Sunday, 27 December 2015

Calm Down Dear - It’s Only A Play

Carole Boyd (Lynda Snell)

Poor Lynda came dangerously close to losing it last week - things started badly on Sunday when Susan, who was admiring the newly-printed calendars, noticed that she was showing a bit more flesh than she had intended in her Miss October picture. There’s no way that she would let the calendars go on sale with her bits being flaunted all round the village - something needed to be done. Perhaps people wouldn’t notice if the offending page was ripped out and September 30th was followed by November 1st?

It got worse for Lynda when, at rehearsal for Calendar Girls, she learned that Jean Harvey (who had been brought in to replace Carol when the latter had to hotfoot it down to Bristol) had walked out in a mega-strop when Lilian, the epitome of tact and diplomacy, called Jean a prima donna. Jean won’t come back till Lilian apologises and Lil says that she has nothing to apologise for, as she was speaking the truth. Lynda agrees that Jean isn’t what you’d call a team player and then goes ever so slightly berserk when Elizabeth remarks that it’s as if the play has two directors.

Giving her actors a verbal lashing, Lynda accuses them of behaving like spoilt children and adds that she cannot take much more of this. “Do any of you know how hard it is?” she rants rhetorically, adding: “Do you wonder why I put myself through this ordeal year after year? It’s because I care. This rehearsal is over - you can leave whenever you want!” She’s got a nerve - never mind her being put through an ordeal - what about us? And if it’s so hard, then don’t do it - you may care but I’m sure I don’t.

Just as we thought that was it, Susan seeks Lynda out and says that she has come up with a solution to the problem with the calendar - self-adhesive silver stars to cover up the offending bits. Lynda is pathetically grateful and, sadly, we realise that the show is a goer once more.

Fast forward to Christmas Eve, where Lynda and Leonie are almost late for the Carol Service. Constanza the llama made a bid for freedom and it took time to round her up. When the service is over, Lynda and Leonie are putting the finishing touches to little Muppet’s stocking and Leonie tells her what a good grandmother and a good friend she is. Lynda muses on missed opportunities - if she had had children, perhaps she wouldn’t have been so active in village life. So, on the plus side there would have been no Christmas extravaganzas, but we would have had Lynda the doting mother and her genes added to the pool - a tough one to call, I think you’ll agree.

But we aren’t done with Lynda yet - her musings are interrupted by a noise from outside. Has the bloody llama got out again? No - it’s something smaller, maybe a fox or a badger? Leonie tries to scare it away, but Lynda stops her, making encouraging noises to the creature. Surely in can’t be…But it is - it’s Scruff. Lynda’s joy is unconfined at the return of her pet.

The next day, we learn that Lynda got Alistair out (on Christmas Day? That’s going to cost her) and his opinion is that Scruff has been living rough - he has no appetite and is infested with fleas. Lynda sends Robert out to Felpersham to buy some tripe from a lady who breeds terriers and the dog actually eats a bit; presumably to stop Lynda going on at him. Jill has turned up to check on the news about the returned dog (shouldn’t she be in the kitchen at Brookfield, baking or basting something?) and we learn from Lynda that she knew it was Scruff when she heard whining in the dark.

Mind you, from last week’s performance, that could just as easily have been Joe. God, the man’s a miserable old git, isn’t he? The Grundys have a lot of turkeys left unsold and likewise the Fairbrothers with geese, so Toby suggests that they have a joint stall at Felpersham market on Christmas Eve. He also manages to rope Clarrie in for plucking and dressing (the geese) and, on the day, he proves himself a good crowd worker, managing to get rid of all the spare birds.

At the end of the day, Toby hands over £1,200 in cash to Eddie - I hope officials from HMRC were taking note - and he was proud that he had managed to sell all the turkeys. Ingrate Joe, however, moans that that was because he “practically gave them away.” Excuse me? If he was ‘giving them away’, then I submit that, to rake in £1,200, there must have been an artic or two full of turkeys. Toby responded to Joe’s comments by saying “They’d be worth nothing to you on Boxing Day, Joe” and the old curmudgeon eventually concedes that Toby did well.

Let’s digress here for a moment. We heard Toby sell one goose, weighing 5kg, for £32. If we assume that the Fairbrothers also trousered £1,200 and that this goose was a typical weight, then that’s 37 people who bought a goose. I think that we can assume the turkeys weighed a bit more (Toby was selling them by £/kg), but if we assume that the average turkey was 11kg and sold for the same £/kg, then altogether that’s around 50 people who hadn’t ordered their Christmas bird before Christmas Eve - taking a chance, or what?

Going back to Toby - he did, indeed, do well. So well, in fact, that there was no turkey left for the Grundy’s and Carter’s Christmas lunch. No problem - Toby and Rex had kept back a goose as a ‘thank you’ for Clarrie and a Christmas present for the rest of the family. Joe is apoplectic at the thought - he’d rather chew his own gonads off than have goose on Christmas Day. So it was that, on Christmas Day, Grange Farm was full of the delicious smell of roasting goose, while Clarrie got ready to prepare Joe’s pork chop, as he chuntered in the background.

By an odd coincidence, Holly the dog managed to get hold of said chop (had it been dusted for fingerprints, Joe’s would have shown up) and Joe said that he supposed he’d better have the goose. After lunch, Eddie remarks that the goose was “The best thing I’ve tasted in years” (Which says a lot for the quality of Grundy’s turkeys) while Clarrie admitted that it made a pleasant change and even Joe said that it was the best goose he’d ever had and he took his hat off to the Fairbrother boys. Even better, he suggested to Eddie that they rear a few geese next year, which will please Rex and Toby no end.

The Grundy’s Christmas ends with Eddie showing Clarrie the replacement he got for her flood-damaged sideboard and she (admittedly helped by a glass or two of wine) telling Eddie and Joe how much she loves them - frankly, I don’t think there’s that much wine in the world - and how Caroline and Oliver are more than friends - they are Guardian Angels. I’d hold on to that thought - yes, Joe might feel that his life has turned full circle and he’s back where he belongs; yes, your sideboard might look just right in the kitchen, but never forget that this is only lendsies - Caroline and Oliver will want Grange Farm back one day - or if not, then they’ll want market value and either way, the Grundys will be out of there.

We turn now to the Evil incarnate that is Rob Titchener. At this Festive time, I don’t intend to spend too much time on him. Helen is ill and, as is his wont every time she so much as sneezes, Rob insists she goes to bed (“You know I’m right, don’t you, darling?”). He also manages to get her to agree not to go to the traditional tree-decorating at Bridge Farm on Christmas Eve, as they are now their own family and should be creating their own traditions. As such, Helen won’t want to spend Christmas Day at Bridge Farm either, will she? She’d be much happier at home and he’s already spoken to Pat and she’s agreed and what is Helen doing out of bed?

