Sunday, 23 February 2014

See How You Like it Tom

Tom Graham (Tom Archer)

Ambridge's answer to Richard Branson and Alan Sugar got a dose of his own medicine last week and he didn't like it, immediately throwing his toys out of the pram. I refer of course to Tom ('Ready Meals') Archer, who had his nose put out of joint by his father.

It happened when a shedload of cows turned up at Bridge Farm and Tom tells the delivery man that they don't belong there. Wrong! Tony turns up and tells Tom and Pat that he has bought them and he's going into beef production. Tom is incensed because this is the first he's heard of it (and Pat too, incidentally) and he cannot believe that Tony could take such a step without consulting him. For 'consulting' read 'asking Tom's permission.'

Tony points out that he is still very much part of the farm and he's not the loser that Tom and Peggy seem to think. Oh and by the way, the expense of the outlay means he won't be able to contribute as much to the wedding as he previously thought. Tom is convinced his dad has lost it completely and is still angry at not being consulted. Let's just pause here and reflect – this is the same Tom who came up with the plan to sell the dairy cows, which he presented to his rather surprised parents. It is also the same Tom who wants to expand the number of pigs (he's had his eye on the barn which now houses Tony's cattle) – again this was presented as a fait accompli. It's the same Tom too who has grandiose plans to grow his own feed for the pigs on land freed up by getting rid of those pesky cows. Once again, Tony wasn't kept in the loop over this decision. Tom is really in no position to moan about not being consulted, but moan he does and, in a fit of pique, he rings up the marquee company and cancels the wedding marquee, saying "we're not having the reception on the farm any more." I bet he even stamped his little feet when he said it.

Tom isn't the only one who thinks that Tony's gone slightly mad, as David asked him if he was absolutely sure that he's doing the right thing? Indeed, the deal was concluded with almost indecent haste, from initial idea to delivery and this might be the only time that someone has impulse-bought a herd of Aberdeen Angus crosses.

Tony and David did their Noah impression when they rescued a flock of sheep from a farm 40-odd miles away, which was under water, and brought them to Brookfield. In fact, the weather was very much the topic of a number of conversations in Ambridge, as indeed it has been in real life.

It's because of the weather that Kenton is in the doghouse – almost literally, as Jolene won't let him in the bedroom. It wasn't really his week, as he moved Jolene's highly-prized stage outfits (and wasn't it horrible to hear Eddie reminiscing and leching over how skimpy they were) into the cellar. That wouldn't have been so bad, but Jolene asked him to clear the gutters and inspect the drains. He did the first, but not the second and the result was a flooded cellar and the closure of the pub. To say that Jolene was not amused is an understatement as she really let him know how pissed off she was and she cut off his conjugals – he was lucky that was all she cut off.

Before it closed, The Bull was the setting for a nice cameo between Brian, Jennifer and Clarrie. Jen had made some remark earlier about how some people can't deal with money (she still thought that Susan had won millions) and Clarrie decided to wind her up, telling her that Susan and Neil were thinking of buying Netherbourne Hall. Jen was surprised, as it's not on the market. "Everything has it's price" says Clarrie and Jen is getting more and more put out. Clarrie eventually cracks up, having just told Jen that George has had his name put down for Eton. "Your face was a real picture" Brian tells his wife, which she'll probably make him suffer for.

David and Rooooth are worried about how they can persuade Jill to come and stay at Brookfield for a couple of weeks. As it turns out, they are pushing at an open door, as Jill not only agrees, but packs her case in about three nano-seconds, barely giving David time to check that the chain in the Brookfield kitchen is the right length so that Jill will easily be able to reach the Aga, the fridge and the kitchen sink. If Jill is looking forward to a couple of weeks of rest and relaxation, I fear she is in for a bit of a shock. At least that will stop her walking in on David and Rooooth when they are getting amorous, as happened when they last all lived together.

The jury is still out on Rob's character – Helen confronts him and asks if he went to see Jess the other week. He says 'yes' but denies sleeping with her. He then says he didn't mention it because he wanted to protect Helen, as Jess had threatened to kill herself and he knew about Greg's suicide. Even more – Jess had tried to top herself some time earlier and he found her in time to save her life. Helen believes his story and they kiss. Rob realises now why Helen wanted a new bed. So what do we think – is he telling the truth or not? One thing's for sure – if it is a pack of lies, you've got to admire the speed with which he thinks on his feet under pressure.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Find Out What Rob's Taking And Give Me Some

Timothy Watson (Rob Titchener)

Let's start at the end of the week – the day before Valentine's Day, Rob took Helen to a Michelin-starred restaurant, having persuaded Tony and Pat to let Henry sleep over at Bridge Farm. The following day, Rob has to go and view a machinery demonstration, leaving Helen and Henry alone at Blossom Hill Cottage.

