Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Brief Encounter

Leeds Christmas Market

Sunday was the big day – Tony and Pat were going to see Rich at last. At the Christmas market, Pat was racked with doubts, saying "they won't come" until Tony pointed out that they had got there about six hours early and why not have a look at the stalls to pass the time?

Anyway, Sharon, Eamonn and Rich did turn up and there followed a rather anodyne, somewhat stilted conversation along the lines of "gosh, fancy meeting you here…" We learned that Rich likes science (biology), most sports and is a fledgling pace bowler, then he was dragged off by Eamonn to get a burger, while Sharon made it plain that this was to be the only meeting, unless Rich asks about his real father. Sharon left her best news to last – telling Pat that Rich is just a nickname and the boy's given name is John.

Back at Bridge Farm the next day, Pat and Tony discuss how Rich's smile is just like John's and, rather grudgingly; "whatever we thought about Sharon, he's a real credit to her". Don't go over the top, Tony! At the end of the week, Helen persuades them to decorate the tree early (it's usually a Christmas Eve tradition) so that Henry can enjoy it. Helen mentions the fact that it is a break with tradition, prompting Tony to wax philosophical, saying "everything has to move on." I really hope so when it comes to the Rich storyline, as I have just about had enough of Pat's moping, agonising and hand wringing.

Perhaps some of it is that Pat will be 60 in January and this gives Lilian the idea to hold a party for her at the Dower House – just a simple affair; they can cope with about 60 people, although the chances of Pat and Tony having 60 friends are remote. Six would be nearer. Still, as it's Lilian hosting the party, it is rumoured that the big Gin distillers are unmothballing factories and taking on more staff.

At Brookfield, David is still having badger trouble and is incensed that, should he repair the slurry pond, this could be regarded as interfering with the badger sett and he could be fined. I bet the badgers are sniggering away to themselves. David says Josh keeps reading on the Internet about farmers going out of dairy. "I can't imagine Brookfield without a dairy herd" Tony tells David, just to cheer him up a bit.

Another who needs cheering up is Susan, who spends some quality time reminiscing about her mother with Clarrie, while the latter kills and plucks turkeys. There's nothing like discussing your own mortality as you slaughter a shedful of birds. Actually, I might be doing Clarrie an injustice, as the turkeys were probably already dead and she's just removing feathers and internal organs.

Over at Lower Loxley, Freddie is getting excited by the imminent arrival of Caspar the pony and has set up his stall, including fresh straw, a jacuzzi, plasma screen TV, carrot-flavoured champagne and an endless supply of frisky young fillies, in case he gets lonely. Freddie then goes into sensible mode, saying how he wishes Nigel was there. I cannot remember whether or not he referred to Nigel as 'Daddy', but I wouldn't be surprised. I have noticed an unsettling trend where Freddie (and Lily) are getting quite large speaking parts and Freddie is getting to sound more and more like his father, which is worrying.

Thursday night saw both Nic's Hen Party and Will's Stag do. The boys went to a Comedy Club, then to an Indian restaurant, where Will gives a speech saying how lucky he is to be marrying such a lovely girl and five million listeners nod in agreement. The boys return home comparatively sober, saying that they must be getting old.

Things are different for the girls – the plan was to be picked up in a stretch limo, then on to Jaxx's for food and then to hit the nightclubs. Personally, I was hoping that Nic would take the limo to the airport and get on the first available plane, having come to her senses. But it was not to be, as the limo broke an axle. Not to worry, as there was plenty of booze on board and the girls – including the formerly stuffy and strait-laced Helen – got completely rat-arsed. So much so that Will, Tom and Roy are treated to the spectacle of the girls being driven home in a police car after having been rescued from the stranded limo. The episode ends with the stomach-churning scene of Nic snogging Will. Never mind, there's still a few days till New Year's Day and, as we learned last year, dramatic things can happen.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

You Little Beggar, Tony

Stephen Hogan (Eamonn Philips)

Let's get the Rich storyline out of the way first. Sharon's ears must have been aflame with Tony and Pat running her down. "It was all about what she wanted" said Tony "And she hasn't changed one bit" added Pat, prompting thoughts of pots and kettles. They then move into the realm of speculation, saying that Sharon split up John and Hayley and, if it hadn't been for her, they might have stayed together. Even more fanciful – Pat suggested that John might have taken more care, the day he died on the tractor. Come on folks! Next you'll be telling us that Sharon cut the brake pipes…

Tony and Pat go to the Bull for an anniversary meal, which isn't a great success, with Pat now in permanent mope mode. They return home early and Pat goes to bed. Helen notices her mother is distracted, saying "she's not herself". That'll be an improvement then. Tony is determined that she will not slip back into depression, as she did after John's death.

As part of his plan, he rings Sharon, only to have the phone answered by Eamonn, who is terse to the point of rudeness. However, Tony, in what was quite a moving bit of radio, tells him how this situation is re-opening the wounds left by John's death and begs and pleads to be allowed to see Rich. Eamonn seems genuinely moved and agrees to tell Sharon that Tony called, although he warns that it is unlikely to make any difference.

In the meantime, Pat tells Kathy of her plan to track Rich down via his school and go to meet him at the gates. There's a word for people like that Pat. Kathy has her own word for it – looney – and  tells Pat that a) such a course of action would make Sharon furious (like Pat cares about that) and b) "going to see him will only make a dreadful situation worse. Please don't do it."

The next day, Tony gets an unexpected call from Eamonn. He and Sharon have talked it over and agreed that Pat and Tony can see Rich. However, there are more strings attached to the deal than were visible in an episode of Thunderbirds, and Eamonn spells them out.

