Monday, 29 December 2014

Kenton Is Overlooked

Patricia Greene (Jill Archer)

We begin with what was potentially the last-ever Archer family Christmas lunch at Brookfield. Jill has cooked for David, Rooooth and children, Elizabeth, Shula, Alistair and Dan and the atmosphere is emotional, with the children reminiscing about Christmases past and remembering those who are no longer with us, such as Nigel and Phil. Jill says how lucky she is to have all her family round the table, seemingly forgetting that she actually has another son, working at The Bull. If I were you Kenton, I’d check that I am still mentioned in the Will.

In what was surely a surprise to nobody, Jill had a change of mind and told David that she cannot join him and Rooooth in the frozen north and her heart belongs in Ambridge; besides, she wants to stay close to Phil “And as long as he’s buried here, it’s where I want to be”. “That’s OK, we can dig him up and take him with us” David replies. Sorry, I made that last bit up, but it might have been a solution, surely?

The Christmas spirit was much in evidence last week, although there was a, frankly, unbelievable bit of dialogue when Lilian was delivering cards and Helen asked her if she’d like a drink? “No thank you” Lilian said. I ask you – how likely is that? That would be top of my ‘Things that the characters would never say’ list, along with “This round’s on me” (Joe) and “I’m so lucky to have a brother like you” (Will). No doubt you can think up your own.

We also had the unlikely story of Emma (and later on, Fallon) not recognising P C Burns as the jolly Santa. I mean, come on – it would have to be one hell of a good disguise, wouldn’t it? As it is, he took off his helmet, donned a false white beard and a red coat and suddenly nobody seems to know who he is. Fallon seemed disappointed when PCB told her he was spending Christmas Day at The Elms refuge, but she cheered up when he told her that he and Justine weren’t together any longer and that he would be attending the opening night of Blithe Spirit, in which Fallon was appearing.

At the opening night, it resembles a farce rather than Blithe Spirit, as Susan’s dress splits and she goes into a minor meltdown, forgetting all Lynda’s stage directions and running about the stage in a tizzy. The audience, however, loved it and there is much laughter and applause and numerous curtain calls. Lynda is a bit miffed (“I feel that some of my subtle motifs weren’t appreciated” - pretentious cow) but the punters enjoyed it. And no-one more so than PCB, who had sent Fallon flowers for good luck and who came on to the stage afterwards to offer congratulations. Fallon takes him outside for some fresh air and he tells her that she was amazing and he couldn’t take his eyes off her.

Fallon says that she has missed seeing him and, by a happy coincidence, PCB has brought along some mistletoe and they kiss. Well done Harrison! I do hope they are a happy couple, although when Wayne learns that his daughter is stepping out with the copper who arrested him for dealing drugs, he may not be happy. Thinking about it, wouldn’t it be great if PCB and Fallon got married and Wayne had to give a speech, welcoming him into the family? It would almost be worth having Wayne back again to hear that – almost, but not quite.

The phrase ‘back again’ is apt this week, as we had Tony earning his money once more by playing a speaking part, rather than someone lying prone in bed, unconscious and with tubes in every orifice. He told Peggy that he heard what she said about the Will and he knows she loves him and he loves her and always will. Peggy phones Pat to tell her the good news and there is joy unconfined at Bridge Farm, though I reckon that Pat is secretly a little annoyed, as she has been at the hospital 24/7 and Tony hasn’t said a word, then his mother turns up and suddenly he speaks.

Back again too was Kate (he said, weeping). At first I had great hopes, as Phoebe was very rude to her and didn’t seem to want her there (not alone there, Pheebs). However, Phoebe changes her mind when she sees Kate wrapping a new i-Pad. Bad luck on Roy, who takes his present (a tablet) to Phoebe, who is extremely unpleasant to him and tells him to go, and take his present with him. Phoebe tells Kate that she wants things back as they were. Me too, so get on that plane back to Johannesburg sharpish, Kate.

Emma and Ed host Christmas at No. 1 The Green for what reads like the guest list from hell; apart from George and Keira, there’s Clarrie, Joe and Eddie, Susan and Neil. Be honest, wouldn’t you just go down the pub and stay there? Things are not improved when Joe and Eddie start singing carols – luckily they fall asleep (although their snores are louder and, it has to be said, more tuneful, than the carols). Unluckily they wake up again.

When Susan took George to see Santa Plod, his wish for Christmas was for it to snow. Late on Christmas Day, Ed opens the curtains and, sure enough, there is snow in the garden! Don’t get excited – PC Burns isn’t really a wizard in disguise, it’s just that Ed borrowed a foam machine from Jazzer. When they are alone, Ed asks Emma what was it she wished for earlier (I think she got the coin in the pudding or something) and Emma says she didn’t wish for anything as; ”I’ve already got everything I can wish for.” At the time of writing, I am still trying to decide whether this shows a spectacular lack of imagination on Emma’s part, or whether she is a masochist of stupendous proportions.

Monday, 22 December 2014

An Appeal For A Good Cause

Carole Boyd (Lynda Snell)

I have decided that, next year, I am going to ask for donations to a special fund to send Lynda Snell (and Robert, if he’s stupid enough to agree) away for the months of November and December. Every year I moan and rant about her Christmas specials and every year it gets worse. This year she is imbuing ‘Blithe Spirit’ with pretentious hidden meanings, the nuances of which are apparent to her alone, and quite frankly, it’s getting on my nerves.

There was hope when Helen pulled out of the cast, but assistant director Alice persuaded Auntie Lilian to step in, presumably by waving gin bottles at her, and so the production was saved. Or was it? Lilian is determined to see the play as a comedy and is constantly shouted at by Lynda to invest the role with some tragedy, or gravitas, or get in touch with her existential angst or some equally meaningless claptrap. “Walk out Lilian!” I kept shouting at the radio, but she was still there at the end of the week.

If we cannot raise enough money to send Lynda away, there may be another solution. On Tuesday, we had Jim and Carol infiltrating the drinks do to try and find out what plans the evil Justin Eliot has for Ambridge. In this they are successful and Jim insists on going to see Lynda, despite the lateness of the hour. Route B is only the start, he tells her – the plan is to have a distribution hub of massive warehouses in Ambridge and “If this goes ahead, Ambridge will be unrecognisable”. Jim is all for going to the Press straight away, but Lynda and Carol suggest waiting until after the Festive Season to maximise the impact.

