Tuesday, 28 December 2010

'Twas The Week Before Christmas…

Becky Wright (Nic Hanson)

Helen, who apparently will play a leading part in the dramatic double-length episode to mark the Archers' 60th anniversary in January, was in moody cow mode all week. It all started off when Tony bought her a baby alarm and she'd already got one. If it were me, I'd say "oh thank you" and swiftly take it back, but not our Hel – oh no – Tony was verbally whipped, forced to don a hair shirt and do penance. "I could kick myself for not remembering that she had one" he said. No need Tony – Hel will do it for you!

She was equally miserable on Christmas Eve, for the traditional tree decorating and, when it was finished, asked to be taken home. The really lucky one that night was Brenda, who fell asleep.

Kenton threw himself into Rick Turnip highwayman role, jumping out at children and shouting "Stand and deliver!" I hope he's been CRB checked. When not doing Adam Ant impressions, he's telling everyone that Jaxx's is doing OK and he's really busy. Still got time to act the fool, though. He might do better to have a word with his partner Jim, who was going to take Heather for a meal at Jaxx's but they went to a country pub instead. So much for staff loyalty.

However, Kenton's role playing gives Nigel an idea and he surprises Lizzie in the bedroom, dressed as a highwayman. "I've never had a highwayman in my bed before" says Lizzie. Ah well, that's another profession to tick off her list. Nigel continues to irritate, telling Lynda that Harry and Fallon are behaving like good friends, meaning that they are acting like just good friends and nothing more. None of your business Nigel – you concentrate on making your children's lives miserable.

Crisis in the dairy! The strawberry yoghurt turned out to be raspberry! Vicky's reluctance to wear her reading glasses (or engage her brain) was the cause and Pat was not a happy camper when summoned to explain and apologise to the Buyer at Underwoods. She was still banging on about it on Christmas Eve – you can begin to see where Helen gets it from. Vicky was distraught but, sadly, stopped short of abandoning Ambridge in shame.

Lynda's step-daughter Flat Leaf Parsley turned up with baby Oscar. Lynda promptly explained to him the plot of Dick Whittington and showed him the sets. He's only 14 months old woman, for God's sake! Nigel said that the sight of Oscar "made him feel broody again". For the love of Heaven, no! It's bad enough that his genes are already polluting the gene pool, without siring more offspring. Having said that, he and Liz were getting sick-makingly lovey-dovey round the tree on Christmas Eve.

FLP gave Helen a job lot of baby clothes that are now too small for Oscar. Helen was deeply grateful, but you just know that she is going to have them industrially cleaned, sterilised and irradiated. Probably while Tony is holding them.

Of course, the main event of Christmas Eve was the party thrown by Susan and Neil. According to Chris, Susan is aiming for "sophisticated and stylish." Ha! And this from the woman who put the 'F' in "sophistication"! Chris adds "she's making the canapés herself" – how big a biscuit do you need for a pig's trotter?

The party starts off direly, with Jennifer, Lillian et al all wondering how soon they can decently take their leave. But then Chris and Alice out their master plan into action and put "Merry Xmas Everybody" on the hi-fi and soon people are enjoying themselves playing games such as "pin the nose on Rudolph". This style and sophistication goes down a treat with the Horrobins (as indeed did most of the booze) but even Jennifer seems to be having a good old time. Perhaps Chris and Alice spiked the punch with acid? If so, it's a pity Helen wasn't invited.

Nic took a few more steps towards sainthood when she took Clarrie shopping and then said she'd rearranged her plans (and Will's – bet he was chuffed to nuts) so that they could come over and help with (ie, do all of) the preparation on Christmas Day. "You're a smasher, you are" gushed a grateful Clarrie. But all is not well, as Emma is beginning to resent Nic's new role as the blue-eyed girl. Well pull your finger out woman and do something to help! Everything is set up for Christmas Day, with Nic and Will sharing a table with Emma and Ed – peace on Earth? I don't think so.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Six Weeks Will Soon Pass - Unfortunately

Patricia Gallimore (Pat Archer)

Tony pushed the boat out by taking Pat out for their wedding anniversary and he bought her flowers. "We've had a lot of good times" he said. "Yes, we have," she replied, but there was a tinge of doubt in her voice. But hey! Never mind! They're coming to fit the new refrigeration unit this week! Who could ask for a better anniversary present?

Pat is delighted that Helen wants her to go with her to ante-natal classes, while Tony is less pleased when he learns that Kathy and Jamie will be joining them for Christmas lunch. Coming back from the ante-natal classes, Helen is favouring a water birth. About 10 fathoms would be favourite.

I'm really warming to Nic – not only did she weigh in with the turkey plucking, but she even tried catching one or two. Will was his usual sunny self – hasn't he got a particularly whiny voice? And doesn't he use it well (and frequently)? Nic's ideal Christmas present? A new partner.

The guest list for Susan's Christmas Eve party is growing all the time and Jennifer is appalled to learn that the Horrobins will be turning up en masse. Looking for reinforcements, she invites Matt and Lillian. Memo to Susan – order another tanker of gin.

Kate made it to the airport, thank God. Good job she went when she did – had she left a day or two later, the writers would, in the name of realism, had to have her stranded or, heaven forfend, even staying in Ambridge. "I don't want you to go" said a tearful Phoebe. Somebody club that girl to the ground! Brian was more practical, telling Kate that the queue for security was quite long. "Off you go" he said, echoing the feelings of millions. "And don't come back" was the only thing missing. "Six weeks will soon pass" Kate told Phoebe. It certainly will for the rest of us – too soon, if truth be told.

With Kate gone, Phoebe turns into a moody cow – perhaps she should get together with Jamie. Or maybe it's something going round, as Helen has a go at Kenton in Underwoods for offering to help her and storms off. Enter Tony, who also offers to help. "I hate to see you struggling on your own" he says, referring to the fact that she's loaded down with shopping. Helen immediately takes this as a criticism of her lifestyle and goes off on one, saying some very hurtful things to her Dad, such as "I can do without you Dad" and "I've never had any support from you". Granted, Tony is as wet as a mineral water sandwich, but he didn't deserve that. His tone when he speaks to Pat is one of bewilderment. "What can I do?" he asks. Well, I'd cut her out of the Will for starters. "You obviously caught her at a bad time" Pat replied. What, like when she's awake, do you mean?

