Monday, 25 July 2011

Clarrie The Carrier

 Rosalind Adams (Clarrie Grundy)

The week started so well for Clarrie, with her granddaughter's christening on Sunday. Even better – Eddie's embarrassing brother Alf couldn't make it.

We realised that Nic, Will and children obviously don't go to church very often when Mia kept asking "why is that man (Alan the vicar) wearing a nightie?" Neil tells Alan that he feels it is the wrong way round, having the child christened before they are even married. Alan, however is more relaxed about it, saying it's just nice to welcome a child into the Church. Yeah – like Emma and Ed will ever go again.

Ed is alarmed when George lets slip that Will is making three goats and a troll for the scarecrow contest and Emma moans (yes, I too found it amazing) because Keira won't sleep through the night. She also cries a lot – Nic picks her up and she stops at once. Jake asks Nic if he can have a baby sister – No! Nic promptly gives Keira back and she starts crying again. She's probably starting to recognise her mother.

Monday saw high drama, when the Environmental Health people swooped on Bridge Farm mob handed. It seems that people at the gymkhana at the weekend went down with e-coli and they had all had Bridge Farm ice cream. The EH demand access to all areas and Pat agrees to a voluntary recall of all Bridge Farm products.

Susan and Clarrie are interviewed by the EH people and Clarrie said that she had a stomach upset on Saturday and came back to work on Monday. She didn't tell Pat because she hadn't missed any work days. It looks bad for Clarrie, as you are supposed to wait at least 48 hours before returning to work. The EH leave, bearing lots of samples and with the ominous news that they will call back when the results are known. In the meantime, Pat sends Susan and Clarrie home but is still paying their wages, which is good of her.

Perhaps we can see where Bridge Farm are making economies as the next day is Jack's 92nd birthday and we learn that one of the cards is from Tony, Pat, Helen, Tom, Brenda and Henry. Six people on one card – how cheap is that?

Despite the fact that there are no Bridge Farm products in the shop, and that Pat has told the fete committee that they will have to find another supplier, and that Underwoods are unhappy about the product recall, to the extent that they have cancelled their order for Tom's sausages, nobody in the village seems to have spotted that something's up. Mind you, Jennifer does wonder why there's no cream at the shop and does Susan know why? Susan doesn't, but sees this as an ideal opportunity to tell Jennifer what a wonderful chance it would be for someone to invest in Chris's business. Jen appears not to be listening, but next day she moans to Lilian about the unsubtlety of Susan's approach.

Jennifer can be a nasty cow at times and she blames Chris, telling Lilian that "I can see that he will be looking for a leg up at every stage of his career." Jen also says that she thinks Alice was disappointed at 'only' getting a 2:1 degree, instead of a First. We know who the disappointed one really is.

In case you were thinking that it was all about Bridge Farm last week, over at Brookfield Josh is acting strangely – apparently leaving the house clutching a backpack and a plastic bucket. Perhaps he's leaving home? I await the outcome, whatever it is, with interest. Ruth also gives David the news that the milk yields are down again, making him even more depressed, if that were possible. "Sometimes I feel like jacking it all in", he says, despondently.

Back at Bridge Farm, the product recall notice appears in the Echo, plus there is a story about people being taken ill with e-coli at the gymkhana. And still nobody makes the connection. On Thursday the EH ring up and confirm that the cleaning was OK and it looks like Clarrie is the source of the outbreak. Pat has a rant, telling Tom (who has started speaking again, by the way) "Why was Clarrie so stupid? She's put the whole business in jeopardy!"

Why not ask Clarrie herself? Pat storms round to the Grundy's, where she tells Clarrie in no uncertain terms that it's down to her. "You do realise how serious it is?" Pat asks a horrified Clarrie. Just in case she doesn't, Pat tells her that her thoughtlessness has put lives at risk, plus the whole business, which they have been building up for years, could go under "And it will be all your fault!" she screams at Clarrie. So, no employee of the month award, then?

