Monday, 24 April 2017

Strangers Who Share the Same Name

Felicity Finch (Ruth Archer)

Toby’s still being laid-back about David and Rooooth’s reaction to Pip’s confession that she let the cattle escape, but Pip’s taken it more seriously and has bought Rooooth flowers for Easter by way of an apology. David seems to have calmed down (probably because he realised he was partly to blame), but Rooooth seems to have got the pip with Pip and is taking it really badly. Jill’s got the measure of the situation though, and thinks that Pip’s reticence to confess earlier may have something to do with Toby. After lunch she gets a reassuring hug from Jill as a sign that she’s not universally hated. She subtly gets Pip to admit it was a conversation with Toby that stopped her confessing straight away, but Pip defends him. She shouldn’t though, because he would have been more than happy to let her parents take the blame, as he makes clear when she catches up with him at The Bull.

We learn later that Elizabeth’s daughter Lily is going to be involved in Toby’s gin business. Exactly how, we’re not sure, but come on Toby is it wise to involve a 17 year old in your distilling business? That storyline could go seriously wrong in many directions.

Apparently David’s more upset about Pip not owning up straight away and is prepared to move on, but Rooooth needs time and space to think. Last time she felt like that she buggered off to the other side of the world for a month, but will she do that again? We can hope, but instead of buying her a one-way ticket on Air New Zealand, David tries to talk her round. However, in trying to defend Brookfield she said some terrible things about Bridge Farm in the heat of the moment, and can’t face seeing anyone.

Anisha’s back from Glasgow. We know this because she’s upset Peggy by calling her pet cat, Bill, obese. She only took him in to get his claws trimmed (I’m on my 7th cat and never felt the need to bother any of them with the nail clippers) and didn’t expect him to be insulted like that. Word soon gets round and Alistair’s not happy and fears losing all his small animal business and tells Anisha she needs to apologise to Peggy personally. At first Anisha doesn’t see the need as she was just being a responsible vet by pointing out the risk to Bill’s health. However, a gentle talking to by Alistair convinces her that she went to far and should apologise to Peggy.

At home farm, Jennifer notices something strange about Lilian’s mood and asks her if she’s been at the Sherry. Come on Jennifer, it would be strange if she hadn’t. Instead Lilian says that she’s just “drunk on life” and later, during a postprandial walk in the woods, confesses all. Matt’s return has made her realise how much better life with Justin would be than her disastrous relationship with Matt. Jennifer can see how happy her sister is and sounds genuinely pleased for her, the only question being when will she tell Mum?

The answer seems to be once she’s got a sodding great rock on her finger, and her and Justin waste no time driving to the jewellers (they’re very excited and at one point Lilian has to tell Justin to keep his hands on the wheel)! Later, they’re straight round to Peggy’s to tell her the news and show off the ring, and there’s a little sweetener for Peggy to help seal the deal – a brooch. It doesn’t stop her delivering a little pep-talk to both Justin and Lilian, but in the end Justin’s charm wins her over.

The happy couple choose The Bull for their engagement celebrations, despite it being the place where Lilian turned down Justin’s marriage proposal. The place is heaving as word has got around about everyone being welcome, and Justin has agreed to buy everyone 2 glasses of champagne each. Anisha turns up to apologise to Peggy and Alistair takes her over, saying that Peggy’s a pussycat really (as long as you buy her a diamond brooch eh Justin?). It goes well, after a sticky start, and Peggy even blames Christine for giving Bill too many treats.

Matt turns up and is soon all over Anisha like a case of ringworm. Rex spots this too and charges in with an unconvincing story about Anisha being needed outside to settle an argument about cricket. As she goes Matt tries to get her number, but we’re left in no doubt that she’s got the measure of him when she refers him to the surgery’s website. “I eat men like Matt Crawford on toast, for breakfast” she tells Rex.

Justin makes a speech and toasts Lilian, but as soon as he finishes gets a text from Miranda who has heard about the engagement. Somehow I don’t think Justin’s divorce from her is going to be that straightforward. By the way, where was Jazzer? It’s not like him to pass on free drinks at The Bull.

