Monday, 30 March 2015

Testing Times

Timothy Watson (Rob Titchener)

Let’s start with Rob, who is under a lot of pressure, as the maintenance people (CMS) want to take money directly from his wages - he’s become morose and withdrawn (not a great deal of change there, then) and Pat thinks that Helen is worried. But let’s cut to the chase - on Friday Rob is driving Helen (in her car) to pick up his vehicle, damaged in the floods, and he tells her about the CMS. “I owe you an apology” he says, adding that he was sure he could ignore it but now he realises that the only way to shut Jess up is to take the paternity test. Should the test (assuming he goes through with it and Helen doesn’t say “No, no - I trust you”) prove positive, I look forward to his next move.

Testing times too for Kenton, Jolene and Fallon - Kenton and Fallon are planting hanging baskets in an effort to show that The Bull is up and running and will bounce back bigger and better than ever, when Jolene turns up in full-blown Cassandra mode, moaning about what they spent on flowers etc. Honestly, if they lit a candle nicked from the church, Jolene would bleat about how much a match costs. Undaunted, Kenton and Fallon wax lyrical about the future role of The Bull in village life and Kenton says “I may not be able to trust my own brother, but with the three of us as a team, who can stop us?” Well, if one of the team is a wet blanket, that’s not going to help much.

The short answer to Kenton’s question is ‘those from whom you need funding’ as he goes to see Lilian and tells her how sorry he is that he can’t buy her out of her share of the pub but he’s got these grand plans to revamp the place and perhaps she’d like to invest a few quid? Sadly for him Lilian (who was maybe hoping to borrow some money off Kenton) tells him that she’s totally borassic and he’ll have to look elsewhere.

In his ‘Brookfield’s-going-to-be-sold-and-I’ll-be-able-to-do-wonderful-things’ fantasy, Kenton was going to buy Lilian out, set up Fallon in her teashop, refurbish The Bull and have the holiday of a lifetime in Australia. Unfortunately, only the last of these happened and Kenton maxxed out his credit card before being told that there would be no money coming in.

Nothing knocks Fallon back and she went to see the bank about funding for her “Ambridge Tea Service” business idea. The following day Harrison Burns is helping her clean up garden furniture for the Easter Day eggstravaganza (OK, I know it’s a cliché, but what the hell?) of an Easter Egg hunt but - and here’s the clever bit - it’s so muddy that the hens wouldn’t lay on the ground, so the title of the event - ‘Heads Up’ - gives a clue to where the eggs will be hidden. Of course, the resident Wet Blanket is moaning about the cost of the Easter Eggs and I’m only surprised that she doesn’t add “And haven’t you any idea of the cost of cleaning fluid and towels?”

However, there is hope for Fallon, when PCB tells her that he knew the bank would turn her down and had she considered crowd funding and peer loans? To start her off, he gives her a cheque for “A few hundred quid” and makes it clear that this isn’t a handout, but an investment in her and her vision and he will be expecting repayment with a lot of interest. “I’m not letting my heart rule my head” he says, and we can presumably assume that no other organ has a say in the decision.

And now to the Wednesday night meeting in the church, with Councillors present to answer questions concerning the recent floods. Alan is chairing the meeting and Lynda praised the emergency services - when they eventually turned up - but the situation was exacerbated by the “uncontrolled development” there has been on the flood plain in recent years and the water cycle has been disrupted with new springs appearing and ponds drying out. Should there be another anaerobic digester at Berrow Farm, she adds, things would get worse as more land is turned to farming maize.

The mood of the meeting is just this side of hostile when Susan speaks. She starts off well, when she says that the new flood defences in Borchester may well have contributed to the flood by slowing down the flow of the Am. She then reveals her death wish by saying that, as the emergency services couldn’t get through, perhaps a new road into Ambridge (Route B) is a good idea?

Adam speaks next - his latest obsession is treating the land with respect and he waxes lyrical on the subject. David then tries to speak, only to be interrupted by Susan, who pins even more targets over her heart when she says that she “doesn’t want Councillors to be influenced by somebody who doesn’t even want to live here”. Alan points out that David is still a resident and lets him speak. David tells the meeting that he’s going nowhere and he has come to his senses and “the land isn’t really ours; we are stewards” and that they have a responsibility to neighbours and to the future. Perhaps he and Adam could found a commune somewhere?

Before the meeting took place, Ed was having a difficult time as people kept remarking that he was clearing ditches and what was he finding? Having been sworn to secrecy by Charlie, Ed cannot reveal the truth, which is that the ditches were showing signs of not being cleared for yonks. Except that he does tell Emma, with strict instructions that she mustn’t breathe a word. Going on previous Ambridge experience, this is where it goes tits up for Ed as Emma blows the gaff and he can kiss goodbye to further Estate work.