Rob seems determined to cut Helen off from all human contact other than himself, Henry and the unborn Prince of Darkness, who we will call Damien. Helen has been trying to contact Ian and, as Rob is driving her home from the shop, telling her she’s too ill to be there and get back to bed, she spots Ian outside Honeysuckle Cottage. Amazingly, Rob agrees to stop the car and Helen greets Ian. He is not a happy bunny and tells Helen in no uncertain terms that she let him down - she knew all about Adam and Charlie and she didn’t tell him. In vain Helen protests that Adam told her it was just a drunken, one-off kiss, but Ian says that Rob has known it has been going on for ages and “What kind of friend does that make you? I trusted you and you let me down. Happy Christmas.” Another avenue closed, another friend alienated and yet another victory for the evil Titchener.

So far, with the exception of Helen, the Christmas stories have been happy, more or less. What else has happened? Richard Locke held his housewarming party, helped considerably by Shula, although Richard bemoaned the fact that Elizabeth couldn’t make it (could we be looking forward to ’A Tale of two Sisters’ in the future?). At the same party, Charlie told Adam that he wished him well, but he hoped they could still talk as friends, to which Adam replies “I’m sorry, I just don’t think there’s anything left to say.” At this party, we had another example of Jennifer’s unerring instinct for doing the wrong thing, when she wanted to take Charlie over to talk to Adam (who had rejected his advances) and Justin (who had, effectively, exiled Charlie to Perthshire). Incidentally, Justin might have slipped up, as he told Lilian and Shula that he has an interest in a racehorse and would they like to be his guests at Felpersham Races? Lilian? With a free bar? Better get ready to sell a company or two to pay for it, Justin.

Someone who definitely isn’t happy is David. Rooooth is still in New Zealand and says she might try and get back sometime soon, maybe. The milk figures are depressing and there is a real possibility that the herd might have to be sold, in which case, they couldn’t justify keeping Pip on. She realises this and says that, if she can’t pay her way, she’ll have to leave. While talking of Pip, she gave Matthew a present and, in return, he gave her a good snog, which she seemed to like. Watch this space.

But back to the dairy herd - we have been here before. Back in 2011, David suggested getting out of milk (see Are The Cows Doomed? August 2011) and Rooooth wouldn’t hear of it, saying there’d always be a dairy herd at Brookfield. A possible solution - Rooooth stays in New Zealand and Pip and Matthew revitalise the fortunes of the herd. Alternatively, Pip and Matthew leave to start up a new dairy business and Rooooth stays in New Zealand, or even, Rooooth stays in New Zealand and… but I’m sure you perceive my drift. A Happy New Year to everyone (except Rob, of course).

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Last Christmas I gave you my heart …

Andrew Wincott & Stephen Kennedy (Adam Macy & Ian Craig)

Everything’s going well between Ian and Adam as they get ready for their stag night, which can only mean one thing – something, or someone’s about to try and ruin it. That someone turns out to be Rob and you can sense the change in atmosphere as he materialises in the Bull - about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit. He doesn’t waste any time in planting fully germinated seedlings of doubt in Ian’s mind when he catches him at the bar. With Wham’s Last Christmas playing in the background (all together now: “Last Christmas I gave you my heart, But the very next day you gave it away”) he betrays Jennifer’s confidence by telling Ian how much he admires their “open relationship” and gives Adam’s fling with Pawel and his closeness to Charlie (which began last Christmas) as examples. Ian heads straight off to find Adam, who happens to be outside with Charlie, and suggests it’s time to leave, and we’re left fearing the worst.

Back at Stalag Titchener Rob tells Helen the frumpy dress she’s putting on for the wedding is fine, and that there’s no point in spending money on new clothes even if Helen thinks it’s a bit tight. Rob seems to be well turned out though, and Helen’s surprised that he’s actually going, given his views. However what she doesn’t know is that Rob’s been sabotaging the wedding behind the scenes and probably wants to be in the front row when it all kicks off.

We are not reassured when we hear Ian struggling to contain his emotions during the exchanging of vows, perhaps feeling conflicted by his love of Adam and last night’s conversation with Rob. Later at the reception Ian falters into an awkward silence when delivering his speech. But instead of Rob’s plan coming to fruition there’s a delicious twist when Jennifer calls on Rob to save any embarrassment by quickly proposing a toast to the happy couple. I hope he chokes on the champagne.

Helen seems to be relaxed and is enjoying her buffet lunch (we learn that Jolene makes a mean Caponata) until Rob makes a barbed comment about how much she’s eating. The sound of Helen’s knife and fork dropping onto her plate signals what I fear may be the start of another episode of anorexia. Later after persuading Elizabeth to stay for lunch in the farm shop café, I don’t believe her when she says that she had hers earlier.

Carol Tregorran’s had to pull out of Calendar Girls and in desperation Lynda has been phoning round anyone in the village not in possession of a Y chromosome. We learn (to my relief anyway) that Peggy, Christine and Jill have all turned down the part. David is relieved too, as it’s bad enough that his sister will appear “in the buff”, let alone his mother. As it happens, she’s roped in Jean Harvey, who everyone seems to know but has thus far remained silent. I can only remember her as the person who threatened to put a halt to donations from the church over some matter or another, but apparently she’s also an award-winning actress. Before we leave the subject of Calendar Girls, I felt a little bit of sick rise at the back of my throat when we overhear Lynda and Robert talking about her Bijouteries. I think the less said about Lynda’s nik-naks at this stage the better.

Despite fattening up hundreds of geese for Christmas, it turns out the Fairbrothers have never dressed a single goose before, and have only read books and watched videos about it (I can confirm that YouTube and Amazon are treasure-troves on the subject – other video-streaming services and book retailers are available). The plan is to get Clarrie to help them, and use the offer of a stall at a farmers’ market and hard cash to persuade her. I’m with Joe on this one when he tells them they can stuff their event up their parson’s nose. Clarrie however thinks it’s a good idea and accepts their offer.

My ears pricked up when I heard Matthew the contract milker demonstrating the Dutch 5-step method to Pip. However this turned out to be about hoof trimming, with Matthew proving himself the equal of any Kwik Fit Fitter with his prowess in retreading and balancing the four corners of a cow.

Rob’s still spending a lot of time in the farm shop as the ‘background boy’ enabling Helen to be chained to the till. He’s worn her down so much that she can’t even decide whether she should buy of bit of mistletoe for the shop from Eddie, and tells him to speak to Rob as “he’ll know what to do”. Come on woman, it’s hardly rocket science to put up a bit of ‘seasonal greenery’ in a farm shop at Christmas. Later on he tries to persuade her to have Christmas day at home with just him and Henry instead of going over to Bridge Farm for the traditional family Christmas that Helen says she enjoys.

