Sunday, 10 December 2017

Please Just Get On With It

Alison Dowling (Elizabeth Pargetter)

The situation between Lilian and Justin is really getting on my nerves - not only do I not know what’s going on, but it appears that neither do they. The wedding is scheduled for 22nd December and it’s fair to say that the swallows are gathering on the wires. Hats have been bought, suits have been cleaned specially and Tony, as witness, has learned to write his name. Not only that, but Elizabeth is stalking Lilian, desperate to arrange a meeting to finalise the last details, and Lilian keeps fobbing her off. At this rate, Elizabeth will be following Lilian up the aisle (or the Lower Loxley equivalent), saying things like ‘how many canapés per guest would you like?’

One such detail is ‘will there be a groom?’ Why Justin and Lilian cannot just get together and say ‘is this marriage going to go ahead or not?’ is beyond me. They do meet up quite a bit (usually accidentally) and there is much talk about it being “time to be sensible, face facts and move on” (Justin) but nobody has said ‘the wedding’s off’. Justin turned up at the BL party by himself and had to field awkward questions, inventing a bad cold to explain Lilian‘s absence.

Peggy was concerned to hear that Lilian has been unwell and quizzes her about it at the great Ambridge Christmas Lights switch on on Friday. As we have said in the past, this is a great bit of radio. Lilian has been keeping the estrangement with Justin a secret, but, at the switch on, she finally cracks and tells her mother that she feels so guilty about what happened to Chris and the others. Peggy replies that it wasn’t her fault - Matt was a rogue before Lilian met him and it’s a good job that she managed to steer clear of him this time. “All these self doubts will disappear when you marry Justin - he’s someone you can be happy with.” It’s all too much for Lilian and she tells Peg that Justin wants to move on - the wedding’s off.

Well, that will have ruined a lot of people’s Christmases; not least Elizabeth, who was probably looking forward to a lucrative wedding reception and who now has a day with no paying customers and enough champagne to float a battleship. But wait! Could the wedding yet be saved? When Lilian went to the Dower House on Friday, Justin tells her that Ruby, the puppy, has been sick. Alistair gave Ruby an anti-vomiting injection and urged Justin to keep an eye on her - she could have a blockage. Lilian is concerned, as is Justin - could Ruby be the catalyst that brings them back together at the eleventh hour? If so, I’m sure that the irony that it was Matt who bought Ruby for Lilian will not be lost on the happy couple. Whatever is the upshot concerning the wedding, just get on with it, as I don’t think I can take much more of this uncertainty.

Going back to the BL dinner, this saw the debut of Ian’s special Christmas menu and everyone agreed it was a triumph. Ian is in no mood to celebrate, as earlier in the week he and Adam had visited the fertility clinic, where Ian learned that he is unlikely to be able to father a child. The couple drive back from the clinic and a despondent Ian says that it feels like a door has been slammed in his face. Adam suggests that they could use his sperm instead, but Ian says let’s let it sink in before they make a decision.

After the BL dinner, Ian has a heart-to-heart with Lexi in the kitchen. She tells him he should be in the restaurant, soaking up the praise of the diners, but he doesn’t feel like it. He tells her about the disappointment of the fertility clinic and Adam’s offer to father the child - Ian says he wouldn’t feel that the child was his. All he really wanted was to pass on some of his mother’s characteristics (she died when Ian was young). Lexi tells him this is rubbish - Ian can share such things like his kindness and his smile with his and Adam’s child - his mother’s spirit will live on. Adam comes into the kitchen to apologise for Brian’s crass remark (Brian clumsily told Ian that he mustn’t feel like he’s a freak). “Are you all right?” Adam asks his husband. “No I’m not, not yet” Ian replies, adding: “But maybe life isn’t as dark as it was a few minutes ago.”

More talk of babies: Pip is definitely pregnant. Should she tell Toby (it’s definitely his, as she and Alfie haven’t got to that stage yet)? Break it to him gently Pip; that’s the way to do it. Alternatively, she could adopt the direct, brute force approach, which she does, interrupting him wittering on about geese with a curt “Toby, I’m pregnant.”

This comes as a shock to Toby, who says that he always assumed he would have children one day, but he doesn’t think the time is right “especially as we aren’t even an item. Unless…?” Pip cuts him short, saying no, they’d be starting all over again and for all the wrong reasons. Toby says whatever, it has to be Pip’s decision and, whatever she decides, he’ll back her 100%. At the lights switch on, Pip tells Elizabeth that she’s told Toby and she’s glad she did. The termination is set for Friday and Pip says “This will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” “I know, Pip, I know” says Lizzie.

And indeed, she does know whereof she speaks as, before her marriage, a pregnant Elizabeth was dumped at a motorway service centre by the odious Cameron Fraser. She subsequently had an abortion, which caused no little friction with sister Shula, who was desperate to have a baby of her own and could not understand how anyone could have a termination, but Elizabeth went ahead.

The Reverend Alan Franks is beginning to wonder why he ever volunteered to organise the panto this year. At rehearsal, he is buttonholed by Lynda, who has drawn up notes about her character (Nightshade, the Evil Fairy) and she wants to understand her motivation. Mystified, Alan says that she’s an Evil Fairy - isn’t that enough? Not for Lynda - what turned her evil? She wants to portray the suffering and angst that she feels Nightshade must have undergone and her performance is punctuated by meaningful pauses and gazing into the middle distance. She has also made alterations to her part to better suit the nuances of her character.

This is all too much for Susan, who is angry because Lynda’s changes are affecting the rest of the cast and disrupting the flow of the performance. She gets quite insulting and, after a particularly pretentious speech by Nightshade, Susan accuses Lynda of showing off. Lynda is scandalised by this (to me perfectly reasonable) accusation and a full time row is brewing, but Usha steps in to defuse the situation.

She does this with the aid of a little white lie - Susan complains that her costumes are all too small for her and Usha must have written down Susan’s sizes wrongly. Usha is adamant that she gave the costumiers the sizes that Susan told her, but later on she interrupts the Lynda/Susan argument by saying that she was wrong - she did make a mistake over Susan’s measurements. A mollified Susan immediately forgets about her row with Lynda.

Alan is grateful to his wife and tells her he is glad that she is on his side. He says that he feels like the captain of a ship going over a waterfall. “I’m not cut out for this job” he tells his wife. I’m sorry, Alan, but I have no sympathy for you - you were warned before you stuck your oar in and you have only yourself to blame. As they say, you have made your bed.

