Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Sap Is Rising

Shortbread (Duchy Originals)

Lots of romantic (if indeed that is the word I'm looking for) activity over the past week, as well as a royal visit. However, we must address the issue of product placement, raised by listeners after the unsubtle reference to Duchy Original shortbread a few episodes ago. It has been said that, if references are made to products on the air, or in print or, say, in a blog, then the author might receive unsolicited gifts of said product, but I am not convinced.

So let's start off with Valentine's Day, when David sent Ruth a card and a bouquet of red roses – thank God for Clinton Cards and Interflora, eh David! Ruth was less pleased when David revealed that he would be driving General Custard (Nigel's favourite bull) up to his new home in Scotland – an expansive farm not a million miles from the Glenlivet distillery. This would mean missing part of Pip's 18th birthday and Ruth put her foot down, making David reschedule the trip. "You're not taking the brand new, top of the range Range Rover up to Scotland" she might have said.

Harry and Jazzer go on their double date and Harry's girl turns out to be – how can I put this? – a contender for Cruft's. "You don't look at the mantelpiece when you stoke the fire" is Jazzer's sensitive advice, although he changes his tune when his date makes it plain that she fancies Harry. Jazzer suggests they scarper when the girls are in the loo, but Harry says "we can't just leave". Jazzer can't get his head round this and legs it, leaving Harry to explain that Jazzer has left because he wasn't feeling well.

Later on in the week, Harry is plagued by texts from the girls, begging for a date (I'm starting to hate him) but Jazzer, who is to new-manhood what King Herod was to babysitting, solves the problem by grabbing Harry's phone (probably an iPhone 5) and texting back "not interested". Sometimes you have to be cruel to be – well, cruel, I suppose.

Elsewhere on the romantic front, Kenton and Jolene go out to lunch, ostensibly to compare notes about how they both did business-wise on Valentine's Day. After lunch, Kenton suggests another cup of Douwe Egbert coffee, but Jolene would rather go for a walk, presumably to break in her new Nike trainers. On the walk she goes into raptures about seeing catkins and invites Kenton to a gig on Wednesday. He agrees, but later on in the week, when being teased by Kirsty about going on dates with Jolene, he starts to have second thoughts and is worried that he might seem to be hitting on Jolene with Sid dead barely a year.

And so to Pip's birthday. She is delighted with her present from Mum and Dad. "It's a Ka!" she screams, although it could have been a Rolls Royce, and promptly volunteered to run the boys to school, or at least to the bus stop. Careful Pip – you could be making a rod for your own back. Maybe she should watch out for Elizabeth too – as Pip thanked her aunt for her birthday earrings (and a nodding cow for the car), she expressed misgivings about being so happy when Elizabeth was still grieving, to which Lizzie replied "Enjoy it – enjoy it while you can." I was put in mind of an old film scene, where two thick-set men with bulges under their armpit visit an old man in his shop and say things like "nice shop this, Grandad – shame if anything were to happen to it".

Roy and Hayley are still having trouble with Kate and Phoebe's projected visit to South Africa. Eventually it was decided that Phoebe should leave school a week early and fly out with Kate, returning on her own later. Presumably they will be flying BA – First Class, preferably.

Of course, the main event of the week was the visit to Grey Gables of the Duchess of Cornwall and her chance to be presented to Lynda Snell. As it turned out, it was a chance missed, as Lynda was in the Ladies' when the DofC was ushered into the hotel. Why was Lynda missing? She was sponging off correction fluid (Tippex, no doubt) from her jacket.

Poor Lynda was mortified at not seeing Camilla and her distress was compounded further when she learnt that the DofC had spoken to Susan and Clarrie in the crowd outside. To make matters worse, Ian was presented to Camilla and complimented on his cooking. "All I have to look forward to is a lonely bike ride home (on my brand new Raleigh)" Lynda told husband Robert on the phone. And we don't even know if she had a glass of Moet & Chandon to compensate.

But all was not lost, as her bike chain came off on the way home and, as Lynda stood there, face streaked with (Three-in-One) oil, the DofC's black Daimler car swept past and Camilla gave Lynda a smile and a regal wave. Lynda was overcome, although I would love to know how many fingers were involved…

Monday, 14 February 2011

Last Orders For The Bull?

Ian Pepperell (Roy Tucker)

At Brookfield, Ruth is getting more and more frustrated, telling Pip "I'm not sure how much longer I can go on working like this." David tells her he cannot let Elizabeth down but Ruth practically chains him to the computer to make him find a car for Pip's birthday. A car? I thought farming was going through a tough time?

Pip continues to be well-behaved and a credit to the farm and her role as petulant, whiner-in-chief seems to have been taken up by Phoebe. Last week I warned that Kate had been too quiet since her return and this week she stuck her oar in big time, causing mayhem and creating havoc when she told Phoebe that she could go with her to South Africa at Easter. Phoebe couldn't wait to tell Roy and Hayley; "They'll be so pleased" she said, excitedly.