At the AGM of the National Farmers Union at the Feathers, Brian and David chew the cud about the state of dairy farming. I had always wondered how David and Roooooth never seemed to be affected by the problems within the dairy industry, but it seems that they’re starting to lose money. After they hear a presentation that informs them that investment in the rural economy is down by £200m, David gets on his soapbox stirred by Elgar’s Nimrod playing in the background, to complain about what the rest of the country’s known about for years – that austerity’s driving the country into the ground. So austerity’s hitting the Ambridge bubble at last – even Brian’s complaining about it.

Finally, Shula delivers a housewarming present to Richard Locke at Keepers Cottage. The most interesting thing so far about Dr Locke’s return to Ambridge is that he thinks he’s met Rob before, but can’t quite place him. Rob denies ever meeting him but desperately tries to think of an excuse not to attend his housewarming drinks party. I can’t help thinking that there is much more to be revealed on this particular storyline.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Santa Sterling

Michael Cochrane (Oliver Sterling)

After last week’s episodes, the Grundys must truly believe in Santa Claus, except that his name is Oliver Sterling. At the beginning of the week, Clarrie and Eddie were practically suicidal - the doss house where Joe has an emergency bed is - well, it’s a doss house. A shared bathroom and toilet, no meals provided and some of the other inmates on the dodgy side; it’s not beginning to look a lot like Christmas for poor old Joe. It’s all too much for Clarrie, who rings Susan as she needs someone to talk to, or rather, she needs a shoulder to cry on. Her big fear is that she and Eddie will spend the rest of their lives in a poky flat, miles from Ambridge.

On Tuesday, Oliver rings Ed from Tuscany to thank him for sorting out the clear up after the break-in at Grange Farm and he notices that Ed seems a bit distracted. Ed tells him about the hostel and the dire flat that Eddie and Clarrie have signed up for. Emma joins him at Grange Farm and Ed becomes nostalgic when he remembers his childhood there. Emma gets him to dance with her on the new oak floor.

On Thursday, the Grundy’s spirits have sunk even lower, if such a thing were possible. Mind you, it is the day of slaughtering, plucking and drawing the turkeys, which can’t be a lot of fun. To digress, it appears that Thursday ought to be renamed ‘Death Day’ as the Fairbrothers (aided by Pip) are slaughtering their geese on the same day. Eddie is really despondent, saying that this will probably be the last year that they raise turkeys, as it’s not worth it and they cannot compete with the Fairbrothers and everything’s awful. An annoyed Clarrie (no doubt prudently removing knives from his reach) tells him off for saying such things in front of Joe and to get on with the poultrycide.

Ed should be helping, but he’s on his phone and we hear him say “You aren’t serious, Oliver?” “Oh no, what now?” Clarrie wails. But this time it’s good news - in fact it’s fantastically good news, as Ed reveals that Oliver and Caroline are having such a good time in Tuscany, that they aren’t coming back for some time; if indeed they come back at all. As such, why don’t the Grundys (Eddie, Clarrie, Joe, Ed, Emma and the kids) move into Grange Farm for six months? Rent free, of course - all they have to do is pay the bills - would they like that? Would they? Do the Osmonds have teeth? It is all too much for Joe, who goes out to tell Bartleby and who bursts into tears of joy. Oliver’s reason is that, if the house had been occupied, then there would probably not have been a break in. Suffice it to say that the family is delighted and Clarrie turns up the heating as they return to killing fowls with new-found enthusiasm.

The Fairbrothers sold a few more geese at their touch rugby event. The insufferable Toby tells Rex that this could be his day - when Pip sees his athletic prowess, she won’t be able to keep her hands off him. Rex taunts him and, when the brothers meet on opposite sides during a game, Rex scores a try. Always the sportsman, Toby later flattens him with a vicious tackle (this was supposed to be touch rugby, don’t forget) and Pip drives Rex to A&E. While there, Rex shyly tries to tell Pip that he likes her, but she isn’t listening.

At the end of the week, we learn that this is obviously a genetic defect, handed down in the female Archer line, when Rooooth rings David. David has been counting down the hours till his wife returns and is devastated when Rooooth tells him how much she’s enjoying her time in NZ and she’s learned so much. She’s actually excited by farming once again - so much so that she has decided to stay on and has swapped her return ticket for an open ticket. David manages to say “Things aren’t ideal here” but Rooooth doesn’t pick up on this and witters on about what an opportunity it is. David reminds her that it’s their 27th anniversary on Tuesday (he’s spent a lot of time sourcing her present - a bronze ornament of a calf and its mother) but she says that it’s not an important number is it? In a doom-laden voice, David says he’s pleased she’s enjoying herself, adding: “Don’t stay away too long.”

‘Things aren’t ideal.’ Too right they aren’t - firstly, David has broken his right arm and, the day before Rooooth rang, Matthew heard a calf coughing. It turns out to be pneumonia and Alistair is called in to dish out some antibiotics. David is annoyed that Pip didn’t spot the sick calf (Jill tells him off for berating Pip on the phone) and says that Rooooth, with her greater experience, would have noticed it. He is really angry with himself and Rooooth’s news that she is staying on does nothing to improve his mood.

Adam gets a text from Charlie, saying that he is going to accept the job up in Perthshire, and he drops everything and rushes round for a fuller explanation, and tries to change Charlie’s mind. Charlie asks Adam if he’s asking him to stay “Because if you are, that could make a difference.” All Adam can say is that he hopes it works out as Charlie wants it to. On Friday, Charlie, Adam and Ian are among the invitees at the Lower Loxley wine festival. Charlie gets Adam on his own outside and asks him to come with him to Scotland. Adam points out that he’s getting married in three days, plus his home and work are in Ambridge. He admits that he has strong feelings for Charlie, but he couldn’t hurt Ian like that. “So you’re going to sacrifice what you really want for him?” Charlie asks. “Isn’t that what love is, real love?” Adam replies. Right on cue, Ian (who has been looking for Adam) turns up - it’s time to take David home. A disturbed Adam says ‘goodbye’ to Charlie.

Another attendee at the wine festival is Dr Richard Locke, who tells Elizabeth that he is moving back to Ambridge - he has taken a lease on Keeper’s Cottage. “It will be great to have him back in the village again” Elizabeth tells David, after she and the doctor have had a long conversation. She tells him that she is appearing in ‘Calendar Girls’ and he says that he’ll be sure to come and see it.

Speaking of Calendar Girls, there is no doubt that Lynda has a world-class sniff of disdain, as we hear when she talks about the tabards that Susan makes the shop assistants wear. Honestly, if she ever got a cocaine habit, I reckon she could hoover up about a grand’s worth at a time.

The Rob and Helen story rumbles on. She rings him at work to ask if she could have some money to buy a new dress for Adam and Ian’s wedding. The short answer is ‘no’, as he reminds her that he gave her some money recently to buy some maternity clothes and she should have got something then. Besides, he’s much too busy to leave the shop and take her shopping. Helen’s doorbell rings. “Are you expecting somebody?” Rob, asks, sharply. Helen isn’t and rings off before answering the door.