Quickly donning her Joan of Arc costume, Lynda says shrilly “If they want to turn this part of Borsetshire into a semi-industrial wasteland, it will be over my dead body!” Do you see the other solution now? If so, meet up on the green and bring your hard hats – bulldozers, cranes and concrete mixers will be provided as operation Semi-Industrial Wasteland gets into gear.

I described Justin Eliot as ‘evil’, but Carol found him ‘charming’ and the farmers who turned up at his shoot on Wednesday managed to force themselves to eat his food and drink his wine/beer/spirits without doing too much harm to their consciences – even David, who agonised whether or not to turn up, but who did so in the end. He even managed to overcome his revulsion of Justin to the extent that he accepted the lavish hamper as a ‘thank you’ for coming. Justin asked if he could bring his architect round to Brookfield some time, as he is apparently going to live there himself and there are one or two changes he’d like to make. David, who in the eyes of the village has already trousered Justin’s 30 pieces of silver, agreed.

Whether it’s a case of Chinese Whispers or not, the story has changed dramatically by Friday, when Jennifer tells Jill that she had no idea how radical were Justin’s plans for Brookfield and wouldn’t it be terrible if he demolished Brookfield to build a new country house? A startled Jill has no idea what she’s talking about but goes home immediately to rave at David and Rooooth. “We can’t let him!” she sobs. This is like someone selling their house and then getting on to the new owner for changing the colour, or digging up the roses and at least David shows some common sense when he tells his mum “Now we’ve agreed to the sale, he can do what he likes.”

There was a hint of a thaw in relations between PC Burns and Fallon when he congratulates her on the super job she has done in getting Ambridge’s Christmas market together. From all the compliments and superlatives flying around, it would seem that Jennifer and Brian wasted their money by going to Prague’s Christmas Market. As PCB goes away, Carol says “He seems like a very pleasant young man” and Fallon, half whispering, says “Yes, he is.” Hang on in there Harrison – she’s weakening.

PCB also had his ear bent by Eddie, who chided him for not attending their “History of the turkey” event. PCB goes along to the next performance and we learn that he will be helping out at a homeless shelter on Christmas Day – what a nice person. Eddie tries to flog him a turkey and some holly and mistletoe and, instead of arresting him for unlicensed trading, or some breach of Health and Safety regulations, or being in charge of an annoying parent or some other breach of the law, PCB actually buys one of the damn birds. Speaking to Carol afterwards, Eddie reckons that the whole exercise has been very profitable, thus demonstrating the truth of the axiom attributed to P. T. Barnum: “There’s a sucker born every minute”.

Elsewhere, Adam received a phone call from Charlie, begging him to bring his digger over and help clear up a landslip. After a few well-placed barbed jibes, Adam agrees to help. Charlie gives him coffee and sandwiches and a lecture on how arable is the province of the big boys and Adam should explore more niche areas. This gets Adam’s back up ever so slightly and, as he is leaving, Charlie asks if he will be going to the Christmas party at Grey Gables? “It’s a very busy time of the year” Adam says as he goes. Perhaps the Fallon/PCB relationship is not the only one to be developing? We’ll see.

At the Nativity Play, George is outstanding as a Wise Man and Keira excelled as a snowflake. Clarrie is full of Grandmotherly pride and, when Emma invites them over to hers for Christmas Day, she can hardly contain herself, saying “We’re gonna make this the best Christmas ever!” Her enthusiasm isn’t even diminished one iota when Emma adds that she will be inviting Neil and Susan.

Not everyone is looking forward to a happy Christmas – Roy rings Hayley up, wanting to know when he can have Abbie over the holiday? The short answer is that he cannot – Hayley is concerned that going back to Ambridge would upset Abbie and why doesn’t Roy come over to Birmingham to see her? The fact that Grandparents Mike and Vicky might want to see Abbie doesn’t seem to have occurred to Hayley and Roy is miserable. But we know the truth, don’t we? It’s not the thought of Birmingham that’s getting at Roy, it’s the realisation that, all too soon, Kate will be back. You’re not the only one who’s upset, Roy.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

I’d Leave Now If I Were You, David

Tim Bentinck (David Archer)

It was a week when everybody seemed to give David a hard time. The poor sod only dropped into the village shop to pick up a farming magazine and he was subjected to a lecture from Jim about principles, or the lack thereof. Jim said that he thought David was a man of principle but now he knows that his principles can be bought. Instead of telling him to mind his own business, David tries to explain that, if the road bisects Brookfield, he won’t be able to farm the way he wants and he is only doing what is best for his family’s future.

Jim, who has obviously never heard the phrase ‘the customer is king’, then says that he believes David could have got £5 million for the farm. This time David does tell him that it’s none of his business and leaves. What is it with these people? If David has to sell - and no-one has questioned the rightness of the decision, assuming Route B is chosen - why shouldn’t he get the best price he can? OK, if Justin Eliot was offering a few thousand more than, say, Brian, then David might well have taken the lower offer. An extra £2.5 million is a different kettle of fish, however, and how many of David’s detractors (with the possible exception of Jennifer, who thinks money grows on trees) would have turned it down?

As if he hasn’t had his ear bent enough, David turns up at the SAVE meeting at Lynda’s house, much to Jennifer’s surprise, who has a go at him. David, who must have been wondering why he bothered, says he wouldn’t be there if he had given up the fight over Route B. There are developments; Jim has been invited to a party by the Borsetshire Local Enterprise Partnership and he suggests that he goes, as Justin Eliot will be there and Jim (who is unknown to Justin) can mingle and “find out more about the wider plan”. He will take Carol (also not known to Justin) as back up.

There is a ray of hope on the horizon, as Jim has asked the Council for the minutes of their meetings concerning traffic density, but they are dragging their feet. Usha has told Jim that the Council has an obligation to supply the data under the Freedom of Information Act and he tells Lynda. The pair of them get a bit carried away, talking about whipping up ‘a storm of protest’ and informing the nationals of what’s happening. “We can take it all the way to Number 10!” Lynda cries. I’m sure David Cameron would be delighted.

