Sunday, 17 June 2018

Should’ve Read The Small Print, Kate

Perdita Avery (Kate Madikane)

The week started - saints be praised - with Kate definitely awol after flouncing out (Adam’s description, not mine, but I’m with him 100%) after learning that the latest Home Farm Land Fire Sale will mean lorries passing very close to Spiritual Home and, quite frankly, buggering up the Chakra or something equally mystical.

Jennifer is distraught - where can her daughter be? Brian doesn’t give a toss and Adam made the ‘flouncing out’ comment. Jennifer points out that Kate knows the history of the contamination and, if she were to blab, it could be embarrassing, to say the least. Also, Phoebe is coming home this weekend and how will she feel if her mother isn’t there? Far be it for me to second guess Phoebe’s feelings, but I reckon she would be doing handsprings and running around doing fist pumps and shouting “Yes, Yes! Yes!!”

However, we will never know, as Kate returns at the end of the week (do you think that the scriptwriters deliberately try to mess up our weekends?) to be met by Brian saying “So, you’re back” in a bored voice. But wait! Kate has momentous news - she is going to sell her share in the family partnership and move away to the Kent coast to set up a new Spiritual Home. Way to go! Thank you God!

Hardly had I poured the champagne when Brian peed in it (metaphorically) by saying that it’s not as simple as selling her share for cash. Firstly, the other partners have to agree (Kate assumed they would buy her out) and, secondly, any payment would be made over ten years at a very low rate of interest. Oh yes; Kate would also be giving up income from the farm in the interim. Kate doesn’t understand (surely not?) and Brian twists the knife a little by saying that the idea of setting up somewhere else is laughable. 

“But that’s not fair” Kate protests, to which Brian says “Not fair? This isn’t nursery darling; haven’t you understood any of this? I thought you were a businesswoman.” Kate replies that there was so much small print, she couldn’t understand it all and her father doesn’t make it any easier when he tells her “That’s what you signed, I’m afraid. I can only suggest that you read contracts more carefully before you make any more ludicrous plans. We all have to make sacrifices in this life Kate, and I’m afraid this is yours.”

While we applaud Brian for stitching up his daughter tighter than a mailbag and seemingly enjoying it as much as I did, there is a downside. Let’s assume that she had sold her share and moved to Kent (or, preferably, Kathmandu) then she would have been gone. Now, however, she will be hanging around, more miserable and chip-on-the-shoulder than ever, plus Jenny was quite right - when it comes to the contamination, she knows where the blame lies. Wouldn’t it have been better to slip her a few quid and a one-way ticket to the Kent coast? If not for Home Farm’s sake, then for the sake of millions of listeners.

But let’s move on to happier topics. Ed is entering his Texel ram into a show on Friday and he is concerned that the name of the beast - Peppa Pig (courtesy of Poppy) will make him a laughing stock. Indeed, this is the case and he is very miserable on the day, telling Emma that the other farmers laughed at the name “and even the officials were grinning.” He vows never to enter the lamb again, but is cheered when he speaks to a Texel breeder afterwards (Peppa Pig came a creditable fourth - he is really a few months too young for this type of contest) and the breeder offers Ed £4,000. Ed didn’t accept, but it definitely bodes well for the future and stuff the stupid name.

Emma has other things to worry about; she and Kirsty have been picked to act as Fallon’s bridesmaids and what should she wear. My experience of being a bridesmaid is minimal - nay, non-existent - but I always thought that the bride decided what colours would be worn by her attendants. 

Meanwhile, Fallon is preoccupied with details of the 100% natural, no-plastic-whatsoever wedding (that’s knackered the party poppers for a start) and she runs into Lynda, who is trying valiantly - but unsuccessfully - to control Monty. Fallon says that she has important things on her mind and Lynda agrees - she must be thinking about the fete? There should be an over-arching, unifying theme; this is what sets Ambridge fetes apart from those of other villages (apart from the fact that the other villages enjoy their fetes, I would suggest). This discussion takes place after an encounter between Fallon and Lynda/Monty and Lilian/Ruby, with much barking and snarling. And the dogs weren’t much better behaved either.

Fallon eventually reveals that she has a great idea for the fete - a dog show. Lynda is ecstatic, and even more so when Fallon goes further - not just a dog show, but a talent show for pets - Lynda says that some dog owners get very competitive (“Not me of course”) and we sit back and wait for the probable chaos that will ensue. How many dogs are there in Ambridge?

I return to a wearingly familiar theme throughout the eight years (what? Can it really be that long?) of this blog and that is the inability of anyone in Ambridge to keep their gob shut and not give away a secret. Lizzie is convinced that daughter Lily is involved in a lesbian relationship with the non-existent Meredith and, as far as Liz is concerned she is cool with this - after all, she is Lily’s mother and should support her, whatever her decision. “That’s what mothers are for” Lizzie tells her mother Jill, on a rare visit. Jill has teased (or, some might say, battered) the reason out of her daughter. Lizzie first of all implied that there was some mystery concerning Lily, but she couldn’t possibly say what. Jill then proceeded to beat her over the head until she spilled the beans and it was then that Liz uttered the news that Lily is gay and the ‘that’s what mothers are for’ sentence.

Let’s park that for a moment and examine the relationship between Alistair and Shula. It is their first mediation meeting (Lance is the mediator) and Shula is surprised when Philip turns up to take him to the meeting. She had assumed that they would go together, but Alistair said that he thought it better that they kept these things separate. He didn‘t actually say ‘Don’t you agree, Mrs Hebden-Lloyd?’ but that was the tone.

Alistair seems to have got over the impending divorce better than his wife, but he also seems to have a unique perception of the term ‘mediation’. While Shula bangs on about emotions and feelings and suchlike, Alistair has folders full of financial affairs and how the marriage should be split up, financially. Afterwards, Shula says that you can’t just dismantle a marriage in a few hours, to which Alistair replies “Why not? You ended it in five minutes.” Match point to Mr Lloyd (or is it Hebden Lloyd?) I think.

Jill, prompted no doubt by Elizabeth’s comments about what a mother is for, goes to see Shula and says that she has neglected her. Shula breaks down in tears and tells her how clinical Alistair was at mediation. Alistair, incidentally, has his eye on an executive apartment in Felpersham, so he is taking it all rather well. Jill tells Shula that she will always be her mother and will always support her and the two hug and Shula bursts into tears again.

