Sunday, 27 April 2014

Feet Of Clay

Tom Graham (Tom Archer)

No doubt about the big story of the week as Tom and Kirsty’s wedding day approached. On Easter Sunday, we had Kenton winding Tom up about some of the wedding presents - floral patterns and bright colours abound, apparently. Shula tells her twin to stop teasing and tells Tom that he’ll be fine.

On Monday Tom and Kirsty try on their rings and there is a rehearsal at the church, which Pat finds so affecting that she bursts into tears, making us wonder what she’ll be like on the day itself. The following day Kirsty leaves to go and stay at Lower Loxley, telling Tom that, on the wedding day, he is to await her arrival at the lych gate and not inside the church.

Tony has what he thinks are some nice things to say to Tom, telling him “Whatever our differences, you’ve turned out so well - your Mum and I see so much of John in you.” This rather back-handed compliment starts to prey on Tom’s mind and, on Wednesday, he appears distracted when Best Man Roy goes through the plan for tomorrow. “Dan will have more freedom at Sandhurst” protests Tom, to which Roy replies “Forget freedom mate; you’re getting married.” Tom reveals that he hasn’t written his speech yet.

A troubled Tom goes to see Peggy and tells her that he’s having doubts - his whole life changed the night that John died as overnight he had to replace his brother. He feels that everything in his life has been mapped out for him and now he’s “the heir, not the spare”. In an uncharacteristic spell of self doubt, Tom tells Peggy that he feels like a fraud and that “Now I don’t know who I am or who I want to be.” Instead of saying “You’re a pig farmer and your life revolves around sausages and Ready Meals - now go home and get some sleep” Peggy tells him that, if he really has doubts, then he’ll have to be brave and tell Kirsty tonight.

The day of the wedding dawned bright and sunny and Kirsty loved the attention she was getting, travelling to church in a horse-drawn haywain. Tom was not so happy, as Roy had lined up a vintage tractor to take them to church; unfortunately, it is similar to the one that John was using the night he died and Roy is distraught when he realises his mistake.

Kirsty arrives at the church and there’s no Tom at the lych gate, instead Roy tells her that Tom is in a bit of a state and is in the vestry with Alan. The congregation are getting a tad restive, as Patrick’s repertoire on the newly-restored organ is a bit limited. In the vestry, a bewildered Kirsty tries to make sense of what’s happening. Is it anything to do with Brenda? No. Kirsty offers to postpone the wedding and scale it down later, or even live together and, when Tom says that he can’t go through with it and can’t stay with her, Kirsty says “I’ve loved you for 15 years, Tom - did you ever love me?” Presumably the 15 years was instead of a custodial sentence?

Eventually, her bewilderment turns to anger as she tells him that she has been humiliated by riding on the haywain. Tom begins to sob and she snarls “Don’t you dare cry when it’s me that’s getting dumped.” Thursday’s episode ends with her screaming and running from the church.

Back at Lower Loxley later, Kirsty quizzes Helen about why Tom acted as he did and “Did he say anything to you?” Once again we have a case of how people in Ambridge seem incapable of telling a white lie as, instead of saying “Beats me”, Helen says “Not really” and eventually the story of how Tom rang Helen on his Stag Night comes out. Kirsty is enraged, yelling: “I don’t want anything to do with you or your precious family - ever! Just go!” That should make it interesting when Kirsty goes back to Ambridge Organics, or perhaps we can assume that she’s just handed in her notice.

Later on Tom turns up at Bridge Farm and, if he is expecting sympathy, he’s in for a disappointment as Helen tells him he’s lost her the best friend she’s ever had. Tony’s turn next, calling his son “despicable, cowardly and heartless“. Tom seems genuinely nonplussed, saying that he thought they would understand and can’t they see that it took courage to call it off at the last moment? Pat’s response is that he’s torn Kirsty apart and stamped all over her in front of 150 people. So that’s a ’no’ then, is it Pat?