Meanwhile, to return to the world of farming for a moment, Josh is having more trouble with his farm machinery customers over Rex’s listings, although I don’t think it’s Rex’s fault – if Josh wasn’t on the phone all the time he could check things out with him.  Rex tries to say this but Josh isn’t listening so Rex quits. Nice one Josh. Things aren’t made any better when he starts arguing with Pip about his part in the saga of the escaped cattle – being too busy to mend the fence after he first noticed it was damaged. It doesn’t take long  for the calls to pile up and for Josh to realise his mistake and he goes back to Rex with his tail between his legs. To give him his due, he’s open and upfront about needing Rex’s help after all. Rex asks for and gets a proper apology and negotiates a guaranteed 2 days a week on £15 an hour.

OK, that’s enough about farming for this week. Elizabeth’s about to turn 50 and hopes it’s now too late for a mid life crisis (take it from me – it’s not). Apparently her affair with Roy didn’t count, so can we expect something spectacular and surprising from Elizabeth soon? Lily helps her get ready for her party and Elizabeth’s worrying about the rifts in the family, and should she have invited more people in order to make it less noticeable. Lily gives her aged mother a lesson in social media when she says that she’s invited Elizabeth’s Facebook friends, because she hasn’t seen some of them for years. “There’s probably a reason for that” exclaims a horrified Elizabeth.

At the party, Kenton heals one rift by apologising to Elizabeth for trying to cover up Freddie’s poor exam results, but the Brookfield contingent are either ignored completely (by Tony), subjected to ‘polite’ conversation (from Brian), or given very short shrift (by Tom). Terry Barford turns up with his Mother Christine, and is apparently one of Elizabeth’s ‘just because he’s a friend on Facebook doesn’t mean he’s an actual friend’ friends. As is Tim Beecham, one of Nigel’s old (real) friends. They turn out to be old flames too, and Tim for one tries to spark it up again.

Finally, some of the Archers are turning out to be strangers who just happen to share the same name, but Pip’s determined to find out why her mother’s not talking to her “however awful it is”. Rooooth doesn’t disappoint and gives her both barrels. “You’ve made a fool out of me”, “I don’t know who you are any more” before reloading and finishing her off with “I’m ashamed of you”.

Ouch. Over to you Pip.

Monday, 17 April 2017

I’d Take Matt’s Money And Run, Lilian

Kim Durham (Matt Crawford)

Lilian soon got over the shock of Matt Crawford’s return - in fact, she smacked him in the face, giving him a black eye, as we learn from Justin as he takes her scrambled egg and smoked salmon in bed on Sunday. Tony rings his sister - he has heard that Matt is staying at Grey Gables, which she knows, as Matt has invited her for afternoon tea.

She goes to see him, taking Justin along for support, although he leaves them alone to talk. Lilian remarks that Matt seems to be doing very nicely on her money and he replies that he wants to apologise “from the bottom of my heart” (“What heart?” - Lilian). We learn that Matt is one of a consortium, building a racecourse in Costa Rica and he is in the UK to look up his old racing contacts. To demonstrate the sincerity of his intentions, he gives Lilian a cheque as a first instalment of what he owes her. Lilian goes back to Justin, wondering if the cheque will bounce and tells him that she thinks Matt will be on his way back to Costa Rica soon.

But not just yet - there is ample time for Matt to needle and upset people and he begins with Brian on the golf course. Matt and his playing partner are behind Brian and Justin and Matt makes disparaging remarks about Brian’s golf and insinuates that the Home Farm purchase of land from Damara might be less than kosher. Brian’s response? He calls Matt ‘a poisonous little low-life.’ Come on Brian - don’t mince your words; say what you mean.

If Matt is offended by this, it doesn’t show as, in the bar afterwards, Brian and Justin are surprised when the waiter brings over a bottle of wine as a present from Matt. Justin is coolness personified - he’s got Lilian and Matt hasn’t - and professes himself surprised, as he thought that Matt would be a more impressive personality, from all he’s heard. Justin also describes the wine as rubbish.

Later in the week, Matt is in the shop and Susan takes great delight in telling him about Justin’s embarrassing proposal to Lilian in The Bull. Matt runs into Lilian and he reminds her that she had an affair with him and then got fed up with him, and the same will happen with Justin. Lilian tears up Matt’s cheque and says that the sooner he is gone, the better. “Not for me, pusscat, not for me.” He replies.

