JanuaryFebruary

Monday 1st January, 2024

Kate avoiding work comes back to bite her in the bum.

Characters: Joy, Brian, Tony, Henry, Kate, Helen
Credited scriptwriter:
Sarah Hehir
Director:
Dave Payne
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Although he didn't expect the village shop to be open, Brian has gone there for butter and bread, and Joy is delighted to have a customer to talk at. She always finds New Year's Day a bit quiet when you're on your own; Brian on the contrary thinks quiet exactly what he wants, having been dragged out on New Year's Eve by Lilian, and when Joy describes her evening with feet up, telly on and writing her New Year resolutions in the front of her new diary he thinks that sounds a perfect way to bring in a new year. He does however admit that he enjoyed himself at The Bull. He reveals that although his house is full of Christmas left-overs, all he fancies is beans on toast. She agrees that she feels the same, telling him he is only the fifth customer she's had in all day, and just then Tony comes in, but not as a customer. He saw Brian and has come in for a private word with him because he has made a terrible mistake. Kate has asked Lilian to pop into The Lodge and pick up the last of her things, but they've gone. Tony took to the tip the three big black bin-bags Kate had left in her room, because he thought they were rubbish. Brian's immediate reaction is exasperation about Kate's stupidity, while Joy's is sympathy for her. Tony has no idea what he is to say to Kate, and Brian tells him not to worry too much since Kate often dumps all her worldly possessions and starts again. Tony has probably done her a favour. Tony needs to get Henry home but after that will come straight round to confess what he has done and see if there is anything he can do to make it up to Kate, which to Joy sounds like a good idea. Brian however says he will tell her when he gets back and is sure she will be fine. When Joy asks what was in the bags Tony says that Lilian thought it was a mixture: clothes, books, bits and bobs; Brian is confident it's not a problem, and tells Tony to leave it to him.

When he gets back to the car Tony apologises to Henry, saying that he must be freezing; Henry reminds him about getting oregano for Pat, which he forgot but says he can ask Helen for. Henry has been milking the Montys, which he loved; he offers to help again tomorrow if Tony would like, even though it's his birthday. Helen has said they're not going out until late; Tony remembers the day Henry was born and can't believe that he is going to be a teenager, and Henry mutters something about a teenager who hangs out with his mum and little brother, then pretends he didn't say anything; he is going out for pizza with Keira, Sindhu and Frank, which is great, but with Helen and Jack as well. Tony offers to have a word with her about it, but Henry doesn't see any point and doesn't want Mum to feel bad.

Kate is having a shrill and indignant go, not at Tony but at Brian, about her lost belongings. When Brian reasons with her about it, she becomes even shriller and more indignant. He doesn't help matters by suggesting that she might have a hangover and offering to make them both beans on toast and a pot of tea. She tells him not to bother, since she is going to Jakob's to see what she actually still owns in this world, and stomps furiously out.

When Tony does take his chance to have a word with her, asking about her and Jack going with them on his birthday treat, Helen simply starts laughing and agrees with him that Henry is getting to the age at which he needs a little freedom; she acknowledges that everything has made her a little protective of the boys, but that's all over now and things are different, and Henry has it wrong. The birthday treat she has organised is pretty nail-biting and she won't be anywhere near Henry or his mates. She is taking Jack to the cinema, and has organised for Sandu's older sister Dani to be the adult supervisor on the ground. Tony repeats 'on the ground?' questioningly, then asks if Henry is going hang-gliding, but Helen laughs some more and tells him she's not quite ready for that.

In spite of Kate having gone to Jakob's, Joy has managed to get hold of her and has offered to let her have some clothes: she knows they are not the same size, but there might be a few things that would come in handy until she gets herself sorted. Kate is very grateful to her and says she will hang onto this coat for now; luckily she was wearing her mac on Sunday but her proper warm winter jacket is definitely gone. She just keeps remembering things she has lost: like, all her pyjamas. Joy is inspired to find some she had got for Rochelle for Christmas: they have reindeer in Santa hats on them; Kate remarks that it's strange having a grown-up daughter, and mentions Phoebe being twenty-five, which calls forth reminiscence about the infant Rochelle from Joy, and then Kate's own comment that she had Phoebe at Glastonbury Festival and still has the wristband to prove she was there. There is a pause as she realises that the wristband was in the pocket of the coat which is gone. She castigates herself for being so stupid: if only she'd gone back to help them clean The Lodge! Joy tries to comfort her by saying she is sure what Kate was doing was equally important, but Kate, stricken, says she was eating jam and cream scones. See, says Joy triumphantly: what did she say? This makes Kate laugh, even if tremulously, and admit that she was helping Gran settle in at The Laurels but it was for her own sake really, since Peggy seems perfectly settled already. Kate then wonders whether there is a chance she could get her things back from the tip? Joy isn't sure, because places like that are often very strict, but Kate hopes that since it must be closed today, the bags should still be in whatever container Tony tossed them in; maybe if she goes there early tomorrow morning someone can help her fish them out. Joy reckons it's worth trying. Brian comes in and asks how things are going, and Kate tells him Joy has been wonderful and completely understands, and she's encouraged her to go searching for her stuff tomorrow. When she mentions her Glastonbury wristband being one of the missing things Brian is genuinely sorry and remembers with her that Jennifer insisted on her keeping things of that sort. He then offers Joy something to drink, which she refuses on the grounds she is speaking to Mick soon; he went to his brother's for Christmas but she didn't fancy going with him, though she'll be pleased to see him when he gets back. Kate asks about Rochelle and her children, but Joy says this year was the turn of her husband's family to have them for Christmas and Joy can't be greedy. And if that drink is still on offer, Joy thinks she'd like it after all. She'd like a glass of white wine, if he has it. Kate says she too could do with a drink after the day she's had.

Henry and Helen are playing computer games; Helen exclaims that's a first and she has never been melted by two giant watermelons before. She asks whether Henry would like to play again or would prefer to hear the plans for tomorrow? Jack is so excited, she imagines he will wake Henry at the crack of dawn. (Henry hopes not.) And then they will make him birthday breakfast in bed, and he can open his presents, including the one from Lee, and the cake made by his very own mother, at which Henry groans but then, as is clearly expected of him, says will be just as good as Fallon's cakes. Tentatively Henry asks about tomorrow night with his friends, and Helen says she thought they could just have a little Teddy Bears Picnic in the living-room: Jack's made some tiny little jam sandwiches and butterfly buns... Henry is finally driven to mild protest, and she laughs and says she's just kidding before revealing the real plans: he is going on a tree-high adventure in the dark, followed by hot-dogs and hot chocolate at the café's campfire. He is delighted: it sounds amazing. As an anxious afterthought he asks whether Jack is coming with them, and Helen says no; this is Henry's treat, and she won't even be there; she thinks he is getting too old to have his mum hanging around at something like that. He is just to make sure he takes lots of photos. He promises that he will: this is going to be awesome and he can't wait for tomorrow.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Tuesday 2nd January, 2024

Henry is off on an Adventure, and everyone else is pandering to Kate.

Characters: Jakob, Kate, Tony, Helen, Henry
Credited scriptwriter:
Sarah Hehir
Director:
Dave Payne
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Going to the tip has proved a wasted journey for Kate; it was raining hard and the man in charge refused to allow her to rootle about in the skips. [I should hope not: that would be extremely dangerous. Chris.] [So? Gus] Jakob is sympathetic but unhelpful, and when Kate asks him to come with her for lunch at the tea-room he explains he's already eaten lunch and has to go and see a horse near Penny Hassett. She makes a wild accusation about everyone thinking she is being over-dramatic, and when Jakob says he doesn't tells him Brian did and she can tell what Jakob is thinking. At least Joy understands that there is a difference between deciding what you want to get rid of and having that choice made for you. Jakob protests that Tony didn't choose to throw her things away, and then thinks they should talk about it later; Kate ignores that to tell him that it's really hard because now Mum isn't there her Glastonbury wristband means more to her than ever: Jennifer salvaged it from her throw-away pile and was so right to insist she keep it as a precious memory of an extraordinary birth. [Two things: One, when is this touching scene meant to have happened? I can think of no occasion on which Kate was actually clearing her things as opposed to running off and leaving that to other people. And two: sweetheart, if they let you have it outside hospital, this was a boringly normal birth, not extraordinary in any way. Chris.] Jakob eventually manages to escape to his appointment.

Just before it is about to be put on the table, Helen finishes icing Henry's birthday cake in the Paris Saint-Germain colours as Tony is sent through to help. She gets him to put out cake-plates while she puts icing on the last corner, and he gives her the required praise, telling her Henry will love it; she knows Henry will be polite and Jack will let her know how messy it is. She told her parents that what Henry wanted was a pair of expensive trainers, which he did like, and Tony got a photo of his face when he opened the box. Lee gave him a 'cool' light-up globe, and Jack some spider window-walkers. Tony asks when they need to set off for the Tree-High adventure, and Helen says they were picking Keira up at five but she's not sure now: Henry seems to be less keen on the idea than he was but doesn't want to tell her what is the matter. Tony suggests that if he takes Henry to see the Montys again after they've cut the cake, he might be able to get to the bottom of Henry's change of heart. Helen thanks him and they take the cake through.

By telling Henry about his mistake over Kate's bin-bags, Tony presents himself as an idiot, and he then tells Henry that the cow Henry spotted limping yesterday just needed a hoof-trim. Having thus given Henry some neutral chat, he brings up the subject of the evening entertainment by remarking that the rain has stopped, and finds out what is really bothering Henry: he is nervous about what he is to do if something goes wrong. What if Mum can't answer her phone, and he needs her? He just wishes he wasn't going. Also, he feels really stupid about it all, after his proud words about wanting more independence. Tony reassures him that there is nothing stupid about anything he's just said: every single time in his life that Tony has done something new he has felt nervous. Also, since Sindhu's big sister will be there she will be the one who has to be responsible if anything goes wrong, not Henry. What's more, Tony promises, if Henry needs to message him, Tony will be there in no time. Henry is reassured by this, and Tony then assures him that nothing will go wrong, and he will have a brilliant night.

At Spiritual Home Kate has been trying to soothe herself with a ginger and juniper essential oil mix, which is supposed to bring comfort, but she tells Jakob it hasn't worked and she is now tidying up ready to go home. He wants her to go to his tonight, so they can go out for something to eat. She doesn't feel like it, and he wants to know why; she tries to change the subject to the horse he had to see, but he is determined. He knows she is upset; she promptly claims to be fine now, and over it. He reveals that he and Lilian spent three hours of the afternoon searching his flat for her wristband in case she had dropped it there; they didn't find it, and he knows it sounds silly, but they did try. Tearfully, Kate thanks him, and he then remembers that he has a card for her: it contains vouchers and is from Lilian, Tony and Brian. Jakob is sorry the wrist-band's gone, and so is Kate, but she tells him she has all the memories of it, and now she has one of Jakob looking for it in a bag of dust with Auntie Lilian because they both love her and know how much it meant to her, and Mum refusing to let her throw it out because she always knew Kate better than she knows herself, and of her. listening to music in a field, and walking away with a beautiful new-born baby in her arms.

Helen is getting ready to leave, telling Henry that they have to pick up Frank as well as Keira. Jack has been sitting at the front door for twenty minutes, and Henry is nearly ready. Henry has lots of warm layers on, and gloves, and a torch. Sindhu and her big sister are going to meet them there, and they are definitely allowed up on the course without a grown-up. She assures him it's all paid for, they don't need any money, and the tickets are downloaded and on his phone. He is wearing his new trainers, and Helen isn't happy about that but then remembers not to make a fuss and apologises: it's his choice. He's still unsure: he wants to go, but he's just a bit worried. Me too, says Helen, at once making it about her; but there's no real reason to be worried, it's just that they've been half looking over their shoulders for so long, they've got used to waiting for something bad to happen. They've got into the habit. Because of Rob, Henry mutters bitterly, and Helen says yes, it didn't matter if he was in a flat down the road or in America, she always felt he might step out in front of her at any moment. And because of that she supposes she's been over-protective. Henry excuses that on the grounds that it was only because she had to, but she says that now she doesn't need to, and Henry doesn't have to be worried that something will go wrong. But it might, he points out, and she agrees that there is always that possibility but how often does worrying help? They just have to work out ways to cope if things veer off-plan. Like ringing Grandad, says Henry, and explains their agreement; Helen says that is good forward planning. She loves thinking of him whizzing through the night on a zip-wire: how great is that? They need to get used to grabbing life with both hands. Let's go, says Henry.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Wednesday 3rd January, 2024

Champion is podgy, and Brad has a surprise up his sleeve.

Characters: Alice, Chris, Lilian, Brad, Tracy, Chelsea, Jakob
Credited scriptwriter:
Sarah Hehir
Director:
Dave Payne
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Chris bumps into Alice, who is being treated to lunch at The Bull by Lilian; she is surprised to see him there mid-week. He has left Martha with Susan, who is taking her to the Darrington pantomime in her Princess dress. It occurs to Chris that if Alice plans to take Martha to see Champion tomorrow, he could drop her riding gear over to The Stables later; Alice is delighted at the idea of getting Martha used to wearing the hat and sitting up in the saddle, and thinks she might like grooming him too. She then suggests Chris might join them for some lunch, but he has stuff to be getting on with at the forge. As he is about to leave Lilian arrives, late because of traffic after clothes-shopping in Borchester with Kate. Shula has rung her; she has decided to stick with the partnership, but Lilian got the distinct impression this was very much her last chance. Alice says 'Oh dear', but Lilian seems unconcerned and asks after her scrumptious little pumpkin of a great-niece; Alice says she is naughty at the same time that Chris says she is funny, and Lilian cackles and says she's just like her great-aunt Lilian. She offers to buy them both a drink, and when Chris says he has to leave insists that he must look at some photos she has taken of Champion, describing the pony as a wonderful, generous Christmas present; Alice adds that he is a Christmas present that should have been discussed with Mummy first. Maybe next week she'll buy Martha a motor-bike without asking Chris how he feels about it; Chris, unabashed, counters that it sounds super-cool and he bets Martha would love it.

Mum's folding the clothes and Brad is washing up; he wants to know what Chelsea is doing. Tracy says she can dry up, though Chelsea says they could let them drip dry; Brad reckons there is not enough room on the draining board, so she asks to be handed the tea-towel, then wants to know why they even have a tea-towel from Cleethorpes and where that is anyway. Tracy tells them she once had the greatest fish and chips of her life on Cleethorpes beach, but won't tell Chelsea who with. To distract her daughter she asks Brad what the Grundys are going to do for Mia's eighteenth birthday; he doesn't think they've got anything planned, and Emma and Will are worrying about it. Will was asking Brad for ideas but he wasn't much use; all he knows is that she doesn't want a big party. Tracy suggests the adventure experience Keira went on with Henry; Brad thinks Mia's not that bothered about doing anything, and he's not sure who she'd invite. This gives Chelsea a chance to get a dig in about Mia having no mates: Mia's idea of a good time is to go on a march with a load of people she doesn't know, block a road and shout about something. Tracy breaks up the impending squabble by saying that everything is folded and if they want anything ironed they can do it themselves. She then wants to know if Mia has asked for anything special; Andrew is getting her a new bike and Will's got her some vegan boots she found on line, but Brad bemoans the fact that she is so hard to buy for. Will wants to get her something that will really light up her face, and Tracy tells him that his present is going to do that. Brad says that when he told Will about it he reckons Will wished he'd thought of it himself, and Tracy doesn't blame Will for being a bit envious: it's absolutely brilliant.

Champion is getting a lot of fuss and admiration from Alice and Lilian, with Chris in attendance; he has turned up with Martha's kit for tomorrow. When she is told the plan, Lilian suggests that Martha's hat and boots could be kept in the tack-room to make things easier. Chris asks if Alice wants Susan to bring Martha straight there in the morning and Alice is greatly in favour; or Chris could bring her, and he would really like to be there for her first lesson. Lilian then realises that Champion has some extra weight under his fluffy coat, and Alice agrees though she thinks that wouldn't be unusual if he hasn't been ridden much. Jakob, appearing in a convenient way, is called on for an expert opinion, and agrees with Lilian that by the looks of it Champion is carrying too much weight. Chris asks if it is much of a problem and is told that it can lead to foot problems [which as a farrier he damn' well ought to know! Chris & Gus] especially in Shetlands. Alice is sure some more exercise will do the trick and starts to plan how to arrange for him to have that: she could take him out hacking with her, on a lead rein. Jakob pronounces this a perfect solution, and says he will have a look at Champion in a couple of weeks; he is thanked,and breezes out again. [Leaving no clue as to why he was there in the first place; vets in Ambridge have no case-load? Chris.] Lilian tells Champion this going to be fun: pony boot-camp.

The rain is going to upset Ed, according to Tracy; he has waterlogged fields and lambing on the way. Tracy hopes the tree-surgery comes off; Ed and Emma still have to do more research into it, though it looks pretty promising and is a distraction from all the worries about the farm. Chelsea shouts to the other room offering Brad a coffee, and he tells her grandad wants one too. Tracy is very impressed with Brad's secret present for Mia; Chelsea would be 'like what on earth?' if he gave it to her but admits Mia will like it; Tracy praises it as 'so thoughtful'. When he first told her about it she wasn't sure he'd be able to pull it off but he's proved her wrong. He may be quiet but he's determined. Determined to be a moron, snorts Chelsea; Brad overhears, but Tracy defuses him by saying Chelsea was saying how perfect his present is for Mia. Grandad is watching telly; what else does he ever do, except prop up the bar at The Bull? Brad says he was watching something about micro-sustainability, which surprises Chelsea. And it got Brad thinking about what Mia would like to do for her birthday: he thinks she'd like to get involved in a local project that improved things, in a small way. As he and Chelsea start another row, this time about improving Mia's face and Chelsea's emotional age, Tracy short-circuits it by saying she thinks she's got an idea, just right for Mia.

Lilian has gone round to the vets, and after a quick foray into Kate's improved state of mind, she sets out to coerce Jakob into bringing Kate to the Dower House for dinner on Friday. She talks about the decorations coming down being a let-down, and Jakob disagrees: he finds the sudden starkness quite calming. She isn't going to let him out of it, and uses Kate needing a pick-me-up this week as a lever to force his acquiescence.

Brad objects that a fashion show isn't Mia's thing at all, and Chelsea snipes that the organic eco-vegan look she has is like the opposite of fashion; Brad thinks she looks nice, and anyway meant she hates all the waste, the feeling you have to buy something new for every party. Tracy points out that is why this is the perfect fashion show for her. Fallon is pushing for a renew fashion show [in spite of it being Lilian's idea and Jolene's plan. Chris] reusing good clothes that have been donated. So it's sustainable? Brad asks; exactly, Tracy tells him, and it saves people money at the same time. Brad thinks that might work; he can see Mia organising something like that. Chelsea cavils that it's not really a birthday treat, Brad points out that Mia wouldn't think getting her legs waxed and drinking jugs of blue alcohol in a sticky night-club was much of a treat, and Tracy, heading off her children yet again, says each to their own. Brad will ring Mia now: he's pretty sure she'll be up for it. Tracy will let them know at work. Sounds like a plan, she adds complacently.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Thursday 4th January, 2024

Martha has taken horses in aversion, and Kenton feels much the same about Mia.

Characters: Chris, Alice, Emma, Tracy, Kenton, Jolene
Credited scriptwriter:
Sarah Hehir
Director:
Dave Payne
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Chris and Alice are chatting as he drives her to sort out a problem with Martha; she started to 'bawl her head off' when she was told she couldn't wear her princess dress to ride Champion and demanded her mother. Apparently the build-up to the pantomime yesterday was the best bit; Chris is not sure she liked it, and has heard they had to come away early with her in tears. Alice doesn't blame her: she too took a scunner to a pantomime, when she was about four, and had nightmares for weeks. As they round Lakey Hill for the fourth or fifth time [well, how long can it take in a car to get from The Nest to Ambridge View three hundred yards away? They must have gone the pretty way. Chris] Harry rings, but Alice decides to ring him back later. She describes him as being in Chris's gang anyway because of his support for Champion and saying that Alice shouldn't have been cross; Chris is unsure that he needs Harry fighting his corner. At this point Emma drives past in the other direction going at about fifty [How? Chris] and Chris says she had to fetch something from Mum for a stocktake at The Bull and probably got the full force of Martha's lungs. [OK, Ambridge View to The Bull. Narrow lane then village green, 800 yards. She wouldn't have enough road to be going fast before she had to slow back down to 30 for the village. Chris] Alice is sure Emma would forgive Martha anything, and Chris is sure that between her and Mum they've got it all in hand [so why drag Alice there too? Chris]; Martha is probably munching on toast and jam by now like nothing had happened. They arrive and go in to fetch their 'delinquent daughter', with Chris warning Alice whatever she does not to mention the panto.

Having got to The Bull without an RTI Emma is helping Tracy with the stocktaking and telling her about what a disaster the rain is for lambing: the fields are waterlogged. Ed is so worried they won't dry out in time that he isn't sleeping; maybe it's a sign to get out of farming. Emma is very keen on the prospect of tree-surgery: it's the only thing that makes her feel cheerful at all. Tracy enthuses over thinking about something new and being their own bosses; Emma cavils that Ed did think he was his own boss with his Texels, but he wasn't in control really, was he, because when you're farming you need to be sure about your land: if someone else owns it and at any moment they can sell it from underneath your feet... Tracy refrains from pointing out that the problem is flooding, not land being sold, and condoles with her that it doesn't seem fair. Tracy decides there is no hurry to do the work, and no-one will mind if they take a breather for five minutes. Emma recalls begging the teacher at school to let her tidy the stock-cupboard so she didn't have to go outside; Tracy used to hide with her mates in the art store to have a sneaky smoke until one day a teacher caught them. Emma speculates about Kenton bursting in and giving them detention for chatting. He's in a good mood because his 'dry not dreary' idea for January is going well: they've even had a hen party in drinking mocktails. And then there's the 'renew' fashion show to look forward to: Brad texted Tracy to say Mia's well up for it, which Emma regards as brilliant; they all wish they had thought of it themselves. Tracy says it just came to her: the things Fallon was saying about re-using clothes, it's right up Mia's street and she can be a real help to them and take a lot of the work off their hands. Emma wants to go and let Kenton and Jolene know.

Alice is unsaddling Champion, and Chris is worrying because Martha took one look at him and started to howl, hated every minute of her time with him, and had to be taken away to the office by Lilian. Alice thinks that's pretty normal for children her age, two. [Or as the calendar would have it, nearly three. Chris.] The best thing they can do is seem unfazed by it, like Champion. Maybe they should leave it a week or two before they bring her to see him again, and not push too hard. Chris is apologetic and downcast: he thought Martha would be like a mini-Alice, horse-mad, and instead they've got an overweight pony and a child who refuses to ride him. Alice is not particularly concerned, and Chris thanks her for being nice about his stupid, impulsive present. Lilian texts Chris to tell him Martha has fallen asleep in her buggy; Alice takes this as a chance to get something to eat, since she had no breakfast. Nor had Chris, who suggests that since Martha is asleep the three of them could go for an early lunch at The Bull. Alice eagerly agrees, saying she'll be ready in about five minutes. She must give Harry a quick ring, though: Auntie Lilian has invited them to dinner tomorrow night and she needs to check he'll be OK with that. It's going to be a big party. Chris says it sounds great

Kenton is starting to think they should never have launched the 'longest drinker' competition: he feels that Neville and Bert are in danger of becoming serious bar-blockers. Emma reckons they should at least get a story about it in The Borchester Echo. Tracy doesn't want to influence the judges, but if Bert doesn't win he's going to be unbearable. Kenton and Jolene congratulate themselves about the success of 'dry not dreary' and Emma says they should do it every year and make it a 'Thing' and get folks coming in from further afield: Jolene things that a good idea, and they could make a virtue of the fact they won't end up over the limit. [Is this the first time the limit has ever been mentioned in relation to drinking in The Bull? Chris.] When Jolene's phone starts to ring she realises it's Fallon about the fashion show and goes to answer it; Tracy says they wanted to talk to her and Kenton about that. When Jolene has gone off talking about a catwalk sounding great, Kenton complains that she spent half of yesterday in the tea-room discussing plans with Fallon and you'd think they were organising London Fashion Week the amount of time it's taking up. Emma tells him that she and Tracy have some good news on that front: Tracy breaks in to tell him they have someone keen to help out. Initially enthused by their glowing description of her as young, full of energy and ideas, and committed to community projects that help the environment, Kenton reacts with horror when her name is mentioned; no, no, no, no, no! Mia Grundy is a trouble-maker. Emma tries to argue that she's not, just passionate about certain issues, and Kenton says patiently that he applauds her spirit and high ideals but they are trying to keep a pub open, not provide a platform for Mia's activism. When Jolene gets back will they tell her he's gone to change a barrel? Emma asks if that is a no, and he parting word is 'Emphatically!' Emma remarks crossly that someone got out of bed on the wrong side this morning, forgetting she mentioned earlier what a good mood he was in. Tracy can't believe he said no: what on earth is she going to tell Brad?

In another part of The Bull Alice is telling Chris and Emma all about her excitement over the arrival of Spearmint when she was about fifteen; Chris suggests that perhaps Martha has clocked that both her parents work with horses and is rebelling. Maybe she'll want a job in embroidery or something. Alice worries that if she is this strong-willed now, they're in for trouble when she's a teenager, and Chris reckons that if she's anything like Alice's Kate or Our Emma they'll have to be prepared for feisty at the very least. Emma remarks that she is there, and Alice says Martha is very lucky to have such great rôle models as aunts. Emma says that it looks like that riding lesson did the trick, since Martha is out for the count now, and Alice tells her the riding lesson consisted of Martha screaming 'No horsey! No horsey!' Emma is sympathetic, and then realises that she might have an idea what this is about. Neil told her that when he and Susan took Martha to the pantomime they had to walk past the horse getting ready, and the fellow at the front was holding the horse's head in his hands. Alice exclaims, and then says that Martha basically saw a decapitated horse with two humans standing inside its skin, and Chris remarks that is freaky. Emma says that was why they left early, because when the horse came on stage everyone was laughing except Martha, who was sobbing 'no horsey, no horsey.' Alice supposes that explains it: if she thought two strange men were going to jump out of her cute pony, she'd be terrified too.

Having got a definite answer from Kenton, Tracy now approaches Jolene about the fashion show, but is interrupted by Kenton, who tells her that if she is talking about what they discussed earlier he has already told Jolene it's a no. Tracy is cross because she hasn't had a chance to put her argument and he tells her that it isn't a democracy and they're not having a referendum: he gets to decide. Jolene at once points out that he means 'we' get to decide. He confusedly says that she agrees with him: we agreed having Mia involved is likely to create more work and she is bound to upset people. Tracy tells him he's wrong because Mia is already massively on board with their concept, the whole eco thing, so it's brilliant. Jolene agrees with her, which Kenton finds hard to credit: he enumerates Mia's various recent poor behaviours and adds her attitude of disrespect for just about anything as soon as she thinks she has a Cause:she is outspoken, extremely intense and she puts people off. Jolene suggests that she might bring in a younger crowd from college and asks 'my darlin' (Kenton) whether they give her a chance. Kenton, for the record, thinks she is a loose cannon; Jolene decides she will sleep on it, have a word with Fallon, and give them an answer in the morning.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Friday 5th January, 2024

The shark is jumped in the most implausible storyline to date, with unfunny 'comic' interludes.

Characters: Helen, Eddie, Jolene, Tracy, Brad, Oliver, Joy
Credited scriptwriter:
Sarah Hehir
Director:
Dave Payne
Editor: Jeremy Howe

When Helen serves Eddie in the Bridge Farm shop he asks if she has any plans for the evening; she tells him Joy Horville is coming round. Eddie thinks it kind of Helen to invite her over but is swiftly put right about that: Joy is the kind one. Eddie then hopes two thousand and twenty-four is really smashing for her and the boys, because they deserve a good one. She thanks him but doesn't reciprocate, instead telling him that Henry and Jack are over at Lee's tonight; they discuss the ages of various younger people, and how the passage of time is uneven, and Eddie rather gloomily wonders where they'll be this time next year. Helen asks if there is any news yet on the ten acres that was sold and Eddie, as one speaking of a death in the family, says 'No.' He is sick of worrying about it, and is trying to believe it will turn out all right. Clarrie has told Helen about Ed and Emma's tree-surgery idea, and Eddie has his fingers crossed for that. Eddie is then summoned by Oliver on the telephone, and leaves.

At The Bull Jolene is teaching Tracy how to make a Kenton-Archer-style Virgin Mojito, and Tracy is bemoaning the lack of a 'proper winter' but saying if she could be somewhere else it would be the Italian Riviera; this surprises Jolene, who had her down as more of a Magaluf girl. Tracy, who has never been there, extols the Ideal of Riviera [from about 1974. Chris], after which Jolene wonders at Bert and Neville not being in yet, and Tracy informs her Neville is laid up with a stomach-bug and Bert is trying to persuade Brad to come over with him. Jolene approves Tracy's handiwork and suggests that Kenton now has a rival; she has to nip down to the cellar, but if Tracy makes another of them she will join her for a happy hour mocktail before the crowds come in. Maybe they can talk about Mia? asks Tracy; no need, Jolene has made up her mind and is happy to give Mia a go. Any sign of trouble, though, and it is on Tracy's head. Brad then comes over to the bar, and asks about the fashion show and Mia; Tracy gives him the good news about Jolene's decision. He's delighted and says he will thank Jolene, who won't regret it: Mia will be perfect for it.

When he finds Oliver, Eddie asks him what he wants to talk about, and the answer is that the surveyor came over and Oliver wants to show Eddie, on the plans, where he took her and what she said. She measured the land again and asked some questions about the adjoining waterlogged field, which didn't seem to worry her, and asked about the derelict barn. which it is obvious they are going to develop. Before he can answer Eddie's question, 'what for?', he gets a message on his phone which makes him say 'oh dear' and in reply to Eddie's anxious question say that actually he is not OK; he invites Eddie to look at who the email is from. Eddie can't believe it. When Oliver asks him what on earth he does now, Eddie asks if it is too late to back out; Oliver is afraid it is. What has he done? Eddie thinks he has to tell 'her', and quick, before she hears it from someone else.

It is evening, and Helen and Joy are having a nice gossip together about the past week, and Helen asks if Joy is missing Mick; Joy definitely is, but still hasn't managed to decide if they should move in together. Mick is nice and she likes him a lot, but she's still not really sure she is ready. The silly thing is, she's worrying about the idea and she doesn't even know if it's crossed Mick's mind; Helen suggests that she stays as she is for now, if it works for both of them. Joy says it does: she likes having her own space, and she likes seeing Mick and all, but she just thinks sometimes it might be her past holding her back. A bad experience? asks Helen tentatively; Joy just wants to say she's been hurt before. Helen agrees that's a reason to be cautious, but shouldn't be an excuse not to do things that make you happy; Joy feels that maybe she just needs a bit more time. They have another glass of wine, and Joy speaks of how lovely people have been to her over the holiday: Christmas Day at The Stables, and then Boxing Day at Brookfield and then a super evening on Monday with Brian and Kate; Helen says she is the only person she knows who would describe an evening with Brian and Kate as 'super'. [Preferable to an evening spent with you, you self-obsessed nutjob. Gus.]

Jolene refuses to serve beer to Brad, even knowing perfectly well it is for Bert, so instead of taking a pint over to Bert herself or getting Tracy to do so she serves Brad a pint of orange squash for him. [I think this was meant to be funny, rather than just extremely stupid of her. Chris.] Prompted by Tracy, he thanks Jolene for giving Mia a chance; she will be a great help and she loves all the ideas Jolene and Fallon have had, like using local models to reduce the carbon footprint. Jolene just hopes she channels that excitement into the right things. They need it to be a warm, welcoming community night. Brad assures her Mia is really up for that; Jolene tells him that if she can get their punters as fired up as she's got him they won't regret having her on the team. She then sends him off with a full pint of orange squash for Bert, on the house. Tracy thinks this extremely funny. She then tells Jolene he's a good lad, and Jolene agrees, adding that he and Mia are adorable together.

According to a message from Henry, he and Jack are having a great time eating birthday cake and playing endless hours of video games, and Joy thinks it's nice how they are all getting on. Even though Lee wasn't right for Helen he has proved a godsend for the boys; Helen says that's why she won't ever regret what they had. Joy asks how she is feeling about everything else, and Helen tells her it was Rob's funeral today; Miles told her the date, over Christmas, but she didn't tell anyone else and tried not to think of it, keeping busy with work and the boys – and it almost worked, she sighs. But when Joy says you can't really block things away, they have a habit of coming through, she agrees but adds that is OK because it's part of the healing. She is learning to accept what has been, absorb it, and then come back to the present. Having Joy there has really helped, tonight. Helen thinks that it feels like a final release from him. When Joy suggests 'an unburdening' she leaps on the word: that's it exactly. What's more, it's Spring and the world carries on. This new-found calm is about to be tested: the doorbell rings, heralding a fraught Oliver there to tell Helen who has bought his land. He has finally been contacted by the new owner; he takes full responsibility for the decision to sell, but had no idea who had bought it. The ten acres has been purchased by 'the Titchener family', at Rob's specific request. Helen's tranquillity vanishes in the furious word 'What!?' and Joy asks if it's true: Oliver is afraid so. It seems that Miles Titchener will be in charge of things going forward. Joy, reasonably, wonders why; Helen's answer is 'control.' Joy suggests she should sit down, but Helen refuses to and says she is fine, though Joy can see she is looking pale; Helen can't believe it. This is what he always wanted: that even after he was gone there would be no escape from him.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Sunday 7th January, 2024

Nothing is so bad that Helen can't make it worse, and Brad looks at a change of job.

Characters: Helen, Tony, Oliver, Chelsea, Brad
Credited scriptwriter:
Tim Stimpson
Director:
Rosemary Watts
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Meeting Tony covered in mud, Helen asks what happened to him, and when told that he slipped while feeding extra silage to the cattle in Long Meadow volunteers Tom [but not herself. Chris] to help him. He is more concerned about how she is getting on; she claims to be fine, and to need to get home because Henry is having a few friends over for the last chance at some holiday fun before school starts tomorrow. She refuses to discuss why Miles has bought the land: Miles can do what he likes, and it is nothing to do with her. When Oliver comes up and also wants to talk to her she has no time for him, but rushes away with a small bit of advice: this batch of Sterling Gold is particularly good and he should get some. This leaves Oliver with Tony, who breaks into his attempt to excuse having 'ambushed' Helen on Friday about Miles' purchase by saying it has started to rain, and invites Oliver into his workshop where they can talk in the dry.

There has been a change of management at the Orangery, and Brad is not happy about it; Chelsea is not helping his mood by being antagonistic about Mia's helping with the fashion show. Brad wants to know if she plans to help him with a bill rather than slag off his girlfriend, since she is the one Connor asked to do it – Connor being the new boss. She points out that she is not the maths genius, and the customer's already got a right face on: Connor is going to be really narked if Chelsea messes up her refund as well. Brad doesn't get why she is so keen to impress him, and she says because he is the new boss and now Maddy's gone to work at Grey Gables, Chelsea might be in the running for her job. She was never going to get promoted while Trent was still manager. She then indulges in some prurient gossip about Trent, who has also left for Grey Gables, and Maddy; Brad is not interested. He wasn't even down for a shift today but was meant to be seeing Mia, and he also has academic work to do. He couldn't turn the work down because he reckons Connor hates him; Chelsea tells him that at least he gets to finish soon, and she is on till five.

Oliver is castigating himself for the consternation he has caused; Tony firmly tells him that it's not his fault, because he didn't know who the buyer was. It's not just who the buyer is, Oliver tells him: it's causing problems for Ed as well, because the dryer land he used for lambing is gone. He asks after Helen, saying she obviously doesn't want to talk to him, and Tony assures him that she's fine; Miles is no Rob, and whatever he's planning to do with that land it will be nothing compared to what she's been through already. Tony's fear is that he will convert the barn so that he or his dad has a place there to try and get their claws into Jack. Oliver knows that's not what is planned but is not sure it's his place to say: it's just something he gleaned when he spoke to Miles yesterday. Tony wants to know what it is.

Brad indignantly protests that he thought Leona was meant to be doing the rest of her shift, and it's not his fault she hasn't been able to find anyone to look after her little girl, but Chelsea has promised Connor she'd get him to stay and grabs him by the arm when he tries to leave. He is very reluctant, but Chelsea bribes him by promising to help Mia find models for the fashion show, from her college group.

With a sort of inevitability Tony has taken on the job of telling Helen what Miles is up to; when he goes round to Beechwood Henry and his pals are in the living-room, and Jack is keeping out of their way by being at Logan's. Helen assumes he wants to talk about Pat's birthday tea, and he has to explain that's not it and he needs to talk to her about something else. Oliver spoke to Miles yesterday and Miles mentioned to him that the land is for Jack. Helen seems not to understand, or not to want to, and Tony ploughs on: it's his inheritance. Rob instructed Miles to buy land in Ambridge for him. Helen doesn't understand: why hasn't she heard anything? Tony isn't sure and suggests that maybe the will is still going through probate, but Oliver got the impression that when Miles saw the land up for sale he jumped at it. Helen knows the guide price was something like five hundred thousand, but Tony has no idea what Miles ended up paying, but it's just for Jack, no mention of Henry. Helen says she had better call Miles: she needs to know exactly what is going on. Tony wants to do it for her, but she is determined.

Oliver greets Brad at Grange Farm and gets him quickly in out of the rain, telling him that he'll find Mia in the dining-room. Oliver is surprised that he is wearing his uniform; Brad says that he has come straight from Lower Loxley and wasn't meant to be working today but got called in for a shift. He was meant to finish at half-two, but then they needed him to stay to the end, and he's going to be up all night doing work for college. He didn't want to let Mia down though. It's been a rubbish day; working at The Orangery was so much better when Trent was in charge. Oliver speaks highly of Trent as a genial manager, and Brad wishes he were working at Grey Gables too then. Oliver pricks up his ears and suggests that if he is serious they need people in casual positions: Brad asks what kind of jobs and is told waiting, pot-washing, portering; he'd have to apply and be interviewed, but if he is really not enjoying himself at The Orangery Oliver is sure they could find a place for him.

