Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Brief Encounter

Leeds Christmas Market

Sunday was the big day – Tony and Pat were going to see Rich at last. At the Christmas market, Pat was racked with doubts, saying "they won't come" until Tony pointed out that they had got there about six hours early and why not have a look at the stalls to pass the time?

Anyway, Sharon, Eamonn and Rich did turn up and there followed a rather anodyne, somewhat stilted conversation along the lines of "gosh, fancy meeting you here…" We learned that Rich likes science (biology), most sports and is a fledgling pace bowler, then he was dragged off by Eamonn to get a burger, while Sharon made it plain that this was to be the only meeting, unless Rich asks about his real father. Sharon left her best news to last – telling Pat that Rich is just a nickname and the boy's given name is John.

Back at Bridge Farm the next day, Pat and Tony discuss how Rich's smile is just like John's and, rather grudgingly; "whatever we thought about Sharon, he's a real credit to her". Don't go over the top, Tony! At the end of the week, Helen persuades them to decorate the tree early (it's usually a Christmas Eve tradition) so that Henry can enjoy it. Helen mentions the fact that it is a break with tradition, prompting Tony to wax philosophical, saying "everything has to move on." I really hope so when it comes to the Rich storyline, as I have just about had enough of Pat's moping, agonising and hand wringing.

Perhaps some of it is that Pat will be 60 in January and this gives Lilian the idea to hold a party for her at the Dower House – just a simple affair; they can cope with about 60 people, although the chances of Pat and Tony having 60 friends are remote. Six would be nearer. Still, as it's Lilian hosting the party, it is rumoured that the big Gin distillers are unmothballing factories and taking on more staff.

At Brookfield, David is still having badger trouble and is incensed that, should he repair the slurry pond, this could be regarded as interfering with the badger sett and he could be fined. I bet the badgers are sniggering away to themselves. David says Josh keeps reading on the Internet about farmers going out of dairy. "I can't imagine Brookfield without a dairy herd" Tony tells David, just to cheer him up a bit.

Another who needs cheering up is Susan, who spends some quality time reminiscing about her mother with Clarrie, while the latter kills and plucks turkeys. There's nothing like discussing your own mortality as you slaughter a shedful of birds. Actually, I might be doing Clarrie an injustice, as the turkeys were probably already dead and she's just removing feathers and internal organs.

Over at Lower Loxley, Freddie is getting excited by the imminent arrival of Caspar the pony and has set up his stall, including fresh straw, a jacuzzi, plasma screen TV, carrot-flavoured champagne and an endless supply of frisky young fillies, in case he gets lonely. Freddie then goes into sensible mode, saying how he wishes Nigel was there. I cannot remember whether or not he referred to Nigel as 'Daddy', but I wouldn't be surprised. I have noticed an unsettling trend where Freddie (and Lily) are getting quite large speaking parts and Freddie is getting to sound more and more like his father, which is worrying.

Thursday night saw both Nic's Hen Party and Will's Stag do. The boys went to a Comedy Club, then to an Indian restaurant, where Will gives a speech saying how lucky he is to be marrying such a lovely girl and five million listeners nod in agreement. The boys return home comparatively sober, saying that they must be getting old.

Things are different for the girls – the plan was to be picked up in a stretch limo, then on to Jaxx's for food and then to hit the nightclubs. Personally, I was hoping that Nic would take the limo to the airport and get on the first available plane, having come to her senses. But it was not to be, as the limo broke an axle. Not to worry, as there was plenty of booze on board and the girls – including the formerly stuffy and strait-laced Helen – got completely rat-arsed. So much so that Will, Tom and Roy are treated to the spectacle of the girls being driven home in a police car after having been rescued from the stranded limo. The episode ends with the stomach-churning scene of Nic snogging Will. Never mind, there's still a few days till New Year's Day and, as we learned last year, dramatic things can happen.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

You Little Beggar, Tony

Stephen Hogan (Eamonn Philips)