Helen is just settling down to watch TV when the doorbell rings and it is a very surprised Jess, who wasn't expecting Helen. Helen launches into her 'we love each other and we're sorry that you got caught in the middle' speech when Jess interrupts her and says "Good luck; you've no idea what you've taken on." Jess also asks "Where was Rob last Thursday?" to which Helen replies that he was at a feed supplier in Essex. Jess then drops her bombshell, saying that Rob was in fact "With me, in my bed" which stops Helen in her tracks.

Now, is Jess telling the truth? If so, is Rob with some other woman even as Helen and Jess talk? If so, where does he get his energy from? I really, really hope that there is an innocent explanation as, as I said last week, I really don't think that I could bear the inevitable crowing, smugness and 'I told you so' that Pat and Tony are bound to indulge in, with the odd morsel of sympathy for their daughter. Let's keep our fingers crossed, but things don't look good.

Food featured too in the Brookfield household, when Rooooth managed to cremate the pie and chips, before serving it up to a complaining family. "Leave the black bits – eat what you can" she tells her sons and a grumbling David. Why didn't she just do them beans on toast instead? Come to that, if you knew that lambing was going to be a busy time (and previous years would have given you a clue), wouldn't you have made sure that you had some prepared meals in the freezer? Failing that, get some Ready Meals from Tom.

Anyway, the next night Jill is at Brookfield and an exhausted Rooooth comes in from a hard time skinning a dead lamb, wondering what she can possibly burn for the family tonight? Why not lamb – there's a dead one going begging in the lambing shed? Jill rises to the challenge, telling Rooooth to go and have a long bath and she'll see what she can rustle up.

It turns out to be cottage pie, which is fair enough, as Brookfield has beef cattle – there's a fair chance there would have been some mince around the place and not even Rooooth could have completely run out of potatoes. As it is, the Archer family are practically orgasmic when they taste it – I suppose it is because it wasn't black, shrivelled up and welded to the plate and could be eaten without using a chisel. Suffice it to say that they are pathetically grateful and, when Jill offers to wash up and then takes David a flask of coffee in the lambing shed, David won't hear of her walking home on her own (Rooooth has fallen asleep in the armchair) and offers her Pip's room for the night. Jill accepts readily, obviously not realising that David's ulterior motive is to ensure that he gets a decent, cooked breakfast in the morning without sausages that look as if they have burned up on re-entry. In fact, Jill will be lucky if she ever gets home at all, I reckon.

Last week I suggested that Tony couldn't possibly get more miserable without topping himself, but I was wrong. Once again Tom is the catalyst, as he asks Peggy if she can finance the deposit for a house, due to the high cost of the wedding (he tells Roy that it's coming in at around £20 k – and this is without knowing that Kirsty's wedding dress is going to cost close to £3 k). Peggy agrees and tells Tom to come and see her when he's found a place he likes and he goes off to measure up Warwick Castle for carpets.

But back to Tony. He has to take Peggy into Borchester (Jennifer has had a 'disastrous' hair colouring incident and couldn't act as chauffeuse) which he does with extremely bad grace, responding to Peggy's conversational gambits with taciturn monosyllables. Peggy eventually asks him what's wrong, refraining to add 'you miserable git' and the whole story of Peggy leapfrogging Tony and Pat and leaving her money to Tom comes out again.

Tony continues to moan about not being trusted or valued and Peggy demonstrates that she has a streak of cruelty in her (although she can be forgiven after putting up with the constant whining) when she casually says that she has decided to support Tom in his efforts to buy a house. Bullseye! Tony goes back to Bridge Farm and rants at Pat, saying that Peggy obviously thinks he's a failure and "Tom can forget about any contribution to the wedding." There's nothing like a wedding for bringing families together, is there?

Finally, we had depressing news when Susan talked to Clarrie about the misunderstanding about the size of Susan's lottery win. Clarrie was worried that Susan might move away and take the kids with her, but Susan dashed all our hopes when she says: "Ambridge is our home – we'd never move away." Damn!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Keep All Sharp Objects Away From Tony

David Troughton (Tony Archer)

Honestly, if Tony gets any more miserable, he'll top himself. Everything anyone else says or does is examined in forensic detail so that he can twist it to extract every ounce of self-pity from it. Consider the following: Peggy gave Jack's old dinner jacket to Rob and, when Tony learns of this he says that Peggy obviously assumes that he would never be invited to a black tie do. Be honest – would you invite the miserable sod?

