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WRITTEN BY - Johnny Byrne
DIRECTOR - A.J Quinn
THIS WEEK'S GUESTS
Liza Peters - Simone Bendix
David Bradley - Mark Letheren
Sam Crabtree - Arthur Whybrow
(For more information on this week's cast, see Cast Notes .)
The episode opens with a strange evening. Noah is lying face down in a gutter, miaowing into a draincover, trying to coax out a lost cat, while Val catches a young man and his dog prowling in their garden. The following morning, a dog is spotted worrying sheep, and one ewe is badly injured.
Meanwhile Clare is driving Tom to a remote farmhouse to meet some old friends of hers. Liza is still farming land that has been owned by her family for generations, using heavy horses, and replanting pine woods back to the original hardwood. Her long term boyfriend is currently in Scotland, and Liza isn't sure if he is ever coming back. She tells Clare privately that the reason that he has left is because she couldn't bring herself to commit to marriage, and he wasn't prepared to give her any more time. Liza tells Clare that she apporves of Tom - and Clare hastily denies any relationship. 'We're just colleagues and friends,' she protests. While they are there, Tom has a (professional) look at one of the horses, Murphy, who has a bad foot. He clearly suspects something serious, and he tells her to get her own vet in to look at it urgently.
Meanwhile, a young man brings a bearded collie into the surgery which has been injured by barbed wire. As he is leaving, Val recognises him as the late night intruder. Noah has been warned about a stray dog spotted in some local woods, and goes off to investigate. He finds a shelter, and signs of habitation, and enough evidence that this is where their late night intruder came from.
We're going to sort it out (Þ)
The next day, Clare comes into the surgery, visibly upset, so say that Liza's vet has diagnosed chancre(ð) and is recommending that the horse be put down. To Liza, that is like asking her to have one of her family put down. She wants a second opinion, and has come in to ask Noah, but Noah is not there, and Tom volunteers to do it for her. Tom confirms the diagnosis, and Liza, heartbroken, breaks down in front of him. Tom - who has never shown much sympathy to stricken owners before - puts his arms round her to comfort her - and promises to save the horse.
In the middle of the night, Noah finds Tom pouring over the books he has leant him, searching for a cure for chancre. Tom admits he is baffled. 'You knew what I was letting myself in for, didn't you?'(Þ) Noah says that in his day, when chancre was more common, they were working in the dark 'using trial and error, blind guesses and hope, and one other thing - the help and experience of those that blazed a trail before us'. With a wry smile, Tom (Þ) asks his father if he is busy in the morning. 'I thought you'd never ask', Noah replies.
Noah agrees with Tom that the horse is not yet noticably lame, and there is therefore a chance of saving it. (Noah's radical method of healing it is not for the weak stomached. I shall put it in the notes at the end, for those that are interested, because it was quite fascinating, but I won't inflict it on anyone here.(ð)) The treatment has to be intensive, and requires daily medical attendance. In suck a remote farm, there is only one way to achieve that, and that is for the vet to be in residence. Tom allows himself to be persuaded by Noah to stay at the farm and act for him.
While they are both away Val sees the young vagrant begging in the town with his dog and, on impulse, asks them both back for a meal. When he gets home, Noah finds them installed in the kitchen. At first he is appalled, but Val persuades him, forcibly, to help the young man, David, to find work on a farm. But he needs to know if his dog is a sheep worrier. David swears that he is not. But Noah knows how cunning sheep worriers can be. All the same, he persuades a local farmer in need of help - Sam Crabtree - to take him on.
Back on Liza's farm, Murphy is responding to treatment, and Tom is increasingly enchanted by the beauty of the farm - and of its owner. Alone on a hilltop in the early evening, they kiss.
Soon after, Clare comes into the surgery with an owl who has been injured in a road accident. His flight feathers need repair, and she had intended to demonstrate the technique to Tom. But Anna tells her that Tom is away 'playing nursemaid to a sick shire' and may not be back for two weeks. Troubled and shaken, she tried to find out from Noah if he knows what Tom really wants then, still unsatisfied, she jumps into her car and drives out to Liza's farm.
She finds Tom and Liza out on the fields, sitting together apparently in intimate conversation. They have been talking about how Tom (Þ) has never felt at home in Melton they way they she does here. And she has told him that her boyfriend, Alan, may soon be back. It is Tom's delight (Þ) that Clare has observed, but she has seen a different picture. She is disconcerted when Tom runs towards her and greets her with an enthusiasm that he has never shown before.
|Clare! (Þ)||Why didn't you say? (Þ)||It's great to see you! (Þ)|
Tom and Clare, alone in Liza's kitchen while Liza puts the horses together, are suddenly awkward together. It is obvious that Clare thinks that Tom and Liza are now an 'item'. Tom tries to explain, and Clare tries to stop him, saying it is none of her business. 'It is your business, and I want to explain.' He admits that he and Liza slept together - once. But that they are now just friends, that what happened helped them both to understand what their real feelings were. I think you - we - both know what I mean.(Þ) But Clare isn't ready to hear this yet. She leaves without talking to Liza.
Meanwhile, the young vagrant's dog has been shot - caught worrying sheep. He is not badly injured, but the owner of the sheep wants compensation, and for the dog to be removed from the neighbourhood or put down. The farmer who took David on is willing to let him keep working, to earn the money to pay back the sheep owner, but the dog must go to another owner - in a town, well away from any sheep. In the end, David cannot bear to be parted from his dog, even though a good home has been found for him. He is willing to go on the run again, even with a court order chasing him. So Noah agrees to 'loan' him the money to pay the compensation, and leave him free to try once again to find work in a town.
Just thinking of the smug look on my father's face
The horse's hoof is clean and clear, and Tom leaves Liza' farm. Tom admits to Noah that his treatment was successful, and Noah tells him that he has been a pioneer (Þ) - that the treatment was one that he had only read about in a journal, being used experimentally . But the episode closes without Tom seeing Clare again.
Simone Bendix played Verity in the dramatisation of Iain Banks novel The Crow Road. She also appeared in the film, The Informant. Arthur Whybrow is a familiar face, but I had trouble placing him. I am sure he has been on a lot of British television, but the IMdB wasn't much help this time - nothing rang a bell except Dennis Potter's Karaoke, in which he played Clive. Mark Letheren had a small part in the recent film of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and played Daniel in the film adaptation of Rose Tremain's novel Restoration.
Chancre is a disease of heavy horses, and is therefore quite rare now. Many young vets - like Tom, or Liza's regular vet - will never have seen a case of it. It basically causes the foot to rot away slowly. The cure, as Noah says, is very hit and miss. Provided it is caught early enough, the horse can be saved, but it involves intensive medical treatment for a period of at least two weeks, plus nursing care thereafter. The infected part of the foot has to be cut away as far a possible. Then the foot is shoed, and a plate is made that acts like a 'sole' and protects the foot. The plate is attached with screws, so that it can be removed for the vet to examine the foot. The rot then has to be stopped.
The traditional remedy was to apply formalyn. But Noah knows that there is a radical new treatment that has only been used experimentally. Instead of formalyn, the foot is packed with maggots, which eat the rotting flesh and leave it clean. Until he has used it, and saved Murphy's life, Tom is under the impression that this is some ancient remedy dredged up by Noah. But in fact he may be the first vet to use it in normal practice.
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Last updated 22/09/1997