Sunday, 28 October 2012

Unlucky Break

Roger May (James Bellamy)

The break I refer to is that of James Bellamy's leg – the unlucky bit is that it wasn't his neck. Honestly, I never thought that I would ever see a character replace Will Grundy as the character I'd most like to slap repeatedly, but James is right up there with the whiny gamekeeper. It's not just that James calls Lilian 'Ma', annoying as that is, but he hasn't got one redeeming feature that I can think of.

The really depressing thing is that he is now ensconced in the Dower House and looks set to stay there until he is better. How long does a broken leg take to heal? Can nothing be done to speed the process? How about if we amputated it – would that heal quicker? Brenda spoke on behalf of five million listeners when she spoke of James being in Ambridge as being "total misery".

Matt went up in my estimation when he reminded James that neither he nor Lilian are James's servant. He could have saved his breath, though, as James has Lilian running round, making coffee, charging his phone and sundry other errands. This is of course after he sent her to London to pick up some stuff from his flat. A tired Lilian is cheered when Paul rings her to enquire after James's health – expressing such concern makes me think that obviously he has never met James.

There was a tedious storyline when Tom and Brenda were trying to come up with a novelty food item for the Christmas season. As it turned out, it was Peggy who came up with the idea. And what was it? Ready Meals. Now I know you're thinking "but Tom's already producing Ready Meals" but Peggy's plan is to market them to busy housewives as a guilt-free, wholesome meal in the busy days before Christmas. From Tom's reaction, this is an intellectual achievement on a par with the Theory of Relativity.

Later on in the week, the all-conquering progress of the Ready Meals towards global domination took a bit of a knock-back when Tom and Brenda sampled the first, professionally-cooked meals. The casserole is fantastic, but the meatballs were a disaster, with way too much salt. "You can't afford to take your eye off the ball for a minute" says Tom, the philosopher. No doubt that was what he said to the footballing pigs. Does this mean that Tom will be standing over the chef when he prepares the next batch?

Ed and Emma continue to roam the streets and lanes of Ambridge, presumably clothed in rags, visibly losing weight, rummaging through waste bins and begging anyone who passes for work. I hope they make good soon, as I am starting to feel sorry for them and I never thought I'd feel that about Emma. The horror in Ed's voice was apparent when Tom told him of the Ready Meals debacle and mentioned that he had dumped the lot. You could almost hear Ed thinking "that would have fed us for weeks – I quite like salt."

What else has been happening? Elizabeth contacts Iftikar to see if he is willing to give Freddie some extra-curricular coaching in maths, which is reminiscent of the days when Nigel used to keep his children chained to desks, going through old exam papers. Ifti is willing, although one assumes that Freddie is not over the moon at the prospect. In passing, we learned that Daniel is either a crawler trying to ingratiate himself with the man who picks the cricket team, or that he doesn't have many friends, as Ifti says that he has been invited to Daniel's 18th birthday party. The birthday is 14th November, in case you want to send a card.

Fallon got the manager's job at Jaxx's, much to everybody's relief and she and Rhys are rehearsing their lines for the Shakespearian Christmas Extravaganza and Rhys muses how the play (Much Ado – you can't have forgotten, surely?) is about two people who don't realise how much they have in common. "Just get together!" we all yelled at the radio.

Sunday was Apple Day, with the likes of Eddie Grundy telling an enthralled audience "this is an apple" and introducing Joe to talk about cider making. Joe is still having troubles with his false teeth and he takes them out. Unfortunately, no-one can understand what he's saying sans teeth and Eddie tells him to put them back in. Disaster! He cannot find them and there is a suspicion that they have fallen into the apple scratter and have been pulverised. No more cider for me, please.

Whatever the fate of his dentures, Joe becomes a talking point in the village when he appears with his second-best set. Apparently these are a tad noticeable and David and Neil have a good laugh at Joe's expense in The Bull. Phrases such as "big bad wolf" and "practically fluorescent" are bandied about but David and Neil aren't laughing when Joe lets slip that they might have been pulverised in the apple scratter – let's hope that they manage to forget before the next batch of cider is ready for drinking.

Monday, 22 October 2012


Emerald O'Hanrahan (Emma Grundy)

Things looked bad for poor Emma early in the week when she received an invitation to her friend Jodie's wedding. Normally a cause for rejoicing, but when Emma added up the potential costs (travel to London, present, new dress) she decided that she couldn't afford it. This in turn made Ed feel bad – he had noticed the invitation when wrestling with a mouse for the piece of cheese in the mousetrap – and he tells Dad Eddie about their plight. Eddie can't lend them the money (no surprise there) and it looks bleak for Emma.

