Monday, 25 June 2012

What's That Smell? It's The Coffee, Amy

Jennifer Daley (Amy Franks)

So, Amy has finally come to her senses after seeing Carl at his place of work. And wasn't he pleased to see her? Er – not exactly, as his opening comment was "What the hell do you think you're playing at Amy?"

Despite this frosty reception, Amy's self delusion remained unabated, as she told Carl that she realised that he had to find the right time to tell his wife that he was leaving her. Carl was stupefied, saying: "Why in your wildest dreams would you imagine that I'd leave Rochelle for you?" "Because I love you" Amy replied, to which Carl's response was "You really are that naïve – go home Amy." I half expected Amy to say "So that's a no then?" but the message finally got through, as she eventually said "You bastard!"

Even so, when talking to Alice a couple of days later, Amy confides that she thinks that Carl's marriage is a sham and she feels ashamed that she would have stayed with Carl, had he agreed to leave his wife. Will somebody please beat this woman senseless? Actually, if I were Alice, I'd watch out, as Amy seems to have developed a liking for married men, telling Alice: "Chris is lovely – you're so lucky to have him." Time to send Amy back to the Vicarage, methinks.

And she'd be welcome there, as Amy goes to Usha's 50th birthday party and there is a touching reconciliation as she and Usha hug. "I've been so stupid" Amy says. Never spoken a truer word, my girl, plus you could add 'hurtful', 'nasty', 'spiteful' – but hey, let's stop there, as there are other stories to cover.

It has been a bad year for organised village activities – a bad year for we listeners, that is, as there have been so many of them. The latest enterprise is the Village Fete/Olympics, which seems to take more organising than the real Olympics. Kenton, who is supposedly in charge of organising the sports, comes up with the idea of Dragon Boat racing and – my favourite – a tug of war over the Am.  I envisage this as being held with both teams perched on high clifftops, above a foaming, raging torrent. On one side we could have all the characters we don't like (I would even bring Kate and Phoebe back from South Africa) and on the other, Bert Fry and his Massey Ferguson tractor.

At Brookfield, Open Farm Sunday goes with a bang – sadly, the bang is a firework, which stampedes the bullocks towards the crowds. George is in danger, but Ed heroically rescues him. Later, David discovers that the fence has been neatly cut and Pip starts sobbing, asking "How could anyone be so cruel?" and "How dare they ruin our Open Farm Sunday?" That's the trouble with these criminals – no respect for the countryside. I bet they go around farms leaving gates open and chasing sheep with mint sauce.

Anyway, the tension inside Brookfield is ratcheted up another notch or two and David decides to tell Jill the whole story. Ruth and Jill then confront David, saying how proud they are of his courage, and then spoiling it by asking him to change his mind and not testify. This jelly-backboned attitude upsets David, who is determined to do the right thing (and let's face it, he can't back down now, can he – what sort of example would the BBC be setting to its listeners?).

The tension rises even more when Pip gets a call on her mobile – it's the gang, saying "I've got a message for your father". Pip is, understandably, distraught and Ruth goes even more frantic, saying: "I'm not letting the kids out of my sight". That could make their schooldays interesting as Ruth lurks at the back of the class. Or I suppose she could rope them together, chain-gang style and make them shuffle along behind her. David doesn't help when he points out that the trial could be weeks away yet, which prompts invertebrate Ruth to demand that he goes to the police and tell them he isn't going got testify.

One solution could be to pack them off to New Zealand with Uncle Kenton and Jolene. Kenton is upset because he cannot find a cheap flight; he tells Matt, who tells Jill, who then writes Kenton out a cheque. He protests that it's too much but Jill says "Family is what's important, not money." This means that Kenton will get to see Mariel – the daughter who he last saw a few decades ago and who, when he turns up, will probably think "Who is this strange person?"

The concept of family being more important than money is one which I suspect would be alien to Matt. At last we found out why Matt was being so nice to Darrell, as he instructs his newly-promoted site manager to await the delivery of a load of kitchen units the next day and to give the driver this nice, fat envelope and not to expect a receipt, know what I mean?

For someone who has been inside, Darrell is a bit naïve and, when the deed is done, he phones Matt with a few questions, such as how come the van had no signwriting on it? Matt tells him that he doesn't pay Darrell to wonder about things – just to do what he says. Poor Darrell is caught between a rock and a hard place – just don't tell Elona, Darrell, or she will upset the applecart and at least you do have a job, even if your business card does read "Site Manager and Fence".

