Sunday, 26 February 2017

A Whole New Approach To Industrial Relations

Simon Williams (Justin Elliott)

Theres no doubt that keeping your staff happy can create a feeling of well-being in the workforce and spur them on to greater things. Equally, if an employee goes the extra mile for the boss, it can do wonders for employer/employee relations. Last week we saw a concrete example of this with Justin Elliott and Lilian Bellamy. On Tuesday, the pair are going through Justins diary and Justin is very much out of sorts, even telling Lilian When I want your opinion, Lilian, Ill ask for it.

Lilian asks why does he appear to be so distant? The answer is that he is being frustrated in trying to pull off a business deal. He wants the opinion of the Environmental Health officer, but Mr Dankworth will not get back to him and doesnt answer e-mails or take calls. Lilian says that maybe she can help, but Justin dismisses this - if his team has failed to deliver, how can she hope to succeed?

Back at Bridge Farm, Lilian mentions her problem to Jennifer. Jennifer says that one of their veg box customers is a lady called Dankworth - its not a common name; could it be his wife? Lilian calls her sister a genius - this could be the breakthrough shes looking for. Indeed, it is and Lilian arranges for Justin to accompany her on a mystery tour on Friday. He is intrigued, as she wont divulge any more details.

The upshot is that the lady is indeed the EH mans wife and we learn that Justin charmed the pants off her and he now has his contact details. Justin is ecstatic and tells Lilian that he is the luckiest man in the world - she has the complete package (brains and beauty) and she is all his. He adds that Miranda will be out till 6pm and perhaps he and Lilian could go back to the Dower House and discuss a reward for a job well done? Honestly, does the man never do any work? Lilian says that Miranda has an annoying habit of being early, but that she knows somewhere else they can go.

This turns out to be Home Farm and Jennifer is out somewhere. However, she returns and hears Lilian laughing. Jen climbs the stairs and opens the bedroom door. We hear Justin say good afternoon and then he suggests that he can see himself out. Jennifer is distraught and angrily tells Lilian to put something on. From this we deduce that Lilians reward wasnt a bouquet of flowers or a bit extra in her wage packet. Jennifer is very angry and asks Lilian if she wants the whole village to find out about her and Justin? She also says that, should Miranda find out, it will be the end of everything for Lilian. Lilian protests that Miranda wont find out and she does not want to break up Justins marriage. Jen is still going on about it - what if mum should find out? We wont do it again - well, not here Lilian tells her sister. Jennifer spells it out, saying: I tell you Lilian, if you dont behave yourself from now on, Im not sure I want you in my house any more - and you can certainly forget about coming to my party!

Ah yes, the party. This is the event to celebrate the purchase of the additional acreage and banning Lilian is the ultimate sanction. After much thinking, Jennifer has come up with a theme for Fallon and Emma - its Land. Lilian described this as a bit vague and it is true that Fallon and Emma are struggling to come up with ideas, and when they do, Jennifer rejects them as not what shes looking for. If I were Fallon, Id suggest mud pies and rock cakes; either that or tell Jennifer to stuff her party.

Eddie is moaning down the pub that he hasnt been invited. Neither has Jazzer and, on the astonishment scale, where 1 is no surprise whatsoever and 10 is a jaw-dropping bombshell, Eddie and Jazzers non-invite comes in at around -27. The Grundys are persisting with their B&B efforts and received a glowing review from guests. The only niggle was that they would have liked to have en-suite facilities and Eddie managed to talk Clarrie into giving up his and her bedroom, which has an en-suite, for future guests.

Clarrie is still not 100% convinced that they should be taking in guests, but Susan tells her to go for it. Market Grange Farm properly and you could be sitting on a goldmine she says. Joe also has reservations and he cannot believe that Oliver is letting them take in paying guests - did Eddie tell him what was going on? More or less Eddie replies, adding that he told Oliver that he got a cash gift from friends for letting them stay and Oliver said that they could have as many friends to stay as they like. Joe, who rarely takes the moral high ground, says that that isnt the same as advertising a B&B - what did Caroline think? Eddie confesses that he didnt actually speak to her and Joe wants to know what might happen if Oliver or Caroline should see their advert. Why should they? Eddie asks and eventually wins Joe round by telling him that he might pick up some money as tips for telling his stories. Personally, Id demand a reduction in the price, but then Im not a person who wants to spend a weekend on a real farm staffed by rustic lunatics.

