Sunday, 29 June 2014

Has Fallon Got Strangles?

Joanna van Kampen (Fallon Rogers)

A good question - we learned that one of the horses at The Stables has got Strangles, which I am sure you know is a respiratory and highly contagious disease of horses and donkeys. But what about bar managers? Consider: Alice finds Fallon sitting around in her onesie, watching DVDs and feeling sorry for herself and in her “what’s life all about?” and “where am I going?“ mode.

Now, an Internet description of Strangles begins thus: ‘With onset, [the horse] appears depressed, dull and stops eating‘. Sound like anyone? The prosecution rests, m’lud. Fortunately, Alice has the answer and forces Fallon to text PC Burns and arrange a date. They have a drink and he invites her to go on to a club, but she decides against it, later telling Alice that ‘his Facebook page is weird’ and ‘he’s a member of a gun club’. She finishes by telling Alice that “I’m not really sure that he’s my kind of guy”. Well, she gave that a fair crack of the whip, didn’t she? They must have been together for nearly two hours, at least.

David’s kind of guy caused a stir at the Midsummer bonfire - perched on top of the inferno is a thinly-disguised effigy of Justin Eliot and the crowd catch on quickly, chanting “down with Justin Eliot” and similar. Rooooth takes her husband to task, saying the idea is to oppose route B and instead, David has made it personal. Lighten up, woman! Do you want to save Brookfield or not?

It makes you wonder, as on Friday Rooooth suggests she and David go to an agricultural show to pick up ideas “in case we have to change the way we farm” and - risking David’s wrath - she mentions that any compensation money would give them an opportunity to invest. Whatever happened to the ‘over my dead body’ mentality? The same day, David runs into Charlie, who asks him if he really burnt an effigy of Justin? David spouts a load of waffle about local feelings running high, then tells Charlie “If you don’t like it, you shouldn’t have got involved with such a cynical, destructive road scheme.” I bet the Diplomatic Corps was gutted when you left, David.

To make David’s day, Rooooth continues to have a go when she learns of the run-in with Charlie, saying “it shouldn’t get personal”. David’s response? “For me it’s too late - it’s about as personal as it gets.” Just shut up and get on with the milking, Rooooth.

Over at Bridge Farm, Neil brings them their first batch of weaners, which are put into an enclosure, protected by an electric fence. Disaster! The fence shorts and the pigs escape - and all this on their first day. Tony and Pat have an energetic time rounding them up and he is too knackered to go to the bonfire, muttering: “I don’t know if I’m up for this.” We did learn why Pat was so keen to keep pigs at the farm, as she tells Neil that, when Tom’s got his head together, he might well return. Tony, however, hasn’t lost his grip on reality and demonstrates that he has little faith in the power of the pigs acting as some kind of porcine Tom-magnet, when he tells Neil: “We’re not counting on it.” I’m afraid Pat is Tony and I’d watch out if I were you - you’ve already had one heart attack.

Peggy finishes off the matinee jacket for Lilian, and Lil shows it to Lynda, who is impressed at its quality. She is less impressed, however, when Lilian is unable to answer any questions about the knitting technique used and doesn’t even know what size needles she is supposed to have used.

Shula and Alistair go to see Daniel in some parade or other (they’re spending more time at Sandhurst than the cadets) and Alistair says that Dan looks like a real soldier. Shula, however, is upset (yet again) because of how much Dan has changed. It’s what we call growing up Shula - that’s why Daniel wasn’t happy when you wanted him to keep wearing nappies at Secondary school. Things change - get over it and move on.