Let’s tie up a few loose ends; Rooooth’s 50thbirthday is imminent (sorry, it will be over by the time you read this) and David has - rather unwisely - left the organisation in the hands of Jennifer. Delighted to have something other than the contamination to exercise her mind, Jennifer hasn’t held back. While Rooooth would have preferred the disco that someone had at a recent party, Jen has booked a string quintet and, as she tells David, the chandeliers and flower pedestals will be supplied at cost price. Be honest, Rooooth would prefer a packet of crisps and an early night.

Another loose end; has Christine got dementia or not? Peggy feels that she couldn’t cope with that again, after what she suffered with Jack. But hey! Good news! Chris is just suffering with a urinary tract infection, which can be treated, although Chris isn’t too thrilled with the diagnosis. Still, better that than dementia.

Finally, Freddie is delighted as he faces his final exam - history. After this morning he will never have to face another exam, ever. He travels into college with Johnny (being driven by David) and David is the first to notice the police cars outside the college and a sniffer dog. Freddie is loath to enter the building - especially when he sees Ellis being questioned by a couple of PCs (“Serves the scumbag right” says Johnny, still mindful of the brick through the window incident) but it takes a long time before Freddie goes into the building.

Freddie emerges from the exam, all ready to party after his final, ever, exam. Then his phone rings - it’s Adam; can Freddie start work in the poly tunnels tomorrow? Freddie says that he expects to be fairly wrecked in the morning after a night’s celebrations, but he’ll be there when he can. Unexpectedly, Ellis turns up and Freddie expresses surprise that the coppers let him go. Ellis says that the sniffer dog went mad, but Ellis isn’t so stupid as to carry drugs with him, so they had to let him go. He tells Freddie that there are lots of new markets that they can corner, “We’re gonna have the best summer ever. How about it Fred - you’re not gonna let me down, are you?” I am very afraid that Freddie will forget his promise to Noluthando not to deal drugs and, what with that, and Lily’s phantom lesbian affair with the non-existent Meredith, and real affair with Vice Principal Russ, it could prove to be an exceptionally interesting summer for the twins’ mother Elizabeth.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Ich Bin Nicht Lesbisch

Alison Dowling (Elizabeth Pargetter)

Elizabeth’s driving Freddie in to school for his geography exam and she’s giving him the third degree about whether he’s revised enough, slept enough, and whether his sister’s done the same. Freddie sticks up for Lily and goes along with her cover story of revising with someone called Meredith, and not bonking the deputy principle. He phones Lily to warn her but she doesn’t sound concerned, but it doesn’t take Elizabeth long to jump to the conclusion that the reason her daughter wants to spend so much time with Meredith is that they’re in a relationship, which Freddie finds hilarious. She later quizzes Jennifer about how she found out about Adam’s sexuality – was it a surprise when he come out or had she already guessed? Jennifer doesn’t ask why she wants to know and doesn’t seem to twig that she might be wondering about one of her children.

After his exam Freddie ‘helps’ Lily with her German revision by testing her vocabulary, and chucks in the phrase ‘eine lesba’. She’s horrified that her mother thinks that she’s a lesbian, but Freddie jokes that it’s the perfect cover as Elizabeth won’t want to intrude. However, no-one Elizabeth knows has heard of Meredith, and Christine and Jim saw Lily with Russ at an art exhibition when she should have been revising. Lily tries to convince her ‘Auntie Chris’ that it wasn’t her and then Christine reasons that it wasn’t as it looked more like a Father and Daughter together! Lily gets embarrassed and makes her excuses when Elizabeth starts talking about how friendships can develop into something more. Later on in the Bull they’re celebrating what would have been Nigel’s birthday, and Freddie keeps the torment going when they reminisce about the gay couple that often used to stay at Lower Loxley. Elizabeth says the business has always been inclusive of the LGBTQ community (the Q standing for Questioning) and Freddie goes on to talk about different kinds of relationships. It’s too much for Lily who shouts loudly for the bill.

Back at the house Elizabeth has a quiet word with her daughter about relationships and how she would support her whatever path she decided to take. Lily finds it excruciating of course, with Freddie giggling behind the door, and Elizabeth tells Lily that her ‘relationship’ with Meredith is fine. She also unwittingly warns her about the perils of getting involved with older men when she talks about her own past relationships. For her part, Lily is happy to let her mother believe that her and Meredith are an item.

Christine’s main storyline is does she or does she not have dementia. She pops over to the stables to collect some old paperwork and Harrison happens to be passing so gives her a lift home, which gives him a chance to make sure she’s alright after last week’s tea-room incident. Later on he confides in Peggy that she seems a bit confused lately, which gives Peggy food for thought, literally, when they’re sharing one of Christine’s quiches. I was expecting her to have left out the eggs, or the pastry, but no, Peggy is complimentary but asks her unsubtle questions about whether she can remember recent events. Chris catches on straight away and is greatly put out that people are openly questioning whether she’s ‘gaga’ or not.

Someone else who has been upset about people’s speculation about them is Alistair, who actually seems to be having a civilised evening with Shula. By coincidence they were both planning to have lasagne and garlic bread for dinner, so Shula offers to cook for them both. They’re having a nice evening, laughing about goat yoga and sharing a bottle of wine, before Shula goes and spoils it by implying she’s having second thoughts about seeking a divorce. Alistair checks, and no, she still doesn’t love him, which causes him to storm out.

Over to the organised chaos that living in Greenwood Cottage is at the moment, and Mia’s suddenly lost interest in playing football. She’s also started to struggle at school and one explanation could be that Poppy’s been sneaking into Mia’s room at night and keeping her awake so is tired all the time, but both Will and Emma have tried talking to her but are getting nowhere. She says she hates football (me too) but can it be that straightforward? Emma and Kirsty think the kid’s got too much on her plate and might be trying to take Nic’s place. I hope the village rota that’s supporting the Grundy’s holds up – that family need a break and I’d hate for any more misfortune to head their way.

Someone I’m happy to see misfortune make a beeline for is Brian Aldridge, and over at Home Farm they’re meeting about the Environment Agency’s latest bombshell. As we predicted last week they’re talking about selling more land, another 300 acres, but this time it will be ‘family’ land, not the recent acquisitions. They identify a parcel of 200 acres and another of 70, but need another 30 acres. The only practical solution won’t be a popular one, as it’s right next to Spiritual Home – and as usual Brian’s putting off delivering the bad news – this time to Kate. She’s been in Arizona learning about the aforementioned goat yoga and also something called ‘healing haircuts’, and Jenny explains about the contaminated groundwater on the way back from picking her up at the airport, but nothing more. Kate still thinks her biggest problem is the drop in business caused by the association with Home Farm’s contaminated land. 

