Monday, 31 October 2011

Emma Throws a Moody

Barry Farrimond and Emerald O'Hanrahan (Ed and Emma Grundy)

I can see why Emma and Will were once attracted (and married) to each other; they're such miserable sods. To be fair, Will is on cloud nine this week, having somehow persuaded Nic to marry him, but Emma's nose is way out of joint, especially when she meets Will and Nic. Emma congratulates them (presumably through fiercely-gritted teeth) but later complains to Ed that Nic was flashing her engagement ring. Ed shows that he has inherited all his Dad's tact and diplomacy when he tells Emma "at least it takes the pressure off us for a bit." Wrong answer Ed!

It hasn't been Emma's week really, as she runs into Clive at the cinema and he invites George to go bowling. While Emma stands there flapping and making "er…no…" noises, Clive and George have agreed that Thursday would be a good day for it. Emma and Ed resolve to go to a ploughing match that day to keep away from Clive. You can't run for ever, people.

At the ploughing match, Bert comes second overall and George is getting into the spirit of things, wanting to sit in the tractor cab. Mind you, he probably just wants to nick it. David and Ruth remark that Emma seems uptight – David thinks it's because of Clive, but Ruth (perceptively) says "Emma's happy when she's the centre of attention, but she won't be for a few months, will she?" Better get that proposal speech finished off, Ed.

Will and Nic can't wait to tell Caroline their news and that they would like to have the wedding and reception at Grey Gables and New Year's Day seems like a good date. To his credit, Will doesn't remind Caroline that she is his Godmother, but the cynic in me reckons they picked Grey Gables, hoping for a freebie. As for Caroline, this will involve her in much extra work, juggling things around – sorry Oliver, it doesn't look as if she'll be giving up work just yet.

There were mutterings of dissent among the members of the Cider Club regarding the community orchard. Eddie had been dreaming of reaping the rewards of their extra labour in increased production and profits from selling the cider, but is a tad peeved when, at a meeting with Mike, the latter makes it clear that the other members are expecting their cut as a reward. Jim the peacemaker to the rescue! He says he will keep accurate records of who has done what, so that cider can be appropriately apportioned.

Jim seems to be in every storyline – not only is he determined to declaim something in Latin for Lynda's Christmas Show, but his sojourn at Christine's is the talk of the village. Well, among the Neanderthal element that is, as both Jazzer and Eddie refer to him as Chris's fancy man. Even more unsubtle was Nathan Booth who, when Christine went into the shop, referred to "your gentleman caller – only he's not just a caller any more, is he?" I should point out that we don't hear Nathan say this – it is a flustered Christine who tells Jim. He just laughs it off and tells her she will need to grow a thicker skin.

Apart from the still on-going rift between David and Elizabeth, other branches of the Archer clan seem set on a course of conflict; Adam goes to see a smaller version of the proposed Home Farm mega-dairy in action and comes away still largely unimpressed. He speaks to Debbie on the phone and she offers him another 100 acres for arable use. Adam regards this as a sop to get his agreement for the project and starts banging on about who would be in charge, to whom would he report etc etc.

Debbie tells him that she is putting the report before the BL board anyway and that she and Brian are for the scheme, or to put it another way, you're outvoted 2-1 Adam, me old mate, but hey – you can still ride on the tractor. Debbie then phones Brian and says it would be good to have Adam onside and why doesn't Brian talk to him? She also warns Brian not to be too heavy or cock it up. As if!

The other split is at Bridge Farm, where Tom is orgasmic because a previous customer has bought a sausage or two after seeing the footballing pigs video. "This proves that my rebranding works" he crows, meanwhile making plans to rename Bridge Farm "Tom Archer Towers" or "Tomorrow the World". Tony tells him to sod off, so he goes bleating to Pat, who also tells him to sod off. It turns out that he has also spoken to Helen, as she confides to Ian that she finds the name "Tom Archer" a bit butch for yoghurt and ice cream. Ian, who is playing with the baby, suggests 'Henry' for a brand name and Helen is impressed. Watch this space.