Helen has discovered that the land is being put in trust for Jack with Miles as trustee. He'll inherit when he turns twenty-one. Tony, aghast, asks what about Henry, and Helen tells him, 'not a penny'. Rob has done this deliberately, Helen says: not just because Henry's not his son, though he was adamant about wanting to adopt him [he wasn't and didn't: he wanted Parental Responsibilty, which didn't involve anyone asking questions about Rob. Chris] and went on and on about how he thought of Henry as his own flesh and blood. It's all about control. It's because Henry rejected him after Rob lured him to the County Show, and this is his revenge: to drive a wedge between Henry and Jack. Tony tries in vain to calm her down, but has to admit she is probably right. Helen wonders if Rob thought it would absolve him somehow, and she'd be grateful he left Jack so much capital. Tony argues that Henry will still have his loving family and the farm, but Helen is not to be consoled: he will have to watch his brother get this step up in life while he has been overlooked. Tony thinks that is not for ages yet, but Helen decides that the right thing to do is tell Henry tonight.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Monday 8th January, 2024

Tom is incensed, Helen bullies Henry, and Denise tries to dictate to her boss.

Characters: Natasha, Tom, Paul, Alistair, Denise, Helen, Henry
Credited scriptwriter:
Tim Stimpson
Director:
Rosemary Watts
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Natasha has sought out Tom, who is hard at work composting the beds in the drizzle, ostensibly to bring him a flask of soup but really to talk with him about how Helen is (she doesn't want to talk about it, according to Tom, but 'she's got to be furious') and then to postulate how things could be worse, which leads Tom to rant against Rob. Having wound him up, while claiming not to want to, she heads back inside out of the rain.

At the vets' Paul is waiting for a staff meeting with Alistair and Denise but no Jakob. He pesters Denise about non-work activity and giggles at her until she gives up trying to process an insurance claim. She is worried in case nobody turns up for her 'dance-fit' session in the church on Thursday, and Paul suggesting music is not particularly helpful. He also suggests dragging Dad along for moral support, which doesn't go down well with Denise. Paul keeps on talking about this even after Alistair gets back from something he had to do before starting, but does shut up and allow Alistair to tell them what it is about. Alistair tells them he has received an email from head office, which essentially says that now the practice has expanded they need to do all they can to increase their revenue. Denise recognises this, and utters a heart-felt 'oh, no'; Paul asks how they are supposed to do that when the reason Denise came back is because they've already got too many clients. Denise tells him that isn't what they are talking about, and Alistair explains that they don't expect them to treat more animals, but to flog more stuff to their owners.

After school, Henry is absolutely not interested in discussing Rob's legacy to Jack, while Helen is determined to make him talk about it. He is driven to tell her in exasperation that Rob wasn't his dad and he doesn't care about Jack inheriting land, but that is not good enough; luckily for him Natasha interrupts the session and Helen has to let him go to help Tony in the workshop. Natasha's excuse for wanting Helen is that she has noticed that the signs on the juices haven't been changed and today is when the Summer Orchard promotion was meant to start; it is clear that what she really wants Helen to do is much what Helen wants Henry to do, talk about Rob and his will and How Helen Feels and how Henry is. Helen doesn't know how Henry is really, because he is very good at putting on a brave face; maybe it is just her expecting him to feel the same as she does about what's happened. Maybe she's projecting; that's what her therapist is going to tell her. Natasha remembers that it is her first session this week, and asks how she is feeling about it; Helen wishes she knew. She did have therapy years ago for her eating disorder, but quite a lot has happened since then. Natasha suggests nipping over to the tea-room: the juice promotion can wait.

Alistair is reading out instructional guff about sales promotion, and Denise is unimpressed: they already know what their clients' desires are, they desire their pets to be healthy. Paul giggles and tells her to let Alistair finish. What it amounts to is that they need to coax clients away from the supermarkets and big pet stores. Head office is sending them new display equipment later this week to improve their point of sale. Paul thinks it is amazing, and immediately starts to plan a sales campaign in line with his once having worked in a department store; Denise points out that they are not a department store but a small vets' surgery; Lovell James did this when she was over at Abberley Green and every week they'd give them new targets to meet. Alistair protests that they haven't mentioned anything about targets, and she assures him that's what will be next: she hated it. Paul tells her to come on and not freak: you just have to have confidence. Alistair breaks in to say they, as vet nurses, are 'key to cultivating and maintaining new customer relationships.' Denise objects that as a trained veterinary nurse she is there to care for the animals, and the argument between them becomes a little heated; when Paul tries to intervene on Alistair's side Denise finally puts him in his place and he apologises. She tells them she was really looking forward to coming back to Ambridge, but if she'd known it would be like this she might not have done.

When Natasha says she is so pleased Helen is getting therapy Helen laughingly asks whether she thinks she needs it, and Natasha has to deflect and deny [good one, Helen. Chris] and say that she thinks it will be good for Helen: she knows it was good for her. Helen expresses surprise that she used to have therapy, and is told about Natasha's past problems with anxiety and panic attacks, which all went back to her dad: she loves him to bits, but growing up with someone bipolar, not ever knowing what kind of mood he'd be in, was tough. Helen knows it's not the same, but she has similar worries about Henry [has she just admitted that she is mad as a box of frogs? Chris] long-term: who knows how everything will affect him? Tentatively, Natasha asks if she's thought of taking him to see someone; she says she has spoken to him. Also his school, in the person of Mr Reed his head of year, has offered him counselling, but Henry wasn't interested. Natasha suggests broaching it with him again. Helen thinks that an idea: she knows that Rob dying has played a big part in her deciding to get help. Natasha is sympathetic. Helen explains that after her initial fury, she has calmed down a bit [pity she put it all on Henry before that, isn't it. Chris] and decided that Rob's objective was to set Jack against Henry, but it's not going to work: those boys are Archers and will be raised as Archers, and they may even share the land. Helen is not going to let it take her backwards. [Ah, we are on track again: it's all about Helen really. Chris.] Tom has burst in loudly but unnoticed, and now accuses the pair of skiving while he is slaving away and doesn't believe they are checking the quality of the coffee. After Helen has left Natasha chides him for being a martyr and says he ought to be pleased: Helen is sounding really determined not to let this nonsense with the land get her down, and they shouldn't either. Tom claims that he is not, just angry, and Natasha points out that's not going to change anything; maybe they should try to turn it into a positive instead. Her attempts to put a positive spin on it by suggesting that they might be able to make some use of the land for their own purposes just make him dig in his heels: no! He can see where she is heading, and he means it; that is Titchener land and he doesn't want anything to do with it.

Helen is having another go at manipulating Henry into right-think, having run him to earth in Tony's workshop. She tells him that she knows he says he is OK, but if he did feel he needed to talk... He gives vent to an exasperated sigh, and she tells him there is nothing to be ashamed about; if he feels angry or jealous (he tells her he doesn't) it would be perfectly understandable... he finally loses it and shouts, wanting to know how many times? Jack can have that land! He doesn't care! He doesn't want anything from That Man anyway! Helen says 'all right, all right' as to someone utterly unreasonable and explains that she is just saying, Mr Reed said school could arrange counselling if that's what he wanted. And if there is stuff he can't say to her, he could talk to someone else. Beaten down, he simply says 'OK' and when she asks whether that means OK he understands or OK he's going to speak to Mr Reed, he cries out that he means OK, he gets it! He doesn't need to though, just because she's freaking out about it. Reproachfully, she utters his name, but he's not giving way: he told her, he's fine, he reiterates as he leaves.

A cat called Milo which has had an operation is about to be returned to his owner, and Alistair takes the opportunity to speak with Denise unattended by Paul. He wants to assure that he too is not keen on this big sales push, which surprises her; she is so glad he has said it. She wasn't joking about Abberley Green: he wouldn't believe the tat they were expected to sell. They joke for a minute about the tat in question, until Alistair remarks that they don't have a choice about it, and Denise realises that he is still going along with it. She expects him to tell them no, that they are a vets not a pet store. He tells her he can't because he is not entirely in charge: he thought she understood that, and he could do with her support. When she says it was the worst thing about working at Abberley Green and she doesn't want to do it in Ambridge, he tells her that it's not going to be up for discussion. She asks if he is ordering her, and he informs her that he is her boss, so she tells him that she's not doing it and he can't make her.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Tuesday 9th January, 2024

Elizabeth worries about staff leaving, and Alistair tussles with one who has just arrived.

Characters: Lily, Elizabeth, Lilian, Alistair, Denise, Chelsea
Credited scriptwriter:
Tim Stimpson
Director:
Rosemary Watts
Editor: Jeremy Howe

At Lower Loxley, Lily arrives just as Veronica (the shop manager) finishes handing in her notice: she is off to be a receptionist at Grey Gables. Lily is only there to collect some of her old clothing for the 'renew' show at The Bull, but when Elizabeth is forlorn about her not being able to stay for lunch because Chelsea is coming over to do her hair, she does stay for a bit to chat. She suggests promoting Freya into Veronica's place, since she practically runs the shop anyway, but Elizabeth just can't help worrying: what with Veronica, and Trent, and Maddy, and Theresa, Elizabeth is starting to feel that Grey Gables is poaching all their staff; she can't afford to raise wages and try to compete with them. Lily is surprised about Theresa, who loves Lower Loxley Hall and takes immense care over the antiques.

The dog Ruby has strained one leg and doesn't want to put weight on it, so Lilian has brought her to be checked by Alistair. While she is there Denise comes in and Lilian greets her effusively; Alistair is rather more cool. Despite having firmly insisted she is not the receptionist, Denise tells him that Mr Jenks has been on the phone again about Tinkerbell and wants him to ring back, and it needs to be before one because he has a domino tournament to get to. Alistair agrees that he will call him when he gets a moment. Whilst Alistair continues to examine Ruby, Lilian talks with Denise about the 'dance-fit' classes Denise is running at the church, eventually agreeing she might come along to them, and then about Peggy having moved into The Laurels taking Hilda with her, until Alistair rather forbiddingly asks Denise whether there was anything else, and she shuts up and leaves.

Being a model for the 'renew' show is something Lily is not prepared to do even when blandished by Chelsea: she did that once before, for a fashion show at college, and really didn't enjoy it at all. Since she makes the mistake of admitting she was involved in organising that show, she finds herself having been volunteered to give Mia tips about the whole business, and even choreographing it for her, which comes as something of a surprise to her. Chelsea gets back to hairdressing: is it balayage that Lily wants for her highlights? It is indeed, but not too extreme: she would like it to be like a natural sun-kissed look. Chelsea sets to. Lily asks how things are at The Orangery and what the new manager is like, and Chelsea is flattering [she's hardly going to bad-mouth him to the boss's daughter, Lily! Chris] and says he is great. Lily is glad she's not thinking of defecting to Grey Gables, since she hears they've poached quite a few staff; not her, says Chelsea, she loves working at Lower Loxley and would never dream of leaving. Lily is relieved. Chelsea seems about to say something else, but then changes her mind and mentions positions that need filling, better paid positions, and maybe Lily could put a word in for Chelsea with her mum? Hastily, Lily says she avoids getting too involved with the business these days, then tries for a favour: if Chelsea did happen to hear of any other staff members thinking of leaving, that would be useful to know. [Oh, good grief, Lily: you refuse to do her a favour and then ask her to do you one. Why would she want to at this point? Chris.]

Alistair is confident there is nothing too much the matter with Ruby, but is not going to let Lilian leave without her buying something. When he tries to involve Denise, she rudely rebuffs him by saying she has work to do, and then point blank refuses to show Lilian the dog-food when he asks her to. They have a very politely-phrased but acrimonious row in front of Lilian, and Alistair, who doesn't have another patient 'until ten past', ends up doing the selling job.

Chelsea swears that no-one has told her they want to leave, and if they do Lily will be the first to know. Lily does some insincere flattering about how popular Chelsea is 'with the staff' [not the way to endear yourself to one of those staff, I wouldn't have thought. Chris] and Chelsea fairly rapidly changes the subject to Lily's hair. Whilst they wait for it to dry Chelsea catches sight of the bag of clothes Lily is donating, and asks to see them; Lily says they are hers and Paul's since he's donated some stuff too, and Chelsea, squeaking excitedly, starts to rummage. She is flattering about a leather jacket and a jumpsuit, then scathing about a shirt, which she thinks is Paul's; it isn't and she tries to cover her mistake by saying she was only rude about it because of how she thought it would look on Paul. It's hard to say whether Lily is taken in or not.

When Alistair has trouble finding the right dog-food, 'for active mobility', Denise of course knows exactly where it is, and when he tries to get it down without her help, naturally an avalanche of dog-food falls on him. Denise also knows all about the price and the loyalty card, and offers to sign Lilian up for the card. Lilian says she can see why Alistair wanted her to do the selling, since she is far better at it, and Alistair agrees heartily, with the result that Denise forbiddingly tells him not to even try it; Lilian finally works out something is wrong when Denise and Alistair explain they are being encouraged to increase sales and Denise wants no part of it. Lilian suggests that there is nothing wrong with trying to make more money, so long as it's in the interests of the customer, and she would much rather buy Ruby's food from people she trusts. Denise would rather spend her time looking after the animals, to which Lilian, unruffled, tells her that what they ought to do is hold puppy parties for new owners: you give them all the advice they need about how to look after their four-leggéd friends and establish an ongoing customer relationship. Alistair and Denise are much struck by this idea, neither of them having been in the vet business at any time during the past twenty years when these have been common practice.

As Lily and Chelsea part, profuse thanks are being proffered for the hair-styling, and perhaps slightly less sincere apologies for the mistake about the shirt; Chelsea agrees to keep her ear to the ground, and if there are any whispers she will let Lily know. As soon as Chelsea is out of earshot, Lily gets on the phone to Elizabeth to tell her Chelsea has heard nothing about anyone else wanting to leave. Lily sniffs at Chelsea as nattering to everyone, and Elizabeth discounts her slightly her on the grounds of not being sure how much they can rely on her, since she gets on with the people at The Orangery, but more senior staff like Glen or Alex aren't going to tell a member of the waiting staff if they are toying with a move. Or indeed if they are being head-hunted, adds Elizabeth ominously. Lily is surprised into asking if she thinks Grey Gables are actively head-hunting people; Elizabeth says that she doesn't know, but they must be doing something special to tempt them. Lower Loxley might need to up its game.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Wednesday 10th January, 2024

Therapy is the answer to everything except work placement.

Characters: Helen, Natasha, Henry, Oliver, Lily, Mr Reed
Credited scriptwriter:
Tim Stimpson
Director:
Rosemary Watts
Editor: Jeremy Howe

As Helen is trying to get Henry to get off in time for the school bus Natasha rings her to wish her luck and offering to give her a lift to her appointment with the therapist; Helen refuses her offer, and then cuts her off to order Henry to sign the birthday card for Pat, which since he has just been told he will miss the bus if he doesn't leave at once clearly irritates him. She then increases his annoyance by asking him whether he has his PE kit, which since he has just told her he has got everything makes him cross enough to ask whether she ever listens, or does she just like being a pain in the backside? She is outraged that he has spoken to her like that, even though he instantly apologises, and makes no secret of it. After a very little of this he first points out that he has said sorry, and then that he is going to miss the bus, and makes his escape.

Accompanied by the sound of a horse trotting down a road, Oliver encounters Lily; she is off to get some bread from the shop because Josh and Paul have finished it and she wants to have toast while she is revising. Oliver says he won't hold her up: he has to return the horse, Duke, to his stable and then get to work. Lily snidely remarks that she was going to ask whether he shouldn't be busy poaching more Lower Loxley staff, then when he is at a loss how to answer this impertinence tells him that she was teasing and if anything it is a compliment: they must rate Lower Loxley staff very highly. Oliver assures her that it is not deliberate; he wasn't even aware they had recruited Veronica until Roy informed him. Lily kindly tells him that it's up to them if they decide to move, a view he dryly endorses before asking her whether term has started. She tells him she has an exam tomorrow, on business, property finance and taxation. He is suitably impressed with such heavy stuff, giving her the opportunity to tell him it's one of her favourite modules so far and she's been learning loads about investment and project management; he jokingly suggests that maybe they should recruit her to Grey Gables, before going on his way leaving her thoughtful.

Mr Reed is making it clear that Henry can say as much or as little as he wants, and it seems that Henry wants to talk to someone rather than having been summoned. He has been distracted in lessons and is asked why that might be, so he explains that it's stuff that's been happening at home, to do with his old step-dad and what he has left in his will to Henry's little brother. In response to gentle probing, he reveals much of what has been going on in his life: that he doesn't care about the bequest but his mum keeps going on and on as if she expects him to be upset or angry, which he's not: should he be? Reassured that he is entitled to feel however he wants, he goes on to explain that Jack's going to inherit a load of land and though he wouldn't want it anyway – he definitely doesn't want anything from That Man, because he hates him – and he's not jealous that Jack will be rich, it's always been up to him to protect Jack ever since he was little. He remembers when Mum came home with Jack from prison and Pat said they all needed to look after both of them [good grief! What a charge to lay on a five-year-old! Chris] but Jack doesn't know that because he was a baby. And it's just not fair: at least Jack had a dad.

Later on, Oliver is at his desk at home when Lily comes to see him and proposes herself for a post at Grey Gables: she needs to do a work-placement from her course, and she thinks the hotel would be ideal. Oliver doesn't seem keen on the idea initially, and is unsure how much they would be able to teach her, but is won over by her servile enthusiasm about how what they are doing seems so exciting and modern and innovative; it fits in perfectly with everything she's been doing about project management. And she would be so incredibly grateful. And let's face it, they are benefiting from the expertise of all the Lower Loxley staff they've recruited. In spite of her flirtatious manner as she tells him she is teasing him again, he seems fairly sold on the idea of having her about. He will need to discuss it with Adil and Roy, but in the meantime she could come for a look around to make sure it's definitely a suitable work placement for her. Is she sure her mother won't have any objections? Airily, Lily says that she's sure Mum won't object at all.

A box of tissues has to be called into play, and Henry apologises for needing them. When asked if he has said any of this to his mum, who might like to hear, he protests that he can't: what would he even say? 'Hey mum, why haven't I got a dad? Why didn't you have me with someone?' He can't ask her that. Mr Reed tells him [on what authority who can say. Chris] that his mum does care about him very much and even if it hurts Mr Reed is sure she'd rather know how he really feels, and that she wants Henry to be happy. Henry wants to know why, in that case, she ended things with Lee, who was like a proper step-dad; why does Henry have to be the man of the household again? He finally had a normal boring family. It's all That Man's fault! Lee and his mum would still be together if he'd never come back. The bell rings for the end of lunch, and this session is over; when offered official counselling Henry turns it down because he would rather talk to Mr Reed.

Natasha has turned up to nosy into find out about Helen's therapy session, which Helen feels has helped her a lot – though she is unsure that Lauren, her therapist, doesn't think her rather hard work. Natasha makes all the right encouraging noises as Helen tells her about having shared her life history with Lauren, thus also making sure Natasha knows how horrible it has all been. Natasha assures her that Lauren won't have thought her a basket case: if anything she would think it amazing Helen is as sane as she is. Apparently one thing Lauren said really chimed with Helen: therapy is not just about getting over the past, it's about how you change how you deal with it. Then Henry gets home and, after politely greeting Natasha, admitting he's had a good day and asking abut Helen's, gives Helen a kiss and a hug to say hello, then asks permission to play on the games console, which Helen gives him so long as Jack, who is watching television, doesn't mind. When Helen says she loves him, he tells her that he loves her too, leaving Natasha impressed by how much better that was than his expected reply to 'how was school?' of 'All right, I suppose'. Helen wonders whether he really doesn't care about this land business, after all.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Thursday 11th January, 2024

All sorts of territory-marking and endless doubles entendres.

Characters: Paul, Denise, Alistair, Tom, Natasha
Credited scriptwriter:
Tim Stimpson
Director:
Rosemary Watts
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Paul is mansplaining 'selling' to Denise, who is busy despising the entire sordid business; she also doesn't want Paul to call her 'Mum' at work. She proposes to concentrate on her puppy parties. Alistair asks whether she has thought when she would like to hold the first one, and they agree that as soon as possible would be good; she thanks him about them, saying that she is actually excited about the idea. Paul can't resist saying they will be a good opportunity to encourage the owners to buy stuff, which irritates her all over again. She announces she has to go to do her dance-fit class at the church; Alistair wishes her luck, and Paul says shame on him for not coming along. Denise tells him to leave Alistair alone, and says she wasn't expecting him to, but Paul won't leave it, bangs on about Alistair being able to dance and keeps trying to sell him on the idea of going; Denise can't think why he should, when even John isn't going to be there. After she has left, Paul continues to nag with the persistence of a four-year-old, claiming that Denise is scared stiff it's going to be a washout and saying how much she would love it if Alistair were to be there.

Natasha comes to tell Tom that she is off to Denise's dance-fit class, and then to put a proposition to him before she goes: she wants them to rent the Grange Farm land from Miles and put a share of any farming profits they make from it into a trust for Henry: that way he would get something too, and Helen might be less upset. Rob didn't want Henry to get anything, so this would spoil his plan, and that chimes in with what Helen has been saying about not letting this thing get the better of her. This is a new notion to Tom, who is not happy about putting money into Miles' pocket, but Natasha doesn't think they would be because Miles is only managing the land on behalf of Jack, so any rent they paid would be going to Jack. Rob has done this thing to mark his territory, but this way they make it their territory by taking what Rob's done and turning it into something positive. It could be really healing for the whole family. Tom is unconvinced, but she requires him to think about it.

Music and dance is in full swing at the church, and it seems that Paul's pertinacity has paid off: Alistair is there. When Denise declares a break, he apologises for having bumped into Natasha earlier, and she tells him there is no harm done. He feels that he needs to get back to running more regularly. Denise comes over and he and Natasha assure her that it's great, and Alistair compares her favourably with Sabrina Thwaite in a leotard and tells her she is doing brilliantly. She compliments him in return, and Natasha joins in the general orgy of congratulation but adds that they are in a church and shouldn't make it too saucy. Natasha then goes to get some water, leaving Denise and Alistair together. They talk rather awkwardly, and Denise says she is so glad he came.

Natasha has encountered Paul, who is flirtatious to her and wants to know if she is wearing waterproof mascara, which she is; she gives him her other top tip, tinted moisturiser, which is long-lasting and non-comedogenic, perfect for a day on the farm. She has to say though that it feels quite odd doing the class in the church, and she can't imagine that Saint Stephen would approve; Paul knows what she means but says Mum is keeping it quite tame with no hair-whips or booty drops, which makes her laugh. Natasha thinks she may just have put her foot in it with Alistair by making a silly joke about his hips not lying. Still, he and Denise seem to have got over it; they are laughing together. Paul, who has not really been paying attention, tells her he has got an important message on his phone and needs to tell Mum.

When Paul gets there he interrupts a conversation between her and Alistair in which Alistair is suggesting dance-fit puppy parties, integrated health care for dogs and their owners. Denise has just dared Alistair to suggest it to Lovell James when Paul tells her he has a message from Dad, who is on his way, which completely throws Denise; Paul says that John knows he is running late but he got held up. Denise was not expecting him there and says so; Paul tells her that she didn't ask. Paul told him that she needed his support and he will be there in ten minutes. Alistair brightly remarks that is good news and her numbers will be almost into double figures. She restarts the class, to get one more routine in before her husband arrives.

After the class, Natasha tells Denise she will definitely be coming next week and that it has been brilliant; she hasn't got a brolly and it is tipping it down, but Denise still conjures her not to get too wet. Alistair too is about to take his leave; Denise thanks him again for coming and he says how nice it was to see John and that it was good of him to turn up: he obviously knew what it meant to her. She supposes he must, though she genuinely hadn't expected him. She asks what the two of them were talking about, and is told 'weather and football', and that Alistair was admiring John's enthusiasm, the way he threw himself into the dancing; he certainly has more energy than Alistair. Denise points out that Alistair is ten years older and anyway, it's not a competition: the main point is to have fun. Alistair says that she definitely made it that, and he hopes she gets more people coming in future, but he thinks he won't come again: as she said, he's hardly a spring chicken and it's not for him. He thinks it's best if he gives it a miss.

Natasha arrives home inveighing against the rain, to find Tom in exhausted sleep on the sofa; he has finished clearing up. She will pop up to check on the girls and then have a shower, and perhaps he should put himself to bed; he asks how the dance class was. And she says it was fun. Before she goes up, Tom volunteers that he has been thinking about what she said before she left, and he can kind of see what she is getting at: by farming that land, in a way they'd be getting one over on Rob. He died thinking he'd have the last laugh, and they would be proving him wrong. The only difficulty may be getting Miles to agree; Natasha brushes that aside. Tom muses that the land would be perfect to graze the Montys on, and even has the old barn to put the parlour in, though it would take at least two years to convert it to organic. They discuss it as a useful way to increase the land available for veg; Tom thinks it makes you wish there was a hell so Rob could look up and see what they've achieved. Natasha is glad they are agreed, and is sure that the way Helen has been talking this week, she will love the idea. When does Tom think they should suggest it to the rest of the family?

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Friday 12th January, 2024

Brad is on the move, and if Helen is not allowed to move on, she will move away.

Characters: Helen, Pat, Natasha, Tom, Tony, Oliver, Lily, Brad
Credited scriptwriter:
Tim Stimpson
Director:
Rosemary Watts
Editor: Jeremy Howe

It being her birthday tea means that Pat is to keep out of her kitchen at Bridge Farm, which Pat is very reluctant to do, so after a token protest, Helen graciously allows her to put the sandwiches on plates. Henry is upstairs with Jack playing with Tom's old Star Wars toys, and Pat is glad that he does seem more settled in spite of Helen having told him about the land. Pat thinks that at only thirteen he probably doesn't fully understand the implications, which Helen disputes: he understands, but he knows it will only make a difference if they let it. Natasha arrives as an advance party: Tom and Tony, with the sleeping twins in the buggy, are on their way across the yard. When she and Pat seem about to start talking about Jack and the land Helen sharply asks, 'Can we not? Raking it over won't change anything,' and Natasha says that the best thing to do is move forward, in reply to which Helen mentions that she saw Kate in the shop wearing a new coat, a faux Afghan one with embroidery [but presumably without the distinctive stench of damp goat. Chris] which she bought with the voucher she was given. Pat says that will please Tony, who has been feeling terrible about accidentally dumping her clothes. As Tom comes in explaining that he will do something-or-other tomorrow, Helen expatiates on the beauty of the coat. He parks the sleeping girls in the warm and Pat tells Tony, who has also come in, about the coat, which does indeed please him. Helen encourages everyone to go through to the sitting-room, including Pat, who is still trying to be allowed to help. Natasha and Tom lag behind and are told not to be long.

As they take off their boots Natasha wants to know when they are going to mention their idea; Helen was just saying before Tom came in that they need to make the best of Rob leaving that land to Jack [a flat lie; Helen was saying no such thing. Chris] and now seems the ideal time. Tom is doubtful: there's no big rush. They should at least wait until Mum has blown out her candles.

The guided tour of the refurbished Grey Gables being given to Lily by Oliver has got to the ballroom, which he excitedly tells her has acoustic tiles on the walls, a stage that can be raised or lowered or thrust out into the room, and even a 4K laser projector. Lily makes appropriately impressed noises, saying that it is unbelievable; she had never imagined that the transformation would be on this scale. She muses that they could do something like this at Lower Loxley; Oliver is not sure they are competing for the same market. Grey Gables is a handsome hotel but it can't offer the full country house experience. Lily thoughtfully agrees. Oliver wonders what else to show her: she has seen the library, the restaurant, the new public wine cellar; Lily mentions having heard something about a gallery and artists' studio, but it seems that this, like the bistro, will be opening later in the year in the old stable block. Lily seems startled to hear of the bistro: as well as the restaurant? Oliver reassures her that it will still be centred on local produce and food grown on-site, but it will be a more affordable, more casual offering. The kind of place the locals might want to drop into. [So nothing like The Orangery at all, then. Chris.] There is plenty more in the pipeline, but at the moment Oliver is focussing on their soft opening next Wednesday; after what she's seen, Lily can't imagine it being anything but a huge success. Oliver asks if that means she would still like to do her work placement there; Adil and Roy have said they're happy, he informs her, and she thanks him and says she'd love to: she thinks she could learn a lot.

At the birthday tea, photographs are being taken and all is convivial. Natasha quietly asks Tom whether they are going to say something; he is not sure and not enthusiastic, but Pat has noticed the two whispering and wants to know what it is about. Tom says 'Nothing', but Natasha tells Pat they have an idea they'd like to discuss with everyone, and although Tom immediately says 'No we haven't!' Pat, obviously, wants to know what it is.

Lily thanks Oliver for showing her round, and asks how many are going to be there for the opening; he tells her they have fifteen rooms booked, and are going to put up Lynda and Robert for the night in the Royal Garden Suite as a thank-you to her for the work she put into the original grand opening that never happened. Of course, they will also be saying farewell to Adil, off to pastures new after a well-earned break. Lily sounds surprised, and also disappointed, that he won't be there while she is doing her work placement. Oliver tells her Roy will be looking after day-to-day operations, whilst their project manager Michael delivers the parts of the scheme still outstanding. He now has to dash off and speak with Roy before he knocks off; just as he turns away he greets Brad – which causes Lily to utter a most unladylike grunt. Brad is equally surprised to see her, and wonders if she is coming to work there, thus inadvertently making it clear that he will be. She claims to be on a fact-finding mission and wants him to tell her he is not jumping ship too.

Tony is absolutely not interested in Natasha's idea: they can stop right there. He doesn't want to hear. Tom makes the mistake of addressing him as if he were a small child to be coaxed, but Tony is adamant: they are not having anything to do with with the Titcheners. Tom asks if that applies even if they are doing it for Jack and Henry, and Tony retorts that he thinks it is obvious who they'd be doing it for, which gets Tom's back up; Pat tries to calm Tony, and Natasha asks if she can just try to explain. Tony tells her she doesn't need to. Helen says 'excuse me' and is ignored as Tony sweeps into a general condemnation: Tom should have known better than to even suggest it. Natasha says it was not just Tom, and Helen asks if she can just say something. Tom, says Tony bitterly, has always been the same, thinking more about his bank balance than his own family. It was the same with the girls' modelling. Natasha tells him it's not like that, and Pat appeals for calm, but Tony is not stopping: wanting to betray our principles... He is interrupted by Tom saying (quite calmly in the circumstances) that actually that's where he's wrong: they were going to put a share of the profits into a trust for Henry. Natasha endorses this: the idea was to give him something when he's older too. Tony sarcastically supposes that the fact that it would help their business had nothing to do with it. Pat tries again to intervene and is talked over by Tom saying it would be good for all of them. Once more Helen fails to get a word in as Tony protests that they could rent land anywhere and don't have to involve that wretched family. Pat finally makes herself heard and tells them to stop it, all of them. Don't they see, this is what Rob wanted? All he's ever done is try to tear them apart, and here they go again! Stop letting him do it; she's sick of it! Tony calms down a little and Natasha tries to explain: if she'd known it would have had this reaction... she's so sorry. Tom tells her not to apologise: it's not her fault his dad always thinks the worst of him. Tony mutters crossly, and Natasha protests that it is her fault: she convinced Tom that renting the land from Miles would be a good idea. Helen is surprised: she did? Yes, Natasha confirms, but only because of everything she and Helen have been talking about: Helen said she wasn't going to let it drive a wedge between Jack and Henry, that she couldn't alter what happened but could change what she did about it. Natasha was just trying to come up with a way of turning what Rob did into something positive. That's what Helen said she wanted. Helen denies it: no, she didn't. Natasha tries to argue, and Helen over-rides her, asking if she can speak? She doesn't know what Natasha thought she said, but Natasha has seriously misunderstood.

Lily is staggered to hear that Brad is going to be a porter at Grey Gables. She can't believe he'd rather lug people's cases around than work in the Orangery. He informs her that the pay's the same, and Roy says he'll arrange Brad's shifts to fit round his studies. As Lily starts to say that can be fixed, he adds that he gets free meals and membership of the gym. Lily laughs at 'the gym', but he can't see what's funny. She flounders around trying to retrieve her mistake and making it worse, until she ends up saying he's so... fit already. He says he has to get home, and she asks him to wait, then cajolingly asks whether he seriously wants to leave Lower Loxley? He's such a valued member of the team! He is surprised: is he? Of course, coos Lily, and with a tinkly little laugh extols his lovely sweet smile; she'd be really sad if he goes. Tell her what she can do to persuade him? Within reason, of course, she giggles. Brad is sorry, but he wants the job at Grey Gables; for a start he wouldn't have to work with his sister. Lily asks if Chelsea knows; Brad asks if Lily is kidding: Chelsea likes having him round as her skivvy. Lily is thoughtful, and Brad asks if he can go now; she offers him a lift, exclaiming that he'll get drenched walking, and maybe she can persuade him on the way back; he nervously laughs that he thinks he'll take his chances in the rain, and flees.

Natasha just wants Helen to know that she wasn't being crass, or selfish, but honestly believed Helen would think it was a good idea. Tony tells her that she might have; Tom, though... Helen intervenes, and then Tom says he was trying to make things better; Pat says 'please, both of you' and Helen finally loses patience and starts to talk. They are not doing this any more. She is not angry with Natasha or Tom, she knows it was coming from a good place, but she absolutely does not want anything to do with that land. Rob is gone and can't affect her any more, and this land isn't going to either, and Jack and Henry are going to be raised as friends and brothers; in fact the only thing that can affect them is 'you guys'; they need to draw a line too. Tony groans about it not being that simple, and she says that she knows they are all Rob's victims but they have to move on. She has to move on. And if they won't let her, well, she'll have to leave. She'll leave the farm. She'll leave Ambridge. Her family exclaim against this, but she is adamant. She'd rather do that than carry on going round and round in circles. She's moving forward, and if that's impossible where she is, she'll do it somewhere else.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Sunday 14th January, 2024

Hilda is about as welcome as change at the tearoom.

Characters: Emma, Fallon, Tony, Lilian, Brian, Natasha
Credited scriptwriter:
Naylah Ahmed
Director:
Pip Swallow
Editor: Jeremy Howe

The sodden state of the fields at Grange Farm is yet again being mentioned as causing Ed grief, this time because lambing has started. Somehow this has caused Emma to be late getting to the tearoom, but Fallon doesn't mind as long as she is not late for the meeting. When asked what 'they' want to discuss now, Fallon doesn't know: how many times people have tagged themselves on social media under the fake wisteria outside the door, perhaps. Emma is not impressed by fake flowers, and nor is Fallon. Emma reverts to her complaint that the higher ground is what Oliver has sold; there were people there on Saturday fencing round the old barn and putting up 'Keep Out' signs, practically in their faces because Emma can see them from her kitchen. Anyway, she had better get started wrapping cutlery, she says with loathing, and Fallon adds that to the list of talking points for the meeting.

A further collection of Stuff belonging to Peggy has entered Tony's life, brought by Lilian; he had thought he cleared the whole lot, but no. These are things Peggy thought she wanted to take with her but now finds she doesn't have room for; she wants them distributed among the family rather than taken to a charity shop because they are dear to her. Lilian is feeling ruffled: Tony is being 'off', Pat was too busy with the goats even to say 'hello', Tom scampered off looking tense... Tony denies that anything is wrong, then admits that there is by saying that anyway it's all sorted, well maybe not completely but Helen says they are to let sleeping dogs lie; could they get on with this please? Lilian obliges: item number one is – Tony recognises the old cottage teapot. Lilian says that she will have it if Tony doesn't mind, but he voices objection; she can't have it because he wants it for Pat, who likes tea. Lilian becomes quite wistful about it until he eventually admits he was pulling her leg and the novelty teapot is all hers. Lilian is initially a little cross, then notes that if Jennifer were there she would fight them for it, and this reminds them that they ought to see if there is anything Brian and the children might want, though Tony rather doubts it and just wants to get on with it or it will never end. They are interrupted by Brian ringing Lilian: he is on his way back from The Laurels with something Peggy says doesn't quite fit in with her new life; Lilian thought she was given it all yesterday but it turns out one item was missed.

The meeting turns out to consist mostly of Natasha telling Fallon and Emma what they will be doing, in a honeyed but utterly implacable way. For instance they will have customers using a tablet to indicate what they think of the [appalling. Chris] new choices of muzak, and they will do Natasha's friend's daughter's christening.

Brian's offering is not what Lilian was expecting: when she was at The Laurels yesterday they seemed perfectly fine with her. Brian tells her there have been a few complaints since: apparently she's been wandering off into other residents' rooms and helping herself to anything she can get her paws on. (Hilda mews, on cue.) And the woman next door to Peggy says she comes and sits in her doorway staring at her. Lilian accepts that they all know the folklore of Hilda The Menace, but she looks so innocent weaving her way through Tony's things. However, when Brian asks where he should take Hilda's stuff Lilian is resolute in refusing to have her, and Brian of course doesn't want her: Tony can take her, he suggests cheerfully, since Peggy gave him strict instructions that someone had to take her home with them. Hilda expresses her disapproval of the whole sordid business by knocking the novelty teapot to the floor, where it smashes. After initial exclamation, Lilian supposes she could ask Leonard to mend it, and Brian slightly testily says never mind the teapot, what are they going to do about Hilda?

