Sunday, 17 September 2017

Killer On The Loose

There’s a homicidal maniac stalking the streets of Ambridge, with dead bodies carefully buried in the garden of The Lodge. The scene of carnage was uncovered by Robert Snell, who was delivering a squirrel-proof bird feeder and looking for the best place to put it. Having found a likely spot, he discovers a veritable necropolis, with bodies of birds, frogs and small mammals neatly interred. The perpetrator is none other than Hilda Ogden, the feline killing machine and Peggy is her Accessory After The Fact, covering up (literally) evidence of Hilda’s mass slaughter.

This is too much for Robert, who says that he couldn’t possibly condone putting a bird feeder in the garden, as this would only encourage Hilda’s nefarious activities. He is presumably worried that Hilda will come back one day with a dead lamb and he sternly tells Peggy to sort the problem out. She rings Pat to see if Tony could take her and Hilda to see Alistair to see what can be done. Tony tells Pat that he’d only do so if it were for her final journey - we assume he was talking about Hilda, rather than Peggy - and the short straw is eventually drawn by Adam. He’s no fool and takes along a pair of heavy duty industrial gloves to deal with the cat. PC Burns, who happened along, says that Hilda looks ‘quite sweet’ in her basket and Peggy demonstrates her blind spot as far as Hilda is concerned by remarking sharply that Hilda is very sweet - she’s just misunderstood. Presumably Peggy thought that Hitler wasn’t a bad bloke underneath it all.

What can Alistair do? He comes up with the idea of a collar fitted with a bell, which everyone believes is an ideal solution. The only trouble is who will fit the collar on an increasingly fractious cat? Sounds like a job for a vet and later Peggy tells Jennifer that the collar was eventually fitted, after a considerable struggle.

Jennifer had an eventful week, checking up on Lexi’s caravan-cleaning performance, which doesn’t meet Jen’s high standards. Lexi has two particularly filthy caravans to deal with and phones Roy to tell him that she can’t make their date tonight, as she’ll be working late. Roy, bless him, turns up to give Lexi a hand and she is touched. Roy is hosing down the exterior of one of the vans and manages to totally soak his jeans. As he and Lexi laugh about it, Jennifer turns up with a supply of bin bags and hears Roy saying something about getting his trousers off and she cops an eyeful. Jennifer has an attack of the vapours and runs off, leaving Lexi laughing hysterically and Roy very embarrassed and shouting after Jennifer, trying unsuccessfully to explain.

I am very much afraid that Pip and Toby might be getting back together. He is going out with Kitty, the glamorous yet high maintenance girl who appears to be cutting a swathe through the manhood of Ambridge (well, Roy and Toby). Toby asks Pip if she would come to The Bull and meet Kitty, who has expressed a desire to meet Toby’s ex - something that Pip, and indeed I, find a bit weird. In the event, Tracy forces Pip to accompany her to the pub and manages to upset Kitty by telling her that Toby bought her and Pip a drink.

Pip tells Toby that Kitty isn’t the girl for him (he has shaved his chest hair and eyebrows to please Kitty) and that there’s no point in pursuing a relationship that doesn’t work (and she should know). He tells her the next day that he has dumped Kitty and, when she asks how he did it, he says the same way that Pip dumped him - short and sharp. He also says that he is getting together a team for a pub quiz and is Pip interested in joining the team? She says yes eventually - don’t do it Pip; you’ve been happy without Toby, so keep it that way. Oh yes; and ask him for your five grand back.

The biggest story of the week is the ‘will they, won’t they?’ saga of whether Ian and Adam will adopt a child. It was only the end of the previous week that Ian let slip the news that they were thinking of adopting and, on Sunday morning, Oliver congratulates Ian. Oliver says that he has fond memories of when he and Caroline fostered teenagers - it was challenging, but very worthwhile. How did Oliver know about the adoption? Phoebe was in the shop earlier and must have mentioned it. Ian shouldn’t really be surprised by the speed and efficiency of the Ambridge rumour mill - he’s lived there long enough. Also on Sunday, Ian gets another reminder when Roy invites him to the pub “as I want to hear about the adoption.” “Who told you?” asks Ian, to which Roy replies “Phoebe, Saturday; Susan this morning: Lynda 10 minutes ago - take your pick, mate.”

On Tuesday, Adam and Ian attend ‘an adoption event’, which is very well attended and they get talking to a couple - Sian and Rachid - who are also keen to adopt. It turned out that Sian spent some time at Spiritual Home over the summer and she describes Kate as “warm, welcoming and so very grounded”, which causes Adam to choke on his coffee and the rest of us to wonder who this other Kate can be. In fact, later on in the week, Jennifer congratulates Kate on the success that she has made of Spiritual Home. “Much to Dad’s surprise” says Kate. I must admit that I’m pretty damn amazed, myself - I can only assume that Kate got a manager in to oversee the project, or that Sian is a rubbish judge of character and Jennifer ditto of what makes a business successful.

But back to Ian and Adam. The adoption event is pretty intense and goes into great detail about what is involved. Adam, who had really initially gone along with the adoption idea to make Ian happy, becomes an enthusiastic convert to the cause and is all for going ahead. On the other hand, Ian seems less sure and he dwells on the sadness and heartache that he sensed at the meeting. Adam asks his husband what is the matter and it transpires that Ian has been having second thoughts about adopting an older child. In conversation with Helen, she reminds him how he originally wanted to father a child with a surrogate mother “I just want a child - it’s as simple as that” Ian tells her, adding that he could get adoption leave from Grey Gables.

Only it isn’t - in a heart to heart with Adam, Ian says they might be jumping the gun. He talks about the sadness in the room with those without children and says “We haven’t tried for our own baby yet.” “You’re talking about surrogacy again” Adam says and Ian admits that he would like to go for it. Adam is finding this hard to take in but Ian continues, saying: “Our own baby would be the most amazing thing in the world” and he is ‘more than certain’ that this is what he wants. “If that’s what you want, then that’s what we’ll do.” Adam tells him. Obviously this story is going to run and run. Who would you pick for a surrogate mother?

The Flower & Produce Show is almost upon us. Lexi apparently bakes something amazing (in Roy’s opinion, anyway) which he says would really put Jennifer’s nose out of joint. Talking about the F&PS earlier, Jennifer explains to Lexi that it can get very competitive, especially among the older men of the village. By this, she means Joe Grundy and Bert Fry, whose rivalry is legendary. But wait! This year is different, as there is a newcomer in Ambridge - one Cecil Jackson, who apparently has a track record of stunning successes in similar shows over the years. It appears that CJ could pose a real threat to Bert and Joe and the latter suggests that the two of them join forces to confront the Jackson threat, or else CJ will win every category on Sunday.

All very well, but how to do it? One suggestion is that they only submit one entry between them in each class, but the trouble is that they are both convinced that their carrots, marrows, onions etc are the best and neither will defer to the other. It’s a problem, but things take a bizarre turn when Joe and Bert meet Tony in The Bull, where Tony has offered to buy Bert a drink. While Bert rings the date on his calendar, Joe’s ears prick up at the words ‘drink’ and ‘buy’ and he nearly chokes himself, trying to down his pint after Tony has said “I see you’re OK for a drink, Joe.”

