Monday, 30 December 2013

Matt Blows It

Kim Durham (Matt Crawford)

Well, Matt badly let down five million listeners when James, who had just learned that Leonie was pregnant, came looking for advice and guidance and Matt persuaded him to tell Leonie that he wanted her to go ahead with the pregnancy. Matt didn't actually tell James to go ahead in so many words, but he did say that, if he had his time again, he might have done things differently and that James isn't getting any younger. Let's face it, mentally at least that would be impossible. This is no time to get all sentimental – just think, he could have steered James into fleeing the country or similar and we would never have heard from him again, but Matt blew it. Big time.

Another story that brought a lump (of vomit) to the throat was Tom's proposal to Kirsty on Christmas Day. There was one cracker left and Tom asked Kirsty to pull it with him. She does and – blow me down – there's a ring inside! Who'd have thought it? Tom asks Kirsty to marry him and she says 'yes' immediately. I would have thought she'd have wanted to think it over for a decade or two, but there's no accounting for women.

This romance is transferred to the Robin Hood panto, where the leading couple take five curtain calls and Lynda says that they are her best-ever leads. You might have a hard job not appearing next year Tom, although I suppose there is a faint hope that Lynda will be so besotted with Leonie's new baby that she will forget to stage a Festive extravaganza. That's the least the scriptwriters could do for inflicting the James and Leonie story on us.

There is Christmas spirit galore over at Keeper's Cottage, when Darrell emerges from the cider shed to wish the Grundys a Merry Christmas. Before he knows it, Darrell has been invited to lunch and been given a present. He protests that he is in no fit state, but Clarrie runs him a bath, goes over his body with the nit comb and rubs him down with Jeyes Fluid. Later on in the day, Clarrie remarks to Eddie that Darrell seemed a bit quiet over the meal. Darrell seems uncomfortable with accepting hospitality – or perhaps he just couldn't stand the Grundys' company any longer – as during the afternoon, he thanks them and takes his leave.

On Boxing Day, Ed is at work with Rosa and he tells her that her Dad spent the day at Keeper's Cottage. She isn't interested but when Ed tells her that, when Darrell was nicked for shoplifting, it was because he wanted a present to give Rosa, this obviously affected Rosa as, later in the day, Ed sees her scooter outside the gate at Keeper's. However, that's as far as she gets as, just like when he was in hospital following the overdose, she cannot bring herself to go and see him. Honestly, she must have wasted a small fortune in petrol going to see him and chickening out at the last minute.

There is a surprise for George – after the family have seen him in the Nativity play, he is taken to a farm to choose a puppy. It seems that Emma visited the farmer, who had promised first pick of the litter to another family, to try and get him to change his mind. He did so after hearing that George's previous dog Baz had died "in an accident". That was no accident – dead-eye Ed Grundy only hits what he aims at - but it does the trick and the man relents. Presumably he made Emma promise never to come near him again as part of the deal.

Anyway, George picks out a bitch and names her Holly and the family return triumphantly to Ambridge View, where Holly promptly makes a puddle on the floor, leaving Susan distinctly unimpressed. George says it's going to be the best Christmas ever. On Boxing Day, Holly continues to wreak havoc, soiling Susan's brand new Pashmina. "It's ruined!" she wails, prompting George to worry about whether she will want to take Holly back. Susan reassures him that Holly is now part of the family, but you can hear the regret in her voice.

The Helen/Rob story took another twist when he rang her on Christmas Day, saying that he'd like to see her on Friday. Helen has already learned that Jess has returned early to Sussex and she thinks this might be a hopeful sign, telling Kirsty "If I'm right, this could change my whole life."

Friday arrives and the couple meet. Rob's opening remark is that it's all over between him and Jess and "She's out of my life for good." Instead of ripping his clothes off, Helen is cautious, asking "So what happens now?" His reply is that that's up to her, but ever since he first met her, she's been the only one he's wanted – we'll gloss over the few weeks when he dumped Helen and went back to his wife. Rob also says he is going to divorce Jess and Helen is incredulous, saying "Why should I believe you?" The week ends with Rob saying "I know I don't deserve it, but please, give me another chance."