You were a bit hasty, there Lilian - when you think about it, it’s your own money that you turned down. Whatever, it seems to have made Lilian’s mind up, as she knocks on Justin’s door - she has a question to ask him, which is “do you still want to marry me?” A surprised Justin replies “of course”, upon which Lilian kneels down and asks him to marry her. Even more surprised, Justin says ‘yes’ but why the sudden change of heart? Lilian explains that Matt coming back reminds her of the hell that he put her through and being with Justin makes her know what it is to be truly loved and she doesn’t want it to end. A triumphant Justin bellows “Name the day, Lilian, name the day!” It might be expedient to get the divorce over first, Justin.

Last week we saw Ed put his foot down, forbidding Emma to take the night shift job at the chicken factory. She went anyway and, on Tuesday, she is having a lie-in as she’s knackered after her first shift. Emma thanks Clarrie for looking after the kids and says that this lie-in is a one-off. Ed comes in from looking after the rams and the atmosphere is very strained, as he is not happy. The couple bicker and Clarrie intervenes, telling her son to be more supportive. Instead, Ed asks Emma why is she doing this? For the money, you muppet. “We were getting by” he whines, “No we weren’t” she says and goes to look after the children.

Clarrie tells Ed off and says “If you won’t support her, I will.” Ed protests that he can support his family. “But not your wife?” Clarrie asks. She continues: “Emma wants to contribute as much as you - is that so hard to understand?” Apparently not, as Ed seeks Emma out to apologise for his attitude, but he cannot bear to think of her working in the factory. Emma says that she knows how hard Ed works to put bread on the table, but she’d like a little jam every now and then. Take the trampoline as an example - the kids both love it and George told her that it’s an even better present than Will’s quad bike at Christmas - while only he can ride the quad, he can invite his friends and Keira to join him in the fun on the trampoline. The two kiss and make up and, as Emma tells dad Neil later, everything is now OK between them.

Neil mentions Harrison Burns’ cunning plan to smooth over the ill feeling concerning his attitude towards older women wanting to play cricket. The answer is to have an evening of open audition nets, when anyone can come along and play. He goes to tell Usha personally and, while she appreciates the U-turn, she is evasive about whether or not she will be there. A baffled PCB leaves and Alan asks his wife what was that all about? It seems that Usha has realised that she isn’t very good and she would be mortified if she was playing and let the side down. I wouldn’t worry too much about that Usha, as the chances of you getting into the team are vanishingly small. Alan tells her that, if she bails out now, the other women will feel let down. Usha still refuses to commit and changes the subject - Alan is working too hard and he needs a holiday.

It seems that Usha is not alone in her attitude, as Susan tells Neil that, now the battle has been won, there’s no point in her continuing the fight. In the pub, PCB tells Kenton that he doesn’t understand what’s happening. Kenton says that perhaps the women are playing hard to get. “Oops! I’m not allowed to say that, am I?” Kenton adds, before telling PCB that things will be all right on the night. “If it isn’t, then Ambridge cricket team had better start looking for another captain” PCB tells Kenton, adding, to himself “I can’t take much more of this.”

Worry not, Harrison! The more senior ladies do turn up, including Usha and Susan, with the latter saying that she has only come to watch. Susan tells Usha that she’s sure that Usha will be an inspiration but, as she watches her play, Susan confides to PCB “She’s terrible - no wonder you didn’t want her on the squad.” Usha seems to have realised just how bad she is, as she comes off and tells PCB that she knows she has no chance of making the team. PCB says that Usha is very good at encouraging others and asks her to take on the role of Inspirational Coach, which she accepts. Susan, meanwhile, decides to have a go herself and she proves to be a more than useful player and the find of the night. Hopefully this story has reached the end and we’ll have to see how many females make the team in the coming season.

We turn now to the farms affected by the IBR virus. When things don’t go for you in Ambridge, you can really think that somebody up there doesn’t like you. Pip takes the tractor out one morning and soon comes running back, in a state - the tractor has seized up. David calls out the mechanic and the machine has to be taken away. Normally in this situation, he would borrow a tractor from Home Farm but, as things stand at the moment, they probably wouldn’t give him the drippings off their nose, never mind a tractor.
Later on we learn that the tractor will be away for at least a week and they will have to hire a replacement machine. Oh yes - the repair will cost them £18,000.

