Sunday, 21 June 2015

The End Of An Era (Apart From Regular Visits)

The first five words are how Mike describes his moving out of Ambridge to Brenda and Roy. Vicky and Beth have already left for the new house and the removal men have packed up everything and carted it off. Mike gets a bit maudlin when he says there are some things he cannot take - the tree planted in memory of first wife Betty and her ashes. "I didn't deserve her" he tells his children and they reminisce about when they bought the house; "It was almost worth losing my eye for it," Mike says cheerfully (it was the compensation for the accident that enabled them to buy Willow Farm). If he'd lost both eyes, they could presumably have added a swimming pool.


The leave-taking is quite sad; especially when you consider that he's only moving to Birmingham and he'll be back most days - at least until he has sold the milk round. I suspect it was the farewell party (cocktails and canapés) hosted by Susan the evening before that got him into this maudlin mood. At the party, Neil gave a speech, in which he says that he cannot imagine what life will be like without Mike (they first met in 1973 and have been best friends for years). For Heaven's sake! He's going to Birmingham, not a one-way trip to Mars.


Vicky was equally sorrowful, saying that she will miss all the countryside things like cows and trees (although she admits that she never grasped which trees were which) and she starts to cry. Roy is conscious that he is the last Tucker left standing in Ambridge. On the night of the party, Brenda finds her brother alone in the kitchen and she says that he hasn't been coping very well, has he? Roy agrees, saying that he had the perfect life and he's gone and thrown it all away - Phoebe would rather be with Hayley than either Roy or Kate, her parents.


Actually, it must have been a depressing return visit for Brenda, as she ran into Tom earlier and the conversation was a bit awkward, to say the least. Questions such as "Was it really awful, coming back [from Canada]?" didn't really help much. Bren is grateful that Tom has been looking after Roy, to which Tom replies that "I know how you feel when you screw up a relationship - I've managed it more than once, haven't I?" Is everybody unhappy in Ambridge?


Surely Fallon will be happy - Friday is her birthday, after all? Wrong! It's her 30th birthday and the thought fills her with despondency. How many of the five million listeners of the Archers are under 30, I wonder? What will she be like when she reaches 40, 50 or 60? Harrison (PCB to you and I) is under strict orders not to spend money on her or plan any surprises. "I hate surprises" she warns.


Undeterred, PCB checks things out with Jolene, saying that he reckons Fallon is just saying that. Jolene says no; she really, really does not like surprises and, when PCB reveals his plan to give her a private showing of her favourite film in the Flood Bar, Jolene's terse comment is "You're mad." The birthday starts off well enough, with PCB taking Fallon a cup of tea in the morning. He wishes her 'happy birthday'and is told that that is the only reference he is allowed to make about it all day. 


Later on Fallon spots him furtively wandering around in The Bull and decides he's up to something. He denies this and leaves, saying that he only popped in to give Jolene something. However, later in the evening, Fallon notices everyone in the pub disappearing to the Flood Bar and wonders what is going on? PCB drags her along and the place is full of customers and friends, who wish her 'happy birthday'. PCB stuffs a tub of popcorn into her arms and tells Kenton to 'roll it' - it's her favourite film; Chicago. There are no yelps, such as those from a man whose bits are being ripped off, so we have to assume that PCB got away with it this time.


Things are looking up for Christine, when Peggy suggests that, if she really can't face going back to Woodbine Cottage, why not move in with her at The Lodge? After all, Peggy tells her, she gets lonely too sometimes. Shula and Elizabeth think it's a great idea; Jennifer thinks it's a great idea and Jill thinks it's a wonderful idea. I must admit that I think it's a pretty neat solution too. Christine is unconvinced - is Peggy just feeling sorry for her and what would happen if Peggy fell ill "Or died" as Peggy says? The answer is to draw up a proper agreement and, when Christine visits The Lodge to have a look round and sees her room, she is wavering. The deal is sealed when Bill the cat enters the room and curls up on Chris's lap. A handy tip there for Estate Agents.


Moving on to less happy matters, we have a textbook illustration of how committees can cock it up. Kenton is incensed when he learns that the Fete Committee (FT) has decided to cancel this year's fete. He is on the committee but couldn't attend because he had forgotten his car's MoT - the man is as organised as a plate of spaghetti. He immediately makes plans on the hoof to save the fete - it can be held in the car park of The Bull (where will the punters park their vehicles, Kenton?) and all is well, as the pub needs events like the fete to survive.


Sadly, Kenton doesn't tell the other members of the FT about the rescue plan and, the following day, Elizabeth is talking to Jill, David and Pip about the cancellation and Elizabeth suggests that it could be held at Lower Loxley. OK, yes, it's the Ambridge fete, but at least there would be one. Boffo wheeze! Everyone thinks it's great. Did I say 'everyone'? Jill enters the pub and tells Kenton that he doesn't have to save the fete, as Lizzie has stepped into the breach. Kenton goes gorilla-pooh and shouts at his Mum for not thinking of telling him - he is on the FT you know (see start of this paragraph) - and The Bull needs the fete. He thought it was just David who was trying to ruin him but now he finds his Mum and sister have joined the conspiracy against him. "If The Bull goes up the Swanee, it will be your fault" Kenton rants against his Mum. At the rate he is going, Kenton will have no family left to talk to.


Now we have to talk about Kate. At Home Farm she talks to Auntie Lilian about the house warming debacle on Friday. Brian enters the kitchen and asks why isn't she at college? She says that she has had a run-in with her tutor, to which Brian replies that we all have to deal with people we don't like, so knuckle down and get on with it. He leaves and Kate asks Lil what is she going to do - she has actually told her tutor to stuff the course and her bridges have been burned. Being Kate, she asks Lilian if she would broach the subject with Brian, but Lilian hasn't had that much gin (it is only breakfast, after all) and says that this is something that Kate has to do herself.


And so she does, knocking rather diffidently on the door of the lounge. The reactions of her parents are interesting; Jennifer says brightly "Hello darling", while Brian says "Oh, it's you again" and, when she says she needs to talk, he mutters "What have you done now?" Kate confesses (blaming the tutor, of course) and Brian lays into her (one of the most satisfying bits of radio that I've heard in years). He despairs of her, saying "You're pushing 40 - it's time you got a grip and stopped behaving like an overgrown teenager." Kate protests that it's not her fault but Brian says that she can't hold anything down and what sort of example is she setting to Phoebe? Just before he storms out, he adds: "You've tried my patience once too often." Kate cries and turns to her mother for solace, saying how unfair Brian was. Jen disagrees, saying that Brian was right and "You've got to learn to take responsibility and behave like an adult." Stunned, Kate say that "If that's how you feel, I'll get out of your hair"and retreats to her cottage. Sell the bloody place Brian - that will teach her.


Later on in the week, Kate is taken out by Lilian and the two are getting smashed on gin. Lilian says that what Kate needs is a plan - neither of them are any good at plodding down conventional paths - "Have faith in your auntie Lilian" she tells her, in a gin-fuelled haze, "I reckon that we can come up with a plan that will amaze them all." How about swimming the Pacific non-stop, or eating a pound of toadstools? To end, we return to the night that Kate made her revelation to her parents. Brian and Kate have left and Jen is alone. Lil comes in (she smelt the wine, I reckon) and a sad Jen says that all her other children are level headed, "So where did we go wrong with Kate?"Now, the following comment from a friend is very cruel, but he suggests that they went wrong "In cutting the umbilical cord instead of the throat". Ouch!

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