Annabelle Dowler (Kirsty Miller)
Whisper it quietly, but there were significant developments in the Helen/Rob saga last week and we seem to be inching - albeit very slowly - towards a climax. Kirsty told Helen that she had rung the abuse helpline to discuss Helen’s situation. This upsets Helen, who tells Kirsty that none of what has been happening has been Rob’s fault and “all couples have their ups and downs.” Nevertheless, Kirsty gives her the helpline number, saying that, if there’s nothing wrong, it cannot hurt.
Rob tells Henry that he is nearly ready to go to “the school that Daddy went to - you want to be like Daddy, don’t you?” Henry agrees, which shows that he has no instinct where bad role models are concerned, and Rob urges him not to say anything to Helen “as it’s a surprise for Mummy.” I should say so! Henry promises.
On Thursday, Pat has arranged a tea party at Bridge Farm as a ‘thank you’ to Ursula, who is going home the next day. Helen is trying to get Henry to behave, but he says “I do what I want” and, when Helen tells him off, he says “I hate you - you want to send me away” and runs off, pursued by his mother. Left alone, Pat asks Ursula what did Henry mean and she replies that she has no idea. Suddenly, we hear - offstage, so to speak - Helen yelling “He’s gone too far this time!” Astonished, Pat asks what has Henry done now? “It’s not Henry, it’s Rob - it’s always Rob!” screams Helen. Ursula tries to comfort her, but Helen yells “Don’t touch me!” and says that Rob wants to send Henry away “and if he does, I swear I’ll kill him!” In which case, she’d have five million people giving her an alibi.
Helen takes Ursula’s car keys and storms out, driving back to the cottage, hotly followed by Pat and Ursula. Ursula tells Pat that she and Rob were discussing the hypothetical possibility of Henry going to a private school at some stage in the future and he must have overheard. She neglects to mention that they’ve all but chosen his desk and makes it sound like it was just a passing thought. This is the tack taken by Rob when he is confronted by Helen, who is still raving. In true Rob style, he turns it all round on Helen and, in true Helen style, she agrees that it was all her fault. Rob describes her behaviour as ‘grotesque’ and accuses his wife of ruining Ursula’s last day with them, telling her to “sit down and reflect on the damage you’ve caused. Your erratic behaviour is putting our baby at risk”
It shows how cruel the writers are - I for one thought that, now Henry has blown the gaff, the writing was on the wall for Rob, but then Helen did her invertebrate act and we were back in the same old situation.
On Friday, Rob rubs it in further, saying to Helen that the way she implied that Rob wanted to send Henry away was extremely hurtful and “a despicable thought.” He takes Henry round to Bridge Farm, where Pat has said she will have him for the day (Good Friday). Rob is quickly back and tells Helen that he has discussed things with Pat and Tony and he proceeds to rifle through Helen’s bag and confiscates her car keys to stop her driving off again. He then returns to Bridge Farm. What Rob doesn’t know is that, while he was away, Helen rang the midwife and said that she’s changed her mind - she now wants a hospital birth. ‘Good for you, girl!’ I thought and was even more cheered up when, during Rob’s second absence, Helen rings the abuse helpline, telling Anita (the counsellor) that Rob has hit her once and forced her to have sex against her will on more than one occasion. Anita says that Helen is being brave by facing up to things, but then she reverts to the old Helen, saying that it sounds ridiculous when she puts it into words and she should really be grateful for all that she has and she’s sorry for bothering Anita. Rob is returning and Anita urges her to ring back soon as they can be of help.
Once again, I thought that Helen had blown it, as Rob comes in, calling for her. Helen tells him that she has been lying down all day, but she’s going upstairs for a rest. Rob asks if she’s done anything for supper and she says no, adding “Why don’t you make it?” as she goes upstairs. The week ends with Rob, obviously stunned by this spark of rebellion, calling after her “Helen? Helen?” Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of this story, or will Helen wimp out yet again?
Also on Good Friday, there was an unlikely member of the congregation at St Stephen’s, when Alf accompanied Clarrie to the morning service. He remarks on how good Alan’s sermon (on the theme of forgiveness) was and this proves all too much for Clarrie, who has noticed yet another £20 has gone missing from her purse. She confronts Alf and he admits to taking it, later telling her how he has betrayed her trust and “All I can do is apologise.” Well, actually, you could always offer to pay it back as well, Alf. He begs her not to tell Eddie, saying that he has been estranged from his family for years and now he’s gone and messed it up. Obviously influenced by Alan’s sermon, Clarrie suggests that they start again.