The visitor is a surprise - it is Rob’s mother, Ursula. To Helen’s surprise, she knows about the baby boy and has brought a few things for her soon-to-be grandson. She demonstrates that she is Rob’s mother when she asks Helen “Are you getting enough rest?” Suddenly Rob (who obviously couldn’t have been that busy) turns up and is surprised to see his mother. Not only surprised, but obviously not very happy, as he immediately starts on at her about driving in the dark etc and can he open the door for her? Before she is carried over the threshold, Ursula mentions Godparents, saying that presumably Rob’s brother will be one. Helen mentions Adam and Ian. Mistake! When Ursula has finally been given the bum’s rush, Rob chides Helen, saying that Adam and Ian are hardly shining moral examples and, in a breathtaking bit of cheek, he accuses Helen of making his mind up for him, adding: “How would you feel if I did that to you?” As if!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

A Match Made In Heaven?

Michael Winder (Matthew Holman)

Last week, we said ‘hello’ to Matthew, the relief contract milker who was brought in to help out at Brookfield after David broke his arm, having caught it in the cattle crush when checking on a lame animal. David chides himself for not taking adequate safety precautions, but we are all wise after the event. Incidentally, David tells Pip not to mention the accident to Rooooth, which will no doubt give her something else to gripe about when she returns.

David might not appreciate this thought, but it’s an ill wind and all that, as Matthew seems a more-than-adequate stand in (he was the one they had lined up earlier when it looked like Pip was leaving the farm) and Pip seems quite taken with him, singing his praises to David after only a couple of days. She also invited him to join them for the great Christmas lights switch-on and the re-opening of The Bull on Friday.

This truly looks like a match made in heaven, as the two of them spend the evening talking about milk yields and how calm and relaxed the cows are; something which Matthew puts down to the quality of Pip’s handling of them. As they indulge in a session of self-congratulation, Toby comes into the pub and offers Pip a drink. Pip says she’s OK and introduces Matthew. Toby’s nose is put out of joint by the obvious rapport between Pip and Matthew and he says coldly “We’ve met.” Toby then heaps praise on Pip, describing her as “the third member of our team.” He has leaflets promoting his touch rugby tournament and says “It’s probably not your game, is it Matt?” “Matthew,” the milker replies, adding that he likes both rugby and football, but he’s got plans for Sunday. Toby’s discomfiture is completed when Pip asks him if he’d mind doing one, as she and Matthew are discussing matters bovine. A clearly-narked Toby says “OK, catch you later” and Matthew rubs it in when he replies “See you - Tobes.”

I like Matthew already - anyone who gets up Toby’s nose has got my vote and Pip is obviously impressed. What will happen when Rooooth comes back after a fortnight? Perhaps Pip will send her away again, or maybe Matthew might stay on, as we learn that David’s arm will be in plaster until Christmas.

Toby and Rex are trying to get some Brownie points by delivering Jennifer’s old kitchen units to the Village Hall as a favour. Not that it does them much good with Rob, who is there when they load up and, when the brothers ask if there is any chance of the Bridge Farm shop stocking their geese, Rob says ‘no’, as they are not organic. He adds “We’re very strict about that - organic only.” Where did you get the ‘we’ from Rob?

It wasn’t a good week for Tobes, as he was gently taking the mick out of Adam, when the latter explained that he and Brian were off to a farm near Witney where the farmer has been operating a soil fertility policy, similar to Adam’s. Toby feigns great interest, but Adam is not fooled and, on his return, he tells Toby that he has loads of literature and is looking forward to discussing the subject with him in great depth. Toby quickly changes the subject.

Brian is impressed with the Witney operation and points out that the farmer has not gone to the same radical lengths as Adam. For his part, Adam says “Trust me - in five years’ time these guys will be visiting Home Farm to see how it’s done.” Just as long as they aren’t visiting to say ‘I remember when this used to be a viable farm.’ No - I’ve got faith in Adam; carry on lad.

Adam seems to have faith in his half-sister, Kate. Brian tells him that she has been granted planning permission for her yurts and he had been hoping that ‘this mad scheme of hers’ would have failed at this hurdle. Adam says “She might surprise us all yet” but Brian regards this as the triumph of hope over experience, citing her track record of failures and disasters. Speaking personally, I hope that she does surprise us - preferably by packing up and moving to the Far East somewhere.

Rob continues to exert his baleful influence over Helen, by undermining her confidence and tightening his control over her. On Sunday, Eddie delivers a load of logs, just as Rob is off to do Helen’s stint at the Bridge Farm shop (he has told her to spend the day in bed - why doesn’t he just nail up all the doors and windows when he leaves the house?). Later on, Eddie turns up at the shop, slightly embarrassed, as Helen had no money to pay him and she couldn’t find the cheque book. Rob gives him £50 on account (how many logs did he deliver, for heaven’s sake?). When he returns home, Rob shows Helen the cheque book (“where it always is, darling”). Mystified, she says that she had looked there and he eventually apologises for over-reacting, citing her ‘all over the place hormones’, which does nothing for her self-confidence.

Rob then lets Helen know about Adam’s indiscretion with Pawel but, master that he is, he makes her drag the information out of him and feigns reluctance to tell her. Of course, he eventually does, and says that the knowledge is weighing heavily on him. Why so? Because Adam is deceiving Helen and everyone else and, who knows, Rob adds, might this just be one in a string of affairs? He urges Helen to have nothing to do with the wedding, thus isolating her from one of her best friends in Ian, who will be upset if she doesn’t turn up. Just another turn of the screw by Rob, the master manipulator.

Thursday is the day of Helen’s private scan and Rob is on top form again, saying that the midwife was pleased that Helen has given up driving. In - what for her - passes as open rebellion, Helen disagrees, saying that the midwife seemed surprised, if anything, as most women carry on. “Most women don’t have two accidents in quick succession” is Rob’s reply and Helen (who has obviously been taking the Brave Pills) protests that the first one was a speeding ticket, not an accident. Rob’s answer? “It’s symptomatic of how your head’s still in a bit of a muddle.” You have to admire the skill of the man, while desperately wanting to tar and feather him.

The Brave Pills kick in further, when Helen questions the need for the scan and describes it as an unnecessary expense. “You’re worth it darling” Rob replies. What is she supposed to say to that? ‘No, I’m not’? Besides that, he says that they will be able to tell them if it’s a boy. Helen still puts up token resistance, saying “But only if we want them to - I’d be happy knowing it’s healthy; we don’t need to know the sex at this stage, do we?” Well, dear readers, whose will do you reckon prevailed? Spot on! As they drive away (Rob at the wheel, naturally), he says ecstatically: “Isn’t that the most perfect news? A boy - it’s a boy - my son. Isn’t that wonderful?” Helen, who is presumably realising that she is just the conduit through which Rob junior will walk the Earth, says (unenthusiastically) “Yes, of course it is.”

