Sunday, 27 November 2016

Still, What Did You Expect?

Tim Bentinck (David Archer)

Let’s begin at the end of the week. It looks like Toby has got his act together over use of the botanicals to flavour his gin and the latest batch is very drinkable. Toby takes a bottle to Lynda and Robert to say ‘thank you’ for letting him use herbs from their garden, although Lynda sniffily points out that Toby actually filched them when she and Robert were away. Never mind! The gin gets the Snell seal of approval and Robert suggests calling it ‘Scruff’ instead of ‘Toby’s Gin’, which is the blockbuster of a name that Toby came up with. How these marketing geniuses do it is beyond me.

By Thursday, there’s another batch ready for tasting and Pip asks if it matters that it tastes different from the previous batch. Toby confidently replies that it just proves that it is an artisan drink and it doesn’t matter. On Friday, David tells Pip that he thinks Toby is just a freeloader who does vanity projects and, Pip defends her lover, conveniently forgetting that, earlier in the week, Toby had asked her for money, as he’s broke. David is not convinced when Pip says that Toby will come good one day and he says “If he showed half the commitment of his brother Rex, I might believe in him.” Pip goes off in a huff and David says (to himself) “Oh Pip, why can’t you see what everyone else can?”

Later on that day, Alistair is at Brookfield, ministering to a cow with mastitis and he casually enquires “Have you heard Toby’s latest idea?” “Go on, surprise me” says David, gloomily. I think we can safely surmise that he was, indeed, surprised, as we next hear him banging on the door of Rickyard Cottage, yelling “Pip!” at the top of his voice. Pip lets him in and he is furious, demanding to know where is the still? Toby tells Pip that he can deal with this and he informs David that they haven’t sold a drop and all that they have made has been for personal consumption and that of friends. This does nothing to calm David down and he points out that Toby was down The Bull, dishing out gin and tapping up Kenton as to possible future sales. Witheringly, David also says that he has done some research on the Internet – which Toby patently hasn’t – and it is an offence to operate a still and not charging for it is irrelevant.

Still incandescent, David offers an ultimatum – get rid of the still immediately or he will give them notice to quit. “You can’t do that!” Pip protests, but David is implacable, saying: “I’ve no choice Pip – either the still goes or you both do; it’s as simple as that.” So, another Toby Fairbrother idea goes nads up – he’s a bit like a younger, upper class Joe Grundy when it comes to things commercial. God only knows what sort of banker he was. As an aside here, for Clarrie and Eddies 35th wedding anniversary, they were served a meal (turkey, what else?) in the Cider Club shed and Joe offered Clarrie apple juice, cider or apple brandy – wouldn’t making apple brandy require the use of a still?

Elsewhere, Rob continues to cast a long shadow. He returns a scarf to Lilian that he found when collecting papers from the Dower House and he has put two and two together about her and Justin. “It always pays to be discreet” he tells her, but she pretends that she has no idea what he’s talking about. On Wednesday, when Rob has his midweek hour with Jack, he tells Tony about Lilian and Justin and Tony says that he already knew, but deep down, he is shocked. When he and Lilian eventually meet up, he asks her how could she do such a thing – how could she have an affair with the man who hired Rob; “the man who raped and abused Helen?” Lilian answers that she pleaded with Justin not to hire Rob, but he insisted it was just a business decision. The conversation is intense and Lilian is sobbing, when Tony suddenly realises that this is exactly what Rob wants; to drive the family apart, but Tony won’t let it happen. “Maybe we can use this to our advantage” he says, enigmatically.

The psychologist has completed her report on Rob and it is a damning document, as we find out when Pat and Helen read it. It describes Rob as ‘narcissistic’, ‘exploitative’, ‘self-important’ and ‘with no concern about other people’s feelings or the consequences of his actions.’ Furthermore, ‘he remains harmful to others’ and the psychologist recommends that Rob’s future contact with Jack should continue to be supervised and should be cut to once a month, or maybe even less, ‘due to the level of psychological and emotional harm that Mr Titchener poses’.

