Sunday, 20 March 2016

Once A Black Sheep…?

David Hargreaves (Alf Grundy)

Last week saw the return of Alf, Eddie’s brother, who has been a non-speaking cast member for a number of years. Not only did he return to Ambridge - having been invited for Eddie’s 65th birthday celebrations - but he even got a speaking part. At first, I thought that it was Joe moonlighting, but when I heard them together, I could tell the difference.

And Joe was overcome with emotion when he saw his son for the first time in years, and so was Eddie; embracing his brother and telling him that his past indiscretions were all water under the bridge. Ah yes, the indiscretions - Alf was a bit of a scally in his time and his misdemeanours included nicking money out of William’s money box (how come a Grundy had managed to save some money?) All this is in the past, Alf assures everyone, as indeed is his relationship with Steffie (of whom we have never heard, so don’t be too sad). Clarrie, for one, appeared to take Alf’s protestations of honesty with a large pinch of salt - when Alf remarked that the Grundy’s appeared to have done all right for themselves, she reminds him sternly that “we’re just house-sitting, so everything stays exactly as you find it.”

Alf’s reputation obviously preceded him, as, when Ed and George visit Grange Farm, George (who has never seen Alf before) says “Have you got a proper job, Uncle Alf? Dad says you used to be a burglar.” While Ed curls up with embarrassment, Alf says lightly that George shouldn’t believe everything he hears.

At the surprise barn dance on Friday - a surprise, incidentally, which skate-mouth Joe let slip to Eddie earlier in the week - everybody is having a nice time and Clarrie offers to buy a round. She goes to her purse and mutters in a puzzled voice “I could have sworn I had a couple of £20 notes in here.” Is Alf up to his old tricks, or is it a case of ‘give a dog a bad name’? We’ll have to wait and see if ornaments or paintings start vanishing from Grange Farm. If so, Alf’s return could be fleeting, to say the least.

The birthday bash was hugely enjoyed by everybody (except one - more of this later) and Eddie had obviously had enough to drink when, spotting Wayne with his guitar and being told that it is for some live C&W music, says “Brilliant! This party just gets better!” So, who is this killjoy who didn’t enjoy the party? Dear reader, I am afraid I must plead guilty, but there are mitigating circumstances, the first of which is that it was a barn dance. Even worse was Wayne’s C&W offering - a tribute to Eddie, penned by Wayne and entitled “The Prince of Grundys”. Eddie has been called many things in his time, but ‘Prince’ must be a first. As you may have gathered, barn dances and C&W are not my favourites - in fact, they are my idea of Hell, alongside an interval of Flamenco dancing and accordion and bagpipe solos. But hey - it wasn’t my birthday and it’s not every day that you are 65, so good luck Eddie. Memo to the producers - I don’t mind Wayne cooking, but please don’t ever let him sing again.

Now it’s time for the latest developments in the Helen/Rob story. On Monday, Rob finds Helen sleepwalking in Henry’s bedroom. In the morning, she remembers nothing, so he tells her (falsely) that she was “looming” over Henry’s bed, saying nasty, abusive things ‘like something out of a horror movie.’ As such, the Prince of Darkness decides to bring forward Helen’s appointment with the trick cyclist and a carefully-coached Helen is - unbelievably - allowed to see the psychiatrist on her own. The psych suggests anti-depressants and a course of cognitive behavioural therapy, although there is a long waiting list. When she emerges, true to type, Helen apologises to Rob, saying “This must be awful for you.” Never mind him, what about us? How much longer is this going on for?

There was a really creepy moment a couple of days later, when Rob joins Helen in bed. He says that she is cold, but “I know a way to warm you up” and he starts kissing her. In vain does Helen protest that she’s tired and begs him to stop, to no avail and the episode ends with Helen’s pathetic “No!” Before this, Rob tells her that he knows what the trouble is - “It’s because you feel guilty for hitting me, but I forgive you.” Let’s think, when was this? Oh yes, it was last week when Helen viciously brought her face into rapid contact with Rob’s hand - God, that woman’s got a nasty streak.

On Thursday, Rob and Ursula left Helen alone (probably bound and gagged) while they went to Rob’s old school to check out whether it would be suitable for Henry. Of course it would. Ursula praises the school and how polite and confident the boys are. With Henry out of the way, she says that Helen “can really focus on my little grandson.” Rob thanks his mother for offering to pay the school fees, but suggests that perhaps she should go home soon, as they could do with some space. Presumably Rob is supremely confident that he can keep Helen in order by himself now, and this is confirmed as, when Ursula says all they have to do is to convince Helen of what’s best for Henry, Rob replies: “Don’t you worry about that - leave it to me.”

Far be it for me to raise the hopes of the ever-increasing ranks of Rob-haters who read this blog - and it might just be wishful thinking - but there were a couple of straws in the wind that Rob might be getting closer to his just desserts. Firstly, when speaking to Bert, who describes Rob as a decent sort and a bit of a hero, Carol says of Rob “He’s not my sort of man”. Secondly, (and, given Rob’s adhesive attention to his wife, incredibly) Kirsty manages to get some time alone with Helen, who bursts into tears and tells Kirsty “I think I’m going mad” and “I keep upsetting everybody.” “Are you sure it’s you?” Kirsty asks and Helen says that she attacked Rob and he had to hit her in self defence. Kirsty is appalled, saying that there’s never any excuse for a man to hit her and she should tell somebody. “No, I brought it on myself” says Helen, alarmed, and makes Kirsty promise not to tell anyone about the incident.