Lynda has problems of her own - Caroline has pulled out of Blithe Spirit and, later in the week, Helen (who is playing one of the major roles) also pulls out. Lynda doesn’t actually say “So your father is in hospital, hovering between life and death - you can’t help him, so you might as well do the play” but she does her best to change Helen’s mind. It seems that Blithe Spirit is doomed (things aren’t helped by Lynda’s ponderous press releases, imbuing the play with various pretentious sub-texts) but towards the end of the week, Lynda persuades Carol Tregorran to take on the part abandoned by Caroline, so the play might yet be saved, sadly.

While on the subject of Carol, she gave Pat a sleeping draught (which was really effective) and Jill complained of chronic indigestion, so presumably she’ll also get one of Carol’s home-made remedies. I hope for their sakes that there isn’t a branch of Boots or Superdrug in or near Ambridge; they’ll be out of business before long. I’m still waiting to see if Carol’s patients fall ill.

David’s decision to sell has implications for other farms in the area, as Brian points out. After telling Adam that they have both been invited to a farmers’ shoot by Justin Eliot - it’s not that exclusive, as Ed Grundy is also an invitee - Brian tells Adam and Jennifer that they should seriously consider what he calls ‘The Armageddon Solution’. This involves selling all the machinery, making full-time employees Jeff and Andy redundant and contracting out the arable work. This doesn’t go down a storm with Adam, especially as the arable takes up a big chunk of his working time, and he is even more angry when Brian tells him that he has spoken to Debbie, who agrees it is the only viable answer. It’s the fait accompli of the mega-dairy all over again as Adam flounces out, telling Brian to tell Justin to stuff his shoot.

There is better news on the Tony front, as he is off the ventilator by the end of the week. On Thursday Pat is saying “Please God, don’t let him die” and that she couldn’t face life without him. On Friday, Pat and Helen are at his bedside - it’s Pat and Tony’s Ruby Wedding Anniversary the next day - and Pat tells her husband that she bought a special bottle of champagne to celebrate, but she will wait until he comes home. Suddenly she exclaims “Oh Tony!” and excitedly tells Helen that he squeezed her hand; presumably trying to tell her he’d like the champagne now.

The Grundys’ turkey extravaganza plumbed new depths, with Eddie dressed as Henry VIII and Joe forgetting his lines. Still, people are clapping rather than asking for their money back. Carol reads from “A Christmas Carol” - easier than writing original dialogue, I suppose.

Finally, I have a solution to the Justin Eliot problem; he has invited all the farmers (most of who he has seriously pissed off recently) to a shoot. What an opportunity for his pellet-ridden body to be found slumped at his peg, ostensibly the result of a tragic accident. The only trouble is that everybody there would be a red-hot suspect.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Another Bloody Christmas Ruined!

Kellie Bright (Kate Madikane)

Whose Christmas? Mine, that’s who. And why? The writers showed a particularly sadistic streak when, on Friday, they had Jennifer saying that she’s got some good news - Kate is so worried about Phoebe that she’ll be coming over for Christmas “for at least three weeks”.

Sorry? Good news? And why is Kate so worried about Phoebe now? After all, she buggered off to South Africa when Phoebe was little more than a baby, so why the sudden parenting urge? This news, after Wayne’s (blessedly brief) return and that of Tom (sadly, threatened to be permanent) has really made the last few months totally depressing. Jennifer says how nice it will be to have the family together; especially if Debbie comes over from Hungary. Not if she has any sense, she won’t.

Having removed all forms of harm from our reach, let’s go back to Jennifer, - she is incandescent when she learns that David and Rooooth are selling Brookfield to Justin Eliot, accusing them of betraying the village and at a loss to understand how and why they could do such a thing. Perhaps £7.5 million could have something to do with it? Jen says that she would never betray her principles for such a sum (presumably what she spent on the new kitchen) and indignantly asks Brian if he would sell out for such a sum?

Brian (who, let’s be honest, would not only sell his grandmother for half that amount but would volunteer to dig her up into the bargain) suggests that until one is made such an offer, it is difficult to say how you would react. David’s siblings all reacted in the same way, which could be summed up as “give me my share” – even Shula, who David and Rooooth thought would be against the sale, was there with her hand out. In fact, Shula was the first to ask for her share, beating Elizabeth by a short head. Kenton meanwhile was anxious not to appear too keen to take his share, unaware that his sisters had got in before him. Jill was a bit upset that no-one wanted to keep their investment in the family farm, but her daughters pointed out that it would be at the other end of the country and there would be no emotional attachment, as with Brookfield. All I can say is that, if the sale of Brookfield falls through (as it must, surely?) there will be a lot of disappointed people about.

Adam is already disappointed, as Justin’s bid is way more than Home Farm could afford and Adam has a go at Charlie, accusing him of trying to buy up Ambridge bit by bit. “You’re not going to get your hands on Home Farm” Adam tells him. Brian, meanwhile, is incensed that half the Borsetshire Land board knew of Justin’s interest in Brookfield and nobody told him. So angry is he that he resigns from the BL board, which is probably what Justin wanted in the first place.

Over at Bridge Farm, Rob’s plans for world domination come up against Tom’s new-found determination to keep things as they are for when Tony comes home. Rob has taken a couple of, what are, according to him, minor decisions. One of these was to change the feeding regime, substituting potatoes for grass. “That’s not how we do things at this farm”, Tom says and sends them back. Rob has also unilaterally decided to substitute another (cheaper) breed of cow for the Angus dams. Tom says that Tony wanted a 100% Angus herd and cancels the order. Bad luck Rob.

So how is Tony? The short answer is ‘not too good’ as the antibiotics he was given are not working and, until his infection clears up, the hospital cannot operate on him. Peggy has been kept in the dark about just how bad he is and, when Tom takes her to see him, she is shocked at his appearance. Peggy says she bitterly regrets leaving Tony out of her Will and that his present condition is all her fault, as it was this that made him buy the cattle to try and prove that he is not the failure that his mother seems to think he is. “No mother could have loved a son as much as I love you” she tells him, prompting the thought that she’s had a funny way of showing it over the years.

A happier story is that of Emma and Ed. Clarrie urges Emma to ask Will if they can rent No. 1 The Green for a short let and at a reduced rate. On a scale of probability from 1 to 10, this would be about -3, I reckon, but, unbelievably, Will agrees to a six month let. Emma’s appeal that Ed is Will’s brother didn’t work (“I wouldn’t play the family card if I were you” William tells her) and Will only gives in when Emma points out that George would love it and besides, surely it’s better to have some rent coming in rather than none at all?