David’s mood is not improved when he learns that the damage was caused because of an oil leak and he beats himself up, as this is basic, everyday maintenance which should have been picked up on. David also blames himself for not noticing that the new batch of cows hadn’t been tested for IBR. Rooooth says that, with all that’s been going on, they have just taken their eye off the ball, However, David wonders what Tony and Tom will say when they find out what’s happened - it’s yet another example that he isn’t the farmer that Phil was. “I’m beginning to think that they may be right” says a despondent David.

Over at Bridge Farm, Tony and Tom are having a difference of opinion - Tony is keen not to precipitate a rift in the family, while Tom is all for going to Brookfield and demanding compensation at gunpoint. The two are inspecting the Anguses and they don’t look good - Alistair will have to come out again. Tom calls it a disaster and wants Brookfield to pay their escalating costs. As for not causing a rift in the family, Tom says it’s way too late for that - and that was before Rooooth’s snide remarks about e.coli. Still, he muses, there might be a way to get Brookfield to pay up.

A day or so later, Tom tells his dad that he has updated the Bridge Farm website and Tony is grateful. The Friday episode opens with an incandescent David shouting at Pip that a friend who attended an NFU meeting told him that Tom was telling people that Brookfield was responsible for blighting the Angus herd. Not only that, but there are derogatory articles on the Bridge Farm website. David says he is going over there “to give Tom a very large piece of my mind!” Pip begs him to wait until he has calmed down. “I don’t want to calm down - we’re going to have this out once and for all!”

Over at Bridge Farm, Tony and Tom are discussing Pat’s plan for a family lunch on Sunday for Helen’s birthday when David turns up, yelling and waving his arms like a man demented (or so we assume). Tony knows nothing of Tom’s comments at the NFU meeting, neither has he read the articles on the website. An unrepentant Tom points out that the article was just a general piece about bio security and doesn’t mention Brookfield by name. David, however, points out that the article immediately following, under the heading ’Breaking News’ states that, with immediate effect, Bridge Farm will not be buying any meat from Brookfield and the implication is obvious.

David leaves, still fuming, and Tony tells Tom “We’re not likely to get any compensation now, are we?” Back at Brookfield, David says that two can play at that game and we can blog about e.coli. Rooooth and Pip both say ‘no’ and Pip confesses about the cows getting out and mixing with the Bridge Farm and Home Farm cattle, because she forgot to fix a fence. A stunned David whispers “Oh my God” and a distraught Pip says: “This IBR and the hideous mess we are all in - it’s all my fault.” Will you go and tell Tom, Pip, or shall we ask David if he’d mind doing it?

Monday, 10 April 2017

Things Are Falling Apart – Everywhere

Angus Imrie (Josh Archer)

Let’s start with the latest candidate for ‘Mr Nasty Businessman’ - of course, we are talking about Josh Archer. Josh gets a phone call from a dissatisfied customer and he (Josh) is mega-upset because brother Ben is playing his music loud and Josh tells Rooooth that it sounds unprofessional. His mother says that Ben is revising and he’s entitled to have some enjoyment. Josh, however, can’t see this and storms out, looking for somewhere to conduct his business in peace.

Later on, Ed comes across Josh working from a bus shelter - this boy is obviously determined to start from the bottom up - and Josh is unhappy with Rex for, as Josh sees it, screwing up a possible sale. What has Rex done? Josh goes round to see him and tells him that a crop sprayer (or whatever) on their site has been sold. Great news! Er, no, as the buyer contacted the seller direct after seeing the name of the selling farm on a sign, pictured on the photo of the machine on the Ambridge Farm Machinery website, taken by Rex. So, no commission for Josh and Rex.

Eddie turns up as the two are arguing, with Josh saying that he’s a good mind to take the loss out of Rex’s next commission. Rex asks Eddie what he would charge for being messed around for half a day. Eddie’s response is to warn Josh that he is underpaying Rex and, if he’s not careful, he might find that there’s nobody prepared to work for him. In fact, Eddie goes further and tells David that Josh is seriously underpaying Rex and this leads to a blazing row (which we only hear about later) between David and Josh about the latter’s inability to run a business.

