Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Things They Say…

The Cast

Here's a good game; listen to The Archers and pick out the odd phrase that you feel may have significance in the future, or a phrase which perfectly sums up a person's character. For instance, take these from last week….

The most in-character phrase:

"Oh Annette, do you think that's sensible?" (Helen to Annette)

One of these words is a lie:

"I'm quietly confident" (Lynda Snell)

As if you have that much choice...:

"Do I wanna be a cashier in a Bingo place?" (Susan Carter)

Delusions of adequacy award:

"They're all gonna need proper management" (Susan Carter)

The most truthful, but tactless, comment:

Susan (speaking of working in a call centre): "You have to be so bossy"

Neil (obviously without thinking): "You'd be good at that"

And the classic exchange between Annette and Helen, with Annette telling the truth and Helen inviting the 'want to bet?' response from the audience:

Annette: "Helen – don't be nice to me – you should hate me for what I've done."

Helen: "There's nothing you could do to make me hate you…"

Honesty award:

"I've made such a mess of everything" (Annette)

We hope you're right, but we have a sneaking suspicion not:

"It's over now" (Helen)

Not thinking down to the appropriate level:

Jim (talking to Eddie about Jim's plans for his bookcases):

"I'd like my collection displayed in some style…neo-classical…with cornices…"

Best indication that a new character will probably turn out to be a mass murderer/paedophile/arsonist or whatever:

Lillian (talking to Jenny about Paul; Matt's newly-discovered half brother):

"He seemed a really nice guy. Poor chap – he certainly wasn't after money. Paul's not a con man – he couldn't con you if he tried."

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Don't Listen Annette!

Louiza Patikas (Helen Archer)

We stand on the brink of a crisis – will Helen manage to talk Annette out of going through with an abortion? Whatever your moral views on the subject, for the sake of our mental wellbeing, pray that she doesn't succeed.

Consider the options; Annette is 19, likes a good time (as amply demonstrated by the pregnancy), has no meaningful job, is living in a foreign country and sharing a tiny flat with possibly the world's most boring woman. What does she need to make her life complete? A baby, of course! Or so Helen thinks.

As Helen told Brenda (in strictest confidence, of course, so it's probably only a matter of time till she tells Tom, who'll let it slip to Jazzer, who'll tell Fallon in a drunken moment, who'll… but you catch my drift) "pregnancy could be just what she needs – a positive thing". Yeah, right, I'm surprised she didn't rush out and get pregnant on her 16th birthday.

Should Annette be having any doubts, there was another pronouncement from Helen to Brenda which chilled the soul – "she wouldn't be on her own – she'd still have me." Had Annette heard that, she would probably have rushed straight out and pitched a tent outside the clinic.

The truth is that it is Helen who wants this baby. Can you imagine the three of them living together in a flat roughly the size of a shoebox? Helen already moans about Annette's lack of tidiness – what chance would a baby stand? The poor little sod would probably have to be able to feed and dress itself by its first birthday.

There's no doubt that Helen is putting heavy pressure on Annette, but phrases like "I'll be there to support you" should ring warning bells on the scale of Big Ben. Helen also said "stop me if I'm mothering you…" Stop! Unbelievably, Helen is only 29, going on 60, and seems to have skipped mothering and gone straight to grandmothering. Stand her next to Peggy Woolley and you'd be hard pushed to tell the difference.

So don't do it Annette! Or rather, do do it. Apart from the fact that the child would carry Leon's genes, the prospect of Helen and child featuring in storylines for the next few decades fills one with despair.

Of course, there is another solution which would be ideal – Annette decides to keep the baby but goes back to France, taking Helen with her - Ambridge Organics' loss would be our gain.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Saint Ian

Stephen Kennedy (Ian Craig)

It occurs to me that this blog is in danger of becoming a list of whinges and I'd hate to give the impression that Ambridge is populated exclusively by annoying people who you would dearly love to slap. Yes it has more than its fair share of such people and they are more fun to write about, but there are also, kind, warm-hearted and generous souls in the village.