Let's get the Rich storyline out of the way first. Sharon's ears must have been aflame with Tony and Pat running her down. "It was all about what she wanted" said Tony "And she hasn't changed one bit" added Pat, prompting thoughts of pots and kettles. They then move into the realm of speculation, saying that Sharon split up John and Hayley and, if it hadn't been for her, they might have stayed together. Even more fanciful – Pat suggested that John might have taken more care, the day he died on the tractor. Come on folks! Next you'll be telling us that Sharon cut the brake pipes…

Tony and Pat go to the Bull for an anniversary meal, which isn't a great success, with Pat now in permanent mope mode. They return home early and Pat goes to bed. Helen notices her mother is distracted, saying "she's not herself". That'll be an improvement then. Tony is determined that she will not slip back into depression, as she did after John's death.

As part of his plan, he rings Sharon, only to have the phone answered by Eamonn, who is terse to the point of rudeness. However, Tony, in what was quite a moving bit of radio, tells him how this situation is re-opening the wounds left by John's death and begs and pleads to be allowed to see Rich. Eamonn seems genuinely moved and agrees to tell Sharon that Tony called, although he warns that it is unlikely to make any difference.

In the meantime, Pat tells Kathy of her plan to track Rich down via his school and go to meet him at the gates. There's a word for people like that Pat. Kathy has her own word for it – looney – and  tells Pat that a) such a course of action would make Sharon furious (like Pat cares about that) and b) "going to see him will only make a dreadful situation worse. Please don't do it."

The next day, Tony gets an unexpected call from Eamonn. He and Sharon have talked it over and agreed that Pat and Tony can see Rich. However, there are more strings attached to the deal than were visible in an episode of Thunderbirds, and Eamonn spells them out.

First, the meeting will be short and in a public place. Secondly, Pat and Tony are not to say that they are Rich's grandparents, but will be old friends of Sharon and thirdly, Sharon and Eamonn will be present throughout. Any breach of these conditions – even an overlong stare – and Sharon and Eamonn will walk away. Even worse, they will poison Rich's mind against his grandparents. "Take it or leave it" says Eamonn, adding for good measure that he and Sharon wish that Tony had never got in touch. Tony accepts, grateful for small mercies. Very small in this case.

Next day (Friday) Eamonn rings again, to say that the meeting will be the following Sunday at a Christmas market in Leeds. Tony hadn't told Pat and does so, filling her in on Eamonn's conditions. It seems a case of 'in one ear, out the other' as she says "if we get on well with Rich, he might want to see us". For God's sake, Tony, beat her to the ground and explain to her that it just won't happen.

What else has happened in Ambridge? Roy confides in Will that he is really missing Phoebe – me too, Roy; every chance I get. Change the locks and move, man! Brian is back from the Maldives and is in trouble with the BL board for sounding out possible feed suppliers for the mega-dairy, thus possibly in danger of letting the cat out of the bag. Brian (who doesn't seem any sunnier in disposition after his break) blames Adam, saying that, if Adam won't play ball (i.e. do what Brian wants) then he (Brian) has to look elsewhere. Brian's mood is not improved when Jennifer tells him she has accepted Susan's invitation for wine and nibbles.

Freddie is besotted with Caspar the pony and he and Lily behave well on their birthday, much to Elizabeth's surprise. It turns out that they agreed to do so for Lizzie's sake. Furthermore, Freddie tells Lily that they will have to make Lizzie think that they are having a good time and enjoying themselves over Christmas. Sounds fun.

Lynda's Christmas extravaganza is taking shape. "Ian has been a complete inspiration" Lynda tells Fallon. When is that man going to do the job he is paid to do and stop messing about?

At Brookfield, David and Bert discover a huge leak from the slurry lagoon – a leak that David "is 99% certain" was caused by badgers. Clem (an engineer) comes over to advise and says that David should contact the Environment Agency asap. Poor David doesn't know what to do with the slurry and all attempts to get it taken away in tankers fall through. Just to make matters worse, David could still be fined, even though owning up to the leak. "Don't you just love dairy?" he asks Clem, adding: "At the moment it's one problem after another".