But hey! Take heart Cinderemma – you shall go to the wedding! In steps not one, but two Fairy Godmothers, in the unlikely forms of Susan and Neil. They tell Emma that they are proud of the job she is doing in bringing up her children (although if things get much tighter, they may have to eat Keira) and she deserves a treat, so here's £150. At first Emma is reluctant to accept, but they convince her and, when Ed comes home he is genuinely pleased for her, even though he is probably working out how many pizzas you can get for £150.

Meanwhile, at the Bull, Kenton cannot understand why it is taking Fallon so long to make up her mind about taking over at Jaxx's. Perhaps it is because he hasn't been quite straight with her about the possible consequences. For example, she finds out that she will be in competition for the job with Kirsty (her best friend) and some other non-speaking female.

As it turns out, Kirsty isn't interested in the job, so that's one rival out of the way. Fallon asks if, should she not get the job at Jaxx's, would she still have a job at the Bull? Kenton tells her it's a family business (too right – and not his family either) and she'll always have a job there. And what about Rhys? Kenton becomes evasive on this point and Fallon realises she has a lot to think about.

Rhys is delighted for Fallon at the opportunity ahead of her, but not everybody is happy; Jazzer calls Jim a 'traitor' for poaching Fallon (she hasn't even got the job yet) and that he will have to spend more in taxi fares if he starts drinking at Jaxx's. This would seem to indicate that Jaxx's has no minimum entry standards or dress code. Lynda does nothing for Rhys's feelings when she says to him "The Bull won't be the same without Fallon – you'll miss her, I'm sure." Glumly, Rhys agrees. Guys, guys, Fallon will be working in Borchester – a short taxi ride away. It's not bloody Australia or Outer Mongolia for God's sake.

Jazzer continues to acquire a veneer of civilisation, laying a table place for Jim at dinner and helping Jim to resize and send photos by e-mail. Mind you, Jazzer's rehabilitation is not quite complete, as Jim has to bribe him with a flagon of cider to help, plus dinner tonight is last night's refried leftovers. I bet Jim is smacking his lips.

Thursday was a bittersweet day, as we were expecting the return of James Bellamy to Ambridge, hopefully only for a flying visit. But he never arrived – or rather he did, but only to the hospital in Felpersham, after crashing his car. The car was written off, but James only had a leg injury. There's no head injury, which begs the question how could they tell? Lilian is frantic with worry and rings Matt, whose phone goes to voicemail, then Jennifer (ditto). In desperation, she rings Paul, who immediately drops everything and goes to the hospital. Instead of doing us all a favour and putting the pillow over James's face, he comforts Lilian.

Matt eventually does ring back (he's at some do or other) and he shows the same level of caring about James as the rest of us when he says "There's nothing I can do there – I'm not a doctor." No, but you could help Paul with the pillow, Matt. Lilian is not impressed with Tiger's attitude and Paul earns more brownie points when he offers to drive Lil back to Ambridge and he'll get a taxi back. Lilian suggests that he gets out before they get home (Matt will be there) and she tells him how wonderful he's been and "I don't know what I'd have done without you." Was that a kiss I heard?

Lilian is now off my Christmas card list for telling James that he doesn't have to go back to London and can stay with her – Matt will be pleased. James meanwhile shows that he is even more annoying when ill as he bleats about being in pain and moaning because he will have to be in plaster for three months. I'd give him pain – I'd also plaster over his gob while I was at it.

Finally, the mega-dairy project is well under way, with Rooooth and David having a moan about the noise and lorries – no-one has yet invented a quiet method of digging foundations, unfortunately – and BL interviewing for the Herd Manager's job. One candidate – Rob – stands out and Brian is ecstatic when he receives a text from Rob (this is during dinner out with Jennifer, who must be well impressed that her husband can't take his eyes off his phone) accepting the job. For £60k a year, I'd accept the job – I know nothing about cows, but I could afford to slip Ed £10k to do the work; God knows he needs the money and it might prevent him from eating the guinea pig.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

What The Romans Did For Us

John Rowe (Jim Lloyd)

I thought I had tuned into a Monty Python sketch this week, as seemingly every day someone was banging on about how we owed practically everything to the Romans, from cement to baths and, for all I know, nuclear power stations. And the (admittedly extremely unlikely) source of all this knowledge? None other than Jazzer, who had been reading up on the subject in Jim's books and giving anyone who'd listen – and quite a few who wouldn't – the benefit of his knowledge. The thing that staggered me was that hardly anyone seemed to know any of the facts that spilled endlessly from his lips – has no-one in Ambridge ever seen Life of Brian?

