Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Man With A Will Of Putty

Charles Collingwood (Brian Aldridge)

Step forward Brian Aldridge, whose iron willpower in the clash of wills with Jennifer lasted about a day or so. Jennifer had downed tools in the kitchen and was refusing to cook for her husband unless he agreed to her new all-singing, all-dancing kitchen. Brian was reduced to bumming chocolate off Adam before his hunger became unbearable and he caved in quicker than the railway line at Dawlish.

He did make one last attempt at imposing himself on Jennifer, saying "But I want a beer fridge – and another for wine." I suspect that Jen had already factored these in and she agreed readily as she rang the designer, Kingsley, to tell him the good news. One presumes that Kingsley is wondering what colour his new private jet should be.

However expensive the kitchen may be, it surely cannot be as costly as the house that Tom and Kirsty are contemplating buying. It's a new build and they are buying off plan. Kirsty wonders whether or not it might be a bit big for them and, in a sentence which chilled the soul, Tom says "We'll have our own family soon." Let's hope that the financial commitment is so great that Kirsty cannot afford to give up work until she's past child-bearing age.

And why is everybody surprised that it is costing so much? Tom is amazed that they want a ten per cent deposit – was he expecting them to give him the house? He is also surprised at the size of the legal fees, which indicates that he hasn't had much to do with solicitors. When they tell Pat about their plans, she is underwhelmed, saying that she thought they'd have gone for an older house, rather than what she describes as 'a modern box' and she too queries the legal fees and size of deposit. Pat's lack of enthusiasm troubles Tom (as does so much else) and gives him something else to moan about.

This moaning however is as nothing compared to what we experienced on Wednesday, when Pat mentions, almost in passing, that one of Tony's cows died during the night. Alistair has taken it away to do a post mortem and Pat says it's probably nothing. Tom immediately looks on the black side and asks "What if it's something that spreads to my pigs?" Tony is quite upset and Tom accuses him of not knowing anything about beef farming and being incapable of looking after his animals. Later on he tells Kirsty "He spreads his incompetence wherever he goes", which leads me to believe that Tom hasn't bought him one of those statuettes bearing the legend 'World's Best Dad'. To be fair, Kirsty does say "That's a bit harsh." You've seen what he's like Kirsty – leave him now before it's too late.

Over at Brookfield, Rooooth takes a pregnancy test, which proves positive. She asks Jill what will David think? As it turns out, David is both pleased and excited and, later on he stops Rooooth trying to move the silage heap by hand or something equally physical, saying that she cannot expect to do all the things she usually does. David asks what should they say to the kids and Rooooth says to keep quiet for the moment. I can't help thinking that they'll notice before long.

Rooooth has a moment of doubt, asking "Is it even right to bring another child into the world?" Well, if you are Will, Tom, Kate and a few others, the answer is, obviously, 'no', but there are worse than David and Rooooth in Ambridge. Mind you, if the new arrival takes after Pip, then get the adoption papers ready now.

Friday was the night of Sports Relief and Daniel's 'Rough & Tumble' assault course and Lynda's 'Smooth and Steady' alternative for the less athletic. Lynda was doing her best to find out who the mystery celebrity was who was going to present the prizes, eventually deducing it would be a female from up north. As we know, it was Sir Bradley Wiggins to whom, when he met him, Ian said "This is the best moment of my life." I wouldn't let Adam hear you say that, Ian. The Rough & Tumble was won by Daniel, who designed it and the Slow & Steady by Lynda, who designed it – can you see a pattern developing here? As a matter of interest, if the object of the exercise was to raise money, then why not make it public that Sir Bradley was going to be there – that would have increased crowd numbers, surely?

We saw a different side to Ian's character, as he was paired against Rob in the Rough & Tumble and it was getting personal, with Rob nudging and needling Ian throughout. In the end, Ian just shaded it, due largely to having a better bike. Rob taunts him by saying that he (Rob) slowed down as he wanted to look at The Lodge and Ian smacks him in the face. Later on Rob and Ian meet in the pub and Rob says he wants to buy Ian a drink and clear the air. Ian is having none of it, saying: "You're a bully – I've got your card marked." I can't help thinking that Ian is in danger of jeopardising his friendship with Helen if he persists in this attitude – if Helen has to make a choice between Ian and Rob, then I reckon there's little doubt about which one she would choose.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

A Happy Event?