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Jamie Is On Fire

Dan Ciotkowski (Jamie Perks)

Al least that's what Kenton says, as Jamie reaches the final of the Single Wicket competition. Someone else who's attracted by the heat is Rosa, Elona's daughter, who obviously believes in the direct approach, telling Jamie "I can't keep my eyes off you." Stop being so coy, girl; if you're too subtle he'll never get the message. Someone who does know what's going on is Natalie and Rosa asks Jamie why that girl is glaring at her. "She's my girlfriend" he replies.

However, this doesn't seem to faze Rosa overmuch and I reckon we could have pistols at dawn if she keeps chucking herself at Jamie or, as we call it, 'doing a Tracy'. Yes, Tracy's attempts to snare Ifti make Rosa's advances look positively Machiavellian – first she invites him to rub sun cream on her (he refuses) and then she fusses round him with tea and sandwiches. Sadly, her efforts are spoiled when she spills the tea in his lap. I suppose we should be grateful that she didn't offer to lick it off him or sponge him dry.

Ifti is, understandably, a tad miffed and goes off to congratulate Jamie, who won the contest with a four off the final ball. While on the subject of Jamie and his family, I suddenly realised that it has been months since we heard from Kathy – I wondered why I was feeling in a good mood.

Lilian spends a day with Adam, who is full of despair again because he feels he didn't do enough to stop the mega-dairy. He also has fears for the future: "Who knows what Brian and Debbie have got planned?" he wails at Lilian, who must be regretting the fact that she bothered to spend time with her nephew. God only knows what Adam will be like once the dairy is actually up and running (assuming it ever is, of course).

Mind you, Lilian couldn't have spent the time with Matt, as he is being extremely nice to Darrell, praising his workmanship, giving him a cash bonus ("that's too much" protests Darrell. Don't worry son, Matt probably mugged an OAP, or robbed a charity collecting box – the large number of copper coins is always a giveaway). Matt then makes Darrell a site manager (the words 'fall', 'guy' and 'patsy' spring to mind) and even takes him out for a pie and a pint. Darrell is pleased and phones Elona with the good news. Tread carefully Darrell – it is not only Greeks that you should beware of when bearing gifts and I'm betting that Matt has more hidden agendas than at the AGM of the national 'hide & seek' association.

A story line that is getting well on my chimes is that of Amy. I cannot believe that anybody in the world could be so dense, or behave like such a total prat. The latest episode saw her lose it after Alan suggested that she talks with Usha and she stormed out. Alan was frantic with worry because Amy wasn't answering her phone (even the hospital had tried unsuccessfully to get in touch). Why? What an opportunity lost – a quick call to Darrell and he'd nip round and change the locks sharpish.

Alan eventually rings Alice but - shock! horror! - for once Amy isn't there. Alice eventually gets through to a tearful Amy, who confesses that she is outside Carl's flat and he hasn't come home. Of course he hasn't, you deluded muppet – he's at home with his wife and child. However, perhaps Amy would get a better view if she moved a bit further away, like into the middle of the road, maybe.

The next day, Amy has words with Usha, who, not unreasonably, would like her to clear a few things away after use. Amy interprets this as control freakery and, when Usha says that it is Carl and not her who is to blame, Amy loses it (again) and says "I'm gonna pack my stuff". Usha says "you can't just walk off" – I had hoped that she would add "it would be better if you ran" but she didn't.

Suffice it to say that Amy ended up at Chris and Alice's (who'd have thought it?), complete with suitcase. Chris is worried that Alice is getting too involved and isn't best pleased when Alice says that she told Amy she could stay. His mood is not improved when Amy spends 25 minutes in the bathroom when he wants to get to work. God, I hope Alan comes to his senses and gets Grandma Mabel to knock some sense into Amy – that'll teach the spoilt little madam.