Rob seeks out Alan for a talk and he immediately rubbishes the report as a pack of lies and that the psychologist was obviously manipulated by Helen “And all those damned Archers together.” Demonstrating his acute aptitude for picking up on nuances, Alan replies “So, you’re not happy with it?” Don’t know why you think that, vicar. Alan tries to get Rob to consider forgiveness and suggests that he and Helen should channel their love for Jack into being good parents. “There is no way I will ever forgive Helen” is Rob’s answer. Better look for a plan B, Alan.

There was one nice moment when, during Rob’s hour in the tearoom with Jack, the baby won’t stop crying and Rob demonstrates that, when it comes to being a parent, he’s about as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike. He refuses to give jack a dummy (“it’s just an excuse for a lazy parent”) and won’t listen to Tony when he says that Jack is teething. Rob angrily describes the tearoom as a totally unsuitable place for his contact visits and, having by this time had more than enough, Tony’s killer reply is “Well, when your contact goes back to once a month, it won’t be such a problem, will it?”

Earlier, we mentioned Clarrie and Eddie’s 35th wedding anniversary and we learned the importance of doing thorough research. He bought her a conch, because it was the nearest he could get to coral, while she bought him jade cufflinks, thinking that a 35th anniversary was jade (it isn’t – for once Eddie was right and it is coral). While on the subject of Eddie’s cufflinks, I suppose he’ll have to save up till he’s got a shirt to wear them with. As part of her present, Eddie drove Clarrie to Barmouth, of which she had fond childhood memories, playing on the beach. Emma had packed them a hamper, which was apparently very nice and, while strolling on the beach, Eddie suggested ice creams. Clarrie’s response was that it’s a bit cold, but she’d welcome a bag of chips. The hamper couldn’t have been that substantial then. Personally, I can’t see the attraction in walking along the sea front in late November, but each to his own, I suppose. Clarrie was disappointed that there were no donkeys, as she remembered from her youth, but presumably the donkeys breathed a sigh of relief that they wouldn’t have to transport a middle-aged matron up and down the beach in the depths of autumn.

Alistair and Anisha are moving closer to a partnership, as she has had the business valued and Alistair admits that her figure “is in the ball park” and he has instructed his accountant to open formal talks. She joins him for a drink in the pub, where she learns that he is related to half the village. Alistair replies that “It’s a very small world round here and secrets can be hard to keep. Now, I might be reading too much into this, but are we being prepared for a future romantic involvement, do you think?

Another big story of the week concerned Adam’s herbal leys and Pip’s mob grazing cattle. Sunday was Brian’s birthday and Adam and Ian got him a bottle of Japanese whisky, which was received with a certain amount of suspicion. Brian also told Adam that he wanted to have a talk about the whole mob grazing/herbal leys/no-till agriculture situation.

‘Talk’ is a bit misleading, as Brian makes it plain that he thinks the whole system should be wound up – it is experimental, it is not producing results and it is unprofitable. Adam is distraught and brings out all the arguments about how it is a long-term solution to improve the soil and going back to high-input agriculture is not the answer. Brian cocks a deaf ‘un and, when Adam asks if he has made his mind up, says “Let’s just say that mob grazing and the herbal leys are on borrowed time.”

Adam is not the only person devastated by Brian’s attitude, as, when Adam tells Pip (whose cattle do the mob grazing) she says “He can’t do that!” Afraid he can, Pip. She asks Adam if she should talk to Brian, but he says, despondently, that it won’t do any good, as Brian isn’t known for changing his mind. Still, there is a faint ray of hope, as Brian has agreed to let the leys be until after the winter so, should there be a miraculous increase in productivity and soil quality, they might be saved after all. Of course, Brian is getting on a bit and, if the coming winter is as severe as some are predicting, or if he has a reaction to the Japanese whisky, then he might not make it to spring and the leys might be saved.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Lynda’s On The Prowl

