Sunday, 30 October 2016

It’s Not Easy, Being A Vicar

John Telfer (Alan Franks)

Every job has its downside - presumably there are days when even the Pope thinks “Not another Mass to celebrate” and would rather pull the covers over his head. If you are a vicar in a country parish, such as Ambridge, life should be reasonably tranquil and the hardest thing that the Rev. Alan Franks should have to do is think up another madcap scheme to celebrate Lent. Last week, however, he had a really nasty job to do.

That job was talking to Rob and offering the hand of, if not friendship, then that of a caring vicar. Alan runs into Rob outside the village shop and tells our favourite villain that his mother Ursula has contacted him, as she’s worried about Rob. Alan offers to drive Rob home. “Hmm. Christian charity - heaven knows this village could do with some” says Rob and, when they get to Blossom Hill Cottage, he invites the vicar in.

It has, in Rob’s words “been a bit of a day.” He had to see the psychologist, whom he describes as “not old enough to pass her Eleven Plus” and derides her psychometric tests and what he calls “her psychobabble.” Alan says that it won’t be long before Rob finds out exactly what her report is at the Family Court Hearing. It transpires that, when visiting the shop, Rob heard Susan talking to Jill. “A nice way to find out that your wife is divorcing you” Rob says, bitterly, and goes on to say “The idea of Helen taking any decision is - “ and he breaks off. Let’s pause here and reflect: it surely cannot be a surprise that Helen is filing for divorce - after all, she had a good go at killing him and there aren’t many couples who come through a situation like that, and why should she tell him?

Rob tells Alan that he’ll soon have the Gideon situation sorted out, as he has applied to have his name changed, legally. “I see” says Alan, in an ‘I don’t think so’ tone. Rob is soon back on a high, saying “The sooner Helen is out of my life and his [Gideon’s], the better.” Instead of making an excuse and leaving, Alan stays with Rob for a coffee (he refused a drink, as he’s driving) and says “I’ll keep in touch, if I may?” Gracious as ever, Rob says “Why? Is it a guilty conscience because your wife is chucking me out of my home?” Alan doesn’t rise to this and tells Rob that that has nothing to do with it. “Just general do-gooding then?” Rob sneers.

Instead of smacking Rob in the mouth with a handy bit of furniture, Alan says that he does not make judgements, but it’s his wish - and his job - to heal the whole parish, and that includes scumbags like Rob (my words, not Alan’s). Rob replies “You’re wasting your time with me - I’m beyond redemption.” “Nobody is beyond redemption” Alan says, in full vicar mode. Rob snorts “Try telling that to that lot at Bridge Farm, or anyone else in Ambridge - they’d have me burned at the stake if they could.” Alan protests (mildly) “I don’t think so” but Rob isn’t listening and, continuing the mediaeval punishment theme, suggests that Helen should be subjected to the Ducking Stool for the lies she has told about Rob.

Again, let’s take a step back and I think we will find that Rob has achieved new heights of self-awareness and of the tactics of the vast majority of villagers (for example, Susan won’t serve him in the shop), which are actually making an impression on that ultra-resilient Titchener skin. Consider: Rob considers he is beyond redemption. Alan says ‘no’ but of course he is, as he hasn’t repented or even admitted that he’s done anything wrong. Next, we have the burning at the stake. Once again Rob is spot on and Alan is probably the only person in the village - or among the millions of listeners, come to that - who would not only see Rob burned at the stake, but wouldn’t volunteer to set alight to the kindling. Look, Bonfire Night is coming up and presumably there will be a bonfire on the Green. Accidents have been known to happen.

As to the Ducking Stool, Helen has spoken nothing but the Gospel truth. When he finally leaves, Alan says that Rob does not need to respond, but he (Alan) will try to keep in touch, just to see how Rob is doing. “I don’t need your charity” says the lovable Rob, and adds that he will be too busy with his new job and looking after his son. You have to admire Alan’s persistence, as he says “I’ll be praying for you.” “Good luck with that” Rob sneers. I too will be praying for you, Rob - I’ll be praying that He breaks your neck. Nothing personal, you understand.

The simmering discontent between the Fairbrothers continued to escalate. On Wednesday, Josh turns up at Brookfield, to see Rex tending to the geese when it should be Toby. Josh asks what’s happened? Rex says that Toby has let the feed for the geese run down to nothing, despite being told on at least two occasions that stocks were getting low. Josh says that he doesn’t think he can take any more of Toby’s unreliability and, when Rex says he’s on the case, Josh replies that he always says that and nothing happens. “No, I mean it. In fact, I’ve already dealt with it” Rex says.

Josh is sceptical, but then an extremely angry Toby arrives, incensed because he has just received a text from Rex, saying ‘You’re fired’. Rex tells Josh that this is nothing to do with him, as it’s about the geese and Josh takes the hint and leaves. The two brothers have words, with Rex calling Toby unreliable (true) and that ideas are all he has and he shies away from real work (true).

Toby retaliates by calling Rex “a boring, no-hope plodder” and suggests that Rex’s problems stem from frustration. “And whose fault is that?” Rex snarls and, when Toby says “You’ll never get any woman, let alone Pip” Rex snaps, and the two boys fight; the result of which is a black eye for Toby.

Later on, Pip treats Toby’s injury and she cannot understand why Rex would be so violent. Toby, who has perhaps been taking lessons in duplicity from Rob, milks it, saying that it’s not the first time. Pip says they have to make it up - how likely is that? - but Toby says that hard work isn’t his metier; he is the one with vision. Pip suggests that hard work is what farmers do, but Toby seems to be distancing himself from farming. Never mind Pip, perhaps when you are getting up at the crack of sparrows, Toby will have cooked a breakfast for your return from milking and will clean the house while you are out on the farm. OK, Toby doesn‘t know what he’s going to do yet, but, when he does: “I’m going to make it work - I’m going to prove to you, your Gran and everyone that I’m not the total waster they think I am.” Yeah, right.

