June 2023: Interim Synopses

While CG is off a-gallivanting, synopses of a sort will appear here. Proceed at your own risk.


Monday 5th June 2023

Rob looms in the background, while Emma cannot see what is under her nose
Characters: Tom, Tony, George, Neil, Kirsty, Emma
Credited scriptwriter: Sarah Hehir
Director: Marina Calderone
Editor: Jeremy Howe

At the Edible Forest Garden, Tom’s greeting makes Tony, who is doing a spot of hoeing, jump. Tony, who is clearly distracted, confesses he had a sleepless night, and Tom can guess why. Tony just wants Him locked up and out of their lives. He complains that the scorching sun is too much, and Tom has just the thing for him, courtesy of Helen – a strawberry ice cream. While it is a lovely thought, Tony fears that Helen has enough on her plate without worrying about him. Tom invites his father to sit with him in the shade for a bit. It’s peaceful, Tom observes as they admire the EFG, and Tony says it’s only going to get better: well done, Adam! Adam’s at Home Farm today, though, and Tony hopes that Adam won’t feel obliged to go back there because of what happened with Stella, as he likes having him at Bridge Farm. Tony asks if Tom is OK with Helen’s decision not to do Open Farm Sunday, and Tom says that he is, and in fact is relieved not to have to manhandle that godforsaken wooden cow (that Bert made for them, Tony interjects) again; Tom agrees with Helen that handling another big event right now might push them all over the edge, but they’ll still have visitors… The surprise inspection really unsettled her, they concur, and Tony reckons that just knowing Titchener is in the country must be unbearable for her. ‘But what can we do?’ Tom wails; nothing but sit and wait to see what He does next, Tony tells him despairingly.

George’s breezy greeting to his grandfather is cut off as Neil tells him that he should knock on the office door but yes, he did want to see him. While it’s nice having George to stay at Ambridge View and seeing him and his Nana having so much fun with George’s games – she’s getting good at some of them and can be a right laugh, according to George – there’s a time and a place for banter and backchat, and work is neither of those. When George queries what he means, Neil spells it out: when George is talking to his supervisors, he needs to have some respect. George protests that he would never disrespect his Grandad and an exasperated Neil says he was talking about Hannah, not himself. ‘I knew it’, George mutters before asking what Hannah has said. Keeping his temper in check with some effort, Neil tells George that Hannah is his boss and it is therefore his job to listen to her and learn from her and while he’s at it to watch his tone in future and to lose the cheek. Clearly unbamboozled by George’s ‘Sorry, Grandad’, he points out that Hannah is a very experienced pig farmer. George says he gets it and, unreassuringly, that he will see Hannah has nothing to complain about, and Neil orders him back to work, adding that he is expecting a glowing report at the end of the afternoon.

Presumably in the environs of the dairy, Tom encounters Kirsty, who asks him if he has time to join her for a coffee. He doesn’t: he just wanted to check something with Helen, and Clarrie doesn’t know where she is. In tragic tones [where misery is, there shall inevitably be Kirsty also: It Is Written. Gus] Kirsty informs him that Clarrie wouldn’t know that Helen is seeing her solicitor about – surprise! - Rob Titchener. Helen hadn’t mentioned it to Tom this morning, and Kirsty says that Helen texted her about an hour ago and that Dominic has managed to squeeze in an appointment; Helen is just trying to be as prepared as possible. Tom can’t believe ‘this’ is happening again, and Kirsty agrees but says she is telling herself it is really different this time – Helen isn’t isolated, she has her family and friends around her and they all know what He is like. At leat the police know He’s in the country, adds Tom, and Kirsty says that everyone is being vigilant and Helen sensible, having spoken to the boys’ schools and put everything in place that she can: the best they can do now for Jack and Henry is to be normal. Tom emotes a bit about how much he loves the boys and how, watching them, it could be him and John playing together, and how it’s so unfair. And exhausting, says Kirsty, before announcing in her best doom-laden tones that Helen had a Reason for visiting her solicitor this morning: Rob has made a formal application to the court to have his access to Jack reinstated.

To Neil’s mild surprise it is Emma rather than Susan who has just come into the house; when she says he must have got off early today just as she has, Neil tells her he had been at work from six and that they are missing Jazzer far more than Jazzer will be missing them. Emma immediately reminds him they’ve got George, and is he around? He isn’t, not having finished disinfecting the pens by the time Neil left, so Hannah will be dropping him home when they’re through. He had asked his mother to bring him over a few things from ‘Little Grange’ [spit. Gus] – vest tops, cap, sunglasses – because of the heat, which both Neil and Emma have found trying today as well. As Keira will be home soon Emma declines Neil’s offer of a drink and will just leave the bag, asking Neil to see that George takes it up to his room rather than leaving stuff lying around: she knows what he’s like…. In response to that last Neil makes one of his strange strangulated pig-noises and like a flash Emma queries whether George is pulling his weight. Clearly wanting to delay raising the issues at Berrow, Neil tells her that her mother is in her element playing computer games with George, and Emma reminds him that Susan always told Chris and her that those games would rot their minds. Susan’s obsessed now, Neil laughs, and she and George are thick as thieves. But at Berrow, well, Neil had to have a word with him this morning. Emma queries whether he is shirking and is told that George is a hard worker and good with the pigs. ‘Then what?’, snaps Emma. Neil says that he has been backchatting Hannah. Is that all, Emma asks, chiding her father for having had her worried for a minute. But Neil is serious, and it’s not on; Hannah is George’s boss and he doesn’t speak in that tone to any of the others: it doesn’t come across well. Instantly defensive, Emma observes that Hannah isn’t exactly a shrinking violet and if she has an issue with George she should tell him to his face rather than running to Neil to tell tales. Hearing George arriving, Emma says she will have a word with him, and Neil thanks her.

‘See you then, Hannah’ George calls as she drives off, adding privately, and with considerable emphasis, ‘Cow!’ just before he hears his mother call him. ‘Did you bring my sunglasses?’ he demands, and Emma tells him that she had a nice day, thanks, and what about him? In response to his ‘sorry-not-sorry’ enquiry about how her day was, Emma tells him it was fine, until she heard about him being rude to Hannah. Did Grandad tell her that, George asks, blustering that it was nothing, she told him to do something and he made a joke – that’s it. Just the once? Emma asks. Maybe a few times, George concedes, but Hannah is so uptight AND she’s had it in for him from Day One; she might have charmed her way around Grandad but George thought at least Emma would be on his side. She tells him she is always on his side but she doesn’t like hearing he’s been rude and, when George counters that it was bantz tells him she knows that there is a very fine line between his ‘bantz’ and plain bad manners. She’s just looking for ways to get him into trouble, claims George – remember how she was with Grandad at first? It’s what she does, plays the victim to get her own way. When Emma agrees that Hannah does have form, George goes all little-boy-lost, saying he doesn’t know what to do any more and that it is really getting to him, Emma tells him that he mustn’t let it and must remember that everyone has to be polite to their boss, then bolsters his unfragile confidence by reminding him that his Grandad really rates his work, that she is very proud of him, and that he should remember Oliver’s gift – there’s someone else who really believes in him. Oh, and has he had any more thoughts about the fundraising? He says he has, loads, but when Emma wants to hear details, he suddenly remembers he’s helping Nana cook tonight and, with a perfunctory thanks for her bringing his stuff, dives into the house. Emma sighs.

