Previously in Leeford Village: Justin Wilkins asks Jasmine out for a drink, but his offer is rebuffed. Zack is considering applying for the position of assistant to Allen Gomez. Linda has suggested to Allen that Sherry would be suitable for the job. Vera meets the market traders and calls for strike action. Cody installs new phones and finds the source of the mysterious beeping noise.
‘A strike? That’s a bit of an overreaction isn’t it, Vera?’ says Ken Taylor, opening a bag of salt and vinegar crisps. ‘We haven’t really given Gomez a chance, yet.’
‘And neither should we, the jumped-up little…’
‘Vera! That’s enough!’ shouts Ted Coleman from the bar.
‘We can’t afford to strike, can we, Dad?’ states Doug, taking a crisp from the packet offered to him by his father.
‘Me neither,’ agrees Jack Simmons, ‘business is not good at the best of times.’
Vera sighs. ‘Not a backbone between the lot of you. Well, if we’re not going to strike, what else can we do?’
There’s much collective head-scratching, none of it resulting in a solution.
‘We could ask Gomez to be a bit nicer,’ suggests George Owens. The raised eyebrows from the other traders clearly signal that his idea is not a good one.
‘How about getting together a petition to present to Arjun? Gomez works for him, after all,’ says Ken Taylor.
‘That wouldn’t do any good,’ says Vera. ‘He’s a businessman. He’s not going to be interested in what we have to say.’
Sally Coleman is removing clean glasses from the glass washer behind the bar. ‘Why don’t you all stop whinging and get on with it?’ she says. ‘Allen Gomez has only been in the job five minutes. He’s just a little green behind the ears. Honestly, listen to you lot.’
Sally retreats to the lounge.
Vera stands with her hands on her hips. ‘Well, I never. What’s up with her, Ted?’
‘Her? You mean Sally, don’t you? Actually, I agree with her.’
‘You do, do you, Ted? Well, I’m not going to stand here and be spoken to like that. And don’t expect me to ever step over the threshold of this establishment again!’ Vera stomps towards the door then turns to face the market traders.
‘So, who’s with me?’
‘We’re not striking, Vera, we’ve told you that,’ says Ken.
‘I’m not talking about striking. I’m talking about boycotting The Cross.’
The traders look at each other, then at Ted, then down at the floor.
‘Oh, for goodness’ sake,’ says Vera, launching a volley of expletives as she leaves The Cross.
Sherry has been home for two days and has slept for most of that time. Linda had bombarded her with questions as soon as she stepped into arrivals at the airport and again on the train and bus journey home. However, she is still none the wiser as to why Sherry has returned so suddenly, nor why she flew in from Rio and not Los Angeles. ‘I’ll tell you everything when I’m ready,’ is all a jetlagged Sherry will say. The first evening was spent eating an evening meal, which Sherry devoured ravenously, followed by an attempt to watch a film which Sherry, Allen and Linda sat through distractedly. After Sherry had gone to bed, Linda switched off the TV.
‘There’s something not right, Al. I’ve never seen Shez this quiet.’
‘She’s just tired, love. It’s been a long flight. A couple of good sleeps to get her body clock back on track and she’ll be the old Sherry we adore.’
‘I’m not so sure.’
Allen sidles to Linda’s side of the sofa.
‘Anyway, let me tell you what I’ve been thinking.’
Linda snuggles into Allen, the scent of the expensive aftershave he bought since he took up his new job wafting up into her nostrils.
‘I think I’m going to start fining any market trader who opens their stall more than ten minutes late.’
Linda sits upright.
‘You think it’s a good idea?’ says Allen, a satisfied grin on his face.
‘Allen. I don’t care,’ says Linda. ‘My sister is back, and she is clearly upset. And so am I. And all you can think about is fining market traders for turning up late!’
Allen goes to speak, pauses for a moment, then continues.
‘It’s really important that when customers turn up, everyone is open and ready for business. I’ve noticed that one or two of them don’t open until at least fifteen minutes after they should and it’s not giving a good…where are you off to, Linda?’
‘Bed! And don’t follow me. You will not be welcome!’
It’s a quiet lunchtime in The Cross. Quiet, that is, until Ken Taylor bursts through the double doors and lurches towards the bar. ‘A pint, Ted. No, a whisky. A double.’ He leans on the bar to regain his breath.
‘Whoa, Ken. Hold on there!’ says Ted Coleman. ‘Take a moment or two.’
‘I don’t need a moment, Ted. I need a double vodka!’
