Monday, 26 March 2012

Sharon Loses Her Nerve

Celia Nelson (Sharon Richards)

I had high hopes for Sharon – last week I implored her to stand firm and tell the Bridge Farm crowd to get lost and leave Rich alone. And indeed, when Helen does go to see her (following a logistics exercise and planning akin to the Apollo moon landings), Sharon appears to be standing firm, accusing Helen of patronising her (as if!) and asks her to leave.

Back home, Helen bursts into tears and tells Tom "it was our one chance and I've blown it." Ah well, never mind; what you've never had and all that. Pick yourself up and move on – how are the cheese sales going? And then what happens? Bloody Kylie and Eamonn get to work on Sharon (hereafter referred to as 'the invertebrate') and she backs down and tells Rich that Pat and Tony are his grandparents, the poor little sod.

Not only that, but she-with-no-backbone also says that Eamonn will bring Rich down to Bridge Farm on Sunday if they'd all like to see him. Would they? Do the Osmonds have teeth? Pat, Tony, Tom and Helen are jubilant, while the rest of us can only sob quietly at Sharon's betrayal of our trust and hopes.

Moving on, it was amusing how Vicky got her own back on Eddie and his scam concerning the installation of the water feature as his part in the Promises Auction. By siting it about two miles from the nearest electrical connection and making him put granite chippings all round it, she got an extra four hours' work out of him. Another Grundy scam that didn't quite make it.

Happily, Jim and Christine are the best of friends again, when he explains about his promise to Alan to pay someone a compliment each day and she realises that his remark about her alluring perfume was just a compliment and not an attempt to get into her pants. Friendship is sealed with a glass of lemonade and a piece of sponge.

There is optimism at Brookfield, when consultant Lisa tells David and Rooooth that their plan could show a profit in three years. David is even optimistic about getting a loan for the slurry tank. Tell you what Dave, why not tap up Lilian for it? After all, she lent Tony £10 K and, after looking at the figures, he and Pat would like to extend their interest-only mortgage period so that they can give Tom money to extend the polytunnels – presumably to stop him banging on about how they could be making a fortune, if only blah, blah, blah.

Tony, however, feels that they should first ask Lilian if she wants her money back. She is quite relaxed about it and says she's in no hurry. I'd like you for my bank manager, Lilian. Presumably Tom will soon be growing chillies, or kumquats, or God knows what, and no doubt they'll have "Tom Archer Brand" written on the side in felt tip.

Meanwhile, back at the mega-dairy project, Brian is becoming increasingly paranoid. Actually, Brian, it isn't paranoia, because everybody is out to get you; the protesters are still picketing the new market most days and Brian is disturbed by rumours that some farmers are thinking of defecting to another livestock market.

As if this weren't enough, in the BL Boardroom, Martin Gibson is getting twitchy about the project and Brian fears a Palace Coup. When Debbie rings Brian, he pours out all his troubles to her and fears that these problems are not going to blow over. "Leave it to me Dad, I'll sort it" is SuperDeb's response.

That was on Tuesday, and on Thursday, Debbie is in touch again. She says she has spoken to Martin (presumably along the lines of "I know where you live Gibson, and the route you take to work, so toe the line, or else") and she has had a great idea about the dairy.

And what is this boffo wheeze? Simple – instead of having hundreds of cows living an unnatural life in a giant Nissen hut and never seeing daylight, she suggests that they should instead have hundreds of pigs living an unnatural life in a giant Nissen hut and never seeing daylight. Brilliant! Why didn't they think of that earlier? Call me dense, but I can't help feeling that those who are protesting about the – so they say – inhumane conditions that the cows would suffer are not just going to turn round and say "oh, it's OK - they're only pigs". And as Brian said, it's still going to be a big shed.

Finally, it seems that we are in for a treat as the Green Burial Ground is set to receive its first inhabitant. Alan is worried that wicker coffins tend to creak, but then again it is radio. May I make a suggestion that the first inhabitant is Emma? I cringed at the efforts of Ed, George and Keira to make her Mother's Day special. Why bother? All she does is moan and whinge. And what did she do when Ed said he wished they had more money so that he could buy her an expensive present? Yup, she told him that she'd like to give up working at Lower Loxley. It's all for the sake of the kids, of course and you don't really need to eat every day, do you Ed?

Thursday, 22 March 2012

You Try To Be Nice To People...

