Louiza Patikas (Helen Titchener)
Helen goes for another in what seems to be an unending series of scans, driven by Ursula. When they are at home, Ursula makes it plain that she thinks a hospital birth is not a good idea - she had a bad experience with Rob’s brother, Miles, who could have suffered brain damage, plus she “was cut to pieces”. Consequently, with Rob, Ursula opted for a home birth; an experience that she described (rather unlikely) as ‘joyous’. Helen points out that she had a bad time with Henry and, had she not been in hospital, she and he might not have survived.
Ursula tells Helen that she mustn’t let herself be pressured into doing something that isn’t right for her (as if!) and she knows that Rob would be happier with a home birth. When Rob returns home, Helen confesses that she’s confused about where to have the birth and she doesn’t know what to do. Rob says that he knows Ursula’s feelings and he trusts her judgement “but I’m not going to interfere in any way - it’s your decision; you must do what you think is best.”
The following day is Tom’s 35th birthday and also the 18th anniversary of brother John’s fatal accident. To celebrate (presumably the former, rather than the latter), a supper party is held at Bridge Farm. There was further cause for celebration, as Johnny passed his level 2 agricultural apprenticeship exam and is looking forward to level 3. Rob asks Helen if she’s told her mum what she (Helen) has decided? Helen is confused, so Rob announces that Helen has decided that she will have the baby at home. Pat is stunned - all the advice has been for a hospital birth, to which Rob replies that Ursula is something of an expert when it comes to childbirth and Helen shares her anxieties. He also gives the reasons that Helen arrived at her decision; she seemingly being incapable of speaking for herself.
Tony proposes a toast to “the birthday boy” and then another to Johnny for passing his exam, saying that he hopes that Johnny goes all the way and that there is a job for him at Bridge Farm at the end of it. For his part, Johnny proposes a toast to his late father (who would have been 40 on New Year’s Eve, in case you are interested. Helen bursts into tears and rushes from the room. Tom tells Rob to stay there and he’ll comfort Helen. He asks her if everything is OK at home with Rob and, when she says that she misses John so much, as she could always talk to him, Tom says that “you can always talk to me - I’m here if you ever need to talk about anything; anything at all.”
Speaking the following day, Rob shows that it’s not just Tom that he’s against, as he mentions that “we’re stuck with Johnny for another year” and describes Tony’s talking about a full time job at the end of his apprenticeship as “grossly irresponsible - this is a business, not a charity.” Helen exhibit’s a spark of rebellion, as she reminds Rob that “this is a family business, and Johnny is family.” “So are we - we have responsibilities” her husband replies. Helen then asks whether or not they should think of getting more help in the shop, as it seems to be doing well. Rob (no doubt scandalised by this show of independence) says that he doesn’t think the extra cost can be justified. He says that “Johnny is a free agent - he could get a job anywhere.” Helen, who has obviously been taking the Brave Pills, retorts “so could you.” “I’m doing this for you, Helen”, Rob says, adding that, when the baby is born, he will need his mother and Rob needs to be close by to support her.
It’s encouraging that Tom seems to be suspicious that all is not well between his sister and her husband and, towards the end of the week, Kirsty manages to get a one-to-one with Helen, despite Ursula not passing on to Helen Kirsty’s request for a talk. Kirsty says that Helen doesn’t seem relaxed and is everything OK? Helen blames the pregnancy, but Kirsty pushes her luck and asks if everything is OK with Rob? Helen replies “of course” and Kirsty asks is he mistreating her in any way, and would she like to talk to a counsellor? Helen has mild hysterics, saying “Stop it, stop it! You shouldn’t interfere Kirsty - I just need to be left alone - just go away, please.” Rob chooses this moment to turn up and demands to know what’s going on. He is furious and tells Kirsty to “get out and never come round again.” He tells Helen not to worry, as “I’m here and I’ll look after you.” Well Kirsty, well spotted for recognising Rob’s baleful influence, but I really think that you could have handled it better.
Sorry to have spent so much time on the Helen/Rob/Ursula story and I tend to agree with the many readers who have begged for a swift conclusion - preferably one which involves Rob going over a waterfall in a spiked barrel, full of rattlesnakes - but it is a major theme and, as such, needs to be covered. Pray for a swift nemesis.