Natasha seems all set to organise the catering for the christening, but Fallon manages to be allowed to deal with the mother direct by presenting this as saving Natasha trouble. Natasha pauses to say that she loves the tune presently on the muzak machine; Fallon clearly does not, but Emma's arrival with a decaff coffee and a peanut butter blondie for Natasha prevents Fallon from saying what she thinks [I think it might be improved by volume reduction from say 6 to say 1. Or 0.05. Chris]. That's everything from Natasha's list, and she asks if there is anything they want to discuss; Emma is invited by Fallon to mention that her time is wasted by wrapping cutlery in paper napkins; however, Natasha very reasonably points out that they will save money on paper napkins if customers get just one wrapped round cutlery rather than being able to take what they need; Fallon's suggestion that there are cheaper ones available is brushed aside. Natasha suggests they keep going with doing as she has decreed for a while longer. When Fallon says that Emma could be doing more useful things, Natasha says that she hears her, but she and Tom are sure it will be a time and money saver in the long run; she suggests times at which Emma could do the chore, and asks if there is anything else. Emma mentions the salt and pepper shakers, which clog up; she has to clear them all the time with a toothpick. Can't they just use the old ones? Natasha feels those don't really fit in with the new design, but compromises on getting them out for now and she and Tom will have a think about replacements. Fallon then starts to mention the music, but is told there are a couple more styles for them to try over this week, which she has on a USB stick; Fallon tries to tell her that the customers like what they have always played, but Natasha is having none of it: they are trying to find the right vibe for them, and music is a key part. Emma suggests they were lucky that Fallon chose something the customers like and they can be happy listening to all day, but to no avail: Natasha lists 'some great stuff on here', which includes classical instrumental, some sort of earthy world music vibe, native American music, and Qawwalis. Emma asks if people really want to hear music they don't normally listen to, over a cup of coffee, and Natasha enthuses that this is exactly what they are going to find out. She then clacks off on her high heels, taking the remains of her peanut butter blondie for Tom to try.

Reasons not to take in Hilda include Ruby (Lilian) and Seren and Nova (Tony); Brian says that Peggy wants her cat to be with family, so they are not leaving there until someone mans up and takes her on.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Monday 15th January, 2024

Ram-lambs are lost, Hilda is found, and Ed is in despair.

Characters: Clarrie, Ed, Lilian, Brian, Alistair
Credited scriptwriter:
Naylah Ahmed
Director:
Pip Swallow
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Lambing is under way at Grange Farm, with Ed and Clarrie helping various sheep; a ram lamb is born dead, and Ed (who is exhausted from lack of sleep) feels despairing.

As Brian is shutting his front door Lilian approaches him to tell him that she cannot keep Hilda; Ruby is finding it all too much. After a certain amount of to and fro between them he is coerced into saying he will have to take the cat by the threat of his having to take Hilda back to Peggy and explain, because Peggy won't accept it from Lilian but will from him; but in fact the discussion is somewhat moot, since Hilda has escaped from Lilian as she was getting out of the car and has proved impossible to find.

There is more trouble at Grange Farm, and Alistair, who has looked in to see how things are going, is now helping with an elderly mother who is struggling to deliver a pair of twins. Ed goes to do the rounds again, leaving Clarrie to help Alistair, but their best efforts are not enough to save the second lamb unfortunately, another ram.

Brian is trying to entice Hilda by using a squeaky voice and rattling a feed-plate, and is interrupted by Lilian ringing him to ask whether he has found the cat; he hasn't, and hasn't gone far from where she was last seen. Lilian has been roaming the village. She is now in the St Stephen's graveyard and is whispering because she doesn't want to bump into Alan, while Brian is outside Blossom Hill Cottage; his inaction annoys Lilian.

The lambing party has gone back to the farmhouse, where Clarrie is giving Alistair a cup of tea. Ed is too tired to think straight, and Clarrie compels him to sit down and have a cup of tea too before he goes back out to the sheep; Alistair supports her, saying that taking a five-minute break to catch his breath is necessary. Ed bitterly asks whether he will find more dead lambs when he gets back, and both Alistair and Clarrie try to cheer him up a little without noticeable success. He laments that he has been doing everything right, and six years down the line you'd think he ought to be able to keep his lambs alive. Clarrie points out that it is just two, and Ed heavily replies that two is too many and goes back out.

What Hilda had done was go back to The Lodge; Brian found her mewing disconsolately outside because the cat-flap has been sealed and she couldn't get in. Lilian asserts she can tell that Hilda is pining for Peggy. Lilian apologises to the cat for being unable to cohabit with her, and then tells Brian that there are lots of cat-treats and toys at Lovell James which they could get for her. Brian remarks that there was a time when cats entertained themselves prowling around, and when dogs didn't wear jumpers. Lilian takes this as a personal comment on Ruby and defends dressing the animal up in a tartan jumper with a matching beret for a Christmas card. Brian reassures Hilda that there will be no tartan berets at Blossom Hill Cottage. But if he has anything to do with it she's not staying.

The disconsolate and exhausted Ed has fallen asleep at the table without touching his dinner, to Clarrie's dismay; he tries to go back out, but Clarrie tells him that Eddie is out in the shed and he is to sit and eat up his tea [she really did call it both 'dinner' and 'tea' in two consecutive sentences. Chris], even though he says he isn't hungry. He asks whether she has seen the fields, which he says are like swimming pools; when she says hopefully that they may drain off he is not even slightly optimistic: with all this experience under his belt, does he still have to make it on a wing and a prayer? Clarrie points out, reasonably enough, that no amount of experience can change the weather. Ed moans that he keeps thinking that if he had his own land... but Clarrie interrupts to remind him that he has plenty of land for his flock: they told him that when he went asking Home Farm for help. Voice rising to a squeak, Ed protests that he hasn't when it's waterlogged. Clarrie advises him that he has got to try and stay calm and stop being all doom and gloom, but he protests that this is his livelihood [why, when he has a job at Home Farm? Chris] and prices are going up for everything, they've got the excess to cover on Em's car after that tree fell on it, and what's the renewal going to cost now? It's not just one thing, it's never just one thing. Clarrie wants to know if he thinks she doesn't know that, then assures him the she and his dad will check the fields, the lambs are happy in the orchard in the meantime and the water will likely have drained off before he needs to get them out, he'll see. He is to stay positive. He now asks if she thinks he has made a mistake having the Texels, spending all this time and effort; of course not, she exclaims, but he ignores her and goes on: he does, sometimes, and he wishes he'd thought of the tree-surgery business before. That's straight-forward: trees everywhere, always growing, needing looking after, but how can he possibly get that off the ground? Clarrie reckons he has got the winter blues, that's all; it's been a hard one for them, with the land sale and the wet weather and him losing they ram-lambs, but when Spring comes he'll be back on his feet. Or flat on his backside, mutters Ed.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Tuesday 16th January, 2024

Brad fears Lily might try something; Rebecca does but is roundly quashed.

Characters: Emma, Fallon, Rebecca Price, Azra, Adil, Brad
Credited scriptwriter:
Naylah Ahmed
Director:
Pip Swallow
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Lambing is giving occasion for complaint yet again; Emma is very fed up with it. She also feels she won't survive much longer with 'that stuff' playing in the background; Fallon does not defend Natasha's musical taste. A customer comes in and comments about the change since she was last there; she doesn't seem particularly enthused about the cosy, familiar vibe having gone, and Fallon explains that the new management are looking for something different, but the drinks and cakes are still just as good: nothing has changed there. The customer then asks what the music is, and orders a skinny latte and a cupcake, to eat in. Emma asks her for seven-twenty and says she will bring it right over, then asks her to let them know on the tablet what she thinks of the music: it gets a one-star sad-face. Fallon comes over to serve Azra, who wants a flat white to take away but no cakes, though she'd really like to take one of everything. She loves the arch over the door, and and finds the music interesting: she likes it. Fallon takes three-forty for the coffee but somehow manages not to ask her to rate the music on the tablet. As she is going out through the door Emma reminds Fallon that she forgot to ask for her feedback on the music, and Fallon quietly says no, she didn't forget: Azra liked it, and they don't want too many five-star ratings, do they. Emma admits she said to everyone at home that they were to come in and tap the tablet in their favour at least once [which is silly: if there are a lot more votes than there have been customers it will be very obvious, Chris] and Fallon, her voice rising to normal levels, says they're not being bad or anything, but the truth is that they do have to listen to whatever is playing, day in day out, and they liked the music they used to play. By rigging the feedback a bit they're doing Natasha and Tom a favour really. The customer now comes back, ostensibly to check that it really is a skinny latte that she has been given because it is creamier than she had expected, and then insinuates that it sounds as if they have a fight with the new management on their hands, 'trouble in coffee heaven', which Fallon and Emma immediately deny; she goes on to suggest that it always feels good to stick it to the bosses. She then claims to be giving the music zero star sad-face rating [having already given it one star. Chris] and encourages them to tell her what's been going on. Is it pistols at dawn?

On the phone, Adil is explaining to 'baj' ['sister' in Urdu. Chris] that he just wants to make sure Grey Gables is in tip-top condition before he leaves, and Azra is pointing out that she knows his M.O. and that it is typical for him to be planning to leave just when she has taken the week off to look for places to live in the area and he was supposed to come with her. He tells her he had planned to come round and take her out to dinner and discuss his plans with her, but she insists she will come to him with pizza, like the old times, and help him pack; after insisting that he will buy the pizzas, and that he knows she doesn't like anchovies, he rings off quite abruptly in the face of her protests that he is not to do so. As he is muttering to himself that Azra will be so mad, Brad comes in and asks if he is OK, and Adil answers that he's fine, just suffering from overbearing sister syndrome, to which Brad responds that if that is a medical condition he definitely has it. Brad is wearing what he says is the first uniform he has ever liked and, according to Adil, looks smart. Adil and Brad reassure each other that tomorrow will go well; Brad is waiting for Roy, who is going to give the front-of-house staff a briefing in a few moments. Adil asks whether Brad has seen Lily about, and Brad is clearly alarmed; when Adil explains that she is coming in to do some work experience and asks him to keep an eye out for her he clearly doesn't feel comfortable. When Adil further tells him that she is coming in to sort out some arrangements and asks Brad to make sure she has got what she needs and knows where she's going, Brad asks if someone else can't do it and Adil wonders why. He knows that Brad and Lily know each other from Lower Loxley and thought they would be pleased to be together again, and Brad rushes into swift explanation that she is pretty and all that but he and Lily were never together. Adil is initially bewildered, then tells Brad the printer in the office is out of paper and asks him to bring a couple of boxes through before the meeting. Brad goes to get the paper, and Adil mutters, 'What the devil was all that about?'

Fallon and Emma are trying to explain the the strange customer that it's not like that, and she says she should introduce herself properly: she's Rebecca Price, from The Borchester Echo. Emma recognises her as the reporter who interviewed Susan and Neil about Philip Moss and the explosion. Undaunted, Rebecca speaks in a confidential tone of 'mutiny at the all-new tea-room already', and Emma claims not to know what she is talking about, just as Natasha comes in and greets Rebecca by name. Natasha reminds her that they were going to arrange a time over the phone, and Rebecca claims she was passing and just popped in to do it face-to-face and get a little feel for the place beforehand. Natasha asks pointedly why her staff look so worried, which both Emma and Fallon instantly deny, and Fallon asks Natasha whether they can have a private word. Natasha says 'sure' and Rebecca perkily interjects to say that it's OK, they can speak freely; Natasha, thoroughly irked, tells her that she and her staff can speak when and wherever they want. Emma breaks in to say Rebecca is the one who interviewed Mum and Dad about Philip Moss, acted all nice and then made it seem that it was all their fault. Rebecca claims that's a misrepresentation, and Fallon suggests it might have been an idea to introduce herself before she started to pry about the tea-room. Natasha pounces on the word 'pry', and Rebecca says she just overheard something that sounded like an interesting story: they can discuss that, if they like. No? Natasha might be interested in her staff rigging a vote. Emma, clearly disconcerted, asks 'what?' and Rebecca explains that she was asked to feed back about the music whereas the very next customer, she utters portentously, wasn't. Fallon explains that actually, she was in a rush and Fallon forgot to ask. Natasha suggests that Fallon should clean the tables, and draws 'Ms Price' to one side, leaving Fallon and Emma apprehensively expecting the worat.

When Brad brings the paper Adil thanks him, then asks whether everything is OK with him and Lily. If Brad would rather not be working with her ... Brad bursts out first 'Yes!' and then 'no', but manages to say that it's just Lily's got a thing for him, fancies him. He knows what Adil's thinking; Adil denies thinking anything, but asks if he is sure. Brad explains that she has been acting funny round him, and when he got a job at Grey Gables she turned up the next day for work experience, and what if she tries something? He knows that older women can be, well, assertive. Adil takes it that he is looking so worried because he doesn't feel the same, and Brad miserably says he doesn't: she's a nice woman but he's got a girlfriend. Adil tells him gently that his main focus should be on the job: Lily is only here for a few weeks, and now Adil is aware of the situation he will ask someone else to help her out. Brad's worry is that he doesn't know what to do if she does try something, and his girlfriend hears about it. Adil advises him to tell her himself, explain the situation, explain that he is avoiding Lily as much as possible but she will be working there. The if anything happens his girlfriend had the heads-up and knows he has been honest. As Brad expresses relief, Azra turns up with the words 'knock knock', and Brad goes off to the briefing. Azra at once starts to complain about having been cut off on the phone.

Rebecca explains to Natasha that Fallon and Emma are basically rigging the music feedback to suit themselves, and asks whether she doesn't care about that; no, on the whole, what she cares about is that Rebecca does the job they are paying The Echo for, sponsored content on their new look café, and instead she walks in to find they've sent a journalist who thinks that customer feedback on their music choice is the biggest story since Trump alleged the US presidential election was rigged. She is also not interested when Rebecca says that they were saying all sorts about her: Oh, really? that's a scoop, that is: employees complaining about their bosses, quick, write that one up before someone else does! Rebecca starts to try to exculpate herself, but Natasha isn't interested in that either: if she wants this gig, she needs to leave now and sort out in her head the article Natasha has commissioned her to write, so they know exactly which features they want her to focus on. Music, Natasha adds, isn't one of them. Rebecca murmurs 'of course.' Natasha says that she ought to be asking the staff about the organic ingredients in the food, or the tea-room's choice of coffee-bean, not earwigging on two staff members having a moan. Rebecca knows. Natasha says that it doesn't look that way, and for good measure asks her what she thinks of the music that is playing; Rebecca says it might be a bit unfamiliar for background music and she would go for recognisable stuff so that it's effortless. Natasha congratulates her: see? That was good, and clear. Now please go away, and email some dates when she and a photographer can come in and do this properly. As Rebecca mumbles agreement, Natasha reminds her not to forget her cup-cake. Rebecca leaves, and Fallon comes over to apologise; she's very sorry. Natasha tells her not to be: Rebecca was the one poking her nose in. Natasha asks who the customer was they didn't let use the tablet, and Emma tells her it was Adil's sister; Natasha wonders why, and Fallon admits it was her, and it was because she said she liked the music. Natasha realises that Fallon and Emma really don't like it; today's in particular, sighs Emma. Natasha seems not to mind, just saying it's called a 'trial' for a reason and they have plenty of other choices. Let's hope Rebecca does a good job of promoting the place; it's costing them enough. Calls herself a journalist, snorts Natasha.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Wednesday 17th January, 2024

In which nothing much happens. At length. In the rain.

Characters: Clarrie, Eddie, Emma, Adil, Lynda, Azra
Credited scriptwriter:
Naylah Ahmed
Director:
Pip Swallow
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Concern over the Texels just goes on and on, though no more lambs have been lost.. Clarrie continues tremulously to try to be upbeat; Eddie continues to be gloomy; Emma continues to be disgruntled and complain about how hard it all is, with a side order of worrying about Ed because he is not getting enough sleep. [He's only dealt with lambing for six years, so she has only just noticed what that job entails. Chris.] She has brought some food from the tea-room to tempt his appetite. The fields are still wet and not draining off, which since it is still raining can't really be all that much of a surprise. Emma has asked Oliver for contact details for the Titcheners' solicitor to ask if they can use the land while nothing is being done with it. Though Eddie gloomily prophesies they will take the best part of a month getting back to her, she reckons it's worth a try. She goes to take Ed his food, and Eddie has half a mind to take the sheep over to the Titchener land anyway, since nobody is watching; Clarrie is very opposed to the idea.

At the newly-opened Grey Gables Adil greets Lynda; Robert has gone up to the room with their luggage. [They are staying in the Royal Garden Suite, which is on the ground floor. Chris.] Oliver has champagne waiting for them both. Lynda is very impressed by the new décor in the foyer. Lynda has of course seen it all before, but now it is up and running, it feels even better. He asks her to give him honest feedback on their stay; she responds by thanking him for his five stars and very generous review for Ambridge Hall, and they float on a cloud of mutual congratulation until Adil mentions being thrown out of his room to make way for Rylan; he then starts to rush off before Lynda can express herself properly on that subject, but says he will see her again to say goodbye. She asks if he really is leaving them, and he says yes, this evening. [So when is she going to give him the honest feedback on her stay tonight? Chris.] His work here is done, as they say.

Eddie is helping with the cooking, and Clarrie notices a massive hole in his sock; she reckons he can't wear those when Ed and Emma are coming for the meal, so she gives him a fresh pair to put on. [Does she always keep his clean socks in the kitchen? Chris.] Emma arrives, wet, and does some more enumerating all their troubles: sodden fields, and dead lambs, and sold land, does it ever get any easier? Simultaneously Eddie says 'No, love,' and Clarrie says 'Yes, love.' Emma is so tired; she doesn't know how Ed is managing it. Clarrie asks if that Rebecca journalist showed her face again, and the answer is no, but she's meant to be coming back next week with a photographer. Natasha has told them exactly what she wants, and what pictures; Emma describes her as assertive and wishes she were like her. She still feels bad about Natasha knowing that they were rigging the feedback forms for the music; she's fine about it to their faces [what, someone might be being two-faced, Emma love? How terrible. Gus] but when it's her and Tom, Emma does wonder what they are thinking. Clarrie tells her not to worry about it: if Natasha is fine about it to their faces that's good enough.

Lynda and Azra have encountered each other at Grey Gables; Azra has just had a very satisfactory massage. It seems that Azra got this on the house, just as Robert and Lynda's stay is on the house. Azra has wondered what the rooms are like, and Lynda at once invites her to come and have a look; in a soft and wondering voice she says the room is better than before, and she really does wonder how they do it. And the lounge area is luxurious too; it's so nice to have a resting space after a treatment and not have to get straight back out there. Adil finds them and he asks Azra how it was; she tells him the masseuse is a miracle-worker, and shy feels supple and relaxed. Lynda thinks that in that case she might have one too; she has had a mani pedi and is very pleased with it. Adil is gratified and asks if they can think of anything that might be improved, and both say no. He will tell this to Roy, who is taking the reins when he leaves; Azra says that he means escapes, but Lynda chides her: he deserves a break. As he goes off again Azra says she'll see him later, but confides to Lynda that if he can slip away without saying goodbye he will. She'll miss him. Lynda says that she will too. It seems he has asked Azra to watch his allotment while he's away, and she will, but hopes he wants everything to die by the time he gets back; when her husband Akram left for Pakistan and was no longer there to look after their garden, she had it paved over. Lynda volunteers Robert and herself to help with Adil's allotment.

The table at Grange Farm is being set for five; Keira is out in the shed helping Ed and cheering him up. Clarrie tells Emma that Eddie has an idea, and Eddie tells her that all he was saying was they should take the lambs over to the Titcheners' land anyroad: no-one will see them. Emma objects that they may decide to turn up like they did last Saturday, but Eddie thinks they won't. Clarrie reminds him about the Keep Out signs they have put up, but he is sure they wouldn't have a clue anyone had been on their land when they're not there. That dry land is sitting there and Our Edward needs to use it, like they always have in wet winters.

As Adil closes the boot of his car Azra comes up and enquires whether he plans just to slip away, but he claims to be just clearing the last of his things from his office before coming to find her. She knows he likes a break when a project is done. He thinks she is silly to take a permanent job to be near him; she should think about herself and her children and Akram, and not worry about him: he is grown up. She tells him tartly that she will always worry about him until he settles down somewhere with a family of his own. Now is he going to tell her where he is going? Dadi's farm [Granny's gaff. Chris], he tells her; Rawalpindi. In surprise, she asks where he is staying; with her husband, if he'll have him, rejoins Adil. Akram doesn't know yet; he thought he would just turn up and see the look on his face: Azra points out that Akram hates surprises. She indulges in a quick burst of nostalgia about it always having been the two of them, and asks when he will be back; he doesn't know.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Thursday 18th January, 2024

Hilda is on the gad again, and Clarrie puts her foot down repeatedly before giving way.

Characters: Susan, Brian, cat noises, Clarrie, Eddie, Natasha, Fallon
Credited scriptwriter:
Naylah Ahmed
Director:
Pip Swallow
Editor: Jeremy Howe

There is a surprise visitor at Ambridge View; Brian, on his way back from the vets with Hilda [Ambridge view is not on the way from The Stables to Blossom Hill Cottage, nor indeed from anywhere to anywhere, being on a cul-de-sac farm-track at the edge of the village. Chris] has called in to visit Susan, whom he hasn't seen for an age. He has been practising competitive baking for Jennifer's anniversary, and has a cake with him [which he took to the vets? Chris]; he wonders if she would like to be the guinea-pig for it. Susan is flattered, and agrees, but is then unable to prevent him from letting Hilda out of her basket.

The waterlogged fields at Grange Farm are being inspected by Eddie and Clarrie; they are definitely not fit for sheep, and Eddie slips in the mud and falls. He is sure Ed should simply put his sheep in the sold field, and Miles will never know; Clarrie disagrees, and also points out that Emma is already in touch with the solicitor. Eddie thinks they should ask Miles Titchener himself, and when Clarrie objects that they don't even know him, remarks that Helen knows him and he bets Miles would do her a favour if she asked him. Clarrie thinks that is a terrible idea.

When Fallon knocks on the door, Natasha has just got the twins to sleep and wants quiet, but when Fallon offers to leave it until tomorrow tells her to come in. From whispers to begin with both women quickly start to talk at an ordinary level, with Fallon explaining that she emailed the results of the survey but has brought the tablet so Natasha can cross-check. Natasha sees no need; she is happy to take Fallon's word for the results. Fallon apologises yet again about 'what happened with that journalist', who was right, and Fallon is truly sorry. Natasha makes her low opinion of Rebecca Price absolutely clear, and when Fallon is amazed about the way she just had their backs, Natasha assures her that she meant every word, and says she used to bad-mouth her bosses before she got her own company. Fallon wants to be sure she realises that it wasn't Emma: Fallon was the one behind most of it. Natasha reassures her: she does realise that she and Tom can be like a bull in a china shop because they are so enthusiastic, but she is sensitive to the fact that Fallon had different hopes before she agreed to take on the job for them. That Rebecca woman will be back next week to write the material they are paying The Echo for, and as far as Natasha is concerned the whole thing is water under the bridge or off a duck's back or whatever Fallon prefers. She then confides that she put her foot in it herself last week and has been back-pedalling ever since. Fallon, concerned, asks if it is anything she can help with, but Natasha signs and says it is family stuff, in-law stuff. Before she forgets, she has put some money in the till to cover all the cakes and coffees she and Tom have been having. [That's been call it a tenner each at least, every day since 3rd December, 2023, I make that £500 each (allowing they were not open on Christmas Day)... Chris] Fallon is grateful.

Once again Hilda has escaped and run off; this time it is Brian and Susan looking for her. It quickly becomes clear that Susan has seen straight through Brian's pretences and knows that what he was trying to do was get her to adopt the cat, and she is utterly uninterested in the idea. If she were to have a pet as one of her 'six at sixty' it would be something low-maintenance like a tortoise, not a cat. Brian tries to explain that he is just not a cat person, whereas with the constant supply of milk from the dairy she would be a dream owner for the cat. Susan immediately says most cats are lactose-intolerant, which Brian didn't know, and when he tries to plead that she is showing herself to be safer hands already, she tells him she will help him find the cat, but they need to be clear: Hilda is his cat now, and he needs to accept that. Susan does. not. want. her. Brian gives up and is sent home to look for her there.

Natasha is now showing Fallon how to put a car-seat into a car, and says this is something Fallon will quickly pick up; one upside of being an employee is maternity leave, after all. When are she and Harrison thinking of starting a family? Fallon says that actually, she's never really wanted a family, and Natasha instantly pulls back and says that's absolutely fair enough, then does a check: the kids are both in the car, her work stuff is on the front seat, the keys are in her hand; she claims that if she doesn't check she'll worry that she's strapped her work-bag in the back and left one of the kids on the top of the car. Fallon tells her she is too diligent for that; Natasha thanks her then checks that Fallon doesn't mind her asking about children; it's everyone's personal choice, but some people are a little sensitive and she wouldn't want to put her foot in it, again. Fallon assures her that it's fine, and she looks after Harrison's niece now and then so it's not as if she doesn't like children; Natasha suggests she is just sensible enough to know she can give them back, and Fallon agrees. Natasha then suddenly asks about the music: what are Fallon's thoughts? Fallon is surprised but manages to say that some people like the new stuff they are trying out, but the majority liked the stuff they used to play: it just carries on in the background without being... Too invasive? suggests Natasha. Yes, agrees Fallon, plus it's the most popular with the locals, the regulars; people passing through will listen to anything because it's just that one time. Natasha agrees that what she's saying makes sense: if it ain't broke... Exactly, agrees Fallon. No more trials, decides Natasha; they'll just keep with what works. She'll tell Tom tonight; it'll be fine. They part in a friendly way.

Brian has gone to The Lodge and found Hilda there, as before; he tells her it is no good, Peggy doesn't live there any more, nobody does, and he doesn't mean to be harsh but this isn't her home. 'Home' is with him, apparently. Don't look at him like that! He's tried everything, but no-one will have her. How about this: he'll stop trying to give her away if she'll promise to stop running off. He knows how she feels, more than she thinks, missing her companion, having to settle into a new home, but she'll get through it: we all have to in the end.

It's pitch black and Clarrie is freezing and she wants to go home. Eddie is confirming to her that the ten acres higher up away from the Am aren't half as wet and perfect for ewes and lambs; Clarrie reiterates that they belong to someone else now and they shouldn't be up there. Eddie ignores this and says that Edward can bring them up there; lambs do best on grass, and as soon as the land by the Am has drained off he can move them there. Clarrie, however, has got a message from Emma: the solicitor has replied, telling her that under no circumstances is any person or animal to set foot on the land. Eddie is disgusted, and Clarrie tells him they'd better go: they might be sending someone to check now. Eddie says that this will knock their boy right off his feet: it was his last bit of hope. And Clarrie cuts off every suggestion he makes. She asserts that's because they are stupid, and he snaps back that asking Helen to ask Miles was not stupid, something with which she strongly disagrees. In response, Eddie tells her that Edward was saying he wants to give it up altogether. Clarrie reacts with horror: he can't, after all Helen has been through with the Titcheners; Eddie says Ed is at the end of his rope, and Eddie is going to have a word with Helen Archer and Clarrie is not going to stop him. Oh yes she is, she replies firmly: he is right and it's the only thing left to try, but if anyone is going to speak to Helen it's going to be Clarrie. For Our Edward's sake.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Friday 19th January, 2024

Brad succeeds in his endeavour, while Clarrie fails in hers.

Characters: Mia, Brad, Clarrie, Eddie, Helen
Credited scriptwriter:
Naylah Ahmed
Director:
Pip Swallow
Editor: Jeremy Howe

At The Bull, Brad tries for 150 seconds [that's two and a half minutes – I timed it. Chris] to break into Mia's monologue about her own doings (how busy she has been, the Renew show, how she felt about his new uniform, Kenton paying for their drinks because she is helping with the Renew show, her and Fallon making a mannequin out of plastic fished from the Am, Fallon helping, Clarrie, Ed and how she feels bad for him), and only manages it in the end because she asks him if he wants to say something. Even then she interrupts him three times to ask what he is going to say. In the end he gabbles, 'Lily fancies me and she's been coming on to me', at which Mia spits out some of her drink.

Eddie has come to the dairy to offer, not for the first time, to ask Helen about asking Miles rather than Clarrie doing it, though at first she thinks he is simply checking on her. Helen not being in yet, Clarrie has not yet asked her. They speak through the intercom, but Clarrie chooses to come out to talk to him properly.

Mia is having the giggles at the notion that Lily might fancy Brad, and suggests that he got the wrong end of the stick. He is clearly unhappy about her reaction, so she lays it on thick about how super-attractive he is, and how she thinks he is really gorgeous, and cycling is keeping him really fit; in conclusion, she would not be one bit surprised if Lily had the hots for him. Brad just wants her to know he 's done nothing to encourage Lily and if she says anything else he'll tell her he's flattered by her attention, she's an attractive older woman and he's sure the right person will come along for her in time, but he is spoken for and has a girlfriend, and he's not interested. This careful speech is punctuated by Mia not laughing, (no, really). She tells him that'll do it. Brad further wants Mia to know that whoever has thoughts about him like that, he only has eyes for her. No matter what or who. She is glad to hear it, and kisses him.

Clarrie wishes Eddie hadn't come: she was nervous anyway and he has not helped. He says he is there if she needs him, but Clarrie is sure that the last thing they need is him making a pig's ear of it. This is a really sensitive matter and she has been working out what to say since last night; Eddie says reassuringly that it's only Helen and Clarrie sees her practically every day. Clarrie tells him that if she was Helen she wouldn't want anything to do with it. Eddie says that's why he is there, for support, and Helen breaks in, via intercom, to ask whether everything is OK. Clarrie goes back in while Eddie claims to be there to give Clarrie a lift home.

After some delay to summon up her courage, and after Helen practically drags it out of her, Clarrie does work herself up to come out with her request, practically in tears and very apologetic. Eddie was there because he is so worried about their Edward. Helen leaps on this, the first actual information she has been given, and wants to know what's happened.

The interminable competition between Bert Horrobin and Neville Booth about who has been drinking at The Bull for longest is now the subject of Brad and Mia's discourse, but Brad decides Mia deserves one of her birthday presents early. It's a message on his phone but addressed to her, about her being another eco-warrior, recorded by Hamza Yassin, which bowls Mia over; Brad is mysterious about how he managed to arrange it. But he'd do anything for Mia. She reciprocates, and then kisses him. Brad adds that he asked Freddie, who has agreed to do the music for the Renew fashion show. Mia tells him that he is on fire.

Clarrie is being very apologetic and hoping she hasn't spoken out of turn, but is sure Helen understands they wouldn't even think of asking her to speak to Miles if they weren't desperate. Helen knows that, and says so: she is so sorry Ed's having such a hard time, and she wishes she could help, but she's afraid she can't. Clarrie understands too, and also says so: she is ashamed she even asked. Helen cuts that off: she's glad Clarrie did, and if it were anything else she would help, but when Rob died she drew a line under the whole thing and she has to be firm about that. When Clarrie says that she knows how Helen has suffered, Helen doesn't think that she does, and is glad of it, glad that Clarrie will never have a life poisoned by someone like him. [Peak Helen. Gus.] Just as Clarrie must do everything for her children, Helen must protect hers. Clarrie once again says that she understands, and is sorry she asked. Helen says she has nothing to be sorry for, and if it's any consolation Helen had to remind her family of the same so they'd understand. She is sorry she can't help. Clarrie thanks her for listening and not getting angry with her for asking. Helen says it's fine, and if she thinks of anything she will definitely let Clarrie know; then [perhaps feeling embarrassed that this is all going round in circles yet again. Chris] says she and Susan will finish up in the dairy, and sends Clarrie home a bit early.

In the car home, Clarrie doesn't really want to talk to Eddie, but in the end manages to tell him that the answer was no and that Helen was right to give it, poor woman: who'd want to ask a favour from a Titchener after what Rob did? He may be dead, but he's still infecting her life. Eddie feels there was no harm in trying: she did her best. She tells him she can't go home; how can she go and tell Edward it didn't work and his only hope of dry pasture fell through? Eddie says that's not on her, but she is convinced that it is, it's all on her. Why did Eddie have to tell Ed they were going to ask? He would have been none the wiser. Eddie is sure they'll find a way through: there's a day or two more yet before the lambs need to be out of the orchard and into the fields. They've got time to put their heads together, and Edward won't be so tired. Clarrie is discouraged and makes no bones about it: they're back at square one; when Eddie says it's just a bad year and it'll pass, she replies that is what they always say. Eddie's optimistic 'It always does, eventually' doesn't convince her: this time, she's not so sure.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Sunday 21st January, 2024

Kenton feels confused, and Helen feels liberated.

Characters: Helen, Natasha, Jolene, Kenton, Rebecca Price
Credited scriptwriter:
Caroline Jester
Director:
Kim Greengrass
Editor: Jeremy Howe

In the Bridge Farm shop Helen greets Natasha, who because they have almost run out in the tea-room just needs to grab some milk, but stays to complain about a tractor, which she asked Tom to move because it won't look good in the photographs. Helen didn't know about the photographer and doesn't see that the tractor is a problem anyway: it is obviously a farm, after all. Natasha then apologises again for having rushed in where angels might fear to tread with her insensitive suggestion about renting the Grange Farm land, and is assured it is all forgotten: Helen has moved on and it is OK. Nervously, Natasha suggests 'Time to move forward'; Helen replies that is easier said than done though, and explains that Clarrie asked her last week if she'd try to talk Miles into letting Ed use the land for his Texels to graze on. Natasha is outraged: Clarrie asked her to talk to him? Helen assures her that she told Clarrie she wouldn't, but it's just another example of the Titcheners' trail of destruction. Natasha can't credit it, though Helen says Clarrie was just trying to help Ed, and hopes Clarrie is leaving her alone now: it's a bit much of her to ask, when she isn't even family! Helen gives a tinkly little laugh and says that family can get it wrong too, which effectively silences Natasha; Helen then notices the photographer outside and Natasha rushes off to field him, with Helen saying she will bring the milk over for her. Helen even agrees the photographer is welcome in the shop when they finish up in the tea-room, but doesn't want to be in any photos herself.

At The Bull, Kenton is wrestling with the great Booth vs Horrobin argument, which Jolene doesn't in the least want to be involved in, though she does offer him a coffee. They are both in the pub, at opposite ends of the bar, conducting their quarrel in loud voices. The punters are taking sides, too. Jolene comments that it's not really the relaxing welcome toa country pub they are after, and Kenton ruefully suggests that 'we didn't really think this one through, did we'. 'We?' agrees Jolene pointedly. Jolene would be happy to let Bert win: he is following Tracy to work every day to get in before they open. [Someone really needs to decide whether this competition is about how many years they've been drinking there, or how many hours they have spent in the pub. Which it is seems to vary from episode to episode or scene to scene or even within a scene. Chris.] Irrelevantly, they debate the relative profitability of the two men. Anyway, Jolene can't help Kenton with his task of going over the 'evidence'. She eventually agrees to half an hour, no more.

Natasha hails Rebecca and summons her to the table she has reserved for them; Rebecca seems very conciliatory and prepared to write what she is told by Natasha to write. As this is being made clear, Helen comes to bring the milk and is recognised as Helen Titchener-oh-sorry-Archer, but even that is not allowed to ruffle Helen's newly serene surface.

The sorting out at The Bull seems to be unnecessarily complicated, with Bert having brought along his birth-certificate (born in 1935, which makes him eighty-nine this year) to prove that he's the older, while Neville, without producing evidence, is claiming to be ninety. Such items as beermats to prove Bert was there when they were collected ['And here to prove it is the verra cat to which it happened!' Chris] are also there, in an untidy heap. Neville has brought a photo from the Echo dated 2004, in which he and Bert are standing together, clearly good friends. There is a photograph of Neville as a baby which Kenton says looks like one of the first ever photographs [which would make him well over a hundred. We have family photographs of my grandparents which were taken in the mid to late nineteenth century. Chris] and Jolene says they simply need Neville's birth certificate. At this point a new wrinkle is added; since Bert claims to have boycotted the pub while the Hassett Room civil war themed restaurant was serving food he disliked, they need to deduct that time from his score. [Are they also thinking taking holidays into consideration? Illness? Chris.]

Before she leaves, Rebecca is being given final instructions by Natasha; she will send her a draft to approve, and the photographs, before it goes to print, and Natasha will have final say. Helen comes in again and comes over, and Rebecca wonders whether she has any cheese samples. Indeed she has; on the off-chance Rebecca was still there she has brought a selection for Rebecca to take with her. She then mentions things she'd like to have included in the article; Natasha has already spoken of them, but Helen elaborates anyway. She also gives the names Susan Carter and Clarrie Grundy as her 'team', hoping they can be mentioned by name. Rebecca makes a note, and asks if she can mention Helen by name as well; Natasha thinks the Bridge Farm name is probably enough, but the laid-back Helen doesn't mind her name being used if Rebecca wants, and if she needs any photos in the dairy just let Helen know.

Confusion reigns at The Bull; Kenton is no further on that when he started. He decides they must work out a system to calculate this; Jolene suggests they could break it down into eras, perhaps by publican. She then reminds him they have Burns Night to prepare for, and adds that unless they can get to the bottom of how old Neville is, they'll have to call Peggy as a witness. Kenton remarks that it is supposed to be a bit of fun, not a court of law. They need someone who is good with numbers to work it out, and Jolene thinks she knows just the man for the job: Brad Horrobin. When Kenton protests that Brad would be biased, she tells him he can do it, then. Kenton says he will get hold of Brad.

Helen and Natasha are congratulating themselves on how well the press interview went; Natasha was surprised Helen felt able to be included in the article and have her photo taken, and Helen surprised herself: it just felt like the right thing to do. Natasha muses that it really does feel like a new start; Helen agrees. Small steps, but she's spent so many years looking over her shoulder, and she doesn't have to do that any more: she feels liberated.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Monday 22nd January, 2024

Discontent in the dairy, and the Dead-Jenny Bake-Off.

Characters: Clarrie, Susan, Adam, Brian, Alice, Lilian
Credited scriptwriter:
Caroline Jester
Director:
Kim Greengrass
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Whinging about Ed's sheep and being nasty about Miles Titchener is keeping Clarrie and Susan busy in the dairy, with Clarrie painfully aware that her upsetting Helen hasn't helped things, when Adam comes in looking for Helen. He is in a great hurry, explaining that there is a cake-baking competition for Jennifer's anniversary and he mustn't be late, whereat naturally Susan wants to tell him all about Ed's problem and get his help, in spite of him repeatedly saying he can't help and has to go. Eventually he asks in mild exasperation why Ed doesn't stick them on the outfield at the cricket pitch, and manages to get away. [Does he not remember what trouble was caused last time he failed to treat with absolute seriousness a whinging woman demanding his full attention? Chris.]

