To describe Mrs. Bale as being a bit peculiar would be generous, indeed. When Lionel takes Jean to meet his father, he does his best to prepare her -- he knows that Rocky is not the typical 85 year old. But he made no mention of Mrs. Bale, who is a strange sight to see without sufficient warning. She cuts quite a bizarre figure: she always dresses in black and listens to voices not her own. Fortunately they are the voices that generate the shipping forecast, of which she is a devotee. Well, one person's shipping forecast is another person's As Time Goes By, so bless her. Insofar as I know, she has never hurt anybody.
I'm sure we all know someone like her. Well, they might not wear an aviator's hat, or ride a motorcycle to the grocery store or prefer goose fat over antibiotics -- but they do things their way and are so centered that they don't have to rely on other people for validation. That's a good thing. I kind of like her, but she doesn't reveal very much about herself to strangers. And, to her, most people seem to be strangers. In fact, she wasn't very willing to discuss Lol's run-in with the ruffians in the neighborhood. She feels that Lionel and Jean are "part-timers" and tends to be quite reserved about discussing local matters with them. Jean, during what she thinks is the start of a serious conversation, takes for granted that Mrs. Bale considers her a friend. Mrs. Bale immediately sets her straight. That directness is her hallmark. Even though her employers obviously regard her, they know very little of her. When she was clearly upset, no-one knew why. When they began to whisper about her, she did not withdraw -- she challenged them to continue their conversations.
She's wonderfully precise and perceptive and, above all, protective. She got rid of Penny and Stephen when it became clear to her that Jean and Lionel had enough of them. She was not at all bothered when she learned that Alistair and Judith might be sharing a bedroom. She has her disagreements with Rocky, but they appear to be mostly in fun. It crossed my mind that she might be a bit jealous of Madge when she was in the waiting room at the hospital -- she got teary-eyed when she tried to imagine life without Rocky. Or maybe that's because she was just very fond of him.
She certainly could put away the drink that day in the hospital. Seeing as how she can wolf them down when she wants to, it's almost a shame that she doesn't sample her concoctions before she serves them. It's funny to watch her bring a "new" drink to the family and watch her step back to see their reactions, which are -- more often than not -- pure shock. She has things running smoothly in Hampshire -- down to the last second. She seems overly concerned that she not be a minute off in her plans. If I had a place in the city and one in the country and shared my time, it would be a great relief to have someone so reliable in charge of my second home. I would, however, want to feel free enough to bring over a candle or two if I felt like it. For me, that wouldn't be much of a problem and I can't see Rocky or Madge buckling under, but Jean is something else again. She seems to be so intimidated by Mrs. Bale that it brings out the sitcom side of her.
She has her share of secrets -- in fact, almost everything related to Mrs. Bale is kept secret from us. There's something about a young balloonist, but no-one really asks and she doesn't really tell. There are some things with which she is overly free: if you want to know the latest Rugby Scores, weather reports in the channel or the exact time at the tone -- she's your girl. She's actually kind of cool, I think.