Tom is kvetching to Kirsty: for all these years He’s shown no interest in Jack so when it gets to court, surely He won’t have a chance? She hopes not, but helpfully reminds the listener that it’s all about power, and control over Helen. Tom doesn’t think anyone would believe His heartbroken Daddy’ routine after all these years, but Kirsty says that they might, which is why Helen has gone straight to the solicitor: she knows what He’s capable of. Tom predicts that his parents are going to take this badly and Kirsty tells him Helen was going to call them en route to the solicitor, before expanding on the theme of that That Man being hard-wired to manipulate and control. But they know what He’s like now, can see through that fake charm and the lies and the victim-playing. But Helen’s not alone this time, and if His games make Tom’s family stronger, then He’s failed and the family get to keep what matters to them – love, and loyalty. Tom thanks Kirsty and says what she has just said is what Dad needs to hear, as it might help, and sets off to find Tony.

Tom finds Tony up by the Anguses, one or two of which are restless and look likely to calve today. Tony has heard the latest development, and says wearily that he’s fine and that Pat has been trying to get him to do some mindfulness, counting things he can see, hear, smell… it keeps you grounded, apparently, and helps you relax. Tom suggests giving it a go and kicks off with being able to see a Red Admiral [what IS it with that family and effing crisis butterflies? Gus] while Tony can smell the cow parsley and Tom can hear his Dad’s beautiful Anguses. But Tony is still turning it over in his mind and can’t stop wondering what they could do, should have done and might still have to do, round and round and round. And He might get supervised visits with Jack again and, if He charms the relevant people, might be granted even more than that. Tony can’t forget those visits he had to supervise in the tea-room, convincing himself that He couldn’t harm Jack while Tony was there and that Jack was too young to take anything in, then having to hand him over, hear him being called ‘Gideon’ and Titchener calling himself ‘Dad‘: it was one of the worst things he’s ever had to do. And if He gets his own way now Jack will remember Him, he’s not tiny any more. ‘What are we going to do?’ he asks helplessly. Tom reassures him that what they are going to do is stick together and look after each other and, like that, they will take all His power away.

Summarised by Gus


Tuesday 6th June 2023

Down their throats with the dosing gun!’

In which the yearling deer are wormed and weasels, rats and snakes scent their chances

Characters: Alice, Adam, Elizabeth, Freddie, Brian, Lilian, Justin
Credited scriptwriter: Sarah Hehir
Director: Marina Calderone
Editor: Jeremy Howe

‘You made it!’ says Alice to Adam, who explains he got held up spraying the wheat and then pinned Brian down to run through the week’s plans. Alice thinks they definitely need to catch up about dad, but Adam doesn’t have time for a coffee at the stables as he has to get over to Bridge Farm, where things are full on; Tony’s been very understanding but Adam can tell he’s stressed. Alice asks how Brian is coping and Adam, in ‘not just tired, exasperated too’ mode, tells her that he says things have never been better but yes, of course he’s struggling. Alice wonders what possessed him to sack Stella: it’s all such a mess. Adam denies having any idea that Brian was planning to fire her, honestly, and Alice says it was stupidly impulsive and so unlike him. When Adam tells her it was all about the drill, or at least that is what Brian is saying, she asks whether the purchase really was reckless. Far from it, according to Adam: it was a big investment but not irresponsible: the drill is exactly what they need and she negotiated a good price. Alice therefore decides that it’s all about Brian’s pride having been wounded, although how that sits with her earlier statement that being stupid and impulsive is out of character for Brian is left as an exercise for the listener. To be honest [that would make a nice change, dear. Gus ] Adam expected Brian would have changed his mind by now and realised this was never a case of Stella being defiant… ‘I’m worried about him’ Alice declares and then asks if Adam thinks he’s having some sort of breakdown. Competitive sighing ensues. It’s hard to tell, Adam says: Brian’s certainly tired, but trying to hide it. Helpfully Alice observes that it can’t be good for his heart, and Adam says he can’t just tell Brian to go home as the work still needs to be done. Alice decides she will ride up and check on Brian, exercising one of the livery horses in the process, and Adam thinks this is a great idea: she can lend Dad a hand worming the yearlings.

With that decided and after more sighing, Alice wants to know what Stella is saying about things, but Adam hasn’t spoken to her since it all kicked off on Friday. Alice feels sorry for her and believes that Stella must have thought she had the OK from Brian to go ahead with the purchase and, when Adam says ‘maybe but it’s all a bit …muddy’, asks him sharply what he means. ‘What was said and what was heard’ Adam prevaricates; it was that awful week of Mum’s death, Brian was pretty much out of the picture, still in shock: everyone was. Alice queries whether Brian is taking that into account. In frustrated tones Adam tells her doesn’t know, he doesn’t know what Brian is doing at all, but he does wish he hadn’t sacked her.

At Lower Loxley, Freddie’s lie-in is interrupted by Elizabeth knocking. She tells him that she has missed him at work that morning and how nice it will be to have him back this week, then insists on opening his curtains because it’s such a gorgeous day; she’s been taking every excuse she can to drink in the sunshine. He will get his vitamin D later, Freddie promises, and tells her how important it is for him to get the club night just right, which gets the usual meaningless ‘I’m sure you will’ from his mother. Freddie’s so glad Ben is going to be there and thinks he will really like his set. Elizabeth says she’s sure he will be brilliant: remember Eurovision? What a night, agrees Freddie, observing that the photos with Rylan on his homepage certainly aren’t hurting. That being enough about Freddie, Elizabeth says she must go to see if the ground staff have got around power-hosing the garden furniture, ad Freddie is surprised that they still haven’t done it. She might have to do it herself, Elizabeth tells him, then notices the contents of a parcel that came for Freddie earlier. It’s brilliant, he enthuses: a flexible mic arm, perfect for travelling the world – Marbella, Agios, Bangkok… why is Elizabeth smiling? ‘Because, Freddie Pargetter, you remind me so much of your Dad.’

At Home Farm, Brian congratulates Alice on rounding up the young deer, cheerfully adding ‘now it’s down their throats with the dosing gun!’ But before that, in this heat, he needs to take a break and have some water. Alice offers to fetch it but no need, it’s in his bag just here by the hedge. Jennifer always told him to keep hydrated on days like these and, though Alice’s mother may not be there, he can still hear her voice. ‘Alice cuts across him, admiring the dog roses and asking if Brian had noticed them, then saying that Adam told her he had been up at the farm earlier. Brian says there was no need as he and Ed can handle things themselves. ‘But for how long?’ asks Alice, adding ‘especially without Stella.’ Irked, Brian points out Stella is not the only estate manager around and asks whether Adam imagines that she is. Alice claims she has no idea what Adam thinks but she is keen to know what Brian is planning and who he is thinking of to replace her.

