Sunday, 25 August 2013

What's Martyn Up To?

Jon Glover (Martyn Gibson)

Ladies and gentlemen, it's official – the baton for 'most annoying and unlikeable character' has now passed from Will Grundy to Martyn Gibson (probably only temporarily). What is the man up to? Having made Kathy give up her weekend to prepare a report on wastage, he doesn't look at it for two days and, when he does, he casts doubt on Kathy's methodology and the accuracy of her figures.

One thing Martyn has achieved – and this is no mean feat, believe me – is to make me feel sympathy for Kathy. She defends her report valiantly and with spirit, telling Martyn that he's welcome to check the stock and can even count the lemons behind the bar if he likes. Hasn't the man got a job to do? He's spending more time at the golf club than the professional and a lot of it seems to be behind the bar, helping himself to drinks.

On Friday, Martyn reveals his latest master strategy, which is to rearrange the staffing rota so that there are fewer on duty at any time. Kathy thinks this is a non-starter and says that she wants her opposition noted. Fat chance! His comment to Kathy is "don't worry your little head about it." And you thought Brian was Ambridge's arch-patroniser! Kathy does get in a dig, saying "shall I put the drink you've just helped yourself to on your tab?" Later on, at Grey Gables, Kathy unburdens herself to Lynda, who tries to be optimistic, saying "this could be the darkest hour just before the dawn". Kathy isn't cheered up, however, saying "It's as if he's deliberately trying to grind me down." Actually Kathy, there is a way to improve cash-flow and profits – make the patronising git pay off his tab.

Over at Home Farm, there is a crisis, as Jennifer's part-time gardener is off ill and how will she cope? This I find hard to understand, as all she seems to do is wander around the village, annoying people (and us) and occasionally dropping in on her mother or taking meals round to Chris and Alice. Anyway, back to the gardening crisis and Jennifer is reluctant to pay for a proper gardener and asks Adam if any of the pickers would like to earn some money doing part time work? In the end, she gets someone, but it isn't a success, as Brian comes home on Thursday to find no dinner on the table. The reason is that the picker sprayed her roses with weed killer. You should have paid for a proper gardener, Jen.

Lilian abandons all AmSide work and goes off to London in order to see Matt. Incidentally, we have another example of how out of touch Jennifer is as she tells Brian that Lilian and Matt are having a fabulous time, but we know differently, as Lilian calls Jolene and tells her that she and Matt are at different hotels and she has begged him to come back to Ambridge, but he says he has to "sort things out". "You can call me any time" says Jolene – a comment that might come back to bite her in the bum. You can just imagine it, can't you – just as the Registrar gets to the bit about kissing the bride, Jolene's phone rings and she says "I'd better take this, Kenton." Could be the first row of the marriage.

At Brookfield, Pip is excited because things are going well and she's full of plans for expansion. David reminds her that milk prices can go down as well as up, which they are at the moment. Talking of milk prices, Brian is crowing, as the mega-dairy looks like it's going to make mega bucks – like he had anything to do with it, the cakey sod.

Rooooth joins David and he gets all philosophical, saying that he'd like all three of the children to make a living from the farm. Let's see – we could yoke Josh and Ben to the plough and buy Pip a new milking stool. Later in the week, Pip is in tears as she realises how much she will miss Spencer when she goes to Yorkshire. Rooooth says, if she and Spencer can get through this, they will be even stronger. For God's sake – she's going for a summer's placement at a farm less than 100 miles away, not sailing solo round the world nor undergoing life-saving, but very risky, pioneering surgery. Get a grip for heaven's sake!

Meanwhile, things are still going swimmingly (albeit clandestinely) between Helen and Rob and on Thursday, Helen gets Pat to babysit while she sneaks round to see Rob. He is making a beef stir-fry and she goes to have a bath, inviting him to join her. Oh yes - and who's going to stir the stir-fry? Helen has told Pat that she is going to jewellery-making classes and her babysitting services might be required twice a week. This could be expensive, as presumably Helen will have to buy some jewellery in coming weeks in order to prevent Pat getting suspicious. Just remember to destroy the receipts.

