Sunday, 23 May 2010

They Call Him Harry…

Michael Shelford (Harry)

Am I the only one to be struck by the similarities between the Jazzer/Harry storyline and the Benny Hill song "Ernie, the fastest milkman in the west"?

In the original, the romantic triangle was between Ernie, the widow Sue from 22 Liddley Lane and Two-Ton Ted, the baker. The Ambridge players are Jazzer, Fallon and Harry. It doesn't do to push the analogy too far – Fallon isn't a widow and she lives in a pub and both Jazzer and Harry are milkmen – but Harry is getting his cocoa (or, rather, his mineral water and Diet Coke) at Fallon's regularly. At least until the single wicket competition, that is – it will be interesting to see if she turfs him out afterwards and, if she doesn't, will Jazzer turn teetotal?

The burning question, of course, is which one of the lads is Ernie and which is Ted? Whichever claims to be the good guy (Ernie) should be careful – if you remember the song, Ernie was felled by a rock cake underneath the heart and a stale pork pie in the eye and it was Ted who ended up married to Sue. Personally, I can't imagine Jazzer as a good guy, but I will be listening carefully when Harry speaks to try to glean details of his background – wouldn't it be spooky if he originally came from Teddington, or named his milk float Trigger?

And now we return to a subject first aired a few weeks ago; that of the density of Jennifer Aldridge. When it comes to other peoples' relationships, the woman is as thick as a yard of lard and has the sensitivity of a cast-iron condom. Every time Lillian meets up with Paul (and we are talking pretty often here), who turns up, mouthing such tactless remarks such as "Paul – I never expected to see you here", leaving the unspoken question "are you bonking my sister?" hanging awkwardly in the air.

Even Paul has noticed, saying to Lillian "is your sister checking up on me?" Too right, she is. Being a gooseberry isn't enough for Jennifer, as she asks Lillian if she knows what she's doing and warns her of the possible consequences. In a rare flash of insight, Jennifer said "Of course, it's none of my business…" Hold that thought and give that woman a coconut! Spot on Jennifer, now butt out!

Let's be honest, Jennifer isn't that good at spotting relationships, is she? After all, when hubby Brian was bonking Siobhan, Jennifer suspected nothing and only found out about it when Brian returned home after a "business trip", complete with love-child.

Lillian and Paul are not her only concern, though, as she wailed to Lillian "The relationship between Mum and Ted has moved to a new level!" What's happened? A dirty weekend in Felpersham? Have they been spotted doing some al fresco bonking on Lakey Hill? Is the Summerhouse being used for immoral purposes? Er, not quite, as a breathless and distraught Jennifer told Lillian that "Mum and Ted went out for lunch and Mum insisted on paying her share!"

My God! Such depravity! Whatever next? Before you know it, they'll be sharing the same seat on the bus or Peggy will be inviting Ted in for tea in broad daylight. There's obviously life in the old dogs yet…

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Girl Power

Sunny Ormonde (Lilian Bellamy)

It's been a good week for the fairer sex in Ambridge, with many of the girls celebrating one thing or another.

First of all we have Brenda and her new job in PR. Well done Bren, but some people (Tom and Pat, for example) are having reservations. After all, it is in Leicester and this is causing consternation, logistics-wise. A train journey would involve two changes; staying up there during the week would be more than Brenda can afford and driving would take – wait for it – two hours! From the comments flying about, I assumed that going to Leicester would involve crossing at least two time zones, but it's a good job that Bren is living with a farmer – he can get her up early.

Then there's Helen, over the moon that she has got an early sperm donor appointment. "Just think," she told her family, "I could be pregnant in a month or two!" This went down like a lead balloon with Dad Tony, not to mention the majority of listeners, I would imagine, as we thought we had at least six months' stay of execution. I fear it's going to be a long, boring Summer.

The Community shop looks like it's a goer, largely thanks to Pat's efforts, as Brian patronisingly reminded her. And talking of goers (oh, these seamless links) we had Lillian and Paul getting their act together after dancing the night away and then making the beast with two backs. I fear it will end in tears, although the storyline has been nominated as the one least likely to knock you down with a feather.