Wicked Witch Hazel made an unwelcome return to the village to count the cost of the flood damage to her empire. She was seen going into the village shop with ‘a man in an expensive suit’ (so he had to be the insurer/loss adjuster). Susan asked what was happening, to be told in no uncertain terms that she would be informed when, and if, anything was decided. Witch Hazel also called on Peggy, looking for documents giving Jack (and now her) the right to attend BL game shoots. Peggy says she knows nothing of any such documents and the social temperature drops. Hazel then complains that she “went to visit Daddy’s grave” and the wording on the headstone wasn’t what she expected. As Peggy had changed the inscription, this came as no surprise to her, but the temperature dropped even further.

Witch Hazel left, saying: “There are several things I have to do in Ambridge Peggy, but none of them concerns you. Goodbye”. The door shuts and Peggy says “Goodbye - and good riddance.” I suspect Hazel will be back ere long.

And now we come to the story of Bert and Freda. The church service was apparently first class, with Jolene giving an amusing insight into Freda’s time at The Bull and Jill’s eulogy moving the congregation. The Wake afterwards (at Brookfield) went well, although Kenton wouldn’t talk to David, and Bert described it as ‘a nice afternoon’, but we know what he meant.

Fortunately we were spared Bert’s specially-written poem, in which he compared Freda to a rose (shades of Elton John/Princess Diana?) but it gave Jill the idea to plant a rose in Freda’s memory. But where to plant? Brookfield wasn’t her home and the bungalow would stir up future memories, so it has to be The Bull. Later in the week, Fallon was telling PCB how Kenton had spent at least an hour going over exactly where the shrub should be planted and it shows that Kenton’s heart is in the right place (try telling that to David). And now, dear readers, we have an example - as given in some earlier episodes of this blog - of why you shouldn’t take the odd phrase out of context, as Fallon told PCB: “Bert’s keen about having it against the back wall”. Absolutely no further comment.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Joe Takes Advantage

Edward Kelsey (Joe Grundy)

You have to hand it to Joe Grundy - if you don’t, he’ll take it anyway - there he is at Grey Gables, where he is staying for free, having been made homeless by the flood, and he complains to grandson Ed that he has been refused room service. The ungrateful old sod should be taken out and soundly whipped, in my opinion, especially as he has had a pedicure and steam treatment at the health club.

Not only are the Grundys homeless, but all Joe’s clothes (yes, both shirts) are ruined. As such he is wandering around Grey Gables dressed in a tiger onesie. Thinking about it, if I were Caroline, I’d let him have room service as that would keep him out of the way of paying guests (if indeed there are any).

While things look bad for the older Grundys, for a change things are looking up for Ed. Charlie Thomas asks him if he wants the job of clearing the ditches and culverts on BL’s land. The words ‘Horse’, ‘Stable Door’ and ‘Bolted’ spring to mind and Charlie obviously thinks the same way, as he tells Ed to keep his mouth shut about the job. Ed cannot resist telling his grandfather that he has a job from Charlie, but he can’t talk about it and Joe reveals his philosophical streak when he says “It’s an ill wind that don’t do nobody no good”. Linguistic scholars are studying this final remark as I write.

BL are obviously worried about their image and their part in causing the flood - and more so when the villagers arrange a public meeting to air their grievances. In fact, there were nearly two meetings, as David was going to hold one and Lynda another. David goes to see Lynda and she is surprised when he says that he wants to attend the meeting. He explains that he will not be leaving Ambridge and Lynda says that she could kiss him. An alarmed David immediately contacts Rodways to put Brookfield back on the market - actually, that is a complete lie, but I bet it crossed his mind.

Adam is passionate about the way the land has been abused and he wants to speak at the meeting. Charlie joins Adam and his team in erecting the polytunnels and, over breakfast, he tells Adam that he wouldn’t want to see Justin Eliot’s name scapegoated (is there no noun that cannot be verbed, I ask myself?) and suggests that Adam says that BL cannot be blamed. This shows touching loyalty on Charlie’s part when you consider that he nearly drowned after getting caught up on the rubbish in the blocked culvert - rubbish that BL should have cleared. Adam says nothing, but I wouldn’t hold my breath, Charlie.

Elsewhere, Kenton and Jolene return from their holiday (which was brilliant, by the way) and are confronted by scenes of devastation in the village and a brand-new indoor swimming pool in the pub where the beer cellar used to be. Surely things can’t get worse? Afraid they can, as David turns up, saying “Can I have a word in private?” and tells Kenton that Brookfield is not going to be sold. All Kenton’s dreams are dashed in an instant and he doesn’t take it well, accusing David of leading him on and telling him to get out of the pub. Poor David - first of all he was accused of running away and now he has changed his mind, his brother thinks he’s a Judas.

