Monday, 25 November 2013

Celebrations All Round

Charles Collingwood (Brian Aldridge)

Lots of people were celebrating various things last week – Brian's 70th birthday bash was very posh, with presents such as a superb bottle of brandy (thank you Annabelle). Brian was obsessed with people not knowing his real age (70) even though Jennifer said that the 'XO' on the bottle stood for 'extra old'. Oh, how we laughed! Brian's efforts came to nothing when Phoebe came in with a cake, baked by herself, with a gigantic figure '70' on it and enough candles to illuminate a small town. Still, Brian should care, as Jennifer's present was a beach holiday in Mauritius.

Actually, I did wonder if the episode at Brian's party was sponsored by the Hungarian Tourist Board as, when David told Brian that he was taking Rooooth away to Budapest for their Silver Wedding, Brian became ecstatic about the delights of that fair city. Incidentally, David is also going to commission a special piece of silver jewellery when in Hungary – not bad when we are being told that farmers are having a hard time.

As well as Brian and David celebrating, Clarrie and Eddie went out for a meal, courtesy of Joe, who gave them £50 of his compo money. Eddie told Clarrie that the holly and mistletoe at Grange Farm is exceptional this year, but she puts the kibosh on that by telling Eddie that he cannot collect from Grange Farm "as I don' t want to be beholden to Oliver and Caroline." So, you'll be giving Oliver the cider back and not collecting apples this year then Eddie? Eddie demonstrated a hitherto-unknown depth of insight and self-knowledge when he proposed a toast to 'the best wife in the world', adding "I don' t know how you've put up with me for so long." I was wondering the same thing myself.

The story about Jill's eyesight took another turn when she drove to Brookfield and knocked Josh off his bike because she didn't see him. At last she agreed to have her eyes tested and has given up driving until then, which means more running about for her children.
Shula and Alistair are still at odds over Darrell and things get worse when Daniel stays over at Jamie's one night because he feels uncomfortable with Darrell being in the house. Alistair lays it on the line, telling Shula it's time to decide who's more important, Darrell or Daniel? Not much of a choice, really, is it? I think Shula will be upsetting more people, as she's trying to raise sponsorship for a three-hour peal of bells. Three hours? Remind me to be out of Ambridge when that happens.

Going back to Darrell, it seems that things are looking up when Eddie tells him about a friend who is doing some work in Felpersham and they need a joiner and would Darrell be interested? Would he! When talking to Shula about it later, he says that he could have kissed Eddie at the time – it would have to be a bloody good wage to tempt me to do that. However, all may not be as it seems, as Eddie tells Darrell that he'll be working for cash in hand. This concerns Shula and she mentions it to Darrell. "We can work round that” he says, optimistically and you just know that it's all going to end in tears.

Something else that ended in tears was the 'pal's night out' with Tom and Kirsty and Patrick and Helen. Helen got stuck into the wine big time and opened her heart to Kirsty about Rob. Helen tells us that the whole experience with Rob was amazing and that the sex was fantastic (too much information) and she misses him so very much. Helen then goes to the ladies for a really good cry. Fortunately for Patrick he is spared all this as he and Tom are losing money on the quiz machine. All in all I think all four have had better nights out.

The panto – I beg its pardon, the 'play with music' – is starting to get on my nerves, as usual. Lynda notices the lack of rapport between Robin Hood and Maid Marian (it was the knife in his back that gave her the clue) and she organises a ludicrous improv evening where Rob and Kirsty have to pretend to be newly-weds. Things don't get better when Kirsty makes pointed remarks about wedding vows and the atmosphere gets so bad that even Lynda realises that her scheme isn't working. Personally, I hope either Rob or Kirsty walks away from the production, leaving it dead in the water. Sadly, I don't think that's going to happen.

A sure sign of the approach of Christmas is growing tension and animosity between the Grundy siblings. We almost had a punch-up when Ed discovered Will herding up his birds, using a dog off the lead. Ed is paranoid about neospora and tears Will off a strip. Will responds by telling his brother that it's not his (Will's) fault if Ed can't run a business properly and it's only a matter of time before it collapses. Alistair, who has turned up to look at a sick cow, tells Ed that it is highly unlikely that the virus was spread by a dog, but Ed isn't listening, which when you think about it is the default mode of both boys. Ah well, Merry Christmas!