Tony did have one good line when he referred to Susan and Vicky as "the village megaphone". Vicky seems to be picking up dairy work very quickly, much to the chagrin of Susan, who keeps telling her how difficult it all is and how it took her ages to pick it up. Then again, Vicky has an advantage in that she is capable of finding her own bum with both hands.

Freddie has been earmarked as Rat Henchman 2 by Lynda. How will he have time, with the extra studying? He'll be acting with a textbook in hand, I reckon. Elizabeth tries to reassure Jill that they have told Freddie that, should he fail the entrance exam, they won't consider him a failure. They'll probably thrash him soundly anyway, but he won't be a failure.

Finally, things haven't got very far between Harry and Fallon, although we are being teased by comments such as Lynda's: "When they're on stage, there's a real chemistry between them." They did meet at the Carol service on the Green, when Harry was going to leave because he didn't have a word sheet. "You can share mine" Fallon told him. This was Harry's golden opportunity to add "I haven't got a bed" but he's probably too much of a gentleman, the fool.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Plucking Disaster

Trevor Harrison (Eddie Grundy)

Clarrie broke her wrist, thus throwing the Grundy's Christmas into meltdown. "Who'll do the shopping, cook the food, wrap the presents and pluck the turkeys?" she said, plaintively. "You can rely on me and Dad" said Eddie, confidently. Yeah, right; rely on them to stuff it up completely.

Nic brought round a beef stew. "All you need to do is the potatoes," said Clarrie. "Potatoes?" replied a bemused Eddie, thus demonstrating his depth of farming knowledge. I don't know about you, but the description of Joe making pastry ruined my appetite for the whole day.

Actually, Nic is turning into a little treasure – much too good for William, who is running neck and neck with Tony in the "Ambridge's most miserable sod of the year" contest. When Will learns that Ed will be helping out at turkey plucking time and they will both be in the same building, he throws a moody and says he won't be there. Nic gives him a, sadly only metaphorical, knee in the goolies and tells him oh yes he will. I think we can safely assume that Will hasn't bought Ed's Christmas present yet. All this happened at the switch on of the Christmas lights – another great bit of radio.

Deck the Halls got into full swing this week, but not for Freddie and Lily, who were shackled to their desks, doing practice papers and probably being regularly thrashed. Jill voiced her misgivings at them being pushed so hard and even went as far as suggesting that Borchester Green school would be good enough for them. Shock! Horror!  For them maybe, but not for Nigel, who is turning into a cross between Ebenezer Scrooge and Pol Pot.

Nigel is beginning to get on my wick – he's the only person I know of who actually says "Bravo!" without trying to be ironic. "Gosh!" is another favourite. He's also a student of the school of stating the bleedin' obvious, saying to David "you must be feeling awful" when he learns about the hay robbery.

To happier matters: Harry and Fallon finally get to kiss in panto rehearsals and it will come as no surprise that he is excellent at it, with Fallon practically swooning. Nigel, in his tactful way, says "Bravo! That was quite a kiss!" and wants to know if Harry and Fallon are an item. "Fallon's way out of my league" Harry replies. Don't you believe it! The man can seemingly do anything and is so damn nice. Even when he comes home to find that Jazzer has installed an old fridge in the lounge (for chilling beer, of course) his tone is one of polite enquiry, rather than going ballistic.

Tony, on the other hand, seems to know his limitations; speaking about the staffing crisis in the dairy (Clarrie's broken wrist again) he says "I'm not Superman, you know". I bet that came as a surprise to Pat; especially as they were celebrating their 36th Wedding Anniversary later in the week. 36 years! You don't get that for murder, do you?

The staffing crisis could be solved by Vicky's volunteering to work in the dairy. As she rightly pointed out, it can't be that hard if Susan managed to pick it up. Vicky was nauseatingly twee over feeling Helen's bump and Helen told her that she is getting twinges and the baby is kicking (keep it up kid!). I suspect that they will have to drown Vicky in a vat of yoghurt to get her to stop nattering.

Sherlock Pip managed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the hay sample Eddie brought back from a dodgy market trader was pinched from Brookfield and David's phone call to the man confirmed it. Sadly, he realised that there was little he could do about it, but Pip seems determined to seek justice. What will she do? Go and live with the man? Surely that would come under the heading of 'cruel and unusual punishment'?

Kate managed to upset most people in the family by planning an early Christmas meal (cooked by Jennifer, of course, not by Kate) so that she could see Phoebe opening her presents. Of course, there were loads of presents for Phoebe and a token one for Ruari. "I think she's trying to buy off her guilty conscience" remarked Brian. Ha! That would take the entire stock of Hamley's!

It was at the pseudo-Christmas party that Phoebe learned that Kate would be away longer than originally planned (but still not long enough) and Phoebe goes off, saying unconvincingly "it's OK; don't worry about it." Jennifer is concerned and observes: "I think she's quite upset". Don't be ridiculous, woman – she's probably upstairs celebrating!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Lack of Diplomacy

John Telfer (Alan Franks)

First of all an apology - a few weeks ago I congratulated Izzy on getting her degree and, of course it was Amy, the vicar's daughter. Sorry Amy!

The week began with Pip playing Phil's favourite hymn at the church service. Most of the Archer clan (even Kenton!) turned up and vicar Alan, ever the diplomat, said to Pat "to what do we owe this pleasure?"

Diplomacy was also lacking when Tony came home and saw Kathy. "Are you here again?" he asked, with all the tact of a brick through a window. Pat got her own back by inviting Kathy and Jamie for Sunday lunch.

Nigel is panicking about getting everything done for "Deck the Halls" – he still has 2,000 lights to put up. Give Tom a call, Nige; he's the expert when it comes to lights. So worried is Nigel that he is seriously considering pulling out of the panto, thus risking a painful death at the hands of Lynda.

