Susie Riddell (Tracy Horrobin)
The Horrobins were easily the most annoying family in 2011, although there was a late burst from the Pargetters. Apart from nasty Clive and would-be social climber Susan, Ivy's demise introduced us to Tracy and her brats Chelsea and Brad.
I thought Vicky was the leading exponent of the foot-in-gob moment, but Tracy is up there with her. At Susan's Christmas get together, Tracy didn't exactly use the phrase "your husband's bastard love child" when talking to Jennifer about Ruairi, but it was a damned close-run thing. As it was, Ruairi saved the situation by throwing up, leading Ambridge's Mrs Tact Tracy to cast aspersions on Susan's canapés.
Later on in the week, Neil comes within an ace of killing Tracy and her kids when they let the piglets out and chase them round the garden. He tells them that it isn't a petting zoo, but his livelihood and is what puts food on the table. Pork, mostly. Neil is about to tell Tracy to clear out, but Susan intervenes, saying that if they can get dad to invite her to stay with him, she'll be more likely to leave. The sooner the better, as far as I'm concerned.
The list of candidates for the 'most annoying character' award continues to grow, with young Freddie Pargetter coming up fast on the rails on his damn pony, Caspar – and wasn't it a pity that Caspar didn't throw him off during the Boxing Day Hunt? – but, for sheer truculence and because he's got that nasal, perpetually whining voice, the winner has to be Will Grundy. Mind you, he'll have to be on his toes in 2012, as he is facing strong competition from the likes of James and Leonie, not to mention the always-annoying-even-though-her-heart's-in-the-right-place Lynda Snell.
Lynda's Christmas extravaganza was a hit, if not a triumph, with Jazzer singing 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' and Jim wowing them with his translation of Cicero, or some other dead Roman. Not very likely, is it?
The 'character I'd most like to slap' (as opposed to being permanently annoying) changes practically week by week, but the current front runner has to be Pat Archer and the interminable storyline about Rich. On Christmas Day, Helen and Tom learned that Pat and Tony had seen Rich, despite the whole family coming to a decision earlier not to take it any further.
A blazing row ensues, with the two children feeling betrayed and angry and Tony reproaches them for being selfish and what about Pat, who is upstairs, sobbing her heart out? Sod her, what about if young Rich turns up in a few years, demanding part of the farm as his inheritance? In the end, Helen (who is a shoo-in for 'the most reformed character' award) comes round a bit more to her mother's point of view. Tom ('most pig-headed and smug' award winner) cannot get his head round this at all; most probably because it doesn't say 'Tom Archer Brand' in flashing neon lights.
The 'most doomed animals' award is a toss-up between the Brookfield badgers and the dairy herd. David, Ruth, Pip and Josh have a family conference to talk over future options and the deep, wide ranging discussions go something like this:
Pip: We could always come out of dairy and concentrate on sheep and beef.
Josh: No way!
There's nothing like exploring all the options and the pros and cons, is there?
A three-way tie for the 'we don't care that you're not appearing in current storylines and please don't hurry back on my account' award, between Wayne (who has been mysteriously – though mercifully – absent for months), Kate and Phoebe. If I were forced to choose a winner, it would be Wayne. Or Kate.
Finally, we come to the 'nicest person in Ambridge' award and the clear winner is Ian, just shading out Harry. Ian's so damn helpful and cheerful with it. Consider, when Helen wasn't coping with Henry, who came to the rescue? Right. Who charmed the Duchess of Cornwall when she visited Grey Gables? Correct. Who makes stews and casseroles for poor, lonely Adam, stuck in the lambing sheds? And who, despite this being a busy time of year, almost single-handedly rescued the culinary portion of Lynda's cabaret/food night? Got it in one.
Unbelievably, at the end of the week, Ian raised the bar even higher when Caroline slipped on the wet floor, demolishing the top tier of Will and Nic's wedding cake. Not only did Ian take the blame, because he was the one who mopped the floor over, but blithely announced that he would make a new top tier and ice it. As he is only human, he cannot do a fruit cake in a day, so it will have to be sponge. However, Caroline is worried that Will and Nic might want to keep it as a Christening Cake. Aargh! Not half as bloody worried as I am!