Monday, 26 November 2012

About Bloody Time!

Joanna van Kampen (Fallon Rogers)

Before beginning this week, I have a confession to make – I will miss the Friday episode and will be away next week, so fingers crossed that nothing significant happens on Friday!

The about time of the title refers of course to Fallon and Rhys finally getting their acts (and bodies) together. It's amazing the aphrodisiac effect that a lousy film can have – they were having a drink after the pictures, then Rhys drove Fallon home. There was some awkward conversation, then Rhys grabbed her in a passionate (and very sloppy, from the sound of it) kiss, asking "Do you want to come back to mine?" Fallon obviously hasn't heard about how to behave on a first date and replied "yes I do – very much." Well, that was a waste of petrol, wasn't it?

When we tune in the next morning, we learn that the couple didn't get much sleep (bloody noisy in the country) and, from the sound of it, both enjoyed the experience. Fallon asks if Rhys has a spare toothbrush and he says no, but I'll get one from the shop and you can leave it here. "Oh, we're going to make a habit of this, are we?" Fallon teases him. It would appear so, as they have an extra hour's lie-in. Good for them, I say.

If Rhys and Fallon are ecstatically happy, the same cannot be said for Lilian and Matt. Lilian finds out, almost in passing, that Arthur has died and Joyce can't bear to live in the house on her own, so she's moved out. An incandescent Lilian asks Matt what the hell he thinks he's playing at by not telling her about Arthur. Matt makes things worse when he says that he's sure he must have mentioned it to her and it must be the strain and worry about James that drove it from her mind.

Lilian points out, not unreasonably, that learning that someone has died isn't something that you tend to forget about and she calls Matt "a smug bastard", adding: "That man's death should be on your conscience!" Matt wanders off, presumably to look up the word 'conscience' in the dictionary. Before she learned of Arthur's demise, Lilian visited the church where Darrell is working and – knock me down with a feather – Paul is there and there is much 'fancy meeting you again' before they sneak off for a pub lunch. If Matt keeps killing off tenants, I fear Lilian will get a tad fed up.

And 'fed up' describes Ed to a T. Not only is he getting decent meals now that Susan and Neil are chipping in with some money and/or food parcels, but he gets fed up in the other sense when he has mega problems with the milk bail and, despite trying to fix it himself, he has to call out an engineer. The good news is that the engineer gets it working in time for afternoon milking, the bad news is that the repairs and necessary upgrade to the electricity supply are going to cost Ed £4,000. It was quite touching on Thursday when he broke down in tears, beating himself up and saying "why did I ever think I could be a farmer?" and "What type of man can't support his family?" I think the answer to that last question is "any Grundy with the initial E", as, let's face it, Eddie doesn't keep Clarrie in the lap of luxury either, does he?

Emma shows that she is a caring wife, albeit one with absolutely no knowledge of economics nor any grasp on reality, when she says "It'll be all right – we'll sort it out. Somehow." Why not sell George to his father Will, or at least rent him out by the hour? Or get his maintenance increased by telling Will that George wants gold-plated trainers? No, on second thoughts, not that, as the Muppet is quite capable of going out and buying him a pair. Oliver didn't help when he said to Ed "chin up" – the way things are going, it will be 'chin up and stick your head in this noose'. I do feel sorry for them – I hope something good happens on Friday.

Another person with worries is Hayley – the long-awaited consultant's report is in and it recommends increased adult learning activities. Hayley, who deals with kids, is afraid that she might get the chop and Roy offers to mention it subtly to Elizabeth. The trouble is that, whenever he tries, something always happens to interrupt – usually a visit from Kenton.

Celebrations at Brookfield as not only do they get the go-ahead to rebuild the barn, but the new paddock system is set to come on stream. Rooooth is really excited about this (honestly, it doesn't take much, does it?) but David says it had better work, as the whole future of the farm is at stake. No pressure then, cows.