The panto seems to be taking over, with people rapidly turning into luvvies – even Fallon and Harry kept banging on about their "motivation" for a scene and foolhardily criticised Lynda's script. Harry then began making up rhyming couplets on the spot (is there nothing this man cannot do?) and Lynda had a hissy fit, brought on when Harry naively suggested that the panto should be fun.

Amy (who is now a midwife) paid a call on Helen and tried to put her mind at rest. "My body is telling me to 'exercise, exercise' " says Helen. Pity is isn't 'emigrate, emigrate' says I. It seems everyone is rallying round Helen, as Ian takes her for lunch and offers to paint the nursery. Helen asks why can't her dad have the same attitude towards the baby as Ian – could it be that Ian isn't a miserable, moaning, narrow-minded dinosaur, perhaps?

The scriptwriters are obviously not in the Christmas spirit – on Wednesday Kate confided to Brian that Phoebe thinks that she (Kate) is only going to be away for two weeks at Christmas "and I haven't the heart to tell her." All over the world, spirits rose spontaneously – did this mean that Kate wasn't coming back? Please? Those same spirits were cruelly dashed the following night, when Kate revealed that she was actually going for four weeks.

Will is aghast to learn that Brian has bought a knocked-off Christmas tree from Eddie. "It's a good tree at a reasonable price. Where did he get it from, do you know?" Brian muses. Will was just hoping it didn't have a 'property of Home Farm' sticker on it and went round to tell Eddie that he'd grass him up if any more trees vanished from the estate.

Jolene is contemplating leaving the area and Kenton tries to talk her out of it, giving her the benefit of his experience, which basically consisted of enumerating a list of cock-ups and failures, going back to his childhood.

Over at Brookfield, Pip is keen to get involved "to understand the process" and thinks that she should go and see the steer (558kg, thank you for asking) selected for this Christmas's beef orders being slaughtered. Well, everybody needs a hobby, I suppose. If she asks nicely, they might even let her pull the trigger.

The week ends on a sour note when David and Ruth return from an NFU dinner to find that someone has had it away with their stockpile of hay. "How did the thieves know that we wouldn't be at home today?" asks a puzzled Ruth. Far be it for me to cast aspersions, but is that I sign I can see saying "Eddie Grundy – Holly, Mistletoe, Christmas Trees & Forage"?

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Just Desserts

Graham Seed (Nigel Pargetter)

Let's get Helen's story out of the way first this week – she was going on so much about "feeling energised", deciding to work up to two weeks before her due date and swimming miles every day that you just knew something bad was going to happen. And it did, when the midwife told her that the baby was too small.

That brought the smug madam down to earth; earlier in the week she told Tony in great detail about her ante-natal class and pelvic floor exercises. An anguished Tony, in what was probably a Freudian slip, told her "I've got to go; I've got the AI man coming round". But there is good news – "the new lights have arrived" Tony told Helen. Thank God! Now we can sleep nights!

Anyway, Helen broke down in front of mum Pat and blamed herself, saying "suppose I've done too much and harmed my baby?" Er, hello? Isn't that what everyone has been saying for months? Pat tells Tony and adds that Helen is scared because of the past tragedies in her life and she feels like something bad is bound to happen again. I must say that she does seem to be a bit of a Jonah, but I couldn't help feeling that the tragedies (brother John killed on a tractor, partner Greg shooting himself) were worse for John and Greg – at least Helen is still alive.

We had nostalgia and a tear for Phil on stir-up Sunday, while back at Lower Loxley, Nigel was getting heavy about extra lessons for Freddie to make sure that he passes the school entrance exam. Just to be fair, he will make Lily take them too, even though she doesn't need them. I suppose the children are too big to go up the chimneys now? The 'Deck the Halls' event is fast approaching and the fact that there will be a German-style Christmas market prompted Nigel to say "we'll be bringing Bavaria to Borsetshire." Ever since then, I haven't been able to shake off the image of Nigel in lederhosen, clutching a weisswurst and a lager.

Eddie was prominent again this week. First of all he had the hookey Christmas trees in his van. Will mentioned the fact that there was a chainsaw there too (presumably still warm), but Eddie protested his innocence. He made £300 from his ill-gotten gains and told Joe that he was going to get some more trees, so you know that it's all going to go pear-shaped and he'll end up out of pocket.

Nathan Booth exacted sweet revenge on Eddie for the horse race sting by replacing the bucket of confetti that Eddie was to throw at Sabrina in the panto for one filled with wallpaper paste. Call me Mr. Picky, but I would have thought that Eddie might have noticed the difference in weight. Anyway, Eddie was fired on the spot, only to be reinstated when Nathan walked out, his revenge complete.

Back at Brookfield, we had the drama of the steer being shown. Would it get first prize, or third? What suspense! "He's got a beautiful straight back" said Pip. "And look at those legs", added David. For God's sake man, get out more! The steer was named Supreme Champion, in case you were wondering. It looks like Pip might be studying at Felpersham. Bloody typical! The country is full of universities and agricultural colleges and she ends up just round the corner. What with her and Kate both studying locally, truly our cup runneth over.

Jennifer slipped up by telling Susan that she had nothing planned for Christmas Eve – in a flash, she was pinned down for drinks and nibbles at the Carters' gaff. "I haven't told Brian yet" Jennifer told Neil later in the week, which explains why we haven't heard the explosion.

Elsewhere, Jazzer's meal that he cooked for Jackie was a triumph, to the extent that she stayed the night – now that's what I call a recipe for success. 

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Worthy And Boring

Rosalind Adams (Clarrie Grundy)

The Grundys were centre stage for most of the past week, with Clarrie finally agreeing to Eddie's and Jazzer's plans to take Nathan Booth to the cleaners over his attempts to fix race night. She overcame her conscience after hearing ex-Marine Des Penwell talk at St. Stephen's.