The week ends with the Christmas lights switch on around the Green and Ed is mystified when Emma produces the keys to No. 1 and says that Will wants George to switch on the lights. The light eventually dawns on Ed and he says he cannot get his head round Will doing him a favour (I must say I found it difficult too). As if this wasn’t enough, Emma has decided that Ed is “a brave and amazing man” and she asks him to marry her. An overjoyed Ed shouts “Yes! Yes!” no doubt leading the people watching the switch on to wonder who it is that is having the orgasm – the lights aren’t that good, surely?

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Why I Will Henceforth Always Hate Thanksgiving

Eleanor Bron (Carol Tregorran)

I wasn’t even here for Thanksgiving - thanks to Neil for stepping in and holding the fort while I was away - I was in Mexico, researching reactions to the Grundy’s Turkey Pardoning among American tourists (’The Archers - is that a soccer team?’) and seeing how many turkeys were pardoned at our resort (none). Still, someone has to conduct these arduous surveys and all at my own expense; the things I do for this blog.

So, why will I hate Thanksgiving? Let’s quickly deal with the Grundy’s pre-Christmas turkey pardoning extravaganza (if you will forgive the hyperbole). As per Grundy, it was an embarrassment from start to finish, with Eddie wearing a turban and waistcoat (the fancy dress people sending the wrong kind of turkey costume) and later on changing into a chicken costume (“Don’t ask; it’s a long story” he told Helen, who had taken Henry along in the naïve belief that it would be fun). From then on, things got worse.

Joe was dressed as Uncle Sam and proceeded to pardon the turkey in a long-winded address in an accent that rivalled Dick van Dyke’s Cockney Bert’s (Mary Poppins) in authenticity. The thing that I couldn’t understand was that, when Eddie was giving them the hard sell for Christmas turkeys, holly, mistletoe and the amazing fortune-telling turkeys, there was the sound of many hands clapping. Haven’t these people got lives? Was there nothing on TV? Were the pubs shut?

The mystic, fortune-telling turkeys are either very good or the ‘yes’ bowl has been laced with turkey goodies; consider, Henry asks if his Grandad will be home for Christmas and the answer is ‘yes’. OK, he didn’t specify which Christmas (but more of this later) but, with four weeks to go, the turkey needs remarkable healing powers. Fallon, at Carol Tregorran’s suggestion, asks “Will I come to regret a recent decision I made?” The answer is again ‘yes’.

While annoying, I agree that the foregoing isn’t enough to engender hate for Thanksgiving, but at the end of the Thursday episode, Helen and Johnny are talking about Helen’s experience she says “It was fun in an odd sort of way” (presumably in the same way that being buried alive is fun) and the door opens and there stands Tom, back from Canada. Pat has been trying to get in touch with him with no answer and we find out why, as he tells Helen that he has been in a cabin in the backwoods and only just picked up the message. There’s never a rapacious Grizzly Bear around when you need one, is there?

Even this might not be enough to make me hate Thanksgiving - after all, Tom could be on a flying visit - but on Friday Peggy (who is pathetically pleased to see her Grandson back) says that he needs to get arrangements in place to make sure Bridge Farm can function after he goes back to Canada, and when will that be? The heart-freezing response? “I’m not going back - I should never have left in the first place. I belong here at Ambridge - I’m back for good.” Peggy says “That’s wonderful”, which surely marks her down as ready for the same dementia ward as recently vacated by Jack, while the rest of us quietly weep and bang our heads against a wall.

So much for Thanksgiving, or henceforth, Unthanksgiving. But we have neglected Tony, poor lamb. Not that he knows that, stuffed with tubes, lines, drips and whatever. However, it gets worse, as Tom goes to see his Dad on Friday and is taken aback by his appearance. Helen assures Tom that Tony can hear and understand what’s said to him, then she leaves so Tom can bend his Dad’s ear. Later, Tom tells Peggy that he was sure that Tony squeezed his hand - well, be fair, the man’s ill and couldn’t reach his neck, could he?

As an aside, Tony must be a better man than I, as, when Tom first came back, I heard the voice and thought ‘who the hell is that?’ - obviously the best time to introduce a new actor is when his Dad is virtually in a coma. I go away for a couple of weeks and we have a new Tom, who didn’t mention sausages once (although he did admit to missing the pigs) and a new Pip, whose voice seems to have broken. Perhaps you could all contribute money and I’ll selflessly stay at home to safeguard the status quo, or what’s left of it.

A brief mention of the impending sale of Brookfield; the agent reckoned a good price was £4.5 million, possibly a bit more in a phone auction. Damara has offered £7.5 million - should they accept? Pretty tricky question if you ask me (where do I sign?).

Now to one of the sillier storylines of the week: Jennifer is convinced that Carol had a hand in John Tregorran’s death. She talks to Lilian, who tells her to get a life, but Jen is rebuffed by John and Carol’s daughter when she asks for a meeting. However, the (adopted) son Richard Grenville is keen and they meet. Jennifer Poirot asks him why he wasn’t at John’s funeral, as he obviously loved his father. Richard says he couldn’t face being there with his mother “Not after what she did”. Zut alors! Jen leaps in, asking did Carol have something to do with John’s death? Richard says no, but Carol leaving broke John’s heart. Jen is unconvinced and still harbours suspicions about Carol.

Jen conveys her suspicions to Lilian, saying that Carol is very keen on herbal remedies and it would have been easy to slip John something. Lil laughs in her face and asks whether the police wouldn’t haven’t have noticed something? But wait - on Thursday, Fallon delivered a refurbished table to Carol, who noticed that Fallon had a headache and persuaded her to take a herbal remedy. Remember the question that Fallon asked the mystic turkey (“Will I come to regret a recent decision I made?”) I thought it concerned PC Burns, but it could have been about drinking Carol’s remedy. Keep an eye on Fallon’s health, I say; Carol could be the new Dr. Crippen, if Jen is correct.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Has Rob got his eyes on Bridge Farm now?