That is until she takes Adam’s flask up to him in the polytunnels and they start talking about the sell off – and the small parcel of 30 acres in particular. Kate’s furious, to put it mildly, that it’s the fields that surround her yurts and goes straight to Brian, only to find out that he’s already shaken on the deal. Brian thinks that she’ll come round to the idea, but I suspect from the tone in Kate’s voice that the contamination will be a distant memory before that happens. And there’s another problemette waiting in the wings – access. Whoever’s going to farm the land will need to get their tractors to it and that would mean crossing Home Farm land. What’s the betting that Spiritual Home itself will be sacrificed and we’ll find Kate chained to a yurt as a bulldozer looms over her?


Monday, 4 June 2018

Friend Of The Earth Fallon

Joanna van Kampen (Fallon Rogers)

I approach this week’s blog with trepidation, as along with a number of our regular correspondents, I feel that the story lines are getting rather weak – with Lily’s affair with the deputy principle, the current nadir. The affair is still going strong, even to the point of Lily interrupting her revision time to go out with him. It might develop into a more interesting story though, as Russ has told the police about drug dealing on the premises. Lily thinks it’s an opportunity to get rid of Ellis but I can’t help thinking Russ wants to get Freddie out of the picture instead, and he’s going to take Lily abroad while it happens.

Fallon’s new bugbear might sink to new depths though, as she’s gone all ‘blue planet’ after the quantity of plastics discarded by the last party they catered for which, incidentally, they supplied all the single-use plastic for. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m appalled by all the plastic in circulation and the collective inability of governments the world over to do anything about it, but come on scriptwriters, you’re lagging behind the trends. Adam agonising over the composition of his strawberry punnets would be marginally more interesting, but this? Harrison demonstrates the size of the challenge and Fallon’s naivety when he points out that the gum she’s chewing is itself made of plastic.

Shula and Alistair are both going to be at the single wicket this afternoon. They both enjoy the competition so agree to make the most of the day, but they don’t count on Susan turning up to lend a hand with the teas. It doesn’t take her long to start making condescending remarks to Shula and counting herself lucky that her and Neil have had ‘decades of happiness’ (I think someone should seek Neil’s opinion on that). Harrison gets caught in the slips by teenager Molly Button (sounds painful) but Alistair’s on form. He makes it to the final and is up against his business partner Anisha. The two vets don’t slog it out for long though as Alistair hits a six on the second ball to win the competition. It’s a tad awkward as Shula presents the Mark Hebden Trophy and her speech, all five words of it, is hardly gushing and the situation’s made worse when the pair of them do an awkward kiss or handshake manoeuvre. They do however unite when the washing up’s done to send Susan ‘village gossip is nothing to do with me’ Carter off with a flea in her ear.

Open Farm Sunday’s coming around again and one of the highlights on Bridge Farm is going to be Tom talking about Kefir. I for one am surprised they’re still managing to sell the stuff, but could it be about to serve a higher purpose? Helen invited Hannah over to Bridge Farm for dinner with her and Tom, and while she’s there Tom takes her into the dairy to show her how they make Kefir. All that talk of fermenting milk products spurs Tom on to invites Hannah to the Bull for a drink on the way home. However when he tries to push it further she makes it clear that she consider them to be friends only.

Brian and Jennifer are back together in the marital bed (we were spared the details) and it’s the morning of their 42ndwedding anniversary. Jennifer’s bought him a pair of personalised cufflinks and doesn’t seem bothered or even expect anything from him. He is going to take her out to dinner though.

Someone else taking their wife out to dinner is Robert Snell, to La Femme Du Monde no less. Lynda’s missing having a dog around the house so Robert takes her to the dog shelter. They see a Cockapoo and a Beagle, but the one that really catches Lynda’s eye is a Doberman! It offers her it’s paw and tilts its head exactly like Scruff used to, and Lynda instantly feels a spiritual connection with it. I must admit that when I think of Dobermans I think of Zeus and Apollo from Magnum PI, not Scruff, but then again they are the sorts of names Lynda goes for. They take him into the field and Lynda says he looks like an elegant and steadfast warrior and as a bonus doesn’t get her face ripped off. They decide to adopt him and she names him Montgomery, or Monty for short, after the author of Anne of Green Gables, for reasons that, quite frankly, I couldn’t bother listening to.

Brian’s restaurant booking was cancelled at the last moment and he manages to get a table at La Femme Du Monde too. Now, considering this is supposed to be one of the best restaurants in Borsetshire, how believable is it that a) they have a 2 for 1 night, and b) Brian manages to get a table on the day? We eavesdrop on the two tables; Lynda and Robert are discussing Monty, while Brian and Jennifer are talking about offering Home Farm as a venue for Ruth’s 50thbirthday party.

Ed reckons he’s got a potential champion Texel ram and considers calling it, wait for it, Champion! Poppy shows more imagination, possibly too much, by naming it Peppa Pig. The poor child sounds confused to me, but there’s no doubt she’s becoming obsessed with Peppa - the lamb. Someone else obsessed is Will who’s working himself up over the fact that Jake and Mia’s father, Andrew, has just taken them to Disneyland Paris and can’t compete with that. He’s fearful that he’ll lose Poppy because ‘the authorities’ might think she’s better off living with her older sister. I’m not saying he’s panicking over it, but he’s decided to apply for custody of Jake and Mia.

Back to the soon to be plastic-free tea room, and Christine’s made an appearance offering to take care of the table flowers for Harrison and Fallon’s soon to be plastic-free wedding. Fallon has to move her car (typically about 10% plastic content by weight) and Christine looks after the counter, although ‘look after’ turns out to be the exact opposite of what she does, serving camomile tea instead of earl grey, putting coffee in the teapot, and mixing up the gluten-free and normal biscuits. Harrison thinks something’s not quite right with her – no shit Sherlock!