I also predicted that Lynda would not be able to stop herself interfering - ok, I admit that it wasn’t the most difficult thing to predict; the words ‘nailed-on certainty’ spring to mind - but it’s still nice to be proved right. If only you had stepped back, Alan, and let the panto sink without trace, you could have saved yourself all this grief. Do you still think the panto is a fun thing that brings the villagers together in a spirit of unity and enjoyment? No, me neither, but serves you right. If he’s not careful, Alan will have Lynda rewriting his sermons and examining the motivation of various biblical figures - after all, Satan was an angel once, so he presumably wasn’t originally all bad…

We had a rare, and admittedly minor, victory on the part of Joe and Eddie Grundy last week. People who buy turkeys are being given a bottle of Tumble Tussock cider, but nobody knows what it tastes like. Eddie decides to invite Jim Lloyd along for a tasting - he has a good reputation in the village and his word counts for something. All that is needed is for the cider to deliver the goods, taste-wise.

Except it doesn’t. Eddie cracks the first barrel and the cider tastes foul. In vain does Joe bang on about it being an acquired taste - Jim has no intention of acquiring it. A despondent Eddie opens the second barrel, which contains a second pressing of Tumble Tussocks - and it’s wonderful. Jim is ecstatic and Joe says it tastes just as he remembers. Jim says to put a couple of bottles aside for him and, quick as a flash, Eddie says that only if he buys a Grundy turkey. Begrudgingly, Jim says “OK - a small one.”

But what of the third barrel? Eddie tastes it and makes a face - it was as bad as the first barrel and he wouldn’t insult Jim and Joe by making them taste it. Jim leaves and Joe says “I suppose one barrel is better than none.” Eddie plays his master stroke and tells his dad that au contraire (not in those exact words, of course) - the third barrel was the best of the lot, but they don’t want people to think that there is a plentiful supply of the stuff, or they won’t be so keen to buy a turkey. Undoubtedly something will happen to upset the Tumble Tussock cart - it usually does with the Grundys.

Finally, the prize for this week’s crassest remark is a toss up between Brian’s well-meant, but insensitive, ‘freak’ comment to Ian and a misguided attempt at humour by Johnny. He was in the village shop when Emma came in with Keira. Keira was not happy when Emma chose a cheap can of beans, which Keira doesn’t like. Johnny agreed with her, saying the dearer beans are much tastier. Emma tells him off, saying that they are saving to buy a house (as they need another £11k, that’s an awful lot of beans, Emma) and they have to economise on everything. On top of this, Emma is holding down three jobs and Ed is working as much as he can “and it doesn’t help, losing contract work to cheap, unskilled labour” Ouch! That told you, Johnny. Johnny apologises and mumbles that he didn’t mean anything - he was only mucking about. Good job he didn’t tell Emma that Adam has offered him a full-time job at Home Farm, or he might well have had to have a can of beans surgically removed from his body.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Welcome Home Pip - For The Moment, Anyway

Daisy Badger (Pip Archer)

Sometimes David doesn’t know when to stop, does he? Both he and Rooooth want Pip to Leave Lower Loxley and come back to Rickyard and she says that she will, but not immediately. David can’t leave it alone and keeps on at her, until she snaps at him and tells him “It’s doing my head in - just leave it, yeah?”

That was on Wednesday and, on Friday, Pip decides to make the move. However, her car won’t start (a sign, surely?) and Elizabeth offers to take her and her stuff back to Brookfield. The pair are in the kitchen at Rickyard and there is a knock on the door. Pip asks who it can be and Lizzie says it’s probably someone wanting to welcome Pip home. Indeed it is, it’s Jill and she has brought some beef stew to warm them up.

Halfway through eating, Pip gets up and rushes out. An anxious Elizabeth follows her and asks what’s wrong? Pip has been sick - is it a bug? Pip says not and tells her aunt “It’s why I’ve been tired and irritable - I think I’m pregnant.”

Well, if that is the case, it couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time, really, as Pip is supposed to be overseeing the expansion of the dairy herd and redesigning the milking parlour and, to be honest, having a child isn’t going to help either of those. Then there is the question of who is the father. Pip has been seeing a bit of Alfie recently, but how far gone is she? There is a possibility that Toby could be the father, as it’s not that long since he and Pip split up. If this should be the case, a lot of people are going to be unhappy (including me, because I thought we were finally shot of him).

If he should be the father and is persuaded to do the decent thing by Pip, Rooooth and David will be ever so slightly incandescent and as for Jill - well, I think we can safely say that Pip will have had her last beef stew brought round. Imagine - suppose it should lead to marriage, then David’s father of the bride speech will probably be along the lines of ‘I’m not gaining a son-in-law, but losing a daughter’. The welcome home mood will be out the window too.

Of course, there is the possibility that Alfie could be the father (Pip told Elizabeth that he’s very nice, but we don’t know how far the relationship has progressed). In the past, it hasn’t taken her long to be making the beast with two backs (Matthew and Toby to name but two) so Alfie could be in the frame. If it should be him, then he might even get a speaking part.

Freddie continues to be an annoying little sod and argues violently with Elizabeth about his (and Lily’s) birthday. Elizabeth tells him that there’s no way he can go abroad during term time, so forget it. He shouts at her and goes into a massive sulk and this row took place in front of Noluthando. Elizabeth tells her that she’s sorry she had to witness such an unpleasant scene and tells Freddie that they can continue their conversation when he has calmed down.

Elizabeth leaves and Freddie appeals to Noluthando - surely she agrees with him that Elizabeth is a mega-loser? Actually, she doesn’t and tears into an astonished Freddie, saying that Elizabeth cares for him and would he rather have a mother like Kate, who doesn’t really care and makes a few Skype calls when she remembers? Nolly says that Kate knows nothing about what she (Nolly) wants and the reason that her brother Sipho didn’t come to the UK with her is that he cannot stand his mother. “When are you going to stop being such a moaning, whingeing brat?” Nolly asks Freddie, adding: “You’re nothing but a spoilt rich kid who doesn’t even know he’s born!” before leaving the room angrily. I must admit that Nolly went up in my estimation after that speech.

Later on in the week, Lily talks to Freddie and suggests that he stops being so confrontational with Elizabeth and she has a plan that should make everybody happy. This, it turns out, is for there to be a family tea on their birthday, as Elizabeth wants, but the twins want a party at The Bull Upstairs on the Sunday. They will have broken up for the holidays and they don’t want any family members there, apart from Kenton and Jolene, of course. Lily promises that they won’t do anything stupid and Freddie agrees.

Elizabeth isn’t sure, but realises that this is probably the best she is going to get and she finally gives in. We learn later from Lily that Jolene has agreed and who is Freddie going to invite? He names some of the cool guys and Lily asks “what about Noluthando?” Freddie isn’t sure that she will want to come, but Lily is confident she will say ‘yes’ and urges her twin to ask her.