Timothy Watson (Rob Titchener)

Everyone’s still in shock about Tony’s accident, except it seems Rob. He’s taking control of the situation, no doubt thinking about what could be in it for him if Tony doesn’t pull through. You can almost hear him rubbing his hands together as Pat talks through the details of Tony’s impending operation and the likely outcomes, and when Pat thanks him, he simply says “we’re family Pat’. He’s even got Eddie helping out as well as Johnny putting in full days. Peggy thinks the sun shines out of his proverbial and Helen’s happy to leave him to it. Might as well get the farm all ship-shape on someone else’s money while you’ve got the opportunity Rob.

Pat comes back with more news from the Hospital – something about chest drains – and declines an offer of a bite to eat by saying she had ‘a pasty in the car’. Sounds unlikely to me - I would need to know the provenance before commenting further. A Ginsters from a service station or a previous purchase from Ambridge Organics? We need to know.

Brian must have thought he had it all sewn up last week with that handshake, but when David tells him they’re putting Brookfield out to auction he grudgingly accepts he would have done the same thing too. Later in the Bull Brian and Adam are working out how they’re going to raise the money to buy Brookfield when Eddie comes along trying to sell tickets for his turkey extravaganza, even suggesting that his mystical turkey could help with their decision making. Eddie thinks a fiver for a sausage roll and glass of cider offers value for money. However I fear there will be plenty begging to differ once they taste his cider and then play Russian roulette with the sausage rolls (e-coli anyone, remember Dirty Clary?).

A different bake in the form of Orange and Almond polenta cake is on offer when Jim goes round to Lynda’s for a committee meeting. However it turns out they’re the only committee members present and Lynda intends to inform the rest via round-robin email. It turns out that Justin Elliot has got himself onto the Borsetshire Local Enterprise Partnership and Linda senses something afoot. Traffic figures are on the agenda again as it appears the council have ‘sexed up’ their report. The thought of a council sexing up anything makes me shudder, but not as much as when David stumbles across Jim and Lynda carrying out research in a lay-by and wonders whether they’re doing a bit of sexing up of their own. Rest easy listeners, the moaning you could hear in the background was only the sound of the Bridge Farm cows being separated from their calves.

Good news, Carol hasn’t got dry hyacinths! This revelation comes courtesy of Bert Fry who continues to help plan the garden while dispensing philosophical advice. Carol is so enraptured by Bert’s wisdom that her Bridge guests start to arrive while she’s still in the Garden – Peggy’s the first to turn up. Carol’s starts mixing up the herbs again (I hope she knows what Bert’s been planting) and plys Jenny with the resulting concoction. Soon she’s lighting up a Smudge Stick (don’t ask) to create the correct ambiance, before getting Christine blotto on the ginger wine to the extent that she passes out on the sofa. All this gleeful intoxication of her guests leads one to speculate whether she had a hand in John Tregorran’s demise, and suddenly her character is imbued with sinister expectations.

Lil’s upset after visiting Tony, but her attention is diverted by the news of Jess’s baby. Jenny wonders if he’s got Rob’s eyes – that’s certainly what I’ve got my money on – and I can’t wait for the episode when she brings the new arrival to Ambridge. There was a tantalising preview of the tension we can expect when Jenny tells Helen the news, and Helen, obviously very much in denial, says that it’s nothing to do with her OR ROB!

Brian says he can stretch to £5.5m for Bridge Farm, casually mentioning that Adam and Debbie will be left to pick up the necessary mortgage payment– he’s all heart. Jenny takes it all in her stride; “good girl” is Brian’s response as she heads out for Bridge at Carol’s, before getting pissed with Adam on a ‘fruity Beaujolais’. Little does he know that Justin Elliot is willing to put up £7m to buy Brookfield. That’s going to hurt.

The effects of Carol’s herby mixture seem to be long-lasting on Jennifer, as she inadvertently puts loose-leaf tea in the cafetiere (oh the horror) and she too speculates on Carol’s past. She even contemplates contacting Carol and John’s offspring in the search for answers.

In an attempt to carry on living a ‘normal’ life, Rob encourages Helen to go on a hunt. This doesn’t go well as the hounds lose the scent and instead latch onto a fox, which they subsequently rip limb-from-limb in the traditional manner. This is too much for Helen after witnessing what happened to her father, and this is compounded by finding a newspaper headline all about the accident that had been ‘hidden’ by Rob.

By the way, Pip sounds off-colour. Either that or there’s been another sinister ‘replacement’ in the village (remember what I said about Tom? You have been warned).

Finally, Pat has a heart-to-heart with Johnny who thinks he messed up with Otto, blaming himself for the accident and putting Henry in harms way. Pat tries to re-assure him by saying that it’s par for the course for farmers, and encourages him to visit Tony in Hospital. I would if I were you son, get it over with while he’s paralysed and can’t throttle you.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Glad You Went Into Beef, Tony?

David Troughton (Tony Archer)

Honestly, some people just have to be the centre of attention, don’t they? Take last week - it was Peggy’s 90th birthday and Pat and Tony were hosting a party for her. On Sunday, Peggy slipped and twisted her ankle and it was bothering her all week, but she resisted suggestions to go to the doctor’s.

Tony had to upstage her - he and Ed were bringing the cows in and Tony has entrusted Johnny with the job of looking after Henry and Johnny took Henry out to see the cows coming in. When Henry saw Tony, he ran towards him - this spooked Otto the bull, who charged. Tony knocked Henry out of the way but Otto hit Tony and trampled him and threw him against a wall.

None of his mother’s stiff upper lip here, as Tony is rushed to hospital by air ambulance. To be fair, Peggy just had a sore ankle, while Tony (as we learn later) has a suspected pneumothorax, broken bones, serious chest damage and damage to his spinal cord. The surgeon wants to run an MRI scan to assess the extent of the damage. Pat wants him to operate as soon as possible, but he explains that it’s not as easy as that as “there’s a possibility that he might become wheelchair dependent.” Astute as ever, Pat asks “You mean he might not be able to walk?” Well, it doesn’t mean that he’s going to start smoking wheelchairs, does it?

As Tony is wheeled into surgery, Pat tells him “Fight like you have for us all all your life - don’t you dare leave me now.” Always nagging, that woman. Going back to Peggy’s party, the drinks were supplied by Matt and Lilian and, when they dropped it off, Pat told Tony that “there was enough to open a small off licence.” Small? Is Lilian cutting down in her old age?