At Blossom Hill Cottage Brian is about to take his cake out of the oven while Alice heckles and gives unwanted and unnecessary advice. Lilian and Adam arrive together, with Lilian saying snidely that Adam's cake will take some beating, and Alice is instantly sure that Ian made it for him: she can tell. Adam hopes she is not doubting his baking skills; Brian suggests she should disqualify both of them because a classic Victoria sponge is what was agreed, and Alice's has three layers while Adam's has a strawberry mascarpone filling. Lilian then teases Alice insinuatingly about 'that gorgeous Harry', which somewhat annoys Alice, and Adam joins in. Kate has gone to see Peggy and won't be there, and Brian suggests that Alice and Adam could put their cakes in the sitting-room and let him finish his in peace. Adam takes Alice away saying that he wants all the details about Mister Wonderful; Alice wishes everyone would shut up about Harry. Lilian remarks to Brian that Jennifer would have approved of this way of bringing them all together to mark the anniversary of her death; he hopes so. She'd have been pretty surprised as well, crows Lilian, to see Brian baking a cake!

Work at the dairy proceeds, with Susan saying, to Clarrie's horror, that Emma likes the sound of the cricket pitch and will talk to Ed about it. [Not to whoever is in charge of the place? Chris.] Clarrie informs her that Adam wasn't serious just as Helen comes in and congratulates them about the speed at which they are getting through putting the ice-cream into tubs; Susan remarks that Clarrie was just saying they don't usually need to do this many in January, and Helen says the tea-room is using more Bridge Farm produce now; they are being kept busy and will be even busier with the new plan she has for the dairy as well. Cheese Easter eggs, she announces triumphantly. Clarrie is astonished, and Susan wants to know whether she is sure. Helen defends the idea on the grounds they are becoming very popular; Susan remains dubious. Helen also wanted to let them know she has decided to take a break with the boys over half term, to see Paris Saint-Germain play; it feels important that they should get away, just the three of them. She'll be in the office if they need her.

After Helen has left left Susan opines that Clarrie will have to manage the dairy while Helen is away, which Clarrie is not at all sure about: she's exhausted. Susan suggests the extra money will come in handy, but Clarrie reckons if she took on any more she'd collapse, and anyway Susan would enjoy being the boss more than she would. They bat the idea to and fro for a while; when Susan ends up saying there is more to life than work, Clarrie sighs and responds that she wishes she could think like that.

The cakes are now being tasted by Lilian, with Adam and Alice being politely rude about each others' effort; when Alice says she is convinced Ian baked the cake Adam has come along with, Adam insists that he most certainly did not. Lilian cuts in to announce there is clearly one winner: Brian. Adam cheers; Lilian enquires whether he wants to tell the truth, and when Adam tries to brazen it out by denying again that Ian made the cake, she tells him that she was following him on the way to Blossom Hill Cottage and saw him leaving the tea-room brandishing a Victoria sponge [This is tosh: the tea-room is in a farmyard off a cul-de-sac off a road nowhere near where Lilian would be likely to be unless she was actively at Bridge Farm, in which case he would have seen her as they got into their cars. Chris] and he was disqualified from the off. Brian savours victory, and Alice protests that Martha helped with the decorations on her cake and will be really upset they didn't win; Brian is sure she'll be a little more mature than her mother. Lilian changes the subject: has anyone else volunteered to be a model for the Renew fashion show? Brian feels that this needs no reply, Adam makes the excuse of meeting Helen at the dairy and makes tracks, and Alice will be looking after Martha on Friday, and is unamused when Lilian suggests she should ask Dashing Harry and take the opportunity to show him off to everyone. She wants to let things develop in their own time before parading him around the village. Also, it doesn't feel right introducing him to other people knowing Mum will never meet him. Brian coughs before speaking, and rather than assuming he wants them to shut up about Jennifer, Alice asks if he is all right; he says he is just tired after the ferocity of the competitive baking. Lilian has to go to meet Tony in The Bull to toast Jenny, but Alice doesn't want to join them; she will stay and help Brian clear up. He assures her there is no need, but she says that she wants to.

It seems that Helen has asked Adam to be in charge of the dairy while she is away, and while neither Clarrie nor Susan wanted to be the boss, neither seems pleased to have him shipped in over their heads, though Clarrie calls it a good plan. He says he might drop in during the next couple of weeks to remind himself what goes on in the dairy, and he and Helen then go off to the office to look at copy for advertising the cheese Easter eggs. As soon as they are out of earshot Susan mutters that she's not sure about this, and Clarrie isn't either; Susan worries that he knows hardly anything about making ice-cream or cheese or yoghurt – and it went from him getting stuck in, to trouble-shooting, to reminding himself of what they do, she adds indignantly. They don't know what that all means, but they won't let him poke his nose in where it's not wanted.

With a little laugh, Alice remarks that Hilda looks very settled and is clearly the boss. Brian reiterates that she really doesn't have to sit with him, but being completely incapable of taking a hint she repeats, as if it were the only important consideration, that she wants to. He protests that he is sure she has got other things to do, but she says that Martha is with Chris and she didn't want to be alone today. Breaking a silence, Brian tells her that he thinks her mother would have crowned her the winner, for the effort she put into that cake. She thanks him, then abruptly asks what he really thinks about Harry. He says that it isn't what he thinks that matters, and she has to trust her own feelings. She says she is nervous: of getting hurt, to which Brian responds that shouldn't stop her having a relationship, and she says she is frightened of hurting Harry as well. Brian muses that from what she has told him, she has been very honest with Harry, and she agrees that she has; Brian informs her that he makes her face light up when they are together, and that she knows Brian likes him but nothing is ever guaranteed, and they both know that things can change in an instant. She knows that too. The most important thing, he tells her, is that her mother would want her to be happy; then he coughs again, and Alice stops thinking about herself and asks if he's all right. He says he is fine, just coming down with a cold he thinks. When she asks if he is sure that's all he firmly says that yes, he is sure that's all, She then decides that she should stay, but he tells her to go before he sets Hilda on her, which makes her laugh indulgently. She is to go, he says emphatically, and live her life.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Tuesday 23rd January, 2024

Chelsea is kicked out and Harry is summoned.

Characters: Harry, Alice, Azra, Chelsea, Brad
Credited scriptwriter:
Caroline Jester
Director:
Kim Greengrass
Editor: Jeremy Howe

We can tell by the sound of snorting that there is a horse in the scene, and sure enough Harry is exercising one of the young horses at The Stables, with Alice for an audience. He thinks that the cross-country course at The Stables is excellent [in spite of being inside a triangle of roads 100 metres x 100 metres x 120 metres which also contains an indoor school, a house and a veterinary surgery, as well as stable blocks. Chris] and is feeling happy to be riding and forgetting abut his injury. Alice promptly reminds him to be careful. He asks after the cake competition, and how her day was in general, and she tells him it still feels strange without Mum around: she thinks she will never feel right without her. He tries to reassure her that it will get easier with time; he wishes he could have met her. She tells him that as a matter of fact, he was the main topic of conversation, especially with Lilian, which he seems pleased about but still fishes for compliments. He then suggests she should go and find a horse so they can warm up for their hack tomorrow; it doesn't take much to persuade her. His phone rings as she is going and when he takes it, it is Dr Malik wanting him to come in as soon as possible; he missed an appointment last week and she wants to see him in person to discuss 'results', at five o'clock today.

Brad is not pleased when Chelsea bangs on his door and then walks in despite his saying he is not there. She refuses to leave him alone, and badgers him into talking to her; he is also being harassed by his grandad, and has a lot of school work to finish, and is tired and fed up. She insultingly assumes he must be on drugs because she doesn't understand what he is saying. When he talks about his troubles she wants to know why he didn't just tell Jolene and Kenton where to get off, and he explains they are paying him, but not enough for all the time it is taking. She tells him to ask for more money, but he is preoccupied with the impossibility of working out how long Bert and Neville have each spent drinking in The Bull, even though Bert keeps giving him things like beermats. Chelsea suggests just making Grandad the winner so he is in the pub all day collecting his free pint instead of in front of their telly [which actually, like the house, is his. Chris] but Brad is off again about Neville providing more and more 'evidence' and Bert doing the same, and Kenton wanting him to go through it all. Chelsea reports that Tracy says she didn't see Bert all through the eighties so Brad can cross them off. [Him 'working on the roads all over' has been invented for that decade to account for an absence which has been invented. Chris.]Brad rightly asserts that if he can't check it he can't use it. Chelsea suggests just making the oldest win, but Brad tells her nobody knows how old Neville is. She decides to do some detective work while she is giving him a haircut later.

Alice and Harry are having their hack along a road and seem wellpleased with each other until Harry [without his horse. Chris] slips and he falls into the mud, claiming immediately that his hip is absolutely fine. Alice conjures him to get up really carefully in case he falls back down, and he admits he could do with a hand up; when she (presumably) dismounts to help him she slips and falls as well. [The horses ignore this unseemly human stupidity and stay where they are rather than bolting. Chris.] Both of them get covered in mud and decide they must go back to Alice's house to clean up, and they smooch. [The horses remain silent about the whole sordid business. Chris]

Brad is taking supplies up to his room and plans to stay there and not come down to meals. He is going to have to work through the night, and has only come out while Bert is not in the house. Chelsea has managed to find out Neville's birth date by conning him into letting her see his passport which has his date of birth in it: he was born in 1949. Brad is triumphant: Grandad is fourteen years older. The trouble is that Neville realised what Chelsea was up to and she didn't manage to take a photo of his passport; he got angry and flapped his hands at her when she tried, and she had to come clean and admit it was for the longest drinker. He threw her out saying that he knew it was a Horrobin conspiracy, and now his hair is a mess, and she has made it all worse. If it was up to her she would disqualify the pair of them.

Harry is a very uncooperative patient, claiming to be fine and have nothing wrong with him, constantly interrupting and not listening to what the doctor has to say. In spite of his claims to feel absolutely fine she tells him that they can't ignore this, and that she knows some things are difficult to discuss over the phone; it becomes clear it is very difficult for her to be allowed to discuss them in person either. He manages to obfuscate and blether about the irrelevant for long enough to prevent her from telling him before the episode ends what the results of his blood test have shown in the way of 'some abnormalities'. He tells her firmly that nothing she says is going to change the way he feels.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Wednesday 24th January, 2024

Ambridge is full of bullies who unfortunately get their own way.

Characters: Alice, Brian, Brad, Chelsea, Ed, Eddie
Credited scriptwriter:
Caroline Jester
Director:
Kim Greengrass
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Yet again, Alice has walked into Brian's house without bothering to knock or ring the doorbell. This time he is watching the news, but is quite glad to turn it off because it is relentlessly horrible; Alice says she's had to stop watching the news because of these dreadful wars upsetting her. She has a quick burst of first-world guilt about being selfish and her problems being insignificant in comparison, before launching into her preoccupation of the moment: her pretext for being there is that she bought too many pastries from the tea-room for a hack with Harry and brought the excess to Brian on her way to meet Harry. [The tea-room is at Bridge Farm. The Stables, where the horses are, is about five hundred yards directly from Bridge Farm on the same road. Brian lives on a different road on the other side of the village. 'On her way' is not accurate. Chris.] She then talks randomly in praise of Harry for a bit before sharply and abruptly asking Brian if he is OK and wanting to know why he is still in his pyjamas and why he was watching breakfast television, which he detests. He explains that he must have fallen asleep in his chair, which happens sometimes at his age, but she knows better than he does: it doesn't happen to him [there all day every day, is she? Chris], and he looks a bit off colour. He tells her that he is fine and asks whether she didn't say she was on her way somewhere, but that won't do for Alice: what's wrong? He says 'nothing' but she is determined not to allow him to know his own mind: please don't keep things from her, she says with saccharine reasonableness, and will accept nothing he says thereafter as true no matter how much he tries to get rid of her. There is something wrong, she can tell, she states, before threatening him that he can't have the unsolicited cakes until he tells her what it is.

At least Chelsea knocks before barging into Brad's room unwanted and uninvited. He has been up all night trying to sort out the pub competition; she tells him that his problem is that he's got to learn how to say 'no' to people and set boundaries; he mutters that he thought his bedroom door was a boundary. When someone asks you to do something you don't just say 'yeah', lectures Chelsea, and is horrified when he also admits to having offered to help Mia find models for the fashion show. Chelsea then makes her own demand of him: when he is seeing Mia at Grange Farm later he is to tell Eddie he needs to be a model. He is the one with the Grundy connections. [Not Mia, who will be there and whose surname is Grundy? Chris.] And Mia will think he is really assertive if he gets Eddie Grundy on the catwalk.

Alice refuses to leave no matter what Brian says, and eventually nags him into admitting to 'a little tightening in my chest'; triumphantly she exclaims that she knew it, wants to know how long he has had this pain, and won't accept his statement that it is not a pain exactly. She decides to take him to hospital; he refuses to go. She wants to know if he is taking his 'angina pills', which he is, tells him to get in the car and threatens to call the whole family if he doesn't do as he is told. She claims they can't just ignore it; Brian is equally clear that they can. She then tells him he looks pale and wants to know if he is clammy; he asks whether Harry won't be waiting for her, but she just wants the blood-pressure machine she bought for him and insists on using it on him in spite of his protests that this needs to stop. His blood pressure is surprisingly low for someone who is being bullyragged so unrelentingly: 128 over 82, with an 83 beats per minute pulse. When Alice argues that Brian's heart-beat might have been irregular and she didn't see that, he gets almost cross and tells her that's enough, but to no avail: she now wants to call the GP's surgery. He mocks her: 'And tell them I've got normal blood pressure and a good pulse rate?' She has got to stop this for her own sake. The only person she needs to call is Harry, to tell him she is on her way. Alice then starts the guilt-tripping about her mother having died without her having the chance to say goodbye to her and how she couldn't bear to go through that again. Brian says that if there is anything she needs to know he will tell her, and once more asks her to leave. Unfortunately for what Brian wants she has already sent Harry a text cancelling their ride, and proposes to stay with Brian all day until she can hand over watch and ward to Kate in the evening. He thinks he will now have a pastry, but she instantly forbids this on the grounds that they don't know how high his cholesterol is yet.

To a background of sheep, Ed tells Eddie that Emma made him look at the cricket field even though he didn't want to, and it might just work, though they would need to find a way to keep the sheep off the wicket. Eddie asks what they said up at Grey Gables [which has had nothing whatever to do with the cricket pitch since Jack Woolley donated that to the cricket club back at the turn of the century. Chris], but Ed can't get hold of any of them [in spite of living in the same house as Oliver. Chris]. Brad now appears, looking for Eddie, and has a good try at recruiting him for Mia's show, but without much success until Chelsea makes an appearance and gives Eddie the clothes he will be wearing and tells him to go indoors and get changed: he has five minutes before they do catwalk practice.

Brian is getting rather tired of being stared at to see if he is still breathing: he calls it unnerving. Hilda and Alice are both doing it. He also doesn't believe the tale she told about just happening to come to bring pastries; Alice admits there was something else. She wants to know whether it's too soon to introduce Harry to Martha. Brian has no idea, but on the whole manages to let her decide while appearing to advise her, and tells her about being nervous when Jennifer introduced him the Adam and Debbie. Alice decides to invite Harry over tomorrow, then reverts to nagging Brian about going to see the GP, and he finally agrees to if it will stop her worrying. [I assume he meant worrying him. Chris.]

To the accompaniment of music, Eddie is being talked by Chelsea into not only taking part in the fashion show, but wearing stilettos while he does it. She accuses him of refusing because he is too old, and so manages to get him to do something very much against his better judgement and wishes. It is of course only a joke on him, and he will not have to wear heels in the show. Ed comes in and co-opts Brad to help him move sheep tomorrow, backed up by Eddie's invocation of 'the code of the Grundys'. Chelsea reminds Brad about being more assertive but in vain.

[You seem a little irritable, Chris. Are you OK? Gus.] [Not really: this episode was, if possible, even worse than usual. Chris.]

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Thursday 25th January, 2024

Ambridge bullying continues, with added idiots. And sheep.

Characters: Ed, Eddie, Brad, Susan, Clarrie, Adam
Credited scriptwriter:
Caroline Jester
Director:
Kim Greengrass
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Ed has dropped the bales off near the Pavilion, net fencing is up all round the wickets and the whole pitch is nice and dry; he asks whether Eddie reckons they are doing the right thing. If someone finds out... Eddie tells him not to be daft: who goes to the cricket pitch off-season? Ed is worried that they could end up getting arrested; Eddie is sure the Texels will be back at Grange Farm before anyone clocks them. Ed has a bad feeling about this. When Brad arrives he wonders whether they ought not to be doing it at night, but Eddie laughs this to scorn: if someone sees them, just act natural. With over a hundred sheep? asks Brad. Eddie points out that by the time they get the sheep onto the outfield it will be getting dark anyway. The gate is opened and the sheep set out.

At the dairy Susan is telling Clarrie how to do her job; she is late because she has been to fetch copies of The Borchester Echo, complete with puff piece about the shop and dairy; Clarrie is flattering about Susan's picture but thinks she looks a bit haggard herself. Clarrie starts to want to get back to work, but Susan doesn't think it needs two of them to put the yoghurt into the big buckets; Clarrie reminds her that is the way Helen likes it to be done. As Susan is trying to push Clarrie to do what Clarrie knows is not acceptable to Helen, Adam comes in and refers to the two women as 'the dairy celebrities', which pleases Susan. After complimenting them on their picture in the paper he tells them that Helen though it might be useful for him to remind himself what goes on in the dairy while Helen is still around. He doesn't want to get in the way, just to observe, and if they feel he is in the way they must tell him. When he offers to 'muck in' if he is wanted, Susan takes advantage of this to suggest that a job Clarrie can get on with alone doesn't need her as well; Clarrie restates her point that Helen likes it done this way with the two of them.

The sheep are being herded along the footpath through Grange Spinney [Did Eddie mean Church Spinney? No Grange Spinney on the maps. Chris] and once they are through the churchyard the next problem will be the bridge over the Am. However, as soon as the sheep are out of the confines of the footpath they spread out all over the churchyard, eating the flowers off the graves and getting into the porch. There is a funeral going on, and Ed and Eddie are keen to get past it quietly. Surprisingly, in spite of all the loud bleating and Brad shouting for Mia and Emma to come and help, nobody looks out to see what is happening.

Susan is still speaking for Clarrie as well as herself when she tells Adam what 'we both think' there could be changes; Clarrie asks whether they both do think that and is forbiddingly told that they do and had been discussing this before Adam came in, which in fact they hadn't: only Susan had mentioned anything of the sort and Clarrie had twice said she didn't want to change the way they did things. Susan keeps on trying to subvert Helen's organisation and persuade Adam to support her, while Clarrie continues to say that Helen likes things done in a certain way and they have discussed nothing with her. When Susan suggests that Adam will have his own way of managing, he does point out that he is only going to be in charge while Helen is on holiday, but Susan saying that Helen would be really happy if he managed to make improvements by the time she came back leads him to agree that he doubts Helen would object. Susan then offers to help Adam with some administrative jobs while Clarrie does on her own the work both women generally do, which leads Clarrie to protest, loudly. Susan talks about having some marketing ideas they could discuss while Clarrie pots the yoghurt, and how they will impress Helen with all these changes they will make. Clarrie crossly remarks that Helen is not on holiday yet and will need to be asked about this first, to which Susan airily replies that they have to let a manager (meaning Adam) manage. Tentatively he asks whether Clarrie could pot the yoghurt on her own, to which she doubtfully replies 'yes, but'; Susan at once greets this as a first managerial decision made. He then suggests, as a second one, that they all go to The Bull later for a drink. Both Susan and Clarrie seem pleased with that idea at least.

The sheep are still in the churchyard, some in the porch, and Eddie is amused at the thought of people coming out of a funeral and bumping into a grumpy ewe and her twins. [Hilarious. Like Alice at Nic's funeral. Gus.] Ed shouts at Brad for not knowing how to herd sheep [which is hardly Brad's fault, and seems ungrateful of Ed. Chris] and Eddie hopes they don't end up having to explain to Alan. After further argle-bargle, Ed picks up one of the lambs and the ewe follows where he takes it.

Because it is Burns Night, The Bull is, as Adam puts it, 'heaving', and because it is Burns Night Susan wants a Scotch. Clarrie is surprised because she's never seen Susan drink whisky before, but Susan says that now she is sixty there are a lot of new things she's been doing lately. When Adam asks what he can get Clarrie Susan says she will have a Scotch as well. Clarrie doesn't want a Scotch and says so, but Susan overrules her and Adam gets Scotch all round. Susan thinks that it looks as if they'll be able to have a bit of fun with Adam while Helen is away, and when Clarrie says she'd better not stay too long: Eddie will wonder where she is. Susan says let him wonder, and seems to have no such qualms about Neil. Adam comes back asking if they both fancy haggis with neeps and tatties for the whole Burns Night experience, and as Clarrie tries to refuse Susan says it sounds lovely and accepts for both of them. Adam goes to put the order in and Clarrie voices her doubts again, to be told to have a few hours without worrying about Eddie, or Ed, or Will: she's got to put herself first now and again; weakly, she supposes a few hours won't hurt. Susan says it is an unexpected treat and they deserve it.

The sheep are finally on the cricket field and Eddie says he'd better be getting back or Clarrie will be sending out a search party. Mia and Emma stopped to talk to Jim and distract him by asking him to be a model for the renew Show. Brad goes off to catch up with Mia and Ed tells Eddie he is still bricking it: supposing they get caught? Eddie says breezily that it will never happen. This has made Ed's mind up about the tree surgery: they are going to do it. Trees don't move, and they don't make a noise. All he needs is the money. Eddie tells him he deserves a bit of good luck, and Ed replies that he feels like it's coming his way.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Friday 26th January, 2024

Hilda is moving on again, and a cliff-hanger really isn't.

Characters: Brian, Azra, Chelsea, Brad, Kenton, Jolene, Tony
Credited scriptwriter:
Caroline Jester
Director:
Kim Greengrass
Editor: Jeremy Howe

As he was ordered to do by Alice, Brian has gone to the doctor. He explains that what he has is not so much difficulty breathing as a tightening of the chest. She establishes that he has had that symptom for a week or so and is not out of breath, that he had an angina attack eighteen months ago but this doesn't feel the same, and that his wife having died a year ago this week may have heightened his daughter's anxiety. She also hears he is otherwise in good health and is sure his daughter is worrying over nothing. Azra feels one should take these things seriously, but hopes to rule out some things and get to the bottom of it all.

His interminable search for 'evidence' has led Brad to go through his grandfather's things, where Chelsea catches him. It's safe because Grandad is already out, having followed Mum to The Bull. Apparently the drawer Brad is going through contains dirty socks and unpaid parking fines. [Whose? Does Bert still drive? Chris.] Chelsea tells him he just needs to fix it so Grandad wins, because Bert is threatening to boycott The Bull if he doesn't, and put a dartboard up in the house and invite all his mates round. Brad says gloomily that he has already hung up the dartboard, and very nearly hit Brad with a dart in the living room yesterday when Brad got back from the sheep. Chelsea asks whether he has something to do with the sheep everyone's talking about: Mum said that a load of sheep were dumped on the cricket field. Is this what Ed and Eddie were on about? Brad denies knowing anything about any sheep, and Chelsea says she will keep quiet as long as he sorts something with Grandad; he accuses her of blackmail, and she retorts that she is protecting him from having darts thrown at him. He is going to have to tell Kenton and Jolene that he couldn't do it and won't ask to be paid; Chelsea isn't having that, since she reckons they should pay him extra for all the hours he's put in and the stress they put him under. When he says he will go and tell them now so they have time to sort something before tonight, she says she is going too: she will tell them Mum will have something to say when she hears they have put Brad's whole future at risk. If they don't make Grandad win they'll have Mum to deal with too. [Oooh, aggro from a part-time employee. They will be quaking in their shoes. Or maybe they will simply let her go if she gets offensive. Chris.]

After doing an array of simple tests, Azra says Brian's chest sounds clear and his heart seems OK, his pulse is regular and his blood-pressure is within normal range, good even. Brian says his daughter has told him the same when she calls round to to check his own readings, and Azra says there is no need to check every day; Brian asks her to put that in writing for Alice. More questions establish that he gets no pain in neck or arm and no nausea, and nor is the tightness brought on by exertion; it fact he feels better when he is out and about. Azra leaps on that and asks if that is when he is outside; yes, he tells her, and then realises the feeling only happens when he is in the cottage. She asks if anything has changed at home recently, and he tells her his other daughter has moved in with him, and his mother-in-law has forced her cat on him. Azra tells him that his symptoms do all seem to fit with an allergy, and asks if he is allergic to anything: not that he knows of. She is going to book him in for a blood-test just to make sure, and prescribe him an inhaler and some anti-histamines in the mean time. Enlightened, he asks if it is all Hilda's fault then; Azra assumes Hilda is his mother-in-law.

Kenton and Jolene are worrying because they still don't have a winner and the bar is filling up, presumably with people who [unlike the listeners, who couldn't care less. Chris] want to know who it is. Jolene is feeling bad about Brad having done all that work, while Kenton is exasperated at his having been paid for a job he didn't do; he is also aware that Chelsea was trying to pull a fast one and make Bert the winner. Jolene suggests making them both winners, but Kenton is outraged at the idea of each of them getting a free pint a night till he dies: they are not letting a pair of old cheats drink away their profits. He does however have an idea.

Armed with this new information about being allergic to cats, Brian has taken Hilda and all her accoutrements over to Bridge Farm to hand over to Tony, who not only doesn't want her, but thinks Brian may not be telling the truth about his allergic reaction to her: he won't know for sure until the blood-tests come back. He can't see how Brian could have got to the age of eighty without discovered about an allergy already. After considerable argument, punctuated by Hilda yowling in her box, Tony gives way and agrees to take her, although Pat will not be happy. He then tries to feed her a meat-stick chew, and gets bitten.

Chelsea and Brad are having a free meal at The Bull, though Brad would rather have gone to see Mia. When Tony and Brian come in they are surprised it is so busy, and Brian goes to get Tony a double Scotch to help with the pain, and suggests Tony might need some antibiotics; Tony thinks he might need treatment now, because if he's not hallucinating with a fever why did he see the cricket ground full of sheep? [On the way from Bridge Farm to The Bull? That must have been using a periscope: the village is in the way. Chris.] Jolene then rings a bell and announces that the moment they have all been waiting for is upon them; Kenton takes over and says it has been one of the hardest things he's ever had to decide in his life, and Jolene says that because it's been such a hard decision they have decided not to make a decision. They are going to toss a coin. Brad makes an outraged remark about 'after all you put me through', and Tony is asked to check that the coin Kenton is about to throw has a head and a tail; he verifies that it does. Kenton says heads for Neville, tails for Bert, Jolene tries to ramp up the suspense a bit more by saying it is the moment we have all been waiting for and demanding a drum-roll, Kenton spins the coin rather than tossing it, and as it settles and Jolene is about to say who will get a free pint every day for life there is a sharp fizzing noise and the lights go out. [Whenever a breaker has tripped in any place I have been, the lights have gone out without any sound-effects. Chris.]

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Sunday 28th January, 2024

It's Pete the Sparks to the rescue, but sparks fly between Mia and Lilian.

Characters: Jolene, Kenton, Mia, Fallon, Lilian
Credited scriptwriter:
Liz John
Director:
Julie Beckett
Editor: Jeremy Howe

At The Bull they have no power in the kitchen, restaurant or the main bar, though the flat upstairs is OK. Jolene and Kenton have not managed to find an electrician in the time since Friday evening and are getting to the point at which they would even be grateful for a friend of Eddie's if he turned up, but he is too busy; Kenton refuses to pay for one of the big companies because that would be too expensive. Some of the wiring is pretty old, apparently [but it would all have had to be renewed in 2015 after The Bull was flooded. Chris]. It turns out that each thought the other was going to ask Lilian whether she has a tame electrician working for Amside Properties and so neither did; Kenton will ring her at once.

Finding a new home for the Renew event is on Mia's mind, but Fallon is not able to help with the tea-room premises because Friday is the day of the christening party arranged by Natasha. In any case she is sure Jolene will have got The Bull fine by Friday. Mia hasn't asked at the pub itself but is whinging because the sign outside says 'closed due to unforeseen circumstances' and she doesn't know what is happening. She reports progress to Fallon: Eddie will model. Fallon responds that Lynda found the costume rails under the stage of the village hall, so Mia can cross that off her list. They now have to decide which garments will be modelled and which will go on the rails, and how they are pricing everything; Fallon is in favour of keeping things cheap. Mia feels they need to go through the donated clothes in the Bull storeroom and make their decisions, and there is quite a lot of stuff at Number One The Green, which Will minds [but has presumably been bludgeoned into putting up with. Chris.] Lily has a detailed plan for the choreography and has created a gigantic mood board at Lower Loxley and keeps sending Mia pictures; she plans to project scenic backdrops behind the models, and wants to do a better job than she made of fashion show at college. Freddie has sent Mia another playlist but keeps changing his mind. Fallon is glad people are doing what they have said they will, but Mia feels the show doesn't need over-complicating. Fallon having agreed that she would help sort the clothes at The Bull on her afternoon off, Mia pushes for them to go and do that now.

Kenton meets Jolene as she arrives in her car from arranging a venue for the evening's darts match, and Lilian joins them saying the sheep are still on the cricket ground; also that she can't think why they didn't ask her earlier and her electrician, Pete, is popping over now to have a look. They are very grateful, and he turns up just as Lilian is saying that since they have to pay Emma and Tracy for their shifts whether the pub is open or not, there must be a million jobs the bar staff could get on with in the parts where the lights are working.

There is a lot more clothing than Fallon had expected and she and Mia set out to out it into "excellent', 'good', 'fair', and 'not in a million years'. There will also be a category for 'damaged but fixable', in keeping with the show's ethos. Mia suggests pricing items as they go along, since she has labels and pens. They have so much that they may have to put some of it on line; Mia only wants the truly rubbish stuff going for rags. Fallon tells her that when she looked on the website earlier, she found that the show was nearly sold out; she congratulates Mia on having taken it to the next level from Lilian's vague plan. One of Mia's lecturers, a Mrs Jenson, is bringing loads of other teachers, which slightly alarms Mia: they can be super-critical. Lilian then discovers them and tells them that the electrician is still having a look but there's too much rolling of eyes and sucking of teeth for Lilian's liking. Mia assumes she has come to help them and offers to show her what goes in which box, but no, that isn't what Lilian is there for, though she promises to bring over clothes from her attic. What she did want to mention is the programme: when the two workers express surprise she explains that she means a programme for the show so that people can see what's going on and how the pricing works and so on. She will need some blurb from Mia, who immediately says dismissively that she doesn't have time for that. Fallon is sure they can knock something up between them, and Lilian says that she will pay to have it printed, on nice glossy paper, full colour; Fallon is happy with this, and Lilian comments that it won't be cheap but she thought it would lend that certain je ne sais quoi to the proceedings and she can ask her usual designer to knock something up. Mia interrupts with a flat 'no'; they can't have any paper. It's a sustainable fashion event. Fallon audibly expresses disappointment, and then explains they've done all the ticketing and promotion on line, but then Mia can't leave well enough alone and repeats that they don't want paper. Lilian says that she didn't realise, and Mia further puts her foot in it by saying that she would have thought that was obvious, at which Fallon utters a warning 'Mia!' and Lilian remarks that perhaps it is to her, darling. Fallon tries to smooth things over by saying it's a kind offer, and Mia grudgingly supposes they could put a schedule up on line, something she clearly had not thought necessary until now. Lilian pointedly wonders how older people will access it and when Mia says 'on their phones' points out that phones are small and older people's eyesight might not cope – and that's if they have a smart phone. Mia's plan doesn't sound very, um, inclusive. In fact, she would say it's ageist. Mia doesn't at all like having her own tactics used against her and fires up indignantly, but Lilian hasn't finished: she assumes they want the event to be accessible to older people. Mia triumphantly rejoins that it is upstairs at The Bull so they need to be able to get up there for a start so they can't be that decrepit; Fallon tries again to call her to order. [Clearly, if they don't have the right sort of phone and 20/20 eyesight they won't have heard about it and won't have been able to get a ticket, so they are of no importance whatever to Mia. Chris.] Lilian rather curtly informs Mia that they do actually want this show to be for everyone and be a great night out in The Bull, and when Mia wants to know what she means by that, rather cruelly says 'not like bonfire night, for instance'. Mia stridently denies that was her fault; Lilian remarks that it caused a lot of people a lot of hassle and she has to go and speak to her electrician, and starts to leave, then adds that on reflection, someone will have to fetch the clothes she is donating; she has a busy week in front of her and won't have the time to spare. As she sweeps out, Mia exclaims loudly that she has a cheek, and Fallon shushes her. Mia wants to know how come Lilian thinks she can speak to Mia like that, and when Fallon points out that Mia was a bit rude, Mia is incredulous. Fallon follows up by saying Lilian was only trying to help.

Kenton and Jolene are having coffee and discussing the electrician's news: it's not all the wiring, but Kenton reckons that even a partial rewire will be extortionate and is dreading his quote. Jolene reminds him that it is Pete or no-one, to which he reluctantly agrees. Pete also says they need a new distribution board. Jolene wonders whether if he starts tomorrow there is a fighting chance he'll finish before the Renew fashion show on Friday; Kenton says Pete reckons it is touch and go. Jolene very much hopes it can go ahead: it will be a great help to them financially if it does. Kenton is dispirited about the disruption, with floorboards up and dust and drilling everywhere and Pete and his guys trailing around the place; Jolene tries to be more upbeat and suggests that after it's been done it will be better than before, because it shouldn't happen again. She postulates the horror of the electrics blowing in the middle of the show on Friday; Kenton says it was bad enough that it happened when it did, and admits he hasn't yet told either Neville or Bert that Neville won. Jolene remarks realistically that anyway, they haven't got a lot of choice: pretty much whatever price Pete comes up with they'll have to say yes.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Monday 29th January, 2024

A bit of The Bull is open, and a mysterious stranger comes in for a drink.

Characters: Emma, Tracy, Eddie, Jolene, Kenton, A Stranger (?Markie)
Credited scriptwriter:
Liz John
Director:
Julie Beckett
Editor: Jeremy Howe

One of the tasks for the bar staff turns out to be washing Jolene's car, which Tracy is getting on with while Emma cleans the windows and makes the electricians a cuppa; she doesn't know when the windows were last cleaned. Open-hearted Tracy feels that anything they can do to help Kenton and Jolene at the moment is a good idea; Emma, less generously, reckons that since they are being paid they might as well do what they're asked. There are only two electricians, Pete being the main one; he seems a really cautious type. Tracy thinks cautious sounds right for an electrician but Emma is not sure he's a man in a hurry. If they're not finished by Friday, Mia's show will get cancelled, and she's in a right state about it according to Brad. She fell out with Lilian yesterday; Emma has heard, and points out that she isn't used to organising anything like this and the annoyance of people messing her about and changing their minds, which is par for the course. Molly and Tilly Button, who never have a kind word for each other, had a slanging match when she went over to see them. Eddie then greets them with 'Afternoon ladies' and asks how it's going, complains the village ain't the village without the pub, and tells them they ought to speed up the electricians, though he has no idea how this could be done. He hopes one of them will pass a message on to Mia: she is staying with them at Grange Farm but he must have missed her this morning because he was shifting the Texels back. Anyroad, he can't be a model any more. Mike Tucker has asked him to go to Birmingham and help with a landscaping job for a few days on Friday and Saturday. Both women indignantly refuse to help him: he can do his own dirty work. He retreats, saying Mia will kill him, and Tracy and Emma sympathise with Mia: that's all she needs. Except that if the electricians don't get a move on she won't have a show to worry about: Eddie is right and they need to encourage the electricians to speed up. They contemplate extra caffeine as being worth a try, and chocolate cake.

Indoors, to the sound of distant electric drills, Kenton and Jolene are looking at the mess in the pub and planning to cover things with dust-sheets to minimise the cleaning after the job is done. They have power in the Ploughman's, though none of the beer taps, and the toilets are OK; they could open that one bar and serve bottled beer, cider and soft drinks. They'll need to keep people away from the disruption: block off the rest of the pub, put up signage, and even if they only get in a few locals every penny counts. [I think it is high time the electrics in that place are sorted out! Random rooms on the same floor being on different circuits is poor wiring practice. Chris]

A small water-fight has broken out between Tracy and Emma, because Emma hasn't helped wash the car; as Tracy squeezes her sponge over Emma the car's alarm goes off again, and Jolene comes to investigate, laugh at them and then tell them to go and get changed because they are going to open the Ploughman's tonight. Kenton thinks it's a shame they didn't have time to wash his car too; while they go home to spread the word about opening and get the bubbles out of their hair, he goes to stock up the bar ready to open it..

Tracy serves Neville with his lager, and Emma comes back to the bar flabbergasted by a stranger having given her a fiver for taking drinks over to his party; this will go in the tips jar and be split at the end of the evening. It is, as Tracy says, 'just busy enough', and they even have some passing trade, flashing the cash. Eddie comes in and, groaning, asks for Valium; Mia went ballistic. Jolene is happy about the turnout and reckons it was definitely worth opening; she suggests cider for Eddie, which he proposes to drink straight from the bottle. Then the bloke who gave Emma the fiver comes over, and Jolene abruptly has to leave the two barmaids in charge as she goes to fetch some more mixers. The stranger wants to buy some crisps, one bag of each sort; six, and seven if this chap wants some. Eddie is surprised and thanks him, asking Emma for smoky bacon. The stranger remarks that it's a decent little boozer they've got here [and a million listeners add 'be a shame if something ... happened to it.' Chris] and Eddie says that he likes it, while Tracy asserts it's the best pub for miles around. Eddie asks if he's stopping round there, but no: they were passing through and clocked the sign. Great little spot: nice and quiet, adds the anonymous one; just right. Tracy hands over the crisps, Emma asks him for six pounds thirty, and he passes over a note and tells them to keep the change: it's good to see some smiling faces, it makes all the difference.

