Tuesday, 28 August 2012

A Big Hand For Jamie

Hedli Niklaus (Kathy Perks)

It's not often that I compliment Jamie (other than on the volume and frequency of his sighing) but a gold star for him this week for agreeing to go back to college, thus sparing us months of Kathy's whining and pleading. Mind you, Kathy did leave herself open to abuse when she said to Jamie "If we can't talk about important things, then what am I here for?" Bloody good question, Kathy – damned if I know the answer.

Jamie seems to be getting over being dumped by Natalie by getting closer to Rosa. Kathy describes Rosa as "hardly an academic" and this is borne out when Rosa tells Jamie that she wouldn't want to do A Levels (not that she had the opportunity) "because I can still be rich and happy." Sadly, she didn't share the secret of exactly how she is going to achieve this. Ah! The eternal optimism of youth!

Of course, not all optimists are young – Eddie is given a chance to talk about the Beast of Ambridge on Radio Borsetshire in conversation with broadcaster Wayne Foley. Joe warns Eddie to be careful, but it falls on deaf ears and his account of seeing the beast gets ever more fanciful and he has just delivered his sales pitch for his statues of said beast when Wayne interrupts him. Wayne has a photo of the beast statue and also of the other three animals that Eddie sells (pig, dog and lion) and he accuses Eddie of pulling a fast one, combining bits from all three for the beast statue and saying "we've all had a laugh – isn't it time now to come clean?"

Eddie's not laughing and, when he returns home, Joe tells him that there's been two calls; one a customer wanting his money back and the other (in a strong Scottish accent) from the Loch Ness Monster, asking if the Beast wanted to join him for a drink. "It's Jazzer!" wails Eddie, adding: "I'm done for – I can never show my face in the village again." Yes! Result! And when you leave, please take Joe with you.

While you're at it, take Tracy as well – she berates Susan for not going with her to see Keith at the Magistrates' Court, saying that they should support him for having done the right thing (i.e. grassing up his mates; obviously it's OK to inform on friends, it's just dobbing on family members that's unacceptable, apparently).

Tracy also tells Susan that she has always been there for Keith and she has made sacrifices to support him. Susan asks like what? and Tracy replies that her relationship with Iftikar is over. What relationship is this? Tracy said that she asked him out and he made excuses. It must be because of her family – what else could it be? Well, taking a wild stab in the dark, it might be that Ifti doesn't want a relationship with a delusional slapper, perhaps? Then again, perhaps he's looking for someone whose intelligence is slightly higher than that of a retarded nematode? Mind you, being a Horrobin certainly isn't a plus point.

Anyway, Keith won promotion to the Crown Court and is out on bail, but not allowed to come near Ambridge. Perhaps we could frame a list of characters with minor crimes so that a similar punishment is imposed? Imagine a village with, say, no Will (shotgun licence irregularity) and no Vicky (contrived excuse to follow) to mention only two. While on the subject of criminals, there is unconfined joy at Brookfield when David learns that the felons have pleaded guilty, so he won't have to give evidence at their trial.

Someone else who might be on trial if they're not careful is Darrell, who still seems unable to grasp that Matt wants Joyce and Arthur to move out of the house they are renting and would Darrell stop making repairs so quickly and efficiently, please? Matt sends Darrell off on other jobs and keeps him hanging around doing nothing, so that he can't get back to Arthur and Joyce. Darrell, showing a level of sensitivity on a par with Kathy, complains to Matt, who takes him to one side and tells him that there are cash flow problems (Matt told Brenda earlier to shred a final demand from the gas company) and Joyce and Arthur's house is a prime site and "a house we need to sell". Just in case this isn't clear enough, he tells Darrell to do something – "intervene". I thought this might still be too subtle for Darrell and that he would only cotton on if Matt said "take the bloody roof off" or similar, but it seems I misjudged him, as on Friday, Matt asks him if "that extra job" has been done? Darrell says "yes". Let's hope for the sake of Matt's blood pressure that Darrell hasn't misunderstood and just repaired the central heating.

