Monday, 26 January 2015

Is The Worm About To Turn?

Brian Hewlett and Charlotte Martin (Neil and Susan Carter)
It’s been a long time since we kicked off with a story about Neil and Susan, so here goes. Susan wants Neil to take her into town to shop for stuff for Emma’s dress, but Neil has to go and move the pigs. Sadly, Tom has noticed that the pigs are churning up their patch and he and Johnny have just moved them.

Neil, who is nominally the manager of the pig unit, isn’t best pleased and his temper isn’t improved when, as he begins to give Tom his plan for the future, Tom interrupts him with his own idea. Neil says he was thinking along the same lines, whereupon Tom - showing more than a flash of the pre-Canada, egocentric ‘the world revolves around me’ Tom Archer, says “Great minds”. Neil goes home, fuming and ranting that it has been a monumental waste of time.

Now, at times like this, what you need is the support of, and words of comfort from, your other half and, when he tells Susan what has happened, that is exactly what he doesn’t get. Firstly she is unhappy that he could have taken her shopping after all and he should stand up to Tom, as he (Neil) is the manager. In a few weeks, she tells him, he’ll be walking his daughter down the aisle and doesn’t he want her to be proud of him? “If you act like a doormat, people will walk all over you” she tells him, helpfully. “I’m nobody’s doormat” Neil roars, but Susan interrupts him, saying: “You let people take advantage of you.” I suppose we should be grateful that she didn’t say “Shut up Neil, I’m talking, you doormat.” Neil says “From now on I won’t let Tom or anyone else push me around - except you dear.” I made the last three words up, but perhaps Neil’s first act as his new, self-confident, I’m-not-taking-crap-from-anyone alter ego should be to wrap a roll of gaffer tape round Susan’s gob. Just a suggestion.

There was a cameo when Jolene entered the bathroom, thinking that it was Fallon in the shower, only to confront an embarrassed Harrison, stark naked (the lock doesn’t work). Fallon and PCB are staying in The Bull while her boiler is fixed. The sight causes Jolene to go to the bar and gulp down water, telling Lilian what she saw. PCB should watch himself, as Jolene has form when it comes to showers and sex - remember when she and Sid got it together; talk about wears the soap - and she showed some of this when PCB said that he’s fixed the lock and nothing like that will happen again. “That’s a shame” she says. Whoa there Jolene; that’s your daughter’s boyfriend you’re lusting after, you minx you.

This week’s ‘I bet this will all end in tears’ story is when Helen tells Rob that she saw Adam and Charlie kissing on New Year’s Eve and that he mustn’t tell anybody, nobody, ever, promise, cross your heart? Ha! On Friday, Hel, Rob and Adam are at The Bull for the dance lessons night and Rob keeps slyly mentioning New Year’s Eve when speaking to Adam, much to Helen’s discomfort. That should be the least of her worries, as Rob has taken it upon himself to talk to Tina, the Manageress of Ambridge Organics, about the continuing disappointing sales. He told her that, if she has any problems, to talk to him. Helen, taking over the Neil ‘doormat’ mantle, doesn’t protest. Rob presses home his advantage, wiping his feet on her even more, when he accuses Helen of secretly wanting him to take the DNA test. Helen, who will in future will presumably sleep on the floor just inside the front door, protests that she will support Rob in whatever he decides. Tell him to take the bloody test, woman!

Other major stories - Ed has defaulted on his rent payments and seems amazed that he is being threatened with eviction. The answer? Sell four of the cows. He is against it, but Eddie points out that he could end up with no cows at all and Ed reluctantly agrees.

Lilian is putting on a brave face, telling PCB that Matt will be back soon - she knows her Tiger. Not that well, apparently, as on Friday she is at The Bull (giving dancing lessons to PCB) when she receives a text. “It’s Matt!” she says gleefully, then gasps when she reads it. PCB follows her outside, where she is sobbing uncontrollably. She shows him the text - Matt is in Costa Rica. Lilian wails “He’s gone, he’s left me, he’s never coming back!” Blimey; I know that revenge is a dish best eaten cold, but if this is payback for the ‘Lilian/Paul’ affair, it’s not just cold, but has been deep frozen for a few months.