Monday, 18 November 2013

The Not-So-Good Samaritan

Patricia Greene (Jill Archer)

There's no doubt that Jill has got a hard edge to her character – we have said before that she could be unfeeling as far as Kenton is concerned (although his marriage to Jolene appears to have made him more acceptable) and now she's having a go at Shula over Darrell.

At Daniel's birthday tea, Darrell wells up when talking about Elona and goes to his room. "Poor Darrell" says Shula, to which Jill replies sharply "Pull yourself together – you've got to get him out of here." When Shula asks where would he go, Jill suggests the Grundy’s or Neil and Susan. To my mind, the first comes under the heading of 'cruel and unusual punishment' and the second is impractical, with Ed, Emma and the children living there. Why the big rush? True Daniel has come home, but it was only a few weeks ago that Shula was saying "we've got all this space" when making the case for taking Darrell in, so how many rooms does Daniel need? In fact, although everyone seems to want Darrell out because of the effect on Daniel, he's sanguine about the whole affair and doesn't seem at all worried.

However, things are looking black for Jill – almost literally – as we had another reminder about her eyesight problems. When viewing the DVD that Jim has prepared for David and Rooooth's Silver Wedding, Jill remarks to Josh that her memory must be playing tricks, as she seems to remember that it was sunny that day and has Jim toned down the colours as the sky doesn't look very blue? Josh replies that it is sunny on the DVD and it looks fine to him.

The panto is still trundling along, with Robert Snell the latest to be dragged into the cast, as Friar Tuck. He originally said 'no' but we all knew he was doomed, as should he, having spent all these years with Lynda.

Kirsty is still uncomfortable about having to act alongside Rob but she tells Tom that she's just going to ignore Rob and enjoy the play. However, the best laid plans and all that; Lynda gives Kirsty the lyrics of a song to learn and she is horrified when she realises it is a love duet between her and Rob and she'll have to gaze lovingly into his eyes while singing it. Wouldn't it be a good story if they fell in love? That would make for an interesting atmosphere between her and Helen at Ambridge Organics.

It appears that Kirsty is really getting her feet under Tom's table; not only has she bought new crockery (including a milk jug – it will be fish knives next, mark my words) but is banging on about getting a real Christmas tree and buying new decorations. We also learn that she and Tom have chosen a new bed – if I were her, I'd have made sure it was of the bunk variety.

Elsewhere, Eddie is trying to drum up Christmas turkey business and he tells Joe that Christmas is going to be difficult this year, despite there being bumper crops of holly and mistletoe. Joe is happy, however, as he has received his compensation cheque. Eddie moans because the solicitors have taken £600 of the £3,000 as their fee (in real life they would probably have taken the £2,400) and his mood is not improved when Joe tells him that it's going straight into his savings account. Bad luck Eddie!

Ian takes Helen out for a meal and a heart-to-heart, telling her that Adam had told him about her and Rob (thanks Adam!). They are at cross purposes, as Ian says that one day all this will seem a bad memory, someone else will come along, etc. Helen, however, says that she doesn't want anybody else and if Rob came to her tomorrow and wanted to get back together she'd say 'yes'. She also wonders whether she should tell Jess the sort of man she's married to – "Isn't that what he deserves?" Now, I may be wrong here, but I can't help feeling that if my erstwhile mistress told my wife what had been going on (presumably leading to said wife either leaving me or throwing me out) then I would not be very kindly disposed towards the mistress and the chances of getting back together would be minute at best

Going back to Josh, he is fresh from his triumph over his Dad in choosing the steer for entry in the Primestock show – they chose different animals and we had an episode where they were filming the beasts so that Pip could decide which was the best. This was not the most exciting piece of radio, but at least not as yawn-inducing as the bit where William and George were trying to train Baz, the gun dog – that's five minutes of my life I'll never have again.

Pip sided with Josh and David agreed, so it's Josh's choice Castor (one of a twin, along with Pollux, and no, that isn't rhyming slang) that will go into the Primestock show. You have to wonder about Josh's intelligence, as David asks if he can use Josh's laptop as he's looking for the perfect weekend break for him and Rooooth but he wants it to be a surprise, so if he uses the laptop, she won't be able to trace what he's doing on the farm computer. "Are you going away then?" Josh asks. Tell you what - not much gets past this boy, does it?

