Sunday, 28 April 2013

Coming Home To Roost

Helen Monks (Pip Archer)

Ambridge reminds me of old Hollywood films – anybody who does anything slightly immoral or illegal always gets found out in the end, which is why we know that the Lilian/Paul affair will end in tears; either they will be found out or it will end acrimoniously with Paul beating her up or something.

However, the title this week does not refer to Lil or Paul, but rather to Pip. Last week she lied to her father about being too busy to look after the sheep and we heard her tell Spencer that "London here we come!" The minute we heard that, we all knew that it would go tits up and, sure enough, when putting Pip's clothes in the washing machine, Rooooth and David find a ticket stub and Tube card for the day in question. Oops! A bit careless there, Pip, but serves you right.

David is incensed and, when he sees Pip, he accuses her of dishonesty and lying. "It's not such a big deal" says Pip, rather unwisely, and David continues to go off on one, telling her to "behave like a responsible adult, rather than a spoilt 10-year old." Pip continues her Kevin the teenager impression and, telling her Dad he's being totally unfair, she leaps into her car and races off. However, she doesn't get far as she smashes into Rooooth's farm wagon. Pip is upset about the damage to the car and, having checked that Pip is unhurt, David can't resist saying "and whose fault is that?" Nice one Dave – forgive and forget? I don't think so.

Later on, Rooooth takes Pip a drink and Pip says "you think Dad's right, don't you?" All the listeners nod in agreement, but later on Rooooth tells David to back off. On Wednesday, David takes Pip to the station for her placement interview and picks her up, making pointed comments about getting up at the crack of sparrows for his daughter. This is wasted on Pip, who is upset because the insurers have written off the car and she'll get peanuts for it. "I can't keep scrounging lifts and catching the train – my whole life is going to be impossible!" she wails. My heart bleeds.

Has the incident brought Pip down to earth? Er, no, as the following day she moans to David that she'll end up "with a car that I won't look good in." This is after her parents have decided to help her out, incidentally. Instead of graciously accepting their offer of assistance, Pip blithely announces that she wants a car with a bigger engine. Wrong attitude Pip! David goes off on another one and says to Rooooth, as his daughter flounces out, "if she wants a better car, she'll just have to save up for it!" Kids, eh?

Over at Bridge Farm, Pat and Tony seem to have embraced 100% the idea to sell the cows – so much so that they go and see the auctioneers without Tom. They are impressed when the man reckons that they will get £200k for the cows – so was I and the begging letter is in the post. Alan needs at least £30k to restore the organ – I'd get round there sharpish, vicar! Tom is still moping around, asking anybody who he meets what is he going to do? Tom, sorry to be brutal here, but nobody (with the possible exception of Pat) gives a toss.

Tom keeps ringing Roy, who ignores as many calls as he can before reluctantly answering one. Tom wants to go for a drink, which is a thinly-veiled excuse to quiz Roy about Brenda (who is living with her brother and Hayley). I was hoping that Roy would say "Top of the world – never seen her so happy" but he does nothing to improve Tom's mood when he says "If you had any plans of getting back with her, you'd better forget it." Tom slips that little bit further down the slope marked 'despair' and asks Roy what is he going to do? See the preceding paragraph, Tom.

Paul seems hell-bent on his affair with Lilian becoming public when he takes her to the local races and Lilian has an attack of the vapours when fellow Borchester Market Development director Andrew Eagleton sees them together. Lil is terrified that Andrew, who plays golf with Matt, will mention that she was at the races and with a man. Paul laughs off her fears and, when Lilian apologises for letting him down, he says that letting him down doesn't come close to how he's feeling.

Last week ended with Neil being shot and we learn that it was only a shoulder injury. Neil is the hero of the hour and the story is all over the press. Darrell is also named in the story and he is embarrassed to be cast as a hero when he was in on the dog fighting all along. Brian is amazed that it all happened on his land and he invites Neil and Susan and Darrell and Elona to Home Farm for dinner. Then he remembers that he is talking to peasants and amends this to "well, more a farm supper, really". When Jennifer gets to hear about it, I reckon it will be separate tables in different rooms. Darrell is worried. Not only did he nearly get Neil killed, but he's worried about all the publicity. Neil says they will be OK if they stick to their story, but Darrell is only too aware that Des is still at large and Darrell has obviously read the first paragraph of this week's blog when he says: "I've got a bad feeling. I'm not out of it yet."