Tom appeals to Peggy, only to be told that it was cruel to humiliate Kirsty in public. Tom says he’ll contact people and will pay for everything, to which Tony says that it’s not about money, adding: “If John were alive today, he’d be utterly, utterly ashamed of you.” Tom demonstrates how quick he can be on the uptake when he says “I’d better go.” “Yes, I think you should” Tony replies.

How credible is Tom’s sudden, overwhelming tide of self doubt and soul searching? After all, up to a week ago, we are talking about a man who’s opinion of himself and Olympian self confidence and self belief makes Simon Cowell look like Hamlet, so where does Tom go from here? There are a lot of fences to mend and I can see a lot of lonely nights ahead, with only a Ready Meal for company. And what of Kirsty? You can’t help feeling sorry for her, but Time is a great healer and she might come to realise that she’s had a lucky escape.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

It’s A Fair Cop

James Cartwright (Harrison Burns)

Is PC Burns stalking Fallon, I ask myself? Consider - there he is, off duty and he just happens to see her taking a discarded plant stand out of a skip and tells her that that is an offence. Oh and her rear light is broken. PC Burns (or, as he’s out of uniform, Harrison) says that there’s a bar round the corner and - in what is certainly an original chat-up line - says “I’d like to get to know the woman behind the criminal.”

Harrison asks her if she’s giving up her holiday for charity and she replies that it’s for the W.I. He says that last year he ran a half marathon for the children’s hospital, so we know that he’s an OK guy, as well as being good looking. Fallon wonders how she’ll get the plant stand back to the pub and Harrison helps her out, which surely makes him a handler of stolen goods? As he is leaving, he asks if he can give her a call sometime, to which Fallon replies that she will be busy for the next week or so and “thank you for your help - officer.” Hang on in there, Harrison; she’s weakening.

Incidentally, Fallon made a load of hot cross buns, following Wayne’s recipe. Jolene tells her “you’re your father’s daughter” and I can’t understand why Fallon didn’t either go for her with a bread knife or slit her own wrists in despair.

The arrangement of Jill living at Brookfield is working well, with Jill suggesting that they all go to the Borsetshire Country Show. David is worried that Rooooth might resent Jill’s presence - fat chance, as Rooooth has never had it so good. The only one who seems less than 100% happy is Elizabeth, but whether this is because she wasn’t consulted, or because she’s miffed at losing the chance to have Jill as a live-in slave at Lower Loxley, isn’t clear.

Time is running out before Kirsty changes her surname to ‘Ready Meals’ and she is getting paranoid about the weather. Her anxiety is alleviated somewhat when Joe Grundy comes out with some twaddle about the high-flying skylarks promising good weather - makes you wonder why the meteorology office wastes all that money on computers and satellites, doesn’t it?

Kirsty says to Peggy and Alice that she feels very lucky to be joining such a nice family (what, has she never spoken to Tony or been patronised by Jennifer?), while Peggy says it will be good for the family too and “Tom’s a very lucky young man.” She also calls Kirsty “a lovely young lady” and diplomatically doesn’t add “but you obviously need your head examined.”

Shula comes up with another half-baked plan to dissuade Dan from joining the army just yet by offering him the post of assistant manager at the Stables and isn’t he rushing things a bit? Dan obviously thinks that horses and invoices can’t really compare with tanks and armoured cars and, far from slowing down, he’s beginning his Commissioning Course at Sandhurst in early May; news which does nothing to make Shula’s day.

Last week was Passion Week, which began badly when the donkey misbehaved a little on Palm Sunday, but ended in triumph when the Good Friday Passion Play went brilliantly. Everyone agreed that Chris made a good Jesus and Shula said that watching him carry the cross was very moving and made it real how much Jesus must have suffered. Fortunately for Chris, realism was not taken to the extreme of using real nails. Even better, he was able to have a drink in The Bull afterwards.