And so to Open Farm Sunday, or the approach to it and the front runner for this week's 'recipe for disaster' utterance is when David is talking to his family and says "I've got an inkling that Sunday's going to be a day to remember." Earlier on in the week, Rooooth tells David that she would rather that he didn't testify against Adam's attackers (probably Brian and Debbie in disguise). David goes all moral, saying "if we pull out, what message does that send?" and "I want my children to grow up knowing that their parents aren't scared of bullies." Hopefully that thought will console his children when the crooks are carving bits of flesh of them and posting them to Brookfield…

Monday, 11 June 2012

Please Form An Orderly Queue

What are we queuing for? Why, for the chance to slap some sense into Amy, of course. The woman should be a romantic novelist, such is her capacity to invent unlikely scenarios and for self-delusion. Alice was the latest to try to knock some sense into her, showing Amy details of Carl's wife and revealing that they have a child. Amy immediately assumed that Carl is staying with Rochelle purely for the sake of the child and "he must be really hurting". In retrospect, Alice would have been better off beating her over the head with the laptop than trying to reason with her.
I mean, it's getting beyond a joke now – the woman must have a certain amount of intelligence to qualify as a midwife and I'm afraid her attitude is moving into the realms of the unbelievable. Even Dad Alan has come to the end of his tether when Amy doesn't pass on a message about Usha's 50th birthday party and he learns that Amy said hurtful things to Usha about not having to care about anyone else, as she has no children. It's gloves off time when he tells her some home truths, adding: "Spite doesn't suit you Amy, however bad you're hurting."
Well said that man of the cloth! Throw the whining, self-pitying, annoying little cow out, I say, never mind all this turning the other cheek and loving your enemies rubbish.
Elsewhere in the village, it appears that Iftikar needs to keep his wits about him, as Tracy seems to be lining him up as the next notch on her bedpost, which reputedly already resembles a well-worn and ancient American Indian totem pole, Tracy drops an earring in the shop and Ifti gallantly helps her find it. What will she drop next, I ask myself?
You can see the way that her (one track) mind is working when she invites herself round to Susan's for lunch so that she can "ask Neil about the rules of cricket." It's 'Laws of cricket', not rules, you man-hungry slapper. If I might digress here, a poll on the Archers website asks 'Would Ifti and Tracy make a good couple?' When I looked, 95.3% of respondents said 'No'. This tells us two things; firstly, most Archers fans are good judges of character and, secondly, that 4.7% either can't read properly or need psychiatric help. Stand firm Ifti – concentrate on improving the cricket team.
Susan and Lynda got a shock when they decide to have a sneak preview of the DVD from the camera in the woods designed to catch the beast of Ambridge on film. Much to their embarrassment, the only beast it caught was the beast with two backs, aka Will and Nic, enjoying a bit of al fresco nookie. No doubt if a child results from this outdoor pursuit, it will be named Fern, or Bluebell, or something similar.
We cannot let the occasion of the Queen's 60th Jubilee pass without comment about Ambridge's celebrations. There was a near-crisis when, instead of 60 sponge cakes being made to form the Ambridge giant cake, Clarrie ended up four short. Jill to the rescue! She had made six extra, no doubt confident in some people's inability to understand such difficult instructions as 'Make it square, not round' and 'Do not fill with jam. Do not ice cake'. Honestly, even idiot Gary couldn't get those wrong. Then again…
Anyway, with the help of Jill and Nic, Clarrie pulled it off and the giant cake looked lovely. Everyone was happy, even Joe, who was asked by Lynda to propose three cheers for Her Majesty. The only tense moment was when Clarrie asked Nic "How did you get them grass stains all over your back?" OK, so I made that up, but it would have been good.
Things took an even more sinister turn at Brookfield, when Ben discovers a ram that has had its throat ripped out, covered in blood, in a field. Of course, we all knew that something bad was going to happen as, on Monday evening, after the beacon lighting on Lakey Hill, David has a quick run-through of the CCTV tape, which show that nothing has happened, prompting David to tell Rooooth: "Everything's going to be fine, you'll see."
Ben thinks the ram has been attacked by the Beast of Ambridge, but Rooooth notices that it has been cut with a blade. David calls the police, just at the moment when Pip comes home and asks what's going on? Has anyone else noticed that Pip seems to have reverted to her irritating, whiny voice that she used to have when anyone used to say anything bad about Jude?
Here are David and Rooooth, worried sick about the potential threat to their children and all Pip can do is give them a hard time because she hasn't been kept informed about what's been happening. She is then indignant because the police won't be able to do anything until next week and she wants action - now! Pip love, it's only in the movies (or if you are royalty) that 14 helicopters, a SWAT team, a fleet of squad cars and a couple of crack detectives turn up at a moment's notice. In real life you take a number and fill in forms. The week ends with Pip asking where Ben is. He's upstairs, says David, adding: "You won't tell him anything about this, will you?" Cue whine from Pip: "Come on Dad, what do you take me for?" Answers on a postcard, please…