Monday, 18 July 2011

Fallon Down

Joanna van Kampen (Fallon Rogers)

Poor Fallon hasn't had a lot of luck in her life, has she? It got off to a bad start by having Wayne for a father (and he's been blessedly absent for weeks now – keep your fingers crossed that it continues), although things did admittedly look up for Fallon when Wayne walked out on Jolene and her.

Last week, she suffered again when Harry, in an uncharacteristically insensitive moment, asked her if she could suggest somewhere classy (but not too expensive) where he could take Zofia and give her a really special night out. Fallon still harbours feelings for Harry and she got quite stroppy with Kirsty when the latter suggested they take on Harry and Zofia at boule. Talking with Kirsty later, Fallon says that she's missed her chance with him – I'm not so sure, although Harry does seem besotted with his Polish fruit picker.

The competition on the scarecrow front is hotting up and, as I predicted, Ambridge will soon be awash with Billy Goats Gruff. Emma is obsessed with winning and ropes poor Neil in to make the troll for George, saying that she really wants to win the prize. "No pressure then" said Neil.

But there is pressure elsewhere in the Carter household, as Susan feels the strain of having to prepare the food for the christening party. Clarrie has said she will help and Nic offered to cook something. Susan, however, is obviously modelling herself on control freak Jennifer, as she turns down Nic's offer, with just a hint of hysteria. All's well, though, as Clarrie persuades her to let Nic cook the hot dogs. Honestly, what with stressing about the food and moaning to Neil about wasting time with the scarecrow, Susan will have a breakdown.

She also seems to be developing delusions of grandeur – Emma (looking on the bright side as always) wonders what will happen if it rains on the day. "It's not going to rain," shrieks a demented Susan, adding "Nothing's going to go wrong! It will be the perfect christening party!" That sounds like tempting Fate – and with people like Eddie and his brother Alf being invited (not to mention Joe) – the potential for disaster is monumental.

Of course, Susan is also worried about the state of son Christopher's finances. Having extricated himself from the loan shark by taking out a loan to buy the new van, he wants to buy out boss Ronnie's farrier business. Should he take out a second loan? He consults Dad Neil, who advises caution (now there's a surprise). Susan continues fretting, but Neil says helpfully "They'll manage." Susan wishes that they could help Chris and Alice but Neil scotches that idea. Susan (who doesn't know about the loan shark, thank God) thinks that it is Alice's expectations that is causing the trouble and that Jennifer doesn't approve. In the next breath, Susan muses that perhaps Brian and Jennifer ought to invest in Chris's future business and put up the money. It doesn't seem likely, as when Brian and Jennifer discuss Alice and Chris, Brian takes what might be described as 'the Neil approach' by saying "They'll be OK". Of course, Brian is preoccupied because he's the latest entrant in the scarecrow competition and has roped Adam in to make one for Ruari. Honestly – is there no-one in Ambridge who isn't stuffing sacks with straw and bending chicken wire?

Going back to Susan, one thing she is spot on about is that Jennifer doesn't approve and Jen loses no time in telling Brian that this is what she was afraid of when Alice rushed into marriage "and now she's finding out what it's like; existing on a low income". Brian points out that Chris has a good job in a good trade and they are living in a rent-free cottage, so there's no need for Alice to go on the streets just yet.

For her part, Alice feels guilty for getting Chris into the loan mess in the first place and for not bringing in a wage to help. Chris says there's no way she is giving up her post-graduate studies and they will manage somehow.

When Alice says that she will be buying some frozen pizzas, Jennifer reverts to über-snob mode and says "Pizzas?" in the same tone that you or I might use when talking about dog's mess on the pavement. Jen's blood pressure goes into orbit when Alice, asks to borrow The Echo and casually mentions that she's looking for jobs to bring in some money. "A job?" says Jennifer in her 'pizza?' voice and proceeds to give Alice a lecture about having a proper career.

This being Jennifer, she goes on and on about it until an obviously pissed-off Alice says "I've only just got back from Uni – stop trying to plan my career for me." Jennifer is affronted and, in a hurt voice says "All right darling – I'll stop interfering". Can we have that in writing, please Jennifer?