When Tony returns, he has potentially grave news. At the bar, he was chatting to CJ, who has just come back from the doctor’s - not only that, but it was his third visit this week. CJ told Jolene that there would not be any more visits - he would be gone soon, whereupon he turned ashen and Jolene had to offer him a brandy on the house. Tony leaves and Bert and Joe discuss the possible implications of what they have just been told - this changes everything and Bert says that they should make sure that Cecil wins something if this is to be his last show. To ensure this, he and Joe should pull out of a number of categories to improve Cecil’s chances. I await with anticipation to find out how this is all going to backfire on Bert and Joe.

Johnny is enjoying his work at Home Farm and is keen to get his hands on some expensive kit in coming weeks. Bert watches him ploughing at Bridge Farm with a rather less sophisticated and expensive tractor and Ambridge’s own ploughmeister declares himself to be impressed with Johnny’s performance - not only is he a natural stockman, it seems, but he’s a bit of a wizard with a plough, not to mention a valuable member of the cricket team and a useful all-rounder. What next? Will he prove to be a genius with Kefir and other fermented products, or will he crash and burn after being totally knackered, working all the hours at the two farms and fitting in college and cricket? I’m just surprised that Johnny isn’t entering anything into the Flower & Produce Show, but there’s always next year.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Take Your Patronage Elsewhere, Jennifer

Angela Piper (Jennifer Aldridge)

In the past, I have commented ‘nobody does patronising quite like Brian Aldridge’. Well, dear readers, I was wrong, as events last week illustrated that, when it comes to talking down to people, Brian’s wife Jennifer is right up there with him.

It happened when Lexi was helping her to clean the caravans, newly-vacated by the pickers, who have returned home - or rather, Jen was giving orders while Lexi did the cleaning - and Jennifer asked whether Lexi thought that the pickers had enjoyed themselves. True, there was the racist unpleasantness at the Fete, but Jennifer was confident that this was a small price to pay for staying somewhere as special as Ambridge.

Jen has found that the pickers are always impressed by Ambridge; presumably because “it must be a contrast to what they are used to - more affluent and developed.” The boys especially, Jen continues, are particularly impressed when they see the cars and houses - only natural when their countries are catching up. Ambridge must seem like a dream when they arrive. Lexi hails from Bulgaria, where, according to the Internet, they appear to have houses and even cars, and being addressed as some kind of semi-civilised peasant grates somewhat. I suppose she is lucky that Jennifer didn’t talk about ‘the big, silver bird that brought you across the sea’ or the ‘iron horse that transported you to Ambridge’, where they were given accommodation in luxury tin boxes, called caravans.

Whatever, Lexi is not happy and gets her own back by quoting a passage from ’Mistress of the Paddocks’ - the novel that is generally recognised around Ambridge as a thinly-veiled account of Jennifer and Brian’s numerous sexual indiscretions over the years. Stung, Jennifer angrily dismisses the book as “overrated” and tells Lexi sharply to get on with scrubbing the walls, and to put her back into it. Tempers are rising, when Roy appears, ostensibly to return Phoebe’s equipment used on the picking job. He deftly turns the conversation to his daughter’s forthcoming trip to Budapest, which he says was inspired by Jennifer’s and Brian’s reports following their recent visit. Apparently there wasn’t a mud hut to be seen and they had boats and restaurants and everything.

Roy is not so much laying it on with a trowel as employing a shovel, but the tactic works, as the unpleasantness between the two women is forgotten. Jen proceeds to give Roy a list of ‘must do’s’ for Phoebe in Budapest - a list which Lexi quietly, but acidly, suggests will cost her a fortune and she (Lexi) took her daughter to the public park, or one of the museums (yes Jen, they have those too).

Jennifer asks Roy if he is going anywhere near Borchester and, when he says he is, she suggests that he gives Lexi a lift, as she’s heading that way too. He agrees and the two leave. Jennifer is not only patronising, but tends to overlook the bleedin’ obvious and she is blissfully unaware that Roy and Lexi are an item. Indeed, Roy’s real reason in visiting Home Farm was to pick Lexi up and, as he tells Lexi on the way to his car, he heard the raised voices “and stepped in before you started thumping each other.” When they are out of Jennifer’s sight, the pair kiss.

A day earlier, Roy was showing Lexi around Ambridge, without making it obvious that they are a couple and, whenever they meet someone, the talk turns to cricket (a game which Lexi has no interest in). She and Roy agree that it has been a nice afternoon, but Lexi’s feet hurt and she asks if there’s anywhere they can go. Roy says that there’s no-one at home and they could go there. Lexi says “Good, we can talk about cricket. Or maybe find something else to do.” Roy - don’t blow it now; she doesn’t really want to talk cricket, honest.

So, how did this happen? We have been urging Roy for weeks to pull his finger put and do something about getting to know Lexi before she goes back to Bulgaria - after all, if Jennifer is to be believed, there might not be a phone network available to reach her in her home country. The catalyst for this coming together was Phoebe, but things didn’t quite go as Roy planned. He had intended to have a heart-to-heart with his daughter and tells her that he knows about the pregnancy test. Phoebe reacts angrily and tells him that she is always careful and she’s 19 years old for God’s sake. Roy points out, quite reasonably, that the pregnancy test is evidence that she isn’t always careful, but Phoebe says that there was a slight chance that she was pregnant, but she isn’t and she never wants to hear anything about the subject ever again. End of.

Roy says that bringing Lexi into it (Lily told him that the test was Lexi’s) proved embarrassing and Phoebe ferrets out the fact that Roy and Lexi had attended a book reading together. She asks if he fancies her and - taking the fact that he goes bright red as a ‘yes’ - refuses to let him eat or do anything until he has called Lexi and arranged a date, and this is where we came in.

We’ve spent a lot of time on Roy, but I’m pleased for him and it will be interesting to see how - or even if - the relationship between them continues. Lexi has family back in Bulgaria, so the logistics of any on-going romantic development could be problematic, or at least involve utilising the big silver bird. We’ll have to wait and see if Roy has found a soulmate, or if this is just a (very abridged) summer romance. Personally, I hope it’s not the latter, but time will tell.

It was D-Day for the staff at Grey Gables on Monday and Roy (whose actor really earned his corn last week) and Lynda are sorting through the stuff left in rooms by guests (mainly chargers) and discussing possible futures - what will Oliver decide? We soon know, as Oliver calls a staff meeting and lets them all know that, when push came to shove, he just couldn’t let Grey Gables go and it’s not for sale; not now, nor in the foreseeable future. Cue cheers and applause for Oliver, who tells the staff that he will be residing in The Grosvenor suite from now on - that’s got to adversely affect the profit margin, surely?

The following day, Oliver, Ed and Shula meet for a private memorial ceremony for Caroline in the Grey Gables’ grounds, with the planting of a cherry blossom tree and the scattering of Caroline’s ashes. All three agree that it is very fitting as Caroline’s final resting place.