Adam’s got a fungal infection - a slight touch of septoria on his maize, but should still get a bumper crop, and his strawberries are looking good. But don’t be fooled that everything’s now coming up roses at Home Farm. There’s a visit from the Environment Agency and Jenny calls Brian and Adam back urgently. They’re there to inform him that the contamination has spread into the groundwater and is coming out in the spring near the deer paddocks. The clean-up could now last until Christmas at the earliest. Brian’s exasperated cry of ‘how are we expected to survive’ trails off into the theme tune and we are left to ponder how much more land can he sell off to BL, and at what price?


Monday, 28 May 2018

Lily’s Extracurricular Activities

Katie Redford (Lily Pargetter)

Russ James is a bit of a smoothie, isn’t he? In case you don’t know, he’s the Deputy Principal at College who has been indulging in extracurricular activities (of the non-academic kind) with Lily Pargetter. Freddie cannot understand his twin sister – she has looks and brains and she could have any boy she wanted. Lily explains that that’s the point – they are boys and, as such, they are boring and shallow. “At least they’re single” Freddie tells her, cuttingly.

Lily, who for someone so intelligent would appear to have a gullible streak a yard wide, says that she and Russ love each other and he is going to leave his wife for her. Freddie cannot believe that she has swallowed what he says is the oldest line of all and hatches a plan. At college the next day, Russ asks him if he has thought more about their conversation of a few days ago (Russ asked Freddie if he had been dealing drugs) and Freddie says yes – there is something he’d like to tell Russ.

The two meet later that afternoon and Russ asks again about drug dealing. Freddie repeats that he knows nothing about it, to which a perplexed Russ asks then why are they having this meeting? “Keep your hands off my sister” Freddie tells him. At first Russ feigns ignorance, but Freddie says that it was Lily who told him about the affair and Russ then says that he hopes they can be civilised and he hopes that one day Freddie will come to see him as a friend. “That’s not going to happen” spits Freddie, adding that Russ must finish with Lily. “That’s not going to happen” Russ replies, upon which Freddie accuses him of taking advantage of his position and what would the Principal say if she knew?

Russ seems unperturbed and mentions the drug dealing again – the only reason he hasn’t taken the matter further is because of his feelings for Lily. Smooth as ever, Russ thanks Freddie for his concern “Now, is there anything else you’d like to discuss?” he asks.

Well Freddie, that went well, didn’t it?  Freddie turns his attention to Lily – maybe he can make her see sense. The pair have a heart to heart and Lily complains that it is always she who has to keep Elizabeth calm and who has to look out for Freddie, but who notices when Lily has problems? The answer to that is Russ and he comforted her when she broke down because they were talking about the picture Nigel left her. Freddie seizes on this – is she overcompensating; is Russ a father substitute?

Eventually, Lily says that if Freddie wants to ruin her life, then tell the Principal tomorrow. She goes further – if he’s that keen on the truth, then seek out Elizabeth now and tell her what’s going on. Freddie says that he can’t do that – he knows she is making a big mistake and it will all end in tears but he cannot tell on her. The twins hug and it seems that both secrets are safe for the moment.

One thing that isn’t a secret is Alistair’s liaison with Lavinia Rafferty – Shula tells Jill that the whole village knows and she will damage the next person who regards her, head tilted on one side and asking if she is feeling all right. Jill takes this as a sign that Shula cares for Alistair and “perhaps things aren’t as over as you thought” adds Mrs Optimistic. Perhaps not everyone in the village knows, as Jazzer tells Jim that he should be chasing after his piano teacher (Kiki), as he is falling behind his son in the love stakes. “What?” asks Jim and Jazzer tells him the whole story about Lavinia.

If Shula is finding things difficult, so too is Alistair. He returns a frozen meal to the shop on the grounds that it was all sauce and no chicken and Susan is very short with him. “Have I offended you in some way?” Alistair asks, to which Susan replies that “sometimes people disappoint you.” She then goes on to tell him that she knows all about Lavinia and it’s little wonder that Shula couldn’t stand any more if that had been going on under her nose. Alistair protests that it only happened once, but then he seems to realise that it’s sod-all to do with Susan anyway and, when Susan describes Shula as ‘a saint’ and everyone says so, Alistair loses his cool “Well, everyone should butt out,” he says, raising his voice and Susan tells him off for bad language. “This village is unbelievable and, frankly, I’m sick to the back teeth of it” says Alistair. He then wedges the frozen chicken dinner into Susan’s gob (where it didn’t touch the sides) and stalks off. Actually, he doesn’t, but I really, really wish he had.

Poor Alistair only has one person he can confide in and that’s Phil, who would appear to have undergone every possible marital upset and tragedy. Then there’s Jazzer, of course, who gives advice in his own inimitable way, telling Alistair that he’s done nothing to be ashamed of and he’s glad that “he got back in the saddle so swiftly.” “Don’t use that phrase” Alistair begs and, when Jazzer says “it’s just like riding a bike” Alistair adds “nor that one.” Things seem to be coming to a head at the Stables, as Alistair tells Shula at the end of the week that he has contacted a solicitor. He also tells her that he has told Lavinia that the couple have no future together and he’s glad he told her. Regarding the solicitor, he hopes that everything can be amicable, but it’s time that they got on with separating their lives. “I’m sure it’s the best thing for us both” he adds, but Shula didn’t seem so sure – surely Jill can’t be right after all?

At Home Farm, things are still tense between Brian and Jenny and are not made better by the fact that Brian has to go to BL and sign the papers, selling them his 300 acres at below cost. He’s sure that Martyn Gibson will take the opportunity to stick the knife in. During the meeting however, Martyn is subdued and looked uncomfortable. Brian asks Justin if he knows why. As it happens, he does – Pam Gibson ran into Jenny in Underwoods and there was much snide talk about Home Farm being short of money. Jenny was stung into retaliation and Pam later rang up Martin – on no account was he to deal with Home Farm.

Sadly for Martyn, the land deal was so good that, despite all his protestations and objections, the BL board voted it through. Justin told Brian that he would give anything to be a fly on the wall chez Gibson when Martyn’s wife finds out. So what did Jenny say to upset Pam? Brian questions her later and she was worried that she might have put the mockers on the deal. Apparently, she described Pam’s haircut as ‘original’. “What is the style called – electrocuted hedgehog?” Jenny asked.