There is a ray of hope in the ‘For God’s sake get rid of Kate’ protest movement when, on Tuesday, Kate picks Phoebe up from college and forces her to go for a bite to eat, while bending her ear about how she has made so many cool friends at college. Phoebe has had a bad day and expresses mild surprise that Kate has made friends with people so much younger. Kate gets a text message and it’s one of her ‘friends’ (Steph) who is inviting her (and Phoebe) to a bar in Felpersham. Phoebe wants to go home and stands firm, so Kate drops her off and then shoots off to Felpersham on her own. A very down Phoebe retires to her room, where Jennifer brings her a cup of tea and talks through her troubles (Kate never noticed or asked). Phoebe gets a picture message on her phone and it’s Kate. Jen asks what is it and Phoebe says “you don’t want to know” but Jen insists. It’s a selfie of Kate (“Getting wasted in a bar” - Phoebe) wearing pussycat ears and Phoebe bursts out “Why does she send this to me? It’s sad and embarrassing!” Go back to live with Roy, Phoebe, persuade Hayley and Abbie to come home (and Kate to go home).

Monday, 19 January 2015

Looks Like Johnny Has Daily Sex

Tom Gibbons (Johnny Phillips)

Everybody keeps telling Johnny that he’s not stupid and that he’s a natural stockman, so why can’t he pass his exams? Helen has a theory that he may be dyslexic and Tom notices that he has trouble in reading the numbers on the cows’ tags. But when Tom raises the subject of dyslexia, Johnny heads him off and changes the subject.


Later on, when helping Johnny with his homework, Tom asks him to read something printed on buff-coloured paper. There is a marked improvement and Tom says that he has been researching dyslexia and sufferers often find it easier to read from coloured paper. The Learning Support people at college will know more, says Tom, but Johnny is not impressed, saying “That’s for thickos”. A word of advice Johnny; your family are trying to help you and if you don’t try and help yourself, they might start getting fed up.


It was a bad weekend for Rob; much of it spent stewing over the letter about his alleged paternity of Jess’s baby. Helen takes Henry to Lower Loxley for a go on the treetop walk but Rob is in too much of a state to go with them, so he tells a disappointed Henry that he has to stay and cook lunch. Rob phones Jess and there’s the sound of a baby crying in the background. Jess says she will call him back as “your son needs my attention” and Rob just has time to snarl “He’s not my son” as she hangs up on him.


Jess does call back and tells Rob that his name is on the birth certificate as the father. Not only that, but Jess has been in touch with Rob’s mother, who is delighted with the child and says that he looks just like Rob when he was a baby. By this time Rob is incandescent, saying things like “You had no right to name me as the father” and “There’s no way I’m paying maintenance.” Jess’s counter is in that case Rob will have to prove he’s not the father, which would mean taking a DNA test. “I refuse to be blackmailed” Rob tells her, but he’s obviously upset because, when Helen and Henry return, Rob has forgotten to turn the oven on.


Later in the week, Helen tells Pat about her problem. “But he can’t be the father, can he?” Pat asks, suggesting that he takes the DNA test as “you’ll never be free unless he does.” This obviously chimes with Helen, as she says much the same thing to Rob a bit later – he is in an even worse temper, as he has received another official letter, saying that he has to take a DNA test. “It’s blatant harassment – how can they take her word? I’m not dancing to that woman’s tune!” he seethes. If you don’t take the test Rob, they will take maintenance from you in any case. If you turn out not to be the father, all well and good, but even if you are the father, Helen is so besotted with you that I’m sure she would swallow any old story, such as Jess breaking in on you one night and stealing some of your sperm. Just take the test and get it over with, there’s a good lad.


