on, Tom encounters Matt at The Bull and Tom accuses him of making trouble over the land deal. Matt’s response is that he doesn’t need to help Tom screw up his business, as Tom can do that by himself. Tom asks if Matt gets a kick out of doing this and Matt counters by saying that Tom botched the land deal because he was greedy, “so don’t go preaching to me - go home and forget how you lost your family £100 k.” By the way, Tom has (probably wisely and at Pat’s suggestion) turned down Brian’s offer of being Ruairi’s Attorney - he can (probably quite rightly) foresee only strife. Brian isn’t happy, but  what can he do?

Tom leaves and Justin enters the bar. Matt approaches him and says that he’d like the two of them to make a fresh start. As Matt leaves, Tom returns and buttonholes Justin and tells him that it was Matt who scuppered their land deal. “He’s a crook with no morals,” Tom says, adding: “if you have dealings with him, be careful.” On Friday, Justin tells Lilian (who has just returned from being complimented by Matt in The Bull) that he knows about Matt’s involvement in the Bridge Farm land deal. What is he going to do? Lil asks. He’s not sure, but says that Matt is a fool to try and play tricks on him. As Lilian goes to the bathroom - yes, it did get finished - Justin rings Anthea, his PA. “I want you to get hold of some names for me” he tells her, adding: “it may take a bit of detective work.”

Monday, 3 July 2017

Reluctant (Almost) Millionaires

Patricia Gallimore (Pat Archer)

Is it just me (and Lilian, of course) who thinks that Justin Elliott is being given an unjustifiably hard time over the Bridge Farm land purchase? For a family thats potentially picking up £900 k for selling 3.5 acres, they seem particularly ungracious. Take Helen for example - on Wednesday she tells Justin Just because youre marrying my aunt doesnt mean youre part of the family and she accuses Justin of stitching the family up.

Pat is even worse. On Monday, she, Tony and Justin are meeting to sign the option agreement. This means that they agree to sell the land to Justin, subject to planning permission being granted. As a sign of good faith, Justin will pay them £30k, which they get to keep, even if planning is denied. Pat is very prickly and, while Tony is in the toilet (something that seems to be happening more and more often), she and Justin have a very stilted conversation. Justin says that he appreciates that the deal hasnt gone the way she would have liked, but it wasnt his fault. So youre blaming Tom? Pat snaps back and Justin replies that, once you enter into negotiations, there are bound to be consequences.

Pat then tells Justin that he has no idea what its like, to let go of land that youve worked for 40 years and he points out that they have decided to sell and, when she continues to harp on about how hard it is, he says Lets hope the £30k eases the pain a little, or were you thinking of turning that down as well? Not nice, I grant you, but Im not surprised that he has had enough - after all. Its not as if hes forcing them to sell at gunpoint, is it? He does apologise later, but Pat is still anti.

Justin is concerned at all the bad feeling and says to Lilian “I should never have played hardball with Tom” and he reproaches himself for treating Tom as a businessman, rather than a nephew. Sod that, Justin - Tom was the one who said “this is how business operates” and he was trying to screw an extra half million from Justin. When it all went tits up, Justin showed him exactly how real businessmen operate and cut a better deal for himself. On Friday, Lilian visits Bridge Farm and tells them to lay off Justin and stop demonising him as a ruthless, blood-sucking parasite. Helen suggests that Justin has it in for Tom, but Lilian says that it was just a business deal. Tom agrees and says that he has learnt his lesson, to which Helen protests that Tom is family, for heaven’s sake. True enough, Helen, but as you reminded Justin so forcefully in our opening paragraph, Justin isn’t family.

Let’s just reflect on the whole deal, shall we? The Bridge Farm Archers are getting £900k, for which they are giving up - voluntarily - a parcel of land described by Brian Aldridge as ‘one small field.’ Judging from the reactions to the initial £30k payment, they don’t seem averse to taking the money, as Helen and Tom both put forward cases for having the money, until Tony suggests that they think of others on the farm, like him, Pat and Johnny. Contrite, Helen and Tom tell their father that he can do what he likes with the money, but they’d like Johnny to have some.