At Bridge Farm, Johnny tells Tony that he doesn’t fancy college next year. That’s lucky, as Tony tells him that there could be a full-time job for him at Bridge Farm come Christmas. And what is this job? A good description could be ‘veg box supremo’ as Johnny would have total responsibility for the vegetable side of the business, from organising planting rotas to the paperwork and overseeing deliveries of veg boxes. Great, except that Johnny is thinking more about getting experience of operating pieces of farm machinery worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and has approached Adam about covering tractor driving for Geoff, who has put his back out. Adam is inclined to give Johnny a chance and offers him a job, much to Brian’s disgust (that is until Brian learns that Johnny would be paid apprentice rates).

Johnny breaks the news to Pat and Tony, with the bombshell that he would be starting right away and it would mean working at Home Farm three days a week. “Impossible!” Tony cries, and proceeds to outline reasons why it cannot happen. Reluctantly, Johnny agrees and, when we next return to Bridge Farm, Tony has done a complete volte face and he and Pat give Johnny their blessing to go ahead.

You will be delighted to know that Justin and Lilian have named the big day - it’s at Lower Loxley sometime in December - and she can talk of little else. Meanwhile, Adam and Ian have been having in-depth discussions following Ian’s revelation that he would like a child. It becomes obvious that, when it comes to babies, Adam doesn’t have a paternal bone in his body and the gulf between the pair seems unbridgeable. Lilian confesses that she didn’t like babies much (I must say she seemed to change her mind when Muppet came along - perhaps it’s because she could give him back) and she reminds Adam that they don’t stay babies for ever. The upshot is that Adam suggests to Ian that they look into the possibility of adoption. Ian is over the moon and Adam says that it wasn’t an easy decision, but he could not have Ian feeling unfulfilled. “This could be the start of something wonderful” says a thrilled Ian.

Adam suggests that they keep the news quiet for the time being and Ian lasts nearly 48 hours before he blows the gaff at a special evening meal at Home Farm, where he and Adam and Justin and Lilian are guests. To be fair to Ian, it was probably the only way to stop Lilian banging on about photographers and presents for the Best Man and Matron of Honour (Justin protests that they haven’t even chosen a Best Man yet). All are delighted for the couple, although there is an uncomfortable moment when Brian says “Will they let you?” (Awkward silence) “I mean, you’re not too old?” he adds, recovering somewhat. Brian leads the way to the Drawing Room and ‘a rather fine Armagnac’ by way of celebration. Lilian hugs Ian, and Jen, who lags behind with Adam, tells her son “I couldn’t be more delighted.” Adam, who said that he wasn’t expecting Ian to say anything quite so soon, adds “Good - me too.”

The Flower & Produce Show is looming on the horizon and the anxiety level is being ratcheted up a few notches among some villagers. Joe Grundy, particularly, is worried - not only is there his annual rivalry with Bert Fry, but this year there is an added factor - Cecil Jackson, a new face in the village. A new face, but not a new voice, as CJ doesn’t have a speaking part. We only know of him through others’ reports and these are alarming - apparently he has cabinets full of trophies, won at various Produce Shows across Borsetshire, and, something that makes Joe quake in his boots, he has raised beds in his greenhouse - a tactic that Joe describes with a degree of trepidation as ‘professional’. Another cameo involving the F&P show is that of Pat’s gooseberry jam - almost without exception, everybody hates it (the exception is Brian, but Jennifer explains that he did go to boarding school). Even Joe Grundy, who is not slow to grab any freebie going, tells Eddie that “it nearly took the roof off my mouth.” Jill presents Shula with a jar of the stuff and that is typical of what’s going on - jars of gooseberry jam are hurtling around Ambridge like  ticking parcels and no-one wants to be left holding one when the music stops.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Kirsty Plays Cupid

Annabelle Dowler (Kirsty Miller)

Kirsty has decided that if Roy is to get anywhere with Lexi, he needs a gentle shove. To be honest, he needs a massive kick up the backside, but Kirsty doesn’t know about Roy finding Phoebe’s pregnancy test in his bathroom and the fiction made up by Lily that it was left there by Lexi, who is seeing Konstantin, one of the pickers. I hope you followed that, as I will be asking questions.

On Sunday, Adam has organised a cricket knockabout for the pickers, many of whom have never heard of the game and whose interest is zero. Lexi is there with Kirsty and Roy turns up with a very attractive girl on his arm. It turns out that the girl - Kit - spends all her time looking at her phone and, when Roy offers to show her round the village, she makes an excuse and leaves. Actually that’s not quite accurate, as she goes to the loo, then leaves, then texts Roy a rather lame excuse later. Kirsty takes the opportunity to leave Roy and Lexi alone.

So how did things go? Kirsty is keen to know, but Roy says she couldn’t keep her eyes off Konstantin, who was half naked, like a Greek god. On Tuesday, Kirsty is giving Lexi one of her Conversational English sessions at home when Roy walks in. Kirsty invites Lexi to stay for supper, but she replies that she has to go as it is her turn to cook. Kirsty urges Roy to go after her and offer her a lift but he doesn’t. Why not? Kirsty demands and Roy says she’s leaving in a few weeks and besides, she’s got Konstantin to keep her happy.

Time for Plan B. Kirsty persuades Lexi to go with her to a book signing by a popular author of horror books. Roy also turns up, having been invited by Kirsty, who promptly says she’s going home and leaving the two of them together. This is marginally more subtle than handcuffing the two of them together and stuffing a packet of contraceptives in Roy’s pocket, but the time for subtlety is over. Anyway, it appears to work, as the two of them get on well and, when they are queuing up for a book signing, Lexi confesses that there were some parts of the talk that she didn’t understand - what, for instance, is a ‘bonkbuster’?

If Roy were, for the sake of argument, Toby, he would seize the opportunity and say ‘it’s difficult to put into words, but if you come round mine, I can show you’ but he isn’t, and doesn’t. Instead he explains the term. It appears that this relationship is moving at the speed of an arthritic centipede carrying the weekly shopping, then Lexi says that she has enjoyed herself “and I’m just sad that it is finishing so early.” For once in his life, Roy picks up on a cue and says “but it doesn’t have to, does it?” and the next thing we know, the pair are sitting in a wine bar and chatting. Instead of enjoying the moment, Roy says that Lexi would probably be happier spending the time with Konstantin. Lexi is mystified - this is the second time that Roy has mentioned Konstantin; why would she want to be with him? “He’s 25 years old and has the brains of a slug” she tells Roy, “so why would I want to be with him?”

If I may digress here, Lexi’s pronouncement would seem to indicate that Toby would stand no chance with her, and we’re not talking about his age either, but back to the wine bar. Roy tells Lexi the story about finding the pregnancy test (this is the first she’s heard of it) and that Phoebe and Lily told him that Lexi was seeing Konstantin. “They must have got it muddled up somehow” says a confused Roy, but Lexi is quicker on the uptake: “when Phoebe comes back (she’s away for a couple of nights) you need to have a serious talk with her” she says, drily. Come on Roy - Lexi is going home in a few weeks and Phoebe’s away with a friend, this is the ideal opportunity to get to know Lexi better and let Phoebe find a pregnancy test in the bathroom - she can worry for a change.