Finally, and with heavy heart, we come to Lynda's Christmas Round the World show. After hardly anyone turns up for auditions, she is at her lowest ebb (cancel it woman!). Rhys goes bananas when told he is in it – it really doesn't take much to please some of these people, does it? – when Lynda and assistant Vicky go to the pub for a consoling drink. Lynda is in despair, but Vicky comes up with a few names (Usha and Elona's musical daughter). "We don't do despair – not when I'm around" trumpets a triumphant Vicky. Speak for yourself, woman; speak for yourself.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Not The Best Role Model…

Alex Jones (Clive Horrobin)

Who are we talking about? Great Uncle Clive and George Grundy, of course. Will and Nic are worried because George insists on playing 'burglars' all the time and is going around (and even sleeping in) a mask and carrying a bag marked 'swag'. Even Emma and Ed have noticed and Emma wonders if such behaviour is in the genes. She confides her worries to Susan, who laughs at her fears (well, being an ex-jailbird she would, wouldn't she?).

Things take a turn for the worse when Ed and Emma find George playing with a fire truck that they have never seen before. They question George, who freely admits that he 'burglared it' from Jake in order to show Uncle Clive what a good burglar he is. Two slaps deserved there – one for being a thief and one for not speaking properly. Em and Ed tell George off and that he will have to apologise to Jake. Before this happens, Emma and Will manage a civilised conversation for once about George and Clive's influence. Emma says, as far as she's concerned, he'll never see George or Keira again. In your dreams, woman!

Things could be worse and we wait to see if Clive passes on any more tips ("OK George, that's enough playing burglars – let's play a new game. This one's called 'arson'. You take these matches…"). Actually there is probably a way of keeping Clive away – he's been let out because mum Ivy isn't well, so all they have to do is either cure her completely or bump her off. Problem solved.

Clive's baleful influence still stalks Ambridge and Christine is very frightened (and angry) when David tells her that Clive has been back to the village. As far as Christine is concerned, Clive is a murderer (another great game, George!) who shortened her husband's life. Christine asks David how he felt when Clive visited Rickyard Cottage. "Basically, I wanted to kill him" replied David. So. No other cheek turning, then? Christine receives a surprise when Jim Lloyd turns up on her doorstep, complete with suitcase, with the news that he is moving in to protect her. Got your asbestos suit Jim?

It was nice to see Tom's smug nose put out of joint when he received the contract from Underwoods. Not only is the unit price lower, but Tom is expected to contribute towards promotional costs. After Tom's crowing about rebranding, he has to tell Pat and Tony about the bad terms. Tony manfully resists saying "I told you so", but as Tom tells Brenda later, "it was written all over his face."

But Tom's not having it and says he will go and see Doug Somerville of Underwoods and make him change his mind. Tom has obviously been watching too much Dragons' Den and is suffering from delusions of adequacy. Armed with self-righteous anger, he marches into Underwoods and is totally taken apart by Doug Somerville. First, Doug makes him wait for ages, then tells him he can spare him five minutes. Far from changing his mind, he tells Tom that he (Doug) is taking a big risk with the brand, quite frankly he expected a bit more gratitude and now we know where we stand (or in Tom's case, grovel) would you mind shutting the door on your way out Tom?

Tom returns to Brenda even more despondent than before, but hey, we still have the footballing pigs and Brenda's catchy (not) slogan 'Fit pigs make great sausages' and Tom is still convinced that it will go viral.

Have you noticed that non-speaking characters are getting bigger parts, so to speak? I can only assume it's down to BBC cutbacks. Not long ago Derek Fletcher was much in evidence (albeit silently) and now everybody's talking about Hillary Noakes and her petition to get the fireworks display moved off the green because they upset her cockatoo.

Ian – who has been absent for a long time – returned this week and had to listen to Adam banging on about how betrayed he has been by the Super Dairy scheme and what a risk it all is. Ian suggests that he tells Debbie of his fears – now why didn't you think of that Adam?

Will and Nic go to the apple quiz at The Bull and they win it. Before they go, Will tells Nic she looks gorgeous and "I've got to go and make myself look equally gorgeous". Ha! Nic will be a Great Great Grandmother before that happens!

Winning the quiz has obviously affected the couple, as Will comes over all what he thinks is romantic, but is, quite frankly, soppy and wet (not to mention nauseating) and proposes to Nic. He even gets down on his knees and Nic, spurning the opportunity to knee him in the face, demonstrates how empty her life must be by saying "yes!" without even thinking about it. At least sleep on it Nic – about 100 years should do it.