Sunday was Mother’s Day, which gave Kate the opportunity to be even more selfish and obnoxious (yes, I too found it hard to believe that such a thing was possible). Jennifer has invited Hayley and Abbie to Home Farm for lunch, much to Kate’s displeasure, but Jennifer points out that, if she hadn’t, then Phoebe would have gone to see Hayley in Birmingham. Kate then moans because Jennifer is cooking meat and why couldn’t she have just done a big nut roast? Jennifer, who seems to have almost limitless patience, says there are eight meat eaters and one vegan. She then asks her daughter for a bit of help in the kitchen but a petulant Kate says “It’s Mother’s Day”. Instead of killing Kate (and no jury in the world would convict her) Jen reminds her that she too is a mother and she would still like some help.

Kate says that she thinks that the day should be for natural mothers only, to which Jen says “There’s more than one way of being a mother”. Kate remembers how she gave birth to Phoebe in a yurt at Glastonbury and, however far away she has been, she has always felt ‘a universal connection’ with her daughter, saying “I expect you felt it too?” I love the way that Phoebe can put her mother down with just a sentence, as she replies “Not really”. All Phoebe is waiting for is the arrival of Hayley and, when there’s a knock at the door, she runs to open it, yelling excitedly “Hello mum!”

Phoebe has got Hayley a card, which says ‘To the best mother in the world’, which contrasts with the one she got Kate, which said ‘To whom it may concern - have a nice day; or don’t, I don’t really give a toss’. Kate is at her sneering worst, having digs at Hayley over Roy and the approaching divorce and ridiculing Hayley when she says she hopes it will be amicable. Phoebe cuts her mother’s snide comments short when she asks “Will your divorce from Lucas be amicable, do you think?” (see earlier comment about put downs). Hayley says she and Abbie will pop and see Roy and Phoebe wants to go too - Kate protests, saying that, as Phoebe’s mother, she’s concerned about her emotional welfare, which is patently a lie, or else she would have topped herself shortly after the birth.

Later on in the week, Kate’s upsetting people again when she comes into the kitchen and says she needs a coffee (hangover) and will someone make her one? Brian does so, making the point that it’s only because he wants one. Kate then asks Brian if he can lend her some money and, snorting with laughter at the word ‘lend’ he says he will when she gets a job. Jennifer asks her if she has no shame, as she borrowed money off Phoebe earlier in the week? Kate blames Brian, asking how is she expected to get a job when she’s a full-time student? At this moment, Adam comes in and Kate immediately asks him if he will lend her £50? The answer is ‘no’ and Jennifer is amazed at her lack of sensitivity. I’m not and I’m not surprised that Kate is way out ahead in the list of candidates for the Pedalo of Doom.

Over at Bridge Farm there is a surprise visitor when Kirsty turns up to talk to Pat. Pat is touched, but Kirsty says that she and Tony still mean a lot to her, tactfully not adding “Unlike that cowardly, jilting scumbag of a son of yours”. Kirsty also goes to see Fallon and, on learning about the plight of the Grundys, gives her some money to buy them a drink when they come into the pub.

Friday marked Tony’s return to Bridge Farm from hospital and the whole family - Peggy, Tom, Helen, Johnny and Rob are there to enjoy the special champagne that Pat originally bought to celebrate their Ruby wedding. Rob gets a call and goes outside to take it. Earlier in the week, Rob had a meeting with Charlie, who told him that BL has had a letter from child maintenance, authorising deductions direct from Rob’s salary for Jess’s baby.

Rob’s call is from Jess and he is incandescent about the maintenance, saying “That baby is not mine” and “You’ve been shagging everything with a pulse to get back at me. “So take the DNA test” is Jess’s reply, which is what we’ve been saying for weeks. Fuming, Rob goes back inside, where his day is made complete when Peggy announces that she has changed her Will and is now leaving everything to Tony and his sisters. I’d watch out Peggy - Lilian needs money fast, so don’t accept any mushroom soup from her and check the stairs for almost-invisible black threads.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Après Le Deluge

Freda Fry

At least it’s stopped raining in Ambridge as the residents count the cost of the flood and begin the long task of clearing up the mess. Some messes are messier than others, as Adam shows Brian his hot tub, which has filled up with slurry and Bert and Freda’s bungalow resembling a cess pit with Freda’s recipe books suffering water damage.