Unfortunately, her judgement wasn't so sound when Nic revealed that Clarrie had invited all the family round on Christmas Day. "It'll be nice to have all the family together" she and Eddie cooed. No it bloody won't – it will be carnage! Ed and Will spending a day together, swigging Eddie's apple brandy – I suspect goodwill would be in very short supply.

Is anyone else annoyed by the number of worthy storylines that seem to be creeping in? We still have the "get the wrinklies working on computers" propaganda, with Harry patiently talking Peggy through how to open an attachment. Perhaps it's me, but a detailed description along the lines of "…and now you click on the icon like this…" does not exactly make for riveting radio.

Des Penwell's talk at St. Stephen's may have swayed Clarrie, but it sounded a bit like an advert for the British Legion. Still, we mustn't be churlish at this time of year.

From the worthy to the boring. Yes, I'm talking about Tom's TEA, or 'tedious energy audit'. Fortunately, Tony agreed to his suggestions concerning the lighting and the refrigeration unit, so hopefully we will have no more debates about whether sodium lamps, and how many, are what are needed. Please God.

Equally boring was the step-by-step walk through of what Nigel and Lizzie have planned for Lower Loxley in the run-up to Christmas. Nigel told Lizzie "We have two Santas booked," thus ruining Christmas for any young children who may have been listening.

However, for sheer, toe-curling, mind-numbing tediousness, we have Pip and the halter training of the Hereford steer that is going to be shown. Once again, I humbly submit that phrases like "he's got a good top line" or "doesn't he hold his head beautifully?" are not scintillating radio. What was worse, however, was the discussion between Pip and Josh about Pip's future and that of the farm. Pip wonders whether to go to agricultural college so that she can keep abreast of what is happening in farming. In a line that I found chilling, Josh asked her "Are you going to stay here for the rest of your life?" Pip's answer was drowned out by five million listeners screaming "No! No!" at their radios.

The silent but slightly creepy Nathan Booth got his just desserts when Eddie and Jazzer stitched him up on race night, conning him into paying £150 for a horse that came last. In his triumphant celebrations, Eddie seemed to forget that he and Nathan are going to be spending a lot of time together during the panto season. Nice one Eddie.

Helen continues to be a source of worry (as well as annoyance) to everyone, prompting Peggy to say "I wish you weren't going through all this on your own." Ha! She wishes? Not as fervently as most of the listeners, I'll wager, although the words "on your own" are superfluous.

And now I'd like to make a presentation. The trouble is I don't know whether it should be entitled "The unluckiest sod in Ambridge" or the "Engage brain before opening mouth" award. Either way, the winner is Patrick, the bird man of Ambridge, for telling Lynda Snell that he passed his Grade 7 piano exam when younger. "When he said that, his fate was sealed" she said, smugly. I have a vision of the poor beggar chained to a radiator in the Village Hall, existing on bread and water and being forced to learn the score for the panto.

The frightening thing (for him) is that Lynda will probably call on him every year now and he has a job for life, unless he cuts a hand off, or moves far away. No doubt he wishes that he had kept his trap shut but it's too late now and, in an apt phrase for panto season, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Moving Closer

Joanna van Kampen (Fallon Rogers)

A number of relationships seem to be developing in Ambridge. It seems as though Jolene has finally got her rear into gear, by convincing Fallon that she (Fallon) should do the panto, thus rekindling Lynda's will to live. Earlier, Lynda was having a crisis of self-doubt, pouring out her fears about the panto to Harry and asking the question that was on so many of our lips: "Is there any point?" Harry could have said "no, you're right; it's a complete waste of time, now let's go down the pub" but instead he was reassuring, nice and kind, the twerp.

However, Harry did demonstrate that he was human when he lost it totally with Jazzer, who had just ruined £100-worth of saucepan and chef's knife. But did Harry force him to pay it back? No. Thinking of others as usual, he blackmailed Jazzer into taking part in the panto. Now that Fallon is on board, I anticipate some love interest between her and Harry. God knows Harry deserves some good times after putting up with Jazzer, although the pig-minding Scottish milkman won't be happy.

In persuading Fallon to take part, Jolene says she wants to face the challenge of running the pub at its busiest time. Could this newly-found enthusiasm have anything to do with the time spent with Kenton? They certainly seem to be getting on well together and, should things develop, that will give Jamie something else to sigh about. Jolene should watch out though, as the fact that Kenton bought some novelty-shaped cocktail shakers (I don't want to speculate) and a wind-up penguin for Jaxx's illustrates his level of sophistication. Classy or what?

Moving closer in an electronic sense are Peggy and old flame Con, who have exchanged e-mails. Peggy is delighted and full of it, but Jill is lukewarm, to say the least, making pointed references to poor Jack in the old people's home.

The tension between Will and Ed was nicely built up during the week, with Clarrie asking Nic "Is Will still prickly about the baby?"  The word 'cactus' springs to mind. Clarrie also demonstrated a rare insight into what passes for Will's mind; when Nic said that there's no reason for Will to be bothered about the baby, Clarrie replied: "No logical reason." As it turned out, the Young Farmers' Ball passed off uneventfully, with the two brothers spending the evening in a state of armed neutrality, buying each other drinks with gritted teeth.

The prize for the most tedious storyline has to go to Tom's energy audit for Bridge Farm and the five hundred reasons why they need a new refrigeration unit. Peggy is deeply impressed when Tom tells her all about it, saying: "It's so refreshing to hear someone who has a plan for that farm." Take that, Tony! Refreshing it might be, but it's certainly bloody boring – I think I prefer the panto and I never thought I'd write that.

Two nominations for creep of the week: firstly there's Tony, who has taken whining to a new level, moaning (still) to Tom about the flak he took when he bought the mower/conditioner. Let's pause here to discuss what a mower/conditioner may be, shall we? I reckon it's the machinery equivalent of 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner – "Take two machines into the field? Not me!"

But back to Tony, who was getting grief from Pat about not changing out of his working clothes as well as earache from Tom about the energy audit. "Are you lot ever going to let me have a moment's peace?" Tony wailed. It's true - you don't know how stressful it can be, having to put on a clean pair of jeans.