Kenton and Jolene, meeting as they throw out bottles, congratulate themselves for their decision to open one bar. People are really enjoying themselves. Jolene supposes she thought tonight would be them and a few locals; Kenton thinks it fantastic to get some outsiders too. He reckons those guys are more than doubling their profits. [Do we think he means 'takings'? Gus.] According to Jolene it didn't look as if they were coming in: they were outside for ages. Kenton is glad they did: their little re-wire is going to take some paying for. He goes back in without her.

The stranger asks if Tracy's mate has clocked off, but no, her boss is collecting empties. He asks when they are getting the draught back on, and is told that will be when they've fixed the electrics, which went Pop on Friday night. He sympathises about them not being open for a few days. Kenton joins in to say the lights went out in the middle of the 'longest drinker' competition, when his wife Jolene was about to announce it; Tracy says her dad was reaching out for his prize as the lights went out. Kenton muses that they should do the announcement tonight, since both Bert and Neville are here, and the stranger asks Tracy whether that is her dad, sitting over in the corner. When she tells him that it is, he tells Kenton to watch his step: that guy has got to win or Kenton is a gonner. Tracy and Kenton laugh this off, and the stranger says they'll be off after these, and hands Tracy another tip before taking the drinks away. Jolene then comes in and Kenton wants her to announce the winner of the 'longest drinker', but she doesn't want to and offers to take more empties for recycling, so Kenton does an announcement in his usual bombastic style: the winner is Neville Booth.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Tuesday 30th January, 2024

Mia goes to far, and there is a cliffhanger.

Characters: Susan, Mia, Brad, Kenton, Tracy, Jolene, loud dogs
Credited scriptwriter:
Liz John
Director:
Julie Beckett
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Although Susan has made an effort to find them, Mia complains that three boxes will not be enough; Susan says that when she gets more she will drop Mia a text. Mia realises that Susan was not pleased by the way she spoke, and explains that she is still fuming about Eddie dropping out. If she got a job now, could she just forget about organising the show? Susan concedes that she could if she had to. Someone else could then take over, and it's the same for Eddie: another older chap has to take his place. Mia is vocal about having tried everyone and how much they need to sell the clothing for older gents; Susan briskly tells her that she'll just have to keep trying and Susan has to get on. When Brad comes in he is greeted by Mia saying 'at last' rather than seeming glad to see him, and following that with a sharp 'Where have you been?' His excuse, that a lecture ran over but he got the first bus back, is not acceptable: he was supposed to be helping her. Susan points out that he's here now, but he makes matters worse by telling Mia that Chelsea is all riled up: he he's had a text from her saying that Mia told Molly and Tilly what Chelsea said about their hair. Mia indignantly protests that all she said was that Chelsea will need plenty of time with them both; Brad informs her that they have apparently been messaging Chelsea all day accusing her of bad-mouthing them. Mia's first instinct is to reiterate that she didn't, but she then realises she had better call Chelsea and explain, because Chelsea may be a pain but she is the only one who's properly prepared. Brad says firmly that Mia definitely doesn't want to fall out with her. Susan remarks that Lilian was in earlier saying that someone needs to pick up her bag of clothes from the Dower House; she didn't look very happy either. Mia embarks on defensively saying that she can't help it if Lilian doesn't understand paper isn't sustainable, and as she gets shrill Susan suggests she should take a little break and try not to get so worked up about the show, but Mia is beyond this reasonable suggestion: how can she, when she still has no model for the older blokes' clothes? Brad suggests Neil, Susan says that he is too busy constructing the cat-walk, and Mia puts her foot in it again by saying he hasn't got the right look at all. She then makes matters worse by conceding that she is desperate now, and asking Susan to ask him for her. Susan is deeply affronted and points out that she has already said he is far too busy, before flouncing off to check the morning's deliveries; Brad rather ruefully says Mia has upset her now as well. Mia ignores this to tell him that her tutor, Mrs Jenson, is coming to the show along with the rest of the department; this has clearly added more pressure, because Mia is afraid they will judge her on it. This thought reduces her almost to tears. Brad tells her firmly the show will be amazing, and takes the boxes, saying they can get started at Will's: Jazzer says if they sort out another load for charity shops he will take them tomorrow. Mia complains but does as he suggests.

It was such a good night at The Bull that Kenton is think of expanding into the beer-garden, and to this end he wants Tracy to clean it all up. Brad sends her a message about Mia needing a senior male model, and Kenton points out that she hasn't asked him; Tracy responds that he will be busy behind the bar, but he volunteers anyway: it will be fine if Lilian mucks in. The only problem he sees is that he's not the right age-group, and he can act older, can't he? He confides that the secret is connecting with the older wives, because they buy the clothes for their husbands, then goes off to find a broom for her, saying that she might need a scrubbing brush as well, to get the bird mess off the tables.

Brad gives the news to Mia that Kenton will do the modelling, and although she doesn't sound at all pleased she assures Brad that she is. She instructs Brad to find things for the younger people and put them on the rail next to his green velvet suit, and when he finds what he thinks looks like a proper gangster hat she tells him it will look amazing with the suit, which she loves – and he clearly doesn't at all, saying that whoever buys it will be welcome. She tells him not to worry: someone will see him in it and they'll buy it straight away. He laughs and says he won't be wearing it, and she tells him that of course he will. From these unfortunate cross-purposes, a row springs up: Brad is determined he is not going on stage in front of a lot of strangers, and she tells him that he has to model it and that's that. Apparently it's not, because he's not doing it. She says she is asking him to, so he has to: has he forgotten already that they said they'd do anything for each other? He ends up saying it's just a little village event, and she goes off the deep end: not to her, and if that's all he thinks it is, why is he there? There's no point staying if he doesn't want to help. Go on: get out. She doesn't need him anyway. When he says he doesn't get this, she squawks that is the problem right there, and when he says all right, he'll go, she tells him to go on then. He leaves, slamming the door behind him as she shouts incoherently at him.

Because Tracy is busy sweeping the beer-garden, Susan has taken the electricians their double espressos, and been astonished by the amount of caffeine they must be getting through, but Tracy and Emma reckon it's increased their work-rate and they've got to have it finished by Friday. Not if they have a coronary first, according to Susan. She is only there to have a moan about Mia; the insult to Neil clearly rankles. Tracy is not all that interested but makes the right noises of agreement as she works, until eventually she feels she has to point out that Mia is dating her son. Susan apologises, but declines to help by scrubbing tables.

After the session Kenton and Jolene, alone in the pub, are tidying up and once more congratulating themselves on the success of the evening. Jolene happens to look out of the window overlooking the car-park and sees some vans parked at the far end, with a couple of trailers; she noticed them pulling in about ten minutes ago. She doesn't like the look of them, and she might just give the police a ring; she goes to fetch her phone from upstairs, though Kenton thinks that is an over-reaction and they probably just need directions. He opens the door and calls to know whether the 'lads' are lost, then whistles to get attention and shouts that this is private property; he calls up to let Jolene know he will see what is going on. At least two dogs are barking, and he approaches the vans saying that he's sorry, they can't stay there. An ominous growl and yapping rise, and he starts to scream.

Jolene comes down saying that the police are going to drive past shortly, and realises that Kenton is not in the bar. An engine starts and a vehicle drives off as she runs outside calling for him.

At least one more vehicle revs up and leaves as she finds Kenton moaning on the ground. She tells him she is here now and he's safe, and she's going to get help. Now clearly on the phone, she says, 'Police. Ambulance. To The Bull pub in Ambridge. It's my husband. He's been attacked by a dog." and becomes incoherent, gasping about big, vicious and blood everywhere, while Kenton whimpers. She ends by beseeching them please to come now.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Wednesday 31st January, 2024

Kenton's on a drip; Susan and Chelsea are shallow as puddles.

Characters: Jolene, David, Kenton, Susan, Lilian, Chelsea
Credited scriptwriter:
Liz John
Director:
Julie Beckett
Editor: Jeremy Howe

In the hospital [at an unspecified time after the end of Tuesday's episode, and in an unspecified location within the hospital. Chris] Jolene is holding a cup for Kenton to drink from when David turns up, presumably at her request since she is unsurprised to see him. He says he would have come straight away if he'd known, and Jolene mutters there would have been no point all of them sat in A&E. David asks Kenton how he feels, and when Kenton says 'OK' tells him he doesn't look it and asks what the hell happened. With difficulty Kenton tells him it was 'damn... dog...' and then starts coughing. David says they must be shattered, the pair of them, then asks what kind of dog. Jolene explains that Kenton wasn't sure, but heavy, and strong, and ferocious; Kenton grunts and coughs again, and she says 'sorry' to him, then explains to David that after they finished clearing up she spotted a couple of vans with trailers in the car-park with their lights on and it didn't feel right, so she went to phone the police and Kenton must have gone out to speak to them. When she came out she could hear barking and Kenton ... David is shocked: they actually set a dog on him? [Don't sound so surprised, David; you know you've wanted to. Gus.] Jolene says they don't know; it might have broken free. The blokes had got it off him and were scarpering by the time she got across the car-park. David mentions that she was hardly going to be jotting down number-plates. She says she thought Kenton was dead. Kenton grates out 'awful... poor you...' Jolene explains that Kenton is on an antibiotic drip and they've cleaned and dressed his wounds; the dog got both his legs, quite deep in his right thigh, and also his side. She and David discuss Kenton's treatment so far: they had to do a transfusion; when Kenton tries to comment, Jolene tells him to close his eyes and try to rest. Jolene thanks God she didn't see it happen; Kenton said it was like a wild animal, totally out of control. David reckons they'd better find it and put it down quickly: what he describes as 'that monster' is not just dangerous, it's a deadly weapon. Jolene is pretty sure she heard other dogs barking, in the trailers, but there was a lot going on at the time. David suggests they will need to increase the pub security, [though neither he nor Jolene suggests how. Maybe CCTV cameras with backup batteries would be an idea. Chris] though it's unlikely anything like this will happen again. It goes to show that anything can happen to any of us. Any time, adds Jolene.

The exciting events at The Bull are food for talk in the village; Susan and Lilian are exclaiming over how awful it all was. Susan has come with Chelsea to collect Lilian's old clothes, and is very impressed with them. Lilian leaves it to them to go through them and take whatever they think they can sell, which Susan reckons will be all of it; Lilian herself has to go and meet up with Harrison to see if there is anything on the pub CCTV, but tells Susan before she goes that Kenton is in agony but Jolene says that with all the medication he's on he is coping. She will send Susan and Chelsea's best, and a comparison between scary big dogs and cute little Ruby is drawn by Chelsea. Lilian is not looking forward to what she has to do, and Susan recommends letting Harrison watch the footage on his own. Left alone, Susan and Chelsea settle down to go through the clothes; Susan reminds Chelsea it isn't a trying-on session and they are simply there to transport the clothes.

When it comes to looking at the CCTV footage, 4pm on Monday is fine, and Lilian leaves Harrison to it before he starts to look at the footage which might be of use. He'd rather not see it himself, but locating that dog is priority number one. She is about to check on the electricians, who have been drilling in the background [bunch of bleedin' termites, they are, always drillin' That ol' pub must be as full of holes as an Esrom cheese. Chris], when Harrison discovers there is no footage at all for Tuesday. It dawns on Lilian that Pete has had to switch off some of the power because of the rewiring.

Susan has fallen for a kimono, while Chelsea has put on a shirt that fits her really well. Chelsea admits to buying stuff for parties, wearing it on the one occasion and then sending it back for a refund, which Susan finds dishonest but Chelsea claims is sustainable behaviour: it won't be being thrown away. And Susan is starting to sound like Mia, who is getting right on Chelsea's... up Chelsea's nose. She reckons it would be better if the row with Brad is terminal, not just a blip; he blubbed for hours. Susan calls them back to order: they have to get the stuff over to Will's place, though she is wondering if they can't stake their claim to some of it; as they are giggling over this idea Ruby barks, and Lilian comes in and asks what in heaven's name is going on.

On the phone to Jolene, Harrison explains there is no CCTV footage of the attack on Kenton, then says people are asking: is the 'Re-New' Fashion Show going ahead? She tells him they are still hoping the pub will be ready in time, but he is wondering if it won't be too much for them after what has happened. David reckons that's a point, but Kenton strongly urges her to go ahead; he's sure. Harrison agrees to get Fallon to let people know, and he'll see them soon. Jolene agrees with Kenton: they can do it without her and Kenton, because Lilian will be on it. She then yawns enormously and David says she is exhausted: how about he takes her home? She protests that she doesn't want to leave him, and Kenton piteously (and in a far stronger voice than he has said anything else so far) begs her 'no no no please don't go'; David however points out to Kenton that poor Jolene can hardly keep her eyes open, and Kenton at his normal volume and tone says 'Yeah, I know, but I I I'. Jolene assures him that he is safe, and David says he will bring her back first thing tomorrow morning but she honestly can't function like this. They are both in shock and they both need to rest; he's sorry, Kenton, but he is going to take Kenton's wife home.

Lilian turns out not to be angry at all, but delighted that her old clothes will be worn, coming alive again not stuck in a box. She tells Susan and Chelsea the occasions on which they were bought or worn and Susan describes them as pre-loved clothes because someone else has loved them before. Lilian admits that remembering Jennifer's death a year ago has been making her short-tempered, not least with Mia, and she's not feeling very proud of herself. Chelsea reassures her that from what she has heard, Mia was short with Lilian too, but Lilian expects she was getting frazzled with the show. Susan adds that they need a male model again now that Kenton's in hospital, but it seems that Chelsea and Brad have an idea about that. Susan suggests that even if the electrics are fixed the show might get cancelled out of respect for Kenton [only if he takes a turn for dead, surely? Gus], but Lilian tells them that Fallon has just texted to say that Kenton has been very insistent that the show must go on.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Thursday 1st February, 2024

Shula has come to see for herself, and Vince sees straight through Jolene.

Characters: Fallon, Jolene, Shula, Vince, Kenton
Credited scriptwriter:
Liz John
Director:
Julie Beckett
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Back at the hospital again, Jolene is phoned by Fallon, who wants to know whether she should come to the hospital; Jolene tells her not to because she has the big christening do for Natasha's mate to cater for tomorrow. In any case Kenton is a bit brighter today, plus Emma is already busy with the Renew Fashion Show; Tracy and Emma are policing the re-wiring at The Bull and they'll make sure Pete's life won't be worth living if he lets everyone down. Shula suddenly appears and Jolene rings off in a flurry: they were not expecting Shula but Jolene is really glad she's there and Kenton will be delighted. Vince, who gave her a lift in, explains that they were a bit worried when Kenton wasn't where Elizabeth had said he would be, and Jolene tells them he was moved this morning into a private room.

As they get into his room she further explains that the pain-killers are making him a bit woozy, and Shula is shocked by how helpless he looks; he is surprised to see her and wonders what she is doing there when he said not to come. She wanted to make sure he was still alive, and booked her train the minute she heard – he'd have done the same. She exclaims about not being able to bear to see him like this and he cheerfully points out the dog didn't get his face so she can be grateful for that; she says she will try. [It didn't get his bollocks either. Hmmm. Gus.] Vince tells him that Elizabeth will be over again this evening and comments that Kenton looks like he's done twelve rounds in the ring, which Jolene says they are attributing his bruises to the fall; Vince, still not succumbing to the general woe, says that it's nice to see he's nabbed his own room. Jolene has told Kenton there is a picturesque view of the bus stop, not that Kenton can see it from his bed; Vince cheerily remarks that he is missing plenty of bus action. Kenton is concerned: they can't let Mum come in to see him. Shula reassures him that she has a bit of a cold and David has told her she mustn't risk it. Kenton has spoken to her on the phone so she knows he's OK in himself. Jolene volunteers to go and get everyone coffee: cappuccinos all round? As she gets up Jolene drops her phone, but it is not broken. She warns them there can be a bit of a queue, and goes on her errand.

When she is gone, Vince asks if Kenton has any idea who it was (he doesn't) and Shula asks if Jolene is OK; Kenton says it's been a lot for her, with which Shula agrees. Vince reckons it's too bad their CCTV was off-line, and when he had a chat with Harrison it sounded as if the police are pushing for a full investigation because of the dog [eh? Chris], about which animal he is very unflattering; Kenton must have been frightened seeing it rushing towards him. Kenton starts to choke and Shula quickly says they don't need to talk about that now; Vince apologises. He then offers to go and help Jolene with the coffees. Left alone with Kenton, Shula says this is her now, and demands to know how he is really.

Near the cafeteria Vince discovers Jolene, who is not fetching coffees but just sitting on her own; he looked everywhere. She apologises; the queue was so long she thought she'd give it a few minutes. He says he'll join her, if she doesn't mind; he thinks Kenton and Shula need a bit of time together. He then informs her that she looks nearly as bad as Kenton, and it must have been terrifying seeing him like that; she protests that she is just tired, then lets him know that she was very upset because she couldn't help Kenton, she didn't know how to. Vince reasonably says that she called the ambulance: what else could she do? She carries on as if he hadn't spoken: there was so much blood! And today he looks grey; he's aged ten years. Vince is soothing: it's bound to be up and down, but he's in good hands. He then invites her to tell him to mind his own business, but he's thinking there's something else? She says she just wants Kenton to be OK, and he reminds her that they all do, and the doctors say he will be, so right at this moment Vince is more concerned about her. By promising not to blab to Elizabeth, and refusing to give up, he gets a sorry tale out of her: initially she says she is too scared to tell him, and then that she is terrified this is just the beginning of an even worse nightmare because she thinks she might know who it was. She hopes she's wrong, but if she's not then it could be really bad.

Apparently Kenton is looking at further surgery, because the wound in his right thigh is deep and there's muscle damage; the plastic surgery team need to sort it for him. Shula asks when they will do that and he tells her he's on the list for tomorrow and she is encouraging: it's better if they do it all now, and then he can just focus on getting better. When she tries to brighten the mood by mentioning Jolene having brought in his head-phones, and when he says he was hoping to block out some of the noise expresses relief that he is now in a side room and should get some peace; he explains that it was the other patients who needed some peace, because he kept shouting out in his sleep and that's why they moved him. He thought the headphones might block out his flashbacks of hearing the dog coming for him. Shula hopes they find that dog before it kills someone. Then she apologises because she's supposed to be cheering him up and he asks her to tell him about Sunderland: he really needs something else to think about. It seems that she is having an amazing time.

It's only one of the gang that Jolene is afraid she knows. She explains that some guys from the Black Country turned up in the Ploughman's on Monday; she got a quick glimpse of one of them when he came up to the bar and then she steered clear because a lot of alarm bells were ringing. Vince asks where she thought she knew him from, and she recounts an incident when the band she was fronting were touring Wolverhampton way, and the atmosphere went bad when a guy started climbing on the stage and heading her way; she thinks this was the same guy. The bouncers intervened and there was a fight outside with chains and knives; the band locked themselves in the dressing room and waited for the police. A week later, the venue burned to the ground. Vince can see why she is jumpy: has she told the police? No, because she isn't sure [and in any case told them what? That she thinks someone whose name she doesn't know and who did something bad more than thirty years ago might have been involved? I'm sure they would thank her for that! Chris] and everyone said how nice they were on Monday. Vince remains sure that kind of scum don't need protecting by Jolene, and if they've got a dog like that they need to be found and prosecuted; plus, the dog needs a bullet in its head, he adds with emphasis. Kenton could have been killed. Jolene knows that. He suggests that she could tell them anonymously, through Crimeline or something, but she is afraid that if there is any kind of tip off and it was him, he might realise it was her – and they are talking really vicious types here. They left one of the bouncers for dead! She can't risk saying anything, because it could get a hundred times worse for her, for them both. And the pub; Vince sees what she's saying. So the big question, Vince ponders, is, did he recognise Jolene? She says she kept her distance and doesn't think so, but yes, what if he did? She's petrified. He mustn't tell anyone, please, he can't. He reminds her he promised to say nothing, but listen: he's done a lot of business in the Black Country over the years and he could put out some feelers, see if anyone's heard of this crim. She is unsure and says he'd have to be careful: well, of course, he rejoins. He's heard there's some shady dog-trading over that way and maybe that's what was going on in her car-park. It's a disgusting business and they deserve to be caught. No-one should have to go through what Kenton has.

The sudden arrival of Fallon breaks up this scene; she asks whether they've had their coffees and, after saying that she thinks Kenton looks brighter now Shula is here, tells them the queue isn't too bad and says she will get into it for them. She goes to do that and Vince says it might take a while because he can't rush if they want to keep it under the radar, which makes Jolene tell him that she really appreciates it but also implore him not to make it worse. He tells her reassuringly not to worry and to leave it with him.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Friday 2nd February, 2024

The show is – surprise! – a triumph. The plot – like Kenton – is pretty much a dog's dinner.

Characters: Kenton, Jolene, Emma, Chelsea, Mia, Brad, Markie (we assume)
Credited scriptwriter:
Liz John
Director:
Julie Beckett
Editor: Jeremy Howe

The doctor has said that Kenton's surgery went completely to plan, and Jolene is very glad. So is Kenton, who had to be told this by her because he couldn't concentrate when the doctor was talking. He tells her that all he needs is to be back home with her and then he can cope with anything. [I think this may be Dramatic Irony, God help us all sai Tiny Tim. Chris.] It was lovely to see Shula yesterday, and listening to her talk about the work she is doing in Sunderland has made him aware of what a nice life they have in Ambridge [what did I say? Chris] and he is glad he is sharing it with Jolene. She shows him the pictures of the dress rehearsal for the show, which Mia has sent to her. The electrics at the pub were signed off this morning so the show is good to go; Kenton laughs about them having worried over the wiring, a lifetime ago. He is very regretful about having missed out on being the male model; Jolene has no idea who it is now. He suddenly notices the time and tells her she doesn't want to miss it and she had better go. She doesn't want to leave him, but he needs her to be at the show so she can tell him all about it. She offers to take loads of photos and show him tomorrow, but what he wants is for her to send them to his phone when she rings up afterwards to say goodnight. Saying goodnight helps him to sleep.

At The Bull, Emma and Chelsea are talking when Mia interrupts to ask where Brad is and why he hasn't come; Chelsea informs her that he is busy helping the Mystery Model. Emma can't wait to see people's faces when they find out who it is, but neither she nor Chelsea finds it necessary to tell Mia, though Chelsea does tell her that it is thanks to Brad they have that model at all so Mia owes him big time. She is to try not to upset him any more than she already has. Before Mia can fire up about this Emma tells her that she thinks Lily is waiting for Mia to tell her when they can start. Chelsea goes to check that Ben and Paul are ready to go on, and Emma says it's thirty seconds and counting. Mia is very nervous, so Emma calms her down; she saw the dress-rehearsal and it will be fine. Mia has put the programme up on a screen, and Lilian has apologised and seems happy with that, as well as thanking Mia for working so hard. Emma instructs her to give Lily a wave, and the music starts.

It turns out the Mystery Model is Bert Horrobin, in a wheelchair, and he is a great success, getting several encores. Jolene is delighted, especially since he swore he wasn't coming into The Bull again after he lost the longest drinker competition. When asked about Kenton she tells Brad he is pale, hurting, but on the mend – touch wood. Home very soon, they said. She is impressed that people were queuing up in the interval to buy the clothes; Chelsea gloats that half the stuff they modelled has gone: Susan for instance had everything she had modelled, especially what Lilian gave them, and Molly and Tilly were the same. Jolene reckons it doesn't matter who buys what so long as it goes, and thanks everyone for the amazing job they have done.

Emma has gone to find Mia and tell her that her teachers were at the bar raving about the show; Mia fails to be proud, and then bursts into tears; Emma realises it is about Brad and tries to comfort her before telling her that if she wants to make it up with him maybe she'll have to make the first move. Mia is shrilly indignant at the idea: why should she? He let her down! Gently, Emma points out that she asked Brad to go up on stage, and he would be completely unable to do that. Mia saying she would do it for him doesn't cut any ice with Emma, who tells her that in tough times you have to step up for each other but in normal life you both have to play to your strengths. She advises Mia not to be too full of herself to make the first move, not when she's found her soulmate.

The result of this is that Mia makes a point of finding Brad and sitting down with him outside; she wonders how he got Bert to be a model, to which Brad replies twenty quid, breakfast in bed for a week, and Brad will be doing Bert's share of washing up all month. Plus Chelsea bought him the cardigan he was modelling. Brad knew it was important to Mia. He then praises her speech, and they end up saying they are sorry simultaneously. They agree that they don't have to agree about everything and it doesn't matter if they don't, and the reconciliation ends with them professing mutual love and kissing each other.

The phone call to Kenton goes well, with Jolene telling him all about the triumph of the Show; he hopes to be there with her soon. As they talk, her car alarm goes off again, and Kenton bids her goodnight. She goes crossly out to shut the alarm down, but as she succeeds in doing so a hoarse voice tells her she'd best not turn round, and advises her by name to take it easy. Did she think he hadn't noticed her? He saw her looking over on Monday night, and then scuttling off to hide. She tries to pretend ignorance, but he's not having that; it was because she remembered him. Which is a shame because it complicates things a bit, especially after his mate's dog got out of hand. Jolene splutters and then says that she didn't see, she swears to him by the time she got outside... He's come to do her a favour, he claims, because he took a liking to her music back in the day. So keep it shut. Nothing about the dogs, nothing about him, right? She protests that she wouldn't, and he hopes not, or else it's payback time for her, and her boozer, and that loudmouth bloke of hers – Kenton, wasn't it? So she'll remember, eh? Keep it shut. She is clearly on the edge of hysteria but manages only to moan, not scream.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Sunday 4th February, 2024

Chris refuses a drink, Jolene refuses support, and Alice hasn't yet noticed she is going out with an alien.

Characters: Alice, Harry, Harrison, Fallon, Chris, Jolene
Credited scriptwriter:
Keri Davies
Director:
Peter Leslie Wild
Editor: Jeremy Howe

There are many sounds of horses breathing heavily; Alice and Harry are out for a ride. In fact, for a fund-raising ride; it's in aid of riders with disabilities. Alice regards this riding as 'such great therapy', and there is a good turnout so they ought to raise a fair amount of money. When Alice says that Shula is keen on Riding for the Disabled [which she has been actively supporting for years, with many disabled riders coming to The Stables. Chris] Harry repeats the name a few times as if he doesn't really believe in it, then remembers that she is one of Alice's many bosses, and when Alice says she only has three bosses tells her that as far as he is concerned that is three too many. Alice tells him she has booked a couple of hours off on Tuesday but is getting very nervous about meeting his mother for the first time; Harry met Brian for the first time at no notice and so didn't have time to worry about it. Harry assures her that his mother is going to love her, but as she is replying to him she is taken aback to see Chris's van beside the road.

Harrison is on his way to work and offers Fallon a lift, but Emma is covering the tea-room for the morning and Fallon plans to go next door and help Jolene for a bit. Harrison asks her to give her mother his love; Fallon is worried what effect finding Kenton as she did may have had on her, and he is full of sympathy. Fallon adds that Jolene is really stressing over Yorkshire Pudding Day today, which Harrison didn't know about; all the publicity went out ages ago and Wayne has done a special menu so Jolene didn't feel she could back out, so Fallon is going to help with the preparations. Harrison says that just her being there will be nice for Jolene, and has a thought: what would Fallon feel about them moving in with her for a few days, just until Kenton is back? There is plenty of space. Fallon agrees: they could use one of the old B&B rooms [which hadn't apparently existed all century, until now. Chris] They could stay longer if they were wanted, and it would mean there would always be someone on hand, especially at night. Fallon thinks the other things that would help would be getting those guys nicked: can Harrison have a word with whoever is on the investigation? He does his best to suggest that this is not necessary and would not be welcome but in the end agrees to do his best to get a feel for how things are going.

Beside the road, Chris is waiting for his forge to heat up; Rafe Sedgemoor's horse has cast a shoe [and Rafe and his horse are apparently not there, which is strange. Chris] even though Chris shod her a couple of weeks ago, about which Harry remarks you'd expect them to last longer than that; Chris responds that it's four weeks on average at this time of year and the other three look fine, so Harry explains to him that it is probably the mud that has done it, and then that it is handy the route crosses the route here, followed by asking if he came far; Chris says he only came from home but avoids telling him where 'home' is. He has left Martha with his mum and dad, which gives Harry the opportunity to say how good of him it is to give up his Sunday to help, and to ask if he is busy at the moment with hunters, and then with hunting winding down he'll have the show-jumping and the eventing season: no rest for the wicked, eh? [Chris nobly refrains from saying wtte 'yes, actually I do know that, thanks.' Chris.] When Chris says it suits him because he likes to work, Harry patronisingly asks where we would be without our farriers, such a noble profession: he's sure Chris will have Rafe back in the saddle in no time. Alice clearly finds this encounter, and Harry's would-be-jocular manner of speech to Chris, embarrassing.

The Bull is being fettled ready, with Fallon helping to lay out the tables. Before he was attacked Kenton sourced some Yorkshire Pudding bunting on line; Fallon thinks it's amazing. She asks if he also came up with the twenty questions about Yorkshire Pudding and whether the quiz is for fun or has a prize. Jolene is clearly a bit distracted and doesn't reply immediately, before admitting that with Kenton in hospital and the pub to run it's all a bit of a struggle. Fallon invites her to come and sit down while Fallon sorts out the bunting, saying that Jolene looks as if she hasn't slept; Jolene concedes that she didn't have a very good night. Fallon reminds her that everyone mucked in for the fashion show, because they've made The Bull into a real community pub, and Jolene changes the subject to Brad already regretting that he bribed Bert to be the mystery model; Fallon at once says they have built up a lot of goodwill, people know what's happened, and they'll cut them a bit of slack. Meantime she'll get Jolene a coffee and then they can try out the quiz. Jolene thanks her and says she appreciates what Fallon is doing.

Time has passed, and Chris has brought Martha, Neil and Susan to The Bull for lunch, but as a thank-you for them having Martha and not for the Yorkshire Puddings: they didn't know those were happening. Harrison encounters him at the bar and they chat for a bit, with Harrison trying and failing to con Chris into being in charge of indoor nets for the cricket team, and Chris speaking of Susan looking forward to Adam running the dairy instead of Helen; Harrison was pleased to hear that Helen will be taking a good wedge of time off because [all together now! Gus] after all she's been through, she deserves it. Jolene then comes over to take Chris's order, and Harrison tells her that when she has a moment he was hoping to have a word with her about the case; she at once asks him to wait out the back and she'll be with him as soon as she can. Just as Chris finishes ordering three Yorkshire Pudding Specials and one child's nuggets and chips, Alice comes in with Harry, who at once assures Chris that they really aren't stalking him. Jolene bustles off to put the order into the till and Alice asks where Martha is; when Chris says she is with his mum and dad over there Harry crows with delight and says that he can now meet Martha's grandparents at last. He also wants to buy Chris a drink for dropping everything to save the ride; Chris quite reasonably disclaims, on the grounds that he didn't really save the ride, and it was just one shoe, but Harry insists: what is he having? Alice tries to stop him, and Chris refuses the drink: it's not necessary.

Jolene finally manages to get outside to see Harrison, who tells her that he's had a word with his gaffer Inspector Norris, and after telling him to wind his neck in she said that investigations are ongoing and that the team are doing their best. He just wanted to pass that on. She thanks him and says that's good to hear, at least. He reminds her that they're keen to hear from her if there's any further information she considers might be relevant, for instance if she can think of anyone before or since the attack who has been acting suspiciously, or any unfamiliar customers she was worried about... She wants to know, 'worried' in what way, and he says anything, really: is there? After a pause she says nervously that there is nothing that she can remember. He reassures her that he is sure she's staying vigilant and if anything does come up she's got their number; she agrees heartily that she has, and asks if that's it; he then broaches his plan for him and Fallon to stay in the pub for a couple of days... Flatly, Jolene says 'no'. When he suggests it might make her feel a bit more secure while Kenton's not around she refuses again, this time with the addition of 'definitely not.' She doesn't want him there, or Fallon, neither of them, not staying over. He says it was just an idea, and they don't want to smother her; she thanks him for the thought, but she is fine. He reminds her that they are only next door, so if she is worried or she needs help in any way she is not to hesitate; she says she won't. And now she's sorry, but she needs to get back to work.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Monday 5th February, 2024

Adam mansplains and is made a fool of, and Kenton makes a fool of himself all on his own.

Characters: Susan, Clarrie, Adam, Jolene, Kenton
Credited scriptwriter:
Keri Davies
Director:
Peter Leslie Wild
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Since Clarrie has left the dairy keys at home, she and Susan wait outside until Adam comes to open up for them. He will be standing in for Helen for the whole four weeks she is away; she is taking the boys to Paris for half term next week, and the rest of the time is just a good long break, just what she needs – as Clarrie says. Clarrie and Susan have been looking forward to it as well; Helen couldn't help it, but the atmosphere has been dreadful and things should be a lot easier with Adam standing in for her. Susan feels that he isn't going to be exactly the boss, because they both know so much more than he does about what needs to be done in the dairy. They'll be running the place really, she adds sotto voce as Adam arrives and lets them in to start work.

Kenton is back on the ward, which Jolene takes as a sign of progress. He is fed up with still being there at all, but she emphasises that he can't rush it when he only had the op on Friday. He is bored and he hates it there with all the grumpy old men with whom he has nothing in common. He also isn't finding physio much fun and describes it as 'torture'. [I wish they didn't always seem to emphasise how awful physio is, on TA: sometimes it is necessary! Chris.] He is frustrated that they must be struggling without him, and Jolene denies that they are doing so; anyway him getting himself worked up isn't going to help anything.

The dairy is going perfectly well without Helen, and Clarrie tells Susan that since Emma has an evening class tonight she has suggested Clarrie as a replacement for her at The Bull. Susan says that her being behind the bar will be just like old times; Clarrie is looking forward to it, and of course the extra money will come in handy. Adam comes in wanting to know how it's going and after being told it's all good, and after saying that he's sure that they, like him, want everything to go well while Helen is away, takes Clarrie gently to task for having forgotten to bring the keys and thus lost valuable production time, especially if he'd been at the other end of the county visiting a customer and she'd had to go home for them. After he has gone on in this vein for a while Clarrie points out that they are losing valuable production time now, and he laughs and says there's a difference between losing and using and he doesn't want to make a big thing of it, just a friendly reminder. He now has to give Tom a hand in the polytunnel, with the broad beans and spring onions to plant up, so he will leave them to it for a couple of hours. After he has breezed out again Clarrie excuses him by saying it's his first day and he just wanted to make his mark, but Susan decides that they need to make theirs, and she knows just how.

Jolene is now filling Kenton in about all the successes they've been having at The Bull in his absence, and he asks how Valentine's is shaping up; apparently they are nearly full up already. Lilian is still helping out, and not driving Jolene nuts either; it's been great to see how everyone's mucking in, according to Jolene. [This of course is what Fallon told her yesterday. Chris.] Clarrie is covering for Emma this evening, says Jolene, which seems to upset Kenton.

Having got to the dairy, Adam is now instructing Susan and Clarrie to do things which they have already done. He grumbles that his feet are a bit uncomfortable, and Susan at once says that will be the lactose: he's got dairyman's foot, hasn't he, Clarrie? Swollen feet: it's a classic. She winds him up thoroughly before Clarrie spoils it by starting to laugh, and Susan explains that they played a little trick on him by swapping his wellies for smaller ones. He laughs and admits they got him there; well done. He will go and change into his real ones, which they left behind the locker, and then he wants Susan to help him with the latest batch of Borsetshire Blue; Clarrie will be fine doing the potting and labelling on her own, and Susan was saying only the other day that the process could be streamlined. She protests that she has to open the post office in half an hour, but he is firm that's all the time they need; as she goes to do as he has told her he adds that she has some hair sticking out from under her hair-net. Only his little joke, he adds as she tries to correct this.

When she starts work at The Bull that evening Clarrie soon gets into trouble with the high-tech new till, because she has not been instructed in its use and it is more complicated than the one that was there last time she worked behind the bar. As Jolene explains how to void a wrong entry and start again, a voice behind them offers to help; it is Kenton, who has scrounged a lift home from Freddie. He discharged himself (very much against the doctors' advice) because a racist had been put in the bed next to him and he could no longer stand being on the ward. Both Clarrie and Jolene think this was crazy of him and do not at all approve, and Jolene is furious: if he insists on coming home, all he is going to do is rest and do his exercises, not hang about downstairs. She tries to pack him off upstairs to bed, and as shee escorts him out of the bar he asks if it is just her and Clarrie, and she explains Tracy is in the Ploughman's and covering the restaurant; anyway it is none of his business, she adds crossly, to which he replies that it literally is. Not until he is properly better, she snaps. They then run into a problem: he can't manage stairs on his crutches because he has not been shown how. Jolene tells him this is exactly why he should have stayed in; he says he'll go up on his backside, then sits awkwardly and screams with pain. He now doesn't think he can get upstairs, because it hurts too much. Jolene wants to know what they are going to do: he can't stay there!

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Tuesday 6th February, 2024

An outbreak of en-suiteness and light, but will it last?

Characters: Harry, Alice, Eve Chilcott, Lynda, Jolene, Kenton,
Credited scriptwriter:
Keri Davies
Director:
Peter Leslie Wild
Editor: Jeremy Howe

While they wait for Harry's mother to get to the restaurant Harry orders water for the table, and then, realising that Alice is very nervous, distracts her by asking about her father's farm – or as she is quick to tell him, the family farm, since they all have shares in it. She tells him about more trees being planted, and more herbal leys, and the winter wheat having been flooded. When his mother arrives, exactly on time, Alice is quite relaxed, and is told at once to call her Eve rather than Mrs Chilcott, as well as being hugged and then told that she is gorgeous and her dress is fabulous. She explains that it's vintage and she got it at a recycled fashion show in the village last week; Eve admires her eye for clothes, and says it is stylish and smart. Eve then tells them to order what they want to: this meal is on her. When Harry tries to protest she tells him to do as his mother tells him.

