Monday, 30 May 2016

What’s In A Name?

June Spencer OBE (Peggy Woolley)

Whats in a name? Quite a lot actually, as I suspect we will be finding out in the near future, but more of this later. When the week began, I thought that I had been transported back a week or two when I heard Pat on the phone to Peggy. I should be there! I should be there! came the anguished wail. Peggy rang off and the phone rang again - this time its Kirsty, who has hardly had time to say that she couldnt sleep before Pat broke in with I should be there, Kirsty, I should be there! Obviously it didnt take the actress playing Pat long to learn her line this week - even more so as she repeated it on every occasion.

At the hospital, Peggy sits with Helen, who asks where is Tony? When Peggy says that hes gone to ring Pat, Helen exclaims She should be here! I thought Oh God, not you too but at least she only said it the once.

While Pat is wallowing in self-pity on the phone, Rob cannot get through and hes not happy, saying Its a nightmare - my son coming into the world, surrounded by armed guards! Ursula says mildly that theyre probably not armed, to which Rob snarls Then they should be! Make your mind up, man. I suppose we should be grateful that he didnt say I should be there!

As time passes, Rob gets angrier and angrier, fulminating against Helen, her family, Bridge Farm and practically everything else. He calls Helen an evil bitch and says The danger that woman has put my child in. Defying me was more important than the future of her own child - how twisted can you get? Rob is convinced that Pat has taken the phone off the hook and is all for going round to Bridge Farm, until Ursula dissuades him.

Ursula suggests that she goes instead, on the pretext that Henry has been asking for his train set. Kirsty opens the door and the conversation between the two is both frosty and waspish. However, it is cut short when Pat returns from being on the phone - Helen has developed pre-eclampsia and the babys heart rate has dropped; time for an emergency caesarean. Ursula returns to Honeysuckle Cottage and the news sets off another series of rants from Rob; Evil bitch - why did I ever get involved with her and her ghastly family? Well, the marathon bonkfests might have had something to do with it, I suppose. As well as being nasty, Robs rants indicate a level of self-delusion; take, for example Its only thanks to me that their pathetic little farm is still a going concern. After all Ive done for them, they treat me like this.  Unforgivable agrees Ursula.

We’ll cut to the chase and gloss over Helen saying that everything is her fault and maybe it would be better if she and the baby both died - Helen has the baby and both she and he are fine physically. Peggy is with her granddaughter in the Recovery Room and has slipped into besotted Great Grandma mode, saying how perfect young Robspawn is and how Helen can hold him later. “You’re all right, he’s all right; in fact everything is all right” she says, cheerfully, only for Helen to say, in doom-laden tones “No, it’s not - it’s not.”

Tony is also besotted and tells Pat how beautiful the baby is. “I wish I could see him” she says - well, you should be there, woman! Tony says that they aren’t allowed to take photos of Helen and Robspawn together (is he appearing as a witness for the Prosecution?), but he is clearly over the moon. Someone else who is delighted is Rob, who reveals to Ursula that the baby will be called ‘Gideon (after Ursula’s father) Robert Titchener’ and they drink a toast “to the next generation of the Titchener family.”

An exception to these scenes of delight and celebration is the attitude of Helen towards her new son, which could best be summed up as “put him down there and I might get round to taking a look at him a bit later.” She is having trouble breastfeeding and decides to bottle feed - or rather, she lets the midwife feed the baby. Basically, bonding she isn’t and, when Peggy and Tony play ‘who does he look like?’ (Tony thinks he looks like Pat’s father, while Peggy says ‘He’s all Archer’) Helen brings the conversation to a close, by saying morosely: “He looks like Rob.”

Even Tony notices her lack of enthusiasm - she doesn’t pick the baby up when he cries - and Peggy agrees that Helen is finding it hard to bond with her child and “it will take time.” About 100 years would be my guess and Peggy’s insistence on reminding Helen that the child is as much hers as Rob’s seems to have little effect. In fact, Peggy is trying too hard - on Friday she is upset because Helen hasn’t given Robspawn a cuddle and, despite Helen repeatedly saying it doesn’t matter and don’t disturb him, she goes on and on. Eventually, Helen snaps and shouts “I said ‘no’! I wish people would just listen to what I’m saying!” Peggy apologises and then Helen feels bad about her behaviour.

Later on that day, while Helen is waiting to be driven back to chokey with her child, Peggy and Tony discuss the situation, with Peggy saying “She can’t bring herself to love Rob’s child.” However, there is hope, as Peggy is determined, telling her son: “We can help her to learn to love her baby.” It appears that she may be pushing at an open door, as Helen seems to have had a change of heart - when Peggy and Tony arrive to see her off, Helen asks Peggy to pick the baby up and hand him to her. Not only that, but she has found out that the Registrar can come to the secure unit to register the birth and that she has decided on the name ‘John Anthony’ after her dad and her late brother. To spare confusion with Johnny, she says he will be known as ‘Jack’, in honour of Pat’s late husband. She says: “My son [note the first indication of bonding there] will have the names of three good men - John Anthony Archer.”

So now you see why this week’s blog is entitled as it is - I can’t help thinking that Rob might have something to say about the choice of names - perhaps when he finds out he will go berserk and reveal his true colours, thus securing Helen’s freedom. On the subject of names, was I the only one to notice the ‘Archer’ reference? Unless ‘Archer’ was supposed to be his third forename, shouldn’t there be a ‘Titchener’ in there somewhere? After all, Helen made a point of taking Rob’s surname when they got married. Whatever, Rob isn’t going to be happy.