There is a ping and Eddie says that its a couple who want to come this weekend and bring their miniature Schnauzer. Joe suggests they check with Clarrie, but Eddie says shell be all right. The only trouble is that the last couple who stayed wanted to know what there was to do in the area. We need some leaflets Eddie says. Again we have an example of an unsubtle Grundy ploy, as Eddie and Joe go to visit Lynda, ostensibly as a follow-up call to check on the guttering job that they did for her. This consists of asking hows the guttering? as Joe comes out of Ambridge Hall, carrying a load of tourist leaflets. Lynda is fobbed off with some lame excuse, but she isnt happy, as the guests she had booked for the weekend have cancelled at the last minute. She also tells Joe and Eddie that they would have been bringing their miniature Schnauzer.

Are the Grundys finally going to achieve a positive bank balance and a thriving business, or are we on the brink of a disastrous precipice with the Grundys about to slip into the abyss? Lets just consider some of their previous forays into the worlds of commerce - no, lets not, as it is too depressing and the words catalogue of failure dont do the exercise justice. Encyclopaedia of failure comes closer, but doesnt tell the whole story. Consider: disaster can come from so many directions - why shouldnt Oliver and Caroline see the advert? If I were renting Grange Farm to the Grundys, Id make damn sure that I ran checks on the Internet. Also, the Sterlings might be abroad a lot, but they do come back to the UK and it only takes a careless remark (and yes, Susan, I am talking about you) and the excrement could hit the fan. Lynda may have something to say about it too, if she continues to lose customers. I also wonder if the Grundys are complying with the legal and H+S requirements of running a B&B. Casting our minds back to the e-coli outbreak at Bridge Farm a few years ago, we also keep out fingers crossed that Clarrie is washing her hands properly.

Moving on to another doomed scheme, we have Kentons plan to save Freddie from exposure as - how can I put this? - a lying, duplicitous, devious, cunning little sod. Kenton exudes confidence - all Freddie has to do is to make sure that Liz is delayed at the parents evening, so that Kenton can nobble the maths tutor. Freddie is unconvinced, but his uncle says Theres no way that your mother is going to find out about your exam result - I promise you. Listeners nodded knowingly as Kenton was held up in a queue of parents - he tells Freddie to take Elizabeth upstairs to an exhibition and tell her (falsely) that he has a picture on show. The exhibition is closed and Elizabeth returns and finds Kenton. She is very unhappy and incandescent, telling Kenton and Freddie that she is angry and upset at being deceived by her son and brother. Kenton says it was crass, stupid and unforgivable. Liz obviously agrees with the latter adjective, as she forbids Kenton from giving Freddie any more driving lessons, as hes a bad influence. Also, she doesnt want Kenton to have any contact at all with her children. Well, we never saw that coming, did we? Not much we didnt. Kentons response to his sister (Thats a bit heavy) is ignored.

On a more serious subject, Kirsty returns to Ambridge, having been driven mad by her parents. She visits everybody and tells people that she just wants to get back to normal - she has to be persuaded (by Roy) not to go back to work immediately, even though she has loads of plans for the Health Club. Kirsty thanks Tom for his midnight tweets (or 3am or 4am tweets as Tom corrects her) as they kept her going. Dont stop sending them she tells him. Kirstys approach to grieving seems to be to party her way out of it. She goes on a shopping spree with Helen and there are eyebrows raised when she spends an evening in The Bull.

Can I make a plea here for Jill and Carol to stop discussing their favourite films? It makes less-than-riveting listening and do we really care that Jill thinks Citizen Kane is a crap film, compared to Sunset Boulevard? Especially as it is interfering with the preparation of meals at Brookfield - and this at a time when everyone (with the exception of Jill) is frantically busy

But lets move on to the subject of cricket and its future (or lack thereof) in Ambridge. PC Burns is suffering agonies, as the AGM and dinner approaches. His plan to integrate women players into the team is suffering too, insofar that all the women he has approached (with the exception of Molly Button) have turned him down. PCB asks Eddie if hes going to the AGM, but Eddie says that its boring.

At the AGM, PCB talks about the lack of players coming through - the youngsters do not appear to be interested - and PCB says the problem is getting worse. The answer, he proposes, is female players, but, in response to questioning, his reply that Molly Button is the only recruit is enough to lose the subsequent vote. No-one has an alternative strategy and, after the meeting, Rex says that they have to change peoples minds. He suggests that Anisha might be interested and hell talk to her. PCB urges him to do so, saying: With no women on the team, itll be the death of cricket in Ambridge. Obviously, thats unthinkable, but no pressure, Anisha.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

But Is It Cricket, Harrison?