Finally, I had the following comment from a reader: "Kind of hoping (uncharitably) that Tony walks in on Helen and Rob 'at it' and it's all too much for his poor old heart!" Blimey! And I thought I was cruel sometimes!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Jennifer Gets In The Way

Angela Piper (Jennifer Aldridge)

I have said before that Jennifer appears to be one of life's natural gooseberries and has all the sensitivity of a cast iron dustbin. On Wednesday, Helen and Rob arrange for a bit of a shagfest in the afternoon. They meet up in the shop and are on the verge of leaving to go to Rob's when Jennifer turns up and starts babbling about inconsequential things.

Rob leaves and Jennifer continues to bend Helen's ear. "I wasn't interrupting, was I?" Jennifer asks brightly, no doubt prompted by the stream of saliva running down Helen's chin. Jennifer then witters on about the flower and produce show and about the organ fund. Helen, who clearly has other organs on her mind, is only half listening and can't wait to escape. Honestly, if Jennifer came across Helen and Rob in flagrante delicto, she'd probably only notice that Helen hasn't folded her clothes properly.

Nobody could accuse me of being vindictive – not if they wanted to keep a full set of teeth, anyway – but I really hope that something happens to bring Martyn Gibson down; just a small accident or a spell in prison, as he is becoming increasingly obnoxious. At the golf club, Brian remarks to Kathy that Martyn has told him that there is all sorts of skulduggery going on. Kathy replies through gritted teeth that she's only too happy if Martyn points out problems.

The next day, Martyn is haunting the bar, moaning that 15% of food in the freezers is out of date and an increasingly-rattled Kathy drops a gin bottle, prompting more sarcasm from Martyn. On Friday evening, Kathy and Pat go to see an open air Shakespeare play and Kathy is dismayed to see Martyn there. He proves that it's not just Kathy he can be nasty to as, when Kathy introduces Pat, he says "Oh yes – you're the farm that had the e-coli." Nice one, Martyn. He then proceeds to ruin Kathy's weekend by saying that he wants a report on stock control in his Inbox on Monday morning. Pity you didn't break that gin bottle over his head, Kathy.

Caroline and Oliver's holiday moved a step closer – Caroline says she is unable to find a suitable temporary replacement manager, so Oliver steps in and contacts a former colleague, Ray, who has a long history of working in hotels, catering, cruises. Caroline wants to give him the once over, so Oliver invites him and his wife to dinner. Ray is impressive, performing silver service and clearing away the dishes. He even praises the food and, despite Caroline's earlier instructions not to jump the gun, Oliver starts talking as if Ray has already got the job. Caroline is rapidly running out of excuses and it looks as though this holiday will, in fact, really happen.

Congratulations to Daniel, who Shula phoned (he's in the USA) with his A-level results. He got three As (one of which was an A*) and a B, the little swot.

The guest list at the wedding of Kenton and Jolene continues to grow – Kenton was on the phone to ex-wife Mel to see when Meriel will be coming over. Mel informs him that she will be coming over too, as she wants to see her daughter in her bridesmaid's dress. I always thought that you had to be invited to weddings, rather than just turn up, but perhaps they do things differently in New Zealand; after all, I don't suppose sheep can read, can they?

Kenton breaks the news to Jolene, who takes it very well, considering. After all, it can't be much fun having your husband's ex in the congregation. This theme of links with the past is continued when Kenton asks Jamie if he would be his best man. Jamie is taken aback, but then agrees enthusiastically, as long as he can organise the stag night – I hope for the sakes of those attending that it is quite a few days before the wedding, or there will be some sore heads. Kenton reminds Jamie that he will have to make a speech and a gleeful Jamie says that he has got so many stories about Kenton, he could go on for hours.

Lilian gets a phone call from Brenda, who is in London with her Russian boyfriend and Lilian gets a bit arsey when Brenda tells her that she doesn't know where Matt is. Brenda says "if you want to know anything else, you'll have to speak to Matt." I don't know where he is either.

Tom appears to be turning into a human being – when Tony tells him that, after topping up their pensions, there isn't enough money left for a new tractor, he is philosophical. Tom takes Kirsty for a curry as a 'thank you' for coming up with the 'piggery jokery' concept, if that isn't too grand a word. Tom said he thought that she and Patrick were a couple. She says no and then proceeds to tell Tom about Brenda's Russian boyfriend. He takes it well and says "it was bound to happen sometime." The old Tom would have refused to believe that his ex could live without him and we had further evidence of a change when Kirsty asks about Ready Meals and he says the subject is off limits tonight. Presumably the rest of the evening was spent in silence.