And so to Calendar Girls. We are getting into photo shoots for the Calendar and rehearsals. Elizabeth upbraids Lynda for pilfering props from the ‘Deck the Halls’ exhibitions and tells her to put them back. At rehearsal, PC Burns, who is playing Lawrence, the photographer, gets told off for his off-script comments. For example, when supposed to be photographing Lynda, whose modesty (if indeed she has such a virtue) is preserved by a pile of pastries, he yells out “Nice buns Lynda!” and I’m willing to bet that it’s been an awfully long time before anyone (including husband Robert) has told her that.

Susan is miffed when she says that ‘the body stockings will help cover us up’ and an indignant Lynda says that there will be no body stockings, just sheer nudity (not nakedness, which seems a fine distinction). Susan is appalled - what if the stagehands cop an eyeful of her au naturel? Don’t worry Susan - we can make sure that backstage staff have a ready and copious supply of vomit bags.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

If You Are looking For A Double Entendre, Then Kirsty And Elizabeth Are The Girls To Give You One

Annabelle Dowler (Kirsty Miller)

We begin with Lynda’s attempt to get Kirsty to persuade Roy to take part in ’Calendar Girls’. He isn’t keen, but Kirsty keeps at him, telling him (rather unflatteringly): “It’s only a small part - you’d be perfect for it.” (Boom boom!). Roy agrees to go along to the audition later that night and is somewhat discomfited to find Elizabeth there.

He is even more put out when he realises that his part would be that of Elizabeth’s husband (who dies early on) and he says to Elizabeth “You know what they’ll all be thinking.” Liz says it’s harmless fun, plus it will show everyone how they have both moved on. She adds: “I’m up for it if you are.” (Boom boom!). When Lynda returns (she had been sent away by Elizabeth to get some water, so that she and Roy can have a heart to heart) she takes a loftier view, telling Roy that “This is theatre; this is Art” (and you could hear the upper case A).

Faced with this triple female offensive, Roy gives in and agrees to join the cast. I have this dream that one day, someone - anyone - will say to Lynda “I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than take part in your ridiculous Christmas extravaganza; now go away and leave me alone - I have my own Christmas to prepare for.” Sadly, it’s never likely to happen, as you could carve out of a banana someone with more backbone than the average Ambridge resident, faced with a determined Lynda. There was a frisson of the previous relationship between Roy and Liz, when she admits that she is nervous of getting her kit off for the play. Roy, rather unthinkingly, says “You’ve got nothing to be nervous about” and then both are overcome with embarrassment.

When Kirsty, Liz and Roy go for a drink later, we had a moment of farce when Kirsty says that she is looking for somewhere to live in Ambridge - perhaps someone who has a spare room? It would have to be someone who she gets along with. Any ideas, anyone? Liz says “Can you think of anyone Roy?” Kirsty adds “Yeah, can you?” After a seemingly-interminable pause, Roy says “There is my place.” Kirsty (in mock shock): “Yours?” Roy says he’s got a spare room (as if he’d only just realised it) and Kirsty says that she remembers his place and she loves it. Well, bugger me and hold the front page - who’d have thought it? Roy then joins this week’s double entendre club when he asks Kirsty: “So, how about it?”

Let’s move on to Brookfield. We’ll pass over Stir Up Sunday, as Ben was the only one of the Archers to help Jill with mixing the pudding. Jill takes this as a sign that times are changing - true, so why not save a lot of trouble and get a pudding from M&S or Waitrose (other purveyors of Christmas puddings are available)? David and Pip think that Rooooth is keeping something back and not telling the whole truth about why she is off to New Zealand. She says “OK” (actually, she says Ooooooh Kaaaay) and tells them that they (David and Pip) have their own ideas about running the farm and she doesn’t feel that she has a meaningful role on the farm. Not true! Here’s a bucket and mop and get on with cleaning the yard.

I don’t know about you, but when we learned that Rooooth is only going to New Zealand for two weeks, I was devastated - I thought she was emigrating, or at least going for six months. Later on in the week, Rooooth has lunch with Usha, who begs her “to keep in touch” and, when David drives her to the airport and she deserts him (albeit after a farewell kiss) to find her group, he urges her to keep in touch. Come on people - she’s going away for two weeks, or 14 days in old money - it’s not a one-way trip to Mars. Give the girl - indeed give you (and, also, us) - a break and remain incommunicado. Bye Rooooth; don’t rush back.

David and Pip discover problems at Brookfield when they discover two cows that have gone down with Ketosis (apparently it makes their breaths smell of pear drops). “Mum would never have let it happen.” David gives the affected cows a Drench and hopes that they can carry on with the old/new feeding system. No need to bother Rooooth with the news - let her go to New Zealand.

Clarrie, Eddie and Joe are being evicted from Grey Gables in the near future and they cannot find an affordable two-bedroom property to rent. The solution? Put Joe in a home. Joe has been the subject of complaints at Grey Gables, for wandering around in his long johns and dressing gown, so I reckon that Clarrie and Joe might find it difficult to find a home that would accept him. We’ll pass over the (abortive) attempts to find a flat and the sadness in Joe’s voice when he realises that he is destined for (at least a temporary) sojourn in a home. Personally, I feel sorry for the other residents. What will happen to Bartleby was not mentioned.

It was a mixed week for Justin Eliot - the shoot went very well (despite Will’s nightmares and sleepless nights). Indeed, Justin wasn’t the only one who enjoyed it, as Will picked up over £600 in tips - I hope he declares it to HMRC. Later on, Justin’s luck changed when he heard Jennifer talking and went to congratulate her on the lunch that she had provided and he inadvertently stumbled across a naked Lynda, rehearsing for her forthcoming photo shoot for the calendar. We learn later that he has sent Lynda a bouquet by way of apology, while many of us think that he should have sued Lynda for mental cruelty, or strange and unusual punishment, or anything.

The Rob/Helen/Bridge Farm situation becomes ever more complex. On Sunday, Helen has a dizzy spell and refuses to go home when Rob suggests it. Later on, she won’t eat the scrambled eggs that Rob has made and he asks whether she is determined to make herself ill?  The next day, Rob tells her that she’s not needed at the shop and should stay in bed. She reminds him that he has a job interview at noon and Rob takes himself off to the Bridge Farm shop. Pat says that she hopes the company turns him down,
as they need him at the shop and she agrees that Helen is looking tired and pale. For heaven’s sake - when she was pregnant with Henry, Helen was exercising seven hours a day.

Rob returns home later and Helen has received a letter, giving her an appointment for a scan, a few weeks earlier than she thought. Rob says that he has arranged an earlier (private) scan as they can find out the baby’s sex earlier than they thought - and she’s not to worry about the cost. Not with the £10,000 from Peggy in the bank, she shouldn’t. We learn that Rob turned down the job, as his priorities are Helen, the new baby and the shop.

