Sunday, 29 September 2013

Please Shula, Don't Ever Try To Help Me

Judy Bennett (Shula Hebden Lloyd)

Poor Shula got a right mouthful from Darrell this week as he told her he never wanted to see her again and to stop interfering in his life. "I'm sick of playing a sucker to make your empty life worthwhile" was his parting comment. So you won't be moving into the Stables then Darrell?

What had Shula done? She decided that The Elms should know that one of their down and outs, Eric, had been aggressive towards his fellows. As a result, Eric was banned and he took it badly – when he found Darrell begging on his patch, Eric accused him of grassing him up and gave him a good kicking. Nice one Shula – not only is Darrell still on the streets but now he's got a black eye and sore ribs to boot.

Shula is very upset, telling Alistair that she's made it ten times worse and should she seek out Darrell and apologise? I think that if Darrell saw you approaching Shula, he'd have it away on his toes before something even nastier happened to him. Fortunately Alistair tells her to leave Darrell alone, so the poor sod has a chance of surviving for another week at least.

I fear for the health of Helen and Rob's lips as we are subjected to long periods of silence, ended by what sounds like a mini sink plunger as they come up for air before doing it all over again. At least we are not being subjected (yet) to sounds of Tom and Kirsty playing tonsil hockey, but give them time. Tom took her to a food exhibition and then they went to a bird reserve, where Kirsty reminded him that he hadn't mentioned business, sausages or Ready Meals for over an hour. Carry on like that and he'll be being mistaken for a normal human being.

There was a ray of hope when Brenda came back to the village (we learn that she's no longer with Dmitry, but as we non-listeners to Ambridge Extra haven't a clue who the hell Dmitry is, it's hard to be sympathetic). We also learn that she is staying with Zac, Dmitry's friend, but we don't know who he is either. Brenda invited Tom to the pub and, when Kirsty turns up on business, she sees the two of them sitting together and apparently getting on well, so she leaves, feeling uncomfortable. Is this the end of the fledgling Tom/Kirsty romance? I hope so, but I fear not.

It seems that we might have another budding romance on our hands, as Jamie spends a lunchtime with Rosa. Whether this is motivated by feelings of romance or the fact that she gives him half her sandwiches remains to be seen. Al least he's stopped sighing.

Joe's accident made the front page of the Echo, together with a scathing diatribe from Eddie, who keeps photographing Joe's bruises as evidence to give to his solicitor. There is much talk about how low Joe is and how all the fight has gone from him (but not the surliness and mean-spiritedness, unfortunately) and Eddie demonstrates how unobservant he is when he says that this is the first time that he's seen Joe as an old man. For God's sake – didn't the figures 9 and 2 on the birthday cake give you a hint?

Joe lays a guilt trip on Ed by talking about Bartleby standing all alone in the field, wondering where Joe has got to and feeling lonely. Personally, I reckon Bartleby is opening the champagne and thinking "Great! Another day without being pestered by that miserable old git!" However, all good things have to come to an end and Ed and George go and bring Bartleby back to see Joe. Joe is overjoyed but an annoyed Bartleby tramples him into the ground. All right, he doesn't, but I can dream, can't I?

Jolene and Lilian have planned the hen night – a pamper day at a top hotel and spa. Presumably Lilian will fill the swimming pool with gin to stop the bar staff being run off their feet. On the other hand, Jamie and Kenton aren't having much luck with organising the stag night. Abroad is out of the question, so Jamie's first suggestions (Amsterdam or Prague) are out of the window. Kenton is confident that Jamie will come up with something, but the way things are going, I reckon they'll end up at Jaxx. Either that or a quiet night in at The Bull.

At last we learned why Martyn Gibson has been so horrible to Kathy. When he rubbishes her suggestions for a short list for the vacant chef's job, it all gets too much and she tells him to stick his job and she leaves that very day. Martyn is unperturbed and, as Kathy leaves, Lee the golf professional tells her that Martyn has already offered Kathy's job to Gemma, the wife of the newly-appointed General Manager, Nicholas. "I've been stitched up!" an outraged Kathy says. Tell you what Kathy, go and have a word with Eric and tell him that it was Martyn Gibson who grassed him up to The Elms – that'll teach the smug sod a lesson.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Darrell The Parrot

Dan Hagley (Darrell Makepeace)

A quickie to kick off this week – have you noticed that Darrell repeats everything that he hears? Consider the conversations he had with Shula – she invited him to lunch at Jaxx and he replied, "lunch?" She told him that she had seen Rosa at the Flower & Produce Show and his response was "Rosa?" Finally, when she tracked him down to the bus shelter that was chez Darrell, she asked "Do you mind if I sit down?" to which he said, "sit?" in the same, mystified voice. He's either slow on the uptake, hard of hearing or lacking in vocabulary, but I hope he soon takes advantage of Shula's offer of a roof over his head (altogether now, "Roof?") as I don't like the sound of that cough.