Now sex rears its ugly head, as, at the beginning of the week, we learned that not only did Roy and Elizabeth do the dirty deed at the music festival, but they both enjoyed it very much, thank you. No guilt trips here, although Elizabeth did go off to be sick when she woke up, but that was the cider, not Roy. Roy wondered ‘what happens now?’ and I had a mental picture of him removing his trousers when, with impeccable timing, his phone rings and it’s Hayley and Abbie, telling him they are making cupcakes for his return. Roy is keen for the relationship with his boss to continue, but Elizabeth heads him off, reminding him that he’s got Hayley and the girls and “it has to end here.” Lizzie and Shula meet up and Shula is concerned, asking her sister if she managed to catch any sleep at the festival? Earlier, Hayley asked Elizabeth if she managed to chill out. Chill out, no - put out, yes.

It seems that Roy is still harbouring romantic (or, more accurately, lustful) hopes, as on Friday, he rings Hayley to tell her that he’ll be working late, then asks Lizzie what are her plans for the evening? Lizzie blows him away in no uncertain manner, telling him she has domestic work to do and why doesn’t he go home? A dejected Roy puts his trousers back on and tells Hayley that there’s been a change of plan and “keep the fish pie hot.” Never heard it called that before…

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Excitement Is In Tents

Alison Dowling (Elizabeth Pargetter)

For someone who didn’t really fancy going to a music festival, Elizabeth soon got the hang of things - a few ciders, a G+T, some loud music and all her inhibitions were out the window; or rather, out the tent flap. Roy and Lizzie were fumbling their way back to their tents late at night, somewhat the worse for alcohol, when she stumbles. Roy catches her and there are sounds of a kiss. “I promised that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to” Roy tells her. “But I do” the little minx replies. More kissing, then Roy says “Elizabeth, that’s my tent.” “I know” she says and the week’s episodes are over.

So, did they or didn’t they? Is this one of the good ideas that Elizabeth says they can incorporate into Loxfest? Indeed, will Loxfest be renamed Shagfest? I suppose Roy could always claim that the boss is always right and he was just obeying orders. And not just Lizzie’s orders either as, as Roy and Elizabeth set off, Hayley told him “Make sure Elizabeth has a good time at this festival, Roy.” Somehow, I don’t think that’s what she meant.

As for Lizzie, it wasn’t so long ago that she rejected Iftikar’s (and what’s happened to him?) much less full-on advances and here she is practically carrying Roy back to her cave. Is this any way for a 47-year old (11 years older than Roy) widow with teenage twins to behave? I can’t wait to hear about the morning after as, whether they had sex or not, there has to be a change in their relationship now. Maybe Roy will get a raise (no jokes please).

Elsewhere, my heart leapt when Fallon was talking to PC Burns (or ‘Harrison’ as she finally called him after he’d bought her a birthday present) about Jolene’s attempt to recruit for the new Midnight Walkers. Fallon said, almost in passing, that her Dad was going to play “but his girlfriend put her foot down.” Yes! Result! Give that (unnamed) woman a medal, or at least the freedom of Ambridge. She has shot straight to the top of my ‘Most Likeable Character’ charts.

PC Burns tries to get Fallon to go out for a drink sometime, but we are left on tenterhooks as she doesn’t give him an answer. Stick with it Harrison - she’s weakening.

We saw how far Brian has fallen from the powerful heights at Borsetshire Land when he and Annabelle have a drink to discuss Justin Eliot’s latest plans. Brian is appalled that Justin proposes to convert 50 acres of arable land into a solar farm, plus he plans to install another anaerobic digester and import waste to keep it going.
Annabelle isn’t impressed and tells Brian that this is how it’s going to be, so get used to it. Brian predicts vehement opposition and the whole community up in arms, to which Annabelle reminds him that he’s the face of BL in Ambridge and it’s up to him to convince people that renewable energy is the future and a good thing. The fact that the new solar farm will be visible from space and lorries will be trucking in waste on a continual basis could take some explaining away, but never mind - it’s Home Farm that will be surrounded by baying mobs with pitchforks and flaming torches, not BL.