There continues to be repercussions from the takeover of Borsetshire Land as Charlie Thomas, who manages the estates of venture capitalist Justin Eliot, turns up at Home Farm and speaks to Adam. Adam is keen to know how the new situation will affect Debbie and Charlie says that he’s been in touch with her and by the way, did Adam notice that the wheat has a touch of mildew and he’d like a meeting at 11am tomorrow.

Adam talks things over with Brian, saying that he reckons Debbie will be out of a job. Brian tells him to go to the meeting and not to give anything away. “Diplomacy; that’s what you’re good at” Brian adds. At the meeting, Adam’s diplomacy is tested to the limit when Charlie tells him that the estate is seriously under-performing. But never mind - Charlie has a plan! And that plan is to reduce the amount of forage crops being grown and switch to more profitable crops. “How would Rob Titchener feed his cows?“ asks an incredulous Adam, to which Charlie says he’ll have a word with Rob.

Adam talks things over with Brian. Adam is annoyed because Charlie asked for his field diary in a high-handed way and because he feels the plan doesn’t make sense as they’ve got so much invested in the dairy. Brian counsels caution, telling Adam not to get on the wrong side of Charlie and that they need to play it quiet for the moment. Brian seems to be hoping that Charlie will make some sort of mistake but he reminds Adam that he’s not BL Chair any longer and “we don’t have much ammunition at the moment.” The way things are going, I reckon Adam and Rob will put their differences behind them and shove Charlie in the anaerobic digester. And I for one wouldn’t blame them one bit.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Daniel Moves Quickly

Will Howard (Dan Hebden Lloyd)

I thought the army was cutting down on recruitment, but it would appear not, judging by the breakneck speed at which Daniel’s application is progressing. It’s all a bit much for mum Shula who, at the beginning of the week, tries to persuade Dan to go to university, get a degree and then see if he wants to join the army.

Alistair is on Shula’s side and both are stunned when Dan reveals that he has already been to a Selection Board. Never mind - Alistair reminds Shula that Dan had juvenile arthritis and he might fail on medical grounds. Afraid not - Dan told the Selection Board about his medical history and he has already passed the medical. Oh and by the way, he’s off to Sandhurst on Tuesday for a pre-commissioning course. “I really want to do this mum and I’d really like your blessing” he says. Not much chance of that, I’d say.

At the end of the week, Dan takes Shula for a pub lunch to talk about it. He describes being at Sandhurst as ‘wicked’ and ‘really special’ and depresses his mum even more when he tells her that he passed the fitness tests and is going to be an officer. We learn too that he has been accepted by the Tank Regiment and next week he is going to see the Royal Hussars. At this rate he’ll be a Lieutenant Colonel by Easter. Shula makes one last attempt to get him to postpone his decision, pointing out the potential dangers, to which Daniel replies that his real father Mark was a safe, respectable solicitor and he died in an accident on a quiet country road. Jolene’s comment “You must be really proud of him, Shula” does little to reassure her.

Over at Brookfield, David and Rooooth are debating whether to invite Jill to move in permanently -  this is while they are demolishing her home-cooked peanut butter biscuits and real coffee. Jill has been saying that she ought to get out from under their feet and go back to Glebe Cottage and Rooooth and David wonder what her reaction might be; would she think that they thought that she couldn’t cope? Rooooth is worried that Jill might think they are exploiting her and David agrees, absent-mindedly reaching for another biscuit and clicking his fingers for a coffee refill. They needn’t have worried, as Jill says she would be delighted to move in if they really want her, so David goes off to make the cupboard under the stairs a bit more comfortable for her and sets her alarm for 5.30 am so she can get breakfast on the go.

Things are not going smoothly for Tom and Kirsty’s wedding - we have already had the cock-up over the invitations and on Monday Kirsty tells Tom that their photographer has got a better offer - a job on a cruise ship - and can’t do their wedding. Tom wonders where they will find someone at such short notice and, speaking of the wedding, says “This is a disaster”, which is what so many of us have been telling Kirsty for weeks. The pressure is getting to Tom and he has a row with Tony about work on the farm. Tony tells Pat that Tom behaved totally unreasonably (surely not?) and, when Pat confronts her son, he says “I suppose I did fly off the handle” (surely not?). Kirsty and Tom go to view the plot where their house will eventually be and, the way things have been going, I was anticipating an earthquake, but nothing happened and they have been given a moving-in date of 14th August. Time’s running out Kirsty, if you’re planning to do the same.