Elsewhere, Adam is full of angst over seeing Lilian and Matt kiss and embrace and Ian is all for telling Justin what’s going on, saying that it does no good to keep these things secret - look at the damage that Helen’s silence about Adam kissing Charlie did to Adam and Ian’s relationship. Adam is reluctant, hoping that there is some explanation other than that Lilian is playing away with Matt. On Tuesday, he has to endure a BL Board meeting (you will be delighted to know that Home Farm retained the contract to farm the Estate land, although Justin had to beat Martyn Gibson to a pulp) followed by drinks and sandwiches for Justin, Brian and himself at Grey Gables. Throughout lunch, Adam is squirming as Justin expresses his love for Lilian and repeatedly says what a lucky man he is to have found her.

On Thursday Adam confronts Lilian at the Dower House (Justin is away) and tells her what he saw at Grey Gables, with Lilian leaving Matt’s suite and them kissing and hugging. Lilian says that she was intrigued by Matt’s remorse - an emotion that he has never shown before - and the kiss marked the end of something, rather than a continuing affair. She loves Justin and will make him a good wife - Matt is the past (apparently he has checked out of Grey Gables) and Justin is all the future she needs. Adam is uncomfortable, because the whole situation reminds him of the difficulties that he and Ian faced - and indeed, still do. Lilian suggests that he does something really special for Ian to show him how he is feeling.

Adam takes this to heart. So what does he do - book the Orient Express? First Class tickets to some romantic destination? Not quite - Ian rings him up (Adam is getting some end of the day work in on a tractor, or combine or some other piece of agricultural machinery) and Adam tells him not to cook tonight, as he’s ordering a takeaway with all the trimmings from the Star of Mumbai (other Indian restaurants are available). Not only that, but Adam suggests that they eat outside and - the piece de resistance - he has a bottle of New Zealand Riesling chilling in Jennifer’s fridge (always assuming of course that Lilian hasn’t found it on a visit to Home Farm).

I was not convinced that this was a good idea - the nights are drawing in and, here in East Anglia at least, it tends to get a bit parky when the sun goes down. Adam waxes lyrical about the stars, although they don’t give off much heat, and presumably Ian, being a chef, is just pleased to be outside in the fresh air, even if it is dark. Adam asks Ian if he’d help him finish off the wine and Ian says ok, as he hasn’t got to be in work till the afternoon. Come on you lightweight! We are talking one bottle of wine between two and at least 12 hours before you have to be in work; get it down your neck and ask for the dessert wine and digestif trolley.

Adam asks Ian if they are OK and the chef replies that he’s ‘content enough’. Adam is dissatisfied - that sounds like second best; if Ian could make one change to make him happier, what would it be? Ian replies that Adam knows the answer to that - he’d like a child “if I could be sure that I was bringing it into a secure and happy home, loved by both parents” but the week ends with Ian asking whether that is a description of himself and Adam? Same-sex parents - I can hear the Susan Carter gob engaging overdrive already.

As well as getting on my nerves, Susan seems to be annoying Oliver. He goes into the shop to buy some stuff for the Bank Holiday picnic, to which Ed has invited him, but he says that he won’t be going. The tab comes to £24 and Susan, who is as subtle as a dustbin full of lard, offers to put it on the slate for him if he’s short of money. Oliver is getting a bit pissed off with her continued harping on about his supposed poverty and says sharply “I wouldn’t have come in if I didn’t have the money.” This is way too subtle for Susan and she also doesn’t grasp the implied rebuke when Oliver refers to “the misplaced concerns which you have shared with the whole village.” Way too subtle Oliver - if you want Susan to realise that you are upset with her, you’re going to have to tell her that she’s a nosey cow who is too quick to jump to conclusions and why doesn’t she mind her own business and keep her nose out of other people’s business? Mind you, even then Susan would probably put it down to him feeling low, or suffering from a touch of indigestion.

Oliver goes to see Emma to tell her that he won’t be going to the picnic but he is waylaid by Keira who hugs his legs and is obviously pleased to see him. How can he not go now? He enjoys himself and says that this is the first time that he has laughed since Caroline died. He and Emma reminisce about Caroline and this makes him sentimental and he apologises to Emma for getting emotional. Emma replies that you can only be embarrassed in front of strangers “and we’re not strangers; we’re family.” I’d like to report that, upon realising that this makes him kin with, among others, Susan, Eddie, Will, Joe and assorted Horrobins, Oliver dissolved into floods of tears and reached for the cheese knife as the only handy sharp object, but in reality he was quite touched.

Oliver’s inability to decide what he is going to do in the future is exercising the minds of a lot of people. The Grundys seem quite satisfied that their tenure at Grange Farm is assured and, despite what I may have written earlier, there appears to be genuine affection on both sides, with the Grundys caring about Oliver as a friend (or family, if they insist) to be consoled rather than as a landlord to be sucked up to. Someone else who is interested in Oliver’s future is Peggy, who treats him to afternoon tea. Oliver tells her of his indecision - should he stay or go to New York and sell Grey Gables? Peggy remembers when, in the time before she and Jack were married, he was going through a tough time and his work - and especially how owning Grey Gables - put him at the heart of the community and got him through. Oliver asks whether Peggy is saying that he should forget New York? Her reply is that it’s not up to her, but there are many people who consider that Ambridge is where he really belongs. We know what you really think, Peggy.

And now we have a health warning - beware of exploding breakfasts. Last week was the judging day between Clarrie’s and Susan’s recipes for Kefir. Susan was quietly confident that her numerous varieties would win the day. Sadly, she took them out of the fridge and left them and they exploded all over the kitchen. Neil was not happy - the smell of sour milk was making his eyes sting and he was off to the pigs (presumably for some not-so-very-fresh air), leaving her to clear up the mess. In fact, this was a new, dominant Neil who, as he left his wife standing amid a kitchen liberally festooned with a mess of fermenting yoghurt, almost snarled: “And when I get back, Kefir had better be a dim and distant memory.” Steady on Neil; carry on like this and you’ll soon be demanding to be in sole charge of the TV remote control.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Same Old, Same Old

Kim Durham (Matt Crawford)

The brand new family partnership at Home Farm heralded a new era of co-operation and democratic decision making among the Aldridges. Well, that was the idea, anyway, but with Brian involved you never can tell. Take last Wednesday, for example; Alice is talking with Adam and she mentions in passing that Brian has agreed to trial a new piece of Pryce Baumann kit on Home Farm and to help with its development.

Adam, rather naively and optimistically, says that there will probably be a partnership meeting to discuss it, but Alice says that Brian has already agreed to go ahead. “So much for the partnership” Adam says, bitterly. Later on, Adam confronts Brian, describing his actions as ‘unforgivable’ and he should have brought the subject to the partnership. For his part, Brian cannot see what all the fuss is about and says that he didn’t want to bother Adam with details and that he (Adam) is over-reacting. He doesn’t want to go running to Adam “with every little thing.“ Adam doesn’t buy this and says “I’ve seen the future Brian, and I don’t like what I see.” Brian unburdens himself to Justin on the golf course, seeking approval for his course of action and Justin (accurately) sums up Brian’s attitude as “a sort of benevolent dictatorship” although I’m not too sure about the ‘benevolent’ bit.