It's true that, with falling milk yields and his sister hating him for causing Nigel's death, David has had better years and, just when you think things can't get any worse, they do, as Clem tells him that to reline the lagoon could cost £20 k and yes, the leak was caused by badgers. I reckon Brock and his mates are getting their revenge for the badger that David shot a year or two back.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A Dish Best Eaten Cold

Celia Nelson (Sharon Richards)

They say that Revenge is a dish best eaten cold and Sharon's must have been virtually frozen after 13 years. But more of this later.

We had the scintillating radio story of the Christmas lights switch on. Jim had won the sweepstake and got to do the honours. Terrific radio – especially when Joe (who had been given the job of switching Jim's lights on) missed his cue. From what I gather, the lights in each house are switched on in a certain order, so what would happen if a Jehovah's Witness moved into the village and decided to have no truck with all the festivities? Imagine one dark house in a chain of blazing light. Lynda wouldn't like it.

Neil is up in arms because Tracy moved his favourite armchair and he had it positioned just right for watching TV and in easy reach of cans of beer. Susan defends Tracy, until Neil tells her that Tracy's daughter Chelsea used Susan's favourite lampshade as a hat. But a solution may be on the way – why can't Tracy and family move into No. 6, alongside Dad and Village Idiot brother? Boffo wheeze!

Elizabeth and Shula spend a day looking at a pony for Freddie and Elizabeth is still prevaricating about going to Shula's for Christmas lunch in case David and family drop round for tea later. Jill rings Shula later, saying that Kenton has had a wonderful idea (yes, I too found it hard to believe) and that the whole family is invited to the Bull for late afternoon/early evening. I bet Jolene was chuffed to bits with that. The idea is that the place is big enough for people to talk to whoever they want or, in Elizabeth's case, to sit alone in the Ploughman's, sticking pins in a wax doll of David.

Nic had a lucky escape when Joe proudly shows her the canopy he and Eddie have made for Bartleby's trap out of a bright orange tent. Luckily, as she tells Joe, she and the bridesmaids will already be at Grey Gables, where they are getting changed, so won't need a ride.

And so back to the main story of the week – that of whether Rich is or isn't John's son. On Sunday, Pat shows Kathy the photo of Rich and says that she is convinced that John was the father. Kathy agrees there is a resemblance, but worries that Pat is becoming obsessed. Pat throws herself into her work, but she is tetchy with Helen for no reason.

Tony suggests to Helen that, if they knew the truth, it might help them come to terms with their feelings. Wrong! Helen says that even thinking about it churns her up and she doesn't want to revisit the past. Getting in touch with Sharon, adds Helen, would only make things worse for everyone and Pat and Tony must not pursue it. Tom feels the same way, says Helen, and on no account is Pat to contact Sharon – not now, not tomorrow, not ever – is that perfectly clear? Tony tells Pat, who cannot believe that Helen wouldn't want to know. For God's sake woman! Helen did everything but tattoo "do not contact Sharon" on Tony's forehead – what part of 'No' do you not understand?

In a clear case of the triumph of hope over experience, Tony tells Pat that their children have told them what they want and that's an end to it, so stop tormenting herself and get over it. "It's going to be so hard" wails Pat.

And so it was - for nearly 24 hours, which was when 'will of putty' Pat phoned Sharon and asked her outright about Rich's father. It turned out that John was indeed Rich's father. "Why didn't you tell us?" asks an anguished Pat. "Because you treated me like dirt" was the reply. Sounds fair enough to me.

It turned out that, after John's funeral, Sharon came to Ambridge and was in two minds whether to tell Pat and Tony (who hadn't told her about the funeral) and who virtually told her to piss off. "If only you'd said" said a tearful Pat. Now here we have an interesting take on compassion – had Sharon told them, they would have welcomed her, but she didn't, so they froze her out. It would have been quite an about turn – imagine the scene; Sharon turns up at Bridge Farm.

Tony: "What do you want, you slag?"
Pat: "Yes, sod off, why don't you, you corrupter of young boys"
Sharon: "I'm carrying John's child – your first grandchild"
Pat: "Come to my arms for a hug, you wonderful girl"
Tony: "Sit down, you must be tired, coming all this way. Get off the chair Helen and let your new sister sit down."