‘Vodka? I thought you said “whisky”.’
Ken shakes his head. ‘Anything will do.’
Ted comes from behind the bar and rests his hand on Ken’s shoulder.
‘Come and sit down. I’ll get you a drink in a minute.’
They sit at a table in the corner. The handful of customers who had been stunned into silence by Ken’s entrance resume their chatter.
‘Now, Ken. Take a deep breath and tell me what’s up.’
‘If he was here, I’d kill him, I swear.’
‘There’ll be no killing in here. I don’t have a licence for it. Anyway, who would you like to kill?’
Ken can hardly sputter out the words. ‘Frank Watson.’
Ted smiles. ‘I see. We’ve all been in your position regarding Frank from time to time, Ken. Rest assured, the feeling passes.’
Ken looks at Ted and Ted spots a tear in Ken’s eye.
‘This is serious, Ted. Because of Frank Watson, I’m about to lose my farm.’
In Billy’s café, Simon and Zack are mulling over their futures, aided by cups of Ethel’s legendary hot chocolate and a plateful of cream buns.
‘I just don’t know what to do, Sy. I want to be with Clare all the time.’
‘Who wouldn’t?’ says Simon, a little louder than he meant.
‘I mean, why wouldn’t you? She’s a lovely girl.’
‘My lovely girl, Simon.’
‘Of course. I didn’t mean…anyway carry on.’
‘You’re blushing,’ says Zack, pointing at Simon’s face, which has turned a shade of red.
‘Carry on.’ Simon takes a bite of his bun.
Zack continues. ‘I know I have to make a choice, but I really don’t want to go to uni. I don’t even know what I’d study.’
Simon wipes a blob of cream from his chin.
Zack shakes his head.
‘Nah. I love music and I’ll always play it, but studying it is a different thing. They say that if you study your hobby it takes all the enjoyment out of it.’
Simon laughs. ‘They? Who are they?’
Zack shrugs. ‘Dunno. I’m sure I’ve heard someone say it.’
‘So, you think your best option is to work for Allen Gomez. I mean. Allen Gomez! Really?’
Zack leans back in his chair. ‘I dunno. I suppose it’s not the best plan. Anyway, what are you going to do, Simon? Apart from being the world’s first Jewish vicar that is.’
‘Don’t start that again. I only did that to keep your dad here.’
‘I know. And I’m grateful.’
Simon takes a sip of chocolate.
‘I think I’d like my own business. Selling things, you know. On eBay and stuff.’
Zack leans forward. ‘Tell me more.’
‘I really like old stuff. My mom has always collected it and I watch loads of programmes like Bargain Hunt and Antiques Roadshow. I think there’s a market for it.’
Zack claps his hands.
‘Bingo, my friend. There is a market for it. Leeford Market!’
‘Get a stall on Leeford Market. You can buy stuff from car boot sales and fairs and wherever else you can and sell it on the market.’
Simon shakes his head. ‘Vera Cleeve already does that.’
‘She sells tat. And gnomes,’ says Zack. ‘You could do better than that. Buy some good stuff. Unusual stuff.’
Simon considers eating a third cream bun but decides against it. ‘But I don’t have the dosh to buy stuff.’
Zack spreads his arms. ‘That’s where I come in. My Aunt Georgina left me a bit of money when I turned eighteen. I could invest in your business. We could do it together.’
‘Me and you? In business? We’d fall out.’
‘No, we wouldn’t. I’d look after the finances and man the stall, while you scour the country looking for stock. Simple!’
Simon looks puzzled. ‘How do I scour the country, Del Boy? On the bus?’
Simon decides to eat the bun.
Zack thinks for a while.
‘You’ve passed your test – we’ll buy a van!’
He waves over to Ethel. ‘Ethel. Two more hot chocolates, please. For my business partner and I!’
‘Hello, Ted. What can I do for you?’
‘I’m just tipping you off.’
‘Stay away from Ken Taylor for a while. He’s after your blood.’
‘The planning committee has got back to him and said that all his outbuildings have to be taken down, because there was never any application submitted to build them. He’ll lose everything.’
‘Oh dear. And what’s that got to do with me?’
‘He says you alerted the committee.’
‘Really? I did no such thing. I opposed the felling of some trees on land he wanted to develop. The committee must have taken a closer look at his farm.’
‘Well, I’m warning you. He’s incensed, Frank.’
‘Oh, my. I’d better go round and sort this out.’
‘I will. Oh dear.’