Another person who isn’t happy is Pip, as we learn that Matthew is coming down for a couple of days and she doesn’t know what he wants to talk about. Pip, Josh and Adam take the 150-strong herd to their new pasture on Home Farm’s herbal leys and the beasts love it. Let’s pause here and consider Josh’s developing role; the lad is becoming - how can I put this? - yes, ‘bloody obnoxious’ sums it up nicely. First of all he taunts Pip about being dumped and then he goes on to her and Adam about the wisdom of grass grazing and will it ever make any money? Adam, no doubt wondering if he can get away with giving the young upstart a slap, reminds him that it is just an experiment. “You sound just like Brian” Adam says, and it wasn’t a compliment.

Matthew turns up and the atmosphere at Brookfield over afternoon tea is strained, to say the least. Eventually, in desperation, Rooooth suggests that Pip shows Matthew the new herd and off they go. They talk through their situation, with Matthew saying that the problem is that, while they love each other, they both love their jobs and couldn’t give them up. Maybe in a couple of years? Pip says that she loves him and wants to be with him now, but Matthew reminds her of how she couldn’t bear to leave Brookfield when she had the chance of a high-flying job. “You mean more to me than a stupid job” she protests, and he answers “But not more than Brookfield - tell me I’m wrong.” And of course she cannot.

Matthew stays the night and, next day, they agree to part. She asks him for one last, goodbye kiss and he says that would be a lovely way to remember her - with the new herd grazing on fresh grass; “You, surrounded by your future” Matthew says and Pip begs him in an uncertain voice to go quickly. Have we seen the last of Matthew? I wonder. Rooooth tells Rex that Pip might need cheering up and Pip tells him the whole story, apologising for crying on his shoulder and saying “You’re such a good friend - what would I do without you?”

As one relationship ends, another is mended, as Fallon and Kirsty plot to get Tom and Jazzer back together. They are entirely successful in this, with the two men meeting at the pig field. There is an awkward moment or two, then they realise how stupid they have been and Jazzer asks if Tom is asking him to come back and Tom asks if he (Jazzer) is asking to come back. Jazzer says that they have been behaving like a couple of Jesses (true) and calls Tom “a Sassenach plonker”, only for Tom to respond in kind with “steaming Scottish idiot.” The pigs’ futures are assured - at least until they go for slaughter, I presume. I just love a happy ending.

Things don’t look that good for the elves at the Millennium Wood - Brian and Will are annoyed that the crowds they are attracting are disturbing the pheasants and they are determined to get rid of them. This is bad news for Eddie and his sales of Elvish tat and even worse for Kenton, who has had five boxes of T-shirts printed with ‘We love the elves of Ambridge’. Nice timing Kenton.

Kenton is getting earache from Jolene about making Wayne’s job permanent. The Bull has been nominated in two categories in the Borsetshire Food and Drink Awards - in one of which it is up against Fallon’s tearoom. Actually, the BFDA list of finalists reads like a roll call of Ambridge businesses; as well as Kenton and Fallon, nominations include Josh’s eggs and Helen’s cheese. No doubt if Tom had entered his Scotch eggs, they’d be up there too.

It will soon be Jennifer and Brian’s 40th Wedding Anniversary and Jen and Lilian hit the clothes shops of Cheltenham in a spending frenzy. Jennifer tells her sister that “Justin has brought the sparkle back to your eyes” and, while discussing the marriage of Justin and Miranda, Lilian describes it as “being in real trouble.” We learn also that Lilian is entering the painting that Paul bought her into the jumble sale - is she clearing the decks for another torrid romance?

One final point about Brian and Jennifer’s wedding anniversary - Brian reveals to Lilian that their honeymoon wasn’t much of an occasion, so he’s booked a week in a five-star hotel in Venice. If you want someone to carry your bags, Brian, I come cheap.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

It’s Like Pulling Teeth, But Not So Enjoyable

Louiza Patikas (Helen Titchener)

I know that few people have a good word to say about lawyers, especially when they get their invoices, but I’m starting to think that Anna is really having to work hard in building up a defence case for Helen and is definitely earning her corn. It doesn’t help that Helen isn’t helping - she either ignores Anna’s questions or says that she cannot remember. It is certainly hard work for Anna and, to be honest, I’m finding it pretty tough and tedious as well.

At the end of the week, Anna asks her about Kirsty and why she gave Helen the phone with the Helpline number on it. “How would I know?” Helen counters, adding that Kirsty practically forced the phone on her and she won’t answer Anna’s question about whether or not she called the Helpline and why didn’t she throw the phone away if she didn‘t want it? Helen says “I can’t talk about it!” To be fair, the reason for this is that Helen’s waters have broken. “It’s really happening - the baby’s coming!” she screams, as Anna calls for help. And that’s where the week’s final broadcast ended, with young Lucifer poised to make his debut appearance in the world.

Let’s return to the subject of Helen’s defence, or rather the lack of it. In vain does Anna say things like “I need you to talk to me about your life with Rob” and tries to get to the bottom of Ursula’s baleful influence over the family. Does Helen not realise that Anna is, in fact, on her side and a defence based on ‘I don’t remember’ and ‘Does it matter?’ is unlikely to be successful, unless the jury is composed of Archer family members in disguise, of course.