A major story of the week was the Extraordinary General Meeting of Borsetshire Land, attended by Justin Elliot, CEO of Venture Capitalists Damara, which is the majority shareholder in BL. The meeting is chaired by Annabelle and Justin says that BL has been under-performing, which made it a sitting duck for Damara’s take-over. Brian defends his record, pointing out the success of the market and the mega-dairy. Justin’s response is that these should only have been the start - the market should have developed into a full-fledged business park and why is there only one anaerobic digester on the dairy complex, when if they had more, they could import other people’s slurry (or whatever) and make more money.

The EGM ends with the election of a new Chair for BL. Brian puts his name forward, as does Gerry Moreton, but the new Chair is Annabelle (or ‘Justin’s puppet’ as perhaps we ought to call her from now on). There was an amusing counterpoint to this story, as the scene of the action kept cutting from the BL boardroom to the open air, where Will had invited Chris to join him on his rounds, during which time Will persuades Chris to take on the role of Jesus in the Passion Play. Will has set a number of squirrel traps and one has captured a ‘rat with a bushy tail’ as Will describes it. The parallel between the captured rodent and Brian is evident, when Will says the squirrel enters the trap confidently, not knowing that he is going to be well and truly stitched up. Fortunately, the parallel isn’t that exact, as Will despatches the squirrel by hitting it with a priest, whereas Brian is just encouraged to consider his position and think about whether he will remain on the BL board.

After the EGM, we have further evidence that Brian didn’t marry Jennifer for her intellect, as he comes home and heads straight for the whisky. Jennifer protests that it’s a bit early and he says “I’ve just had one of the worst days of my life.” Jen’s reply? “Didn’t it go well?” proving that not only is she not the sharpest knife in the drawer, she’s not even the sharpest teaspoon.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Jesus Chris?

Will Sanderson-Thwaite (Christopher Carter)
We had a Keystone Cops-style moment on Wednesday when Chris turned up at the church with the cross for the Passion Play strapped to his van. Neil, Jazzer and Barry (who will be playing Jesus in the play) help him to unload it. Jazzer, however, is intent on impressing Alisha and loses concentration, allowing the cross to slip and it hits Barry on the foot. It turns out that Barry’s foot is broken and he won’t be able to play Jesus with a plaster cast on it.

Neil wonders who can replace him. Chris suggests Jazzer but Neil’s not keen, saying “We’d be a laughing stock” and he tries to persuade his son to step into the breach - he has been growing a beard after all. Chris refuses point blank but Neil keeps on at him, asking “Don’t you want to be the one who saves the day?” My money’s on Chris being nailed to the cross on Good Friday.

PC Burns (first name Harrison) has been getting bigger parts recently. On April Fool’s Day he turns up at the pub and confronts Kenton - apparently Rob came out of his house to find his car up on bricks and the wheels missing, so he called the police. Kenton’s vehicle was seen in the area at the time and is there anything he’d like to tell PC Burns?

Kenton thinks it is all an April Fool’s wind-up and it takes a while for it to sink in that PC Burns is serious and not laughing a lot. The two go off to see Rob and it all ends without Kenton being hauled off in a squad car as he replaces the alloys. He tells Rob it was payback for spiking his drinks and putting him on a train to Wales. With somewhat convoluted logic, Rob says that he didn’t spike Kenton’s drinks, he spiked Tom’s and that anyway, on a Stag Night, you should expect pranks and high japes. Besides, says Rob, it was Jazzer’s idea to put Kenton on the train - this leads Kenton to refuse to serve Jazzer in the pub until Jolene tells him to grow up.