Debbie is the latest casualty of BL’s night of the long knives, as she is told by e-mail that her services are no longer required. Brian and Adam are worried, as they have a serious amount of equipment on their hands - way too much for the reduced acreage that they now farm. Perhaps layoffs will have to be made?

But wait - Adam has a plan; why not buy one of the Brookfield parcels of land? Brian is for it, but Jennifer is initially against it, saying that it seems ghoulish and David and Rooooth might think they were taking advantage. Adam points out that somebody will buy it and wouldn’t it be better if it stayed in the family? Jennifer is convinced and asks if they should buy one or two parcels? “Tell you what,” says Adam, now firmly in Tom Archer mode, “let’s not go in for bits and pieces - let’s buy the whole place.”

Brian goes to see David and Rooooth to tell them of the plan. Rooooth says that it will all come down to price in the end. When Brian has left, Rooooth says: “Waxed jacket, cravat and brogues - Brian doesn’t look like the traditional Fairy Godmother, but maybe that’s what he’s about to become.” David says that Jill would be pleased if Brookfield stayed in the family.

Or maybe not, as Graham Ryder tells David later that there is considerable interest in the sale and he suggests setting up a telephone auction when all serious bidders are free. This could significantly push up the price past the predicted £4.5 million, he says. What to do about Brian? Rooooth says “We gave him the impression that he had first refusal.” David says “No, we said we had no objection” and “If Brian is really interested, let him bid against the rest.” So much for the Fairy Godmother. And so much too for Jill, it would appear.

As we get nearer to Christmas, we learn that Carol Tregorran has obviously lost her mind, as Eddie tells Joe that she has agreed to do a reading at his turkey extravaganza. Joe tells David to bring the family to the Thanksgiving pardoning of the turkey, adding: “Ambridge ain’t never seen the like of our turkey pardon before.” A bemused David agrees, saying: “No; I’m quite sure that’s true.”

Of course, Christmas also means Lynda Snell’s festive offering. Helen talks about it to Peggy, saying that it’s not going too well. Peggy, obviously tetchy with the pain of her ankle, rather tartly remarks that one year people will tell Lynda to get lost. That’s what I’ve been hoping for for years, but she keeps getting away with it. Helen says that the latest rehearsal wasn’t very good and oh yes - they still haven’t found anyone to play Charles. I submit that this is a major flaw, as Charles is the leading character - Blithe Spirit with no Charles would be a bit like Hamlet without the Danish Prince. We aren’t told whether or not Susan has discovered yet that she will be playing a maid.

Perhaps Lynda should concentrate on her opposition to the new road. She and Jim discuss tactics and Jim feels that they should go back to basics and question the need for any road at all. Jim suggests that the Council’s projections of traffic growth are flawed and he will drill down into them. Lynda then turns into a cross between Joan of Arc and Winston Churchill, telling Jim: “We have to fire up the meeting tomorrow. Yes, we’re facing setbacks, but the fight isn’t over yet and you and I will lead the charge into the next, decisive battle Jim.” Jim is impressed, saying: “That was magnificent Lynda.” Anything that possibly stops her doing her Christmas show gets my seal of approval, but I bet it will still go ahead.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Isn’t Anybody Happy?

Andrew Wincott (Adam Macy)

Ambridge is getting more like Albert Square every week, with long faces and people going around moaning. It wasn’t a good week for Adam, who was roped in as a chauffeur for the first shoot of the season. At the end of the shoot, Justin Eliot gave him £20 “to share with the other chauffeurs” and an incensed Adam tells his mother that he should have ripped it up in front of him because “he was putting me in my place”.

I wouldn’t be so hasty Adam, as you could well do with the money before long; on Friday Charlie tells Adam that the arable contract will not be renewed with Home Farm next year. The problem, explains Charlie, is that Debbie is trying to run the place from Hungary and he has no problem with Adam. In fact, Charlie has spoken to RB Contracting (the people who have been awarded the contract) and they are keen to have Adam on board. Even by Charlie’s standards, this is monumentally insensitive and Adam tells him to stuff it. Adam moans to poor, long-suffering Ian and nearly explodes when he receives a text from Charlie, which says ‘When you calm down, the offer holds good’. The man is tact personified.

The shoot was also responsible for making Will feel even more unhappy than usual, which is saying something. There is a distinct lack of birds on some of the drives and the comments from some of the guns afterwards are distinctly lukewarm, with the tips reflecting the lack of satisfaction. Will gives brother Ed his money for serving as a beater, saying “If it carries on like this, we won’t have a very good Christmas.” A morose Ed replies “Well, at least that’s something we’ve got in common.” In fact, this is probably the most that the two brothers have said to each other in years.

David and Rooooth’s decision to put Brookfield on the market has put the dampers on the mood of a number of people. The brochure has been printed and the ’For Sale’ sign is up. Kenton lets it be known that he could crown David for making Jill decide so soon whether or not to leave Ambridge. That’s not the only decision Jill has to make - should she take the bees up north or not? In the end, she decides against it. Kenton is mildly unpleasant to his brother David - at the fireworks extravaganza, David turns up with a petition against Route B and Kenton says that he’s surprised “Now that you and Rooooth have thrown in the towel.”

David broke the news about the sale to Eddie, rather than let him come across the For Sale sign, always assuming he can read, that is. Eddie pronounces himself ‘gobsmacked’ and realises that he might find it difficult to find dairy work to replace the time that he currently puts in at Brookfield.

One of the factors that influenced Jill’s decision to accompany David up north might have been that she will be getting away from Lynda’s Christmas productions. This year she is putting on a production of ’Blithe Spirit’ and has cast herself as Madame Arcarte. Time is tight, so there’s no chance of auditions and Lynda is casting on the hoof; picking those who she thinks will be best for each role. Susan is delighted when Lynda says that she is ideal for the part of Edith. Susan says that she is pushed for time, but she can’t resist the chance to dress up like Lady Mary (of Downton Abbey fame). This shows that presumably Susan hasn’t seen the play, or else she would know that Edith is the maid, not an aristocrat. I suspect that, when she finds out, she will join the growing ranks of unhappy people in Ambridge.

Someone who seemed reasonably happy is Jazzer, although I’m a bit perturbed about his attitude towards the pigs. He and Johnny are feeding the animals and Jazzer says “The lasses need entertaining” and he gives them something to play with. I suppose we’re lucky that he didn’t take them to the pictures. “Pigs are the queens of beasts” he tells Johnny. Let’s face it, Jazzer has never been this complimentary or sensitive about any of his girlfriends - I wonder if he’ll end up sleeping with the pigs?