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Scarecrow Race

Maddie Glasbey (Natalie)

I'm becoming convinced that most of the men in Ambridge are lucky to have wives or girlfriends who, quite frankly, are much too good for them. The classic example is Clarrie, who has put up with Eddie for longer than anyone should have to suffer and it appears that being a clueless git is embedded in the Grundy genes, as William can rely on Nic, who is way, way too nice for him.

Not only too nice, but more refined, not that that's difficult. Nic surprises Will at work with a picnic, telling him she popped into the patisserie. "What? The cake shop, you mean?" replies man-of-the world William. Yes William, and later on she bought some steak at the meat shop, some bananas at the fruit shop and some aspirin at the pill shop.

The latest star to appear on the scene is Natalie, who has taken arch-miserable sod Jamie under her wing and is proving to be a good influence on him. So much so that she is trying to persuade him to go to sixth form college; telling him that if he doesn't, they'll be apart for two years, which begs the question why is she trying to persuade him? I would have thought that two years away from Jamie would be favourite.

Jamie is worried how his friend Marty will face up to court, while everyone tells Jamie how good he's being. He and Kathy are getting along famously and Kathy tells him to go to the Bull and spend some time with Jolene and Kenton: "It's just what you need right now". How cruel is that? What have Jolene and Kenton ever done to Kathy? Actually, quite a lot when you think about it, so perhaps sending Jamie was a sort of twisted revenge.

The date of Phoebe's departure to South Africa draws nearer and Hayley is having last-minute doubts about whether Kate will look after her. "Are we doing the right thing?" she asks Roy. Don't be so stupid woman – of course you are! Getting rid of Kate and a moody Phoebe has to be a win-win situation. Even better, the local school can't guarantee Phoebe a place when she returns – maybe you should stay out there, Phoebe? One supreme bit of good news – Kate got to the airport and got on the plane. Jennifer went with her; presumably to make sure she left.

At the Borsetshire Show, David is networking in his NFU Presidential role, while Pip's lambs take the prize for being the most lamb-like or something. She tells Spencer that she really wants to work at Brookfield after her uni course but is worried that David thinks the business won't be able to afford her and she will have to look elsewhere for work. Perhaps you would all like to join me in praying for a recession in the farming sector for the next three years just to make sure?

Elsewhere, Tom continues to be an offstage character, being talked about but never appearing, while Rhys the barman has been given a speaking part. Not content with being forced off his bike with Harry by the car stolen by Steve, he is now renting Peggy Woolley's flat, which presumably means that previous tenant Helen will be staying at Bridge Farm permanently. How lucky is that for Pat and Tony?

The Keira Godmother crisis is averted when it is revealed that Samantha (Emma's cousin) and Alice have agreed to do it. Ed tells Emma that Alice and Chris have had a difficult time with a loan shark in Southampton and they were a bit rocky for a while. Apparently this story ran on the "Ambridge Extra" series on Radio 4 Extra and I hope we are not going to have this situation of précised plots all the time. Keep The Archers on Radio 4, say I!

Anyway, Ed says to Emma "Don't breathe a word", which sounds like the triumph of hope over experience. When Emma is talking to Alice a bit later, she lets it be known that she knows there has been trouble, making the atmosphere a bit frosty. Ed will have more time on his hands as he asked Oliver if he'd do two milkings a week. Oliver is delighted and, when Ed says he's worried that he can't afford the going rate, Oliver tells him that he'll do it for nothing, as a friend. Presumably Ed is now wondering if he can get Ollie to do it seven days. Oliver now officially joins Nic and Natalie as a member of the "too nice" club.

Finally, you may remember the Space Race and the Arms Race? Well ladies and gentlemen, we now have the Scarecrow Race! George was disappointed that Emma and Ed wouldn't build him a Billy Goats Gruff Troll scarecrow, so Nic and William decided to step in. Emma and Ed then had a change of heart, only to find out that Will and Nic's scarecrow is much bigger and better. "We can't just take it," says Emma, "We'll have to up our game!"