James Cartwright (Harrison Burns)

PC Harrison Burns is a man with a problem - he’s having trouble getting people to commit to the Ambridge cricket team (Rob’s never around when you need him, is he?). PCB has even tried to get some ex-players out of retirement, namely David and - and this surely shows the extent of his desperation - Eddie Grundy. All to no avail, and PCB is in despair.

However, Fallon to the rescue! She suggests that PCB should ask girls to play in the team (what, as well as doing the teas and sandwiches?) and he thinks this is a great idea. Having said that, Fallon tells him that she’s way too busy at weekends and Harrison’s tentative queries to Alice and Pip later are also rebuffed. He is not downhearted, though, and seeks advice from Lynda - how can he be sure of getting people to understand the direction in which he wants to take the team and give him their backing at the forthcoming AGM?

Lynda is in her element and gives him advice on how to conduct himself. She also suggests that it could be a good idea to get one or two people on his side before the AGM. PCB takes her advice to heart and goes to see Alistair, to tell him of his plans. Alistair is all for the inclusion of females; indeed, he tried to do something similar some time ago, but it was voted down. He advises PCB to get a couple of girls who want to play, before announcing the idea at the AGM. Indeed, it was Alistair who suggested Alice and Pip.

One person who it probably isn’t worth asking is Miranda Elliott, who thinks that Borsetshire in general, and Ambridge in particular, is the end of the world. “It’s so barren” she tells husband Justin. On Sunday, Miranda went to buy a paper, only to find the shop shut. She runs into Jennifer, who invites her to a dinner party that she will be hosting to celebrate the buying of the 300-odd acres of land for Home Farm. Miranda makes it plain that she would rather disembowel herself and eat her own intestines, but Jennifer starts to big up the event. Later on, Jen discusses her grand plans with Brian, who is alarmed at the ever-increasing scale of the event. He tells Jen that it is in danger of becoming tacky and “we should be ourselves and be proud.” Eventually Jennifer agrees that it should be small, local and beautiful and that she’s sure Fallon and Emma can rise to the occasion. Brian agrees, no doubt relieved that, after having spent £2.5 million on the land, he won’t be looking at a similar-sized bill for the party.

If Miranda finds Ambridge so tedious, why is she hanging around? That’s what she appears to be wondering herself, as she makes the point to her husband that, now Berrow Farm is history, why cannot Justin run his empire from London? His answer is that sometimes the personal touch is needed, forbearing to add that most of his personal touches involve Lilian Bellamy. We have said before that Miranda obviously suspects Lilian of going the extra mile when it comes to exercising her duties as Justin’s PA and these suspicions are given free rein when Miranda meets Anisha at the Stables. Miranda asks Anisha if she knows Justin Elliott and Anisha replies that she’s often seen him in the pub with Lilian - she thinks they were playing a drinking game on one occasion. “I’m Justin’s wife” Miranda says, in frosty tones. Shula tries to rescue the situation by saying that Lilian is often busy with AmSide business during the day and thus conducts business in the evenings, but she’s fooling nobody. Miranda leaves and Anisha tells Shula: “I put my foot right in it there, didn’t I?” ‘Fraid so, Anisha love.

Miranda continues to hang round Ambridge and she runs into Lilian in Underwoods when looking to buy a frock for Jennifer’s soiree. Later on, in The Bull, Lilian shows Jolene some sexy lingerie that she has bought as a treat for Justin, although, personally, I think he’ll look pretty silly in it. Jolene warns her that Miranda and Justin are in the bar, having lunch and she asks Lilian if she is OK with Miranda around? Lilian shrugs - Miranda will be going back to London soon. Jolene is not so sure - earlier Miranda told her that she and Justin have been spending too much time apart and they need quality time together. “I think Miranda is keeping an eye on Justin” Jolene tells Lilian.

The main story of the week was that of Kirsty’s miscarriage. Tom was away in Scotland when Kirsty felt ill and it was left to Roy and Helen to accompany her to hospital. We learn later that the child was male, Kirsty does not want any sort of ceremony to mark his passing and that she and Tom hadn’t got round to thinking of names for a child. Kirsty’s parents take her back to Liverpool, which leaves Tom on his own, beating himself up as he feels guilty about the whole situation.