There was some good news last week, as Fallon and PC Burns really got it together. He can’t believe how lucky he is as they are together in bed and tells her that the heating has gone wrong, so they will have to stay there. Would a policemen tell lies? Good news for Pat and Tony too, as a bed has been found for him at Felpersham hospital, which means that Pat won’t have to keep making the trek to Birmingham. And how did they manage to find a bed? With all the scare stories about the NHS in crisis and overworked A&E units, it would have been more credible if they had found him a trolley in a corridor at Felpersham, rather than a bed.


Not such good news – the authorities at FelpershamUniversity have confirmed that Kate can study there for her advanced diploma, the bastards. Talking of Kate, Tom goes to see Roy (who is still in a bit of a mess; both physical and emotional) and Roy cannot understand how Phoebe has managed to forget and forgive the numerous terrible things that Kate has done in the past but won’t even give him the time of day. Leafing quickly through his book of ‘Platitudes for suicidal friends’, Tom tells him “When you hit rock bottom, the only way is up”. Luckily he didn’t add “Or on the other hand I suppose you could stay there for ever.”


More avarice from the Archer children, with Liz saying what a godsend the Brookfield money will be and how she is optimistic about the future and feels that “there could be someone out there for me”. Shula agrees that the money will be welcome and Kenton has plans to buy out Lilian’s share of The Bull. This on top of the business class trip to Australia and the refurbishment of the pub – how much is he getting, for crying out loud?


Mind you, Lilian might be needing the money. She returns from holiday and calls out for Matt. Next we hear her say “Oh my God!” and she phones the police. PCB turns up (no doubt a tad annoyed at having to leave Fallon in bed) and Lil tells him that she noticed the burglar alarm was switched off and the safe was open. There’s no sign of forced entry and PCB muses that it seems strange there’s a lot of expensive electric equipment that is lying untouched. He also spots a note saying “sorry pusscat”. 


PCB leaves and Lilian rings round the banks. PCB returns later, saying he realised from the note what’s happened. Lilian confirms that Matt has done a runner, emptying the safe and the bank accounts. Does Lilian want PCB to report this? She says no – she will find Matt and they will sort this out together. Surely it’s obvious what’s happened? Think – Tom has returned from Canada, Kate is going to be here a year and it’s only 10 months till Lynda Snell’s next Christmas bloody extravaganza. Surely any normal person would want to get out while they could?

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Counting Their Chickens

Richard Attlee (Kenton Archer)

As we said a couple of weeks ago, a lot of people are going to be disappointed if the sale of Brookfield falls through, not least Kenton, who decided that the best way to jolt Jolene out of her post-Christmas blues was to surprise her with a trip to Australia. Not only that, but the tickets are business class. Jolene is thrilled, but what about the cost? Kenton has put it on his card and says “I’ll clear it when my windfall comes through”. That muffled clucking you hear comes from chickens inside eggs.

Shula and Alistair have plans for the Stables and the vet’s practice, but at least they haven’t spent anything yet and Pip is dragging her mum and dad round local farms, looking at robotic milking systems. Her thinking is that, when they move north, they can have a state-of-the-art milking parlour, funded by Justin Eliot’s millions. But all is not well, as it appears that the new farm has a nitrate problem and a new slurry tank (or something similar) will be needed. David has obtained a quote and it will cost £140 k. He thinks the vendors have been less than transparent and tells Rooooth that the vendors will have to drop the selling price. “I just hope it doesn’t scupper the deal” she says. You and lots of other Archers, Rooooth.

It was a week of birthdays, with Jennifer turning 70 on January 7th and Pat reaching 63 on the 10th. Jennifer threw a party and, surprisingly, we weren’t told how wonderful the new kitchen is. Phoebe made herself useful, serving food and drinks. Pat’s celebration was more low key; just her and Tony at the hospital. Tony has been measured up for crutches and is getting better slowly. He tells Pat that he remembers her telling him “You mustn’t leave me” when he was unconscious. Later on Pat has a party with her children, Rob and Johnny and she tells them how good it was to see Tony up and sitting in a chair.