Monday, 22 April 2013

The Next Tom Archer?

Cian Cheesbrough (Josh Archer)

Is Josh Archer set to take over from his relative Tom as Ambridge's most ambitious entrepreneur? Neil and Hayley have more or less decided to sell off the hens and Josh wants to buy them and set up his own business. Neil says 'no', as it might interfere with Josh's education and maybe in a couple of years…

Josh is distraught, saying that doing the hens hasn't interfered with his schoolwork thus far and that he has so many ideas for the business and he wants to try them out now, not in two years. Neil remains adamant and Josh tells him that he's not going to give up. Do these ideas involve Ready Meals, I ask myself – will we have a film clip of chickens playing football? The pigs would thrash them, I reckon.

A disgruntled Josh returns to Brookfield, where he demands that David takes him to school, as he's missed the bus (what was that about the chickens not affecting his schoolwork?). David doesn't like his tone and Josh eventually flounces out to ask Rooooth to take him.

If Josh wants to be the next Big Thing in Ambridge, you might expect Tom to put up a fight, but in the blink of an eye the Sausagemeister has gone from full on obsessive to not giving a toss. Pat confronts him on Sunday and berates him for not getting on with selling the cows. Tom breaks down and tells his Mum the whole story of the split with Brenda. "Oh Mum, what am I going to do?" he sobs. Get on with making Ready Meals – failing that, have a heart to heart with Maurice; that would probably be the last straw.

Pat is sympathetic, but later on in the week Helen turns up for a talk with her brother, which can be summarised as "get your backside into gear and stop moping." Helen is appalled to learn that Bellinghams (a small chain) rang Tom about trialling the Ready Meals in London and the South East and he said he'd ring them back. As Helen continues to have a go at her brother, he says that Bren only moved out yesterday (she's gone to stay with Roy and Hayley) and "can't you cut me some slack?" Helen says "no" and reminds Tom that she knows what it's like to lose someone you love, so bloody well get on with it. Later she apologises for being hard on him, but he says it was just what he needed and he has rung Bellinghams and made an appointment to meet.

Brenda met with Pat, to try and explain what has been happening and Pat, obviously trying to win the 'British understatement of the year' trophy, says that "I know Tom can be a bit obsessive about his business." A bit? A bit! Compared with Tom's level of obsession with pig meat products, Captain Ahab merely demonstrated a passing interest in tracking down Moby Dick.

There was an amusing moment when Jim, interviewing Brian Aldridge as his final subject for Borsetshire Life, remarks that it is good that, despite all his varied business interests, Brian still finds the time to take an interest in village affairs. Take an interest? If there was an affair in the village, it was odds-on that Brian was involved – ask Siobhan, or Caroline, or anything female on two legs.

It was a return to the bad old Emma days when Nic told her that she (Nic) was pregnant. Emma immediately reverted to bitchy cow mode and her mood is not improved when Ed says "Good luck to Nic." Nic mentioned to Clarrie that Emma didn't seem to pleased when she told her and Clarrie demonstrated once again her blind optimism and total ignorance of Emma's character when she says "When Emma's got more time, she'll come round." Clarrie, there's probably only another 20 billion years or so before all the suns die and the Universe expires in a cold, dark heap of slag and Emma will still be feeling resentful.

Meanwhile, things are looking black for Darrell – Des (described by Darrell to Neil as 'a seriously nasty piece of work') has promoted Darrell from car park attendant and lookout at the mysterious late-night gatherings to cleaner-upper and Darrell throws up when he has to clear up the bloody aftermath of an evening of dog fighting in the barn. This begs a question – if people are turning up in cars, presumably with lights on, and there is an evening of dog fighting, which I would hazard a guess is a fairly noisy experience, then exactly how far away from the farmhouse – or any other dwelling - is this barn?

Anyway, Neil hatches a plan, whereby he tells the local police community officer that he's heard rumours of dog fighting. On Friday night, Neil rings the law to say that he was out walking when he noticed some unusual activity; cars and aggressive dogs. As Neil finishes his call, Darrell rings; he has chickened out and says "Don't ring the police." Neil explains that it's too late and tells Darrell to leg it. Darrell does so, but the criminal mastermind has brought the walkie talkie with him and an irate Des rings up as the police and RSPCA raid the barn. Wouldn't you know it – Des manages to get away in the confusion; a shot rings out, we hear an "oh!" from Neil and a copper's voice saying "Mr. Carter, are you all right? Mr. Carter!" And so the week ends.