I don’t know if it’s ethical, but cannot Anna subject Helen to a mild (but not that mild) electric shock every time that she prevaricates or cannot remember? Alternatively, perhaps the shock of seeing Lucifer’s cloven hooves and horns will shock her into remembering the years of abuse and manipulation at Rob‘s hands. Whichever, I hope it happens soon, as I’ve had more than enough.

While still on the subject of Helen, let’s look at the reactions of her mother and grandmother. Peggy is determined to go and see Helen in the mother and baby unit and Tony drives her. They have about the same amount of luck that Anna has had in trying to find out anything, but Peggy is determined, telling Tony that she is exactly where she ought to be and “as long as I’ve got breath in my body, I’ll do everything in my power for you and your family.” She suggests that they get Tony a whisky and, when he protests that he should be looking after her, she replies “I plan to outlive the lot of you.” I’d be a tad suspicious of that whisky if I were you, Tony.

And now we turn to Pat, who couldn’t visit her daughter, having made herself a witness for the prosecution. I thought that, when we had the saga of Johnny/Rich a year or two back, Pat proved that she could moan for the Galaxy, but her performance last week far surpassed that. By Wednesday, I thought ‘if I hear Pat utter the words ‘not fair’ or ‘injustice’ one more time, I will go to Ambridge and personally throttle her.’ The woman seems incapable of understanding that her daughter is going to be tried for a serious crime and, as a witness for the prosecution, she is not allowed to see her. “But this is different - she’s giving birth!” Pat wails. So she might be, but she’s still under arrest.

Nevertheless, Pat continues to grasp at straws, however tenuous, and gets excited when Anna tells her that there is a faint - a very, very faint - hope and Pat can enter a request to be with Helen. This hope is swiftly snuffed out when DS Madeley rings Pat and tells her that, while Pat has an absolute right to put in a request, DSM doesn’t believe that Pat could avoid discussing the case and that she (DSM) “would be minded to recommend refusal.” That’s a ‘no’ then, Pat. Cue mega-moans and cries of ‘unfair’ as Pat immediately conjures up visions of her daughter giving birth in shackles, or being beaten up by a team of policemen.

The following day, she, Tony and Adam are turning out the cows at Home Farm and Pat remembers how she helped with the difficult birth of one of the cows. “I can help with calving, but not with the birth of my own grandchild - where’s the justice in that?” she moans. Give it a rest woman! Presumably the mother of the cow that you helped into the world wasn’t found standing over the recumbent body of a badly-injured man, while holding a knife dripping with blood?

You will no doubt be pleased to know that that’s it about Helen this week, although it is worth noting that Ursula tells Pat and Tony that Rob is entitled to sick pay, thus adding buckets of salt into an already-gaping wound. Things are not going well at Bridge Farm, with Tom working all the hours God has given. Something’s got to give - the shop is still shut and money is tight, so Tom calls a family meeting. His suggestion is that they re-open the shop for Whitsun weekend but, if they do, then something’s got to go and that something will be the pigs.

This doesn’t go down a storm with Johnny, who suggests that they could continue with the pigs if they got Jazzer back to work on the farm. Tom intimates that it will be a cold day in Hell before he asks Jazzer back. No worries - perhaps Johnny could persuade Jazzer to apologise and ask for his job back? He tries, but it will be an even more inclement day in Hades before that happens and even when Johnny tells Jazzer about Tom’s plans to get shot of the pigs, the Scotsman is shocked (“My girls? They’re what make Bridge Farm Bridge Farm”). However, not shocked enough to bite the bullet, as Jazzer tells Johnny that, if Tom wants him back, he’ll have to ask him. “That’s not going to happen” says Johnny, morosely, “That’s it - the pigs are going.” “Not my problem, Johnny” Jazzer retorts. Johnny notices that Jazzer is drinking halves and doesn’t order any food (they are at The Bull) and remarks “It must be hard, living on fresh air and pride.”

Johnny’s attachment to the pigs stems from the fact that they were started by his late father, John and, although Tom assures him that the pigs could make a comeback if the financial situation improves, Johnny is not convinced. Actually, it wasn’t a good week for the Johnny/Tom relationship - not only was there the difference of opinion about the pigs, but Johnny keeps trying to persuade Tom to enter his scotch eggs in the Borsetshire Food and Drink Awards. Tom dismisses this - he hasn’t got the time to mess around with things like that - and he gets quite sharp with his nephew.

It gets worse later in the week, when Tom finds Johnny at the computer at 5am and he is filling in an entry form for the Awards. Tom goes ever so slightly ballistic and tells Johnny to go, not giving him the chance to explain or put his case. Later the same day, a contrite Tom apologises to Johnny, as he realised that Johnny was, in fact, entering Helen’s Borsetshire Blue cheese, as a sign of solidarity. John even says that he completed and sent off the entry form. I thought he was supposed to be busy? The way thinks are going, Helen might have the opportunity to enter some new cheeses - Cell Block Cheddar, or Bang-up Brie, perhaps.

Over at Home Farm, Brian and Jennifer are coming up to their 40th Wedding Anniversary. Lilian can’t believe that they have racked up so long together and I must admit that I find it strange too - you’d think the revelation of Brian’s lovechild, Ruairi might have caused some serious debate about marriage vows and fidelity, but it seems not. Perhaps Jennifer knows which side her bread is buttered (and not just butter, but spread thickly with jam as well). We get an insight into her attitude when an anxious Brian approaches Adam about what to do for the anniversary. It seems that the initial honeymoon was a modest affair and Brian is wondering whether a second honeymoon would be in order - does Adam think Jennifer will like it? Brian tells Adam what he plans is “exotic, quite restful and extremely expensive.” “I’m sure she’ll love it” Adam replies, dryly, showing that he knows a lot more about his mother than does her husband.