Tom throws himself into his work and manages to get on the wrong side of nearly everyone; notably Jazzer, who tells his boss that he won’t be talked to like that and he is going to the pub and if Tom has any sense, he’ll join him. Indeed, he does so and apologises for his behaviour. Tom says that he has messed up Kirsty’s - and his - lives and he keeps wondering about what might have been for their son. Jazzer reminds him that he cannot know what life with Kirsty would have been like “and you can’t get all soppy over some fantasy life that didn’t happen.” Jazzer also tells Tom that he’s there for him and assures Tom that things will get better with time. I hope so, as I think I preferred Tom when he was banging on about sausages rather than this self-flagellating heap of misery.

Earlier, we mentioned Anisha and the girl seems to be settling in well as the new partner - certainly Alistair told Shula that she’s “a damn good vet.” But this view is not universally held, apparently. Anisha goes out to treat a bull owned by a Mr. Hodge. Alistair asks how did it go? Anisha thinks that she did a good job, although Mr H wasn’t particularly friendly and she thinks that he thought she was spinning out the job, although she was just making sure that she did a thorough job. Mr H rings Alistair and asks him to turn out next time, not Anisha. Alistair describes Mr H as ‘cantankerous’, but Anisha’s confidence is dented somewhat and, later on, Alistair wonders aloud to Shula whether Anisha is as tough as they first thought.

The following day, Mr H rings the surgery - he has a cow with suspected mastitis. Anisha takes the call and tells Alistair. He says that she can make it her first call, but Anisha explains that Mr H explicitly asked that Alistair is the one to attend. On what grounds? “I didn’t ask” Anisha replies. Alistair worries - is Mr H’s prejudice based on gender, age or race? He makes a decision and tells Anisha that he will ring Mr H and tell him that Anisha is the vet going out to him. “What if he tells us where to go?” she asks. “Then we tell him ‘thank you and goodbye’” Alistair replies, adding: “We have to decide what sort of practice we want to be.” Anisha agrees.

And now we come to the latest hare-brained scheme from the Grundys to make money. Fat Paul’s cousin, Eric comes to Ambridge and the Grundys put him and Becks (his partner, rather than the ex-England international) up for a few days. The grateful couple leave behind an envelope with £100 in it as a ‘thank you’. The Pound signs behind Eddie’s eyes light up as he tries to convince Clarrie that there’s money to be made in B&B and they have all this spare room at Grange Farm.

Clarrie points out that it isn’t actually their house and that Oliver and Caroline might be a tad miffed to learn that the Grundys are running a business from their property. Eddie is confident that they won’t mind and shows Clarrie the photographs that he has taken to publicise Grange Farm on the Internet. Clarrie is wavering - there’s no doubt that the extra money would come in handy, but she would only countenance the idea if Oliver and Caroline agreed to it. The other thing that worries her is the additional work. Eddie says that he’s sure all the family would muck in and not leave it all to Clarrie.

Unbelievably, Clarrie swallows all this guff - she should perhaps pause and ask herself just how much help does the family give her at present? ‘Precious little’ would be my guess. Even more unbelievably, later on Eddie tells her that he has spoken to Oliver, and he’s OK with the idea. Clarrie asks a couple of questions, but despite Eddie’s evasive answers - he admits that he hasn’t actually spoken to Caroline, but thinks Oliver was speaking for both of them - she doesn’t demand to see Oliver’s permission written down in black and white, as would any sane person. How long has she been married to Eddie? How many times has he tried to pull fast ones and it’s all gone tits up? And yet she swallows it wholesale. You can tell the quality of Eddie’s scheme, as when he tells Joe, his father (who normally goes along with any half-baked idea - remember ElfWorld?) is not keen and reminds Eddie that they have tried something similar before and it didn’t work. We await the inevitable forthcoming series of cock-ups with a feeling of déjà vu.

From one dodgy scheme to another; young Freddie is troubled, as he has still not told Elizabeth about failing his maths resit. In this he was encouraged by Kenton, whose plan was that Freddie would pass the exam eventually and Elizabeth would never find out. Sadly, there’s a parent’s evening next week and, while Liz won’t want to talk to the maths teacher, he will want to talk to her and then the game will be up. Freddie begs Kenton to think of something.