Felicity Finch (Ruth Archer)

So now we know – Rooooth’s listlessness and unpredictable outbursts of temper may not be down to The Change, or a recurrence of her cancer, but to a surprise pregnancy. At least, that’s Jill’s theory and Rooooth’s reaction is “Pregnant? I can’t be!” Well, she should know. Get that pregnancy testing kit ready!

In case you are interested, Rooooth will be 46 on June 16th and I really hope we are not going to have another lot of discussions about the potential difficulties facing older mothers and the increased risk of having a Downs’ Syndrome child, as we had with Vicky’s pregnancy.

Elsewhere, I would wager a small sum on something drastic happening to Tony’s new herd in the near future – a few weeks ago, Tom remarked that one of the cows didn’t appear to be particularly interested in grazing and last week Mike (to whom Tony was showing off his cattle) made the same observation. Tony’s reaction in both cases was that the cows need time to adjust to their new surroundings. Also, Tony keeps making comments like “they’re magnificent beasts” and how they’ll give him a tidy profit in a year or two, all of which sounds like he’s riding for a fall to me.

Someone else possibly riding for a fall, according to Adam, is Helen. In fact, he says “She’s riding so high; it’s further to fall.” Adam and Ian have been invited to Rob and Helen’s for dinner and the evening does not go very well. Rob demonstrates a high degree of control freakery when he dismisses Helen’s stir fry (which she has spent some time preparing) and goes out and buys steaks. He also stops her going upstairs to comfort a crying Henry.
The conversation isn’t exactly sparkling, with Rob being a touch patronising throughout. Helen seems to be getting quietly sloshed, saying things like “Rob is so athletic” and giggling. The final straw for Ian comes when Rob talks about ‘when we are living in The Lodge’. Ian goes out for a cigarette and is joined by Adam; Ian, who is normally someone who sees the best in everyone, tells Adam that Rob is insensitive (Peggy is still alive after all) and Ian was incensed enough to tell Rob that he and Adam will be entering Daniel’s ‘Rough and Tumble Challenge’ and Ian wants to wipe the smile off Rob’s face.
I think that Ian is in for a shock, as Daniel is taking the design of his assault course very seriously, suggesting that he put hurdles in a stream, which people have to swim under. Bloody hell, Dan – it’s supposed to be a bit of fun for Sport Relief, not a try-out for joining the SAS. Dan takes Kenton on a run-through of the course and it was nearly the last thing that Kenton ever did, as he collapsed, wheezing and coughing at the end. At Brookfield, Ben says that he’s heard that Sir Bradley Wiggins will be presenting the prizes, whereupon the others scoff and mock him. You should have taken bets, Ben.
Jennifer is still pursuing her dream kitchen and Ian recommends a design specialist called Kingsley. Kingsley turns up at Home Farm and immediately overwhelms Jennifer with a load of pretentious twaddle, such as “your kitchen needs to function intuitively for you.” And if you’re lucky, it might prepare a three-course meal while you are out. I think that Brian – and his wallet – are in for a nasty shock.
At The Bull, Kenton has given up alcohol for Lent and Jolene, chocolate. What is it with all these people who have no interest in religion and who only go to church when someone dies or gets married, suddenly start giving things up for Lent? The expectation, even among atheists such as Jim, seems to be that everyone should give up something. Personally, I’d tell them to take their God-bothering elsewhere and, if I were going to give up anything for Lent, it would be religion.
Brenda came back to Ambridge, with the news that she is engaged to Adrian and sharing his flat in Wapping. Adrian is a high flyer, with his own software company and Brenda appears to have traded up a bit from Tom the Sausage King. Incidentally, when Mike broke the news of Brenda’s engagement to Tony and Pat, Tony’s comment was that “it didn’t take her long to find someone” – about six weeks longer than Tom, from memory.
Tom and Brenda talk about his plans to buy a house and he says he wants to be independent and that Gran is helping out. “Not that independent then?” observes Brenda, but this goes right over Tom’s head.

Finally, it seems that Tom and Kirsty’s wedding could be quite interesting, as Alice (in full wedding planner mode) makes the observation that she is looking at a nature-themed event and tells Kirsty that she sees her as a Green Goddess. I don’t know about you, but I think that a wedding based on a theme of an antiquated military fire engine is something that people will talk about and remember for a long time.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Do You Want To Know A Secret?