Monday, 17 October 2011

I May have To Go Away For Christmas

John Rowe (Jim Lloyd)

Why? Because, despite resolutely beating off Lynda's requests to do something at the Christmas Show, Jim finally agreed to read a poem – in Latin. Be still, my beating heart. The Harvest Supper went better than expected (for me, at any rate) when we learned that James and Leonie were stuck on the motorway. Lynda and Robert to the rescue! Robert will take the photos and Lynda craft the words, so the Harvest Supper will feature in the proposed book after all. Having said that, all Robert's photos were of Sabrina Thwaite, which did not please Lynda.

Jim was quite active this week, tapping up Oliver about turning the orchard over to the community, telling him that it's just what Joe needs. A kick up the backside, more like. What about Ed's cattle grazing in the orchard? Sod them – Joe will be able to persuade him to move them and Oliver is definitely weakening.

Elsewhere, it was assuredly not a case of 'happy families' in many Ambridge households. Chris and Alice came the closest they have ever come to a row when Alice said she wanted to give up studying to get a job, as she feels guilty that she's not contributing. Chris came over all manly and absolutely forbade it and Alice eventually agreed.

At Bridge Farm, Tom was practically orgasmic when Underwoods agreed to take on his new, rebranded sausages and he kept crowing to his parents, telling them that rebranding was the way forward. Pat and Tony hid their enthusiasm remarkably well, but Tom was too hyper to notice. He couldn't have been happier if one of his footballing pigs had been picked for England, the annoying little jerk.

Tony was able to pay off Underwoods (thanks for the 10 grand, Lilian) and he had an upper and downer with Jennifer, who really is at a loose end with Ruari away at boarding school. Having ignored Tony's hints to provide money, Jen goes to see him "to see how you are". Tony takes umbrage and tells her that Lilian has been helpful and Kathy offered them her life savings, while Jennifer hasn't even offered them a fiver. Jennifer explains that all the money is Brian's (does he do the food shopping then?) and it's all getting acrimonious. Eventually Jennifer goes away, presumably to try and find out what a fiver is.

While Jennifer is falling out with her brother, her children are in disagreement. Debbie comes over to present her super-dairy idea to the board of Borsetshire Land. They are all for it (I think it was the word 'profit' that swung it) but the scheme involves Home Farm's involvement and Brian hasn't mentioned any of this to Adam. When he does tell him, Adam goes spare and, when Debbie turns up, he accuses her of betrayal. Debbie tells Brian to take a hike and she talks to Adam one to one. He's still not happy and, unless they can get him onside, the project won't happen. While Debbie tries to persuade her brother with rational argument, Brian is out buying thumbscrews.

Nic and Will have a heart-to-heart about Emma and Nic reveals that she plays this game with herself called "Guess what Emma will complain about this time" and they have a bet that she will say that George needs an early night. Sure enough she does and later rings Susan to complain that Will and Nic have been winding her up.

However, cow Emma is in for a shock when Susan says that Clive (who has gone back to his bail hostel in Felpersham) has said that he would like to meet nephew George and niece Keira. Furthermore, grandmother Ivy thinks this is a spiffing idea. Emma thinks Rickyard Cottage would be the best venue, as Ed can be there, David can be on hand and, presumably, the armed Swat team can be hidden in the barn.

At first, David isn't keen when Ruth mentions it, reminding her that he had to pull his mother and aunt from a burning building that Clive had torched. Come on David, live and let live – did you never do something a bit naughty when you were younger? David eventually agrees and he is joined on guard duty by Tony, who is trying to get away from Tom's triumphalism.

Clive turns up bearing gifts – a bracelet for Keira and a Playstation for George, who asks his uncle if he was a burglar. Clive replies that he used to be, but he realises it was very naughty and has stopped now (where did the Playstation come from, Clive?). George is taken by the romance of the whole thing and tells everybody that he wants to be a burglar when he grows up. During the visit, Clive reveals that he has a disturbingly full knowledge about recent events in Ambridge – he knew of Nigel's death and that Lily is keen on hockey. Presumably he's been casing Lower Loxley. That would be a good way to heal the David/Elizabeth rift – David could follow Clive as he breaks in to Lower Loxley and come to Elizabeth's rescue. Perhaps he could push Clive off the roof – that story has a certain symmetry to it.