If I were asked to name the most pretentious character, the clear winner (and holder of the title for a number of years) would be Lynda Snell. But no longer! Last week Lynda lost her title to Kate, who effortlessly spouted meaningless claptrap day after day. On Sunday, Kate moans because Phoebe won’t join her in meditation and tells Phoebe that she doesn’t have to do so much around the house. Phoebe says that she enjoys helping, but Kate says they should make time for each other and that she wants to guide her and help her find her path in life. Phoebe decides that right now the path is taking her to help Brian with the lambing and she leaves. Kate then tells Jennifer how good it is to be bonding with Phoebe again. “I can be her guide; both spiritually and emotionally. Not just mother to daughter, but woman to woman.” Jen’s response? “Mother and daughter wouldn’t be such a bad place to start, Kate”.

On Thursday, Kate takes Phoebe to lunch and gets stuck into the vegan wine. She reveals a bit of a chip on her shoulder when she says that Jennifer kept going on at her party about what a pity it was that Adam wasn’t there. Kate also thinks that Jennifer thinks more of Debbie and Alice than she does of her and “she doesn’t understand the journey I’m on.” The talk turns to Roy, and Phoebe says she always trusted him. Kate dismisses him as ‘a weak man’, saying “he always had an unbalanced spiritual core.” What a load of pretentious twaddle!

It would appear that Kate’s journey involves getting to the bottom of the bottle and Phoebe shows that she at least is level-headed and practical when she confiscates Kate’s car keys and orders a taxi for her because she has had too much to drink. Kate screams “I know my own limits!” and “Phoebe, how dare you!” Nothing like a bit of mother/daughter bonding, is there?

Ed and Emma discuss their wedding at St Stephen’s and he seems a tad reluctant. He protests that he loves her as much as ever but Emma senses that it is because she got married to Will in the same church and tells him that it has always been her dream to marry the man she loves at St Stephens. Regarding the cost, she says “We’ll do it as cheaply as we can, Ed, I promise” and that she doesn’t care if they have to have orange squash afterwards. If I’m invited, I might find that I’m unexpectedly washing my hair that day. Regarding the refreshments, Mike still appears to be losing customers, so why not offer the guests milk?

I fear that the Rob/Helen romance is heading for stormy waters. Rob is still keen to have a child and drops unsubtle hints about Henry being lonely, with no-one to play with. Helen, however, notices that December sales figures at Ambridge Organics weren’t very good and she goes to see Tina, the Manageress. Tina is adamant that it is not her fault and Helen decides that she might have to become a bit more involved in the running of the shop. We had another example of Rob’s controlling side when Helen told him about Ambridge Organics; he thinks that Tom has been making her feel guilty and suggests that, if something like this crops up again, perhaps she and him should talk it over before she seeks advice from anyone else. This is just a minor hiccup, however, compared with what happens on Friday. Rob is opening the post and bursts out “Bitch! She never knows when to stop!” Jess has named Rob as the father of her baby in a maternity order. A distraught Helen cries “But it’s not your baby - there must be some mistake, mustn’t there?” Let’s see you talk yourself out of this one, Rob.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

One Hip Flask And He’s Anybody’s

Andrew Wincott (Adam Macy)

That Adam is a bit of a tart, isn’t he? On New Year’s Eve Jennifer forces him to take Kate to the do at Grey Gables, at which she apparently tries to drink the place dry of champagne. As well as unburdening herself to Adam (of which, sadly, more later) she takes quite a shine to Charlie, asking Adam whether or not he has a girlfriend. Adam replies - rather tetchily - that he doesn’t know and Kate says that, if she didn’t know better, she’d say he was jealous. “Don’t be ridiculous - I’m a happily married man” Adam snaps back.

Later on however, Adam is alone with Charlie and the latter asks Adam why doesn’t he thank him? When Adam asks what for, Charlie reveals that it was he that bought Adam’s Secret Santa present of a hip flask. A hip flask? Bloody hell - I got aftershave and a box of Heroes. Adam is taken aback, as he never bought Charlie anything. He also tells Charlie that he took his advice to stand up to Brian and he and Ian are off to Miami tomorrow. There is more small talk and then they kiss. With impeccable timing, Helen comes outside for a breath of fresh air and catches them at it. “What the hell’s going on?” she demands.

