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.