It turned out even better for Brian as he and Jenny are at the pickers’ BBQ. In fact, there are a lot of people there, including Jazzer (well, it is free food and booze). Jazzer keeps following Brian around and this is worrying Brian “What is it?” he mutters to Adam “Am I wearing Irn Bru aftershave?” Eventually Brian gets Jenny on her own and tells her how abominably he has behaved. She doesn’t disagree with him and tells him how she has been feeling. He reveals that he has two tickets for a Nigel Kennedy concert on Monday – he bought them a while back, but the time had never seemed right to tell her. Jenny says that would be lovely, but the best is yet to come. The noise from the BBQ is becoming particularly raucous and a despondent Brian says “I don’t suppose I’ll get much sleep tonight.” “I don’t know,” Jennifer replies, “our bedroom is at the back of the house.” Brian immediately picks up on the ‘our’ and no doubt he is as pleased as we are that this saga appears to have ended.

Before we leave Home Farm, we should mention Kate, who is suffering at Spiritual Home. Her classes are poorly attended, but she still has to pay the instructors and is desperately seeking something original to stir up interest and bring the customers back in. “Have you heard of Goat Yoga?” she asks her parents. They hadn’t, and neither have I, so I looked it up. It’s a real therapy, in which the punter interacts with a baby goat and there were numerous pictures of people in various yoga positions with a young goat climbing on their backs. God knows what the goats think about this, but I am sure you will not be over-surprised to learn that it is popular in Los Angeles, among other places. 

Earlier, we mentioned that Jim has given up his piano lessons, following criticism from Joe. In the pub, Jazzer tells Joe this, adding that Jim is moping about the place like a lost soul in a pit of misery. Joe says that he thought Jazzer would be pleased (he is) but Joe is disturbed by the thought of the Prof being unhappy. “I’ll call on him later and see if I can cheer him up.” He says. Let’s pause here and try to imagine a situation – any situation – where a visit from Joe would raise your spirits. Nope, me neither.

Joe does indeed go to see the Prof and tells him that he shouldn’t give up and he should grab life by the throat. Besides, surely he’s not the sort who would deny a man his dying wish? Jim is mystified, but Joe assures him that he’d always hoped that Jim would play the piano at Joe’s wake. “Always hoped?” repeats Jim, ”I’ve only had the instrument for two months.” Eventually Jim agrees, but tells Joe that he will need a lot of practice, so it’s in both his and Joe’s interests that Joe stays alive as long as possible. Come on Jim don’t be so defeatist – get Kiki to move in and give you intensive lessons; you’ll reach concert standard in no time.

Actually, the day might come sooner than expected, as Jazzer returns home to find Jim playing happily – indeed, he says that he’s never been happier. Jazzer, who was secretly delighted when Jim packed up tinkling the ivories, asks why the change of plan? Jim tells him that it was all down to Joe, who persuaded him out of retirement and isn’t it wonderful? “Aye,” says Jazzer, “I’ll see Joe later in the week and make sure he gets the thanks he deserves.” Never mind grabbing life by the throat Joe, Jazzer might well do the same to you.

Monday, 21 May 2018

“But She’s A Member Of The Hunt!”

Michael Lumsden (Alistair Lloyd)

Who is Lavinia Rafferty? And who is she? Funny you should ask that, as she is one of the Archers’ silent characters, but last week she had a big part to play.

Shula is going ever so slightly frantic, as Alistair has gone missing and isn’t answering his phone. He returns to the Stables eventually, but he is wearing his clothes from the previous day and Shula confronts him - has he been gambling again? Alistair denies this, but then says “You may as well hear it from me - it’ll be front page news before long.” It turned out that his last call was to attend to the abovementioned Lavinia’s mare and, when he had finished, Lavinia invited him in for a drink. He had nothing to go home for and one thing led to another (or, more accurately, ‘the other’) and Alistair stayed the night.

This wouldn’t have been so bad but, as Alistair was leaving the next morning, he was spotted by Chris Carter, who had arrived to shoe the mare. I hope this horse is insured - it must be costing Lavinia a fortune in vet’s and farrier’s bills. Shula is aghast, but Alistair says she ended their marriage, so she’s partly responsible. Never mind that, Shula declares herself humiliated because Lavinia had always fancied Alistair (in fact, he and Shula used to laugh at her attempts to flirt with him), but the worst thing is; “But she’s a member of the Hunt!” wails Shula. 

Note that Shula doesn’t seem too worried about the act of infidelity itself, just the person with whom it was committed. If you are going to bonk someone Alistair, can you please make it someone who doesn’t ride to hounds - after all, Shula is a Joint Master and standards have to be maintained. She describes it as “an affair” but Alistair protests that it was hardly that; “just one night that I regret.” “Better that than 19 years” is Shula’s stinging retort and Alistair leaves, as the rift grows ever-wider. Later on in the week Shula opens her heart to Alan and he points out that all her talk has been about how disappointed she was because it was Lavinia.

At Home Farm, the week began with Brian taking on board Justin’s advice about the way to a woman’s heart is through DIY and Jennifer finds him in the kitchen, trying to fix a tap that he says is dripping but which Jenny knows is perfectly OK. Sadly, Brian is to DIY what the iceberg was to the Titanic and it is not long before Jenny is soaked, the tap is doing an impression of the Trevi Fountain and Jen’s elderflower cordial, made after a lot of work picking and processing the flowers, is a complete write-off.

A day or so later, Adam is trying to convince his mother that “it might be time to let it go” (‘it’ being the long-running bad feeling between her and Brian. Jennifer cannot understand the new-found bonhomie (or, as she calls it ‘bromance’) between Adam and Brian and, when he explains about the DIY as an attempt to impress her and calls in “endearing” she explodes. “It will take more than dodgy DIY to get Brian back in my bed” she tells her son. Adam is concerned he hadn’t realised that things had got so bad, although Jen makes it plain that it was Brian’s decision to move out of the bedroom and not hers.

On Friday, Brian tells Jennifer that he wants to be friends again and he wants to be back in the marital bed. Jennifer reminds him that it was he “who moved out, like a child throwing its toys out of the pram” and she stalks off. Brian resorts to Plan ‘B’ and Justin, out riding Aziz (does the man never do any work?) finds Brian perched halfway up an elderflower bush, picking flowers. Brian tells Justin that it’s all his fault, as he came up with the DIY ploy, and the least he could do is help him pick flowers.