Tony surpassed himself this week when Rob came to tea. All Tony had to do was to be civil to him for an hour or two, but he couldn't even manage that and storms out when Rob talks about how generous Peggy is. This has a somewhat negative effect on the party and Rob leaves. Helen returns from seeing him off and she is absolutely seething, telling her parents that Rob will never darken their door again and neither will she – she and Henry are moving in with Rob.

Quite rightly blaming himself, Tony sinks ever deeper into a slough of despair, to the extent that, when he goes to the pub, Jolene says to Eddie "Tony's not a happy bunny." It was standing on a chair and throwing a rope over the beam in the roof that gave it away, I reckon.

Mind you, Tony's children aren't helping to lighten his mood any – as well as Helen leaving home, Tom manages to depress his father. Having originally decided on having the wedding reception at Bridge farm ('so that Mum and Dad can feel involved') Tom now wants to go to some stately home and tells his Dad that the only reason they can't is that the Home isn't free on the day.

Tom proves why he's never been in the running for the title of 'Mr Sensitive' when he suggests to Kirsty that they go and look at the site on Bridge Farm where they will build their house. She's not keen, saying that that was what Tom and Brenda had planned but she would rather live away from the Farm. Even though this is more expensive, Tom agrees, but it turns out to be another cross for Tony to bear, as the plan was that, when the time came to retire, Tom and wife would move into the farmhouse and Tony and Pat would take over Tom's house. More misery for Tony, but can you blame Kirsty for not wanting to live on the farm when Tony is hanging around, oozing despair and pessimism from every pore?

Rob appears to have caught some of Tom's insensitivity – Kirsty says to Helen that she would find it creepy, sleeping in the same bed that Rob and Jess used and Helen suggests to Rob that they should get a new one. He won't hear of it, saying that there's nothing the matter with it. Mind you, I don't know how much scope there will be for passion, as Henry slept between Helen and Rob on his first night and Rob was detained overnight the next night after a hard day's work away, too knackered to drive home. Is this the truth, or is Rob really the rotter that some (yes Pat, I am talking about you) suspect? I really hope not as I couldn't bear the crowing and 'I told you so' moments if Pat should be correct.

Ed and Emma hatch a cunning plan to get Holly back from Will and Nic's and that is to get Nic to persuade Will to let Holly go back to live with Ed, Emma and George. As it turns out, there is very little needed in the way of persuasion; certainly as far as Nic is concerned. No sooner has Emma tentatively broached the subject than Nic has offered to pick George up from school and drop him and Holly (who really ought to be renamed yo-yo with her changes of address) off at Ambridge View.

"What about Will?" asks Emma, but Nic says that she'd "rather deal with Will in a strop than have a puppy to worry about" and tells Emma "you'll be doing me a massive favour". And let's be honest, she must be used to dealing with Will in a stroppy mood, as this is his default mode, except for the times when he's miserable and moaning. Perhaps Will and Tony should go out for a drink together. I'm sure the Samaritans could take on extra staff.

The rumour of Susan's massive lottery win continues to spread, with Jennifer saying that she's heard that it is over £2 million, which is what Jennifer probably spends a year on getting her hair done. Pat wonders whether Susan will give up work and Eddie tells Clarrie that Neil will never leave his home or give up his pigs. Clarrie wonders whether Neil might buy their house, saying that Neil would be a better landlord than Hazel. I fear a few people are in for a bit of a disappointment when the Carters return and Neil and Susan might have a hard job convincing some of them that the jackpot win is just the product of some over-active imaginations and tongues.

The alternative, rival Valentine's night at The Bull story leaves me cold, although I did smile when Kenton tried to persuade Tony to go along. But let's end with Tony and Pat. Tony has just walked Jill home, saying that it was a change to be with someone who appreciates his company "unlike my children". He tells Pat that Tom doesn't want to build a house at Bridge Farm, saying that they don't want us. He then gives her his vision of the future for himself and Pat, which is "No kids, no grandchildren, no cows; just this big, empty silence." Wouldn't it have been just great if Pat had replied "By the way Tony, I'm leaving you and moving out"?