Creep number two is Nathan Booth, with his plan to fix the betting on race night and defraud the British Legion. I must apologise to Joe Grundy, who I suggested would organise the scam – I don't think it was morals that prevented him, it was probably just that he didn't think of it – and Nathan is in for the financial equivalent of a good kicking. The poor sod doesn't even get a speaking part.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Let's Hear It For Helen's Baby!

John Rowe (Jim Lloyd)

I bet you never expected to see a headline like that in this blog! Don't worry, I've not gone soft, it's just that two or three times last week the baby was giving Helen a good kicking, thus making it the envy of legions of listeners. Why is it so active? I reckon it's getting its retaliation in first, knowing what sort of life it can look forward to.

Or maybe it’s a reaction to being starved, or shaken about with all the exercising. On the subject of food, Helen said "I know exactly how many calories a pregnant woman of my height and weight should be having". I bet she does – to three decimal places, no doubt. Mind you, Helen had to cut back on the exercises as she twisted her knee, which was a great pity – it could have been her neck. Whatever the baby's motives, let's hope it keeps it up.

Helen has become the fount of all knowledge on all things gravid, even lecturing Emma on how to get through pregnancy. Presumably Helen thinks that the stork brought George along? If this keeps up, I can see Emma ringing up Annette for the number of the termination clinic. Helen also keeps banging on about wanting "a natural birth" – let her wander off alone to a secluded bit of the farm when the time comes, I say; after all, that's what animals do.

Jim has been cast as the Emperor in the panto and is researching the part by reading about some ancient Japanese ruler. I don't know what the Japanese is for 'Behind you!" (according to my computer it's あなたの後ろ) but I don't see Jim as much of a threat to the Chuckle Brothers, somehow.

Then we have the story of Jim's horse racing video night (or, as he would probably call it 'Equus circus nox noctis') which is currently underwhelming everybody. Don't you just have the sneaking suspicion that Joe Grundy will try and pull a fast one (like looking at the videos in advance) only to cock it up on the night?

Elsewhere on the panto front, we have Mike giving in to playing a part, David saying of Lynda Snell "why is it I can never say 'no' to that woman?" (because you're a great woos David, that's why) and Harry being cast as the erstwhile female lead. Let's just hope that Lynda doesn't insist on the fishnet tights.

Things are going from bad to worse for Harry on the domestic front, with Jazzer stocking up on junk food. Don't be a spoilsport Harry – you might even come to like deep-fried Mars Bars. A sign of how desperate Harry must be feeling was when he turned up half an hour early for the panto rehearsal.

Other highlights: Brian tells Will how important it is that the forthcoming shoot goes smoothly - a sure sign of impending disaster if ever I've heard one. The Grundy boys continue to move closer together; unfortunately it's only so that they can hit each other more easily and the impending Young Farmer's ball looks set to be the backdrop for further conflict.

Meanwhile we can all let out a cheer – never mind about the Formula 1 championship; Bert Fry's second place in the last ploughing event of the season saw him take third place overall. The nation can breathe again.

Kenton opens his heart to Jolene about his fears that Jamie doesn't want to have anything to do with him and she told him to persevere, citing the hard time that Sid had winning Fallon round. "She told me that Sid had been more of a father to her than her own Dad had" Jolene told Kenton. Ha! Big deal! This is Wayne we are talking about (who, incidentally has been mercifully absent in recent months, although it probably won't last). Let's be honest here, there are things living under rocks in streams that are better fathers than Wayne.

The week closed on a strange note, with Kenton apologising to Jolene for unloading his troubles on her when he had intended to cheer her up. She replied "You stay around Kenton Archer – you'll have plenty of chances to pay me back". Enigmatic or what?

Monday, 1 November 2010

Where's Ollie?

Michael Cochrane (Oliver Sterling)

Has anyone else noticed that Oliver Sterling and Caroline seem to have vanished without trace? It must be weeks since we heard Oliver banging on about Sterling Gold or Caroline enjoying a good hack in the open air. Are they on holiday? Banged up at Grey Gables by frustrated guests? I think we should be told…

Meanwhile, for those who are still with us: I'm sorry, but I cannot believe in the Harry/Jazzer storyline any longer – nobody is that reasonable or forgiving. I mean, even Jesus lost it with the moneylenders in the Temple, so how come Harry hasn't told Jazzer to sling his hook?

Let's face it, Jazzer has only been there a week or so and he has already littered the bathroom with his dirty, pig-stained overalls, drunk everything in the flat that might contain a trace of alcohol, incinerated the Sunday joint (buggering up the oven along the way), left old food hanging around, not washed up so much as a fork, comes home in the wee small hours and puts the TV on and finally, after the 'House Meeting' called by Harry (you suspect that there was an agenda and that Harry took minutes), Jazzer was caught smoking, admittedly hanging out of the window at the time. All it needed was one small push, Harry.

Mind you, there are signs that even Harry's tether is finite, as he moans about Jazzer to Fallon and – a sign of true desperation, surely – he auditions for the pantomime in order to give himself something to do in the evenings. Personally, I'd prefer juggling chainsaws, or good old self-harming, but it takes all sorts. Not surprisingly, Harry proved a more-than-useful actor and was given one of the starring roles. I wouldn't be surprised if Fallon joined the cast and there was the beginning of a touching romance. An alternative scenario is that Harry is gay and fancies Jazzer – why else would he put up with all this grief?

On the subject of the auditions (he said, through gritted teeth) we had the unedifying spectacle of Eddie Grundy whining and begging for a part other than Rat Henchman 2. Why does anybody want to put themselves (or us, for that matter) through this ordeal? When Eddie suggested that it should be fun, Lynda went ballistic and slipped into tortured director mode, ranting and (probably) foaming at the mouth. I bet she's got a canvas chair with her name on the back.