My blood pressure rose steadily as the "will she, won't she?" saga of whether or not Vicky should have an amniocentesis test, with much worrying about the one per cent chance of causing a miscarriage. In the end Vicky agrees to it, after the midwife (or doctor – I'd lost the will to live by then) said that they had fully trained staff. I wanted her to say "we've carried this out successfully scores of times" and, when Vicky asked "how many?" to reply "ninety-nine", but sadly it didn't happen. Poor Mike is knackered (still no replacement for Harry) and Vicky, who has been told to rest, moans at him: "at least you've got your work – I'll be sitting here for the next few days on my own." Tell you what Mike, teach the woman a lesson – tell her she's doing the milk round for the rest of the week.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Coming Out In Droves

Michael Shelford (Harry Mason)

Top marks to the writers for the surprise exit of Harry, who was reunited with his long-lost love, Grant, on the trip to Edinburgh. The fact that Harry was gay, or possibly bi, as he certainly used to look after Zofia well enough, came as a surprise akin to Joe Grundy walking into a crowded Bull and yelling "the drinks are on me!" But there were hints – back in October 2010, when Jazzer moved in with Harry, I remarked about the pictures of Tour de France riders on the walls of his flat (see "VickySpits Her Dummy").

So, has Harry gone for good? Who will the women (and probably some of the men) of Ambridge fantasise about now? I sincerely hope that Fallon doesn't seek consolation with Jazzer – and what will Jazzer do? He is looking for a flatmate, but be honest – on a scale of 1 to 10, how keen would you be to share a house with an idle, inconsiderate, untidy slob who leaves pig muck-encrusted overalls around the place and appears to be in training to become an alcoholic? Yes, me too.

It was a week for people coming out, as Adam told Ian that Pawel was gay. Fortunately he didn't tell him exactly how he had found out and the three have an evening in together. Pawel seems to be getting his feet firmly under the table – he and Ian help to make sure Charlotte's mother (someone who Jennifer regards as a social climber, so she must be a right snob) doesn't get a glimpse of the dog statue. Later Pawel helps out at the BBQ and, while Ian seems to have found a new best friend, Adam is walking on eggshells and isn't at all happy. The way things are going, I reckon you're going to have trouble getting Pawel to go home when the picking season ends, Adam.

Mind you, Adam has his own troubles; having bitten the bullet and kicked his principles into the long grass, he tells Brian that he has changed his mind and is prepared to manage the arable, including the acreage for the mega-dairy. Brian tells him the advert has already gone out and "we've noted your interest; we'll let you know." Jennifer is distraught and Adam is going to have to get used to large helpings of humble pie, washed down with cups of humiliation.

Brian really can be a vindictive sod, can't he? One is reminded of Churchill's quote about Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery: "In defeat, unbeatable; in victory, unbearable", especially when he eventually tells Jennifer that of course he'll give the job to Adam. He just wants to see him grovel a bit first and, presumably, the only reason that he didn't get Adam to lick his boots is because his tongue might not be clean enough? Anyway, thank God the mega-dairy arable saga is finally over (please?).

Vicky's pregnancy continues to annoy, as she bangs on about it being 19 weeks so far? What? Is that all? It already seems longer than nine months to me. Vicky is in a quandary – should she have the test for Down's Syndrome, knowing that it carries a risk of miscarriage? Lynda tells her she must speak to Mike ("it's his baby as well"). Mike, who has been covering for Harry and Jazzer in their absence (and still is for Harry) is knackered and advertises for a replacement milkman. I thought that the round was losing customers? Wait a few months and you'll only need Jazzer. Vicky meanwhile has been buying stuff for the baby off the Internet and the first 34 pantechnicons are expected any day now.

It was results week, which gave Kathy the chance to revert to ultra-interfering mother mode and for Jamie to brush up on his sighing, at which he could easily represent Team GB. Kathy sends him texts, leaves him messages, offers to drive him to school, but deep down, Jamie knows he's screwed up. At Natalie's party, Jamie tells Rosa that he got 1xA, 2xBs and 1xC. She's impressed. Meanwhile, Natalie is telling everyone that she got 4xAs and, from the sound of it, one of these was in drinking vodka. Natalie goes outside the house to find Rosa and Jamie together (she was just showing him her scooter, honestly), calls Rosa a tramp and sends her away and then tells Jamie they are finished.

Jamie goes home, no doubt feeling that things can't get any worse. Wrong! Kathy has fallen asleep waiting up for him and, with her unerring talent for putting her foot in it, asks him about his results. Jamie tells her he got 2xCs, 1xD and 1xE. Kathy, still in the hole and still digging, says never mind, they were only AS exams and you can still do well at A levels and go to uni. Jamie's vision of his future differs from his mother's as he said stuff uni – he's sat his last exam. Actually Jamie, going on past experience, those grades will probably get you into Felpersham College on a Phd course. Sadly, I fear we are in for another cycle of nagging and sighing.