Freda is in hospital with pneumonia and Josh dries out the recipe books as a surprise for her for when she comes out. Except she doesn’t, as on Friday we learn that Freda suffered a massive heart attack and passed away. Bert is, understandably, bereft; the more so as he never got the chance to say goodbye to his wife. What is he to do? He’s staying at Brookfield while the bungalow dries out, but when David and Rooooth leave, he’ll have nobody. Rooooth takes pity on him and tells him that the family is staying put, at which news he is overcome.

Bert is not the only one to be sleeping in a strange bed. Lynda, who is still desolate because there is no sign of Scruff, and Robert are marooned upstairs as their septic tank has backed up. They have no heating and the garden is ruined and Lynda wonders whether or not they should have taken up Caroline’s offer to stay at Grey Gables. No - stay in your sewage-infested, cold house, as you never know if Scruff might come back, although it doesn’t sound that attractive. Lilian to the rescue! She invites Lynda and Robert to stay in the Dower House and Lynda accepts gratefully.

Also on the move are Chris and Jim, who have been put up at the Stables by Shula and Alistair (separate rooms, I trust?), although there is still no mention of Darrell. Adam and Ian are staying at the staff flat at Grey Gables (is nobody a paying guest, I ask myself?) and Ed, Emma, George and Keira prepare to move back in with Neil and Susan at Ambridge View - what a kick in the teeth that must be, especially for Ed.

Ed helps Eddie and Clarrie to remove water-damaged furniture from Keepers Cottage and Clarrie really gives her moaning muscle a good workout when she realises that Eddie never got around to renewing the household contents insurance. Eddie’s remark that he and Ed will soon have the table looking like new is met with Clarrie’s acid comment that, if he hadn’t forgotten to pay the premiums, they could actually have had a new table. Clarrie’s mood is not improved when she later finds that all her photographs of the boys when young are ruined, although I submit that, with Will in them, they were already ruined.

Adversity brings out the Dunkirk spirit among the villagers, with Tom lending David a water bowser and Adam turning up at Brookfield with some much-needed bales of hay. Rooooth practically has an orgasm at this and calls Adam “our saviour”.

Over at The Bull, Fallon is determined that she (with Harrison’s help) will keep the pub open, even though there is a foot of water in the cellar, which could well make the crisps soggy. Sure enough, they open a bar upstairs, called ‘The Flood Bar’ (how do they think up these names?), which is selling mostly bottled beer and sandwiches. Bert is not convinced, but David suggests that the family should go and support the pub for a meal and a drink. It seems that he wasn’t the only one with this idea, as the place is packed and they are lucky to get a seat.

The outpouring of community spirit really gets to Rooooth and she tells David that “It’s all worth fighting for - we’ve got to keep Brookfield going” and “I don’t want to go anywhere else - we belong here at Brookfield; it’s our home.” Talk about changing your tune! Last week we had Pip having a similar Damascene conversion and now Rooooth does a spectacular U-turn. Soon we’ll have Justin Eliot saying that he never really wanted to buy Brookfield in the first place. With everyone not able to leave Brookfield, where does this leave Heather? Rooooth says her mother is not one to make a fuss but her closest friend, Marjorie, has just gone into sheltered accommodation and is enjoying it - maybe Heather might join her? This too is a major change of attitude and, taken with all the other changes, it makes you wonder what we have been worrying about for the past few months.

Beneath this coming together in times of hardship, there is a growing undercurrent of dissatisfaction, if not anger, among the villagers at just how the situation was allowed to happen in the first place. Adam surveys the ruins of some arable fields, where tons of topsoil has been washed away, along with crops. He says that it is down to Borsetshire Land - if they had maintained their ditches properly and made sure there was plenty of organic matter in the soil, it would never have been washed away. Later on, Charlie offers Adam the job of clearing the BL ditches, but Adam declines, saying that he’s got enough on his plate at Home Farm.

Others blame the authorities and criticise their reactions to the floods (precious little). Pat especially is incensed, calling the authorities’ response as “pathetic” and saying to Clarrie “If they had spent proper money, this would never have happened. It’s all so wrong; we’ve put up with it for too long - something must change”.

Adam compliments David on his appearance on local TV one night, when he spoke up for the local farmers and David seems to have been caught up in the mood of unrest, as he tells Rooooth that something needs to be done and suggests they call a meeting and formulate a plan of action. To do what, exactly? March on the local council offices with flaming torches and pitchforks? Dump tons of slurry and dead lambs on their steps? Block the roads with tractors? This isn’t France, you know David.