Er, not really, as it turned out. Apart from the financial aspect (no worries – Kate had already put the bite on Brian) there was the small matter of Phoebe missing time at school. Last time Kate took Phoebe out on a school day, Roy and Hayley got a stiff letter of rebuke. And that was just for one day – presumably an absence of a week or two would result in a good thrashing or loss of a limb. Once again Kate and Roy/Hayley are at daggers drawn and Phoebe, who seems to have inherited her mother's inability to think about consequences for anyone other than herself, cannot understand what all the fuss is about. Personally I think Kate should take her – tomorrow preferably – and both stay in South Africa permanently.

Over at Lower Loxley, David has made a rod for his own back – by doing such a good job, the Trustees are content to let Lizzie soldier on without bringing in a manager. "I think they'll leave us alone" says Lizzie and David, heart presumably sinking at the 'us', tells her "I'll do whatever I can". Ruth will be pleased. As if David doesn't have enough to do, Lewis has gone down with bronchitis. Freddie and Lily also inadvertently heap more pressure on David by telling Lizzie that they don't want a stranger in Daddy's chair when she brings up the subject of a manager.

The Pargetter tendency to make your children do dangerous things had obviously been passed on to Nigel, as Freddie revealed this week that Nigel used to let him ride on the back of his favourite bull. Not during the mating season, I hope.

Pat and Kathy are firm friends once again and Pat says "What a relief – I thought you were never going to speak to me again." What an opportunity missed - there are people who would pay good money never to have Kathy talk to them again.

Planning permission for the new market has been granted and Lillian tells Brian of AmSide's vision of the future – the market is just the beginning and she has ambitions of creating a sort of Milton Keynes, from the sound of it. Brian is alarmed when Lil tells him that Matt "made sure the planning was passed" and cries off the celebratory drinks party. Just as well really, as a drinking session with Lillian could mean a new liver is needed. "Are you saying what I think you're saying?" Brian asks, obviously stunned at the thought that Matt – this is the same Matt who has just served time for fraud, let's not forget – would do anything underhand. As if.

Matt is still keen to get his hands on the Bull and has a quiet word with Jolene, uttering such encouraging phrases as "it must be hard to make a living from a pub nowadays" and (undoubtedly less truthfully) "you'd get a good price from me." While Matt doesn't actually leave the Dignitas brochure and a one-way air ticket to Switzerland on Jolene's table, he isn't cheering her up any. I have a vision of Matt going outside and setting up "pub closed" and "diversion" signs, while Jolene wonders where all the customers have gone.

She has at least one customer, however, as Harry is in the bar, telling her that he and Jazzer are going out on a double date. Will Harry never get it on with Fallon? Apparently the girl after whom Jazzer is currently lusting won't go out with him on her own. Very wise move, I'd say – not only would I want some company, but I'd also take along a Rottweiler, a rape alarm, a large hammer and a can of mace; having first handcuffed Jazzer to his chair of course.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Famous Last Words

Felicity Finch (Ruth Archer)

Helen decided to go back to the flat this week, much against Tony's wishes: "You tell her Pat – it's madness!" he rants. Gosh yes – the flat's so far away; in an emergency it might take as long as five minutes to get there. Ever the realist, Pat says that they can't stop Helen doing what she wants. She also adds, in a statement that surprised nobody, that Helen was "a really grouchy baby". Henry, however, is a little angel and Helen is sure that she can cope.

Wrong again Hel! Every time she leaves Henry he howls and, on Friday, when Ian turns up, she is still in her pyjamas and at the end of her tether. Saint Ian takes charge and looks after Henry while Helen takes a shower. Ha! Motherhood's not the piece of cake that you thought, is it Helen? Never mind, they say that the first 30 years are the worst.

More famous last words from David as he tells Ruth: "I feel as if I've really got on top of things at Lower Loxley." So confident is he, that he tells Brian that his services are no longer required at Brookfield and they can cope from now on, thank you very much. Ruth is less than chuffed to hear that Brian has been given the heave-ho and reminds David that lambing starts in two weeks. You can just hear a faint "no worries" carrying back on the breeze as David shoots off to Lower Loxley again.

Sadly, the Titanic that is David's confidence is shortly to come into contact with the iceberg that is Nigel's filing system. Bank statements are filed under 'S', for 'statements', which is one of his more logical moves. "Try 'Tiddles'," suggests Elizabeth, as David is tearing his hair out, trying to guess one of Nigel's passwords. "In his head it all made perfect sense", adds Elizabeth, which speaks volumes about the inside of Nigel's head.

Anyway, all this makes David late back at Brookfield, where Ruth has a go at him and says sarcastically "You might like to know that your daughter passed her driving test." At least David didn't say "what daughter is that?" Pip is going through one of her helpful phases, putting up the lambing pens (well, David hasn't got time to do it). He also neglected to get in any of the veterinary stuff needed for lambing. Ruth is doing her impression of a pressure cooker and if I were David, I'd be very careful about what I said around her. The sheep might have to learn to cross their legs as well.

