Sunday, 27 October 2013

Take A Bow, Or Rather Don't

Joanna Brookes (Anthea Jennings)

There is a sniff of rebellion in the air in Ambridge, as no fewer than three people told Lynda to get stuffed when she tried to rope them in for the Robin Hood panto. First of all Tom said he was too busy, then Maurice declined the chance to play the title role and Anthea declined the offer of playing Maid Marian. Actually, this latter was a bit of a worry, as we learned that Anthea has form when it comes to Am Dram, as she used to appear with the Felpersham Light Operatic Society and only gave it up when her husband got jealous. Let's keep our fingers crossed that she doesn't start hankering after treading the boards again. My natural pessimism makes me think that Lynda will get her own way in the end – she usually does. Having said that, apparently the auditions on Sunday were an embarrassment with hardly anyone there, so we live in hope.

It was not a good week for Mike and Vicky – Alistair confirmed that the poorly cows were suffering from the infectious parasite (sounds like Joe Grundy, doesn't it?) neospora. Not only is it infectious, but untreatable too and, should it spread from Vicky's cows to Ed's herd, then we are looking at a cull of all the infected beasts. The possibility of losing his livelihood does little for Ed's mood, as Emma tells Lynda and he is sharp with her at home and sarcastic with Neil and Susan. Mind you, this should cheer Emma up as it gives her a new thing to be miserable about.

Speaking of being miserable, Joe continues to find fault with everything and seems on the verge of giving up. Asked whether he has been doing the exercises prescribed by the physio, he says no, adding: "I ain't never gonna get no better." Certainly his grammar isn't – I've never heard so many double negatives in seven words.

Despite Joe's assurance that he's not going to the cider micro brewery, Jim manages to persuade him to go and they are driven there by Jill. And not driven very well, either – I feel we are being set up for a 'should she be driving at her age?' storyline; either that or a tragic road accident.

Over at Bridge Farm, Pat demonstrated that she can be a nosy cow, as she is worried that Helen doesn't appear to be her usual, happy self and wants to know why. Helen tells her to leave her alone and that there's nothing wrong, but obviously there is part of "sod off and leave me alone" that Pat is incapable of understanding, as she engineers spending time with her daughter, making cheese, in the hope that she will open up to her. "When I try talking to her, the shutters just come down" Pat tells Tony. Then leave her alone woman and mind your own business!

Mind you, it probably won't be long before everybody knows about Helen and Rob, as Tom manages to put two and two together and realises that, every time he mentions Rob's name, Helen goes all sad and moody. And let's face it – if Tom can work it out, then it can't really be that difficult, can it? Tom comforts his sister with such phrases as "what were you thinking of?" and "he's a married man." She knows that Tom, you Muppet. Helen says "Don't hug me; you'll make me cry" personally, I would have replaced the word 'cry' with 'vomit', but he does hug her and yes, indeed she does cry. How long before Tom accidentally blows the gaff to Tony and Pat, I wonder?

At the stables, Darrell seems to be easing into a life of idleness; when Alistair hurries him up so that he can take him for an interview at the Job Centre, Darrell doesn't get dressed and tells Alistair that he'll re-arrange the appointment. Later on in the week, Shula tells David that Darrell is going in the right direction and that he has already changed the Job Centre appointment. That's as maybe, but he hasn't actually gone along for it yet, has he? Still, at least he didn't spend any more nights sleeping rough in the park.

The impending marriage between Kenton and Jolene moves ever closer and we learn that ex-wife Mel and daughter Meriel will be in Ambridge on Monday. Meanwhile, on Friday, we had Kenton's stag do. This consisted of an afternoon of extreme quad bike driving, with Kenton, Jamie and Jazzer daring each other to even hairier stunts. I was prepared for an accident – perhaps Jill coming round a corner and mowing them down – but they all made it to the pub (not The Bull), along with Jim and David. David has brought along Kenton's old school reports and there is much mocking of the bridegroom-to-be as they get stuck into the beers. One memorable phrase from the form tutor was: "Kenton's potential remains a mystery, due to his total lack of concentration". "It's going to be quite a wedding," says Jamie and Kenton adds "Yes it is – I think it's going to be the happiest day of my life". I wouldn't mention that to Mel, if I were you Kenton.

Monday, 21 October 2013

In Party Mood

Charlotte Martin (Susan Carter)

It was Susan Carter's 50th birthday party this week and we can only assume that there weren't many females there, as Neil, when talking to Darrell later in the week, said that Susan "was the belle of the ball". Mind you, Darrell reminded Neil that he (Neil) had known Susan for more than half his life – let's face it, you don't get that for murder, do you?