Non-speaking inhabitants of Ambridge had big parts this week; Kenton was cursing Hilary Noakes, whose protest about the fireworks on the green meant that the display was held on Jubilee Field, making it harder work for Kenton to set up the PA system. Molly and Tilly Button made an amazing guy, for which Kenton led a round of applause.

Molly featured again later on firework night - at Bridge Farm, Johnny was very upbeat because the girl he fancied - Melanie - said she’d go to the display with him, but then she cried off due to a family party. This was a lie and Johnny was devastated when he found out that she was in fact seeing someone else. Johnny told Tony that he didn’t want to go to the fireworks and Tony decided to give him the benefit of his experiences with women. This appeared to be mostly a catalogue of humiliation and rejection and I’m surprised that Johnny didn’t go off to be a hermit or a monk. However, it worked, as Johnny did go and Tony said to David and Pat: “He must be feeling better - just look who he’s talking to.” We didn’t find out until the following night that it was Molly Button, which surprised me, as I thought Johnny would have set his cap at Elizabeth; after all, everyone in Ambridge knows that she’s a red hot certainty and she seems to prefer younger men.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Bonus Posting – Keep Tom In Canada Campaign!

News in the press (3rd November) of Tom Archer started warning bells ringing. The Daily Mail headline read ’Tom jilted by Archers’ and revealed that Tom Graham, who has played Tom for 17 years, has been dropped from the soap. As he put it, “My reign as the Sausage King of Ambridge has come to an end and I am being deposed.”

My first thought was ‘good, that means we won’t hear from Tom again’, but reading on, the article said that a few weeks ago, the Archers editor revealed that some of the younger cast members would be replaced by more experienced actors. A spokesman was quoted as saying “Characters are frequently recast”.

It was the words ‘replaced’ and ‘recast’ that set off the alarms – having got rid of Tom to Canada, this was an ideal opportunity to let the character fade into obscurity and never again darken our radios. However, if Tom is being recast, that implies that he will be returning at some stage.

NO, NO, NO! This must not happen! Pick up your pens, exercise your Tweeting finger, fire up the e-mails and let the BBC know that Tom is really very happy in Canada and doing very well and the last thing he wants is to return home. Rumour has it he’s thinking of marrying a local girl who has a terrible phobia about travelling – planes, ships; you name it and she just cannot travel in it. Sad that this means that they are forever confined to Canada, but there you go.

While you’re at it, ask the Archers editor to try and persuade Peggy to change her Will – as things stand at the moment, when she pops her clogs, he will inherit the majority of her estate and that might just persuade Tom to come back to Blighty. And we don’t want that, do we?

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Whatever Happened To The Butterfly?

Thecla betulae (Brown Hairstreak)

No doubt about the main story last week, which came to a climax on Friday - Halloween night. Brian was at The Bull and Kenton (dressed as Gomez Addams) was trying to read his Tarot and one card (the Tower, inverted) apparently heralds a big change. This is obviously superfast Tarot, as Brian’s phone immediately rings and it’s Annabelle. Late as it is, Brian says he’s coming round right now.

At Brookfield, David and Rooooth are waiting up for Jill to return from her Bridge lesson. She does so and, while talking about it, they hear a car. It’s Brian, who apologises for the lateness of the hour, but he has news that he cannot give over the phone; Annabelle told him that the Council have made their decision over the new road and their preferred route is Route B. After a few seconds silence, David says in a flat voice: “That’s it then, it’s over. It’s the end for us at Brookfield.” The final episode of the week ends with Jill wailing “No! No!”

Whatever happened to the rare Brown Hairstreak butterfly, I ask myself? I thought that it was the anti Route B protesters’ talisman. Have I missed something? Has Justin Eliot had them (it) removed? Earlier in the week, David and Rooooth had found a nice farm up north, with good grass and, as David told Adam, it has a farmhouse that is bigger and more modern than Brookfield and which, says David, is a nice house. “But is it a home?” asks Adam. Earlier on in the week, David was telling Rooooth that leaving Brookfield could be a chance to start again and a great opportunity. Make your mind up.

So it wasn’t a happy Halloween for those at Brookfield, but there was much celebration elsewhere. Things were rocking at The Bull - as well as Kenton’s Tarot reading, Jolene (Morticia Addams) was reading palms. Someone who wasn’t happy was Fallon, who was annoyed because PC Burns was in there, drinking with Justine. Fallon moans to her Mum - why does he have to come to The Bull to drink? Jolene points out that it’s a free country and, besides, it was Fallon who finished with PCB and she should move on. Later on, when reading PCB’s palm, Jolene ties to tell him that his love life doesn’t look too happy and he should express his emotions more “Like when you sang Annie’s Song”, which was when PCB was serenading Fallon. Keep up the matchmaking Jolene.

As well as Halloween, this was the week of the Hunt Ball at Lower Loxley. Charlie Thomas was there with a stunning-looking girl, Rebecca, and he buttonholes Adam, getting him to have a go on the mechanical rodeo bull and at the horn blowing contest. Adam just wants to talk about next year’s contract, but Charlie is set on having a good time and tells Adam to forget about work for one night. That’s rich, coming from a workaholic. Charlie also tells Adam that Rebecca is his sister.

The Hunt Ball also gave us an insight into the character of Rob Titchener as he exhibited a worrying streak of control freakery. Early in the week, he was annoyed because Helen was holding an early Halloween party for Henry, Susan, George and Keira at Blossom Hill cottage and not, as had been planned, at Ambridge View. He was annoyed because Helen hadn’t told him about the change of plan and predicted that the place would be wrecked. As it turned out, Helen cleared everything up and Rob was grudgingly impressed, until he found a cupcake and other assorted food in the pockets of his dinner jacket, that is. I wouldn’t be surprised if he put them there himself.

