Monday, 23 May 2011

That's You Off the Christmas Card List, David

Alison Dowling (Elizabeth Pargetter)

Before we look at the latest rift between the Archer siblings, let's get Will's desire for another child out of the way. Clarrie tries to get Nic to open up to her, but Nic keeps fending off her questions. However, in true Grundy style, Clarrie goes on and on and on about it until Nic tells her that she doesn't want another baby, presumably out of sheer desperation to get Clarrie to shut up.

This being Ambridge, Clarrie cannot keep the news to herself, so she tells Eddie, who immediately takes Will's side, saying that "It doesn't seem fair" and "It's hard on the lad". Tell you what Eddie, get Will to carry the baby for nine months, go through childbirth and spend the next few years at home, looking after it and then Nic might agree. Clarrie realises she has blundered, saying "I wish I'd kept my big mouth shut", thus echoing the frequent thoughts of millions of listeners. No doubt it is only a matter of time before Eddie does something unsubtle, like getting the AI man to visit Nic.

Elsewhere, Kate casually let slip the fact that she and Phoebe think it would be a great idea if Phoebe went to live with her in South Africa. While I agree (and the sooner the better), I can understand Hayley and Roy being less than chuffed. "I want this nipped in the bud before it goes further" warns Hayley. Roy agrees to have a word with Kate – like that will do any good!

It's not often that I feel sympathy with Jamie but you'd have to be carved from stone not to cringe on his behalf when Mum Kathy caught him walking with Natalie, his girlfriend. If truth be told, Kathy was probably stalking Jamie to check he went to school. Talk about embarrassing mother! I bet Kathy tries to make Jamie wear gloves on a string – no wonder he has now gone back to mega-sighing mode. Kathy's latest idea is that Jamie gives up working at the Bull, just for the duration of the exams, and he agrees to ask Jolene about it. Kathy, bless her, even believes him.

Talking of Jolene, Kenton buys her a pamper session at Grey Gables as a reward for going without ciggies for a month. With the money she must have saved, surely she should be treating him? At Grey Gables, Oliver is a bit of a spare part, waiting around for Caroline to find him a window in her busy schedule. At least it gives him the chance to hone his crossword-solving skills, although we never did find out if he managed to solve 10 down.

And so we come to the big story of the week, where David learns that honesty isn't always the best policy. The week started well enough for David; his previous moping around mood was put behind him and he was saying things like "a day like today – who wouldn't have a spring in their step?" The grass is coming along well and David says that he feels different – "as if we've turned a corner", so you knew that we were being prepared for when it all goes tits up. In case we were in any doubt, Ruth and David decide to go out and celebrate on Friday. "Let's really push the boat out" says David, upon hearing yet more good news about the milk yield rising.

So it was with a song in his heart and feeling on top of the world that David went over to Lower Loxley to aerate the grassland. Even this is going great and Elizabeth takes her brother out a drink of elderflower and lemonade. The pair of them stand there admiring the view and reminiscing about Nigel. So mellow is David by this time that he calls into the Bull on the way home for a pint, much to Kenton and Jolene's delight, as he hasn't been there for ages.

The aerating continues on Thursday and Elizabeth produces a full-blown picnic for her brother. No sausage-on-a-stick or pork pies here, oh no; Waldorf salad and raspberry roulade. Lizzie tells David that it was only the fact that she knew that David would be there every day that got her through the period after Nigel's death. "You were more than my brother – you were my strongest ally" she said, and "you don't know how wonderful you are".

Now this is David's cue to smile modestly, pat little sister on the head and ask if there's any more roulade going. Instead, he tells Elizabeth that it was his idea to take down the banner on the fatal night and not Nigel's. Quite why he does this is not clear – perhaps he was expecting Lizzie to say "ah well, accidents do happen – no use crying over spilt milk (or brains)."

If so, he was disappointed, as Lizzie said things like "Nigel died so you could save time?" "You are responsible for my husband's death – the reason Lily and Freddie haven't got a father and here I am thanking you!" Eventually she tells her strongest ally never to come near Lower Loxley ever again. No Deck the Halls for you this year then, David.