A despairing Jolene has gone to ask Lynda for help; she explains the situation to her. Once she has grasped that Kenton signed himself out and is not better, Lynda is delighted to be able to be of use. Because Kenton can't yet get upstairs he spent the night on Fallon's sofa, which is clearly not ideal, especially since the lavatory is upstairs and they had to make 'other arrangements' for him. Jolene has been trying to find somewhere more suitable; Lynda has the very thing and shows her a ground floor, en suite room which she explains they had made after her accident gave them the idea of offering accommodation to people with mobility issues. [I wonder why they didn't give it to Rylan last May instead of throwing Adil out? We know Adil's room isn't en suite because of the time he went to have a shower and left his door open, and Ruby got onto his bed. Chris.] Jolene's breath is taken away: it would be perfect. Kenton would be very welcome to use it, and when Jolene asks what the room-rate is Lynda says she wouldn't dream of taking their money. It's not booked until Easter; Jolene hopes Kenton will be recovered by then. Lynda tells her to call it a favour for a friend in need.

Eve is carrying most of the conversational weight, telling Alice about how she met her husband, and that because of his ambition they now own six garden centres, though she is no longer directly involved: she is on the board, but she hasn't been hands-on for a long time. Once Harry's riding started to take off ... Harry explains that Mum sacrificed a huge amount for him, including her own riding career. Eve seems disinclined to discuss this, saying she doesn't regret any of it and then insisting on a photo of Alice and Harry together; she says they make a handsome couple. Alice then has to 'pop to the loo', and as soon as she is gone Eve demands to know how Harry is doing now. When he says he is fine she insists that she means it: how is he in himself? He says he's great and asks her not to fuss; she denies that she is fussing but he can't blame her for being concerned. He says slightly irritably that he just wants to get on with his life, OK? Get to know Alice better. Eve tells him Alice seems really nice, and he says that she is, and he is the happiest he's been in years.

When Kenton is shown the room Lynda is offering him and Jolene starts to say how great it is. Kenton seems less than grateful, and is in fact rather ungracious, particularly about the alarm cords over the bed and in the bathroom. Lynda goes to fetch towels and Jolene asks him what the hell is wrong with him; he complains that he doesn't see what the rush is about, and surely they could have tried a few more places, and found somewhere else? Jolene is not putting up with this: she spent all morning on the phone, and what is wrong with Lynda's room anyway? Lynda has gone above and beyond to help them out! Rather desperately Kenton says that is it; Jolene knows what Lynda is like, she'll be flapping around him all the time like a mother hen, treating him like a kid. Jolene reminds him that by rights he should still be in hospital, and he starts to get angry with her: she knows he couldn't stand it there. She loses her temper in turn and says angrily that he is going to have to stand it here. He wouldn't be in this position if he'd done what the doctors said. They're not treating him like a kid, he's behaving like a kid. Lynda comes back with a bath-towel and hand-towel for Kenton, and he thanks her with reasonable civility; she is sure Jolene must be needed back at The Bull, and thinks she could get along. Lynda can help 'the patient' find his feet.

During their excellent meal, Eve asks Alice if she will help her to shop for a dress: she has been invited to a Valentine's ball, and nothing she has is quite right. She was thinking that if Alice came with her she could really use her fashion eye and good advice. Alice is flattered, and agrees she will check the lesson schedule and get back to her. Eve suggests they could have another bite to eat while they are out, and Alice says if they do, it will definitely be her treat. It sounds really lovely.

Kenton has come to find Lynda in order to apologise to her for having been grumpy earlier. He explains that he had forgotten to take his painkillers at the right time [and how did he manage to get those out of the hospital pharmacy, if he signed himself out in the evening with no notice? Chris]. He's had a nap now and is feeling better than he was. She is very pleased to hear it, and, when he says the room is perfect, says she is just glad it is fitting the bill; she is also understanding of his irritation: he really mustn't worry about being a little scratchy now and then. She remembers very well how she felt after her accident, and knows that it is simply the pain and frustration being directed at whoever is close at hand, not personal. Kenton feels it is good to talk to someone who understands, although of course his injuries are nothing compared with hers; she informs him that it's not a competition and he must have compassion for himself and take the time he needs to recover fully. He promises to try, and says he feels bad for having inflicted himself on Jolene when she is busy running the pub: saddling her with the worst patient in the known universe! Lynda laughs and tells him that Robert might argue with him about that. He hasn't made it easy for her, and doesn't want to make it any worse than it has to be. He does know how lucky he is to have Jolene. [Oh dear; that's not a good omen. He'll be showing people her photograph and talking about his leave, next. Chris.] [Promise? Gus.]

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Wednesday 7th February, 2024

Susan is shrewd as well as shrewish, Adam is not fooled, and Hilda is just a cat.

Characters: Tony, Pat, Susan, Chris, Clarrie, Adam
Credited scriptwriter:
Keri Davies
Director:
Peter Leslie Wild
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Exasperated beyond his limits by Hilda sitting on his lap while he eats his porridge and trying to get on the table, Tony finally puts the cat out into the hall and shuts the door on her. Pat thinks he is being unnecessarily harsh, but he is unrepentant. He blames Pat for encouraging Hilda by giving her treats all the time.

Chris has come over to Ambridge View to collect a card-game Martha likes; he has her after nursery and overnight, and the weather is forecast to be vile, so he is sorting out indoor things to do with her. Susan 'tactfully' asks whether Alice will be seeing her new man, this 'Harry' feller, if Chris has got Martha, but Chris doesn't know: it's not the sort of thing she discusses with him. Susan muses that she didn't expect to see them in the pub on Sunday, and Chris reveals that it was the second time he bumped into them that day. Chris has only met him once before and says dubiously that he seems all right; Susan is even less sure. Harry says all the right things, she comments, but it's all a bit too smooth for her liking; she doesn't know, but there's something about him. Chris gets what she means. He then asks Susan to give Adam a message about having found an indoor nets location and wanting to discuss it when they meet for lunch. She agrees, then heaves a sigh which leads Chris to ask her what is wrong; she reveals that she and Clarrie thought they would have some fun while Helen was away, but Adam doesn't realise that the reason they enjoy the job is the chatting they do together, and keeps splitting them up. They've tried to tell him about it, but he just says it's more efficient, so Susan thinks it's time to take action, Christopher is startled: what, go on strike? No, Susan just wants to find a way to take him down a peg or two.

Pat and Tony are enjoying a Hilda-free conversation; Pat tells Tony about Kenton staying at Ambridge Hall and Lynda coming to find him some tempting treats from the shop. She suggests Tony lending Kenton a thriller he has just finished; Tony, though, knows there is no shortage of reading material at Ambridge Hall. However, he'll pop over some time and see if there is anything else Kenton would like. Pat then notices it's the first conversation they've had for ages without being bothered by Hilda; Tony had been wondering why he felt so relaxed, but Pat now feels obliged to call the cat, in spite of Tony not wanting her to, summon the beast. He suggests that Hilda is probably prowling and is unconcerned about her whereabouts, saying that she will turn up when she wants something, but Pat insists that she may have run away or hurt herself: Peggy would be devastated.

Clarrie has her doubts about what Susan describes as 'just a bit of fun' and fears they may get into trouble, but when Adam comes into the dairy they unite to ask him to get the ingredients for the Valentine's Day ice-cream. Allegedly, Helen gets these every year, but between them Susan and Clarrie manage to list what is needed: beetroot colouring, chocolate swirls, rose petals and powdered pearl-shimmer for decoration. Adam asks bemusedly whether they have these in stock and is told no, Helen gets them in special every year along with the secret ingredients, the aphrodisiacs, ginseng, maca, and ginko biloba, which come from the traditional Chinese medicine shop in Felpersham. You don't need big amounts, but you have to pick them up in person. The roses come from a florist in Ramsbury, and the powdered pearl from a place in Gilbert's Cross. Adam goes to find a pad to write all this down. When they are alone Susan asks Clarrie where she got ginko biloba from, and Clarrie says that it was in her magazine, in an article entitled 'Ten Ways to Spice Up Your Love Life'. Someone then knocks on the window: it is Pat, who is out looking for Hilda and wants to know if they have seen her.

The Hilda-hunt now involves Tony and Adam having to move things and look behind them while Adam shouts 'Hilda!' [as if the cat would come for him: he is not her owner! Chris]. Adam suggests asking Brian what happened when he had her, which hadn't crossed Tony's mind as a possibility, and says he has a lot on and can't spend his day running around after Hilda. Pat arrives just then asking whether there is any sign of her, since they have looked everywhere where there is food with no luck, and Adam offers to scout around the barn, then takes the opportunity to ask her about the Bridge Farm Valentine ice-cream; it means nothing to her, but he doesn't say why he asked. As Adam goes off, Tony suggests trying the goat shed: Hilda has a lot in common with goats. He also advocates giving up.

Over their meeting at The Bull Chris asks Adam whether they found the cat, and when told there was no sign of her when Adam left suggests they could put some posters up if she's not back by the end of the week. The two men agree that though Pat and Tony don;t want the cat around, they don't want her not around either, because of Peggy having felt so guilty about not being able to have her at The Laurels. Adam then mentions nets, but just before they do Chris wants to know how it is going, Adam working with Clarrie and Susan? Adam thinks it is going well and they have a really good working relationship: in fact they're so comfortable they feel able to play the occasional prank on him. He tells Chris about the yarn they spun him about aphrodisiac ice-cream, which makes Chris laugh, then say that it sounds like it's Adam's turn now: he should get his own back. Adam already has an idea for that; in fact, could he ask Chris a favour? Could Chris ring his mobile at about ten tomorrow?

The search for Hilda has been discontinued; Tony was just too cold and wet too look any more. It's horrible out there; Pat doesn't like to think of Hilda out in it, but Tony sensibly says she will have taken shelter. He goes to put his coat to dry a bit on the back of his chair before putting it away, and finds Hilda curled up there. Pat wonders how she got in, but Tony feels the method is hardly the point: this is her revenge for being chucked out of the kitchen. Pat laughs at him and says Hilda is just a cat, but he disagrees: this is not just a cat, this is a demon in feline form.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Thursday 8th February, 2024

Tony has had enough of Hilda, and Eve Chilcott wants nothing more to do with Alice.

Characters: Harry, Alice, Adam, Clarrie, Susan, Eve Chilcott
Credited scriptwriter:
Keri Davies
Director:
Peter Leslie Wild
Editor: Jeremy Howe

The alarm has gone off at seven thirty and both Alice and Harry are reluctant to get up. However, Alice has to give a lesson before going to meet Harry's mum, and Harry has to get a horse ready for potential sale, so they do get up. He invites her and Martha to go on holiday with him, which she says she will think about, and is glad she is making all this effort with Mum; she denies that it is effort, because it's a pleasure: it's wonderful how welcoming Eve has been.

In the dairy the day's work is being explained to Susan and Clarrie by Adam; since they 'repeat' what he is saying before he says it, it's clear they know the work better than he does. For instance, he has brought over four twenty-litre churns, spelling out that this is because they need eighty litres of milk; Clarrie starts to protest and then realises there is no point in bothering to tell him what he has got wrong. (Usually they get the milk in smaller containers which they are able to lift.) When he says the two women are obviously across it, Clarrie mentions that it is a standard job and they must have done it hundreds of times; thousands, corroborates Susan. Unabashed, Adam continues mansplaining until his phone rings; since Clarrie and Susan are making rather a noise trying to lift the milk into the pasteuriser he puts the call on hold, and takes himself and the phone outside, saying that it sounds serious.

When Eve opens the door to Alice she is taken aback to see her and makes excuses for not going out shopping with her, saying that she did send her a text message and she is sorry Alice has had a wasted journey; Alice tries to re-arrange for another day, and eventually Eve tells her that on reflection it wasn't a good idea them meeting up and it's best if they just forget about the whole thing. When Alice asks if something is wrong or she has offended Eve somehow, Eve tells her that she can't talk any more because she has something on the stove, and closes the door in her face.

Adam tells Susan and Clarrie that was the council food safety department planning to come and inspect the dairy tomorrow, and requiring them to have a lot of paperwork ready. Clarrie is horrified: it will take ages to pull it all together and they've got this big batch of ice-cream to make. Susan fears they will have to come in late and get it done then. Adam agrees that the timing could have been better. Normally he would be able to do it, but he's got all these Valentine's ingredients to get, and the ginko biloba isn't going to buy itself. Clarrie is about to own up about that when there is mewing: Hilda has got in through the door Adam failed to close behind him, and is lapping at the spilt milk on the floor; when they try to catch her she gets onto the worktop.

In her distress Alice has gone straight to Harry's yard to tell him about his mother's strange and frankly unpleasant behaviour. He doesn't believe it at first, and then doesn't understand it any more than she does, but promises to get to the bottom of it and put it right.

Adam has gone to own up to Pat and Tony, and Susan and Clarrie have started the complete cleansing of the dairy which will have to be done before it can be used. When Adam gets back he tells them it wasn't the best news Pat and Tony have had all week, and apologises to them; Clarrie comfortingly assures him that it was an accident. He has explained that they have disposed of the twenty litres that had already been put in, but Pat thought they should pour the rest away too, since those were sitting in the passageway. Susan protests that those had got lids on, but Adam reminds her that they don't know if Hilda walked over them, and Clarrie agrees that it's better safe than sorry. Adam grumbles that it's a bad time to be throwing milk away, with the Montys drying off towards calving; only ten are going through the parlour at the moment. It's going to take most of the day to clean the dairy, so Adam will have to ring round and tell everyone their delivery is going to be delayed; Pat is going to come across and help, which made him feel worse. Susan asks what about the food safety thing, and says she can try to get someone called Hussein to cover for her in the Post Office so she can stay and help with the paperwork, but Adam now owns up: that won't be necessary because there is no snap inspection. It was just his little joke. When Clarrie and Susan are indignant he explains that it was Chris calling him as part of the wind-up, which annoys Susan, and before they start, it was his response to their supposed Valentine's ice-cream job. He has told Pat and Tony about it all, feeling he had no choice [nasty little clype. Chris], and wants Clarrie and Susan to agree: no more wind-ups. They do so. Clarrie then asks what about Hilda, and Adam tells her that this was the last straw for Tony: he's had enough and is going to re-home her.

Harry has gone to confront his mother. She denies that she is 'playing games' and explains that she got talking with one of her friends, Celine Pocock, who has a daughter who knows Alice well, having even been a bridesmaid with her once, and has been told about Alice being an alcoholic. Harry informs her that he knew, because Alice has been very open about it, and effectively says 'so what?'; his mother says it's worse than that and tells him about Alice turning up drunk at a family funeral, and about her throwing a brick through a shop window, which he claims he knew as well. It's all in the past, and Alice is in recovery now and has been sober for over two years, but Eve swiftly asks how long that is going to last? She's sorry, but Alice could relapse at any time. She says that Harry's got to end it with Alice; he refuses to consider the idea. Eve is determined: that sort of person will do him no good at all, and Eve means it: for his own sake, he must never see her again.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Friday 9th February, 2024

One dropped bottle, two dead mice.

Characters: Jolene, Kenton, Tony, Adam, Pat, Alice, Harry
Credited scriptwriter:
Keri Davies
Director:
Peter Leslie Wild
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Unable to stay away, Kenton has turned up at The Bull again, having cadged a lift from Robert. Jolene is worried lest something has gone wrong at Ambridge Hall, but no; he is just bored. All he wants to do is sit in the bar, chat to the regulars and be with his wife if she'll let him.

On the phone, Tony arranges to have a look at a new home for Hilda just off the Penny Hassett Road. The man's name is Jenson so of course he is called 'The Interceptor'; somewhat despairingly, Pat asks whether any of Eddie's friends have normal names. Adam arrives just as Tony puts the phone down saying he'll be there as soon as possible; he has an update on the dairy situation. They've finished the replacement batch of vanilla and put it into Napoli containers ready for delivery; this means they are a bit behind on the Sterling Gold but Adam will come in tomorrow to make a start on that. He won't want paying for it; Tony protests that's not on, and Adam rightly points out that it was his error that led to all this. Pat however backs Tony on this, and Adam offers to buy them a drink at The Bull as an apology, which they accept. Pat then suggests a mini-review next week, at which Tony wonders if they can teach Clarrie and Susan a gentle lesson. He does at least place the blame on 'Houdini Hilda' rather than on the two innocent workers, congratulating himself that she won't be an issue for much longer. The only problem will be persuading Eddie's mate that Hilda is a well-behaved, sweet-natured cat, and that is why Tony is not taking her with him. Pat feels this is all happening too fast and she doesn't like Tony telling lies; also, Peggy is going to be very upset. Adam excuses himself; he has a few things he has to finish off. After he has left Pat says pathetically that Peggy always looks forward to Hilda's visits, but Tony just suggests that her new family could take her occasionally. Pat is to leave Mum to him; he will explain the situation and give her a chance to say goodbye. She might not like it but she'll get over it.

Adam is chatting with Kenton in The Bull, telling him about Hilda's imminent departure, and Kenton tells him about his physio's visit earlier; he is pleased with his own progress but says nothing about what the physio thinks of him. Jolene comes over and mentions that Tracy has had to cry off her shift: she's feeling rough and is worried she might have covid. Jolene is sure they can manage the Friday rush without her.

When Harry finally arrives to see her, Alice is not entirely welcoming and wants to know what is going on with his mum. She has been unable to concentrate and even let Misty escape her stall into the yard, where Joanna [who has previously been called Joanne. Chris] fortunately caught her. Alice has been racking her brain about what she can possibly have said, if she was rude or was misinterpreted; Harry assures her it's nothing like that, then tries not to tell her what was the problem. He fails to convince her of his mother's anxiety for him caused by his accident, and its aftermath including the marriage break-up, as the cause of her feeling it is too soon for him to be taking on any relationship. She asks blankly if that is it, and when he says that his mother is very sorry if she seemed abrupt and it was just her protective instincts wants to know why, if that was how she felt, she agreed to have lunch and arranged to go shopping? And if that was how she felt why couldn't she explain it to Alice yesterday? Harry flounders, and after a pause Alice realises what must have changed: Eve did some digging, didn't she. Harry exclaims 'No!' but Alice is no longer listening to him. Eve wanted to know who her little boy was taking up with: did she find out that Alice is an alcoholic? After a long pause, Harry says, 'Yeah.' Alice seems almost relieved for a moment but then starts to breathe hard as Harry says that a 'friend' told Eve.

Tony and Pat have arrived and greet Adam and Kenton, but Jolene has to go to the other bar, and Adam explains that Tracy rang in sick and with Emma in the Ploughman's, Jolene is managing in the main bar on her own. Lilian has a commitment elsewhere and Clarrie didn't really work out. Adam asks Tony how it went at Jenson the Interceptor's but Tony didn't like the place: it was chaotic and they had animals already (including a bird in a cage and lizards in a terrarium) and seemed more like animal collectors than animal lovers. Kenton has met the type, and Adam fears that it doesn't sound ideal. Tony said they had several people interested and would get back to them, and came away. He apologises to Pat for fibbing, but Pat will let him off that one. Meanwhile Kenton is starting to feel uncomfortable about Adam not having been served, and starts to go round behind the bar; Adam opens the hatch for him. Adam asks for a pint of Shires, Tony wants the same and Pat wants a half. As Adam adds whisky chasers to the order Jolene comes over and wants to know what Kenton is playing at, and has an argument with Kenton about him serving the drinks, but he persuades her he will be fine. Unfortunately when it comes to the whiskies he realises that the optic is empty and he will have to put another bottle up. Pat tells Adam that Hilda has now won Tony's heart by bringing him two dead mice, which Pat [who wasn't listening to the programme in September, 2017. Chris] says is a first, and now it seems that since they can't have mice around the farm, she might in fact be more useful than they had thought. It's worth a try, even if as the ignorant Pat says, Hilda has been a pampered pet all her life. At this point Kenton, who has been fiddling with the optic and saying it won't take long, gives a sharp scream and there is a crash of breaking glass. He says that he slipped and will clear it up, but Jolene is furiously determined he will do no such thing and sends him back to his chair. He is in pain, and thinks he pulled his stitches lifting the bottle. He was just trying to help, and now he has made even more work for her: he is so sorry.

Alice has worked herself into a hysterical state and is wailing about the very first time she gets interested in someone, while Harry tries to calm her and say it makes no difference to him. Alice is now aware that she is never going to escape it and it will hang about her neck forever, but when Harry argues that his mother will come round eventually and then tells Alice that he is falling in love with her, she retreats and says she can't, it's too much, and tells him to go. She has to have some space and think it all through.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Sunday 11th February, 2024

Fallon sympathises, David 'helps' and Jolene has a nasty shock.

Characters: David, Kenton, Alice, Fallon, Lilian, Jolene
Credited scriptwriter:
Sarah McDonald Hughes
Director:
Pip Swallow
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Visiting the sick is said to be an act of virtue, though whether Kenton feels that David visiting him is a good thing it is hard to tell. He is certainly very ungracious about it. His excuse is that he is worried about Jolene, who is really stressed out by running the pub on her own, and when she came to see him looked as if she hadn't slept. 'Dave' might find this hard to believe, but Kenton has never felt so useless.

Alice and Fallon have gone running together and have stopped, as Alice says, conveniently near the café. Alice uses their having stopped as occasion to tell Fallon about Eve's behaviour to her because she is an alcoholic; Fallon is duly shocked.

The Bull is saved! David has arrived. When he discovers that Jolene and Lilian are all alone serving the full pub, he volunteers to cover while Kenton is off. When Lilian asks if he doesn't have a farm to run he airily says that Ruth and Pip can take care of that; also he is sure that it won't be long before Kenton is back on his feet, especially if he hears that David is behind the bar. Jolene offers to pay him the going rate, but he won't hear of it. There is no need for Lilian to show him the ropes: he serves behind the bar at the Brookfield Events Barn most weekends. Lilian does suggest that a pub is a bit different because you have to manage the cellar, stock rotation, ordering... He interrupts her list to tell her that it is fundamentally the same thing and then serve someone two pints in two of the last available glasses; he suggests to Lilian that now he is here she can go and collect some, for which she is notably not grateful.

The sorry saga of Harry's mother continues and Fallon expresses sympathy about her insensitivity in reacting badly without even speaking to Alice; Alice however can see Eve's point, because if Martha came home in twenty years' time and said she was seeing an ex-addict Alice too would be edgy about it. Fallon however puts it to her that she would talk it over with Martha and her fellow rather than just lay down the law, and she has to agree but is sure she would have some understanding, which Harry's mum most probably doesn't. When Fallon asks what Harry said, Alice tells her that he said he doesn't care what his mother thinks, and that he is falling in love with Alice. Fallon understands the problem, but asks how Alice feels, and, when Alice doesn't reply, laughingly almost-asks if Alice feels the same way about him; this gets a weak affirmative. Fallon says that maybe it doesn't matter what his mum thinks: he's a grown man, for Heaven's sake! but Alice is sure that it does, because it makes everything complicated and messy, which is what she doesn't want. Fallon suggests that if Harry is clear he wants to be with Alice then that's that and his mother will have to lump it, but Alice doesn't want to be responsible for Harry ruining his relationship with his mum. Fallon wants to know how she left it with Harry, and, when Alice says that she told him she needed some space, asks whether that has helped; Alice's reply is, 'Not really.' She keeps picking up her phone to message him, but she doesn't know what to say. Fallon points out that she doesn't have to solve the whole thing by herself: like she said, it's complicated, but not for her: it's complicated for Harry. Alice likes him and wants to be with him, and it sounds like he wants to be with her. Alice knows that, but everything's got so tricky now: they should still be at the fun stage. In a serious voice Fallon asks if she knows what's fun, and, when Alice asks 'what?' in a bewildered way, says 'mini golf.' There's a new one in Felpersham; she and Harrison were thinking of trying it out one night, and why don't Alice and Harry go with them? She'd love to meet him. Alice is not sure how that would help, but Fallon thinks it might be just what they need: to have a nice time together and forget about the complicated and messy stuff for a bit. Alice utters a dubious 'hmmm'.

At The Bull, David is having a fine time chatting with the customers, but Lilian would rather he were loading the dishwasher. There is a system for that, and he has ignored it. Lilian has timed him: he was gabbing to Derek Fletcher for twelve and a half minutes. She is school-marmy and he is argumentative. She asks if he has changed the guest ale yet, which of course he hasn't because he doesn't know how, so she tells him to watch the bar and she will go. It is at this point that Kenton walks in yet again, having persuaded Lynda and Robert to bring him for a pint, and asks what David is doing behind the bar; when David says he is helping, Lilian crossly asks if that's what he calls it and wants to know what she can get Kenton. He wants a bottle of house white for Robert and Lynda and a pint for him. David officiously asks whether him drinking is advisable, and Lilian goes to get Jolene from the Ploughman's where she is having a bite to eat. Kenton remarks how busy they must have been, with all those dirty glasses piled up; Lilian says pointedly that David was about to load the dishwasher. David agrees that he was but doesn't do it, instead starting to chat to Kenton, whom Jolene doesn't seem particularly pleased to see: she doesn't want him overdoing things again as he did on Friday. He claims to have learned his lesson, but to want to know how she is: it's her worrying about him that he is worrying about. There is a sudden scream somewhere in the bar and Jolene reacts as if she had been shot, asking whether she should call the police, but David reassures her that it just looks as if Derek Fletcher has taken a tumble. Kenton wants to know what he was playing at frightening Jolene like that, then realises as Lilian goes to clear up the spilt drink that she is seriously upset, especially when she says that she was worried they'd come back. She feels so silly getting in a state about a chair falling over! She'll just go upstairs and sort her face out, and will be back in a minute, she says as she flees. David asks whether she is all right, and Kenton says not really: she is still shaken up about what happened, which Lilian confirms she is bound to be, and Kenton not being there with her is not right. David is sure it won't be for long though; Kenton hopes that when he sees the nurse on Tuesday he'll give him the all clear for tackling the stairs. David has his fingers crossed, but in the meantime they are here and will look after Jolene; Lilian backs him up and Kenton doesn't know what he would do without them both: the dream team.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Monday 12th February, 2024

Tony and Adam are work-place bullies while Pip is working hard for once.

Characters: Clarrie, Susan, Adam, Ruth, Pip, Tony
Credited scriptwriter:
Sarah McDonald Hughes
Director:
Pip Swallow
Editor: Jeremy Howe

It seems that Tony has told Clarrie he wants a word with all three dairy staff and will come and find them in the staff room at lunch time; Susan and Clarrie are apprehensive about it and speculate that he is probably going to read the riot act over the cat getting in. Clarrie feels as if she had been sent to wait outside the headmistress's office, and Susan knows what she means. When Adam breezes in and asks about their weekends they decide to tell him so that he can mentally prepare. He supposes they'd better face the music; Susan doesn't think they have much choice about it.

When asked by Ruth to do one more small chore, Pip is grudging and ill-done-by about it and complains she has been out since five and has not even stopped for a tea-break. Ruth replies that she must take a break and the chore can wait; Jill is in the kitchen and it is the anniversary of Phil's death, which Pip had forgotten. She apologises for moaning and excuses it by saying she is just knackered, and Ruth acknowledges that it's a struggle at the moment with David at The Bull. There's too much work on the farm for two people, but Kenton and Jolene need some support; Ben is up to his eyes in course work and Josh said he would help when he could but is snowed under with the eggs. She and Pip will manage, won't they. Pip agrees they'll have to. Ruth departs to look at the sheep at Home Farm.

Tony is tearing the three dairy workers off a strip for their unhealthy culture of pranks; his lecture culminates in sacking Adam, and he hopes that will be a warning to 'the rest of you'. He ends by saying that Adam will be paid to the end of the week but need not stay after the end of the day, and leaves. Adam sounds crushed, and Susan and Clarrie are horrified; Susan offers to go after Tony and beg him to change his mind, but Adam doubts there would be any point, so she offers to make him a cup of tea.

At Brookfield, Tony turns up hoping to borrow their telehandler and meets Pip crossing the yard with the calving jack; she tells him he is welcome to the loan but he'll have to fetch it himself because she's a bit busy at the moment. A calf is arriving early, and when Tony asks if the mother is struggling Pip says it looks as if she's been pushing for a fair bit with no progress; she needs some help, but Pip is on her own. When it is put to him like that, Tony sees no option but to offer to give her a some backup.

Susan and Clarrie think it very good of Adam to stay and help them with the ice-cream; in the circumstances no-one would blame him for wanting to go straight away, as Clarrie says. He is crushed but brave; he wanted to at least stay and finish his last batch. Susan reminds him that it's their fault he's lost his job and she could kick herself for playing those daft tricks. Clarrie could and all. Susan begs Adam to let her go and talk to Tony and see if she can't convince him to keep Adam on: it's got to be worth a go. Clarrie isn't sure: she's never seen him like that before, so cold and strict. Yes, he was very good, wasn't he, muses Adam. Very convincing. Clarrie wants to know what he means, and Adam explains that if he hadn't known that Tony was pretending he'd have believed him: he's actually a very good actor. Clarrie denies that he was pretending, and Adam exclaims 'Got you!' and starts to laugh, which he continues to do as Susan indignantly asks if he and Tony staged all that to trick them, and Clarrie continues to disbelieve him. When Adam tells them both that it was a practical joke and Susan crossly points out that they agreed, 'no more practical jokes', he is entirely unrepentant: it was too good to resist. Clarrie and Susan are by no means convinced, but Adam is telling them: he roped Tony in to make them think he was sacking Adam. They continue to doubt him, which he claims is calling him a liar, but Tony then rings him and backs up the story; Adam puts him on speaker-phone so they can both have a good laugh at Susan and Clarrie's expense. Susan demands confirmation that Adam is not sacked, and Tony says he isn't: sorry, you two, it was just a bit of fun. Susan is understandably cross that their concern for Adam was wasted. Adam says sorry, but that they have to admit that as practical jokes go it was a pretty good one.

Tony has gone back to the labouring cow [the animal, not Pip. Chris] and after some obstetric detail, and sound effects, a heifer is born with a mighty thump and Pip rubs her dry while Tony checks the mother. All is well, and Pip asks about the phone call, which sounded intriguing. Tony tells her it was a little joke they played on Clarrie and Susan because things were getting a bit out of hand in the dairy; he thinks he did the trick. Pip snortingly suggests that the hours must fly by over at Bridge Farm, and Tony tells her they've had their fair share of drama recently, mostly involving Hilda. Pip had heard they ended up with her, and Tony confirms that she's an absolute menace; Pip tells him they should take her to the kitten clinic being run by Denise at the vets. Pip thinks it's about litter training and socialising; Tony points out that Hilda is a long way from a kitten, but Pip reckons you never know, Denise might be able to help her be less menacing or help them with some behavioural management. Tony thinks it might be worth a go. Ruth then arrives and they discuss the busyness of life with David working at The Bull; Pip says it's a good thing Toby has got Rosie for half term or they really would be in trouble. Ruth then points out that it's Tony's birthday later in the week, when he will be 'the big seven-three' as he puts it, and they will be going to the pub; Ruth will try to join them there but Pip will be having a pampering session ahead of her own birthday celebrations on Saturday. [This is the big info-dump of all the bits the SW forgot to put into the episode earlier. Chris.] She can't wait; just four days of relentless farming to get through till then. Tony has a quick goo over the new calf before he leaves, and Pip says that it does make it all worth while.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Tuesday 13th February, 2024

Two foots in mouth, one hole-in-one.

Characters: Paul, Alistair, Fallon, Harrison, Denise, Harry, Alice
Credited scriptwriter:
Sarah McDonald Hughes
Director:
Pip Swallow
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Now that she has come back to the Ambridge surgery, Denise is apparently doing some re-organising. She has installed a hook for the key to the medicine room, which had been living on top of a drawer unit and might have been swept off to lodge behind it. Paul grumbles and is snide about this, but Alistair thinks it a good idea. As they are about to leave for a drink Paul produces a piece of post for Alistair which he had taken it upon himself to hang onto because it has a red envelope; he demands that Alistair should open it, but Alistair quite fails to be interested. Denise will meet them at the pub; she is putting up posters round the village for the Kitten Clinic on Thursday and has five sign-ups already from the internet. Alistair mentions Tony having come in to sign up Hilda, and Paul criticises that as well, saying Denise will be annoyed. When Alistair insists on setting off for The Bull rather than paying attention to him, Paul heaves a long-suffering sigh.

The mini-golf party are to meet at The Bull, and Fallon has already got Harrison a pint when he arrives. He is not all that enthused about going out after having had a hard day at work, though Fallon claims it was his idea because he was the one who suggested trying out the new place. He testily denies it: he wanted to go with her, and she has invited Alice and her new boyfriend. She wants to know what the matter is and he tells her that he doesn't really know Harry; Fallon says that the point is to meet him, and Harrison asks why he has to tag along, reminding her that he has already met Harry, whom he seems not to have taken to when they met in the restaurant [perhaps because Harry came over as a patronising git? Chris]. It's just these horsey types, he explains, they're not really his type. Fallon immediately asks what about Chris, a farrier: you don't get much more horsey than that; Harrison tells her that Chris is staff to people like Harry, and Fallon accuses him of inverted snobbery. She wins the argument because Alice and Harry arrive before Harrison can say any more.

Denise is going on about the church becoming a community hub, and Alistair eventually breaks into her monologue to ask her what she was thinking when she sent him a valentine card? She denies it and laughs at him, and her mockery and disapproval make him quite cast down. She asks if he really thinks she would send her boss a valentine card at work for her son to find, and he has to admit it's not likely. Paul gets back with some house red just then, and spots the valentine; triumphantly he exclaims that he knew it had to be and wants to know who it is from. Alistair doesn't know. Paul reads out the message inside the card ('Your true love is much closer than you think') and starts to tease Alistair about having an admirer and being a catch, listing his good qualities and embarrassing him. When he says there's no end to the people it could be, Denise wants to know 'like who?' and Paul starts to list them, starting with 'that woman with the gecko', whom Denise identifies as Bridie someone and Alistair names as Bridie Cameron; Alistair does not appreciate the teasing. Paul mentions the feller who breeds the cavapoos and is always happy to chat, and then the woman with the chinchilla, at which point Denise causes confusion by exclaiming about 'Babs' and saying she is adorable – meaning the chinchilla, not her owner Judith someone. Alistair is exasperated and asks to be passed the bottle so he can pour them all some wine.

Being stuck behind a slow party of children at every hole is annoying Harrison; Harry tries to be chummy about it and annoys him thereby, and Alice says she thinks the children in front of them are adorable. The conversation between Alice and Fallon veers to having children in the house, with Fallon saying they spoil everything; obscurely, this leads Harry to ask whether she and Harrison have kids, to which Harrison replies 'no' and Fallon says 'yes' [why would a childless woman say this? It's mad. Chris] and then 'no, no we haven't'; Harry laughs in a fake way and says she doesn't sound very sure, and then although Alice tries to distract him by saying that it is now their turn, asks Fallon if she is pregnant before realising how rude that is and telling her to pretend he never said anything. Even Alice remonstrates, suggesting that he should maybe just stop talking; Harrison mutters that is a good idea and Harry says 'absolutely'. Fallon now says it is their turn, but Harrison confrontationally remarks that Harry asks some very personal questions, and when Harry seems baffled tells him that he has only just met them and has no idea what they might be going through. Fallon tries to defuse things by saying it's OK, but Harrison contradicts this, says that it isn't, and goes off to the bar.

The suggestions from Paul about who may be the originator of Alistair's card are getting silly enough to irritate Alistair considerably. Paul is determined that whoever sent it must be someone they know, but Denise spots something on the back of the card: a QR code. When Harry scans it, he discovers the card is from 'Countryside Courting', a dating app. Denise is duly enlightened, and so is Alistair; he signed up with them shortly after Shula left him, but didn't use them and then lost his password and couldn't get back in. [If he gave a dating app his work address, his idea of internet security sucks swamp through a straw. Chris.] When he says he didn't even go on one date both Paul and Denise tell him that he should have another go, but he claims to be a dinosaur who is not interested. Paul is determined that he should try again, and wants his phone: he bets he could get Alistair back into this app.

Harry and Alice have carried on alone, and Alice has just got a hole-in-one; Harry asks if Harrison and Fallon are OK and whether they are having IVF, muttering about him and his big mouth and just babbling because he wants them to like him, and Alice reassures him that they will like him, because she does. [This is of course utter tosh. Chris.] Harry feels that it's not important because this is about him and Alice and is nobody else's business. Alice agrees: she thinks they are OK. When Harrison and Fallon return from the bar, Harrison apologises for disappearing like that and Harry apologises for asking silly questions. Fallon and Harrison rejoin the game

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Wednesday 14th February, 2024

David's cocktail is one in the eye for Lilian, but Kenton is shaken.

Characters: Alice, Lilian, David, Kenton, Fallon, Harrison
Credited scriptwriter:
Sarah McDonald Hughes
Director:
Pip Swallow
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Sucking as if for the last drops of gin in a bottle [and as no smoker ever has in this world. Chris], Lilian has gone outside for a cigarette and, when Alice heaves into view and says that she thought Lilian had given up, a good consolidated whinge about David's idea of 'helping out behind the bar' while Lilian does all the work apart from pulling pints. Jolene is too 'anxious' to say anything to him about it. Alice hopes the police will find whoever did it soon. She then sees Fallon and rushes away to catch her.

Back in the bar David greets Lilian convivially and seemingly has no idea that she is irritated with him. She wants him to move the barrels in the cellar, and he (speaking as to a small child or an imbecile) explains that he will after he has perfected his cherry fling, his valentine's cocktail. He thinks, after sampling it, that it needs more bitters; Lilian is horrified to see it has a glacé cherry in it. He is trying to price it; it contains a shot of vanilla vodka, a dash of cherry liqueur, bitters, half Prosecco half soda, and he thinks perhaps eight fifty is a fair price. Lilian asks if Jolene knows about this little enterprise, and David assures her that she is fully on board and plans to try one when she gets back with Kenton. Before Lilian gets into her stride in her criticism of David, materialises and asks how things are. Lilian swallows and womanfully says everything is fine; David concurs. Lilian pointedly tells Kenton that David was just about to go and move the barrels in the cellar, but David puts it off by saying 'In a minute', still in the voice of one being patient with an importunate child, and devoting his attention to Kenton. Kenton doesn't want help to go upstairs; he wants to sit in the bar for a bit, so David asks what he can get him. Oozing faux-sweetness, Lilian suggests he should try David's 'chavvy fling' (offending David), then lists the ingredients taking care to mention that it includes The Bull's premium Prosecco.