Rooooth is the latest to be hit by the curse of the F&P Show as she goes to pick her roses, only to find that Josh's pals appear to have used the rose bed as a race course or a car park and the flowers are now sporting an attractive, tyre tread pattern as they lie squashed in the mud. There is drama at the F&P as Pat, who entered Helen's necklace without telling her, is delighted that it won first prize. However, Helen spots Lynda approaching, wearing an identical necklace, but catastrophe is averted when Rob, emulating Captain Oates, takes one for the team by feigning an interest in llamas and allows himself to be led off to Ambridge Hall to meet Constanza and Saglieri and no doubt be bored witless by llama facts. Noble man!

Helen overhears Rob on the phone to wife Jess and he is stressed out, as she wants him to sort something out with their landlord. The stress leads Helen to suggest that they defer lunch till another day, which was lucky as Alan was in the other bar, and she returns to Ambridge Organics. Kirsty wonders out loud whether Rob is trying to have his cake and eat it and Helen complains as she isn't feeling very supported by her friend.

Actually, Kirsty has her own problems. Delivering produce to Ambridge Organics, Tony notices that she seems a bit down. A bit down? Let's be honest, for someone as insensitive and unaware of other people's feelings as Tony to notice, I can only assume that Kirsty was standing on a chair with a rope round her neck, or a pistol against her temple. Anyway, Tony mentions it to Tom (I did think that her evening with Tom might have been the cause of her depression) and he cheers her up by feeding her a huge slice of cheesecake (what? Not a Ready Meal?) and tells her she's looking great. Things are getting worryingly friendly, then Mr Romantic says "I've got to be back with the pigs soon." I suppose we should be grateful that he didn't say 'the other pigs'.

And so we move to the big story of the week. Brian and Matt are meeting at Grey Gables and they see Ray talking to Suzy Shen, the so-called travel writer. Ray has his hand on her knee and Brian says "There's a couple that's playing away if ever I've seen one." Seen one? Seen one? Brian has more experience of playing away than the England football team when Wembley was being renovated, so he should know.

Sure enough, Harriet (Ray's wife) arrives at Reception, demanding to see her husband. Lynda procrastinates, but Ray's laugh is heard and Harriet confronts him and Suzy. There is a scene and Harriet says she wants Suzy out now, as she has been chasing her husband halfway round the world for years. Ray retires to his room in a foul temper, answering Lynda's query about food with a "do what you like – I don't give a damn!" The following day we learn that Ray and Suzy departed during the night and Lynda rings Oliver to tell him.

Oliver suggests not telling Caroline and, in answer to Lynda's question about who will be in charge for the two days till Oliver and Caroline returns, he tentatively asks if she would mind shouldering the onerous burden. Lynda graciously agrees (yes, you could have knocked me down with a feather too) and goes out to replace the 'Grey Gables' sign with one saying 'Snell's Hotel'.

Sadly, it is too late to cancel the Mexican night, although Lynda does cancel the 'best moustache' competition. Joe and Eddie are there, celebrating Joe's 92nd birthday and David is celebrating his 54th. Josh and Ben bought him the ticket – they must really hate him. Joe loses no time entering into the spirit (or, more accurately, spirits) of the occasion, alternating pints with Margaritas, once he overcame his suspicion of the salt round the rim of the glass. Well refreshed, Joe goes to the Gents and David goes to look for him. Coming out, Joe trips over some badly-fitted carpet and falls, breaking his wrist and hitting his head, which was lucky. Lynda calls an ambulance and Joe is carted off to A&E.

The following day, Eddie is still incensed, saying that all the fight has gone out of Joe and you know who's responsible. "It were an accident" Clarrie replies, but Eddie won't listen, saying "He's 92 and not the man he was – he might never be the same again." If that's true, surely he should be composing a letter of grateful thanks to Grey Gables and the carpet fitters? Instead he storms off to Grey Gables and a slanging match ensues. Caroline and Oliver choose this moment to return and are greeted by Eddie shouting "It's your fault and I'm going to sue this place for every penny you've got!"