You're on your own here Helen, as I think I could guess what would be the advice from Tom and Kirsty (the only other people who know of Helen's affair). My advice – assuming you still want Rob - would be to tell him to get divorced first and then you'll see how things go from there; that'll teach the cheating swine a lesson.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

A Dog Isn't Just For Christmas – In Fact It's Not Even For Christmas

Barry Farrimond (Ed Grundy)

Ed and Emma's plans to buy George a puppy for Christmas went nads up when they drove to the farm where the litter had been born, only to be told that they couldn't choose one before New Year, as the farmer had promised another family first pick of the litter and they were abroad till early 2014. Presumably they are farmers as well, as they seem to be the only people who can afford foreign holidays.

One wonders how closely Ed and Emma have consulted Neil and Susan (with whom they are living) about the puppy plan, as later in the week, Susan talks to Helen and says how down Ed is about the whole thing but, if it wasn't for George she (Susan) wouldn't have a puppy in the house anyway. Yes, I foresee tension when the puppy arrives at house-proud Susan's des res. Perhaps all will be resolved if they get the puppy and Will shoots it – we wait to see.

Ed finds Darrell in the cider shack (amazingly, he hasn't drunk their stock for the year) and Eddie shows his caring side by saying to his son that "Darrell is our responsibility now" and lets him stay in the hut. Not only that, but later in the week, Eddie brings Darrell eggs and bacon for breakfast and some old jumpers of Joe's (he quickly tells Darrell that they have been washed). And good for you Eddie – you've gone up in my estimation.

Even better, Eddie cajoles Darren to accompany him in the van when selling turkeys and Darrell – who was reluctant to even leave the hut until Eddie tells him he won't take 'no' for an answer – scales the heights of making up for the satnav's failures and even giving a turkey to a customer and taking money and giving change. However, Eddie pushes it a bit too far when he persuades Darrell to drop in on Rosa and mend a few fences with his daughter. He agrees, but it ends badly when she calls him 'smelly' and 'tramp' and 'thief'. OK Rosa, but apart from that? Well, plenty, really, as she accuses him of being "disgusting" and "you're shaming all of us." Showing a bit of spirit, Darrell hits back, saying: "You're still my daughter, whether you like it or not." Rosa's seasonal reply to this is "You know what Dad, whether you like it or not, I wish you were dead." Sharper than a serpent's tooth, indeed.

What to think about the relationship between Jess and Rob? The 'if you can get here and live within 100 miles of Ambridge' party arranged by Jennifer for Jess and Rob – well, for Jess; Rob would rather stick pins in his eyes but he's been presented with a fait accompli – is arranged for Thursday. Even worse, Jess has decided to get Ambridge Organics to supply the food. Even worse than worse, when Helen and Kirsty turn up with the food on the night, Jess asks them if they'd mind serving it to her guests? The woman is either totally innocent or a sadist on par with Torquemada if she knows what's been going on.

Suffice it to say that the party does not go with a swing and Helen and Kirsty take the earliest opportunity to make an excuse and leave. Rob and Jess bicker when it's finished (no-one had Jess's salmon, even though she had borrowed Jennifer's fish kettle) and it fell on the floor. Rob tells his wife: "Your party, your salmon, your mess" and he goes upstairs with a large whisky, telling her not to follow him. The frosty atmosphere didn't pass unnoticed, even by Susan, who didn't even go to the party, and she prattles on to Helen about how Jess seems to be "a bit of a cold fish" and how nice Rob is.

The same day, Rob turns up at Ambridge Organics and apologises profusely to Helen about the hard time she must have had at the party. Rob says it was the most ghastly night he's ever spent since coming to Ambridge and he blames Jess for being in a foul mood and blaming him for the "whole sorry mess." He also thanks Helen for being so nice (the conversation is very formal) and says "I don't deserve it." The jury's out as to whether Rob is a nice bloke with a manipulative wife or she is a nice person with a cheating dirtbag of a husband – if Helen believes the former, I can foresee a New Year of adultery, deceit, lies and jewellery making.

Our worst fears were realised when Leonie – who has been moping around at Ambridge Hall and being generally like a wet weekend - let slip to Lynda that she's pregnant and that James doesn't know. Let's be honest – if James did know, he probably wouldn't know how it happened. Lynda was all concern, but there was a glimmer of hope for us listeners, when Leonie replied: "To be honest, Lynda, I'm not even sure that I'm going to have this baby." Anybody know how you get one of those e-petitions up and running? Mind you, the site would probably crash within minutes.