Once again, Susan demonstrates that she isn’t quite in touch with the prevailing mood, when she tells Pat and Helen how generous it is of Justin Eliot, who has started up an Ambridge Relief fund. As Pat has just blamed what she calls “BL’s scorched earth policy” for precipitating the crisis, Susan is lucky she isn’t dunked in Adam’s slurry-filled hot tub. Susan wonders if Justin might help to get the shop back on its feet - lots of food will have to be junked - while Pat suggests that they could open up temporarily somewhere else, although she doesn’t know where.

Someone else who hasn’t caught the mood - and I’m sure you aren’t going to be surprised by this - is Kate, who tells people that it has just rained a bit - it’s not like people are starving and they should look at the bigger picture. As some of these people have lost nearly everything, or have homes awash with effluent, it is a tribute to their restraint that they don’t investigate whether or not the hot tub could accommodate two bodies, preferably face down.

You have to hand it to Kate - her lack of self-awareness is truly breathtaking. On Thursday, she grabs Phoebe, who is sensibly going somewhere else, and asks her daughter what is she doing on Sunday, which is Mother’s Day. Phoebe casually (and devastatingly) replies that she won’t be around, as she is going to see Hayley and Abbie. Hurt, Kate says “Aren’t you being a bit selfish?” which is pretty rich, coming from her. I would just say that, if Phoebe is being selfish, then she’s a real chip off the old block and also, isn’t there an old saying about pots and kettles?

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Bonus Posting: The Pedalo Of Doom

I thought it might be an idea to share some of the comments that are sent in about the blog (and thank you for the mostly complimentary remarks!). Keep the comments coming, as it’s good to know how some of you think.

The first comment is from an anonymous reader, who has noticed a temporal anomaly in our favourite village:

Something odd has happened to Ambridge time. If it was Tuesday in the real world then it would be Tuesday in Ambridge. The result was that you only ever got fifteen minutes of anything. The "piece of rope" that hitches The Archers to the real world has been replaced by a piece of elastic now. Days can pass in real time, but it is still Monday in Ambridge.

I'm finding it exhilarating, but unsettling. Quite enjoying storylines where something actually happens for once, and not missing the "wallpaper" that used to be in some episodes.

A different point of view from those who bombard the BBC Radio 4 ‘Feedback’ postbag with complaints about how The Archers is turning into ‘Eastenders in a field’ and similar, plus Mr or Ms Anonymous is spot on about the ‘elastic time’. While this allows the writers to build up suspense in some storylines, we should be careful what we wish for; under the ’Old Ambridge Time’, something like Lynda Snell’s Christmas panto only got a 15 minute airing (albeit after months of rehearsal, drama and casting problems) – imagine if they decided to broadcast the whole panto over a week! It doesn’t bear thinking about.

The next comment comes from Colin, who seems to think that the writers of The Archers have let a golden opportunity slip by:

Drat, the only victims were some sheep and maybe Scruff. They could have used the opportunity to kill off some annoying characters - a boat carrying Will, George, Vicky, Jim and that irritating Johnny capsizes and sends them all to a watery doom hee, hee. If only…

Colin has a point, even if you don’t necessarily agree with his choice of victims. I started to make a list, but had to stop, as the size of vessel needed to accommodate the growing crowd could never have navigated the Am. I was up to HMS Belfast size before I stopped. Discipline! That’s what was needed! So I decided that, tempting as it was to load up all the dead wood, I would have to limit myself and I came up with the idea of the Pedalo of Doom - a vessel capable of carrying only four passengers on their final journey to the Other Side.

Try it; it’s hard to stop at four, especially when the first two (for me) were nailed-on certainties, so that’s half the quota gone in half a second. Yes, sitting nervously in the front two seats would be Kate and Will, but who to join them? Wayne? But that could be a waste of a seat, as he only seems to be appearing sporadically and I can put up with one appearance every nine months. No, the remaining two seats would have to be reserved for those who were regularly annoying.

James and Leone? Annoying enough, I grant you, but thankfully we don’t hear a lot of them, thank God. Joe Grundy? Another waste, as, at 93, he can’t have many years left, can he? The pre-bull trampled Tony would have been a shoo-in, as indeed would the old sausage king Tom, but I’m prepared to give their new incarnations a chance to impress.

The next candidates called to mind the first scene from ‘Macbeth’ as I considered Pat, Jennifer and Lilian and, had it been a five-seater pedalo, one of them would be waving goodbye. Or it might have been Rooooth. You see how difficult it is? I could go on for ages, but it’s so frustrating, so let’s stop here and announce that the four in my Pedalo of Doom are Kate, Will, Lynda Snell and Susan Carter. You may disagree (and the chances are that I will have changed my mind by the end of the page) but a line has to be drawn somewhere.