Finally, we tasted the bitter dregs of disappointment when David revealed – almost in passing – that Bert only came second in the ploughing competition. Ah well, there's always next year, sadly.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Too Many Books…

Richard Attlee (Kenton Archer)

If Kenton was expecting his moving in with Jolene to be a low key event, he will be disappointed. First of all we had Eddie mooning about what might have been. In your dreams, Grundy! Then Jill and Elizabeth sit there shaking their heads and predicting that it will never last. Actually, Jill seems to dislike Kenton – while she'll do anything for her other children, poor Kenton can't do anything right.

Never mind, Jolene seems happy enough, although when she sees Kenton's enormous collection of books, magazines, comics etc. she makes it clear that there's only so much she will put up with. Tread carefully Kenton – and stop exposing yourself to Fallon.

Going back to Elizabeth, she's delighted at being able to drive again and takes Jill out for a cup of tea and a bit of Kenton-bashing. They reminisce about Jill's 80th surprise party last year and Lizzie says how nice it was to have all the family together. So call David, bitch!

At Bridge Farm, the football is coming on a treat, but the pigs still haven't scored, which reminds me of my adolescence. Tom is confident that this will be the marketing success of the decade, if not the millennium, and shows Peggy his footage. She is quite impressed, saying "thinking big as usual", to which Tom ungraciously replies "it seems to have skipped a generation". For God's sake! It's just some pigs chasing a ball – get a grip on reality!

The generation to which Tom was referring are still keeping afloat – just. There was a touching moment when Kathy offered Pat and Tony her savings and Tony had the grace to feel ashamed of his attitude when he first saw Kathy turning up. Even better, the bank has allowed them six months' interest-only payments.

Later on in the week, Pat and Tony's cup is practically running over when Lilian turns up, offering them money – she can loan them £10k straight away. It seems Lilian didn't realise how bad things were until Brenda told her. What? She didn't notice them wandering around the village in rags and the ceremonial burning of Bridge Farm ice cream on the green? "I don't know what to say" says Tony, to which Lilian replies "that's what families are for". Are you listening, Jennifer?

Elsewhere, Jim is concerned about Joe. "His eyes have lost their sparkle" Jim tells Clarrie. That'll be the cider. Clarrie is worried that he is slipping back to the way he was when they lost Grange Farm and moved into the high rise. Shoot him now and save time later is one solution, but Jim has a plan to rescue the Grange Farm orchard from its present, sorry state and resurrect it as a community orchard. To do this, they will need Joe's wisdom and experience to tell people what to do. Jim lays it on – not so much with a trowel, but a shovel – and it works, as Joe shows glimmerings of enthusiasm.

The fact that the orchard actually belongs to Oliver Sterling and he lets Ed graze his cows there is dismissed – Jim and Joe seem confident that Oliver will do the right thing and turn the orchard over to the community. If you ask him nicely, he might let his house become a halfway house for criminals nearing the end of their sentences.

And criminals is something that Ambridge has in abundance. As well as Matt, Susan and Elona's husband, this week saw the return of Clive Horrobin, arch villain, armed robber and arsonist. Rumours that Ambridge is twinned with Wormwood Scrubs are unfounded. Yes, Clive has been let out because of the ailing health of his mother Ivy, who is suffering with bronchitis and a bad chest. "Chests can go on and on" Clarrie tells Kathy and all the men listening started thinking of Sabrina Thwaite.

Clive's return throws everyone into a state of panic – Susan is beside herself and every time the doorbell rings she throws a wobbler. In the Bull, Bert fills Rhys in on Clive's criminal past. Rhys says it's just like a cross between a western and the Godfather and is rebuked by David, who reminds him that "there are still too many victims in the village".

David also said, when he first learned of Clive's return, "has the man no shame?" Let's think. Here's a man who staged a bungled armed raid on the village shop, got six years, came out and committed a series of burglaries. When George Barford grassed him up, Clive attacked him (another five years) and, when he came out again, he started attacking horses, not knowing that George and Christine has sold the stables while he was inside, and finally torched George's house while Christine was inside. Yup, I too am surprised that he isn't covered in shame and embarrassment.