Tell you what, Caroline, I reckon you could do with a holiday to take your mind off all this.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Somebody Take Kirsty Away, Quick!

Annabelle Dowler (Kirsty Miller)

I have nothing against Kirsty – quite the opposite, in fact – and the plea in this week's title is to stop her getting too close to Tom. On Sunday she tells Tom that she and Damien are no longer an item. Why ever not? Presumably Damien can talk about things other than the flesh of dead pigs? She even goes to Tom's place and they reminisce about a picnic they had near the Am years ago (Scotch eggs and ham sandwiches, I bet you). This cosying up fortunately ends when Helen and Henry arrive. Keep Kirsty away from Tom, people!

Tom told Kirsty that he has sorted the cash flow problem and indeed he has, by withdrawing £1,200 from the farm account without mentioning it to Tony and Pat. They notice on the statement (Tom paid it back within a few days) and this gives Tony the perfect excuse to whine and berate his son for following Rob Titchener's advice. Tom says he had a temporary cash flow problem and saw no need to involve Tony and Pat. He is also mystified, as it had nothing to do with Rob. At least Tony's happy, able to exercise his moaning muscle. We could be in for fireworks later, as Pat tells Tony that she is entering Helen's necklace in the Flower & Produce show, without telling Helen.

At Grey Gables, Ray continues to destroy the hotel's hard-earned reputation for class and elegance. Lynda learns that he has let the Royal Garden Suite to a travel journalist. Sadly, it had already been booked and Ray leaves it to Lynda to explain to their regular guests, why they have been bumped. Lynda also has to get four fashion magazines for the journalist, as well as doing the day-to-day admin work and soothing guests' ruffled feathers.

Bookings for the Mexican night (an extra prize for best moustache) are slow and Lynda suggests they cancel it. Au contraire! Ray reveals that he has booked a party of 45 geriatrics but forgot to enter it on the computer. Lynda almost has an attack of the vapours when he adds that he has booked a genuine Mexican band. However, she remains loyal to Caroline and refuses to spoil her holiday when Oliver calls, by telling him that everything is going OK. While on the subject of Ray, last week I called his cocktail the 'Paradise Sunset' when it was in fact the 'Paradise Sunrise'. A rose by any other name; it was still horrible.

Martyn continues to wind Kathy up – when she tells him that the chef has resigned, he says that he will vet applicants with her. Kathy explains that she is due a holiday and he replies pompously that she should "consider her priorities" and she agrees to cancel her vacation. She moans later to Pat "Am I really that bad at my job or does he really not like me?" "You've run that place for years – Martyn Gibson is a sad, pathetic workplace bully" Pat reassures her. That's as maybe, but he seems to be the boss. I'd kill him Kathy; no jury would convict you.

Times are hard for Darrell – he's seeping rough and tells Neil that he hasn't gone back to the Elms as a couple of men had been giving him a hard time. Shula gives Darrell a meal of shepherd's pie and an old coat of Alistair's and she and Alan wonder what they can do to help him. On Tuesday, Neil gives Darrell some money for a meal and urges him to go back to the Elms or to get in touch with Elona. Darrell says he can't, but agrees to think about it. That's a no then.

Fallon and Jolene decide on a 50s-themed wedding with a swing band. Jolene tells Kenton about the 50s bit and he immediately thinks she's talking rock and roll and he knows a great band and should he grow his sideburns? Fortunately, before it goes too far, Fallon bangs his head on the bar and tells him it will be swing, not rock 'n' roll. With uncharacteristic thoughtfulness, Kenton tells Jolene that he's been thinking and that a swing night would be better than rock 'n' roll. She's touched.

Lilian comes back to Ambridge (with Matt) and gives Jolene a potted version of what Matt has been up to – very potted; Matt got into a business deal which went wrong; Lilian made it worse; things got ugly and, when Matt realised that Lilian was in danger he tried to protect her and ended up giving up the money. "We're stronger than ever now," says Lilian. Stronger, and poorer. She also tells Jolene that she never stopped loving Matt. What, even when bonking Paul? For his part, Matt thinks the paper mill conversion is a classy job and adds "Believe me, Puss, it's good to be home."

There was much more romance and snogging in Ambridge last week – Josh had a party with his mates at Rickyard Cottage (he was 16 in case you wondered) and, when David went to investigate why the music had died down, he found Josh on the sofa, snogging an unknown girl, so he crept back home.