Kirsty has been offered a job by Kenton and, instead of running a mile, seems to have accepted. This is the Kenton who, going by past experience, couldn't reliably run a bath, let alone a business and whose idea of man-management is to let the plebs do all the work. And the other owner is Jim, who if he had his way would only admit Latin-speaking customers with degrees. The words "recipe" and "disaster" spring to mind.

Someone with not much to celebrate is Peggy, who was mortified to see Jack holding hands with Violet and ignoring her (Peggy). Still, she was being comforted by Ted, so it could be an ill wind, and this could be the start of something big.

And now we have to talk about a disturbing trend, in which the writers have been lulling us into a false sense of security, then suddenly pulling the rug from under our feet and mugging us. I have already referred to Helen's AI date being moved forward, but for sheer, unadulterated sadism and cruelty, we have the storyline about Kate. In a previous blog, I had expressed the fear that she might not return to South Africa, but, sure enough, she got on the plane and I and many others breathed a sigh of relief and cracked open the bubbly.

But we celebrated too soon, as she rang Jennifer to tell her that she was coming back home to study. Apparently Felpersham college is the only place in the world where she can study gannet-strangling, or whatever her subject is. And what about her two children in South Africa? Hubby's family can look after them, replied Kate, thus demonstrating once again why she has never won 'mother of the year'. "It will give me the chance to bond with Phoebe" she also said, glossing over the fact that she has seen her eldest daughter about three times in the past decade. I look forward to hearing Hayley's reaction.

In the meantime, let's all pray for a very large and long-lasting cloud of volcanic ash…

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Beyond Belief

Kim Durham (Matt Crawford)

I don't want to criticise (but I'm going to), but don't you think we have had some pretty unbelievable and uninspiring story lines lately? On the unbelievable front, we have Tony's pathetic performance as a would-be matchmaker for daughter Helen when inviting Patrick round.

I know Tony is as subtle as a brick through a window, but his performance was totally over the top - nobody could be as thick and as obvious as that. Why doesn't he hang a sign round Helen's neck saying "Man – any man – Wanted"?

Equally unbelievable was Matt's vision of the future, in which Lillian starred only as a business partner. OK, so Matt is not the most considerate of men and not one to proclaim his love from the rooftops, but surely even he must have been aware of the increasingly-frosty tone adopted by Lillian as he droned on? Come on Archers writers, give us some credit – there's no need to be quite so unsubtle.

This brings us on to recent, underwhelming story lines. I have avoided writing about 'Ambridge has got talent', because it patently hasn't (although Jazzer was OK). The best thing about this story is that it didn't go on as long as the perennial "Oh God, it's the Christmas show again and how will we encourage people to become involved?" Why bother? Let's face it, Linda bullies so many people into taking part that there can't really be enough left over to make up an audience. But we get ahead of ourselves and the Christmas show is (sadly) a probable horror to come later in the year.

Another storyline that made you want to bang your head against something hard was Jim's Roman-themed house warming party. Who cares? And is it even the remotest bit likely that anyone – even someone as boring and self-centred as Jim – would think that a recitation of Cicero is just the thing to get a party started? Again, credibility is stretched way beyond breaking point.

There seems to be a horrible inevitability in the Lillian/Paul storyline, as it moves, supertanker like, to either a probable consummation or heartbreak. Lillian is going to spend the night at a work's do at an hotel. Separate rooms, of course. Yeah right – what's the betting that the reservation has been mixed up and there's only one room? It would be ironic if Matt gets out with his tag and then is swiftly returned to chokey because he practised some GBH on Paul.

Then there's the Pip/Jude quad bike accident saga. I had hoped that after Pip's trip to casualty the consultant would say "She's OK Mr. Archer, but I'm afraid the trauma suffered means she will never speak again". Sadly it didn't happen. Meanwhile, Jude is even more persona non grata at Brookfield.

Now here's a storyline that I'd like to see; Pip and Jude and Alice and Christopher decide to demonstrate their love for each other by holding a double wedding. Can you imagine the delight of David and Brian while walking their daughters down the aisle? It would be a test of acting ability too – father-of-the-bride speeches made entirely through gritted teeth…