We had a lot of talk about Tree Dressing Day, which is apparently now going to be an event that attracts sponsorship. Just as well really, as Oliver was going to put his hand in his pocket and Jim has a 648-page list of requirements. And what the hell is Tree Dressing Day? Where do they get these obscure rural customs from and how come we've never heard of them before? I'm sure they're making them up. While they're at it, they could invent some really popular old customs such as 'Flog a Cripple' day (yes James, I am thinking of you) or 'Shoot a Gamekeeper Sunday' or even, as the Christmas spectacular draws ever closer, 'Lynch a Lynda'.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Misery? I should say so

Jasmine Hyde (Leonie Snell)

It gets worse – not only is Leonie still in Ambridge, but it doesn't look like she's going back to London any time soon. Lynda asks her, rather pointedly, what about work and aren't they missing her? Leonie plunges a dagger into our hearts when she replies that she is taking unpaid leave. "Don't worry," she says, "I'll be around for a while yet." She also mentions that her company said "take as long as you want" – I bet they are secretly planning to move offices while she is away and that profits have soared.

At Peggy's 88th birthday party, Tom and Brenda take the mickey out of Leonie, comparing her to the nurse in the film 'Misery'. Sadly she hasn't seen it, but James has and he's not best pleased with Tom and Brenda's sniggering. "I don't get the joke" says a mystified Leonie. "That's because there isn't one, sweetie" replies James, tartly. Honestly – "sweetie" – I ask you!

Lynda still tries to find out how long will Leonie be in Ambridge. "How long do broken bones take to heal?" she answers. 20 minutes. Get your bag packed Leonie – get off those crutches and get on the train, James. Bye! Don't forget to write.

Ed and Emma's financial plight gets even worse when she visits the supermarket and finds out that there is no money in the bank account. She asks the food bank for a food box, but apparently it is not enough just to be destitute; you have to be poorer than that. However, they do give her a hot meal. As she is eating it, mother Susan comes in, bringing donations and the whole story comes out. Had Susan known, she could have cut out the middleman and dropped the food off at Rickyard Cottage.

Actually, I have a plan to solve Ed and Emma's problem; we know that customers have been deserting the milk round (Mike has reduced what he pays Ed, which is half the trouble) so presumably the volume of milk needed has gone down. If you don't need so much milk, it follows that you don't need so many cows, so the answer is to slaughter one of the cows, butcher it and eat it. With luck it should last for months. Not only that, but Emma can show her versatility and good husbandry by turning the hide into shoes for Keira. The horns could be turned into Christmas presents and the hooves into ashtrays – get that gun out now, lad.

The prize for the most unconvincing about-face this week goes to Freddie. He came home from school full of gloom because that night his extra-curricular maths lessons with Iftikar were due to start. "I thought you liked Iftikar?" asks Elizabeth. "But I don't like maths" came the sullen reply. Ifti turned up and correctly divined the situation, telling Freddie to get his coat on as they would be working outside. We were treated to the description of an obtuse isosceles triangle etched on a pediment, with Ifti telling Freddie that "everything comes down to maths."

I suppose it helps if you live in a stately home – it provides more opportunities for mathematical study. You could calculate the volume of water in the moat, or divide the number of rooms by the number of servants, or work out the square root of the number of acres in the deer park. You could even go up on the roof and work out the velocity of a falling object – a father, say.

But back to the unconvincing about-face. Elizabeth comes out to see how they are getting on (can't she trust anyone to do their job properly) and, when she speaks to Freddie, he is positively orgasmic over mathematics and practically booking his university course in pure and applied maths. I'm sorry, but nobody is that good a teacher.

Lilian sloped off to meet Paul in a pub on Sunday lunchtime and he proved that he cannot know her very well by asking whether it was gin and tonic that she liked? Let's face it – if he really knew her, he would have had eight or nine of them lined up – and outside in the smoking area at that. The meeting lasted just long enough for Lilian to down one G&T (about three nano-seconds) and they both say how much they enjoyed it. The only unhappy person was the barman who, having been tipped off that Lilian Bellamy was coming, had chartered a fleet of Beefeater tankers and cornered the entire Portuguese lemon crop, only to have her leave early.