Kenton’s master plan is that he will go to the parent’s evening early and see the maths tutor instead of Elizabeth - Freddie will just have to delay Elizabeth for a while. The tutor will be happy and Elizabeth will be none the wiser - what could possibly go wrong? Freddie is singularly unimpressed “And that’s it?” he asks. Kenton says it’s the best he can come up with, but I’m sure that, deep down, Freddie realises with sinking heart that this plan has more holes in it than a truckload of colanders. Confess now lad, is my advice.

Monday, 13 February 2017

A Week Of Secrets

Sunny Ormonde (Lilian Bellamy)

Everybody in Ambridge it seems has got a secret and some are better at hiding it than others. Take Pip and Rooooth – they are getting ready for the lambing/calving onslaught and Rooooth is unsubtly pumping her daughter for news of Toby. Did she ever find out why he went to Brighton? Pip’s answer was that it was ‘personal stuff’ and she cannot say any more. Not knowing when to leave well alone, Rooooth asks when will he start paying back the £5k that Pip lent him? This annoys Pip and she retorts that she knows Toby and she trusts him.

Two other people with a secret are Lilian and Justin. On Tuesday, they wake up together in the Dower House and, while Justin makes breakfast, Lilian slips out to her car, dressed in fur coat and slippers, to retrieve her phone. Unfortunately for her, Eddie is delivering a load of logs and to say that he is surprised is something of an understatement. He makes one or two innuendoes and an unamused Lilian tells him that she and Justin are having a breakfast meeting. Justin seems to think that Lilian handled the situation very well, but she’s not so sure and says that Eddie’s no fool, but he’s not very discreet and she thinks she ought to have a quiet word with him.

Later on she seeks him out and says she’d like a chat. She hopes Eddie hasn’t been indulging in any lurid speculation? In a very thinly-veiled threat, she reminds Eddie that he – and also son Ed – have done very well out of the Estate. Justin, she tells him, is a fair man, but she’s sure that Eddie realises that false rumours can spring up and backfire on the people who started them. “Do you understand what I’m saying, Eddie? Be careful” she warns. Eddie may be many things, but he knows which side his bread is buttered and replies. “A working breakfast – that’s good enough for me.”

But this is Ambridge and the minute anyone is told a secret, they cannot wait to tell someone else. Eddie obviously tells Clarrie, who later starts to tell Susan about an early visitor to the Dower House, then stops herself, saying that she was sworn to secrecy. In a breathtaking moment of self-unawareness, Susan says “Go on – you know it’s safe to tell me.” Clarrie still refuses, but Susan says that she can guess who the visitor was.

Just how much Susan can be trusted with a secret is illustrated when Anisha tells Alistair that she is worried that she has gained a reputation as a hard-drinking waster; one customer described her as ‘the vet who drank Jazzer under the table.’ Alistair laughs and reckons it was Susan who spread the story. “They don’t call Susan Carter the village radio for nothing” he tells his partner, chuckling.

This gives Anisha an idea and she visits the shop, where Susan says that she has heard a lot about her. Anisha tells her about how she cheated in the drinking contest, adding the magic words “keep it to yourself.” To be fair, Susan does just that – for nearly an hour – then she tells Clarrie while they are at work in the dairy (this is when Clarrie almost mentions Lilian). Susan says that, if it were she who put Jazzer in his place, she’d want everyone to know about it and Susan and Clarrie agree that Anisha has earned their respect. A bit later, Anisha is out running and catches up with Rex (also out running). He is surprised because Bert Fry told him about Anisha’s cheating and he wonders how Bert knew. “News travels fast round here” Alisha remarks, drily.

While Anisha may have gained Susan’s respect, one person who is distinctly not amused is Jazzer. Anisha has to attend to a sick pig and Tom mischievously leaves him alone with her. Jazzer accuses her of breaking the rules and demands a rematch. “Sorry, I don’t do second chances” she laughs, upon which he demands an apology. When Anisha refuses, Jazzer asks her out, in his caveman, knuckle-dragging manner. She turns him down but, as she is leaving, she slips over in the mud and asks Jazzer to help her up. He refuses, until she does apologise, which she does with bad grace. I was going to title this blog ‘Anisha falls for Jazzer’, but I think she deserves better.