On the day of the Hunt Ball, Helen has glammed up and chosen what, from Rob’s reaction, was a stunning, revealing dress. He tells her that it would be more appropriate if they were having a tete-a-tete and she agrees to change, asking him what he’d recommend. Rob bangs on about how it might be cold watching the fireworks and so presumably he chooses a duffel coat, or similar, for her. At the Ball, Helen is telling Justin Eliot about how she and the children found 11 dead pheasants on their walk earlier and it’s because of the increased number of birds needed for the extra shoots he‘s arranged. As Justin goes off, Helen says she’ll get another drink, to which an annoyed Rob suggests that she sticks to mineral water for the rest of the night. Be careful Helen - you’ll be tied up in the kitchen before long if Rob carries on like this.

There was much meddling with the supernatural last week, with Jennifer holding a séance - inspired by one of the books left to her by John Tregorran - with Lilian and Alice, both of who were sceptical. Lilian moved the table for a bit of fun, but the mood changed when knocking was heard - its answers to questions revealed that it was a male, unfriendly spirit. It turned out to be Brian up to mischief and when he appeared suddenly, making moaning noises, the three girls screamed.

At The Bull, Kenton, Jolene and Fallon had an Ouija session, which broke up as the glass (in answer to the question ‘who are you?’) spelled out JOHN TREGO… and Fallon and Jolene left the circle, accusing Kenton of moving the glass. “As if I would” he said in a hurt voice.

Ed was having a moan because he had to dig a new main, as a spring had dried up. Dad Eddie was mystified, as the spring had never before run dry in decades. I wonder if the disappearing spring is going to be a factor in whether or not the new road goes through?

Friday, 31 October 2014

Alton Towers It Isn’t

Trevor Harrison (Eddie Grundy)

Let’s start with one of the minor stories of last week - Eddie’s idea for a turkey marketing extravaganza to boost sales, which was a plan worthy of one of the Rev. Alan Franks’s more off-the-wall ideas to mark Lent. It began with Eddie asking William if he had any souvenirs at home from his trip to Mexico, resulting in Eddie bringing home a sombrero and other tat.

Clarrie wants to know what’s going on and Eddie reveals his master plan - a Christmas interactive turkey experience, charting the history of the bird, which originated in Mexico, hence the sombrero. We then move on to Rome, where they used chickens to tell the future, and Eddie has a suitably mystic-looking turkey lined up for people to ask questions. Then we have the piece de resistance; Eddie is going to pardon a turkey for Thanksgiving. He tells Joe and Clarrie that he can already see the photo in the Echo of him and a plump turkey in front of the Stars and Stripes. Presumably with the caption ‘do not on any account approach this man’.

The idea is to draw the massed throngs through the experience, into the turkey shed and hopefully flog the punters some holly and mistletoe as well as a festive bird. Eddie pours scorn on Clarrie’s objections, saying “Inform, educate and entertain - who won’t stump up for that?” Well, me for starters. I suspect Carol Tregorran might be a bit doubtful too; when Joe explains the whole experience to her while introducing her to the taste of the Grundy’s cider, her response is a mystified “I don’t know what to say.”

So much for the light relief. It was a busy week for Ed too - it began well with brother William offering him the job of beater at the forthcoming shoot (at father Eddie’s suggestion). It was both offered and accepted with bad grace on the two brothers’ parts and it is a measure of how desperate Will must be for the shoot to succeed (it was one of Charlie Thomas’s ideas) to offer his brother a job. Normally he’d rather rip his own arms off, but needs must.

Ed later moves into full moaning mode, telling Jazzer that he can’t stand living at Ambridge View much longer (this is after yet another of Susan’s lectures about clearing things up). While in mournful mood, Ed also says how the milk round has lost another four customers and what’s the point of it all? Jazzer suggests a good old session at the pub and they decide to go on Friday.

As they enter the pub, they spot Roy, and Jazzer, subtle as ever, calls him “The Lothario of Lower Loxley.” This is an improvement on a comment he made earlier in the week, when he said “Getting your leg over with the boss is a canny move.” Perhaps Ed should take note and start stalking Mike. Both Ed and Roy are depressed (“It’s like drinking with a couple of Dementors” - Jazzer) and the drink flows freely. Ed stumbles home, totally shot away, only to find Susan waiting up for him. He says that she’s always so angry and they both need to lighten up a little and how about a hug? Susan thinks not and Ed finally upchucks all over the sofa, with Sue calling him “A disgusting boy”. There’ll be words tomorrow, Ed, I reckon.

While Ed and Jazzer were enjoying their last couple of pints in the 10 minutes before closing time, a totally inebriated Roy decides to walk to Lower Loxley to see Elizabeth and stands outside, yelling at her to wake up and talk to him. He begs to be allowed in for a talk and Elizabeth, afraid that the kids will be woken up by his drunken bellowing, lets him in. Roy breaks down and says that he couldn’t go home, as there are too many reminders of what he has done. Lizzie tells him: “We’ve got to get through this - things will get better for both of us.” Roy misunderstands and reaches for her, only to be rebuffed, with Lizzie saying she’ll make him a coffee and then call him a cab to go home. At least he didn’t vomit over the tapestries or wee in a Ming vase.

News of Lizzie and Roy’s fling is spreading - David and Rooooth find out and Peggy (who learned it from Carol) suggests that Jill should know and tells her. Jill goes to see Lizzie, and is angry at first, but then, after Liz has broken down and wept, tells her she is her ‘brave, beautiful daughter’, without adding ‘even if you are a bit of a slapper.’ Jill realises what Susan’s enigmatic questions have been hinting at and she makes a point of going to see her in the shop. Susan says “Things must be hard for Elizabeth, as she and Roy were very close.” Jill replies that “It isn’t really anybody else’s business and if you hear any gossip, I hope you’ll say the same.” She adds that Liz has had a difficult couple of years and has always tried her best and “We should always be supportive of people who need our help, shouldn’t we Susan?” A flustered Susan agrees, so Jill doesn’t have to add “Don’t forget I know where you live, you gossiping witch.”

Will Brookfield be sold? Brian tells David he’s finding it hard to get his head round the possibility and a lot of people would miss him (no mention of Rooooth). Joe Grundy makes a special trip to tell David what a good bloke he is and how Brookfield’s loss would be a tragedy for Ambridge. David’s attitude is that, if Route B is adopted, selling up would seem to be inevitable, as they couldn’t farm the way they want to. He tells Brian: “At the end of the day I’d rather move Brookfield than see it lose its soul.” Photographs have been taken for the sales brochure and the possible sale moves a step closer - surely it couldn’t really happen, could it?