Sunday, 22 February 2015

Better Dig Out The Hard Hat, David

Tim Bentinck (David Archer)

We had a week of being drip fed David’s gradual change of heart over the sale of Brookfield - first of all he found old farm diaries from the 1930s, than he dragged Rooooth round the farm to see a hedge that Phil had layered way back in the mists of antiquity. Rooooth is keen for him to approve the plans for the new robotic milking parlour, but he pleads being knackered after a hard week’s lambing.

David talks things over with the Herefords, but the straw that broke David’s back was the toy farm that he donated to the SAVE jumble sale - he realises that he cannot bear to part with it and tries to track down the buyer to buy it back. As it turns out, he doesn’t have to, as Hilary Noakes threw it out before the sale began, as it was a bit tatty. This annoyed me, as I had the title ‘David buys the farm’ in mind, but he rummages through the bins and finds the farm for nothing.

The toy farm is just a symbol, as David realises that he cannot bear to leave Brookfield and “It isn’t just about profits and the obscene amount of money that Justin offered us”. He also tells his mother that he heard his Dad speaking to him earlier and he thought he was going mad, then Jill demonstrated that this is obviously genetic, as she says that she talks to Phil all the time. “And does he answer?” asks David, to which she replies “Of course he does.” (You keep them talking and remove all sharp objects and I’ll fetch the nurse and the screens…)

It is a great relief to David to finally admit that he could never leave Brookfield (even if this was six months later than five million listeners) but he tells Jill that there’s ‘another huge question’ “Rooooth?” she replies, and he agrees, saying “How am I going to tell her?” 

I submit that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that David is in for an interesting time in the near future - true, Rooooth is keen to start afresh in Northumberland and she wants to be nearer her ailing mother, but she’s not the only one who is going to be disappointed. Let’s think; Pip is wandering around with new tractor brochures and is keen to get the robotic milking established; Kenton has already spent part of his inheritance on business class flights to Oz and is keen to buy Lilian out of The Bull, he has also promised to help Fallon with her business, so she’s another one who is going to be disappointed (not to mention Jolene). Lilian really needs this money as well, having been cleaned out by Matt.

Justin Eliot isn’t likely to be best pleased either, especially if his architect bills him for the work he has done so far on redeveloping Brookfield; Shula will have to put her plans for an equine swimming pool on hold, while Elizabeth (who has said that her share will give her financial security and banish her money worries) will have to go back to biting her fingernails. Who else will David’s decision upset? There’s Heather, of course, who was looking forward to a bit of attention from her daughter, plus the people selling the farm in Northumberland will no doubt be a tad annoyed at being messed about for so long. I just hope that the rep who took the order for the robotic milking parlour hasn’t booked an exotic holiday in anticipation of the commission he won’t now be earning.

At this rate, the only ‘people’ who will be talking to David are the Herefords and his late father. No - I forgot Eddie (who will presumably be able to continue working at Brookfield) and Bert (whose worries about being evicted will have evaporated); neither of whom is the most scintillating conversationalist in the world.

Elsewhere, we learn that Shula lied to PC Burns about what happened between Rob and the hunt saboteur and, as she tells Caroline, it is causing her something of a crisis of confidence. Shula feels that she has to confront Rob and tell him what an impossible position he put her in. He cannot see what she is getting so worked up about and is just pleased that he has got away with it. Later on, Shula talks again to Caroline and says how spooked she was by Rob’s attitude. “He seems to believe that he really was the victim - he can’t concede that he was in the wrong.” “That’s unhealthy” Caroline answers and Shula says “I don’t like it - I’ve seen another side to him.”

After giving Helen his total support for working at Ambridge Organics earlier, Rob’s manipulative side comes to the fore when Helen comes home late after a busy day at the shop. Henry is acting up (Rob has probably got him wired up to the mains) and Rob tells Helen that Henry is missing his mother. This makes Helen think and she says that her life has moved on and she doesn’t want to devote so much time to the shop. “It’s your call” Rob tells her, somewhat mendaciously, adding “What do we do next?” Helen doesn’t know, but - surprise, surprise, - Rob has a radical solution; why not get rid of it and sell it? Helen is immediately taken with the idea, saying “Why couldn’t I see it? It’s obvious”. I can’t help feeling that Tom and Pat (and Tony, whose convalescence is progressing nicely, thank you for asking) might see things somewhat differently.