A good time was had by all, especially Tracy, who said "I'm young, free, single, and I want to mingle". Let's analyse that shall we? 'Young' – compared with Joe Grundy, yes. 'Free' – presumably she doesn't charge. 'Single' – is Tracy divorced? 'I want to mingle' – I've never heard it called that before. Neil spent most of the evening trying to give Susan her special present of a locket and he eventually cornered her. "It's like you" he said, handing it to her. What? Dense yet shallow, did he mean? No. "Solid gold" he breathed, thereby inducing nausea in millions of listeners.

One good thing about the party – Joe didn't attend, which must have made it go with a swing. He was his usual miserable self for most of the week, only brightening up when Jim took him down to the orchard and he witters on about how he planted this tree or that fifty years ago. On the subject of Joe, Jolene is the latest inhabitant of the village to have seemingly forgotten what a miserable old sourpuss Joe is when she says "I hope the old Joe is back sooner rather than later." Why? It can't be for the money, as the mean old sod invariably gets someone else to buy him a drink.

There was a despair-inducing moment for the audience, when Lynda casually revealed that she would be holding auditions for Robin Hood later in the week. It's at times like this when I feel Scrooge was a much-misunderstood person and I really wish Lynda would go away for Christmas; in fact, I wish she'd go away for Autumn, or for ever, come to that.

Bad news for Ed Grundy, as he has had two cows abort their calves within days. Apparently they are among those owned by Vicky and the cause is a mystery, although one suspects that it could be a reaction to Vicky talking to them. We await the results of the tests on the samples taken by Alistair. Elsewhere in the Grundy family, Eddie persuades Joe to reject Grey Gables' offer of £1,500 compensation for his accident. The way Eddie's luck runs, it's a fair bet that Joe will expire suddenly and no-one will get any money.

Someone who did expire was Rob Titchener's father-in-law, causing him to rush down to Hampshire. He returned midweek and contacted Helen, suggesting they meet up. Helen is just about to rip his clothes off when he tells her that the experience has brought him and his wife Jess closer together and he and Helen will have to call it a day. "I owe it to Jess and to our marriage to make it work" he says. Ha! He didn't think like that when he and Helen were indulging in marathon bonk-fests, did he? Helen is distraught and her mood is not improved when Rob comes into Ambridge Organics a couple of days later to check that she is all right. "Leave me alone Rob" she snaps. How quickly these women change!

From love's young nightmare to love's young dream – yes, Kirsty still hasn't come to her senses and is still with Tom. They are in bed on Friday morning and Tom says he can't believe it, waking up with her. I find it pretty incredible myself. Kirsty replies "I'm a lucky girl", which led me to think that Tom had just jumped out of the first floor window, but no – it's just her being love-struck. Later on, when Kirsty goes to work in the shop, Helen breaks down and tells her about Rob leaving her. To her credit, Kirsty doesn't say "I told you so" but blames herself for being so wrapped up with Tom.

At the stables, Darrell gets a phone call from Anna, his youngest daughter and, for some inexplicable reason, this makes him go awol for a couple of nights, sleeping in the park. When he returns, he goes to collect his tools from his friend and assures anyone who listens that this time he's really going to sort himself out. How true this is, we don't know, but things didn't get off to a good start when Shula suggested that they look for jobs online and he demurred, saying he'd only just come back and hadn't got his head together.

Over at Brookfield, we can safely assume that, if David has a favourite song, it isn't 'Who let the dogs out?' as he sees a dog worrying his ewes. He and Rooooth get there as soon as possible, but there is no sign of dogs or owners and he has to rescue some ewes from the river. Back home, Rooooth finds consolation in eating cakes made by Jill – trials to see if they are good enough for Emma's cookbook. That means that the cookbook will now contain two cake recipes and David's ragu sauce – a slim volume thus far.