The trouble is that the best flowers are out of reach - of course they are; Jenny had all the ones that were easily accessible - and so Brian decides to climb further up the bush. We then have a few moments of farce as Brian can’t climb down and Justin convinces him to climb up higher so that he can get on to Aziz’s back and then dismount from the horse. If, like me, you were expecting some minor disaster, involving muddy clothes, trampled flowers and an undignified fall, you were disappointed, as Brian triumphantly returned to Home Farm, bearing masses of elderflowers that had not only been picked, but debugged into the bargain. Brian and Justin had celebrated with a pint or two at The Bull, which Jenny soon picked up on. Nevertheless, she seemed quite touched that he had gone to so much trouble and thanked him. Does this mean that all is forgiven? It would appear not, as Jenny hands Brian a pile of fresh linen for his bed. Cheer up Brian; it could be worse - at least she is still washing and ironing the sheets.

The situation surrounding Will and his children continues to deteriorate, with him not telling anyone the true story about how Martyn Gibson has given him a ‘come back to work full time or find somewhere else to live’ ultimatum. Eddie confides to Jolene that Clarrie is practically dead on her feet and cannot keep working so hard, trying to keep family, job and Will’s family together. Mind you, I don’t suppose for one minute that neither he nor Joe actually do much to help in the way of domestic chores. In fact, if you gave him a dishcloth, he’d probably wear it as a bandanna.

But, cometh the hour, cometh the woman, as Susan has an idea. She has drawn up a rota of people willing to help Will out by looking after the children when times get hard. Sounds like a good plan, but Ambridge’s number one ingrate (or possibly number two, after Joe) rejects the idea, saying that how would it look in court? It would give the impression that he cannot look after his children. Actually Will, you can’t mate, but he says “thanks but no thanks” and Su retires in embarrassment.

Eddie cannot understand Will’s attitude and tells his son a few home truths - can he not see that Clarrie is running herself into the ground? (No). When Will replies that he doesn’t need charity, Eddie says that it’s not charity, it’s friends offering to help and Will does need help, plus the rota would give Clarrie a much-needed break every now and then and Susan was only trying to help.

For once, Will takes his father’s advice to heart and he goes to see Susan to apologise for his reaction and he takes the rota “just in case.” Susan says that ‘rota’ was a misnomer (no, of course she didn’t use that noun - this is Susan, remember) and “it’s more a list of possible helpers.” Clarrie is delighted and calls Susan “a true friend.”

And now a couple of other stories; Pat continues to stalk Olwen, who has returned the laptop by leaving it on the front doorstep. Helen points out that, if Olwen wanted to talk, she would have rung the doorbell and, by the way, Helen has put her and Pat’s names down for the Will Grundy childcare rota. “That way you’ll be doing something for somebody who wants to be helped” Helen rather pointedly tells her mother. Pat, however, refuses to believe that Olwen doesn’t need help and goes out to track her down. Actually, PCB could use her on the force, as she finds Olwen’s car and knocks on the door (the windows are obscured).

Olwen’s reaction is unexpected, as she springs out of the car, brandishing a bread knife and sporting a black eye, neither of which she explains to Pat. Pat has a basket, with some rolls and food in and Olwen sneeringly describes her as ’Red Riding Hood’ and says that she (Pat) doesn’t know when to give up and she is only pursuing Olwen to make herself feel good. Olwen also asks if this is what Pat did to her daughter, interfering while ignoring the real problem. “I like you less and less every time I see you, Pat Archer” spits Olwen.

Last week, we described Pat as ‘The woman who can’t take a hint’ but it seems there is a limit even to her patience, as she accuses Olwen of feeling sorry for herself and that she needs help. Olwen’s answer is to tell Pat to go and the whole situation is rather acrimonious. Pat returns to Bridge Farm, where Helen asks if she managed to find Olwen. Pat replies that she didn’t, but I would bet a considerable sum that this story has more legs than a millipede and we haven’t heard the last of Olwen yet.

The final story involves the twins Lily and Freddie (and Johnny). Johnny has been trying to get in touch with Freddie, with a marked lack of success. Eventually, he touches base and tells Fred that he had to have seven stitches. The upside is that girls he has never heard of before have come up to him and asked if he was the guy whose window was trashed and looking at his wound. Far be it for me to impugn the intelligence of the adolescents of Felpersham, but this seems a bit weird - if Freddie feels the need for female company, he could always beat himself over the head and score a few sutures.

Freddie is playing pool with Johnny and Fred’s phone rings - he is told that he has an appointment with the Deputy Principal of the college first thing in the morning. “What’s it about?” asks Johnny. “I’ve no idea” Freddie replies. Oh, by the way, Johnny says that he told PCB that Ellis was probably the brick thrower - “Who else could it be?” he asks, reasonably enough.

Anyway, the following morning, Johnny is driving Freddie and Lily to college and we learn that he has told Lily about the meeting with the DP, whose name is Russ James. Freddie is a tad miffed by this, but Johnny explains that he thought Lily knew. At the meeting, Fred wants to know what it’s all about and Russ tells him that he has heard that Freddie has been dealing drugs at college. Fred asks who told Russ, and the DP says that he cannot reveal his source. The meeting ends in a stalemate, with Freddie denying the drugs accusation and Russ not telling who grassed Freddie up.

Fred immediately gets Johnny to drive him home, where he confronts Lily - doesn’t she want to know what Russ wanted? He then calls his sister a bitch - she must be the one who told Russ. Lily denies it, but then (after Freddie realised that the dodgy leather jacket he found in Lily’s car was the one that Russ was wearing earlier) she admits that she and Russ are an item. “But he’s married!” explodes Freddie and says that Lily has made things worse, as Ellis will think that Freddie fingered him for dealing and Lower Loxley had better guard its windows. Lily is unrepentant and says that Russ has changed and her relationship with him could work in Freddie’s favour. The week ends with both twins agreeing that Lizzie must never know about the drugs, or Lily’s affair. I find it odd that Lily has gone from Miss Sensible to trollop, overnight.


Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Help Lynda Pick A Pooch (Bonus Posting)

Ned emulating Lady

When it comes to thoroughness, you have to hand it to Lynda Snell – in her determination to find a replacement for the late, lamented Scruff, she is apparently going to test drive every breed of dog from Affenpinscher to Yorkshire Terrier. Let’s hope not, as there were 197 breeds listed on the website that I consulted and this would mean that the story would be longer running than the Helen and Rob saga (though presumably with less violence). 

If you or I were choosing a new canine companion, we might read up on a few breeds that we like, or just pop down to the nearest rescue centre and choose one with the cutest face, or floppiest ears or, as Neil did with his recently-acquired Ned, one that eats £20 notes and chews credit cards (and now books too! – Neil). Still, as I reminded him, there’s no such thing as bad dogs, only bad owners.