John Rowe (Jim Lloyd)

And where does it get you? In Jim Lloyd's case, the answer is "in deep trouble". If I were Jim, I'd smack Alan Franks in the mouth, man of God or not, as his idea of paying someone a compliment every day is back firing mightily.

Firstly Jim compliment Vicky on looking 'trim', which makes her think that he must have thought her fat before. She tells husband Mike, who immediately thinks Jim is lusting after his wife and the conversation between the two becomes a little heated. Jim then compliments Christine on her "alluring" perfume and she confides to Jill that he might be lusting after her and she thinks of him only as a friend.

The trouble with the "be nice once a day" scheme is that, if you have gained a reputation for being a miserable, grumpy old sod (which Jim has), then the transformation to gushing compliment provider is hard to take. Pack it in now Jim before someone hangs one on you – go back to your normal, curmudgeonly self and everyone will be happier, including you.

Someone who definitely isn't happy is Brian. When Rufus (the PR guru) expresses concern about the demonstrations against the mega-dairy, Brian goes off on one, saying how it makes his blood boil and "I'll see this dairy happen if it's the last thing I do!" Calm down Brian, or it might well just be that.

Later on in the week, Brian's blood pressure goes even higher when there is a large demonstration at the market. Eddie, whose birthday it is, tries to see a lorry through and suddenly he's on the ground, having hit his head. Did he fall or was he pushed? Nobody knows, but a quick trip to A&E reveals no lasting damage (how could they tell?) and Eddie takes Clarrie to the pub for a meal but is mortified because she won't let him drink.

Brian turns up and offers him some money to defray expenses such as a taxi back from hospital, plus a bit extra. Brian then asked Eddie if he was sure that he hadn't been pushed by a protester?
Eddie, who is usually quick on the uptake when there's a chance to make money, says "No, I just slipped". Presumably a disappointed Brian re-pockets the brown envelope with Eddie's name on it and a large wedge of cash inside.

As well as Eddie's birthday, it's Ben's as well and joy is unconfined when the Consultant Lisa agrees that Rooooth's plans for the dairy herd stand a chance of making money. The reprieved cows breathe a sigh of relief before removing their blindfolds and grinding out the last cigarettes.

Last week I mentioned that we hadn't heard from Kathy or Jamie recently. Me and my big gob, as we had Jamie going clothes shopping with girlfriend Natalie (and what exciting radio that was) and agonising over whether or not to play for the cricket team. Does he really want to spend hours with boring old men? No, so he comes up with the idea of attracting younger recruits by having an extra training night, aimed at youth. Presumably when they have finished, they'll go out, get wasted on vodka and indulge in a little bird hide-trashing?

Just when you thought that Tony couldn't get more boring, he gets more boring. At least, that's what I thought when he went wittering onto Tom about how lost he felt when he and Pat realised that they may never see Rich again, but he had to be strong for Pat. For her part, Pat is beating herself up because she has neglected Tony in the recent past (true, true) and compensates by force-feeding him rice pudding. However, she vows to change, telling Helen something like: "I'll never take what's-his-name for granted again."

All this hand wringing and 'what might have been-ing' gets to Tom, who tells Helen that he has never seen his Dad like that and it would mean so much to them if they could see Rich and perhaps they could make it happen for them. Never mind that any revelation would turn Rich's, Sharon's and Eamonn's domestic life upside down – this is about Pat and Tony and sod everybody else.

Tom says that, had Tony died, Rich would never have known his Granddad. Call me callous, but so what? At present, Rich doesn't know he's got a Granddad - had Tony died, he still wouldn't know, so how would this affect Rich exactly? What you've never had, you never miss and I think that Pat and Tony (and Tom and Helen) are opening up a can of worms.

Anyway, Helen rings Kylie and tells her about Tony's heart attack. Helen asks Kylie whether she will intercede with Sharon about meeting up with Helen to talk the situation through. Kylie proves very sympathetic and agrees to talk to her mum, although she says that there's no way that she (Kylie) can tell Rich about his grandparents. Assuming that Kylie does talk to her mum, then it' down to you Sharon – remember the conditions that you laid on Pat and Tony; one visit and one visit only. You must be strong for Rich's sake, not to mention the sakes of five million listeners who really, really don't want to go through the whole angst-ridden Rich situation a second time.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Militant Tendency

Annabelle Dowler (Kirsty Miller)

Let's kick off with the anti-Borsetshire Land demonstration which took place at the new market. The demo was really about the mega-dairy, but as this hasn't been built yet the market – another BL project – was the next best thing.