Somewhere in the village [possibly outside The Bull? Past caring. Gus] Adam encounters Lilian, who invites him to sit with her while she waits for Justin; she has a lot of old kit from the tack room with her which she is planning to donate to charity. She declines Adam’s offer of a lift home as Justin is only over in the shop, buying heaven knows what; but if Adam doesn’t mind her saying so, he is looking a bit… ‘Sweaty?’ Stressed? Like I’m going out of my mind?’ he suggests, prompting a ‘Let me guess: Brian!’ from Lilian, who has heard the latest from Home Farm on the grapevine. Adam bemoans this having happened just as things were settling down and Lilian sympathises: if Brian has decided to get rid of his super-efficient farm manager, they will be back to being neck-deep in drama. Lilian wants to know what possessed Stella to spend so much money and Adam’s shifty concession that she might have thought she had permission prompts Lilian to ask ‘From Brian?’ ‘No, from me’ says Adam, and confesses he feels ‘a bit uncomfortable about the whole thing’ and wonders if he should have stuck up for Stella a little more, but it was difficult in the moment as Brian really went for her. Lilian doubts whether it would have changed Brian’s mind if Adam had supported her. Adam is more concerned about what happens now, as it’s clear [to him, anyway. Gus] Brian can’t manage the farm in the long term. ‘What about you?’ Lilian enquires. Adam doesn’t know; he had thought that returning to Home Farm in any capacity wouldn’t be an option for years. Justin’s arrival interrupts him. It’s another beautiful day and so Justin has bought a couple of ice-cold bottles of Chardonnay from the village shop and does Adam fancy joining them. When Adam says he must get back to Bridge Farm, Lilian suggests after work instead and Adam invites them to Honeysuckle Cottage in the evening; Ian will be out. Justin is keen to hear about the Brian/Stella ‘fiasco’.

Alice is leaving Home Farm, but Brian still has a couple of hours’ admin to do as well as checking the linseed and quinoa before the sun goes down. And this, Alice lectures, is exactly why he shouldn’t have sacked Stella. Annoyed but not surprised, Brian says ‘Ah, there it is! But Alice is not to be deflected: he’s supposed to be retired and to be taking things easy. When Brian observes that there’s not a lot he can do about that just at the moment, Alice says what he could do is tell her exactly why he gave Stella her marching orders. Brian assumed Adam would already have told her, and Alice says Adam has told her that he thinks the drill will be great for the business. Brian counters that it is very simple: Stella spent an exorbitant amount of money and if he can’t trust her with the finances then he can’t have her running Home Farm. Maybe if they sit down and talk? Alice suggests, but Brian rejects the idea and, when Alice pleads they are worried what this could do to his health, says that the weather’s perfect, he is fighting fit and, also, he is enjoying himself. She admits her father is looking pretty good but begs him not to take on too much. Changing the subject, Brian says that now he wants to hear all about Alice’s trip out with Kate.

Elizabeth is thanking Freddie for cleaning the outdoor furniture, which he assures her is gleaming white once more and she agrees is looking amazing; and she’s so glad she didn’t have to do it herself! Freddie thought he might as well make himself useful and she tells him he’s done Lower Loxley proud. ‘I did it for you, Mum, not Lower Loxley’ he insists and, revealingly, his mother says sometimes that feels like one and the same thing; not in Freddie’s world it isn’t, he tells her. Elizabeth assures him that he is a great support and she misses him when he isn’t at work; to tell the truth she will be delighted when he inherits, and relieved to be shot of the trustees: she’d far rather negotiate with him. For now he should enjoy his week off but she really does need him for all their summer activities. Drily, Freddie thanks her, adding that fun though hosing down garden furniture is, it’s not a patch on running a proper club night: he can’t wait!

At Honeysuckle Cottage, Adam regales his guests with olives, spritzers and a wild garlic pizza ‘made by his lovely husband’. Justin proposes a toast ‘to Adam’s future at Home Farm’ and, when Adam protests that this is premature, says he thought Adam might see this as an opportunity – the prodigal son returns… That’s the problem, says Lilian: returns to what? Brian looking over his shoulder? ‘Exactly!’ says Adam with feeling; nothing has actually changed since he left. Furthermore, Xander still isn’t at school, Ian is still in the early days with his business and Adam is still thoroughly enjoying the pace at Bridge Farm. Lilian says that Bridge Farm is clearly suiting him so perhaps he should consider carefully before being sucked back in and Justin is quick to add that he imagines working with Brian would present exactly the same challenges as before. No question about that, says Adam. What is Adam’s dream job? Lilian asks, to be told that it is probably unattainable – managing somewhere like Home Farm without Brian on his back [so that’s ‘Home Farm’ then, you conniving little shitweasel. Gus]. Justin nudges that, as ‘poor old Stella’ discovered, Brian is obviously not ready to step down yet, but what a bizarre way for him to behave… Adam says it was brutal, and Lilian helpfully announces that he’s feeling guilty, and Adam adds that he still can’t see Stella’s actions as gross misconduct. Justin blusters, from his position of ignorance of the facts, that of course it wasn’t; Stella is great to work with – professional, experienced, enterprising – and if Justin were Brian he would trust her judgment even if he wasn’t completely on the same page. Sighing for England, Adam says he doubts he will get Brian to change his mind. Justin tells Adam that it is in his best interests for Home Farm to remain in a safe pair of hands until Brian is ready to retire, under someone who would steer the place in Adam’s favoured direction. That’s why Stella, with her total commitment to farming with the environment, was ideal, Adam muses. Lilian says she feels sure that Brian knows in his heart she was a diamond and all three agree that Brian will have a difficult job to replace her. ‘Which is why…’ Justin begins, to be cut off by Lilian asking what he is plotting and then telling Adam merrily that Justin can’t be trusted. As Justin, having achieved his objective, pretends to want to turn the conversation from ‘all this work chat’, Lilian advises Adam to keep an eye on her partner, who is definitely up to something.

Summarised by Gus


Wednesday 7th June 2023

Less a grand plan than a Gran’s Plan for George, while Tom and Lee have no idea what to do