So if the money isn’t a problem per se, what is? It’s the fact that Tom’s stupidity and arrogance means that they are £100k down on the deal and all this bleating on about how hard it is is just cobblers. I am reminded of the remark (attributed to, among others, George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, Churchill, W.C. Fields and Bertrand Russell) where the man asks a lady if she would sleep with him for £1 million. ‘Yes’ she replies. How about £5? Indignantly the lady says ‘What kind of person do you think I am?, to which the man answers ‘Madam, we have already established that - we are now merely haggling over the price.’ And that, I submit, is the Bridge Farm land deal in a nutshell.

Let’s leave this sordid story behind and pop in to Home Farm. Brian thinks that, if the family partnership is to work, somebody needs to be appointed as attorney for Ruairi and how about David? After all, he understands farming. Adam, just before shooting off to Venice with Ian as a belated birthday celebration, says that Alice thinks David is too old and has Brian considered Ian, or perhaps Alistair? Brian admits that these are possibles, even though they are not farmers, but he knows who is the ideal choice - and that person is, surprise, surprise, David. Brian has promised Adam that he will have sorted the whole thing out by the end of the week and he invites David to The Bull in order to sound him out. Except that he doesn’t - David is tired and has tweaked his back and he can’t stop yawning, remarking ruefully that he feels older than his 58 years. Brian tells Jennifer later that he thinks Alice might have a point and that David isn’t the one for the job. It would seem that, as far as Brian and David are concerned, 58 is the new 85.

It’s a busy time for Lynda, what with worrying about Leone (don’t bother - there’s one problem solved) and having to keep an eagle eye on the housing development and the new pig unit. She is also obsessed with Lilian’s age and keeps asking people about it. Don’t worry Lynda - she’s 70 on July 8th. Then there’s her reading list and the preparation for the Fete. On the latter subject, Lynda has deliberately left Fallon and Emma alone to see how they have progressed things. The short answer is that they haven’t, unless you count having signed up Kathy to run the White Elephant stall as progress. With a martyred sigh, Lynda tells husband Robert “It seems that once more I will have to step into the breach.” Don’t bother on my account Lynda.

Something else that is keeping Lynda busy is trying to get one over on Eddie regarding the B&Bs. Eddie spoke to a reporter from the Echo about staycations locally and, in his words, he “bigged Grange Farm up a bit.” This is Eddie-speak for ‘going off into the realm of fantasy’ and he makes Grange Farm sound like a cross between a luxury hotel and Utopia. Lynda vows revenge and, later on, she is talking to Emma. Emma has already told her that she wants Eddie to scale down B&B operations while the kids are on holiday, plus Clarrie is concerned that Oliver and Caroline will read the article online and wonder what has happened to their home. Lynda suggests that this doesn’t sound like Eddie is planning to ease off and Emma agrees. She does mention to Lynda that Eddie is getting a string of e-mails from a certain Harriet Vane, demanding answers to questions thrown up by the article; one of which is ‘what do you mean by Eggs Benedict three ways?’ Emma confides that Ms Vane is driving Eddie mad, plus this is not the first time she has done this, although she has never actually stayed at Grange Farm. Lynda gives a little smirk and hides her keyboard.

Over at The Lodge, Hilda Ogden continues to attack whoever she can get her claws into, except for Peggy, of course. The latest victim is PCBurns, who has turned up with a list for Christine of things that need repairing or doing at Woodbine Cottage. Hilda chooses her moment and we hear a startled yelp from PCB. Chris apologises and PCB says that it’s ok  - “I think I’ll still be able to bat this afternoon.” Later on in the week, we hear a shriek from Lilian “That cat attacked me on the stairs!” Christine confides, softly, so that Peggy cannot hear, “between you and me, I think it’s a monster.” The only good thing to come from all this is that PCB tells Fallon that he’s fed up with all the things going wrong and waiting for them to be fixed and why don’t they buy a place together? Fallon is over the moon and grabs hold of him. I must say I was quite pleased too, as I like Harrison and Fallon as a couple.

