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 canap├ęs 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.