David and Rooooth said ‘goodbye’ to the refugee sheep and the grateful owners gave them a bottle of champagne - that’s on top of the Scab. It’s Rooooth’s birthday and David takes her for a meal at The Bull. Charlie Thomas comes over and says he feels bad that things between him and David were left as they were. He then proceeds to make things worse by saying that, if Route B is adopted, it could be an advantage, as the compensation for cutting Brookfield in two would allow them to invest serious money in the farm. Rooooth has a go at him, accusing him of regarding land as only an asset to be squeezed, while David says “There’s not enough money in the world to compensate for our home being destroyed.” Details, details.

David had the idea earlier of a Midsummer bonfire on Lakey Hill to get the whole community together against Route B. It might be a good idea to invite Charlie, whose last words could be “Oh look - a wicker man; how unusual.”

Things aren’t going too well for Peggy - last week she struggled with the self service tills at the supermarket and this week her cat, Ben, was poorly. Peggy called in Alistair, who diagnosed a brain haemorrhage (a stroke would have been easier to spell). “Will he get better?” she asks, to which Alistair says not only will he not get better, but the kindest thing would be to put him to sleep. Peggy agrees and sits there holding Ben while Alistair administers the fatal injection.

When Alistair has gone, Peggy tells Ben (her remaining cat) that they will have to be strong for each other. Later on, Jill comes round to see how she is and they talk of how Bill and Ben were feral kittens found by Will Grundy and how Jack (who was a dog lover) came to love them. The thought of Jack is too much and Peggy dissolves in floods of tears, saying that she feels so ungrateful - she should be counting her blessings, but she feels so very lonely. Tell you what Peggy, put it about that you are thinking of changing your Will again - you can be sure that Tony would be round like a shot, although, thinking about it, loneliness might be the better option.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Knitting Yarns

Sunny Ormonde (Lilian Bellamy)

Am I the only person who thinks that the saga of Lilian’s ineptitude at knitting as she struggles with a Matinee Jacket for James and Leonie’s imminent offspring (and how my heart sinks as I type those words) is not very good radio? Sister Jennifer is too busy to help - this time not with the kitchen, work on which appears to have ground to a halt, but mobilising the forces of resistance to Route B - although she does seem to turn up every other day or so to examine Lilian’s efforts, tells her how appalling it is, how many stitches she’s dropped and how she’ll have to start over again from scratch.

Fortunately, help is at hand in the shape of Peggy, who examines her daughter’s efforts and, no doubt wondering if Lilian had been listening as a child when Peggy tried to teach her to knit, says that she’ll knit it for her. Lilian pleads for it to be their secret and Peggy replies that she won’t tell Jennifer and Lynda will never know. I submit that there’s no need to tell Jen - she’ll know as soon as she sees the garment that Lilian could never have managed it. On the plus side, removing Lilian from the process means that the new baby will probably get to wear the jacket before he or she starts secondary school.

It was a busy weekend in Ambridge, what with the Single Wicket competition and Open Farm Sunday at both Brookfield and Berrow Farm. The former was won by Daniel (who doesn’t appear to have made Colonel yet) and the trophy, named for his father Mark, was presented to him by his proud mother Shula. Meanwhile, in the background, I’m sure I heard faint comments such as ‘fix!’ and ‘stitch up’.

Daniel only just made it to the cricket as he and step-dad Alistair visited OFS at Berrow Farm. While they were there, a cow went into labour, delighting Charlie. Rob, however, says that things look bad and Alistair is called upon to minister to the beast. He manages to save the cow, but not the calf. Charlie is looking forward to a good write-up in the Echo (who were attending the event at both farms and even sent a photographer) when Rob says “Pity about the calf dying”. “That’s farming” answers Charlie. Is it? I thought farming was raising animals to either maturity or to an age where they can be sold for profit, but what do I know?

Shula had a heart-to-heart with sister Elizabeth about their sons, with Shula saying that she knows she’ll be dreading the knock on the door in the future. For her part, Lizzie says that Freddie is becoming ‘a mystery’ to her and she’s worried that he is trying to live up to Nigel, begging the question “what does she mean ‘up‘?”