Another person sweating on a secret is Tom, who is picking Peggy up from the hairdressers and who worries what she might think about Kirsty’s pregnancy and his part in it (and I use the term advisedly). He needn’t have worried, as Peggy takes it all in her stride, although she does tell Tom that he will have to provide for the baby and give Kirsty as much support as she needs. Tom (who, incidentally, is off to Brazil shortly for a conference under the Nuffield scheme) is much relieved. Not only does Peggy take the news well, but when she meets Kirsty later that day, she gives her a cheque as a present. We don’t know how much for, but it must have been significant, as Kirsty frets to Helen that she doesn’t know if she can accept it. Helen tells her that Peggy would be upset if she didn’t.

Henry continues to be an obnoxious little sod, answering back and hitting baby Jack, calling him smelly and dropping his teddy into the bath. Both Pat and Peggy try to coax the reason for his behaviour from him and it turns out that he feels rejected because Rob didn’t want to take him away as well as Jack. Instead of telling him that he should fall to his knees and give thanks, Pat, Helen and Peggy agree that what Henry needs is buckets of love and reassurance. Spare the rod and spoil the child, I say.

While on the subject of Rob, Harrison Burns swings past Bridge Farm in his official capacity as PC. PCB tells Pat and Helen that they have news of Rob – his passport was traced going through Heathrow and he took a flight to Minneapolis. It was a positive I.D. and, should he return to the UK, he would be flagged up to the police as ‘a person of interest’. “I think it’s safe to say that you don’t have to worry any more about Mr. Rob Titchener.” “No – we don’t” says Helen, quietly.

Let’s return to the Justin/Lilian situation. Kenton is talking to Fallon in the pub – another secret here, as Kenton reveals that Freddie told him that he lied to Elizabeth about passing his maths resit. Kenton then talks to Jennifer and he reveals that there has been some talk in the pub about Lilian and Justin. Jennifer is distraught for her sister and blames Kenton for all the ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink’ asides that he was making during the pantomime. Lilian and Justin spent the day playing hookey from work and went to Felpersham Races, where much champagne was quaffed.

Justin has some bad news – Miranda is coming down for the weekend and he has the bright idea of taking her to a dinner dance Friday evening. Lilian is philosophical about it and Justin has the even brighter idea of inviting Brian and Jennifer along as well. Brian thinks that Jennifer won’t be up for it, but she regards it as a God-given opportunity to show people their support for Justin and Miranda as a couple and it will send out all the right messages and stop speculation about Justin and Lilian.

Ah, the best-laid plans! On Friday, Lilian tells Jen and Brian that Miranda’s sister has popped in from the Cayman Islands (as you do) and that Miranda wants to spend time with her and therefore cannot attend the dinner dance. It doesn’t matter, however, as Justin has asked Lilian to go instead and won’t they all have a nice time? Jennifer is appalled – now it will look like she and Brian are condoning the affair. On Friday evening, it appears that Justin and Lilian are hell-bent on drawing attention to themselves, whooping and laughing loudly on the dance floor as the champers flows like water.

To make matters worse, Lynda Snell is there and she comes over as Lil and Justin hit the dance floor. Desperately, Jennifer explains that Miranda should be here really, but she couldn’t make it and Lilian took pity on Justin. There are shrieks of laughter from the dance floor and Lynda observes that Justin seems to have got over it and appears to be having a wonderful time. “They’re putting on quite a show” Lynda adds, before taking her leave. Jennifer is beside herself and tells Brian just to look at the two of them. “It’s shameless,” she tells him, adding: “If it carries on like this, my sister is heading for disaster!”

Sunday, 5 February 2017

“He’s Out Of My Life Forever”

Louiza Patikas (Helen Titchener)

In last week’s blog, we suggested that Rob might turn up again on Thursday. Well, we weren’t wrong, as he turned up at Henry’s school, lurking round the playground, dishevelled and unkempt. He whispers to Henry through the railings and urges him to remember their plan for a secret surprise for mummy.

On Thursday, Helen is all set to drive Henry and Jack somewhere, when Henry remembers he’s left his book behind. Helen goes inside the house to get it and, while she is away, Rob appears from nowhere and tells Henry “It’s time for mummy to have her surprise.” He proceeds to undo Jack’s car seat and takes him away. Henry wants to go too, but Rob forbids it, saying “I’m not your real daddy” and that Henry has to stay behind.

Helen returns, to find the car empty. She calls wildly for Henry and he answers – he tried to follow Rob, but couldn’t keep up. Where’s Jack? Helen asks and Henry replies sadly “Daddy came and took him – he’s taking him for a ride.” Helen asks which way did Rob go and bundles Henry into the car as she drives off in pursuit.