Arguments were breaking out all over the village – David decides to go to The Bull for a pint to show that he’s got nothing to be ashamed of regarding the IBR outbreak. Adam and Joe are there and, astoundingly, Joe refuses David’s offer of a pint, which is a first. Joe goes further and rakes up historical examples of what he says are diseases spread by the Archers and how they always got away with it. An incensed David warns Joe that he could be facing an action for slander if he keeps on in this vein and he storms out of the pub, saying “what the hell was I thinking, coming here?”

People in the village are pointing the finger at Brookfield as being the source of the outbreak and Ed has a quiet word with Pip – has she told David yet about the Brookfield cattle escaping the other day? She hasn’t, and she tells Ed that there are many ways that IBR could be spread and she doesn’t think the escaping cows incident is relevant. “If you say so” Ed says dubiously.

Pip is worried – she’d forgotten that Ed knew about the cattle. What if he starts telling people? Pip feels that she cannot oversee the mob grazing this year – how can she take money from Home Farm when her negligence might be the cause of their ills? Toby urges her not to be hasty – mob grazing proved to be a nice little earner last year. And he should know, as Pip gave him her profits. Despite Toby’s advice, Pip tells Adam that she doesn’t want to do it this year and he is devastated – who can he get to step in at such short notice? He begs her to reconsider but, as Adam tells David later on, she said her mind was made up. Adam insinuates that perhaps David and Rooooth aren’t being very supportive, which is a tad unfair, as this is the first David has heard of Pip’s decision.

On Thursday, Rooooth and Helen meet at Grange Farm when they are both delivering birthday presents for George and Keira. Rooooth wonders if she should go and see Tony and Helen says that that would be a very bad idea, as he is devastated over his Anguses. “You brought this disease into Ambridge and that’s that” Helen tells her. Rooooth protests that there’s no proof of that and a full-scale row blows up on the Grundy’s doorstep. Rooooth reminds Helen that it wasn’t so long ago that Bridge Farm had an outbreak of e.coli “and a child nearly died”, so Helen is in no position to cast aspersions. Ed comes out to stop the argument – Clarrie is inside and has heard every word; it brought it all back to her (she was the source of the e.coli) and, Ed says angrily, she is currently crying her eyes out.

Rooooth is distraught and goes off to see Usha, in tears herself. Meanwhile, Ed goes to see Pip and tells her what’s happened. “You’ve got to ‘fess up” he tells her. Pip realizes that he is right and, when her mother returns, Pip tries to broach the subject. Rooooth, however, doesn’t listen and keeps banging on about how everybody seems to hate her. “It’s a comfort that we can rely on you 100%” she tells her daughter, after which Pip puts the confession on hold. No doubt it will all come out at some time – the only question would seem to be whether there will be any cows left alive.

When Rooooth turned up, wailing, at the vicarage, Usha was talking to Harrison Burns, who had gone there to apologise for any perceived slight on the, shall we say, more mature female residents that wanted to play cricket. Usha does not give him an easy time and, when Rooooth arrives, she leaves him on the doorstep. The boycott is still on-going and, while Usha concedes that her ball skills may be lacking, what about her life experience? PCB is nonplussed and tells her that ball skills are fundamental – cricket is about catching a ball, throwing a ball, hitting a ball. “Everything to do with cricket is balls.” He tells her. “You said it” Usha replies.

Poor Harrison; the day before he went to the shop, where Susan laid into him for not asking her – or many other, older women - if she wanted to play cricket. Susan flounces out into the stockroom and PCB makes his escape. Outside, he runs into Ed and advises him not to go in, as it’s a hornets’ nest. “I’ve just been verbally steamrollered” PCB tells Ed. “Welcome to my life – the mother-in-law from Hell” Ed mutters.

On Tuesday, Lilian is due to take Peggy to the chiropodist, but is stranded in Felpersham with a flat tyre. Justin steps into the breach and is given the rough edge of Peggy’s tongue when she accuses him of casting off his marriage when it became inconvenient. Instead of throwing her out of the car, Justin tries to win Peggy over by explaining how he feels. He says that he has everything he needs in life, except the most important thing – the right person to share it with. Peggy seems to have been won over and tells Justin that Lilian is very fragile and he mustn’t mess her about – either stay with her or leave her alone now. “I’ve made my choice Peggy – now it’s up to her” Justin tells her.