While Kenton was in Wales, Jolene interviewed for Rhys’s replacement and has appointed Callum. She spends a lot of time showing him the ropes and Kenton complains that he is working on his own. Even worse - Callum doesn’t cut up the lemon slices evenly. Jolene suggests that Kenton shows him how and asks him if he’s feeling jealous because of the time she’s spending with Callum?

There was a bit of a shock for Brian towards the end of the week; Brian has been working hard, preparing figures for BL board member Andrew Eagleton and Annabelle rings him up, saying that she would like to see him and arranging to meet in The Bull at lunchtime. Brian thinks this is a good idea as “we need to get our ducks in line before the next board meeting.”

It turns out that Brian is the only duck - the sitting variety. Annabelle explains that a company called Damara Capital, which specialises in acquiring under-performing land companies has been doing a lot of research into Borsetshire Land. Brian asks if they have made an approach and she says “Yes - at the end of last year”, adding almost in passing that they now have 54% of BL’s shares.

Brian cannot believe that he, as BL Chair, knew nothing about this and tells Annabelle that he will not sell his shares. She hasn’t finished yet, telling him that next week there will be an Extraordinary General Meeting, at which a new board - and a new Chair - will be elected. A very unhappy and angry Brian returns home and gets Jen to look up Damara Capital on the Internet. It turns out to be a big, London-based firm and Jennifer risks her husband’s wrath by asking if he really needs the battle “at our age”? Brian is beyond listening to reason, saying that he turned BL around after the mess that Matt and Chalkman left it in and he’ll be damned “if some city slicker is going to swan in and take it over.” I would suggest that, with 54% of the shares, the city slicker has already swanned in and maybe Brian should look out his pipe and slippers.

At Brookfield, David invited Rooooth’s mum, Heather, down from Geordieland for a few days to comfort her daughter. Heather does a good job, telling Rooooth that she too suffered miscarriages before Rooooth was born. There is much discussion about the pros and cons of the elderly living on their own and David asks Rooooth if they should ask Jill to move into Brookfield permanently? I’d like to think that this sentiment is motivated by kindness and concern, but part of me wonders if it is because he has been getting wholesome, home-cooked food for a change over the past few weeks and doesn’t fancy going back to a diet of pizza and fish fingers. Incidentally, why did Heather bother to go back up north when she’s going to spend time on the Norfolk Broads?

Mystery surrounded Daniel, who has been working out, going on runs and has bought new aftershave. Could he have a girlfriend, wonders Shula? On Friday we learned the reason when Dan told Shula and Alistair that he doesn’t want to go to Uni and become a lawyer like his father and grandfather (think of the money, Dan!). Instead he wants a job that’s worthwhile and he has decided that he’s going to join the Army. That explains the working out and the cross country runs, but I can’t quite see where the new aftershave fits in.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Watch Out, Fallon!

I was getting worried on Wednesday when, on Tom’s Stag Night, he, Roy, Rob and Jazzer were discussing relationships. They teased Jazzer, whose idea of commitment is remembering the girl’s name the morning after, but he said that there’s one lassie he’d settle down with and “she’s back on the market”, which makes her sound like a house where the chain has collapsed. Jazzer refused to be drawn on the lassie’s name.

Why was I worried? Well, the only woman I can think of who fits that description is Fallon and she seems much too nice to have to suffer the attentions of someone like Jazzer. But wait! There is hope on the horizon as, on Kirsty’s Hen Night on Thursday, the girls go to a club, where Fallon sees Rhys hitting on a girl doing a Miley Cyrus impression and she (Fallon) is incensed that Rhys has got over their split up so quickly. One thing leads to another and Fallon ends up in the police station, having been taken there by PC Burns.