I can’t help feeling that the magic mushrooms will make an appearance at this party and it will all go nads up somehow, with Freddie doing something stupid. Of course, I may be wrong and the fact that he is now - in age at least - technically an adult may bring on a new attitude of grown-up responsibility, but I wouldn’t wager an awful lot of money on it - we are talking Nigel’s son here, remember, plus past experiences do not give us any great grounds for optimism.

We come now to the on-going, will they, won’t they saga of the relationship between Justin Elliott and Lilian. Lilian appears to be in denial and tells everybody that the wedding is still going ahead; why shouldn’t it? Neither Brian nor Jennifer can get hold of Justin or Lilian and Brian is concerned, because the press are starting to link BL with the scam perpetrated by Melling Equestrian Investments. There will be an emergency board meeting of BL on Friday and Brian blames it all on Lilian, saying that reporters might dig up all sorts of things.

Jennifer is more concerned about her sister - where can she be? Eventually Jen tracks her down to The Bull, where she is involved in a flaming row with Joe and Eddie, having overheard them saying that it looks like Justin is the number one suspect for Matt’s hit-and-run. Jennifer tells Lilian that she is coming back to Home Farm (Brian will be pleased) and, later, when discussing the situation, Brian tells his wife about Lilian’s affair with Matt’s half brother, Paul. We have said in the past that Jennifer isn’t the quickest when it comes to sussing out things sexual or romantic going on under her nose and she proves it again when she says that she cannot believe it of Lilian.

On Thursday, Lilian confesses that she is missing Ruby and that she needs to get a change of clothes, so she visits the Dower House. As she leaves, Brian says “The sooner you two sit down and sort this out, the better - for all of us.” At the Dower House, Lilian runs into Justin and the meeting turns acrimonious. In vain does Lilian insist that she never slept with Matt and Justin says “Having affairs is clearly second nature with you”, adding that that is how she and Justin got together in the first place. This is a bit rich, as Justin asked her to be his mistress and, as Lilian points out, it was Justin that was breaking marriage vows, not her.

Lilian returns to Home Farm, where Brian, not very diplomatically, tells her that she looks terrible. Lilian breaks down in tears and tells him that she fears that she has lost Justin. Brian says that we all make mistakes and look at him and Jennifer - he treated her badly; Siobhan, Ruiari (fortunately he doesn’t list all his indiscretions or the episode would have to be an hour long) and he and Jennifer are still together.

To be frank, if I had to compile a list of people to give me advice on relationships, Brian would not be very near the top. However, it seems that he could be the village’s new Agony Aunt, as on Friday, after the emergency BL board meeting, Justin thanks him for looking after his back recently, and admits that he has taken his eye off the ball. The pair lunch at The Feathers and Justin says that Latif (who was stung by the scam) is not happy with Lilian. While Latif accepts that Lilian had nothing to do with the scam, he feels that she has been tarnished by her relationship with Matt. Justin tells Brian that his Decree Absolute arrived in today’s post, as did numerous wedding RSVPs. He is now free to marry the woman of his dreams “But I think I might have made a bad choice there.”

Brian tells him how upset Lilian was after her row with Justin and how she was adamant that she never slept with Matt “and I’m inclined to believe her.” Justin says that he feels utterly humiliated, but the stupid thing is that he doesn’t think that he can live without her - she makes him feel truly alive. He doesn’t know what to do. For a successful businessman, Justin seems unable to make a decision and Brian reminds him that, whatever he decides, he’d better make it soon, as the wedding is in three weeks. “You’re absolutely right,” Justin replies, “I really have got to make a decision, haven’t I?” Alleluia and give that man a coconut! Now get on with it as we are all getting bored with this.

Alan is having trouble casting the panto and, for something that is designed to pull the village together, it seems to be doing the opposite, Alan cons PCB into taking the part of a prince and Fallon is co-opted as princess and she is not happy about it. The first rehearsal is marred by the pair bickering - so much for the season of goodwill. Even the panto horse people cannot decide who should be the front half. Alan cannot find anyone to play the bad fairy. He’s asked everybody; but wait - there is someone; Lynda. She protests that she is too busy and the Rev Franks launches a campaign of flattery and blackmail, telling Lynda that “You are the glue in our community. Without you, this year’s Ambridge pantomime is not going to happen - it’s as simple as that.”

Lynda notes that Alan is using her own tactics against her, but is powerless to resist and she agrees to be the bad fairy. However, she has one or two requests. The first of these is the script - she would prefer the version that she wrote - and the second thing is the casting, for which she has some suggestions. She tells him that she also has strategies for rehearsals “But don’t worry - I won’t tread on your toes. Come on, let’s put the cast through their paces, shall we?” Alan can only respond weakly “We?”

You will be delighted to know that the Council approved the planning permission for the Bridge Farm development and Emma is delighted - she is convinced that she and Ed will be able to have a house of their own. They now only need to save another £13k in 21 months. Impossible, says Ed, but Emma is determined. “We can do it” she says, but she’s a bit light on details of exactly how. We’ll see.

Monday, 27 November 2017

No Fool Like An Old Fool

Lesley Saweard (Christine Barford)

The title of this week’s blog is Christine’s description of herself as the news that she invested £50k in the dodgy Melling Equestrian Investments scheme goes round the extended Archer family clan. Christine is optimistic that she’ll get her money back, but Peggy tries to give her a reality check, saying that the money will be long gone by now.

Lilian blames herself - was her previous involvement with Matt a factor in persuading her aunt to invest? Christine dismisses this, pointing out that she didn’t invest with Matt, but with Hugo Melling and the fault was entirely hers. Despite this, Lilian tries to get Christine to accept a cheque for £50k, but she won’t hear of it. And it’s not just Lilian, as, at the end of the week, Christine reveals that she lied about the amount that she lost; it wasn’t £50k, but more like £300,000k, or the entire profit from selling Woodbine Cottage.

Christine is apprehensive, wondering how she would cope if she had to go into a home. This is prompted by the fact that Anisha’s dad is suffering from dementia and needs to go into a home. The question is, should this be in his home city of Glasgow, or in Ambridge, where Anisha could see him every day? Christine is terrified that she will end up in a home miles from Ambridge. Peggy says that she would never let this happen and, if the worst happened, she would pay for Christine. Christine says that she wouldn’t take her money and swears Peggy to secrecy about the amount she lost. Peggy agrees.

Of course, if Christine were to go into a home due to dementia, she probably wouldn’t know what day it was, never mind who’s paying for her room. As regards to not telling anyone, I can’t help thinking that Peter (Christine’s son) will be in for a surprise and severe disappointment when Christine’s Will is read and there’s no bundle of cash from the sale of Woodbine. You have to applaud the generosity of Lilian and Peggy - it must be nice to have the odd £50k knocking around that you wouldn’t miss.