Nic and Will keep having heart-to-hearts and Clarrie tells Will that he is still carrying a torch for Emma (the fool). All this has made Will think and Nic asks him "What's going on in that head of yours?" Precious little, Nic, if truth be told. Finally, we learn that Nic's previous existence must have been completely soulless and a constant round of unhappiness and despair, as she tells Will "It's wonderful having you in my life, Will – I've never been happier." You just can't help feeling sorry for the poor little sod.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Drugs Are Wearing Off…

Philip Molloy (Will Grundy)

What drugs are these? The ones that Will is obviously using to addle Nic's brain and causing her to utter protestations of dying love, but last week the worm started turning, or at least twitched a bit. Nic's ex, Andrew, has been giving her a difficult time and leaving bullying messages, as well as messing her about with not having the kids.

Will finds out and the red mist comes down yet again (Nic can certainly pick 'em, can't she?) and he says he's off to sort Andrew out. Nic says she couldn't bear it if Will's relationship with Andrew turns into a mirror of the Will/Ed situation. Will demonstrates yet again how out of touch he is with reality when he asks Nic what's the matter with his relationship with Ed? How long have you got Will?

Nic replies that he (Will) always starts off defensively and then gets angry and she's fed up with walking on eggshells all the time. Will, whose shoulder has more chips than a McCain's factory, still can't get his head round this and points out that they sent Ed a birthday card. "It would have been nice if you had signed it" says Nic, witheringly. The prosecution rests, m'lud.

Enough of Will. The Flower & Produce Show proved a triumph for Peggy, with her enamelling entry winning first prize. Bert Fry cleaned up on the vegetables and poor Joe Grundy won nothing. Too much Old Grumblebelly, Joe! It will soon be cider-making time again and we had the Grundys and assorted helpers picking the apples from Grange Farm's neglected orchard. Jim (the only helper with a speaking part) muses on whether it could be a worthwhile community project to resurrect the orchard. Joe has been thinking of ways of raising money and suggests to Clarrie that he could sell Bartleby. Clarrie says 'no'. Good call Clarrie – keep the horse and sell Joe.

Of course the F&P show attracted James and Leonie and I think even Lilian (she of the rose-tinted specs where her son is concerned) is getting a kittle cheesed off. I know I am. James and Leonie call Peggy 'Gran' and she complains to Tony that they make her feel "about 100". Only 13 years to go, Gran! There was one thing to thank them for, though, as they asked Lynda what this year's pantomime was going to be and we learned that this year the Christmas Show was going to be a concert, not a pantomime. Yes! Result!

The 'will she, won't she?' saga of whether Elona will take tenancy of No. 3 The Green finally came to an end, with Peggy using emotional blackmail on Lilian into giving Elona another chance and with Elona eventually agreeing to accept both the tenancy and the offer of helping Peggy round the house, as well as her job at The Laurels. At this rate, Elona will be lucky to see inside No. 3 very often.

Tony and Pat continue to be more and more depressed and things continue to go from bad to worse – this week they had the oil bill and they are running out of options, as well as money. They still don't feel they can worry Peggy at this time and Tony talks to Jennifer, telling her that they had been thinking of approaching Peggy. "We're falling further behind with our payments - we don't know where else to turn" Tony tells his sister, pausing hopefully. This less-than-subtle attempt at begging goes straight over Jennifer's head and she remarks "These are difficult times for everybody." Too right – after all, she could only afford to buy Alice two cashmere sweaters for her birthday. Chris gave Alice his own special birthday present, shortly after giving her a home-made candlestick.

As Pat and Tony sink slowly in the West, Tom is throwing himself into his footballing pigs. But he's got a problem – should he play a diamond formation with a big porker in the holding position, or go for a basic 4-3-3? Brenda is being all moody and miserable, to the extent that even Tom notices and asks what's wrong? It turns out that she feels irritated, having to answer the phone to James when he rings his mother. This isn't just the normal irritation we all feel with James, as Bren and James were once an item, till he chucked her. Remembering the romance, I was wondering which one to feel most sorry for, then I realised I dislike them both intensely, so it doesn't really matter.

Back at The Bull, Jolene lets it be known to Kenton that her offer to move in is still open. Kenton says that the time feels right and he will ask Lizzie? Ask her what? She's not your bloody mother, man! Anyway, the Lady of the Manor gives her blessing and Kenton says he will start moving in over the next few days. Jolene says "I feel like a teenager again" What? All spotty and surly? In the meantime, Kenton says that he has loads of stuff and books and tells Jolene: "You haven't seen my stack of vinyl yet". I really, really hope that wasn't a euphemism…