He lets her go, but she’s left her purse (and house keys) in the club. It’s 2am and Helen suggests that she stays the night with her and Rob. The next morning, Fallon is knocking on the door of The Bull and PC Burns arrives, complete with her purse, which he says she must have dropped in his car. Unfortunately, Tom is there and he is agog to know what happened – so much so that he looks in Fallon’s purse (personally I’d have clocked him one for that) and sees that PC Burns has left his business card in the purse. Fallon keeps going on about how square PC Burns is and how she’s not interested, so it’s only a matter of time before they get together, I reckon.

Going back to Tom’s Stag Night, he isn’t really in the mood, having had a blazing row with his father (yes, I too was amazed). Tom asks Jazzer to look out for him and make sure that nothing too bad happens to him. Call me picky, but if I had to choose someone to watch my back and ensure that people behaved responsibly, Jazzer wouldn’t be the first name to spring to mind. However, he does protect Tom from drinking lagers spiked with vodka by the simple expedient of giving them to Kenton, whose “no alcohol for Lent” pledge was abandoned when he was given a gin and tonic when he asked for mineral water.

The person behind all this drink-spiking is Rob, who appears to think it his duty to get Tom legless and embarrass him in some way. As it is, Tom calls it a night after getting a call from Helen, who is worried about whether Rob and Ian are getting on OK. Helen says Tom doesn’t sound as if he’s enjoying himself and he says he doesn’t really know if he’s happy. Helen asks if it was seeing Brenda again and is Tom saying that Kirsty might not be the right girl? Let’s get one thing straight – Kirsty is the right girl; it’s Tom that’s not the right man.

The Stag Night gave Ian the chance to get a bit of revenge on Rob – the lads are debating where to go next and Ian says he knows a club round the corner. As they leave for it, Adam says “Ian, that’s a gay club”. “Oh, so it is” the Irish chef replies and later he enjoys himself hugely watching all the attention that Rob is getting from the clientele. Adam, Ian and Roy go back to the hotel, leaving Rob, Jazzer and Kenton behind. Rob and Jazzer put a practically-comatose Kenton on a train, telling him to sit back and enjoy the ride. What was that again about Jazz behaving responsibly?

The following day, Kenton phones Jolene from somewhere near Aberystwyth, saying he has no idea how he got there. “Tell me the truth – had you been drinking?” asks super-sleuth Jolene. The fact that when he gets back, he’s throwing up in a bucket was a bit of a clue and Jolene takes revenge by force feeding him oxtail soup.

Let’s return to the Tom and Tony situation. It turns out that the cow that died was showing early signs of TB and the herd will be the subject of a movement restriction order. When Tom learns this, he is incandescent, saying “What if my pigs have to be slaughtered?” and laying into Tony for buying the cows in the first place. Tony replies that this isn’t Tom’s farm and, before making any further accusations, perhaps he should take a long, hard look at himself. A game of Happy Families, anyone?

Just when things can’t get worse for Tony, they do – Roooothlets slip to Peggy about the dead cow and Peg promptly goes over to Bridge Farm, quizzing Tony about how this could have happened. He thinks she’s having a go at him (although she did refrain from calling him a loser) and it all gets slightly unpleasant.

The story of Rooooth’s pregnancy seemed to be progressing nicely, with Elizabeth, Ben, Josh and Pip all being told and all highly delighted. Lily had heard Rooooth and Jill talking about a cot and Pip’s room, put two and two together and told Ben and Josh that Pip must be pregnant. Elizabeth goes over to Brookfield with a bouquet of flowers – an offering saying partly ‘congratulations’ and partly ‘I’m sorry my daughter is such a dweeb, but look who her father was’ – and there is much talk of loving families and optimism for the future. It was very sad, therefore, when on Friday a tearful Roooothtold Jill that she thinks she has lost the baby.

We go back to the start of the week and end with Helen wanting Rob to tell her what he had said to make Ian hit him. Rob tells her to forget it, but Helen goes to see Ian and badgers him until he spills the beans. Ian begins “Rob can be so domineering –“ but Helen cuts him short, saying: “He’s the most caring, thoughtful man I’ve ever met”, which just underlines the fact that she should really have got out a lotmore when she was younger.