Ed is in the money after selling off his cows; indeed, it was a good week for the Grundys, as George won a pancake race at The Bull. Commentating on the event, Kenton urges everyone to stick around as “We have the afternoon’s big attraction; the Boudicca of Ambridge herself; Jennifer Aldridge!” This is a reference to Jennifer’s outstanding performance on Radio Borsetshire last week and it gets up the nose of Lynda Snell, who keeps reminding people that SAVE is a team effort and she is taken aback when Jim tells her that the Press will be turning up to cover Jennifer’s speech and Lynda is even more miffed when Jennifer gives a rousing speech and is cheered to the echo by the crowd.

We come now to the ’getting the wrong end of the stick’ award for last week, so step forward Roy Tucker and take a bow. Hayley is making a visit to Ambridge and meets Susan, who is keen to pump her for information about what she’s doing there. Susan keeps prattling on about what’s been happening in the village while Hayley has been in Brum until Hayley makes an excuse and leaves. Roy comes out of his house and invites Hayley in - he is delighted to see her and says how good it is to see her back where she belongs and “Please say you’re coming back - I’ve missed you so much.” He wants them to all be together again and begs for another chance. 

Are we in for a touching reunion and reconciliation, we asked? Er, not exactly, as Hayley says “I can’t come back Roy - I’ve thought long and hard.” This sounds clear enough to me, but obviously not to Roy, who says “Don’t say I’ve lost you.” And indeed, she doesn’t, but dashes his hopes completely when she tells him “Sorry, but it’s gone too far - I want a divorce.” 

Finally, the pancake race reminded me that we are now in Lent (Shula has given up biscuits for the duration) and it occurs to me that we do not seem to have had the usual deranged idea from the mad vicar Alan Franks to mark the festival and plague his parishioners for the 40 days, or have I missed something? 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Has Shula Grassed Rob Up?

Judy Bennett (Shula Hebden Lloyd)

Fun and games at the Hunt when Rob spots a hunt saboteur with a camera. Rob confronts the sab, who says he has every right to protest, while Rob is spouting on about ‘live and let live’, which is a bit ironic, as the hounds have just killed a fox. The argument becomes heated, Rob punches the sab, who then pushes Rob over, saying “You’ve not heard the last of this.” Helen is concerned about Rob, who says that the sab attacked him for no apparent reason and “Shula saw it, didn’t you?” to which she answers an uncertain ‘yes’. Helen is pleased, saying: “I can’t think of a more reliable witness.” 

However, the following day, the sab has made a complaint to the police and Rob and Shula are invited to the police station to give their version of events. Oliver, who has heard Rob’s version, goes with Shula for moral support. PC Burns has already interviewed Rob ‘under caution’ and PCB turns his attention to Shula. Mr Murphy (the sab) said that Rob struck him first - did Shula see Rob strike him at any stage? We do not hear Shula’s answer, but PCB later thanks both her and Rob for coming along. Rob says it all depends on whose version of events they choose to believe and an anxious Oliver asks Shula “You did tell him the truth, didn’t you?” to which she answers “Yes” and says she wants to go home.

So, what has upright, church-going Shula told PCB? Has she toed the party line for the good of the Hunt, or has her conscience forced her to grass Rob up? If the latter, things could be a bit frosty between Shula and her cousin and Rob won’t be over the moon either. My money’s on Shula being incapable of telling a fib, but we’ll have to wait and see.

It wasn’t a good week for Rob, as Tina at Ambridge Organics has quit and Helen has taken on the task of rescuing the business - a task that she finds herself relishing. Rob isn’t best pleased when Helen turns up late for the 1940s Valentine’s dance and if she devotes more time to the shop, he may have to unleash his control freak persona once more. He spent the time when waiting for Helen by talking to Adam, who tells him that he and Ian want to get married. Rob gets a few digs in about how nice it is to spend time with the one you love and I reckon it’s only a matter of time before he lets slip that he knows all about Adam and Charlie’s New Year snog.

Kate demonstrated a level of self-deception that was truly breathtaking - I can’t help thinking that the actress who plays her must think ’what a load of drivel - I can’t believe they want me to say these things.’ Be that as it may, Kate goes to see Roy at his home and immediately starts telling him off about his lifestyle, eating habits etc. “You’re damaging Phoebe by your unmanageability” the pretentious cow says, telling Roy to keep away from his daughter. He retorts that Phoebe will do what she wants. “She left you, Roy” says Kate and he snaps back “At least I never left her”, reminding Kate that he has always been there to pick up the pieces when necessary. He also says that he knows why Kate came back to the village, telling her “You trashed your life in South Africa, just as you did in Ambridge.”