On Friday, Toby leaps into action, telling Pip: “When you live with a marketing genius, Pip, you never know when inspiration will strike” and, giving her a merry wave, he sets off to Grange Farm. ‘Inspiration’ appears to be getting Joe and Eddie to let him taste their ‘special edition’ cider (for which Joe charges him £7.50) and, later on, their sloe gin (another £5). Toby appears to have some idea of selling the drinks, even though Eddie tells him that they cannot, as they have no licence. Toby weaves his unsteady way back to Rickyard, saying “This could be the start of a beautiful friendship” and Eddie’s sotto voce comment is “pillock”. Joe says “Never mind - we’re £12.50 up on the night.” When Toby gets back to Rickyard, Pip serves him a distinctly tired supper and he rushes off to the bathroom to throw up. Have a word with the ‘marketing genius’ in the morning, Pip, and make him clean the pans.

Let’s return to the Grundys, after Toby has left: Eddie gets a call from Alice. We need some background here - Lynda has drafted Kate in as assistant director, but she has obviously studied at the Toby Fairbrother school of doing bugger all and delegated work to Alice. After attempting to get Kate to do some work (some hope!) Alice takes on the task herself and, telling the Grundys that the panto will be ‘Cinderella’, she’s signed up the whole family, with Eddie having the promise of a solo.

However, as Toby leaves the Cider Club, Eddie gets a text - Lynda has vetoed Cinderella and, instead, the production this year will be ’Mother Goose’. Eddie is outraged - he regards this as being one big advertising campaign for the Fairbrothers’ geese. “She can stuff her panto - the Grundys are out.” he tells Joe. Let’s hope that this is the first of many withdrawals.

We have some loose ends to tie up. First of all, Roy’s profile gets posted on the dating sites (due mostly to Jazzer losing the will to live and posting it when Roy isn’t looking). Roy, Kirsty and Jazz took great care over crafting the site, with Roy being pictured with a dog to show his caring side (George charged him £3 to hire Holly), as well as a sartorial makeover. And Roy’s ideal match, according to the website? Tracy Horrobin. Latest reports reveal that Roy is on suicide watch at Grey Gables.

Just when Alistair has decided to sell his practice, Shula takes a call from a lady vet, who is an equine expert in a practice near Worcester, who might be interested in buying in as a partner (later, we learn from Alistair that she has been dealing more with ‘hamsters than horses’.) Alistair says that he has agreed to sell the whole practice, but Shula urges him to get in touch and at least have a word, as selling half the practice would still give them enough money to fund the Hunt JM expenses. Alistair rings her and invites her to lunch on Sunday and a look round the practice later.

Ian has a heart to heart with Helen and he admits that things are difficult - it doesn’t feel right, but how much longer will it take?  Helen replies that he needs to have this conversation with Adam. “That’s the tricky part” Ian sighs. For his part, Adam has had his ear bent by Lilian, who urges him to not work such long hours and talk seriously to Ian. Hopefully, they will sort it out.

And now, the ‘I still wake up screaming’ moment of the week. Susan has decided that she and Neil need to go on a diet and to have some treatments if they are to be in top shape for the family photograph. Poor Neil is rationed when it comes to bread and he comes home one night to see a bowl full of green gunk. Susan assures him that this isn’t his tea, but an avocado face mask for both of them. He protests, but finds it relaxing. When Susan tells him that he has Chilli con carne for supper, Neil gets amorous (for him, chilli con carne = Viagra) and, being in their dressing gowns, there is much fooling around and avocado going everywhere. The doorbell rings and Neil says “ignore it”, but Susan says it’s probably Emma and opens the door. A startled Shula stands there - she’s come to discuss the bellringers’ supper. In a shocked voice, Shula says: “I can see you’re [pause] busy. It doesn’t matter - I’ll call back another time” and she flees. Her emergency counselling session is the hour before mine, apparently.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Joe Is Underwhelmed


Last week we had Joe Grundy being listless and miserable - yes, I too was gobsmacked - but it’s an ill wind and all that, as Joe’s lack of appetite meant that Eddie could have his breakfast bacon and sausage. Eddie tells his dad that they might have a surprise for him later on. “That’ll be nice” says Joe, in a rather abstracted tone.

And what is the surprise? Well, Eddie and Ed plan to move Susan’s old mangle back to Grange Farm. This is no mean feat, as the machine in question is very heavy and very rusty, but with much puffing and panting, they get it positioned where it always used to stand back in Susan Grundy’s day. An excited Eddie calls for Joe to come and see and is severely disappointed by his reaction (or, rather, lack of it), telling his father that that’s the last time he tries to do something nice for him.

Ed, however, realises that all is not as it should be and asks Joe if something is up? Joe replies that he’s all right, but Bartleby hasn’t been right for weeks and all Joe’s home-made remedies have not helped any. Joe says that it’s time to call in the vet. “What’s that gonna cost?” asks an alarmed Eddie. Joe replies that he doesn’t care (of course he doesn’t - he won’t be paying it) and that he cannot bear to see the horse suffering any longer. Eddie, who has only just finished telling Ed that he thinks they are OK to pay the rent for this month, but that it will be very difficult in the winter months, is presumably thinking that Alistair should bring his shotgun and, if Joe moans, well, there are two barrels, after all.

Alistair turns up and diagnoses arthritis. There’s good news and bad news and more bad news. Bad news one: it cannot be cured. Good news: it can be treated. Bad news two: treatment is on-going and the costs will mount up over the years. Joe decides to think it over and, in the meantime, try Bartleby on cod liver oil. He implores Alistair to “be Christian” when it comes to making out the bill and Alistair’s response is that he is cheaper than a conventional, multi-vet practice. “I know I can count on you Alistair Lloyd” says Joe.