Monday, 4 June 2012

Self Doubts

Andrew Wincott (Adam Macy)

There was an awful lot of introspection and self-doubting abroad in Ambridge last week; first we had Adam reading through his old diaries and feeling nostalgic for his younger self. He talked about a friend of his who is doing good works in Africa "while I'm just a cog in a corporate machine." He also bemoaned the fact that he didn't manage to get the mega-dairy scheme stopped.

Lilian takes him out riding and he tells her all about his feelings of unrest. Instead of smacking him in the head with her riding crop and telling him to pull himself together, Lilian tells Ian that Adam "needs taking out of himself." Get back to bloody work, man!

At The Bull, Kenton is also in introspective mode, having just been sent some pictures of his daughter. "I know I've been a lousy Dad," he said, in a rare moment of self-awareness, as five million listeners nodded in agreement. Kenton would like to go and see Meriel in New Zealand and tries to persuade Jolene. She however, is lukewarm and says "let's park it for now." Why is Kenton so keen all of a sudden? The last time he saw his daughter she was probably recovering from having her umbilical cord cut.

Someone for whom self doubt is a closed book is Tom and no doubt his sense of self-importance was inflated when Pat tells him "you've carried this farm over the past few months." And so he should, having been a major cause of his Dad's heart attack. It looks like Tony is getting back into the swing of things, having hired a relief milker and even making sandwiches for Tom and Pat. Tom is incredulous that his Dad has managed these difficult tasks, but Pat tells him that Trevor (the relief) can't start for at least two and a half weeks and the sandwiches turn out to be beef and avocado and brie and mushroom. Never mind, it's the thought that counts – presumably the thought being "I wonder if I can make that smug son of mine throw up?"

Over at Brookfield, the tension is rising, with the threats against David and the family. David is still determined to appear as a witness and says defiantly that the thugs "are not taking over our lives". Er, David, as you have been given a panic button by the police and you spend Thursday installing four CCTV cameras, I submit that your lives have already been fundamentally changed. That and telling the kids to take their mobile phones if they go any further than the bathroom and making them stay inside, of course. To make matters worse, Farm Sunday is fast approaching and do they really want strangers wandering all over the farm? At this rate, the visitors will be herded around at the point of a pitchfork.

Someone who I would cheerfully stick with said implement is Amy. I used to like her, but she has turned into a right cow and it would be better for everybody if she went to live somewhere else. Alice mentions to Chris that Amy is thinking of moving out and Chris, quick as a flash, says "we haven't got the room." Well done Chris – you headed that one off at the pass nicely. Alice also suggests that she should do some detective work to prove to Amy – whose capacity for self-delusion is monumental, as she suggests that Carl might be unhappily married – that Carl is married and is a cheating, love-rat, rather than misunderstood and lonely. I think the best answer would be for Amy to find work somewhere else and quietly leave. Quickly.

Jim ruined his chances of getting closer to Christine when he gave full vent to his republican convictions. The inhabitants of number 8 have ignored Lynda's Diktat of a red, white and blue colour scheme for Britain in Bloom and planted a host of yellow tagetes. This to Lynda is a hanging offence and she beats manically on their door. Sadly they aren't in at the time and, when Jim opens his trap to stick up for "the individual touch", Christine is not impressed and decides to go home alone. That's the last lot of scones you're going to get for a while, Jim, my lad.

As the Jubilee approaches, people are getting more stressed, with Lynda stopping just short of threatening to strangle the children with the maypole streamers if they don't get the dance right. Clarrie, meanwhile, is being seriously let down by villagers who had promised to make a sponge so that they can be assembled into one large, iced cake for the Jubilee. Things aren't helped by Joe forgetting to tell her that so-and-so called and won't be able to make a cake, or that Sabrina Thwaite has a query and he said Clarrie would ring her back – this was a couple of days ago. 

Clarrie is on the verge of going spare and tells Joe to stop going on about Bob Pullen being chosen to cut the cake as she's sick of it. Ruth then lets Clarrie down by not making her sponge as promised and Clarrie is in despair, wondering if there will even be a village cake at this rate.