At the Hunt Ball, Justin sounds Rob out about Charlie and Rob damns him with faint praise, adding to Justin’s reservations about Charlie’s suitability as a manager. Incidentally, Rob says that Helen isn’t well enough to attend as the exertions of being at the official opening of the shop the day before have taken it out of her (more likely he has tied her to the bed). At the opening, Rob made a fulsome speech in praise of Helen and modestly played down his part in getting the shop open, saying that he doesn’t want to steal Pat and the family’s thunder. Pat has done a complete U-turn about Rob and even gives him a kiss for being such a nice person.

Back to the Hunt Ball and Rob wheedles the story from Jennifer about Adam’s indiscretion with Pawel a couple of years ago. Rob seems to have an agenda against the forthcoming wedding, asking Jen if she believes it will ever happen. She asks ‘why not?’ and then proceeds to spill the beans about Pawel. Belatedly, Jennifer realises that she’s been indiscreet and begs Rob not to tell anyone about Adam’s fall from grace. Rob (who has been plying her with drinks and compliments all evening in order to get the low-down on Adam) says triumphantly “I solemnly swear that I won’t tell a living soul.” Hands up all those who believe him - a quick count: yep, that’s no-one then.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

I Want To Be Alone

Felicity Finch & Tim Bentinck (Ruth & David Archer)

Roooooth’s not happy with David again when she discovers that he contracted out the artificial insemination for the next 6 weeks to a man who turns out not to be the talkative type. To be honest I’m not sure how much I’d be able to face talking to anyone if I spent all day every day servicing cows. David did this with the best of intentions to help take the pressure off Roooooth at a time when she was still in Prudhoe looking after Heather. But no, she says he made the wrong decision – I swear that woman’s got 20/20 hindsight. Jill’s in Roooooth’s bad books too. The poor woman’s only been back 5 minutes but she’s already made the mistake of inviting Carol to Christmas lunch without consulting Roooooth first and getting it signed off in triplicate. Not only that but she’s rearranged the rest of the kitchen to accommodate her cake tins, got a batch of biscuits in the oven, and moved the mug tree!

This is all too much and Roooooth seeks refuge outside where she offers to help David and Pip, only to find they’ve got it all in hand and what they really need her to do is out the kettle on. However even that menial task is taken away from her when she returns to find Jill putting out the warm biscuits and preparing the tea things. “Thanks Jill”, she says, as only Roooooth can.

Meanwhile, Adam needs Brian’s help with the silage, a task he leaps at as he’s become so bored he’s started reading Phoebe’s copy of the Highway Code. Adam quizzes him on stopping distances from 70mph and what he’d do if a child ran out from behind an ice-cream van. “I hope I wouldn’t be driving at 70mph round an estate”, says Brian. I put it to you that Brian is unlikely to be found driving round an estate, full stop.

We move to talk of Lynda’s latest production, Calendar Girls. It turns out that Neil, PCB and Kenton have got parts. That should please one of our regular correspondents (Zoe) whose wish for a male line-up almost came true. PCB was on her list, but I don’t recall a shirtless Neil Carter being in her top 5 (or, as we hear later, a soaking wet Neil Carter, stripped down to his underpants). Lynda’s search for the rest of the cast continues - no prizes for guessing who’s going to play the part of Marie, “a bit of a busy-body who likes to be in charge”, or a control-freak, as Kirsty helpfully points out. And what do you know, Helen’s turned down the part of Ruth – a woman let down in marriage. She would have been perfect, however Kirsty offers to take it on intrigued by the character’s journey from doormat to powerful woman, “a powerful message for women generally”. Women generally or do you mean specifically? Do you have anyone in mind?

Speaking of Helen, she’s got a fixed penalty speeding ticket and Rob’s not happy about it. He starts the interrogation by asking why she was going so fast. I wish the answer was “to get away from you, you controlling manipulative bastard”, but no, it was just to hurry back. Rob uses it as an excuse to remind her yet again about Henry’s accident on bonfire night and infers that this time Helen put their unborn baby at risk. Thankfully he doesn’t lose it, and “thanks for not getting angry with me” is about all Helen can say.

Rob and Tony go head-to-head over the second hand tables that Tony’s bought on which to display the fruit and veg in the farm shop. Rob inflames the situation by talking about “organic mumbo-jumbo” – a phrase guaranteed to set Tony off on one – but he stands his ground. Sure enough Rob goes back to Helen and complains about being “overruled”, but Helen’s got news to tell him. Greenbury Farm Services want to see him for an interview. Later on Rob seems to have come round and has found a way to make the tables blend in with the rest of the décor. It’s anyone’s guess what this is, but I think he’s put new legs on them, and to complete the look, put new tops on as well.

Clarrie and Eddie are looking at a string of unsuitable flats, and Clarrie is forced to lobby Peggy in a desperate effort to prevent their eviction from Keepers Cottage. Peggy gets right on the phone but Hazel’s busy, torturing kittens probably, and instructs her to phone back at 15:30. As predicted, Hazel has no sympathy for the “feckless Grundys”, and after having spent so much on the refurbishment, doesn’t want them moving back in. Eddie’s blind optimism about finding somewhere is kicked into touch by Clarrie suggesting they might have to put Joe in a home.

It was good to hear Lilian’s laugh again when we caught up with her at rehearsals, where the discussion was around the difference between “naked” and “nude” and how are they going to do the photo-shoot? Neil’s increasing discomfort is obvious, being the only man there, and he has to leave the room when Lilian mentions her dependency on a “well-formed bra”. However, a braver Neil stands up for the ladies when Lynda reveals that she won’t be appearing in the “artistic” calendar herself because her role doesn’t demand it, but expects the others to. They gang-up and Lynda’s pressured into agreeing. Why didn’t you keep your mouth shut Neil?

Charlie’s drowning his sorrows in the Bull while thinking about his future at Berrow Farm and whether he can keep Justin happy, when Adam walks in. They start reminiscing about good times but Adam kills the mood when he tells Charlie that he and Ian are getting married next month. Heart broken, a timely message from Justin on Charlie’s phone gives him an excuse to leave. Rob’s not impressed about the marriage either. In a ‘pot calling the kettle black’ moment Rob say’s that he wouldn’t Trust Adam because of his “roving eye”. Really? And you can’t see the irony there Helen? Rob tops it off by saying he can’t attend the celebration because he’s not a hypocrite!

Later, Helen’s rushing to pick up Henry and phones Pat back at the shop in a panic because she’s crashed the car. Pat’s first thought is for Helen, but when Rob gets on the phone he’s most concerned about Henry. Henry’s still safe at school, which is just as well as Helen’s gone into full headless-chicken mode. Pat picks Henry up then plays right into Rob’s hands by asking whether Helen needs to drive at all. Well done Pat, you’ve just confined you daughter to the house and given Rob even more control over her.