We had another touch of ‘same old, same old’ towards the end of the week, when Lilian and Matt meet up at an open meeting to view a potential property sale. Matt takes over and plays bad cop to Lilian’s good cop and intimidates the girl who is showing prospective buyers around. She was drafted in at the last moment and is ill-informed about the property. Matt tells her that her asking price is a joke surely? And the upshot is that Lilian gets a provisional reservation at a very advantageous price.

Matt suggests a drink for old times’ sake, dropping hints that he will be on his way back to Costa Rica in a week or two. ‘Drinks’ means a bottle of champagne in his suite at Grey Gables and Lilian is getting stuck into the bubbly. She then says she has to go and Matt asks for one last hug and a goodbye kiss “Goodbye pusscat” he says, closing the door. Lilian mutters ‘goodbye’ to herself and runs off, in floods of tears.

The situation is more complicated than it seems as, earlier in the day, Lilian had a conversation with Adam who, still despondent after Brian’s attitude, describes himself as “official dogsbody at Home Farm.” Lilian is at a loose end, as Justin is in London and she suggests dinner at Grey Gables later. Adam duly turns up at the hotel and asks for Mrs Bellamy, only to be told by the receptionist that she has arrived and the champagne has already been sent up to Mr Crawford’s suite. This is happening while Matt and Lilian are saying their goodbyes and Adam gets a text from his aunt, saying “sorry darling, can’t make tonight - so sorry.” The week ends with Adam saying to himself “oh Lilian, what are you doing?” Bloody good question, Adam and I implore Lilian not to cock it all up now - she has Justin, who loves her and, it should not be forgotten, is buying the Dower House at an inflated price, so Lilian could possibly have nowhere to live if Justin were to get arsey. Not only that, but Matt is the lowest of low-lifes and the sooner he goes back to Costa Rica, the better.

But let’s consider Grey Gables. Oliver has a heart-to-heart with Shula - he and Caroline invested rather a lot of money in their Tuscan Villa, expecting to spend the rest of their lives there. While it could be argued that, in Caroline’s case, this was certainly true, Oliver cannot bear the thought of living there now and there’s no way he could recoup the money. While he’s not actually borassic, he could do with a spot of cash and needs to realise an asset or two. How about Grange Farm? No, he has told the Grundys that they are safe there and he couldn’t bear to make them homeless.

That would appear to leave Grey Gables and Shula remarks, rather unhelpfully, that it meant so much to Caroline. Be that as it may, Oliver cannot see an alternative and asks Shula if he could bring prospective buyers to the Stables, as meeting at Grey Gables would be awkward. Shula agrees. Oliver obviously isn’t one to let the grass grow under his feet and he tells Shula that Marion - a representative of a hotel chain - would like to meet the day after tomorrow. At the meeting, Marion expresses a desire to look round Grey Gables. Fortunately, it’s Lynda’s day off, so Oliver is confident that he can get away with the cover story that Marion is looking for tips on how to run a country house hotel.

Ah, the best-laid plans! Oliver is showing Marion round when Lynda suddenly appears; it seems that Kathy isn’t well (probably laryngitis, as we haven’t heard from her for weeks) and Lynda has given up her day off to cover. She immediately takes over the tour and answers all Marion’s questions. After Marion has gone, Lynda tells Oliver of the plan hatched by her, Roy and Ian, to donate a bench in Caroline’s memory, situated at one of her favourite viewpoints in the grey Gables grounds, all of which makes Oliver feel even more of a hypocrite, as he tells Shula later.

Marion rings Oliver later and tells him that she loved Grey Gables, but there’s a potential snag - Oliver made it plain that he wanted certain guarantees; notably reassurance that the staff would have security of employment. While Marion fell in love with the hotel’s Olde Worlde charm, she isn’t senior enough to guarantee the Oliver’s wishes would be carried out - indeed, her chain would want to make ‘substantial changes’ and there’s no way that Oliver’s wishes could be put into the contract. Oliver thanks her for her honesty, but says that they cannot have a deal on that basis. Marion replies that he hasn’t heard their offer yet, and it’s a very good one and she begs him not to make a hasty decision - she will e-mail the offer. “Thank you, “ says Oliver, adding: “You’ve given me a lot to think about.” I don’t know if Oliver has any other assets that could be disposed of - one assumes not, as earlier he only mentioned Grange Farm and Grey Gables so, if he needs the money it looks like a choice between sacrificing the Grundys or the hotel staff. I know which I would choose, but it’s not up to me. Oliver’s daughter has asked him to come and live with them in New York and he admits that it would give him the chance to see his grandchildren grow up. It would also put considerable distance between him and anyone upset by any decision he might make.

Susan has become passionately evangelical about the benefits of Kefir, to the extent that she is making her own recipes for drinks and formulations for face packs in her home. Susan has obviously been listening to Tom’s vision of the future and she has spotted a possible career move - if Kefir takes off, then someone will be needed to oversee the production process and she sees herself as the Bridge Farm Kefir supremo. Mind you, her marketing could do with some help - Emma suggests that ‘oily skin’ be replaced by ‘oleaginous’ for one of the face masks - plus not everyone shares her vision, as Pat tells her off for going home to check on her latest home-fermenting batch and reminds her that yoghurt is their bread and butter, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor.

I think that an awareness campaign might not come amiss, as not many people know exactly what Kefir is. Take Tracy, for example; at the party being thrown to celebrate the fact that Chris has managed to buy the farrier business, she talks to Susan about Kefir - what proof is it? Can you add mixers? Susan explains that it isn’t alcoholic and is more like yoghurt, much to her sister’s disgust. Mind you, it takes a lot to knock Tracy back and she avails herself of the free drinks at the party. She’s not the only one, as Alice also imbibes liberally and, as the party begins to wind up, she decides that she really needs to climb a tree. Tracy thinks this is a boffo wheeze and she too picks a tree. A recipe for disaster, you might think, but both women manage to jump out of their arboreal perches with no ill effects, although Alice is too hungover to meet a new client the next morning. Fortunately, Chris comes to the rescue and phones Alice in sick and re-arranges the appointment for Monday. I suggest he keeps her away from tall vegetation over the weekend - oh yes, keep her away from alcohol as well.

There was concern as to whether Emma and Ed would attend the party, as, when Chris turned up to invite them, Emma went off on one (again) and accused her brother (although not in so many words) of freeloading off the backs of the Aldridges and living in a house that was given to them (like Emma would turn down any house that was bought for her). As it turned out, Ed and Emma did go to the party and were enjoying themselves. Chris tells her that he appreciates that he has been lucky, but he worked hard to buy his business and besides, Emma has something that he envies: to wit, her two kids. He tells her that he cannot wait to become a dad. And does Alice feel the same? Of course, he says. At this moment, Alice flings herself out of the tree and nearly lands on Chris. Emma says that her stupidity could have meant that Chris could have been crippled and she and Ed are going home. At least Emma’s happy, having something new to moan about.

