Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Harry 1 Jazzer 0

Michael Shelford (Harry)

At last! Harry got off with Zofia, after Kenton told her that Harry and Jazzer were not, as she suspected, a gay couple. When the little Polish minx heard this, she couldn't wait to grab Harry and get him away from Jaxx's and alone; presumably for an intellectual conversation.

And how did Jazzer take this defeat in the lists of love? Was he downhearted? Not exactly, as he immediately pulled someone else and Kenton gave him a beer on the house, so he probably thought he was ahead of the game. Harry, meanwhile, is planning to go on a bike ride with Zofia. God, this boy knows how to treat a woman!

Jill got her hopes sky high when Lizzie texted Shula to see if she could go and see her. Was this the much-hoped-for breakthrough in the unpleasantness between Lizzie and David? Actually no, as Lizzie dumped David and Ruth as guardians of Lily and Freddie, substituting Shula and Alistair instead. When David and Ruth realise this (on receipt of a formal letter) David sinks even further into despair, saying that he has made such a mess of keeping the family together and what a useless person he is.

Ruth cannot bear to see him like this and resolves to go and try and make Lizzie see what she's doing. Good plan, Ruth, with the slight flaw that Lizzie doesn't give a toss. Ruth tells her how much they adore Lily and Freddie. "It's not about what you and David want" says Lizzie, telling Ruth that David forced Nigel to do something he didn't want to do and now he's dead. Excuse me, but Nigel was all for it, boasting about how he knew the roof of Lower Loxley like the back of his hand. Trouble is, the only person who knows this is David and the chances of Liz listening to him are remote.

Still, it has been six months, so perhaps Lizzie is mellowing? "I'll never forgive him – you can tell him that from me!" Lizzie yells, in a most unmellow-like mood. Ruth then suggests that Lizzie goes for counselling and the words 'red', 'rag' and 'bull' spring to mind, as Lizzie goes berserk at the suggestion. All in all, not one of Ruth's most successful attempts at peace-making and that noise you can hear is that of boats being burned.

There was humour when the Book Club met to discuss "Mistress of the Paddocks" – Jennifer's choice as an example of a chicklit romcom. Not only is the book absolutely dire, but some of the Club members reckon that it is a thinly-veiled biography of Brian and Jennifer. Even the names of the hero and heroine are Byron and Jilly.

Of those present at the meeting, Susan and Pat are the only ones (apart from Jennifer) who are aware of this and we were treated to the comments of the others (Jim and Usha) about how Byron will roger anything with a pulse and mammaries and what a complete doormat Jilly is for putting up with it. Susan even refers to Byron as 'Brian' at one stage, but thinks that she got away with it. Let's be honest – if Susan realises that it's a put up job, how dense must the others be to not notice?

Elsewhere, at Emma's insistence, Ed takes pity on poor, rudderless Oliver and asks him if he'd like to do the milking on a couple of afternoons? Ollie jumps at the chance and, when Ed suggests he might like to talk it over with Caroline, he is adamant: "It will do her good to have a taste of her own medicine" says Oliver. In the unlikely event that she even notices, that is.

Ed demonstrates his culinary prowess after work one day when George, who is being a right pain, demands his tea. Ed says he will cook 'cheesy beans'. Wow! How times change – it wasn't that long ago that he was hunting down artichokes for a pregnant Emma. He and her discuss getting Keira christened and, obviously knowing when they are on to a good thing, decide to ask Caroline and Oliver to be Godparents.

For those wondering about when I'm going to get round to Phoebe and her proposed trip to South Africa, you can stop there because, quite frankly, I really don't care any more.

2011 is a momentous year – the Snells have been in Ambridge for 25 years (and nobody has tried to kill Lynda yet, which is in itself remarkable). How to celebrate? Party! The initial list comes to about 150 people and, as Lynda is waxing lyrical about celebrating friendship, Robert steers her outside to show her the llamas, which somebody has sprayed with pink dye. Lynda is distraught, but the llamas don't seem too bothered. Who could it be? Pink suggests a pre-teen female, although I suppose it could be young Jamie up to his old tricks, while at the same time undergoing a sexual identity crisis?

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Invisible Man

I've touched on this before – every so often a character goes awol. In the past we have had prolonged absences from Adam, Christine and Oliver and the latest absentee is Tom. He still features in storylines – recently he took his burger van to the Open Farm Sunday at Home Farm and we were told that the queue was enormous. Pip practically had an orgasm, wondering what the magic ingredient was that made them so good? Er, could it be meat? From Tom however, not a word. If he's not careful, they could do a Marjorie Antrobus on him and we will never hear from him again.