David comes off the phone to the Police and tells Jill and Rooooth that letting dogs molest livestock is a criminal offence and the Police are taking it very seriously indeed. So the squad car is on its way? Well no – they're not taking it that seriously. "Did you tell them that we have notices all over the farm?" asks Rooooth, obviously forgetting that dogs can't read. Jill remembers that, earlier in the day, a couple came into the village shop with two dogs and she had to ask them to take the dogs outside. All she can remember is that they were a bit rude - presumably the owners rather than the dogs.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

It's Being So Cheerful That Keeps Her Going…

Emerald O'Hanrahan (Emma Grundy)

The title this week refers of course to Ambridge's little ray of sunshine, Emma Grundy. She's looking forward to Susan's 50th birthday party, which sounds like it's going to be the last word – the very last word – in sophistication. She has emptied the Pound shop of its party poppers and Tracy has invited half of Borsetshire's underworld and ex-cons. I don't know if they have been invited, but I suspect that Brian and Jennifer are consulting their book of '100 excuses to avoid socialising with peasants' and rapidly arranging something (anything) else.

Emma tells Ed that Nic is going to take Poppy to see Joe, hoping that Ed will pooh-pooh the idea. However, he thinks it's a brilliant move and will do Joe the world of good. "It won't help his broken wrist" she sulks and, while admitting that Poppy has little experience of orthopaedic surgery, Ed suggests that the visit could raise granddad Joe's spirits.

And indeed it does, with Joe being the most animated since his accident and making a fuss of the new baby. Emma turns up with Keira and George in tow and presents Joe with a card made by Keira ("she's always been advanced"). Sadly, however, stool pigeon George tells everyone that "mummy made it, not Keira." No pudding for you tonight, Georgie boy!

Emma took Nic to task for complaining about the 976 baby-grows (most in lurid shades of pink and carrying twee mottoes) given to her by Vicky. Nic feels ashamed, which probably made Emma's day.

Emma has also tried to spike Nic's plans of a children's calendar for the organ fund by coming up with the idea of a cookbook, with everybody contributing recipes. The trouble is that nobody really gives a toss and Emma has painted herself into a corner – she desperately asks Clarrie to help with the printing and publishing, but Clarrie says she's much too busy looking after Joe. As an example of the quality of recipe we can expect, over at Brookfield, David suggests his secret ragu recipe. Wow! A recipe for a kind of sauce! What else are we to expect – instructions from Jazzer on how to open those little blue bags of salt found in crisp packets?

Emma should lighten up a bit and do something about those rather large chips on her shoulder. You could be forgiven for thinking that she is linked genetically to Joe, who this week plumbed new depths of being miserable and despondent. He won't eat and, when Eddie took him to The Bull, he kept wanting to come home. Eddie is distraught and joins son Ed in saying how old he looks. As I said last week, being 92 could have something to do with it. The only time Joe was less than 100% miserable was when Nic brought Poppy round. Mind you, God knows what the effect was on Poppy. Eddie is even more distraught when he receives the offer of compensation from Grey Gables - £1,500 – as he thinks that isn't enough for all Joe's suffering. Joe doesn't care one way or the other but, with the Grundys' track record of things going wrong, I'd have grabbed their hand off at £1,500.

Debbie is back from Hungary and she and Brian have a gloat while standing in the mega-dairy, or Berrow Farm, as they have disingenuously renamed what Rooooth calls 'the cow factory'.

On the romance front, Rob has to rush back to Hampshire, where his father-in-law has taken a turn for the worst. Helen is upset that he went after one phone call from Jess, but Kirsty reminds her that Jess is still his wife. Talking of Kirsty, Pat seems dead set on telling everyone that Kirsty and Tom are an item once more. Kirsty tells Helen that they spent most of Sunday in bed and Tom brought her breakfast in bed and has been cooking meals for them. What do you reckon – sausages or Ready Meals?

Debbie also confides in Helen that she is having a relationship with a tractor driver/engineer in Hungary, saying that it is good to have some unadulterated fun for a change. Helen forbears to tell her that she is having what might be described as 'adulterated fun' and goes all miserable when Rob sends Debbie a text, saying he's got to stay in Hampshire for a few days.

And now to the 'blow me down, guv, I never saw that coming' moment when Lynda suggests to Caroline that Kathy could be a good temporary manager for the Health Club; especially as she's done it before. For Caroline this is a Damascene moment and you could practically see the light bulb come on. Kathy is interviewed, given the job and put to work the same day, where she immediately introduces some improvements in staffing rotas. The only question mark against Kathy is whether she is insane – consider, when she was out having a meal with Pat (and being given the latest details of Tom and Kirsty's love life) Pat mentions that Tony said how frail and miserable Joe looked when he visited The Bull. "I hope he comes through this" says Pat, to which Kathy replies "Me too – I think the whole village wants Joe Grundy back." Ha! Go on then Kathy; name one, just one, whose surname isn't Grundy. 