We end the week with more simmering resentment from Roooooth. The incident with the mug tree is one thing, but Roooooth’s harbouring a grudge that Jill and Pip downed a bottle of Champagne between them, beating her and David to the celebrations over Pip’s degree. It’s not made any better when David tells her that Ben and Josh won’t make the hastily arranged dinner that’s been booked for the ‘real’ celebration. David tries to make it better by saying it’s also a celebration of the future, but this prompts Roooooth to make an ominous comment – “whatever it may hold”. Afterwards, Roooooth and David have a heart-to heart and Roooooth explains that she’s reached the conclusion that she needs some time on her own to clear her head and sort herself out.

And where can a frustrated moaning farmer with a personality deficiency be really appreciated? New Zealand.

Monday, 16 November 2015

No Room at The Inn

Edward Kelsey (Joe Grundy)

We start with a Remembrance Day service and a reading by Rex of the Ode of Remembrance. Alan doesn’t miss the opportunity to tap him up for a goose for The Elms Christmas dinner – it’s nice to hear that this hostel for the homeless still seems to be going strong. Christmas symbolism seems to be a theme running through the week as on-cue we turn to Eddie and a poorly sounding Joe grooming Bartleby while contemplating how he would cope with relocation and anyway, where are they going to relocate to? It sounds like there’ll be no room at the inn (Grey Gables) at Christmas, and they briefly consider squatting in Keeper’s Cottage. Probably better than moving back to somewhere like Meadow Rise which Joe says would finish him off. Eddie promises him that it won’t come to that, probably because for the storyline to reach its natural conclusion they’ll all have to move into a stable.

Eddie finishes the grooming and Joe gives him a mint – Bartleby that is; I was unsure until I heard the donkey-enjoying-a-mint sound effects to confirm it. Edward turns up and greets Bartleby, failing to appreciate his fresh minty breath, and has news that they’re even getting rid of the old shed, which Eddie takes as a sign that “sour-faced-misery” Hazel Woolley is determined to cleanse every trace of the Grundy family from the face of the earth. Edward has a plan to move them into No.1 when it’s ready while he and Emma stay with Susan Carter, but Eddie tries to stay positive and is adamant they’ll find a home of their own – even if they have to move out of Ambridge.

Robert Snell’s helping Lynda align her Chi, whatever that means, by moving her desk around the new production office at Lower Loxley. Worries turn to more tangible energy flows with the number of trailing leads there will be from her computer and desk lamp to the plug sockets. Nice try Robert, you might need a more discreet approach – perhaps you can fashion a tripwire out of some old fishing line or something. With his Chi energised, Robert then makes the blindingly obvious connection between needing to cast Celia in Calendar Girls – a drink and man chasing character – and Lillian. Perfect.

Pip needs a business partner after only being able to raise enough money for a third of the cattle needed to graze the herbal leys. Adam steps up by offering to provide the extra 100 needed and goes away to draw up a contract. It seems that Toby’s loss through over-emphasising his experience is Pip’s gain.

There’s more tension between David and Roooooth as David’s been making decisions without telling her; offering to help fund Pip’s business for example. However Roooooth gets revenge by offering Rex the use of somewhere to process his geese. If he did but know it Roooooth and he are in exactly the same position and suffering the same frustrations.

Poor Edwad has to deal with more trouble at Grange Farm, this time it’s a break-in during the middle of the night. PC Burns is soon on the case examining the scene of the crime. Apparently the living-room is in a bit of a state and Ed will Face-time Oliver and Caroline later. Borsetshire Constabulary still seem to have plenty of resources though, enough anyway to send round a forensics team and equip PCB with a tablet computer on which to report crime (presumably amongst its other assets Ambridge has very good mobile coverage).

Helen’s still beating herself up about Henry’s burnt hand, and to add to her woes it turns out the poor thing can’t even hold a pencil for very long. I’m surprised Rob hasn’t told him to man-up and bear the pain with dignity or use his other, un-burnt hand, but he finds it more useful to use it against Helen as another example of her working too hard and making mistakes. He later continues his brainwashing by first persuading Helen that taking a part in Calendar Girls and taking her clothes off in public is not a good idea; “what made Susan think you would dream of accepting”, and “think of the teasing Henry would get”. Helen further risks his ire by showing him a job advertisement she downloaded for a Product Development Manager, and to make things worse it turns out it was Tom’s idea for Rob to apply. Rob swiftly tells Helen to go home and not worry about his job prospects – a lucky escape if you ask me.

Later Helen drops into the shop with a card from Rob’s parents, who she still hasn’t met, and Rob’s reaction is underwhelming to say the least. Helen seems to be enjoying getting on with organising stock with Jennifer when Rob comes in and tries to drag Helen away, but Jennifer sides with Rob and they both persuade her to go.

Charlie gets put through the mincer by Justin Eliot over his handling of the Press and treats him to an old Polish proverb; “only fools, children and drunkards always tell the truth”. Everything Charlie’s doing seems to be in question, from the hunt ball and accommodation at Grey Gables for Justin’s guests, to his staff management and handling of Rob’s departure. After the meeting Charlie phones Adam for moral support and wants to see him later that evening for a drink but Adam’s seems to be on a promise from Ian that night. Charlie bravely conceals his jealousy.

Kenton drops by Brookfield and brings the first instalment of his debt repayment – proceeds from the sale of a few old ashtrays online – which Roooooth inexplicably stashes in a teapot.

That evening the guests are gathering for Dan’s party and Elizabeth’s busy organising the evening. Discussion of a magnificent floral centrepiece doesn’t bode well for its survival in the presence of Dan’s army friends, and sure enough a stuffed deer’s head turns up in the middle, and is positioned as if grazing the flowers. Everyone seems to be in a good mood and Elizabeth takes it well, and Brian seems happy ogling all the young ladies (especially the girl Dan reveals he wants to marry) and it seems to have gone to his head, telling Roooooth about the music “if it’s too loud, you’re too old”.

Roooooth retreats to the main house with Usha where she reveals her frustrations with David. It turns out she’s been feeling unwanted and very sorry for herself for a long time, and we end with Roooooth wondering if David knows who she is anymore. How do you feel about older women Rex? Roooooth has history and may need a shoulder to cry on while you eviscerate your fowl in her barn. It could make for an interesting domestic situation too, if Toby finally gets his paws on Pip.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Just Tell It Like It Is

Carole Boyd (Lynda Snell)

Given that she is mega-annoying, interfering and pompous, how come everyone was walking on eggshells and trying to make sure that Lynda never found out the truth about the dead Scruff poisoning the Berrow Farm cattle? Wednesday evening saw the public meeting about the deaths of cows at Berrow Farm and Lynda was active before it started, exhorting people to attend (“Do we have a choice?” asked a resigned Jim) and also to sign her petition for the closing of Berrow Farm and the hanging, drawing and quartering of Charlie Thomas.