In the first paragraph, I mentioned Christine’s optimism regarding her money and it seems that this might be infectious, as the week ends with Peggy saying “Don’t worry - we’ll sort something out.” Oh yeah? I’d be interested in your suggestions about exactly what you are going to do, Peggy. Shula shocks Peggy when she describes Matt as “that obnoxious, unfeeling scumbag”, which I submit is extremely mild, compared with how he could have been described. Whatever, Shula apologises for her outburst and I think we can safely say that she’s probably not a fan when it comes to Matt.

Let’s leave Christine blaming herself and quietly moping and turn to the other big story of the week - the Parish Council election. To say that Ambridge was gripped by election fever would be hyperbole - more accurate is that it was slightly nudged by mild interest. Of course, the two candidates, Robert Snell and Emma Grundy, were deeply interested - even more so when it transpired that a recount would be necessary. Could we stand the suspense? Emma was particularly nervous, as, for the first time, she realised that she had been in with a chance and couldn’t bear to lose now.

As it happens, Emma won by three votes and is congratulated by Robert. Lynda, on the other hand, took defeat badly and moans that Emma probably won’t have the time to devote to being a Councillor and that she has taken Robert’s place. Robert is completely laid back and, when Alan gives him his commiserations, he says that, on the contrary, it is what he wanted and he’s taking Lynda to Grey Gables to celebrate. Lynda carries on moaning, but Robert cuts her short, pointing out that Emma managed to enthuse the youngsters, as indicated by the fact that turnout doubled.

Emma, says Robert, will be a credit to the Council and she is what it needs “instead of dusty old men like me spouting the same dusty old ideas.” And then he drops his bombshell as he tells his wife “That’s why I voted for her.” I must admit that this was one of the few times that I wished the Archers was on TV, as we didn’t hear Lynda’s response, but I bet her face was a picture.

Lynda’s week didn’t go as planned on a number of fronts - she asks Alan if he has had the chance to read her Sleeping Beauty script yet and he says that he is looking at alternative scripts, including one by a friend of his, which, as he rather tactlessly points out, has fewer couplets than Lynda’s efforts. She is scandalised, saying that she never thought she’d see the day when the Ambridge Panto was dumbed down. Alan takes his life in his hands when he says that this year’s offering will be more relaxed. “It’s a bit of fun, really” he observes and Lynda is apoplectic at what she sees as heresy on a grand scale.

For someone who is supposed to be stepping back, Lynda seems to be getting more involved. She questions Alan as to whether he has arranged rehearsal dates and the like and he replies that he is holding a casting session this week and he is sure that he will be beating people off with sticks. ‘Fraid not, vicar - the only person to turn up is Susan, who bags the part of the Good Fairy and then goes home, leaving Alan to spend two hours alone in the Village Hall.

Lynda gives him the benefit of her experience, telling him that he has to be totally ruthless - cajole people, flatter them and exploit any weakness that you can find. Keep on at them and wear them down until they agree. In short, batter them into submission. You can see why she was scandalised when Alan called it ‘a bit of fun’ - how wrong can you be? I wouldn’t be surprised if Lynda didn’t go to rehearsals equipped with a Taser to keep her terrified cast in line and to punish those who weren’t word perfect.

Because of the Panto, Alan has totally forgotten about the St Stephen’s Nativity Play, but the children haven’t . Nic reminds him and he begs her to oversee the organisation of it. She is reluctant, but pulls it together beautifully and the Man of God is very grateful. He was also given advice by Nic about how to attract people and, while Lynda’s approach could be described as ‘the iron hand in the iron glove’, Nic is more subtle. She tells Alan that he should ask people face to face (he texted Eddie and was turned down) and she agrees to ask her father-in-law, suggesting that he might be tempted if he had a song to sing in the show. Eddie agrees like a shot and Lynda nastily says “that’s two people you’ve got in your cast now.”

Justin Elliott is not a happy bunny - not only does he have to go to the police, along with his solicitor, to talk about the night of Matt’s ‘accident’, but the police are appealing to the public for information about the scam. Lilian says that she’ll drive him, but he turns her down, muttering about it being “too little, too late.” He returns to the Dower House in a foul mood, saying that the police kept trying to catch him out and that they regard his relationship with Lilian as a credible motive for him trying to kill Matt. Seething, he sits outside the Dower House and Lilian joins him. She wants to talk to him and says again that nothing happened between her and Matt. Why would she risk her marriage for that lowlife?

Justin replies that he doesn’t know if he can believe a word she says and a saddened Lilian says that perhaps she ought to move away for a while. “I believe that might be for the best” her fiancé replies. Am I the only one to be puzzled about the whopping great elephant in the room when these two talk - to wit, the whole subject of their marriage? I cannot believe that Lilian believes that it is still going to take place, the way things are between her and Justin. Equally, why doesn’t he put her out of her misery by saying ‘marriage? What marriage you untruthful harlot?’ I put it to you that telling your fiancée that it is a good idea that she moves out demonstrates a certain lack of affection. We know Lilian has been under strain, as she ordered Prosecco rather than champagne for the Reception.

Over at Brookfield, Rooooth praises Pip for her hard work during the year and says that she and David have decided that the milking parlour needs a total refit. Pip squeals with delight, as she hates the present layout and becomes positively orgasmic when Rooooth says that she can have the leading role in the new design. Mind you, it doesn’t take much to make Pip happy, as she tells her mother that, when she and Alfie (blue/green eyes and described by Lily as ‘hot’) were looking at livestock at the Primestock show, it was ‘strangely romantic.’ There was an encouraging development when Rooooth tried to persuade Pip to come back and live at Rickyard and she agrees. Looks like Toby is history, and a good job too, I say.

At Lower Loxley, Elizabeth tells Freddie that she is arranging a family party for his and Lily’s 18th birthday (12th December - the birthday list is probably in Underwoods, although Freddie would probably prefer money). Freddie says thanks a span Mum, but he won’t be there, as he’s planning to go abroad with his mates and get wrecked. Elizabeth says she thinks not and reminds Freddie that, since the Isle of Wight episode, Freddie’s passport is locked in her safe and only she knows the code, so shut up and get to college.

Freddie gives Noluthando a lift and is impressed that some of the coolest guys at college make a point of talking to her. She has been selling them magic mushrooms and suggests that she and Freddie go foraging for more after college. The pair are in the kitchen alone (Elizabeth has gone out for a meal) and Noluthando suggests adding some mushrooms to the risotto that they are heating up. Elizabeth returns unexpectedly and says how nice the risotto looks. She tastes some and Freddie panics - she has a heart condition after all. They get her out of the kitchen and, when she returns, the risotto is in the bin, with Noluthando saying that she added too much salt and it was ruined. Never mind, Freddie comes to the rescue, saying that he will prepare one of Nigel’s favourite meals. It has a fancy French name, but turns out to be fish fingers with tomato sauce. How we laughed!