Finally, back at Brookfield, David wanted Pip to help him with the lambs the following day but she rings and tells him that she will be in the library all day, getting her head down, working at preparing for a possible job placement. David is disappointed, but pleased that Pip seems to be taking uni work seriously for a change. But wait! We then hear Pip phone Spencer and say excitedly "We're on for tomorrow – London here we come!" If she is getting her head down, then it would appear to have nothing to do with work…

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Paul Shows His Dark Side

Anita Dobson (Celia Morgan)

Paul has always seemed so nice – provided you overlook little things like bonking his half brother's partner, that is – but we saw another side of him this week. Ex-wife Celia went spare on the phone, accusing him of pestering the children about her forthcoming marriage. Phrases such as "Do you want our children to become as bitter and twisted as you are?" and "Find someone else to inflict yourself on" should leave him in no doubt that his chances of getting a Christmas card from Celia are vanishingly slim.

Celia obviously touched a nerve, as Paul throws a moody and, instead of enjoying an afternoon of passion and delight with Lilian, he is distracted, miserable and touchy – biting Lilian's head off whenever she suggests something to do or to eat. In fact, so frequent and loud were his sighs that I thought for a moment that Jamie had somehow found his way into the love nest.

Paul becomes increasingly irritated and accuses Lilian of trying to organise him. Lilian wonders if she's done something wrong, to which he says there isn't anything wrong and is she too obtuse to see that? Enough is enough and Lilian flounces out. Paul realises that he's gone a bit too far and, later in the week, Lilian turns up at the flat, to find it full of flowers. She's not happy and says that if he ever treats her like that again… Paul apologises abjectly and says the reason he had been so foul was that he had had a phone call from a Council about a problem on a building project and from now on he'll tell her everything. However, still no mention of Celia – I think there will be tears before long.

I wept on Friday, when Nic and William proudly announced that they were expecting a baby. How could she? I mean, I know they are married, but there are limits, surely? Clarrie says that she is so pleased, unlike the rest of us.

Helen has a night out on the lash, going bowling with Jonathan (or 'Jonno' as he is known down at the alley) and it all seems to go OK. In fact, Pat tells Tony that Helen has a new spring in her step and Jonno has invited her for a meal on her birthday (she'll be 34 on April 16th in case you are interested).

As one relationship appears to be blossoming, another is drifting further on to the rocks, albeit in a slow and strange way. I refer of course to Tom and Brenda and the strange bit is that they are still living together and sleeping in the same bed. Not only that, but she keeps saying how much she cares for him. Tom suggests they go away for a few days, but she says that it wouldn't work and they have different dreams – she doesn't know what she wants, but she does know what she doesn't want. Tom says that he can change but, when Brenda says "what, give up the farm and give up having children?" he is unable to answer.

Being Tom, he throws himself into work and he opens up to Maurice, the man who makes his sausages. Maurice tells Tom that he had similar troubles and, in his experience, the worst nearly always happens. "Divorce was the best thing that happened to me" he tells Tom happily, while Tom presumably opens up a vein at this cheery news.

No-one else knows of the Tom/Brenda situation, although there are one or two remarks from Pat and Tony about his lack of triumphalism over getting his own way about selling the cows. People will notice that Brenda isn't wearing her engagement ring, Tom – better to tell everyone now before the rumours start flying around. He still harbours hopes that they can get back together, but these take a knock when Brenda announces that she is moving into the spare room. "You really mean this, don't you?" he says, "You really think we're finished?" Not much gets past the sausage magnate, does it?

For someone who is presumably quite intelligent, Alice commits the schoolgirl error of leaving her laptop open at work, with the letter from the company in Canada in plain view. She gets a message that her boss wants to see her and he demands an explanation. Working on the principle that you might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, she tells him that her job is a dead end and she feels she is just being used. Instead of handing her her P45, he says he is delighted that she is passionate about her work, gives her a pay rise, puts her on the promotion fast track and there is talk about a possible posting to Paris.

I've said it before and I'll say it again – this girl must be really, really good.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

You Win Some, You Lose Some…

Amy Shindler (Brenda Tucker)

Brenda has finally had enough – after another week of being treated like a slave at work and being ignored at home by Tom, something had to give. Friday morning she rang Tom, saying she wanted to meet at lunchtime. This isn't convenient for the Ready Meals magnate, but at Brenda's insistence, he re-schedules his packed diary, cancels 427 high-powered meetings and tells Richard Branson that he'll have to wait awhile for Tom to tell him the secret of succeeding in business.