Let’s return to the Stables, where Alistair is on tenterhooks about his future, and that of the vets’ practice. He has told Anisha about his gambling, Matt’s involvement and the horse doping incident and is now waiting for her reaction - will she walk away, feeling unable to trust him ever again? He is close to getting an answer when Shula interrupts them by telling Anisha that Matt is waiting for her to carry out a couple more pre-purchase examinations of horses. Alistair is uncomfortable that Matt is hanging around, but Shula says that Anisha is keeping in with him, as he has promised (but not yet fulfilled his promise) to introduce her to Latif Hussain and, hopefully, pick up some of his equine business for the practice.

The same day, Shula learns from Justin that Latif has been asking after the thoroughbreds Aziz and Amir and Shula suggests that Justin invites Latif to the Stables to see for himself and Anisha can show him round. This is what happens and Anisha soon has Latif eating out of her hand, showing him the new equipment and telling him how well she and Alistair complement each other. So impressed is Latif that he offers Anisha and the practice some locum work at one of his yards. Alistair is still worried, as Anisha hasn’t shown her hand yet and Shula says that, whatever Anisha decides, she hopes that they can remain friends. Anisha decides to stay and, on Wednesday, Matt pays her a visit. He knows that she has met Latif and he thought that she and he were friends. Anisha tells Matt that he’s not the kind of person that she wants to do business with after she learned how he treated Alistair. “The feeling’s mutual” says a clearly-annoyed Matt. “Then we’re quits” Anisha retorts. “Yeah - aren’t we” Matt says, as he leaves. Go on man - do what you said you’d do in paragraph four and do everyone a favour by sodding off back to Costa Rica.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Veterinarian, Heal Thyself

Anneika Rose (Anisha Jayakody)

Anisha’s working on a Sunday to catch up with paperwork while Rex is at home cooking the dinner. Alistair’s working too, and it’s an opportunity for him and Anisha to get back to something like a normal working relationship, and he agrees to help her with an operation on a horse. But then he asks her to cover his on-call again that evening and she’s not happy; she’d actually been expecting an apology from him for going awol last time and pretending his phone was broken.

The next morning Shula persuades Alistair to take his time on the promise of French Toast and she talks to him about the money Caroline left her, and whether she should give it to charity. He tells her that would go against Caroline’s wish that she spend it on herself and  she should stop “channelling Mother Teresa”. He instantly had to apologise for that remark, and for everything else he’s done over the past couple of weeks!

Over their posh eggy bread, Shula tells him to come clean with Anisha and take control of the situation, not leave it to Matt. However when he does see Anisha he tries to disappear on his calls, but Anisha gets in the car beside him and demands to be told. He finally tells her about the gambling, and she’s taken aback by the revelation, even more when he tells her that Matt Crawford was the trigger for him to start wobbling. When this leads on to the bombshell about horse doping she blows a gasket; “maybe Matt’s not the only manipulative snake in this equation … partnerships are based on trust Alistair. How can I trust you now”. Ouch.

Caroline bequeathed Will £1,000 but he’s not happy that Ed got the same amount as she was Will’s godmother not Ed’s. He thinks it’s because she felt she had to, and to emphasise his point he says to Clarrie that Ed’s already Oliver’s favourite charity case. Clarrie reminds him about Aunt Hilda’s will (Will was left about £120,000 in 2007, Ed nothing) and that he should respect Caroline’s wishes – which shuts the ungrateful sod up.

Caroline’s generosity is also the subject of discussion on Clarrie and Susan’s tea break at the dairy. Roy pops over and it turns out that as well as Will and Ed, Caroline left money to him, Ian and Lynda too. Susan’s been totting up the total and so far isn’t impressed and wants to know what she left Roy. Clarrie cuts her short and hurries her back to make more fermented milk products, and we’re treated to the ins and outs of making kefir. Apparently Tom’s left it to them to come up with new flavours. Hopefully they’ll manage to come up with something to disguise the taste – suggestions welcome.

Oliver’s still bereft and is in the village shop with only Euros in cash to pay for it. Never mind, he tries to pay with his debit card but it’s rejected, and so is his credit card. He’s confused and flustered by this, and goes back to Grey Gables for a private moment in the grounds. Lynda finds Oliver and wants to talk to him. She wants to use the money Caroline left her to buy a commemorative bench and wants to know what he thinks. However he isn't interested in chatting and wanders off. Meanwhile Susan starts spreading a rumour by telling Neil that Oliver might be broke, what with his cards being rejected, the relatively small amount Caroline left to those in the village, and one of his shirt buttons being loose; “posh but poor”, she says. And what does Susan think the logical conclusion of this would be? Well, to move the Grundys out of Grange Farm so he could live there.

And now to Phoebe, who is still anxious from last week. She now thinks the second morning-after pill she took might not have worked either because she’s still being sick. She’s off work too, which means she hasn’t had to encounter Constantin, whom she calls him a “scumbag” (look it up – she’s spot-on). Lily brings over a pregnancy test but otherwise isn’t helping at all and seems to be assuming the result will be positive, but then Roy comes home unexpectedly and finds the used pregnancy test in the bathroom (it’s negative by the way). He’s furious and challenges Phoebe for an explanation, but Lily jumps in and says it’s Lexi’s and that she wanted to take the test in privacy away from the campsite. Roy wants to know who Lexi’s with and Lily, continuing to dig a hole that is surely going to collapse and bury her and Phoebe, blurts out that it’s Constantin. After Roy leaves Phoebe shows her anger, as Lexi has been a real friend when she needed it most. Lily tells her to relax as they’re “only pickers” and will be gone soon. But Phoebe says she might still be pregnant as it was probably too early to take the test anyway. As it happens she doesn’t have to wait long to find out as she soon has her period, much to her relief.

She goes back to work the next day and arranges for Roy to pick her up at the end of the day so they can go to an open-air screening of Rosemary’s Baby (!), and has asked Freddie to make sure he doesn’t get near Lexi and learn the truth. Freddie fails, of course, as soon as Sonia (a picker he has his eye on) walks past and distracts him. It’s therefore inevitable that Roy gets to talk to Lexi, but at least Phoebe finds them in time, and also manages to persuade him not to invite her to the film.

Now let’s drop in on the parish council meeting where Justin’s planning application is going to be discussed. We hear Lynda describing the Bridge Farm development as “a boil planned for the very cheek of Ambridge” but Justin’s description is rather more prosaic - a “celebration of the landscape”. He is given a hard time over the affordable housing within the scheme and Jennifer speaks up in her inimitable way. While saying she has “every sympathy” for young people trying to make a start in life, she infers that they would be coming in from outside the village and what sort of people would the affordable housing ‘entice’? Emma snaps at this last remark, and as I predicted last week, decides that it’s time to speak out and challenges Jennifer to elaborate. Which she does, and explains that she means people of “limited means” and “unsavoury habits”.

