Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Pigs Might Fly (Down The Wing)

 West Ham United?

This week we were kept in suspense when Tom (Judas) Archer announced that he had formulated a major marketing initiative that would sweep the country, taking the newly-named and newly re-packaged Tom Archer's Borsetshire Sausages with it. But the little tease wouldn't tell Brenda what the idea was, thus whipping her up into a lather of anticipation and us into a frenzy of apathy.

However, we didn't have to wait long as Tom and Jazzer unveiled the idea – pigs playing football, no less. I bet Saatchi and Saatchi are wondering how they ever missed that one. The pigs don't seem particularly interested at first ("we need to get them match fit") but this doesn't stop Brenda being impressed. Mind you, she lives with Tom, so her expectations can't be that high.

Later on in the week, Tom demonstrates his idea to Pat and Tony, who have just seen the new packaging which ditches the Bridge Farm name. Attaboy Tom! Just twist that knife a little more and rub some more salt into that gaping wound!

Joe celebrated his 90th birthday on Sunday with a meeting of the cider club and various invited guests, playing traditional pub games. I thought I would expire with boredom when Joe and Bert were counting up their cribbage hands – I know three year olds who can count quicker than that. It was David's birthday too and, surprise, surprise, there was no card from sister Lizzie. People ate the food, even though it was prepared by Clarrie, although she was upset when Jim ('Mr Sensitive') kept going on about how Joe's cider was not very hygienic but it challenged the immune system. Perhaps Joe should bring out a brand called 'Clarrie'?

Actually, if I were David, I'd start keeping a wary eye out, as Elizabeth can start driving again after her illness and I wouldn't put it past her to start stalking him, looking for a hit-and-run opportunity. While on the subject of the Pargetter family, we had more sick-making comments about how Freddie looks like (and, astonishingly, wants to be like) his father. Shula has him on a lead rein (well, the pony, actually) and he is going over some jumps. This is all too easy and he wants to attempt higher ones. Shula says "no", which is a pity, as I'm sure there's a six-foot high hedge on the edge – on the very edge – of the disused quarry we learned about last week.

For Hercule Poirot fans, we had the mystery of George's missing book bag, when Emma practically accused Nic of either losing it or keeping it. Being Emma, she went on and on about it and Nic, who was positive that she had sent it back with George, asked Clarrie if, next time she was at Will and Emma's, if she wouldn't mind looking for it. Sure enough, later in the week, Clarrie asked Emma if the bag had turned up, to which the answer was 'yes' and Clarrie suggested that Emma ring Nic and tell her. Emma agreed, but with very bad grace (no surprise there, then).

Will and Nic were going out and Will asked the question that we listeners have been asking for months – "How did I get to be so lucky?" In return, Nic, proving she has little pride and even less sense, said "I love you Will Grundy". I have narrowed it down to drugs or hypnotism, as Nic seems otherwise mentally OK.

Poor Clarrie swallows her pride and goes to sign on, only to be told that, as she gave up her job voluntarily, she may not be entitled to benefits. "They can't do that!" yells an indignant Eddie. Afraid they can, my old son – it's called the law.

Fresh from watching Porkers Utd play Rasher Athletic, Tony decides that he will approach Peggy again for a loan, but when he gets to her house, he is appalled to find it dirty and untidy, with washing up everywhere. Poor Peggy is visiting The Laurels every moment she can and has let things slide somewhat. When she returns, she is embarrassed that Tony has seen the place in such a state – for his part, Tony realises that this is not the time (again) to be asking for a loan. Tony and Pat are worried that Peggy is running herself into the ground "somehow or other we have to take more of the burden off her" say Tony, loading another cross on to his and Pat's shoulders. I'll just say one word – Elona.

Debbie's plan to have a mega herd of dairy cattle is still alive and she mentions to Brian that, if they could get Brookfield on side, then they could have 2,000 or more cows. And what then? An Anschluss into Bridge Farm? Invade Lower Loxley? Debbie and Brian still have neglected to tell Adam of their plans and I can't help thinking that he'll go gorilla-pooh when he does find out. Still I expect Debbie will have him shot – this is going to be cattle country boy, so take your arable elsewhere.

Let's end as we began, with Tom's footballing pigs. Assuming that training goes OK, what will be the names of the teams? West Ham United? Pork City? Porksmouth? Queens Pork Rangers? And who can captain the sides? One contender might be German midfielder Dietmar Hamann, but my favourite is the Fulham player - Marcello Trotta.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Tomorrow The World!