The third comment came from a friend of mine, who said “Nobody seemed to be thinking of Peggy during the flood, did they?”  How very true, but then again, perhaps she’s a champion swimmer. Obviously the writers cannot account for everyone in Ambridge, but the remark did make me revisit a thought that has been in my mind for some time, and that is ‘What has happened to Darrell?’ Unless I’ve missed something, the last we heard of Darrell is that he was living up near the Stables in a converted camper van, but since moving in, we haven’t heard anything from him and no-one has even mentioned his name.

We know that the Stables were affected, as Shula and Alistair had to be rescued and taken to Grey Gables, so where was Darrell? Has he starved to death? Did his camper van float serenely down the Am with him inside it? If so, I’m going to swap the Pedalo of Doom for the Camper Van of Fate – you can get many more than four annoying people in a camper van.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

So Many Heroes

It never rains but it pours - in Ambridge at least, as most of last week’s episodes dealt with the weather and the downpour of biblical proportions. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, or in this case, men and women, as seemingly everyone behaved heroically. However, the award for the most heroic of heroines has to go to Freda Fry, who tried to get home in her car and drove it into the river. Trapped inside the car, Freda was in danger of a watery death until she was rescued at the last minute by the heroic Rev. Alan Franks.

Consider - Freda must have been terrified when trapped in the car, contemplating her imminent doom, then dragged out of the car and taken to St. Stephens and safety. Fear, gratitude and relief; Freda must have gone through a bewildering variety of emotions in a very short time, yet she never uttered a word and maintained a dignified silence throughout, not even thanking Alan. Even Lucky, the turkey rescued from the floods by Ed and Eddie, was heard to give a gobble or two, but Freda remained mute, which I submit is the sign of a true heroine.

Let’s consider a few of the other, more garrulous, heroes and heroines. PC Burns told everyone in The Bull that their village was slowly turning into a lake and, illustrating the truth of the old adage that every cloud has a silver lining, at least the floods and pouring rain meant an early end to the karaoke night. Having warned everybody, PCB and David then scoured the area to try and find people trapped in their homes and take them to Grey Gables, which Oliver and Caroline had opened as a sort of refugee camp for the homeless. Joe Grundy described David and PCB as “the heroes of the hour” but David is anxious to get back to Brookfield, where he has left Pip on her own, and to find Jill, who was one of those taking refuge in the church. Fortunately, Shula and Elizabeth manage to convince him that venturing out in pitch blackness, not knowing where the floods are or how deep is the water, is probably the worst idea he has had since saying to Nigel on New Year‘s Eve a few years back “I’ve got this great idea - if we go up on the roof tonight, we can get that Happy New Year banner down”.

When David does get back to Brookfield, he finds that Pip, with help from Tom, has saved the milking parlour from total destruction by uninstalling the milk pump (I didn’t understand it either). As father and daughter survey the watery landscape (giving the name Lakey hill a whole new meaning) he apologises to her for not listening to her and how proud he is of her. He is also sorry that he disappointed her about the move, to which Pip says that she never really wanted to leave Brookfield (another name made more apt as a result of the rain and flooding). Now come on; Pip was as miserable as sin when she realised that there would be no move northwards and she couldn’t have a shiny, new tractor. Earlier in the week, David berates her for giving him the silent treatment and she accuses him of ignoring everyone else’s wishes and just wanting everything to stay the same, so the volte face is something of a surprise, to say the least.

What are we to expect next - Rooooth coming back from Prudhoe and saying that Heather told her to get lost, or Rooooth telling her mum that if she has to choose between her and Ambridge, then she’ll shut the door on her way out?

The list of heroes continues - Adam was helping Charlie clear a culvert when Charlie decided that the only thing to do is to get into the water and clear it out by hand (see comments earlier about David, roof and banner). Adam shouts “Don’t be an idiot!” but it’s too late, as Charlie’s foot gets caught and the water closes over him. Adam battles to free him and eventually drags him clear, but Charlie isn’t breathing and a frantic Adam administers CPR, although Charlie would probably have preferred the kiss of life. Eventually, Charlie splutters and retches (insert your own joke about Charlie gagging for it) and Adam tells him that he won’t leave him.

Next day, when Charlie has been moved to Home Farm and fitted with a makeshift splint, waiting to be taken to hospital, Adam and Brian go to check on the sheep, which had been moved to a field ‘which never floods’. Wrong! They find eight dead lambs and 19 or 20 dead ewes and Adam beats himself up for not checking on them yesterday. As Adam skipped the lambs to help Charlie at the culvert, this attitude seems a little strange as, unless Charlie is capable of holding his breath underwater for an hour or two, Adam saved his life. Or maybe Charlie’s life is less valuable than those of 28 sheep?