Characters: Emma, George, Susan, Kirsty, Tom. Lee
Credited scriptwriter: Sarah Hehir
Director: Marina Calderone
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Rather than checking up on George as he assumes, Emma has come to Ambridge View with a lemon drizzle cake to thank his grandparents for putting him up, although Susan tells her presents aren’t necessary and that they love having George there; George smugly says Susan called him ‘sunshine’ this morning and Emma asks what the pair of them are like and hopes that George is being polite and pulling his weight. He claims he is, and as Emma accepts Susan’s offer of a cuppa, tells his mother that nana is cooking him a full English. If he’s anything like Emma’s dad, explains Susan, he’ll need something substantial. Mind you, she isn’t sure Neil had anything this morning: he was gone before Susan got up. Ed was the same, up and out before six, says Emma: all the extra work at Home Farm is good for them, or at least for their bank balance, although Ed thinks Brian is struggling. ‘That’s right, Nana!’ oils George when Susan says it’s hard work being a farmer and he’ll need something to set him up for the day. Emma refuses the offer of breakfast herself, as Fallon wants her in early to do the scones before work begins on Jim’s birthday cake. Susan has got a card for him with a picture of Eeyore wearing spectacles; the party’s in the tearoom at fourish, Emma tells her, so if Susan’s finished in the dairy she could watch him blow out his candles, a feat which George reckons might take Jim all day. ‘Eighty-four and still sharp as a pin!’ the women marvel. Emma asks George how he is getting to Berrow and is told by bike. Susan said she offered him a lift but it’s just as quick on his bike; they couldn’t have him going in early with Neil. Emma snappishly enquires why not and her son says it is because he and his nana need their beauty sleep to keep their youthful glow, which Susan strangely seems to appreciate. Emma abjures him not to be late and then, illogically, asks him if he’s told his nana any of his fundraising ideas for Caroline’s charity. Susan says he’s told her it’s something to do with fostering but when pressed George can’t give details; Emma explains they provide funding for foster kids to follow their dream – drama classes, tennis lessons, musical instruments etc. Susan thinks that’s a great cause and that George should be very proud of himself, but Emma points out that he hasn’t actually done anything yet. Indignantly, George protests that isn’t true and that he has a plan. Rather than go into it now, he will go to the tea room on his break and if his mother buys him a coffee he will ‘sort it’ then.

Kirsty invites Tom into the rewilding office out of the rain, which he says it’s more like mist. He’s delivering breakfast boxes for the three sets of campers who arrive tomorrow; Kirsty says they are so successful she’s wondering about offering barbecue boxes and picnics as well, which Tom unsurprisingly thinks is a good idea. Kirsty thanks him and he says to let him know if she needs anything else, and to point the campers in the direction of Bridge Farm. She will: the dairy window has already prompted one child visitor to harbour ambitions of becoming a cheesemaker, she tells him. Tom will tell Helen, as it might cheer her up. Kirsty reports that she and Ian had a good time at Helen’s last night and asks Tom how his dad is doing: has he talked to him? Yes, Tom tells her, and it is Jack that is bothering him. Kirsty says it’s heartbreaking but that being able to talk to Tom when he’s struggling must be a huge support to Tony.

At the tea-room, Lee is ordering from Emma, settling on a cheese scone; he has dropped Jack at school and, since his first appointment was cancelled, decided to treat himself. He had this mad idea that Helen might join him. ‘What, on a Borsetshire Blue morning?’ Emma laughs, before telling him that despite Jim’s birthday party later, they are not as busy baking as they would be if Bridge Farm were doing Open Farm Sunday. In fact, she confides, Fallon is a bit put out and thinks the tea-room stands to lose a lot of munnay. Diplomatically, Lee says he thinks the family felt it was just one big event too many this year, after Easter, Rogation Sunday, the light show… ‘And the dairy window to get used to,’ she reminds him [We are used to it. Some of us are sick of it. Gus] before asking how his ‘lovely daughters’ are getting on in California. They’re good, Lee tells her, and he’s getting a bit more used to them being away after the initial shock. Emma says the different time zone must make things hard, but Lee tells her it has its upside: he woke this morning to a smiley photo from Evie, which was a great way to start the day. Emma reckons there are other advantages, such as hearing about the good bits without having to deal with the day-to-day hassle – and how did Henry feel about his detention? Keira was gutted to get half an hour for forgetting her history homework. Henry didn’t want Lee to tell Helen, he says, and Emma says it wasn’t just Henry, there were a whole load of them: forget she said anything. She’s thankful George’s schooldays are over – the times she had to go in because of bunking off, fights, answering back… Lee has heard George is now working at Berrow and Emma says Neil’s really pleased with him and that having a proper physical job is doing her son the world of good; he’s coming in later to tell her his ideas for a charity fundraising, so the cheeky mare hopes Lee will sponsor him. Lee says it sounds as if she has raised a good one there, but Emma reckons George is still a work in progress. [True dat. Gus]

Tom wearily tells Kirsty he’d better be going to see if Adam’s sorted out the casuals. Kirsty asks if he’s heard how Brian’s getting on and Tom says only via Adam, who’s tearing his hair out. He’s incredulous when Kirsty says she’s sorry for Brian and she retorts that she and Roy became very fond of him and Jennifer and that they miss him being at Willow Cottage, quite apart from wondering what their next neighbours will be like. Brian might have had his moments, but - ‘ Tom cuts her off with ‘What? Like poisoning the Am?’ and she says he and Jennifer were very considerate neighbours and that she has quite a soft spot for Brian. Tom never thought he’d see the day. Tom thanks Kirsty for her support this week and says that having her and Natasha to talk to has really helped. He saw Lee this morning, he tells her, and Kirsty asks how he is doing; he looks exhausted, and has told Tom that Henry got his first detention. Tom wonders if Henry is reacting to the tension at home: the detention was only for homework but he doesn’t want Tom to tell his mum, neither of which are exactly unknown for a twelve-year-old, Kirsty observes, but Tom feels they are all walking on thin ice, waiting for it to break.

Everything is now ready for Jim’s party, Emma tells George, before refusing his ridiculous request for a slice of the birthday cake. She reckons they’ve got about ten minutes before people arrive to have their coffee and for George to tell her all about his big idea. He asks why there are three coffees and is clearly dismayed to hear that his nana is joining them, but Susan arrives before he can protest. When Susan enquires about his day, George complains that Hannah will have him disinfecting the pens again later and is told that he has to take the rough with the smooth. George protests that Martin Gibson had him doing management stuff, and he’s been to college… ‘All in good time’ Susan says before advising Emma that there’s nothing wrong with a bit of ambition. Unmollified, Emma ripostes that she is more interested in hearing George’s ambitions for the charity event; so, George, what’s your big plan? George confesses that he doesn’t have one and when his mother tells him that he said he did only this morning, flatly denies it. ‘That’s exactly what you said, George Grundy!’ confirms his grandmother: she heard him too, and if he tries pulling the wool over their eyes, it will be a veggie pot noodle for him tonight while she and his grandad have lasagne and chips. This dire threat seems to hit home. Susan then asks how he is going to impress Oliver and raise lots of money. George’s plan, he explains, is to do something, and tell lots of people, and they will give him money. ‘Do what?’, Emma demands, telling him he clearly hasn’t given it a second thought. He scornfully rejects Susan’s suggestion of a sponsored cake bake, and Emma wonders about something physical, to play to his strengths: how about running? George doesn’t like that idea either, as he wants to do something that will draw a crowd to watch him. ‘Something you’re good at that will show off your muscles’ says Susan, and Emma points out that, like Ed, George stacks a good hay bale. Susan chimes in with ‘against the clock!’ and, giving her, rather than Emma credit for it, says that it isn’t a half-bad idea: he could do it in Grange Farm’s barn. Emma suggests music over a sound system and Susan reckons they could get the girls from the Young Farmers to cheer him on – but is George sure he could keep it up for an hour? Those bales are heavy. George is confident in his ‘big guns’, but Emma admonishes him that it’s not just turning up on the day that matters: he has to print sponsorship forms, go door to door, advertise, and check H&S and charity regulations. That sounds to George like a lot of hard work which he reckons would be more up Emma’s street, but his grandmother squashes that notion: it’s all about George putting in the graft himself.