Carole Boyd (Lynda Snell)

Kate goes round to see Lynda to break the news that Mother Goose is proving impossible to cast and wants to organize a talent show instead. She blames Alice to whom she ‘delegated’ responsibility for casting, and Lynda for going away for 3 weeks and not leaving a script, before landing the coup de grace – the only person they could find to play Mother Goose is Nathan Booth. Lynda’s at the point of giving up, when Robert squanders yet another opportunity to kill off the Christmas show by making her a calming cup of chamomile tea and reminding her that she’s at her best when faced with adversity. The man has form in this area and it’s about time something was done about him.

So Lynda goes into recruitment overdrive, and in no time has signed up Susan for the Queen of Gooseland in the Christmas show. Emma’s wavering about Keira and George too, even though Eddie previously banned them from taking part. It look’s like she’s hooked Roy to play Mother Goose’s son Colin and Kirsty seems to be a shoe-in for love-interest Colinette, but isn’t so sure when she finds out that Lynda has earmarked Justin to play her father, the Demon Squire. When Kirsty complains that Justin’s just as bad as Rob (I wouldn’t go quite that far) Lynda suggests she use her feelings against him to inform her role.

Over at the tearoom Rob’s trying to get Tony to agree to make changes to his regular contact with baby Jack/Gideon, as his work will make it difficult to maintain the regular schedule. Tony’s sticking to his guns and tells Rob that he’ll have to rearrange his work commitments instead. As he leaves, Rob tells Tony that he’ll see him next week, but at 08:30 – before the tearoom opens. “Not my problem” is Rob’s response when Tony points this out, and counters that the court may view him as being obstructive. This last remark seems to have had the desired effect, as later on Tony tells Pat and Peggy that either Fallon or Emma will open the tearoom especially early.

Eddie’s agonizing over how he’ll mark his and Clarrie’s 35th wedding anniversary, what with having no money and with Kenton recently taking Jolene away to a ‘swanky spa hotel’ for theirs. Joe hatches a plan to raise money by making a new batch of their single variety cider, putting it in fancy bottles, and selling it. When Eddie points out the crop of Borsetshire Beauties has been less than bountiful, Joe reminds him there are some trees over at Brookfield. It also turns out that Lynda’s got some in her garden, and Usha helpfully points out that Lynda’s working and won’t be there, thereby getting round the fact that Eddie and Lynda aren’t on speaking terms. Lynda’s trees turn out to be more productive (llama poo?) and they help themselves to as much as they want before Lynda unexpectedly appears. And what is the penalty for being caught red handed up a tree scrumping apples I hear you ask? Well, taking part in the Christmas show of course as a comedy bailiff (Eddie must have seen enough bailiffs in his time to play that one to perfection).

Meanwhile Alistair is keen to show Anisha, the prospective new partner in his veterinary practice, the full range of his activities (I bet he is), and suggests he takes her to see Bartleby. Anisha gives Bartleby the once-over, and suggests they try a new treatment for his joint pain that’s had promising results. Joe’s worried about the cost, but Anisha suggests a special introductory offer, and Joe likes the idea of being a pioneer so agrees.

Alistair’s wife Shula is having a heart-to-heart with Elizabeth and explains how Alistair’s decision to either sell up or go into partnership has given their relationship a new lease of life. She slips in the fact that her feelings for old-flame Richard Locke were just a fantasy. Elizabeth’s surprised that she felt that way, especially as she’s been no stranger to the doctor’s affections.

Lynda hunts down Adam in a field and interrupts his business conversation with Pip to invite him to play Mother Goose in lieu of Kenton, and unsurprisingly finds the idea of being a Kenton substitute less than attractive. Lynda also gets Pip to try and persuade Toby to take part wearing his ‘Ganderman’ goose costume. Pip cleverly gets Adam off the hook by suggesting Lynda try David instead, who she knows hasn’t the faintest intention of taking part, but this little distraction serves its purpose. Back to Estate business, and we learn that 50 farm professionals are due on a farm walk tomorrow to see how Adam’s trial of no-till drilling is coming along. On the day itself Adam confidently gets things started by giving some background about the floods and the need to adopt a new approach to soil management, before taking everyone up to see the herbal leys. Pip does well, and demonstrates how much the cows like the pasture, while Adam shows off the previously grazed areas.