The following day, Kirsty phones the abuse helpline, telling them about her friend, who she believes is in an abusive relationship, and whose partner has hit her. The counsellor asks “Would you say his behaviour is controlling?” Ha! Do the Osmonds have teeth? Is the Pope a Catholic? The counsellor also tells Kirsty that, under a new law, coercive control is a criminal offence (and the whole Helen/Rob story is presumably aimed at publicising this) and can Kirsty persuade her friend to talk to someone, or even phone the helpline in strict anonymity? Little chance, but she’ll try to persuade her.

Let’s move on to lighter things. Lynda’s shepherd’s hut continues to be up-specced, with a folding bed the latest mod con. Joe isn’t convinced that it is robust enough - it is made out an old biscuit tin, but Eddie says that it is recycling, which is something that Lynda is keen on. Joe says that they need to find out what Lynda weighs, but diplomacy is of paramount importance. Actually, he wouldn’t know what half of the words in the preceding sentence mean, but I am paraphrasing. As he, Lynda and Eddie are talking over what work Lynda wants in her garden, Joe the diplomat seizes his chance. “We need to know how much you weighs” he tells Lynda. Way to go, Joe! As subtle as a brick through a window, as always. An affronted Lynda refuses to divulge her weight.

There was a moment of farce, when Lynda explained her indecision over the typeface she should use for the word ‘Resurgam’, which will be carved into the stone at the heart of her new garden. In fact, there was another ‘wow radio’ moment, when she and Jim discussed and rejected various fonts. When describing her dilemma to Eddie and Joe, Lynda referred to agonising over which font to choose, to which a perplexed Eddie says that he can’t get fonts, but he could supply a large birdbath and try to churchify it a little. Sadly, Lynda didn’t bang her head against the nearest brick wall.

However, Lynda’s grand scheme to have a magnificent opening for her garden, representing the village’s resilience in coming back from adversity, looks set to meet opposition. Talking to Carol, Bert learns of Lynda’s plans. “Typical!” he snorts, “What gives her the right? No-one lost more in that flood but me - no-one!” Watch out for mild-mannered Bert Fry creeping around the Ambridge Hall garden with weed killer and hammer. What might save Lynda’s garden is Carol’s suggestion that he devote part of his garden to the flood - and to Freda. “That’s not a bad idea” says Bert.

Brookfield’s gamble on getting a new herd in appears to be working, as five cows gave birth overnight, with no help and no complications. David is besotted by the new calves (even though he has seen about 600,000 being born). All they need now is to hope that the new system - besides being easier, now most of the cows have got the idea of going through the milking parlour - starts improving their margins and making money.

The rollercoaster that is the relationship between Pip and Matthew continues on its up and down course. On Sunday, Pip helps the Fairbrother boys move the finished Eggmobile on to fresh pasture. Why? Why should she bother? She’s got her own farm to help run. Toby is in the cab with her and he loses no time in sowing seeds of doubt about Pip’s relationship with Matthew. She tells him that she and Matthew “haven’t been connecting lately”. Again, why? It’s sod-all to do with Toby and Pip can hardly regard him as a friend, so why not tell him to shut up and bugger off? “These long-distance things never work out” Toby advises her.

The next job is to install and secure the electric fences - an ideal opportunity for Pip (“Here Toby, stand in this bucket of water - yes, take your shoes and socks off - and grab hold of this fence for a second while I flick this switch”). Pip leaves and the brothers go to The Bull for a drink. Toby tells Rex that things are looking up on the Pip front as “Love’s young dream is going down the plughole.” Rex replies that he feels sorry for Pip and Matthew. “Where’s your killer instinct?” asks Toby and, obnoxious and arrogant pig that he is, he underlines that he does have some good one-liners, when he tells his brother “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”

Back at Brookfield, Pip tells Jill of her doubts about her and Matthew. Jill has no doubts, saying that she’s sure they will get through this awkward patch. Towards the end of the week, Pip approaches Mum and Dad to see if she can have a few days off to go up to Cumbria and spend some time with Matthew? They agree and Pip’s reason is that she and Matthew need to make the effort to see more of each other. From what we’ve heard from previous episodes, I’d say there isn’t a square inch of either of them that hasn’t been thoroughly explored at length and in depth.


  1. Early on in the Rob'Helen saga there was a family gathering, Rob left the room to take a call from Jess. I'm sure he said that there was no rush (to get a divorce ). Does anyone else remember this?

  2. The Rob/Ursula conspiracy, notably the school plans and funding, were becoming rather far fetched. Let's hope that Rob gets his just desserts soon. Some of the other story lines are also boring, notably Linda's latest project and Lillian generally.

  3. I like Lilian a lot, her loyalty to Matt and her family, however misguided at times, her big heart and her resilience. Her current story lines are boring and I hope she is put to better use soon. She would make short shrift of Rob and Ursula if she had even a whiff of what is going on at Blossom Hill.
    But why bring Alf to life after all these years? Let's hope Clarrie soon catches him with his hand in the silver spoons drawer and sends him packing. - Zoe

  4. Yes I remember Tichener speaking to Jess and telling her that "in your own time there's no rush" the dirty bastd.

    Looks like Helen coming back to life I wonder what this Sunday's episode will bring.

  5. Re. Alf - (and this is going back a long way) does his voice remind anyone else of Doughy Hood the Baker I think. Husband of Martha Woodford? ?

    1. Before my time; I've only been listening since the early seventies...
      I thought he sounded like Bert Horobine, but it's not the case. As far as I could find out, this is David Hargreaves first spell with the Archers.