If I were Elizabeth, I wouldn’t be worried about Freddie’s birthday - if he keeps on with the mushrooms, he’ll probably end up doing time for supplying, or for manslaughter, if he picks the wrong sort of fungi.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Haven’t You Got Enough To Do, Alan?

John Telfer (Alan Franks)

This week, the Rev. Alan Franks came within a whisker of being added to my Hit and Run list (the last one on the list was Matt, so be warned, vicar). He was bemoaning the lack of community spirit in Ambridge and the general mildly unpleasant atmosphere pervading the place, or so he thinks. A typical symptom is the fact that Lynda will not be doing the panto this year, he tells Usha and she reminds him how hard a taskmaster Lynda was in the past.

Alan has obviously been at the Communion wine, as he goes on about how much joy the pantomime brought people. Oh no it didn’t, says Usha – people were getting jaded with it all. I have to say that I am firmly in the Usha camp here; in fact, you could call me ‘ultra-Usha’, as I’m not so much jaded as totally pissed off. In fact, I have a Pavlovian reaction in that, whenever I hear the word ‘Pantomime’, I get the urge to bang my head against a brick wall.

Alan goes off to write his sermon and comes back later, somewhat happier, as he has found inspiration in the writings of Saint Augustine and realised that he should stop complaining and organise it himself. I looked up the Saint’s writings online and I couldn’t see any reference to pantomimes, but there you go. Usha is unconvinced and says “but what if people don’t want to do it?” “Of course they do,” her husband replies, “they just don’t want to do it with Lynda.” Usha then reminds him that it’s Christmas and this is a time of year when Alan tends to be a tad busy – after all, he is looking after 97 parishes or something like that.

I paused for reflection here – was I being uncharitable in the face of such an unselfish act? In fact, was my antipathy towards the pantomime per se, or was it towards a pantomime directed by Lynda, with all the attendant crises and pretentious outbursts? In short, should I give Alan a chance to change my mind, rather than the knee-jerk reaction of having him torn apart by rabid dogs? I’ll tell you one thing – if Alan has a go and makes a cock-up of the whole thing and it is subsequently rescued by Lynda, I will not be a happy bunny, as this is exactly what happened when she gave up organising the Fete and I think we listeners don’t deserve recycled plot lines.

But let’s turn to more dramatic matters. Lilian goes to see Matt, who is preparing to catch a plane for South America. She says that she can understand his desire to put thousands of miles between him and the people wanting their money back. Matt plays it dumb, so she tells him everything she has found out about Melling Equestrian Investments and Matt’s scam involving buying inferior horses and charging MEI premium prices. She calls him a crook, which he describes as ‘unfair’. I looked it up in the dictionary Matt – you are a crook. He says that Lilian still has feelings for him and, when she replies “Everything we ever had is finished – dead” Matt says “Prove it.” Lilian’s response to this is that she is going to call the police, which I would say is proof enough. Matt obviously thinks so too, as we are then treated to the unedifying spectacle of Matt on his knees, begging her not to, as another spell in prison would finish him off. His taxi is outside and he pleads with her. “I’ll give you one hour” she says and, when he says “I do love you Lilian” she stonily replies “The clock’s ticking.” Later on, when Lilian is trying to drink Grey Gables dry of gin, we hear her ring 101 and, when she gets through to the police, she says that she’d like to report a fraud.

The next day she makes a statement to the police, which involves answering some intrusive questions about her relationship with Matt. In her statement, Lilian says that she doesn’t know where he is, but she says that he used to live in Costa Rica and has talked about Ecuador. Now I know this is the following day, but surely, when she first rang 101 and said she wanted to report a fraud, the policeman didn’t just say “OK, pop in tomorrow and we’ll talk about it”? Surely he would have asked some questions, which might have provided details such as ‘Matt Crawford’ and ‘South America’ among others?

Armed with this information, it doesn’t take Hercule Poirot to realise that the chances are that Matt would be flying there and a few quick phone calls would have put the authorities on the alert – particularly nowadays, when you have to check in hours before your flight. Matt probably wouldn’t have made it to the business class lounge, never mind to South America.

Never mind, at least Justin will be pleased that Matt has gone, won’t he? Not as such – he returns to the Dower House (“My house” as he reminds Lilian) as he has business at Berrow Farm. He’ll tolerate her presence as long as she has the spare room and doesn’t talk to him. However, Lilian tells him what has happened and how the police told her that the chances are that the investors – one of whom is Justin’s friend Latif – won’t get their money back. Justin cannot believe the story; fancy Latif being taken in. Almost as an afterthought, he accuses Lilian of sleeping with Matt and, when she protests that nothing happened, Justin says “Nothing? You call all this nothing?” A bit later we hear Justin on the phone to the police, who have called him to arrange to come in for an interview. Justin agrees, but says he will want his solicitor present. Lilian comes in towards the end of the conversation and an annoyed Justin says that he had better call Latif, as the police will probably be ringing him next. He turns to Lilian and says, witheringly, “Next time you decide to take a lover, Lilian, you should consider the consequences of your actions!” Justin leaves and Lilian bursts into tears, no doubt hurt that he hasn’t asked her how the wedding preparations are going…

Justin isn’t the only one on the police radar, as Adam is asked back for an interview. D.I. Thorpe discovers that he has no alibi for the evening of the hit and run and, talking afterwards to PCB, she says that she has an open mind about whether or not he was the driver, but she is convinced that he knows nothing about the fraud.

We are reminded that Latif is not the only one to have lost money, as Lilian, Christine and Peggy are chatting as they await the delivery of the new ladies’ changing rooms, paid for by Christine. Christine says how much she is looking forward to her Rhine Cruise and she has been trying to contact MEI to arrange a date “But Hugo Melling is a very busy man.” She mentions that he’s quite a charmer too and an anxious Lilian, learning that Chris met him at one of his get togethers to attract investors, asks whether she invested any money in the racecourse? Christine says “Don’t let on to the people round here, but yes – quite a lot actually.” Just when Lilian thought her week couldn’t get any worse.

Things haven’t been going well for quite a lot of people in Ambridge recently. The usually-placid Ian has been upsetting staff in the Grey Gables kitchen, and not just staff, as Roy has had to smooth over the odd altercation with customers. Roy tries to apologise for his timing last week, when Carina, the potential surrogate, walked in on Roy and Adam having a row. Ian tells him tersely that they have lost Carina and Roy is racked with guilt.