Elsewhere, it was bad news for the Peregrines, when the roosting step on the church tower was vetoed. Vicky turned from enthusiastic supporter to "say no to the falcons" in the blink of an eye and then made the faux pas of congratulating Will on his impending uncledom, to coin a phrase. Will someone please take this woman to one side and explain who hates whom, who has had relationships in the past and generally fill her in on peoples' backgrounds before she wedges any more feet in that, admittedly capacious, gob?

Jennifer proved she was human when she had a go at Kate for not helping ("But you're always so organised" replied Kate. I'll say!) and Kathy and Jamie moved even further apart. "I give up over the whole thing" said a despairing Kathy to Pat, prompting loud cheers from listeners and, presumably, even louder ones from Jamie.

Drama when Bert's oil filter (or rather, the Massey's) failed and David had to rush a new one to him so that he could compete in the ploughing match. Would he be in time? Yes! Would Bert win? No – he came sixth and we are left in suspense about whether or not he can still win the championship. My fingernails can't take much more.

Ruth is worried about Pip's future; on the romance front, no-one had asked Pip to the Ball. "You're bound to have somebody ask you" Ruth told her, surreptitiously riffling through the Yellow Pages to look up "Idiots – Village". But Ruth was right, as a boy called Lucan (and I'm not sure about the spelling, although if I were him, I'd ask to be called 'Luke', I think) has asked her. Amazingly he appears to have all his limbs and senses, although for David the most important thing is that he isn't Jude.

Academically, Pip has to decide between university and agricultural college (I hear that Tashkent Uni runs a very good course, Pip) and she hasn't even started her 'personal statement'. I can help here – pass me the form. "Annoying, gullible, whiny, boring – " But hey, why don't you run on ahead; this could take some time…

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Vicky Spits Her Dummy

Ryan Kelly (Jazzer McCreary)

The row over the bull calves turned ugly when Vicky suggested that they could be used for breeding as no-one wants them for veal. Ed (finally) put his foot down and said they've got to go, whereupon Vicky said it was all his fault and, had they only had some guarantee of continuity of supply, she could have sold hundreds.

She continued throwing her toys out of the pram by telling Ed he didn't know how to run a farm and she wanted a detailed invoice of costs. Fat chance – there isn't a fag packet big enough. In the end it was all sorted fairly amicably and Vicky turned up to see her boys carted off to slaughter. "I don't want to see another calf" she said, tearfully. In that case, sod off back to Birmingham, why don't you?

Elsewhere, brotherly love was in short supply when news of Emma's pregnancy got out. Will ("a chip on each shoulder") Grundy stormed round to Clarrie and Eddie and demanded "why wasn't I told?" I can think of two reasons – one, because they knew that Will would react in this way and two, it's sod-all to do with him anyway. Clarrie demonstrated why she was never accepted for the Diplomatic Corps when she asked Will "aren't you pleased for them?" to which he snarled "Ed's not fit to be a father". So we'll put that down as a 'no' then, shall we?

Helen bored the pants off Pat and Kathy over dinner about the dietary requirements of pregnant women (Pat is worried that she isn't stuffing her face). When Kathy said "you're eating for two now", Helen immediately told her that this was a myth and launched into a detailed lecture on nutrition. I swear you could almost hear the turning of the flip chart pages.

One curious thing about this dinner was that they started without Tony, who was swotting up on his cricket umpiring in another room. "He knows it's ready" said Pat when Helen asks if she should remind him again. But here's the funny thing – he never featured in the episode at all and, as far as we know, he never made it to the table. Personally, I reckon he was approaching the dining room, heard Helen pontificating and thought "sod that, I'm off down the Bull".

Helen was also waxing lyrical about the importance of exercise and how she misses her usual routine down at the gym. When Pat suggests swimming, Helen says "I need a proper workout, Mum." Good idea – I know a couple of blokes with baseball bats.

Kenton was easing his way back into everybody's good books by being caring and concerned, but this was derailed when Holly turned up and practically raped him in Jaxx's in front of Jamie, who flounced off. Well done – that's given Jamie something else to be miserable about, although there may not be enough hours in the day.

Harry continues on the path towards sainthood by putting up with Jazzer. Has Harry gone mad – after all, the flat has off-white carpets for God's sake? Jazzer proves he is a stranger to the washing up bowl, puts his pig-soiled overalls into the bath to soak, berates Harry for throwing out his chips left over from the previous night while all the time moaning about how small the place is and how the pictures of Tour de France riders will have to go. Actually, I did wonder whether we are being subtly prepared for another gay outing? Harry, take some advice: this arrangement is never going to work, so get rid of Jazzer before he starts moving the pigs in.

Nailbiting stuff in the ploughing championship stakes, as it is revealed that Bert is lying second in the County Championship with only two events left. Talk about ratcheting up the tension! By contrast, earlier in the week, there was a release of tension when it was revealed that this year's pantomime will be Dick Whittington. From the enthusiastic praise coming from Holly, I reckon Kenton should go for the part of Dick.

Finally, when Kenton was first told about the panto, he said: "I can't believe it's that time of the year again." You and me both, Kenton, you and me both.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

We Love The Bulls (Not)

Rachel Atkins (Vicky Tucker)

I reckon that the Borsetshire Echo will soon fold, giving up in the face of the new competition that is Vicky Tucker – if you want a piece of news to get around, then Vicky's your girl. Of course, if you really want mega-fast, super saturation coverage, then tell Susan Carter as well.

Last week Vicky told Lynda about Jamie gatecrashing the Barn Dance ("strictly between us" – ha!) and, with the speed of light, Lynda was off to see Kathy, bearing a gift of apples. Remember the story of Snow White, Kathy! It's not often that I have a good word for Kathy, but I was impressed by the way that she headed Lynda's do-gooding intentions off at the pass; while Kathy didn't actually tell Lynda to sod off, the message certainly got across. And Kathy got to keep the apples.

Meanwhile, Jamie's behaviour continues to be – well, like that of most teenagers, if we're honest. Kathy isn't going to let him throw his future away and reveals plans to take him to school every day and pick him up, thus destroying whatever street cred he may have had.