Sunday, 10 November 2013

What A Thing To Do To Your Husband!

Rina Mahoney (Jess Titchener)

Jess must really hate husband Rob, as she volunteered him for the panto as Robin Hood. How could any human being willingly do that to another person, let alone a spouse? The potential for disaster is pretty huge, as Kirsty is playing Maid Marian and Rob isn't her favourite person, due to the way he treated Helen.

Helen continues to take her split with Rob extremely badly – at the fireworks do she spots Rob and Jess together and starts moping and mooning around. Kirsty asks her "Are you OK?" and gets the answer "No, not really". Helen then asks Kirsty if she will look after Henry while Helen goes home. Come on Helen – it's time to move on. Let's face it, if she's going to hide away every time she sees Rob or hears his name mentioned, then she might as well become a squirrel and hibernate.

And people will start noticing – at The Bull Kirsty and Helen find themselves talking to Rob and Jess. Afterwards, Jess mentions to Rob that Kirsty seems to have a problem with Rob playing Robin Hood and then she wonders out loud if Helen is always that quiet. Back at The Bull, Helen starts crying and Adam asks what's wrong? He and Helen go off to feed the ducks and the whole story comes out. "Now you despise me" she says, but Adam assures her he's in no position to throw stones but he doesn't go into detail about his sordid night of passion with Pawel last year.

Over at Grey Gables, things are looking up when Caroline learns that the authorities are not going to prosecute over Joe Grundy's accident. Even better, their increased offer of compensation to Joe (£3,000) was eventually accepted, although Eddie and Ed were keen on holding out for more. When he heard the news of the £3k offer, Eddie said excitedly "Think what we can do with that!" and Joe reminds him that it's his compensation money and Eddie can keep his hands off it, thank you very much.

Caroline and Oliver decide that they need a Deputy Manager at Grey Gables and decide to advertise. Surely Lynda is a shoo-in for the job? But wait! Robert has doubts and he reminds his wife that they aren't getting any younger and "our time is precious." He also suggests that she is giving too much of herself to work and village activities; "look at the Christmas Show" he says. "I could let someone else do it", Lynda replies. "Could you?" he asks. "No" she says. I've got a better idea – take the job and scrap the Christmas Show altogether.

As it turns out, Lynda goes for a walk to reflect on the situation and returns home to find Kathy talking to Robert. Kathy came round to see whether Lynda is going to apply; if she is, then she (Kathy) won't. Lynda tells us that she has decided not to apply for a variety of reasons; Robert, the girls, Oscar and her work in the village. I suppose that means the Christmas panto goes ahead. Damn! Kathy rings Caroline, who tells her that her application will be considered along with the others.

At the Stables, Darrell's plight gets worse and worse. Everybody is telling Shula that she is insane for giving him a home and he seems determined to prove them right. He begs Shula to lend him some money so he can go and see daughter Anna and she gives him £10 before going off to The Bull to join the party welcoming Kenton and Jolene home. At the end of the party, Shula and Kenton return to the Stables, to find a drunken Darrell sprawled out and the videos, earmarked for Jim to transfer to DVD for David and Rooooth's wedding anniversary, ruined. Kenton orders him to go and tells Shula that she should tell Alistair.

Shula is reluctant to do so, but the next day the story comes out when she, Alistair and Darrell talk. Alistair accuses Darrell of destroying precious mementoes of his and Shula's son. "Things will be different from now on" Darrell says. "Yes they will" Alistair replies, ominously. Later on he talks to Shula and says she is at breaking point. It looks bad for Darrell when the week ends with Alistair saying to Shula "He's got to go – will you tell him or shall I?"