There is one extremely large and unexpected fly in the ointment, however. On Friday, Justin and Lilian have been out for the day and they return to the Dower House. Lilian (who else?) suggests a G&T and goes into the next room. We hear a gasp from her and then an indignant Justin says “Who the bloody hell are you?” and the last words we hear are seemingly voiced by a very bad Matt Crawford impersonator, who says “Hello pusscat – have you missed me?” The plot, as they say, thickens.

The mention of gin brings us round to Toby’s latest batch, which included the gathered-by-moonlight fresh marshmallow leaves. Toby is on his uppers – Pip’s money has been spent and he doesn’t have enough to finance another batch, so this is make or break. He tries to interest Lilian and/or Justin into backing him, but they just have eyes for each other. The ironic thing is that the latest batch isn’t half bad, with various people paying Toby compliments. On Friday, he is in the cellar of The Bull with Kenton, changing barrels, when the latter asks how much would it cost to set up the gin business again? Toby’s response is “several grand” and Kenton reveals that he and Jolene would like to back his gin enterprise.

Toby is delighted and ready to promise Kenton anything. Well, make that almost anything as Kenton mentions, almost in passing, that they would like to make a change to the name. Instead of ‘Fairbrother’s Gin’ it would be called ‘Archer’s Gin’. This is too much for Toby to take and he says that he has worked too hard to give up the name. “Well, that’s the deal, mate” Kenton tells him, to which an irate Toby answers “It’s no deal, mate; you’ve gone way too far” and he stalks out. Well done Toby – you were that close to getting your business up and running and being able to pay Pip back and now you are back to square one and I wouldn’t be surprised if Kenton gave you the push from bar work. Pip will be pleased when you tell her.

As the title of this week’s blog suggests, there was conflict and argument in all parts of Ambridge last week. Someone who definitely wasn’t happy was Emma, which will come as a surprise to nobody. However, this wasn’t the usual, miserable, day-to-day moaning, but something much deeper. While cleaning for Peggy, Emma manages to break an ornament and is very upset. Peggy asks why is she taking it so badly? We should also mention that Peggy says not to worry about paying for the ornament, as she’d never liked it anyway. This is a bit rich, as the ornament was one of Christine’s, but we’ll let that pass.

Emma replies that she has been taking stock of her life and those of the other Grundys and, while she loves Clarrie to bits, she doesn’t want to end up like her, always just scraping by. Emma hates it that her children are doomed to disappointment all the time and that she cannot give them the nicer things of life. Peggy gives her a pep talk, saying that she is a very capable young woman and she (Peggy) is sure that Emma will find a way.

And indeed she does, as, when Ed comes in from work on Wednesday, Emma tells him that she has bought a joint present for George and Keira – a nice, new trampoline, plus she has arranged a party for Keira on Saturday. Ed goes ballistic – how much did she pay? The answer (around £200) does nothing to improve his mood and he says “are you crazy? We can’t afford it.” Emma tells him that she put it on the credit card and she will pay it off by taking a night job at the chicken factory. Ed is still foaming at the mouth and tells her to cancel the trampoline and the party, to which her response is to tell him to get the trampoline assembled, so the kids can see it in the morning.

Ed is far from happy and Eddie asks him what’s the problem? Ed feels that Emma thinks he cannot provide for his family (spot on there), but Eddie says that Emma just wants to do her bit – look at Clarrie as an example. But Ed is adamant; he’s putting his foot down and tells his dad “She’s made the wrong decision. I’m not having it. It’s not going to happen – no chance!” Emma starts on Monday, if you are interested.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Having Second Thoughts, Alistair?

Michael Lumsden (Alistair Lloyd)

Alistair could be forgiven for wondering if he’s done the right thing in taking on a partner. Consider, he has forked out hundreds of thousands of pounds on modernising the surgery and now his partner, Anisha, has had to return to Glasgow for an indefinite period to look after her ailing parents. This throws the burden of work 100% on to Alistair, plus he has to ring round and cancel the guests invited to the now-postponed open day at the practice.