Open Farm Sunday gave Brian the chance to show his misanthropic side, spreading doom and despondency until a busload of punters turned up to swell the attendance. He then switched to caring farmer mode, lecturing the visitors about the need to provide food for a starving world. That's a bit rich, coming from a man who has done his utmost to add to the growing population.

Pip and Spencer talk about holidays, with Pip worried because she hasn't heard back from auntie Liz about working at Lower Loxley and fears that she has joined David on Lizzie's 'persona non grata' list. Spencer has the brilliant suggestion of talking to her about it. Actually, Spencer seems a regular sort of guy, although I noted that he referred to David as 'David' – whatever happened to 'Mr Archer'? Don't get too familiar my lad!

Later on in the week, Ruth finds that she has joined David on Lizzie's hate list, when Lizzie doesn't send her a birthday card. Ruth and Pip are both upset, with Ruth saying "It just seems so petty – not like Elizabeth at all." Sorry Ruth, but this is the new Elizabeth we're talking about and it's exactly like her.

Towards the end of the week, Pip goes to see Lizzie about the job and tells Spencer that she'll ask Liz about not sending Ruth a card. "I'll be tactful" said Pip. In the event, she asked Liz if she didn't send a card on purpose. "This thing with your father goes really deep. I'm sorry" said Liz, to which Pip replied "Mum's sorry too – I thought you should know." Don't be surprised if, when she turns up to work at Lower Loxley, Pip finds that instead of waiting on tables, she's cleaning out pigsties with a teaspoon, or collecting dog dirt. Rule number one Pip; do not piss off the boss, even if she is family.

Earlier I said that Brian was a miserable sod and his mood was not improved when he was outvoted at the meeting to decide whether or not to bring forward completion of the market project. Lilian won the day, aided by Annabelle who did the dirty on Brian by voting against him. Not that Lilian crowed over her victory – not much she didn't. On more than one occasion, Brian mentioned the fact that failure to deliver could involve them in substantial penalties, so we wait to see if it all ends in tears.

Elsewhere, Jamie has had his last exam, so Kathy can stop nagging him about revising, although I'm sure she'll soon find some other topic. Pat and Tony went over for dinner and, as they were thinking of going home, Jamie was getting ready to go out. I would be willing to wager a large sum on some impending disaster involving Jamie/Kathy, as we had Pat telling Kathy "You've done an incredible job with him. You've really turned a corner" and saying to Kirsty "I haven't seen Kathy that relaxed for a long time." A preface to disaster if ever I've heard one.

Oliver is wandering around like a spare part, making Ed think he's spying on him. Give the man something to do for God's sake! How about another Puppy Show? The new, improved, mellow Helen has decided to carry on with maternity leave for the next 20 years or so. Well, six months, anyway.

A storyline that is starting to annoy me is the one about whether or not Phoebe will go to South Africa and, if so, for how long? Who cares? Hayley is adamant ("How long does it take to say 'no'?") but Roy is wavering. He says it's Phoebe's choice – good, we all know what she wants so let her go and move on.

The eternal triangle that is Harry/Jazzer/Zofia grinds on, with both boys going on the pickers' trip to Felpersham Pottery and Harry getting a highly-amused Adam to reserve him the seat next to her on the bus. Harry is irked when Jazzer turns up and asks him "Why are you interested in pottery – you don't even use plates?" The rivalry between the two lads is intense, with Harry even talking to Adam about getting a job in Poland when Zofia goes home. Sadly, Zofia doesn't seem to care much about either of them and sits with her friend Magda, who is feeling poorly.

Zofia is frequently described as a bit of a looker and Brian (who knows a thing or two about women) says "She really has the most mesmerising blue eyes", which leads me to wonder whether Brian is getting old, as he doesn't usually have his mind on the higher things in life

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


There was a lot of looking back fondly last week. Wednesday would have been Nigel's 52nd birthday and Lizzie marked it by going on a day course with Roy, having first put flowers on Nigel's grave. Roy gets her to talk about how she and Nigel first opened up Lower Loxley to the great unwashed, having first clubbed Julia into submission.

Last week was also the first anniversary of Sid's death and his birthday and Jolene "had a bit of a wobble", as she told Kenton when they went out for the day, remembering good old Sid. In Kenton's case, most of the memories were about winding poor Sid up. Jolene said that the fact that she can talk about Sid shows how far she's come in the year since he died.

Someone who had more than a slight wobble was Jamie, who bunked off his Religious Studies exam (that's the end of a possible career in the Church) and was tracked down by Kathy, the human bloodhound, moping around the cricket pavilion. When Kathy found him, he broke down in tears (far be it for me to suggest the two events were connected) saying "He was a great Dad. I still miss him so much". Take a leaf out of your stepmum's book, lad and find yourself a lover. Actually, I may be getting soft in my old age, but it was a moving piece of acting and I came that close to feeling sorry for Jamie. Bravely he assured Kathy that he would be OK to take his maths exam the next day. Kathy said she'd run him to school and, in my current mellow mood, I'm prepared to believe that this was an offer prompted by compassion, rather than her checking up on him.