I have great hopes for the storyline where Kate appears to be suffering pangs of remorse about leaving her children back in Johannesburg, as evidenced by the way she snapped at Hayley. Keep on at her, folks and perhaps the tugging at her heartstrings (in the unlikely event of her having such an organ) will see Kate pack in her course and go back home (please). Mind you, Brian buying her a laptop hasn't helped.

Will showed why a gamekeeper needs an extensive knowledge of bird life; when Nic casually mentioned the Peregrine Falcons' nest, he said "Nest? What do you mean?"

Harry continues to be too good to be true – not only did he initiate the "we love the Bull" campaign, but he also thought up the 'teaching wrinklies to use a computer' strategy to get people into the pub, offering to teach them in his free time. On top of all this, he offers his spare room to Jazzer after Brenda's ultimatum and, when Jazzer is less than thrilled, Harry even knocks £10 a month off the rent. I cannot believe that anyone – saint or not – would want Jazzer living with them. As Brenda said to him "I don't want your love life all over my settee", which conjures up images that are both disturbing and unpleasant.

But back to the "I love the Bull", or rather "I love the bulls" – yes folks, the veal saga has raised its ugly head once again, with Ed suggesting to Vicky that she gets rid of the bull calves before they die of old age. Vicky's attempts at shifting the livestock are meeting with limited (ie no) success, but Mike the optimist isn't downhearted, saying: "At least you've had no firm noes." Not only is his glass half full, but he probably thinks it is vintage champagne.

Vicky is not so convinced and says "I've failed – what am I going to say to Ed now?" How about "sorry I've been a complete prat about the calves Ed – here's two grand for the feed and another two for all the aggravation"?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Way To Go Peggy!

June Spencer OBE (Peggy Woolley)

Let's hear it for Peggy Woolley, who seems to be the only person who can make Kate shut up and realise what a self-centred, deeply shallow person she is at heart.

Nowhere was this better illustrated than in the story about Kate taking Phoebe for an unauthorised day out of school. When Hayley and Roy received an admonishing letter from the school, they were not happy, to put it mildly. Hayley in fact was spitting feathers and gave Kate a piece of her mind. The words "water off a duck's back" sprang to mind as Kate said "I won't do it again" in her 'whatever' voice.

Later on, however, Peggy rang Kate and gave her an earful. Kate tried to justify herself, saying: "I am her real mother", to which Peggy replied, cuttingly: "Only when it suits you, dear." We knew she had touched a nerve when Kate said "that really hurt, Gran." Did Peggy relent? No way Pedro, as she commented "the truth often does, dear." That's my girl Peggy! Stick the knife in and then twist it – that'll teach the jumped up, selfish madam. Let's have more please, if Kate is going to continue to inflict herself on us and Ambridge.

Congratulations are in order for Jill, who turned 80 and whose tetchy complaining while her children tried to get her to the venue of her surprise party was completely un-Jill-like. She broke down when they revealed themselves and I have to say that, if I were her and had gone away for a nice break in Bath and then found out that the family had joined me, I would probably have cried too.

Well done too to Izzy, who got a 2:1 degree and who seems set to make up for time lost studying, as she practically tripped over her tongue, which was hanging out and drooling over Matthew at the barn dance.

At said dance, gatecrasher Jamie continued to hurtle off the rails and exhibit all the survival skills of a moth in a blast furnace when he had a sniff of the barmaid's apron and then got bolshie with Matthew, who from all accounts is built like a brick outhouse. Sadly, instead of letting Matthew take him apart, Pip went and got David, who took him back to Kathy, lucky her.

Mind you, it had been a hard week for Jamie, as he not only had to help Robert repair the hide, but had to go shopping with him for the materials and pay for them too. This was obviously an ordeal for him as his sighing moved into turbo mode and the assistants at the DIY store could be forgiven for thinking that Darth Vader had dropped in to pick up some 4x2.

Finally, we have an "if only…" moment, when Adam said to Kate "funny how you and I both got the Africa bug." Just think, it could have been Dengue Fever, or Sleeping Sickness… 

Sunday, 3 October 2010

I Can't Stand A Year Of This

Kellie Bright (Kate Madikane)

I refer (and not for the first time) to Kate's proposed year living at Home Farm and studying locally. I mean, the woman has only been back a week and, bulldozer-like she has upset Roy and Hayley by taking Phoebe out of school to celebrate her (Kate's) birthday, annoyed Jennifer by disrupting Ruari's routine and turned Phoebe into a spoiled brat by buying her a pair of £100 trainers, among other things. The chances of Kate not getting killed over the next 12 months are diminishing daily.

Phoebe hasn't ever had much of a speaking part before and her longest sentence ever on Friday was addressed to Roy and Hayley when she said: "Why are you being so mean? I had a brilliant day yesterday. I'm sorry I came back – I should have stayed at Home Farm." Too right – if you're going to take that attitude, then sod off now. And take that bloody vuvuzela with you.

We also had the romantic (?) story of Nigel's efforts to make his and Lizzie's 16th Wedding Anniversary memorable and the rather convoluted and farcical actions of Kenton in trying to distract her so that Nigel could spring his surprise. Of course, good old Nigel nearly mucked it up by getting the measurements wrong. Measurements for what, for God's sake? Was he trying to recreate the O2 stage for the harpist?

Elizabeth was duly overcome and we had the sick-making protestations of undying love on both sides. Amid all the slush, was I the only one to notice that Elizabeth didn't seem to have bothered to get Nigel anything for what was, after all, his anniversary too?

Jazzer appears to be homeless and his suggestion that he moves into the Bull was met with total indifference by Fallon and Jolene. Harry was taking his life in his hands when he said to Jazzer "you can always come and stay with me." What a nice man! And he produced the "I love the Bull" T-shirts – just too late for the summer, but the thought was there.

Patrick seems to be getting his feet nicely under Kirsty's table and she certainly can't complain about lack of excitement as what was intended to be a quiet night owl-watching ended in her and Patrick disturbing the gang of bird hide-trashers and extinguishing the fire they had lit inside the hide.