Unfortunately for him, Stud owner Sal Blakedown wasn’t called and she turned up on the day. “Is she angry?” Alistair asked Shula “Spitting tacks” she replies. Alistair goes off to placate Ms Blakedown and he returns some time later. “That is one formidable woman” Alistair tells his wife, as she really put him through the wringer. It gets worse, as Mrs B demands that Alistair goes over to her place later and she examines his equine knowledge in great detail. According to Alistair, it was more nerve-wracking than his degree finals and he felt that he was auditioning to be Anisha’s assistant.

Alistair phones Shula and says that he is totally exhausted and won’t be going to nets, so how about dinner in The Bull tonight? While in the pub, they are witness to the rebellion of the women of Ambridge - urged on by Usha - to boycott nets in protest about Harrison Burns’ perceived ageism and sexism. Poor PCB - in vain did he protest that he didn’t say that Usha was too old, just that she was no good and with little prospect of improvement. Fallon is not happy with PCB and tells him that if he is going to fix this rift, he is going to have to do some serious grovelling. Overhearing this exchange, Shula says that somebody is going to have to mend some fences. Alistair’s comment is that the government might think Brexit negotiations are difficult “but it’s a walk in the park compared to running the Ambridge cricket team.”

Brexit got another passing mention last week - David is concerned because over half of Hasset Hills lamb goes to France, but Brian is bullish and believes that there are great opportunities if they play their cards right. I fear we will hear more of this in the coming months and the BBC appears to be trying to be scrupulously impartial. Personally, I hope we don’t keep hearing about it.

The outbreak of IBR at Brookfield was followed by an outbreak at Bridge Farm and Tony is devastated - he wanted to breed from his beautiful herd of Angus cattle, but IBR has put the mockers on that. Tom is all for stringing up David, or at least making him pay the Bridge Farm vet’s bills, but Tony counsels caution, telling his son that they cannot be certain that Brookfield is the source of the outbreak, especially as David and Rooooth assure him that their cows have never left the farm.

Pip, of course, knows better as she and Toby rounded up some stray cows the other week and she mentions her fears to Toby - she feels that she should confess. Toby says that the damage has been done now and no good will come of admitting it - besides, the infection could have come from anywhere. Her confidence shaken, Pip even turns down Jill’s offer to finance the purchase of 25 new cows, leaving her grandmother somewhat perplexed. Pip sinks ever lower, to the extent that, later in the week, David remarks that she seems to be taking things harder than the rest of them.

The probability that Brookfield is the source of the infection increases when Adam hears one of his cows coughing and Alistair does tests and confirms that, yes, IBR has reached Home Farm as well. The path to Brookfield is well trodden, as Brian decides to go and have it out with David. His opening gambit - that David should pay all Home Farm’s vet’s bills - doesn’t go down well and, when Brian says that the infection has to have come from Brookfield, David replies “You’re not going to pin the blame on me.” There is another knock at the door and it’s Tom, who has just been told about Home Farm’s IBR by Jennifer. He too accuses David and says that Tony is devastated and looks 10 years older - Tom will make Brookfield pay and their bio security is a joke. “Dad was right,” says Tom, “you’re not half the farmer your father was.”

As the week unfolds, Pip is even more miserable and wants to confess about the broken fence and escapee cows. Toby, however, says that all this will pass and things will get better. Besides, she cannot be sure that it is her fault and his advice is “keep shtum - don’t rock the boat.”

It’s not often that I agree with Toby, but I’m with him on this. Considering Toby had what we are led to believe was a high-flying job in the City, sometimes he comes across as being as thick as a yard of lard. On Thursday evening, Pip is awoken by Toby coming to bed around 1am - where has he been? The answer is ‘picking marshmallow leaves to go into the new batch of gin’ and the reason it’s so late is that Carol Tregorran told him that, for maximum effect, they should be picked at midnight, when the moon is waxing. Oh, and he should also sing an incantation to curry favour with the moon goddess. Toby buys all this guff - I don’t know whether Carol was aware of Toby skulking around her garden in the dead of night, but if she was, I bet she was weeing herself with laughter.