The passion between Helen and Rob continues – he shows her round the mega dairy and, she says that she doesn't agree with what he's doing, but "You're a pretty wonderful guy" and she drags him into an unused room for a quick snog. I reckon that this affair will come to light when somebody in the village notices their badly-chapped lips.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Caroline Isn't Going To Be Happy…

Sara Coward (Caroline Sterling)

I hope that Caroline is enjoying herself at Lake Garda, because I reckon it will be her last-ever holiday – when she finds out what Ray Franklin has been doing to Grey Gables, she will go gorilla-pooh. Ray would be more at home in the heyday of Holiday Camps and it is probably only a matter of time before he arranges a knobbly knees contest. In vain does Lynda stress that Grey Gables' USP is its class and its customers are quite happy to eat in reverential silence.

To Ray, silence means that people aren't enjoying themselves and he comes up with half-baked ideas to "add a little sparkle". His cocktail night is woefully under-attended and 'woeful' is apparently a good description of his cocktail invention, the Paradise Sunset. Meanwhile, standards are going to pot and Kathy gets shirty with Lynda when she turns up for a swim, to find the changing rooms are a mess with dirty towels piling up. Lynda is all apologies and offers Kathy a free Paradise Sunset to compensate, which was cruel of her.

Ray's latest scheme is to hold a Mexican night, with people encouraged to come in fancy dress. Ray tells Ian, who is totally against the idea for two reasons; firstly Grey Gables is renowned for its high-end cuisine and secondly, they have people who have already booked and might not want to go Mexican. No problem – Ray says that they can be screened off by artificial foliage. Get back soon Caroline!

Everybody keeps saying how tired Kathy is looking and Brian is surprised to see her waiting on tables when he and Jennifer go to the Golf Club for lunch. The service isn't very good and, when Martyn asks him if he had experienced any problems, Brian is loyal to Kathy and says "no". Actually, when you think about it, he may have done Kathy a disservice – had he said "yes", Martyn might have rethought his strategy, but as it is he probably thinks things are going swimmingly.

Kirsty and Helen are busy, trying to make some jewellery for the Flower & Produce show and they're not making a very good job of it either. Come on girls, this isn't ever going to work, is it? It's very good of Kirsty to help, as she doesn't really approve of Helen's affair, telling her that she shouldn't let Rob spend so much time with Henry. Helen thinks everything's fine. It will all end in tears (and I hope they're Pat and Tony's).

Tony demonstrated his 'I told you so' nature when Tom tells him that Bellinghams have ended the promotional offer. Instead of offering him his support, Tony launches into a "this is exactly what we warned you about; taking Rob Titchener's advice instead of ours" speech. This is exactly what Tom needs to hear and he decides not to stay for a cuppa, presumably because he can't be doing with the earache. It gets worse; Tom tells Kirsty that he is having cash flow problems and could do with a £1,200 loan. Kirsty suggests that he asks Pat and Tony to help – myself, I reckon he'd rather crawl over broken glass, or circumcise himself with a rusty spoon.

Over at Brookfield, Rooooth and David are having trouble coping with the influx of newly-born calves and there is something of a crisis when Rooooth has a difficult birth to cope with. David goes off to find Alistair, but is out of luck, as he's off on another call. David returns to tell Rooooth that he has rung Rob to get help from his trainee vet students, whereupon she goes off on one, saying that he should have consulted her first. Do you want this cow to live, woman?

As it turns out, the student, Steph, is brilliant, saving both cow and calf. Rob came over too and he helps David on another difficult birth. Rooooth thanks both Steph and Rob, but I bet it stuck in her craw. I wonder if, when the mega-dairy is up and running, should there be a crisis, whether Rob can count on David and Rooooth to come and help?

Meanwhile, the decimation of the would-be entries in the 'roses' category continues apace; Jennifer and Usha have already fallen by the wayside and this week Lynda became the latest victim, when Constanza the llama ate her Peace roses. Going by Lynda's reaction, you'd have thought that the world had come to an end, or she had received notification of a terminal disease. As it is, the field is clearing for Rooooth to take the prize.