First, the meeting will be short and in a public place. Secondly, Pat and Tony are not to say that they are Rich's grandparents, but will be old friends of Sharon and thirdly, Sharon and Eamonn will be present throughout. Any breach of these conditions – even an overlong stare – and Sharon and Eamonn will walk away. Even worse, they will poison Rich's mind against his grandparents. "Take it or leave it" says Eamonn, adding for good measure that he and Sharon wish that Tony had never got in touch. Tony accepts, grateful for small mercies. Very small in this case.

Next day (Friday) Eamonn rings again, to say that the meeting will be the following Sunday at a Christmas market in Leeds. Tony hadn't told Pat and does so, filling her in on Eamonn's conditions. It seems a case of 'in one ear, out the other' as she says "if we get on well with Rich, he might want to see us". For God's sake, Tony, beat her to the ground and explain to her that it just won't happen.

What else has happened in Ambridge? Roy confides in Will that he is really missing Phoebe – me too, Roy; every chance I get. Change the locks and move, man! Brian is back from the Maldives and is in trouble with the BL board for sounding out possible feed suppliers for the mega-dairy, thus possibly in danger of letting the cat out of the bag. Brian (who doesn't seem any sunnier in disposition after his break) blames Adam, saying that, if Adam won't play ball (i.e. do what Brian wants) then he (Brian) has to look elsewhere. Brian's mood is not improved when Jennifer tells him she has accepted Susan's invitation for wine and nibbles.

Freddie is besotted with Caspar the pony and he and Lily behave well on their birthday, much to Elizabeth's surprise. It turns out that they agreed to do so for Lizzie's sake. Furthermore, Freddie tells Lily that they will have to make Lizzie think that they are having a good time and enjoying themselves over Christmas. Sounds fun.

Lynda's Christmas extravaganza is taking shape. "Ian has been a complete inspiration" Lynda tells Fallon. When is that man going to do the job he is paid to do and stop messing about?

At Brookfield, David and Bert discover a huge leak from the slurry lagoon – a leak that David "is 99% certain" was caused by badgers. Clem (an engineer) comes over to advise and says that David should contact the Environment Agency asap. Poor David doesn't know what to do with the slurry and all attempts to get it taken away in tankers fall through. Just to make matters worse, David could still be fined, even though owning up to the leak. "Don't you just love dairy?" he asks Clem, adding: "At the moment it's one problem after another".

It's true that, with falling milk yields and his sister hating him for causing Nigel's death, David has had better years and, just when you think things can't get any worse, they do, as Clem tells him that to reline the lagoon could cost £20 k and yes, the leak was caused by badgers. I reckon Brock and his mates are getting their revenge for the badger that David shot a year or two back.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A Dish Best Eaten Cold

Celia Nelson (Sharon Richards)

They say that Revenge is a dish best eaten cold and Sharon's must have been virtually frozen after 13 years. But more of this later.

We had the scintillating radio story of the Christmas lights switch on. Jim had won the sweepstake and got to do the honours. Terrific radio – especially when Joe (who had been given the job of switching Jim's lights on) missed his cue. From what I gather, the lights in each house are switched on in a certain order, so what would happen if a Jehovah's Witness moved into the village and decided to have no truck with all the festivities? Imagine one dark house in a chain of blazing light. Lynda wouldn't like it.

Neil is up in arms because Tracy moved his favourite armchair and he had it positioned just right for watching TV and in easy reach of cans of beer. Susan defends Tracy, until Neil tells her that Tracy's daughter Chelsea used Susan's favourite lampshade as a hat. But a solution may be on the way – why can't Tracy and family move into No. 6, alongside Dad and Village Idiot brother? Boffo wheeze!

Elizabeth and Shula spend a day looking at a pony for Freddie and Elizabeth is still prevaricating about going to Shula's for Christmas lunch in case David and family drop round for tea later. Jill rings Shula later, saying that Kenton has had a wonderful idea (yes, I too found it hard to believe) and that the whole family is invited to the Bull for late afternoon/early evening. I bet Jolene was chuffed to bits with that. The idea is that the place is big enough for people to talk to whoever they want or, in Elizabeth's case, to sit alone in the Ploughman's, sticking pins in a wax doll of David.

Nic had a lucky escape when Joe proudly shows her the canopy he and Eddie have made for Bartleby's trap out of a bright orange tent. Luckily, as she tells Joe, she and the bridesmaids will already be at Grey Gables, where they are getting changed, so won't need a ride.

And so back to the main story of the week – that of whether Rich is or isn't John's son. On Sunday, Pat shows Kathy the photo of Rich and says that she is convinced that John was the father. Kathy agrees there is a resemblance, but worries that Pat is becoming obsessed. Pat throws herself into her work, but she is tetchy with Helen for no reason.

Tony suggests to Helen that, if they knew the truth, it might help them come to terms with their feelings. Wrong! Helen says that even thinking about it churns her up and she doesn't want to revisit the past. Getting in touch with Sharon, adds Helen, would only make things worse for everyone and Pat and Tony must not pursue it. Tom feels the same way, says Helen, and on no account is Pat to contact Sharon – not now, not tomorrow, not ever – is that perfectly clear? Tony tells Pat, who cannot believe that Helen wouldn't want to know. For God's sake woman! Helen did everything but tattoo "do not contact Sharon" on Tony's forehead – what part of 'No' do you not understand?

In a clear case of the triumph of hope over experience, Tony tells Pat that their children have told them what they want and that's an end to it, so stop tormenting herself and get over it. "It's going to be so hard" wails Pat.

And so it was - for nearly 24 hours, which was when 'will of putty' Pat phoned Sharon and asked her outright about Rich's father. It turned out that John was indeed Rich's father. "Why didn't you tell us?" asks an anguished Pat. "Because you treated me like dirt" was the reply. Sounds fair enough to me.