Tom presses a tomato fresh off the vine on Lee and suggests he takes some home as the boys eat them like sweets at Bridge Farm. Lee feels he said too much earlier and doesn’t want Helen to think he’s been worrying about them. They are fine, he thinks; maybe a bit quieter than usual. And are you and Helen okay? Tom asks. Lee thinks so, but admits they do go off and talk, and the boys are bound to have picked up on the closed doors and hushed voices. Tom’s so glad Helen and Lee have one another, but Lee blurts out that he hopes they didn’t hear: last night when the boys were in bed, Lee could hear Helen crying in the bathroom. It was obvious she didn’t want him to hear, and he doesn’t know what to do. Tom assures Lee that it isn’t his fault and says they all know whose fault it is [Helen’s, mainly. You’re welcome. Gus] but Lee is upset that he didn’t know what to do to make Helen feel better. When she came down he made her a cup of tea and hugged her but he can’t take it away, can’t make it better. Tom says he did what he could but Lee knows there has to be more [he can do].

Summarised by Gus


Thursday 8th June 2023

Justin blusters, Elizabeth wheedles and some madman actively wants Ruth to speak.
Characters: Elizabeth, Ruth, Freddie, Justin, Stella, David, Brian
Credited scriptwriter: Sarah Hehir
Director: Marina Calderone
Editor: Jeremy Howe

At Brookfield, Elizabeth is telling Ruth about running into Josh in the yard and hearing about the great time Paul and Lily are having together. Freddie says that’s surprising, and Elizabeth assures Ruth that he loves his sister really. Ruth is just back from the Bridge Farm Shop and tells them she chatted to Tom; she thought he looked a bit tired. Laughing, Elizabeth points out that he has twins and, take it from her, they never stop being exhausting, prompting a ‘thanks a million, Mum’ from Freddie. Ruth thinks it’s a shame that Bridge Farm is not doing Open Farm Sunday this year. ‘Encouraging the public to traipse across your land: madness!’ says Freddie, to general amusement; ‘We’d never dream of it at Lower Loxley.’ Ben has told Ruth that Freddie had a great crowd in last night. Yes, he says, it was a real student crowd with a great vibe – a sea of heads bobbing up and down to the tunes he was playing: it’s a weird sensation, like conducting an orchestra. The ever-supportive Elizabeth observes that you’ve never heard poetry until you’ve heard her son on the subject of DJing. She can laugh, he counters, but he must have done something right as they want him back, and she protests that she’s very proud of him, and delighted they both had such a good time. This prompts Freddy to ask where Ben is as he wants to show him the photos he took and, when Ruth suggests in the yard (with, inevitably, Bess), goes out to find him.

Ruth asks whether Elizabeth thinks Freddie is serious about trying to get DJ bookings abroad. Elizabeth says she thinks the dream is serious: Freddie is so like Nigel: the latest thing is all-consuming – until it isn’t. Ruth says that ice-cream vans spring to mind, Elizabeth adds swimming pools and Ruth dressing up as a gorilla, which Elizabeth reminds her lasted for years. Getting back to Freddie, Ruth asks if Elizabeth sees the DJing as just a phase. His mother says that while he obviously has a flair for it, the chances of making a decent living are remote; she thinks he just needs to get over his disappointment with the trustees’ decision and knuckle down. He loves Lower Loxley: it’s in his bones. ‘Another way he’s like his dad’ Ruth sighs; ‘both wonderfully impossible and very sweet,’ agrees Elizabeth. Ruth says Ben thinks the world of him, and Elizabeth tells her Freddie was thrilled he decided to go last night. While Ruth thinks Ben’s decision was a really good sign, between the two of them she fears it was a bit too much for Ben. This is news to Elizabeth, but Ruth says Ben’s good at hiding his feelings; it wasn’t Freddie’s fault, and Ben was very proud seeing his friend in the DJ box. Elizabeth makes sympathetic noises. Ruth’s phone pings and Elizabeth asks if it’s more complaints about the postponement of the charging station meeting, but Ruth tells her it’s something much more exciting.

At The Bungalow Justin greets Stella, who is working in her garden;. Apparently unenthused, she tells her visitor she can talk while she digs; so, he’s heard the news, then? Justin says yes, Brian is limping along, propped up by Adam and Ed; even Alice has been roped in. ‘Alice?’ screeches Stella, ‘What’s he got her doing?’ Worming deer, according to Adam, says Justin and Stella tells him she thinks Adam might have got just what he wanted. Justin claims he’s not convinced; does Stella really think Adam wanted her out of the picture? After all, he’s very happy at Bridge Farm, and why would he give that up at the moment to go back to the complicated set-up he left? Stella says she can’t work out what he wants, but he told her to get on with the job at Home Farm, which is exactly what she did; and Adam knows what he said. She’s not taking this lying down and they are in for a shock. Justin asks if she’s thought of just apologising and receives an indignant ‘No!’ Stella says she has nothing to apologise for and Justin [again from his position of total ignorance of the facts. Gus] agrees that it was unfair dismissal. Stella spoke to an expert in agricultural employment law earlier and Brian is about to learn she can play him at his own game. Justin doesn’t believe Brian is playing games, but wanting complete control of the farm is one of his flaws… Stella goes on to list his arrogance, his pride, and his total lack of trust in her judgment when she was Brian’s best hope for ensuring the farm’s future. She wishes she had got Adam to confirm his instructions by email: without that, how can she prove that he said what he did? That, says Justin, is why the legal route might not be her best option, and he might have a better plan.

When Elizabeth offers David a glass of red wine he wants a large one and Ruth asks why he’s so grumpy when he’s got the first cut of silage done. The silage isn’t the problem, he tells them, it’s the Borchester Echo that’s got under his skin. It has published a correction explaining that his farm is Brookfield rather than Bridge Farm. ‘That’s good, isn’t it?’ Ruth asks, and David grimly announces that they’ve printed his age as eighty-two, which amuses the women. No one will read it anyway, Elizabeth tells him, and they shouldn’t be getting distracted by such minor details. David doesn’t feel ‘Brookfield being run by an octogenarian’ is a minor detail exactly, but Elizabeth says that it very much is in comparison with the exciting announcement Ruth has for him. Describing it as no big deal, but clearly thrilled, Ruth reveals that she has been invited to speak on a panel about grass-fed systems at Agribusiness (the big Agricultural Industries Confederation event in Peterborough in November). He is surprised, but claims that ‘Why did they ask you?’ came out all wrong, and tedious banter about Ruth being a farmer in her own right rather than a farmer’s wife ensues. But Ruth explains that she was probably asked because she met the organiser at the Three Counties Show last year and he remembered her [‘Uncouth, stunted, ghastly accent? Yes, rings a bell.’ Gus]. And yes, she is going to do it. She’s flattered to have been asked, and excited, and it is quite a big deal, involving all the industry leaders, and politicians: she can see why David would be jealous… Chuckling, he denies being any such thing. Then Ruth’s phone rings: it’s Stella, so she’d better take the call.