Monday, 12 August 2013

The Stars Stand Still In Their Courses

Sunny Ormonde (Lilian Bellamy)

There was a shock of monumental proportions in Ambridge on Friday when Lilian walked into The Bull and ordered a tonic water! On its own! The pub hasn't experienced anything as earth-shattering since the day Tony took Tom down to the pub and said "I'm in the chair."

That bombshell aside, it has been a difficult week for Lilian, who is in need of someone to talk to and she asks Jolene if she's doing anything on Friday evening. "Apart from running the pub?" Jolene replies, but then relents and says that she's sure they can get along without her. I'm sure they can – God knows they've had enough practice when Lilian has been pouring her heart out to Jolene night after night.

Lilian has heard from Matt, who let slip that Brenda has been with him in Moscow. Lilian tries to tap Mike for information with all the subtlety of a tap dancing elephant, but he gives nothing away. Shortly after this, we learn that Mike has had a phone call from his daughter and she is back in the UK somewhere. Meanwhile Matt is still exiled on Radio 4 Extra. One bright spot in Lilian's week – Anthea is proving to be a treasure. Just as well really, as Lilian seems intent on proving that she couldn't run a whelk stall on her own, never mind AmSide.

It was a bad week for David; not only have Rooooth and Pip deserted him, but he managed to tip a full trailer over in a ditch. Luckily Brian was able to come to the rescue with his 'big tractor' and his 'magic grain sucker', both of which sound as if they have come from a programme about farming on CBEEBIES. This made David late for the silent film show (a great idea on a radio programme) and led to Josh taking the mickey and threatening to post photos on the village website. Be careful Josh, or you might find all your eggs mysteriously smashed one night.

The film shows (there was an early and a late showing) proved a runaway success, raising over £2,800. From that figure, you could be forgiven for assuming that Lilian went and is back on the gin, but she was one of the few who didn't attend. Two others who didn't attend were Rob and Helen – both had tickets, but both decided not to go in case they bumped into the other.

However, all change on Friday when, having a cosy supper with Ian, Helen learns that Rob never went home to Hampshire. Helen bales out of the supper and rings Rob – having established that he is at Blossom Hill cottage, she tells him "I'm coming over". Hardly has he opened the door when she's ripping his clothes off and he just has time to tell her that he thinks about her all the time and "your friendship means so much to me." "It's more than friendship" Helen replies and then proceeds to demonstrate exactly how much more, which involved lots of bumping into each other. The week ends with much sound of kissing and moans of "Oh Rob" and "Oh Helen". I must say that I'm enjoying this storyline and I can't wait for Pat and Tony to find out. Wouldn't it be great if Rob and Helen got married and Tony had to give her away? I'd pay money to see that – even more if Tony had to make a speech, welcoming Rob into the family.

Kirsty volunteers to meet Tom down the pub to talk about marketing Ready Meals – we had another momentous revelation when Tom admitted that he was starting to get fed up with sausage casserole Ready Meals. He's fed up? I'm fed up and I've never even had one. Kirsty and Tom come up with a plan to have photos of pigs and invite people to write witty captions. I can see the queues forming already.

Martyn Gibson continues to be obnoxious, telling Kathy that he suspects Steve, the bar manager, of having his fingers in the till. Kathy is scornful, as Martyn's suspicions are based on Steve's body language on the CCTV. He suggests a stock check and it turns out that he was right and Steve has trousered £150. Kathy has to sack him and she seems more annoyed that Martyn was right rather than the fact that Steve was a tea leaf. Martyn wanted to get the police involved (actually, he wanted Steve torn apart by rabid dogs) but Kathy says he's suffered enough and she deducted the £150 from his severance money. I'm surprised she didn't have a whip round for him.

Oliver managed to pin Caroline down to a three-week break at Lake Garda in September (I'll give it a week before she wants to come home) and, on Thursday we had some of the Archer clan rallying round Elizabeth, who was depressed because no-one has bought her land, and she cannot start redevelopment until she gets the money. On Thursday, Kenton, David and Rooooth are at Lower Loxley. Talk turns to the forthcoming wedding and Kenton says how hard it is to find somewhere. There is much thought and sucking of teeth before Elizabeth pipes up "why not do the whole thing here?" Well, bugger me, why didn't we think of that? Oh, I see – we did.

Kenton thanks everyone for his birthday presents but not one of the Archer children mentions Shula, which seems a tad unfair as, being Kenton's twin, it was her birthday as well. I hope they all sent her a card at least.