It turned out that, after John's funeral, Sharon came to Ambridge and was in two minds whether to tell Pat and Tony (who hadn't told her about the funeral) and who virtually told her to piss off. "If only you'd said" said a tearful Pat. Now here we have an interesting take on compassion – had Sharon told them, they would have welcomed her, but she didn't, so they froze her out. It would have been quite an about turn – imagine the scene; Sharon turns up at Bridge Farm.

Tony: "What do you want, you slag?"
Pat: "Yes, sod off, why don't you, you corrupter of young boys"
Sharon: "I'm carrying John's child – your first grandchild"
Pat: "Come to my arms for a hug, you wonderful girl"
Tony: "Sit down, you must be tired, coming all this way. Get off the chair Helen and let your new sister sit down."

Sharon twists the knife (I bet she enjoyed the conversation, deep down) by saying that Eamonn was the only father Rich needs and she (Sharon) would be ever so grateful if Pat never got in touch with her or Rich again, before putting the phone down.

Poor (ha!) Pat is desolate and it is all of two days before she confesses to Tony what she has done. Tony bangs on about how Sharon had totally dominated John – oh yes? Presumably she lured him into the bedroom, stripped him naked and chained him, protesting loudly, to the bed? Pat is full of self-recrimination and says that "John's son could have been part of our lives for 13 years. It's all my fault". 

Then, in a line which probably had millions of listeners nodding their heads in agreement, a tearful Pat said "If only I'd kept my mouth shut."

Friday, 9 December 2011

That's Rich!

Colin Skipp (Tony Archer)

Only a short summary this week, I'm afraid, as holidays got in the way. Still, it was nice to go somewhere warm, even if I can't quite afford the Maldives, like Brian and Jennifer.

That's assuming they go, of course, as the dummy run for the opening of the new market didn't go according to plan when the electrics failed. This was much to Joe's delight, as he had been wittering on about how farming wasn't like this in his day, with all this technology. Let's face it, Joe was probably around when the first plough was invented.

As it happened, the market opening went smoothly, although Brian was agitated when he heard buzzing from the electrics. Not such good news for David, whose steer didn't win anything in the accompanying show. He wanted a win to boost meat sales, but optimist Ben reckons they'll sell loads of beef anyway. I hope so – David's miserable enough about low milk yields, so if the freezer is full of unsold beef, he'll top himself.

Lynda's Christmas extravaganza is growing all the time – Alan's mother-in-law Muriel has said she will read a traditional Jamaican Christmas story. Lynda tried to enlist Susan into her cooking team, but Neil said "definitely not". Ian had the idea of a traditional Provence course of 13 desserts to represent Christ and the 12 disciples. Foe Heaven's sake! The man is a chef and we are a few days away from Christmas – shouldn't he be busy composing menus, or sourcing ingredients or something?

Of course, the big story is that of Rich; Sharon's son, who Pat believes might have been fathered by her late son John. She is rapidly becoming obsessed with the idea and Tony catches her looking on Kylie's (Sharon's daughter) Facebook page for a photo of Rich. She finds one and she and Tony are shocked to see the resemblance to John – proof to Pat's mind that they have a grandson they never knew about.

Pat wants to contact Sharon, but Tony advises caution, pointing out that Sharon might not want all this raked up after so many years. "But we've missed out on so much – he's missed out on so much." Oh yeah? Like what? An organics-mad granny and a miserable granddad? A chance to catch e.coli perhaps? Tony puts his finger on it when he said "It's all about you – what about Tom and Helen?" and Pat reluctantly agrees that they should be told and consulted and they'll do it tomorrow.

When she breaks the news to them, they are not best pleased. Helen, who was very close to John and who hero-worshipped him, was appalled and fled the room. Tom rushes after her to offer support, after telling his mother that he is angry with her. Pat obviously isn't in listening mode and, while she doesn't actually say "well, that could have gone better", does say that she still wants to talk to Sharon. Tony says they will have to face it as a family.

The ripples continue to widen when Tom tells Brenda. He is worried about Helen, as all her problems (remember the anorexia – I'm still trying to forget it?) stemmed from John's death and he feels that this could bring them all back (dear God, no!). Tom also worries that Rich could be replacing Henry in Pat's deranged mind. For her part, Brenda is worried of what the affect might be on Tom, who feels he has spent his life in John's shadow to some extent.

Helen discloses her fears and how she felt when John died to Ian (still not busy) and he advises her to concentrate on Henry and look to the future, not the past. Meanwhile, Tony tells Pat to concentrate on their living children and she promises not to ring Sharon – yet. Tom also has a go and tells his mother to forget the whole idea of ringing Sharon as it is all getting too much for Helen. Forget it and move on is his advice. What do you reckon are the chances of that happening? Yeah, me too.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Just Let It Go, Pat

Patricia Gallimore (Pat Archer)

It's not often I agree with Tony, but when Pat confides her suspicion that Rich might be John's son, he advises her to forget all about it, saying "for your own peace of mind, let it go."

Wise words, Tony and, when Pat returns to planet Earth, let's hope she'll realise. After all, suppose Rich is John's, so what? What will Pat do? Tell her? Tell Eamonn, who presumably thinks he's the father? Tell Tom and Helen that their share in the business has just been reduced to accommodate a new nephew?

Pat is obviously delusional, as she confides in Susan, telling her not to tell anybody. Ha! How likely is that? Susan promptly tells husband Neil, but if she stops at that, it will be a first. Pat seems determined that people will find out, as she mentions it to Kathy as well – why not stand up in the Bull and announce it? Kathy urges her to forget it and it seems that Pat was seeing sense, but then she asked Susan for Sharon's phone number and the silly cow gives it to her. It will all end in tears Pat, mark my words – even Helen, besotted as she is with Henry, has noticed her mother is a tad distracted and away with the fairies most of the time.