When they do meet, Brenda drops her bombshell – she can't go on like this and, despite the fact that she loves him, she thinks they should split up. Tom is staggered, saying "But we're Tom and Brenda – we're a team." No doubt he's thinking about the footballing pigs. "I can change" he says. Yeah right. But Brenda says she doesn't want him to, thereby putting herself in a minority of one against five million listeners.

Tom says he loves her (almost as much as a Ready Meal) and he'll fight for her. "We chose a place to build a house, to raise our children." He says, whereupon Brenda drops her second bombshell – she doesn't want children. Tom is stricken, as he has left a brief window in his diary on Easter Sunday 2015 for the act of procreation and has already planned a new range of Ready Meals, designed for pregnant women and who will he use for a guinea pig now? Brenda says "seeing you like this is breaking my heart" so she does the sensible thing and leaves. Pity she didn't go straight to AmSide and tell Lilian to stick her job, before quitting Ambridge and riding off into the sunset, but you can't have everything.

But hey, it's an ill wind, as shortly after Brenda goes, Tony and Pat turn up to tell Tom that they have agreed with his plan to sell the herd and re-name Bridge Farm 'Tom Archeropolis'. They don't notice that he seems a tad distracted and Tony unconsciously twists the knife when he tells his son "Hard work brings results – you've finally got everything you wanted". As his parents leave, Tom bursts into tears, presumably because they didn't buy a Ready Meal or half a pound of sausages. Look on the bright side Tom – with Brenda not around, just think how much more time you'll have to devote to your business empire, and you can always exist on Ready Meals.

Tony and Pat's decision came after a week of soul searching – Pat had a girl's night out with Kathy, who told her she needed to think about the future and had she ever considered that Tom might jump ship? (Oh, yes please!). Pat admits that her attachment to the dairy herd is irrational – what is it about Ambridge women and cows? First we had Rooooth and the Brookfield herd and now Pat is in love with the Bridge Farm bovines. Pat is eventually won over when Tony says that they have had a tough working life and it's now time to ease off a bit and leave the future of the farm to Tom and Helen – Rich seems to have been airbrushed from the scene.

There is potential conflict at Brookfield, when Rooooth's mum, Heather and Jill have both made simnel cakes, which means that everybody has to eat two lots on Easter Day to keep the peace. Pip rings up from Spencer's – his Grandmother turned up unexpectedly, which of course means that Pip can't make the Brookfield meal. When Pip does come home eventually, she is subjected to sarcasm from her parents and force fed simnel cake.

Over at Lower Loxley, Ifty turns up for his meal, bearing a bottle of rosé, to find that Freddie and Lily have been sent to the cinema, so he and Elizabeth will be dining a deux. The wine and conversation flowed freely and Elizabeth's baked salmon and roast vegetables is superb. The recipe is as follows: roast some vegetables, then bake some salmon. Serve.

Ifty says he likes the sound of Elizabeth's laugh and he likes spending time with her. "I like being with you too," she says, which Ifty takes as his cue to kiss her. Sadly, she fends him off, saying that she can't, even though she has felt more positive this evening than for a long time. "Maybe I'm not ready for more than friendship" she tells Ifty. Ifty says that he won't deny that he is disappointed, but it is all amicable, as Ifty replaces the condom in his wallet, puts his trousers back on and leaves.

The Lilian/Paul saga took an unexpected twist, as Paul starts stalking his ex-wife Celia. She is going to marry Frank - a friend of his - and Paul says he won't let her and he's trying to protect her. She tells him to bugger off as he's no longer part of her life, but he is exerting a control freak nature that we haven't seen before. It bodes ill for Lilian.

Finally, the Alice/Chris/Canada saga came to a head as the two finally spoke to each other about it. Chris said that if Alice wanted to go, he'd go with her. Alice can't believe it – "I don't deserve you" she says. "Yes you do," he replies, somewhat immodestly. As it turns out, she has decided to turn down the job as "right now we need to be together, here in Ambridge." Why, for God's sake? Wouldn't it have been a hoot if Chris had spent his convalescence booking flights and buying a house in Vancouver as a surprise? As it is, Alice gives Chris a hug, thereby setting back his recovery, but I bet he can't wait till he's better so she can thank him properly.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Feet Under The Table?