At Bridge Farm, the pig angst continues. Tony is conscious that Tom had a contract with Neil to take a regular number of weaners and so he goes to see Neil to ask his advice, as he cannot see how they can run the pig operation without Tom. Neil says that they would be crazy to get out of pigs when they have the infrastructure, the processing unit and Jazzer’s (admittedly part time) expertise. The fact that Neil wouldn’t be left with a load of young pigs may have coloured his judgement somewhat, although to be fair, he did admit to a vested interest.

Returning to Charlie, it wasn’t a particularly good week for him - the Echo article heaped praise on Brookfield and published a photo of the dead calf at Berrow Farm. David runs into Charlie outside the shop and they exchange words, with Charlie describing the Brookfield article as ‘rose-tinted’ and David trying not to crow too much.

On Friday, Rob is trying to sneak out early to pick up Henry as Helen is snowed under and he thinks that Charlie is still away at the Cereals event with Adam. However, he’s come back and isn’t best pleased to know that Rob is - in his eyes - skiving off. The two men talk about the Echo article and Charlie tells Rob that he has already locked horns with David. “Who won?” asks Rob. “It was honours even,” Charlie replies, adding “They’re a formidable clan, The Archers, aren’t they?” Too right they are, and there are an awful lot of them Charlie.

The encounter between Charlie and David was not the former’s first run-in of the week with an Archer, as Jill says that she is going to see Justin Eliot (oh yeah?) or at least Charlie. As it is, Jill did get to see Charlie and she talks eloquently about how Route B would destroy something precious. She also mentions that she has heard that Justin Eliot is buying up land in the area. Charlie is very courteous and says that he will convey her feelings to Justin Eliot. He forbears to say “Like that will do you any good” but does tell her that Justin is a very busy man. Buying up more land, no doubt.

Before meeting Charlie, Jill talked with Peggy, who wonders if they ought to bother about the future, as she tried to think ahead and look where that led. But Jill is made of sterner stuff and tells Peggy: “We need to make it plain that bringing this road through Ambridge will be more trouble than it’s worth.” To me, that echoes the Godfather’s “He made him an offer that he couldn’t refuse”, so I’d check the bed for horses’ heads if I were you, Charlie - or maybe the odd dead calf.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Jazzer Is Bereft

Ryan Kelly Jack 'Jazzer' McCreary

It was a bad week for Jazzer, as we saw his harem leaving Bridge Farm when Tony, in his new, dynamic, super-farmer mode, sold off Tom’s pigs. Jazzer says an emotional goodbye to ‘my girls’ and realises that his days as a stockman are numbered when Tony offers him work with the other vegetables. “We’re concentrating on beef now” Tony tells Jazzer and Pat, pausing only to have a brief moan about how Tom left them with the expense of Sawyers. For her part, Pat is astounded that Tom gave up the ‘Tom Archer’ brand name and I must say that I too found it out of character.

Pat is sad about the pigs too - not because of any romantic feelings, but because they were the last link with, and reminder of, John, which sounds a bit of a back-handed compliment to me. Tony says that we need to get the farm back in good shape in order to hand it on. “Who to?” asks Pat despondently and even Mr. Insensitive Tony suggests that it might be time to start building a few bridges with Helen.

Pat agrees and, being Pat, she goes round to see her unannounced. But Helen has gone to work (Ambridge Organics is in a state of chaos since Kirsty left; Helen is realising how much she depended on her) and Rob opens the door to Pat.

Instead of spitting at him, Pat accepts his invitation to come in and she is surprised at how homely it is. Rob gives the credit to Helen and the atmosphere between the two is bordering on the cordial. Has Pat forgotten that it was Rob who arranged for Tom’s interview in Canada, not to mention turning her daughter into an adultress and tempting her and Henry away? Pat suggests that she and Tony have Henry for an overnight, in order to give Rob and Helen a break and he says that Friday would be good. As Pat leaves, Rob says “it was good to see you” - they’ll be exchanging friendship bracelets next.