I should have mentioned that the weather is absolutely foul and the rain is coming down chair legs. Rob (presumably stifling the urge to block a culvert or two) is having trouble getting Jack’s car seat in place, but he eventually does so, and races off. He nearly hits Josh’s car (Josh is on the phone to Tom) and Josh tells Tom that some maniac has rushed past him “but he won’t get far that way – he’ll have to turn round.” The reason is a fallen branch across the road, we learn.

Sure enough, Rob’s way is blocked. Helen and Henry aren’t far behind and she is just on the verge of calling the police when she spots Rob’s car. She is – understandably - just this side of hysterical when she confronts Rob and demands that he hands Jack over. Rob tells her that it was she that made him take this action – her and her team of crooked lawyers and Jack is his son. Helen warns him. “Why, what will you do?” he sneers “where’s the kitchen knife this time? No, Helen; you’re not going to take him from me now.”

A struggle ensues and, just then, Pat and Kirsty turn up in Kirsty’s car and witness the fracas. Helen is in a state and Rob snarls at Pat and Kirsty to keep away. Pat calls him “a cruel, disgusting, evil man” and says she’ll call the police, but Helen, suddenly very calm, says that there’s no need. Still calm, she asks Rob where was he going to take Jack – has he got anything prepared? Indeed, has he even got a plan, or is it his idea of revenge on her? “You’re a mess – you’re pathetic” Helen spits.

She goes further, telling Rob that she knows why Justin sacked him and she tells the story of the culvert to Pat and Kirsty, who are appalled. Helen continues to lay into Rob, saying: “How can you face Bert Fry? How can you face anyone in the village after what you did?” Rob is stuttering and sobbing and Helen applies the coup de grace, telling her husband in a voice filled with venom: “There’s nothing left for you here – you’re finished.” She tells him that he is going to let her have Jack and he breaks down, sobbing. “Can I say goodbye?” he blubs, but Helen is in ruthless mood. “No,” she snaps, “Go somewhere far away and don’t come back, because if you do, I will destroy you, do you understand? Now go!”

Back at Bridge Farm, the boys have been put to bed and Pat says that Henry will need lots of reassurance. Tom thinks they should call the police, because what Rob did was kidnapping. “He’s a total psycho” Tom adds. Pat and Kirsty agree with Tom, but Helen says Rob has gone and they won’t catch him now. They persist and in the end Helen says “Call them if you want; I don’t care.” Pat reproaches her, but Helen says, in a firm voice: “It’s over, mum – the boys are safe and Rob has gone. He’s out of my life forever.”

Over at Brookfield, Pip is angry and unhappy in equal measure. The reason? The initials TF should give you a clue. Yes, Toby is at it again. On Sunday, he is steam cleaning the distillery shed when his phone rings. Later on, Josh drops by Rickyard to pick up the cleaner, but it’s not there. He tells Pip that Toby’s pickup isn’t there either. Where is he? Pip is frustrated and more than a little annoyed, because Toby had promised to be back for a lunch of meatballs. Her phone rings and it is Toby, on a line that keeps breaking up, telling her that he had to go down to Brighton urgently and he’ll be back some time later.

Pip is really morose the next day and she bares her soul to Rooooth. Pip had tried to get details from Rex about why his brother keeps going to Brighton, but Rex says she’ll have to ask Toby – it’s his business. Pip moans that she cannot trust Toby and shocks her mother when she lets slip that she gave Toby the £5k she got for the cows. “Don’t tell dad” Pip begs. She doesn’t know if she wants him back “but I still love him” she sobs, asking “what if he’s been using me all along?” It seems to me that Pip falls in love pretty easily – first there was Jude, then Matthew (and that took her hardly any time and we thought they were soulmates) then what was going to be a summer fling with Toby turned into love.

Toby comes back the next day and an angry Pip tells him to go away. He begs for the chance to explain and pip agrees. He tells her that it’s true that he has a friend in Brighton who is in trouble; it is Stella, one of his exes, who is a drug addict and who took the break-up with Toby very badly. The message he got was to say that Stella had overdosed (again) and he had to go and see her, as he felt guilty. She was in intensive care and he stayed with her. It was touch and go, but she pulled through and now has friends and family to look after her. Toby apologises to Pip and says that he doesn’t expect to be forgiven, but he hopes she understands. Instead of saying ‘give me my five grand back, you duplicitous, lying git’ Pip does indeed forgive him and tells him that he can stay, but he mustn’t ever lie to her again. As if!