But for how long? Alistair is in fact on his way to have lunch with a partner in a North Borsetshire firm of vets, who have expressed an interest in buying Alistair’s practice. Not only will this give Alistair the chance to do new things - like taking a day off - but should free up some capital to allow Shula to become Joint Master of the Hunt. By the time lunch is over, Alistair has agreed to sell, assuming the price is right. When he tells Shula, she is really grateful and, when she in her turn tells Oliver that she is willing to put her name forward to become JM, she adds that she could not have a more supportive husband, which probably means that something bad or horrible is about to happen.

Speaking of bad and horrible, Rob is still “hanging around the village like a bad smell” to quote Ed Grundy. On Sunday, Ed runs into Rob at the shop and Rob tries to engage him in conversation, but Ed isn’t having any of it. Later on, Ed pops into The Bull for a drink and Rob is there too, trying to get served, with a singular lack of success, as first Jolene and then Kenton ignore him. Rob offers to buy Ed a drink (“if we can ever get served!”) and says “Twice in one day - anyone would think you are following me.” “Well, I ain’t Rob - you can be sure of that” Ed replies, adding that he’ll get his own drink, thanks all the same.

At this moment, the row between Rex and Toby, which has been simmering ever since Rex walked into the pub, where Toby has taken Bert for a lunchtime drink, gets louder and louder. In fact, the bad feeling between the Fairbrothers has been escalating all day, with Rex being awkward over breakfast and sniping at Toby all the time. At the pub, Rob tries to intervene, telling the brothers that, if they have a disagreement, why not take it outside? “Shut up Rob!” the brothers shout in unison, but Bert tells them that this isn’t really the place for a row. Rex agrees, saying that he’ll go and find somewhere else to drink. “And don’t hurry back” Toby tells him.

Later on, Rob goes to Bridge Farm for his three-hour contact with Jack (we aren’t told whether or not he ever got his meal at The Bull) and he mentions to Pat that he has been sorting out Helen and Henry’s things and they are up at the cottage. “If you don’t want me to put them out for the dustmen, someone had better collect them - pronto” says the charmer.

When she learns of this, Helen is uninterested, saying that she doesn’t want anything that reminds her of Rob. However, Pat keeps on at her, saying that there might be some of Henry’s toys and suchlike, until her daughter gives in and says OK, she can go and collect them. Pat brings back a load of bin bags, but Helen cannot bring herself to go through them, until Lilian tells her that she had to do pretty much the same after Matt upped and left and, while she was dreading it, she actually found it cathartic. The two go through the bags together and Helen finds it easier and less traumatic than she expected. Indeed, there were some occasions (such as finding Henry’s Squiggle the squirrel toy) that brought back happy memories.

Towards the end of the week, Pat comes across Helen in the Dairy, making cheese and she says that her daughter looks different somehow - more contented. Helen admits that it’s good to be back in the Dairy and she’s been considering whether or not to make a formal complaint against Rob for coercive behaviour. In the end, Helen decides that she couldn’t face another long, legal fight and, although she knows that she might be letting some people down, she has decided not to pursue any complaint. “I’ve got to get my life back” Helen says, adding “I just need to focus on me and the boys - if that’s all right?” Pat says “Of course it is, darling” and the two women hug.

A few weeks ago, we brought up the question of who is paying for the services of Anna Tregorran, and last week, we learned that the final bill for legal costs etc. is in excess of £30,000, which is slightly more than they have in their small change jar. Should they ask Peggy to help out? Tony says ’no’, and tells Pat “We’ve been through tough times before and survived them - we’ll get through this together.” He also reminds Pat that they would have paid three times as much money to get their daughter back. They do decide not to tell Helen and Tom just yet, although they will have to be told eventually, as they are partners in the farm.

The reason for not telling Tom just yet is that he has just found out that his Nuffield scholarship has been approved. Not only that, but he has been given a sponsor - not Justin Elliot, as they all thought, but the firm for which Alice works, Pryce Baumann. As if that were not enough, the two farms in Germany that Helen earmarked as likely places for Tom to visit have both said that a visit would be fine. Tom is on a real high (as is Helen) and Pat and Tony think that it would be cruel to give them the bad news now - wait till the bailiffs are knocking at the door.

There have been developments in the Pip/Toby saga. Pip is cooking pasta for them both and the portions are meagre, to say the least - something which Toby makes abundantly plain, saying that he needs to keep his strength up. Never mind, Pip says that there are always lots of cakes at Brookfield and she will go and get some. While she is helping herself to flapjacks, Jill walks into the room and demands to know what she is doing. Jill says in no uncertain terms that it is not OK for Pip to take flapjacks or cakes and she is a grown woman who should be living independently and not raiding food from other people’s cupboards.

Pip is somewhat shocked and tells her gran “This isn’t about my independence at all, is it? It’s about Toby.” “Nonsense” Jill replies, but Pip asks why is she punishing her and “You just hate him because he’s a Fairbrother - it’s completely stupid.” Jill retorts that the whole family has never been anything but trouble, even as far back as - ” Pip realises that Jill was going to mention Grace’s name and accuses her grandmother of being jealous of Phil’s first wife, who died in the 1950s. Jill says that Pip has made a bad choice and let them all down and a tearful Pip can’t believe that Jill is being so nasty. She walks out, telling Jill “Don’t worry, I’ll never eat one of your cakes ever again.”

If Jill was trying to put Pip off Toby, she has miscalculated badly, as Pip goes straight over to Rickyard and suggests to a rather surprised Toby that he moves in with her. He asks her if she is sure and, when she says ‘yes’, he says he’d love to. “That’s much better than cake.” I cannot help feeling that this isn’t going to help the relationship between Toby and Rex - the two have already said that they both think going into business together was a mistake. Still, at least Toby won’t have to put up with Rex’s moodiness and sniping at breakfast now.

Jill drops in at Lower Loxley, where Elizabeth is having a bit of trouble with a conference they are hosting. Freddie comes home from school and Lizzie asks Jill if she would keep an eye on him, as he should be revising for his maths GCSE resit, which is coming up next month. Freddie tells Jill that he had hoped never to study maths again, but he has been helped by Iftikar, who he has contacted by e-mail on a couple of occasions.