Despite Roy’s efforts, he has to get Ian in for an informal talk. Roy tries to keep it low key, but Ian gets defensive and sarcastic. Lexi is also there and she wades into Ian, telling him that Roy has been covering for him, but he can’t do it for ever. She goes on: “Roy has been a good friend to you and that’s exactly what you need at the moment.” Later on, Lexi comes to apologise, saying that she couldn’t bear to see Ian treating Roy like that. “I went too far” she says, contritely. Roy calls her a good friend, to which she says “More than a friend – I love you.” She apologises again if she’s embarrassed him, but he answers “I love you too, Lexi – I’ve loved you for ages.” Aah – isn’t that nice! I do hope it works out for the two of them. Wouldn’t it be terrible if Lexi (or Roy) turned out to be the hit and run driver?

While on the subject of relationships, there have been developments in the Pip/Toby story. Toby reminds her that they are due to take part in the quiz at The Bull later on, although Pip isn’t that keen. Pip and Rooooth are getting ready to move the cows inside and they are being shadowed by Alfie, a young farmer who is taking over the running of his father’s farm and wants some tips on pasture grazing (let them into a field of grass and don’t forget to shut the gate after them is my tip). Rooooth is matchmaking with about as much subtlety as a rhino in a china shop and tells her daughter that she has invited Alfie to supper that night – will Pip join them? Pip says, sorry, but she can’t let her quiz team members down. Another cunning plan come to nothing, Rooooth.

Toby doesn’t make it to the quiz (there was a problem with the gin) and, he turns up only when it is finished. Pip is very short with him, accusing him of standing her up. “We’re not dating” he replies, slightly mystified and offers her a lift back to lower Loxley. Pip answers that she’d rather walk and the two part on not very amicable terms.

A couple of days later, Toby knocks on Elizabeth’s door – does she know how Pip is? Pip won’t take Toby’s calls and is not returning his messages. Elizabeth says that Pip isn’t happy and, when Toby says he doesn’t know what Pip wants, she asks Toby what does he want? He says that he doesn’t want to get hurt over again and he doesn’t want to hurt Pip. Just then, there’s a knock on the door and it’s Pip, who is supposed to be having lunch with Elizabeth.

Elizabeth suggests that they go for a walk, which they do, and they discuss how they feel. Their current arrangement doesn’t seem to be working and they are slipping back to how they were before. To cut a long story short, they decide to be just friends and they shake hands. Later on, Elizabeth calls on her niece – how did things go? Pip tells her what she and Toby decided and Elizabeth asks if she has any regrets? I’m sure I’m not the only one who gave a cheer when Pip replied “No – I feel ready to move on. For real this time.” Whether moving on means moving on to Alfie, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Never Mind The Leopard, Has Tiger Changed His Spots?

Kim Durham (Matt Crawford)

Matt is in hospital and friction is growing between Lilian and Justin. He is more than a little miffed because she keeps going to see him in hospital and he says “Lilian, I don’t want you to visit him any more. I’ve been very patient, but this ends now.” Wrong! She shoots off to the hospital, to find that Matt is discharging himself. Where will he go? He tells her to book him a room - not his usual suite - at Grey Gables. Lilian wants Matt to go back to hospital but he asks her to get him a cheap mobile phone (too many people know the number of his usual phone, he says, enigmatically).

Lilian returns to the Dower House and Justin asks if she has been to see Matt? She admits it and he tells her that he is going to London (he has a bag already packed). All he knows is that she cannot keep away from Matt. Lilian protests that there is nothing going on, but Justin’s mind is made up and he says that he will come back “but only when - and if - you give me reason to.” As he leaves, Justin has a bit of news - the sale of the Dower House has finally gone through; he would have told Lilian earlier, but of course she wasn’t there. Nice one Lil - not only have you upset your fiancé - your millionaire fiancé - and jeopardised your forthcoming nuptials, but, assuming the Dower House is in Justin’s name, if he gets arsey, you might have nowhere to live. Get Brian and Jennifer to prepare your old room at Home Farm, just in case.

Next day, Matt is checking times of flights to Ecuador. He tells Lilian that he’ll be fine, he’s a survivor and a taxi is coming to take him to a hotel near Heathrow. When he’s settled in Ecuador, he’ll send Lilian a ticket. She refuses to help him with his cases (we still don’t know what’s in them) and he collapses in the lobby. Everyone is staring at him and, the following day, he tells Lilian to find him another hotel, as too many people are now aware of his whereabouts. They continue to bicker and he eventually tells her to help him “or go back to Justin and leave me to it.” “To what?” she asks swiftly, but gets no answer.

Matt’s desire for anonymity is upset when PC Burns knocks on his hotel room door. Matt is peeved that he managed to track him down and he is not interested in the progress of PCB’s investigations. PCB calls it a hit-and-run, but Matt insists it was an accident and asks PCB to pull the plug on his investigation. PCB replies that it’s not up to him, but to the Crown Prosecution Service whether or not to proceed. On Friday, PCB calls on Matt again and tells him that this will be his final visit. Matt is pleased, but PCB wipes the smile off his face by telling him that the case is now being treated as attempted murder and future visits will be by his colleagues in the CID.

PCB’s investigation seems to consist of asking people where they were on the evening of the accident and finding out that a fair number were absent for some time during the evening. He visits the Stables and his questioning annoys Shula, who gets quite sharp with him and repeatedly insists that, as Hunt Ball organiser, she was all over the place, fighting fires and making sure that things ran smoothly. When PCB leaves, Alistair and Shula talk and he says that he couldn’t find her for about an hour on the night of the Ball. She admits that, when she heard about Matt’s accident, she was pleased at first. Planting his foot firmly in his gob, Alistair says “perhaps you mowed him down.” Shula is far from amused. “That’s a terrible thing to say” she tells her husband. Alistair insists that he was only joking and is immediately reduced to grovelling apologies, when Shula sourly remarks “Remember Mark?”

Adam is another possible suspect and Roy eventually resolves his ethical dilemma by deciding that he ought to show the police the CCTV footage of Adam punching Matt in the Grey Gables car park. Roy goes to tell Adam and Ian of his decision and Ian is exceedingly angry that Adam lied to him, or at least didn’t tell him that he punched Matt. Roy tells the two that he feels he has to go to the police with his evidence and a heated discussion/slanging match ensues. In the middle of this, Carina (their choice for a surrogate mother) walks in - well done for leaving the front door open, Roy - and introduces herself. Roy goes and Adam, Ian and Carina sit down. Ian has made far too much food and the boys are conscious that she must have heard their argument. The conversation flows like treacle and Adam excuses himself, saying that there’s something he must do at once.