Elsewhere, things aren't going according to Matt's plan for Darrell. Having been ordered to exaggerate the problems with Joyce and Arthur's house in order to get them to move, Darrell finds that the Blitz spirit is alive and well, as they say that, if the kitchen is out of commission, they can cook on a camping stove and wash up in the bathroom. If Darrell can't persuade them, I reckon Rosa's new scooter will be going back. As Arthur tells Darrell, "the only way I'm leaving here is feet first, in a box." Be careful Arthur – you don't want to start putting ideas in Matt's head.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Please Don't Stand In Adam's Way

Andrew Wincott (Adam Macy)

Everyone (Lilian, Ian and Jennifer, to name but three) is telling Adam that they will go mad/top themselves/never smile again should Adam decide to leave Ambridge. Personally, I think Brian's attitude ("he's got two choices – if he won't do the arable, we'll get someone else") is the most sensible, and that's not something I say very often.

On Sunday, Adam has spent the night away and doesn't turn up for work. Ian is afraid he's done something stupid (as if!) but it turns out that he spent the night in a hotel with Pawel, the naughty lad. For the rest of the week, Adam is wracked with guilt and it doesn't help that Pawel obviously enjoyed himself and seems to want to take things further. Adam says that, as Pawel's boss, it was inappropriate behaviour. Should have thought of that earlier, Adam! It will be interesting to see if Adam succumbs to the Ambridge curse of being physically unable to keep a secret. I hope not, as if this gets out, it could be "goodbye Ian" and if that should happen, to whom will people turn for advice, sympathy and a handy shoulder when needed?

As if Adam wasn't moody enough before, his angst has now multiplied manifold. Ian tells him that he will go away with him, if that's what Adam wants – it's all "me, me, me" with Adam and even Jennifer has noticed that he seems troubled. She is stalking her son to catch him alone and bend his ear about leaving, even getting up at the crack of dawn to plead with him.

This drip, drip, drip obviously has its effect, as Adam later tells Ian that he won't leave Home Farm. Ian is surprised (presumably because Adam is considering someone else for once) but Adam says his thoughts of moving were "fantasy" and asks rhetorically "where would we go?" Ah yes, I wondered when someone would ask that. So, things seemed to have sorted themselves out, then, while relaxing in the hot tub, Adam spots Brian's advert in the Echo for an arable manager for Home Farm and goes ballistic.

For God's sake, Adam, what did you expect? You told Brian you wouldn't touch the arable, but it still needs managing, so someone's got to do it. Take a deep breath and get back on the combine – you can always amuse yourself by having your pick of the pickers when you fancy a bit of fun.

Someone else who has been naughty was Kate and we learned that she has been having an affair. It was finding this out that drove Phoebe away and when she had her bad experience in the taxi. "Does she hate me?" asks a contrite Kate. Roy tells her "no" and tactfully refrains from adding "but every other sentient being in the Universe does."

A storyline that is getting on my chimes is that of Vicky's pregnancy and the thought of months of her oohing and aahing fills me with despair, not to mention the way too much information about when she last had a period. At least we've been spared details of the act of procreation, so that's something, I suppose.

Now I know this is going to come as a shock, but Vicky is finding it very hard to keep the news to herself (knock me down with a feather) and she goes public at Phoebe's birthday party, much against Mike's wishes. Reactions range from disbelief (Brian snorts at the news) to delight (Hayley and Phoebe). Vicky exhibits her normal level of tact when she says to Jennifer: "You'll have to give me tips about being an older parent; I'm sure that if you can do it at your age, we can." Bathchair for Mrs Aldridge, please! And a gag for Mrs Tucker, while you're at it.

Another Grundy scam bites the dust when Clarrie finds out they are selling boar burgers illegally at the Cider Club and tells them to stop. Their protests that they are giving the burgers away and charging £3 for the buns cuts no ice and Clarrie makes them give the punters their money back. The fact that Joe has been spending hours in the toilet and complaining about an upset stomach (too much information again) might have given anyone with half a brain cell pause for thought that perhaps eating the meat isn't a good idea. Not the Grundys, however.

Matt is trying – with a singular lack of success - to get an elderly couple out of one of AmSide's properties. The answer? Get Darrell round to give the place a thorough going over and find lots of things wrong that need repairing, so that they will have to move out. Poor Darrell isn't happy, but Elona is pleased, as the extra money means that they can buy daughter Rosa the scooter she wants so much. Darrell is getting in quite deep and, if he isn't careful, he won't be able to extricate himself from Matt's clutches and you never know where it will end – perhaps one day Matt will say to him "I've got these blokes who want a barn burning down – see to it, will you Darrell?"