What else has been happening? Eddie has been trying to sell off some elvish tat at a boot sale, or similar (Ed and Emma have turned parts of the Millennium Wood into an elvish fairytale for the benefit of Kiera, much to the annoyance of Jennifer) and sales aren’t going well. Joe, who has accompanied his son on the task, takes the opportunity to go into full moaning mode (perhaps he could get together with Pat). However, Eddie has an idea! He goes to a fancy dress shop and comes back with two elf costumes. Joe immediately perks up (would you if someone asked you to appear in public, wearing a pair of outsize ears?) and it seems that the Borsetshire public are equally gullible, as the father and son elves return home in good spirits.

This mood is quickly dispelled, however, when they spot Lynda’s car outside the house. Clarrie meets them outside and tells them that Lynda isn’t a happy bunny, as she appears to be allergic to the unasked-for mushroom compost that Eddie spread on her garden. Clarrie says that Lynda claims that Eddie has made her allergic to Resurgam and she won’t be ready for the grand opening of the garden. Presumably Eddie doesn’t care overmuch about this, but Lynda isn’t going to settle his invoice until he has sorted the problem out.

Toby has yet another bright business idea and turns up with a drone to provide airborne footage of his and Rex’s (and Josh’s) hens roaming freely over the countryside. This will form the basis of a promotional film, but Pip, who appeared in the film as a farmer, complete with lipstick and nail varnish) objects when Toby says that he wants to film the operations of a rival, whose hens are cooped up. Pip says that a) she is a friend of the son of the farmer in question and b) you can’t do this sort of thing without the permission of the person being filmed, so if Toby does film it, she will not appear in his promotional film.

Toby can’t get his head round this and Pip is distracted by her phone - it’s Matthew, who is coming down for the weekend. Or rather, as Pip later tells her mother, he isn’t. In fact he’s never coming again. A tearful Pip says “He’s finished with me - he’s decided we’re over.” If it should turn out that Pip ends up with Toby on the rebound, my wrath will be terrible to behold - scriptwriters, you have been warned.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Time to Move on Jazzer?

Ryan Kelly (Jack 'Jazzer' McCreary)

We start the week with Jazzer at a loose end. I can’t help thinking there must have been a misunderstanding when Jim suggested they go out looking for birds together. I wonder if it was the prospect of a nice pair of tits, a shag, and the first swallow of spring. Jazzer struggles to adopt the twitchers’ mindset and won’t stop talking so Jim has to keep telling him to be quiet. After the walk Jazzer makes a fry-up and Jim concludes that he’s not the bird-watching type. He urges Jazzer to go and see Tom to see whether they can patch things up, but Jazzer says it’s time to move on. Another person who’s trying to get Jazzer to make thinks up with Tom is Ed, who tries again while they’re shearing sheep at Brookfield. Jazzer doesn’t seem to be concentrating and Ed tells him to be careful. I’d listen to him Jazzer – you’re running out of potential employers in Ambridge.

Tony’s helping Pat make a batch of Borsteshire Blue, although he makes it clear that he’d rather be moving the pig arks than cutting curds to Pat’s exacting specification. They talk about Henry, and how with each week that passes he seems to be drifting further away from them. The impact on their lives seems to be hitting home, and Pat’s worried that it’s only the immediate family who still think Helen's case is worth fighting for.

Anna Tregorran’s still fighting, and briefs Helen on her video link with the mother and baby unit admissions board, with the hope of getting in so that she can keep the baby with her once it’s born. Helen fears that it will be the same outcome as the bail hearing but Anna urges her to be strong. She runs through the sort of questions they’ll be asking such as will she be a danger to her baby, or any of the other mothers and babies in the unit. “I’d never hurt a child … I’d never hurt anyone” (to be fair to Helen, I don’t think Rob counts). Helen’s starting to open up and tells Anna that she can’t hide anything when people are looking at her and that this stems from a childhood trauma over a tin of sweets in the classroom. So it’s not all Pat’s fault – Danny and Miss Parker have to share some of the blame too.

While all this is going on Rob is looking after Henry who’s missing his mummy. They read a Hansel and Gretel picture book together – the original version apparently where it’s not a wicked stepmother, but a wicked mother – “sometimes the nicest of mothers can do very bad things”. “Like my mummy”, replies Henry. The court have been very clear about not letting Helen interfere with witnesses, but it seems as if Rob’s got free reign, and so the brainwashing of Henry continues – “you mustn’t say she was nice when she wasn’t”.

Peggy has to visit Jennifer to let off steam, so angry is she that Helen wasn’t granted bail, calling it a barbaric decision. But it sounds like Peggy’s using that anger to mount a campaign, and later on in the week takes herself off to visit Helen (remarkable, since she can’t normally even go to the shops on her own), and tells her that she’s looking much better than she expected. Peggy’s enjoying the outing, having already had a pat-down from a very nice security officer. I think she warranted more than a pat-down as she would be a perfect drugs mule – who would suspect such a sweet little old lady? I can just imagine it: “… and then he put on some rubber gloves and I said ‘what are you going to do now dear’”? However the only probing is by Peggy, trying to find out what happened during the interview with the baby unit admissions board. It must have gone well as Peggy is looking forward to visiting there too – “we’ll make a trip of it”. Peggy finishes her visit with a motivational speech; “you’re an Archer woman Helen. They breed ‘em tough”.

