Jack Firth (Freddie Pargetter)
It's New Year's Eve and Freddie is missing – he should be getting ready to go to Ambridge to see sister Lily ring in the New Year, but he's nowhere to be found. Panic stations! What if he's continuing the male Pargetter tradition of exploring Lower Loxley's rooftops on tonight of all nights? Lizzie is in a bit of a state, but Iftikar saves the day when he tracks Freddie down, showing off his horse Caspar to his friend Conrad.
Elizabeth is sharp with Freddie and she is grateful to Ifty, saying that this is when she misses Nigel – he would have known instantly where to look for Freddie. Him and millions of listeners – I'm sure I wasn't the only person who yelled at the radio "Look in the stables – he'll be with that bloody horse!"
As well as the subsequent profound conversation between Lizzie and Ifty, Kirsty and Tom have a deep conversation, amazingly one in which the phrases "Christmas hampers, Ready Meals" and "footballing pigs" do not feature. Kirsty tells Tom that he is lucky, as he has his future all mapped out and the right partner (I wonder whether she would say the same to Brenda?). "What about you?" asks Tom, to which Kirsty replies that, while Ifty is a great laugh "he's not husband material." Talk about planning ahead for every eventuality – this is only about the fifth date they've been on. I imagine that if you asked Kirsty out for a first date, her stock reply would be "OK, but I might not marry you."
At the New Year's Ball, Tom is boring the pants off everybody as only he can, by saying what a wonderful Christmas it has been. Why so – did he get a new bike, or a train set? No – sales of hampers and sausages were up. Brenda tells him to give it a rest for one night and Ifty takes her on to the dance floor. I would have left via the fire exit, personally.
Of course, Tom is still seething because Jim Lloyd chose Chris Carter as the subject of his next feature for Borsetshire Life ahead of Ambridge's answer to Alan Sugar, Richard Branson and Donald Trump all rolled into one. How could he prefer a muscular, good-looking young man pictured in front of a glowing forge, with sparks flying, over a boring git with pig crap halfway up his wellies? Tough call.
New Year is a time for reconciliation and, sadly for Emma, auntie Tracy comes round to make up and to apologise for being such a cow. The apology should be over around the end of May, I reckon. It turned out that Clive had been getting it together with Donna, the wife of Clive's brother Keith, who is banged up in chokey – isn't it nice when families are so supportive of each other in times of trouble? Anyway, it all turned nasty and Clive was threatening Donna and the kids. Donna and Tracy fled to Ambridge, knowing that Clive would follow, thus breaching his court order. Tracy tipped off the police, who arrested Clive and now he's back inside for another four years. That's a nice present from your sister to see in 2013 and one that he will no doubt reflect on over the next four New Years.
There was one comment that made me smile – when Susan was telling Neil the story of Donna and Clive, she said "Donna's not the sharpest knife in the drawer", which is rich, coming from someone with the cutting edge of a teaspoon. Susan also told Neil "Tracy absolutely swore me to secrecy." Well, that worked well, didn't it?
Mike and Vicky's baby is due very shortly and Mike is worried in case she is badly disabled, while Vicky seems to think that her daughter (working name Bethany Claire) is going to win Olympic medals as well as getting a Phd at Cambridge before the age of 12. At Bob Pullen's funeral, Jill said it's a case of "out with the old, in with the new", referring to Bob's death and the new baby. Seems a bit hard on Bob to me, but perhaps Archers' writers now have to conform to a strict quota system when it comes to numbers? I know that they are allowed only seven speaking characters per episode, but has the quota now been expanded to the overall population of the village?
We had a trip away from Ambridge when Lilian took mum Peggy to Whitby in order to relive her wartime experiences when Lilian's father proposed to Peggy. What a brilliant idea to go to Whitby in January – the duo walk along the seafront in a howling gale and Peggy is adamant that she wants to eat fish and chips out in the open, preferably out of newspaper. Lilian, who was looking forward to a bit of a la carte and a decent bottle of wine, is appalled.
Lil's mood is not improved when Peggy tells her that she is determined to walk up the 199 steps to the Abbey and Lilian tells her that she must be back at the hotel by 5pm for an important phone call. It's from Paul, who tells her how hot it is in Dubai (bet she wishes she'd gone now) when Peggy comes in, looking for her handbag. "This is a private call" says Lilian sharply, but Peg doesn't take the hint and says "Who is it?" Lilian tells her it's none of her business and is then mortified at her rudeness and worried that Peg will rumble her secret.
Finally, we had evidence that Nic's life has been an unending procession of bad luck, abuse, violence, ill-treatment and an unremitting struggle against overwhelming odds. How do we know this? Simple – on New Year's Day she and husband Will are dining at Grey Gables, where she tells him that the past 12 months "has been the best year of my life." Poor kid – how terrible must her childhood have been for that to be the case!