Instead of just a troll, there will also be a goat. But what will happen when the other side finds out? Presumably three goats? Then someone might decide to incorporate a bridge. Where will it all end? At this rate I envisage a scale model of Ambridge, incorporating the Am, a fully-functioning bridge, manned by a battalion of trolls and being crossed by an army of goats. And I bet the miserable little sod George still wouldn't be satisfied.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

On Their Bikes

(Sam Johnson) Steve Wilkes

Lots of two-wheeled action last week, with Harry proving that a bicycle can be an aid to wooing, as he went off on a ride with Zofia, who promised to call round one night with a bottle of cherry brandy, as long as Jazzer wasn't around. From the gist of their conversation, it seems this wouldn't be the first cherry she's given him.

We also learned that Phoebe will soon be on her bike – on the evening of the party for her 13th birthday, we were told that Hayley had agreed to let her go to South Africa for a year. Result! And she and Kate are going on 6th July. There was one heart-freezing moment when Kate revealed that she would be doing a Masters at Felpersham College. "No!" I mouthed wordlessly at the radio, and the scalpel was fast approaching the wrist when Kate added that it would be long distance learning, from South Africa. Phew!

Kate actually behaves like a normal human being and thanks Hayley for letting Phoebe go. Later on Hayley and Roy talk of how happy Phoebe is "and I even had a nice moment with Kate" Hayley adds, and you don't hear that very often. We should congratulate Alice, on achieving a 2:1 degree and she too will be doing a Masters at Felpersham, always assuming that she can leave Christopher alone long enough to go to college.

The older members of the Aldridge family were involved in getting things ready for Phoebe's party, where Jennifer was distraught to learn that the Fete Committee has lined up Carinthia Hart, author of Mistress of the Paddocks, to open this year's fete. She will be signing her books on the day but I suspect Jennifer won't be buying.

We had merry japes when Caroline surprised Oliver by taking him out on their fifth wedding anniversary and all along he thought she was going to work. The couple talk about Ed's offer of being Keira's Godparents and Caroline says that she doesn't think she can make the religious commitment and will have to say 'no'.

Bearing in mind that Caroline was a bit of a goer in her time, this sudden attack of morals seems strange to say the least. Oliver agreed to go and tell Ed that he's up for it but Caroline isn't and we gain an insight into the reverence and respect that Ed and Emma have for their child's christening when both profess themselves amazed that she could be taking it so seriously. Presumably all they want is someone to turn up on the day with the silver mug and hopefully not forget the Godchild when it comes to will-writing time?

Kenton becomes the latest village person to try and make Lizzie see that she is being a moody and vindictive cow by suggesting that it is unfair on Lily and Freddie. Elizabeth's reply is that she's not stopping them going to Brookfield, it's just that she herself will never set foot in the place again. She wasn't so fussy when we had the inheritance row a few years back. Just in case Kenton hasn't grasped the point, she says "There isn't going to be a reconciliation between me and David." Kenton says he feels sorry for her and is no doubt wondering how quickly he can decently leave to move into the Bull.

It proved quite a busy week for Kenton, as on Thursday a distressed Jamie called him – Jamie, friend Marty and Steve (brother of the too-good-to-be-true Spencer) were in a pub. Steve (who is under age) had a couple of lagers and nicked a customer's car keys. Jamie didn't get into the car as Steve drove off like a man possessed and knocked Harry and Rhys off their bikes (I told you there were a lot of bikes this week) as they were having a friendly race along the lanes of Borsetshire.

Kenton says "It’s time I had a grown-up conversation with Jamie." What? You couldn't do grown-up if your life depended on it, Kenton!

Eventually Kenton takes Jamie back to see Kathy, who was so relieved that he was OK that she forgot to moan at him. Jamie has to give a statement to the police and feels guilty for grassing up his mates. He's worried too that he might have to give evidence in court but the week comes to a happy end as he tells Kathy "Mum – you've been amazing" (changed his tune, the little git), while she says "I'm so proud of you – you go and call Natalie while I cook omelette (and chips)."

Things look bad for Steve – drinking, driving, no insurance, stealing a car – but it could get even worse, as Inspector Clouseau-Snell is hunting high and low for whoever sprayed hair dye on the llamas and is seeking justice. Never mind Revenge of the Pink Panther; if Steve isn't careful, I can see him being fitted up for the Pink Llama job.