Josh is helping Jill with her bees and he mentions that Evie Thorne-Davis from the local TV news programme is going to visit the hens on holiday to do one of her ‘quirky’ stories. To Josh she’s good looking with long brown hair. According to Jill she’s “the one with the eyebrows” who always seems ‘permanently surprised”.  Josh and Toby can’t wait to meet her, but apparently she isn’t Rex’s type. Jill sides with Josh on wanting to push his eggs on open farm Sunday and he explains that David and Roooooth think it would make the tour too long, but Jill’s not going to let it rest there. It turns out that she’s got an old hen house that’s been left to ruin, is covered in undergrowth and is falling to pieces. It doesn’t take Josh long to relocate this prime piece of real estate beside the grain store at Brookfield.

Pip’s not happy and thinks the hen house is an eyesore and accuses Josh of not being a team player by muscling in on farm Sunday. Josh goes on to show it to Bert who thinks it’s too gone to be of any use, but Josh flatters him by talking about his joinery skills. Even though it’s only going to be used for one day, Josh seems to want a major transformation; a rounded roof instead of a sloping one, a pair of shafts at the front to make it look horse-drawn, and of course it would need some wheels! So what Josh admits he really wants is a Romany caravan. Joe’s reluctant to put the effort in, until he sees the opportunity to use it as a feature in his own garden afterwards, and is motivated to do a proper job.

Brian tells Adam that Justin wants to show his friend Latif around the Estate. He’s not sure why, but apparently Justin bought his horses from him, and could therefore be a potential investor. Brian’s keen to show off the AD unit but sounds worried that Adam won’t be on-message – handy as he’s in the process of planting the maize that will end up in the AD to generate electricity. Adam tops it when he says “it’s not all about money”. Just what a potential investor would want to hear.

When he arrives Latif seems to be a pleasant enough chap, turning on the charm with Jennifer and complimenting her on her “exceptional” kitchen. He warns Brian off some caterers he used for his daughters 18th, apparently he wasn’t impressed with their torshi (pickled vegetables). As Brian shows Latif around the estate, Latif gives the impression that he doesn’t know anything about farming. This gives Brian and Justin the opportunity to do the hard-sell on anaerobic digestion and renewable energy. It’s all going swimmingly, but then Latif spots Adam driving the tractor and is keen to talk to him about what he’s doing. Adam’s actually quite diplomatic, saying there’s a strong case for using silage and food waste to feed the unit, but he doesn’t mention the maize apart from the amount of seed he’s using. Latif picks up on this and thinks it sounds excessive.

While Brian’s out in the fields, Lynda ‘the raspberry’ Snell is with Jennifer waiting for Kate to turn up. Lynda’s got a rash all over her face which she thinks might be caused by Silver Birch pollen, but instead of doing the sensible (and obvious) thing and going to see her GP, she seeks the advice of Kate. All she gets from Kate is a text to say she’s stuck somewhere else, but it does give Lynda the chance to chat with Jennifer about Pat, Tony and Helen, and put her own problems into perspective. As for an allergy to Silver Birch pollen? I’m not sure – a couple of days ago Eddie added spent mushroom compost to the flowerbeds at Ambridge Hall. Lynda hadn’t asked for this, and Lynda and Robert were out when he did it, but Eddie thought it would be a nice surprise. Yes, chopping down a wrongly accused Silver Birch before finding out it was the Grundy’s lousy compost after all, would be a bit of a surprise.

Finally, a few weeks ago I speculated about how George might have afforded his new watch (see Professional Detachment?). Well, it seems that he’s been out spending again, this time on a new computer game. Ed’s assumed that Will must be giving him more pocket money, but I’m now starting to think that Alf has taken the rap for little George.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Blood and Custard

Patricia Gallimore (Pat Archer)

We turn straight away this week to Helen who breaks her silence by calling Bridge Farm -  except Pat’s in the dairy and Tony doesn’t go and get her. I wouldn’t have done either Tony – I’m sure you had a much more sensible conversation with her than Pat would have done. It turns out that Helen wants them to visit her. Pat wastes no time in going online to register for a visit and bemoans the speed of her broadband (are you with BT too Pat? I know how you feel). There’s a knock at the door and instead of an engineer from BT Openreach, it’s Ursula bringing Henry round.

When Ursula comes back to collect Henry, he’s out with Tony looking at Kingfishers. She could have said something like “oh how lovely”, but Ursula’s a bit put out and complains that Rob’s been waiting to see his son. Tony and Henry are having a great time at Haydon Brook, and we are prompted to recall the halcyon days of young Henry before Rob came on the scene. Ursula seems to have got the wrong end of the stick about why Rob left Berrow Farm (I wonder how that happened) and says he left to help set up the shop. What’s more, she says he’s entitled to sick pay! As she leaves, Ursula says that Rob will never be the same man again. Kirsty, who’s been there all the time, mutters under her breath, “we should be so lucky”!

At the May Day celebrations Pip and Rex are talking in the beer tent, and Rex is puzzled by how many enquiries he’s had for the pastured eggs. It turns out that Josh posted a picture of ‘hens on holiday’ to Facebook, and has had thousands of responses. Josh’s elation disappears when he finds out from Pip that Farm Sunday at Brookfield will showcase the family’s suckler beef business, while he wanted to use it to promote his eggs. Rex does his best to come to Josh’s aid by drawing a link between pasture-fed Hereford cattle and pasture-fed hens, and while Pip’s distracted by an unexpected phone call from Matthew, there’s a chink of glasses as Josh and Rex hatch a plan.