Toby, who by now has agreed to be Ganderman in the panto, is telling select people about a secretive get-together at the Bull that evening, including Kenton, Elizabeth and Ambridges resident ginophile, Lilian. The meeting turns out to be a tasting of his Borsetshire gin, which goes down well until Elizabeth asks Toby whether he distilled it himself. The answer sends Kenton into a panic as he could lose his licence for allowing ‘moonshine’ to be consumed on the premises. Cue Lynda who is still on the prowl looking for her Mother Goose. While she’s doing her best to persuade Kenton to play the lead, Lilian – who has been necking the stuff, knocks over the bottle and all is about to be revealed when, in an act of desperation, Kenton agrees to be Lynda’s Mother Goose.

So the panto is cast, my Christmas is ruined, and Robert Snell is in deep, deep trouble – again.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Well Played, Lilian And Oliver!

Michael Cochrane (Oliver Sterling)

On Tuesday evening, Lilian took a phone call from Rob - he has seen an AmSide property - Hillside - on the website and it looks just what he’s looking for, so when can Lilian show him round? She is stunned - how did he know about the property, as it has only been on the website for about 10 minutes?

That’s the question she asks Justin the following day and he admits that he might have mentioned it to Rob. Lilian cannot believe that Rob would have the nerve to ask her, but Justin, who seems to have no idea of the depth of anti-Titchener feeling among the majority of inhabitants of Ambridge, doesn’t see what the problem is. Lilian says, somewhat incredulously, “You’re talking about the man who raped my niece and you want me to put a roof over his head?” Justin points out that Rob hasn’t been convicted of anything and he is lucky to escape without being struck.

Later on, Lilian is still in a bad mood and Justin apologises if he had been insensitive. Lilian refuses his offer of lunch and tells him “How do you think my family would feel - how would I feel - if I became his landlord?” Justin suggests that it could be a good thing for Helen, if Rob is free to start a new life, but “the decision has to be yours alone. As ever, I trust your impeccable judgement.” That’s not strictly accurate, as, when Justin was thinking of taking Rob on, Lilian advised against it and Justin ignored her advice.

Lilian mulls it over and, on Thursday, she tells Rob face to face that she has ‘other plans’ for Hillside. He retorts that he has found a better property on the Edgeley Road anyway and drives off. For her part, Lilian goes to The Bull, inviting Neil and Eddie to join her (“my treat”) to celebrate turning Rob down as a tenant. Eddie is all for it, but Neil says better not, as Susan will smell beer on his breath and bang on about the diet again. “But I wouldn’t say no to one of Wayne’s pork pies” he says, brightly. Well done, Lilian!

You do have to wonder about the blind spot that Justin has when it comes to Rob - he treats him as a normal, human being. The only other person who does that is Alan, and he has to, as that’s his job as vicar. On Friday evening, Justin invites Rob round to discuss an upcoming takeover - he wants Rob to help him with the research. Justin asks if he was disappointed at not getting Hillside? Not at all; in fact, Rob says Lilian has done him a favour, as he’s away from all the petty prejudice that he encounters in Ambridge.

Justin seems genuinely concerned, asking Rob if that bothers him much? “I barely notice it now” Rob tells him, to which Justin observes that it still cannot be very pleasant. “Water off a duck’s back,” Rob says, adding: “I shouldn’t have got tangled up with one of the oldest families in the district. I was never going to get a fair hearing, was I, so why bother fighting it?” Justin calls this attitude “very philosophical” and Rob replies that that’s the way he’s always been. “Even at school, I’d rather be right than popular” he says, inviting the comment that one out of two isn’t bad.