Carina goes and Adam returns. Ian asks him what the hell’s going on and Adam says that he has been to the police before Roy does and he told them that he did indeed punch Matt, but he had nothing to do with the hit-and-run. Ian is both angry with, and proud of, Adam and the couple go out for a walk to clear their heads. While they are out, the phone rings and Carina leaves a message, saying that she’s sorry and that they are great guys, but she doesn’t think the surrogacy would work, as she lives too far from Ambridge, should there be any problems. There’ll be tears and hard words.

But back to Lilian. She gets a call from her friend Mena, who says that she is trying to get in touch with Matt, as she is puzzled over their recent dealings. Mena breeds horses and Matt approached her, saying that he is looking to buy top quality horses for the consortium in Costa Rica. He videoed Anisha giving Balthazar Treasure the once over and then he decided to purchase Chinese Lantern. While Balthazar Treasure is worth around £75k, Mena says that Chinese Lantern is past his best and is worth around £10k - she cannot understand why Matt went for second best. Lilian is troubled, buy who can she get to help her investigate? The answer? Her son James, who comes to Ambridge. Lilian asks him if he told anyone he was coming, to which he replies (wrongly, in my opinion) “I’m not a complete idiot, Ma.”

The two of them peruse the impressive brochure produced by Melling Equestrian Investments - it shows their high tech HQ and attractive photos of the area housing the new racecourse. There is also an address of an office in Regent Street. Lilian voices her misgivings to James who, delving deeply into his store of clichés, says “A leopard never changes his spots - once a wrong ‘un, always a wrong ‘un Ma.” The only way to check is to visit MEI’s London offices. James does so and phones Lilian - the building is merely an accommodation address for a number of PO boxes. “Whatever Matt Crawford has got himself into, it stinks to high heaven” James tells his mother.

You might think that this would be enough to convince any rational person, but Lilian opens her heart to Jolene - could there be a simple explanation? Jolene is sceptical and the pair start to wonder if the racecourse even exists. It appears that Lilian is beginning to accept that Matt is up to something, as she tells Jolene “The old Matt’s back - slippery, duplicitous and skating on very thin ice.” Jolene suggests that they ring up other racecourses in Costa Rica and ask about the new enterprise. It turns out that there is no such scheme and the attractive photographs of the site are, in fact, of a national park and no construction would ever be allowed there. “The whole enterprise is a complete scam” says Lilian.

One assumes that Matt is well aware that the scheme is a figment of the imagination, but what is his part in it? Is he skimming off the money, asking his principals for £70k and actually handing over £10k for an inferior nag? And if there is no racecourse, why are horses being bought in the first place? The plot, as they say, thickens.

Let’s leave Matt and look elsewhere in Ambridge. Pip and Toby are enjoying a no strings relationship, which seems to involve lots of going to bed. Pip is in no hurry to return to Rickyard at Brookfield and Lily has given Toby his own key. Toby is leaving Lower Loxley one morning, when he runs into Elizabeth. He asks her if she minds him having a key and she replies no, but it would have been better if Lily had asked her first, before she handed it over. However, Liz says that Pip is an adult and can do what she wants.

An hour or so later, David and Elizabeth meet in the shop and he asks her if she knows when Pip might be returning to Brookfield and wonders whether she is trying to keep some new boyfriend below the parental radar - has Elizabeth noticed any new man around the place? Elizabeth prevaricates and then says that Pip isn’t a teenager any more and that she’s sure that Pip can be trusted to behave sensibly. Later on, Elizabeth and Pip talk and Liz tells of her conversation with David and she warns her niece that, should David ask her a direct question, she will not lie to him.

That could be interesting, as, speaking to his daughter earlier, David says that Pip looks a lot more happy recently. He also congratulates her on “getting out of a relationship that took everything and gave nothing back.” “Toby, do you mean?” Pip asks and David replies in the affirmative, adding that, whatever Pip is doing, to carry on - she’s got her spark back. Oh dear Pip, I think you’ll have to make a clean breast of it (and I use the phrase advisedly) or Mum and Dad will go berserk. You can’t keep Toby a secret for ever and the longer you wait, the worse will be the fall-out.

We must mention the forthcoming Parish Council election, with Emma Grundy and Robert Snell going toe to toe. I think this is the only election where nobody seems to know for whom they are going to vote. PCB asked Alistair, whose response was that there was much to be said for both candidates. We’re not even sure if Emma and Robert know where they will put their respective crosses, as the week before last, they wished each other luck.

About the only person who seems sure which way to vote is Lynda (and Emma tells people that “a vote for Robert means you’ll get Lynda and that woman has ruled this village for long enough.”) Lynda is looking around for someone - anyone - to take on production of this year’s panto (thankfully with little success thus far). She would do it herself, but she’s so involved with managing Robert’s campaign that she hasn’t got the time. Let’s hope that the result of the election is a tie, so that another one is necessary and that that one too ends in a tie, so that a third is needed and that one too - but I think you can perceive my drift.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

So, Who Did It? (Bonus Posting)

So, who’s your money on, and what has Matt got locked up in his suitcases? Whatever the latter is, it obviously means a lot to Matt, so we can safely assume that it’s not just a couple of bathrobes from Grey Gables. We welcome your speculations.

But back to the hit-and-run. Let’s look at motives and opportunity. Justin would probably be the bookies’ front runner, but he’s not the only possibility. Adam punched Matt in the car park and could potentially be barred from becoming a parent – something that would piss Ian off pretty dramatically; not least because Adam hadn’t told him the whole truth (again).

Then there’s Shula, who was absent for a while at the Hunt Ball. Let’s face it, being the organiser is a pretty good alibi and probably nobody except Alistair noticed that she wasn’t there all the time. Of course, there is Alistair too, whose business has been affected by rumour and bad mouthing, for which Matt is the chief suspect.

If I were PC Burns, I’d check Matt’s torso for marks corresponding to the badge of a Mercedes, or a Roller, or a Bentley or whatever marque Justin is driving at the moment. Alternatively, he could run the rule over Adam’s tractor and see if there is a Matt-shaped dent in the front (well, it worked in Tom and Jerry cartoons).

Or could it just be some shady business acquaintance of Matt’s (and I am sure there are probably hundreds to pick from)? Remember Chalkie, Matt’s former business associate and who Matt grassed up to the police and they both did time for fraud? He must be out of prison by now and certainly ought to hold a grudge. Alternatively, it could just be some public-spirited villager who feels that the world would be a little bit better without Matt in it.

Then again, someone who has been nabbed by Speedwatch and wants to take his frustration out on somebody. I accept that it’s not readily apparent why they should choose Matt as their target, but you know how unpredictable these psychopaths can be.