Kate gets on her high horse, saying: “I will not allow you to talk to me like that - you’re projecting; putting your mistakes on to me, blaming me for your weakness.” (See earlier comment about pretension). Roy is scathing, telling her “You’re nearly 40 and living with Mum and Dad”. Kate is really upset at being called nearly 40 (she’s 38 on 30th September, as if you could care less) and tells Roy: “I relied on you to look after our daughter and you’ve completely failed. You betrayed my trust.” Roy (and me too) cannot believe she could say that and tells her that she shouldn’t be allowed to use words like trust, plus she’s selfish and a terrible mother. Finally, he does what I would have done about half an hour earlier and throws her out of his house. The difference is that I would have ejected her through the window, not the door.

Back at Home Farm, Kate tries to engage Jennifer’s sympathy, with a marked lack of success. Kate says that Roy said some hateful things “He called me selfish - can you believe it?” Jennifer says “Well…” but Kate shows her her arm, where Roy grabbed her (pity it wasn’t her neck), but Jennifer says she cannot see any mark. In fact, Jennifer tells her daughter that she and Roy ought to buck up their ideas, as this constant enmity isn’t helping Phoebe in the slightest and her welfare should be their number one priority. Go on Jen, bang their heads together; I would.

Ed tells Oliver that he has decided to sell off his cows and will try and make ends meet by getting contracting work, so he will have to stop renting Grange Farm. Oliver suggests that Ed might like to investigate getting into beef cattle (I wouldn’t ask Tony about whether or not it’s a good idea) as he (Oliver) would have to find another tenant, should Ed quit. Oliver is really too good to be true, as he also asks Ed if he has found a venue for his wedding reception yet and if not, he can always use one of the barns; decorating it as he likes and he’s sure that Caroline will let him have some tables and chairs from Grey Gables. In fact, Oliver is so nice that I’m surprised that he hasn’t built a new house for Ed, or named him as his sole heir. 

Not surprisingly, Ed is over the moon about all this and he tells Joe, who is ecstatic at the news. Ed believes that he could really make something of himself with the beef cattle and, while I have a certain amount of sympathy for Ed (mainly born out of the fact that he has Will for a brother) I can’t help looking back at his track record in business over the years and thinking that his new, optimistic attitude is definitely the triumph of hope over experience

Finally, Neil, in his new, not-a-doormat role, goes to see Tom about exactly who is in charge of the pigs, only to find that Tom is apologising for not consulting Neil about decisions and, from now on, things will be different. Neil tells Susan in advance what he’s going to do and it makes her go week at the knees. She rings him afterwards to see how things went and Neil gives a slightly embellished version of how he laid the law down to Tom. “Oh Neil, were you very masterly?” she asks, breathlessly, telling him that she’s got all the ingredients for a chilli and “It will be ready and waiting for you when you get home.” I presume we are still talking about the chilli here?

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Charlie Shows His Hand

Felix Scott (Charlie Thomas)

It seems like last week’s ‘we’ll agree to be just friends’ conversation between Adam and Charlie was a bit premature, as Charlie asks if Adam can come over and give him some advice on something. David, who Adam told about the request is indignant, saying “It’s a bit of a cheek, isn’t it – he sacked you.” Adam is relaxed about the whole thing, however, and goes to see Charlie.

There is some discussion about soil and Adam says “Surely you know all this already?” Charlie admits that he has never met anyone like Adam and his life to date has been work, work, work, encouraged by a pushy father. One-off dates have lost their appeal and Charlie feels ready to commit to someone. “Why are you telling me this?” Adam asks, thus showing that he can’t really be that clever. When it becomes obvious that Charlie is hitting on Adam, the latter reminds him that he has Ian. “So you’re just an old-fashioned one man guy?” Charlie asks. “Definitely” Adam replies, then spoils it by saying “If things were different…if I were free…then…”
And to think that only the night before, Ian was talking to Helen and said that the silver lining in Home Farm losing the contract was that Adam no longer has to work with Charlie Thomas. I suspect that the Adam/Charlie situation is not over yet.

I can’t believe that David and Rooooth’s move up north now looks like it will be in June. How long can they spin this particular story out for? Shula is the latest Archer sibling to have mentally spent her share of the Brookfield sale, as she tells David that she has plans for an equine swimming pool (and presumably spa and Jacuzzi). David advises her to wait until she’s got the money before she does anything. Ha! And this is the man who’s just ordered a £400 k robotic milking parlour!

While on the subject of milking, you can’t help feeling sorry for Ed – having extricated himself from money problems by selling four cows, Mike rains on his parade by telling him that he is having trouble selling the combined milk round and processing business and, if a good offer comes in for the round alone, he’ll have to think seriously about it. This news hits Ed like a kick in the groin and he phones Rooooth for advice. When she hears the whole story, she says that she doesn’t know what to suggest.

