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. 

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