Lilian returns home, where Matt orders her to get him a sandwich and tells her that, when he met Brenda outside her house, she had invited him in (he wanted to talk over some business) and he had been confronted by Tom, singing "I love you baby", with the curtains drawn and candles and Love Hearts all over the place, in order to cheer Brenda up as she has been stressed. We weren't told, thank God, but I reckon Tom might have been in his underpants, which is an image that I'm having trouble getting out of my head. Back at the Dower House, Matt moans "I can't move for couples drooling all over each other." "It's called romance, Matt" replies Lilian. Tell you what Matt, with Paul back on the scene, I'd try a little drooling if I were you.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Give Us A Ring

Michael Fenton Stevens (Paul Morgan)

Have you noticed how many Archers stories are featuring phone calls nowadays? We have had the long-running Paul and Lilian saga, which is still on-going, but perhaps it moved up a gear last week when Lilian decided to meet Paul for coffee, or whatever (talking on the phone, of course) – we await developments with interest.

We also had Nic ringing Emma and offering to help by having George for an extra day a week, Fallon ringing Rhys to offer him a job at Jaxx's and Tom proving that he doesn't understand what "I'm too busy to talk to you Tom" means, whether he's talking to Brenda on her mobile or the AmSide landline. But more of these later - whatever did the scriptwriters do before mobiles?

I am convinced that the scriptwriters have got it in for me personally, producing storylines that make me alternately weep and bang my head against a brick wall. Consider the evidence: James and Leonie split up (cue fireworks and popping of champagne corks), then the writers cruelly brought him back to Ambridge and – almost unbelievably – the story showed him in an even more irritating light than before, which is no mean feat, believe me. Could it get worse? You bet, and this week it did just that, when there was a knock on the door of the Dower House and there stood Leonie, asking after James.

The reconciliation between the pair was truly nauseating to listen to – she referred to him as "you poor lamb" and he called her "my silly sausage." Matt spoke for all of us when he told Leonie "You're welcome to take him away with you." No such luck! And even worse, Leonie announced that she would get compassionate leave from work and stay in Ambridge. Truly our cup runneth over and things took an even more sick-making turn when Lilian surprised Leonie giving James a bath. Please, please scriptwriters – return the pair to London asap. Better still, I hear that there are still attractive opportunities available in Australia. Or Neptune.

Poor Emma and Ed are getting dragged deeper into the mire, although they now have a new, old car. Ed assured Emma that it will be all right when he gets himself an additional job, thus conveniently ignoring the fact that a) in the current economic climate, there are no jobs and b) there are only 24 hours in a day. The only good point of this storyline is that Nic tears Will off a strip, pointing out reasonably enough that Ed wouldn't deliberately take George for a ride in a death trap and that Ed and Emma are struggling because they are poor. Will is all for grinding Ed's face into the dust, while he pockets the bonus from Brian for organising a good shoot, but Nic manages to smooth the situation over and even Ed comes to appreciate that letting Will have George for an extra day would help their budget.

Have you noticed that Kirsty's part seems to have expanded recently? Not only is she going out with Iftikar, but she let slip to Fallon that she (Kirsty) might have mentioned to Don and Jim, when they were choosing the replacement for Kenton, that the staff were really hacked off when Naomi was temporarily in charge and to promote her would be a mistake. Naomi's non-speaking part ends when she walks out on the job, to Fallon's and Kirsty's delight.

But this leaves them a person short. Who to approach? Millions of listeners shout "Rhys!" and Fallon rings him. At last, it seems that she and he might be getting it together, but no, as he tells her that he's happy at The Bull and doesn't want to move. Kirsty teases her, saying that she secretly wanted Rhys to come to Jaxx's for reasons other than filling a staff shortage. Fallon protests, but her denials ring hollow.

The Christmas extravaganza stumbles forward – every time Lynda is on the verge of despair, bloody Robert comes up with an idea to save the situation. The latest is to have a Lord of Misrule to compere the show and link the various strands – who else but Kenton?

A confusing storyline is that of the changing relationship between Kathy and son Jamie. Jamie went for an interview with Isaac, who offered him a job with his tree surgery operation. It's the first time Jamie has shown any enthusiasm for anything (apart from burning down bird hides) and he tells his Mum that he could even have his own business in a few years.

I mentally prepared myself for Kathy's "you mustn't throw your life away – go back to college and spend three years doing something you don't like to prepare yourself for adult life" speech and – it didn't happen! Not only did Kathy agree that he could leave college, but she said that she would give him the money he spent on the chainsaw course recently and, furthermore, she would pay for his driving lessons. There was I, expecting a marathon of whining, sighing and cajoling and they were throwing their arms round each other and saying nice things. This about turn in character portrayal is unnerving – what are we to expect next? Brian to become a monk? Tony to buy a round? I don't think I could stand it if, say, Jazzer went to university to read philosophy.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Good On Yer, Brenda!