So, what can we learn from this?  One: Helen isn’t that clever. Two: Charlie obviously only half understands the concept of a Secret Santa. Three: Adam is setting his sights higher - last year he had a sordid night of passion with fruit picker Pawel, this year he has traded up to Charlie and what lies ahead for next year? An affair with Justin Eliot, perhaps? The question remains, will Helen be able to stop herself telling Ian what she saw - after all, Ian is her friend? Perhaps it’s lucky that Adam and Ian are off to the States.

And now we have to talk about Kate and I hope you will forgive me if I break down sobbing. Not because of the revelation that Lucas has given up his job and taken the children back to Jo’burg, nor because Kate realises that she married the wrong man and not because Lucas’s family are trying to turn the children against her. No, tears sprang unbidden to my eyes when Kate announced that she wants to do an Advanced Diploma in International Development at Felpersham University, which means that she will be around Ambridge for the next year or so.

Brian, like me, was not impressed with this news. “Is there a job at the end of this?” he asked, expecting - and getting - the answer ’No’. Kate leaves the room and Brian tells Jennifer: “You know as well as I do - wherever Kate lands, chaos follows.” Jennifer, however, exhibits a touching (though probably unfounded) faith in her daughter and a strong case of the triumph of hope over experience, when she says “That’s all in the past. Kate being back is a positive move for the whole family.” Oh yeah? Want to bet?

Actually, Jen wasn’t happy, as the Echo decided not to use her story about the alleged plans of Justin Eliot to reduce Ambridge to an industrial wasteland unless she reveals her sources. She is outraged and her mood is not improved when Brian observes that, as BL shareholders, he and Jen could benefit greatly if Justin’s plans go ahead. Wrong answer Brian! Jennifer vows to fight to the bitter end.

We had another example of Rob’s occasional control freakery when he and Helen went shopping for a dress (for her) for the New Year’s Eve ball. Rob has issues with the dress that the store assistant recommended, calling it ‘a bit short’ and ‘trendy’ and suggests a mauve, more frumpy creation. Helen gives in and buys his choice.
On NYE, Rob tells Helen that “We obviously want the same thing - I think it’s time we had a baby.” This came as a bit of a shock to Helen and she asks if the timing is right? I’d get off the dance floor first. It will be an interesting test of how much control Rob actually has over Helen. It was quite a night for Helen - shortly after Rob’s bombshell, she went outside for some air and it was then that she saw Adam and Charlie. An interesting start to the New Year indeed.

There was a happy story when PC Burns and Fallon finally got it together, with her asking him if he’d like to go back to her place for a drink after New Year’s Eve. “I’d like nothing more” Harrison replies. I like Harrison and I like Fallon, so I sincerely hope that they continue to be an item and are happy forever - surely that’s the least the writers can do after bringing Kate back?

Roy had a wretched New Year, ringing Phoebe (no answer), Hayley (ditto) and ending up phoning Elizabeth and breaking down in tears when she doesn’t answer either. Happy New Year, Roy.

Lynda is anxious when she learns that Tristram ‘Hatchet’ Hawkshaw from the Felpersham Light Operatic Society is in the audience of Blithe Spirit and is to review the production for the Echo. After the show he approaches Lynda, who immediately becomes wary and defensive. No need to worry, as Tristram says it was one of the best interpretations of the play that he has seen. He then spoils it a bit for Lynda by heaping praise on Susan’s performance, asking her if she’s thought of taking on bigger parts? Lynda’s self-congratulatory glow is restored when Tristram tells her that she “has raised the bar for amateur theatre in Borsetshire.” Well done Lynda - but think about his words; you have triumphed, but surely it’s best to quit while you are at the top or else it‘s downhill all the way? So, perhaps no Christmas production next year then?