Susan could be forgiven for her slip up because she has a lot on her mind, what with looking after her useless dad and brother. Just as it seems things can't get any worse, they do, as sister Tracy turns up with the two kids from hell, saying that she has left her husband and has nowhere else to go. I really hope she sods off soon, as she's getting on my nerves already. Personally, I don't reckon she'll stay that long, as Susan is forcing her to make herself useful and this is obviously alien to her nature.

Another person packing bags is Jim, who has decided that it is time he went home and left Chris alone, now that it appears that Clive has left Ambridge. Is he leaving prematurely? Only time will tell.

Once again we had to suffer a 'Stir Up Sunday' scenario – does everybody in Ambridge make their own Christmas Puddings? This year it was Clarrie, Nic and the kids and I think someone should tell the BBC that talking about what ingredients you are currently adding and saying things like "give it a stir Georgie…make a wish…now it's your turn Jake…" does not make for good radio. Stir up Sunday? Stir up apathy, more like.

Clarrie and Eddie celebrated 30 years of wedded – well, probably not bliss – with a surprise party down the pub. Joe, who has apparently been there since lunchtime, is as refreshed as the newt and, when Clarrie sees the crowd and is told that there's champagne behind the bar, is overcome. Perhaps she thought it was all those she had poisoned, seeking revenge?

Preparations for the wedding of Nic and Will are galloping ahead, with Will having the good sense to turn down James's offer to take the photographs. In a rare flash of insight, Will delivers his verdict on James, saying "I think he's a prat".

When Will is cornered by Lynda and badgered to come along to her cabaret/food extravaganza, he reasonably points out that there's not much in it for the kids, and besides, he thinks it might clash with his Stag Night. Tell you what – if this gives people an excuse not to go to Lynda's do, it could be the best-attended Stag Night in recorded history.

Lynda got the sharp edge of Jim's tongue when they meet at Jim's as he is picking up his post. Lynda makes one or two remarks and Jim asks "Did you want anything Lynda, or are you just being nosey?" Almost as diplomatic as Will there, Jim. Lynda asks Jim if he could sing instead of declaiming poetry. "Perhaps you'd like me to accompany myself on the lyre?" he retorts, waspishly, but sarcasm is wasted on Lynda, as she takes him literally.

Bad news at Brookfield, as the hoped-for milk contract came to nothing. Now there's a surprise. Another great bit of radio when David and Pip discuss the merits of various animals, as they pick which one is going to be slaughtered to provide beef this Christmas. 557.5 kgs of Christmas dinner, in case you were wondering.

David becomes the bearer of good news, when he tells Brian that not all the farmers who he has contacted are against the mega-dairy project. And Brian could do with some good news, as the knives are out for him in the BL boardroom, with suggestions that he is losing it and accusations that he only had a half-formed plan because of the differences between him and Adam, or, as Brian terms it, "Adam's intransigence." Yes, it's terrible when a stubborn person comes up against another one. Anyway, Brian is feeling both angry and threatened and not full of the holiday spirit – and he has the scheduled opening if the market a few days away.

All in all, then, perhaps this wasn't the best time for Jennifer to tell him that he has absolutely no suitable clothes for the Maldives and she thinks he should join her on a shopping expedition. I reckon that Jennifer had a lucky escape and was just a hair's breadth away from being beaten to death with Adam's corpse… 

Monday, 21 November 2011

It's Farming Dave, But Not As We Know It

Tim Bentinck (David Archer)

Poor David nearly got his head bitten off by Ruth when he passed on Brian's offer for Brookfield to grow feed for the proposed mega-dairy cows. "It's not farming," she screamed, "it's an industrial business!" No doubt when she does the milking at Brookfield, she dons a milkmaid's outfit and carries two buckets on a pole across her shoulders?

She's a bit hyper because she managed to get to talk to a supermarket milk buyer about pitching for a contract. "This could be the breakthrough we've been waiting for" she told David, "we've got a fantastic product – how can they turn us down?" Well, you could charge too much and let's not forget, at the end of the day, the 'fantastic product' is – well – it's milk.

Earlier in the week, Peggy's 87th birthday lunch went well, in that nobody stuck any cutlery in anybody else. It was encouraging that James and Leonie had had a blazing row and were barely talking to each other – perhaps they'll split up and that damn book will be forgotten. Peggy, bless her, didn't notice that half the family wasn't speaking to the other half and said how nice it was that everybody was getting on so well.

My spirits soared when Lynda was in despair over the quality of her Christmas extravaganza – surely even she would see sense and cancel it? No such luck, as Caroline came up with the idea of turning it into a cabaret, with the acts performing between courses. The only drawback seems to be that everybody in the village will be roped in to cook dishes from around the world. Tom was less than impressed when Lynda told him she had found a recipe for Norwegian Christmas sausage or similar and it wouldn't take him long to knock up…

Later in the week Lynda tells Caroline that she has saved the Christmas show – it will be a long time, if ever, before I forgive her for that.

Elizabeth has obviously had the insurance payout on Nigel, as she agrees with Shula's suggestion of buying Freddie a pony for his birthday and Lily pitches for a school trip to France as her present. In conversation with her sister, Lizzie mentions that it will soon be time for 'Deck the Halls'. God! Surely not – it seems only yesterday that we had Nigel wittering on about how magical it all was.

It was cider-making time and Jim and David turned up at the Grundy's to help. In true Grundy style, Joe didn't do anything (except tell the others to chop the apples smaller and to bang on about 'when I were a lad…'). David and Jim resisted the urge to put him in the apple chopper and were soon left on their own when Eddie mysteriously vanished.

He returned, elated because he had found a 'real pearl necklace' on the web, just in time for his and Clarrie's 30th wedding anniversary, which is the Pearl Anniversary. You might have set a dangerous precedent here Eddie and presumably you will be killing Clarrie before your 40th (Ruby), 45th (Sapphire) and 50th (Gold)? One might also ask what's the point of buying her a necklace when he never takes her anywhere so she can show it off? The poor little sod can't even wear it to work, as she's got no job. I can see it being worn for Will and Nic's wedding and then being replaced in the box and pushed to the back of the dressing table draw.