On Friday, Ruth tells Jill (who had been playing gooseberry with Ted and Peggy in the former's enamelling shed) about the rift. Ruth is distraught, shouting at David "You're not responsible!" (for Nigel's death, presumably - or maybe not). Jill rings Elizabeth, who says she can't talk now and hangs up. "She'll come round, I'm sure she will" says super-optimist Jill. Doesn't look like it from where I'm standing.

David meanwhile has sunk into a slough of despond, not eating, working himself to a standstill and living on guilt. Ruth says "You've suffered enough – you have to forgive yourself." David replies: "I can't. Elizabeth will never forgive me, so how am I supposed to live with that?" Look on the bright side, David; that's three fewer Christmas and birthday presents for you to buy – or four, if you count Nigel.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Get Out While You Can, Nic!

Becky Wright and Philip Molloy (Nic and Will)

I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again; that Nic is way too good for Will. Mind you, 99.99% of the population are way too good for Will. Not only does she have to put up with his moaning, but she even cooked a meal for Clarrie on her birthday and made a cake. Eddie complimented Nic on her cooking, saying "I am stuffed" (oh, if only!).

There's bad news for George, when Clarrie says to Will that George is taking after him in so many ways. Will adds that George is good with birds. "Like father, like son" he says proudly, while presumably George is sticking his head in the gas oven. Clarrie witters on about "when you see your new-born baby and realise it's yours, your heart skips a beat." Nic makes an excuse to leave the room, no doubt to vomit or to remove her ovaries with a kitchen knife.

Later on in the week, Clarrie says that she sensed an atmosphere between Will and Nic and is determined to find out what's going on. Eddie suggests leaving them to sort it out themselves, which sounds eminently sensible, but that's not the Ambridge way. Ed was worried that George's routine was being disrupted and he wants him to bond with new sister Keira. Ed tells Nic this and she agrees, but when she passes on the message to Will he goes off on one (again) and ends up having a go at Nic. She eventually makes him see sense and he apologises. Leave him now, Nic!

Over at Lower Loxley, Lizzie has a hard decision to make – the falcons aren't paying their way, but on the other hand, the falconry was Nigel's baby. Which will prevail, pragmatism or romance? Perhaps Nigel's memory is fading as Lizzie decides the birds have got to go. Fortunately, Lower Loxley wine (another of Nigel's projects) has been awarded Regional Wine status yet again, or we might have seen Lizzie grubbing up the vines.

Lizzie is delighted with the performance of Roy so far ("the best decision I've ever made") but at Grey Gables, there is a crisis when Lynda discovers a leak in one of the rooms. It turned out to be caused by a faulty roof tile (sounds like a job for Nigel, David and Kenton!) and Lynda (obviously still hoping to replace Roy at some stage) does good work in getting it sorted.

Kathy shows her capacity for self-delusion when she tells Clarrie that Jamie is revising with his friend Marty – what, do they do O-levels in cider drinking now? "I think we've turned a bit of a corner" she burbles. By contrast, Shula tells Oliver that Daniel is doing lots of revision and has drawn up a timetable, the little creep. Because he is getting down to it, Shula is pleased that she doesn't have to nag him like a harridan (are you paying attention, Kathy?).

On the love front, Pip and Spencer seem to be getting it together, with Ruth telling Shula that "Pip's in lurrrve". Honestly, she sounds just like a fake Geordie Barry White. Pip meanwhile is revising hard (or at least getting her head down) and Spencer has been invited for tea again. Elsewhere on the love front, Lynda tells Lilian that James and Leonie have booked "a rather exotic holiday" but she won't spoil the surprise. As James only contacts his mother about once a year, Lilian could be in for a long wait before she finds out more.

It's single wicket time again and Shula is busy bullying everyone to take part. Even David said he'd try. According to Shula, Harry is keen to defend his title, which makes me ask 'what has happened to Harry?' – we haven't heard from him for ages. Out saving the world from some calamity or other, I guess.

And so to Home Farm, where Jennifer complained that Susan was reading 'Cranford' and wants to come to the Book Club meeting. Jen is at her snobbish best and stops just short of saying that she didn't realise that Susan could read. Brian has received an e-mail from Bridget in Ireland (one of Ruari's relatives) who thinks that Ruari should be sent to a different school, as he isn't being stretched where he is. Give him to me – I'll stretch him.