Emma stands up; “I’m of limited means Jennifer, are you talking about me”? (Actually it was the unsavoury habits I was hoping to hear about Emma, but moving on). Jennifer flusters and says that of course she doesn’t mean Emma. But Emma goes on to make a forceful and heartfelt speech, which at first is received with murmurs from the room, but is eventually heard in respectful silence. Good on you Em - we hear later that the development was approved. However Emma can’t let her anger at Jennifer go, and takes it out on her brother Chris, who she sees as benefitting financially from his marriage to Jennifer’s daughter, Alice. They argue and she ends up calling him an ‘arrogant git’, and in temper finds a scrapbook she’s been putting together to visualise the kind of future she wants, and starts tearing it up.

Someone else wondering about their future is Anisha, who is unloading on Rex over dinner. Earlier she had pulled up in front of a dead deer in the road. Jennifer was passing and stopped to see if she needed any help. She did actually, and could Jennifer just help her move the carcass off the road? No, she couldn’t. She’s late for the parish council meeting and is wearing the wrong shoes. Anisha suggests that the maggot-infested deer corpse is some kind of allegory for life in Ambridge, and conversation turns to Alistair. Rex advises her to talk to him straight and then listen to what he has to say. It’s now late, Anisha’s feeling down and is worried about sleeping, so Rex takes her for a run up Lakey Hill to cheer her up. This works and with renewed energy comments that she’s still in control.

In the morning Alistair’s pleased, and probably more than a little surprised, to see her. He apologises and pours his heart out, telling her that he was wrong not to tell her everything, and says that he’s still committed to their partnership. She doesn’t respond, and we end where we came in, with the pair of them operating on a horse. During the operation Anisha struggles to grip a bone with a rongeur and needs more time so Alistair administers more ketamine (to the horse, thankfully).

He patiently guides her to use a lighter hand on the instrument and she succeeds, demonstrating how well they work together. This, I hope, proves to be the turning point.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Phoebe and the Faulty Prophylactic

Lucy Morris (Phoebe Aldridge)

I think we can add Jill’s name to the list of characters not in favour of Justin’s proposed housing development, as she plans to present him with a book about preserving rural landscapes. Emma overhears this and Jazza also tells her that Pip and Susan – her own Mother – have been heard voicing objections too. Kirsty later makes a point of dropping in on Justin to talk to him about the development. She’s concerned that all the negative feelings will reduce the number of affordable homes available for fear of the development attracting ‘undesireables’ from outside the village. Justin thinks she or Ed should speak up at the parish council meeting, which might encourage people to accept the affordable houses once they realise it’s people like Ed and Emma that will be moving in. I think Emma will end up speaking, as she seems to be getting more militant, exclaiming later “Ed and me, we’re the outsiders – outsiders in our own village”.

It’s the day of the village fete and some genius has put Jazza in charge of organising the Bonny Baby competition (I’ve heard a drop of whisky in the milk does wonders). At least he’s not doing the ferret racing as well, so there won’t be a mix-up there. Brian’s in the Bull in search of the microphone and it’s left to Jazza to break the news that the PA’s broken. He presents him with the Town Crier’s outfit - complete with tricorn hat and hand bell. Any reservations on Brian’s part are overcome when Jazza and Harrison start talking about the Duxford sisters, and how anyone hosting the fete is sure to meet them personally. When he does eventually meet Lulu he wastes no time in asking if she’s married (apparently he wants to know if she’s a Ms. or a Mrs. for the introduction), but she seems a bit irritated and doesn’t take him seriously.

Jill happens across Lulu who is surprised to see her there, after their earlier altercation with the flapjacks. The Echo get a photograph of them shaking hands together and Lulu takes to the stage. Much to Jill’s delight, Lulu announces that her restaurant will be training the unemployed youth of Borsetshire. Quick-thinking Jill capitalises on this and announces to the crowd that any food waste from the Duxford’s new restaurant, Les Soeurs Heureuses, will be donated to the Happy Friends CafĂ©. The crowd applause but Lulu is not happy being ambushed like that. When Brian offers to get her a coffee she snaps at him, telling him to get on with his job!

Lulu catches up with Jill at the tombola and is forced to pay £1 for 3 goes for the privilege of remonstrating with her. Outraged by the suggestion that her restaurant will be wasteful, by someone who’s never even eaten in one of their restaurants, Lulu gives Jill a ticket for the gala opening. It’s not just any ticket though, it’s for a VIP table! Brian, still in pursuit of Lulu, who has clearly marked him down as some sort of creep and legged it again, arrives just in time and is most put out to hear this. Having finally completed his duties Brian’s running late for a Rotarian function at Grey Gables so Jazzer gives him a hand to undo the town crier outfit. But there’s a problem – the zip’s seized.

By all accounts the fete’s gone well until there’s a fight at the end between local lads and the fruit pickers. Ed heroically steps in to break it up before Harrison manages to get there. Jazzer then says what we’ve all been saying for a long time: “What the hell’s happening to this village”!

Pheobe’s picking strawberries with Lexi, and seems to be falling for Constantin, one of the other pickers. Lexi seems to be warning her off, and implies that he might have had something to do with the fight after winding up one of the locals. Phoebe seeks out Constantin (the gorgeous one with the eyelashes – apparently) at the BBQ, and asks Lily to cover for her by saying she’s staying over with her.

The next day Lily pops over to see how it went. Great apparently, apart from the fact that Constantin’s just told her there was a problem with the condom they used! Lily gets her in the car to take her to a very discrete pharmacy she knows (really?) for the morning-after pill. When Phoebe returns to strawberry picking Lexi remarks on how ill she looks. Phoebe blames it on Lily’s driving, but Lexi persuades her to let her drive her home. She confesses that it’s the morning-after pill that’s making her feel sick and she’s worried about what her Dad will say if he finds out. Lexi puts 2 and 2 together and works out that it was Constantin, and if she’s been throwing up the pill may not work and should get another. Lexi suggests taking her to a doctor too, as Constantin has ‘been a busy boy this summer’, and off they go to the sexual health clinic. They have a heart-to-heart in the waiting room and seem to be getting along very well, which makes me think Roy and Lexi getting together wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Changing the subject completely, Bert and Joe are on their way to see Oliver at Grey Gables. Bert casually wonders whether Joe will be able to keep growing his vegetables at Grange Farm once Oliver moves back in. This thought seems to take Joe unawares, and later Bert asks Oliver if he’s going to move back to Ambridge. Joe, fortified by 4 lumps of sugar in his tea, plays a masterstroke asking Oliver if he wants to move back in to Grange Farm - and live with him and the other Grundys. Oliver almost chokes and manages, very diplomatically under the circumstances, to decline the offer. Mission accomplished, Joe wants to leave, but Bert doesn’t and in any case, Oliver’s ordered cakes.

Matt is really getting under Alistair’s skin. He’s having to miss a lunch at Grey Gables with Oliver because of a backlog of work caused by Anisha taking time out checking Matt’s racehorses. Everyone’s getting worried about Alistair, including Jill, whom he let down over a promise to donate a raffle prize for the fete. Anisha tries to help when she says that Matt’s away all week so she can catch up with her practice work, then spoils it by saying he’s been paying Anisha on the day while Alistair’s behind with his own invoicing. Saved by the bell, almost, Alistair gets a call from David who’s been expecting him - the cows are all ready but Alistair’s late.