Stephen Kennedy (Ian Craig)

There were a number of people in Ambridge last week telling their secrets and then exhorting other people not to tell anyone about it. The week began with Rob suggesting to Helen that they keep their engagement secret (sounds like a good excuse not to buy a ring to me). Rob then rang Jess when Helen was out of the way and told her that "there's no need to get in a state – we can take things slowly." Hmm. The suspense surrounding Rob continues to gather.

Helen has obviously never heard of the old adage 'he that would keep a secret should keep it secret that he has a secret to keep' as she is going round the village with a smile like a grand piano keyboard. At lunch with Ian, he remarks that she is positively glowing and Helen tells him about Jess agreeing to the divorce. Helen then lets the cat out of the bag when she says that she thought she'd have to wait at least two years before Rob was free …"To do what?" pounces Ian and Helen tells him about Rob's proposal.

She begs Ian not to tell anyone, as he is the first person she's told. Also, please don't tell Rob that he knows, as Rob wants it to be their secret. Ian, however, says that he cannot possibly hide the news from Adam and, when Ian returns home, it takes about three nano-seconds to spill the beans. Adam is both surprised and sceptical, saying that, when couples start keeping secrets from each other "it's the start of a slippery slope." Well done Helen – one lunch and the number of people who know your secret has doubled. It bodes ill.

We also had Rooooth bursting into tears at the end of the week when Jill tells her that she looks washed out and exhausted. Rooooth begs Jill not to tell David about her crying. I reckon we are in for a major crisis in Rooooth's life, as all week there have been hints that she isn't looking too good and David has been saying that she's looking tired. Good job that Jill has been handling all the domestic chores, or else Rooooth would have collapsed about Tuesday.

It was a busy week for Daniel, whose pancake filling ('Montezuma's Revenge') won the award for the nastiest topping in the pancake tasting at The Bull. Daniel has also organised an Ambridge assault course for Sports Relief and Fallon joins in enthusiastically. It sounds like it could be a bit difficult, but Fallon managed to talk Daniel out of using live ammunition and flame throwers to gee up contestants a bit.

The assault course brought together an unlikely alliance, when Emma and Nic agreed to take part together. Whatever next? Will and Ed as partners in a three-legged race?

Fallon revealed that Rhys is handing in his notice to go and work in an uncle's bar in Cardiff and she won't be going back with him. So much for love's young dream and Fallon wants to move out of the flat and go back to living at The Bull while Rhys works his notice.

At Home Farm, Brian is begging Adam for jobs outside so that he can escape from Jennifer's remorseless banging on about a new kitchen and, even worse, trying to engage Brian in the decision-making process - like he cares. He talks to Adam about Jennifer wanting 'statement taps'. Adam is intrigued – what statement could a tap make? "Look at me, I'm expensive," says a jaundiced Brian. Just sign the cheques Brian and make sure that the corkscrew is kept in an easily-accessible place.

More tension between Tom and Tony when Tony's cows get out and invade the field where Tom's pigs are, knocking over the electric fence and trashing the feeders. Tom takes it in good part, saying "accidents will happen Dad". And if you believe that, you obviously don't know Tom's character. In fact, Tom goes off on one, telling his father that he bought the cows (without consulting Tom), so he should be more careful about looking after them. Tom also suggests that Tony wants to run Tom's pigs off the farm – at which Tony calls his son 'paranoid'. Tom carries on being both offensive and self-pitying, saying he has had a wasted morning and then he goes off to have lunch with Kirsty. Tom gives her earache, telling her just what he thinks of his Dad and is surprised when Kirsty suggests that perhaps Tom is over-reacting just a tad? Anyway, they ask Alice to be their (unpaid) wedding planner and she jumps at the chance, presumably planning to hold the wedding as far from Ambridge as possible.

The weather featured heavily once again, with a burst water main meaning that the village has no mains water and the water company came round with bowsers. This happened on Shrove Tuesday – the night of the pancake competition in The Bull – and, after the final judging, Kenton is in upbeat form, telling everybody "We may be short of water, but we haven't drunk the pub dry yet." I was hoping that Lilian would turn up and make him eat (drink?) his words.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Cutting Off Her Nose?