Finally, to all our readers: have a good Christmas and it's probably best to keep away from any meeting involving Will and Ed Grundy!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Just What You Don’t Want For Christmas

Jasmine Hyde (Leonie Snell)

If you’re the Snells, it’s Leonie coming back unexpectedly, but that’s what has happened. She turned up, moaning about James’s juvenile behaviour - she was trying to organise a ‘sophisticated’ fancy dress party and James just arsed around with a tea towel on his head. Apparently this is symptomatic of his behaviour and was the last straw, so she hot-footed it to Ambridge and inflicted herself on her Dad and Stepmother, not to mention us.

Lynda is not impressed, as her attention is being taken up by the Robin Hood play and Robert has never been closer to death than when he told Leonie “This is your home as long as you need it.” Leonie doesn’t want James to know where she is and so we have Lynda playing out a ridiculous charade whenever Lilian asks her if she knows. And I fear we are in for even more tragic news; when Leonie and Lynda have a heart to heart, Leonie tells her that she’ll be 39 and “I don’t want to be on my own now that I’m…” “Middle aged?” Lynda completed for her. “Yes, that too” says Leonie and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought ‘she’s pregnant’, with a heavily sinking heart. Please God, let me be wrong!

At least Lynda has found herself a new leading man, with Tom’s acting of the proposal scene reducing her to tears. It made me weep too, but for different reasons. The scene obviously gave Tom ideas and he asked Peggy whether or not he should ask Kirsty to marry him? Peggy obviously has a grudge against Kirsty, as she tells Tom to seize the day and go for it.

Perhaps Tom should look at the Titcheners’ marriage as an example - Jess is really keen to live in Ambridge, but Rob tells her he’d rather live elsewhere. This all happens after Jennifer suggests that Jess and Rob throw a little ‘getting to know you’ party and Jess can leave the guest list to her. Of course, this being Jennifer, it means that everyone in Borsetshire is invited and Rob is unimpressed. This turns to real annoyance when Jess tells him that she has engaged Helen and Ambridge Organics to do the catering. Jess has noticed that there seems to be a bit of an atmosphere between her husband and Helen and puts this down to the latter’s dislike of intensive farming. Her party will, she hopes, help build bridges. Not likely, as Helen is already formulating excuses so that she cannot attend the party.

You will be delighted to know, or maybe you’re past caring, that Darrell was taken to hospital after his overdose and there are fears that he’s damaged his liver; presumably from alcohol, rather than the pain killers. As if he hasn’t suffered enough, Shula goes to see him in hospital and she is joined by Rosa, who eventually decides that she can’t face seeing her Dad in the state he is. She also says that he’s done this deliberately and it’s some sort of revenge. Rather twisted logic there, methinks.

Shula is pleased that Darrell will be seen by a psychiatrist and given the best of medical care. In practice, this means anti-depressants and a ‘pull yourself together’ approach. Darrell reacts by discharging himself, which was just as well, really, as Alistair and Daniel told Shula in no uncertain terms that there was no way that Darrell was coming back to The Stables.

At the end of the week, Jim and Jill are out shopping, with Jim doing a fair Ebenezer Scrooge impression, especially when Jill reads off her present-buying list. But wait! Who’s that singing along drunkenly with the carols? Yes, you’ve guessed it. Jim sees Darrell pocket a purse without paying and confronts him. Darrell denies it and, when accused of being drunk, admits to having had a couple ‘to keep out the cold’. He moves away from Jim and we hear Darrell being confronted by either a security person or a copper. Jim expresses sympathy, but Jill is in her ‘and throw away the key’ mood and tells Jim that Darrell has come within a whisker “of damaging my daughter, your son and our grandson”. Old flinty-heart advises Jim to leave Darrell alone, presumably after knocking him down and giving him a good kicking. I really don’t know what’s going to happen with Darrell, but things aren’t looking good. Whatever it is that’s going to happen, I hope it happens soon, as the whole Darrell story is starting to drag somewhat.

As we approach the Festive Season, the feud between the Grundy brothers deepens. They both turn up on turkey-killing day and the atmosphere between them is of barely-veiled hostility, with Will telling Ed that George hates him (Ed). Clarrie demonstrates a truly amazing capacity for self-delusion when she says “Bless you both for agreeing to help. We’re gonna have a lovely day together.” Towards the end of the day, when the two brothers are within an ace of coming to blows, Clarrie comes in and says how pleased she is that they have put their differences behind them and she invites them for Christmas. Those rose-tinted spectacles really suit you, Clarrie.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Feathers Will Fly

Philip Molloy (Will Grundy)

We had Clarrie going on, and on, and on about how this will be yet another Christmas trying to avoid a confrontation between her sons. Ed agreed to help slaughter and pluck the turkeys as long as Will wasn't there, which was OK, as Will had said that there's no way he was going to do it.