Fallon is apologising to Alice for her and Harrison's behaviour: Harry must have thought them very strange. Alice in her turn wants to express her (and Harry's) regret about Harry having mentioned childlessness, which she knows is a sensitive subject for a lot of people. Fallon simply hadn't realised how sensitive it still is for her and Harrison; Alice thought they had decided not to have kids, and so did Fallon, but now she doesn't know any more whether Harrison is OK with it. She can't bring herself to drag it all up again, but she should talk to him, shouldn't she Just as she did in 2020 when the same question arose, Alice thinks that she probably should. Fallon did think it was OK but she doesn't want Harrison to suffer in silence about it, and she doesn't want them to keep on having the same unhappy conversation again and again without ever actually resolving anything. [Oh, I do so agree! Chris.]

Harrison is ordering at The Bull: two asparagus and two steaks medium rare. David asks if he can interest him in one of their special valentine's cocktails, and Harrison agrees to get two, then asks how Kenton is doing. As his mixes his cocktail David says his brother is OK but a bit frustrated, just as Kenton comes back in and greets Harrison. David then starts to shake the cocktail very vigorously [presumably before the addition of the soda and the Prosecco. Chris] and manages to elbow Lilian in the eye as he does so. She is not amused, and her ensuing rant about David's general behaviour escalates rapidly, especially after David claims that technically he is in charge, since he is standing in for Kenton, who is the boss. Lilian quite rightly disputes this, since she and Jolene are the owners of the pub, and tells him she would be grateful if he would get down to that cellar and move those barrels. Kenton, sounding very stressed, tells them both to stop it, grow up and sort it out, and when Harrison asks if he is all right says no, he's not, and this pair are supposed to be there to help when they are actually making things much worse. He goes off upstairs, and before either Lilian or David can go after him Fallon intervenes to ask what the hell the two of them are playing at; they should just look after the bar and let Kenton calm down. People are trying to enjoy their evenings, including her and Harrison. David has the grace to apologise: he'll bring their drinks over, unless Lilian would like to do that while he goes and sorts the cellar out. He asks Lilian whether she thinks Kenton was joking; she doesn't think he was.

Back at their table Harrison tries to make a joke of it with Fallon, but she doesn't think it's funny: Kenton seemed really upset. She then chooses to have the conversation about children at the pub where it could be overheard rather than in the privacy of their own home: why did Harrison get so upset when Harry asked about kids? Harrison is sorry, and wishes he'd handled it better; Fallon brings it all round to him wanting children when she doesn't. She wants him to be honest with her [ie to tell her what she expects to hear rather than what he actually feels. Chris]; she thought they were OK about that stuff. As he has done before, Harrison assures her that they are, and that he is happy with the decision that it will just be them. Yes, he would have liked to have children, but there's no saying that they even could, biologically, and in a way it's better, because this way he has chosen for it to be just the pair of them.

Kenton has been gone for over an hour and Lilian is wondering if she should go up and see him, but David says there is no need. Kenton has come back down. He says he is fine, and Lilian has to serve Sabrina and leaves the two brothers together. David apologises for losing it, and Kenton explains that it was his shouting: his body just kind of reacted, like a panic, and it was frightening. David is abjectly apologetic, and Kenton tells him the doctor talked about this: he said Kenton might have dreams and flashbacks and re-live it and that might cause an unexpected reaction. He didn't expect to feel so upset. David and Lilian arguing would have been nothing to him a few weeks ago, but today, he can't explain it; it sounds so pathetic... David says it sounds perfectly understandable: he's been through something awful and it will take a while to recover, mentally as much as physically. And David will help, starting with making sure the pub runs smoothly – and quietly. Kenton thanks him and says that would be really great.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Thursday 15th February, 2024

Paul is improved by adversity and Pip sounds more sensible than Ruth.

Characters: Alistair, Denise, Paul, Pip, Ruth
Credited scriptwriter:
Sarah McDonald Hughes
Director:
Pip Swallow
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Whilst Alistair is operating on an animal with Denise assisting, they talk. She is not pleased with him about Hilda coming to the Kitten Klinic along with the other six who will be attending, and Alistair does a fair bit of apologising for that and for having offended her the other night. She is clearly fed up with him and her replies are borderline hostile. When he mentions the dating app and not having used it, she tells him it is nothing to do with her; when he insists on going on about it, she tells him he should update his profile and use it. Into this embarrassing scene enter a very subdued Paul, who has been rung by his dad; his grandma, Patricia, has had another fall and is in hospital.

Pip is trying to get Ruth to have something to eat; Ruth claims to have wasted the whole morning dealing with a cancelled booking for the wedding barn. Because the bride has said they have decided to go for a different vibe, Ruth is convinced they have cancelled in order to go to Grey Gables instead and is complaining about this, at length. Pip is pragmatic about it, and Ruth is not happy with that attitude, nor indeed with the barn, which she now thinks is looking a bit tatty. Maybe if they did it up and made it a bit more shiny they'd get more bookings, only they can't afford shiny. Pip points out that it's a barn and people don't come to a barn for shiny: they come for authentic rustic experience on a working farm. Ruth continues to whinge. Pip firmly repeats that they are not a luxury spa hotel and they are not pretending to be. Ruth mutters that they could have done with the income, and there are no weddings in the diary at the moment; Pip suggests that maybe they should do some marketing, but Ruth doesn't think they have the time and starts to list the jobs she has to do, all four of them, plus the printer being on its last legs. All this on top of actually being out in the fields farming; and they have to move the sheep this afternoon... Pip agrees that it's a lot, and it is exhausting at the moment, and Dad has definitely got it easier helping at The Bull, but she also thinks things might not look so bad after a cup of tea and a sandwich.

Denise has gone to find Paul, who is really very upset and as a result has forgotten his camp affectations and sounds a much less annoying person. She has spoken to his dad, who has told her they think Patricia has broken her ribs and her wrist and she's in a lot of pain. Paul wishes he could see her; Denise tries to comfort him and says she is in the best possible place where they will be doing everything they can. John is going to fly out as soon as possible: he's found a flight tomorrow, and once he's there and has seen her they'll know a lot more about how she's doing. Maybe Paul could have a video call with her when she feels up to it. Brokenly, he reminds her that he was planning to go out there in summer; Denise says he still can, but he is worried in case Patricia is not back on her feet by then. You hear it all the time: perfectly healthy people who have a fall and never recover. Denise robustly tells him to stop spiralling, but he can't help it. He's really worried about her and hates to think of her in that hospital all on her own. Denise exclaims at that: is he kidding her? Give her five minutes and she'll have taken over 'that hospital'; she'll be in her element, ruling the roost. Paul rather dismally hopes so. Denise then suggests that he should go with his dad, Which makes him even more anxious: does that mean she thinks Patricia is going to die? Denise tells him that of course she doesn't but sometimes you have to trust your instincts and drop everything; he should go on and see her. When he cavils about not being able to get time off work or pay for the flights she tells him firmly that she will sort it; he's going to see his grandma.

Moving the sheep was supposed to start at two but Pip is late; she explains to Ruth that she has been on the phone with Lily, who is doing her placement at Grey Gables and has suggested a possible additional use for the events barn as a venue for an authentic barn dance and farm experience for Gray Gables guests. They could bus people over [from a luxury hotel? Feck off. Gus] for an all-inclusive evening's entertainment. Lily is going to put the idea to the new events manager, and reckons she will go for it; she will ring Pip back as soon as she has spoken to this sucker her. Ruth forgives Pip for being late, especially if it comes off: this could be good for them, especially if they get regular bookings from Grey Gables. Wait till David hears! Pip jokes that he will be worried they don't need him at all. Ruth just reckons the sooner he's back on the farm, the better.

Lovell James has been talked by Alistair into letting Paul have a few weeks compassionate leave; he can go. He is very grateful to Alistair. But what about work? Denise and Alistair can cover that. And Denise and John will pay for his flights. Denise sends him home to get packed and ready; his dad is booking the flights now and with any luck they'll be leaving tomorrow morning, so he'll need to get to bed early if he can. He'll feel better once he's seen his grandma, and she'll feel better once she's seen him, Denise assures him. He does as he is told and goes home, still mercifully subdued. Denise then thanks Alistair, who is embarrassed by all the thanks he is getting. Denise explains that he and his grandmother have always been close even though she lives so far away; he talks to her once a week without fail and has done since he was a kid. Alistair wonders how long they will stay out in Saint Lucia and Denise reckons a few weeks at least; it will depend on how Patricia is, and it could be longer, but that's OK isn't it? Alistair is sure it is; more than OK and they will cope, won't they? Denise is about to go and sort through the diary moving anything that might be problematic when Alistair's phone pings a message; to his surprise, he's got a match on the dating app. Someone called Lisa has swiped right. Denise ceases to be grateful and friendly, and retreats behind her cold facade again, though she does ask if he is going to contact this 'match', and when he says probably not tells him that he should. If he wants to, she means. When he says that maybe he will, she briskly says 'good'. She then says there is lots to do and she had better get back to work, and Alistair rather blankly repeats 'Back to work.'

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Friday 16th February, 2024

A tale of two topers.

Characters: David, Tony, Kenton, Harrison, Inspector Norris, Harry, bouncer, desk sergeant
Credited scriptwriter:
Sarah McDonald Hughes
Director:
Pip Swallow
Editor: Jeremy Howe

On his seventy-third birthday, Tony is having a fine evening at The Bull but takes time when he comes over to collect drinks to ask David how Kenton is: he and Pat were just saying, what a terrible thing that was to happen; David says he is able to get up stairs now so yes, he's doing well. He then insists on buying the round for Tony, to repay him for his help with the calf; Tony confides that he hasn't actually had to put his hand in his pocket all evening. Kenton then appears and Tony greets him with great good humour. Jolene has insisted on changing the barrel, though David is quick to assure Kenton that he did offer to do it; when Kenton asks if he is all right for glasses, and if the mixers are stocked up, David tells him not to worry: leave it all to him.

As he is about to go and deal with a drunk outside a bar in Felpersham who is threatening to take his trousers down if they don't let him in, Harrison bumps into his boss, Inspector Norris. She is staying around to keep an eye on some developments in a case she is interested in, but when Harrison shows interest she tells him it is nothing to do with the dog attack and makes it clear that case is none of his business. What she can tell him is that the team are doing a great job and pulling out all the stops; she knows his wife must be worried, so please tell her they are on it.

Unspecified They are finally letting Tony buy a drink, and he wants the same again. David wonders how many it is now, and Tony airily tells him he's stopped counting: if he is slightly less than sober when he gets home he might sleep through the damn cat's mewing. He is at his wits' end and it's not funny: you can't say he hasn't tried, but there's no helping some people – or some cats; it is clear that he is in fact slightly less than sober already. She was turned away from the Kitten Klinic, to which he took her hoping for a few pointers: they wouldn't even let him take her out of her basket. He does an imitation of Hilda snarling, which cracks Kenton up; all the cute little kittens were cowering in the corners, enunciates Tony carefully; what is he supposed to do now? Banned from Kitten Klub! David has got the round ready, and Tony then realises that he has left his wallet in his coat and has to go and get it: he finds this very funny. When he has gone David asks whether he should do something, since he is a bit far gone, but Kenton is scornful [and is ignorant of the legal requirement not to serve alcohol to someone who is obviously drunk. Chris]: Tony's about to pay for a forty quid round, why would they want to get rid of him? He's merry, but hardly Withnail. David claims Tony is drunker than he's ever seen him [having been out of the village for the whole of 1979/80? He was at college in Cirencester, but they do allow holidays there. Chris] and Kenton points out that it's a pub and they tend to be all right with people being a bit drunk. He then leaves for the toilet as Tony comes back to pay for his drinks, initially tendering his bus pass rather than credit card. David suggests him having a pint of water with every pint as advocated by the government, and when Tony says he never pays any attention to anything they say, further suggests that he doesn't want to wake up with a hangover; Tony thinks that ship might have sailed, sadly.

To the sound of a cheerful mob in the background, Harry is repeatedly asking to be allowed back in because he needs a piss; when it isn't allowed, he urinates in the street. Harrison arrives and asks him to turn round; after he has finished taking his leak Harry recognises Harrison as 'Alice's mate', strives for his name via Maurice, then says 'Morrison's' and laughs raucously. It's Harrison, isn't it? Harrison is afraid it's 'Sergeant Burns' tonight. After minor argument about him having taken off his top because he was hot, and threatening to take off his underwear because he was hot, and being hot not being a crime, Harrison persuades him that since it is cold outside he should put his shirt back on; Harry, still laughing raucously at intervals, repeats that he wants to go inside, and the bouncer asks Harrison to get rid of him, to which Harrison replies that he is doing his best, mate. If they won't let him in, Harry decides he will dance where he is, all night. It's a public place and they can't stop him. Harrison tries to clear the crowd, and suggests finding somewhere they can have a chat, but Harry doesn't want to chat: he wants to dance, and to drink. He left a full pint in there and he wants it back. Harrison, who doesn't think that is going to happen, offers him a lift home, which Harry indignantly refuses; but he admits he is tired, and then apologises for upsetting Harrison the other day, about children. However, when guided towards the police car he jibs and says he isn't going home in that, then jangles his car keys [which is a good trick in these days of fobs. Chris] and says he can drive himself. Harrison finally arrests him for being drunk and disorderly, and cautions him.

When Jolene opens a bottle of Prosecco for Mandy Beesborough with a loud 'pop' David is startled; Kenton wants to know if he's all right, because he seems a bit on edge. Tony comes back to the bar because they'd now like some crisps, a few bags of whatever flavour. He is now slurring his words somewhat, and confides to Kenton that David, Kenton's brother, was a bit concerned about his alcohol consumption (this last very carefully pronounced); in the voice of one recounting the absurd, Tony adds that David was trying to get him to have some water! David asks two-eighty-five for the crisps and says that water is just a good idea; Kenton asks him quietly what he is playing at. Cornered, David says he was worried, and then when Tony asks what he thought Tony might do says 'nothing' in a harassed way; he just wanted everyone to have a nice quiet evening. He's sorry; he didn't mean to offend Tony. Tony, however, is not offended; if anything he's rather flattered. Kenton has a moment of realisation: it's not Tony that David is worried about, it's him. David reluctantly admits that it shocked him seeing how shaken up Kenton was the other night and it made him realise what an awful thing Kenton is going through, so he felt bad that his and Lilian's bickering had made it worse. He just wanted to protect him from stress. So he thought he would protect him from Tony Archer? asks Kenton incredulously; David admits it does sound silly, but Tony thinks it sounds lovely. Kenton advises David not to listen to Tony because he is three sheets in the wind, but Tony is serious: siblings are important, he asserts earnestly, and it's too easy to take each other for granted or find each other intoler, intolerable, and impossible, and irritating, but God, you really know about it when they're not there any more. He'd give anything for one more argument with Jenny! David cavils that they didn't really argue and Tony says no more than any other siblings, but that's what he means: who else are you so close to that you can argue and know that they'll still be there? They are very lucky to have each other, says Tony, retreating with his crisps. David remarks that he told Kenton Tony was smashed, and Kenton takes it all back, Tony's a liability. Keep an eye on him. Oh, and Dave? Thanks.

The contents of Harry's pockets are being confiscated preparatory to his being put into a cell for the night. He's lost his mobile phone, apparently. He goes off with the custody sergeant singing out 'Jobsworth!' and Inspector Norris remarks 'Charming.' Harrison informs her that this one is a real smooth talker: he thought he could just give him a talking to, but ... 'The pants came off?' she suggests. So to speak, agrees Harrison, laughing. He hopes it's just a one-off. She thinks the chances are it's Harry's idea of a Friday night well spent; she prefers a chocolate biscuit in front of Corrie.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Sunday 18th February, 2024

Vince and Emma have been making enquiries, but only one of them gets any thanks.

Characters: David, Jolene, Vince, Ed, Emma
Credited scriptwriter:
Nick Warburton
Director:
Julie Beckett
Editor: Jeremy Howe

The drunkenness of Tony is being laughed over at the Bull and it is being decided that life is looking up, though Fallon was a bit worried yesterday because Harrison had been worried by a problem at work, and as Jolene says there are always ups and downs. David is also dismissive of the bad feeling between him and Lilian, or as Jolene offers, the spat, or tiff; he suggests it was a difference of opinion, which makes Jolene laugh at him. When Vince comes in David immediately goes off to take out some empties, and Jolene stops laughing. He asks how she is, and then how she is really; he has discovered a name for her. She doesn't seem delighted that he has kept his promises to her about telling no-one and finding out about whoever it was who caused Kenton's injuries, and tries to stop him. He's made a few quiet enquiries and has found out a bit about the scum who might have been involved. She doesn't really want him to continue, but he does anyway: the name of guy she thought she recognised is 'Markie', and Vince has his eyes on another couple who might be mixed up in it. Jolene really doesn't want to know: things have quieted down, she tells him, and she's been thinking the problem might have gone away. Vince doesn't reckon it will do that, not with that sort, but Jolene makes the excuse of people needing to be served and goes away.

In a comic interlude, Ed and Emma bemoan the lack of cash for their tree-surgery ambitions. Emma makes suggestions about what they can do to improve matters, using 'climbing a mountain stage by stage' (instead of looking at the summit) as a metaphor; Ed, obtuse beyond human credibility, fails to understand everything she says, repeating her words incredulously. Finally grasping it, he asks what their first camp is, and she replies 'Grazing the ten acres.' He is totally unable to think about this as possible, but it turns out that Emma has consulted with a woman at the National Sheep Association who did have a useful suggestion to make.

Vince has pursued Jolene to the stock-room, where he has another go at persuading her to listen to him about what needs to be done to counter the threat from Markie and his lads. She has told him what she wants, she says: she wants to forget this ever happened. It will suit her fine if it just stays quiet for the foreseeable, the way it has been for weeks. She doesn't think much of the chance of putting the scumbags away, as Vince puts it: in an ideal world she wants that, but it isn't an ideal world. Vince doesn't like the idea of them roaming free to do what they like, but she can't take on the responsibility of preventing that. The more Vince says, the more distressed she becomes, until Vince realises that Markie has come back and put on the frighteners, and she has been frightened. She denies it at first but has to admit he came back after they last spoke, and begs Vince to leave it alone. He may be trying to stop it from happening again, but she has heard nothing from Markie since he came round after her first conversation with Vince, and that's the way she wants it to stay. She wants it to stop right here.

Ed thinks it's a crazy idea to talk direct to Miles Titchener as advocated by the Sheep Association lady, but he is too late; Emma has taken her advice, done what Ed has assumed to be impossible and discovered Miles Titchener's telephone number, rung him, and got his agreement to see them about them being prepared to benefit the land by grazing it for eleven months of the year if that's what he wants. Ed is bowled out by this neat idea, though he doesn't understand why only eleven months until Emma explains that if they did a year it would establish a full tenancy, which would tie Miles' hands. That might make him decide against them. Anyway, exults Emma, he sounded fairly keen, and since he will be in Ambridge tomorrow to have a chat with Oliver, he will meet Ed and Emma as well; she said they can meet him at the site. Ed is astonished and delighted by her brilliance: they're in, they're actually in! They'll have to play it careful, though: they don't want to go mucking up an opportunity like this.

Later, Vince comes in with Elizabeth and David offers to get rid of him for Jolene if he is bothering her, but when Vince actually comes over for a menu he challenges David to say hello to his sister and David goes to do that, leaving Vince yet again trying to talk sense into Jolene. She repeats that she wants things as they are, quiet; he repeats that they won't stay like that, and when she says that Markie told her they would stay quiet if she did Vince pours scorn on the idea that Markie will keep his word. She tremulously asks what she is supposed to do in that case, and Vince tells her she does have a choice: she could tell the police and hand the whole thing over to them. She protests that Markie would know if she did that, so Vince suggests talking to Harrison off the record, which she clearly thinks a non-starter. Vince is certain that she needs to do one of those two things, and do it sooner rather than later.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Monday 19th February, 2024

Minding other people's business is another Ambridge speciality.

Characters: Emma, Natasha, Ed, Will, Elizabeth, Vince
Credited scriptwriter:
Nick Warburton
Director:
Julie Beckett
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Leaving the tea-room ten minutes before the end of a shift seems a bigger deal to Emma than to Natasha, who willingly gives her permission to go early, especially since her manager, Fallon, has already told her it is all right. When asked, she admits it is a business meeting she needs to get to, and Natasha wishes her good luck with it. Ed and Will then come in, Ed to collect her and Will for a coffee, but it is clear that Ed has told Will all about what is going on. He wants to muscle in on their meeting 'in an advisory capacity', and indeed offers to 'negotiate' for them. They are less than enthusiastic about the idea. He tries hard not to take 'no' for an answer, and Ed doesn't help by letting him think they don't know what they are going to say and are planning to rehearse it. Ed is particularly opposed to Will pitching in, and Will tells him that is a very negative attitude to take into a meeting. The two men start to argue in raised voices, until Emma intervenes and tells them to knock it on the head.

Elizabeth has decided that there was something wrong with Jolene when she and Vince were in The Bull, and that it is something she ought to become involved in. Vince is dismissive but agrees she could have a word with Jolene, remarking in an avuncular way that it can't do any harm.

Will has no idea why Miles wanted Ed to show him the land; Will could have done it much better, apparently. He and Emma worry in case Ed is messing up all the work Emma put in earlier. Will wonders whether Miles wangled it so the weakest link would show him the land [why would he need to wangle it? A simple 'perhaps Ed could show me the land now' would have done the trick. Chris], a phrase to which Emma takes exception: Ed's not the weakest link, he's just sometimes better with sheep than people. She also can't see why Will turned up with a thumbstick, and accuses him of only carrying it so he can do his 'wise old countryman' routine – like Miles Titchener is going to fall for that! She and Will start to squabble about which of them was making better points with Miles Titchener. Ed comes back on his own, which worries both of them until he says Miles has gone to take his boots back to the car and drive round to meet them at the gate. Will expresses surprise he hasn't given Ed the elbow, and Ed retorts that is a very negative attitude, if Will doesn't mind him saying so. Emma asks anxiously if that means the deal is still on, and Ed tells her Miles has agreed it. There is general rejoicing, following which Ed tells them that Miles is going to get an agreement drawn up, and charge them no rent. Ed also put in a good word for George and his farming social media stuff, and Miles thinks some of his acquaintances might be keen. Emma is delighted: it's a win-win.

True to her word, or perhaps in accordance with her threat, Elizabeth has gone to see Jolene and gone upstairs with her so they can have a proper talk. Jolene at first assumes that Elizabeth is in some difficulty she wants to discuss, and is taken aback when Elizabeth tells her that on the contrary, it is Jolene she is worried about. Jolene manages not to tell Elizabeth anything at all about what is actually bothering her in spite of all the prodding Elizabeth can do or pressure about returning previous favours that she can bring to bear. Kenton inadvertently rescues her with a message to say she is needed in the bar because three car-loads of ramblers just turned up, and Jolene has a perfectly good reason to stop letting Elizabeth put pressure on her.

Back at the tea-room Emma is there before she is back on shift; she and Ed have come in for coffee, and in Ed's case two slices of carrot cake. Natasha pumps them about their meeting and establishes that it went really well, at which news she says she is really pleased. She goes to fetch their order and Ed and Emma discuss what else they need to do to climb their mountain: they have the bank thing on Friday and then, as Emma says, they are going to kick-start that tree-surgery business with the loan. Ed reminds her that they can't take it for granted: it's only an interview, not a done deal, but Emma is still riding high on their success: that was only an interview, and they smashed it. Ed reveals that Miles told him he had almost made up his mind after the phone call with Emma; she is pleased and flattered. Ed adds that Will did all right, and Emma concurs. Ed thinks they have two things going for them: the grazing rights and the bank interview. Emma also got a good grade for an assignment about Edward Thomas' poem 'Tall Nettles'. Natasha brings them two coffees and three slices of cake, and Emma advises Ed to eat fast: he has tree-planting at Home Farm in a bit. He tells her she can read 'Tall Nettles' to him tonight. Natasha asks what this is about but Emma doesn't want to tell her; no, it is nothing to do with their grazing arrangements really. Natasha now rains on their parade by advising them not to count any chickens with Miles Titchener: he's a Titchener, and he's a creep and he's a rat. Emma protests that he has been straight with them, but Natasha is 'only saying'. Emma however reckons that he may be Rob's brother but he's nothing like him, and that they are going to be all right.

When Elizabeth reports back to Vince that she is still sure something is wrong, but she doesn't know what, he tells her she is a good woman, then invents having left his phone on the bar. He asks Elizabeth to bring the car round, and goes to try to get a word with Jolene himself.

Jolene knows he didn't put Elizabeth up to it, but is feeling a bit badgered all the same. Elizabeth has changed Jolene's mind about simply lying and saying she had talked to Harrison and been told to wait and see; she now plans to see Harrison tomorrow and tell him everything.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Tuesday 20th February, 2024

Nailing skin to walls. And some vaguer class of threat.

Characters: Tony, Vince, Natasha, Elizabeth, Jolene, Markie
Credited scriptwriter:
Nick Warburton
Director:
Julie Beckett
Editor: Jeremy Howe

The trip to Paris was a great success, as Tony tells Vince and Natasha, but what apparently impressed the boys most was not PSG but the trains to Paris and back, and the Metro. The break has done Helen the world of good. Natasha hopes to hear all about it from Helen herself when she pops into the tea-room later, and Vince remarks she'll find it greatly changed, though he admits he hasn't been in for a while. Tony asks what he makes of the 'ree-fresh', and he says he quite likes it; in fact he'd go so far as to say it's quite possibly the second best tea-room in Borsetshire.

Not one to let well alone, Elizabeth has come to pester Jolene some more, though she says she can't stay long. She tells Jolene that she is her number one priority at the moment, but she has just dropped in on her way to a trustees' meeting in Hollerton, a working lunch, and The Bull was on her way. [And so indeed it is, more or less. That's a surprise: a scriptwriter who has one of the maps! Chris.] She admits that she is just naturally nosy. Jolene claims not to be so bad this morning because she has listened to Elizabeth and made a decision rather than drifting. She's going to have a word with a professional sort of someone; Elizabeth congratulates her on a good decision. Jolene accepts that it's not 'problem solved', but reckons it's a start. Indeed, she's feeling up to a big food shop in Borchester this afternoon, first one she's had the heart to do in ages, and she is looking forward to it. Elizabeth invites herself along.

Vince is not allowed to get away with the 'second best tea-room' throwaway line; Natasha pursues him and demand to know which he thinks is the best. He tells her the very best is The Jolly Trivet in Brampton Green. When pressed as to how Natasha could reverse the order and thereby get the Casey Award for Best in Borsetshire, he suggests that since they too had a make-over, The Jolly Trivet has wall hangings, sheepskins, which he thinks relax you and invite you in. At the same time it suggests the countryside: you're inside, warm and comfortable, but you're still in touch with your rural surroundings. And something else: it deadens the sound. The Ambridge tea-room is noisy. He reckons wall-hangings would be a big improvement at a stroke, but not sheepskin; up to her of course, it's her ambience they're talking about, but people won't think sheepskins are original and he suggests cow-hide. It's rural, it would deaden the sound, and they wouldn't have far to look to find cow hides on Bridge Farm.

The coffee at a supermarket café gets slightly surprised praise from Elizabeth, and Jolene is happy because her day has gone well: nothing happened, completely uneventful, which is what she wants. She then quizzes Elizabeth about Lily and Freddie and what they are up to; Elizabeth is surprised and pleased about how well Freddie is fitting in at the abattoir. Harrison sends Jolene a message saying he'll be delayed at work and won't be able to see her at five. And since Elizabeth is asking, he might be the one Jolene said she'd talk to, yes; or he might not be. Elizabeth denies asking, and doesn't want to hear anything Jolene doesn't want to tell her; if she is talking to someone who might help it doesn't matter who that is so long as they can help. Now she's afraid she's got to get back to the ever-growing pile of correspondence clogging her in-box, and Jolene still has shopping to do. Jolene stands up to get ready to leave as well, and no sooner is Elizabeth gone than someone comes over from behind her, asks if the seat is free and when told they both are, tells Jolene to sit back down. She tries to say she has to go shopping and he repeats his instruction with more menace, though he claims that all he is doing is finding out how she is. She says she doesn't know him, but he is sure she does: his name's Markie, but he reckons she knows that, doesn't she.

Natasha has gone to run her new idea past Tony, who agrees there would indeed be a more absorbent acoustic; a couple of hides on the wall would mean much less bounce-back and get rid of the school dinner effect. His choice of comparison alarms Natasha, especially when he says the tea-room sometimes puts him in mind of a big echoey space with wall-bars and scrapey chairs and big old aluminium bowls swilling with cabbagey gravy. [Funny school where they have meals in the gym. Chris.] He enthuses about softening the sound which takes him back in this way, and they agree cowhides would be a good idea, particularly since Tony has two Anguses at the abattoir today for slaughter tomorrow [contrary to Government guidelines. Chris] and though nowadays hides get exported to Europe, but if he gives Vince a call Tony could get them; he wouldn't mind waiting around a bit for them. They'd have to be tanned before they could use them. and Tony knows where there is a traditional tannery not far from Borchester. Natasha tells him he is a marvel and kisses his cheek; he disclaims and says that's just the practical side of things, and it takes someone like her to make it happen in the first place.

Apparently Markie was a big fan of Jolene's back in the day so of course he recognised her. He still is a fan, and he still follows her, he remarks ominously, before going on about country music having been her scene. She just wants to know what he wants; he denies having said he wanted anything but when she tries to go tells her again to sit down. It would be rude to walk off when they were talking: she didn't do that with Elizabeth, did she. Him knowing who Elizabeth is leads Jolene to warn him not to go near her; he is unimpressed at the idea of her warning him, and tells her that's not how this works. He's not there to listen to her, or be warned, he's there to remind her what he told her when he called round a couple of weeks back. She admits she does remember that occasion. She's got a nice little village boozer there, he says; let's see if they can keep it nice, shall they? By not talking; not to Elizabeth, to our bloke, to friends and family, whoever they am, for her sake and theirs. [He still doesn't say what she is not to talk about; perhaps he doesn't know.... It's the unwritten code. Chris.]

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Wednesday 21st February, 2024

Rawhide! Also, has Harrison harassed Harry?

Characters: Tony, Vince, Harry, Harrison, Natasha
Credited scriptwriter:
Nick Warburton
Director:
Julie Beckett
Editor: Jeremy Howe

All has gone well at the abattoir; Tony's cattle were kept there overnight and slaughtered the following day [why, when he lives about six miles away? Chris] and he is there to ask Vince to set the hides aside for him. They talk about Jolene and her having gone back to being edgy again today; Vince says she has lots of reasons for being upset at the moment, with which Tony agrees, adding his own drunken behaviour as a further reason for her to be unhappy; Vince reassures him that even his singing was not particularly awful. He's sure Jolene has more to contend with that Tony's Andy Williams impressions.

Outside Borchester Police Station Harry 'bumps into' Harrison, off to get some sandwiches; he claims it is 'lucky' and puts it down to coincidence, but Harrison clearly thinks he has in fact been hanging about hoping to engineer an encounter.

Vince is now showing Tony the hydraulic hide-puller which gets the hides off dead animals in one piece; Tony remarks that it's a while since he saw any of his cattle dispatched, and he should make time to do it now and again; Vince is happy to arrange for this. Meanwhile, he can take the two hides he came for with him; he is planning to get them tanned locally before they grace the walls of the tea-room. Vince makes approving noises.

What Harry wants is to say sorry for what happened on Friday. He doesn't know how it came about: maybe someone spiked his drink, because he's not normally like that. Harrison is politely dubious. Harrison is right that he was hoping to see him, he wanted to say sorry for letting himself down. When asked whether it's a regular occurrence with the drink he say no, he genuinely doesn't drink much, just party drinking from time to time like most people; Harrison asks how often that is, and whether perhaps what he sees as occasionally or from time to time might be what other people might call frequently – which might start to look like a problem. Harry thinks that is surely a matter of interpretation, but Harrison would call it a matter of record: he has looked Harry up. He's seen the number of incidents and the dates up to this latest, and the driving ban. Harry tries to argue that a list is always going to emphasise things, but Harrison is having none of it: Harry may not remember it, but last Friday he was all for jumping in that fancy car of his and driving off. Harry denies that he would; he's clean now [oops what a giveaway! Chris], that ban's been served out, and he was doing nothing illegal connected to driving. Harrison points out this was because Harrison stopped him. Can Harry not see why it worries him? Apart from the threat to the public in general, there's Alice, and Martha. As far as Harrison knows, Alice believes Harry isn't a drinker and hardly touches the stuff; is that right? Harry admits he hasn't told her about his brushes with the law, or the driving ban, but also asserts that he cares for Alice and knows about her problem: he'll do whatever it takes. He'll lay off the drink, starting now. After a pause, Harrison reminds him that when he was cautioned he was given contact details for various groups that could help him with this, but Harry says he has not yet been in touch; Harrison will now write down a name and a phone number for him so he can get in touch; today, if he can. The guy's name is Matty, and he can help. Harry is full of protests that he will do it.

Tony is having trouble with his computer, looking for a tannery; the one he used to use went bust last year and the nearest one seems to be more than three hundred miles away. Natasha is disappointed by this, and by how much it would cost to have the hides treated: several thousand pounds is more than she had in mind. Tony can send the hides back to Vince and they'll go with the rest for export to Europe, and he has been looking at hides already tanned; they might not be Bridge Farm hides but the basic idea of adding to the ambience and softening the sound remains the same, and those are about two hundred pounds each. Natasha thinks they should give it a try.

Harrison comes upon Harry having a drink, and surprises him; by his speech, he seems slightly drunk, and also what he says is punctuated with sniffs [can this be because of nose-candy? Chris]. It's not a coincidence this time either; Harrison was driving by and saw Harry's car outside a pub so he thought he'd look in and see how it was going. Harry initially seems not displeased and says that's nice, the caring arm of the law, but when Harrison tries to talk to him about contacting the number he gave him earlier, he tries at first to pretend that he rang it and made an appointment to see Matty on Monday. Then Harrison asks where that would be and he doesn't know, finally admitting that he has not yet called. But he will. Harrison thinks Harry has to talk to Alice about this. Harry says no, he doesn't, and the suggestion of an honest conversation putting her in the picture leads him to say that's not going to be necessary because he fully intends to phone Harrison's 'Matty' person only it wasn't possible today because he wasn't answering. He'll definitely try again tomorrow. Harrison says that's definitely good, but speak to Alice too. And get a taxi home, mate. When Harrison asks when Harry is seeing Alice, Harry informs him stiffly that is none of his business, and he won't tell her because it would only distress her. Harrison thinks he should give her a chance to make her own decision, but Harry repeats that there is no need, and starts to get angry: she is in no danger from him. Harrison suggests it would be better coming from him, but if he doesn't do it, Harrison will; he'd have to. Tell her what, though, inquires Harry, and based on what? Based on records he's not allowed to share with anyone outside of the force, Harry presumes; is that what he'd do? He's not sure Harrison has thought this through: people might think he's harassing someone who's simply going about his lawful business. Harry has contacts in Harrison's line of work, and they would take a very dim view of this. Harrison asks what he's saying, and is told: Harry is saying that if he told Alice, he'd be breaking police rules, and Harry would have to make sure the right people knew that he'd done that, wouldn't he.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Thursday 22nd February, 2024

Vince apologises, Fallon improvises, Alice and the car park remain in the dark.

Characters: David, Elizabeth, Harry, Alice, Harrison, Fallon, Vince
Credited scriptwriter:
Nick Warburton
Director:
Julie Beckett
Editor: Jeremy Howe

David and Elizabeth are concerned about the lighting in The Bull car park; there is a dark corner which they decide needs another light directed at it from an existing post. Elizabeth proposes to call Pete, who did the earlier rewiring; David insists he can do it free and not involve Kenton and Jolene in more expense. Elizabeth wonders how he thinks Jolene is getting on, but he doesn't know: she seems very quiet, and him thinking she is still worried about security is his reason for wanting to sort out the extra light.

Harry and Alice see Harrison going towards the shop, and Harry calls him over. He jocularly says they keep on running into each other, which surprises both Harrison and Alice, and tells them both about having met Harrison when he went into a pub yesterday to buy some crisps and found Harrison having a quick half after work. Harrison agrees that Harry did say he was starving, and Alice is indignant: so he was buying crisps while he was on his way to dinner with her! All his dark secrets are coming out now, she avers. Harrison asks if they are off out, and is told that Alice is on her way to work and Harry is going home to pack before a trip to Carlisle tonight to look at a young horse; Alice and Martha are going with him on a road trip for a couple of days. [Martha is not quite three years old. I would not take her on such a trip. Chris] Harrison replies that that is nice, then 'remembers' he has to ask Fallon something and goes hastily back to Woodbine Cottage. Harry remarks that he clearly forgot something vital, then goes on to comment that Alice hasn't seen his car put through its paces but all that changes tonight.

Fallon is on the phone with her mother when Harrison gets back in, without the milk he went out for and clearly worried about something. He says he saw Alice with Harry, and he is taking her to Carlisle tonight. With Martha. In the car. They can't do that, he says earnestly. She understandably has no idea what he is talking about, but realises something is seriously wrong when he tells her they shouldn't be in Harry's car, and it's not safe. He can't explain, and she becomes worried that he thinks Alice is in some sort of danger. From Harry? she asks incredulously, and he agrees that he thinks so. Exasperated, she tells him this is like talking to Lassie: just tell her! He doesn't, saying there's things he knows but he can't say; he's not allowed to, so she grasps that this is 'a police thing'. What he can tell her is that he saw him last night in a pub, in Borchester, and he'd been drinking. Fallon enquires sharply whether drinking is what this is about, and he doesn't reply; she asks him please not to tell her Harry has a drink problem, and the silence continues. She asks whether Alice knows, and Harrison says she wouldn't go if she knew. He adds anxiously that she'd be with him driving all the way to Carlisle with Martha. Fallon suggests that maybe he keeps clear of drink when he's driving, and Harrison immediately replies that he doesn't. Fallon asks if he is actually banned, and Harrison says not now, but he has been: he's just completed a ban. [At this point Harrison is telling Fallon something he only knows through work, so he might just as well not have gone through the whole rigmarole in the first place. Chris.] Legally Harry can drive, but he saw him on Friday absolutely wrecked and prepared to get in his car. Fallon exclaims that Harrison has to warn Alice, tell her about the ban, and when he says he's not supposed to pass that on says that she can. Harrison asks how she would know Harry's just completed a drink-drive ban: Alice will realise it came from him, and that could finish his career. When Fallon protests that they can't just let her get in Harry's car, Harrison gloomily pronounces that there is no way round it and he will have to tell her, but Fallon says she will think of something.