Jill later tells Elizabeth, who didn’t know about the contact with Ifti. Elizabeth also tells Jill that she and Ifti liked each other, but it didn’t come to anything, as it was too soon after Nigel’s death. She adds that it will probably never feel right - look at the mess she got into with Roy. Jill says that he was the wrong man, plus he was married, and she shouldn’t give up on men altogether - she just needs to meet the right one. “Between the children and Lower Loxley, I haven’t got room in my life for a man.” Elizabeth answers, so it’s probably odds on that she will be starring in a romantic storyline before long. Actually, if things go according to plan, it won’t be that long before Rob is divorced by Helen and is a free agent once more - now that would make for an interesting storyline!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

I’ll Get You For This, Robert Snell

Graham Blockey (Robert Snell)

Robert Snell is someone who I have always thought was an OK guy - he’s invariably pleasant and polite, plus, of course, he gets a huge dollop of sympathy for being married for 30 years, or whatever it is, to Lynda; you don’t get that for murder, do you? However, my feelings changed radically last week and, whereas Robert used to be someone for whom I would cheerfully buy a pint, now I’m afraid that he has become a pariah and he’s off my Christmas card list big time.

And the reason for this change of heart? It happened on Wednesday. Salieri the llama has a toothache and, when Alistair tries to examine him, Salieri spits at him. Following this cameo, Lynda and Robert are relaxing in the shepherd’s hut (I was surprised that it accommodated two people without collapsing) and Robert notices that Lynda seems a little distracted and cannot take her eyes off her tablet - what is she doing? With a sigh, Lynda admits that she is looking at drama sites - at this time of year, she would normally be embarking on choosing her latest Christmas extravaganza, but she has abdicated responsibility this year, leaving such things to Fallon and others. Still, old habits die hard, although she tells her husband “My time has come and gone.”

This is Robert’s cue to nod wisely and make her a cup of tea, but instead the clown tells her that she is being selfish, by depriving the village of her talents. Before we can club him to the ground, he goes on to say that this year’s fete was a fiasco until Lynda took over - no-one else has her flair. “Why not do what you do best? Inspire the village - put on a new show.” I’m sure I was not alone in shouting ‘no!’ in a strangled voice, but Lynda is worried about reneging on her promise to take a step backwards. Robert continues to lay it on with a trowel and Lynda succumbs, telling him “You’ve made an unanswerable case, Robert.”

OK, deep down we all knew that Lynda was never really going to give up her theatrical activities, but for a while there, we had a slim hope of a Snell-less Christmas for one year, with none of the angst, screaming and numerous crises that occur with each production, before the finished show turns out to be another roaring success. One year off - was that really too much to ask? I know where you live Robert and I’ll get you for this.

From Robert to Rob. Last week we suggested that he had the skin of a rhinoceros, but this week we learned that rhinoceros hide is as tissue paper compared with the Titchener epidermis. After having his stoma reversed, Rob and Ursula make a point of being very visible on a bench on the village green. Actually, Ursula isn’t that comfortable, but Rob says that he’s not going to hide away “Despite the appalling behaviour of the cricket team. I’ve done nothing to be ashamed of” the master of self-delusion adds. He’s just had his first three-hour session with the psychologist - something that he says was a waste of time. The psychologist is a woman, which immediately reduces her status in Rob’s eyes, plus he says that she would be better off interviewing Helen, not him. The subject of access is a constant moan from Rob and he reveals that he has instructed his solicitor to submit the relevant papers to pursue a name change for Jack. His solicitor says that there is little chance of success and Ursula wonders if it’s worth it. “What’s the alternative? Giving up?” Rob snaps, adding: “Helen needs to understand she can’t break my spirit.” Perhaps if Helen lays a formal complaint against Rob for rape and assorted other abuse charges against her and Henry, and it is successful, maybe he might finally admit that he has done something wrong, as he’s sent down for a year or three. Or will he maintain that Helen had been sleeping with the jury and he is the victim of yet another miscarriage of justice? What do you reckon? Yup, me too.

In a few previous episodes, we have speculated that all might not be well between Alistair and Shula. Indeed, they haven’t had any meaningful dialogue for months, or even years. Last week, Oliver turned up at The Stables to tell Shula that Perry (who he?) is retiring as Joint Master (JM) of the South Borsetshire Hunt (SBH) and Oliver wonders if Shula would be interested in filling the vacancy. This has always been one of Shula’s ambitions and she says that she will have to check with Alistair. As he leaves, Oliver casually mentions that the JMs frequently have to cover Hunt expenses - you know, little things like paying for a new member of staff, which can cost the odd couple of thousands each and he’ll leave it with her, shall he?

Having mortgaged themselves up to the hilt to pay off Alistair’s gambling debts a few years ago, Shula thinks that there is no chance that she can accept the JM post (and, to be honest, it does sound a bit like a poisoned chalice) but she raises the subject with Alistair. Shula also says that it’s academic, anyway as, when she tells Oliver about how she lied about the Rob/hunt sab incident, he won’t offer her the position. Alistair says wait and see and tells his wife that he knows that being a JM has always been an ambition of hers “So let’s explore every avenue first - see if we can’t make your dreams come true.”

Shula goes to see Oliver and returns, admitting to Alistair that he was right - Oliver was indeed calm about the Hunt sab incident. What? Only calm? Surely he should have horsewhipped Rob? Actually, that raises an interesting point - what will happen if (I feel that should be ‘when’) Rob wants to rejoin the Hunt? And if you think he wouldn’t have the nerve, I submit that you haven’t been paying attention to this blog and you haven‘t understood the Titchener mentality.