Monday, 6 August 2012

Four's A Crowd

Ryan Kelly (Jack 'Jazzer' McCreary)

I knew that Fallon and Harry trying not to hurt Jazzer's feelings would come back to bite them – instead of a nice, cosy holiday in the campervan, with just the two of them, not only will they have Jazzer, but also, thanks to an idea from Jolene, Kirsty will be going along. Not only does Kirsty deserve better than spending time in such close proximity to Jazzer, but what is this vehicle? Is it the campervan equivalent of the Tardis? At least they will still be cosy – very cosy - and they'll probably know each other much better by the end of the holiday – probably more than they would want.

Things are happening in the Tucker households – Vicky tells Mike about the pregnancy and he is definitely underwhelmed. Vicky confides her fears to Brenda that she (Vicky) might not live up to the standards of Betty. Brenda, who is being extra nice to her step-mother, tells her that it isn't a competition and offers to go with her to see the midwife.

Another underwhelmed Tucker was Phoebe, who returned home early (cow) from South Africa. She says she's relieved to be home, but she's not exactly doing handsprings. And neither was I.

Sunday was the community sports day and we had riveting radio, describing the races. Kenton asked Jolene what were the arrangements for the medal-giving ceremony and she says "you tell me." Kenton panics and begs Lynda (who has been wandering around spouting her usual pretentious twaddle) to bale him out. She says 'no', but eventually steps up to the plate and organises a blinder of a ceremony, complete with podium, cushions for medals and, I wouldn't be surprised, a marching band and laser lightshow. Kenton awards her the special medal for "the most sportsmanlike behaviour" and everyone is happy. The Stables team was victorious, by the way.

I never cease to be surprised that Adam isn't genetically related to Brian, as they both have a breathtaking indifference to what their nearest and dearest might be thinking. At the BL Board Meeting, Brian puts the case for Home Farm to be awarded the contract to supply feed for the mega-dairy. The board agrees and only Annabelle notices that Adam appears to have been airbrushed from the project. Brian tells Jennifer, who is not happy that Adam has been sidelined, but Brian waves away her objections, telling her that, now Home Farm has definitely got the contract, Adam might well change his mind.

In your dreams, Brian! Adam has been communing with his new best friend Pawel in the polytunnels, again thinking of pursuing his ideal of scattering seeds by hand, using horses to plough and gathering in the crops after the villagers have scythed it down by hand. Brian – who obviously isn't that confident about Adam's conversion – has a word with Ian, asking him to help change Adam's mind. Ian asks Brian if he has any idea of how badly he has handled the situation throughout, saying "your attitude has been like it or lump it." Brian neatly avoids this by saying "there's no point raking up the past" and asks Ian whether he wants Adam to leave the farm, the village or the country? Ian reluctantly agrees to speak to Adam.

The meeting the next day could have gone better, as Adam spouts about his principles (again) and says how good it would be to go to Poland, where they still use stone axes and rub sticks together to make fire. The discussion escalates into a full-blown row, with Ian calling his lover a hypocrite and asking "do you know where all the crops that you grow go to?" Ian says he's never been happier than in his present job and reminds Adam that he's got a well-paid job in a farm that he stands to inherit one third of. "So that's what all this is about" says Adam, demonstrating the Brian side of his nature. Ian storms off to work and, when he comes back later, the week's final episode ends with him calling "Adam?" and getting no reply.

On the criminal front, Keith is charged with arson, criminal damage, conspiracy and being a Horrobin. Tracy goes to see him and is aghast when Keith admits that it was he that torched the barn. Apparently, he had been telling some unsavoury characters where there were bits of machinery hanging around unguarded on farms and his flash lifestyle is just a front. Tracy tells Susan, who thinks he's wicked and regrets the things she said to Emma, but Tracy shows her twisted morality by saying about Emma shopping Keith "you don't do that to your family." And if George had died in the fire, Tracy, what then?

Eddie's account of his brush with the beast of Ambridge lowered my estimation of journalists even more when he was described as a "sculptor and ethnic artist". Surely the word 'piss' has been omitted here?

Have we seen the last of Adam? Brian phoned the local paper to put in an advert for a Farm Manager and asks the person on the other end to add "Home Farm has a proven track record as an equal opportunities employer". You're right there Brian – no-one stands a chance, unless your name is Brian, of course.