Monday, 5 August 2013

I Can't Believe I'm Typing This…

Timothy Watson (Rob Titchener)

We all have our boundaries – things we would never say, beliefs we would never betray, principles we would fight for. Well, I suggest that you all take a seat, for what I am about to say (or type) are words that I would have laid a considerable amount of money on that they would never pass my lips and those words are: "I really hope that Helen is pregnant".

I know – when she was pregnant with Henry, week after week this blog was unkind to her, so why the stupendous about turn? The reason is that, on Sunday, an anguished Rob Titchener rang Helen and wanted to talk. He had come back from Hampshire after a row with Jess, his wife, and he was in need of comforting. Helen went round and listened and, before long, 'comforting' had turned into 'giving him the time of his life' and they ended up in bed.

So just imagine if Helen proves to be with child – how appalled and totally pissed off would Tony and Pat be? Not only would this be Helen's second baby outside a normal relationship, but the father would be the man who is running the mega-dairy and who Tony and Pat believe is leading Tom astray by encouraging early expansion of his business. I'm almost sure that it would be worth nine months of having Helen lecture all and sundry about pregnancy just to witness her parents' discomfiture.

Would they throw her out of the house, do you think? And what about names for the baby? For Tony and Pat, it would be a toss-up between 'Satan', 'Beelzebub' or possibly 'Damien', while Tom's number one choice would undoubtedly be 'Tom Archer', closely followed by 'Ready Meals'. We wait developments with eager anticipation.

Elsewhere, we learned that, like the rest of us, Kenton doesn't listen to 'Ambridge Extra' when he wonders out loud what Matt is up to these days. Kenton and Jolene are picking Lily and Freddie up from some gymkhana and Lily goes into raptures when Jolene asks her to be her bridesmaid. Freddie is not so keen on the offer of being a page boy, but they only asked him so that he wouldn't feel left out.

Actually, Kenton had a lot of lines last week and he managed to persuade Nic to make use of the stool he has provided behind the bar to minimise the amount of standing she has to do and therefore reducing the risk of night cramps. Nic was a bit hacked off that everyone knew about her cramps, but Kenton persuaded her by saying it's a choice between the stool or support stockings, as worn by Freda. Nic eventually comes round and admits that sitting down does feel better.

Kenton missed an ideal opportunity here, by the way – Will (who has been getting earache from Clarrie – worried about Nic - and Nic – annoyed that people keep telling her what to do) goes into The Bull and says "I need your help Kenton; I'm caught between two women. I don't know what to do." What an opportunity for Kenton to say "Quick, get this Hemlock down you" or "Take this one-way ticket to Tashkent". Instead, he comes up with the stool, the clown.

Pip returns from working away at a large dairy "It had a 50-point rotary milking parlour" she tells David, then starts banging on about how 'large scale and low input' could be the future for Brookfield. Like the mega-dairy, maybe? David listens to the business lecture and then decides to utilise his daughter's new-found expertise by sending her in to make him a coffee.

Caroline is on the mend and exhibiting a control freak mentality, unable to believe that Oliver and Lynda and the rest of the staff are capable of running Grey Gables without her. Or maybe she's afraid they can cope all too easily. She and Oliver have a confrontation over her over-working and Caroline refuses to get a manager in. Oliver comes home laden with travel brochures and tells her the least he will accept is her taking a proper holiday for a month. 15 seconds later, he has reduced this to three weeks and I suspect that by the end of next week, this will have come down to a picnic on Lakey Hill. If they do go away for any length of time, I smell another Ambridge Extra story brewing.

Martyn Gibson continues to get on Kathy's (and our) nerves at the golf club. His latest brainwave is to serve smaller food portions. Honestly, one minute we are told what a shrewd businessman he is, then he comes up with an idea like that.

But let us return to Rob and Helen and the paragraph I have been waiting all week to write. Tom invites Rob for a drink and, at The Bull. Tom says that sales of Ready Meals have picked up and Rob asks him if he is going to increase production, just as Tony walks in. Tony is very anti expansion at such an early time and is barely civil to Rob. Tony then rushes home to tell Pat that "Tom was hanging on to Rob's every word" and "Who does Rob think he is, sticking his nose into this family's business?" Pat agrees, saying: "Absolutely – and not just with Tom either", to which I would add: "Too right – and not just his nose either!"