And still the heroes come - Clarrie rescued Joe’s ferrets and he is nicking chicken from the sandwiches provided at Grey Gables to feed them. Rob, PCB and David take a boat out to rescue those still stranded, including Shula, Alistair and Christine. Rob is very angry, asking where are the emergency services (presumably he means the Coastguard)? His mood is not helped when Christine appears afraid to let herself out of the window into the boat and he suggests that they don’t have all night and only just stops himself from dragging her out by her hair. As it is, he sustains a head injury in the rescue (“blood everywhere” says Eddie) and is another one to be added to the hospital list.

Grey Gables is bursting at the seams and Roy has an anxious few moments when he learns that Phoebe wasn’t at Home Farm, as he thought, but was at The Bull for the karaoke night. He asks everyone if they have seen her, but nobody has. But don’t worry - she turns up and, according to David, she leapt into Roy’s arms when father and daughter were reunited, so maybe there will be a rapprochement.

There’s nothing like adversity to draw people together, but the ‘we’re all in this together’ spirit seems to have passed Lynda Snell by. She has been unable to find Scruff, who won’t come when called (this dog’s no fool) and has obviously taken the opportunity to make a break for it, presumably having had feng shui up to his doggie eyeballs. David makes some comment about her not having to bother about her shift at Grey Gables that night and she turns on him, saying that it’s OK for him - he’s running away from Ambridge. David almost lets it slip that he’s staying put, but stops himself in time. Later on, Elizabeth finds him crying and he says that Lynda is right - he has deserted the village and he’s not even capable of defending his own farm and family. Instead of slapping him and telling him to pull himself together, Liz makes sympathetic noises.

Elizabeth is one of the crowd at Grey Gables - and according to Roy, it really is a crowd, with people finding a bit of floor space and a pillow. Not Elizabeth, however, as she would appear to have a room to herself - at least one would like to think so, as Roy protests that she is soaked to the skin and he gets her some dry clothes. She asks him to turn around while she towels and changes, so I assume there are just the two of them there. Roy takes the opportunity to tell her that Hayley wants a divorce and Elizabeth sounds genuinely sorry for him. Going back to her asking Roy to avert his eyes, how times change - it wasn’t all that long ago that, fuelled by strong cider, she was ripping his clothes off and ravishing him inside his own tent at the music festival.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

It’s Not really Anything To Do With You, Rob

June Spencer OBE (Peggy Woolley)

Peggy wants to talk to Tom about her Will, which is lucky, as he wants to talk to her. She feels that she has made a terrible mistake in cutting her children out of the Will and she fees guilty that it might have been a factor in Tony’s accident - if he hadn’t felt so worthless, he might not have bought Otto the bull, which trampled him. Tom isn’t convinced and says that he was as much to blame, whereas we all know that it was Johnny’s inability to look after Henry that sparked the whole incident off, so blame him.

Tom goes with Peggy to see Helen and Rob, where Peggy explains that she will divide her estate between Tony, Jennifer and Lilian and she apologises to Helen because she won’t now get The Lodge. Helen assures her that this doesn’t matter, but Rob, who isn’t family, strictly speaking, disagrees, saying that The Lodge represents security for Helen and Henry’s future. Peggy says that surely him marrying Helen is her security and Tom says that surely he wouldn’t want Helen’s future to be dependent on Peggy’s death? They could have added that it’s nothing to do with you Rob, so butt out.

After Tom and Peggy have gone, Rob tells Helen that he thinks Tom is behind all this and he is surprised when she doesn’t agree with him. Helen says that Rob is doing so well that he’ll look after them. Let’s pause here and ask ourselves why Tom should want the Will changed - as things stand, Helen would get The Lodge and Tom would get everything else, so why would he want it altered?

It was a week of meetings for the Bridge Farm wing of the Archer clan, as on Friday Pat, Helen and Tom met to discuss the future of Ambridge Organics. Helen makes it clear that she feels she cannot run the shop and properly fulfil her commitment to Rob and Henry (what the hell does she have to do for them, for heaven’s sake?). Pat is not impressed, asking her daughter if she thinks that no-one else has ever had to juggle a job and a family and is Rob behind this decision? Looking for support, Pat asks Tom what he thinks and is appalled when he says that perhaps they ought to think about shutting it down. Her mood is not improved when Helen chips in “That’s what Rob suggested”. Tom reminds them that they will have to talk it over with Tony and hear what he has to say. It’s obviously not just Tom’s voice that has changed, but his character, as a year or so back, he wouldn’t have listened to anything Tony had to say and, if he did listen, he’d have done exactly what he wanted anyway.