Brian investigates what's available on the Internet and raves about one school where they have lots of after-school activities and fun things to do at the weekend. Of course, to participate in these, you'd have to be a boarder and Brian and Jennifer seem quite taken by the idea. I'd watch out, Ruari, although on the plus side, at least you'd be out of the way when Kate comes back.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

What? No Etchings?

Paul Webster (Ted Griffiths)

Peggy is moving ever so slightly closer to Ted and she tells Pat that he is going to show her the studio where he does his enamelling. Oh yes? Run out of etchings, have we Ted? Actually, he seems a really nice man and why shouldn't Peggy enjoy herself a little?

There was riveting radio when Peggy and Kathy discussed the merits or otherwise of the AV referendum, but even better radio was when Phoebe started talking about – and showing – her photographs, taken in South Africa. I had a moment of panic when she let slip that she'd taken 400 photos, as I was convinced that she was going to talk us through all of them, but we got away with a lot fewer than that, thank God.

Phoebe is obsessed with South Africa and keeps banging on about when – not if – she goes back to live there. This alarms Roy and Hayley but I say go for it Phoebe, the sooner the better; as long as she takes Kate back with her, of course. Kate encourages Phoebe in her ambitions and you can't help feeling that we are heading for another blockbusting Roy/Hayley v Kate domestic.

From one moody youngster to another, as Kathy is doing everything she can to keep Jamie sweet (tea in bed – in the afternoon – a choice of breakfast). She described it to Pat as "walking on eggshells". Even so, she can't resist another little dig, telling Jamie that perhaps he should print out his exam timetable so that he can plan his revision. For God's sake leave it alone, woman! Jamie has already planned his revision and, if he had printed a schedule, it would read "Revision? Nah!"

The nausea-inducing story of Will's urge to procreate is still rumbling on and poor Nic is frantically thinking up excuses to avoid talking about the subject. First of all it was because she had forgotten to buy milk; soon she'll be reduced to saying that she unexpectedly has to wash her hair. Will keeps whining on about how it never seems to be the right time – he sounds so miserable that I'm surprised he isn't following Nic around, with his bits hanging out (and that's an image which I know is going to haunt me for a long time).

If Will can't get started on producing a new sibling for George, he intends to forge an ever-closer relationship with his son. This involves asking Emma if he and Nic can have George to stay over more often. Emma agrees like a shot, but Ed isn't happy and says that Will is taking advantage and he (Ed) will go round Casa Nueva right away and sort Will out. Fortunately, Emma persuades him not to, so we are spared yet another Grundy sibling confrontation scene – for the time being, at least.

It was the end of an era – or the end of 14 years – as Roy bid farewell to Grey Gables and is looking forward to fresh challenges at Lower Loxley. He said he felt "shell-shocked" when he left for the last time and I must admit that I was pretty gobsmacked when we learnt that his leaving present was a home cinema system. "Phoebe's gonna love this" he says. Not if she sods off to South Africa, she won't.

Election fever gripped Ambridge, with seemingly everyone standing for election as a Parish Councillor. Well, maybe not everyone, but certainly Lynda, Jill, Lilian and Richard Thwaite. There was bitter rivalry over their plans for the village – Jill wants to enter 'Britain in Bloom', Lilian wants to get local businesses to tidy up the verges and waste areas, but Lynda says they are vital wildlife habitats and "shouldn't be suburbanised to gain cheap publicity for local firms" What, like AmSide, do you mean?

I can't help thinking that, if this is the most pressing thing affecting the village, then they are bloody lucky. In the event, Jill, Lynda and Richard Thwaite were elected, but Lilian missed the boat. Does this mean that Richard Thwaite will get a speaking part? Probably not, as he ran his election campaign without once being heard.

Over at Brookfield, not even the local election could cheer David up, although Ruth doesn't really help, remarking that the cricket team lost because their star player (David) didn't play. However, she has some sure-fire news that is bound to give David a lift – the milk yields are back on course! Way to go! But not even this can lighten David's mood and the best he can say is (begrudgingly) that "we're moving in the right direction". He's obviously determined to be miserable (must be the Tony Archer gene kicking in) so just leave him to get on with it Ruth, although I'd lock up the shotgun.