Justin describes this as “a refreshing approach” and expresses the hope that Rob stays that way. Is the man insane? The two talk of Charlie Thomas and his shortcomings and Justin says that Damara and BL are building for the future and what will be needed in 10, 20 or 30 years’ time. Rob isn’t averse to a bit of crawling and tells his boss “I don’t have divided loyalties - whatever the job, you can always count on me.”

Going back to Thursday, it wasn’t a good day for Rob. As well as getting blown out of renting Hillside, he receives an unexpected visit from Oliver. Rob is very affable, inviting him in and Oliver is icily formal, refusing offers of drinks and seats. Rob apologises for missing the first meet of the season, but he will definitely be at the next meet. “That’s what I’ve come to see you about” Oliver tells him.

We learn a bit later that Rob has been thrown out of the Hunt and he tells Oliver bitterly “I didn’t think that you’d been taken in by Helen’s slanderous allegations” and “If the foul things she claimed in court were true, why haven’t I been arrested and charged? It’s because the police know I’m innocent.” Oliver replies that it’s nothing to do with Helen; it’s Hunt business. Specifically, the fact that Oliver knows that Rob lied about the incident with the Hunt saboteur. It is revealed that Shula has grassed Rob up and he is furious, saying “Shula is Helen’s cousin - she’s doing this to get at me.” Still maintaining his dignity, Oliver says “I trust Shula implicitly.” “More fool you!” Rob rants “The whole family is two-faced!” Oliver calmly lays Rob’s subscription cheque on the table and says he’d better leave, as Rob shouts “There are better Hunts in the county who’ll be delighted to have me join, so you and Shula and all the rest can just go to hell!” This was the day before Rob told Justin that he barely notices the prejudice he encounters, incidentally. Well done Oliver - pity you didn’t have your horsewhip with you, but I commend your restraint.

Toby returns from Brighton on Sunday and begins unloading boxes at Rickyard Cottage. It turns out that he has brought back a still and is going to distil his own gin. Is that strictly legal? Toby thinks it is, telling Pip that he doesn’t need a licence if he’s not selling it. If that’s true, why aren’t we all doing it? He tells Pip that they are “Two pioneers, laying down foundations for a massive business” and she, while still angry because he went off to Brighton and only told her just before he left, nevertheless reluctantly agreed to act as his guinea pig gin taster. I’d watch it Pip - knowing Toby, he’ll distil the sort of alcohol that kills you, rather than makes you happy. It’s a pity that bullshit is not a valuable, marketable commodity - if it were, then Toby would be the richest man in Borsetshire, or possibly the world.

I understand that whisky has to be aged for at least three years, but Toby’s gin is ready for tasting on Thursday. It’s revolting - he appears to have added herbs etc by the shovel load and Pip takes one gulp and that’s it. She makes various derogatory comments, and a suddenly-earnest Toby says that he’ll start another batch tonight and tweak the recipe. “I need the money, Pip I’ve got to make this work.” Well, good luck with that, say I.

Elizabeth is worried because Freddie doesn’t appear to be making any friends at college and she asks Johnny to keep an eye out for him and talk to him. The two lads travel home on the bus together on Wednesday and Freddie says that his classmates tend to keep themselves to themselves. He is regarded as posh (a couple refer to him as ‘Downton’) and living at Lower Loxley doesn’t help - if he invites people back, they might think he’s showing off, and if he doesn’t, then he’s standoffish. Johnny recalls his first few days at college, when people mocked him for his northern accent. “I’m sorry, I can’t understand a word you’re saying” Freddie replies, perplexedly. OK, I admit that last bit was a total fabrication, but it would have been good. In an effort to cheer Freddie up, Johnny invites him home to share pizza and beer with him and Tom. I’m not entirely convinced that that is what Elizabeth meant when she asked Johnny to keep an eye on her son.