At the meeting, she constantly interrupted Adam and, when he said that the cause was silage, contaminated by a dead animal, she asked “What animal?” What a chance for Adam to say “Well, actually, it was your dead dog, Scruff”, which would have shut her up or, more likely, sent her screaming from the meeting. Instead he waffles on about a dead bird being responsible in an earlier case and heads off her line of questioning. He finishes by saying that no-one was to blame and it was a tragic accident that could have happened on any farm.

Lynda is not convinced and, afterwards, she tells Jim that it all goes to show how immoral it is to keep so many cows crammed together, and sign the damn petition. She then goes off to harass some other poor sod after telling Eddie that she hopes all his turkeys are securely penned in (notice that it doesn’t seem to matter that the turkeys are all crammed together). Eddie confides in Jim that he was playing darts with a worker from Berrow Farm, who said that it was a dead dog that contaminated the silage. Both men realise that it has to be Scruff and Jim says “If Lynda finds out, she’ll be terribly upset”, to which Eddie replies “Yeah, so let’s try and make sure she doesn’t.”

No, no, no! Go round and tell her what really happened, dropping the occasional remark along the lines of ‘Don’t worry that you are - albeit unwittingly - responsible for the deaths of 80+ cows and a financial hit for Berrow Farm of £150 K - it could have happened to anyone who wasn’t looking after their dog properly’.

After the meeting, Adam tells Brian what a good expert witness Alistair was. Digressing slightly, Alistair only arrived at the last moment and left immediately it was over, and Shula has been telling Jim that her husband has been spending a lot of time working. I have speculated that something seems to be brewing between Shula and Alistair (see earlier Instability At The Stables) and I still reckon that there is a story here about to happen.

The Grundys are suffering from a lack of turkey sales and they featured in the week’s ‘most obvious story line’, which began on Monday, when Eddie revealed that the builders had finished in Keeper’s Cottage. He whisked Clarrie off for a sneak preview and she was overcome at the sight of tiled floors, granite worktops and a built-in dishwasher: no expense had been spared. She cannot wait to move in. On Friday, Joe and Eddie are further dispirited by low sales figures, and Joe is in full Cassandra mode, saying that it has been an ’annus horribilis’ for the family and, furthermore, “It’s gonna get worse - there’s gonna be a disaster.” Joe might be a rubbish scallywag and a miserable git, but you have to take your hat off to him as a prophet of doom - no sooner are the words out of his mouth than Clarrie opens a letter and lets out a squeal of alarm. It is from Hazel Woolley’s agents and is giving the Grundys two months’ notice to quit Keeper’s. I, along with practically all listeners, thought on Monday that ’there’s no way Hazel will let the Grundys live in a high-spec residence’, but Clarrie obviously wasn’t suspicious, as she said “Oh Eddie; our home”, adding: “What are we going to do?” Well, they could always move in with the turkeys - if they cannot be sold, they can be used as living blankets.

Rob is becoming more sinister and controlling (and less likeable) than ever. On Sunday he finds Helen out of bed sleepwalking - later on she has no recollection and Rob says her hormones are all over the place and he also suggests that it might have something to do with her accidental meeting with Kirsty. Later on, he reveals his plan for decorating the shop, which appears to involve getting Pat, Tony and Tom to do all the work (and, presumably, Rob wielding the whip). Helen thinks this is a good idea and says that “We have a good team.” “We?” asks Rob in leaden tones and proceeds to tell her that going up ladders and breathing in paint fumes is not a good idea. The sleepwalking, he goes on, is a sign of physical and mental stress and that she should step back. “You should stop feeling that you always have to be in control,” he says, which is a bit rich, coming from him, adding: “Your priority is yourself and our baby - you know that I’m right, don’t you?”

Obviously Helen hasn’t taken this in as, the following day, she and Rob are at the shop, checking that the decorators are still at it. Rob unshackles Pat briefly and the three of them examine Fallon’s proposals for the new café at the shop. She wants to call it ‘The Ambridge Tea Room’ but Rob ridicules the name and her branding, saying that “We need to decide what’s best for our business.” Sorry? Our business? Pat says that it’s nothing to do with her, politely refraining to point out that it’s sod-all to do with Rob either and why doesn’t he get a proper job? So what does the Doormat think? Amazingly, we had a spark of the old Helen, when she points out that Fallon is paying rent and she prefers ‘The Ambridge Tea Room’. Rob is not a happy camper and, later, he says that Helen made him look a fool and undermined him in front of Pat. He adds that she shouldn’t be making such decisions and “Is the shop more important than your peace of mind, your health and the health of our baby?” He goes on: “You’re not strong Helen; you seem determined to risk a complete breakdown.” The Doormat apologises, but an angry Rob says he’ll eat out and “Don’t wait up.”

It gets worse on Bonfire Night, when Helen tells Rob (who has been out hunting - it seems that he’s not picking up a paintbrush at the shop) that she has arranged for Susan to take Henry to the fireworks on the Village Green. Rob is incensed that Helen could entrust Henry to Susan and Emma, as they’ll be letting the kids run wild. As it turns out, Susan takes her eye off Henry for a moment and he picks up a hot sparkler and is taken to A&E. Rob and Helen go to the hospital, where he is stern with Susan and says that it should never had happened. Driving home, Rob says that he knew something like this would happen and he tried to warn Helen “But you just wouldn’t listen - you see now how right I was?” Helen admits that she was wrong and Rob rubs it in, saying that she has changed and she’s not in a position to make clear judgements. He adds: “Your priority is our little boy growing inside you - that’s the only thing that matters. Listen to what I tell you.” The Doormat replies “You’re absolutely right”, which is what he’s been telling her. Note that ’our baby’ has changed to ’our little boy’.

The Fairbrothers submitted their CVs and business plan (co-authored by the Brothers Grimm) to Adam regarding the shared farming plan. Their pitch for running a 450-strong herd of cattle seems to hinge on the fact that Rex has seen and touched a cow on one occasion. Adam is not convinced and kicks the lads into touch. However, he realises that Pip could be an ideal partner and runs it past David and then Pip. David says that she will grab his hand off (and she does) and he isn’t even fazed when Adam says that it would involve some financial investment.

On that note, Rooooth went to Prudhoe to sort out Heather’s estate and came back in full moaning mode, as nothing seems to be happening at Brookfield, regarding running the home. She tells David that Heather had a life insurance worth £200 K. David mentions that the house is worth £300 K and Rooooth goes off on one, saying that “It’s only money” and says she has to go out. When she’s gone, David says to himself “Half a million.” David, a few months ago, you could have had 15 times that, so I wouldn’t go on about it to Rooooth.

Meanwhile, Rooooth has gone to Lower Loxley to see Jill. Rooooth reveals that she feels useless as a wife and mother and the house is in a mess. Jill asks if there’s anything she can do and a tearful Rooooth asks if she feels that she could come back to Brookfield? Jill accepts like a shot and Rooooth hastily adds that “It’s not just for the cooking and tidying.” Of course it isn’t - there’s the washing, shopping and cleaning as well.