This isn’t thorough enough for our Lynda, who has been seen round Ambridge with a procession of assorted canines, including a Poodle, a Bulldog and her latest exhibit, a Bichon Frise called Lady. Where is she getting them all from? Rentabreed? Her story is that they are being lent to her by friends and I must say that, so far, the dogs do not seem particularly anxious about being parted from their owners, although Lady may have been a mite unhappy, but more of her later.

My second point is, why has Lynda suddenly gone upmarket? I don’t think we were ever explicitly told, but I am willing to wager that, with a name like ‘Scruff’, Lynda’s previous doggy friend was no pedigree pooch. Now it appears that mongrels need not apply.

The Poodle was written off, for reasons I cannot remember, and Bertha the Bulldog looked like she could be a contender, but she didn’t make the cut. Presumably the reason was that Bertha was as ugly as – well, as a Bulldog – and Lynda couldn’t risk people quoting the old saying about how owners grow to look like their dogs.

Enter Lady, the Bichon Frise. Lynda has her for a whole week, as she joyfully tells Robert. Robert asks if she is a real dog, commenting on her pom pom tail and button eyes (“Now I understand what they mean about toy dogs”) but he is soon won over when Lady licks his face. Lynda bangs on about how well-behaved Lady is and describes her as “a perfect breed”.

Lynda takes Lady for a long walk, talking to her the whole time and praising her lack of reaction when they encounter Ruby, who is running around like a mad thing. Perhaps this is a good time to ponder whether Lynda has given up talking to Scruff and carting his ashes around with her – one assumes she has, hence the search for a living canine to take for walks. Lady is something of a conversation piece, with the conversation mostly along the lines of ‘what the hell is that?’ When David comes across Lady, he is momentarily at a loss for words, saying “what a [long pause] unusual dog.”

Never mind that Lady looks like something that Walt Disney Studios might have created in one of their more syrupy moments; at least she’s well-behaved. Oh no she isn’t, as Lynda and Robert find out to their cost. Left alone in the sitting room for a few moments, Lady has gone berserk and overturned a vase of tulips, made a mess on the carpet and totally trashed Robert's copy of The Silmarillion(which he has had since his student days) and Lynda’s Canterbury Tales. Was Lady missing her real owner? Was being introduced to the llamas too much? Lynda does mention that the llamas were not that keen on Lady. Or was it just revenge on a hateful world that has produced what can only be described as a parody of a dog (apologies to Bichon Frise owners everywhere)? Perhaps the years of being laughed at, or greeted by raised eyebrows and puzzled faces finally tipped Lady over into senseless and random vandalism. Then again, it could be just a perfectly natural reaction to being constantly talked to by Lynda. 

On another note, am I the only person who reckons that the scriptwriters are having a competition to see how many references to The Silmarillion they can squeeze into The Archers? We had Lynda’s ordeal of trying (and failing) to read the book, culminating in her donating £20 to Alan’s ‘pay to complain’ fund so that she could tell Robert exactly what she thought of what he described as Tolkien’s masterpiece. We have heard more references to The Silmarillion over the past few weeks than I have heard in the past forty years and I reckon someone is having a laugh.

But we digress. It looks as though Lady isn’t going to be the new Scruff, so what do our readers think? Which breed do you reckon suits Lynda to a ‘T’? My contribution may sound a bit obvious, but I reckon that, with Lynda’s unsurpassed talent for the mega-disdainful sniff, her perfect canine soulmate just has to be the Bloodhound.


Sunday, 13 May 2018

The Woman Who Can’t Take A Hint

Patricia Gallimore (Pat Archer)

Yes, we are talking about Pat, who will be lucky if Olwen doesn’t report her for being a stalker. To say that Pat can’t take a hint is actually incorrect - she can’t seem to take on board blunt remarks like ‘sod off and leave me alone’, never mind hints.

We saw this tendency when she was quizzing Helen in her early relationship with Rob, continually questioning her daughter, asking if there’s anything she’d like to tell her and is she all right? Helen responded with “I’m OK” and “don’t ask” but would Pat let up? Hands up all those who said ‘no’. You might think that Pat would have learned her lesson, but you would be sadly mistaken, as she has made it her life’s ambition to improve the quality of Olwen’s life.

On Monday, Pat learns that Olwen turned up at the Elms for breakfast and immediately drops everything and rushes off to the hostel. Too late - Olwen has done a runner and it appears that she is sleeping in her car again. Pat is concerned about Olwen’s health and says that she won’t be happy until she’s sure she is OK. Various people tell Pat that, if Olwen doesn’t want to be found by Pat (and she doesn’t), then Pat will have great trouble finding her. Despite this, Pat does run into Olwen, and Olwen is not at all pleased.  Pat says that she wishes Olwen would come back and stay at Bridge Farm, but Olwen says that she is fine sleeping in her car, especially now the weather is getting better. It’s very kind of Pat, she says (not very truthfully) but she’s fine as she is.

Later the same day, Olwen is at the Elms for lunch and, as luck would have it, Pat is cooking. Pat says she’d like to talk to Olwen later and that she has a present for her. This turns out to be Tom’s old laptop and Pat says that it will enable Olwen to sort out her life, enabling her to have details of jobs, hostels and everything else that a homeless car dweller could wish for to hand. Olwen’s patience is being sorely tested and she says bluntly that she doesn’t need Pat to sort out her life for her and she doesn’t want the laptop, thank you very much. “You and I have taken different paths in life,” she tells Pat, adding: “I like the way I am - I don’t want better, OK?” That seems plain enough, but as Olwen gets ready to go, Pat demonstrates her obtuseness, saying “Shall I leave this here for you?” Olwen’s response (“Do whatever you like. Goodbye Pat”) seems unequivocal enough, but what’s the betting that Pat will be nagging her again at the Elms in the near future? I’m just surprised that we didn’t hear her say ’Is that a yes, then?’ as Olwen left. Perhaps Olwen should have beaten her senseless with the laptop as an attempt to give her a hint as to her feelings.