Moving on, we wonder if there might be room in that barrel for Toby. He turns up at the caravan, late for a meeting with Josh after another night on the lash. He is less than impressed when Rex tells him that he has persuaded Lilian to let them move her furniture out of the Dower House. Toby says he needs shower and a coffee, and dismisses Josh as “a schoolboy”. Rex points out that Josh has been running his own business for a number of years and “We are the amateurs here, Toby.” When the brothers go to Brookfield, Toby goes to see Bert, who is making the Eggmobile, and who he annoys by asking stupid questions. An exasperated Bert finally snaps, saying “Have you ever heard the expression ‘teaching your grandmother to suck eggs’ Toby?” The answer to that is probably ‘no’, but Toby asks why isn’t there a provision for the doors to the henhouse to open automatically in the morning, to save him getting up at the crack of sparrows? Bert says that this wasn’t part of the brief, but a day later, Josh has come up with a solution. I don’t know what sort of percentage Josh has in this joint venture, but, going on what’s happened so far, it isn’t enough.
Toby also was disappointed when he asks Josh how is Pip (or ’love’s young dream’ as he calls it) is coping with Matthew’s absence? Josh says that she spends all day texting him. “Makes you sick” Josh adds. “Doesn’t it just” Toby adds, with feeling. Sadly, it wasn’t all bad news for Toby, as, at the meeting, the brothers and Josh realise that their plans for robust packaging and marketing are going to be more expensive than they thought. “What we need is a sponsor” Toby says, but where to find one?
Fast forward to the furniture moving at the Dower House, where we had some riveting radio, describing how a wardrobe comes apart so that it can be carried downstairs. Toby quickly discovers that Lilian is working as Justin Eliot’s social secretary and that he is keen to get involved with local projects and enterprises. “Interesting” Toby says. I can’t think where the Fairbrothers are going to find their sponsor, can you?
When all the furniture has been removed, Lilian and Jennifer stand in the empty house and Lilian is in maudlin mood - she had always thought that she and Matt would end their days there, but here she is, living with her sister. Jen, who doesn’t take offence, says that, surely, that’s not so terrible? Jen also is affected by her sister’s despondency, asking what has she actually achieved in her life? Well, you’ve got a kitchen that cost a few grand, if nothing else. Jen reminds Lilian that she has a new job, her health and strength, and, rashly, says that Lil also has her family, including James and young Muppet. Fortunately, Jen manages to stop Lil throwing herself out of the first floor window when she digests this information, but Lilian’s mood is not improved and she says, despondently “I’ll be 70 next year. “ “70 is the new 50” says Jen, cheerfully, but Lilian says wistfully: “It seems awfully late to be making a fresh start.”
We cannot let the week pass without mentioning the momentous events at Brookfield. The herd has been sold and 200 new, crossbred, cows have been purchased to replace them. These cows arrived in batches and we had more wonderful radio moments as various members of the Archer family described the cows’ varying colours, how they were frisky when being walked out to pasture and the difficulties of getting 200+ cows to go through the (to them) unfamiliar milking parlour. Rooooth seemed to voice doubts about whether they could do it, to which David, quite rightly pointed out that it’s a bit late now. Mind you, he too has reservations, as, over the next few weeks, half the cows will be calving. Still, he looks on the bright side, calling the new enterprise “A whole new chapter in the history of Brookfield.” Let’s hope so, or else Rooooth might get a good kicking from the family.
There was one encouraging theme to emerge from the arrival of the new cows - Lynda took the opportunity to visit Brookfield and to try and persuade David and Rooooth to take part in her Easter pageant (‘England’s Pleasant Land’). She points out that David wouldn’t even have to learn any lines, as it would involve reading from the page. Lynda bangs on about what it’s all about, but David points out that they have 200 unfamiliar cows to look after and he, Rooooth and Pip will be a tad busy over the next few weeks. What about Josh? He’s got exams to study for, says Rooooth. Ben then? Rooooth implies that, if she knows her youngest son, he’d rather stick pins in his eyes, so bye, bye Lynda, there’s work to be done.
Poor Lynda (I don’t mean that, obviously) as she is frustrated because she cannot get Eddie to show her the progress on her shepherd’s hut (described by Ed as ‘wonky’ and by Clarrie as ‘not like any shepherd’s hut I’ve ever seen’; both of which comments bode ill for when it is finally unveiled). Not only that, but Lynda approaches Kirsty about the pageant and the ‘Clean for the Queen’ litter pick - or so Kirsty thinks, but Lynda only wants to put a poster up in the Health Club. Nevertheless, Kirsty makes it plain that she has better things to do (washing her hair, watching TV) and is not interested in Lynda’s plans. Now this is an encouraging development and let’s hope that it is (a) contagious and (b) long-lasting. Let’s start a ‘Do one Lynda’ campaign - or how about everyone giving up participation in her extravaganzas for Lent? Or, better still, for the 21st century?