Apropos of nothing, I was puzzled by Josh’s turn of phrase in reply to Pip saying the beef was not some kind of satellite enterprise like his eggs. Josh didn’t suppose that Pip’s cattle were some kind of “Jupiter’s moon” either. At first I thought this must be a saying that I wasn’t aware of, but have concluded that this was just a reference to moons being satellites. If I’m wrong, and this is a Shakespearean quote that’s been leveraged in by the scriptwriter and one that’s entered everyone’s language except mine, then I’m sure someone will tell me. Otherwise it just sounded odd to me.

In her desperation to find some ‘finishing touches’ for the Dower House interior, Lilian turns up at Lynda’s May Day white elephant stall. Nothing catches her eye apart from a matching pair of ‘Chinese’ vases in an old cardboard box on the floor, donated by the Horrobin’s. The bartering reaches the dizzy heights of £2.50, on condition that Lilian takes the whole box. As well as the vases, Lilian ropes in her collection of Borsetshire slipware to complement the Dower House furnishings, which Justin seems perfectly happy with. I think Lilian’s panicking about what Justin’s wife, Miranda, is going to think when she comes up from London. Why should Lilian care? What’s she trying to prove? Miranda appears on cue and the atmosphere turns palpably icy when she sees Lilian standing there, and Justin introduces her as his social secretary. “I could murder a coffee” she says, when Lilian mentions it, “white, no sugar”. We get an inkling of what might be up when she makes a disparaging remark about our Lilian, saying she’s “a bit past it”, and then goes on to say  “at least we won’t have the same problem as last time”! Not if Lilian gets her way, I fear. Justin sounds very on-edge as he shows her round. She points out that she’s mostly happy apart from all the clutter, especially Lilian’s cherished slipware. Miranda doesn’t, we learn, do pots. What she does do though is bark orders, and a whole series follow for Lilian to jot down on her “scribble-pad”. I can see that this Miranda-Justin-Lilian triangle is going to be very entertaining.

The next day, Lilian’s still hyper after Miranda’s visit and Justin’s beside himself with apology over her “brusque” manner. He gushes with compliments to Lilian - “totally a people person … all friendly with such a generous, open heart” – and has even booked La Famme Du Monde for lunch – “where else could I take a woman of the world like yourself”. Lunch is a giggly affair, and Justin seems much more relaxed in Lilian’s company that that of his wife.

Meanwhile at the shepherd’s, Lynda tells Eddie that the chimney’s smoking again. Eddie puts it down to a change of wind direction and suggests installing a new chimney cowl – one that changes direction with the wind. Surprisingly, Lynda accepts that it will cost her more money, and Eddie fits the new cowl before somehow persuading her to put some additional work his way (he still wants to pay back the church money). It turns out she needs a paved area near the hut, an ornamental seat to allow visitors to relax and “survey the pastoral scene”, and a meandering pathway to the Resurgam stone. The self-styled Mr Pathways tells Lynda “you won’t regret it” – a sure sign that she will. Later, Eddie complains to Lilian that he’s spent longer on Lynda’s hut than Michelangelo took to paint the Sistine Chapel. Hardly, Eddie. It took Michelangelo 4 years to complete his commission, and as Lilian pointed out, it even has a working chimney.

Back to the headline story, and Pat gets an email saying they can visit Helen tomorrow. That’s not the only news - DSM wants Pat to go to the police station that afternoon for an interview to put, Pat thinks, Helen’s side of the story. Tony urges caution and repeats Tom’s advice not to speak to the police without a solicitor present, but Pat sees it as “a chance to put things right for Helen”, and that she’s learnt her lesson. Sorry to be blunt Pat, but you obviously haven’t.

Pat sounds a bit concerned after the interview. She thought it would be an opportunity to get everything off her chest, but instead felt that DSM guided it. Of course she did, she’s pursuing a line of enquiry, not running a self-help group. DSM seems to be putting a lot of emphasis on Helen’s threat on Maundy Thursday to kill Rob if he sent Henry to boarding school (see ‘The Beginning Of The End?’). She calls Anna Tregorran and it turns out that Pat’s dropped herself right in it and is now a witness for the prosecution. Nice one Pat, and stop it with your “I can’t believe it, it’s so unfair”. You brought this on yourself and now you won’t be able to see Helen, and probably the baby, until after the trial.

Anna goes to see Helen and want to know how she’s going to plead, now that she’s had time to think about it. Helen seems to be reluctant to take responsibility for how she pleads, but Anna patiently outlines the options: plead guilty to attempted murder and get a long sentence, or wounding with intent and get a shorter one, or plead not guilty if she acted in self-defence. Helen still can’t make her mind up and Anna leaves plea-less, and thinks that Helen’s been Robbed (get it?) of her ability to think for herself, and might be thinking of either what Rob would want her to do, or what would be best for Henry in the longer term. Tony and Tom go to see Helen who’s disappointed that Pat hasn’t come to see her. They try and persuade her to plead not guilty at her hearing tomorrow, but Helen’s concerned about the risk of being found guilty and being sent down for 12 years. Helen’s the only one who can say what happened between her and Rob in that blood and custard covered kitchen that night, and Tom exhorts her to enter a not guilty plea, “Henry and the baby, they’ll both go to him if you go to prison”. Well said, Tom.