Pal Aron (Iftikar Shah)

Iftikar and Elizabeth seem to be getting closer, sharing a day out at the Felpersham Science Museum, with Ifty having set Freddie and Lily science and maths trails to follow. While the kids slog round the museum, Ifty and Lizzie talk, drink coffee and laugh and she invites him over to Lower Loxley for dinner next week.

Later on in the week, Ifty is talking to Alistair (who is trying to poach him for the cricket team) and Ifty admits that he is developing an affinity with Ambridge. Alistair, demonstrating a lack of subtlety and tact that is reminiscent of Tom, asks if Ifty and Elizabeth could become more than just friends? Instead of telling him to mind his own business, Ifty says that it's possible and let's wait and see.

Alistair retails this story to Shula, who immediately dismisses it, saying that Lizzie is still grieving and not ready for another relationship. "Besides, he's not her type surely?" If by that she means his not like Nigel, Shula is spot on, insofar that Ifty has a brain and knows how to use it. What else has he got going for him? Well, he doesn't say 'gosh!' or 'bravo!' and doesn't refer to his mother as 'Mummy' for a start. We await developments with interest.

Chris is home from hospital and he and Alice are telling everyone how they feel about the Canada situation. Unfortunately, this is becoming a rather large elephant in the room, as they won't talk to each other about it and there's only two weeks left to make a decision. If you listen to Jennifer, there's only one choice and, when bringing yet another cooked meal to her daughter, she is aghast when Alice said that she hasn't made her mind up yet. Jenny calls her 'selfish' to even think about it and "the fact is you're a young couple and you need your friends and family round you." Yes they are and no they don't is the short answer. I would have thought that if Jennifer wants you to stay, then that's a good reason for going, especially when we know that Jennifer's real reason for opposing the move is that Vancouver is too far away to deliver a casserole twice a week.

Jennifer demonstrates her unerring instinct for getting the wrong end of the stick when she tells Lilian that she is 'positively glowing' and that 'Matt must be looking after you'. I wanted Lilian to say "no, but his half brother is giving me a right regular seeing to" but the affair with Paul remained a secret. How much longer can they keep it up, if you'll pardon the expression?

Crisis at Willow Farm when Bethany develops a cough, which was cured by Mike filling the bathroom with steam, or holding her under water for 20 minutes or something similar. One consequence of this drama is that Brenda doesn't get to join Tom at the Cassandra Lopez concert. Tom went to a lot of trouble to get the tickets, as he tells Brenda, plus they cost him an arm and a leg (ditto). "You should be here with me" demands the sausage king, but Brenda says "I'm not in the mood." That could well be her mantra for the future Tom, as Brenda appears to be getting more and more cheesed off, both at AmSide and at home. Feed her some sausages to cheer her up.

Some weeks ago I remarked on the fact that silent characters are being bumped off and we had another one last week, as Benjamin the donkey, was replaced in the Palm Sunday service by Belinda – who said there were no equal opportunities for females?

Over at Brookfield, Pip gets a wake-up call (literally) when the Uni Head of Agriculture rings her early in the morning to tell her that she's failed two of her modules. At times like this, you need the support and sympathy of your parents and, sure enough, later on David takes her to one side and tells her how disappointed he is and how she should never have failed and it's all because she hasn't tried hard enough and has been out to all hours. "You've changed, Pip", he says, adding that it all went wrong when she came back from the skiing trip.

Pip counters by saying that, if she hadn't got so much to do on the farm, she could have devoted more time to uni work. David is astounded at her brass neck and the discussion becomes acrimonious before Pip flounces off. Later, Rooooth has a quiet word with her. "I've let everybody down" sniffs Pip. Rooooth is sympathetic and an uneasy truce is called at Brookfield, with Pip promising to try harder next year. David says "Let's have a good Easter – it's time we all made a fresh start."

Elona catches Darrell with a wedge of cash and he cannot satisfactorily explain how he came by it. Elona breaks down in front of Neil (who has come round to talk about darts with Darrell) and she tells Neil that Darrell has spent time inside for receiving stolen goods. "Please don't tell anybody" she pleads. The burning question is whether or not Neil can keep it secret from Susan – if she ever finds out, Darrell might just as well take out a full-page ad in The Echo, under the headline "My name's Darrell and I used to be a fence."