The week ends with Ed talking morosely to his cows, saying “You’re beautiful, I’m going to miss you; it’s time to go.” Dad Eddie comes in and Ed tells him it’s all over – he can either sell the cows off one by one or get out now. “I was a fool to think I could make a go of it.” Eddie asks what will he do? Ed says that he’ll probably buy a tractor and do contracting work – that will please Adam, who is looking for similar work himself. “You tried hard” Eddie consoles him. “Yes, I tried hard and failed hard” a disconsolate Ed answers.

Last week I said Jen appears to have rose-tinted spectacles when it comes to daughter Kate, but it seems that they might be getting cracked. On Monday Kate and Jen are having words about Kate’s attitude towards Phoebe and Kate says “I can behave like a mother”. “Then start doing it then” Jen snaps back. Phoebe has gone to see Roy to take his birthday card and he persuades her to stay and talk for a bit. Phoebe tells him about Lucas throwing Kate out and how she’s back for good. Roy isn’t happy (join the club Roy, but there’s a long waiting list) and Phoebe realises that both her parents are – how can I put this? – are bloody useless and she goes back to Home Farm.

Seeing Roy has made her late and Kate had planned to take her for a meal and a movie and starts to lay down the law. Phoebe tells her that she saw Roy and Kate explodes, saying: “He’s obviously upset you – stay away from him”. Phoebe says she’ll do what she likes and leaves the room. Kate tells Jen: “Roy’s set her such a bad example – no wonder she’s upset”. A stunned Jen is lost for words, then eventually tells her daughter: ”I sometimes wonder if you can actually hear the words that come out of your mouth”. That’s the ticket Jen – you’re on the way to throwing her out. If Jen doesn’t do something, then I can see Brian moving into a hotel; first of all he had the aggro with the kitchen, then Kate came back and now Jen has invited Lilian to come and stay and she has brought everything except the kitchen sink, as that’s not needed. Brian feels overwhelmed by the presence of females and takes refuge down the pub, no doubt reflecting bitterly on how much his drinks bill is going to increase now that his sister-in-law has come to stay.

We had a slight challenge by Helen to Rob’s manipulating and control freakery when she gets a phone call from Tina – Environmental Health inspected Ambridge Organics and found some items that were out of date. Tina is distraught and Rob seems surprised when Helen says that she has to go and sort it out. Of course, he wasn’t around when Bridge Farm nearly went under due to the e-coli crisis. Helen isn’t to be persuaded and goes to the shop. This will really annoy Rob, as only two days before he talked her out of getting a bit more involved in the shop (Pat’s idea, as it appears to be going to Hell in a handcart) and Helen agreed, saying “Thank you Rob – you know me so well.” Now she’s rushing off at a moment’s notice and, even worse for Rob if he knew, she tells Ian how much she enjoyed being at the shop. Rob won’t like it, Helen.

Finally, congratulations to Johnny for scraping his maths and English passes and I’d like to end by sharing with you a comment from a reader. Musing on the subject of Matt’s disappearance, he (or she) writes: ‘Matt may still return at some future date, though sounding oddly different than he did before ....’ I wonder where they got that idea from?

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth

Lucy Morris (Phoebe Aldridge)
Phoebe has rocketed in my estimation after really doing a major hatchet job on her mum last week. Kate was pontificating to Jennifer about how trust between a mother and daughter is a precious thing and how she’d like to move into her cottage with Phoebe when the tenants leave. Kate also tells Jennifer that her marriage is over and Lucas’s parents have poisoned the children’s minds against her. Jennifer is full of sympathy but Brian, who obviously knows his daughter better, warns that they have only heard Kate’s version of the story.

It was on Thursday that Phoebe showed her claws. Kate was banging on again about moving into the cottage. “It will be great to have our own home again, won’t it?” Kate says, brightly. “Again?” asks Phoebe, in a leaden voice. Kate doesn’t pick up on the sarcasm and says “It’ll be just like the old days”. Phoebe retorts: “What old days? I was so little when you left that I can’t remember.” When Kate replies that they can create new memories, Phoebe really hits out and says that her half sister Nolly has told her everything.

Jen demonstrates that she really has rose-tinted glasses when it comes to her daughter by protesting that Nolly must be getting a distorted picture from her grandparents. Phoebe, however is adamant that Nolly is telling the truth and tells Kate “Will you tell Gran the truth or shall I?” adding nastily how Kate always says how important it is to have trust between a mother and daughter. By this time, Jennifer is completely bewildered and floundering like a beached whale. Phoebe tells her that Kate had to come back to Ambridge, as Lucas had thrown her out and forbidden her to see the children.

