John Telfer (Alan Franks)
According to my diary, Wednesday 1st March marked the beginning of the festival of Lent and, for what I believe is the second year in a row, there appears to be no demented scheme introduced by the Reverend Alan Franks to test the patience of his congregation and other inhabitants of Ambridge (not to mention us).
Cast your mind back to previous years – remember the frugal Sunday lunch scheme, where people had a simple meal and donated the saving to the church? We spent a few weeks trying to guess how Joe and Eddie would manage to cock it up this week, which they inevitably did. All except for one week, when Jim laid on a lavish lunch for the pair of them. They were congratulating themselves after dessert, when Jim presented them with a bill for the meal. Oh, how we laughed!
Then there was the year when Alan suggested that people gave up gossiping for Lent and we wondered whether Susan, Clarrie and Vicky would have to emigrate or have their gobs closed with superglue. Another time, he put forward the idea of random acts of kindness and challenged Jim Lloyd to say one nice thing to a person – any person – each day. As I remarked at the time, the trouble with this was that Jim was well known as a miserable old curmudgeon and the sudden transition to a hander out of compliments made people suspicious. He complimented Christine on her perfume and she thought he had romantic designs on her, then he called Vicky ‘trim’ which made her believe that he thought her fat before and husband Mike thought that Jim fancied her. How he made it through the 40 days without being beaten up or spat at is a mystery.
So, in the past, it hasn’t been enough to give up alcohol, or chocolate, as the fertile – if somewhat deranged – mind of the local vicar has come up with schemes that appear to have unforeseen consequences. But not this year, nor last, if memory serves – what has happened to the Rev Franks’ imagination?
Indeed, what has happened to the Rev Franks? We last heard of him when Rob sought counselling from him – has the fact that Rob appears to be beyond redemption tested the faith of the vicar, even though he felt compelled to be there for Rob to talk to?
Why has no native of Ambridge approached Alan and ask what he has in mind this year? Perhaps he could invent bespoke Lenten chores – for example, Joe Grundy isn’t allowed to address people by both Christian names and surnames (as in ‘good morning, David Archer”). Lynda Snell is to be fined every time she sniffs and likewise Rooooth when she sighs or says ‘Oh Daaaaaaaaaavid’. Adam is not permitted to mention the words ‘herbal’ and ‘leys’ on pain of having his tongue torn out and Kate is only allowed to breathe on alternate days.
The possibilities are endless – Lilian could be compelled to wear a chastity belt, although she might not need to if Miranda rips Justin’s goolies off. I would suggest that Lilian gives up gin, but that could seriously depress the distilling market. Incidentally, has anyone considered that, if Toby ever gets his artisan gin business off the ground and Lilian likes the product, then Toby will probably be a millionaire before Christmas.
Speaking of Christmas, do you think it is stretching things a bit to suggest that Lynda isn’t allowed to put on a play/panto/pageant/any form of entertainment? Perhaps we can convince her that, due to the Brexit vote or some other contrived excuse, Lent now lasts 40 weeks, instead of 40 days. Hang on, that only takes us up to 3rd December, so she could still sneak one in – better make it 40 years.
Come on Alan – don’t let us down. I know that Lent has already begun, but better late than never and you could always introduce some retrospective penances. As I write this, there are still 34 days of Lent left (39 years and 34 days to you, Lynda), so get your thinking cap on Alan and give us all a laugh – Lent just isn’t the same without you.