Anyway, we learn that Alistair’s plan is that he sells his one-man veterinary business and becomes an employee of the new owners. Shula says that surely he couldn’t bear not to be his own boss once more? Alistair counters by saying that being a one-man band has its disadvantages too - he can’t be ill, he can’t take days off unless he arranges cover and he has to be an expert in animals from mice to farm beasts. Presumably he could have added that being gobbed on by llamas takes the shine off the job as well. Shula is overcome and kisses him, thanking him for being so thoughtful. Alistair warns her that, if the offer isn’t any good, he won’t accept, but it seems that stability has returned to The Stables, at least as far as personal relationships are concerned.

Let’s gloss over the ‘Will Tony buy and restore the Fordson Major tractor?’ story. Of course he will. He has to ask Pat, but is she likely to refuse if it means that Tony will be moping around, sulking and being miserable? Definitely not, plus it has the advantage of getting him out of the way for hours at a time.

Equally briefly, Carol went to see Jill and asks whether Jill and Pip have made it up yet? Jill retorts that, if Carol means has Pip apologised, the answer is ‘no’. Carol says gently that that is not what she meant, but Jill is adamant that Pip is in the wrong, as she knew that the party was family only. Carol points out that she’s not family, but she was there. She goes further, suggesting that, when Jill talks of Toby, she’s really thinking of his father Robin, and how he treated Elizabeth badly. Not only that, but Carol says that Jill was jealous of Grace Fairbrother (Phil’s first wife) and Carol is afraid that all this might poison Jill’s relationship with her granddaughter. Jill’s response is that it’s rubbish to say that she’s jealous of Grace and “We will have to agree to disagree,” adding: “I’m sure Pip will see through Toby in time.”

Susan is still worrying about her body, despite husband Neil’s reassurances that she’s as beautiful as the day they married. If you think about it, he could be implying that she was wrinkled and saggy when they got wed, but I’m sure that’s not what he meant. Whatever, I really cannot get interested in the story. Neil’s solution is to have a professionally-taken family portrait taken, which they can hang in a prominent place (just remove the dartboard). His enthusiasm is somewhat tempered when Susan says that she will need a new dress and an expensive hairdo.

Jazzer asks Tom how he got on with his Nuffield interview. Tom thinks he did OK, but he ran off at the mouth when answering the final question about current affairs. We’ll have to wait for the final result, but personally, I won’t be losing sleep. Roy turns up and Jazzer ridicules his get-up and hairdo (a makeover, courtesy of Kirsty) but, if he loses a few kilos of hair gel, he might look normal. The three lads decide to get back on the dating game and to go out clubbing one night. I think they might be a touch on the old side.

Adam is desperate to talk to Ian, especially when Kate tells him that Ian has been offered a super job in Edinburgh and is going for an interview. Adam is distraught and leaves a tearful message on Ian’s phone, begging him to get in touch. Adam hangs up and Ian, who has been listening, says to himself “Sorry, Adam” as he leaves the house. On the last broadcasting evening, Adam and Ian do meet up, when Adam goes to Honeysuckle. The two talk about the Edinburgh job, which Ian describes as “A wonderful opportunity.” Adam is begging for another chance: “I love you, I can’t live without you” and he beats himself up, calling himself all sorts of a fool for “My stupidity - and my betrayal.” Ian says that he has turned the job down as “I can’t leave Ambridge, not yet. It’s just that I love you too much, you old git.” Who said romance was dead? Eventually, Ian says that Adam should move back in they’ll give it a go, and there is much snuffling as the two men hug. I for one am glad that they got back together, as Ian is possibly the nicest man in Ambridge - certainly now Robert Snell has plummeted down the ‘nice’ league. Just don’t cock it up (and I use the phrase advisedly) again, Adam.

Kate is wandering around like a lost sheep - nobody needs her; she Skyped her children in South Africa and they hardly said anything, plus bookings for Spiritual Home have dropped off (would you want to spend cold nights in a yurt?) and Phoebe hasn’t called her from Oxford - two texts in two weeks is the sum total of their contacts. “I feel useless - nobody needs me” she says to Lynda, who has invited her to join her during her break. Lynda had an ulterior motive, and suggests that Kate becomes her Assistant Director for the Christmas show. Kate is dubious, but Lynda flatters her by reminding her of her triumph as Sleeping Beauty when she was a teenager. Just think, Lynda and Kate - it just gets better and better (he said, weeping bitterly).

Sunday, 9 October 2016

I Think People Are Trying To Tell You Something, Rob

Rhys Bevan (Toby Fairbrother)

Whatever else you might say about Rob, you have to admit that the man has a hide like a rhinoceros and an Olympian-sized self-belief. Take Sunday: the Ambridge cricket team are psyching themselves up for their rearranged match against arch rivals, Darrington, when Rob turns up, already changed into his cricket gear, breezing into the dressing room with a cheerful “Afternoon, everyone.” Adam asks him what he thinks he’s doing and Rob replies that he heard they were a man short and he wants to talk strategy. He knows he’s not fully fit yet, but the team is still lucky to have him, as he’s off to hospital soon.

PCB, the team captain, tells Rob that he’s not on the team and Rob cannot get his head round this, saying “But I’m your best player; your best strategist - you can’t manage without me.” Adam joins in, saying “We can and we will - we don’t want men like you on our team.” Rob retorts that at least he is a man and Johnny chips in “Call yourself a man after what you did to Helen?” Rob says that Johnny is another one who has been brainwashed, but PCB steps in, telling Rob that a unanimous decision was made to throw Rob off the team. Again, Rob cannot believe this and appeals to the other players - what do they think? “Do you want me on the team or not?” he asks, clearly expecting the answer ‘yes’. Nobody says anything, but a slow handclap begins and PCB suggests that it’s time he went. “Let’s see how this pathetic collection of geriatrics and schoolboys gets on without me” Rob sneers, as he leaves.

Anybody else would have slunk off home, but not Super Rob - Ambridge were all out for 150 and, at tea, Rob unbelievingly approaches PCB, keen to talk tactics for the Darrington innings. “I thought I made it clear,” PCB says, “You’re not on the team any longer.” Rob dismisses the earlier row as ‘a storm in a teacup’ and PCB has to tell him yet again that he doesn’t want to talk strategy with him. Ambridge manage to win the match and all the players are very complimentary about PCB’s captaincy.