I doubt whether Toby’s gin-making efforts will ever amount to anything, moon goddess or not - Kenton takes him to visit an artisan gin distillery and we learn that The Bull will be stocking artisan gin, but not the Fairbrother vintage, if indeed that is the word we’re looking for. Toby isn’t happy about that, but he has to admit that the operation they are visiting is out of his league. They have been going for two years and they have a massive still, and a massive site. On the trip back, a despondent Toby has to concede that their gin knocked his into a cocked hat. Even Toby’s Olympian confidence and self-belief is well and truly shaken by the visit. I hope Pip isn’t expecting her money back any time soon.

We had another bout of whinging from Emma, although to be fair, Mother’s Day at Grange Farm wasn’t a whole heap of fun, with the B&B guests being difficult. Clarrie is in a tizzy and burns a saucepan and has to be calmed down by Emma. I don’t know how much money this scheme is bringing in, but the female side of the Grundy family seem to be having doubts about whether it’s worth it.

Emma opens her heart to Fallon about how bad things are at home. Ed is depressed because his Texel sheep have finished lambing and he has not had anything that looks like it might be a contender for an award-winning champion. The Texels were supposed to make their fortune, but this year’s crop has been, frankly, disappointing. Emma wonders if Ed has the patience to pursue the project. A despondent Emma tells Fallon that she thinks Clarrie is right - this is the way life is and you just have to put up with it.

I felt sorry for Emma (and that’s not something you’ll read very often in this blog) when she said that she must stop whingeing about how rubbish her life is, but she then spoilt it by saying that it’s George and Keira’s birthdays next week and it will be like Christmas all over again, when Will bought George a quad bike and the second-hand bicycle that Emma and Ed gave him was ignored. How do you define whingeing, Emma?

As if poor PCB hasn’t got enough to put up with the female cricket revolution, he is getting earache from Lynda about the fact that Ambridge is not getting the opportunity to train in the community speeding initiative, as Darrington are apparently utilising the equipment every day. Lynda gets a letter from Borsetshire Constabulary - she was clocked at 38mph going through Darrington and she should take this as a warning. Husband Robert says that that was careless of her. Au contraire - she has often gone through Darrington and warning notices and hi-vis jackets have been conspicuous by their absence. On the day in question, she deliberately speeded up and she was caught. Rather than being careful, this is exactly what she wanted. “I’m not going to let this go” she tells Robert. “Of course you’re not” he mutters to himself.

The lack of visibility is, as she tells PCB later on, a total breach of protocol and the Darrington crowd should be taken out and horsewhipped. At the very least, he should ensure that Ambridge get their hands on the speeding equipment. Harrison, a word of advice - if you want any peace at all, give Lynda the gear and the hi-vis vests, or your life will be a waking nightmare.

We move on to the romance, or lack thereof, of between Lilian and Justin. I am in sympathy with Brian, who is getting grief from both sides, who are behaving like a couple of kids. Lilian spends all week agonising because Justin hasn’t rung her and then, when he does so midweek, she lets the call go to voicemail. Justin tells an exasperated Brian that ‘things are going according to plan’. Lilian opens her heart to Adam and he says “Why not ring him?” If only it were that simple, Adam.

On Friday, Lilian is worried that her hair doesn’t look perfect and she quizzes Brian about what he thinks Justin wants. Brian says Justin likes to keep his cards close to his chest and he’s a businessman. Lilian Protests that she’s not a business arrangement and Brian makes her sound like a tart. Some people might agree, Just then, Jennifer comes in and tells them that a taxi has drawn up and it’s Justin. With a shriek, Lilian rushes out and Brian thanks Jennifer for coming in when she did, because he was ready to throttle Lilian. “How can a woman of her age and experience be so ludicrously insecure?” he muses. “It must be love” his wife replies.

And indeed it is. After lots of ‘why didn’t you call? And why didn’t you answer?’ to-ing and fro-ing, Justin tells her that he loves her and wants to share his life with her and does she feel the same way? “Of course I do, you silly man - I love you more than you deserve.” Lilian answers. However, they agree to take things slowly and Lilian says that she’ll go back to Home Farm tonight. She then realises that the atmosphere there isn’t much fun, so she says she’ll go back to the Dower House tonight with Justin. You have to wonder whether her opinion was changed by the gift that Justin gave her - a pair of earrings. “The colour matches your eyes” Justin tells her. That’ll be the rare, bloodshot diamonds then.