Jim seems to have high hopes of turning Jazzer into something approaching a human being and he may be succeeding, as one night Jazzer announced that he was going to bed – and this around the time when he was usually getting ready to go out. Mind you, the conversion process looks like it might take some time, as he was watching a "toga and sandals" DVD, which Jim spoiled by pointing out that the soldier's sword was the wrong shape. Jazzer's reply was "I've had a hard day, so no more history lessons." Careful Jazzer – don't forget whose house it is. It seems that the conversion process is not all one way, as David remarks that he saw Jim and he looked a wreck ("too many lagers and a late night"). Which will give in first – Jazzer's willpower or Jim's liver?

There was a brief moment of elation when Lynda admitted to Robert that she was finding it hard to cast Much Ado and "my regulars are deserting me." Alternatively, perhaps they are coming to their senses after years of being cajoled and bullied. She's on the verge of giving it all up when her prat of a husband comes up with a spiffing wheeze – don't do Much Ado, but take bits from different plays – a sort of Shakespearian Pick 'n' Mix. "I'll even build you a Globe Theatre in the Village Hall" gushes rent-a-gob Bob. Lynda's enthusiastic response was drowned by the sound of my sobbing, I'm afraid. And we were so close to an event-free Christmas!

On the feline front, all is not well between Pusscat and Tiger – Lilian is still annoyed about the way Matt treated Joyce and Arthur, while Matt – devious as only he can be – is fixing the blame firmly on the hapless Darrell. Lilian Confronts Darrell in the pub and, after giving him some uncomfortable moments, tells him that she knows it wasn't him. Darrell mentions in passing that the man in charge of the church restoration project (Paul) asked after Lilian the other day. With (presumably) fluttering heart, Lilian says that, should Darrell be speaking to Paul, be sure to pass on her best wishes. Be careful Pusscat – Tiger won't like it and it might all end in tears.

Ed and Emma are still slowly starving and Ed confides in Fallon, who finds him eating a chocolate bar that he bought in the shop, that he is really annoyed because Will is flashing his money around while he (Ed) has cut every expense he can, including the money he pays himself. "I can't see a way out" Ed tells Fallon – well, stop wasting money on chocolate for a start.

Things get worse for Ed and Emma when George comes home one day, yelling excitedly "Look what Dad bought me" and showing them a karate outfit. Emma is incensed and Ed's not best pleased either when Emma points out that Will obviously knows about their financial problems. Will really is a thoroughly nasty piece of work – first he bought the guinea pig and now he rubs their noses in it with the karate outfit. I've said it before – Nic is way too good for him.

Fallon is also feeling down, but her mood improves when Rhys returns early from holiday – will they get together? It doesn't help that Kenton and Jolene have decided that they want to spend more time together and Kenton has the wonderful idea of having Fallon take over his role at Jaxx's while he works full time at The Bull. "So I'd be working in Borchester" said Fallon, in the same tone that one might use when asking "So I've got three weeks to live, have I doctor?" Well done Jolene and Kenton – they noticed that Fallon had lost her spark, but somehow I don't think this is the answer - unless Rhys goes with her.

And now the good news – like me, no doubt you have been tossing and turning, wondering whether or not Tom will find anyone to cook the Ready Meals. Fret no longer – not only has he found someone, but they can do it on their organic day, thus preserving the Tom Archer brand's – that's the Tom Archer brand – organic reputation. Earlier on in the week, Tom was considering giving up the organic nature of his products until Brenda told him that would be a really stupid thing to do and what would Pat and Tony think? Like Tom would even think about that – if he has a middle name, it certainly isn't 'considerate'.

Tom takes Brenda to check on the pigs (this boy knows how to treat a lady) and, while reminiscing about the past and admiring the view, he says that "this would be an ideal place to build a house if we could get planning permission." Cue sounds of Brenda retching and rushing to the Council offices to file her planning objection…

Saturday, 6 October 2012

They'll Always Have Paris

Sunny Ormonde (Lilian Bellamy)

Lilian and Matt have returned from their romantic break to Paris, much
to Brenda's relief, as she has had loads of hassle sorting out on-going problems at AmSide. When Lilian goes to see the Walters, there is nobody there and she eventually tracks Arthur down at the hospital, where Joyce is a patient, having fallen and got a hairline hip fracture.