A scenario that seemed ripe for disaster was the Barrington-Hughes' wedding, with Kenton saying that everything is under control and telling Elizabeth "Lewis and I can handle this wedding, I promise you". We all smiled knowingly and sat back, waiting for the inevitable disaster and – it didn't happen. Lewis described Kenton's MC-ing as "absolutely wonderful" and Kenton told Jolene that the wedding had been "a triumph". It's nice for Kenton to do something right, especially after the embarrassing start to the week, when he ran into Kathy and it transpired that he had forgotten her birthday. She was quite short with him, which seems a tad unfair – if you throw someone out of the house, you can't really expect them to buy you a big present. Whatever next? Will she put his goolies in the mangle if he doesn't get her a Valentine's Day bouquet?

One scene I'd like to see is a meeting between Matt and Elizabeth, in which he explains his suggestions for running Lower Loxley. So far he has said (not to Elizabeth) that a manager should be brought in and this week he suggested to Brian that Lizzie should sell off bits of the Pargetter estate – to AmSide, no doubt. After you with the mangle, Kathy!

I am becoming increasingly apprehensive about Kate – we have been told that she is back from South Africa, yet we have heard nothing from her. I'm conscious, however, that she is there, like the sword of Damocles, or a garden rake in the long grass and it worries me.

Have you also noticed that Oliver seems to have gone AWOL again? You'd have thought that he would have been around to celebrate this week's big news, which is the impending visit to Grey Gables by the Duchess of Cornwall. Lynda is distraught when she realises that she will not be on duty on the day of The Visit (February 16th in case you want to send your Union flag to the dry cleaner's). Perhaps they should take the DofC to Brookfield as part of her visit – after all, she is a country girl at heart and, by my calculations, she should be right on time to help out with the lambing.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Clarrie Turns Nasty

Rosalind Adams (Clarrie Grundy)

Well, nasty for her, anyway. She wants to get to the dairy before Vicky "to keep the upper hand" as she puts it. Before Clarrie goes, Emma turns up, obviously racked by guilt and worried that Nic is getting her feet firmly under the table, "to see if there's anything you need". "Too late now," says Clarrie, in her stern voice, "it was when I had the plaster on that I needed help." So that's told you Emma – even the fact that you are carrying Clarrie's grandchild doesn't give you brownie points.

At the dairy, Clarrie accidentally (?) doesn't tell Vicky the correct way to load up the van and then berates her for making a mistake, calling it "a novice's error" when Pat asks what's up. Mind you, Vicky has her own problems, having snagged a fingernail. Quick! Where's the accident book?

Pat decides to keep them apart and moves Clarrie into the cheese-making room, where Clarrie learns that Vicky will be gone by the weekend and promptly offers to bake a cake for the farewell tea.

Food figured prominently last week – the farmhouse breakfasts at the Bull went down a storm, with seemingly the entire village turning out for a fry-up. Even Lizzie turned up with Freddie and Lily, who were promptly offered by Jolene a hot chocolate, with chocolate flake, cream and marshmallows, presumably followed by a sick bag and a cholesterol test. On Sunday evening, Lizzie gets emotional when listening to the quarter peal of bells, arranged by Neil in Nigel's memory. Freddie, who is rapidly turning into his Dad, says that he'd like to learn to ring the bells someday. You're better off drinking it Freddie.

Harry and Jazzer's Burns, Night supper was a great success, with Harry's haggis turning out perfectly (of course). Jazzer addresses the haggis (presumably along the lines of 'what're you looking at, haggis?') and everyone has a good time, apart from Emma, who can't eat haggis and has OD'd on shortbread, anyway. Poor Harry is totally shagged out and not looking forward to an early start next day when Jazzer reveals that he has invited a load of friends along for an all-nighter. What a pal!

Back at Lower Loxley, Lizzie moves into control freak (or, as I like to call it, 'Helen') mode, despatching David to help Reg run the Estate and Rare Breeds. David is rapidly cruising towards a nervous breakdown due to his insistence on arranging the Barrington-Hughes wedding single-handedly, making basic errors back at Brookfield and snapping at Kenton. You can tell how the strain is getting to him, when Mrs B-H calls his mobile just as he is trying to do something complicated on the farm. "Blast!" he yells, after the call is over. I say, steady on, David! Eventually David sees sense (two weeks later than five million listeners) and lets Kenton and Lewis handle the wedding, while he concentrates on what he knows best, which is presumably sticking his arm up a cow's bum.

Lizzie is working all hours, David is running himself ragged and Ruth can barely cope – what with Lizzie's history of a weak heart, we could be on for another funeral soon as the Archer family runs itself into the ground and Jill worries about all of them.

And so to young Henry, who leaves the safety of hospital and is paraded round Ambridge, where he is unfortunate enough to be introduced to Eddie. Pip is besotted with Henry, saying "he's got such a smiley face." It's probably just wind, or sheer terror as he sees more and more of his extended family. However, there's worse to come, as Tony, who brought Helen and Henry home from hospital, says of his grandson "he's got my sense of humour". If that's the case, I reckon it would be a kindness to shoot the poor little sod right now.