More and more people are getting worried about Darrell and Neil finds him sleeping rough in a bus shelter. Neil takes him home for a sandwich, but Darrell is embarrassed when Susan comes home and he leaves. Later on at the concert in St Stephen's, Neil talks to Shula and says how shocked Susan was at Darrell's appearance. Shula wonders whether or not there is any church money or grant that they could get Darrell to get him back on his feet? Well, there's around £15k in the organ fund for a start - that would give him a handy boost.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Are Ray And Martin Clones

Caroline and Oliver's friend Ray finally took over at Grey Gables after Oliver managed to prise Caroline's hand off the door handle by breaking her fingers and dragged her off to Lake Garda. Ray is shown around by Lynda and he exhibits distinct Martyn Gibson tendencies when he eats a chocolate from the beverage tray – I'm sorry, 'hospitality basket' - sprawls on the bed in the main suite (with his shoes on), has a drink in the bar and takes Lynda for lunch, all without paying. Is the man Martyn Gibson in disguise?

However, unlike Martyn, Ray has people skills and soon has Lynda eating out of his hand, as Caroline tells Oliver. Everyone seems so happy at the transfer of power that you just know it's all going to go nads up before long. If it does and there is a crisis while Oliver and Caroline are away, then make the most of Lake Garda Oliver, because your chances of getting her away for another holiday will be zilch.

At the golf club, Kathy's cup of misery continues to run over when Lee, the Professional, tells her that the annual party for the divot repairers, to be held in two days' time, has morphed from a few sandwiches and a scotch egg to a full-blown buffet with a whole salmon. Martyn hasn't mentioned this to Kathy and, when he says that he thinks Martyn is doing a good job and casually mentions that he is thinking of adding another assistant greenkeeper to the staff, he is treading on dangerous ground. He continues to live dangerously and, when Kathy complains that she hasn't got the staff to service such an event, he is a hair's breadth from death when he replies "How hard can it be to throw a buffet together?" While we are on the subject, what's all this divot repairing business? I was always taught that golfers should replace their own divots.

Later on in the week, Martyn confirms that his knowledge of cows is on a level with his man-management skills when he visits the mega-dairy and complains that there are only two lorry loads of cows in situ and where will the profits come from? Brian tells him to go and have a look at the rotary milker. "That's that big round thing" Brian adds helpfully, adding to Rob "He doesn't know one end of a cow from the other."

Actually, Martyn was lucky that there were any cows there at all, as the transporter broke down near Frankfurt. Brian is incandescent and has a go at Rob for not sorting things out, which is a tad unfair, as he's in Borsetshire. However, it's an ill-wind, as it gives him and Helen the chance of an additional night's passion. Helen has bought a necklace (as predicted in last week's blog) and shows it to Pat, who immediately falls in love with it and tells Helen that she could have a second career as a jewellery maker. I can't help thinking that, whenthe truth comes out and all is revealed, Pat and Tony are going to have one or two things to say about how they have been deceived, lied to and used by their daughter.

Shula's volunteering at the Elms homeless hostel seems to be taking up more of her time and she comes across Darrell, who has been sleeping in the park, and arranges a bed for him. I feel sorry for Darrell and I hope things come good for him soon. We also learn that the man who shot Neil in the shoulder went down for eight years.

On Thursday we had a lesson on how difficult it is to get brownie points and how easy it is to lose them. It is the day of Alan and Usha's fifth wedding anniversary and Alan is in the shop, buying ingredients for a slap-up meal. He also says that he wants some flowers and Shula admonishes him, saying that flowers from the village shop are only one step up from flowers from a petrol station. Later on we hear Alan saying "She'll love these" as he gathers flowers from their garden. He's spot on, but unfortunately she loves them so much that they were being nurtured as her entry in the Flower & Produce Show. Oops!

Actually, I wonder if Rooooth isn't playing a lone hand behind the scenes – consider, two of her rivals in the rose category are now history with Usha and Jennifer both having nothing to exhibit. Keep an eye on our fake Geordie to see if she's skulking around with weedkilleror a pair of secateurs.

Tom's ambitions had a bit of a dent when Bellinghams tell him that they are ending the Ready Meals promotion early. Tom has gone ahead and upped production and he is worried that he might be left with a shedload of stock. He pours his heart out to Kirsty (who I can only assume does work for the Samaritans for light relief) and again, they seem to becoming worryingly close.

Finally, we said goodbye to Pip. Well, not goodbye, as she might be back from Yorkshire once a month. Rooooth and David made up a box of goodies for her, which the large forklift managed to get in the car after a struggle. Pip said "Sorry for all the times I've been a pain". Don't be silly; there's not that much sorriness (to coin a phrase) in the Universe. We also learned that Pip and Spencer must be conjoined twins, as Pip drives off (hooray!) and a tearful Rooth says, in a faltering voice, "I just hope that they survive the separation."