Monday, 7 October 2013

It Comes Round Earlier Every Year

Carole Boyd (Lynda Snell)

No, not Christmas itself, but the annual Lynda Snell blockbuster seasonal extravaganza. Normally I start reaching for the sleeping pills and checking that the Will is up to date around the start of November, but this year promises to break all records as we have already had the first meeting of the steering committee and the first disagreements.

Lynda's plan is to have somebody reading from Jane Austen. If this were not riveting enough, there will also be period food and dancing and fancy dress, including a 'best decorated bonnet' competition. I don't think I can stand the excitement and Kenton invites Lynda's wrath when he suggests it all sounds a bit dull.

Jill suggests doing a panto, but I have an even better idea; how about someone goes up to Lynda and says "Tell you what, why don't we just try one year without any entertainment? Think of the grief and pain you will save." And that's just the villagers, never mind the radio audience. We know what's going to happen – there'll be the usual "it will never work, it's a disaster" and "who can we possibly get to do this" storylines and it always turns into a triumph on the night. If we were to have a disaster just once, it might make people think twice before deciding to do a show next year. Just call me Ebenezer, folks.

Another dispiriting moment last week saw Tom and Kirsty declaring their love for each other. It was the night of Alice's party at Jaxx and Jazzer (who, inexplicably, seemed to have been invited) eyeing up anything in a skirt. Mind you, perhaps he thought the price of his lager (£4.95) included a hostess for the night. His attentions alarm Tom and Mr Romantic Bighead tells Kirsty "If you have to be anyone's girlfriend, it has to be mine." Instead of replying "I'd rather disembowel myself with a rusty spoon", or "I suppose this is instead of a custodial sentence?" Kirsty says "I love you Tom, I always have" and the evening ends with Kirsty being carried away, screaming, by men in white coats. Actually it ended with Tom saying "That's good, because I love you too Kirsty." I suppose we should think ourselves lucky that he didn't add "almost as much as I love sausages and Ready Meals". Whatever, it didn't take him long to get over Brenda, did it?

While on the subject of downers, we had the return of Tracy to the airwaves. Susan's 50th birthday is coming up and sister Tracy has the bright idea of combing Susan's address book for names of friends to invite. The trouble is, most of them appear to be people she met in prison and Susan isn't best pleased. You'd have thought that Tracy might have become suspicious when she saw names like 'Fingers O'Toole' and 'Razor Eddie McGuirk' but then she never was the brightest firefly in the garden.

Darrell had a mixed week – on the debit side, he went to see Rosa and she bad-mouthed him, calling him a smelly, embarrassing failure and she never wanted to see him again. So, no Father's Day card next year, Rosa? Darrell also nearly got slung out of the pub when he went off on one, believing that Ed, Oliver and Kenton, who were having a good laugh because Ed was telling them about their cow, Poppy, who used to paint pictures, were laughing at him. Darrell goes for them verbally and storms out, knocking over a table.

On the credit side, at least Darrell knows he hasn't got to bother about getting Rosa a Christmas present, plus he got a couple of good feeds, with Alan giving him some of the stuff donated for Harvest Festival, plus a rucksack and sleeping bag and Shula feeding him bacon and telling him that her offer of a bed still stands, if he's interested. Even more of a plus for Darrell – nobody beat him up this week.

Kenton is getting concerned as there is still no decision on where the stag night is to be held. Tactful and sensitive as ever, Kenton mentions this to Jill in the shop in front of Kathy as well as asking Jill if she's done the wedding cake(s) yet. While on the subject of Kathy, how long will it be before someone realises that Kathy (good experience in catering and management and who is always at Grey Gables) might just be the answer to Oliver's pleas to Caroline to get a manager in? Just a thought.

Joe continues to be morose and Clarrie is obviously listening to a different Archers, as she says "I'd give my eye teeth to have rude, cantankerous Joe back." What does she mean 'back'? As far as I can see, he's the same miserable sod as ever – admittedly less mobile and harping on a bit about his own mortality, but still not someone you'd want to be stuck in a lift with – at least not unless you had a gun.

Midweek saw the (sudden) birth of Poppy Grundy – I have nothing against Nic, but it does mean that there are more of Will Grundy's genes in the pool, which can only be bad. Clarrie revealed that Will was a really ugly baby, which surely surprised nobody. Actually, we had evidence that Poppy might well turn out to be a gifted child prodigy as, when Will picked her up, she immediately started crying. Such taste and discernment in one so young!