Enter Caroline, performing her godmothering duties by trying to make Will see that he's behaving like an unreasonable, whining lump of misery (Will's default mode, if we're honest) and it's hurting both George and Clarrie. Will has a change of heart (prompted perhaps by the thought of being written out of Caroline's will) and rings Joe to tell him that he'll be there to help. So, it looks like Clarrie was wrong and there will be no avoiding a confrontation, as if both Grundy boys turn up on the day, a confrontation will be a nailed-on certainty. Just keep sharp objects out of their reach.

I said that we had Clarrie going on and on and it seems that the women of Ambridge just do not know when to keep their mouths shut. Take Shula – Daniel decides to go and stay with a friend in Leeds and, as he is off to the station, she gives him a lecture about how he should feel some sympathy with Darrell and it all escalates into a full-blown row. If she'd just waved Daniel goodbye and kept quiet, it would have been so much easier.

Later on in the week, Shula's own sympathy for Darrell is tested and found wanting, although to be honest, his behaviour would try the patience of a saint. First of all she drives him to sign on and practically has to drag him out of bed. Then she and Alistair have a row, because she is washing Darrell's bedclothes and on Thursday, Shula finally snaps. Having made Darrell get up in the afternoon, she has cooked a chicken casserole and gets testy when Darrell doesn't eat much. Testiness turns to anger when he drops the dishes on the floor (sorry Alistair, no dinner for you) and she realises he has been drinking ("Just a quick swig to make me feel better"). Wrong answer, Darrell! Shula finally loses it and tells him that Daniel has gone because he can't stand Darrell and to "get a grip and do something about it – I'm not prepared to look after you for much longer." So much for sympathy.

And Darrell does indeed get a grip – sadly the grip is on a pint glass in The Bull, where Neil finds a drunken Darrell wallowing in self pity. Things get worse when Darrell's daughter Rosa turns up with Jamie and Darrell drunkenly implores her to talk to him, knocking over a table in the process. Just to make Darrell's day complete, she tells him that he disgusts her and "As far as I'm concerned, you're not my dad any more." Probably no point expecting a Christmas card this year then Darrell. Jamie calls Darrell a waster and Neil tells him sharply to watch his mouth and "When you grow up you'll know better." Sorry Neil – and call me unsympathetic if you must – but I suggest that, if Darrell isn't actually a waster, then he'd be a bloody good substitute if you needed one in a hurry.

Neil takes Darrell back to The Stables and, on Friday, we hear Shula and Alistair talking. Shula thinks it's time she woke Darrell up, while Alistair goes to the bathroom for a shower. Shula finds that Darrell is gone, while Alistair finds that their stock of paracetamol has also vanished. Could there be a connection? Too right and a manhunt begins. To cut a long story short, an unconscious Darrell is found in front of No. 3, The Green; the house he used to share with Elona. The week ends with Shula beating herself up and saying how it's down to her because she shouted at him and "If Darrell dies it will be all my fault." Actually, all this could have been avoided – if they had kept the paracetamol in a child-proof container, Darrell would probably have been unable to open it.

It's decision time at Grey Gables for the Deputy Manager's job. Who should get it – Kathy (capable, safe pair of hands) or Anton (good experience, reminds Oliver of Roy but worries Caroline because he never seems to stay anywhere very long)? Kathy gets the nod and she hands in her notice at work after only two weeks – even Anton stayed at places longer than a fortnight.

Elsewhere, there is a crisis at the rehearsals for the Christmas extravaganza as there is still a definite lack of spark between Rob and Kirsty. Lynda tries some half-baked amateur psychology, which is frankly embarrassing and, when Lynda is dragged away by Alistair, who is looking for Darrell, Kirsty and Rob have words. She tells him he makes her skin crawl and she'd walk off the stage now, but she feels loyalty to Lynda. Rob says they cannot go on like this and, when Lynda comes back, he tells her that he is having to pull out of the production. Lynda is appalled and begs Kirsty to talk him out of it. Hmm, unlikely.