All is not well with Ambridge cricket. Will is annoyed at being left out of the team and, at Nets, he goes off on one when Anisha is taking catching practice. “You’ve got a real issue with me, haven’t you?” she asks him. Will replies that his real problem is with PCB filling the team with his mates and, when Anisha says that, if he feels like that, why doesn’t he go off and play for some other team, he says petulantly “Why should I? I was here first!” Rex overhears this exchange and asks Anisha if Will is bothering her? She says ‘no’ and moves off, and Will makes some sarcastic remark about Rex sticking up for his girlfriend. Rex observes that Will must really feel threatened by Anisha, which Will denies, adding that he just doesn’t think that women should play for Ambridge.

Rex says that it seems Will’s problem is with all women, not just Anisha and, when Will denies this too, Rex asks how come Will told the vice captain of Paxley that he would play for them, provided they didn’t pick any women? Will is astounded - how did Rex know about that? Simple - the vice captain told Rex when he was a passenger in his taxi. A very annoyed Will stumps off, saying “at least I’d be appreciated at Paxley.” I fear that Will is reverting to his nasty, whiny former self and if so, Paxley are welcome to him - at least we would then be spared his whining at practice sessions.

Anisha teases Rex for sticking up for her and, as they talk, she says that she’s not ready for a serious relationship at the moment. Rex, who has just heard that his goslings will be ready to pick up in a couple of weeks, replies that neither is he - with the geese, the taxi job and working for Josh, he hasn’t time, anyway. The two of them agree to keep their friendship on a fun level and Rex invites her to the pub in a few days to celebrate his 30th birthday. Anisha teases him about showing a girl a good time, but says she might make it. Like Fallon and PCB, I like Anisha and Rex as a couple, although I fear this one is going to be a very slow burner. Let’s just hope that Toby doesn’t stick his oar, or anything else, in by making a move on her, as he did with Pip. Speaking of Toby, haven’t the last couple of weeks been made blissful by his absence from all episodes? Long may it continue.

Finally, I have discovered a rare genetic quirk among the offspring of Peggy, in that they seem incapable of getting any major domestic alterations carried out without a lot of grief. Consider; first we had the saga of Jennifer’s new kitchen; the story of which stretched out even longer than the time allocated to the annual Christmas pantomime story. Now we have the seemingly-endless doings of Lilian’s new bathroom at the Dower House. Builder/plumber Philip and his worker Connor are being subjected to unremitting surveillance by Lilian and it is surprising that she isn’t wielding a whip. This story has gone on long enough - please end it and we pray to God that the third sibling (Tony) doesn’t suddenly decide to spend Justin’s money on a new conservatory - I don’t think I could stand the suspense.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Who Taught Whom A Lesson?

Remember the (not-so) good old days when Tom was babbling about Ready Meals and you could almost imagine him in Del Boy mode, saying this time next year, well be millionaires? Since he came back from Canada with a voice transplant, he would appear to have calmed down somewhat and scaled down his ambitions. Until, that is, Justin Elliott came knocking, offering £1 million. Having persuaded the rest of the family - ok, having persuaded Tony - to take the money and run, Tom listened to the serpent-tongued Matt Crawford, who suggested that perhaps Justin was trying to gain an advantage, and the land was worth one third more than his offer.

Tom decides that he can squeeze a few more hundred thou out of Justin and arranges to see him on Monday. So confident is he in his ability to turn the screw that he doesnt bother consulting Tony or Pat. The meeting begins amicably enough, with Justin saying that his lawyers are on standby and he suggests that they draw up an agreement to sell, subject to getting planning permission. In the unlikely event that this is not forthcoming, Justin would pay £30k. All is progressing nicely, then Tom plays his master stroke - how much is Justin prepared to move on the price, as Tom has been in touch with other developers and they reckon the land is worth more.