At Home Farm, Adam is being pursued by Brian, moaning about the state of the autumn crops and how they mustn’t let Justin see how bad they are. Adam unloads his woes on David, telling him that things at Home Farm are pretty grim - Kate is bemoaning the lack of people signing up for the panto, Lilian is miserable (this was when she was a bit arsey with Justin) and Brian is the worst of the lot. “The main trouble with Brian is - well - he’s Brian” Adam tells David and apologises for Brian’s rudeness earlier in the week (Brian interrupted their conversation on Monday to drag Adam off to inspect the bad crops). “I wish he had more faith in me” Adam says. David tries to be positive, saying how good the no-till and herbal leys are and Adam mustn’t let Brian wear him down. “I’m not sure how much more I can take” is Adam’s despondent answer.

On the subject of the panto, we learn that Alice thinks it won’t happen and she and Kate are resigned to having a talent contest instead. One person who won’t be in any panto is Susan, who is extremely annoyed when Kate approached her, saying that she had just the part for Susan - that of Esmeralda. Susan was quite pleased, until she saw the description of her character, which read “a gossipy old crone.” Tact and finesse were never Kate’s strong suits, but her judgement was spot on in this case.

Having said that, when it comes to tactlessness, Susan can be right up there with the best of them. The saga of the Carter family photograph grinds on, as does the moaning of Neil about his enforced diet (Neil had mushrooms on toast for Sunday lunch and carrot batons as a snack at the village bonfire), but at least Susan has finally chosen a photographer.

Even better, she tells Emma that, as she (Emma) recommended the firm, she will get a ‘finder’s fee’. Emma is delighted, as she is always short of money. And this is where Susan’s lack of tact is given free rein, as she wonders in front of Emma whether Ed will want to be in the photograph? After all, it will be very prim and proper and “Your father and I will be very dressed up.” The temperature falls a few degrees as Emma replies “Ed won’t mind.”

This is where Susan should keep her skate-mouth-sized gob firmly closed, but she cannot help herself, suggesting that perhaps Emma could use the finder’s fee to pay for Ed to have “A real good grooming session first, at a proper salon.” “Why?” asks Emma sharply and Susan makes things worse when she goes on “So he won’t feel out of place,” adding: “As long as he gets his hair cut properly and his nails tidied up.” The atmosphere is positively glacial now as Emma retorts that Ed can look very smart and there are about 100 better things that they can spend the money on. “It’s a really stupid idea” Emma tells her mother, who sighs and says “OK - I got exactly the same reaction from your dad when I suggested getting his nose hair layered.”

Never mind, Susan, if you ensure that Ed is positioned on the edge of the family group, he can always be cropped off, or Photoshopped out.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Not As Easy As You Thought, Alice?

Hollie Chapman (Alice Aldridge)

The work of casting for Mother Goose seems to have devolved entirely on to Alice, which isn’t surprising when you think that Kate is supposed to be doing it - we all know her ability to knuckle down and apply herself to any task in hand. Alice is crowing about how easy it all is, but then Eddie pulls the entire Grundy family out of the production, in protest about the panto being nothing more than one huge advert for the Fairbrothers’ goose business.

And the Grundys are not the only ones - Toby says he’s too busy, ditto Kenton and Rex isn’t keen either. Friday night is audition night and Alice and Kirsty are the only ones there, until Rex walks in. He’s still not sure, but has come along just to have a look. The two girls fall upon him and the flattery is laid on with a trowel. Suddenly the door opens and a voice says “Sorry I’m late” as, to the two girls’ horror, Rob walks in.

Kirsty tells Alice that she cannot possibly cast Rob and Alice says that she will let him audition and then tell him that he hasn’t got a part. Kirsty then says that she can’t audition either. “You know why” she tells Alice. We have said before that Rob’s skin resembles that of a pachyderm in thickness, but this is breathtaking - worse even than Halloween, when he turned up at The Bull, wearing a Joker mask, prompting Kenton to remark to Jolene “Rob as the Joker; can you believe it? That man - how sick can you get?”