Susan is working herself into the ground, cooking and cleaning for Dad Bert and idiot brother Gary. Neil isn't happy, telling Susan that she's doing too much – presumably before handing over his pig-muck encrusted overalls to be washed and ironed and sitting down with knife and fork in hand, awaiting a cooked meal. He's worried that Bert and Gary will become dependent on Susan, as that is his job.

Back at Bridge Farm (or will it be renamed Ambridge Organics?) the relaunch has run into a problem or two, as it seems the word 'Organics' isn't flavour of the month with consumers and so the recommendation is to have the word in a smaller font, somewhere on page 43 of the brochure and definitely on the rear of the packaging, probably in Swahili.

Another time, this might have seriously upset Pat, but now she's preoccupied and distant. The reason? She confides in Kathy that she has been thinking about Kylie's younger half brother Rich, who is 13. It was around this many years ago that Sharon (Kylie's mum) briefly returned to Ambridge and had a fling with John; Pat and Tony's late son. Could John be Rich's father? Kathy says so what – let it go after all this time as no good will come of it because Eamonn (Sharon's husband) thinks he's the father.

Wise words, Kathy, but it might be nice to show that John was a real chip off the Archer block – although seemingly taking more after his non-genetically related Uncle Brian than Dad Tony.

Monday, 14 November 2011

At Least One Person Is Happy…

Eri Shuka (Elona)

It seems to me that Elona and her daughters are the only happy people in Ambridge, as they move into their new home on the Green. Helpfully, Peggy turns up for a chat while Elona is in the middle of unpacking and asks whether or not she should take Jack to the church service on Remembrance Day. Why is she even asking – there's no way that dementia-suffering Jack is going to sit quietly for an hour among a crowd of people, is there?

Peggy's forthcoming 87th birthday big family lunch is causing a certain amount of grief and angst among the Archer clan, as Tony says that, if he has to sit next to Jennifer, he can't be responsible for his actions. Pat has had enough of his whining and snaps back "or you'll do what – throw your soup on the floor?" Well said Pat; Henry's obviously not the only baby in the family. On the subject of family rifts, the fact that, presumably David and Elizabeth will be at the lunch hasn't even been mentioned. Go on – sit them together!

Brian is spitting feathers and says he will not sit next to Lilian at Peggy's lunch. The reason is that he blames Lilian for telling BL board member Andrew Eagleton that Adam is opposed to the mega-dairy scheme. Andrew ambushes Brian at the meeting and says that, if all the partners aren't in agreement, then there's no point in investing in the project and discussions are postponed till January.

Brian is incensed, but not as upset as Debbie, who had flown in specially to give a report to the Board and who has been working on the scheme for months. Brian told her that he had sorted it with Adam – a little economical with the truth there, Brian – and, on the way to the airport, Debbie tells him to sort it out, as without Adam, there will be no project. What with all these trips, popping over from Hungary for the day, I reckon any potential profits from the scheme have been long spent.

Who else isn't happy? The Bridge Farm family meeting does not go smoothly, when Helen refuses point blank to work under the 'Tom Archer' brand name. Tom immediately goes off on one and threatens to move his business away. Good – Hungary sounds a nice place. It is all getting a tad heated when Tony says that the Bridge Farm name will have to go and they have to re-brand, plus they have an established brand already. "Too right!" crows an exultant Tom, but Tony is talking about 'Ambridge Organics' and not 'Tom (megalomaniac) Archer'. The meeting ends with Pat feeling a bit more optimistic, although she says "it's the end of an era".

Later on in the week, the family meet again, this time with Brenda also in attendance in her marketing guru capacity, and everything is sweetness and light. To make matters worse, Tony later tells Jennifer how nice it is to have the whole family pulling together to save the business – something which makes her feel even more upset about the Brian/Debbie/Adam row.

Of course the big event of last week was Ivy Horrobin's funeral, with the cremation and church service followed by a wake down at The Bull. Tony says that having all the Horrobins in a pub with alcohol "will be like sticking a bunch of ferrets in a sack". As predictions go, it wasn't the most difficult to come up with, was it?

One member of the family is Clive's daughter, Kylie, who is staying the night with Susan and Neil. Susan got in touch with Kylie via her mother, Sharon, and Kylie comes down from university especially for the funeral. She seems so nice and normal that you have to question whether or not she is really a Horrobin. Mind you, the fact that Clive hasn't been in touch for 22 years might have helped.

At the wake in the pub, Clive (fuelled in no small part by alcohol) decides that it's time to redress the situation and introduces himself to Kylie, saying that he'd like to become part of her life. Not unnaturally, she asks why now, after having had no contact whatsoever for 22 years? Be fair Kylie – perhaps they didn't want him to have sharp objects like pencils when he was inside.

Clive offers Kylie Ivy's wedding and engagement rings, which he says she left to him. This is the final straw for Susan and a blazing row develops, in which she accuses Clive of stealing the rings and of sending his mum to an early grave. This, on top of Kylie's rejection, sends Clive ballistic and he rants and raves, threatening Susan (and seemingly everybody else) and saying that he doesn't want to see Ambridge or the rest of the Horrobin family ever again. This seems more than OK with everybody else and Clive lurches off, still ranting. The next day, Kylie asks Susan to make it clear to the rest of the family that she never wants to see Clive again. She might have added "or the rest of you" but she seems too nice a girl.