Over the phone, Stella is filling Ruth in on Justin’s visit: she wasn’t sure why he was there at first – certainly certainly not just to be nice, as Ruth suggests, because Justin doesn’t do ‘nice’, or ‘selfless’. Does Ruth have time to meet up for a drink this evening? Ruth tells her Elizabeth and Freddie are there but Stella is welcome to join them, then breaks off to joke to David, who has brought her a G&T, that she is talking to NASA, who want her to man their next space mission. Stella accepts the invitation.

Brian tells Justin, who is knocking at the Home Farm office, to come in and, when Justin says he’s burning the candle at both ends, says he’s just getting on top of things. ‘As long as they aren’t getting on top of you’, says Justin, and when Brian asks him what he means, adds that the signs are there. Brian tells him to spit it out and then asks what has brought Justin over at this time of night. Correct him if he’s wrong, but Justin thinks there’s a large field of BL maize that hasn’t been planted yet. Brian counters that he’ sure that’s not true, but it definitely looks to Justin as if it’s been missed: possibly it was overlooked by Brian and Adam while Stella was away; and now Brian’s obviously got too much on his plate to be vigilant about BL planting. Brian tells him he’ll get on to planting the maize first thing in the morning. Justin sighs: Brian knows as well as he does that a two-week delay in planting could mean a drop in yield of up to 15%. And Justin knows, says Brian, that the ground has to be at at least eight degrees for five consecutive days for maize to be sown. This cuts no ice with Justin: unless Home Farm’s developed a microclimate, Brian needs to admit that he’s simply taken his eye off the ball, and it’s going to cost BL.

As he’s driving Elizabeth home, Freddie says he can’t believe that he didn’t notice Ben was so unhappy last night and feels he shouldn’t have invited him. Elizabeth tells him it’s not his fault: Ben must have thought he would have fun, but these things take time. And how is Freddie feeling? He says it’s been great doing something completely different this week to get his head together, and Elizabeth says that sometimes it can feel as if, if something doesn’t happen immediately, that it never will. There’s no hurry; what the trustees have done is given Freddie thinking time. ‘That’s one way of looking at it’ he snorts, and Elizabeth tells him he’ll have more time now to get to grips with the business side, without which the estate would not function. Freddie knows that, he tells her; Nigel used to say that the place was only still standing because of Elizabeth. Elizabeth demurs: it was a joint effort, and now she and Freddie can work together and he can use this time to grow into the role he will inherit, to which he responds ‘you really mean “grow up!”’ Elizabeth denies it but immediately says that she thinks the trustees have a point. Unsurprisingly, Freddie is indignant, and Elizabeth says she is afraid that, without enough experience, he could buckle under the strain; Lower Loxley is a huge responsibility. One that he was excited about taking on until last week, Freddie says; they haven’t even given him a timeframe, which isn’t exactly a vote of confidence. Then he must show them what Freddie Pargetter is really made of, his mother urges. He can continue with his DJ work, but the pair of them need to work together to prove he understands how Lower Loxley works, how her business supports the whole estate, which one day he will own, and how Freddie’s involvement in the business makes a perfect partnership; she thinks that’s really what the trustees are looking for. Freddie doesn’t buy it; the trustees gave up on him a long time ago. He adds that with hindsight, he wouldn’t handle the issue of the painting any differently, and Elizabeth tells him his passion and conviction are to be cherished, finishing ‘one day, we’ll lucky to have you as its owner’. [One assumes she meant LL rather than the painting. Gus] Freddie tells her she’s very convincing but it’s just so depressing; he won’t hang around waiting for ever.

Brian wishes Justin a safe journey home and advises him to look out for the foxes, but Justin hasn’t finished. ‘It’s obvious to me you’ve lost your grip’, he tells Brian: he’s not on top of the farm and is flailing around pulling in anyone he can – Alice, Adam, Ed. It’s ridiculous Brian’s still working at that time of night, and Adam told Justin that Brian was up at five. Brian protests that it’s only temporary. Justin pooh-poohs the idea that Stella can easily be replaced and says that the farm and the BL estate need her new thinking and her approach to looking after the land, and the revenues. ‘Playing fast and loose with the revenue is exactly why she couldn’t stay’ Brian counters. But according to Justin, Brian still doesn’t get it: their businesses depend on her knowledge – and Brian let her go! ‘I don’t need to listen to this tirade’ says Brian, but Justin tells him that in fact he does; there’s still the issue of the unplanted maize, and he has been left with no choice but to call an emergency board meeting. ‘For heaven’s sake’, protests Brian, but Justin insists that it is no small matter, and Brian can’t just brush it away. When Brian says the maize will be planted tomorrow, or over the weekend at the latest, Justin tells him that it is not Brian’s call: it’s clear he made a bad decision dismissing Stella in the heat of the moment. According to Brian that’s rubbish, but Justin continues: unless Brian reinstates Stella, he is going to advise the board to terminate BL’s contract with Home Farm.

Summarised by Gus


Friday 9th June 2023

A sow has fourteen piglets, George has a website and Tom, God help us, has An Idea.
Characters: George, Neil, Emma, Tom, Lee
Credited scriptwriter: Sarah Hehir
Director: Marina Calderone
Editor: Jeremy Howe

At the pig unit, George has finished filling the water-troughs and tells Neil resentfully that Jazzer, who’d texted him about the possibility of heat stress for the pigs, can sleep at night now. George can see how one might miss the pigs but if he were Jazzer, he’s just chill and enjoy the time off. Neil is more sympathetic, saying Jazzer must be desperate to get back to work, but George complains that he rings every night to check what George has been doing, and it’s always pretty much the same: straw, water and feed. Neil asks if George fancies having something different to tell Jazzer tonight, something more impressive. ‘Go on then’, says George, and Neil takes him to the arc containing a sow who had a farrow of fourteen that morning and says Hannah will have told George how dangerous a sow defending her piglets can be. Full of himself, George says they were taught that pigs have now been bred to be more docile. Neil would still normally leave the sow to get on with it; but as there are more piglets than teats, two need to be removed for fostering. George is somewhat disconcerted to learn that he’s going to be doing the removing – he thought his grandad said sows should be be left alone. Neil says he will distract the mother with food while George nips in and grabs the two largest piglets, and George proudly tells him he knows why they are taking the fattest – they stand the best chance of fighting their way into the new litter; ‘Good lad!’ says Neil [obvious to any seven-year-old of normal intelligence, surely? Gus]. George will be fine , Neil assures him, as he has a natural way with pigs. Chuckling, he adds ‘unlike Martin Gibson’ and goes on to tell George about Gibson being chased by an angry sow after Jazzer sent him into an arc. George, by now sounding somewhat nervous, reckons he should be all right as he’s faster than Martin Gibson. Neil admits he’s getting a bit old himself for burrowing into pig arcs, his knees not being what they were. ‘Not as old as Brian’, George tells him and goes on to relay that Ed thinks Brian is past it and can’t understand why he’s back running Home Farm on his own. Neil says that no one can, and expresses sympathy for Stella.