The demo was led by Kirsty, disparagingly referred to by Brian as "our local tree-hugger", and was having quite an impact. So much so that Brian, that arch-diplomat, decides to talk to the demonstrators to try and persuade them to disperse. Nobody does patronising quite like Brian and he tells them "you've expressed your views, so why not pack up quietly and go back to work or whatever it is you do?" While he doesn't actually pat Kirsty on the head and call her 'little girl', it was a damn close thing.

Kirsty tells him "this won't be the last time you see us, so better get used to it." Brian believes that, having shaken hands with Adam, he is now onside and Brian more or less asks him to tell him if he knows of any further planned action. Speaking of the demo, Brian says "we could have done without it" and Adam's one-word response – "We?" – spoke volumes. Brian's capacity for self-delusion is exceeded only by Jennifer's as she tells Lilian that Brian and Adam have agreed to differ and "hopefully there'll be less stress in our lives from now on".

There is another demo later in the week, but this is less well-supported, as a crowing Brian tells Jennifer when she rings him. Jenny then spoils his mood by telling him that there's a picture of him and Kirsty in the Echo and an article about the demo. The letters page is predominantly anti-mega-dairy too and Brian is not best pleased that the demo article is on page 2, while his carefully-crafted and paid-for editorial article is on page six.

Away from BL, it is a busy week for Bridge Farm – sorry, Ambridge Organics – with the launch of their new products. Tom is running around, working his butt off and my God, don't we know it! He's practically stopping strangers in the street and saying "I'm working 16-hours a day, you know". Just shut up and get on with clearing up the yard.

Friday is the launch day and everything goes swimmingly. Tony wanted to be there but decided he was too tired. The rest of the family return home in triumph and Helen asks "where's Dad?" Pat goes into the lounge and the TV is on, with Tony sitting in front of it. "That's it – he's croaked" I thought, but no, the writers were just teasing us – he was asleep. "You stay there; I'll call you when supper's ready" said Pat, which is the first time she's cooked him a meal for weeks. Things are definitely looking up – not only did the launch go well, but Clarrie got through a week's work at the dairy without poisoning anybody.

Talking of teasing, Jim tries to tempt Clarrie and Susan with a juicy bit of gossip, but they resist and, later, complain to Alan, who resolves to have a word. He tracks Jim down, trying to spot the Peregrines and takes him to task. He also challenges Jim to either give up something or do something positive and Jim eventually agrees to pay somebody different a sincere compliment every day.

What I can't understand is why Jim, who is a self-confessed (and pretty vocal) atheist, doesn't tell Alan to sling his hook and take his Lent-promoting God bothering elsewhere. Instead he resolves to do it properly and his first compliment (to Shula about her horsewomanly skills) is a real effort.

Emma has something to moan about this week when Eddie, who was supposed to be looking after the kids, went off to do a job, leaving George and Keira in the dubious care of Joe. No doubt they are already started on roll-ups and cider. Emma insists on still calling William and Nic's house 'Casa Nueva' – it was you who walked out and shacked up with Will's brother, so move on woman. She moans that she can't keep working if she can't leave the kids with someone she can trust. Excuse me? Are you saying that Eddie falls into that category?

We offered a solution some weeks ago – if the cows go from Brookfield, then Rooooth can do her own cleaning in her newly-acquired spare time and Emma can stay at home and be miserable by herself, thereby making me and countless other listeners very happy.

But wait! The cows might yet be saved, as Rooooth comes up with a cunning plan to make them pay, which doesn't involve beefburgers or steaks. I didn't understand it totally, but it seems to involve making them all give birth on the same day in September and starving them for half the year. I'm sure there's more to it than that, but I'm not a farmer. David (presumably hoping for a quiet life) agrees to give it a go and Rooooth is virtually orgasmic with gratitude. All they need to do now is find £22 K for the slurry tank.

Finally – and whisper it quietly – has anyone noticed that Kathy has gone awol over the past few weeks? Don't get me wrong – I'm not complaining; I'm just enjoying the silence - especially as she seems to have taken Jamie with her.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Accidental Hero

Colin Skipp (Tony Archer)

I am really getting cheesed off with Rooooth – what part of "the cows are making us bankrupt" does she not understand? On Sunday David finds her in floods of tears, viewing the electricity bill on screen and wailing "how much longer can we go on like this?" OK, all together: "So get rid of the bloody cows!"