There is intrigue over Rob, as Helen tries to get in touch with him, but his phone goes to voicemail. Helen rings Charlie and asks if Rob is there, to which Charlie replied that he has gone off “on a personal errand”. Later on, Helen asks Rob how his day had been and he tells her that he had been at Berrow Farm all day. Helen doesn’t know what to think and she says that why don’t they just stay in on Friday and relax? Has Rob been up to no good? The answer is ‘no’, as on Friday he gives Helen an engagement ring (three emeralds, platinum setting) and buying it was the personal errand he was away on.

When Charlie answered Helen’s phone call, he was talking to Adam and, afterwards, Charlie has a moan about Rob’s attitude and says some uncomplimentary things about Helen. Adam reminds him that Helen is probably his favourite cousin, to which Charlie observes that “everyone around here is your cousin”. The talk turns to a forthcoming Cereals Event and Charlie suggests that he and Adam take a couple of days off to attend the event. Adam agrees - I’d watch out for Charlie if I were you Adam; it might be a Pawel occasion all over again.

Adam tells David that Charlie has engaged a PR person to publicise Open Farm Sunday and the news does not make David’s day. It wasn’t a good week for David - firstly he is up to his neck in fighting the proposed route B of the new road and then he finds out he has got Scab. Not him personally, but the sheep, I hasten to add.

On the subject of the road, Lynda has been doing a bit of digging and it seems that it wouldn’t just be a new road, but a Service Station area and, from the stunned reaction of those at the meeting, something like a new Garden City as well. Furthermore, Lynda has found that a company owned by Justin Eliot has been quietly buying up land adjacent to the proposed new route. Not everyone is vehemently opposed to the new road, as Lilian says that it could “inject some pizzazz that the village needs”, which goes down like a lead balloon with Lynda, while Brian tells Jennifer that she ought to step down from the anti-road committee, as it could make things awkward for him with Justin. To her credit, Jen tells him she’s prepared to fight for Ambridge and what she believes.

Mind you, Jennifer is living on borrowed time, I reckon, as the new kitchen lurches from disaster to disaster. We had the saga of the wrong sink and the flood and now there appears to have been a measurement error, which is holding things up even more. The foreman fell off a roof and the guy who had the vision in the first place seems to have wandered off. In vain does Jennifer tell Brian that it will all be all right in the end and, when one of the workers (both called Steve) puts his foot through the ceiling when doing some electrical work, Jennifer has never been closer to death.

Over at the Stables, I wonder if Alistair is playing away or has started gambling again? Daniel came back from Sandhurst for the weekend (I think he told them about the Single Wicket competition and they let him go) and Alistair is away at a conference. When he gets back, an exhausted Dan has gone to bed and Shula was very sniffy with Alistair, telling him that she is going to bed and there’s cold beef Wellington if he wants it. Beef Wellington? Blimey, how the other half lives - I had beans on toast on Friday.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

The Most Hated Man In Ambridge?

Felix Scott (Charlie Thomas)

This week’s title is the soubriquet that Tom Archer bestowed upon himself when he phoned Rob last week. However, ladies and gentlemen, I submit that there is another contender coming up fast on the inside, with Charlie Thomas seemingly doing his damnedest to make himself unpopular with as many people as possible.

Charlie – whose philosophy appears to be ‘if you only upset one person a day, it’s still worth getting out of bed’ – has already got on Adam’s chimes, although to be fair he did compliment Adam on a job well done and bought him a pint (I can only assume Charlie was feeling unwell that day), and now he’s working his way through the village, offending someone here, upsetting someone else there.

The latest person to be upset is Will Grundy. Charlie says he’s heard good things about Will and the gamekeeper offers to show him around. Mistake Will! It was quite touching how Will explained his special, personal project to increase the number of partridges on the shoot. Charlie thinks this is a good idea and he’d like to offer more shooting days next year. A wary Will asks ‘how many more’ and is horrified when Charlie says he’d like another 10. Will protests that it can’t be done – he’s pushed enough as it is and it would be too much extra work. For all the good it did, he might as well have been talking in Klingon, as Charlie tells him to leave the details to him and isn’t it good that we’ve had this little talk?