So let's pay tribute to Ian Craig, star chef at Grey Gables and an all-round nice guy. Not only does he hold down a stressful job with long hours, but in the recent past he found time to visit Jack and Peggy, taking them food and clearing up the latest mess made by Jack.

He was also the only person in Ambridge who didn't think that Leon was God's gift and saw him for what he was – a two- (or more likely, four- or five-) timing love-rat. Being a good friend, he told Helen of his suspicions and was rewarded with abuse and the cold shoulder.

True to form, Ian did not complain and, when it all went pear-shaped, who was there to take Helen out and cheer her up? You guessed it. This was done without even a hint of schadenfreude or a trace of "I told you so". I bet Ian even paid for the lunch.

Even when assaulted at work by a homophobic footballer, Ian didn't want a fuss made. Adam was all for getting the police in, but you could almost see Ian turning the other, metaphorical, cheek. Talking of Adam, he is almost permanently ensconced in the lambing shed nowadays and so Ian sees little of him. Nevertheless, Ian makes him soups and casseroles to keep him going. I'm surprised he hasn't opened a soup kitchen for waifs, strays and down-and-outs (and yes, Wayne, I do mean you) but it's probably only a matter of time.

Kind, loyal, a good friend – Ian has it all. And he can cook too. The man's a saint – and surely it cannot just be coincidence that the word "saint" is an anagram of "St. Ian"?.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Those who are forced to leave us

Norman Painting (Phil Archer)

We have to pay tribute to Norman Painting, who played Phil Archer, having appeared in the first pilot episode in 1950. He is featured in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-serving actor in a single soap opera.

Norman Painting wrote more than 1,000 scripts for the show between 1966 and 1982. He also penned a best-selling book on the programme, first published in 1975. As such, he will be sadly missed – but does he have to be? Although Norman has sadly passed on, surely we can salvage Phil's wisdom and experience?

For example, they could do a Marjorie Antrobus and send him to a home, where he remains in obscurity, being occasionally referred to in the third person, as in:

Alan: I called in on Phil today.

Usha: How's he settling in at the Laurels?

Alan: Fine. He's got everybody touching his equipment and wanting to play with it

Usha: Yes it was good of the Laurels to let him take his telescope.

The trouble with this is that, with the Jack storyline (and there's another rich seam) we know that rooms at The Laurels are at a premium. Alternatively, we could have the "He's just stepped out for a moment" scenario, as in:

Neil: Hello Mrs. Archer, is Mr. Archer about?

Jill: Sorry Neil, you've just missed him, he's taken Fly for a walk on Lakey Hill.

Neil: Oh dear. I'm not having a lot of luck, am I? When I called round after breakfast he was out collecting eggs.

Jill: Yes, and yesterday he'd nipped into Felpersham when you came round.

Neil: That was the first time. When I came round again at 10am he was at the Church, practising the organ, so I went down there and Alan said he'd just left and was going home.

Jill: That's right. So you came back here about 11am.

Neil: And you told me that he'd phoned and said he fancied a pint at the pub, so I went down there and Jolene said that they had run out of tonic waters –

Jill: - yes, apparently Lillian had needed quite a lot to drink to steady her nerves before flying to Costa Rica –

Neil: - and because they were short staffed, Mr. Archer volunteered to go down to the wholesalers for Jolene.

Jill: I did tell him you were looking for him.

Neil: Yes, and I'm grateful. He actually came round ours about 2pm looking for me, but I realised that I had left the bag of pig nuts at home, so I had to come back.

Jill: Strange you didn't meet up on the path.

Neil: Well, I took a short cut through Tosser's Wood and I expect he went the pretty way round by Sodoff Spinney.

Jill: That would be it.

Neil: Then we arranged to meet by the phone box on the Green about tea time.

Jill: Yes. And we all know what happened then.

Neil: That's right – they do say that it was the worst earthquake ever to hit Borsetshire. Never mind, I expect we'll run into each other some time, although I do think December's a bit late to talk about hymns for Easter, to be honest.

And this sort of thing could go on for ever…