Amy Shindler (Brenda Tucker)

I've never really had a lot of time for Brenda – I've got nothing against her as a person, but she does live with Tom after all, so something's obviously wrong with her. But no matter! After Tuesday's episode, I could have even forgiven her if she'd run off with Will.

But let's go back to Sunday – Matt couldn't stand being in James's presence and went down the pub. Paul rang Lilian to ask after James and suggests that James should have a bell so he can ring it when he wants something. Lilian thinks this is a great idea and rings The Bull to tell Matt to bring the bar bell back with him. And so on to Tuesday:

Lilian had taken Peggy out for the day, leaving Matt to look after James (as if). Matt promptly summoned Brenda to the kitchen and told her to take James's soup up to him. This show's Matt's sensitive, caring side, as James dumped Brenda some years ago and, understandably, she wasn't best pleased to be running errands for Lilian's spoilt son. As it happens, Tom was in James's room, boring the pants off him (and us) by talking about devils on horseback and sausages.

When Brenda turns up, James is his usual, arrogant self and rude as only he knows how, to the extent that Tom and Brenda walk out on him, taking the bell with them so that he can't annoy them. "I'll tell Ma!" wails James. Grow up you pussy! Well done Brenda – and the icing on the cake came later, when Brenda confessed to Tom that she had deliberately served James with lukewarm soup. As Tom said, truly revenge is best served cold. Some might say pity it wasn't strychnine, but there you go.

Things are going from bad to worse for Ed and Emma, as they try to make ends meet. Brenda is making a Halloween costume for George from an old sheet when Will brings him home and casually announces that he's bought George a lovely wizard's costume "and it was only £6.99". £6.99! That's Emma's food budget for a fortnight! In despair, Emma throws her costume away, saying: "It's rubbish – I'm rubbish".

Maybe, but not as rubbishy as the car. Emma drives George home from an afternoon scavenging in charity shops, when white smoke starts pouring from the engine and Emma has a hard time getting the car over to the hard shoulder. George is terrified as they sit on the embankment, but luckily Eddie and Fat Paul turned up and drove them home.

Back at home, Ed and Emma have a blazing row (Ed told George not to tell Will the story of the breakdown) when Ed says that they need a car. Emma is incredulous, then angry when Ed suggests a loan. Ed then comes within a heartbeat of death when he says to Emma "If you were better at managing…" Not your best-ever move, Edward.

Of course, Will finds out about the car and determines to have George over to stay with him and Nic more often. Over Ed's dead body! The atmosphere between the siblings sinks to a new depth and Ed tells Will that he hope the Shoot collapses and he loses his job. So much for brotherly love.

Emma and Ed make up and Emma says that she won't go to Josie's wedding and they can use the £150 to tax the car. They'll need a working car first. Ed promises to seriously look for a second job (Em has already talked him out of applying fro a night job at a supermarket) and he seems to forget that there's only 24 hours in a day. Ed even asks Mike if he could do Harry's milk round, but Mike says "sorry, I can't afford to replace him".

Lilian and Paul appear to be conducting an affair over the telephone – I'd hate to have their mobile bills. Lilian even asked Paul to describe his B&B room "so I can imagine you in it." I thought "If she asks him what he's wearing, I'm switching off."
It occurred to me that we haven't heard much from Helen lately – she was mentioned in one of last week's episodes, but didn't get to say anything. Wherever she's gone, it seems she's taken young Henry with her. Ian and Adam are conspicuous by their absences, too.

Jim tells Chris that Fallon's handling of Halloween night at Jaxx's was superb and that she'll be a shoo-in for manager when her trial period is up. Jazzer's influence seems to be still having an effect, as Chris points out that Jim has glitter on his forehead. "That's from my Halloween costume" says Jim. Halloween costume – what has come over the man?

Jim also stands on the threshold of a budding journalistic career – Borsetshire Life liked Jim's article on Mike and now want five more articles. That's going to be a bit of a problem, as he's got to find five further interesting people to write about. No, I can't think of five likely candidates either.