It gets worse for Rob, as he realises that the day that he goes into hospital is the day that he has contact with Gideon. Ursula says no problem - ask the Archers if they will bring the day forward, but Rob says that he won’t go crawling to that family, so Ursula says she will do it and she rings Pat to ask her. Pat says it’s not up to her, but to Helen and she’ll ask her. Helen says she will think it over. Back at Blossom Hill Cottage, Rob isn’t happy, saying “I hate being in their power like this” and “Why doesn’t she ring? She delights in torturing me.” Now you know how it feels, Rob! Ursula is confident, telling her son “Helen wouldn’t dare say no.”

Helen is undecided - her solicitor has suggested that it might be a good idea to be accommodating to Rob, while they await Rob’s psychological report - a document that will probably make the Chilcot report look like a shopping list. Helen notices that Pat seems a bit scared of Ursula and she makes up her mind. “I’m not having you bullied and Dad worried sick” Helen tells her mother - the answer is ‘no’ to Rob. Pat rings Ursula and tells her that Helen has decided that she will not change the arrangements and Rob can’t see Jack. Ursula is very aggressive and Pat is getting annoyed. Helen calmly takes the phone and tells Ursula that it’s Rob’s responsibility and if he cannot make the scheduled time, tough.

Ursula is scandalised and says “He’s only going into hospital because you stabbed him!” Helen says this conversation is achieving nothing and politely, but firmly, ends it. “You were magnificent!” Pat tells her daughter, who replies “The Titcheners have no power over us any longer.”

It was a mixed week for Helen - she went back to the prison to see Kaz, who was deeply touched, as she thought that Helen would forget about her once she got home. “You’re my friend” Helen says, simply. Helen went to see Kaz’s mother - her kids are doing fine.
Kaz describes Helen as ‘the most loyal person in the world’ and that Rob used that. “You need to get him out of your life” Kaz tells her.

Helen takes another big step forward when Kirsty takes her to the cinema. Helen also takes Henry and Jack to the playground on her own. “Standing up to Ursula really seems to have given Helen a new lease of life.” Pat tells Tom. Kirsty also suggests that it’s time that Helen looked at her and Rob’s joint bank account - they do so and it’s grim news; not only is there no money, but Rob has taken out an overdraft and spent up to its limit. The overdraft was taken out after Helen was released, incidentally.

Susan and Helen talk and Helen tells her that she has started divorce proceedings against Rob - it’s sad, because she and Rob were so happy once. Susan says “You were a lovely couple” and Helen replies “You always were a fan of Rob’s.” “I was wrong - I couldn’t have been more wrong” Susan says, adding that, if she had any doubts, they were dispelled when she learned how Rob treated Emma last week. “I’ve told him that I won’t serve him in the shop,” Susan says, and Helen is touched. Susan goes on: “The sooner he knows no-one wants him in the village, the better. You need to be rid of him.” Susan has always admired Helen’s independent spirit (“A bit like me” she adds) and the week ends with her saying “You need to be Helen Archer again - we all want you back.”

While things are looking better for Helen, Bridge Farm is getting a bit overcrowded with her and the kids living there. Johnny has a solution - he’ll move out. The fact that he can’t look after himself properly and couldn’t possibly afford the rent, doesn’t seem to have crossed his mind, and Pat says it’s a non-starter. Tom, however, has a solution of his own - he will move out. Furthermore, he has spoken to Will, who will let him rent No. 1 The Green. Johnny comes in as Tom is telling Pat and he thinks it’s a great idea - the two lads can move in together, and why not move in tomorrow?

Tom, who was initially a bit taken aback, agrees and the two lads are soon ensconced. Johnny is excited - he can’t wait to bring a girl back - but Tom is a bit quiet. “This place holds a lot of memories” Tom tells Johnny. I should think so - he lived there with Kirsty, and before that, with Brenda. Tom admits to Johnny that it would be a bit grim on his own.

Thursday was the evening of Tom’s mock Nuffield panel interrogation. David and Brian represent the farming experts, while Jazzer and Jim are also on the panel “Good cop, bad cop” Jazzer explains, when Jim asks why he has been asked. Jazzer seems to be taking it very seriously, adjusting the light so it shines in Tom’s eyes. Some of the questions are searching - Brian asking most of them. He suggests that Tom never seems to finish what he starts and reminds him that their business partnership did not end well. David brings up Tom’s court appearance for trashing GM crops, but Tom counters that it was something he felt passionate about and that he was acquitted by the jury. Everyone seems to agree that the panel was a worthwhile exercise, although Jazzer was disappointed that he wasn’t allowed to use any farmyard implements on Tom in the interrogation process.

Kate goes to see Roy and the two reminisce about when Phoebe was younger. Kate moans that Phoebe going to Uni makes her feel old (she was 39 last week), while Tom is a bit low, as Phoebe told him that Hayley has a new man in her life, Luke, and she (Phoebe) thinks that Roy should start dating again. Kate agrees, telling Roy that his chi is blocked, which sounds uncomfortable.

Actually, Kate had a bigger part this week - not only the heart to heart with Roy, but she was trying to sell the benefits of her therapies to Susan. Susan is unhappy - October is her month on the Calendar Girls calendar and she gets depressed whenever she looks at the picture, finding another wrinkle every time she looks. Should she have a skin peel or talk to Lilian about having something done? Neil assures her that she is lovely and he meets Kate in the street and asks her if any of her therapies could make Susan feel better and perhaps Kate could have a word with her about it? Also, on no account should Kate mention the calendar.