David, instead of clubbing her to the ground, is all supportive and loving. In the past, Rooooth has said that "if I have to give up the cows, I might as well give up farming". I submit, m'lud that, if the farm is repossessed, the chances of her keeping the cows are slender in the extreme, but David forbears to mention this.

However, every man has his breaking point and, towards the end of the week, David lays it on the line to Rooooth, telling her that every hour she spends with the cows is losing them money and, if she wants to keep the cows, then she has to come up with a plan. So far, the only plan she has had is to wring her hands and say how much she loves the cows. Get a grip, woman!

Wouldn't it be tragic if they got rid of the cows to concentrate on lambs and the flock contracted the Schmallenberg virus? Mind you, the virus isn't a totally bad thing, as it means that Pip's celebrity lamb project has been kicked into the long grass, thus probably saving us hours of riveting radio as she describes her website – it could have been the footballing pigs all over again.

Elsewhere in Ambridge, it has been a week of making up and healing rifts, as Brian practically forces Adam to shake hands and agree to differ on the mega-dairy, which he does with bad grace. Meanwhile, Tony's heart attack (of which more later) makes Jennifer realise how petty her feud with Tony has been and the siblings make up and agree to start again in a touching scene at his hospital bedside.

Tony's plight also leads to a rapprochement with Clarrie, as the Bridge Farm crew realise that they are going to need help. Helen asks Clarrie if she'd consider coming back to work in the dairy and she agrees like a shot. Just make sure you wash your hands, Clarrie. If Clarrie is to be working alongside Susan, that should be a stern test of the "no gossiping" Lenten pledge.

There was a minor rift when Alice threw a moody because her friends were all going to Austria skiing and she couldn't go. She walked away from Chris in a huff, but when he later gave her some catkins, they were all lovey-dovey once more, as usual.

One rift that has not been healed is that between Elizabeth and David – while everyone else has been saying that Tony's potentially fatal attack puts everything else into perspective, presumably Lizzie is still sticking the pins into the wax doll with the "husband killer" sign round its neck. While on the subject of the Pargetters, there is a worrying trend in that Lily and Freddie are getting bigger speaking parts. It was Lily's turn this week, when Neil gave her her first bell-ringing lesson. Sadly, the bell doesn't fall on top of her and Neil pronounces her 'a natural'. A natural what? I hear you ask.

And so to the big story of the week – Tony's heart attack. Last week I asked whether Tom was trying to drive his father into an early grave and this week he moved into overdrive, wanting to talk about growing peppers when Tony had about a million things to do. Tony tells Tom to bugger off and Tom storms into the farmhouse, ranting about his Dad. Having worked himself up into a frenzy, Tom resolves to have it out with Tony right away and bursts into the milking parlour, where Tony has collapsed with a heart attack.

Tom calls an ambulance and resists the opportunity to say "while you're lying there Dad, about these peppers…" Actually, Tom is consumed with guilt and tells Pat and Helen that it is all his fault for the way he has been pushing Tony for the past few weeks. Instead of, quite justifiably, laying a really heavy guilt trip on him, they tell him not to be so silly. At least Tom will have to pull his weight in the milking department now – no more swanning off to Shropshire or wherever, to discuss the benefits of pork lasagne.

Actually, Tom is given help as David offers to do some of the milking and Brian helps out preparing and delivering veg boxes. This gives Tom the opportunity to visit his Dad in hospital. Instead of saying "look what you've done to me you ungrateful git" Tony thanks Tom for saving his life (hence the 'accidental hero' of the title this week). "You came out to see me; you realised I was looking ill" says Tony. This is Tom's chance to 'fess up and say "No I didn't – I came out to carry on giving you a hard time about the peppers", but instead the duplicitous little worm says "Lucky I came out to the parlour when I did."

Anyway, the good news is that Tony has suffered no lasting damage to his heart and has had a stent fitted, but will now have to take it easy. Tom is relieved and a little embarrassed at his Dad's gratitude – and so he should be. However, as Tom sat by his father's sickbed, I reckon that the entrepreneur in him was a bit disappointed that things worked out as they did – after all, a funeral would have been an ideal opportunity for a tasting focus group for the ready meals…