‘Let’s do this’, George says, and as Neil distracts the sow with her feed George gets slowly over the fence, grabs two piglets and nips back over the fence at speed. Pleased with himself, he decides he is going to name the piglets, despite Neil’s warning that they aren’t pets. Undeterred, George decides the lively one is McCreary and the fat boy, Gibson. Neil tells him just to get them over to their foster sow.

At Bridge Farm, Emma corners Tom, who is on his way to harvest the new potatoes: can he sponsor George? She’s got a form; George said he was going to print them but she knew he wouldn’t. Keen to be on his way, Tom agrees, but Emma pulls him up saying Tom hasn’t asked what George is doing. She explains it’s a hay-bale stack for Caroline’s favourite charity. When Tom says to put him down for a tenner, she thanks him and says she needs to get off to work herself: they’re finalising the menu for Tracy and Jazzer’s wedding, and Jazzer wants all sorts – cullen skink, clootie dumplings… Again, Tom tries to get away and is further detained as she questions him about how Helen is; Emma thinks she’s been looking very peaky and, when Tom suggests tiredness, adds that Susan thinks the inspection shook Helen somewhat, and Emma reckons it was probably a trigger. ‘For what?’ Tom asks sharply; ‘for the whole E. coli thing’, Emma tells him, and goes on to say that Helen’s seemed different for the last few weeks, as if her mind is somewhere else. Maybe, muses Emma, all she needs is a good night out with Lee, so does Tom think she should offer to have the boys one evening?

McCreary and Gibson have settled well and Neil is pleased. George asks him to tell Emma he did a good job, but Neil can do better than that: he took a video and will send it to her. George says Emma always makes a big deal out of the things he does wrong. Neil feigns disbelieve that George ever does anything wrong – according to his grandmother, he’s an angel. ‘That’s because she likes me’ says George and, when Neil tells him his mum does too, whines that Emma thinks he is rude and lazy; so, when he’s with her, what’s the point of being nice? Neil laughs at this, telling George that no one can make him rude, or lazy – that’s his business. ‘She can, nagging at me and picking every little fault’, George counters sulkily, and Neil rightly dismisses that as twisted logic. George cites the fundraising as a case in point, saying that Emma expects, and wants, him to fail. Neil is exasperated and reminds George why he is doing the fundraising (to make reparations to Oliver and who will benefit (George, if Oliver gives him the promised money); there is no reason for him to be lashing out at his mother. He needs to prove that he can be responsible and that he meant it when he told Oliver he was sorry. Neil sees George becoming a hard-working young man, and one with a good sense of humour, but he doesn’t much care for the George who is disrespectful and petty and self-pitying. George says he’s sorry and that he’s made ‘a real pig’s ear of things’; further bad pig-puns ensue and good humour is restored [except for the listener. Gus]. Then Neil enquires what George plans to do with the £5k from Oliver and learns that he will apply for the Farm Management Skills Programme at the Institute of Agriculture and, with the other half, start a farm promotion business. George is aware he still needs to work on his pitch but he has loads of ideas, and Neil is sure that Oliver will be very impressed.

Tom catches up with Lee, and they agree that neither of them is doing okay. Tom can’t stop thinking about what Lee said about Helen sobbing in the bathroom; now, Lee says, with the chance that Rob might be able to get the ruling about Jack overturned, it’s as if she is withdrawing. She’s fine with the boys but scarcely speaks to Lee – it’s taking all of her strength. Similarly, Tony is just about hanging on, Tom says, and the strain on both his parents is visible. They are all thinking about Rob, all the time, worrying, waiting. The pair continue to wind each other up in slightly hysterical fashion, angsting about how unbearable it all is. Then Tom tells Lee that trying to carry on as normal isn’t going to work, but he’s Had An Idea. Last night he remembered Kirsty’s advice about the family sticking together. ‘And do what?’ Lee asks. ‘Show him that we’re not fooled by him and that Helen isn’t alone’, Tom explains; he wants to go and tell Rob to his face that he’s up against all of them this time – and he thinks Lee should go with him.

At the tea-room, George thanks Emma for his coffee and rocky road, and is told he can buy his own next time now he’s earning. ‘No need to bite my head off’, he says, and Emma apologises: she’s feeling frazzled from a busy day. She tells George Neil seems pleased with him and that the video clip was funny. ‘You wouldn’t find it funny if I’d been trampled by an angry sow’ he retorts, but Emma isn’t so sure. So, what did she want to tell him about the fundraiser. Emma’s news is that she has already secured sponsorship from Tom, Joy, Lee and Harrison; has George asked anyone at Berrow. No: he was grafting in the maternity unit most of the day. Anyway, it’s what Emma’s paid to do, gab to people. Indignantly, Emma reminds him of all the other stuff she has to do as well as serving customers and warns him that he needs to start taking this seriously, because Oliver believe in him and has made a very generous offer. George reckons the only reason Emma is getting ‘super stressed’ about the fundraising is because has to keep Oliver sweet if she wants to go on living at Little Grange. She denies that any of it is about her, or even Oliver: it’s about George stepping up. George says she check her facts before having a go; has she even heard of social media and online fundraising? They aren’t living in the Stone Age and he hasn’t been wasting his time with paper forms: he’s got an interactive fundraising page with photos of him and his abs and a link to the charity. Emma asks when he did all that and he says at lunchtime, in Grandad’s office. Emma is impressed as he shows her the site and explains that it will live-stream the event; why didn’t George tell her he’d done all this work? He didn’t think she’d be interested. Emma says she’s not just interested, she’s thrilled, and it’s not only his nana who can give him a big hug. She reckons this could make a lot of money for a really good cause.

Tom tells Lee that of course he isn’t going to tell Helen. Lee reminds Tom how angry he was with Natasha for taking Helen to meet Jess; ‘because I thought she was putting Helen in danger!’ Tom explains. And is Rob less dangerous, Lee asks. Rob’s controlling their every move, says Tom; not confronting him is giving him all the power, but confronting him in the flesh will demonstrate that they are not deceived by him and it might just put a stop to his plans to see Jack if he knows they are all standing together. ‘And if it fails?’ Lee asks. Tom, Lady Macbeth-like, tells him that if they just hold it together and hold their nerve, it won’t fail. [owow, stoppit, my poor ribs. Gus]

Summarised by Gus


Sunday 11th June 2023

David advises Stella, while Tom and Lee take Open Farm Sunday a bit too far

Characters: Lee, Tom, Ruth, Stella, David, Ben, Harrison
Credited scriptwriter: Tim Stimpson
Director: Rosemary Watts
Editor: Jeremy Howe

Lee apologises for keeping Tom waiting. No, Helen wasn’t suspicious, but she was irritated at being left with the boys for the day while Lee went “to support a mate at a karate tournament”. She definitely bought the story, but Lee hates lying and asks what Tom has told Natasha. In fact she’s taken the twins to see her parents and thinks Tom is catching up on paperwork. Tom reassures Lee that everything will be fine: all they are going to do is talk to Rob, tell him it won’t be easy for him to get back into Helen’s life and that he can’t see Jack: they all know his game so he can just crawl back into his hole. Hopefully, after today, they will never have to deal with that lowlife again.