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

An Opportunity Missed

Rui Thacker (George Grundy)

Ed and Emma had a golden opportunity to better their lives last week, when George packed a bag one evening and set out for Will and Nic's house. Instead of either moving, or changing the locks, Ed goes out to look for him and Emma rings Will. The two brothers meet, angry words are exchanged and violence breaks out. Bearing in mind that George still hasn't been found, it hardly seems the time for a brawl. Eddie turns up and breaks up the fight, saying that he's disgusted with both of them.

The next day, Ed apologises to his Dad for his behaviour and resolves to keep a lid on his temper. By contrast, nasty, whiny Will makes a distraught Clarrie's mood even worse when he rings her and tells her that it was all Ed's fault. Perhaps George should go and live in a kennel with Holly, thereby making everyone happy, especially us.

At Bridge Farm, Tony continues to suffer from angst and self-doubt, saying things like "What do I have to do to make my own mother think I'm worth something?" My suggestions are either hypnosis or extremely strong mind-altering drugs. Even Tom realises that his Dad is feeling a bit low and he and Kirsty come up with the idea of holding their wedding reception in a marquee at Bridge Farm. "It might help them to feel more involved" says Tom. I suppose the fact that it's a cheap option never had anything to do with it?

Anyway, Tom and Kirsty go to see Tony and Pat and broach the idea. The parents are delighted and accept immediately. I had hoped that Tom would say to Tony "That's always assuming that you can put the marquee up properly, you loser" but he didn't.

We also had the story about Susan's lottery win. Susan feels guilty about telling so many fibs. In fact, she overdoes it somewhat, going up to total strangers and saying we've been saving up for this for years you know – that's the only way we could have afforded it. Her cunning plan of disinformation, however, goes nads up when she makes the fundamental mistake of giving Dad Bert some of the money and saying something like 'whatever you do, don't mention the lottery win'.

Bert Horrobin immediately goes to the pub and starts chucking money around like a very philanthropic octopus. Joe is there, with his uncanny sixth sense for a free drink or two and Bert tells him that Susan has won the lottery but his lips are sealed and he cannot say anything. Too late, Bert, my old mate – the words 'cat', 'bag' and 'out of' spring to mind. Joe isn't one to keep such information to himself and goes round telling everyone that there were probably six zeroes on Susan's cheque and she's a millionaire. It will be interesting when Susan returns from St. Lucia to find sacks of begging letters on the doorstep and a queue of people winding down the front garden path, carrying begging bowls.

Jill had a moment of panic when she heard a noise during the night, so she rang David, who went round with Rooooth. There's no sign of any intruder and Rooooth offers to make a cuppa. They ask Jill to come back with them, but she refuses, saying the tea has made her feel better, which makes you wonder what Rooooth put in her cup. "I've been a terrible nuisance" says Jill. Of course you haven't, love; David and Rooooth don't mind being woken up at 1am after a hard day's work by a manic phone call and going out in the dark – don't worry about it, call anytime.

Helen featured prominently last week – Kirsty asked her (with some trepidation) if she'd be her bridesmaid. Helen is delighted and agrees at once. Not only that, but Henry's going to be a page boy, lucky lad. On Sunday, Jennifer is taking Peggy home from visiting Jack's grave and Peggy muses about how she wishes Helen could find someone. Good old poker face Jen immediately goes all coy and Peggy realises that she's hiding something. The whole story comes out and Peggy is a bit shocked at the thought that her granddaughter might have been having an affair. Jennifer does her best to minimise the damage by saying that she thinks the marriage was over when they began.

Pat turns up at Peggy's as Jen leaves and Peggy mentions Rob, asking Pat if that's why she came over? Right on cue, Peggy's phone rings and it's Helen, asking if she could come over of Friday "and bring someone" "Rob?" Peggy asks and, putting the phone down, says "I'll be able to make my own mind up now." What, no immediate condemnation of the man, no ranting, no calls for castration? She's actually going to use reason and listen to Rob and Helen's stories? A bit radical for an Archer female, that.

Pat tells Peggy that Tony is feeling really down and Peggy reassures her that she does love Tony (but not enough to leave him any money). He should be stepping back after his heart attack, says Peggy and it's Tom and Helen's vision that's important now. Or to put it another way, Tony, you're yesterday's man and your rocking chair, pipe and slippers are in the corner.

Friday arrives and Helen and Rob turn up. The conversation is very frank and Peggy is impressed with Rob's answers and attitude, saying: "I'm all for giving second chances. It seems to me the sooner you two can get together, the better. Life's too short, don't you think?" Are you listening, Pat?