Justin is less than impressed - he accuses Tom of going behind his back and he (Tom) is lucky that he hasnt been shown the door. Also, Justin asked that the deal be kept secret and Bridge Farm (via mega-gob Susan) made it public. He is very disappointed in their behaviour. Tom seems a bit slow to latch on to the mood of the meeting and asks is Justin is prepared to move on the price? The polite answer is Noand Justin suggests that Tom talks to the other developers. Our business here is finished Justin tells Tom. 

Youve got to hand it to Tom - he is nothing. Sorry, I cant read my notes; that should be he is nothing if not optimistic and he tells Helen not to worry - he will have a concrete offer for £1.5 m within 24 hours. This is how business works he says, adding: We are in an incredibly strong position - we have something (land) that they all want. In a sentence that has all of us shaking our heads knowingly, he says: I do know what Im doing. Its going to be fine - youre just going to have to trust me on this. A quick poll of thousands of listeners returned the answers No, you dontNo it isnt and Youre having a laugh.

Two days later, Tom fesses up to Pat and Tony what he did behind their backs. But what about the other developers, I hear you scream? Glad you asked. One pulled out and the other offered a cool £45 million. How good is that? Not very, really, as he would want 10 acres and the development would be for many, many more houses. Pat and Tony (particularly Tony) are verging on the apoplectic - a day or so ago, they were looking at £500 k in their pension pot and now they are looking at 3.5 acres of organic farmland. Could they go back to Justin? Toms not sure because of how the negotiations ended. Just how bad did the conversation go? asks Tony. Tom admits that it didnt go that well (in the same way that Napoleons assault on Russia left something to be desired) and he offers to go and see Justin again.

Tom does so, but Justin now has the whip hand and, when Tom (poor, naïve boy) suggests that they go back to the £1 m offer, Justin says that he could find an alternative site and what is Tom prepared to offer to change Justins mind? The upshot is that Justin offers £850,000; take it or leave it and close the door behind you. Tom takes this news back to Bridge Farm and Tony is less than happy. How could you be so stupid? is the first question he asks his son, adding that he will go and talk to Justin and I should have done it in the first place. Lilian comes in during the exchange of pleasantries and she says that Justin was surprised that they rejected his offer, but she quickly realises that Tom acted unilaterally. She chases after Tom, who has fled (in shame, one would hope) and wheedles out of him the fact that he had advice from a third party. Was it someone she knows? Tom wont say, but Lilian detects the fine Italian hand of Matt. I think youve been used to teach someone else a lesson Lilian tells her nephew.

Meanwhile, Tony is negotiating with Justin. Tony points out that, if Justin goes elsewhere, the farmer will know what he offered Bridge Farm (Or he could easily find out - whats this, Tony; a veiled threat to go public on the offer price if Justin doesnt play ball?). Justin offers £900 k. How about £950 k? No: £900 k. £925 K? What part of £900 k does Tony not understand? In the end, he accepts Justins offer. Back at Bridge Farm, Tom tells Helen that he will learn from the experience and Im not going to be taken for a fool again. After his experiences with selling to supermarkets and going into business with uncle Brian - both of which cost him considerable sums of money - you have to admit that this boy is a quick learner.

But lets go back to Lilians remark that Tom has been used to teach someone else a lesson, presumably Justin by Matt. Well, that worked well, didnt it? Call me dense, but it seems the only lesson Justin has learned is how to get 10% off a £1 million land purchase and I submit that that is a lesson hed welcome three times a day. Canny one, Matt.

The putative romance between Rex and Anisha advances with glacial rapidity. Tuesday is the evening of their date but once again Rex calls it off, as he has a taxi booking for Birmingham airport - no one else can do it and he really needs the money. Anisha says theyll meet up at nets on Thursday, but shes not thrilled. Fear not! They go to a Chinese restaurant, where they are the only customers, and Anisha says That was one of the worst meals Ive ever eaten. However, they are both laughing and its Fortune Cookie time. Anishas says Your shoes will make you happy today and they immediately do a ten minute stand-up routine. Thats a lie. However, Rexs cookie says The man or woman you desire feels the same way about you. Rex is quick to say that he didnt plan this and the couple leave. Back at Anishas front door, there is much banter and, to cut a long story short, they kiss. Rex suggests coming in for coffee, but Anisha says that its all going a bit too fast for her. Fast? If this romance were in a race, it would have been overtaken by a three-toed sloth and an arthritic snail, wearing lead wellingtons and caught in molasses. Get on with it before one of you (or, God forbid, me) passes on.