Alf has been helping Eddie fine-tune the fittings in Lynda’s shepherd’s hut - or maybe not, as the woodburner proves to be a disaster, smoking the hut out and nearly asphyxiating the brothers. However, they are luckier than that other set of brothers, Toby and Rex (do you appreciate these seamless links?). The Fairbrothers have taken delivery of the Eggmobile and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of 100 hens the following day. There was a semi-philosophical conversation with David, during which he says “every day in farming brings its surprises.” And how right he is! Driving towards Hollowtree, the Fairbros spot smoke and their worst fears are realised when the Eggmobile is discovered as a burnt-out shell. Disaster! Rex says that they will have to postpone the arrival of the hens, but Toby is made of sterner stuff (or else he’s on something). He decides that they can adapt the caravan to house the hens - it won’t take Bert long to knock up 100 nesting boxes, or however many are needed. But where will the boys sleep? There’s always the tent - Toby doesn’t want to lose the momentum they have built up in establishing the business.
In a leading contender for ‘this week’s most unsubtle hint’, Toby reminds David that Pip is away at the moment and “how many bedrooms are there at Rickyard Cottage?” David isn’t that stupid and recommends the B&B at Ambridge Hall - they do a fantastic breakfast and maybe Toby could persuade Lynda to use their eggs. Or, to spell it out, sod off Toby - you’re on your own (with Rex).
It turned out that the torching of the Eggmobile was a case of arson, so let’s pause and think who could be guilty? Jamie has previous - remember the burnt-out bird hide? However, as we haven’t heard from him for weeks, he could have died for all we know. Is Clive “Matches” Horrobin still in chokey? Has ex-jailbird Susan succumbed to the Horrobin gene? I reckon the smart money is on Rob - God only knows what his motive might be, but he’s certainly nasty enough - he’ll probably claim Helen did it.
Bert Fry has moved back to the bungalow and it is with mixed feelings. While he is pleased to be independent, he is rattling around and is obviously lonely. He is reshaping his garden as a tribute to Freda and, with prompting from Carol, decides that he will open it to the public on the same day as Lynda’s Resurgam garden. May I digress here and point out that lots of discussion of which typeface would be the most suitable for the engraved stone does not make for good radio and, such is my lack of interest, that I neither care, nor can I remember, which font was Lynda’s preferred choice.
Lynda is a tad pissed off that Bert’s garden will be open on the same day as hers and pays him a visit, ostensibly to take him a vase as a ‘moving in’ present. Earlier in the week, Shula and Carol were sorting through costumes for the Pageant (and, dear God, we still have that to come) and they seem puzzled as to what they’re doing there. Shula wryly says “Lynda is a master at delegating.” Carol agrees: “Her productions do tend to bring out the despot in her.”
So, well done Bert for taking a stand: when Lynda comes round and suggests that Bert might like to not open his garden on the same day as hers, he tells her to get lost. Earlier in the week, Lynda was at her pompous best, dismissing Bert’s efforts, saying that Bert’s garden is neither on the same scale as hers, neither is he charged with the same responsibility (i.e. she thinks that her garden is charged with symbolism for the entire village). Bert doesn’t see it this way, saying that he doesn’t care about what the village thinks, or if they visit, as his garden is a tribute to Freda and he’s doing it for her and her alone. In short, he turns Lynda down flat - if only more villagers followed his example!
Lynda notices a half-empty packet of crisps and asks Bert if he is looking after himself properly. He says yes and tells Lynda that he has a couple of houseguests - the Fairbrother boys are staying with him “until they find somewhere permanent.” My fear is that this sounds a very open-ended arrangement and their sojourn could be quite a lengthy one. Bert also tells Lynda that the boys “have breathed life into every room” at the bungalow. As Rex described Toby as “a slob in the kitchen” earlier in the week, I suspect that the enchantment might soon wear off for Bert as he clears away dirty dishes and, going on Toby’s past record, assorted female underwear and the odd contraceptive packet.