Freddie’s life becomes ever-more complicated. He invites Johnny to the quiz at The Bull, but Johnny is borassic. Never mind, Freddie will stand him a few drinks, as a ‘thank you’ for the help he gave him when Ellis came on a bit heavy. At the pub, the two lads are joined by Jazzer and Hannah. Jazzer is relentlessly pursuing Hannah and he tapped up Jim Lloyd for advance notice of the quiz questions, in order to impress her (Jim is questionmaster). Fortunately, Jim maintains his integrity and refuses, although he does insert and extra round (on history), which Jazzer might know something about. Unlikely unless it’s the history of pigs or lager.

Freddie has a great idea - Hannah is looking for a place to live and Johnny and Tom have a spare room; why not have a look? Jazzer thinks this is an awful idea, but Hannah agrees to go after the quiz. As Freddie and John are showing her round, there is a crash and a brick comes sailing through the window and catches Johnny on the head. He’s bleeding and we learn later that he needed a couple of stitches.

Not surprisingly, the trio are shocked and Freddie demonstrates once again that he is no loss to the detective force, when he says “It’s so crazy - I mean, who would do anything like that?” Let’s pause and think back a day or two - Ellis, who is a drug dealer, was getting shirty with Freddie for dealing on his patch and punched him on the nose. Johnny came to the rescue and saw an unhappy Ellis off. So, we have a man of known law-breaking tendencies, who is willing to resort to violence and who bears a grudge against Fred and Johnny. On the other hand, we have a brick through a window from an unknown assailant. It’s a tricky one Sherlock - at least a two-pipe problem, I’d say.

The following day, Lily is driving her twin to college and giving him the silent treatment. They drive past Johnny’s house and Lily spots the damage to the window, asking Freddie what happened? He talks down the incident, but Lily, who is obviously more quick-witted than her brother, says that does he think it is a coincidence that this happened the day after Freddie and Johnny stood up to Ellis?

When Freddie gets out of the car, he runs into Ellis, who says that he heard there was a bit of trouble last night and tells Freddie to take care. At last the penny drops and Freddie accuses Ellis of throwing the brick. Ellis refuses to confess, but says that, if it had been him, then maybe it was a way of sending Fred a message and “no-one deals round this college unless they work for me.” “Are you threatening me?” asks lightning-brain Freddie and Ellis replies “just telling it like it is.” Freddie has obviously been taking the brave pills, and a dose of stupidity tablets too, when he says “What if I disagree?” “That would be a big mistake” Ellis tells him, adding that he knows where Freddie lives, and that Lower Loxley has a lot of windows. It wouldn’t surprise me if Freddie didn’t think ‘you know, I reckon that Ellis had something to do with the brick throwing.’ I would suggest that this is no time to play hardball with a drug dealer and I reckon Freddie was thatclose to calling Ellis a cad and a rotter.

When in the car, Freddie noticed a rather naff leather jacket on the back seat - whose is it? Lily is rather coy about it and comes up with some story about giving someone called Ollie a lift and he must have left it behind. Freddie is not convinced and asks his sister if she has a secret boyfriend, which she denies.

On to more cheerful matters - PC Burns has not prepared for his promotion appraisal or similar and is therefore pleasantly surprised when his senior officer suggests that he goes for his sergeant’s exams next year. He and Fallon decide to celebrate at The Bull (this is quiz night, so the place is packed) and PCB wants to announce their engagement. Fallon isn’t keen - she has always been so overtly anti-marriage that she is afraid that people will think she has lost her marbles; especially if it became common knowledge that she proposed to PCB, rather than the other way round. 

On the night, he gets round this neatly by grabbing Jim’s microphone and telling the assembled throng that, from the moment he first saw Fallon, he knew he wanted to spend his life with her, and he proposes to her. At first she says ‘no’ but then changes this to ‘all right then’, which is not the most enthusiastic acceptance that I have ever heard. Anyway Harrison, well done for coming up with a solution and rest assured, that whatever happens in your sergeant’s exam, you’ll always be PCB in my book.

Over at Home Farm, Brian is gradually telling people about the fact that the insurance company will not pay for the clean-up. In a phone call to Hungary, Debbie agrees that selling land is the only realistic option. Adam has already agreed, so Brian tells Jennifer, but she has already guessed the score and agrees. Brian also tells Rooooth (as Ruairi’s representative) and David (whom Rooooth would presumably tell anyway. David asks how much land will need to be sold, to which the answer is 300 acres. Brian says that the plan is to sell the land which he recently bought from BL.

That just leaves Kate and Alice to tell and they are both very supportive - they don’t want to make things any more difficult than they already are. He is touched and says that he is going to open ‘something a bit special’. Are you sure you can afford it, Brian?

Adam had a great idea to go on a phone-in on Radio Borsetshire, to publicise the trouble he is having in recruiting fruit pickers. However, the interviewer twists the discussion around to the clean-up operation and asks if Home Farm fruit is safe to eat? Adam gets frustrated and annoyed and hangs up on him. Alice and Kate seek Adam out to sympathise with him and give him a big hug, describing the interviewer as “a brainless idiot.” Adam is grateful and calls his sisters amazing. Kate offers to give Adam some positive karma, while Alice’s contribution is doubtless more welcome, as she says she will help Adam with the caravans.

Will is worried by Bev’s statement that Andrew has contacted a solicitor to see how he stands vis-à-vis custody of Jake and Mia, as their biological father. Clarrie and Eddie talk it over with Will and it is eventually decided that perhaps Will should also see a Brief to see how he stands. Will has already seen Brian to discuss Martyn Gibson’s ultimatum that, if Will doesn’t work full time, then he cannot live at the tied cottage. Brian explains that his hands are tied, as he is no longer BL Chair, but he asked Annabelle to have a word with slimeball Gibson. All to no avail, as he was unmoved and Will has until the end of next week to make up his mind.

It seems that the interview with the solicitor went well and Will is optimistic that Mia and Jake will want to stay with him, although the solicitor said that the wishes of the children are usually taken into account. Will admits to his mother that he will have some work to do to get Jake onside. More goodies and treats coming your way soon, I reckon Jake.

Will, who hasn’t told his family about Gibson’s ultimatum, says to Clarrie that he will be returning to work full time. She is alarmed - why now and what will happen to the children? Will glosses over this and says “Mum, I need to do this, OK? I’ll sort it out - I’ll manage somehow. I’ll be fine.” Brave words Will, but we’d love to know your plans. Personally, I reckon he should call on Lexi for childminding - failing that, perhaps Emma could take some stimulants and take advantage of the few hours a day that she currently wastes by sleeping.