Back home, Arthur shows Lilian the missing floorboards and, very generously, says he quite understands that, when Darrell was pulled from the job, it wouldn't be possible to get a replacement straight away. He also mentions that the rent's due, but Lilian, in a phrase which would have had a dead Matt spinning in his grave, says "it doesn't matter".

On her return to the office, Lilian and Matt have a blazing row, with Lilian blaming Matt and him countering that it was her fault for insisting that Darrell was taken off the job. Suffice it to say that all romantic memories are behind them and the romance of Paris is just a distant memory.

Another row brews at Rickyard, when Emma demands that Ed apologises. His crime? When George made a face on seeing his dinner ("gruel again, I see Mum") Ed said "Me too." In vain does he protest that it was a joke – Emma feels betrayed and lets Ed know in no uncertain manner. Ed shows his deeply shallow knowledge of the fairer sex – and that he has inherited all of his Dad's tact and diplomacy – when he says that it would be nice to have something that you didn't need to eat through a straw. Laugh? Not really, and Emma's mood is not improved when Ed (see above about tact) tells her that, even when they had no money at home, Clarrie could still dish up substantial meals. Nice one Ed – that's you in the spare room, if only they had one. Of course, it didn't hurt that Dad Eddie had been known to do the odd spot of poaching at the time.

Just when things can't get worse, they get worse, as Will turns up with a guinea pig in a cage for George. Will is perfectly well aware that Em and Ed are finding things tight and says, in that smug, nasal, whining voice of his, that he can always take it back home. Emma and Ed aren't having this and decide to keep it. Rumours that they are going to call it Fricassee are totally unfounded – mind you, Will, if they tell you that it died unexpectedly, I'd demand to see the body and also ask what that cooking smell is.

Ambridge's very own tycoon – Tom Archer (you must have heard the name, surely?) – goes from mega high to the depths of despair during the week. Buoyed up by the news of the massive order for ready meals, he is chasing round to find somewhere with the capacity to cook them. An idea – open his own kitchen! "This puts the Tom Archer brand into a great place to expand" crows the egomaniac. Honestly, when he's in full flow, Tom makes Simon Cowell look like Uriah Heep.

Except there's a slight problemette when it turns out that setting up his own kitchen will be too expensive and Tom still cannot find anyone willing to drop their own work schedule to fit in the making of the Ready Meals (which I have decided should now have initial capital letters to denote their importance). Do these peasants not understand how important this is? At the quiz at the Bull, Tom is in despair, saying "I've got a ticking clock – my first big order for ready meals and I've absolutely no idea where I'm going to make them." A slight flaw in the master plan, Tom my old son, if you don't mind me saying it.

Speaking of the quiz, Tom's team, which includes David and Brenda, didn't do very well – presumably none of the answers were "Tom Archer". Having said that, the questions were set and read by Jazzer and no doubt there were lots of requests for the questionmaster to repeat the question – "and in English this time, please."

Jazzer's stay at Christine's is brief – she cannot get back to sleep after hearing him get up in the morning and he is resigned to being thrown out. Jim to the rescue! Gentleman Jim offers him his spare room for a few nights and Jazzer asks if there are any ground rules. No smoking in the house or garden, no overnight 'guests', no loud music (Mahler is OK) and presumably no pigs. Jazzer is allowed to breathe every other Thursday, however. As long as it's not loud, that is. Jazzer accepts the rules (not that he's in a position to do much else) and asks to borrow one of Jim's books on Greek Mythology, from which we deduce that his room has a wonky table. Later on, Jim is talking in the pub and calls Jazzer "admirable." OK Mr Lloyd, I think you've had enough.

At Lower Loxley, Elizabeth and Roy are worried about a falling off in bookings and Liz suggests that they get in a consultant to examine the business. Roy and Hayley talk about this later and he tells her that the consultant had had some success with another local business that was struggling (no – not Tom Archer – that was cruel of you to think it). "Didn't a lot of people lose their jobs there?" muses Hayley. Roy tells her not to worry, but you can't help wondering if he has kept Caroline's phone number at Grey Gables in a safe place?