Of course, this gives Will something else to moan about and he goes off to complain about Charlie to Brian. Brian weeps a few crocodile tears and then tells Will that it’s nothing to do with him anymore, as Charlie runs the Estate now and he is Will’s boss. You could always appeal to Charlie’s better nature, Will, but I reckon the 10 extra days are a nailed-on certainty and if I were you, I’d carry a picture of George and Poppy around with you, as you might not get home to see them very often.

This week we had the drama of the public meeting to discuss the route for the new road development. There are three possible routes up for discussion and there is uproar and consternation when it turns out that route B would go straight through Brookfield, cutting the farm in two. David and Rooooth are, understandably, a tad concerned over this possibility and David embarks on a campaign to attract as many members of the public to Open Farm Sunday in order to drum up support for a working, family farm.

I’m not saying that Charlie had anything to do with the siting of the route, but he manages to upset David later in the week when David learns that Berrow Farm will also be holding an OFS on the same day and this is competition that Brookfield doesn’t really need. David rings up Rob for an explanation and Rob explains that it was Charlie’s idea, not his and, left to Rob, it wouldn’t have happened. David tells Rooooth that he almost felt sorry for Rob. However, he is feeling sorry for himself and his attitude has changed from the initial “I won’t ever let them build a road over Brookfield” to a “This could be our last OFS – if we lose and the road is built, we might end up with no farm at all.” Let’s just hope that David doesn’t spot Charlie wearing a ‘Support Route B’ badge while he’s carrying his shotgun.

Brian is keeping well out of the argument (he fears new BL owner Justin Eliot might have some vested interest, having possibly bought some of the land). Besides, Brian has his own person to hate, and that’s Buddy, the foreman of the team installing Jennifer’s new kitchen. Firstly they install the wrong sink (“we’ve been playing musical sinks” Brian tells Matt, sourly), then there is a flood, with an inch of water all over the floor, then Jen takes a call from Buddy’s wife, saying that he has fallen off a roof and will be off work for a while. Brian seems convinced that he’s done it on purpose and the completed kitchen seems further off than ever.

Roy manages to talk Elizabeth into camping out at the festival, but it’s not going to be like it was when she was in the Brownies – from what I can gather, this tent will be the canvas equivalent of the Taj Mahal, fully fitted out with all mod cons and a team of staff to supervise everything from cooking to making sure the ass’s milk is the correct temperature for her bath and that the evening turn-down service is as it should be.

Over at Ambridge Hall, Robert’s ‘Mad Hatter’ birthday party for Lynda goes down well, but not for us, as Leonie and James are there. Leonie accepts a llama wool blanket for the baby from Lynda, saying “It will look lovely on his –“ and stops. Lynda says “What do you mean?” thus displaying a staggering level of density, even for her. I agree with Brian’s comment when told about the Mad Hatter theme; “very appropriate”.

Tom continues to cast a long shadow, as Tony calls a family conference to discuss what they are going to do about the pigs. Peggy thinks this is a good idea and is a little taken aback when a newly-power-drunk Tony does his ‘head of the family’ act and tells her that she’s not wanted. He also tells Helen to tell Rob to stay away. And so the scene is set for a cosy, reasonable chat. Ha! As if! The newly-non-organic pigs will have to be sold but the question is whether to re-stock with organic or not? Helen thinks it’s a waste of time and suggests that they listen to Rob’s ideas. Tony gets abusive and says that Rob isn’t even family. Helen then drops her bombshell, telling Tony and Pat that it was Rob who arranged Tom’s interview in Canada and, furthermore, he has proposed to her and she’s accepted. “Aren’t you going to congratulate me?” she asks, rather acidly. You know, Charlie Wilson just might not be the most hated man in some parts of Ambridge.