Justin and Lilian are at it again – Miranda is going away for a few days, so there’s the chance of some nookie at the Dower House. The couple are drinking champagne and making lovey dovey noises, when they hear the sound of a car drawing up. It’s Miranda – turns out she has a cold, so didn’t go away – and Lilian has to make herself scarce, scarpering out the back door, wearing a negligee, fur coat and Justin’s wellingtons. Far from being discomfited, Lilian seems to be enjoying herself hugely and there is much giggling as she slips away. I hope Justin remembered to hide or wash up the second champagne flute and that Miranda didn’t suggest a walk in the countryside. Lilian arrives at Home Farm, where Jennifer is puzzled to see her in a fur coat and whose wellingtons are those by the back door? Lilian says that she couldn’t find her dressing gown and the wellingtons are much too big to be hers.

I think that Anisha, Alistair’s new partner in the vet’s practice, will be shaking things up considerably, in both the business and the village. She has already gained cult status by apparently drinking Jazzer under the table on Burns’ Night and has performed well in the field as a vet. Last week, she confronted Alistair with her vision for the future of their practice. Basically, this entails replacing all the equipment and buying some new kit that she feels is vital if they are to progress. Oh, and by the way, the cost of all this is around £250,000. Alistair is taken aback, but I don’t see why, as I seem to recall that, when he was addicted to playing poker, he owed Matt considerably more than this and everything had to be mortgaged up to the hilt to pay off his gambling debts.

He talks it over with Shula, who agrees with him that he should exercise caution. Anisha told Alistair that he should show some faith in her and it’s not just him any longer: “It’s our future.” When Shula is told about this, she remarks drily that £250,000 is an awful lot of faith, but it would appear that Alistair hasn’t entirely lost the gambling urge, as he eventually agrees to Anisha’s ambitious plans.

Still on the subject of Anisha, I wonder if there may be a future romance her and Rex? Rex let her know that he knows that she cheated during the drinkathon with Jazzer, but says that her secret is safe with him and last week, Rex was cutting the hedge at Blossom Hill Cottage – a job that Bert let him have – and there was a definite rapport between the two of them. Rex seems a really OK guy – we know that he is as poor as a church mouse, but when Anisha pays him and offers him a bit extra as a tip for doing a good job, he refuses it, despite her insistence. If Rex can get over Pip and Toby, there may yet be help for him. Assuming he doesn’t overdose of home-made Dhal, that is.

It was Roy’s birthday last week and he wasn’t a happy bunny. Although he was dumped by Tracy for being boring (a cunning ploy by Roy), she told Susan all about it. According to Tracy, Roy was gutted to be dumped by her “after he spent all that time chasing after me. Not that I was leading him on” – an interpretation of events which makes you wonder what colour is the sky on planet Tracy? Be that as it may, Rent-a-Gob Susan proceeds to tell anyone who’ll listen (and a few that won’t) Tracy’s version of the story, with the result that everyone in Ambridge thinks that Roy is Mr. Boring.

Well, not everyone, as Kate and Kirsty go out with him to The Bull to celebrate his birthday. Kate says how delighted she is to learn of Kirsty’s baby and she refuses to let Roy put himself down. She borrows his phone and goes on a dating App, where she finds a couple of nice-looking girls and urges Roy to do something positive. He does so, no doubt musing on how ironic it is to be given – and to take – advice on relationships by Kate.

However, the Rob episode was the standout story of the week. Helen was very impressive and seems convinced that Rob is not a threat any more and that we have seen the last of him. I suppose that, with the threat of telling the police about him, he would be wise to stay away, but we are talking here about a man with an ego the size of the Matterhorn and an ability to suspend belief and twist facts unmatched in the Western world. Would such a person give up? You might say that only a fool would attempt anything after all that is stacked up against him, but when has logic or reality ever mattered to Rob? I really hope that he has gone and no doubt Timothy Watson (who has played Rob brilliantly over the past few years) will be relieved that he can now walk down the street without being spat at, but Rob is still out there somewhere (the Rob of Damocles) and could be brought back any time. If I were Helen, I’d keep a kitchen knife handy in the glove compartment, just in case.