Kirsty recognised Jamie and told Kathy, who threatened him with the police if he didn't apologise, turning his initial defiance into craven compliance. Kathy also wanted to know the identities of Jamie's fellow miscreants but he showed a bit more backbone, saying that he had no intentions of dobbing on his mates. Take him down the cop shop Kathy, then we'll see how tough he is. Better still, tie him to the church tower and let the Peregrine Falcons sort him out.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Lizzie The Grass

Alison Dowling (Elizabeth Pargetter)

When will people in Ambridge learn that telling even one person a secret means that everyone will know about it within minutes? Kenton confided in Nigel about his one-night-stand with Holly (actually he was boasting, if truth be told) and Nigel just had to tell Lizzie.

Lizzie met Kathy, who asked "have you seen any change in him (Kenton)?" What, apart from being totally shagged out, you mean? Lizzie had to tell Kathy about Holly ("I couldn't lie to her" – why not, you're a woman?) which went down like a pair of lead knickers.

When you think about it, this was a colossal blunder on Lizzie's part, as it means that, with all chance of a reconciliation with Kathy seemingly out the window, probably Kenton will stay on at Lower Loxley, not least because he's nowhere else to go. Naughty Kenton – I just hope Holly was worth it. I reckon the only way back for Kenton is if he heroically saves Jamie's life – presumably rescuing him from a vodka-fuelled bout of Hide trashing.

Joe cocked it up again when his plan to shaft Bert Fry over the vegetable show backfired somewhat. Bert congratulated Joe on his fairness – what is the man on? This is Joe Grundy we are talking about. Joe also managed to upset Jim, so that'll be a few less free drinks in the future.

Elsewhere, we had control freak Jennifer ringing Brian on his mobile at the airport. "Have you got the right terminal?" she asked and our spirits rose when we realised that he couldn't see Kate anywhere. Had she missed the plane (please God)? Sadly, no and the hopes of millions were dashed when Brian said "I can see her". Damn!

Thoughtful as ever, Kate announced that she had brought vuvuzelas for Ruari (yes, I had to check the spelling) and Phoebe. Presumably the bagpipe shop was shut? Can you imagine how thrilled Hayley will be when she finds out? I can't imagine that Jennifer will be too chuffed either.

Yes, it's sad, but it has to be faced – not only is Kate back, but it's scheduled to be for a whole year. Think of it – twelve months of frustration and wanting to give her a good slapping. We can only hope that Kate is overcome by motherly love and flies back to her family (unlikely on previous behaviour) or gets thrown out of college. Where are education cuts when you need them?

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Catching Up

Andrew Wincott (Adam Macy)

Hello there – sorry that there have been no postings for a couple of weeks, but we all need a holiday. Luckily, I was back in time to hear most of last week's Omnibus edition, so I have managed to catch up on at least some of the stories.

Firstly, we have happenings at the Bull, where Jolene is in danger of becoming a new Miss Haversham, as Jolene keeps saying "why don't you go upstairs Mum?" Never mind; Harry to the rescue! His "We love the Bull" website practically went viral a few seconds after he created it. Fallon was so pleased that she not only gave Harry a kiss, but put him in charge of arranging guest beers, much to the dismay of Jazzer, whose plaintive cries of "I can help with that" were totally ignored. Watch out Harry, or your lifeless body will be found on the milk round, next to a blood-stained bottle of gold top with Scottish fingerprints on it.

Talking of jealousy, Will isn't happy about Nic's extra hours at the pub. That probably makes around 346 things that Will isn't happy about. When he finds out about Emma's pregnancy, that'll be 347. In the meantime he seems to have developed a new catchphrase, as he keeps saying "what's going on?" every time he appears.

Have you noticed Adam recently? Of course you haven't, as he seems to have become Mr. Elusive; always being talked about, but never heard. As such we get Jennifer saying "Goodbye Adam" as he (presumably) goes off on the Combine, Brian saying "I've just spoken to Adam" and everyone else referring to him in passing. Wherever he's gone, he seems to have taken Ian with him.

What else has happened? The bird hide has been trashed twice – what is Ambridge coming to? First the graffiti, then ecological vandalism; let's hope the police catch up with the culprits before Lynda does, for their sakes.

The BL/market development story panned out as expected, with Matt buying the land needed for access. Nice one Matt; let's hope that, now he has the BL Board's (and, more importantly, Brian's) goolies in the vice, he doesn't forget to keep tightening it. Not that I want to see Lillian on the BL Board and I'm sure they don't – her expense account alone would wipe out the annual profits.

Finally, we have the continuing story of Kathy, Kenton and Jamie. Kenton's moved out to Lower Loxley (bet Elizabeth is delighted!) and, quite frankly, the story is getting on my nerves. Plus, out of the three, I'm not sure who is the worst. Actually, that's a lie, as it has to be Kathy; true, Jamie is a pain and Kenton is a complete prat, but, for sheer, day after day, constant whining and whingeing, it has to be Kathy. Kenton may have moved out, but she still moans at him on the phone. "Jamie needs a dad", she says, then marches off to occupy the moral high ground when Kenton gets thrown in jail for a few hours after leading Nigel astray on a drinking spree. Fortunately (?) it seems that Jamie has adopted Kenton as a role model, as he storms out and gets totally rat-arsed one night. Not surprisingly, he's not up with the lark next morning and super-sleuth Kathy suspects something. "Is that alcohol I can smell?" she asks. Zut alors Inspector! Straight to the truth, as always.

Poor Kenton continued to get an ear-bashing, being told "I want you to act like an adult" and "you should stay there till you grow up". Get real, Kathy; this is Kenton we're talking about – if he stays there till he grows up, then Jamie will be in his dotage.

The Kathy etc story line gave us two memorable quotes. First Jamie flounced out, saying "No-one cares about me." Let's have a show of hands – yep, Jamie, spot on my old son. Then Kathy asked (rhetorically, I assumed) "Am I so terrible to live with?" I'm not even going to ask for a show of hands on this one…