Of course, it’s an ill wind - if Rob is associated with the panto, presumably nobody else will want anything to do with it and it won’t happen. I can dream, can’t I? Rob started his new job as Justin’s Estates Manager on Monday and Justin immediately invited him to come along on the shoot later in the week. I did wonder if we might perhaps have an accident, with Rob’s body found riddled with shot, but no such luck - in fact, Rob was one of the best shots and Justin complimented him on his prowess.

Had Rob’s lifeless body been found on the shoot, the police would be spoilt for choice of suspects, as Rob has managed to rub numerous people up the wrong way. On Monday, he goes to see Adam about the arable crops - he is concerned about their patchy growth. Adam explains that the no-till system - a system approved by the BL Board, incidentally - is a long-term project. Rob makes some pointed remarks about Adam’s domestic life and “If these crops don’t pick up very soon, you can expect another visit from me.”

Adam moans to Brian about Rob’s attitude, but Brian thinks that Rob has a point - the crops do look a bit sparse, plus they have to make sure that Justin is happy. “It’s a simple matter of economics - we can’t afford to lose the Estate contract” Brian tells Adam. On the day of the shoot, it is Brian’s turn to be needled by Rob, who says that he is not prepared to have Estate land used as “a test bed for Adam’s half-baked theories” and he wonders if Adam is capable of doing his job properly, after all what he has heard about his personal life. Brian protests that Rob is being unfair, but Rob wonders about the soundness of Adam’s professional judgement. Brian tells Rob that he will contact Justin to reassure him, to which cuddly Rob replies “Well, you can try if you like Brian, but don’t say you haven’t been warned.”

Also on the day of the shoot, Shula turns up on horseback and Rob asks if it’s a good idea to ride on Estate land on the day of a shoot. Shula retorts that she is on her way home and anyway, the bridle path is a public right of way. Rob, who is obviously suffering because he hasn’t upset anybody for at least five minutes, tells her that, as Estates Manager, it’s his decision as to who can ride over Estate land and he might even apply to have the bridle path diverted. Later on Shula relates this story to Alistair and she is hopping mad. Another candidate for murder suspect!

Alistair could be excused for having other things on his mind - on Sunday, the lady who might be interested in buying into his vet’s business - Anisha - comes to the Stables for lunch and a look round. She is impressed and, later in the week, Alistair tells Shula that Anisha rang him and she is still interested and they will meet next week to discuss it further.

A story that is getting on my nerves is the saga of the Carter family’s group photograph. Susan is getting serious delusions of adequacy as she decides that no local photographer could possibly do the job properly and she is looking at London-based snappers. This must alarm Neil, as he envisages the ever-mounting costs of the project. What, with this and the privations of the enforced diet that Susan has put him on, Neil must be regretting that he ever had the idea of a family photograph.

Roy stuck a tentative toe into the online dating water when he met up with Lucy at a patisserie for coffee and cakes. Lucy is a very attractive girl and the two are getting on like a house on fire - she is jealous that he has a signed Pet Shop Boys album (a relic from Loxfest) - and it all looks good. However, Lucy is spelling out some of her ground rules for relationships and, when she mentions a friend of hers who had an affair with her boss, causing Lucy to cut the girl out of her life, the wheel falls off for Roy. Towards the end of the date, Lucy asks: “Is it me, or did it get a bit awkward, later on?” Roy replies in the negative, but it seems that he believes that there’s no future for the two of them, or so he told Kirsty later.

Perhaps Roy should borrow some self-confidence from Toby Fairbrother - God only knows that he’s got enough to spare. Having been ousted from the goose business, he is looking for the next great money-making idea. Getting ill on the Grundy’s cider and sloe gin, he decides that his future lies in coming up with an artisan drink. Pip finds him ‘foraging’ in the hedgerows and he proudly displays the flora that he has collected. What does Pip think? She points out that the berries he has picked are poisonous but he is not discouraged, telling her that he will look elsewhere.