It’s Open Farm Sunday at Brookfield, and Ruth is surprised to see Stella, who says since she hasn’t a farm of her own any more [You what? Gus] she thought she’d have a nosey around theirs. Ruth wants to know if Stella has spoken to the contact she recommended. She has, and he thought Stella has an extremely strong case for unfair dismissal, not just because of reputational damage but on sex discrimination grounds, given that only 5% of farm managers are women [if it sounds like bollocks… it’s a duck. Gus]. Ruth asks if Stella is going to sue and thinks she should; Brian may still be grieving but he’s treated Stella outrageously. Part of Stella would like to, especially after having had no support from any of the partners over the last few months and then being hung out to dry. She says that of course Justin is counselling her to sit tight and tells Ruth about the emergency BL board meeting next week. It’s so galling, Stella says. She worked hard to build a relationship with Brian and thought they respected each other: an enormous waste of time. David interrupts them, looking for Pip to supervise the tractor and stop any kids damaging themselves; ‘or the tractor’, Ruth observes. He asks how Stella is and Ruth tells him she has a good case for taking Brian to an ET. ‘If I decide to!’ Stella interjects, and David wishes her luck since, knowing Brian, she will have a fight on her hands. It’s the age-old story of owner versus farm manager, where it’s a grey area who calls the shots, says David, and tells Stella that buying such an expensive piece of kit without explicit permission wasn’t the smartest move. Ruth indignantly insists that Stella didn’t – she asked Adam! ‘Well, that’s what I mean’ says David. As Ruth is denying, despite what David has just clearly indicated, that her husband thinks Stella overstepped the mark, Ben fusses up to remind her that she’s due in the parlour for her talk. Does she think she’s up to it, having only been milking for 35 years? He’s sure Dad could step in… Clearly, David isn’t going to be allowed to forget his faux pas about the AIC conference.*

Ruth and Ben go off together: his sheepdog demo is also about to start. When Stella remarks that they have a lot going on, David says it’s all credit to Ben, who organised most of it. ‘You think I made a mistake with the drill, then?’ Stella asks point blank, and David evades answering by hastening to rescue his tractor from the boys playing on it.

Harrison fends off an enthusiastic greeting from Bess; he’d forgotten it was OFS and elaborates to Ben about his 30 Days Wild practices. Ben is amused and concedes that being outdoors is therapeutic for some of The Laurels’ residents. But growing up on a farm is good inoculation against the kind of bucolic idyll Harrison is indulging in. Harrison tells Ben he just takes the countryside for granted: the closest ne got to it in Bolton ‘were tripe down t’market!’* Since he’s such a convert to rural life, Ben offers to find him something ‘really wild’ to do.

Tom and Lee are en route, and Lee expresses surprise that Tom might not have stayed at Bridge Farm had John not died. Helen never says much when Lee asks her about her brother, but if Tom would rather not talk about it… Tom says it’s surprising the farm is still going at all: his parents fell apart, Pat was diagnosed with depression and Tony blamed himself. Seeing his parents crumble like that was frightening at seventeen, and all Tom wanted was somehow to fix things. So he took over John’s pigs and tried to take his place on the farm; he reckons his parents don’t always see that and think he is too ambitious and only thinks about himself, but that’s not true! Even now, after everything they’ve had to face, all Tom has tried to do is keep the family together. Tom’s definitely done that, Lee tells him, and he’s never met a stronger family. Lee doesn’t know how he would cope if he lost someone like that, and he hates Mabel and Evie being so far away; the thought of not being there if they need him kills him. Tom reminds him that at least he will be able to visit his daughters later in the year, but Lee isn’t much comforted: he’ll just be fretting about Helen and the boys instead. As they spot the entrance to Manor Farm, Lee asks whether they are just going to drive straight in. Irritably, Tom asks what else Lee suggests: they’re not going to do anything clandestine, just walk up and knock on the door. Lee has a sudden attack of cold feet; he doesn’t think they should be doing this – if Helen finds out, she’ll be furious. But it’s already too late, as Tom sees Rob come out of the house and walk towards them.

Harrison is bellowing at Bess and failing to give clear commands, which turns out about as well as one might expect. Ben’s unimpressed, but Harrison would like to see what sort of job he’d make of shepherding the drunks in town on a Friday night. ‘But I’m not doing 30 Days in the Police Force’, Ben points out, before suggesting Harrison steps his rural activities programme up a bit: not sheepdog training, but Harrison could come with him when he takes Bess out, to see the world through her eyes. [Never have I so longed for a dog to come to grief. Gus]

By the milking parlour, David is welcoming the audience for Ruth’s talk, which Stella has ostensibly come to hear. In fact, she’s more interested in continuing to discuss her sacking. David says that he isn’t trying to defend what Brian has done. Stella says she is curious about David’s theory of owners and managers: does he think Brian is just upset because he wasn’t calling the shots? This amuses David, who says nothing scares Brian Aldridge more than not being in control. But in the end he is the boss and whatever decisions Stella might make, it’s Brian’s business and his money, and he is shouldering all the risk. Stella isn’t convinced, and David tells her that at the end of the day, she gets a guaranteed salary and a big farm to manage as she likes. And until now, Brian has given her her head and let her implement her ideas… ‘Pretty much’, Stella concedes. What she has to do, David continues, is to find a way of making Brian feel he’s still in charge. In an ideal world, Stella would like her own farm, she tells him, but unless she wins the lottery or finds a farmer to marry that isn’t going to happen. David admits that he is very lucky, but he reckons Stella still had a good deal and maybe having to massage the ego of a conceited, cantankerous control freak isn’t such a high price to pay: that’s all. At that point Ruth arrives and Stella wishes her luck for the talk. Ruth is sure it will be fine, particularly since her husband is there to answer any tricky questions, and both women giggle at David’s discomfiture. Ruth might have been joking, but David evidently means it when he tells her no one is a greater expert on milking than she is. As the talk begins, he says he hopes he hasn’t offended Stella and she replies that she appreciates his candour; he’s certainly given her plenty to mull over.

At Manor Farm, Tom and Lee are shouting at one another in the car. Tom asks what the hell Lee did ‘that’ for and Lee protests that he didn’t do anything, but He wouldn’t get out of Lee’s way. Helpfully, Tom says ‘You shouldn’t have let him wind you up’, to which Lee replies ‘Don’t blame me, this wasn’t my idea, and I said we shouldn’t come!’ Tom asks if Lee can see what Miles is doing. He’s helping Rob sit up, Lee reports. ‘Good, he’s okay then, so let’s get out of here’ Tom says: they’ve said what they came to say and hopefully Rob’s got the message. It’s all going to be fine, he assures Lee as they drive off.

Summarised by Gus