Louiza Patikas (Helen Archer)

Rob wanted to take Helen to the Felpersham Film Festival. But who will look after Henry? Rob is confident that Pat will jump at the chance but, when Helen rings her, she says that she's too busy. Pat tells Tony that it's inconsiderate of Helen to expect her to baby sit at such short notice, but it doesn't take her long to blame Rob, saying that he'll have to get used to living with a small child. Tony warns her not to cut off her nose to spite her face.

And what is it that is keeping Pat busy? She and Tony go out to look at the cows and she starts moaning about why Tony never consulted her over buying them. Tony says it wasn't her that he was keeping the secret from, rather it was Tom. Tom proves he has inherited the Pat moaning gene when he bangs on to Kirsty about how insane the idea is. He does talk briefly to his dad – did I say 'talk'? I meant 'lecture' – with such phrases as "I don't know how we can work together if you don't consult me" and "I thought we were a team." Yes, and we know who Tom thinks is Captain, don't we?

They do talk again later in the week, largely at the prompting of Kirsty, who must be regretting the day she said 'yes' to Tom's proposal. This time it's more of a proper conversation, with Tony saying "cows are in my blood", which explains a lot, and accusing Tom of thinking that everything he (Tony) does is based on sentiment, rather than on sound business grounds. Tom is still miffed, as he had to cancel an order of weaners, but at least they have cleared the air.

Meanwhile, the plot surrounding Rob thickens; on Tuesday he has just assembled Henry's new bed and, when Helen takes Henry away, we hear Rob on the phone, saying "Jess, it's Rob. Ring me – we need to talk soon." On Wednesday he rings again and we learn that he wants to talk about getting a divorce. She hangs up, but eventually comes round and, on Friday, we learn that she has agreed to a civilised divorce and Rob tells Helen, who thinks it's fantastic and she cannot wait to tell her mum.

So, Helen rings Pat and tells her the good news. Pat's reaction is like someone finding a dead skunk in their freezer and, when Helen says "You are pleased for me, aren't you mum?" Pat replies in leaden tones "If you are happy." Helen doesn't seem to notice the total lack of warmth and enthusiasm and rings off. Tony says "At least it shows Rob's intentions are honourable" and "I've always wanted a father for Henry." Pat's reaction is that she doesn't want Rob to be the father and, as far as she's concerned, it seems that even if Rob were to disembowel himself in public, she would say that he had it easy because the knife was sharp. Helen and Rob are out walking and Helen tells him that both Kirsty and Pat are happy for them both. "So I've won over my two greatest critics? It's a day of miracles!" Rob says. Sorry Rob, but you haven't and it isn't. However, for those among you who delight in Pat's discomfort, stay tuned, as at the end of the week, Rob asks Helen to marry him. I can't wait to hear Pat's reaction when she receives that bit of news.

At Brookfield, Jill is in Wonder Woman mode, lighting the Aga, cooking, cleaning (including the cooker, which is probably a first for it). She takes David a bacon butty for breakfast in the lambing shed and on the way back, retiles the roof of the farmhouse and builds a new barn. So effective is her cleaning binge that, when Emma turns up to do the cleaning, there's nothing for her to do and she isn't a happy bunny. Her attitude is not lost on Jill, who says to Lynda when Emma leaves the room, "I put my foot in it there, didn't I?" Lynda's reply is that "Emma can be a bit over-sensitive at times!" Ha! For 'over-sensitive', read 'moody', 'morose' and 'miserable'.

However, Emma is one of the legions of females who attend the W.I. lecture at the Village Hall, many of who are from the younger generation. The reason? Jill has persuaded P.C. Burns to come along to talk about home security and he is confronted by a sea of panting females, with tongues lolling out of their mouths and all entertaining fantasies about getting P.C. Burns in a locked room with his handcuffs. At least they didn't throw their underwear on to the stage, so I suppose we should be grateful.

Jim and Alan share a lunch and the pair talk about the new stained glass window (in memory of Jack) and what the subject of said window should be. Jim suggests a competition among local schools etc. and we are reminded that Lent is approaching. What demented scheme will the mad vicar come up with this year? We aren't told, except that he says he would like "to start Lent off with a bang." Sounds promising.

Every so often, I ask what has happened to a character who we haven't heard from for some weeks. There is a long list of people who have apparently gone awol – Christine has vanished back into limbo, Adam and Ian appear to be hibernating, Caroline and Oliver must be working 24/7 at Great Gables and heaven alone knows what has happened to Kathy and Jamie. Personally, I think it's time Tom joined the list.