Perhaps Susan might now have time to reflect on whether or not she was wise, accusing her brother of theft and causing Ivy's death. Let's think – Clive has a history of violence, including arson and armed robbery, and is known to be vindictive, as his campaign of revenge against George Barford a few years ago amply illustrated. I can't help thinking that, in the long, dark watches of the night, Susan will be wondering whether or not she really has seen the last of Clive…

Monday, 7 November 2011

Willie One-Mate

Philip Molloy (Will Grundy)

Will surprised us all this week, by revealing that he does, in defiance of all logic, actually have a friend. He asked Roy if he would be his Best Man (again) and Roy enthusiastically agreed. Just as well really, as if he'd said 'no', Will would have been in trouble. I was hoping that he might have to ask brother Edward – now that would have been a Best Man's speech worth listening to.

It hasn't been a bad week for Willie One-Mate, as the first shoot of the season went very well and Brian said what a good keeper he was. Other members of the shooting party showed their appreciation in rather more concrete ways, including Matt, who gave Will a £50 tip. Who said crime doesn't pay?

Arrangements for the wedding continue apace, with Nic revealing that Caroline and Oliver will let them have the room for nothing and ditto the champagne reception. Last week I wondered whether there was an ulterior motive for choosing Grey Gables – the Prosecution rests, m'lud.

Nic and Clarrie natter on about the music for the wedding and it is revealed that George will be the ring bearer. Perhaps we should call him Frodo from now on – he's about the right size for a Hobbit? Let's hope that George doesn't nick the ring. Clarrie asked Nic if she would be happy if Clarrie made the wedding cake? I was hoping against hope that Nic would reply "yes – but only if you wash your hands thoroughly" but she didn't.

It was only two weeks ago that I suggested that bumping off Ivy Horrobin would be a way of getting wayward son Clive out of the way and, hey presto! Ivy is now history. For someone who never said anything, everyone reckoned she was a nice woman. However, the second part of the plan (i.e. getting rid of Clive) isn't working, as he's still hanging around. In fact, Susan tells Neil that at least Clive is giving her some help and support, which is more than can be said for her other siblings.

When speaking to Alan about the order of service, Susan said that she wanted 'joyful' hymns at the celebration of Ivy's life. She then chose 'Amazing Grace' and 'Abide With Me'. Why not go the whole hog and have the coffin carried in to the strains of the 'Dead March' from 'Saul'? That should lighten the atmosphere.

Talking of atmospheres, Brian and Adam are still at loggerheads over the Mega-Dairy plan. Adam wants to put forward his case and figures, but Brian tells him that a) he's a minority partner b) Brian and Debbie want to put the plan before the BL Board and c) would Adam mind sodding off so Brian can get his lunch? Peggy, who is at Home Farm for a free lunch, shows that she is still all there when she asks Jennifer "Do I detect a slight atmosphere?" Go on Peggy; admit it – it was the knife sticking out of Adam's back that gave it away, wasn't it?

We had a bit of farming talk this week with David and Ruth saying that the grazing paddocks haven't produced the results they expected and Ed telling Oliver that he's worried about the forthcoming TB tests on the herd. Oliver believes the way forward is to vaccinate the badgers. He says it will have to be a voluntary scheme, which brings to mind the rather surreal image of badgers queuing up to receive their shots. Oliver also says he'll run the idea past David, as the NFU Rep. Ha! David's preferred solution would be to vaccinate the badgers with his 12-Bore.

Tom was back to his unbearable worst when some food writer for Borsetshire Life tweeted to her 8,000 followers about the piggy football video. When Tom checks his website, he finds that it has received 23,000 hits. This makes him even more big-headed and he crows "piggy football is going viral!" Get Stephen Fry to tweet it – that would be impressive.

Tom isn't so pleased when he learns that Brenda is to be excluded from the forthcoming meeting about the future of Bridge Farm and she isn't too happy either. She tells Tom of Helen's idea to use the 'Henry' brand name and he shows how open he is to discussion and reasoned debate by saying "no way – it isn't going to happen". Presumably not unless the name is 'Henry – nephew of Tom Archer'. I have had a preview of the agenda for the meeting. It reads: 1. Why Tom is right. 2. Why your opinions don't matter. 3. Let's watch the piggy football video and 4. See item 1.

Finally this week we had a mystery – some of Ed's stock got out on the road and had to be rounded up. It turned out a gate had been left open, but as the gate was so hard to move, it must have been done deliberately. Who can the culprit be? Clive? After all, everything that now goes wrong in the village, from littering to murder, is going to be blamed on him. Maybe Adam is losing it and striking a blow against the dairy industry? Or perhaps George/Frodo has graduated from being a burglar and is now trying his hand at a bit of rustling? The suspense is becoming unbearable.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Emma Throws a Moody

Barry Farrimond and Emerald O'Hanrahan (Ed and Emma Grundy)

I can see why Emma and Will were once attracted (and married) to each other; they're such miserable sods. To be fair, Will is on cloud nine this week, having somehow persuaded Nic to marry him, but Emma's nose is way out of joint, especially when she meets Will and Nic. Emma congratulates them (presumably through fiercely-gritted teeth) but later complains to Ed that Nic was flashing her engagement ring. Ed shows that he has inherited all his Dad's tact and diplomacy when he tells Emma "at least it takes the pressure off us for a bit." Wrong answer Ed!

It hasn't been Emma's week really, as she runs into Clive at the cinema and he invites George to go bowling. While Emma stands there flapping and making "er…no…" noises, Clive and George have agreed that Thursday would be a good day for it. Emma and Ed resolve to go to a ploughing match that day to keep away from Clive. You can't run for ever, people.

At the ploughing match, Bert comes second overall and George is getting into the spirit of things, wanting to sit in the tractor cab. Mind you, he probably just wants to nick it. David and Ruth remark that Emma seems uptight – David thinks it's because of Clive, but Ruth (perceptively) says "Emma's happy when she's the centre of attention, but she won't be for a few months, will she?" Better get that proposal speech finished off, Ed.

