Joe’s horse Bartleby is out of sorts and it’s worrying Joe; so much so that he calls in Alistair to give him the once over. Alistair is puzzled, as Bartleby appears to be in pretty good condition, given his age and there appears to be no medical reason for his lethargy - both Alistair and Anisha are stumped and Joe is disgruntled at the lack of a concrete diagnosis. “It’s almost as if he’s depressed” Alistair muses - that‘s Bartleby he‘s talking about, not Joe.
Surely a moment’s thought would reveal that the vet has hit on the truth? Consider - Bartleby is owned by one of the most miserable sods in Ambridge; someone who spent most of last year telling everybody that his greatest wish was to end his days at Grange Farm and then signally failing to do anything to try and achieve this ambition. If that were not enough, Joe spends long periods of time talking to Bartleby, which must be torture and cruelty to an animal, then sometimes Joe takes Bartleby out in public, which must be mortifying for the poor equine - imagine the shame of being associated with Joe! One can only assume that it is the lack of an opposable thumb that has prevented Bartleby from topping himself. Add to this various ad hoc humiliations such as being dressed up as a winged horse for ElfWorld and it becomes blindingly obvious that Bartleby is depressed; and with good reason.
What can be done? Shula has an idea, but she’d like to try it out while Joe is not around, in case it doesn’t work, thus making him even more miserable, if that were possible. The plan is to give Bartleby some company and who better than Gem, the horse that Shula and Alistair brought back from Ambridge Hall, where she had been dumped, along with five others? Gem doesn’t like being indoors, as she demonstrated when she bolted from her stable, treading on Shula’s foot along the way, just to emphasise the point.
Eddie gets Joe out of the way, after a struggle, by taking him to go and see Neville Booth for a game of cribbage. Joe grumbles about it (no surprise there, then) but goes off, muttering to himself. Shula, Alistair and Eddie introduce Gem to Bartleby, but the horses do not hit it off and Alistair says that they should get her out of the field before she hurts herself or Bartleby. Meanwhile, PC Burns is out in his squad car and sees Joe walking along a lane, muttering to himself yet again. PCB asks him where he’s going and Joe’s response is less than gracious, asking if it’s against the law now to go walking in the village? It turns out that Neville cheated at crib - reneging and fiddling the pegs, the bounder - and a highly disgruntled Joe walked out and is going home.
Instead of arresting him for vagrancy, or being miserable in a public place or something similar, PCB gives him a lift back to Grange Farm. Personally, I’d have dragged him behind the car and gone the long way round, but PCB is obviously a decent copper. Joe asks what have they done to Bartleby? and Shula, Eddie and Alistair notice that Gem has somehow found her way back into Bartleby’s field and the two horses are now getting on like a house on fire. Not only that, but Bartleby has bucked up tremendously. Give it a couple of weeks and I reckon we’ll have two depressed horses - especially if Joe keeps talking to them.
Joe is over the moon and says “this calls for a celebration”. He takes them all down to the pub and breaks into his savings to buy drinks for them all, leaving Kenton with the tricky problem of wondering how many groats are there to the Pound. Numerous people collapsed at the unexpected sight of Joe putting his hand in his pocket and the Borsetshire Echo held the front page.
But not everyone was happy - Eddie revealed his misgivings to Alistair, wondering if the Grundys can afford another pony. Alistair immediately says that he will cover any additional costs that may arise, as it did him good to see Bartleby and Gem together. I’ve said it before, but the Grundys always seem to get people on their side - reduced rent at Grange Farm, for example and now having their pony paid for. And what do they do in return? Let the pigs run loose and churn up the Site of Special Scientific Interest - let’s grass them up to Natural England, or get PCB to run them in; that’ll teach them.
We’ve spent a lot of time over Bartleby, but let’s face it, he doesn’t get written about very often, does he? He’s not the only depressed one in Ambridge, as Pip is beating herself up over not telling the truth about the IBR episode. You’d think that things couldn’t get any worse, but you’d be wrong, as, in an attempt to make a clean breast of everything, Pip tells David that she gave her £5k profit from the mob grazing to Toby. And how does David react? Does he a) say ‘oh well, no good crying over spilt milk’ or b) go ballistic? Well done if you said (b) - he also says he cannot believe his ears, which does nothing to cheer Pip up. She had earlier asked Toby if he could repay the money, or some of it at least, to which he replied “you are joking, aren’t you?” and “sorry; there’s no chance.” He also says that she has just got to trust him. Yeah right - trust him to not pay off his debt, I reckon. When Pip says she does trust him, he says “Yeah, it really sounds like it.” Honestly, can you blame her though?
