Paul Ryman is an ex-British Army officer and Cambridge Blue. Paul is everything Martin is not – adventurous, laissez-faire, flippant, witty, handsome and charming; in the words of Martin, a "couldn't care less, come on life ... amuse me, merchant". He attempts to join in with the activities of Martin and his friends, but his fresh thinking causes Martin to see him as a rival who might want to "take over" Martin's self-appointed role as organiser. Martin's obsession with order and stability also leads him to get upset at Paul's minor changes to routine, such as sitting at a different table in the local public house. Paul runs his own business, a hair salon, and later, a health studio.
Martin's relationship with Paul is double-edged. Paul is always friendly to Martin, who veers between thinly disguised hatred and grudging admiration. Paul also solves a marital crisis in one episode when Martin is tricked by a work colleague into believing he'd had a drunken one-night stand while away on business, and admitting to Ann his infidelity. Paul cons the colleague into an admission of the trick in front of Ann, restoring her faith in Martin.
Paul is shown to be significantly better than Martin at many things, notably cricket, where Paul joins the local team and promptly smashes all the records that Martin proudly holds. The two later play in a snooker tournament, where Martin is delighted to find that Paul is useless. A parallel is drawn to a story of Martin's childhood, where his own "gang" was taken over by a new boy, implying that he is scared that Paul's arrival will cause him to lose his friends and status to the new arrival (this story is recounted by Martin in Series 1 and by Mrs Beardsmore in Series 2).