This leaves the whole production in jeopardy, but Kirsty has an idea and rings Tom to try and talk him into it. He's not keen (one of the few occasions that I find myself agreeing with him) and points out that he's rather busy at this time of year. Lynda begs him ("You'd be my absolute saviour") and Kirsty tries again, but Tom interrupts her, saying "there are blue flashing lights outside" and puts the phone down – I don't know, he's always got an excuse.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Bearing The Olive(r) Branch

Michael Cochrane (Oliver Sterling)

I'm beginning to think that Oliver and Caroline are too nice to run a viable business in this current climate of austerity and competition. They are out picking holly and mistletoe on Grange Farm and Oliver remarks that the Grundys are usually plundering the trees and bushes at this time of year. "We have some bridge-building to do" Caroline says. Why, pray? How often do the Grundys patronise Grey Gables? On the night that Joe tripped, they were only there because it was cheap and they would normally be shown the tradesmen's entrance.

Never mind, Oliver is determined and sets out to see Joe. Prudently, Oliver has taken along a bottle of home-made sloe gin and he butters Joe up further by asking if he could order a small (10 – 12lb) turkey. Joe's principles are easily bought and he invites Oliver in for a cuppa, laced with whisky. Oliver mentions the abundance of holly and mistletoe and asks when the Grundys are going to harvest it? Eddie enters and is bemused to learn that Oliver is now his father's best friend and even more so when Joe says they should get up there now and pick it and would Eddie mind getting Bartleby ready?

Soon the three are loading Bartleby down with foliage and toasting each other with whisky. Joe tells Oliver that he doesn't bear a grudge and the worst thing you can do is fall out with neighbours. Excuse me? Joe doesn't bear a grudge? Let's think – a well-refreshed 92 year old trips over at Grey Gables and breaks his wrist, later getting £3,000 compensation from Caroline and Oliver; Oliver allows Joe and Eddie to oversee the cider production from his apples every year; Oliver comes round with sloe gin and persuades Joe to come and pick his holly and mistletoe (which they will sell); Oliver buys a Grundy turkey. And Joe doesn't bear a grudge? Give him the shirt off your back, Oliver and he might even send you a Christmas card.

Over at the Stables, Alistair attempts to take advantage of Shula's absence at Reg's funeral by bundling Darrell into the car and driving him to a hostel. Sadly, Darrell goes into meltdown and is rescued by Alistair after wandering around in the road, clearly distressed and disorientated. "Come on, let's get you home" Alistair says. It wasn't a good week for Darrell – he started his new job and got the sack on the second day because he screwed up but doesn’t know why. You put the pointy end of the nails on the wood and hit the flat bit on the top with the hammer, Darrell – and that's the sum total of my DIY knowledge, but worth knowing. Alistair, Shula and Daniel look at each other and Alistair goes out to change the sign to "The Stables and Home for Waifs and Strays."

The story of Jill's eyes reached a climax when her eye test revealed that she doesn't need new glasses, but she has got cataracts. Jill is devastated to think that bits of her are wearing out – it's called 'getting old' love and it's why you can't run after buses any longer or take the stairs two at a time. Even worse; it gets worse. On the other hand, Shula (who drove her mum to the appointment) makes light of her condition, saying that it's just a routine operation and you'll be out of there in a few minutes. Ha! Easy to say when it's not your eye that a man is approaching with a sharp scalpel.

You will be delighted to know that the recipe book ('Appetising Ambridge') has been printed (without photographs) and all Lynda and Emma have to do is bind it (plastic spiral) and flog it. The miserable (or as I think of it, the 'Will Grundy') part of me hoped that they had bound it back to front, but I reckon there will be more than enough grief when the contributors find that Lynda has 'improved' lots of their recipes.

Lynda might have troubles of her own, as Rob cries off a rehearsal as he's ill. Rob had an awkward moment the previous day as he and Jess ran into Helen and Henry and Henry obviously wanted to be picked up. Rob visited Helen at Ambridge Organics and he implied it was her fault for not restraining Henry. She's distraught, but confesses to Kirsty later that she still loves him. Fortunately we are spared more details of how good the sex was. Tom ends up reading at rehearsal with Kirsty and I fear that he is doomed and we'll see him in Lincoln green yet.

The atmosphere between the Grundy siblings takes a dive when Ed (out shooting rabbits with dad Eddie – nice to have a hobby) sees a dog running loose and shoots it dead. Unfortunately, it turns out to be Baz, the dog that Will is training – and presumably not very well if it runs off after a hare – and Will is adamant that Ed did it on purpose. They grapple and are separated by Eddie. Will rants "You killed my dog – I shan't forget this, ever!" What? Will bearing a grudge – surely not? It's a pity that Eddie buried Baz, as Ed could have had him stuffed and mounted and given him to Will as a Christmas present and a reminder of the brief, but happy, time they had together…