Kate assures him that she will be the essence of tact and then proceeds to tell Susan that she understands that “Your insecurity is because of your page on a charity calendar.“ Susan is appalled, thinking that Neil thinks she is insecure. Kate says, by the time her therapists have finished with her, Susan won’t recognise herself and, as luck would have it, there has been a residential cancellation this weekend. Susan is lots of things, but she’s not that stupid, saying that she wouldn’t pay to stay in a tent half a mile from her home. What if she could only afford one treatment? Kate suggests a juice detox, to which Susan replies that she could do that herself. Kate urges her not to. “I’ll be fine” Susan says, and Kate says, darkly, “Will you? Tell me that on Monday.” Sounds ominous.

We have remarked in the past that Jill can be a bit on the crabby side sometimes, and we had further proof on Tuesday; the day of her 86th birthday. It began well, with David and Rooooth bringing her breakfast in bed. Later on, Pip tells her mother that she has invited Toby to Jill’s birthday tea. Rooooth is surprised - is it really Toby’s thing? Pip replies that he is her boyfriend and everyone knows him.

Carol comes to Brookfield and is amazed at the mountains of cake - how will they ever eat it? Pip says no worries, Toby will polish it off. Jill picks up on the name and asks sharply “Why is he coming?” Pip says happily that she asked him. Jill is frosty “I didn’t. I don’t want him here.” Pip is amazed, saying that he would come with her. “It’s not your birthday, it’s mine, and I don’t want him here.” Jill snaps, adding that Pip should never have invited him. Don’t you want me here either?” Pip asks. Jill replies: “That’s up to you, sweetheart. If you can’t spare your Gran a couple of hours on her birthday without him hanging on your arm, that’s your choice.” Pip runs out, upset and the other adults are stunned, with Carol saying “That was an awful thing to say.” David agrees and says “I don’t like the bloke either, but there’s no need to take it out on Pip.” Rooooth asks Jill if she wasn’t being a bit unreasonable? Not a bit of it, as an unrepentant Jill says “She’s made her choice.” Jill goes further, saying of Toby “Being in love with a Fairbrother never brought anyone anything but heartbreak.” She is adamant that she has done nothing wrong or cruel and eventually goes up early to her room. David says to Rooooth “Mum certainly threw a tantrum - we’ll just have to hope that it’s a one-off.” Happy birthday, Jill!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Rob Gets A Reality Check From Emma

Emerald O'Hanrahan (Emma Grundy)

I know that, in the past, I have said some unkind things about Emma, but she has risen in my estimation after last week because of the way she treated Rob. On Sunday, Rob had his first session with his son, supervised by Tony, in the Ambridge Tea Room. Tony reminds him of the rules (I bet he enjoyed that bit), as Rob cradles his boy.

Rob is besotted with Jack, calling him perfect and beautiful. However, Jack begins to cry and Tony suggests that perhaps he needs his nappy changing. Rob reaches for his phone to call Ursula, but Tony forbids it, reminding Rob of the rules - Rob will have to do it himself (see earlier about enjoying himself). Rob doesn’t know what to do and asks Tony to tell him.

Over at the Flower & Produce show, Henry wins first prize for his bejewelled crown and Jill’s chutney scoops the Freda Fry Memorial Prize for best in show. Henry is upset because he cannot tell daddy how he got on and he can’t understand why Jack can see daddy and he can’t. Let it go, Henry - this is one situation where grown-ups definitely know best.

Things aren’t looking good for Jill, either, as Carol points out that the winning chutney is actually hers and not Jill’s. High drama! The word ‘chutneygate’ springs to mind - has there been sharp practice? Is Jill guilty of switching jars? Of course not; the answer is much more prosaic and it all comes down to the incompetence and carelessness of Toby Fairbrother. Toby helped carry Jill and Carol’s entries into the tent and he got them mixed up. Jill’s opinion of Toby was already that he rates just slightly above a retarded nematode in the order of things and her frustrated “Oh Toby!” indicates that he might just have slipped a bit in her estimation.

Things are made worse - Jill had her photo taken for the Echo and she frantically rings the paper up to put things right. When the story appears, Carol is named as winner of the FFMP, but Jill’s picture still appears. Carol is enjoying herself hugely, pretending to be annoyed with Jill, who is all contrition and beating herself up, while explaining to everybody that it was a mistake - and Toby’s mistake at that. Eventually, it gets too much for Carol and she tells Jill that she shouldn’t worry and can’t she see the funny side of it?

But let’s return to Rob. Wednesday is his one-hour scheduled time with Jack and he turns up at Bridge Farm early, where he engages Jazzer in conversation, but Jazzer isn’t interested. Pat comes out and tells Rob off for being 24 minutes early and she doesn’t want him hanging around in the yard, so he can either go home and come back later or wait in the Tea Room. “All right, if you insist” he replies, through gritted teeth and goes off to the Tea Room. Here, he tries to make conversation with Emma, once again with conspicuous lack of success. He moans about the court order concerning ‘his boys’ and says that the whole Archer family is against him and they are practically holding him to ransom. Emma’s reaction is to say that she has to go and she seeks out Helen.

Emma has fears that Helen will resent the fact that Emma worked as a babysitter for Rob, but Helen soon dispels these, saying that she would rather Emma looked after Henry than letting Ursula and Rob spend more time with him. As for taking Rob’s money, Helen says it probably came from their joint account. Emma holds Jack and says he’s lovely. Helen wonders if her being in prison has undermined her relationship with Henry. Emma says that she understands how Helen is feeling - when Emma’s mother Susan was in prison, they didn’t see much of each other, but now they are closer than ever. Meanwhile, Rob’s time with Jack is over and Pat sees him walking to his car. She is annoyed and tells Jazzer how angry she is about what Rob did to Helen. Even worse, he has not been punished for it. “He got clean away with it - and there’s nothing we can do about it” Pat says bitterly.