Tamsin Greig (Debbie Aldridge)

Debbie breezed in from Hungary and promptly told Brian of her plans for world domination – or at least Borsetshire dairy domination. While they are talking, Tony joins them and bemoans his fate, telling them that the whole dairy business has gone belly up and how wise Brian is to be in arable. Brian and Debbie decide that this isn't the time to tell Tony that they have been talking about a herd of 1,000+ cows – neither do they tell Adam.

Meanwhile, Tom is doing his "Lord Sugar meets Richard Branson" impression, telling Helen that if anyone can salvage anything from the mess that is Bridge Farm, it will be him and her. He then demonstrated loyalty and soilidarity by telling Pat and Tony that he's going to re-brand his products as 'Tom Archer' and ditch the Bridge Farm name. And all because he'd just lost his best customer.

Tom's decision goes down like a pair of lead knickers with Pat and Tony and, while Tom doesn't actually call his father a miserable failure, it was close. As it is, Pat has a stiff word with Tom, telling him that Tony is in bits and, if Tom talks to him like that again, she'll rip his goolies off (or similar).

Elizabeth and Shula talk about how Freddie wants to go hunting and, when Lizzie watched him at the gallop and he looked over his shoulder, it reminded her of Nigel. Aargh! Still, there might be a solution, as Lizzie asked Shula to keep an eye on Freddie and says "will you take him out?" Super idea! Although I think she meant it in a different way from me.

The drama of the week of course was Clarrie going awol. Clarrie had put a card in the shop window, offering herself for cleaning, ironing, child minding, etc. Clarrie was checking to see if it was still there (she'd had no takers) when Vicky (she with the gob like the Mersey tunnel) repeated Derek Fletcher's comment that "who'd want that dirty woman doing your ironing or looking after your children?" without realising that Clarrie was listening. Poor Clarrie promptly fled in shame and didn't go home that night.

The rest of the Grundy family were really worried (mainly, one suspects, because she hadn't done anything for supper) and a frantic search ensued. Tuesday's episode ended with Clarrie still missing and Eddie and Joe still unfed.

The following day, Vicky comes to apologise and is distraught to learn from Joe that Clarrie isn't there. "It might be partly my fault" she says. Partly? About 95% I'd say. Edward is all for going and sorting Derek Fletcher out, but Joe dissuades him.

While the Grundys are out searching, Edward suggests going to look at the old quarry. Where did that come from? Oddly convenient that we have a missing person and suddenly a potentially lethal quarry. I mean, why not go the whole hog and suggest that they take a look at the foaming cataract and enormous waterfall in a hitherto-unmentioned stretch of the Am? Or how about the nearby volcano that everybody thought was extinct? Anyway, she wasn't there and, later on, Clarrie rings in to say that she was at her sister Rosie's. She had tried to get to Yarmouth, which indicates desperation.

Eddie goes to pick her up and she is still beating herself up for causing so much trouble. "I don't deserve you Eddie" she said. How very, very true. Everybody in the family treats Clarrie with kid gloves and, in a supreme moment of self-sacrifice, Edward goes to see Will and suggests that the two of them go and see their mother together, as it would mean a lot to her. Will underlines what a charmless, petty-minded nurk he is when he asks Edward "What are you getting out of this?" To his eternal credit, Edward doesn't smack his brother in the mouth and they go and see Clarrie.

Meanwhile, back at Bridge Farm. Pat has talked to Underwoods and they have agreed to give them more time to pay the £10,000. Poor Tony still hasn't had the chance to put the bite on Peggy for the money (she's still very worried about Jack possibly not going back to the Laurels). Every time he brings the conversation round to their current plight and drops hints like "it's the cash flow that is worrying us", Peggy doesn't bite and, to make matters worse, tells Tony that they have two great assets in their two children. This was before 'Mr Loyalty' Tom ditched the Bridge Farm name, or else I think Tony might have cried.

As it is, Joe Grundy gave him a hard time over Clarrie's disappearance, saying that it was the loss of the job that tipped her over the edge. Tony responded by saying that, the way things are going, no-one will have a job soon and Joe should know how hard it is to turn a failing farm round. Joe is another displaying a touching faith in Helen and Tom, saying that they'll turn it around in no time. He also made the point that, when the Grundys got into trouble, they were tenants, while Tony owns the land. What a great idea Tony – flog off the farm for megabucks (perhaps Brian would like it for his super-dairy herd) and treat yourself and Pat to a life of luxury. You can even give Helen and young Henry a few quid, but whatever you do, don't give that treacherous, whingeing turncoat Tom a single penny.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Departure Time

Lucy Morris (Phoebe Aldridge)

Lots of 'goodbyes' this week. First of all we had Ruairi being hauled off to boarding school. Brian was very bullish, saying what wonderful opportunities there were for extra-curricular activities and how much Ruairi would love it there. Jennifer is unconvinced and, when Ruairi (who had purposely left his cuddly toy Mousey at home) saw that other boys had brought teddies etc, she leaps into the car and drives Mousey down to him. Let go, woman! You can't turn up every time his nose needs blowing – how will you react when the older boys start using him for after-school recreation?