Freddie continues to head the list of young characters that youd like to slap. On Tuesday he accidentally missed the bus to college and we have the usual you need an education to get a job and I dont want a job; I want to live argument. He says passionately that theres more to life than college and I want to see the world - Im a free spirit. Elizabeth says fine, he can be a really free spirit, as shes stopping his allowance. See how free you can be with no cash to back it up she tells her son, who is totally outraged. You cant blackmail me like that! Freddie calls after his mothers retreating back.

David drops into Lower Loxley and he and his sister have a heart to heart. Lizzie says that perhaps David could have a word with Freddie, as Freddie has no male figures of authority to look up to (Kenton is dismissed by both as about as much use as a carpet-layers stepladder). David says that his track record is not that good - look at Josh - and that Elizabeth is doing a wonderful job of bringing up her twins and running Lower Loxley.

While this is going on, Freddie has walked to Home Farm, where he runs into Adam. The talk turns to college and Freddie says (mendaciously) that he has a study day today and, when he learns that Adam is short of pickers, he volunteers his services for the day. Despite being woefully under-qualified, he does OK (although Adam does advise a bit less talking and a bit more picking) and enjoyed it; so much so that he begs Adam to take him on full time. Adam is ok with the idea, but he would need the agreement of Elizabeth. On Freddies return to Lower Loxley, we realise what David meant when he told Elizabeth You can see Nigel in him - ie a complete dreamer with only the most tenuous grip on reality - when Freddie tells his mother All you have to do is tell Adam youre happy for me to do it full time and thats it. Ha! In your dreams, Freddie - Elizabeth not only wants him to finish college, but he has spoken to Freddies Head of Year and they have an appointment with him on Thursday. Do I have any say in this? Freddie wails, to which the answer is No: were going - this is your last chance.

On Thursday, Freddie meets up with Adam and we learn that he has to stay at college until the end of term and re-sit maths. In return, he can work weekends and full time in the holidays, plus he has also got his allowance reinstated. To be honest, Adam had other things on his mind, as its his 50thbirthday and theres a party with the pickers and various members of the Archer clan. Phoebe has returned from Oxford and is brought along by Roy. During the evening, some local lads start playing up and making racist remarks and things look ugly. However, the situation is defused by Lexi, one of the team leaders. Actually, defused might be the wrong word, as we hear Adam saying And if you come back, youll be done for trespass. Whatever, Lexi is hailed as the heroine of the hour and Roy seems more than a little interested. Watch this space.

On Friday, David and Rooooth are at a loose end, with no kids or Jill and he suggests that they take advantage of Kentons offer of a free meal. The words take advantage are very appropriate, as they have aperitifs, three courses and two bottles of wine, all served at breakneck speed, as Kenton needs the table for paying guests. Rooth and David retire to seats outside the restaurant, with their second bottle of wine, in a mild alcoholic haze.

Also on Friday, Matt (in a car) comes across Lilian (on Amir). She accuses him of putting Tom up to the idea of turning Justin down, which he denies. They meet again later on and she asks if hes stalking her. Amir bolts and Lilian is thrown. Matt finds her and she asks him what sort of person is he now? Hopefully a better one he replies and Lilian says sharply What the hell are you doing?(We assume he was trying to kiss her). Youll always be my pusscat says Matt, adding: You have to admit puss, theres still something there. A furious Lilian says Youre wrong - theres nothing and there never will be. Leave me alone Matt, leave me alone and she gallops off. I pray that she is being sincere - go back to Costa Rica Matt; youre about as welcome in Ambridge as Rob Titchener.