Monday, 1 October 2012

He'll Be Even More Unbearable Now…

Tom Graham (Tom Archer)

Who are we talking about? Come on, think; who in Ambridge has an ego the size of an elephant? Yes, got it in one – Tom Archer. The week started OK for him with lots of interest in and compliments about the ready meals at the food fair or whatever it was. However, he starts to feel down because the interest hasn't been instantly translated into orders. Give the people a chance, man!

This, and worries that Brenda doesn't seem as committed to their relationship as he is (every time he talks about weddings, etc she changes the subject. Personally, I reckon he's lucky that she doesn't run a mile) have an effect on Tom and Pat notices that he's down. She says to Tony "he doesn't seem quite himself" and it's a mystery how Tony stops himself replying "that'll be an improvement then."

Anyway, Tom returns home and Brenda tells that they have had a phone call from holiday firm Speakman's and they have placed a massive order for pork meatballs, plus they want Tom to supply them with sausages and bacon. The old ego is right back up there now and Tom starts preparing the new village signs: "Ambridge – home of Tom Archer" as he takes Brenda out to celebrate. She's happy, he's delirious – it's only the pigs that are feeling a bit down; some promising porcine footballing careers look set for a premature end.

Will proves his usual, charming self when he accidentally learns about Emma and Ed's money troubles. At lunch at the Bull, George asks him if he can afford fish and chips. "When you're with me son, money's no object" Will tells him. Ok, that will be Panda on toast with a side serving of Unicorns, please Dad.

Will starts to moan to Dad Eddie, saying that it's obvious that Ed and Emma "are not providing properly for my son." Eddie, who has gone to the Bull to get away from Joe leaving his false teeth all over the place points out that George doesn't look as if he's starving and that Emma and Ed both love George, to which Will replies "I'm not in the mood for listening" – a phrase that he might well adopt as his personal motto.

While on the subject of Joe's false teeth, the following day Jim finds them on a beer mat in the pub. Joe admits that he is getting forgetful and, in an unprecedented, hitherto-unknown gesture, he offers to buy Jim a drink. The stars stand still in their courses!

Jolene and Kenton treat Fallon and Rhys to a night out at a local restaurant to say "thank you" for looking after the pub while they were away and the two of them seem to be getting on quite well, going on dancing after the meal. Is romance in the air? Fallon did call him 'weird' at one point, which is encouraging (and also true).

Lynda called a meeting to discuss the nature of this year's Christmas extravaganza, musing that it's been a long time since they tackled Shakespeare and Much Ado About Nothing always appeals. Jim is all for Henry V, but, amazingly, Lynda gets her own way and Much Ado it is. Jim moans a bit (he's not a fan of the Bard's comedies) and Lynda tells him he'd make a great Dogberry. Why does no-one ever tell this woman to take a hike? I'm sure that everyone has better things to do than turn up for rehearsal after rehearsal and listen to Lynda pontificating. She must have some secret power, as Fallon tells Rhys that she will be auditioning. What about working in the pub?

Mike and Vicky are still loved up and Mike tells her that he has decided not to hire another milkman and he will continue to do Harry's old round – it's getting easier, as five more customers have left. "Vicky asks 'are you sure you want to?' ". Of course he doesn't bloody want to, woman – he's doing it to save money and to pay for the incessant flow of new stuff for the baby that you keep ordering.

When not delivering milk or working at the bottling plant, Mike is out felling trees, aided by Jamie, fresh from his chain saw course. Mike tells him he's a natural and the talk turns to what subjects he's doing at college, at which point a note of gloom enters Jamie's voice – I think there's going to be a battle between Jamie and Kathy before long, so get yourselves prepared for much mega-moaning and some super sighing.

What is Matt up to? He whisks Lilian off to Paris at short notice and he not only says nice, un-Matt-like things like "I feel I'm in the right place at the right time, with the right person" but he asks Lilian's forgiveness for having mucked Arthur and Joyce Walters around so much. Lilian is mightily impressed and, instead of saying "all right, who are you and what have you done with the real Matt Crawford?" she turns down his suggestion of going on to a bar, saying that she'd rather go straight back to the hotel. You could practically hear the smouldering and undoing of buttons as she breathed "get the bill, Tiger."

However, those worried that Matt has overdosed on the nice pills can be reassured – before going to Paris he did give Jazzer notice to quit the flat, deaf to Lilian's pleas to give him a bit longer. Obviously the real Matt is still in there somewhere.