Will and Nic can't wait to tell Caroline their news and that they would like to have the wedding and reception at Grey Gables and New Year's Day seems like a good date. To his credit, Will doesn't remind Caroline that she is his Godmother, but the cynic in me reckons they picked Grey Gables, hoping for a freebie. As for Caroline, this will involve her in much extra work, juggling things around – sorry Oliver, it doesn't look as if she'll be giving up work just yet.

There were mutterings of dissent among the members of the Cider Club regarding the community orchard. Eddie had been dreaming of reaping the rewards of their extra labour in increased production and profits from selling the cider, but is a tad peeved when, at a meeting with Mike, the latter makes it clear that the other members are expecting their cut as a reward. Jim the peacemaker to the rescue! He says he will keep accurate records of who has done what, so that cider can be appropriately apportioned.

Jim seems to be in every storyline – not only is he determined to declaim something in Latin for Lynda's Christmas Show, but his sojourn at Christine's is the talk of the village. Well, among the Neanderthal element that is, as both Jazzer and Eddie refer to him as Chris's fancy man. Even more unsubtle was Nathan Booth who, when Christine went into the shop, referred to "your gentleman caller – only he's not just a caller any more, is he?" I should point out that we don't hear Nathan say this – it is a flustered Christine who tells Jim. He just laughs it off and tells her she will need to grow a thicker skin.

Apart from the still on-going rift between David and Elizabeth, other branches of the Archer clan seem set on a course of conflict; Adam goes to see a smaller version of the proposed Home Farm mega-dairy in action and comes away still largely unimpressed. He speaks to Debbie on the phone and she offers him another 100 acres for arable use. Adam regards this as a sop to get his agreement for the project and starts banging on about who would be in charge, to whom would he report etc etc.

Debbie tells him that she is putting the report before the BL board anyway and that she and Brian are for the scheme, or to put it another way, you're outvoted 2-1 Adam, me old mate, but hey – you can still ride on the tractor. Debbie then phones Brian and says it would be good to have Adam onside and why doesn't Brian talk to him? She also warns Brian not to be too heavy or cock it up. As if!

The other split is at Bridge Farm, where Tom is orgasmic because a previous customer has bought a sausage or two after seeing the footballing pigs video. "This proves that my rebranding works" he crows, meanwhile making plans to rename Bridge Farm "Tom Archer Towers" or "Tomorrow the World". Tony tells him to sod off, so he goes bleating to Pat, who also tells him to sod off. It turns out that he has also spoken to Helen, as she confides to Ian that she finds the name "Tom Archer" a bit butch for yoghurt and ice cream. Ian, who is playing with the baby, suggests 'Henry' for a brand name and Helen is impressed. Watch this space.

Finally, and with heavy heart, we come to Lynda's Christmas Round the World show. After hardly anyone turns up for auditions, she is at her lowest ebb (cancel it woman!). Rhys goes bananas when told he is in it – it really doesn't take much to please some of these people, does it? – when Lynda and assistant Vicky go to the pub for a consoling drink. Lynda is in despair, but Vicky comes up with a few names (Usha and Elona's musical daughter). "We don't do despair – not when I'm around" trumpets a triumphant Vicky. Speak for yourself, woman; speak for yourself.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Not The Best Role Model…

Alex Jones (Clive Horrobin)

Who are we talking about? Great Uncle Clive and George Grundy, of course. Will and Nic are worried because George insists on playing 'burglars' all the time and is going around (and even sleeping in) a mask and carrying a bag marked 'swag'. Even Emma and Ed have noticed and Emma wonders if such behaviour is in the genes. She confides her worries to Susan, who laughs at her fears (well, being an ex-jailbird she would, wouldn't she?).

Things take a turn for the worse when Ed and Emma find George playing with a fire truck that they have never seen before. They question George, who freely admits that he 'burglared it' from Jake in order to show Uncle Clive what a good burglar he is. Two slaps deserved there – one for being a thief and one for not speaking properly. Em and Ed tell George off and that he will have to apologise to Jake. Before this happens, Emma and Will manage a civilised conversation for once about George and Clive's influence. Emma says, as far as she's concerned, he'll never see George or Keira again. In your dreams, woman!

Things could be worse and we wait to see if Clive passes on any more tips ("OK George, that's enough playing burglars – let's play a new game. This one's called 'arson'. You take these matches…"). Actually there is probably a way of keeping Clive away – he's been let out because mum Ivy isn't well, so all they have to do is either cure her completely or bump her off. Problem solved.

Clive's baleful influence still stalks Ambridge and Christine is very frightened (and angry) when David tells her that Clive has been back to the village. As far as Christine is concerned, Clive is a murderer (another great game, George!) who shortened her husband's life. Christine asks David how he felt when Clive visited Rickyard Cottage. "Basically, I wanted to kill him" replied David. So. No other cheek turning, then? Christine receives a surprise when Jim Lloyd turns up on her doorstep, complete with suitcase, with the news that he is moving in to protect her. Got your asbestos suit Jim?

It was nice to see Tom's smug nose put out of joint when he received the contract from Underwoods. Not only is the unit price lower, but Tom is expected to contribute towards promotional costs. After Tom's crowing about rebranding, he has to tell Pat and Tony about the bad terms. Tony manfully resists saying "I told you so", but as Tom tells Brenda later, "it was written all over his face."

But Tom's not having it and says he will go and see Doug Somerville of Underwoods and make him change his mind. Tom has obviously been watching too much Dragons' Den and is suffering from delusions of adequacy. Armed with self-righteous anger, he marches into Underwoods and is totally taken apart by Doug Somerville. First, Doug makes him wait for ages, then tells him he can spare him five minutes. Far from changing his mind, he tells Tom that he (Doug) is taking a big risk with the brand, quite frankly he expected a bit more gratitude and now we know where we stand (or in Tom's case, grovel) would you mind shutting the door on your way out Tom?