When Alistair gets to Brookfield he sets to work and everything seems fine for a while, but then he’s just about to give an injection of prostaglandin when David notices it’s the wrong cow, and to make matters worse it’s a pregnant one, which the prostaglandin could cause to miscarry. David’s concerned and rings Shula to ask if everything’s ok, and says, cryptically, that we all need to concentrate, just as the feed lorry arrives and David has to go.

Anisha confronts Shula about Alistair’s whereabouts lately, especially when he should have been on call last night but couldn’t be contacted. She also confronts him about his visit to Brookfield and why he’d undercharged David, and he confesses to the mix-up with the injection. He them blames his disappearance last night on a problem with his phone, but Anisha calls him from her mobile, which put’s that explanation to bed. Later, Anisha calls Shula and she goes over the near miss at Brookfield again, and asks if there’s anything wrong. Shula, who’s on her way to meet Oliver for lunch, makes excuses but the tension in her voice is rising.

When Shula returns home, she finds Alistair soothing a scald from an accident with the kettle. She tells him about David and Anisha’s worries, and about whether Oliver should move back in with them while he’s still grieving. Alistair loses his temper saying “if I could bring bloody Caroline back I would”, a comment he instantly regrets making as we hear Shula leave. She’s straight on the phone to her brother; “Kenton, I’m scared he’s starting again. I think it’s all happening again”.

As soon as Kenton gets back from a birthday weekend in London with Jolene, he goes straight over to the stables. Shula thinks that if Alistair’s started gambling again it will mean the end of their marriage as she hasn’t got the strength to go through it all again. Shula seems to have made up her mind up that that’s the reason for his absence, but Kenton’s not so sure and advises her to confront Alistair head-on to find out the truth. We then hear her wandering in on Alistair just as he’s on the phone making arrangements to meet someone that evening. She asks him who it was, and he makes an excuse about it being an old friend. She turns inquisitor and discovers that it was his old Gamblers Anonymous sponsor he was on the phone to, and whom he saw the other night.

To Shula’s relief it turns out that instead of gambling again, he’s seeking help not to. Apparently the trigger was the return of Matt Crawford and his threat to ‘out’ him to Anisha as a gambler and horse doper, which Alistair thinks will finish him and his business. I sensed a renewed strength in Shula then, and I think together, and with the help from other anti-Matt villagers, the tables might have turned.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Homes and Garden Fetes

Joanna van Kampen (Fallon Rogers)

Houses and homes seem to be the theme this week and we start by joining Fallon who is putting her furniture restoration skills to good use by doing up a ‘whatnot’ to fill an empty alcove in the house they’re hoping to buy. She’s still daunted by the financial commitment but then Harrison hears from his parents who have said they’re prepared to re-mortgage the family home so that Harrison and Fallon can buy Woodbine Cottage instead. But can either of them bring themselves to accept this generous offer from the Bank of Mum and Dad?

Later Fallon is at the fete committee and she’s struggling to concentrate on the problems of a broken PA system and should they have a Town Crier instead, when she receives a call from Harrison. He’s at cricket and can’t concentrate either, and has just been called out for a duck. It turns out they’ve both been worrying about nothing, because they both want to stay at Woodbine and accept his parents offer. Someone else who is delighted is Christine when Harrison calls round to tell her that they can now afford to buy it after all.

Emma’s got her eye on one of the seven affordable houses in Justin’s Bridge Farm planning application, but Susan’s worried they’ll attract ‘hard-to-house” families – what, like the Grundys? Lynda’s not in favour either, criticising the design and environmental impact, and says she would get it thrown out if she were still on the parish council. Bearing in mind it’s Emma she’s saying this to in the cafe, she should count herself lucky she didn’t get her camomile tea thrown all over her. Rex later tells her that there will be people speaking against the development at the next parish council meeting, possibly including Harrison, who thinks it will spoil the views.

So it doesn’t sound like it will be an easy process for Justin’s planning application, and there’s more trouble for the Matt/Justin/Lilian triangle when Lilian, after narrowly avoiding Matt outside the village shop, finds him turning up on her doorstep - when Justin’s not there. He tells her that he’s probably going to go back to Costa Rica soon and seems to be testing the water when he asks her if that’s what she wants him to do. She says “yes”, but it’s not going to be that simple.

Justin receives his decree nisi so Lilian makes a special lunch to celebrate. Justin pours the Champagne and they toast each other, but then Lilian drops the bombshell that the house is owned by a Trust which was set up by Matt. Apparently Lillian is the sole beneficiary but it does come as something of a surprise to Justin, who now wants to get them to sell the property – to him! Matt gets wind of this and suggests that Justin and Lilian meet him at Grey Gables. This nearly sends Justin over the edge but they go and see him anyway. Matt agrees to ask the Trust to sell the house and Lilian manages to spin it as a success for Justin.

Not content with making more mischief with Lilian and Justin, Matt reminds Anisha of the conversation they had when they first met about using her services to check his syndicate’s racehorses. He’s arranged for her to see 4 horses – 2 local and 2 near Newmarket – this week! Anisha protests as she’s so busy, but after Matt namedrops Latif Hussain, she agrees to give him 2 days of her time at the end of the week.

Matt disappears just as Alistair returns from the yard, and you can imagine his reaction, as he will have to take on more work to cover, and they argue about doing business with Matt. With Latif’s connections Anisha thinks it will be a good networking opportunity to win more prestigious business. Alistair’s still worked up about it when he gets home, but Shula sees where Anisha’s coming from and tries to talk him round. They’re in the middle of arguing about it, and in particular Alistair’s previous dealings with Matt, when Oliver walks in. Oliver thinks he’s getting in the way and Shula catches him packing, and tries to persuade him to stay. She goes to see Alistair and the arguments continue, coming to a head when she blames him for the atmosphere that she thinks is driving Oliver away. “You need to take a good, hard look at yourself”, she tells him. Oliver has been at a bit of a loose end and we wait to see whether he does move out.

When Matt turns up at the practice again, Alistair is enraged, and provoked further when Matt realises that he’s not told Anisha about his gambling past and therefore she doesn’t realise he’s a “dodgy partner” who could gamble the business away, or worse, that he’s been involved in horse doping. I think the bigger story is that the horses Matt’s been talking about actually exist.

In other news, Lexi pops round to Kirsty for another English lesson (I wish she wouldn’t – the dialogue’s so tedious). Roy comes home, expecting Lexi to be gone, but manages to agree a truce with her over informing the police about the graffiti, but still spectacularly fails to ask her out.

Finally we return to the village fete. Alice has an answer to the problem of the broken PA, and is at Home Farm looking for Brian. She tracks him down while he’s on speed-watch duty, and asks him to be MC for the fete. Alice persuades him by the prospect of meeting the Duxford sisters and getting his photo in Borsetshire Life. Saying she’ll get Kate to do next week’s speed-watch shifts for him seal the deal. What he’ll say when he finds out that not only is there no PA system but there will be limited opportunity to schmooze the Duxfords, awaits to be seen.