Sharon twists the knife (I bet she enjoyed the conversation, deep down) by saying that Eamonn was the only father Rich needs and she (Sharon) would be ever so grateful if Pat never got in touch with her or Rich again, before putting the phone down.

Poor (ha!) Pat is desolate and it is all of two days before she confesses to Tony what she has done. Tony bangs on about how Sharon had totally dominated John – oh yes? Presumably she lured him into the bedroom, stripped him naked and chained him, protesting loudly, to the bed? Pat is full of self-recrimination and says that "John's son could have been part of our lives for 13 years. It's all my fault". 

Then, in a line which probably had millions of listeners nodding their heads in agreement, a tearful Pat said "If only I'd kept my mouth shut."

Friday, 9 December 2011

That's Rich!

Colin Skipp (Tony Archer)

Only a short summary this week, I'm afraid, as holidays got in the way. Still, it was nice to go somewhere warm, even if I can't quite afford the Maldives, like Brian and Jennifer.

That's assuming they go, of course, as the dummy run for the opening of the new market didn't go according to plan when the electrics failed. This was much to Joe's delight, as he had been wittering on about how farming wasn't like this in his day, with all this technology. Let's face it, Joe was probably around when the first plough was invented.

As it happened, the market opening went smoothly, although Brian was agitated when he heard buzzing from the electrics. Not such good news for David, whose steer didn't win anything in the accompanying show. He wanted a win to boost meat sales, but optimist Ben reckons they'll sell loads of beef anyway. I hope so – David's miserable enough about low milk yields, so if the freezer is full of unsold beef, he'll top himself.

Lynda's Christmas extravaganza is growing all the time – Alan's mother-in-law Muriel has said she will read a traditional Jamaican Christmas story. Lynda tried to enlist Susan into her cooking team, but Neil said "definitely not". Ian had the idea of a traditional Provence course of 13 desserts to represent Christ and the 12 disciples. Foe Heaven's sake! The man is a chef and we are a few days away from Christmas – shouldn't he be busy composing menus, or sourcing ingredients or something?

Of course, the big story is that of Rich; Sharon's son, who Pat believes might have been fathered by her late son John. She is rapidly becoming obsessed with the idea and Tony catches her looking on Kylie's (Sharon's daughter) Facebook page for a photo of Rich. She finds one and she and Tony are shocked to see the resemblance to John – proof to Pat's mind that they have a grandson they never knew about.

Pat wants to contact Sharon, but Tony advises caution, pointing out that Sharon might not want all this raked up after so many years. "But we've missed out on so much – he's missed out on so much." Oh yeah? Like what? An organics-mad granny and a miserable granddad? A chance to catch e.coli perhaps? Tony puts his finger on it when he said "It's all about you – what about Tom and Helen?" and Pat reluctantly agrees that they should be told and consulted and they'll do it tomorrow.

When she breaks the news to them, they are not best pleased. Helen, who was very close to John and who hero-worshipped him, was appalled and fled the room. Tom rushes after her to offer support, after telling his mother that he is angry with her. Pat obviously isn't in listening mode and, while she doesn't actually say "well, that could have gone better", does say that she still wants to talk to Sharon. Tony says they will have to face it as a family.

The ripples continue to widen when Tom tells Brenda. He is worried about Helen, as all her problems (remember the anorexia – I'm still trying to forget it?) stemmed from John's death and he feels that this could bring them all back (dear God, no!). Tom also worries that Rich could be replacing Henry in Pat's deranged mind. For her part, Brenda is worried of what the affect might be on Tom, who feels he has spent his life in John's shadow to some extent.

Helen discloses her fears and how she felt when John died to Ian (still not busy) and he advises her to concentrate on Henry and look to the future, not the past. Meanwhile, Tony tells Pat to concentrate on their living children and she promises not to ring Sharon – yet. Tom also has a go and tells his mother to forget the whole idea of ringing Sharon as it is all getting too much for Helen. Forget it and move on is his advice. What do you reckon are the chances of that happening? Yeah, me too.