David is busy with his plan when Elizabeth comes and tells him that she's talked to Vince, who thinks it's the right thing to do and has offered to help. David doesn't in the least want his help, and makes this plain, but Elizabeth blames Vince's involvement on Kenton having been consulted by Vince and said yes. Elizabeth was wondering if David thinks they could work together on this. Vince has already gone to fetch his tool-box.

Alice invites Fallon in, and Harry is also there; he claims not to be able to tear himself away. Fallon manages to convey that she wants to speak to Alice about something private, and Harry goes away to make tea; once the two women are alone together [with Harry behind the totally sound-proof door between sitting-room and kitchen in the tiny cottage. Chris] she says she feels silly telling this to Alice, but she's been talking with her mother and it's left her nervous on her own in Woodbine Cottage at night. Harrison starts night-shifts tonight and she's frightened. Alice, unprompted, invites her to stay the night at The Nest. She protests she'll be in the way, but Alice says Harry's got to go to Carlisle so he won't be there, and calls to Harry to tell him she has invited Fallon to stay the night: is it OK? He'll be in Carlisle on his own. He says he really doesn't mind. [Considering it seems to be the first he's heard about his weekend being scuppered by Alice on a whim, he takes it extraordinarily well. Chris]

The unwilling collaboration with Vince does not go particularly well, with each man trying to baffle the other with bullshit, and eventually David tells Vince point blank that in spite of all his support for Kenton and Jolene [when? How does David know of it? Chris], which he and they appreciate, what Vince did to Ben, and Chelsea, was heartless. Vince says that he is sorry about those kids, but David goes on: and he can't forget it, or forgive. Not really. Vince admits that he lashed out, and he regrets that. They agree that they are not really able to replace the security light, and agree to call in Pete.

Harrison is very relieved that Fallon will be spending the night on Alice's sofa and Alice won't be heading north with Harry. Alice may or may not have believed Fallon's story, but she looked at her a bit funny. It worked for now, but when Harry gets back they're going to have to do something about him and Alice.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Friday 23rd February, 2024

A skeleton in the cupboard is revealed, while a migrating corpse causes no comment.

Characters: Ed, Emma, Will, Alice, Fallon, Harrison
Credited scriptwriter:
Nick Warburton
Director:
Julie Beckett
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Having got a lift in to town from Will [why? They have their own car. Chris], Ed and Emma are as ready as they can manage to be for their interview with the bank manager. They do however mess about a little before Will leaves them, because they are nervous even though they have a brilliant plan and Emma has been through all the figures repeatedly.

After her night on Alice's sofa Fallon is being put through an inquisition by Alice, who wants to know what she was really there for. She has been thinking about Fallon being a bit funny with Harry at The Stables yesterday. [This is utterly confusing, because what we heard seemed to be at The Nest. Was it meant to be at The Stables that Harry went out to make a cup of tea? Chris.] Before that Harrison was, too, when they saw him outside the shop: he was distant as if he were putting up a barrier, but why would he do that? Fallon claims ignorance, even when Alice says she thought maybe they didn't like Harry. She also denies that Harry's comment about having children has anything to do with anything, and tries to get away, but Alice is determined and also is not sure she believes Fallon. This is something to do with Harry, and Fallon is not saying what. Fallon tries for a second time to go, since she has to open up the tea-room, but Alice demands an answer that is what she wants to hear rather than one she doesn't want, so Fallon offers her the possibility that maybe they thought it was all too quick: nothing against Harry, but they did wonder if she was rushing into this.

Clearly the interview with the bank manager was a failure; Ed and Emma are very cast down as Will drives them home. Will is really sorry, and asks whether the bank gave any reasons; Ed says they had lots of reason but were just rubbing their noses in it really, and Emma those amounted to telling them they had no guarantee they could pay it back if something went wrong, and then comes out with the old line about them lending money to people who don't need it so they can keep their foot on the people who do. [Which is balderdash in this case, because not lending money to a bad risk is not keeping your foot on them; it is not lending them money. The bank does not have its foot on Ed nor Emma. Chris.] Will repeats that he is sorry, then asks whether they mind stopping by at the church; he won't be long. It's the anniversary of Nic's death, and he has some flowers in the boot. [Which he proposes to leave at the church rather than on her grave in the Green Burial Site where she was buried? That was donated by Brian and is not part of the extant graveyard. Chris.] Emma is mortified at having forgotten, but Will assures her that Nic wasn't the sort to get hung up on anniversaries. He asks them to stay in the car, if they don't mind, while he just goes and sees Nic; he'll give their loan a bit of a think while he's there.

Tearfully, Fallon tells Harrison at the tea-room that she's just made things worse: he asks what she said, which turns out to be that she and Harrison thought Alice and Harry were maybe going too quick and did they maybe want to consider slowing things down or taking a break. She had to say something, she protests; Alice kept pressing her. Harrison is worried that they got into a row about it, and Fallon tells him that Alice ended up having a go at both of them: she said that Fallon was only saying all that about Harry [Fallon having said nothing about Harry! She lied like a trooper and said they had nothing against him. Chris] because there was something wrong with her own relationship, and that Fallon was projecting her insecurity onto them. Harrison reassures her that Alice is only saying all that because she feels hurt that they've taken against Harry. Fallon also tells him that Alice didn't believe her story about getting in a panic when he's on nights. Harrison tells her not to blame herself: he shouldn't have told her in the first place, and should have given it more thought. [True dat. Chris.] He thinks he had better go and see Alice.

When he does go down to The Stables he finds Alice typing in the office. She is extremely short with him: she's working and hasn't got time to talk. She has no time for him, in fact. When he says she's got hold of the wrong end of the stick she fires up with the words 'oh, so this is all my fault, is it?' [Well, yes, actually it is. Chris.] She is unpleasant and sarcastic, but he manages to keep his temper and get her to admit that Fallon did not say in so many words that she should break up with her boyfriend; she is however clear that what Fallon meant was that because Fallon can't trust Harry, Alice should get rid of him. Since they both think that, Harrison is not to tell her she's wrong. Harrison heavily tells her that's not what he's saying. This gets through to Alice: does Harrison really think she can't trust Harry? Harrison tells her that what he is saying is that she doesn't know the whole story. When she asks what the whole story is, he asks her to trust him on this: there are reasons she should be careful of Harry Chilcott. She demands to know what they are, and he tells her repeatedly that he can't tell her. How can she believe him, she asks indignantly, when he tells her not to trust Harry but doesn't give her a single reason why? Shrilly, she wants to know why, if it's Harrison's word against Harry's, she should believe Harrison. After a long pause, he agrees to tell her what he knows, but begs her not to repeat what he's about to say, then asks her to sit down.

When he gets back to the car Will apologises to Ed and Emma for having lost track of time. They disclaim, and Ed says it's nice to be in the fresh air after their morning. Emma says it's really peaceful, and Will agrees; you can really get your thoughts sorted out. He then drops a minor bombshell: Ed and Emma ought not to give up on the tree surgery idea just yet, because there might be a way. Ed grumbles that most ways they've already tried [what were those, then? The bank loan is the only one we've heard about. Chris] but Will just wants to know the cost. Ed and Emma tell him there's a four-week course, so accommodation for that time, and the gear's going to cost a good bit, so over all, twenty grand plus. Emma asks dispiritedly who they know who could lay hands on that sort of money, and Will cheerfully replies 'Me.' He's been thinking about it with Nic: she'd say, 'Life is short and you have to grab your chances while you can, or they'll slip away and you'll miss them.' Emma is stunned: he'll do that, for them? Yes; Will can raise a mortgage on Number One, The Green. They are to think about it, and when they're ready, tell him what they want to do.

Harrison's revelation about Harry has shaken Alice badly; she took a long time to trust him, and when she did she trusted him completely, and was really sure of him, and all the time he's betrayed all that. Harrison is deeply sorry, but when she says Harry has betrayed her is not so sure he means to do that; he may not even know he has a problem. Alice rightly points out that he knows enough to lie and to cover his tracks. He's never even hinted about it; she would have noticed. When she thinks how scared she was about telling him about her – and Harrison tells her that took a lot of courage – and she felt so small and frightened, like a child, and yet she told him because she didn't want any secrets between them. Harrison asks what she'll do now, and she doesn't know. Yes, she does, she decides; she'll face him with it when he gets back, she'll confront him and see what he has to say. After that she really doesn't know what she'll do. [Make a loud and self-pitying fuss, probably. Gus.]

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Sunday 25th February, 2024

Jolene has the jitters, Harrison is a help, and Fallon is obsessive.

Characters: Jolene, Kenton, Fallon, Harrison, Tracy
Credited scriptwriter:
Katie Hims
Director:
Dave Payne
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Jolene has taken Kenton tea and toast in bed, and they chat about him feeling well enough to be the quiz-master this week, until she happens to look out of the window and sees someone in the car-park. She leaves Kenton to his breakfast and rushes away.

Harrison's Sunday morning lie-in is destroyed shortly after seven by his phone ringing; he instructs the caller to stay in the pub and not go out while he goes to see who it is. Fallon asks what's going on and is told her mum says someone has just tried to break in and is hanging about in the car-park; Harrison is going to go and take a look. He doesn't want Fallon to go with him: just wait there, please. In the course of dressing he loses his phone, then finds it again, blaming this on his being tired, having been awake half the night thinking about Harry and Alice. Fallon says that she has been too, and they agree to talk later when Harrison gets back. As he leaves he promises to be careful.

In The Bull car-park Harrison approaches the intruder; it is Tracy, out for an early morning walk, who has seen a load of logs for the pub fire left out in the rain and is moving it to shelter. He tells her Jolene thought she was a burglar, which somewhat surprises Tracy, but he's not going to arrest her today.

Jolene is utterly apologetic when Harrison and Tracy go into the pub; they both say it's fine, and when Jolene says it is like the boy who cried wolf Tracy reminds her that in that story the boy didn't think he saw a wolf at all, he was just lying through his teeth until he did it too often and nobody believed him any more. She offers them both bacon butties, but neither wants one. She thanks Harrison again and reiterates that she feels stupid; he tells her not to be silly, and not to let this stop her from calling him again if she needs to. He asks her to promise him, and also gets Tracy to tell her. Jolene promises, and he goes home to Fallon. Jolene says again that she is so embarrassed because she completely overreacted: they must both think she's mad. Tracy assures her that they don't; she thought it was an emergency, and what's the point of having a copper for a son-in-law if you can't call him in an emergency? She can see that Jolene is on edge; she wishes she'd just left the bloomin' logs where they were now! Jolene says she was right to try to bring them in, and both women wonder why they just left them in the car-park; Jolene didn't even know they were out there or she'd have brought them in herself. Tracy then starts to blame herself for Jolene being so throng and saying it's her fault for having been off work ill; Jolene offers her a bacon sarnie, but she would rather get home. She has a shift to get to later, even if Jazzer says David was doing a pretty good job and she was worried he might put her out of work. Jolene laughs scornfully at the idea. It was good of him to step in, but he and Lilian fought like cat and dog, which Tracy finds hilarious – or maybe not. Lilian isn't easy to please; she and Emma had enough of that over Christmas when she was having all the drama over Justin. Thank the lord that's all over, says Jolene devoutly. Tracy says good bye and see you later, and tells her again that everything is fine: no harm done, was there.

Fallon and Harrison are having a laugh about all's well that ends well, though Harrison is still concerned about her mum's scared state. Fallon thinks that's not surprising after the massive shock Jolene had, but Harrison doesn't know, and wonders if she needs a bit of counselling: it might be worth mentioning. [This may afford a clue that Jolene has not told him what is going on, which has not otherwise been made even slightly clear. Chris.] It would be better coming from Fallon, he feels. Fallon mentions that she was thinking she could make pancakes, because she fancies something treat-y, but what Harrison fancies is going back to bed, with her. So they do.

Jolene tells Kenton, who has just had another little snooze and heard her talking to Tracy and Harrison, that she thought someone was trying to break in, thus making Kenton say 'eh?' in astonishment.

Fallon and Harrison are discussing Harry: Fallon is sure he isn't going to make a complaint, because what would be the point? He'd have to be really vindictive to do that. And Alice has said she isn't going to tell him she found out about his drinking from Harrison. Harrison reckons he will work that out, because anyone could. Fallon recalls that Alice said she would protect him, and Harrison says that she said she would do her best, but Harry is bound to ask her. He is not as sanguine about it as Fallon. He is however sure that she is going to finish with Harry: she's got to, for her sake and Martha's sake. That is the thing Fallon is not sure of: she might see him and give him another chance. They both hope that she won't, but as Harrison remarks, if she does that then Harrison won't be in any trouble, will he. Harrison tells Fallon that he loves her and that she is basically his ideal woman, which immediately sets her off into discussing for the umpteenth time whether she can be if she doesn't want children. As usual he tells her they have sorted this and she denies that they have, and he tells her that he wants her more than he wants to be a dad, and that they don't have to talk about it ever again. She says she is sorry and she didn't mean to restart the conversation, to which he replies that it is fine. [One of these days she is going to start on this for the umpteenth time and he will reply, 'Yes, you're right. I've met someone who wants my children so I am planning to divorce you.' The she'll look all nohow, won't she? Chris.] He points out that they will have all the freedom people with children don't have and say they want, and Fallon agrees that if they had kids he would have to get up on a Sunday morning. Oh, wait he does. He says that it was one time, and, when she thanks him for going, protests that he wasn't going to say no, was he. That have a little more pillow-talk before she suggests she could make those pancakes, and he wonders if 'she' has seen 'him' yet, meaning Alice and Harry. He thought about speaking to Harry again, but Fallon doesn't really see the point. Harrison wants to tell him to be a grown-up, and think what's best for Alice and Martha and stop just thinking about himself. Fallon thinks he can't: that could go really wrong. He could say Harrison was putting pressure on him, or harassing him even, so it's potentially disastrous. He just has to let Alice deal with it: it's her battle to fight, not theirs.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Monday 26th February, 2024

Nobody's opinion is changed from the start of the episode to the end.

Characters: Harry, Alice, Jazzer, Alistair, Neil
Credited scriptwriter:
Katie Hims
Director:
Dave Payne
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Harry has come back with a present for Alice and another for Martha. He missed her; she notably doesn't say the same. He offers to get in food for them, but she ate with Martha. He shows her the video of the horse he has found in Carlisle, and enthuses about the horse and his pedigree; Alice expresses rather lukewarm interest. He becomes aware that all is not well, but she insists that it is and so he goes on: he wishes she had come too and seen the horse for real, and Cumbria is so beautiful. She asks him if he had a drink, and he wonders why she is asking him: it's a bit of a weird question. She just wondered, she tells him, and after a pause he replies that he didn't have a drink, no. It was a work trip. Right, says Alice neutrally.

In The Bull, Jazzer is sharing with Alistair the news about Jolene calling Harrison out on Tracy; Alistair asks sensible questions such as 'why didn't she just go and see who it was?', but he and Jazzer conclude that she was more upset about Kenton being attacked than they had previously thought. Jazzer feels that people should be warned to keep their eyes open, though Alistair is concerned this would just lead to Harrison being called out for nothing more often, and whilst it is better to be safe than sorry they don't want to encourage vigilantes; Jazzer is sure they wouldn't be doing that. He doesn't like feeling powerless: this is where his wife works and he wants her to be safe. Alistair is sure she is. He then apologises if he seemed dismissive and says it would be a massive relief to talk to someone about a thing that is bothering him, and Jazzer is willing to hear him – but as he is about to speak of whatever it is, Neil comes over and interrupts and the moment is lost. They chat instead about Neil going up in a helicopter with Susan later in the week, and about Neil too being concerned about Jolene.

Harry now admits that he does sometimes have one too many. He's not proud of it, but there is is. He tells her not to look like that; he doesn't want her to think something about him that isn't true. Alice goes back to his mother not wanting her near him for a reason, and having been lovely to her until she found out Alice had a drink problem; now she thinks that makes sense. Harry disputes it; she'll come round, she liked Alice. Alice tells him to listen to himself: they both know what her real problem is with Alice. What's more, Alice doesn't blame her.

Neil, Jazzer and Alistair have now decided to ask people to keep an eye out in order to reassure Jolene and put her mind at rest. Neil takes himself off again after arranging to see them at tomorrow's pub quiz, which will be run by Kenton. Jazzer feels it will be great to have Kenton as quiz-master again, and Alistair agrees that it's great he is getting back into things. Jazzer now wants to know what Alistair was about to say when they were interrupted, and after the brief obligatory reluctance Alistair spills the beans: he is falling in love with someone who isn't available, though for obvious reasons he won't say who it is. Jazzer immediately breaks his illusion: it's Denise, isn't it. Alistair asks if everyone knows this, to which Jazzer replies he hasn't done a survey but it doesn't really get openly discussed. Alistair wants to know what that's supposed to mean.

Alice informs Harry that looking at him is like looking in the mirror, and it scares her. He scares her. He protests, but she is firm: it's true, even if he doesn't get it. He has to try, for his own sake. He thinks that she is wrong, or over-reacting, though that's understandable because of what she's been through [and she isn't even Helen! Chris], but he thinks that's influencing how she sees this. She fervently agrees that it is: it's making her want to run a mile! This is the truth, and that's crucial right now. He begs her; she continues to refuse to listen. He exclaims that she knows how he feels about her, and she claims to feel the same. He asks how it would be if he just stops drinking, and she asks how he would do that, then refuses to credit that he could; after all, she had to have help. He points out that he is not her, and she tells him that he is: he is her three years ago, but she has moved on. It was hard, but she did it, and she doesn't want ever to go back there.

When Jazzer asks what is going on right now, Alistair has to answer 'nothing whatever', but when he says he supposes he should talk to Denise, Jazzer gives it as his honest opinion that he shouldn't. It wouldn't be fair to do that to her; if he really cares about her he wouldn't put her in that situation. Even though Alistair knows she is not happy with John, they're not separated. It's reasonably clear that Alistair is not going to get from Jazzer the affirmation that he is seeking. He knows that Alistair wants him to say 'go for it' and that he should tell her what he is feeling, but it doesn't sit right with Jazzer; he thinks it's a lousy start to a relationship. When Alistair continues to try to persuade Jazzer to tell him he would be right to decide to try to break up Denise's marriage, Jazzer says that he feels sorry for John. Alistair claims that he doesn't want to have an affair, just for Denise to leave John and be with him. When Jazzer asks what if she leaves him and then goes back to him Alistair [who is risking nothing at all. Chris] says that is a risk he's prepared to take. Jazzer realises that he has made up his mind.

Harry points out that Alice hasn't opened her present. When she reluctantly does, it's a bottle of the extremely expensive scent that she likes; Harry knew she was running out. Martha's is one of the books in a series she loves. She is sorry, and really sad about their break-up: she thinks he's great and she wishes him well and she wishes things were different. He asks if he can have a hug, which she gives him, but she can't give him a chance to prove himself because it's too big a risk for her. He says that he really doesn't think he has a problem, and she tells him that is the problem, and he had better go. She won't kiss him goodbye. She tells him that in the long run this is better for both of them, because they wouldn't be good for each other. Just as he is about to leave, he asks who told her; she says she can't tell him that, and doesn't, even when he asks if it was Harrison. Harry says Harrison had no right, and if he told Alice that Harry was arrested, Harry (who has suddenly turned nasty) is pretty sure it's a breach of confidentiality, data protection and all that. Alice is shocked and horrified, and asks when he was arrested. Harry says it was nothing, an overreaction on Harrison's part; Alice asks what exactly happened, and Harry says he was just a bit, you know... He was fine. He wasn't violent, he wasn't causing any trouble, he wasn't breaking stuff, he was just having a pretty good night out at least until then. Alice wants to get this straight: so he was arrested for, presumably, being drunk disorderly, and he still thinks he doesn't have a problem? Harry bursts out that anyone can get arrested; it doesn't mean they're an alcoholic! Frostily, Alice says she would like him to leave now, please, and when he tries to argue she tells him that if he doesn't leave within the next thirty seconds, she's going to call the police. She is really not joking: just go, go now, and please, do not come back.

[Harry's speech throughout this episode was punctuated with sniffs, as it was in the pub on 21st February. This may or may not have some significance. Chris.]

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Tuesday 27th February, 2024

Good intentions will be penalised.

Characters: Kenton, Jolene, Tracy, Jazzer, Fallon, Harrison, Inspector Norris
Credited scriptwriter:
Katie Hims
Director:
Dave Payne
Editor: Jeremy Howe

The prospect of running the quiz at The Bull has got Kenton excited; he wants to try out some questions on Jolene and Tracy. The first ('how many time zones are there in Russia?' [the answer is eleven. Chris]) is too difficult for them, and the second is one they have used already. He is a bit discouraged by this. Jazzer then turns up wanting a word with Tracy, and she sends him through to the Ploughman's, where she will see him in a minute.

Tracy asks if everything is OK, and Jazzer says it's fine but he just wanted to see her. She doesn't understand why, and wants to know why he is being weird; he asks if there have been any more dodgy characters. He was just a bit worried about anything happening to her; she is touched, though she tells him he is a wally and he is mildly offended. 'A really lovely wally' doesn't sound much better

At the police station, Harrison has come to own up to Inspector Norris, who is busy on a private email. He doesn't know if she can help, because he thinks he has really screwed up and somebody's going to put in a formal complaint about him so he thought he'd better talk to her now. [Annoyingly, we don't hear what he actually tells her. Chris.]

Tracy tells Jolene and Kenton that Jazzer was absolutely fine, and he, Ed and Emma, and Will, are coming to the quiz as a team. Kenton pronounces this 'excellent', and Jolene reckons that it should be a good night. Kenton is excited, which he thinks ridiculous and Tracy thinks lovely, and goes to have a bit of a lie down. As he leaves Tracy says they are a bit low on the bottled ale, and Jolene that it has been ordered and she doesn't know why it's so delayed. Tracy is happy for Kenton ('excited like a little kid') but concerned because Jolene looks tired: it's been a lot for her, the past few weeks. Jolene doesn't want to keep going on about it, and feels as if all she's done since Tracy got back is moan; Tracy tells her to moan all she likes, sometimes it's good for you. She doesn't believe in all this relentless positivity, with people posting how blessed they are on social media; she just thinks 'give me a break!' Jolene agrees with her. Another reason to be cheerful now enters: Fallon has brought over a couple of cakes for quiz night, a coffee and walnut and a red velvet. Jolene has noticed, since dry-not-dreary January, that people are ordering more tea and coffee in the evenings. Fallon asks what time the quiz kicks off (seven forty-five) and then says it seems quiet today; Tracy says it's still early, and Jolene says it's never that busy at this time of day, and when Tracy adds that this is specially true on Tuesdays tells her that's why they do the quiz then. Fallon tells them she and Harrison are coming, though he's had to go in to work on his day off because something came up. She doesn't know when he'll be back, but that's what you get for marrying a copper. Jolene muses that sometimes she thinks she'd prefer being married to a policeman to being a publican, though she does love running the pub. It's a lot of pressure, financially and because of some of the people you get.

Inspector Norris is really glad Harrison came in and told her what he had done, but cannot be all that reassuring about what will happen now. This is not the first time: in the Philip Moss case he broke confidentiality, and although in that instance there were no long-term ill effects and there was no formal procedure, she can't do that again. She will have to refer this for investigation. She's sorry, because he is generally an excellent police officer. This seems to be an area of weakness. Harrison can get legal advice through the Federation, and he will be interviewed by an independent panel. She will support him as best she can, but this is very serious. Has he got any questions? He asks whether he is going to lose his job; she wishes she could say 'no', but she just doesn't know. He thanks her for her time, and says that he hates letting her down and he's really sorry about what happened; she knows.

It's quiz time, and they only have two teams entered; Kenton can't understand it. Jolene thinks that with everything that's happened, people would be a bit more supportive. There are very few people in altogether, and Tracy, Jolene and Kenton speculate about possible reasons for this. In passing, Jolene remarks that Alice's new fellow seems nice; nice looking; not Chris, but nice enough. They decide to give it another fifteen minutes, and Tracy goes out to tell the two teams there will be a delay. When she does, Jazzer asks for a word: he thinks it may be his fault. He might have accidentally put people off coming into the pub. He said to a few people, Neil and that [nonsense; we heard him discussing the matter with Neil yesterday so Neil knew what he actually said and meant. It was Neil's idea! Chris], to spread the word to everybody to be careful, because Jolene was worried about dodgy characters and dogs and everything; what happened on Sunday morning got him worried [why? Nothing happened! Chris] so he said people should look out for trouble. He was trying to help. Tracy, exasperated, asks who needs enemies with friends like him, and sends him out to round up people to come to the quiz, starting with Brad, Chelsea and Mia, and Bert too.

On his return home Harrison is very down, and Fallon is worried about him and asks if he is OK. No, not really; he wasn't called in to work, he went in of his own accord. He didn't want to talk about it before, or rather he couldn't; he just wanted to go and deal with it. He went in to see Norris because he couldn't stand waiting around to find out if Harry was going to make a complaint. He just felt he had to do it. He's really sorry he didn't talk it through with her; Fallon, who has been making supportive noises, says that is OK, but Harrison doesn't know if it is: he doesn't know if he set this whole thing going that could have been avoided, but he wanted to do the right thing, or he wanted to put the wrong thing right, or ... He's in a bit of a state, he supposes. It's really serious; there's going to be an investigation and basically, he could lose his job.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Wednesday 28th February, 2024

There is repetition, deviation, and hesitation, but what was the topic on the card?

Characters: Jim, Alistair, Jazzer, Tracy, Jolene
Credited scriptwriter:
Katie Hims
Director:
Dave Payne
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Over the clatter of cutlery Jim speaks of the EV charging station making great progress, and Alistair goes along with his comments about this being a good thing. Alistair, Jim and Denise won the quiz last night, although the poor turn-out makes Alistair feel their win was rather hollow.

Jazzer is still feeling bad about his stupid remark (made at Neil's suggestion, and with Alistair's agreement to the idea) having meant that The Bull had a poor turnout for the quiz; Tracy tells him that he should feel bad. When he asks what he can do about it now, she tells him to put the word out that the pub is perfectly safe. He argues that it's easier to start a rumour than to stop one.

Jim asks Alistair whether things are all right between him and Jazzer, and, by saying that it's up to Alistair if he doesn't want to say anything, gets out of him that while he and Jazzer haven't exactly fallen out, Jazzer was a bit 'judgy' when he confided something delicate and sensitive to him over a pint. Jim doesn't think that sounds like Jazzer, though he can't really advise him if he doesn't know what it's about. [Nobody asked Jim for advice, that I heard. Chris.] Alistair decides to confide that he talked to Jazzer about Denise, and is startled to learn that Jim knows about him and Denise; he denies they are having an affair, to which Jim replies that he never said they were. Alistair then says that he is in love with her, and Jim simply says 'Yes.' Does everybody know this? asks Alistair indignantly; Jim doesn't know, but he doubts it. Well, Jim wasn't surprised, Jazzer wasn't surprised: it's like there was an advert in the paper or something, grumbles Alistair, and it is known all round Ambridge. Jim points out that it is obvious that they are very fond of one another, and they get on very well. [Not to me, it isn't! She shows every sign of despising him, and bullies him. That he has a crush on her, yes, is obvious. Chris.] Alistair is happy she is back at the surgery, and he talks about her non-stop – Alistair denies this last quite heatedly, for him, and, when Jim insists that it's true, says that's terrible because she's married. Jim admits that's an issue, and presumably why Jazzer was a little 'judgy' whereas Alistair was looking for a shoulder to cry on. He just wanted advice, and what Jazzer advised him was to respect the institution of marriage Jim is surprised but delighted by the idea of Jazzer using those actual words. Alistair confides that he thinks her marriage is over, or nearly so, although she hasn't said that to him; she has said that they're not happy. Jim asks pertinently whether he has any idea how she feels about him, and he says rather doubtfully that he thinks she does care about him, and although they are being professional he feels quite paranoid around the other staff [for goodness' sake, how many of those are there? Chris], especially Paul. Jim is unsurprised about that. The whole situation feels unbearable to Alistair, who now has to go to work.

Turning up before opening hours, Jazzer greets Kenton and asks to speak with him. He has an idea to bring people in through the doors: a one-night-only Jazzer special. [We are not told what one of those is. Chris.]

When Jim encounters Tracy and asks how she is, she tells him that she is a bit stressed because her husband is an idiot; well, not exactly because he is mainly wonderful, but he's got himself into a completely ridiculous situation: he's made a mad promise to Jolene and Kenton that he will bring the punters back into The Bull. He feels obliged to fix the problem because he thinks he created it.

Jolene doesn't know why Kenton said yes to Jazzer, and doesn't understand how it's going to work. Kenton says they needed a gimmick and Jazzer came up with one, he will be in the car park not the bar, and although they will all be outside, they'll come in afterwards and warm up with a drink by the fire. Jolene is worried that it could all go wrong: he could injure himself. Kenton dismisses that and says it's too late now, anyway, because it's happening and there are loads of likes and interest on social media; Jolene remains dubious.

Jim has now found Jazzer, who is having a bad time practising: he thought he could come up with something spectacular, but it turns out to be harder than it looks. Jim remarks that people spend months, years even, learning how to do this kind of thing; Jazzer knew that and wasn't expecting to become world champion, but he's a reasonably fit, relatively athletic person and thought if he put his mind to it, but no. It's basically impossible. (Jim murmurs sympathetically.) And he keeps getting messages from people who are planning to be there, because Chelsea's done a brilliant publicity job. Jim feels that if his aim was to get people back to the pub he will have succeeded, but Jazzer bemoans his pride, which Jim does understand and therefore suggests they have a think about that. Jazzer says mournfully that he liked the way it sounded: 'Parcours in the Pub', which Jim agrees is a nice alliteration and then, when challenged as to whether he knows what parcours is, explains for the benefit of the listeners [who until then had thought Jazzer said 'parka' and wondered what he was on about. Chris] that it's a kind of fast-running semi-acrobatic approach to crossing an urban environment, where people fling themselves over walls and things. However, he wants to talk to Jazzer about something else for a moment. It's been bothering him all day: it's about Alistair, who thinks Jazzer doesn't approve of his feelings for Denise; is he right? Jazzer thinks that while she is still married Alistair needs to respect that; he thinks that's important. Jim understands his point of view, but when he saw them together last night it struck him there was something very right about them, to which Jazzer responds that there is something very wrong and all. Jim argues that people do get divorced, and do meet other people and find themselves happier in their new relationship; he uses Tracy as an example. If everyone who was unhappily married stayed that way the world would be a sorry place. [Has he asked Denise if she is unhappily married? No, Watson, he has not. Chris.] He tells Jazzer that Alistair needs their support, and they just need to trust him to do the right thing. Jazzer gives up and tells Jim he is as wise as ever [which is to say, not at all. Chris.].

The pub is crowded, and Jolene has to admit Kenton was right to say Jazzer could do it, though she adds that of course he can't do it; Kenton gloats that the effect is the same as if he could. Jim then makes an announcement: Jazzer has pulled a hamstring and 'Parcours in the Pub' has to be cancelled. Jazzer is as sorry as everyone else and would like to say a few words. Jazzer takes the mic and blethers incoherently about not living in fear and imagining the worst; you must seize the day and dance like nobody's watching. Also, the person in the pub who said life is too short is right. It's important to be happy. He tells Kenton and Jolene that they are fantastic people and everyone is so grateful for everything they do for this community. So next Tuesday there is going to be a quiz and please do come along. That's all he's got to say, so drink, be merry, thank you and goodnight.

Summarised by Chris Ghoti

Thursday 29th February, 2024

Everything is clear in hindsight, and a bird's-eye view is very revealing.

Characters: Alice, Jim, Susan, Neil, Adam
Credited scriptwriter:
Katie Hims
Director:
Dave Payne
Editor: Jeremy Howe

The bell rings, and Alice comes into the shop. Jim greets her, and as she is choosing something for lunch tells her that her young man came in the other day and they had a little chat: he seems very fond of her. In the face of Alice's complete lack of reaction to this he continues regardless: he felt so pleased for her, because he thinks she deserves some luck. Alice breathes deeply but restrains herself from comment. He then mentions Jazzer's speech last night, and seems surprised that she wasn't down at The Bull to hear it. [She's an alcoholic, Jim; maybe she doesn't want to spend her time at a pub. Chris.] Jim talks of Jazzer having got out of Parcours in the Pub on medical grounds but made a rather lovely speech about how life is short and we all deserve happiness. Alice remains bright in the face of this provocation and merely says she was at home with Martha. Jim asks how Martha is, and Alice says she is the love or her life, and is going to be three next week, which Jim apparently hadn't realised in spite of having been there for the birth.

Susan is looking forward to a treat and the weather is good; she and Neil are drinking a glass of champagne while they wait for their own personal helicopter. She feels like a billionaire's wife, not that she would want to be one because she thinks they must live quite strange lives. She doesn't think she'd be happy. Neil questions whether she would really choose a pig farmer over a billionaire if she had the choice, and she assures him that of course she would; in fact if they weren't married she'd propose to him today. Neil is briefly baffled, so she reminds him it's the twenty-ninth of February, and then goes on to say that when she was little she used to feel sorry for people who only got a birthday every four years. Neil says that it may not be her birthday but the helicopter flight is a birthday present, so Happy Birthday, Mrs. Carter. She expresses herself as being 'so excited'.

The lunch Alice bought was for herself and Adam: just cheese and crackers and some tomatoes. When he asks how she is doing, she decides, after a false start, simply to tell him: she's kind of awful. He asks what's wrong, and she tells him that she and Harry split up. He is distressed for her, asking whether that was because of Harry's mother, but she says no, though that does make more sense now. In the face of his bewilderment she explains further, or rather continues to talk all round it: when Harrison told her she felt sick. Startled, Adam asks what Harrison has to do with Harry.

Now airborne, Susan and Neil pursue a somewhat erratic, zig-zag course over Ambridge, excitedly pointing out landmarks to one another: Berrow Farm, complete with pigs and Jazzer; their own house; Lakey Hill where they have often picnicked; St Stephen's where they got married; it's like looking at their whole lives. [On a map, that's near the middle, far to the east, back near the middle but a bit further north, and then further to the west, in that order. Chris.]

Adam asks whether Harry admitted he had a problem, and Alice tells him no, he was in absolute denial. He was arrested, arrested while he was drunk, and he still doesn't think he has a problem. Adam sees that this must have been a difficult situation for Harrison, and Alice agrees; she feels bad about him, and Fallon. Adam reassures her that it's not her fault, but she feels like she should have known; Adam asks if she ever saw Harry drink, and when she says 'no' asks how she could possibly have guessed that he had a problem. Alice, almost joking, says that apparently Kate knew something was off: she didn't like his aura, in hindsight. Adam asks if she has told Brian, but she is putting it off because he'll be so mad. But if Kate could see it, why couldn't she? Adam suggests that maybe she doesn't believe in auras, and, when Alice hypothesises that they are just a way of saying a vibe or personality, tells her she'd have to ask Kate about that. Alice says there was the business with Harry's mother, too, which as Adam hastens to say was no reason to make her think anything about Harry; now she does, he adds. Alice crossly realises that Harry's mother didn't want him in a relationship with another alcoholic, but as Adam says, she wasn't to know that at the time. She thinks she should have guessed; he thinks she'd have had to be psychic. Alice doesn't really know what to think about it all, but after she told him it was over she just wanted him to leave; she didn't want to get into it. She can't help him, can she. Adam definitely agrees that she can't, and he's not her responsibility: she did absolutely the right thing breaking up with him. Alice asks what else she could have done, and he postulates listening to Harry's promises, which she tells him at once was not going to happen. Adam is really proud of her; and it will be OK. She does know that; it's just left her feeling a bit hopeless. Adam is sure there is someone else out there for her, but Alice doesn't actually want to meet anyone else: that's the last thing she wants. She feels like what happened with Harry has just confirmed that she doesn't deserve for things to be good. She had something good with Chris and she destroyed it. In the shop earlier Jim said she deserved some luck, but she doesn't think she does.

Susan notices Martha's pony, and the river shining like molten silver, which is something you can't see from the ground. Neil points out the mess where they are building the charging station, and then spots something worse: they are taking the big oak tree down. Susan protests that Justin never said they were doing that, and the incensed Neil agrees that no, he never did.

Alice is back at the shop but can't remember what she went there for, though she does remember about candles for Martha's birthday cake, which is not what she came in for. Jim recalls seeing her with Chris last week, and she called out, 'Hello, Jim! Nice hat,' which tickled him; he was wearing a bobble hat which Alistair doesn't like. He went home and told Alistair. Alice thinks that's lovely, and Jim tells her it's a roundabout way of saying that she's doing a wonderful job of raising that child, who is an absolute delight. Alice becomes a little tearful, and Jim asks anxiously if she is all right, has he said the wrong thing? She assures him he has said the absolute right thing, and thanks him.

Neil can't believe it, he just can't: one of the oldest trees in Ambridge! Susan agrees with him that it's awful. And what if this is just the beginning? What if they're taking down more trees? Susan is sure there is no need for that, but Neil wants to know where the need was for that beautiful oak to get the chop. Then he apologises for spoiling Susan's treat, and says they should go for tea and forget about the tree for now, but she asks if he can do that: doesn't he want to call Justin? He says he'll leave that until tomorrow and not ruin Susan's day, but she thinks he should just call him and find out what's going on. Neil would like to know if they're planning to cut down any more, and Susan encourages him to call Justin; then they'll go for tea. He thanks her, and she wants to know what for: he tells her it's for understanding, and for caring as much as he does.







Summarised by Chris Ghoti


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