Finally, the story about Jill's erratic driving takes another twist (ho, ho) when Mel reveals that she doesn't feel safe with her driving. This is at Kenton and Jolene's party and Jill wonders where Elizabeth is. Rooooth points her out (Jill didn't see her) and asks if she's having trouble with her eyes? Jill promptly dismisses the idea, although she admits to having had 'one or two letters' from the optician. Nevertheless, she says she's fine and turns away to continue the one-sided conversation she has been having with a hatstand.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Advice From An Unlikely Source

Trevor Harrison (Eddie Grundy)

You know that you have hit rock bottom when Eddie Grundy starts giving you lifestyle advice and that's what happened to Darrell last week. Eddie stopped Darrell thieving the Poppy Appeal collection tin and has a heart to heart with him, telling him that he once lost everything; home, farm, animals, the lot. Eddie tells Darrell that he has to learn to live on his Jobseekers benefit, upon which Darrell admits that he isn't getting benefits any longer as he didn't turn up for his interview at the Job Centre. Feeling sorry for him, Eddie gives Darrell £10, telling him to "try and get yourself sorted."

Darrell obviously thought he said 'snorted' instead of 'sorted' and spends the money on drink. Not only that but he goes back to the Stables, as happy as a newt, singing and waving his arms about, spooking a horse called Otis, which runs off. Shula and Alistair are deeply unimpressed and Alistair describes Darrell as "a complete liability" and says "we can't trust him round the horses."

A day or two later, Shula confronts Darrell, who has bought her a Chocolate Orange to apologise (he borrowed £3 off Vicky). Shula lays it on the line, telling him that the Stables is her work environment and "safety is paramount". "Like a building site" says Darrell, eagerly. No Darrell, there aren't any horses on a building site. Darrell confesses to Shula about his loss of benefits and the fact that he never went to see the doctor or went to the Job Centre, even though Shula drove him into town specially. She leaves him to see to her guests (Oliver and Caroline) and the episode ends with Darrell sobbing.

Elsewhere, we were introduced to Jess, Rob's wife. Kenton was a touch embarrassed when he offered her one of his special Hallowe'en cocktails, reflecting afterwards that a drink called 'corpse reviver' isn't the best thing to suggest for a woman who has just lost her father. It's unusual for Kenton to exhibit such sensitivity – perhaps his imminent marriage has changed him for the better.

The marriage took place on Friday at Lower Loxley and Kenton's ex-wife Mel and daughter Meriel turned up from New Zealand at the beginning of the week. The day before the wedding, Kathy was talking to Pat in The Bull and the subject was Mel. Kathy said: "Jolene has had two men off me – it's only fitting that Mel will be there when Jolene walks up the aisle." Oooh! A saucer of milk over here for Kathy, please!

The wedding goes smoothly enough – Fallon's Best Woman speech goes down well, as does Jamie's efforts as Best Man. Jamie's speech contains all the embarrassing stories and insults that we were expecting. For example: "Kenton is only interested in one thing – but he's so old, he can't remember what it is." Jolene thinks that Meriel is developing a crush on Jamie and urges him to dance with her. Is it really wise to encourage a relationship between two people who live on opposite sides of the world, I ask myself?

Bad news for Ed Grundy and Mike, when Alistair comes back with the results of the tests on the cows – three of Vicky's heifers will have to be culled because of the neospora infection. Ed is incensed and, because one of the ways that it can be transmitted is through dog faeces, he becomes paranoid about canines. So much so that he seeks out Oliver for reassurance that the hunt pack will not come on his land. Oliver gives him his word.

Life goes on in the village, with Emma still looking for recipes. Rooooth says she'll get her Mum's recipe for Singin' Hinnies (I didn't know what they were either), but Joe's suggestions of past favourites such as 'Pig Trotter Pie' and 'Tripe and Onions' are deemed unsuitable. Speaking of Joe, he continues to be morose, but Nic manages to cheer him up by showing him young Poppy. Jim happens to mention what a good job Nic has done in cheering up Joe – unfortunately he says it to Emma, whose nose is once again put out of joint.

Kirsty continues to demonstrate disturbing signs of mental instability – first of all she is actually pleased to have been offered the role of Maid Marian in the panto. The way things are going with the casting, she'll probably also end up playing Robin Hood, Little John, Friar Tuck and the Sheriff of Nottingham. However, the final proof of Kirsty's madness is revealed when Tom rings Pat to say "Hi mum, have I got some great news for you!" Great news? Is he emigrating? Going into a monastery? Quite the reverse, as he says that Kirsty is moving in with him. Kirsty, think on I beg you, it's not too late; there are drugs available, or counselling – we can help you to avoid a bleak, soulless, empty future dominated by endless conversations about sausages and Ready Meals.