David is even underwhelmed when Pip says that she has arranged for Spencer – her new boyfriend – to drop in for a cuppa. Remembering David's reaction to Jude, you have to admire Pip's courage. But we need not have worried, as Spencer not only calls David and Ruth "Mr. & Mrs Archer" but he has finished university and he plans to work on his father's farm – David knows his father. As Spencer and Pip leave, Ruth describes him as "a really nice man" and David shows a flicker of interest and says approvingly "he could have had two heads – he's so not Jude." Praise indeed – I reckon you're in there Spencer.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Don't Give Up The Day Job, Alistair

Michael Lumsden (Alistair Lloyd)
Everyone is worried about David – he is moping around and everything is just too much for him. It's only a matter of time before people start calling him Jamie. Shula suggests to Ruth that he needs counselling. "He'd run a mile" says Ruth, who didn't really help by harping on to David about him not recalibrating the plate meter or whatever. Shula talks to David about the reduced milk yield (you hadn't forgotten, I hope?) and he tells her that "it's just bad management", while donning a hair shirt and thrashing himself with nettles

Yes, David is clearly in need of professional help, so the girls bring in a professional to talk to him – brother-in-law Alistair. Sadly, Alistair is a vet, not a psychiatrist - and it shows. When David tells him that he wants to leave the cricket team, Alistair suggests to David that he must be feeling very isolated, psychologically. "All our recent problems have been down to me" says a despondent David. A wonderful job of cheering him up there, Alistair, but at least you didn't stick your hand up his bum.

Meanwhile, over in Monte Carlo, Jolene waxes lyrical about the shower in the hotel bathroom and says she will have one to freshen up. Kenton thinks this is a good idea, but sadly he keeps tripping over his tongue and is disappointed when Jolene sends him down to the lobby to retrieve a magazine. Anyway, they seem to have a good time and Kenton even ended up in pocket, after winning at the Casino.

This week's "you could have knocked me down with a feather" moment came when James Bellamy visited Lilian (or 'Ma', as he calls her, which is nearly as bad as Nigel's 'Mummy') and Leonie (sister of Flat Leaf Parsley) came to stay with her father Robert and stepmother Lynda Snell. It transpired that James has a new girlfriend and Leonie has a new boyfriend (whom she refers to as 'Jay'). Amazingly, both partners are in Borsetshire and available to join the families for lunch. The Snells go to the Bull, where they see Matt, Lilian and Leonie and – you're never going to believe this – it turns out that Leonie and James are an item! Bugger me and hold the front page – I never saw that one coming. Hardly.

Leonie fends off Lynda's unsubtle attempts to find out her future plans by saying they have no plans to play house yet or start a family. "What is it about having a baby that turns parents from rational people into drooling idiots?" she asks, forgetting that Lynda went potty over young Oscar when Flat Leaf Parsley stayed at Ambridge Hall. As to answering Leonie's question, that sounds like one for Helen or Ed.

A storyline that had me reaching for the sickbag was the less-than-romantic suggestion from Will to Nic; "How do you feel about us having a baby?" he asked her. The horror in Nic's voice was evident as she said "I don't know what to say" (personally, I think "piss off" would have been favourite) and tells Will that the suggestion has come out of the blue. "I've been thinking about it for ages" Will replies, as I quietly passed Nic my sickbag. It's bad enough that Will has already polluted the gene pool and he shouldn't be allowed to breed again, surely?

Many people seemed keen to speak to Jamie – Kathy told him she misses him and, if he comes home, then when his exams are finished, he can do what he likes – leave school, become a drug dealer, stay in bed 24/7; the world is your oyster Jamie. Kenton's approach on the other hand is more direct – he confronts Jamie in his room at the Bull and tells him (although not in so many words) that he is a moody, parasitic, ungrateful little ratbag who should sod off back home double quick as Jolene and everyone else is getting cheesed off with the situation.

This tough love seems to have the desired effect, as Jamie turns up at Kathy's, magnanimously telling her that he has come home to stay. "Welcome home love" says Kathy. I know Jamie isn't a baby (at least not age-wise) but what was it Leone said about parents and drooling idiots?

Of course, this was the week of the Royal Wedding and the Bull was packed as people came to watch it on TV. Earlier in the week, Jolene was putting up bunting in the bar and told Kenton that they need some flags for outside the pub. There was a great opportunity here to help David over his depression – all it needed was for Kenton to say "Hey, Dave, do me a favour and help me fix these flags up on the roof, will you?"