Pip wanders the village, in the depths of despair and runs across Alan, who notices that she is unhappy (the floods of tears gave him the clue). Pip is convinced that David and Rooooth will never forgive her and she doesn’t know what to do. Alan suggests that she shows her parents that she is dedicated to the future of Brookfield and that she takes some positive action to prove it. Exactly what, he cannot say, but Pip ponders over his words.
Towards the end of the week, she believes she has a solution. Toby, helpful as ever, has bought her a charm bracelet (what with - I thought he had no money?) thus demonstrating a total lack of understanding of his girlfriend’s mental state, and Pip says she wants to talk to him. Her solution is that they move out of Rickyard Cottage so that David and Rooooth can let it out at market value. Toby asks where will they live? Simple - Pip can stay at Chris and Alice’s and Toby can go back to living with Rex and Bert at the bungalow. Toby goes looking for Bert and talks to him about all the fun times they had together. Bert is at a loss to remember any such fun times and, when Toby asks if he can move back in, Bert says that he’s happy with only having Rex for a lodger. However, when Toby explains that this idea is all so that Brookfield can generate some income, Bert says he’ll think about it and is taken aback when Toby tells him “Awesome - I’ll move in on Monday then.” Tough luck, Bert - you’ve been done up like a kipper, me old mate.
Pip tells her mother of her idea, adding that she (Pip) will do all the extra laundry and cleaning for the guests. Rooooth says that it is quite a gesture and praises Pip’s maturity. Mother and daughter hug and, when Pip says, for the 2,000th time, how sorry she is, Rooooth replies “It’s fine - it’s all going to be fine.”
The fallout over Emma’s night time job continues, with Will telling her that George has told him that it is upsetting him that she’s not there and why don’t Will and Nic have him to stay over for an extra night a week? Emma is annoyed that he thinks that she isn’t looking after their son and she is short with Nic. This, it turns out, is unfair, as Nic explains that she didn’t know anything about the extra night and she doesn’t think that George is suffering. A family lunch is arranged at Greenwood Cottage for Will, Nic, Emma and Ed and the two couples talk it through. Will is concerned that George is being damaged, but when Nic asks him how exactly, he has no answer. Nic then goes for the jugular by reminding her husband how, when he was young, Clarrie worked all the hours she could and he hasn’t been ‘damaged’, has he? Actually, this is a debatable point but we’ll let it pass for now. Will soon realises that he hasn’t got much of a case, especially when Nic suggests that perhaps George has been laying it on a bit thick and Will backs down about the extra night and any suggestion of neglect of George. Later on in the kitchen, Emma thanks Nic for being on her side. The interesting thing was Ed’s attitude during this discussion - he hardly said a word and didn’t defend his wife, due no doubt to the fact that he doesn’t want to see Emma working nights either.
Over at Lower Loxley, Freddie has something to crow about, as he passed his driving test theory paper and Lily failed hers. It’s a change for him to come out on top, so enjoy it while you can Freddie.
What else has been happening? Brian’s plan for Home Farm to become a family partnership meets with almost universal approval. However, readers will not be surprised to hear that Adam has reservations. Honestly, Brian can do nothing right in Adam’s eyes - if Brian were to hand over a large box of £50 notes and say “spend it - enjoy yourself” Adam would be worrying whether they were forgeries. Ian tries to talk some sense into Adam, and the latter reveals what’s worrying him - he’s nearly 50 and retirement is looming. He wants to get the farm on a sustainable footing for Alice, Kate and Ruairi (presumably Debbie is counted in the ‘yesterday’s people’ category). “I need to maximise my influence before I’m put out to pasture.” Adam tells his husband. Personally, I don’t reckon he need worry, as I cannot see Alice, Ruairi or Kate (especially Kate) as wanting to have a ‘hands on’ role on the farm. And what’s this about retirement looming? Nowadays we are being told that retirement has been put back to 185 or whatever it is now, so our sub-50 Adam has a good few years ahead of him yet, before it’s pipe and slippers time.
Let’s end with Lilian - she, like Bartleby, is out of sorts and she convinces Jolene that the answer is a day at the races, blowing Matt’s money. Matt is there on the day and his (successful) tips are ignored by Lilian, as is his invitation for them to join him. He points out that it’s Lilian’s own money she’s throwing away, but she doesn’t care. Jolene urges Lilian not to let Matt get to her, and she replies that she won’t - Matt is all in the past now. Interestingly, when Lilian first proposed the day at the races, we learned something about who wears the trousers down at The Bull - “What about Kenton; will he mind?” Lilian asks. “Kenton will do what he’s told.” Jolene replies, firmly. Cast your mind back to Kenton and Jolene’s wedding - did he promise to obey, can you remember?