The Archer family rift continues to widen, although David did have a lighter moment, spraying Josh with the hose. "Dad's gone mad" said Josh to Alistair, who had just removed a grass seed from a cow's cornea. Makes a change from working on the other end of the beast, I suppose. Alistair and David talk about the forthcoming Three Counties Show and again there is much reminiscing – this time about Phil.

The split in the family is getting to Jill, who keeps trying to build bridges, with a conspicuous lack of success. "You haven't forgotten it's Ruth's birthday next week?" Jill phones and asks Liz, whose reply was "I've got to go now" and she rang off, presumably to check that the letter bomb has been nicely wrapped.

As is so often the case, those that weren't reminiscing were arguing, including the normally super-placid Oliver and Caroline. Caroline turned up late for the Hunt Puppy Show (be still, my beating heart) and Oliver wasn't impressed about her excuse that Grey Gables had burned down, or the staff had died en masse or whatever the reason was. "I feel awful" said a contrite Caroline. "So you should" was Oliver's nasty reply. I'd have stuffed a puppy up each of his nostrils, had I been her.

Phoebe is still banging on about going to live in South Africa and tells Roy, who quite reasonably would like to know a few more details, that he's doing her head in. "You're just slapping me down" she accuses him. If only you'd done more of that earlier, Roy, she wouldn't be this spoiled little cow. Mind you, Roy did tell Lizzie that, when he had a talk with Phoebe, "she sounded just like Kate". Quick Roy, let her go now, for God's sake!

Another miserable sod this week was Brian; when he learned that Phoebe will soon be 13, he said "her best years are behind her". Welcome to a future full of misery and disappointment, Phoebe!

The rivalry between Harry and Jazzer for the affections of the fair Zofia took an amusing turn when Harry 'forgot' to tell Jazzer that the outing with the pickers was to an open-air performance of 'Macbeth' and not the trip to the theme park that Jazzer had assumed. Jazz was less than pleased, even though he fell asleep during the play, thus getting some much-needed rest. And he got to sit next to Zofia on the trip home, although she seems totally disinterested in either him or Harry.

Harry, who has in the past uncomplainingly put up with Jazzer's numerous bad habits and slob-like lifestyle, came close to insulting his flatmate. Jazzer was moaning about Shakespeare, saying "if God had meant men to wear tights, he'd have given them the legs to go with them." "That's rich, coming from a man who wears a skirt" riposted Harry. Oh I say!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

It's W(h)ine Week

And the champion whiner this week was young Freddie, who really, really wanted to go to Brookfield and see Tig, the new sheepdog puppy. Mummy Liz had other ideas though and he was dragged off to the water park, moaning all the way there and bitching with Lily. Mind you, Lily can dish it out as well – she'll be a right cow when she's older if she carries on as she is.

Freddie seems to be turning into his father, hanging about round the rare breeds and lurking near the birds of prey, getting in Jessica's way. Eventually, Lizzie – after being backed into a corner by Roy, who said he could take Freddie and bring him back, no bother – reluctantly agreed that Freddie could go to Brookfield and see the Great Satan, David. And the puppy, of course.

Lewis told Lizzie that he had made "a couple of major sales". What's this? Has he flogged a couple of Rembrandts or a brace of Damien Hirst diamond skulls? Not exactly; he'd sold some cases of wine, thereby ensuring that Wine Week at Lower Loxley was a roaring success. It also meant that Lower Loxley wine had now gone global – well, to Canada, anyway – as a visitor had bought a couple of cases to ship home. Let's hope it travels well.

Someone who ran Fred close in the whining stakes was David. Actually, that's not quite accurate; not so much whining as just being downright bloody miserable. About what? About everything, really. First of all he doesn't want to do Open Farm Sunday and the rest of the family suggest trying to get some other farmer to do it. "It's too late" moans David.

However, this mood of pessimism doesn't stop him asking Brian if Home Farm could do it. Brian isn't keen (doesn't want the riff raff running all over his farm, casing it for future thefts) but Adam reckons it could be a great opportunity. David learns that Home Farm will come to his rescue over OFS (he hears the news when surveying the newly-cut hay and beating himself up because he reckons he might have cut it too early) – surely something to be happy about? Instead of being relieved that there will be no OFS, David feels he has let the side down. Make your bloody mind up man!

