Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Guilt Trips

Graham Seed (Nigel Pargetter)

So now we know – the 60th anniversary blockbuster episode has come and gone and caused much debate and controversy.

It all began with Amy not liking the look of Helen (join the club) and advising her to get to hospital fast. Tony took her literally and rushed through the streets of Felpersham like Lewis Hamilton on speed. Was there going to be an accident as the promised apocalyptic event? If so, we could have got rid of Helen and Tony, thereby radically reducing the misery quotient of the village at one fell swoop. True, we would also have lost Tom, Pat and Amy, but you can't make omelettes…

But it was not to be, as Helen was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, had an emergency delivery and was presented with a bouncing baby boy, who she named Henry Ian. Tony immediately became besotted with his new grandson, having spent all the time that Helen was in surgery deep in guilt ("I've been against this every step of the way") and berating himself for being a miserable git and not supporting his daughter at all. Don't be so hard on yourself Tony – that's what I'm here for.

His about turn was the biggest conversion since St. Paul's and he is fast becoming a baby bore, describing Henry as "the most beautiful baby in the world". But hang on, as later on in the week, there was a suggestion that young Henry looks like Tony, so which is it?

Anyway, exciting as Henry's entry into the world was, it wasn't the apocalyptic event we were promised, although Helen did describe herself later as 'a control freak and a know-it all'. Surely not? So back we go to Lower Loxley, where the party had gone a bit flat and David and Nigel were at a loose end. The conversation went something like this:

Nigel: Let's have some champagne
David: If we got the banner down off the roof tonight, that would save me coming over tomorrow.
N: What, you mean going up on the roof in the dark?
D: And the wind and frost, which will make it slippery.
N: It's a bit rusty too, but what a Whizzo idea! Bravo! Let's do it. I'll present Lizzie with a fait accompli.

They climb up on to the roof and Nigel reveals that he has been clambering over the roof of Lower Loxley for years, encouraged by his father. This was probably the same father who urged him to play with the electric fire in the bath or introduced him to the sport of catching the javelin.

To all our astonishment, Nigel slipped off the roof and the episode ended with a blood-curdling scream while we wondered "is he dead, or will he be lucky and land on his head?" It was the next night when we realised that fait accompli was Latin for 'flattened corpse' and it was goodnight Nigel, who'd gone to meet Mummy and Daddy. We never did find out if the bloody banner came down, or if it's still up there, flapping.

If I might digress here, I'd like to return to the scream. The Radio 4 statistics programme 'More or Less' measured the duration and it was 3.5 seconds (although drastically reduced for the Sunday omnibus). Ignoring air resistance, they calculated that this meant that Lower Loxley must be 60m high, which is around the height of York Minster, and indicates that LL is at least 20 stories, which stretches credulity past breaking point. I reckon the actor playing Nigel thought "if I'm going, I'll make it a good 'un".

Anyway, that was the shock we were all promised and many people were upset. Come on; yes it's true that Nigel was a nice bloke, although he had his faults (the 657-page appendix will be available later) and, let's be honest, he was drippier than an ice cream in a heatwave. If you think that's cruel, what about the comment of a friend of mine, who said "why couldn't he have landed on Helen?"? No doubt you could supply your own favourite target(s).

With Nigel gone, it was time to pick up the pieces as everybody rallied round to make sure that Lizzie never had a moment alone to check where the insurance policies were kept. It's not all bad news, though, as presumably Freddie and Lily will be released from the past exam papers prison and will see daylight once again.

It was now time for the guilt trips to kick in, the heaviest of which was David's. And rightly so – it was, after all, his suggestion that he and Nigel should do some nocturnal mountaineering. Word of advice, David – don't tell Lizzie it was your idea. The next Archer to feel guilty was Kenton, as it was his idea to put the banner up there in the first place (incidentally, it was one of his 'sailor's knots' which Nigel found so difficult to undo). Well done the two Archer lads!

Then we had Ruth, who was feeling guilty because she was grateful that it wasn't David who took the quick way down, and the entire Bridge Farm spur of the Archer family, who feel bad because they are feeling so happy about Henry Ian.

Finally, we have the people who are telling Lizzie (or anybody else) that they know what she's going through, as they've been there. So we have Shula (Mark), Jolene (Sid) and Alan (his late wife, Catherine). Alan is trying to get some idea from Lizzie what she wants for the funeral and he says "Love doesn't die."

I don't know about you, but that sounds like a title of a Lloyd-Webber musical. What other songs could we have? Here are a few suggestions: Slip Slidin' Away (Paul Simon); Falling (Roy Orbison); Let's Hang On (Four Seasons); Catch Us If You Can (Dave Clark Five); I Should Have Known Better (Jim Diamond) and, of course, the blockbusting, rousing finale: Up On The Roof (Drifters).

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