If, like me, you have been crossing off the days on the calendar, you will have been ecstatic as this was the week that Phoebe went off to South Africa. First of all we had doubts, with Phoebe saying to Jennifer (about school) "What if nobody likes me?" What does she mean "if"? Jennifer reassures her and says that everyone at home will be sad to see Phoebe go, but they have lots to keep them occupied. Like cracking open the champers, perhaps? Don't worry Phoebe – if you get homesick and start crying, no doubt Jennifer will be on the first plane to Joburg, tissue in hand. It worries me that Jennifer is going to have too much time on her hands – I hope she doesn't start getting more lines.

Phoebe then had to be dissuaded from trying to take every item of clothing in her wardrobe and most of the fixtures and fittings from home. She still strongly resembled the Michelin man as she said goodbye at the airport and there was a tearful farewell with Roy and Hayley. "Don't take any stupid risks" Roy told her. Why? What is she going to do in South Africa? Hang-glide off Table Mountain? Venture into a big game park, armed only with a rolled-up newspaper? When she has gone through to airside, Roy breaks down and weeps – I must admit, I damn nearly became hysterical myself.

The Pargetter children started secondary school and, once again, there was uncertainty, with Freddie wondering whether everybody else will be a brainbox, like Lily, and he'll be the only thicko in the class. "I'm not a super boffin" he said. Of course not Freddie – you're Nigel's son after all. I can only assume that Lily was fathered by someone else.

Bad news for Harry, as Zofia's attempt to stay in England for a few more weeks, helping to clear up the polytunnels, ends in failure. Harry is despondent and, drinking down the pub with Eddie, Will, Jim and Jazzer, he tells them that he will just have to save up to visit her in Poland. Jazzer comforts him by saying there'll be another one along in a minute. Harry, if you only have a couple of weeks left with Zofia, what the hell are you doing down the pub with a crowd of misfits? For God's sake, grab her, whisk her back to the flat and put the bolts across so Jazzer can't get in.

I thought there was going to be a more permanent 'goodbye' when Tony turned up at Peggy's, to learn that Jack had had a stroke at The Laurels. Tony drove her to hospital, where Jack is on a drip (or a 'Freddie Pargetter' as it's known in some circles). Fortunately, the stroke was comparatively mild, but Peggy feels this is the start of a downhill journey and what will happen if he has another one – will The Laurels accept him back? Sounds like a job for Elona to me.

The reason that Tony went to Peggy's in the first place was that he and Pat had been looking at the Bridge Farm accounts and realised that they can't go on like they are. The only solution was to go and see Mum with the begging bowl, but Jack's situation weed on that particular bonfire. Mind you, Tony is so insensitive that I'm amazed that, when sitting round Jack's bed, he didn't say to Peggy "now we're alone and quiet, I'd like to ask you something…"

The Bridge Farm disaster continues unabated. Brenda suggests getting a journalist friend of hers at Borsetshire Life to do a feature on Bridge Farm. When Tom tells Pat that, of course the magazine would need an angle and so would have to mention the e.coli, she goes spare and dismisses it out of hand. Later on in the week, Pat breaks down and starts ranting that she won't just give up, even though the words "Bridge Farm" have become synonymous with "Plague Farm".

Finally, every so often, I imagine the following scenario taking place; all the writers, editor and agricultural advisor are at a meeting and someone says "we shouldn't forget that The Archers is an everyday story of country folk and not just a soap opera." Everybody nods wisely and the writers go away and dream up some scene which majors on farming matters.

Obviously just such a meeting had taken place before last week, as we had Pip banging on about different feeding strategies and telling David that they should be examining their milk contracts. Later on, she and Ruth were helping a cow to calve and Pip was doing a great job, telling Ruth things that she already knew, as Ruth gently reminded her.

Even more tedious for we non-farming listeners was the Wednesday episode, when David, Ruth, Pip and Spencer were at an agricultural show. David and Ruth had a long discussion about the benefits of various breeds of cattle (apparently the Brown Swiss is mega-good) while arable farmer Spencer was having orgasms, looking at an automated milking parlour. He and Pip have just booked a holiday in Dubrovnik – sounds like it's coming just in the nick of time. 