A story which has great potential is that of Phoebe's birthday party (13 on June 28th if you want to send a card). Roy and Hayley are going into such detail about what's needed for the party, the food, the disco etc that you can't help feeling that, on the day, Kate will decide to take Phoebe to London, or out for a meal or something. Actually, Kate was quite reasonable (for her) when she talked to Roy and Hayley about Phoebe wanting to live in South Africa. It seems that Roy might be having second thoughts, as he tells Hayley that it might be a good idea for Phoebe to have some time in SA before she gets involved in O-Levels and suchlike. Hayley remains unconvinced and, while the words "over Kate's dead body" were not mentioned, the feeling was there.

Drama at the Single Wicket, where Harry proved that he is human by losing in the semi-final. The final pitted father against son and it went down to the final ball, when Chris caught his father to take the title. Susan thought that Chris might have dropped the catch so that his ageing father could have won. Chris replied that he heard his dad shouting "catch it son!" Detailed sonic and audio research has revealed that what Neil actually said was "Catch it son and you'll be disinherited!"

Cricket wasn't the only sport taking place at the Single Wicket, as both Harry (who was taking part) and Jazzer (who wasn't) took a shine to one of Home Farm's Polish fruit pickers. Jazzer's attitude to courtship reminds me of the joke about the Australian: "Hey Sheila, do ya screw?" "No" "Well would ya mind laying still while I do?" whereas Harry is more polite and subtle. The flatmates are fated to be rivals in the lists of love, or as Jazzerromantically described it: "it's game on pal."Taking on Harry – has the Scottish milkman lost his marbles?

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Family Doesn't Count

Judy Bennett (Shula Hebden Lloyd)

The concept of keeping a secret appears to be totally alien to inhabitants of Ambridge – take Susan (please); when Clarrie told her about the Nic/Will baby thing, she swore her to secrecy. This is what Susan told Neil, who pointed out that she had broken her word. "Oh, family doesn't count," she replied, telling him that she had also told Emma.

Family certainly doesn't count with Elizabeth at the moment, or at least not that part of it that is David-shaped. She really isn't a happy bunny, is she? And woe betide anyone who tries to put in a good word for David – first of all Jill tried, saying she'd never forgive herself if she said nothing. Stony ground, I'm afraid, Jill, as Lizzie goes off on another one, saying "David has destroyed my family".

Later on Shula tries to make little sister see reason, pointing out (quite reasonably) that David didn't tie Nigel hand and foot and drag him up on the roof – Nigel could always have said "no". Lizzie's response? "Shula, you're my sister and I love you dearly, but if you say one more word about this – one more word – we're finished." Sounds like a good offer to me.

Of course, Shula knows what Lizzie is going through, having suffered after Mark's fatal crash. What with Lizzie screaming vitriol and abuse and David working himself into the ground and going round like a zombie on Mogadon (or, as Kenton described it "completely adrift, with the masts gone") the Archer family has known better times. David is determined to look on the blackest of sides, saying to Kenton: "I've smashed things up so badly with Elizabeth that it can't be fixed." Fine. Hold that thought David – accept it as true and now get over it and move on.

Ruth is worried that David is retreating further and further into himself, asking Jill: "What can I say to him that makes him realise he's still a good man?" What does she mean "still"?

From one miserable sod to another – yes, I do mean Jamie, who is distraught when Jolene cuts down his hours at the Bull. Kathy had been a bit off with Jolene, as she (Kathy) thought that Jamie had asked Jolene to reduce his hours so he could do some more revision. I don't know what colour the sky is on Planet Kathy, but she must have been the only person in the world who thought that Jamie really would ask, so Jolene decided to take unilateral action when she found out.

Jamie doesn't take it like a man, but more like Kevin the Teenager (whining, sighing and telling Jolene how unfair it is and how he needs the money). Jolene, however, remains unmoved and says to him "welcome to the real world". If she'd then given him a slap round the head, it would have been perfect, but you can't have everything.

We had a riveting book club meeting at the Snell's, with pretentious food (spinach and artichoke dips, Mexican bean pâté) to accompany the pretentious drivel being spouted by Jennifer about Mrs Gaskell and Cranford. Susan dragged things down a level or two by saying that, in her opinion, Mrs Gaskell had no idea about the realities of retailing.

The only man at the book club meeting was Richard Thwaite and we only knew this when we were told that he had gone for a walk round the garden. Poor sod – talk about the invisible man! I mean even the bloody Peregrine falcon got to give us a squawk this week. What's going to happen when it's Richard's turn to host the book club meeting? Perhaps his choice will be the biography of Marcel Marceau and the meeting will be held entirely in mime?

Speaking of Falcons, it seems that Roy has come up with a cunning marketing strategy which means that they can be kept on at Lower Loxley and that Jessica won't get the push either. If Roy keeps coming up with these brilliant ideas, he'll have to change his name to Harry.