Over at Brookfield, relations between David and Rooooth are frosty, to say the least. He keeps trying to engage his wife in looking forward to the future, saying things like “Robotic milking makes sense” and “This could be a blessing in disguise - let’s use this opportunity to start again”. Rooooth is amazed that he is asking her opinion now, having made the unilateral decision not to leave Brookfield, and she cannot really believe that having the farm split in two by a road represents much of an opportunity.

David has told Elizabeth and Shula about his decision and they are both supportive and pleased for him. Later on in the week, Rooooth calls on Usha to talk things through and says “Sometimes it feels like the whole bloody Archer clan are lined up against me”. Just wait till Kenton gets back home Rooooth and finds out that there will be no sale and no cash for him - you’ll have an Archer on your side for sure. And don’t swear.

Usha suggests that, for David to act as he did, he must have been convinced that he was right and, difficult as it seems, she is certain that David and Rooooth can get over this. Rooooth is not so sure - Pip is really angry and the boys are quiet “It feels like David has betrayed me” and “it feels like the family is breaking apart.” She is dreading telling Heather but what can she do? She can’t abandon her mum but “How can I choose between my mum and my family?” Well, I suppose you could consider who pays your wages, where you live and exactly what you would do if you moved back to live with your mother, for a start.

Kate continues to annoy me, and I am not alone. Having demanded her cottage back, she now wants it completely redecorated and mentions in passing that she has been consulting with Lynda about Feng Shui. Kate tries to engage Phoebe in choosing the decoration, with a singular lack of success (“It’s just a room” says Phoebe). Kate protests that “It’s your room in our home” but Phoebe counters with “In your cottage” and “I haven’t said I want any of this”. Phoebe is waiting for Hayley to come round and, when she does, Phoebe says “Hi mum, let’s go upstairs”. Kate, who has been asking about colours etc, says “You haven’t answered my question”, to which Phoebe replies “We’ll talk it over later, Kate”. Notice that? Hayley is ‘mum’ and Kate is ‘Kate’. Still, never mind, it’s an improvement on ‘pathetic loser’ and ‘self-obsessed, pretentious cow’.

Brian is another one who Kate is annoying, as she spoils his lunch by banging on about decorating and he tells her he wants his lunch in peace. A bit later, Kate confides to Jennifer that she is a bit short of cash. Jennifer suggests she asks Brian (it appears that, like the Queen, Jennifer doesn’t carry cash) and Kate says that he has been a bit anti about the cost of doing up the cottage. Brian appears at this moment and suggests that Kate gets a job. This upsets her and Brian says that he is not willing to be a cash machine, at which Kate storms out, shouting “You just don’t get it at all”. Quite right Kate and, when it comes to cash, neither do you, it seems.

While all this is going on, Phoebe is desperately trying - with a marked lack of success - to prevent Hayley and Roy going ahead with the planned divorce, telling Grandfather Mike that she just wants things to be back as they were (by which I presume she means ‘without Kate’) and bursts into tears. Mike is surprised, as this is the first he has heard talk of a divorce. “You just cry as much as you like” he tells her, and with Kate as your biological mother, who wouldn’t?

The news of David’s change of heart hasn’t been made public - David reveals that he had a call from Justin Eliot, who was very polite, although he described it as “a golden opportunity spurned”. Justin obviously told Charlie Thomas as, at a chance meeting with David, Charlie says “Look who it is - the man who threw away £7 million”. David tries to explain that it was never just about the money, but Charlie says that letting sentiment interfere with business is never a good idea and he asks “What’s it like up there on the moral high ground?” David’s reply (“Goodbye Charlie”) was quite restrained in the circumstances. Mine would have meant the same but have been one word longer.

Surprisingly, Charlie exhibited his caring side when talking to Ed. Charlie asked if Ed could get him some logs and Ed said that he would ask his dad. Meanwhile, Ed said that he no longer wanted to rent the 50 acres from the Estate, as he had sold his cows. Charlie says that he has to give 12 months’ notice and, as he missed the 1st January 2015 deadline, he’ll have to give it from January next year, which means he’ll be paying rent till December 2017. Ed explains that he’s saving to get married and is there nothing that can be done? Charlie promises to have a word with his Agent.

Later on, Ed tracks Charlie down to tell him that Eddie will deliver the logs tomorrow and has Charlie had a chance to talk to his Agent yet about the lease? Charlie confirms that Ed will have to give a year’s notice but there is an alternative: if Ed agrees to keep the Estate’s hedges neat and trimmed during the notice period, that will suffice instead of rent. A delighted Ed agrees at once. So why is Charlie being so nice? He says that “We try to have good relations with our neighbours” but I have a sneaking suspicion that, when Ed looks into it, he will find that the Estate has something like 500 miles of hedges around its land.