On Friday, close to closing time, Rob walks into the Tea Room, where Emma tells him that he’s too late to be served. But Rob doesn’t want tea, he wants a favour. He tells Emma how he and Henry spent time together, making the bejewelled crown and he has a card that he’d like to give him personally. Could Emma get Henry and bring him over to see Rob? No she couldn’t, and Helen has told her that she doesn’t want Henry to see Rob. Rob is bitter: “You’re all on her side now - she’s spun you into her web of lies” he says, and angrily rips up the card. “Give that to Helen - a little present from me” he snarls, before leaving.

Rob ends up at The Bull, where he demands a large scotch. Kenton asks if he’s celebrating something. “Exactly what would I have to celebrate? Just get me the drink, would you?” Rob replies. As he continues to drink, Rob gets more and more bitter, telling Kenton that Helen is petty and vindictive and doing all she can to wreck his life. Kenton reminds him that this is his family that Rob is rubbishing and he doesn’t want to hear it. Rob orders another drink. “OK, but this will be your last” says mine-less-than-genial host.

As he goes to the loo, Rob runs into Emma, who is there having dinner with her family to celebrate Poppy’s third birthday. A drunken Rob asks her to come and he’ll buy her a drink to show that there’s no hard feelings. “We’re still friends, aren’t we?” he asks. It would appear not, as Emma replies “You must be out of your mind.” Once again, Rob demonstrates a breathtaking capacity for self-delusion as he says “What exactly have I done? Has my mad wife been spinning you more of her crazy lies?” Now, Emma could just make her excuses and go, but instead she tears into Rob, saying: “What? You call her mad after what you did to her? How dare you? Now everyone knows the things you did and just what kind of man you are. If you had a shred of decency, you’d get out of this village and never come back.”

Rob disagrees. “You evil, hypocritical bitch -” but Emma is in full flow and interrupts him “That’s your style, isn’t it - picking on women; bullying them and pushing them around. Now you can’t deal with it when one of them dares to fight you back.” “Oh can’t I? I know just how to deal with you” answers Rob and he moves towards her. “Don’t you dare lay a finger on me” warns Emma. By this time, the raised, angry voices have alerted David and Jazzer and they come over. Emma tells them she’s OK and, in a voice full of contempt, says “He’s just a sad, pathetic bully.” “What did you call me?” shouts Rob and moves towards Emma again. David tells him to back off and to go home “You don’t tell me what to do” Rob snarls. “Oh yes I do” David replies and he and Jazzer manhandle Rob out of the pub “You can’t do this to me” Rob protests. David tells him to go home and sober up. “Aye,” says Jazzer and, speaking for five million listeners, adds: “On your way pal - and don’t come back.”

Well, that’s you told, Rob. You might think that this whole thing is just a minor hiccup as you progress serenely through life, but a lot of people really don’t like you and wouldn’t throw water over you if you were on fire. I know we have dwelt on the subject of Rob, but I really enjoyed his discomfort and good for you Emma, I say.

What has been happening elsewhere? The title of ‘chicken-livered git of the week’ goes easily to Toby Fairbrother. His brother Rex returns from nursing their father and Pip tells Toby that he has to tell his brother that she and Toby are an item. Opportunity after opportunity passes and Toby bottles it time after time. He is concerned that Rex will go to Alice’s 28th birthday party and find out about him and Pip, but Rex says he won’t be going as he can’t bear to watch Pip ‘making out with some bloke’, as happened at Chris’s party earlier in the year. Toby reasons that, if Rex isn’t going, then he doesn’t need to tell him about himself and Pip and so another opportunity goes begging.

Instead of going to the party, Rex goes to The Bull, where he starts talking to a despondent Adam. Not only is Adam upset because of his situation with Ian, but earlier in the week, he had words with Alice. In fact, his sister tells him that he behaved like a total rat and she’s surprised that Ian didn’t walk out months ago. Little wonder then that Adam hasn’t gone to the party, although he hates having fallen out with Alice. His despondency is further increased because he is currently living in an attic at the pub. Rex suggests that, if he wants to put things right with Alice, Adam has to talk to her and he comes up with a deal - if Adam goes to the party, then he, Rex, will face up to the ‘personal issues’ that he gave Adam as his excuse for not going.

Adam agrees and the two arrive together. Adam and Alice kiss and make up (Alice has admittedly had a sniff of the barmaid’s apron), but Rex is confronted by the sight of Pip and Toby snogging. Rex is furious with Toby and storms out. Pip too is not very happy with Toby, as he told her that he had told Rex about them. Toby runs after Rex, who is incandescent, telling his brother that he knew how Rex felt about Pip and, as soon as Rex was away, Toby moved in on her. Toby, who is obviously mendacious as well as spineless, tells Rex that Pip came after him. “She practically threw herself at me” he lies. Rex doesn’t believe him and spits out “What kind of brother does that? I’m never going to trust you ever again.” Personally, I find it incredible to think that he ever trusted him at any time.

Back at the party, Ed is being introduced by Alice to all her high-tech friends - she says they will love him, as they’ve never met an end user of their equipment before. Ed begins to feel like an exhibit and has soon had enough, asking Alice if she asked him along “because I’m a man of the soil who knows how to drive a combine?” Alice protests that she asked him because he’s her friend. Ed replies “I appreciate that, but I don’t appreciate being the token peasant - I’m off.” At least he got a free beer or two out of it.

Finally, it was a good week for Josh - David let him and Johnny attend an auction to buy a second-hand mower and gave him a top limit of £4,000. Josh got what we learn was a great bit of kit for £3,200 and so he asks his father for a commission. David, having tried out the mower, says that Josh was £800 under budget, so he’ll split the difference and gives his son £400. Not bad for half a day’s work. We wonder how the Rex/Toby/Pip situation will affect the pasture egg business. Josh is concerned because Toby is a player and he says that Pip isn’t as tough as she makes out. Rex says that Pip is his friend and he won’t stand by and see her hurt by anybody. “You leave Toby to me - from now on I’ll be watching him” Rex tells Josh. From his tone, there’s not a lot of brotherly love evident, and I reckon it could soon get uncomfortable for young Tobes.