Tom returns to Brenda even more despondent than before, but hey, we still have the footballing pigs and Brenda's catchy (not) slogan 'Fit pigs make great sausages' and Tom is still convinced that it will go viral.

Have you noticed that non-speaking characters are getting bigger parts, so to speak? I can only assume it's down to BBC cutbacks. Not long ago Derek Fletcher was much in evidence (albeit silently) and now everybody's talking about Hillary Noakes and her petition to get the fireworks display moved off the green because they upset her cockatoo.

Ian – who has been absent for a long time – returned this week and had to listen to Adam banging on about how betrayed he has been by the Super Dairy scheme and what a risk it all is. Ian suggests that he tells Debbie of his fears – now why didn't you think of that Adam?

Will and Nic go to the apple quiz at The Bull and they win it. Before they go, Will tells Nic she looks gorgeous and "I've got to go and make myself look equally gorgeous". Ha! Nic will be a Great Great Grandmother before that happens!

Winning the quiz has obviously affected the couple, as Will comes over all what he thinks is romantic, but is, quite frankly, soppy and wet (not to mention nauseating) and proposes to Nic. He even gets down on his knees and Nic, spurning the opportunity to knee him in the face, demonstrates how empty her life must be by saying "yes!" without even thinking about it. At least sleep on it Nic – about 100 years should do it.

Monday, 17 October 2011

I May have To Go Away For Christmas

John Rowe (Jim Lloyd)

Why? Because, despite resolutely beating off Lynda's requests to do something at the Christmas Show, Jim finally agreed to read a poem – in Latin. Be still, my beating heart. The Harvest Supper went better than expected (for me, at any rate) when we learned that James and Leonie were stuck on the motorway. Lynda and Robert to the rescue! Robert will take the photos and Lynda craft the words, so the Harvest Supper will feature in the proposed book after all. Having said that, all Robert's photos were of Sabrina Thwaite, which did not please Lynda.

Jim was quite active this week, tapping up Oliver about turning the orchard over to the community, telling him that it's just what Joe needs. A kick up the backside, more like. What about Ed's cattle grazing in the orchard? Sod them – Joe will be able to persuade him to move them and Oliver is definitely weakening.

Elsewhere, it was assuredly not a case of 'happy families' in many Ambridge households. Chris and Alice came the closest they have ever come to a row when Alice said she wanted to give up studying to get a job, as she feels guilty that she's not contributing. Chris came over all manly and absolutely forbade it and Alice eventually agreed.

At Bridge Farm, Tom was practically orgasmic when Underwoods agreed to take on his new, rebranded sausages and he kept crowing to his parents, telling them that rebranding was the way forward. Pat and Tony hid their enthusiasm remarkably well, but Tom was too hyper to notice. He couldn't have been happier if one of his footballing pigs had been picked for England, the annoying little jerk.

Tony was able to pay off Underwoods (thanks for the 10 grand, Lilian) and he had an upper and downer with Jennifer, who really is at a loose end with Ruari away at boarding school. Having ignored Tony's hints to provide money, Jen goes to see him "to see how you are". Tony takes umbrage and tells her that Lilian has been helpful and Kathy offered them her life savings, while Jennifer hasn't even offered them a fiver. Jennifer explains that all the money is Brian's (does he do the food shopping then?) and it's all getting acrimonious. Eventually Jennifer goes away, presumably to try and find out what a fiver is.

While Jennifer is falling out with her brother, her children are in disagreement. Debbie comes over to present her super-dairy idea to the board of Borsetshire Land. They are all for it (I think it was the word 'profit' that swung it) but the scheme involves Home Farm's involvement and Brian hasn't mentioned any of this to Adam. When he does tell him, Adam goes spare and, when Debbie turns up, he accuses her of betrayal. Debbie tells Brian to take a hike and she talks to Adam one to one. He's still not happy and, unless they can get him onside, the project won't happen. While Debbie tries to persuade her brother with rational argument, Brian is out buying thumbscrews.

Nic and Will have a heart-to-heart about Emma and Nic reveals that she plays this game with herself called "Guess what Emma will complain about this time" and they have a bet that she will say that George needs an early night. Sure enough she does and later rings Susan to complain that Will and Nic have been winding her up.

However, cow Emma is in for a shock when Susan says that Clive (who has gone back to his bail hostel in Felpersham) has said that he would like to meet nephew George and niece Keira. Furthermore, grandmother Ivy thinks this is a spiffing idea. Emma thinks Rickyard Cottage would be the best venue, as Ed can be there, David can be on hand and, presumably, the armed Swat team can be hidden in the barn.

At first, David isn't keen when Ruth mentions it, reminding her that he had to pull his mother and aunt from a burning building that Clive had torched. Come on David, live and let live – did you never do something a bit naughty when you were younger? David eventually agrees and he is joined on guard duty by Tony, who is trying to get away from Tom's triumphalism.

Clive turns up bearing gifts – a bracelet for Keira and a Playstation for George, who asks his uncle if he was a burglar. Clive replies that he used to be, but he realises it was very naughty and has stopped now (where did the Playstation come from, Clive?). George is taken by the romance of the whole thing and tells everybody that he wants to be a burglar when he grows up. During the visit, Clive reveals that he has a disturbingly full knowledge about recent events in Ambridge – he knew of Nigel's death and that Lily is keen on hockey. Presumably he's been casing Lower Loxley. That would be a good way to heal the David/Elizabeth rift – David could follow Clive as he breaks in to Lower Loxley and come to Elizabeth's rescue. Perhaps he could push Clive off the roof – that story has a certain symmetry to it.

Finally, we tasted the bitter dregs of disappointment when David revealed – almost in passing – that Bert only came second in the ploughing competition. Ah well, there's always next year, sadly.