Kate admits to Jennifer that she had an affair (“That must be about the same time that dad had his affair” Phoebe interjects, again nastily) and Lucas was so cold that she felt lonely. “Give me a break - you had your children” says Phoebe, adding: “You don’t care, you put yourself first like you always do - all that stuff about coming back to care for me, that was all lies.” The conversation then took a turn for the worse (if you are Kate that is):

Kate: Sweetheart -
Phoe: Don’t you touch me!
Jen (still at sea): Kate loves you Phoebe
Phoe: No she doesn’t
Kate: Darling, I do - I came back for you
Phoe: You came back because you’ve nowhere else to go and I’m the only child you’ve got left, and I wish to God I wasn’t!

On this note, Phoebe storms off to her room. Kate asks Jennifer whether or not she should go and see Phoebe, saying: “She’s got a pretty low opinion of me.” Tell you what Kate, compared with my opinion of you, Phoebe’s is like Everest. Kate tells Jennifer: “I’ve made a terrible mess of things again - Phoebe despises me”. Ever the optimist, Jen says no, she’s just hurt and confused - I put it to you that wishing to God that she wasn’t Kate’s daughter indicates a certain high level of dissatisfaction and Kate is correct. Phoebe comes back in and Kate starts to thank her for coming back so that she can explain things to her, but Phoebe interrupts and tells her mother and gran that she has been on the phone to Hayley (to whom she refers as ’mum’, incidentally) and after college tomorrow, she, Phoebe, is going to see Hayley and stay with her and Kate can drive her to Birmingham. “Can you do that, at least?” she says - ouch!

The conversation in the car is stilted, to say the least, with Kate wanting to explain about South Africa and Phoebe threatening to get out of the car and hitch. Phoebe and Hayley have a touching reunion. Phoebe said that Kate had been slagging off Roy and describes her as ‘a hypocrite’ and ‘pathetic’. The talk soon turns to Roy and Hayley says he must be feeling lonely. Phoebe says he doesn’t want to see anybody and Hayley tells her that she doesn’t want to cut him out of her life. She then gently suggests that perhaps Phoebe should drop his birthday card round by hand. Let’s hope that Roy and Hayley get back together and Kate gets back to South Africa, although it is worrying that there seems to be nothing there for her, so why should she go back? Now I’ve totally depressed myself, but we’ll leave Kate motoring away from Birmingham, no doubt reflecting on King Lear’s line ‘How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!’

Sorry to have harped on so long about Phoebe, but anything that upsets Kate deserves our full attention. Elsewhere, Susan notices that Emma has something on her mind and asks what it is. Emma demonstrates a touching, albeit certainly totally misguided, judgement call when she says “If I tell you something, you’ve got to promise to keep it to yourself”. Emma, this is Susan we are talking about - her middle name isn’t ‘motorgob’ for no reason. However, Susan says unblushingly: “You can trust me - I’m the soul of discretion.” Ladies and gentlemen, that ‘whooshing’ noise you can hear is the sound of Susan’s nose rapidly growing. Emma tells her of Ed’s cash flow problems and Susan tells her daughter that she should be more like her and give her partner the occasional push, like she does Neil. “I never nag” Susan adds. There’s that ‘whooshing’ noise again.

Ed managed to sell four of his cows for around £6 k, thus giving him a bit of breathing space. Emma asks if they should postpone the wedding but he is indignant and adamant that he really wants to marry her.

At the Burns’ Night celebrations at The Bull, Adam and Charlie meet for the first time since their New Year’s Eve kiss. They find somewhere quiet to talk and the conversation is awkward, to say the least. Adam says they had both had too much to drink and NYE is when people revert to adolescence, anyway. But now they are adults again. Charlie says that he hopes ‘this silly incident’ won’t spoil their friendship and it all seems amicable enough.

On the same night, Lilian confides to Jolene that Matt has left her for good, cleaned out the bank accounts and “taken everything that wasn’t nailed down” (except the crying gypsy picture that Peggy gave them). “I don’t think I’ll ever see him again” Lilian says, tearfully. It’s Jolene I feel sorry for - she had Lilian weeping and moping all over the place when the fling with Paul was going on and now it’s all happening again. I’d get that bulk order for tissues in sharpish, Jolene. On the plus side, Lilian has agreed to sell her share of The Bull to Jolene and Kenton, whose plans are becoming ever-more elaborate.

David met Justin Eliot to see if he can stay on at Brookfield for a few months while the new robotic milking parlour is designed and built. Justin is affability itself and David later tells Joe Grundy that he was ‘charming’. Going back to the milking parlour, David reveals that this is going to cost around £400 k. Not only that, but it will cost £6 k to move the cows up north. Think about it David - can you actually afford to make this move?