Everyone gathers at the court for Helen’s plea hearing, and there’s initial optimism when they find out the judge is a woman. The problem is, no one yet knows what Helen’s plea will be, so Anna’s prepared two statements. We are left in momentary suspense until the hearing itself, but to everyone’s relief she pleads not guilty, and the date of the trial is set for September 5th (Josh being, as we heard earlier, a fan of the Planet Jupiter, will know this will be the 39th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 1). The next hurdle is whether she’s to be granted bail or not. The prosecution makes its case for not granting bail and this causes Tom to momentarily lose his cool when it’s suggested she might abscond – “Abscond? She’s having a baby any minute for God’s sake”. Anna, for the defence, makes a case for bail and suggests several conditions that the judge might want to impose. However, the judge is sufficiently concerned to refuse bail on the grounds that she might interfere with prosecution witnesses, which do of course include her son, her best friend, and now her own mother. Before they leave the court, Anna gets a call saying that a doctor has been called for Helen. Is the baby coming? It turns out she only had a funny turn and was fine after a lie-down and well enough to go back to prison.

All this is getting to Tom and he’s feeling the pressure, and it doesn’t help when David comes to find Tom and Johnny because the pigs have trampled their fences and all got in together. The three of them round them up, which includes a bit of pig whispering from Johnny (I wonder if the film rights have been bought yet). While he’s there, David suggests that Tom bring over one of his cows and a calf to Brookfield’s open farm Sunday, to give people a different breed to look at. Tom’s not sure but David wants to help, and Tom agrees that it’s a good idea. What’s more, David wants to help cut Bridge Farm’s silage and then helps Johnny to finish planting the cabbages so Tom can grab some lunch before he sees Helen. The problems with Helen seem to be bringing Tom and Kirsty closer together. Tom’s exhausted and at his wits’ end, and recognizing that he needs a break, Kirsty takes him for a drink – “you’ve got to stay strong to keep her (Helen) strong”. Will Tom and Kirsty get back together again? It’s not long ago that I would have said no way, but now I’m not so sure.

Before we go, here’s a plug for the The HelenTitchener (nee Archer) Legal Fund - “raising money for Refuge because for every fictional Helen, there are real ones” - which at the time of writing has raised £130,000.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Geniuses? I Think Not

Edward Kelsey (Joe Grundy)

How do you define Genius? Who would be your role models? I submit that Michelangelo, Bach, Einstein, Newton and Shakespeare might well qualify, but would you add Joe Grundy and Rex Fairbrother to that list?

Eddie and Pip would, apparently. Eddie is moaning about the fact that Lynda is complaining that the roof on her Shepherd’s Hut is leaking (she’s so picky, isn’t she?) and would Eddie get over there sharpish and do something about it, please? Eddie is moaning to Joe, who comes up with the idea of offering La Snell an extended warranty on the hut. “If you charge her £10 a month for two years, that’s … a lot of money” says Joe, the Economist. “Dad, you’re a genius!” Eddie says, proving that a) he has no understanding of Lynda’s character and b) his level of intelligence means that he probably couldn’t re-arrange the words “off” and “sod” if you chalked them on a blackboard for him.

But, would Lynda fall for it? What do you reckon? “Please tell me you’re joking” she says, scornfully, and her mood is not improved when Joe, looking at her expensively engraved ‘Resurgam’ stone, suggests that the engraving “looks like it’s been done with a bent nail”. Sniffily (and she’s the Ambridge sniffing champion) Lynda tells him that that’s what the font is supposed to look like and it appears in Coventry Cathedral. Joe goes rambling on and Eddie, who can see a business opportunity rapidly disappearing over the horizon, tries to get his father to shut up. Lynda dismisses the pair and Eddie (ever the optimist) asks “What about the extended warranty?” Lynda tells him to go “Before I tell you what to do with your extended warranty.”

Our second ‘genius’ of the week is Rex Fairbrother, who wants to pick Pip’s brain about his brand name for the - to me anyway - hugely over-priced pasture eggs. He tells Pip that Toby doesn’t like the name, which should count in its favour (Toby is away somewhere; is he trying to source new markets, or off on one of his mysterious absences?) but Rex tells Pip his suggested brand name, which is “Upper class eggs, laid by landed poultry”. Snappy, or what? It’s not often that I side with Toby, but I’m with him on this. Why not brand the eggs “Not for peasants”? or “Are you sure you can afford these?” Pip, however, disagrees, telling Rex that his suggested name is “Genius”. Is she having a laugh, do you reckon?

Let’s leave the geniuses behind and move on. Helen is interrogated by her Barrister, Anna and is totally uncommunicative, when Anna is trying to get her to comprehend the consequences of pleading ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ to the two charges that she is facing; to wit attempted murder and wounding with intent. Helen isn’t helping herself, by saying that she cannot remember what happened on the fateful night and refusing any visitors, including her family. Her attitude is not improved by the fact that Ursula goes to Bridge Farm in order to pick up Henry and take him to see his dad. She is supposed to take him back to Bridge Farm in the early evening and, when she doesn’t, Pat calls her to find out what’s happening. Ursula, who is proving to be an even nastier character than her son, tells Pat that there has been a change of plan and Henry will be staying at Blossom Hill Cottage. “Now his father’s back here (Rob has been released from hospital) there’s no need for you to have him any more, is there?” Pat is incredulous, but Ursula says “Henry should be at home with his father: that’s where he’s staying. Goodbye.”