‘Elsewhere’ turns out to be Lynda Snell’s herb garden and her shed, where herbs are hanging up to dry. I can’t help think that Lynda would not be amused, but, fortunately for Toby, she is away, ministering to Flat Leaf Parsley, who broke her arm in New York and had to come back early with young Muppet. Toby mixes all the ingredients together and lets them steep for a few days. He and Pip then taste the resulting concoction, which is just this side of horrible, with much coughing. Pip readily agrees with Toby when he says that it needs more work.

Pip is annoyed with Toby, as Rex sought her out to ask her to remind Toby that they are having a business meeting in the afternoon and Toby needs to be there. Of course, Toby doesn’t go, saying to Pip: “All this stuff about squeezing me out of the goose business isn’t going to happen.” Why not? “Because I know my brother - he can stew in his own juice until he realises that he needs me more than I need him.” Toby also mentions in passing that he is going down to Brighton for the weekend, or maybe a few days more, which is news to Pip, and she isn’t happy, telling him that he can’t go anywhere until he has talked to Rex.

Toby eventually rings Rex, causing him to leave the panto auditions early, and the two brothers meet. In a bored voice, Toby asks what happened at the meeting? Rex tells him that he and Josh decided that there is no more egg business. “Upper Class Eggs isn’t working, so we’re winding it up.” Rex tells his brother. “No! You can’t” Toby replies, but Rex says that there’s nothing for Toby to stay for - the partnership is over. “You can’t do this to me,” Toby says, adding (a tad optimistically) “We’re a team - we’re family.” Rex is having none of it, saying: “It was never going to work, Toby. You always wanted to go your own way, so now’s your chance.” Back to the artisan drinks, Toby. Perhaps Pip will get fed up with Toby and we might learn at last what it is he gets up to in Brighton.

A couple whose fortunes seem to be on the up and up are Kenton and Jolene. A year ago, Kenton was in despair and The Bull was in serious danger of going nads up, being rescued only when the rest of the Archer family rallied round with a loan. What a difference a year makes! We learn that Halloween was extremely successful for the couple, plus other events during the summer were nice little earners. It’s a measure of how successful they have been that Kenton arranges a surprise for Jolene - having ensured that Fallon can provide cover, he has arranged a night away at a luxury hotel and spa to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

Kenton tells Jolene this in the bar, where a dejected Eddie is nursing a half, because he cannot afford a pint. Kenton’s news does nothing to lighten Eddie’s mood - he remarks gloomily that it’s his and Clarrie’s wedding anniversary next week as well and “Clarrie will be lucky to get a box of chocolates.”

Casting an eye back over last week’s stories, I hope that we have seen the scales beginning to drop from Pip’s eyes when it comes to Toby - she wasn’t impressed when he announced that he was off to Brighton without her. If we’re lucky, perhaps he’ll stay there.

I want to give Justin Eliot a good shaking - I know Rob hasn’t been convicted of anything, but the fact that the jury believed Helen’s tale of coercive behaviour and being raped surely suggests that he isn’t a nice person, to put it mildly? Is this the sort of man you want running your business, Justin? Hasn’t Justin noticed that Rob is being ostracised by almost the entire village? He’ll give BL a bad name, Justin - get rid of him.

Actually, Justin isn’t the only one to give Rob some credit, as on Sunday, Alan is talking to Shula as Rob drives past. The vicar says that he had a chat with Rob and “He doesn’t seem to have many friends right now.” “Are you surprised?” she answers and Alan is worried that Rob seems to be so isolated and it is his (Alan’s) job to try and heal things. Shula disagrees, saying: “It sounds uncharitable, but I think he is getting exactly the treatment that he deserves.” Uncharitable? Maybe, but as this conversation took place four days before the confrontation with Rob at the shoot, I venture to suggest that Shula isn’t likely to be changing her opinion any time soon.