Monday, 5 September 2011

Man the Barricades!

Roger May (James Bellamy)

Why? To keep James and Leonie out of Ambridge, of course. God! They've only been in a few episodes and I loathe them both already – they have edged ahead of Will in the 'character that I'd most like to slap' stakes and that's no mean feat, believe me.

Prancing around the gardens of Ambridge with their new camera (bought for James by Ma), saying they are on 'official business' and collecting information for their book, while demonstrating a total lack of knowledge about every aspect of rural life, it's not just me that's getting annoyed, as Jim and Bert complain to Lynda. Even she can see that J&L are getting on peoples' tits and, when Jim and Bert say that they hope this isn't going to be a regular occurrence, Lynda says she is afraid it will be. Ha! She's afraid!

All I can say is that it bloody well better not be – if I hear James refer to Lilian as "Ma" one more time, I'll swing for him. After all, we finally got rid of Nigel and his talk of "Mummy" and now we have this jerk.   Matt doesn't share Lilian's enthusiasm and, when she remarks that he could have toured the open gardens with her, Lynda, James and Leonie, he replies "there's only so much excitement a man can take", although sarcasm is wasted on Lilian.

Perhaps Matt is feeling a bit annoyed because Lilian overruled his doubts about Peggy's plans to install Elona as the new tenant at No. 3 The Green. "I'm the MD of AmSide and that's my decision", said rank-puller Lilian. As it turned out, it was academic, as Elona still says she cannot accept. Eventually she reveals that her husband has been in prison for a year for receiving stolen goods and she feels ashamed.

So what? He'll fit right in. Blimey, one of the village shop volunteers has done time and even the landlord himself of No. 3 was banged up not so long ago, so what's the worry?

Caped Crusader Will finds out that Josh is still trapping crayfish and confronts him. Josh explains that he's not trapping them on Estate land, but Will reminds him that he still needs a licence and goes to the pub specially to warn Jolene. Jolene tells Kenton and he and Kirsty have a quiet word with Josh, telling him that it has to stop. So, that's crayfish off the new, revamped menu and Josh's nice little earner nipped in the bud. Tell you what Josh, why not suggest to Kenton that pheasant is added to the menu – I know where there's a handy supply.

The metamorphosis of Harry from anal retentive to laid-back slob continues apace, much to the distress of Jazzer. Harry is preparing a CD for Zofia at 2am and, when Jazzer complains, Harry says that it doesn't matter because he hasn't got to get up early. Whatever happened to super-considerate Harry? Jazzer tells Pip and Spencer that he doesn't recognise Harry any more, plus he goes into too much detail about how Harry and Zofia keep him awake – and we're not talking about playing records here.

Roy, like the rest of us, is counting down the days till Phoebe departs for her year in South Africa; the difference is that, in his case, he feels sad. Dad Mike says that letting her go is the right thing to do; a sentiment echoed by millions of us yelling "too bloody right!" at the radio. On the subject of departures, Ruari is being carted round the village, saying 'goodbye' to all and sundry before he's packed off to boarding school.

The ongoing car crash that is Bridge Farm continues on its downward spiral. Tom and Brenda are persisting with their attempts to bury the bad news on search engines by flagging up good news stories ("Good news for Bridge Farm, as another day passes with no children taken to hospital") and by repeatedly going on to the site to build up the number of hits.

This latter proves to be a waste of time, when Pip mentions to Tom that, if he doesn't delete his history every time, then it won't register as separate hits. Tom pretends he knew this, but he didn't really and starts banging his head against the wall.

Kathy takes Pat out for lunch at The Bull (in fact, Kathy had probably the very last crayfish salad) while Pat lived dangerously by having the ploughman's, complete with Borsetshire Blue cheese. Kathy wants to talk about Clarrie but Pat shuts her up.

Earlier, Pat told Tom that things are so bad that, when the ice cream etc in the village shop gets to its sell-by date, the volunteers can take it home for nothing (remember the Joe Grundy scam over biscuits?). However, they can't even give Bridge Farm products away. Tom goes in to deliver a bit of education and comes out totally dispirited when it transpires that Neville Booth brings in his own disposable gloves so that he doesn't have to touch the vegetables. Back at the farm, Pat tells Tony that Tom and Brenda think they are on to something with the website, but Tony isn't happy: "How long will that take?" he asks, despondently, then reveals a cruel propensity to punish innocent vegetables as he walks out, saying "I'm off to flail the spuds." What have they done?