This doesn’t go down a storm at Bridge Farm and they take legal advice from solicitor Dominic. He says that they will have to sort it out via the courts (Ursula’s reaction, when told this is ‘we’ll see you in court’). And so it transpires - Rob is too unwell to attend, but Ursula tells her lawyer that she’s not prepared to listen to a pack of lies. Diplomatically, he suggests that she keeps quiet and let him do the talking. As it turns out, the decision goes in favour of Rob - the fact that Helen awarded him parental responsibility for Henry counted heavily in his favour - and the ruling is that Henry stays with Rob and Ursula and Pat and Tony can see him on Sundays. Ursula later turns up at Bridge Farm to collect Henry’s clothes, etc and it is to Pat and Tony’s credit that they don’t take her outside and drag her behind the tractor for a mile or two over stony ground.

Helen’s mood gets worse - if such a thing were possible - when she learns of the decision, but she still refuses to see anyone and tells Anna Tregorran that it was all her fault because she has been so weak and she gave Rob parental responsibility. “He’s Rob’s son, not mine - I’m never going to get him back” she tells Anna, tearfully. Anna is doing a good job of making bricks without straw, as her client isn’t helping herself - Helen is so confused and upset and cannot remember whether Rob threatened her or Henry on the fateful night. Better get a grip, Helen, as, if you plead guilty to the lesser charge of wounding with intent (and assuming that you aren’t found guilty of attempted murder) you are looking at 4 - 6 years in jail but hey! You’ll only have to serve half the time. I don’t know if it’s usual legal practice, but if I were Anna, I’d bang Helen’s head on the table until she remembered something - anything.

Going back to Pip, she is off to see some cattle for sale. David cautions care - don’t get sucked into an expensive deal. But this is Pip we are talking about and she comes back with a deal that impresses David and Rooooth, to the extent that they agree to advance her the loan to buy the beasts. Rex also admits that the chances of him and Toby becoming ‘cattle barons’ are slim and he apologises for letting her and Adam down. However, Pip is so pleased that she gives David, and Rex, who happens to be around when the good news is revealed, a big kiss. Rex is pleased, but his enjoyment is diminished when Pip says that she must give Matthew a call, as he’ll be delighted. Rex sighs - does he stand a chance with Pip? Not while Matthew is around, I submit.

We now have to question whether Jennifer is - literally - away with the fairies. She tells Brian that, while she was walking in the Millennium Wood, she saw a tiny, elfin grotto in the roots of a tree. Brian, understandably, wonders if she’s been on the magic mushrooms. Alternatively, she might have been having an alcoholic breakfast with Lilian; Lilian has been showing Justin the results of her interior decoration of the Dower House and he tells her that Miranda (his wife) will be coming down to view the house in the next few weeks. Lilian has a crisis of confidence and drags Jennifer to the Dower House to have a look - is everything OK? Astutely - remarkably so for her - Jen says that she feels that Lilian’s misgivings are because she has been making the sort of decisions on Justin’s behalf that a wife should normally make, which makes Lilian even more anxious. Never mind Lil; think of the clothing allowance and smile.

After being smacked in the mouth and sacked by Tom - not to mention being thrown out of Bridge Farm - Jazzer is desperate for money and somewhere to live. At present, he is dossing down on Fallon and PCB’s sofa - don’t smoke the wacky baccy, Jazz - and he is getting close to outstaying his welcome.

Jazz approaches Johnny at Bridge Farm - Johnny is working hard, as Tom left a gate open and the pigs got into the polytunnels and trashed the crop and Johnny volunteered to replant something like 20,000,000 lettuces - and Jazzer begs Johnny to intercede with Tom about getting his job back. Johnny tells Jazz to do one, but later in the week, Jazz approaches Johnny again and gets the same answer. Despite this, Johnny tentatively mentions Jazzer’s plight to Tom. Tom’s response? “Why should we care? Don’t waste your sympathy on Jazzer - he’s only got himself to blame.”

That would appear to be final, but Jazzer has a plan; Jim is on the verge of moving back to Greenacres and Jazzer is keen to resume their former housemates relationship. Jim confides to Shula that he would prefer to live on his own, but she points out that he cannot keep putting Jazzer off forever. Jim agrees to meet Jazzer at the pub and Jim is there with Shula. No sign of Jazzer and Jim is all for going home, but Shula tells him to wait a while. Jazzer turns up and greets Jim with a man-hug and offers to buy the drinks. Jazzer tells Jim how much he has missed him (“a Jim-shaped black hole in my life”) and can they pick it up from where they left off?

Jim says that there’s something he has to say, but Jazz interrupts him by saying “Hold on a minute” and tells Jim that he’s a changed man and, should Jim take him back, he would be a perfect house guest, would pay more attention to his personal hygiene, and would clear up after himself (Jim told Shula that he was fed up of finding half-eaten takeaways on the sofa). Not only that, but Jazz promises to pay Jim rent when he gets a job (just don’t ask Tom for a Reference, Jazz) and he will help with the bills. “Haven’t you been a bit lonesome?” Jazzer asks Jim.

Despite his previous misgivings to Shula, and forgetting that he dislikes pig-muck-encrusted overalls being left in the bath (not that that will happen again unless Tom relents) Jim crumbles like a piece of ripe Stilton and tells Jazzer that he can move back in at the weekend. The Scots ex-pigman is exultant, saying “Jim, you’re a real saint - you won’t regret this; I promise!” Personally, I‘m not convinced, but time will tell.