You pays your money, as they say – but who is your choice? More importantly, do we really want the perpetrator to be found and punished, or just given a medal?

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

In Cocktails Veritas?

Simon Williams (Justin Elliott)

I was annoyed this week, as I had already thought of the title of the blog on Tuesday and Justin spoilt it for me. It was Halloween night in The Bull and Alice was working her way slowly – well, not that slowly – through the list of gruesomely-named cocktails. Her favourite appeared to be ‘Dark & Stormy Killer Punch’, but she gave them all a go.

The main topic of conversation is that of Matt being found in a ditch, badly injured, but hanging on and there is an awkward silence when Justin walks in the pub. He had been in the previous night, looking for Matt and not in the best of tempers and went out when he learned that Matt had stepped outside (Matt had been hitting the malt with a vengeance and had told Lilian on the phone that he wanted her to come away with him and should he send a taxi to the Hunt Ball to pick her up?). Sadly, Lilian wasn’t near her phone and Justin answered it silently and heard Matt’s inebriated plea.

Fast forward to The Bull the next night and Alice drunkenly said that it was a pity that the do wasn’t fancy dress, as Justin could have come as the Grim Reaper. “Even if it wasn’t you Justin,” she slurs drunkenly, “someone taking Matt out like that saved you from having to do the job.” In the sudden, shocked silence that followed this pronouncement, Alice can be heard saying “What? What did I say?” in a puzzled voice.

It was the next day, when Jennifer was apologising to Justin for her daughter’s gaffe, that he said “in vino veritas” – he’d allowed Matt to get under his skin. I was annoyed, as my title had been hijacked, but hey ho.

Let’s discuss Alice in more detail – the girl certainly knows how to put the drink away and she is obviously talented, as everybody who looks at her offers her a job on the spot, but she doesn’t seem to know when, or how, to stop. And she has previous; apart from Halloween, she got drunk and climbed up (and jumped from) a tree at the party to celebrate Chris’s purchase of the farrier business (see ‘Same Old, Same Old’ in August this year). Before that, at another do, Alice and Pip were arguing about who was the better farmer. Once again, strong drink had been quaffed and Alice had the keys to Adam’s brand new tractor, or drill, or some other bit of agricultural kit and decided to take it for a drive to settle matters. She only got a few yards before she crunched it. As I said, she seems a nice enough girl, but once she gets a sniff of the barmaid’s apron she loses it completely and does, or says, something unwise. If I were husband Chris I would give her some drug that reacts violently after the fourth cocktail has been downed – such things must exist, surely?

But what of Matt while all this is going on? Having been found by a taxi driver and taken to hospital, he is in an induced coma. As if that weren’t enough, he has Lilian prattling beside him, calling him ‘my love’ and that she is his pusscat. Justin drove Lilian to the hospital, which was pretty good of him, I reckon and he is talking to Jennifer while Lilian is practising her bedside manner. Matt has head injuries and Lilian emerges from the ward to tell everyone that the doctor has advised her ‘to prepare for the worst’. ‘Bugger, that means he’s going to make a full recovery’ I thought.

Justin also tells Jennifer that he had been looking for Matt “to do him some significant damage” and “when I first learned of the accident, I’d be lying if I said I was sorry.” At this moment, Lilian enters the room and tells them that the doctors are going to wake Matt from his coma and, in what must be one of the worst-ever examples of completely misjudging your audience, Lilian says “We’re going to get him back – isn’t it wonderful?”

For someone who is less than two months away from getting married, Lilian is pushing her luck with Justin. For some reason, Matt has kept her on as his next of kin and she seems to think that that makes it incumbent upon her to be with him. No Lilian, it doesn’t – it means that, should he croak, you’ll be sitting pretty – you don’t have to be there when it happens. Lilian also says that, if she doesn’t go to the hospital and sit with Matt, who else will – he’s got nobody? Perhaps she should ask herself why Matt hasn’t got anybody else.

Matt appears to be making a swift recovery – ok, he looks awful and can’t yet get out of bed, but he’s talking well enough. He asks Lilian to go to The Bull and retrieve the suitcases that he left in the bottle store. He makes her promise to do this at once and report back when she has done so. Kenton helps Lilian put the cases in her boot “Gosh, these are heavy” says the landlord. Lilian gets back to the hospital and Matt is still obsessing about the cases – were they still padlocked? Are they out of sight? We await the revelation of the case of the cases with interest.

PC Burns visited Matt in hospital for a talk, which was a complete waste of petrol as Matt says he cannot remember anything after he left The Bull and he does not want to press any charges and would PCB close the door quietly on his way out, please?

PCB has been speaking to Kenton, remarking that Matt has made a lot of enemies.  Kenton tells the policeman about an irate Justin coming into The Bull on the night of the Hunt Ball, looking for Matt. By the way, if you’re wondering where Matt was, he didn’t turn up for the Ball at all.

On Friday, Justin is eating in the Café and an off-duty Harrison asks if he can join him? Justin is affability itself and PCB begins asking him questions – why was he in the pub that night? Justin says that he was looking for Matt, as they had some unfinished business. All affability vanished, Justin asks if this is an official interrogation, as he’s beginning to wonder if he ought to call his solicitor? PCB quickly back pedals, saying that he didn’t mean any offence. Justin leaves.

So far it looks as if Justin is firmly in the frame as suspect number one, but he wasn’t the only one to go missing at the Hunt Ball (which was a triumph, you’ll be pleased to know, with Christine winning the star raffle prize of a Rhine Cruise. Perhaps she can take Peggy and smuggle Hilda Ogden aboard – she’d love a little dip in the river). But I digress. Shula herself went awol for a time and Adam cried off and went home early. One wonders if this is going to be like a mechanised version of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, with lots of different people taking it in turns to run Matt over.

There is other evidence against Adam – Roy is looking through the CCTV footage at Grey Gables (they have been having troubles with kids vandalising things) and he is troubled. He shows Lexi some footage that he has downloaded to his phone, probably breaking every privacy and confidentiality law in existence. It shows Adam and Matt’s confrontation in the car park and then Adam grabs Matt and punches him. Roy is in a dilemma – what should he do? Destroy it? (Yes) Pretend he hasn’t seen it? (Yes) Or take it to the Police? (No). Just let it go, Roy, after all, it is Matt Crawford we are talking about here.

Adam is worried – he knows that, if Matt grasses him up about the punch, his and Ian’s chances of having a surrogate baby will go out the window and he hasn’t yet told his husband about the fracas. Even more worrying, Carina (potential surrogate) is coming to Ambridge next week to check the boys out. Could be the time to take decisive action Adam – get that tractor out and lurk round outside the hospital gates, just in case Matt recovers enough to leave.